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AT THIS HOUR

Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) Discusses Child Migrants at El Paso CBP Facility, Emergency Funding Aid Bill for Migrants; Newly Released Video Shows "Empire" Actor Wearing Noose; Record-Long Vacancy for Permanent Defense Secretary Takes Toll on Department; Sonny Perdue: Farmers "Are One of the Casualties" of Trump's Trade War. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired June 25, 2019 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:30:00] REP. MATT CARTWRIGHT (D-PA): 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.

I mean, these people are fleeing horrible, violent conditions in these countries. And for a relatively cheap price -- I mean, if you want to talk about --

(CROSSTALK)

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: The president doesn't agree with you.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: The president doesn't want to do that.

CARTWRIGHT: Well, I know he doesn't. The math is pretty simple. You can spend $50 billion or $75 billion on a wall or you can spend half of one billion to beef up security --

BOLDUAN: So why --

CARTWRIGHT -- so that these places are livable and they're not streaming up to America.

BOLDUAN: Right now, in terms of what Congress, what you, the House, is going to do, are you confident that the House is going to pass a bill today that will get overwhelming support by Democrats?

CARTWRIGHT: I am. I think it will pass. I think the speaker has listened to the different voices in the caucus and I think we may see some Republican votes as well.

BOLDUAN: On that, Jan Schakowsky said last night that you all, you have to pass something this week because, if not, HHS and that office within HHS is running out of funding to care for these migrant children.

If the House passes, the Senate passes, and then you have to figure it out amongst yourselves, however the Senate and House figure it out, and it doesn't happen this week, is it on you, not the White House now, if you guys can't get it done?

CARTWRIGHT: There's pressure. Here in the United States Congress, people like to leave things to the last minute. I've notice that since I've started working here, Kate. And sometimes you do, at least, at binds like this.

But it's absolutely vital. Everybody feels it, Democrats and Republicans, that we have to fund this supplemental. We have to get to a yes ASAP. Because when they're out of money, those situations like what you just described, they will happen more and more and more. We have to stop that. We have to be the grown-ups in the room and come to a resolution.

BOLDUAN: What do you say to a House Democrat right now who says they're no on the big right now because they're not going to give another dime to this administration?

CARTWRIGHT: Yes, I think that's a distinct minority, Kate. You're always going to have that. And they're messaging. We have never stifled minority voices like that in the Democratic caucus and I don't think we ever should.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, thanks for coming in.

CARTWRIGHT: My pleasure, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Let's see what happens today in the House. Let's see what happens this week with this vote.

Coming up, Chicago police are releasing hours of new video from the Jussie Smollett investigation. One video shows the actor with a noose around his neck. The noose that he talked about in his first call to police and how that whole thing unraveled. That is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:37:23] BOLDUAN: It's a story that took more twists and turns than an episode of the hit show, "Empire." Now, this morning, we are getting a new look at what really happened to "Empire" actor, Jussie Smollett, when he called the police and said he was a victim of a hate crime.

The Chicago police are now releasing bodycam video of their first encounter with him. You can see something like a noose hanging around of his neck in one video.

You'll remember the "Empire" actor claimed he had been attacked by two men, that they doused him with bleach or some substance, and wrapped that noose around his neck.

Chicago police, however, later called it an elaborate hoax staged by Smollett himself.

CNN's Ryan Young is joining me now from Chicago with more on this. Ryan, why are police releasing this video now? Maybe, more importantly, does it give us any better window into what actually happened?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so many twists and turns in this one. Look, first things first. The reason the video is coming out now is because so many of us in the media had to ask a judge to unseal parts of the case. This is part of that dump they're doing to show all the evidence they

had.

Of course, there was a 16-count indictment that went away. A lot of people felt like the actor got a slap on the wrist. And of course, all of us wanted to see the evidence police have.

We're at the corner where all this apparently happened. The subway about two blocks down.

Remember, this was one of the coldest nights in Chicago. Jussie Smollett told police he went to get a sandwich, and on the way back, he was attacked.

But let's take a look at this video because we've always wanted to see exactly how those moments were afterwards. And you can see that noose that was placed around his neck.

But even from the beginning, you can see how detectives were looking at this case, especially when it came to that rope. It looked so new. You can hear the actor talk about the bleach he thought was poured on him.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUSSIE SMOLLETT, ACTOR: The reason I'm calling is because (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: OK, OK.

Do you want to take it off or anything?

SMOLLETT: Yes, I do. I just wanted you guys to see it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YOUNG: So he asked the officers to turn off that bodycam at some point.

Look, from the very beginning, you had 20 detectives working this case around the clock to try to figure things out.

There were people who were running for president in this country who were calling for a federal investigation.

But it was two brothers, the Osundairo brothers, who actually started talking to police, giving them the information days later that they believe that Jussie Smollett actually paid them to pull this hoax off.

When this case started to unravel, almost the entire city turned on this actor.

Let's not forget he's been sidelines from the show "Empire" because of this. He's still getting paid but won't appear on the show. He hasn't given much comment on it. In fact, he has dropped off of social media almost entirely.

But so many questions about this case. You see the more than 70 hours of video. Detectives were really working this.

It will be interesting to see if the special prosecutor, who may be appointed sometime soon, reopens and goes after new charges for the actor.

[11:40:09] BOLDUAN: Yes, so not over yet, is what we'll say.

Ryan, thank you so much.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Still ahead for us, there hasn't been a permanent secretary of defense in six months. What does this turnover and, honestly, the turmoil at the top mean for the U.S. military? And is that exactly how President Trump would like to have it?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:45:01] BOLDUAN: Facing a critical moment with Iran just after the president's last-minute cancellation of the military tries there, and with hundreds of thousands of servicemembers currently deployed overseas, the Pentagon is breaking records in a way that it likely never hopes to. The department has not had a permanent secretary of defense for 175 days now.

James Mattis left the post at the end of last year and, since then, six months now, the president has only an acting secretary as the head of DOD, and not just one, but no onto a second acting secretary. And there could be even a third before any confirmed Senate replacement is put in place.

CNN reporter, Michael Warren, is following this closely for us. He's joining me now.

Michel, three Pentagon chiefs in seven months. What's the impact of turnover like this?

MICHAEL WARREN, CNN REPORTER: It really is unprecedented, Kate. Defense experts that talk to CNN insisted that the day-to-day operations at the Pentagon, lots of bureaucracies there, they continue to operate even under an acting secretary.

But what they caution is that some of the long-term reforms, planning, strategy, this was really affected by having somebody acting, not Senate confirmed, having that temporary label placed on them from the beginning. And just having it for such a long period of time only prolongs the kind of setbacks that come from having that position be temporary.

BOLDUAN: And President Trump has said that he does like to keep people in, you know, acting roles, is how he said it, because he has more flexibility to move people around faster.

But there has to be real limitations an acting secretary of defense faces compared to a Senate-confirmed head of that department.

WARREN: Right. Some of those are practical. The acting secretary can't retain talent, hire people, fill these positions that have happened after James Mattis left at the end of last year.

But also there's a problem here where the Senate doesn't give sort of it premature on this secretary of defense. It hurts the ability of the secretary to talk to Congress, to even speak up in cabinet and National Security Council sessions. That really gives a void that allows people like the secretary of state, national security adviser to fill that void, leaving the Pentagon, in many ways, disadvantaged in those discussions.

BOLDUAN: You can take that even further. What that also means for the Pentagon's voice, if you will, on the international stage. There are so many fires burning all around the world, and that leadership is so needed.

Michael, great reporting. Thank you so much.

WARREN: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Still to come for us, one of President Trump's own cabinet members is now offering up a pretty stunning admission. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Pursue now acknowledging that Trump's trade war is hurting American farmers. More from CNN's exclusive interview, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:52:44] BOLDUAN: President Trump is heading to the G-20 summit this weekend and, while there, will be meeting with the Chinese President Xi Jinping. And even the prospect of that conversation happening is cause for celebration right now among some farmers is Iowa. Why? Because they continue to suffer from the trade war with China has had no end in sight.

CNN business and politics reporter, Vanessa Yurkevich, sat down for an exclusive interview with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who, unlike the president, acknowledges the pain farmers are feeling.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS & POLITICS REPORTER (voice-over): It's a sunny day in Iowa for the great tractor ride, a welcome sight after heavy rains last week brought more flooding to farmlands.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue brought his own tractor up for the ride and a message from the president.

SONNY PERDUE, AGRICULTURE SECRTARY: President Trump has a lot of respect for farmers and ranchers across this country. He appreciates your patience. He understands it's tough out there.

YURKEVICH: The U.S. has been in a trade war with China for almost a year. Farmers have felt the brunt of it with tariffs driving down their crop prices.

(on camera): Is the American farmer the casualty in this trade war?

PERDUE: I think they are one of the casualties there of the trade disruption, yes.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): The president is headed to the G-20 summit in Japan this week where he'll meet with China's President Xi Jinping to try to get trade talks back on track after a deal fell apart last month.

(on camera): Well, the president is going to speak with the president of China later this week.

RUTH DE BRUIN, IOWA FARMER: Yes.

YURKEVICH: You seem excited.

DE BRUIN: Yes. Yes.

YURKEVICH: What are you hoping comes out of that conversation?

DE BRUIN: Wouldn't it be great if they could get a deal?

PERDUE: I don't think he'll come home with a deal, but I think he could come home with the beginning of, let's really get serious about negotiations.

YURKEVICH: How long do you think it will go on?

PERDUE: I'd love to see a resolution by the end of this year.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): But that might be too long for some. Farm bankruptcies are up 20 percent last year, the highest in almost a decade.

DE BRUIN: We have to pay the bills. We can't just keep going. The bank isn't going to keep letting us go, right? You have to get to that point where you say, OK, what do we do now?

YURKEVICH: Last month, the president approved another bailout package for farmers, $16 billion for 2019.

[11:55:04] DUANE BRANDT, IOWA FARMER: What they're doing this year is going to help a bunch. It's going to help me a bunch. But --

YURKEVICH (on camera): So you wouldn't be able to make ends meet if you didn't have these government subsidies? BRANDT: They would have been very, very slim.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): Farmers here hoping this lifeline continues.

PERDUE: Yes, I think President Trump has demonstrated they can count on him. Obviously, we don't have nothing promised.

YURKEVICH (on camera): So ultimately, can they count on getting those funds from the federal government if this trade war continues?

PERDUE: Again, this is a 2019 program. I'm not going to promise anything for 2020.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YURKEVICH: Farmers here in Iowa have been particularly hard struck because of historic flooding that happened earlier this year that still has many of their farmlands under water. Yet, they are still supporting the president.

But, Kate, they are going to be paying very close attention to this meeting between President Trump and President Xi to see if they can make any progress at all on this really crucial trade deal for them -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Yes. Because, as you talked to those folks in Iowa, something has to give. It's either going to give between Trump and Xi or it's going to give in Iowa and those farmers that are really hard up against it right now.

Vanessa, thank you so much for bringing it to us. Great piece. Really appreciate it.

Coming up for us in a few minutes, presidential adviser and son-in- law, Jared Kushner, will be unveiling his long-awaited plan to bring peace to the Middle East. Why is one major player in this, a key stakeholder, boycotting the event? Details, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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