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Prosecutors in the Dominican Republic Identify Man Accused of Paying for Attempted Hit on Ortiz; U.S. Sending 1,000 Additional Troops to Middle East Amid Iran Tensions; Pompeo Heads to Command Center to Oversee Middle East Operations. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired June 18, 2019 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:11] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto in New York.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Poppy Harlow in Washington. We swapped cities for you.

SCIUTTO: We did.

HARLOW: Ahead of this re-election launch, a really vague confusing threat from the president vowing to round up millions of undocumented immigrants across the United States beginning next week. The president overnight saying that ICE will start deporting people, as, quote, "fast as they come in."

SCIUTTO: Now to be clear, the president is not providing more details than that. He has made vague threats before and not delivered on them, and the administration has not responded to CNN's request for clarification.

What we do know, this is all about dropping just hours before the president launches his 2020 bid. And if this campaign kickoff rings a bell, it is.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When Mexico sends its people they're not sending their best. They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists and some I assume are good people.


SCIUTTO: Joining us now CNN's Joe John live from the White House.

So, Joe, you're there and I know you've been speaking to administration officials this morning. Is this a real plan and when does it start?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Anybody's guess, but I can tell you that's it in a nutshell. First you had the tweet from the president of the United States really sort of predicting or saying that next week we're going to have the kind of roundups or sweeps of undocumented immigrants that administration hard liners have been pushing for some time as a deterrent to try to dissuade people from coming across the southern border illegally, and then later this morning we got what was essentially a statement from an administration official not confirming, not denying what the president suggested was the plan for next week, but simply sort of reaffirming the harsh language of the president's tweets.

So I'll just read some it to you. "There are more than 1 million undocumented immigrants," this administration official says, "who has issued final deportation orders by federal judges yet remain at large in the country. These judicial removal orders were secured at great time and expense and yet they not only refused to appear in court, they often obtain fraudulent identities, collect federal welfare and illegally work in the United States."

So, Jim, I think you got it right there at the top. The political overlay is very important. While this has been a long running issue for the president from the day he got into the campaign the first time around, immigration is likely to be another huge issue. And now that he's kicking off his campaign in Orlando this evening and the president's going to have to defend not only the way he's gone about doing things, the success he's had but certainly also the tone and the tenor of what's done. Back to you.

SCIUTTO: Joe Johnson, at the White House, thanks very much.

HARLOW: All right. Let's talk about this with John Sandweg. He is the former acting director of ICE. Can't think of a better person to talk to about this. Besides we also did ask for the head of ICE, Mark Morgan, to join us this morning to tell us what's going on. We haven't heard back.


HARLOW: But he's welcome to come in the next two hours to talk to Jim and I. He was just on the program last week.

Look, you led ICE under the Obama administration. When they did something similar there was a similar move near the end of the Obama term to try to curb the undocumented immigrants coming into this country especially families. Did it prove to be effective?

JASON SANDWEG, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, U.S. IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT (ICE): No. Deterrence has not proven to be effective at all in this sense. Now I think what they're talking about here is little bit different and that is actually removing individuals. The Obama administration was focused primarily on detention of families. That proved ineffective. I think it's continued to prove ineffective. It's possible here, though, that to the end of removing individuals back to the country quickly, that that could be effective. Of course the primary impediments have been the immigration courts and the backlogs.

HARLOW: So you're essentially saying it was a mistake for us to do it under the Obama administration. It didn't work as we had hoped and it won't work this time. SANDWEG: Well, I think to the -- listen, I have no -- I'm very

concerned about the way the administration is going to carry this out. I think, though, if you take a population of individuals who've been ordered removed from an immigration court, who had an opportunity to present their asylum claim, lost, provided they had a fair and full opportunity to present it, I do think there needs to be some integrity in terms of enforcing those orders when they lose.

The Obama administration example is a little bit different. I think at the time we are trying to see if some deterrence could be applied through detention. I think that was a mistake. It did not prove effective, instead I think the focus always should have been on beefing up the immigration courts to move these cases along quickly.


SANDWEG: And actually enforce the laws that are on the books.


SCIUTTO: You have an enormous amount of experience on this and I don't want to ask you -- I don't want to turn you into a political analyst here, but I'm just curious from a practical standpoint, addressing this issue you do have many millions of undocumented immigrants here in the U.S. Is this an effective way to address that issue?

[09:05:01] Or you're saying the more effective way would be to beef up the number of judges in courts so that you can move these cases through the courts and then -- and reach a final judgment in effect?

SANDWEG: Yes, Jim, it's really hard. I mean, at the end of the day when you say what's effective, there is an undocumented population in this country over 11 million. In the last, you know, three years we've seen over a million people come to this country and make asylum claims. A large percentage of them are ultimately going to lose. A lot of -- most of those claims are still pending. ICE's capacity to actually remove individuals is limited to 400,000.

In the biggest history of ICE, only 400,000 people were removed within a year. So in a sense, look, do we need to enforce our laws, absolutely. But in a larger sense, can we be effective in terms of diminishing the 11 million -- you know, undocumented population in this country, no. There's no way to enforce our way out of this problem. But the only way to do it is through comprehensive immigration reform, some sort of legislation.

HARLOW: So the --

SCIUTTO: One thing I wondered just because -- as you mentioned, you have families, right, here. So what happens if you have a family where one member of the family, a parent, say, is undocumented therefore would be subject to deportation but the children are not. I mean, does this then set up the possibility of family separation in effect inside the country as opposed to just at the borders? SANDWEG: Sure, what the president is announcing, first of all, it's

obviously not very clear. I mean, it's a very cryptic tweet, of course. But if it's talking about this asylum -- these families have come across as asylum, we would hope that the entire family is in the same legal status, but you're exactly right. You have about four -- at least four million mixed families in this country where you have a parent -- primarily it's going to be a child who's a U.S. citizen and the parent who's undocumented. Certainly during the Obama administration, and if you ask me, absolutely correctly we employed prosecutorial discretion, meaning, we were not going to split those families apart unless there was a serious crime committed by the parent.

You know, look, what concerns me here I think that to say the people came up here and had a full and fair shot, if that's true, and some of these individuals probably never got notice of their hearing, and were ordered without any notice and did not even have an opportunity to present their case, but if you had a full and fair shot at asylum it does seem to me that there needs to be some enforcement of the law once you lose that hearing.

But the manner in which you do that and the sensitivities of issues like you raised, families, it's critically important and it does concern that this administration's track record in executing these kinds of plans has been terribly, I mean quite frankly.

HARLOW: Director, last year the Trump administration, senior officials including the president, ICE officials, threatened the mayor of Oakland, California, with criminal prosecution for telegraphing what she thought was going to be massive ICE raids and deportations. The president just telegraphed that to his millions of Twitter followers and all of America last night.

Is there a danger in doing that? Let's put the hypocrisy, the irony aside. Is there a danger in doing it -- telegraphing this?

SANDWEG: Absolutely. The very first thing that crossed my mind last night when I saw this tweet was exactly that. Listen, when -- participated at ICE and when I was at DHS before that, and hundreds of these operations, the cardinal rule, the most important thing is you never tip off the operation before it's completed. We wouldn't even tell Congress about an operation before it was completed simply because we want to protect officers' safety.

You increase the risks to the officers in the field when you notify individuals of an operation before it's conducted. It's shocking to me that the president put this out in the manner that he did. And it's ironic -- it is ironic because it's a very thing and there are valid reasons they criticized the Oakland mayor for this and it's the very thing that his administration was very vocal against our own.

HARLOW: OK. Again, we appreciate your expertise since you've dealt with this first hand. Thank you very much, Director.

SANDWEG: Thank you.


SCIUTTO: It's a great point there about the officers' safety. They're the ones who would be on the front lines of this in effect.

Joining me now, Ron Brownstein, senior editor at "The Atlantic," Jackie Kucinich, Washington bureau chief for the "Daily Beast."

Ron, if we could begin on the politics here.


SCIUTTO: Because clearly politics are involved. The president announcing this just as he's about to re-launch his campaign. The GOP's own polling showed that the president's focus on immigration, typically a hard line stance on the border.


SCIUTTO: Hurt GOP candidates. In the midterms Republican pollster David Winston, he found that the folks on immigration said the economy resulted in late deciders breaking for the Democrats by double digits in 2019. So if it failed in the 2018 midterms, does it work for the president in the 2020 generally?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, I mean, that is defining gamble. I think this tweet is more revealing of anything you're going to hear tonight at the official kickoff about what his strategy is. I mean, it reminds that the president is kind of the ultimate politician who sees everything as a nail because all he has is a hammer, and by that I mean is that his vision of how he wins elections and how his party wins elections is always the same thing, putting more coal in the engine of kind of motivating and mobilizing his base.

And what he clearly believes, you know, within that belief is that the most powerful motivator is a hard line on immigration. And so I think this tells us more than anything he might say tonight in Orlando about how he envisions winning. But the midterm election is a reminder that there are swing voters.

[09:10:03] There are white-collar voters who are doing well in the economy, who recoil from not only these kinds of policies but the tone and tenor that he sets in pursuing them.

HARLOW: So Jackie, just building on that, I wonder if you think at this point, it's early, but can the president rely on this base or nothing strategy? Just like he did in 2016? Can he do that in 2020? Because to win that way he would need Republicans as excited and energized as they were then, and they would also at the same time need Democrats to be less than enthusiastic as they were in 2016 to come out.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I -- I obviously cannot predict the future sadly because it would save us all a lot of time, but I do know that the president is running on the mantra of promises made and promises kept. And if not immigration he feels like he is not keeping his promise to his base. There was a FOX News poll just this weekend that showed that 47 percent of Republicans think that the president hasn't gone far enough with his immigration policies.

If he is looking to shore up and make sure that those people are the people that love him best come out, he's got to take a hard line. It worked for him in the past, and that's the only election he cares about. He's not looking at the midterms. He doesn't care about the House and what happened with the House except now that he can't pass legislation. He cares about his own re-election and he has seen his own people really set on fire by this issue, and we're going to see it tonight in Orlando.

SCIUTTO: So, Ron, as you look at the numbers going forward and again we're far-out, I think that really -- we've really got to focus on the states rather than the national polling, right, because of course Hillary Clinton won in the national polling in 2016.

Do you see this as a strategy targeting particular swing states? Right? I mean, it works in red states and may very well have saved Republicans a red state Senate seat in 2018 this focus on immigration. But in the key states of Pennsylvania, of Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, how does this issue resonate?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, I think it's a demographically based strategy, more than a geographically based strategy, and it plays out in the swing states depending on the demographic composition of that state. I mean, look, this -- as I said, I mean, the president's vision of how he wins as Jackie was saying as well is toward -- turning back toward mobilizing his base.

But, Jim, all indications are that in 2020 we could see the highest turn out as a share of eligible voters possibly since 1908. There are estimates that somewhere between 155 million and 160 million people are going to vote, as many as 17 million to 20 million more than last time. And in a world in which that many people are voting it's hard to imagine that there really are no swing voters, that you can win just by mobilizing your base, and what he is doing consistently is taking positions -- and again, a kind of a posture that threatens to drive away -- there was a poll out yesterday in Texas which is not on our first list of swing states that said 60 percent of independents in Texas, and (INAUDIBLE) Texas poll, were inclined not to vote for President Trump in 2020.

Those voters exist whether his campaign wants to acknowledge them or not. And I think by this tweet you see that once again he's sublimating their interest toward this overriding concern of ginning up his base.

HARLOW: And guess who, Jackie, was probably looking at that same poll as Ron yesterday, the Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden. Here he was.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I plan on campaigning in the south. I plan, and if I'm your nominee, winning in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, believe it or not, and I believe we can win Texas and Florida if you look at the polling data now.


HARLOW: That would be a whole lot of electoral college votes.

KUCINICH: Oh, yes.

HARLOW: Hundred and seven to be exact there. Can he do it? How realistic is that goal?

KUCINICH: Yes, I think what Joe Biden is looking at and I'm sure Ron can back me up here are those college educated, suburban white voters, many of whom voted for President Trump, and in places like the Georgia suburbs, the Houston suburbs where we saw particularly in Texas some of these House members knocked off by Democratic contenders.

But, you know, I think what Joe Biden's overall strategy right now is to run not only like the frontrunner but like the nominee, like these other people in his party do not exist. Sadly for Joe Biden they do, and there's a large part of the Democratic liberal base that aren't attaching themselves to Joe Biden yet. And so that is something he's going to have to contend with particularly as we move toward the debates and he is confronted with them, you know, right there on that stage.

SCIUTTO: Jackie Kucinich, Ron Brownstein, always good to have both of you.

Still to come this hour the Pentagon is announcing that 1,000 additional U.S. troops will be heading to the Middle East as tensions escalate with Iran. World leaders now reacting this morning.

HARLOW: Plus former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort will not be going to New York's notorious Rikers Island prison. The Department of Justice's unusual request to spare him that fate ahead.

[09:15:00] HARLOW: And breaking overnight, prosecutors in the Dominican Republic say they have identified the suspect accused of paying for the attempted hit on Red Sox star David Ortiz. We are live.


HARLOW: All right, tensions continue to rise within the U.S. and Iran. One thousand more troops now are on their way to the Middle East. But an Iranian commander says his country is not feeling threatened and says they're ready to respond if needed.

SCIUTTO: And as the pressure ticks up, European allies, Iranian diplomats, even China are all urging the U.S. to dial it back. Russia's deputy Foreign Minister going so far as to say that the U.S. is trying to provoke a war in the region. But this morning, in an interview with "Time" magazine, the president seemed to be striking a different tone, perhaps walking back his administration's recent rhetoric on those tanker attacks.

[09:20:00] CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins us now live from the Pentagon. Yes, remarkably, different words from the president and what we've heard from National Security adviser Bolton, Secretary of State, Pompeo in recent days.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: But not really different than what you're hearing from the acting Defense Secretary, Patrick Shanahan who is making it very clear in fact that the Pentagon is not looking for war with Iran.

Now, overnight, late last night, announcing that they were sending an additional 1,000 troops. They're going to be involved in intelligence and recognizance aircraft and missile defense on the ground, all aimed at, Shanahan says at deterrence and defense, which continues to be the main mission against Iran.

Look at that image on the other side of your screen, that is a high- resolution color image obviously of an Iranian boat with its arms showing, with its guns showing. This is the boat the Pentagon said pulled up alongside one of the hit tankers last week and tried to remove a mine. They released some of these images, and image -- this image in particular very important because it shows the exact kind of boat that Iranian forces used in those waters.

The Pentagon saying this underscores their case that the Iranians were behind the attacks. Why might someone say the attacks are minor, although they could have been extremely serious, because the mines that were placed, the ordinance that was placed, hit these tankers above the water line.

So apparently, it wasn't designed to sink them, but to cause damage, unsettle the region, unsettle world oil markets, and this is one of the reasons that the Pentagon is so heavy on deterrence. They want to stop more of these attacks from happening, they hope the troops are going to help.

SCIUTTO: So we know it was interesting, Secretary of State, Pompeo, it was him who went to Central Command, not the Defense Secretary, of course, who in chain of command you would imagine that would be his job. Do we know why?

STARR: Well, the optics are interesting. Pompeo today visiting U.S. Central Command down in Florida which oversees operations in the Middle East, and just next door to it, the U.S. Special Operations Command. Unusual, yes, unprecedented, not really because Secretaries of State of course often do meet with military commanders especially when they're traveling overseas.

We are told that Pompeo had this trip set up for the last two weeks before the tanker attacks. Jim, Poppy?

HARLOW: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you very much. Let's discuss this with CNN National Security commentator Mike Rogers, former Republican Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Nice to have you here, sir.

MIKE ROGERS, FORMER REPUBLICAN CHAIRMAN OF THE HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Thanks, Poppy. HARLOW: You think it's actually a mistake for Secretary of State,

Pompeo to go to Central Command, first, why?

ROGERS: Well, I mean, I think part of the reason they maintained that trip would be for the public appearance that --

HARLOW: Right --

ROGERS: Hey, we're serious about this, this is as serious about some military engagement as we've ever been. I think a better opportunity would have been to change that trip and go to Europe. If we don't get the Europeans on board -- and here's the interesting thing. There's a lot to not like how we got here, but there is pressure on Iran right now and there's an opportunity.

If we can talk to our European allies and get them to come around that this might be an opportunity for us to get Iran in a better place, we can do it. But right now, all of the energy is, oh, we shouldn't be here, we don't like to be here, it's all terrible, Trump is bad guy.

And you can fill in all the gaps you want in all of those conversations. If he had spent time in Europe, and not just go for a few hours and fly back, but spend some serious time trying to repair some of those relationships --

HARLOW: Yes, interesting --

ROGERS: I think we could have -- we still can, by the way, push Iran to a good place. Clearly, and I think the bombs -- excuse me, the limpet mines on the sides of those ships was an example of them making a bad mistake, which means they're a bit of a corner dog, could be an opportunity.


SCIUTTO: Chairman Rogers, let me ask you though. I'm curious what the common ground is between the U.S. and even its European allies here. Because now you have U.S. officials demanding Iran continue to abide by an agreement that the U.S. withdrew from over the objections of its allies who very much want to stay in and save this deal.

So, you know, talking about an opportunity with Iran here and the allies to do what? Renegotiate that agreement, pull them back into the agreement that the U.S. withdrew from? I'm trying to figure out what the policy is here.

ROGERS: Yes, well, two things. One, one of the reasons they should be involved is Iranian missile activity, which again I oppose --


ROGERS: JPOA in what happened --

SCIUTTO: Not part of the -- it was not part of the deal, right? So the question is --

ROGERS: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: They want a bigger --

ROGERS: Exactly --

SCIUTTO: Deal that includes missiles?

ROGERS: Well, but -- one of the reasons many of us including me, oppose the deal, but I also oppose pulling out unilaterally is because we lost our European allies in the process. Is to say, hey, listen, we know we have this missile problem, we know we have them engaged in terrorists activities, proxy states, they being the Iranians in the middle -- across the Middle East from Afghanistan to Iraq, to Bahrain, to Yemen.

[09:25:00] And the Houthi uprising there is clearly supported, financed and trained by the Iranian Intelligence services. So, this would be the opportunity to say, hey, we have all of these other big problems, we -- you know, if the administration would go and say, listen, we'll work with you a little bit on JPOA, trying to keep this thing, keep the band aids on it if you give us these other things that they wanted upfront anyway.

And so, I do think there are some negotiation room left on the table. If everyone just says, we don't like where we are, we're not talking. I think that's dangerous, we have a lot of equipment bobbing up and down in a very small area relatively when you're talking about Naval operations where something bad can happen.

And my biggest concern --


ROGERS: Is there's a miscalculation. You know, captain defense of his ship, it's taken the wrong way, it escalates. Those are the kind of things you want to avoid.

HARLOW: And it can happen, and it's happened before. Listen to this warning, this is from Iran's ambassador to the United Kingdom. Hamid Baeidinejad, here's what he told our Christiane Amanpour just yesterday.


HAMID BAEIDINEJAD, IRANIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED KINGDOM: You're heading towards a confrontation which is very serious for everybody in the region. I don't know about this strategy of the U.S. on this, but I am sure that this is a scenario that some people are very forcefully working on it, that they will drag the United States into a confrontation.

I hope that the people in Washington would be very careful not to underestimate the Iranian determination.


HARLOW: He thinks that another sovereign actor is pulling Washington into this. Clearly, Saudi, I assume is what he's thinking --

ROGERS: Or the Israelis --

HARLOW: Or the Israelis, good point.

ROGERS: Yes --

HARLOW: So what do you make of him making that argument that basically Washington is getting played, that's what he's arguing?

ROGERS: Yes, so think about where Iran is. They don't have a lot of cards left on the table. And I will say that these ramped-up sanctions are having a significant impact both on their economy. It's splitting the supreme leader with their other civilian government --

HARLOW: Sure --

ROGERS: Rouhani, there's all kind of tensions being created here. One of the reasons I think you're finding this kind of an outrage -- these kinds of statements in Europe is they're hoping to get Europe to contain the United States. They're trying to drive that wedge between the Europeans and the United States.

They're running around all across Europe, and this is a great example of saying, oh, boy, the United States wants to go to war and depending on what market they're in, it's either the Israelis or the Saudis --

HARLOW: Yes --

ROGERS: Are trying to cause this to happen, and they're getting sucked into this. That's really the only play that they have, which I believe presents this unique opportunity if we can re-engage with our European allies and get us all on the same page.

Remember, there's more evidence than these videos. We ought to be there making our case today exactly what we have in the right circles, and in our European allies to let them understand why we believe it.

HARLOW: Right --

ROGERS: And when you have the Intelligence Committee come out in a bipartisan way and saying, yes, we believe it, that tells you that there are images, there are signals intelligence, there's probably sourced information. Use that as the case to get the Europeans back in this game, and I think we can probably avoid conflict and --

HARLOW: Yes --

ROGERS: Maybe even get to a better place with them.

HARLOW: Strength in numbers, right? You want to go --

ROGERS: Absolutely --

HARLOW: Far, go together.

ROGERS: Absolutely --

HARLOW: And that's what we need right now it sounds like. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Although, credible questions when the president has questioned his Intelligence community's assessment of things when you have the signal's intelligence and so on. This is the thing, there are consequences. Chairman Rogers, always great to have you on.

ROGERS: Yes --

SCIUTTO: New details about the plot to kill David Ortiz as prosecutors identify the man they say paid for the attempted hit which nearly killed the baseball legend.

HARLOW: This story is crazy, isn't it? We are moments away from the opening bell. Could a rate cut be coming soon? Investors hope that question will be answered as the Fed begins its two-day meeting.