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Family Identifies Student Killed As 18-Year-Old Kendrick Castillo; Democrats Embrace Gun Control on the Campaign Trail; Trump Admin. Moving Forward with Asylum Process Changes; Kelly's Take on Trump's Family in the White House. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 8, 2019 - 12:30   ET



[12:30:00] NYKI GIASOLLI, MOTHER OF NUI GIASOLLI: For him, I wouldn't have my baby today. And I can't imagine -- I will never be able to thank them. I have no words other than what a hero.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's so very tough, John. The student was telling me in this class basically when Kendrick jumped up and got hit by that bullet, the other boy from the class also jumped on top of the shooter and tackled him to the ground stopping him from shooting anyone else. And of course, one of the reasons why she wanted to do this interview is to make sure we said Kendrick's name over and over because of what he did to help everyone get out of that.

There's three more students in the hospital, five have been released, and of course, Kendrick lost his life. So many people here are trying to process this. I asked her, was there anything wrong with this young man? But at this point, she said, no, he was a normal kid who came to class late that day.

John, just still very tough.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Ryan Young on the ground for us. This is a terribly sad story, it's a difficult reporting. We appreciate you being their live talking to the people in the community. Ryan, thank you very much.

And as Highland Ranch mourns the victims, the shooting their thrusting gun control even higher into the national spotlight. Nearly every Democrat running for president weighed in on Twitter calling for action to prevent future travedies (ph) -- tragedies, excuse me. And of the 21 Democratic candidates currently running, seven have explicitly laid out their proposed gun policy on their campaign websites.

Now that's a departure from previous elections where Democrats often trade lightly around this issue. This time they believe public opinion has shifted in their favor. Listen to a handful here.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to treat gun violence like the public health emergency that it is.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm going to come at this like folks have never seen before. I'm going to choose policy and use tactics to end this nightmare.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If Congress fails to act with smart gun safety laws, I will execute executive action.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm under no illusion that bump stocks and UVCs alone will fix gun violence in America. That it can't hurt.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let's have background checks on every firearm purchase. Let's ban and buy back the 50 million assault weapons.


KING: It is a different campaign than campaigns past. Now just for the reality of the moment, if you're somebody who wants new gun laws or new gun controls in a Republican Senate or Republican president, there's nothing happening in the short term. Is it possible that if a Democratic candidate could win the presidency, with that as part of their platform, would that change the dynamic?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, I think, you know, what's different about this is that it used to be relatively rare for there to be these kinds of school shootings. And now it seems like every couple of weeks one is happening, and so it creates a natural momentum for these candidates to say this is something that is easy to keep on the agenda. It is not a low tier issue not just for Democratic voters, but if you just look at the actual polls, most Americans do support changing gun laws in some way.

And so they are looking at just the straight up numbers and saying this is a majority issue and not to mention this is no longer rare. So I do think that Democrats keeping it on the agenda is a reflection of the fact that times have in fact changed around this issue, and that even while it's still a motivator for Republicans and for conservatives and NRA members, the sort of broader American electorate might very well want a candidate who is willing to do something.

The question is what exactly that thing is. But everyone I think agrees something.

KING: And so let's look at the numbers as we continue the conversation because Democrats overwhelmingly, 87 percent of Democrats support stricter gun laws. Sixty-one percent of Independents support stricter gun laws. Only 33 percent of Republicans do. But you might say that's a significant number if you will, at least a third do.

But if you're a Democrat running for president, you're on very safe ground in the primaries anyway where you have either Democrats or in some open primaries where you expect some independents to come in and vote. You're on safe ground there.

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: And also the other thing -- such the one turning point I think we've seen during this presidency is the Parkland shootings, and the fact that the victims -- the students who survived really came out as political advocates themselves. And that we've seen sort of a movement build around that which is something you hadn't really seen in quite the same way before. And so I think to the momentum thing that Abby is talking about, that's part of it. And so that's --

KING: Young generation.

LUCEY: Yes, this younger generation really stepping up and really being out there on this issue in a different way.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Right. And a number of these candidates are trying to stake out a claim on this issue. So Eric Swalwell from California said that he wanted to be the gun control candidate. One of his first events was in Parkland. And then Cory Booker just recently came out with a 14-point plan on gun control and said that he wants to institute this national licensing program which is -- which has never been done before. And so it's considered one of the most aggressive proposals from any of the 2020 candidates. And he's been leaning heavily into that as well as criminal justice reform hoping that it will help him break out.

KING: Right. And to see that, if you look at the Booker plan, a license, that is beyond what -- and that's got the attention of gun rights groups right away.

[12:35:01] He says, you know, require handgun microstamping, limit purchases to one handgun per month, executive actions. Senator Harris says executive action on the first 100 days if Congress wouldn't act. Swalwell, a mandatory buy back of semi-automatic assault weapons. Marianne Williamson says child safety locks on all guns. Andrew Yang, raise the age of semi-automatic rifles to 21.

So you have a number of proposals out there. Raising the age limit, expanded background checks, those are the ones that tend to poll very well. You start taking steps like licensing, you probably going to see different numbers.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I mean, obviously, like you said that this is solid ground sort of the general issue. A solid ground for a Democratic primary, the big question is going to be sort of what policies do they call us around and then what -- which of these things are actually more broadly appealing to the general electorate. And Abby is right of course that, you know, that if you look at the numbers the public at large does support some of these steps.

I think that one of the other big changes we've seen here is this kind of a paradigm shift that it's becoming for Republicans and Independents more (INAUDIBLE) not to be for some of these things than to be in support of some of these gun control measures. What we saw in the past was that, you know, a lot of people did not want to touch any of these things because of the power of the NRA. The power of the NRA is still formidable but I think we've seen it actually decline somewhat in recent years. And we've definitely seen much more of an upsurge in the power and frankly political spending power as well of the gun control forces. And I think that is a real motivating factor and something that is going to essentially require a lot of these candidates to get on the right side of this issue or the right side what voters feel is the right side of the issue if they can figure out the right formula of measures that people would support.

KING: Well, I think it's another -- it's very interesting and important wrinkle into 2020 where you have the laboratory of not just the presidential race but congressional races or the gubernatorial race as well to watch as this one plays out.

Up next for us here, remember, we're still watching the House Judiciary Committee, they are planning a vote soon to hold the attorney general of the United States in contempt. We're keeping an eye on that.

And the White House has a warning to Iran, expect more sanctions and expect them soon.


[12:41:25] KING: Topping our political radar today, some new policy ideas from 2020 presidential candidates. Senator Kamala Harris wants public defenders to get a pay raise. The Democratic presidential hopeful rolling out a bill that would mandate equal pay for public defenders and prosecutors, and put a cap on their work load which Harris says is leaving defendants without adequate representation. Her plan would be funded by a $250 million federal grant.

Senator Elizabeth Warren meanwhile is pitching a $100 billion plan to deal with the opioid crisis. It's an update to a plan she proposed two years ago. The new version would provide treatment, provide a support, and research funds over a 10-year period among other things. It would be paid for by a tax Senator Warren wants to impose on the 75,000 wealthiest Americans.

And Senator Bernie Sanders says if he becomes president he will issue a moratorium on cuts to retirement benefits overseen by the federal government. The Democratic presidential candidate referencing a law that Congress passed in 2014. That law allows the Treasury Department to approve large cuts to financially distressed multiemployer pension plans.

And this morning in foreign policy news, the United States responding to Iran's announcement it will partially withdraw from a landmark nuclear deal. The move comes a year after the United States withdrew from that deal. In response, National Security Council Senior Director Tim Morrison says Iran can, quote, expect more sanctions soon. And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the United States is watching closely.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: We're on the same side. We're on the side of values-driven democracy. We're on the side of freedom. We're on the side of creating a nation for the Iranian people where they can have religious freedom and they can have a democracy. And I'm confident that as we watch Iran's activity that the United Kingdom and our European partners will move forward together to ensure that Iran has no pathway for a nuclear weapon system.


KING: And as we go to break, the first woman to serve as speaker of the House shares her thoughts on the women of 2020.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) you know candidates in the race are getting enough attention?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Never. Never enough attention. When I was speaker before it was like what's that. Now they know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now thanks to the people, you're speaker of the House

PELOSI: No, but I mean, when it was a man, it was, well, what do they say, what do you say, you know.



[12:48:18] KING: The Trump administration is moving forward with changes to the asylum interview process even as it works on a broader immigration legislative package. The immediate change is this, Customs and Border Protection is advancing a program that allows Border Patrol agents to conduct the first interview in the asylum process. Current policy, these were officers from Citizenship and Immigration Services to conduct those so-called credible fear interviews. The change was pushed by immigration hardliner Stephen Miller.

The broader White House package is being drafted by Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law. Kushner briefed a dozen Republican senators on the plan yesterday. Earlier today, one of those Republicans, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas addressed the two main points of the West Wing discussion.


SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): That's going to be reforming our asylum laws to make sure that we don't have people committing fraud, showing up, getting a piece of paper from some left-wing lawyer and saying some magic words that lets them into the country olly olly oxen free. Today, we have way too many people coming in the country who are unskilled workers or low skilled workers and that's driving down American wages. What we need are more people who are doctors or computer scientists, engineers.

And that's the direction the president wants to go as they said in the past. They laid out some broad principles yesterday. And I think we have pretty widespread agreement on those principles.


KING: CNN Immigration Reporter Priscilla Alvarez joins the conversation on the immediate change. Stephen Miller has pushed this. I assume the view is that the Border Patrol agents conducting those interviews will have a harder view, a tougher view on the initial request for asylum?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN IMMIGRATION REPORTER: The idea here is that's going to speed up the asylum claim. So this is something the administration has been talking about for months now, that there's an uptick in asylum claims at the border. They now make up almost the majority of apprehensions.

And so what they're trying to do here is they're trying to speed up this process by putting Border Patrol agents on the frontlines to do that credible fear interview, that first step in the asylum process.

[12:50:05] Now this is unprecedented, and our reporting shows that Stephen Miller pushed this for months. In fact, in March then Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen OK'd the pilot as long as it work within the legal bounds and it didn't affect border operations. So this is something that we're seeing now tucked in last week into the White House supplemental request, its funds for this program.

Now, of course, that has to go through Congress, but at least we see now that the Department of Homeland Security is making moves to try to make this even tougher for asylum seekers.

KING: And in the context, they take this step which they can try to do as they move forward but then you have this broader package being drafted by Jared Kushner who is viewed as a little more lenient on immigration than Stephen Miller. I'm polite there I think. But the issue is, number one, you can't get it through the House because the president will not give the Democrats what they would want in the House to even consider any of his proposals.

And this from the Senate is interesting. John Cornyn of Texas, a border state, up for re-election next year, this is to the Associated Press, "Having seen our experience going big and ending up nowhere, I think we're better off trying to address this in a targeted sort of way."

So you have a prominent Republican senator saying dial it back.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Right. And all the senators that went to meet with Trump, I think it was yesterday, none of them were on that Gang of Eight bill that was that -- the comprehensive attempt to have immigration reform. We've seen the story time and time again just early last year, early 2018, John Kelly repeatedly going to the Hill and Democrats and him at, you know, at odds with each other and not able to come to an agreement on anything. And so I'm skeptical that whatever Kushner comes up with will actually be met with open arms by Democrats.

KING: Let's say if it cannot be passed, if it cannot be passed, is the president going to, in an election year, heading into an election year go for a plan that's being criticized by those who some people say this is way out on the right but this is the base the president listens to. Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, "The increased immigration of foreign workers how that's consistent with the administration's 'Buy American, Hire American' approach is not clear."

ALVAREZ: And I've actually been talking to a lot of these immigration groups that were involved in the original talks with Kushner going back earlier this year, and they're saying the same thing. They don't like where it is going. They're nervous about what's going to be the end product here. And this even before we see the proposal because that hasn't happened yet.

DAVIS: Let's not forget the overarching goal of a lot of those groups and a lot of the people who have been supporters of President Trump's entire immigration agenda is to lower immigration levels. This plan, the way we understand it right now does not do that. And there's been this push/pull between Stephen Miller who is very much on board with that approach and Jared Kushner who is not about what this package is going to look like. But, be that as it may, the fact is they're trying to kind of mash together two fundamentally different approaches in this package. And I think that's why you hear people like John Cornyn who have a lot of experience with this immigration debate saying why don't we maybe just take this piece meal? And it's not going to happen that way because to imagine that something that looks like that could go through the Congress and the way it's currently constituted is very far fetched.

KING: (INAUDIBLE) Leader McConnell says that's nice (INAUDIBLE) and sit over here for a little bit.

Up next, John Kelly has gone from his job as White House chief of staff, but, oh, he's got a long memory.


[12:57:52] KING: John Kelly's days as White House chief of staff are over. His memories though of clashing with the president's daughter and son-in-law live on. Listen to this exchange with Bloomberg.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was it complicated to have the president's family in the government at the time?

JOHN KELLY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: They're an influence that has to be dealt with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And today, if you were -- KELLY: I don't mean by no means mean Mrs. Trump. The first lady is a

wonderful person.


KING: Well, just read into that, ladies.

PHILLIP: I mean, this is the one thing that, you know, White House aides think is the biggest change in the post-Kelly era is that there is no longer this war between the chief of staff and the president's children, Ivanka and Jared Kushner. And, you know, what that has meant for Ivanka and Jared is that they have free rein which I think a lot of people kind of believe that they did anyway. That even though they claimed at the beginning when John Kelly was hired that they would fall under his authority as a staffer in the White House, but they never really wanted to be there and they always fought against him and he fought against them.

KING: He clearly thought they should have fallen under him.

LUCEY: But of course, they're family and it's very, very hard to unseat --

PHILLIP: It is impossible.


KING: It's interesting what he says -- he is saying (INAUDIBLE) reckoned with (INAUDIBLE), maybe I'll say dealt with.

BARRON-LOPEZ: It's just unusual though and I think that we've accepted now that Kushner as well as Ivanka are like a huge part of this administration. But it's not normal that they have such an outsized role in the president's office.

KING: But not Mrs. Trump.

DAVIS: Well, no, apparently, he did not -- she did not rub General Kelly the wrong way. But clearly the fact that not only that they were high-ranking staffers in the West Wing but the fact that they obviously had a lot of influence on President Trump and the he thought about things particularly Ivanka Trump who could get in his ear whenever she wanted not just when he was, you know, during the work day but any time, was -- as he said, something that he had to deal with and something that made his job harder.

LUCEY: And John Kelly spent a lot of time trying to sort of restrict and edit who got to the president and the current acting chief of staff is not making those same efforts.

KING: Good luck, Mick Mulvaney. Oh, you say, he's given up.

OK. Thanks for joining us in the INSIDE POLITICS. See you back here this time tomorrow. Don't go anywhere.