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Iran Blasts U.S. Sanctions as Outrageous and Idiotic Amid Tensions; Warren Reveals Sweeping Plan for Election Security; Democrats to Hold First Primary Debates this Week with Sanders, Biden Debating; Democrat Divisions Threaten Emergency Aid for Migrants; 100 Transferred Children Moved Back to Filthy Facility in El Paso; Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) Discusses Child Migrants at El Paso CBP Facility, Emergency Funding Aid Bill for Migrants. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 25, 2019 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:43] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.

This morning, a new crossfire of accusations and insults firing off between the Trump administration and Iran. After the White House slapped sanctions on Iran, Iranian leaders slapped back, calling the U.S. thirsty for war, even saying that the White House is suffering from mental illness.

Yet, just this morning, Iran's foreign minister said they will never pursue a nuclear weapon.

That vow unlikely to defuse the tensions because, just as quickly, the national security adviser says he doesn't trust what they're saying.


JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: If Iran were serious about a solution, it wouldn't be violating the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, it wouldn't be the world's central banker of international terrorism, it wouldn't have its forces engaged in combat in other sovereign countries, and it would be a very different place.

That's why we put the sanctions in place. Because of the unacceptable behavior that Iran has engaged in.

It will be, I think, the combination of sanctions and other pressure that does bring Iran to the table. Their word isn't very good.


BOLDUAN: And moments ago, the president weighed in with this tweet, saying, quote, in part, "Iran's very ignorant and insulting statement put out today only shows that they do not understand reality."

Let's try to get to the reality. CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in Tehran for us, joining us now. Fred, I don't think anyone would expect kind words would follow

another round of sanctions being put in place. But what is going on here?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think Iranians this time, Kate, reacted more forcefully than they had in the past.

It's interesting to see. Because the country's president, who normally uses tone-downed language, says, on the one hand, he doesn't believe these new sanctions will have an effect on the economy an effect or the people who were actually sanctioned, like Iran's supreme leader and like senior commanders of the Revolutionary Guard as well.

He then, however, lashed out at the United States, saying he thinks the White House is mentally disabled. Here is what he had to say.


HASSAN ROUHANI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through interpretation): They have become frustrated and confused. They do not know what to do. They do strange things that no sane person in the history of world politics has done or at least I don't remember. This is because of their total confusion. They have been mentally disabled. The White House is suffering from mental disability.


FRED PLEITGEN: Those seem to be the words, Kate, that might have set off the president's string of tweets, what he said was the statements from the Iranians that he obviously didn't like.

By and large, the other thing the Iranians are saying, by the way, they're saying they believe it's the U.S. that violated international law. And they're also saying that with the U.S. sanctioning Iran's foreign minister also, they say, look, you can't come and say you want Iran at the negotiating table and want diplomacy and at the same time sanction the top diplomats -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: That's exactly what we're seeing right now. Let's see what the impact is as tensions are only getting worse and worse.


BOLDUAN: Thank you, Fred. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

With both Iran and President Trump seemingly waiting for the other to blink, where do things go from here?

Joining me right now is David Sanger, he's national security correspondent for the "New York Times" and a CNN political and national security analyst.

David, Iranian leaders are no strangers to hyperbolic language. Look back at anything they way. When they say these sanctions have permanently closed off any possibility of diplomacy, do you think they actually mean that?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It may not permanently close it off. But what does it remind you of, Kate? It's that moment in the North Korea back and forth between the president and Kim Jong-Un in the summer of 2017 when the North Koreans were calling the president, a dotard and putting other insults out there. And they did get to a negotiation.

But Iran is a different politic animal. It doesn't have a single power center the way North Korea does.

What's interesting about these comments is they came from President Rouhani, who is considered to be at the moderate wing of the Iranian political spectrum. And he was forced to go do this, in part, for domestic political reasons.

[11:05:04] But he and Foreign Minister Zarif, who we heard yesterday, will be sanctioned soon, those were the two men who struck the Iran deal with Secretary of State Kerry and with President Obama. So not only are they invested in the deal, but they've also shown that they are willing to negotiate in the past.

The question is, can they then swallow the president having walked away from this last year and expecting them to do a completely different deal from the ground up?

BOLDUAN: I've heard a couple of things, that Iran is saying that they do not think that the sanctions, this round of sanctions will impact the Iranian economy. But we have heard the ambassador to the United Nations just acknowledged this morning that previous sanctions have put a hurt on the Iranian economy, have hurt Iranians. Do you think that more sanctions now means Iran will buckle?

SANGER: Not necessarily. There are moments when sanctions work and bring countries around. South Africa is an interesting example.

You could even argue that the sanctions worked on Iran, sanctions and sabotage of their nuclear program to bring them to the previous negotiation.

But we have other examples where sanctions got so extreme that they drove a country the other way. Japan in 1941, when FDR cut off all of their oil imports. Cuba, where President Kennedy imposed the beginning of an embargo that many successive presidents then extended. And they did not buckle. It took President Obama to come around and sort of relieve some sanctions and get a negotiation going. That's now been reversed.

President Trump is definitely of the belief and has been during the campaign that sanctions always work. That, in the end, countries worry about their economy the most. I'm not sure, in an ideological regime like Iran, that's necessarily the case.

BOLDUAN: If that's the case then, what are the options going forward for the United States. I mean, is it more sit and wait or are there other options? Because you hear John Bolton this morning saying it's the combination of sanctions and other pressure that's going to get Iran back to the table? I'm trying to figure out what the pressure will be.

SANGER: That's an interesting question. In the Obama administration, it was sanctions and sabotage. Of course, it was President Obama who enacted a program that President Bush had begun called the Olympic Games that were the cyberattacks on Iran's nuclear centrifuge.

I think you have to look for more cyber activity. And we already saw some last week of a more minor nature against the Iranian intelligence units that were believed to be responsible for some of the mining operations against those tankers. I'm sure you're going to see more of that.

The difficulty is the Iranians have a very capable cyber core of their own, and they've already hit American banks in 2012, an American casino they took out in Las Vegas. They've shown they can be quite destructive.

You could see more pressure from the United States in other covert activity. But that would require putting people on the ground.


SANGER: You might see the United States try to build a new coalition together. But that's more difficult now because the Europeans believe --


SANGER: --and the Chinese and Russians agree that President Trump sort of created this crisis by pulling out of the Iran deal a year ago rather than trying to build on top of that deal.

BOLDUAN: That's exactly right. The Trump administration has been on an island of its own when it's come to this. So it seems they're left there, at least at the moment, to deal with this themselves because that's not where European partners are. So wait and see. That's --


SANGER: -- particularly dangerous, yes --

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

SANGER: -- as you saw last week. You can't -- under these kinds of conditions, where the two countries are exchanging words like this, it's fairly easy to make a mistake in the narrow confines of the gulf. We saw what that resulted in last week. We came pretty close to something that could have led to some serious escalation.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, David. I really appreciate it.

I want to turn to another big story right now. If there's one takeaway from 2016, it is that the security of U.S. elections is under threat. See Volume I of the Mueller report, over and over again. So what does this then mean for 2020? Well, today, Elizabeth Warren say she has got a plan for that.

Let's get over to CNN political reporter, Rebecca Buck, who has details for us.

Rebecca, what is Senator Warren saying she's going to do?

REBECCA BUCK, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Hi, Kate. It starts with election integrity and security. But it also goes much farther than that, with Warren proposing essentially changes to the entire system of federal elections and the way these elections are administered across the country.

[11:10:08] First, she would start with replacing voting machines across the country, standardizing the voting system nationwide, and putting up a security firewall to protect that voting technology.

Then she goes further, mandating same-day voter registration, automatic voter registration, making Election Day a holiday, ending partisan gerrymandering, and also enforcing voting by mail and early voting across the country. So really trying to increase voter access across the board.

This, of course, would be an unprecedent level of federal involvement in elections. So, on the state level, she would do her best to incentivize states to change their rules as well.

But a sweeping plan from Elizabeth Warren when it comes to elections across the country -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Also timing is everything. And they know the timing here. She's rolling this out just before the first debates begin tomorrow.

We're getting an idea of not only she would love that to be a conversation on the stage but also how candidates are preparing to be on the stage with so many other candidates. What are you hearing?

BUCK: Elizabeth Warren, of course, trying to stand out with her policy proposals, this being one of them. The challenge for her, Kate, will be boiling those down to these one-minute snippets of time she's going to be allowed.

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden will on a different stage from Elizabeth Warren on Thursday night, facing off against each other. Joe Biden has been looking back at Bernie Sanders old debate meetings with Hillary Clinton to get a sense of what he might expect from him. Bernie Sanders has not been doing mock debates as far as we're told. But he has been eager, he says, to get out there and start to draw a contrast between himself some of these other candidates as well -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Honestly, the time limit is everything. Summing it up for any politician is impossible. Doing it in 60 seconds and driving your opponent home on the fly, that is a near impossible feat for a politician. We'll see how they do.


BOLDUAN: Thanks, Rebecca. Appreciate it.

BUCK: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, could a debate -- speaking of debates -- between Democrats and Democrats derail emergency aid for thousands of detained migrants? House Democrats just left a big meeting this morning. We'll ask a key member of a key committee about where things stand here, next.

Plus, Chicago police release hours of never-before-seen video from the Jussie Smollett investigation. One of the videos showing the actor with a noose around his neck. Details on that ahead.


[11:17:27] BOLDUAN: A battle over border funding is alive and well on Capitol Hill. But this time is it Democrats fighting against themselves really as they're up against a deadline to get something passed before they go on break next week.

News of the truly deplorable and dangerous conditions that children have been found in at one government facility in Texas and President Trump's new threat of mass deportations are all adding to the pressure for Congress to pass a multi-billion-dollar emergency aid package.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi huddled again this morning with her party to try to get everybody on the same page.

Let's find out where things stand right now. CNN's senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is on Capitol Hill with this.

Manu, what are you hearing?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Nancy Pelosi, behind closed doors, urged her caucus to get behind this proposal, saying that essentially if you're concerned about what's happening on the border, if you're a Democrat, you should get behind it.

Also she urged her caucus, I'm told, by saying that the big margin would strengthen their negotiating position with the Senate, which is approaching this matter slightly differently. Both bills, $4.6 billion. But they have slight differences in how they deal with the humanitarian crisis at the border.

This comes as the White House has issued a veto threat over the House bill. And there's questions about whether the two chambers can reconcile their difference before the end of this week when Congress is slated to go on recess, and before the end of this month when a key office from the Health and Human Services Department runs out of money to deal with unaccompanied minor children, issues involving them.

After this closed-door meeting, Nancy Pelosi and the House majority leader, Steny Hoyer, both expressed confidence that this bill would pass, even though there are questions about how both chambers ultimately will resolve this.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): It's for the children, the children, the children. It's about lifting them up and away that takes them beyond what we do today. This is a very strong first step for us. It's a very strong first step for us for the children. It's very exciting.

RAJU: What do you say to folks on the left who believe it's not doing enough to deal with the crisis at the border and could help with the deportation?

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD): Like every bill we pass, it's not perfect, but it's a good bill. And I think most think it's preferable to the Senate bill. Although the Senate bill is not a bad bill either.


MANU: So, it's interesting to hear Hoyer say the Senate bill is not a bad bill either. Because a number of Democrats, particularly on the left, have pushed back on the Senate bill.

And behind closed doors last night, Democrats in the Congressional Progressive Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus met with Nancy Pelosi, raised concerns about the House bill that includes more safeguards for migrants, more restrictions on how the money would actually be spent. They're certainly not happy with the bipartisan Senate bill moving through.

[11:20:20] But ultimately, the question will be, how do they resolve these differences. Can they get this done by the end of the week? At the moment, Nancy Pelosi has agreed to some changes that seems to have alleviated some concerns on the left, which is why the leadership this morning expressing confidence that their version of the bill in the House will pass today -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Of course, will this new version of the bill be more appealing to the Senate, less appealing to the Senate, more appealing to the president, less appealing to the president? The first step is getting it through the how, as you know. It sounds like it seems very hard that they could get this done by the end of the week but we see miracles happen before. Let us see.

Thanks, Manu. Really appreciate it.

RAJU: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Let's go from Washington to the border where the government says it's now relocating 249 migrant children from that Texas facility after reports surfaced that these kids were living in filth, without access to showers, soap, toothbrushes, and children as young as 8 years old being asked to care for infants.

Now a new twist. We're learning something like 100 of them are being moved back to the facility where they came from. Sounds confusing. Let's get to the border. CNN's Nick Valencia is outside of the Border

Patrol station in El Paso where the children were supposed to be moving to El Paso.

Nick, what's going on here?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've got some breaking news here. We want to get to it very quickly. Just got off the phone with Customs and Border Protection. They tell us those 250 kids initially transferred from that Clint Border Patrol station and moved to HHS care, 100 of them have been transferred back to the same facility where independent monitors called the conditions there unconscionable.

We asked CBP if any additional services have been provided to these children that were not available last week. They said no.

But they did say that they believe -- what they're finding in their facilities runs counter to the allegations listed by those independent monitors, who said they interviewed children who hadn't showered for three weeks, some who had limited access to soup, toothpaste or toothbrushes.

Here's what CBP said, that, "Soap and water is continuously available." They say, "We are using operational funding for items like diapers." They're working also at trying to get donations and facilitate donations into the facilities. But they say, so far, they have enough diapers, they have enough toothpaste, and there's access to soap in these environments as well. They also said, Kate, that they provide monitors.

So these allegations that are coming out, they say, that children are taking care of toddlers, infants as young as 2 years old, may not be entirely accurate. They say they provide independent monitors through the state to care for juveniles in their custody and they've provided these monitors all along.

They also added, Kate, that they've been transparent this whole time. They've been transparent in calling for more funding, $4.5 billion of emergency funding they're asking for, for Congress to resolve, they say, what is currently an overwhelming crisis at the border -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Nick, let me quickly ask you -- I hope I didn't miss it. Sorry if I did. Why are these kids, 100 of them, being moved back into the facility?

VALENCIA: So it is very complicated. HHS provided space. Essentially, there was overcapacity, they say, at the Clint Border Patrol facility. That's what those independent monitors saw.

We got a statement from HHS saying they made room and found shelters for 250 of these kids. Of those 250 kids that were transferred, 100 of them are going back because CBP says there's no longer capacity issues. Those children, who were initially transferred, now being taken back to the same environment they were taken out of -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: According to your reporting, CBP is now disputing the findings of these independent monitors, apparently, saying they've got access to all of the things that the independent monitors said clearly they did not have access to.

VALENCIA: That's right. And they're also touting the progress they've made just in a week. They say there were 2006 unaccompanied children in Customs and Border Protection care. In less than a week, they say, they've been able to get that number down to less than 1,000.

Of course, there's over 12,000, perhaps an estimated 13,000 unaccompanied children in U.S. custody right now. But they say their numbers are going down, and less than 1,000 in their care.

Of course, they're not supposed to be in these facilities for longer than 72 hours. There should be no unnecessary delay, according to the Flores Settlement, in getting them back to their sponsor or parent or legal guardian.

But what these independent monitors saw in their visit Monday through Thursday in three facilities of Customs and Border Protection runs counter to what we're hearing now from CBP officials -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Now it become even more complicated and confusing, and difficult to find a straight answer.

[11:25:03] Nick, thank you so much for your reporting. Please keep bringing it to us.

Joining me right now is Democratic Congress Matt Cartwright, of Pennsylvania. He's on the Appropriations Committee that passed the emergency funding bill out of committee for the border that we've been talking about with Manu. He is also the co-chairman of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.

Congressman, let me ask you first about what I'm hearing from Nick Valencia that, the last we heard, let's say, this morning, 250 kids were going to be moved out of this disgusting, unhealthy and dangerous facility to another facility where they could be cared for. And Nick Valencia is being told that 100 are moving back into the facility where they came.

And the government is saying they are disputing the findings of the independent monitors of the conditions that these kids were in.

REP. MATT CARTWRIGHT (D-PA): Look, Kate, first of all, thank you for having me on.

And thank you for focusing on this important issue. I want to tell you, that's why this $4.5 billion supplemental funding is so important, so we can fix all of these problems.

What you're talking about is just one microcosm of all the problems that are created when DHS and HHS run out of money for the situation at the border.

And it comes down to -- it's very bipartisan, I want to say. There's a lot of bipartisan sentiment pushing this right now. It's really about your legacy, what you associate yourself with, what we do personally, what we do as a country.

You know, two weeks ago, I was there on Omaha Beach when President Macron looked at us, 57 members of Congress, President Trump, Speaker Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, he looked at us and said, we French would not have a country if not for you Americans, and I bow down before you. That's the kind of legacy we all want to associate ourselves with.

And so doing the decent thing, doing the right thing, and taking proper care of these kids at the border, that's foremost on all of our minds. The rest of it is details we're wrestling over.

BOLDUAN: Details are important because --


BOLDUAN: -- that's where most of the disputes land. But just on what we're being told right now, that 100 of these children -- it could be one child, I could be asking the same question. But 100 of these children, who were moved out because conditions were deplorable, are now being moved back to the facility. Is that OK?

CARTWRIGHT: Of course not. The answer to it is to pass this supplemental funding bill. We have tension between the Senate and House on which version is going to go through.


CARTWRIGHT: We have some tension in the Democratic caucus itself. But I think these things are going to be worked out.


BOLDUAN: So let's talk about that. I want to talk about where things stand with Democrats. Because there was this very tense meeting last night amongst some Democrats and the House speaker. Then there's a meeting that just took place this morning with the House speaking. And where do things stand right now. She is open to some changes. Are you open to some changes? What are they? Where are things standing with the House bill?

CARTWRIGHT: Of course, Kate. This is all part of the push and pull of legislation. What we want to do is make sure that the perfect does not become the enemy of the good. Every piece of legislation in the history of our republic has been push and pull and negotiation.

And what we're seeing is something I'm quite satisfied with. That's that the speaker is listening to these dissident voices.

In fact, I wrote down the things that have been added to the bill because of their concerns, specifying what hygiene and nutrition need to mean. Because, obviously, some people don't realize that soap and toothbrushes are part of hygiene. Adding translation services. And limiting the time that unaccompanied children can spend at arrival shelters before they go into more permanent housing. Those are all legitimate concerns. I applaud them being added to the

bill. I will be voting yes on the bill. I hope the Senate takes it up and takes it seriously.

BOLDUAN: One voice who has been opposed to what they have seen so far in the House bill is Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She told reporters last night this, "We need to stop funding the detention of children under any and all circumstances. I," she said, "will not fund another dime to allow ICE to continue its manipulative tactics."

She doesn't trust that the administration is going to spend the money you give them to improve the conditions that the migrant children, migrants in general are being faced with.


BOLDUAN: Is she wrong?

CARTWRIGHT: I'm not going to gainsay her mistrust of the administration. I think there is ample foundation for that.

But I think the answer is to go ahead and look at the big picture. In addition to funding the $4.5 billion supplemental, we also have to enact what we already did in the state and foreign ops appropriations bill, and that is provide assistance to the three countries where these people are coming from, so they can beef up their security.