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President Trump Tweets Announcement of Pending Major Immigration Operation in U.S.; U.S. to Deploy 1,000 Troops to Middle East; President Trump to Launch Reelection Campaign; Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) is Interviewed About Trump's Anti-Immigrant Push Ahead of Speech Tonight; Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) is Interviewed About Push for Impeachment Inquiry. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired June 18, 2019 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- backed off some of its commitments in the Iran nuclear deal, Russia's deputy foreign minister has responded just a little while ago this morning, warning Russia views the expansion of U.S. forces in the region as a deliberate course to provoke war.
Joining us now David Gregory -- wait, let's go to the White House if we can, first. Guys, stand by, if you will. I want to go to the White House. Joe Johns is there with this breaking information about what White House officials say was behind this announcement from the president that a major, we're talking huge anti-illegal immigration operation will be launched next week. Joe, what have you learned?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. As you know, we've been chasing the story of this tweet the president put out early this morning indicating that next week the government was going to start deporting essentially millions of undocumented immigrants. And I just did get a statement from an administration official, not confirming, not denying, but clearly putting the administration's point of view out there on this.
And I'll just read it to you. Referring to undocumented immigrants, it says they not only violate our borders, break the law over and over again by skipping their court hearings and absconding from federal proceedings, they launch phony asylum claims only to be no shows at court, ordered to be removed in absentia. Points out there are more than 1 million aliens who have been issued final deportation orders by federal judges but remain in the country. These judicial removal orders were secured at great time of expense, it goes on, and the final graph enforcing these final judicial orders is a top priority for ICE, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and says willful defiance of the laws will not be tolerated.
So essentially what we're getting is very tough talk from the administration this morning as a follow onto the president's tweet last night indicating that something is afoot, apparently next week according to the president. There have been previous reports, very important to say that the administration has been pushing for a while, the idea of a big, flashy round-up, if you will of undocumented immigrants in the United States in order to try to send a message to those who might be considering to come across the border.
So this also comes, it's very important to say, on the same day as the president begins his reelection drive in earnest with a speech scheduled for Orlando tonight. And as you know, immigration has been a very important issue, perhaps the president's signature issue ever since he got into the campaign for president the first time around.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Just to be clear, did the administration officials tell you that, yes, this is starting next week?
JOHNS: No, I was not told that this was starting next week. I was told we can talk some more about it later. What we have here, essentially, is the administration putting some very tough words out there on paper backing up essentially what the president said in his tweet without giving any confirmation of where, when, or why, or what might be happening in the United States.
Initially the reports that we heard, and I have to source that to "The Washington Post" in May were that the administration was seeking to round up several thousand undocumented immigrants around the country. I did ask the White House whether the president's tweet had to do with that, and so far no specific response from that.
BERMAN: So not a confirmation it's happening, a little bit of backfill in terms of the context, broadly speaking, what the president was talking about. Joe Johns with breaking news at the White House, thank you so much, John. Let us know what else you hear as this develops.
Joining us now, you saw them before in a brief preview, David Gregory, CNN political analyst, retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, former Pentagon press secretary also at the State Department, now a CNN military and diplomatic analyst, and Bianna Golodyrga, CNN contributor.
David Gregory, the president made this announcement on Twitter of what would be a huge operation to round up, as he put it, millions of undocumented immigrants. Now this context, it has to do with people who have been issued final deportation issues by a federal judge is still more an a million. It's just unclear where the resources, the money would come from this. How do you see this this morning?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, this morning you have to look at it, at least at first blush, as more of the president's bluster, threats, an attempt at deterrence which we've seen from the administration before in terms of actual policy of family separations. And the president may be going out on a limb here on the day he's going to announce reelection saying how tough he's going to be to send a message to Central American countries after he just go through threatening tariffs against Mexico for not doing enough on the border.
[08:05:02] And you see as we try to piece this together, as Joe has done at the White House, aides are scrambling to try to keep up with the president on Twitter. This is an old story, unfortunately, with this White House. The reality here is still something far from clear, how you would do
it, how you would house folks that you round up in such a large way, put them through any kind of system. As Phil Mudd was pointing out last hour, care for them in federal attention, a number of questions here, and no real policy beyond an attempt to look as tough as possible.
CAMEROTA: Bianna, I think the problem is as he launches his reelection campaign, the truth is that President Trump has not only not solved the problem of illegal immigration, the numbers have spiked on his watch. And we've had a couple of Democratic lawmakers on in the past weeks who said it is actually his rhetoric, they lay the blame for the spike in these numbers at his feet. The logic they use is that the coyotes like advertise on his harsh rhetoric, and they say he's going to close the border, this is your last chance, come now. They think he's made it worse with what he's trying to use as a deterrent. Here's another punitive measure that he would try to use as a deterrent rather than attempting to address the root cause.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And some Democrat candidates think that's a strategy, to make things worse as we get closer towards the 2020 election. Look, there is no strategy at all here. Let's be clear. This is just a tactical move we see from the president with an administration reacting as quickly as possible. I'm not sure how many people were made aware of this before he issued this tweet.
As you mentioned, as soon as he issues these threats things tend to get worse because people in these countries that are desperate for better lives, for safety, say now is our last chance, let's get to the United States before the border is closed off. What is the reaction going to be from Mexico which is still in that grace period now after that tariff scare where they said let's try this out, let's issue our troops and see if we can prevent more of these migrants from coming into our country? What does Mexico know about this? What do the other three countries in Central America know about this? It just causes more chaos.
And this is an issue where if the president were really serious about it, he could approach the Democrats and actually put pressure towards the Democrats as we approach the 2020 election about some sort of comprehensive reform, immigration reform. He's not including the Democrats. He's not even including other Republicans.
BERMAN: Admiral Kirby, before I get your take on Iran, I always want to tap into your years of government experience inside the Pentagon and State Department. How hard is it if there's about to be what normally would be a secret operation launched in a week when someone comes forward and leaks it in the president's case, or announces it a week beforehand and you have to backfill?
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Very difficult. It's going to make all the issues that David and Bianna have been talking about in terms of implementation, all that gets 10 times harder when information like this leaks to the public before you can actually execute it, because now you're tipping off everybody that now they know the authorities are coming after them. You're advancing knowledge to Mexico and other countries about what we're planning to do. It makes interagency coordination 10 times harder.
BERMAN: Now, Admiral, what's going on with Iran, because the United States is sending 1,000 troops to the region. This is a deployment on top of some other troops that have already sent on the way here. What does this go? And what's the goal? Iran has already suggested they will ramp up their production of low enriched uranium and maybe some higher enriched uranium as well. I'm not sure I understand how this conflict gets resolved.
KIRBY: I'm not sure that President Trump understands how this conflict gets resolved, John. I think you're asking the exact question. From a tactical military perspective, this 1,000 troops makes sense to me. It's missile defense, it's recognizance aircraft. They're trying to keep an eye on Iran. They're also trying to continue to deter Iran which has not been deterred. But there's no strategy. And I'm not talking about military strategy. I'm talking about political strategy.
The president talks about getting Iran back to the negotiating table and striking a deal with them on nukes. Pompeo and Bolton talk about regime change. It's clear that this administration is not on the same page with respect to Iran policy to the degree that there's any Iran policy at all. And Iran is driving a truck right through those differences, trying to split our European allies off from us and convince the Europeans to stay in the deal, to stay with them, to not bow to Trump pressure for the economic sanctions.
CAMEROTA: David, is this one again the law of unintended consequences, of President Trump wanting to get out of the Iran deal, he thought it was the worst deal in history, but because these new sanctions are imposed on Iran, now Iran can't export their fuel and their uranium, and so now they have this excess, and here we are.
GREGORY: Well, but I think there are a couple of points to make. One is, as John suggests, this is an appropriate military step because Iran is a bad actor, and attacking international shipways and international vessels is something that does require response.
[08:10:01] It's a pretty measured response, a sign from the United States that we are going to watch this carefully and not treat this is as a hot act of war that's somehow going to tip off a conflagration. But there is a ratcheting up of that pressure.
The schism with our European allies is unsettling because it's very much like the prelude to the Iraq war where United States and European allies did not seeing eye to eye on sanctions against Iraq at that point, and we saw where that split led. So there's a lot of work here to be done, but the real point is that there's not one voice coming out of the administration. I think it's clear from the president's own transparency that he would like to sit and negotiate, again, perhaps redo a deal that's tougher in his mind. There's been a lot of talk in the past 20 years of keeping Iran from becoming a nuclear power, not a lot of good military options. BERMAN: Bianna, if I could as you to put you business reporter hat on
just for one second here, the president is going to announce his reelection bid tonight. We had Mark Lauder, campaign spokesman on last hour, said it's going to be a promises made, promises kept, and a lot about the economy. You are starting to see Wall Street analysts and economic analysts say a recession is coming.
GOLODRYGA: Well, they're focused on uncertainty right now, not knowing what's going to happen, let's say with oil prices, what's going to happen in the Middle East, what's going to happen with tariffs, what's going to happen with China, what's going to happen with Mexico. You already see, and the president was tweeting about it, that Draghi in Europe is going to be lowering interest rates because they're trying to stave off recession. We are not at that place right now, but there's clearly a lot of uncertainty. And I think other strategists would tell this president look at the gem of the economy you have at least right now. Focus more on that. Focus more on telling business leaders that you will be working more to improve the economy in their favor post the 2020 election, given the unemployment rate, given the GDP growth that no one expected at this point. Obviously, a lot of it came from the tax cuts. The fact that this president is not focusing on the economy and is tweeting about various things on a daily basis is mindboggling.
CAMEROTA: Friends, thank you all very much for all of the insight and analysis at this hour.
So is there a plan in place to deport illegal immigrants, or is it just campaign bluster? We're going to ask Republican Congressman Mike Turner. He's with us next.
[08:16:27] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: On the eve of his re-election kick off, President Trump is tweeting about wanting to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, this as tensions with Iran continue to escalate with the president ordering on additional 1,000 troops in the Middle East.
Joining us now to talk about all this, we have Republican Congressman Mike Turner. He serves on both the Armed Services and Intelligence Committees.
Great to have you here in the studio.
REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH): Thanks for having me.
CAMEROTA: OK, last night the president announced this round up of undocumented immigrants, more than a million. He said millions. He said it will start next week.
Do you think that is the solution for how to solve this spike of people who are presenting themselves at the southern border?
TURNER: Well, you correctly in this broadcast earlier said that there's been an increase and surge and certainly a crisis at the border. I don't believe we should conduct any policy by tweets, and so, it's really hard to take tweets themselves and to do any analysis of them.
But the one thing that we know is that the president of the United States has to enforce the law and operate within the law. And so, obviously, as we all look to what the president indicates is going to be his direction, we might have to look at what laws will be executed and how they'll be executed. And that's what I think we all be waiting, foreign policy.
CAMEROTA: Fair to say that you are not a fan of the family separation policy?
TURNER: Well, no, not when it was happening with the Obama administration, not with the court imposition --
CAMEROTA: I mean, there were people in the administration who believed that that would actually be a deterrent.
TURNER: No one is for separating children at the border.
CAMEROTA: They were for it.
TURNER: But what we need to do though is make sure people are discouraged from coming to border with their children. I mean, this is great risk placing their children at risk and sometimes children of others when they show up at the border. It certainly is a crisis and it certainly needs all of Congress's --
CAMEROTA: I guess my point is on this topic if you deport millions of parents but perhaps some of those kids that already have been born here, then they would be left parentless here in this country.
TURNER: Well, of course, again, we don't have any of the details because you can't from a tweet ascertain what the details of the policy would be.
Now, I think in Congress, there's been broad support of addressing the issue of those known as Dreamers who have come to the United States as children.
TURNER: But this is going to take bipartisan work and we certainly haven't seen that with Nancy Pelosi's unwillingness to really come to the table with the president on the issues of we have to control the border before we can do broad immigration reform. You can't have an open border and have immigration reform.
CAMEROTA: Agreed. So, just final question, do you think this will help? Do you think what the president announced last night, that will help the situation? TURNER: We don't have the details. We don't know what it is. We
certainly know individuals coming here illegally needs to be addressed and we need to control our border as you just said on your broadcast. It is increasing. It is a crisis and it certainly bears bipartisan response.
CAMEROTA: OK, let's move onto Iran. So, the Defense Department announced yesterday they'd be sending 1,000 extra troops.
Do you agree with Senator Tom Cotton with what we've seen already in terms of their aggressive actions calls for a retaliatory military strike from the U.S.?
TURNER: No, I think that's incredibly premature. I think what we definitely see is an increase of hostile actions by Iran, and we already know in the area, Iran has been very active through proxies and through, you know, destabilizing actions both through Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian territories, what they're doing in Syria and Iraq.
And there's been an ongoing tensions between United States and Iran, all the way through 2016 when they took a naval vessel of ours, and they held our soldiers. There have been ongoing tensions that need to be addressed.
[08:20:00] I think if you look at the escalation of hostilities from Iran, then we need to have a measured response, but Iran needs to know that we will protect our allies.
Now, this is going to be a heated debate in Congress. Just last week, a motion was brought forward by Ro Khanna of California to prohibit the United States for taking military action with Iran. It didn't address the issue, though, that we have to protect our ally Israel, we have to protect our allies, NATO.
And so, we need to understand ways in which we can support our allies and also deter Iran from future hostilities.
CAMEROTA: I think what a lot of your fellow lawmakers want is for Congress to be consulted on these things.
You know, all the way back from the Libya action of the Obama administration, Congress has not been I think recognized as our role in military actions and military response, and I absolutely believe that --
CAMEROTA: So, I mean, what will you do to make President Trump have to consider Congress and Congress be a part of the equation?
TURNER: I think Congress is already doing that. We've just had recently a classified briefing where Secretary Pompeo, Secretary Shanahan came before us and, you know, they received those challenges and questions from Congress. But the actions of Iran need to be deterred, and they need to be
deterred of course short of military action, and that's certainly what we're seeing from the administration.
CAMEROTA: How short of military action?
TURNER: Well, I think we're seeing the president include -- increased troops in the area. Certainly, we're working with our allies, and our allies in the area are incredibly important because they're threatened by Iran and these hostile actions.
CAMEROTA: What Nancy Pelosi said yesterday was this Congress must be immediately briefed on the administration's decisions and plans. This deeply concerning decision may escalate the decision with Iran and risk serious miscalculations on either side.
Do you agree with Speaker Pelosi?
TURNER: Well, I think there needs to be continuous briefings. We just had one. I mean, as I said, Secretary Pompeo, with Secretary Shanahan just came to --
CAMEROTA: On sanctions to Iran.
TURNER: -- on Iran and on the increased hostilities from Iran, including the intense pressure that is being placed on Iran in the area.
CAMEROTA: I just want to determine the troop movement that you have not been briefed on that.
TURNER: Well, it did just happen. So, but yes, I think certainly, Congress needs to continue briefing. We get briefings on the Intelligence Committee, on the Armed Services Committee, many of which are classified, not public and are important for us to understand what direction the administration is taking but also how we can support the actions for the United States interest.
CAMEROTA: In terms of the evidence you've seen in the briefings regarding Iran's actions towards those oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, do you have any doubt in your mind that it is Iran? Have you seen definitive proof?
TURNER: Well, I mean, those are two different questions. Do I have doubt? No. Have I seen definitive proof, no. But I do think --
CAMEROTA: Then why does that cause you some doubt?
TURNER: Because if you look at inherent aspects of these attacks, it clearly is a state actor that's doing so. Iran is certainly the lead hostile actor in the area. They typically act through proxies.
But in this, they're being a little sloppy. They're being a little more clear to their direct connection to what's occurring. I think -- you know, just as they're trying to send a signal, they're also increasing the danger in the area. They're increasing their hostilities.
CAMEROTA: Congressman Mike Turner, thank you for tackling all these topics with us. Great to have you with us here in studio.
TURNER: Thanks for having me.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Overnight, something we've not seen very much in the impeachment debate, a prominent House Democrat from the swing district has joined the movement to start the impeachment inquiry against the president. So what will that change?
The head of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff joins us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[08:27:22] SEN. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): After weeks of study, deliberation and conversations with Orange County families, I've decided to support an impeachment investigation of the president. I have not come to this easily. I've come to this decision after much deliberation, and I know deeply what this means for our democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: So that announcement you just saw overnight is significant. Why? House Democrat Katie Porter joins the growing calls to begin impeachment inquiry into President Trump despite Speaker Pelosi's resistance.
But Porter represents a swing district in California. She's one of these freshman members of Congress on the Democratic side in one of these swing districts and everyone is watching which way they will go on the question of the impeachment inquiry.
Joining me now is someone really at the center of this whole discussion, Democratic congressman from California and chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff.
Mr. Chairman, thank you so much for being with us.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): A pleasure.
BERMAN: Katie Porter, you know, just a few miles down the road from you, her home district, and people have been watching how these house freshman particularly from the swing districts would go now that she's moved and others getting a little bit shakily as well. Rouda from California as well says she'll make a decision by this weekend.
Do you see momentum growing for impeachment?
SCHIFF: You know, there's certainly a growing number of house Democrats that are coming out in favor of impeachment. It's been a slow increase but nonetheless an increase.
Look, every member has to make an individual determination what's best for the country. I have a Katie to my north, Katie Hill, and a Katie to my south, Katie Porter. They are at this point divided on the question.
I do think, though, regardless of how people come out in terms of whether this is the right thing at the right time, people do need to be aware that there's a perception that if we announce an impeachment inquiry tomorrow, things change dramatically, that suddenly, witnesses like Don McGahn who are resisting coming in are going to show up and say, OK, where do I testify? The Justice Department is going to open its files.
None of that is going to happen. We're still going to go to court. And if anything, the administration will dig in deeper because now, we've gone into sort of DEFCON 5.
But nonetheless, there are any number of members who I think on a daily basis look at the president's actions and say, OK, that's it for me. Now, whether we're going to get to critical mass or not, I don't know. It may depend on how the investigation proceeds.
BERMAN: What about the case of Corey Lewandowski, because there's been some discussion this week and some reports that there's a movement to put people like him before Congress as soon as possible because Corey Lewandowski has got no claim of privilege. He's a political hack. And I don't say that disparagingly but that's what he does and he is at the center of part two of the Mueller report on the issue of obstruction.
Why not sit him down tomorrow?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, we are trying to bring in witnesses like this that have no credible claim of privilege, but I'll tell you, we brought him into.