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British P.M. Theresa May to Resign June 7 Amid Brexit Backlash; Trump Approves Deployment of More Troops to Mideast Amid Iran Tensions; Trump Gives A.G. Barr Sweeping Powers in Russia Probe Review; Julian Castro (D) Presidential Candidate Discusses a Coverup of Migrant Children's Deaths, Immigration, Trump, Impeachment & Obstruction, if Ben Carson Is Up to the Job; Bernie Sanders Takes New Swipe at Biden over Fundraising. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired May 24, 2019 - 13:30   ET



[13:30:08] DANA BASH, CNN HOST: After days of speculation about her political fate, Theresa May confirmed that she is, indeed, stepping down as prime minister of Britain following the failure of another Brexit plan and losing the support of her cabinet.

She made a short but emotional announcement this morning.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I will shortly leave the job that has been the honor of my life to hold, the second female prime minister but certainly not the last. I do so with no ill will but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve of a country I love.


BASH: May was facing intense political pressure over her failure to get enough support in the British parliament to save her plan for breaking Britain away from the European Union.

Here's what President Trump had to say about the prime minister just a few moments ago.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I feel badly for Theresa. I like her very much. She's a good woman. She worked very hard. She's very strong. She decided to do something that some people were surprised at, some people weren't. It's for the good of her country. I like her very much. And in fact, I'll be seeing her in two weeks.


BASH: Bianca Nobilo is with me now from London.

Bianca, what are you hearing from your sources in the building behind you and elsewhere in London about what this move means, ultimately, for Brexit's viability?

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the viability of Brexit has been in question for some time. The prime minister had begun synonymous with the Brexit project and having to deliver it in some way that could command the majority support of parliament. She acknowledged today that she failed to do that. The question now is, will any of her successors, or one these successors, will they have a better opportunity?

The problem has always been that Britain is so divided on this issue. Brexit managed to succeed when it came to the referendum but by about a million or so votes. Then parts of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland and Scotland, voted in the majority to remain, whereas, the rest of the United Kingdom wanted to leave the European Union. So wherever you look on the issue, it's plagued with different sorts of problems.

The question will now be, if someone succeeds Theresa May who wants to see a clean break with the E.U. or a so-called hard Brexit. And a candidate like Boris Johnson may be pushing for that. That may well garner support among some in the prime minister's own party but will likely not be popular in the parliament and the country at large.

There's also the opportunity for her successor to want to strike a far a more conciliatory tone and opt for a much more softer Brexit or even that second referendum, which could see the result overturned completely.

BASH: Bianca, you just laid out so well the real road map for what's going to happen next depending on who takes her place in her party and, ultimately, becomes the next prime minister.

Thank you so much for that.

And more now on our breaking news. President Trump giving his go- ahead for additional troops to be sent to the Middle East, 1,500 troops, he said, or so. He said it's a defense against Iran.

Here is President Trump on this issue a few moments ago.


TRUMP: Well, I think it's going to be very good in the Middle East. Iran has been a -- as you know, they stage terror all over the world. They are a much different country now than when I first got here. When I first got here, they were at 14 different locations fighting. Right now, they don't -- I don't think Iran wants to fight, and I certainly don't think they want to fight with us.

But they cannot have nuclear weapons. And under the Obama horrible agreement, they would have had nuclear weapons within five or six years. They can't have nuclear weapons. And they understand that.


BASH: Samantha Vinograd is here with me. She is a special adviser, or she was, to national security adviser under the Obama administration.

First, what's your take on this development with regard to Iran?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Dana, President Trump's comments don't make sense, which at this point is not surprising. He just said that everything is going to be OK in the Middle East and that things under President Trump are much better when it comes to the Iran threat than under President Obama.

We're deploying more assets to the Middle East because the threat from Iran has increased. That's why we're sending troops and sending various deterrent assets, like aircraft carriers and defensive assets like the Patriot missiles batteries to the region. The threat has increased.

And my fear is, Dana, is that these 1,500 troops are just the tip of the spear when it comes to potential troop deployments based on the fact that President Trump is really the escalator-in-chief with Iran.

He's taken a series of steps that's escalated the threat from Iran. He's withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal. He's issued reckless tweets threatening Iran. And he's really encouraged his team to make decisions that increase rather than mitigate the threat.

[13:35:08] For that very reason, these 1,500 troops may be a first phase. And if he continues tweeting, if he continues advising his team to do things like designate the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization, we could see more troops needed.

BASH: He's telling his people or maybe, in some cases, like the predecessor -- like the successor to your boss, is pushing him to be more aggressive, the national security adviser, John Bolton.

I want to ask quickly about the president's remarks about giving basically carte blanche to his attorney general to investigate the beginnings of the Russia investigation. And specifically saying that Barr should look at the U.K., Australia and Ukraine as part of this.

VINOGRAD: I cringe when I think about the impact this is going to have on our foreign intelligence partnerships. When President Trump designated Barr as his P.I., personal investigator, that's not just impacting the U.S. Intelligence Community. We know that foreign intel services helped launch the Mueller investigation. They tipped off our I.C. that there were things amiss.

We're now hearing the president of the United States saying that the DOJ should investigate some of our strongest intelligence partners, the United Kingdom, for example, Ukraine and others.

If you're a foreign intelligence partner, at this point, you're likely very concerned that your own sources and methods could be declassified by Attorney General Barr as part of this investigation. And that's likely going to lead them to further reconsider whether it's worth sharing information with us.

BASH: That's such an important point. I'm guessing that this is not the end of this, probably the beginning of what we're going to hear from the U.S. allies on the intelligence front.

Thank you so much, Sam Vinograd.

VINOGRAD: Thank you.

BASH: Appreciate it.

And after a new report about another migrant child dying while in U.S. custody, some Democrats are accusing the president of a coverup.

Plus, after controversial testimony from Housing Secretary Ben Carson, questions about whether he's up to the job. I'll speak to one of Carson's predecessors at HUD, who just happens to be a Democrat running for president. That's next.


[13:41:42] BASH: Twice this two days President Trump has been accused of engaging in a coverup. Once by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was talking about congressional investigators into the president. That one ended with the president's angry outburst at the White House.

And the other is the allegation that the administration is covering up the situation at the southern border where we now know a sixth migrant child died in U.S. custody, either in custody, I should say, or shortly after being released.

Joining me now from San Antonio is Julian Castro, Democratic candidate for president.

And, Mr. Secretary, your twin brother, Congressman Joaquin Castro, leveled that coverup charge against the president on migrant deaths. I'm guessing that you agree with him.

JULIAN CASTRO, (D), FORMER HOUSING & URBAN DEVELOPMENT SECRETARY & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do agree with my brother. And I was glad that Joaquin spoke out and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus is speaking out on this and really people from across the country are speaking out.

Because, time and time again, as you know, Dana, these Homeland Security officials have been in front of Congress, and since the time that the -- the latest young child that we found out about, since the time that that child passed away, those officials were asked whether they were aware that, you know, of any other deaths, any other child had died, and -- and they said no. They said they were not aware. And I just don't believe that.

And it makes one wonder, based on what they have been withholding. And also just on the track record of this administration of how many lies it's told, of how many facts it's distorted and how much silence it's let go without being answered in terms of providing answers to questions. Whether it's the tax returns or the Mueller report, unredacted Mueller report or anything else, you have to wonder are there other adults and other children who have died in U.S. custody that they are not telling us about. And -- BASH: Do you think that that's actually possible?

CASTRO: Oh, I don't just think it's possible. I think it's actually probable. And my hope is that -- that the relevant committees in the House and the Senate are going to take this up and hold the people accountable in that department for what they have done.

BASH: I want to talk more broadly about immigration. You have proposed decriminalizing what, to this point, have been illegal border crossings. You hear the president and other Republicans talking about the fact that Democrats are for open borders. Doesn't this give fuel to that fire?

CASTRO: Not at all. You know, this idea of open borders is simply a right-wing talking point.

For the longest time, from between 1929 until about 2004, when somebody crossed over the border, it was usually treated as a civil violation, not a criminal violation. So people should stop and think about that, to understand that this is not some radical idea. This is actually the way that we used to do it.

And all of these problems that we're seeing, of taking little children away from their mothers, of incarcerating families, this detention that's happening, this huge backlog that we have in our system, a lot of that is because, in the post-9/11 era, we started to treat this as a criminal offense instead of a civil violation. So --


BASH: And to those who say --

CASTRO: -- a better way.

BASH: Yes.

CASTRO: What's that?

BASH: Go ahead.

CASTRO: I say let's do this in a better way and a smarter way. And, number one, treat it as a civil violation. Invest in an independent immigration judiciary with enough judges and support staff to actually reduce the backlog that's out there and, maybe, most importantly, get to the root cause.

[13:45:16] I've called for a 21st century Marshall Plan for Central America so that, in a mutually beneficial way, we help endures that in Honduras and El Salvador and Guatemala that people can find safety and opportunity there instead of having to come and try and find it in the United States.

BASH: You, of course, know that the Republicans, who are for making it a criminal act, say they are trying to tighten the screws and try to find more deterrents.

CASTRO: And has that worked? It's been an utter failure.

About a year ago, in fact, this president said that, as Americans, as human beings, if we would just be cruel enough to separate little children from their mothers, that that would actually deter more families from coming from Central America. And in fact, the opposite of that happened. Last month, we had 92,000 people that came to our southern border.

So I say let's stop with the failure. Let's do it a better way, a more effective way. We can ensure that we have a border that is secure. We can maintain that security.

But instead of engaging in cruelty, we can engage in compassion and reduce the backlog of people that are in limbo in this country. And maybe, most importantly, get at that root cause and do that 21st century Marshall Plan for Central America so that we don't have 92,000 people coming to the border.

BASH: I want to ask you about what the president calls the "I" word, impeachment. The House speaker, as you well know, says that it's not time to even start an impeachment inquiry, and that would play into the president's hands. What do you think, at this point, of the House speaker's strategy?

CASTRO: Well, look, I -- it is clear that over the years that Speaker Pelosi has proven herself over and over again. She has great political antenna, you know. I have tremendous respect for her.

At the same time, I actually believe that it's a mistake not to move forward with impeachment right now. Both because Bob Mueller pointed out in his report these 10 different instances where the president either obstructed justice or tried to obstruct justice. That, in and of itself, I believe calls for impeachment. And he basically laid it at the hands of Congress to go forward with that.

BASH: So you think it's a mistake even though -- even though, maybe you agree with this, but certainly a lot of Democrats -- Beto O'Rourke, one of your competitors, admits that it would be hurtful politically for those trying to get him out of office like you.

CASTRO: Number one, I don't think we should view it, first, through a political lens. There's something he did wrong here and he want to hold him accountable.

But even for argument's sake, if we do see it through a political lens, this is what's going to happen next year, if you don't impeach the president because he's deserving of it.

When the fall election comes around, he's going to turn around and say, hey, look, did they impeach me? No. You know why they didn't impeach me? Because I didn't do anything wrong. Don't you think if I had done something wrong that these folks that always are trying to get at me, don't you think that they would impeached me? Yes, of course they would have. Why didn't they do it? They didn't do it because I didn't do anything wrong.

So the mistake is that, really, you're playing into his hand by giving him a clean bill of health.

Now very quickly, let's look at the other side of that argument. Let's say that they do move forward with impeachment. They think it is a mistake because, in 1998, Republicans moved forward on impeachment on Clinton and they didn't get it. And then, you know, he did better than they thought he would in the '98 midterms and so forth.

This is a different situation. People understand how polarized the Congress is now.

So if the House impeaches him and it goes into the Senate, and Mitch McConnell doesn't do anything with it, I believe the American people, at least enough voters are savvy enough to understand, that the Senate should do something with it, that there's evidence that's been established and that it's weighty enough to merit removal, but they are not doing it because they are supporting someone from their own party.

BASH: I'm out of time but I really need to ask you about -- you're the former HUD secretary. I want to ask about the current head of that have department.


BASH: His proposal to change the Equal Access Rule and allow all federally funded homeless shelters to consider sex and gender equity when deciding who gets into the shelter. What would that mean, really quickly?

CASTRO: Well, what it would mean is, for so many transgender individuals, for instance, who present themselves and go and seek shelter, that they would be subject to a lot more bias and bigotry.

We promulgated that rule, the gender identity rule and expanded the Equal Access Rule, so that members of the LBGTQ community could safely and comfortably seek shelter in a federally funded shelter. And what it makes sure of is that we don't have second-class citizens in this country, even when somebody goes and seeks shelter. So this is a bad mistake. I hope it doesn't happen.

[13:50:17] And if I'm president, I'm going to make sure that we move forward again in the right direction of ensuring that everybody is treated equally, whether it's in shelter, the general housing market, employment or anything else.

BASH: Julian Castro, Democratic candidate for president of the United States, thank you so much for joining me. Appreciate it.

CASTRO: Great to be with you.

BASH: And recent polls show Senator Bernie Sanders falling behind frontrunner Joe Biden. Now he's taking a new swipe at the former vice president over fundraising. Details ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BASH: Trailing Joe Biden in polls and fundraising, presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, is taking a swipe at the frontrunner over his latest fundraising pitch.

The Senator telling his supporters, quote, "It's going to be hard to catch up to Joe Biden's fundraising. He is raising huge sums of money at large fundraising events all across the country and these are not grassroots fundraising events. They're high-dollar functions, hosted and attended by corporate lobbyists, health care executives, and a Republican casino CEO, and a union-busting lawyer, among others."

I want to get straight to Maeve Reston, who is with me now.

So, Maeve, look, Bernie Sanders has a point in that talking about that kind of maybe old-school fundraising that Joe Biden is doing. It tends to resonate. Is it enough now when there are a lot of other people who are like Bernie Sanders in the field?

[13:55:05] MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: I think, obviously, what's happening here is Bernie Sanders sees himself up against Biden, at the top of the polls, and really sliding. And what he's trying to, obviously, is frame Joe Biden as the establishment choice, the guy that's going after the big donors, and himself as the grassroots fundraising candidate.

But as you well know, Dana, Bernie went after Biden right out of the box. During Biden's Iowa trip, the first one that he made, he was noting that Biden has supported NAFTA, free-trade deals that he had not supported, that Biden had voted for the Iraq war, which he did not support.

So really, he knows that they're going after these same voters, these working-class voters. And Biden's message right now is resonating with them. And Bernie's got to shake things up if he wants to get back up there in contention -- Dana?

BASH: That's right. Those kinds of arguments had a lot of traction when he was running against Hillary Clinton --

RESTON: Right.

BASH: -- but it's a whole new world in 2020.

Maeve, thank you so much.


BASH: Good to see you.

RESTON: Thanks, Dana.

BASH: A traffic jam on Mount Everest is turning deadly and risking the lives of more climbers. That's after a break.