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Trump & First Lady Make Unannounced Visit to Arlington; 6th Migrant Child's Death in U.S. Custody; Wrongfully Convicted Man Who Spent 45 Years Behind Bars Is Freed; President Trump's Infrastructure Week Didn't Go as Planned. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired May 23, 2019 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:30:00] BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: But opioid epidemic impacts America's veterans, joblessness, homelessness.
A lot of efforts across the country in so many towns and cities by so many Americans to put that helping hand out to America's veterans, to America's active duty.
And on this Memorial Day, I can tell you for a fact, we talked to so many families, they're not interested in politics.
What America's Gold Star mothers and Gold Star families really want is for their loved ones not to be forgotten on Memorial Day. They always tell you, when we go out there, they want people, they want Americans to enjoy Memorial Day.
But they want Americans, as they do in so many places across the country, to take a moment and spare a thought for America's Gold Star families, spare a thought for everyone who may be an elderly veteran from World War II, who has lived for decades a full and rich life after coming home from the war and perhaps passed away in their 90s, after that full American life, to the young member of the active-duty force who may have recently fallen on a battlefield in Afghanistan or Iraq -- Brooke?
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: As we look at them, I think of you, Barbara, and just such a poignant moment. I'll be here talking to you on Monday on Memorial Day as you do stand in Section 60 and we listen to the family members of the fallen heroes. It is an extraordinarily important point to mark each and every year.
And here, the president and first lady doing so as they will not be on U.S. soil on Monday.
Barbara Starr, thank you so much.
BALDWIN: And we'll be right back.
[14:36:13] BALDWIN: We're now learning of a sixth migrant child who died after reaching the U.S./Mexico border. But the 10-year-old girl's death was first to happen. She died last September, pre-dating the deaths of the other children. The Department of Health and Human Services say that the girl suffered from congenital heart defects and dies after surgery at Nebraska's Children's Hospital.
When asking why HHS did not publicly announce her death and they prepared a statement at the time, but reporting requirements include notifying appropriate officials and, quote, "media is not part of that list."
Well, today, the head of the Department of Homeland Security provided no new details on the young girl. But did talk about the border and the overwhelming rise in in minors and families arriving there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. GARY PETERS (D-MI): Does every child in CBP custody have access to a pediatrician?
KEVIN MCALEENAN, COMMISSIONER, CUSTOMS AND BORDER PATROL: No.
PETERS: Does the CBP have clear protocol regarding the transfer of children to a hospital when presenting acute symptoms, especially when we look at the aggressive nature of the current flu outbreak we're seeing along the border?
MCALEENAN: Yes. And as commissioner, I directed that all children coming into our custody be screened by a certified medical professional.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Rose Cuison Villazor is an immigrant law professor at Rutgers University, and is back with us today.
We talked about the five deaths. And now we've learned of the sixth who had this congenital heart defect. Just when you learned about this sixth death, what was your reaction?
ROSE CUISON VILLAZOR, IMMIGRANT LAW PROFESSOR, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY: It is just heartbreaking and tragic that six children have died in our custody. And they really force us to question the choices that the government has made in setting up these detention policies that detain children, thousands of children.
BALDWIN: Before we get to the bigger picture -- and I know the issue is with detaining and perhaps being more humane. According to a report -- and everyone is saying, why didn't we know about this death.
According to reports, "Officials are required to notify local child welfare authorities and report such deaths internally but are not actually required to announce them to the public."
Do you know why that is?
CUISON VILLAZOR: It is unclear why those reporting protocols were not followed in this case. So they demonstrate there was a breakdown. And they also show the need for transparency. The public has a right to know about what is going on in these detention centers, particularly when they affect children, as we've seen.
BALDWIN: Why do you think this is happening?
CUISON VILLAZOR: As in why children are dying in our jurisdiction?
It is just absolutely horrendous. It is part of a larger problem in my mind of the policy of incarcerating and detaining children and families as part of enforcing immigration law.
There are many reasons why we don't need to do that. One is to avoid the deaths that we're seeing and there are more humane ways of addressing immigration enforcement. We don't need to incarcerate thousands and thousands of children.
BALDWIN: Five of the six are Guatemalan children, that just struck me as -- is it because so many Guatemalan families and young people are coming up and fleeing the violence from their home countries? Why do you think?
CUISON VILLAZOR: That may be the case. There are many reasons why people from the Northern Triangle are coming here in order to seek asylum. There are concerns with respect to their safety and there are social upheavals and economic concerns as well. But for the most part, they are coming here in order to claim asylum.
And so maybe, right now, we're hearing about five Guatemalans, but for so long as -- as long as we don't address the larger problems of why people in those countries are coming here in order to seek asylum, we're never -- we're going to expect a lot more deaths, unfortunately, within our hands.
[14:40:09] BALDWIN: Six deaths since September that we know of.
Rose, thank you very much.
CUISON VILLAZOR: Thank you.
Ahead, he was the face of the enemy early on in the Afghanistan war and now John Walker Lindh is a free man, a move the secretary of state calls unexplainable and unconscionable.
Plus, a man released from prison after 45 years. Behind bars that entire time for a crime he did not commit. We'll talk to Richard Phillips about what he will do now.
[14:45:05] BALDWIN: A Michigan man will have -- I should just say that he will receive a million dollars payout for being robbed of something you can't get a price on. Richard Phillips was in prison for 45 years and two months for a murder he did not commit. And this now 73-year-old man has spent more time behind bars than any other wrongfully imprisoned person in America. Back in 1972, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Decades later another man admitted to the killing. So in 2017, he was let out of prison on parole while the courts looked at his case yet again.
And you see him here. Look at this. Looking up at the sun in his first moment out of a cell.
Flash forward to March of last year and it became official, he was fully exonerated by the courts and free. And now the Michigan attorney general said Phillips will be paid $1.5 million. This is money he is owed under the state Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act.
And Mr. Phillips is with me, live from Detroit.
RICHARD PHILLIPS: Welcome to you, too. How are you doing?
BALDWIN: I'll take the welcome. I'm doing all right.
BALDWIN: I'm doing better talking to you.
Forty-five years, sir, 45 years locked up. For people, for content, you went to prison when Elvis' "Burning Love" was in the top five and Richard Nixon was running for election. And I know you've been out for a minute but what does freedom feel like?
PHILLIPS: Freedom feels like a brand-new life. That is what it feels like, a brand-new life.
BALDWIN: What does that mean?
PHILLIPS: That means a new opportunity for me to enjoy those years that I missed. I have to take advantage of the fact that time goes on and it is time for me to actually enjoy life. So I just -- thought it would be --
BALDWIN: How are you enjoying life? What do you do now?
PHILLIPS: Listen, here is what I do. I get up every morning, that is an enjoyment in itself, just to get up. You have to realize that life is short and you take advantage of every day. That is what I try to do. If I just walk outside and see the sun, that is an enjoyment for me.
BALDWIN: What has been the biggest change from when you went in in '72 to now in terms of society and also just day-to-day living?
PHILLIPS: What has changed?
BALDWIN: What is the biggest change that you've noticed?
PHILLIPS: The biggest change probably has been society itself. I mean, things -- everything has changed really. Roads have changed. Since I've been locked up, there are new roads built. There are stores and prices are ten times more than when I left the street. When I left, the cost of living I think was $1.60. But now it is -- astronomical. So imagine everything has changed for me. But I'm adjusting.
BALDWIN: What has been the biggest adjustment?
PHILLIPS: Paying bills.
BALDWIN: Sure. I feel you on that. But, you know.
PHILLIPS: That is true.
BALDWIN: At least it is a blessing that you're paying bills and that you're out.
PHILLIPS: Now I can pay bills and in the future, once the appropriated monies actually --
BALDWIN: Let's get to that.
BALDWIN: Let's get to that. At what point did you realize that you were some -- you were owed some money for being wrongfully imprisoned because it was $50,000 a year, and you do the math, Mr. Phillips, you're now a millionaire. What does that mean?
PHILLIPS: Well, here is the thing. I was a millionaire before the money was actually awarded to me. Because just being alive and just being able to enjoy life makes you a millionaire. Most people don't realize that. But just having life is more important than money. Because you have opportunity to do anything with it. So it is up to you. But however you want to live your life is up to you.
BALDWIN: So now that you -- now that you have this -- listen, I feel you and I think it is -- the outlook is wonderful. But now that you have this money --
PHILLIPS: I don't have any money.
BALDWIN: Once you have the money?
PHILLIPS: OK. All right.
BALDWIN: Once you have that money. And I understand -- well more on that. Do you feel like that even begins to cover the cost, the price?
PHILLIPS: No. No. They would have to back 10 trucks up from Fort Knox to account for all of the things that I feel like I've been through and suffered.
So $1 million is a generous offer. I mean, it is -- it is something to actually look forward to and to be able to know that my bills can be paid for the rest of my life and I don't have to worry about that.
But my life is worth way more than that to me. Billions, if I could put it in monetary terms.
[14:50:14] BALDWIN: I was looking at your Web site for your paintings, which are at richardPhillipsgallery.com. You are a gifted artist.
BALDWIN: I don't think I'm gifted. I think that --
PHILLIPS: I think you are gifted. You just need to take the compliment. And when people jump on and they see those paintings -- and you've been painting since 1990. And we put the pieces of art up and it is hopeful and haunting.
So if you were to paint yourself now, what would that self-portrait look like?
PHILLIPS: That is a very interesting question. I've never thought of it in those terms. However, I probably would have to paint myself as -- I don't know. That is so very good -- you caught me off guard with that question.
BALDWIN: I try. I try.
PHILLIPS: I don't know. That is a question that I can't answer.
BALDWIN: A lot of color? A lot to color?
PHILLIPS: Well, I what point are you referring to? Now or in prison?
PHILLIPS: Green. That is how I would -- the whole painting would be green. In terms of --
PHILLIPS: Yes, in terms of riches. Because I feel like I'm blessed and I actually am grateful -- I'm grateful that the attorney general has offered to settle my case. Those things I am actually I'm happy about that.
PHILLIPS: Green. BALDWIN: Mr. Phillips, thank you very much.
PHILLIPS: Thank you.
BALDWIN: Thank you. Thank you. A pleasure.
PHILLIPS: Thank you.
BALDWIN: Meantime, an extraordinary moment today. The speaker of House saying she's concerned for the wellbeing of the president of the United States, asking his family to stage an intervention.
Plus, the man known as the American Taliban, one of the early faces of the Afghanistan war, is now a free man. The conditions of his release.
And the Dow dipping now as the president gets ready to make an announcement about farmers in the middle of the trade war.
Back in a moment.
[14:57:28] BALDWIN: It is quite a week for this president, from subpoena fights to court ruling and, of course, what was supposed to be a big Infrastructure Week as Democrats headed to the White House to negotiate. But of course, as history suggests, Infrastructure Weeks don't exactly go as planned.
Chris Cillizza is here to explain.
What is up with Infrastructure Week?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: It is kind of like being one of the drummers in Spinal Tap. Just bad things going into the Bermuda Triangle. Nobody knows why, Brooke, but it never works out how you want.
CILLIZZA: There's a lot of these, so let's run through them. The first Infrastructure Week, before we knew this would be a thing, started June 5th. Donald Trump rolls out a trillion-dollars plan to work on infrastructure and makes sense. Both parties like infrastructure.
Except this guy came to Capitol Hill. James Comey, the fired FBI director, and made a bunch of allegations about Donald Trump on the record. That kind of drowned out Infrastructure Week.
OK. But the administration was not foiled. They came back august 14th through the 18th. Happy Infrastructure Week. This is -- they went with $1.5 trillion dollars in infrastructure but guess what happened before that?
This, white supremacist violence in Charlottesville. You remember that Sunday he came out and said both sides did this. And he was later in New York that week and at Trump Tower, gave a speech when he reiterated both sides did it. So again not good.
And now to February of the next year, February 12th and happy Infrastructure Week. This week was absolutely brutal. First of all, we hear that Michael Cohen paid Stormy Daniels hush money. That is the beginning of this whole story. Robert Mueller indicts 13 Russians that same week. And at the end of the week, 17 children and adults are murdered in one of the most-deadly school shootings in American history. So that then goes off the books.
Now by April of this year, here we are, April 29th, Infrastructure Week was already -- people had picked up on it. We had a lot of Infrastructure Weeks. So it had become meme worthy. Like this one. If you have seen "Groundhog Day," the Bill Murray movie. And it is Infrastructure Week. He gets up every morning and doing the same thing and he's a newsman so it made sense.
But even that one was derailed. That April 29th one, derailed because that is the week that we heard Bob Mueller had sent a letter to Bill Barr saying he was not happy with the four-page topline summary Barr had sent to Congress because he didn't think it fully represented the obstruction