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Trump Issues Vague Threat To Begin Deporting Millions Next Week; U.S. Sending 1,000 Additional Troops To Middle East And Iran Tensions; Kyle Kashuv Says Harvard Pulled His Admission Over Racist Remarks He Made Nearly Two Years Ago. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired June 18, 2019 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: And the timing of it all, of course, just before his re-election launch certainly raises some questions about whether this is politics or policy. The White House has not responded to CNN request for clarification on the President's announcement, details. And the President has used anti-immigration rhetoric before as he kicked off his campaign. You remember in 2015. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're bringing drugs, they're crime, their rapists and some, I assume, are good people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Joining us now is CNN's Abby Phillip live from the White House. Abby, you cover that white building behind you. Do you have reporting that there are details to back up this threat?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, the White House and the administration are not talking in more detail about what President Trump was referring to. And that could be because these types of raids are usually kept secret for operational reasons. Because, usually, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers do not want their targets to know they are coming.
So if President Trump was, in fact, discussing a real raid that is scheduled for next week, he has preempted his own administration on that on front. And the question is, why, why is President Trump talking about something that the administration in the past has said doing something like that would put those officers at risk. And it could be because today is the day that the President is re-launching officially his president campaign in Orlando, Florida.
And as we've seen over the last two years, this is something that the President reflexively goes back to, immigration, going back to this idea that the country is under siege, going back to this idea that he himself is trying to do things to stem this problem, and that the democrats are getting in his way.
And so it seems that President Trump is bringing up this topic right now, in some ways, preempting his own administration in an effort to signal to his supporters that I'm doing something about this problem. But there's a reason why these the raids have been so controversial in the past. We're talking about potentially deporting families, children, in their homes, in their places of work. And if that, in fact, is going to happen in the next week, I think it will be a major, major story and one that will be really unique for this administration, Jim and Poppy.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Abby Phillip at the White House, thank you for pushing to get answers on this. Let us know what you keep hearing.
Let's discuss this with Jennifer Rodgers, former federal prosecutor and our legal analyst with us this morning. Let's just talk about the legality here. Is there any sort of legal peril that the Trump administration could get into if they follow through on this?
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Poppy, it depends on what they're planning to do. I mean, anyone who is here, whether you're legal or illegal, has certain rights under the constitution and under our laws. So the administration obviously has to comply with those laws and with the constitution. They are entitled to immigration hearings, those require immigration judges. They have to find that the person is deportable. They have to determine that their home country will take them. All of this before someone can be deported.
So the notion that, you know, within a week or so, millions of people are going to start being deported is just false. There just aren't the resources to do that. There's not enough time to do that.
HARLOW: So let me ask you about the Trump administration, senior officials within the administration last year threatened the Mayor of Oakland, California with criminal prosecution, Jennifer. Because, remember, she warned the public. She said, I think there are these big ICE round ups coming, of undocumented immigrants, et cetera. They were infuriated that she did that. And they went as far as threatening criminal prosecution.
Let's put the irony aside here of what the President did last might, which is, by the way, the same thing. Is there anything legally wrong with doing that?
RODGERS: Well, that's an empty threat, certainly. In order to charge someone with, it would be like an aiding and abetting type of crime. You'd have to have a specific person that you're charging, the mayor with aiding and abetting. So, you know, there's nothing that would cause the Mayor of Oakland to be worried about criminal prosecution. It's more of a political issue that she's interfering with what they want to do politically and they're trying to temp that down.
HARLOW: What do can you see as the biggest enforcement issue here for the administration in terms of doing this when it comes to the separation of families and children? We had the former ICE Director on with the Obama administration last hour, who talked about the way that that administration approached this, because they did something similar at the end of Obama's term. But he said it was more selective enforcement, right, trying to keep families together.
With this administration's history with separating children from parents at the border, what do you see as the biggest hurdle here?
RODGERS: Well, they are talking a different policy tact. I mean, it's one thing to separate families from children when the adult needs to go to prison because they have a criminal record or they're being charged with crime at the time.
You know, it's another issue when it's an administrative proceeding, like,for example, a family is claiming asylum and there's no crime and issue at all.
So it's just a matter of choices. You now, the Obama addministration chose one way to deal with it and Trump is going a different direction. And there are obviously many millions of people out there and many advocates who believe that that's unfair and morally wrong and are pushing against it. So, you know, that's what they have to contend with in making those choices.
HARLOW: Okay. Jennifer Rodgers, I appreciate your legal expertise on this this morning.
Now, we'll talk about the politics. Jim?
SCIUTTO: Joining me is a member of Rob Astorino. He is a member of President Trump's 2020 re-election advisory council. Rob, good to have you on the program.
ROB ASTORINO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Good morning.
SCIUTTO: So why did the President just telegraph a law enforcement operation which former ICE Director told us in the previous hour puts the ICE officers at risk?
ASTORINO: Well, first of all, this is not in one location, as it was in Oakland, where she said, hey, they're coming. They're coming in this block. You better get out of here or be ready.
SCIUTTO: But the President is the President. He's just put people around the country on notice then.
ASTORINO: There's a very big difference. What they are going after is the 1 million people who have had final deportation orders against them by judges. They've exhausted their legal opportunities and they still refuse to go. That's what they're going after.
SCIUTTO: Well, why not keep the plan secret and then pursue it rather than announcing it on the day that you're announcing your presidential campaign?
ASTORINO: But they're not saying where they're going. There's the whole United States of America here. So they're not saying exactly where they're going, as they did in Oakland, where she said and warned people.
SCIUTTO: But that's a difference with Oakland. But where is the function of the President announcing the raids before they happen? What purpose does that serve?
ASTORINO: It's the same thing as, well, we're going to build a wall. Okay. We're announcing we're going to build a wall or we're announcing we're going to do this.
By the way, Mitch McConnell is going to bring up for a vote, he said next week, a free standing bill. And now, we'll see whether it's more about the resistance, like they're the cast members of Les Mis (ph) or whether or not they really care, humanitarian about what's happening at the border. It's $4.5 million bill that would relieve judges, but also relieve the terrible conditions right now that these families face.
SCIUTTO: All right. The Congress has to do something about this. And we've had democrats and republicans on this broadcast who have made the point. I'm just curious, you haven't given me a reason for why the President telegraphed this. It's completely different from Oakland and you said it's not important. But you have a reason for it. What's the reason from the President preempting it before it happens?
ASTORINO: I don't see any reason and there's a huge difference in saying, look, you've already exhausted your legal limits here. You have defied for a second time. The first time, you came in here without authorization. The second time, a judge said, okay, now must be deported and you still weren't coming forward. We're going to come out and get you. That's all he said.
SCIUTTO: Here's what the law enforcement function is.
I do want to ask about the politics of this. According to the republicans own numbers in the 2018 midterms, the hard line on immigration hurt republican candidates.
ASTORINO: In some areas.
SCIUTTO: Republican Pollster, David Winston, the focus on immigration instead of the economy resulted in late deciders breaking for the democrats by double digits in 2018. Why will this help in 2020 if it hurt in 2018?
ASTORINO: Because I think people see it even worse of an issue as it was even two years ago. We've got a humanitarian crisis, which wasn't necessarily part of the mix back then, as part of the -- what the press was even reporting. There was nothing over there happening.
SCIUTTO: The midterms were just six months ago.
ASTORINO: But it was a very different time. Things have calmed down a little bit.
I think what you're seeing, and even in some special elections, where republicans have begun to win again, I think what you're seeing is the first two years was a wave, anti-Trump backlash. Republicans are starting to wake up a little bit now. Like, you know, okay, the victory is over with. Now, we've got to turn our attention. And we've taken a beating over the last two years, locally, statewide and federally.
And now, I think, what's happening is republicans are starting to wake up. Independents are seeing that the economy is doing very, very well. Immigration is a --
SCIUTTO: independents were not breaking towards Trump. They're not. In fact, there's a huge deficit among independents.
ASTORINO: 16 months before the election. And if we go back in time, as I know you've reported on this too, from Reagan on up, I mean, Obama at this point going into 2012, 16 months re-election was down by eight points.
SCIUTTO: This is a president who has never broken above 50 percent support, and the first time that's ever happened with a sitting president.
ASTORINO: But his numbers are going up at the right time. They're getting -- two polls in the last couple of weeks had him at 49 percent, right at 50 percent.
SCIUTTO: Go for the average polls. I know the President likes to quote the friendly ones. But the average polls are always down, around 43, 44 percent.
ASTORINO: But the point is he's been going up at the right time. There're some very big issues at the top of voters' minds. And they're going to --
SCIUTTO: Cite one poll that shows the President -- independents breaking towards the President.
ASTORINO: I'm saying they're getting better. The numbers are going up. They're not where they should be. I'll give you that. But the numbers are going up.
I think that the -- well, here's what I'd like to see, Jim. Honestly, here's what I'd like to see him do, and it totally cut against the grain. I'd like to, not only campaign in Michigan and Grand Rapids and other areas, I'd like him the go into Detroit. And I'd like to say, you know what, I said to you two years ago, what have you got to lose, right?
Well, look what's happened. We've had the unemployment rate is the lowest since ever been for African-Americans, for Hispanics, for single women, for people without a --
SCIUTTO: Why is he behind then in those key states?
ASTORINO: Well, he's taken an absolute beating for the most part. Well, for Biden, he's got name recognition. And, again --
SCIUTTO: Of course, Trump, he's the President.
ASTORINO: Yes. But Biden has got name recognition on the democratic side.
So I think the President has his core, which is rock solid. He's got to build up on that. That's why I said, a surprise visit to Detroit is something that is completely different. But I think he's got to go where maybe, politically, he might be uncomfortable going.
SCIUTTO: To try to turn some of those --
ASTORINO: And say, look, I'm for everybody.
SCIUTTO: The President sometimes watches us. Maybe he'll be listening. Rob Astorino, thank you for taking the hard questions. Good to have you on the program.
Still to come, an additional 1,000 American troops are headed to the Middle East even though the U.S. and Iran say they are not looking for a fight. Can those tensions be toned down?
HARLOW: Plus, Harvard rescinds the admission of survivor of the Parkland school shooting survivor. Why and what is he saying? That's ahead.
SCIUTTO: And a court marshal underway for a Navy Seal accused of murder. Could possible support from the White House help his case?
HARLOW: All right. So Iran's president this morning says his country does not want to fight and President Trump tells Time Magazine the tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman where the U.S. directly blamed Iran for were, quote, very minor. Nevertheless, 1,000 additional American troops are right now on their way to the Middle East.
SCIUTTO: That's after a second carrier group sent there as well. And as these tensions rise, both American allies and adversaries are urging the U.S. to dial back the rhetoric, the threats.
Joining us now is CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr at the Pentagon and CNN Senior International Correspondent Frederik Pleitgen. He's in Tehran.
Fred, I wonder if I can begin with you, because I think it's great that we've got someone on the ground there in Iran as this is happening. How are Iranian officials reading the rhetoric from the U.S.? Because you have quite something of a contradiction, right? The recent days, talk about military action and response to these attacks. But the President is saying this morning these tanker attacks were very minor. Do they read that as a ramping down? FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't think that they necessarily read that as a ramping down. I think that they read that as somewhat of chaos in the Trump administration, to be honest with you, Jim. I think what they are thinking, what they tell us, quite frankly, what they're thinking is they believe that President Trump fundamentally does not want to start a war in the Middle East, doesn't want to start war in the Persian Gulf.
At the same time, they believe that there are certain people in the administration who are sort of maybe trying to push him in that direction. The name John Bolton, the National Security Advisor, is one that keeps coming up.
And if you look at today, for instance, it was quite interesting to see that the Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, he came out and he said, look, Iran does not want a war with anyone, with any country, does not want escalation with any country. And then he took a clear swipe at the Trump administration that it wasn't even evil. It was almost mocking the Trump administration. He said to a public audience, you need to understand we're dealing with very inexperienced people in Washington, D.C.
So it seems to indicate that, right now, the Iranians not very impressed by what they are seeing from the Trump administration. But, of course, at the same time, they understand a lot of this could go very, very wrong very quickly, because you do have a lot of forces that are congregating there in the Persian Gulf region.
And just yesterday, Iran's Envoy to the United Kingdom told our own Christiane Amanpour he believes that Iran and the U.S. could be heading for direct confrontation. Let's listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAMID BAEIDINEJAD, IRANIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.K.: We are heading towards a confrontation, which is very serious for everybody in the region. I don't know about the 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 would drag the United States into a confrontation. I hope that the people in Washington would be very careful not to underestimate the Iranian determination.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PLEITGEN: And really quick, guys, another thing that the Iranian said is that, of course, they are preparing in case a confrontation does take place. One thing that one top level commander said, he said, if there is going to be a confrontation, it's going to be in a broad area, which seems to indicate the Iranians saying, if there's going to be a shooting war with the U.S., it's going to involve their militias in the Middle East as well, guys.
HARLOW: Okay. Frederik Pleitgen, as Jim said, it's so great that you're on the ground in Tehran. Very few media outlets get access like this. Barbara, to you at the Pentagon. Talk about the trip that Mike Pompeo is going to take, the fact that the Secretary of Defense, Shanahan, is not going, but the goal that Pompeo has here in going to central command.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I think it's partially a signal, a symbol, a visual marker, if you will, that the administration is taking all this very seriously. We have indications that the meeting had been set some days ago before tanker attacks. So it's not a total surprise.
But it comes at a time when we have talked about, you know, a thousand troops repositioned to be in the Middle East, troops involved with fighter aircrafts, intelligence, reconnaissance and support and missile defense for ground troops in the Middle East, so very much the message from the Pentagon.
The message from the administration continues to be one of defense and deterrence. The Pentagon making it very clear, it is absolutely not looking for a shooting war with Iran. It wants all of this to come down. And it hopes that these additional forces will strengthen that deterrence message to Tehran.
Barbara Starr, Frederik Pleitgen, good to have you on this story.
Looking ahead, Harvard rescinds an admissions offer to a Parkland survivor sparking an intense debate across the country about free speech and other things. Why the student says he is not going to Harvard, that's next.
SCIUTTO: A fierce debate is raging now about whether Harvard University made the right decision by rescinding its acceptance of a Parkland shooting survivor turned gun rights advocate. Kyle Kashuv says that the university pulled his admission after text and documents surface showing that he had used racist and sexist language on social media two years ago.
Adam Harris, a Staff Writer for The Atlantic, joins me now. You know Kashuv's defense here, Adam, is that Harvard should encourage growth, right, encourage people to grow from past statements. He's apologized for these statements. He had a Tweet saying throughout its history, Harvard's faculty has included slave owners, segregationalists, bigots and anti-Semites. If Harvard is suggesting that growth is impossible and that our past defines our future, then Harvard is an inherently racist institution, but I don't believe that. Is that fair argument on his part?
ADAM HARRIS, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: So I don't think anyone would argue that Harvard's history has included slave owners, has included a lot of things that they would not support today. But I think one of the things that we have to keep in context is that universities can rescind admissions offer to students for any range of reasons. That North Carolina Chapel Hill in 2003, you know, there was a case where a student had their admissions offer rescinded because their grades fell a little bit lower, from a 3.8 to a 3.5 on their final grade point average. Two years ago, Harvard rescinded ten admissions offers over this meme group that students who participated in where anti-Semitic and racist comments were shared.
So kind of viewing this in the larger context, it's not necessarily a situation that is unique to him but it is kind of rare for universities to do and we're not kind of sure how often they do it, but it is kind of something that universities do in rescinding admissions offers.
SCIUTTO: Right. And that is, in effect, Harvard's defense here. They are saying, as you note, that this is policy, not just for grade drops but for offensive language or commentary they have rescinded offers before to others, because, of course, the charge from the right here, and this has become quite a hot button issue, is that this is, in effect, attacking a conservative student and treating him in a way that they would not a liberal student.
But you're saying in your reporting that you have seen other instances of this by Harvard?
HARRIS: Yes. And this has been kind of viewed in this longer trend of republican mistrust of higher education, where over the last several years, republicans have had to declining trust in higher ed. But kind of at a base level, this is something that universities can do. The University of California at Irvine, more than 100 admissions offers were rescinded because more students accepted their admission than the university anticipated.
So I think that there is kind of the initial shock value. And as one of my sources mentioned, this is something that is going to be difficult for a kid to get over. I mean, this is -- he's a kid. But everything that you do starting in ninth grade matters for admissions decision, and they can consider that at any point.
SCIUTTO: Well, that's the thing. Universities have to be conscious of this because it's different from when I applied for college, before social media. Now, you have this digital record out there. And at the end of the day, these are kids at the time. Do universities have an appeals process, I suppose, or way of handling things like this, you know, where a student can say, listen, they can take responsibility for it and say here is how I've changed since then? I mean, do any schools have a means of doing that, a process, a protocol?
HARRIS: Yes. And I think actually, here, what you saw was Harvard's protocol for an appeals process. They sent a letter to Kashuv and said, hey, you know, explain to us what was going on here. He sent a letter back and the admissions committee looked at it and deliberate it and decided that even though it was contrite, even though they said they were grateful for his candor, they were going to be rescinding his admission. And when you think about it, this is a school that has about a 4.5 percent acceptance rate overall. So there are -- they can fill their admissions classes, you know, with talented students ten times over.
So I think what it comes down to is do we take a chance, another chance on a student who may have had a checkered past, whereas we have a bunch of other students who may not have gotten in that could use that seat.
SCIUTTO: Understood. Adam Harris, thanks for covering the story.
HARLOW: All right. Ahead for us, a growing crisis of homelessness on the streets of Los Angeles, tent cities popping up across L.A.