Return to Transcripts main page


Biden Faces Backlash over Abortion Stance; Accident at West Point Training Academy; Deplorable Conditions at ICE Facilities; Three Americans Die in Dominican Republic Resort. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired June 6, 2019 - 09:30   ET



[09:31:05] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, a sad update to bring you about that accident this morning at West Point Military Academy.

We have learned, just moments ago, that one person had died. We know it is confirmed there is one individual dead at West Point this morning. This is due to an accident there that involved an armored personnel carrier. That's really all we know at this point. We'll bring you more when we have it.

But, again, one person lost their life. We'll update you as we get more.

Meantime, to politics.

Some sharp criticism against former Vice President Joe Biden from Democratic opponents and women's health groups over his support of the Hyde Amendment.

So what is that? It's from 1976. And it's an amendment that bans using federal funds for abortions in almost every case, almost.

This all comes as more and more Democratic hopefuls are vowing to push measures to protect a woman's right to abortion as a key issue this election.

Here with me to discuss, Arlette Saenz, who covers Joe Biden's campaign. MJ Lee is also with me.

Thank you both for being here.

I -- I was saying this morning on the show, MJ, that I thought that this was going to explode in terms of being an issue that the former vice president is really going to have to confront.


HARLOW: And now you have Senator Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, et cetera, speaking out against this.

LEE: And so unusual at this point in the race having so many candidates explicitly speaking out and saying, this is an area where we simply believe that Vice President Biden is wrong, that we are not on the same page as him on this and that we believe that this is the wrong position to take. And I think especially the timing is so critical because we have had the issue of abortion --

HARLOW: Right.

LEE: So much in the news and so much in the headlines with states like Georgia and Alabama enacting these laws.


LEE: Right.


LEE: That are aimed at limiting access to abortion. This is an issue that you can tell is just more on the minds of voters right now. I mean you can tell when you're out on the campaign trail, I'm just getting back from the Midwest, and women especially are talking about it more and they are raising it more with the candidates that they are seeing out on the roads.


Especially because of the makeup now of the Supreme Court, right?

LEE: Right.

HARLOW: Arlette, to you.

Joe Biden became a senator back in 1973. That, of course, is the year that the Supreme Court made its decision on Roe versus Wade. But as recently as, you know, 2012, when he was vice president, he talked about his religion, being a devout Catholic, even saying then, in his personal belief, quote, life begins at conception. That is the church's judgment. I accept that in my personal life.

But at the same time, he made explicitly clear that he does not believe it is the government's role to get between a woman and her doctor and her body on this.

How is his team going to manage this backlash?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Biden has certainly had an evolving position when it's come to abortion. Just two days ago, though, he was stressing, once again, that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land.

But you are seeing, as MJ talked about, the really the first time since Biden has entered the race, this major divide between the vice president and the rest of the Democratic field. And I think going forward we're going to have to see how the Biden campaign decides to continue to respond to this.

Last night the co-chair of the campaign, Cedric Richmond, was on -- did an interview with our colleague, Chris Cuomo, where he said that the former vice president has been consistent in his views on the Hyde Amendment and that part of that is likely informed by his religious views. And Cedric Richmond said he believes Biden will have to address this further going forward as well.

HARLOW: Right. Except I would say, Arlette, I mean at the time, when he joined the Senate in 1973, he shortly thereafter talked about how at least at that point he thought that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided.

[09:35:00] SAENZ: And -- yes, he did. And -- but then you have seen this evolution from Biden over the years. And he is saying now that he believes Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and he's also that he wants Congress to go ahead and pursue something to cement those abortion rights in legislation.

But I think going forward we're just going to have to see how Biden is going to handle specifically this issue with the Hyde Amendment --

HARLOW: Right.

SAENZ: Especially as you've seen more Democrats come out and specifically address him by name.

HARLOW: Yes. Right. That's a good point.

Let's pull up the polling, if we could very quickly here, because we have new CNN polling and that shows us how important abortion is for voters, MJ. Thirty percent. So, three in 10 voters right now say the candidate they vote for must share their views on abortion. It's up since, you know, a decade ago.

What do you think?

LEE: Well, you know, it is very difficult to imagine a scenario where this issue is going to Trump an issue like the economy or health care, for example. However, it is very important to note that there is an evolution, right, if you're looking at polling or tracking polling. And even just listening to, as I was saying before, voters and how sort of more invested they are and tuned in to this issue right now, that has everything to do with the headline. And I think when voters are considering Joe Biden, the candidate, and if they are on the fence or if they are not really sure that they know exactly what he stands for, yes, it is a -- you can easily imagine the kind of thing that makes them sort of feel like maybe this isn't the person, the candidate, that I want to support at this point in time.

HARLOW: OK, thank you both very much. Appreciate the expertise. I look forward to hearing more from your reporting across the Midwest and what people said.

LEE: Thanks.

HARLOW: OK, so, of course, we're also following this breaking news about that accident with at least one person dead at West Point. Stay with us.


[09:41:09] HARLOW: All right, we continue to follow this breaking news.

I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

And we know at this moment that at least one person is dead in an accident near West Point Military Academy near the training site in New York.

Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon with more.

Barbara, what can you tell us?


Difficult news, one person now, authorities say, has been killed in this accident. West Point authorities say it involved an armored personnel carrier near this training site at West Point, north of New York City. Of course, this is where U.S. military army cadets train during both the school year and the summer. The academy putting up a very early social media notice that there had been an accident. And now we are getting the first pictures from the scene showing first responders are at -- at the site. We know that New York state troopers are responding, West Point military police responding, obviously trying to render aid.

I can tell you already on social media, there's a lot of discussion about this. There's obviously going to be a great deal of concern going through the day from families of cadets at West Point to know that their loved ones are OK. This is a pretty routine summertime training activity for the students there. Anything involving military equipment often can be very dangerous. They have instructors who oversee it. So we will have to find out what exactly happened.

But what we do know now, first responders on the scene out -- just outside West Point for this training accident that involved a military armored personnel carrier, cadets apparently, and that one person, not identified, has perished in this accident.


HARLOW: OK. Oh, it's tragic news.

Barbara, thank you for the reporting. Please do keep us posted.

Meantime, we have some new reporting into CNN about conditions at some of the ICE facilities holding migrants, expired food, dilapidated bathrooms, a lack of essentials. Just some of the things the DHS inspector general found during surprise visits of four ICE detention facilities. This is first on CNN. More details, next.


[09:47:47] HARLOW: Open packages of raw chicken, foul smelling meats, molded bread. First on CNN, a new report unmasks the disturbing conditions inside multiple ICE detention facilities. The DHS inspector general calls thee egregious violations. That's a quote.

Our justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, has been reviewing the IG's report.

What more are you learning?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, the inspector general's report really puts it bluntly. It says that at four ICE detention facilities, at two in particular, in fact, they found immediate risks and egregious violations when they did these surprise inspections at the end of last year.

Now, this investigation was prompted by calls to the inspector general's hotline and concerns of immigrant rights groups. And the IG stressed in this report out today that these are not prisoners, and their detention is not supposed to be punitive.


SCHNEIDER (voice over): Improperly packaged raw and leaking meat, overflowing toilets and moldy shower stalls and braided bread sheets referred to as nooses that have sometime been used for attempts suicides. The Department of Homeland Security's inspector general says that these are some of the immediate risks and egregious violations found at multiple ICE detention facilities in unannounced visits over six months late last year, the worst in New Jersey and California.

The inspector general's investigation began after a tip about terrible conditions on its hotline. The IG made unannounced visits to four facilities in California, Louisiana, New Jersey, and Colorado. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement responded to the violations and said in an addendum to the report that it has completed significant corrective actions to address identified issues. ICE even attacked pictures of improved bathroom and shower conditions at its California location. But the conditions were dangerous and unsanitary for the nearly 5,000 detainees held in total at the four facilities. The IG stressing, all ICE detainees are held in civil, not criminal custody, which is not supposed to be punitive.

Nevertheless, the inspector general found detainees at the New Jersey and Colorado facilities essentially trapped inside. Detainees were not allowed proper access to outdoor recreation and forced to make due with a so-called recreation yard that had a partial covered roof or mesh cages on the glass enclosures. The IG also found the food handling situation so bad at the New Jersey detention center that the kitchen manager was replaced during the inspection. They saw open packages of raw chicken leaking blood, slimily, foul smelling lunch meat and moldy bread.

[09:50:18] But the problems could get worse given the record numbers of migrants now in government custody. ICE's new acting director, Mark Morgan (ph), said Monday that there are currently around 52,000 single adults in ICE custody. That's an all-time high and exceeds funding levels yet again.

And the numbers across immigration facilities are expected to grow as more and more migrants cross the border. Last month, more than 144,000 migrants were apprehended or encounters at the southern border, the highest monthly total in 13 years.


SCHNEIDER: Now, it's important to note that these violations were found over a seven-month period late last year. And ICE, in the meantime, has reported many fixes to the inspector general, but the IG is still insisting on more documentation confirming that follow-up inspections and other corrective actions have been completed.

And, Poppy, with some of these facilities becoming overwhelmed with this increase in migrants, there's also some concern that a lot of these issues could flare up again as well.


HARLOW: Yes, of course, right, in terms of just the volume of people that they have.


HARLOW: Jessica, important reporting. Thank you so much for that.

An investigation is underway right now after the mysterious deaths of three Americans at a Dominican Republic resort. CNN spoke to one of the last people to see the first of those victims alive. What we learned about her final moments, next.

And this week, W. Kamau Bell is in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Join him to learn how complicit bias can shape racist views that you may not even be aware of. The all new "United Shades of America" this Sunday night, 10"00 Eastern, right here on CNN.


[09:56:34] HARLOW: All right, a Pennsylvania woman's family is, of course, demanding answers this morning after her mysterious death at a resort in the Dominican Republic. The same resort where another American couple died five days later. Forty-one-year-old Miranda Schaup-Werner collapsed and died in her hotel room soon after arriving at the resort. This was on May 25th.

My colleague, Rosa Flores, is live in the Dominican Republican for us this morning.

Rosa, this story is so troubling. What have you found?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Poppy, we've been asking a lot of questions to multiple agencies here in the Dominican Republic. And it seems that every time we get an answer, we have more questions. And, again, this is regarding the three Americans who died in the property that you see behind me under mysterious circumstances.

Take, for example, the case of the couple from Maryland that died in their room. Two adults, and they both, according to the police, had respiratory failure and pulmonary edema. According to the police, there were medications inside that room for high blood pressure. But when we asked the attorney general's office, they say that three bottles of medication were inside the room that included an opioid and an anti-inflammatory.

Then you look at the case of the woman from Pennsylvania, Schaup- Werner, and in her case she, according to the family, took something from the minibar and then died.

Now, all of this, of course, Poppy, is under investigation and authorities here say that they're waiting for toxicology reports and the results of those toxicology reports to determine cause and manner of death. So we're asking a lot of questions, but, again, every time that we get an answer, it seems like we have more questions.


HARLOW: Yes, raises more questions.

I know, Rosa, you also spoke with the taxi driver who apparently picked up Miranda Schaup-Werner from the airport. Did he say anything interesting?

FLORES: You know, he did. One of the things that we asked about was, did this couple make any stops between the airport and this property, because maybe she had something to eat or something to drink right beforehand. The taxi driver says that there were no stops in between. It's about a 40-minute drive. They arrived here at the hotel, and the taxi driver describes her demeanor as being very joyful and very happy, very excited to be here on vacation. He remembers that she was a great tipper as well, said good-bye to him.

And here's the other interesting thing. He says that he returned as scheduled to pick them up on the scheduled date of departure and the hotel told them that the couple had checked out a few days prior. So imagine the shock, Poppy --


FLORES: Of this driver when just yesterday he sees the woman's face on the news and the woman's name on the news --

HARLOW: Right.

FLORES: And she died just hours after he dropped them off at this hotel.

HARLOW: Yes. Look, Rosa, I know you're there doing really important reporting. I hope that the hotel manager, like the head of the company, will come out and sit down with you and talk to you about all of this. So let us know what you find out. Thank you. I know you're pressing. Thank you very much.

All right, it is the top of the hour. Good morning, everyone, on this Thursday morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.

And we begin with breaking news.

[10:00:00] At least one person has died following an accident near a training site for West Point Military Academy. Just to give you some perspective here, that's about a 45-minute drive.