Return to Transcripts main page

CNN TONIGHT

Robert Mueller Agreed To Testify On July 17; Shocking Image Of Drowned Father And Daughter Underscores Grim Reality Of Migrant Crisis; McConnell Commits To August Vote In Senate On Renewing 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired June 25, 2019 - 23:00   ET

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


[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

We are going to begin with major breaking news on the most anticipated congressional hearing in years. And that is Robert Mueller agreeing to testify publicly before Congress on July 17th.

The agreement reached after both the House judiciary and the intelligence committees issued subpoenas compelling the former special counsel to appear. He will be questioned in separate back-to-back hearings by each committee that day, the testimony from the reluctant star witness to represent representing a huge moment for House Democrats who have been at odds over whether to dive into the impeachment process.

So, there is a lot to discuss tonight. So, I'm going to turn now to CNN's Evan Perez, also Matthew Rosenberg, Jennifer Rodgers is here as well, and Elie Honig. We have a lot to talk about and we've assembled a great group. So, thank you, all.

Evan, I'm going to start with you. Because President Trump is responding to the news that Mueller is going to testify next month. Tweeting, "presidential harassment" in capital letters. He's called his harassment from the start. I mean, it's clearly angry, him, but that's nothing new that he's tweeting that he said that all along.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. It's not surprising the president is not a fan of this idea. But look, I think, you said it very well, certainly in the last hour with Manu. That, you know, even if Mueller says pretty much what he said in the report, what he said in his press conference just a few weeks ago, it has the potential to have an impact.

Because only a fraction of the population of this country has actually read even parts of the report. The president hasn't read the report which is why when Mueller had this press conference. The president reacted in a way that he didn't react when the report was first released. Right?

So, I think it does have that potential. However, you know, it all depends on the questions. It all depends on how members of Congress do this hearing. I mean, they have the capability of screwing this up, we've seen them do it before. So, I don't know whether they'll get from this as you called him a reluctant witness, whether they'll get --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: You look -- you don't seem to have very much confidence in our leader.

PEREZ: I've seen this movie before.

LEMON: This show before, yes. Elie, let me bring you in. Because Chairman Schiff told Manu Raju he does not think the special counsel considers this a friendly subpoena. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Was this a friendly subpoena as they call it, something in which the special counsel asked to be subpoenaed to come before your committee?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I don't think the special counsel's office considers it a friendly subpoena. He was and is deeply reluctant to come testify. But nonetheless, he has agreed to respect the subpoena. So, we expect all of the members of our committee will have an opportunity to ask him questions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, let's dig into that. What is a friendly subpoena and why isn't this one friendly, Elie?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So friendly subpoena is sort of a convention that we have sometimes as prosecutors or in Congress. When somebody is willing to come in and testify and they will say just give me a subpoena just from my record, almost like just give me a receipt for the testimony you are about to give.

And it sounds like from Representative Schiff this is something more. We know Robert Mueller does not want to testify. He said it to us when he spoke a couple of weeks ago. But ultimately, too bad. I know there is this tendency to view Robert Mueller as this sort of mystical being.

[23:04:57] But Robert Mueller is a human being. He is a former DOJ employee who took on the most important investigation that we've seen in many years. He has a duty to come in and answer questions in front of Congress and in front of the American public like it or not.

LEMON: Jennifer, does that mean that the special counsel is only testifying because he would be in violation of the law if he defied the subpoena?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think so. I mean, he made clear that he didn't want to testify that he didn't want to go beyond the four corners of his document. But look, I agree with Elie. We need to know things from him. And foremost among those things, is what does he think of Barr's prosecutorial decision.

I mean, Mueller didn't make a decision because of fairness concerns. Barr felt no compunction on that direction. So, what does Mueller think of that. Does he think that is the way to go? Why are there no issues with that on Barr's part? I'm interested to hear what Mueller says about that.

LEMON: The question, Matthew, what kind of witness will he make if he is -- you know, as I said, a reluctant witness if he is testifying unwillingly.

MATTHEW ROSENBERG, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I mean, I don't think he's going to get a lot of them, a lot of the extras, you know, what were you thinking on this, why didn't you this. You're not going to get those answers. He's going to stick to the report.

What I do think is going to happen though, is you are going to see Republicans who have entirely different kind of edifice of facts here trying to prove this point. Like the investigation started with the Steele dossier.

It's not so much the matter what he says about that. They're going to get the sound bite of that. They are going to be able to say well, look, we know this unlawful thing happened. And no matter what he says about that that's going to play well in their base.

And so, as much as it may shift things from the undecided it may reinforce kind of notion of this unlawful investigation for that kind of red meat Republican base that lot of this was unlawful.

LEMON: So, the interesting thing is whether they say the investigation was lawful or unlawful, isn't it about the results of the investigation and not necessarily whether the investigate -- is that a whole another show as they say?

PEREZ: Yes. I mean, it kind of, is right.

LEMON: Yes.

PEREZ: I mean, you can see the fruits of this work of this labor. I mean, there are people who went to prison or people charged, right? There were -- and one of the most important things that Mueller said in his press conference was trying to bring back the focus on exactly what got us here, right, which was the Russian military, Russian government's attack on our political system.

And I think that's one of the things that if the Democrats are smart, that's one of the places they're going to spend a lot of time on because, look, a lot of people love talking about the obstruction part of this because it's the part that sort of like gets people, you know, sort of gossiping about, certainly the people who are testifying from inside the White House.

But I think the thing that got us here is what the Russians did and I think it's an important day for people to be reminded of that. And Mueller, I think is very willing to go there. He might be able to -- he might be able to get more out of him in that part of it.

LEMON: Elie, does that work in our legal system that well, you know, they found wrongdoing or potential wrongdoing but you shouldn't be investigating me because this investigation was not on the up and up. Is that like a, is that a thing?

HONIG: No, it is not a thing, Don. And in fact, in real life criminal prosecution and investigation, you often end up looking -- starting by looking at something and then finding something completely different. But that's why we say we don't --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Didn't they say that about -- isn't that what happened with Bill Clinton?

HONIG: Sure. I mean, exactly. They weren't looking at perjury when they started that, they were looking at an affair.

But, I mean, even as a real life, sort of prosecutor, a lot of time you just go where the facts take you. And sometimes they take you in a direction that you did not expect. And by the way, if the Republicans think they're going to score points with Robert Mueller about the origins of this investigation, Mueller already has been quite clear about that in the report.

He said this investigation started when George Papadopoulos started yapping to other people that he has this line on getting dirt on Hillary Clinton. He says that in the report. So, I don't think --I think that's an empty well if the Republicans think they're going to score points there.

LEMON: Jennifer, we heard Robert Mueller tell us all that he wouldn't have much to say if he did testify. Watch this and then I'll get your response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL TO U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: There has been a discussion about an appearance before Congress. Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report.

It contains our findings and analysis and the reasons for the decisions we made. We chose those words carefully and the work speaks for itself. And the report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, Jennifer, you know, he's going to have a very long day with more than one hearing open sessions both times. Could that impact his performance with both of these hearings scheduled for the very same day?

RODGERS: Well, I think it's exhausting. So, sure, he'll be tired at the end. But I think his statement that he's not going beyond the four corners of his report is, you know, is just that, it's his statement. But you know, Congress is entitled to oversight here. We pay a lot of money, the taxpayers for this report.

[23:09:59] They're entitled to hear not just, you know, what's in it which they can read for themselves. They're entitled to hear about some of these other issues. Right? Like, you know, what he thought when Bill Barr represented the report to the people or misrepresented the report, what he thought about Bill Barr's prosecutorial decision.

And I think a little digging into his own recitation of the facts here. I mean, he said he didn't reach to conclusion but a thousand prosecutors felt otherwise, including me and Elie, because it did lay out the three elements of the crime and the evidence and it sounded a lot to us. Like he actually was saying that those elements were met here.

So, I think they should really go at them with some of those conclusion questions and, you know, he may try not to answer. But legally he really doesn't have a bases not to. So, we'll have to see how that all shakes out.

LEMON: Elie, I want you to respond to that? Because Democrats will have -- they'll have some questions. They be -- they'll go beyond what's in the report no doubt. The question is, how is Mueller going to answer to these questions?

HONIG: Yes. Jennifer is right. He doesn't have the -- legally speaking, a witness cannot say I'd rather not answer that. And I know that's what Mueller said. And he said my report is my testimony. But, too bad. You owe answers to questions. If you're under subpoena, that is compulsory. You must answer these questions. And I think there's --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Isn't that what he did?

HONIG: Yes. About what he did about his conclusions, about his process. There is no special counsel exemption. There is no you're a mysterious guy exemption. He is a person who's under subpoena. He has a duty to answer.

It would be interesting to see how he answer some of the questions that Evan and Jenifer laid out. Would you have charge obstruction of justice if not for the DOJ policy. Who in the Trump administration -- who in the Trump campaign expected to benefit from the Russian interference? Those are important questions that he does not answer in the report that he owes answers to.

LEMON: Elie, can I ask you -- can I ask you something else?

HONIG: Yes.

LEMON: So, you know how the White House when Hope Hicks and others spoke, they had an attorney there. The Department of Justice attorneys were there. HONIG: Yes.

LEMON: Will they possibly have an attorney there telling Robert Mueller no, you cannot answer that because that is confidential or that is privileged and you can't do that?

HONIG: It's absolutely possible, Don. We've seen new levels of stonewalling throughout this investigation like you just said with some of the witnesses that we've heard from. So, it is possible. The White House tries to insert a lawyer there.

Now, a couple of things. Number one, it's going to look terrible if you have a White House lawyer sitting there, objection, objection, objection, that looks really bad. They were able to get away with it last week with Hope Hicks because of it was behind closed doors. That's one thing.

LEMON: Yes.

HONIG: To do it out in public is another. The other thing is, these objections that we've been hearing executive privilege this immunity deal simply do not apply to Robert Mueller. He's not an adviser of the president, he never was. He does not work for the executive branch anymore. There is no privilege between him and anybody else. So, if they do try to put this kind of defense up it's going to look desperate and rightly so.

LEMON: I got to, a quick second here. Matthew, is this going to move the needle do you think in public opinion?

ROSENBERG: A little bit. I don't think it's going to move far enough to make a difference.

LEMON: All right. Thank you all. I appreciate it.

More on our breaking news, the special counsel Robert Mueller is going to testify publicly in front of the House intelligence and judiciary committees on July 17th. You're going to hear from the judiciary chairman, Jerry Nadler, he's next.

[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Here's our breaking news tonight. Robert Mueller will testify before Congress on July 17th answering questions publicly for the first time about his 22-month investigation into President Trump.

The House judiciary Mueller (ph) and intelligence committees announcing tonight that Mueller agreed to testify after they issued subpoenas for his testimony.

Earlier, Chris talked to Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler and here is that interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN GUOMO: Good to have you, sir, especially on such an important night. I'm assuming you did vote on the border bill.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): Good to be here

CUOMO: Are you clear of that responsibility?

NADLER: Yes, I voted on the motion of committee, I voted on the bill that's coming up.

CUOMO: All right, good, because I do not want to delay you in any way.

But the point of having Mueller, he says I won't go beyond the report. But as we both know most people haven't read the report. And what he said in his press conference was so powerful. It wasn't new if you read the report but it matters if you hear it from him. Is that your interest?

NADLER: Well, our interest is for the American people to hear it from him. There's been a campaign of misrepresentation by Attorney General Barr who misrepresented what was in the report. By the president who keep saying the report found no collusion, no obstruction, that's not true either way.

So, it's important that the American people hear from him what the report found. It's important that he answers a lot of specific questions.

I think one of the questions that isn't specifically in the report would be you wrote a letter, Mr. Mueller to the special -- to the attorney general saying that he had, in ways, misrepresented the report. How so? But I think it's important the American people hear from him what he did find and what he didn't find.

CUOMO: How worried are you that he wants to do this so little that he's going to be non-responsive when he gets before you.

NADLER: I think he'll answer the questions. It's up to us to ask questions that will get the information. And remember, he did a two- year investigation. He found that the Russians attacked our election. He found that there were plenty of -- I think 170 contacts between the Russians and the people in the Trump campaign.

He found that the Trump campaign welcomed the intervention of the Russians and the assistance of the Russians. He found plenty of obstruction of justice and the president trying to obstruct his investigation and all of that has to stayed in publicly --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: One more quick thing because I think that buzzer means that you have to go back in.

NADLER: Yes.

CUOMO: But let me ask you. Are you worried about the White House blocking Mueller or the DOJ blocking Mueller or content? NADLER: No, I'm not really worried about that because Mueller is an

honest outstanding citizen. He will testify in response to the subpoena that we issued. He's not going to let the White House or anybody else tell him to defy a lawful congressional subpoena.

[23:20:02] CUOMO: And they don't have any right of privilege. He didn't work for them. And does the attorney general have any right even though Mueller is no longer employed.

NADLER: No. He has no right whatsoever. I mean, the administration has claimed with respect to Hope Hicks and McGahn and some other people absolute immunity which is nonsense as a matter of law. We are going to prove that -- we are going to show that in court.

But, no. There is no right to defy a congressional subpoena, the White House might assert some privilege but when they reveal this a lot of the information to Mueller and even to private attorneys, they waive the privilege. So, I think he'll answer the questions that are put to him because it's his civic duty to do so and he's an outstanding prosecutor.

CUOMO: Do you think that this border vote that you are about to go duty, do you think it's going to be straight party line or do you think we have enough Republicans signing on to this to keep the White House at bay and maybe get through with the Senate.

NADLER: I don't know. I haven't been whipping Republican. I think it will be close to party line from what I'm hearing.

CUOMO: Does that concern you that the situation is so dire --

(CROSSTALK)

NADLER: Yes, it concern -- it certainly concerns me that plenty of people are willing to vote in such a way as to keep the terrible conditions for these children the separation of the families, the keeping of children in unsanitary and unhealthy conditions. Six have died so far.

Yes, it concerns me. I said in conversations to some other people that a no vote on this bill is a political statement. The yes vote is moral imperative.

CUOMO: And you know, look, I know some members of the left of the Democratic Party weren't so crazy about this bill either. I hope somebody is going to show the picture of the father and daughter faced down in the water having died trying to cross the river.

I hope somebody introduces it at the vote to remind people what this is about.

(CROSSTALK)

NADLER: Well, that is why it's a more imperative. No bill is perfect, certainly this one isn't. But it's the best we can get. It will help these kids. It will save lives. Therefore, it's moral imperative to vote for it.

CUOMO: Mr. Chairman, such an important night, two different stories, you are involved in both. Thank you for sharing your perspective on this event with my audience. I appreciate it.

NADLER: Well, thank you. Thank you, Chris.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: That was a little while ago. Chris's interview with the House Judiciary Chairman, Jerry Nadler. We've got more on our breaking news tonight. The House passing a bill tonight to provide $4.5 billion in aid for the crisis on the border but will the White House veto it like they've been threatening.

[23:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: We are learning some new heartbreaking details about this shocking photo. Father and his nearly his two-year-old daughter drowned at the U.S.-Mexico border. They came from El Salvador. The government identifies them as Oscar Alberto Martinez and his daughter Angie Valeria. Father and daughter drowned on Sunday as they attempted to cross the Rio Grande.

I want to bring in now Douglas Brinkley, David Rohde, and Juliette Kayyem. As I said earlier, you know, this -- that photo is hard for me to look at and I probably said something, a stuff that I shouldn't -- a word that I shouldn't have said. But still, I can't have -- I mean, Douglas, you can't help but look at that and just --

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Just utterly heart wrenching and I think that this photo has to galvanize the country to do something about the detention camps there.

The fact that in Clint, Texas there are kids that just can't get diapers, basic food, toothbrushes, healthcare and that we are having a crisis on the border of a humanitarian one and the president of the United States can't act. He isn't showing the heart, Don, that he needs to be a leader of our country to do something for these people.

LEMON: Do you think it will make a difference, that photograph?

BRINKLEY: I do. Because you know, Emmett Till was killed in that, he was showed in 1955 in a coffin.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: In a coffin --

BRINKLEY: Open casket or in Vietnam with the child running, the Eddie Adams photo. That moves people into a sense of protest and descent. And I hope anybody of faith tonight says prayers for both. You know, it's Oscar and Angie, it's deeply troubling.

LEMON: I can't tell you how -- I mean, just that photograph, I'm sure everyone has the same reaction to it. David, the father and daughter had successfully crossed that river.

The father turned back for his wife and when the daughter saw her dad swim away, my gosh, she jumped right after him. And they were taken by the strong current and they drowned. I mean, this is according to the photographer who took the shot of photo. Like I said, it's -- listen, it's absolutely, it's just heartbreaking.

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes. My daughter is celebrating her fifth birthday soon. And you protect your child and he was trying to protect her, and trying to, you know, give her new life and give her safety.

And this is why the broader problem is, you know, meeting in these countries. Earlier Ana Navarro was talking about a summit with the countries in Central America, you know, these people are fleeing here because they don't feel safe, they have no secure jobs, no secure homes and that's what this father was trying to do. And it just breaks my heart.

I just, you know, we are -- it's in us to protect our children. He was trying to protect his child. And you know, he ended having her died and him dying that effort it's just heartbreaking for the entire family.

LEMON: And Juliette, not to mention, the wife witnessed the husband and her daughter drowned.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. I mean, he put his t-shirt around her, probably because he had to ensure that she stay close.

[23:29:59] So, if you look at the picture, you see that his shirt is over her. Anything a parent would do to make sure that the current didn't run -- didn't take her away from him. If she was not going to survive, he was not going to survive. You know, we do call this a crisis but to pick up on Douglas's point, this is -- the White House is treating this as sort of the anti-crisis when I'm -- you know, and then crisis management.

We have a whole bunch of ways that we think about this, right? You either go big or stay home. You focus on family unification. You make sure that vulnerable populations are taken care of. You ask for the community's help in protecting these children. This administration has failed to do any of those. And so it is like they can't even see what a crisis this is. They're just embarrassed that they got caught by the AP and the New Yorker and other reporters.

LEMON: I got to -- David, is this -- you know, I asked Douglas if this would make a difference. Is this photo, a snapshot, David, of what the immigration crisis really looks like?

ROHDE: It is. This is the reality. The reality -- you know, people are dying. The reality and I don't want to get political like this is a different moment, but the Trump administration's response to the crisis on the border is failing. More people are coming, people are dying and children are being separated from their families. They've had years in office to solve this and it is getting worse and worse. That is a reality. I don't think there are easy solutions. There should be more specific proposal from Democrats for the bill tonight. But there is no question that this is an abject failure and for many people, it is shameful. It sort of shocking to Americans that this sort of happening in our country and on our border.

LEMON: You know, Doug, this snapshot is hard to look at. I mean, let's just be honest. I never said we shouldn't show it and tell you that. Do you think that Americans -- this is necessary for Americans to see this, right?

BRINKLEY: We all are going to have to look at it because we live in a visual age. It's imagery that people respond to. We have to understand that when we do all this rough and tumble language of build the wall, there is a crisis going on in the border. The United States used to be the country that sent the Peace Corp volunteers to help people around the world.

Now, our neighbors in this hemisphere need help on our border. We have a gridlock in Washington. We seem unable to do anything. I think that people have to take this photograph and use it as a foundation to start really showing more love and care to the people that are coming in from Central America across the river and hoping to come to America. We are treating them abysmally.

LEMON: David, I want to talk about the conditions of some of the children who are being detained and conditions that they are living in. We've heard some really deeply disturbing reports on overcrowding, the stench, lack of soap, toothpaste, kids taking care of toddlers, you know, having to use the bathroom in front of each other.

You re-tweeted your friend, Michael Scott Moore, as a journalist kidnapped by Somalia pirates and he wrote this on the thing. He said, "Somali pirates gave me toothpaste and soap." And then you replied, "The Taliban gave me toothpaste and soap."

You were kidnapped by the Taliban in 2008. You were held captive for eight months before escaping. You said you were just making a statement and Americans can make their own judgment. But you got quite a response to that.

ROHDE: Yeah. It was Michael who started it. Look, he hates the Somali pirates who kidnapped him. I hate the Taliban who kidnapped me. It was absolutely wrong, what happened to us. But it is fact, you know. He was given toothpaste and soap. I was given toothpaste and soap by my captors.

You know, that -- it has gone viral but this whole case of the Trump administration lawyer arguing that, you know, these children who are separated from their parents don't deserve toothpaste and soap.

It was just shocking. You know, I wanted to make that statement. I at least got that from my captors, but, you know, this administration does not feel these children deserve that. That's a fact. You know, again, as I said, people can make their own judgment about it. It's a tremendously sad situation.

LEMON: Thank you, all. We'll be right back.

[23:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The House voted to approve $4.5 billion in aid for the crisis at the border. The defining image of that crisis has become a father and his little daughter drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande.

Joining me now to discuss are Alice Stewart and Bakari Sellers. Thank you both. I appreciate you joining us. So, Alice, you know, we are learning that new details surrounding this photo and the mother -- we were talking about this in the break -- the mother apparently witnessed the daughter and the dad drowned, her husband, in Rio Grande. Can you imagine?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I can't. I can't imagine the desperation this family felt in the first place to flee under such dangerous conditions. But seeing her husband go to such length to save their daughter and then come back for her and then to be completely helpless to help them, I can't imagine. We talk about these numbers and facts and figures behind this crisis and information is cold, but images like this are chilling.

LEMON: It's people.

STEWART: It is people and it reminds me of the picture we saw of the Syrian boy in 2015 who was washed upon the shore in Turkey.

[23:40:04] And a quote that often came out from people involved in that said, "I see human but no humanity." This is what we see here. We need to do something at the border and at the point of origin.

LEMON: What did you want to say, Bakari? Are you trying to weigh in there?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. I mean, I agree. I think that the images unfortunately are the only way that the United States Congress will act. I am glad that the House passed something today. We see these images all throughout our border whether or not they are in these inhumane camps that we have individuals and children in along the border where they can't get sanitary supplies, toothbrush, toothpaste, running out of food, tissue, et cetera.

Now you have this image of this father trying to save his daughter. It is devastating throughout history. I think Douglas frankly in the earlier segment talked about it briefly. But throughout history, there only been few images which have resonated and trimmers throughout this country that propel us to move. You have the image of the casket, of course. You have, as Alice just alluded to, the picture from Syria. You have the (INAUDIBLE) Bridge. You add these images and this is one, I think, that will have ripple effects.

I think this election as some candidates have talked about is a moral one. I think that we have to begin to fight that on a moral basis. This is as much as people want to set politics aside, this is as political as you can get when you have individuals who are dying, trying to get to our country. We have a crisis on our hands. We have to figure out the best way to solve the problem.

LEMON: He said crisis, Alice. I mean, we all know that there was a humanitarian crisis on the border. Do you think something as powerful as this image, images can move, they can move the needle. Do you think that this is going to actually spur some sort of compromise between Republicans and Democrats?

STEWART: If Oscar and Valeria cannot move the needle, nothing can. The picture has to be able to move the needle in Washington. I am encouraged to see steps taken with regards to the humanitarian crisis at the border and what we need to do there. But it is also imperative for us not to just look at the consequences at the border but the root cause.

This family came from El Salvador, the northern triangle, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Those people are fleeing gang violence and drugs and disgusting behavior. We need to continue to provide aid to the northern triangle, to give them a reason to stay, help their economy, and that is an important component of this, not just what's happening at the border which is important, but the root cause in the northern triangle and that's something also that Washington needs to look at.

LEMON: Bakari, here is what Senator Kamala Harris tweeted. You can get your point across after I ask you this. I want you to respond to this. She tweeted about the photo. "These families seeking asylum are often fleeing extreme violence. And what happens when they arrive? Trump says, "Do back to where you came from." That is inhumane. Children are dying. This is a stain on our moral conscience."

She is right. This is bigger than politics in that part. What is your reaction to her comment?

SELLERS: I think that it is fact-check true. This is a stain on our moral conscience. We do have a president that is not showing the compassion when you are dealing with these issues and dealing with this crisis at our border which is a humanitarian crisis.

This is a moral imperative. It is required upon us that the United States of America to act with some grace, to act with some civility, to act with some humanity and give everyone the benefit of their humanity which we have not.

Now, I don't have much faith. I know my friend, Alice, has more faith than I, but I don't have much faith that we're going to get our act together. I recall a time not too long ago when you had the gang of eight led by Marco Rubio, John McCain, Lindsey Graham and others trying to come up with comprehensive immigration reform.

Those types of Republicans don't really exist anymore. That climate is no longer there. So I don't have any faith following the leadership of this president that we will have the compassion necessary to get this done. LEMON: Well, I hope Alice is right. I hope Alice is right that something does happen, but we'll see. We shall see. Thank you both very much. I got to go. An important story is coming up about 9/11 responders. You don't want to miss it.

[23:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: A group of 9/11 first responders is meeting today with Mitch McConnell saying the Senate majority leader gave them assurance that legislation to extend the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund will get a vote in the Senate in August after it passes the House. Well, first responder John Feal is insisting they are going to hold McConnell to his word. Look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN FEAL, 9/11 FIRST RESPONDER: Are we happy? No. If he strays from his commitment, then we'll go back into attack mode. But for now, we are going to put down our swords, we are going to pick up our rakes, we are going to form, and we are going to be with our friends who are sick and dying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: John Feal, there he is. He joins me now along with 9/11 first responder Matthew McCauley. Gentlemen, thank you. How are you doing?

FEAL: I'm all right. Thanks for having us.

LEMON: Are you all right?

FEAL: Yeah. It was an emotional day. You know, we had our laughs. We had our cries.

[23:49:57] It was an emotional -- every time we come to D.C. and every time we get advocate for the tens of thousands that can't be here with us. It's hard on us.

LEMON: You said you are satisfied but you are not happy. You had to push for this reauthorization (ph) twice. Do you think this is going to be the last time that you will have to do that?

FEAL: I hope so.

LEMON: Jon Stewart got Congress really to pay attention and the country really took focus. There have been a lot of people working on it. But John is really passionate about it.

Yeah.

LEMON: He's got the star power, I think, to change things. His testimony that he gave just the other alongside first responders earlier this month, let's listen to that and then we will talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JON STEWART, COMEDIAN, 9/11 FIRST RESPONDERS ADVOCATE: They responded in five seconds. They did their jobs with courage, grace, tenacity, humility. Eighteen years later, do yours! Behind me, a filled room of 9/11 first responders. And in front of me, a nearly empty Congress. Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak to no one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Shortly after that, the House Judiciary Committee voted to authorize more funding. Now you have met with the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell. Did Congress need to be shamed into addressing this, Matthew?

MATTHEW MCCAULEY, 9/11 FIRST RESPONDER: I don't think they needed to be shamed into it. I think that they needed to understand the urgency of it. And you saw the urgency in Jon's words from the moment he started with the fact that it was five-second response time. It was an urgency to get to ground zero. And then there is also an urgency now to take care of the responders that were there.

And then on the heels of Detective Luis Alvarez, his testimony which brought the room to a standing ovation, it just gave Jon that push. And speaking with John Feal and moving it forward, it really did get Congress to understand the urgency. You have a man with 68 rounds of chemo, followed by Jon Stewart who is sitting there asking where everybody is.

LEMON: Yeah. Let's talk a little bit more about Luis Alvarez and show him testifying alongside Jon Stewart that day in Congress. He was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, as Matthew said, 16 years, 16 years after 9/11. In a Facebook post just last week, he wrote that he had entered hospice care. I want to play some of what you said about him today. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FEAL: We're going to leave here and Luis Alvarez is going to die. And in that meeting, we gave Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Luis Alvarez's badge. And we want the senator majority leader to be reminded of people like Detective Luis Alvarez.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: John, what do you want to tell us about him? Why did he decide to give his badge?

FEAL: It just shows you the type of guy that Luis is. That shows you the type of guy that all 9/11 heroes are. These are stand up men and women uniform and non-uniform. They suffered for 18 years. I think for many, they have been humbled by the illnesses or being financially (INAUDIBLE) humbled down to the point where they do these amazing things.

Luis is an example. What is great about our country is putting yourself first, giving of yourself, and Luis gave of himself again. And he took something special that he owned, sacred, and gave it to Senator McConnell to remind him that he too can be a good American and he too can be a patriot.

LEMON: How did he react?

FEAL: He was touched. You know, I've had a meeting with Mitch McConnell and today was the first time I saw the side of Mitch McConnell -- he is not a robot, he is human.

LEMON: Yeah.

FEAL: And I was shocked.

LEMON: Yeah. Matthew, I'll give you the last word here. What does it mean to you and to all of you guys?

MCCAULEY: I think it means that people see light at the end of tunnel. They see the goal line getting closer and that we are able to get them what they need. There is discussion about the Victims Compensation Fund. They have been doing a phenomenal job in the administration. They have been getting the funds out to those that need it.

But the people who have been getting the awards that filed two years ago, some of the sickest are getting nothing. They are getting zero. You have widows who actually have been waiting for two years. And by no fault, the special master (ph), she is using the tools that she has and she is getting the funds out.

But based on the way that they do the awards and based on the regulations that are there, you have families that are receiving letters in the mail, they are actually saying, based on the cuts that we have in place right now, we cannot give you an award and they are getting zeroes. These are for families who have lost loved ones.

[23:55:00] They are for families who have gone through grieving processes and having the scab ripped right open again. For those that are still with us, they are the sickest responders and they are getting zeroes or even more than 70 percent --

FEAL: When we get this bill renewed and refunded, those people will receive their awards. We're going to get that done. I'll bet my one kidney on that. Thank you for having us.

LEMON: I love your sense of humor. I love your passion. I love that -- honestly, you're a sweetheart.

FEAL: I am.

LEMON: Thank you.

FEAL: Thank you.

MCCAULEY: Thank you very much.

LEMON: Thank you very much. It is a pleasure to meet you. It is good to see you again.

FEAL: Yes, sir.

LEMON: Give our best to Luis's family.

MCCAULEY: Yes, sir.

LEMON: We're all praying for him.

FEAL: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you so much. And thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)