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Trump Threatens to Start Deporting Millions; Patrick Shanahan Withdraws as Defense Secretary Nominee; President Trump Kicks Off 2020 Reelection Campaign. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired June 18, 2019 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alex, what's striking about these polls is how much they seem to mirror the general outcome of what we had been reporting on, those polls that so infuriated the president, polls that we should note were done by his own campaign, those internal polls that leaked that showed the president trailing Democrats in key states that he's going to need to win, especially ones like Florida here, where that internal poll showed him trailing Joe Biden.
And now this new Quinnipiac poll has the president trailing Joe Biden 50 percent to 41 percent in Florida, where the president is coming tonight to kick off his rally.
Now, the fact that the president is holding his rally here shows you an indication of just how much he realizes he's going to need this state to have a good margin and path to victory in 2020.
But, Alex, what's really revealing about this is, also, it tested these other matchups, not just with Joe Biden, who we have reported extensively the president sees as his greatest threat. Now, this poll also shows, if the president went head to head with Warren, Elizabeth Warren, in this poll, she's pulling it 47 percent, but, Alex, the president is polling at 43 percent.
Then, of course, you have got Bernie Sanders as well, who is at 48 percent polling, with the president at 42 percent. So you see the president trailing those top three key Democrats, Democrats that the president has been asking his aides and advisers about in private about just whether or not they actually pose a threat to his presidency.
Now, of course, this comes as the president is coming here to Orlando tonight. There have been hundreds, maybe thousands of people lined up outside of this rally. For some we spoke to earlier, one guy had been here since noon yesterday.
So, clearly, the president, despite what these polls show, does still have a base of support here. The question is, how long can he hold onto it and can he secure it for the 2020 race?
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: And, of course, this comes as the president has fired three pollsters for leaks that showed internal polling losing to Joe Biden in several key swing states.
Kaitlan, while we have you, what are you learning about this announcement that the president made on Twitter to arrest millions, as he put it, of undocumented immigrants?
COLLINS: Yes, this is a somewhat vague tweet that the president sent overnight, saying that, next week, ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is going to start deporting millions of undocumented immigrants starting next week.
Now, that's a pretty sudden announcement. And it didn't have a lot of detail. But, Alex, as we have been reporting over the last day or so, since the president sent that tweet late last night, we still haven't gotten a lot of clarity from the administration on how this is going to be carried out or what the president meant.
We're being told by an ICE official that they were not expecting this announcement to come from the president. And ICE is referring us back to the White House for questions about when this would happen, who would be involved in this.
But then the White House is referring us right back to ICE. So there's still a lot of questions about this, one being, why would the president telegraph this if they are going to do it, because, typically, moves like this, you don't want to show your hand before announcing something like this so publicly, as the president did on Twitter?
And, of course, the other question, Alex, that it comes to is resources, because we know that the president and his administration have been saying for weeks that ICE is at essentially a breaking point right now on the border dealing with the flush of -- the crush of migrants that is coming across the border.
So the question is, would they really have the resources to deport a million people, over a million people, starting next week? Those are answers we're still waiting on from the White House.
MARQUARDT: Right. And it sounds like a lot of people at the Department of Homeland Security were blindsided by this announcement on Twitter.
Kaitlan Collins at the president's rally in Orlando, thank you very much.
Now, as the president officially relaunches his -- launches his reelection campaign down there in Florida, he's also rolling out a new campaign slogan, saying promises made, promises kept.
But if you look back two-and-a-half years ago, some of those promises were pretty ambitious.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.
We have to terminate Obamacare and come up with something much better for the people and for the country.
Everybody's got to be covered. This is an un-Republican thing for me to say, because a lot of times they say, no, no, the lower 25 percent, they can't afford private, but...
QUESTION: Universal health care?
TRUMP: I am going to take care of everybody.
We will build a wall. And you know who's going to pay for the wall? Mexico. They're going to pay for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT: A long list of promises there.
For more, our CNN politics reporter and editor at large, Chris Cillizza, joins me now.
Chris, two-and-a-half years in, what does that report card look like?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: All right, let's run through it because you're right, Alex, a lot of promises.
All right, let's -- here's our basic list, cut taxes, Iran deal, renegotiate NAFTA. Let's go to the first one, because, cut taxes, he did do. Let's give them a green check. He didn't do that. Now he didn't do it the way he said. If you listen to any Donald Trump rally, he will say the biggest tax cut in history. Fact-check, not true. But he did provide a tax cut.
We can debate whether that is ultimately good or bad for the economy, but he did.
OK, withdraw from the Iran deal. You will remember, during the 2016 campaigns, he said, it's a disastrous deal, Obama should never gotten into -- us. He did withdraw from the Iran deal.
Now, renegotiate NAFTA, another terrible agreement, according Donald Trump, should have never happened. We're going to give him a check because he has negotiated the USMCA, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal. Congress hasn't approved it yet, and they have to.
But we will give him a check there.
Now, repeal and replace Obamacare, no check for that, because -- well, lots of reasons. You -- again, Donald Trump talks about how John McCain voted against the so-called skinny repeal of Obamacare.
But this has not happened. One of the reasons it hasn't happened, Alex, is because there's just not a majority in the Congress -- and there wasn't back when Republicans controlled it -- for an alternative. Repealing Obamacare is one thing. Replacing it's another.
Now, this is the one that there's not going to be checking for, build a wall, make Mexico pay for. The make Mexico pay for it, you can pretty much cross that out entirely, because that was never going to happen. Building a wall, he obviously declared a national emergency to use previously allocated dollars in order to begin that construction.
It has begun, nowhere near what he says in terms of, well, we're almost done and et cetera, et cetera. It has begun. Mexico's not going to be paying for it. That's never going to be a check mark.
So, things in his control here, he has done some. There's no question. But some of the bigger, more broad claims he made, less able to deliver on -- Alex.
MARQUARDT: And, Chris, the president, of course, now refocusing on his reelection now with that rally down in Orlando.
You have a new piece on CNN.com about a joke that he's been making about term limits?
CILLIZZA: Yes, joke, I would say.
He's not really joking, though he says he is. So this is recent. This is from over the weekend. Ignore all of this, other than right here. He says: "At the end of six years, after America has been made great again, and I do (and I leave the beautiful White House) do you think the people would demand that I stay longer? Keep America great?"
Now, the reason that I do that, Alex, is because he has done this on a number of occasions. He jokes about the possibility of staying beyond the constitutionally mandated two terms. Do I think he's going to -- he has some secret plan to do so? No, I don't.
I don't think he has a secret plan to do all that much. What I do think, though, is that it suggests that Donald Trump doesn't really get the whole public stewardship that the presidency represents. There's a reason.
George Washington, breaking news, could have been elected to a third term as president. He chose not to be because he believed he didn't want to create a monarchy, a king that they had broken away from England, because Donald Trump not a big history buff, at least in that regard -- Alex, back to you.
MARQUARDT: And we have also heard him speak with some envy when it comes to President Xi Jinping of China perhaps staying for...
CILLIZZA: President for life.
MARQUARDT: ... for life.
MARQUARDT: All right, Chris Cillizza, thanks so much.
CILLIZZA: Thank you, sir.
MARQUARDT: And we're also following breaking news this afternoon, that the man who was nominated to be President Trump's permanent defense secretary is on his way out.
The president tweeting today that Patrick Shanahan -- quote -- "has decided not to go forward with his confirmation process, so that he can devote more time to his family."
The president also announcing that Army Secretary Mark Esper will be Shanahan's replacement as acting defense secretary.
Now, Shanahan's last day on the job is going to be on Friday. This abrupt exit comes with -- as we learn new details in the media about his contentious divorce with his ex-wife, which dragged out over six years.
In a statement issued in -- just in the last hour, Shanahan said, in part: "It is unfortunate that a painful and deeply personal family situation from long ago is being dredged up and painted in an incomplete and therefore misleading way In the course of this process. I believe my continuing in the confirmation process would force my three children to relive a traumatic chapter in our family's life and reopen wounds we have worked years to heal. Ultimately, their safety and well-being is my highest priority."
CNN's Pamela Brown is at the White House. And we also have retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. He is a CNN political analyst.
Pam, to you first. You have new details on Patrick Shanahan's exit. Was it his decision in the end to actually leave this post?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alex, I'm told by an administration official that it was his decision, that he reached out to President Trump this morning and told him that he wanted to take his name out, that he didn't want to go through with the confirmation process, and that he wanted to resign, out of respect for his family.
He said he wanted to spend more time with his family. Of course, all of this came as more details came out about his messy divorce with his now ex-wife and details about domestic violence incidents as well.
And so President Trump and Shanahan met in the Oval Office yesterday, and then the reach-out was this morning where he gave him the news. And I'm told by the source that Shanahan began to see the writing on the wall as these details came to light about these violent incidents within his family. And he didn't want to go through this long, messy confirmation process. He felt like this was just the beginning. At the same time, I'm told that President Trump began having second thoughts about Shanahan in recent weeks, that he didn't quite fit the mold of what he wanted as the secretary of defense.
Of course, Shanahan doesn't have military -- a military background. He has a business background. He is more reserved. He is not the aggressive, forward-leaning-type person that the president likes to see in some of his administration officials.
And so this official said that, essentially, as we all know, the president likes people that look like they're out of central casting for a role, and he began to feel like perhaps Shanahan was the best fit for the role of secretary of defense.
But, again, it was Shanahan's decision, I'm told by an official.
MARQUARDT: And, General Hertling, to you, quickly -- or first your reaction to Shanahan's departure. And then what do you think of his decision -- the president's, that is -- to pick the Army secretary, who, we must note, is a civilian, Mark Esper, to replace Shanahan?
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Mark Esper is very well respected within the Army. He's been the secretary of the Army for the past two years. He's a West Point graduate class of '86, the same class as Secretary Pompeo. He served in Desert Storm with 101st Airborne Division, and then got into the Reserves while he did some activities in and around the Washington area.
He was in the Washington, D.C., Reserve group. So he served a total of about 20 years in the Army Reserve. He has a good feel for the building, having been a liaison to Raytheon Corporation. So he's both -- was a soldier, also was a businessman, and is connected to the Heritage group -- the Heritage think tank in D.C.
However, what I would say is, there's a vast difference between being secretary of the Army and being secretary of defense. Army is an internal role focused on caring, maintaining, manning, and equipping one branch of the military. The secretary of defense is more of a policy-making role, certainly national security policy.
It will be a steep step up for Mr. Esper as he fulfills that position.
Why did Mr. Shanahan wait so long? That's a great question, Alex. I think he probably knew his background was eventually come -- going to come to hurt him and was hoping it wouldn't. But as more and more information comes out about the challenges he had in his marriage, with his son, with the investigation into his son's assault on his ex- wife, all of those things would have come out in any kind of hearing that -- any nomination hearing.
And it just goes to the importance of vetting of candidates for key Cabinet positions. MARQUARDT: Yes, I want to put that question to Pam, because this was
a very contentious, very messy divorce.
There must have been some people at some level who knew about this, Pam. So what does this say about this vetting process for Shanahan? These are some pretty significant red flags, are they not?
BROWN: Well, once again, this is raising questions about the White House's vetting process and the White House's foresight on situations, potentially damaging information to come to light on potential nominees.
And so, in this case, I am told by an administration official that the White House was aware of the allegations of the messy divorce. They did know, but that initially, early on, when the president had told Shanahan he wanted to nominate him and when he announced it, that the White House didn't put the blame on Shanahan, and that basically Shanahan was just trying to protect his family.
Again, he was never arrested, although his wife accused him of assault. His wife was the one that was arrested. The charges were later dropped. And so, initially, the White House thought, OK, well, this is not his fault, essentially, even though we know about these allegations.
And they have been told, though, in recent days, there was sort of this growing concern that the ex-wife would resurface, that the ex- wife would make these assault claims once again, again, even though he wasn't charged. And there was some concern that there could be some parallels drawn with Rob Porter, as you remember, the former press secretary -- not secretary -- staff secretary -- that left in disgrace after his ex-wives came out and accused him of domestic abuse.
So there was that concern as well, just from an optics standpoint, of the trouble that can cause. But, again, Shanahan himself was the one that saw the writing on the wall. I'm told the White House did not pressure him, did not ask him to resign. It was Shanahan who decided he didn't want to put himself or his family through this -- Alex.
MARQUARDT: And, of course, Mark Esper now walking into a huge job, with tensions rising with Iran.
General Hertling, Pam Brown at the White House, thanks very much.
MARQUARDT: Now, next, President Trump threatens to start deporting millions of people next week. But CNN has new details on whether that's really going to happen.
Plus, we're live on Mexico's southern border, where they have fallen short of their promise to the Trump administration to send 6,000 troops to stem the tide of migrants.
And, later, Amazon is firing back at Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez, who accused the company of paying their workers a -- quote -- "starvation wage."
Those facts ahead.
MARQUARDT: President Trump announced today that ICE will begin removing millions of undocumented migrants next week.
But a senior administration official says that, while no operation is imminent, the plan would focus on families on a -- quote -- "different scale."
CNN international anchor and correspondent Michael Holmes is on the border of Mexico and Guatemala. And Maria Santana, anchor and correspondent for CNN Espanol, joins me from New York.
Michael, to you first.
As you know, Mexico had promised to send some 6,000 National Guard troops down to that border with Guatemala. The president had some rare kind words for Mexico this morning, tweeting: "Mexico, using their strong immigration laws, is doing a very good job of stopping people long before they get to our southern border. Guatemala is getting ready to sign a safe third agreement."
So what, Michael, has the Mexican government actually been doing? And what are the results?
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, as you point out there, Alex, Mexico did clearly say that they would have 6,000 National Guard police, soldiers as well on their border with Guatemala, with Guatemala, by the way, right behind me there. That's how easy it is to get across.
There would be 6,000 in place by end of business today, Tuesday. Well, we heard yesterday at a news conference in Tapachula, now, about 40 minutes away from here, a government official said, well, that's not going to happen. There's going to be about 50 percent of that number. And they will be given their assignments by the end of the week, so not quite what was initially planned.
I can tell you, we have seen an increased presence. However, there are more checkpoints on the roads going north. There have been the occasional group of National Guard patrolling up and down.
But I will give you an example. This is one of the main areas of crossing. You see these pontoons going back and forth. A lot of that is commerce. But it's also where a lot of migrants cross over. Takes a few minutes. It's a dollar a head, and you're in Mexico.
There has been no National Guard here during the time we have been here, which has been for some hours, but they are around. What the boatmen tell us here is, when the National Guard come across, they won't bring migrants over. But then they will move their business just down the road.
It's a 900-kilometer, nearly 600-mile border. And you can you can plug holes. You're not going to stop it completely.
When it comes to other things Mexico is doing, they are -- they are deporting a lot of people who come in who aren't qualified to qualify for asylum and so on.
It's interesting to note, Mexico has deported more people from the so- called Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras than the U.S. has over recent years. So they are doing their part in that way. They're also processing asylum claims.
And the government says they're going to be treating all of the migrants who do get across with respect and respecting their human rights. But we have been also looking at migrants who are sleeping on the streets, a family of eight or nine today we spoke to being on the street for nine days.
Their next appointment with authorities here to get permission to stay in Mexico is a month away. It was three generations of one family. They fled Honduras because their lives are at risk. They had a note posted on the front door saying, "Get out within 24 hours or you're all dead."
They're now sleeping on the streets. It is hot. It is humid. It rains every afternoon. That's where they are living. They are by far not the only ones. We hear stories like that all the time. It's a massive problem for Mexico.
And one of the things they constantly say, we cannot do this alone. We need help from the U.S. We need help from the U.N. We need help from neighboring countries.
It is a massive task. And, also, those migrants, they say, you can put troops along the border, but what we're leaving behind is our very -- threats to our very lives. They will still keep on coming. Some of them are staying here in Mexico for the time being, but a lot of them are moving on to the U.S. as well -- Alex.
MARQUARDT: Yes, Michael, incredible to see that scene behind you. Those boats going back and forth really gives you a sense of what that border is like. And you just said how long it is.
Maria, to you.
Between what the president has said and what we're hearing from senior administration officials, it's clear that some sort of operation is in the works. We know that you have been digging into that. What have you been learning?
MARIA SANTANA, CNN EN ESPANOL ANCHOR/CORRESPONDENT: Hi, how are you Alex? Well, as we have been reporting, senior administration officials were
really taken aback by this tweet, because they just can't figure out what the president is talking about. And one senior immigration official with knowledge of the administration's plans told me that there is no operation next week to pick up millions, as Trump tweeted.
And, really, he has no clue, this person told me, where the president got that impression. The official did say that there are tentative, very tentative plans for an operation next month targeting families that did not show up to their immigration hearings and have removal orders.
And while the target list is not final, according to this official, it's definitely not millions of people. The source emphasized that timing is up in the air. It most likely will start next month, this operation, but that is not definite -- Alex.
MARQUARDT: Well, it sounds like the president jumping the gun a little bit.
Maria Santana, thanks to you, as well as our thanks to Michael Holmes down there on the Mexico-Guatemala border.
Now, next, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo making a trip to U.S. Central Command after announcing that an additional 1,000 U.S. troops are heading to the Middle East -- what he had to say about escalating tensions with Iran.
MARQUARDT: As tensions continue to grow with Iran, we're learning that President Trump is resisting being pushed into a military conflict, telling his national security advisers that he's not interested.