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Divide Over Border Funding Bill; Iran Accuses U.S. of Lying; Bolton Open To Negotiations; U.S. Targeted Key Iran Proxy Group. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired June 25, 2019 - 12:00   ET



[12:00:22] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

An internal Democratic family feud erupts over emergency funding for the border. Some liberals arguing that giving the president billions for detention centers will institutionalize a system they see as inhumane.

Plus, President Trump warns Iran, any further attacks on American assets would, he says, be met with overwhelming force. The strong tweets from the president come after Iran's president said the regime would not negotiate with a White House it says is, quote, afflicted by mental retardation.

And debate week for the 2020 Democrats. CNN is told that as he prepares, Joe Biden studying how Bernie Sanders sparred with 2016's Democratic frontrunner.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (March 2016): I am very glad, Anderson, that Secretary Clinton has discovered religion on this issue. But it's a little bit too late. Secretary Clinton supported virtually every one of these disastrous trade agreements.


KING: Back to that a bit later.

But we begin with a new wrinkle in the immigration mess, a rebellion on the left that now threatens to tank billions of dollars earmarked for the border crisis. The today problem, progressive Democrats say that money, $4.5 billion, has too few limits and not enough of it goes to guaranteeing better care for migrants. Nancy Pelosi spent two hours last night listening to progressive complaints. This morning, the speaker seems confident that time and some minor tweaks will prove enough to win over the holdouts.


QUESTION: Will you be voting on the bothered supplemental today? REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Yes.

QUESTION: Do you think that it's going to pass?


QUESTION: What was your message to the caucus?

PELOSI: It will pass when we bring it to the floor.


KING: But this uprising on the left adds yet another potential landmine to an already fragile process. Congress goes on recess Thursday, leaving little time to settle big differences. Whatever House Democrats can pass, assuming they do reach an agreement, will need to be reconciled with a very different version being worked on in the Republican-controlled Senate.

And then there's the big riddle, what is the president willing to sign? The president threated mass raids, remember, if Congress doesn't fix asylum laws by the end of next week. There is almost zero chance of that happening.

And the debate here in Washington comes as new reports put a very harsh spotlight on just how overwhelmed the government is and how ugly and unhealthy it's getting on the border and in those overcrowded detention centers. The administration says it will only get worse unless Congress makes a deal.


MARK MORGAN, ACTING DIRECTOR, IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT: They've got hundreds of children in there. We don't want them in those conditions either. We want to get them out of there, but we need funding so HSS can get the adequate bed space. Because specifically with kids, we do want kids out of those facilities. Kids should not be in those facilities. But, again, this comes down to funding. We've been pleading with Congress.

It's pretty simple to me. If you want kids to get out of these unsafe conditions, then pass the darn supplemental.


KING: Let's go straight live up to Capitol Hill and CNN's Manu Raju.

Manu, a revolt on the left. What's going to happen later?

MANU RAJU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the speaker has been moving behind the scenes to tamp down that rebellion from the left, that very tense meeting from last night with the congressional and Hispanic caucus, congressional progressive caucus, about the concerns that a number of members have that this bill did not go far enough in dealing with the humanitarian crisis on the border, did not provide enough safeguards for children, as well as essentially encouraging some -- the view of some folks on the left that deportation to move forward. That view, of course, had been rejected by the supporters of this bill.

Plus, the speaker moved today to agree to add some additional provisions in this proposal to win over support from the left. And she appears to, at the moment, be succeeding in winning over her caucus. She emerged from that closed door meeting saying she was confident it will pass. She made a plea internally that this is the best way forward in order to strengthen their negotiations with the Senate. And House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer also told me earlier that he, too, expected this bill to pass today.

But, there's a big question, John, about how this will eventually be resolved because the Senate bill is different. It has some -- there's some differences with the house. Plus, the White House has threatened to veto the House bill and Congress leaves town as soon as Thursday for a recess that will push this until after the Fourth of July recess. And that key office within the Health and Human Services Department is bound to run out of money by the end of the month that deals with unaccompanied minors. So that's a question that Congress has to resolve, can they do this within a couple of days and will that be enough to satisfy the president and will he back off of the deportation orders?

But at the moment, John, the House moving forward to push this $4.6 billion bill past the chamber today. The question is, what happens next?


KING: That's a big question. And God forbid they might have to delay their recession to do their jobs. Wouldn't that just be horrible?

[12:05:02] CNN's Manu Raju live for us up on The Hill. We'll track the day.

With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Abby Phillip, Michael Shear with "The New York Times," "Politico's" Heather Caygle, and Tarini Parti with "The Wall Street Journal."

Heather, let me start with you.

The speaker has to tamp down this revolt. One assumes in the end she will get the votes. But why? What is the source of this frustration?

HEATHER CAYGLE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "POLITICO": So we saw this bubbling up over the weekend with Latino lawmakers and progressives. The bill text came out on Friday and they started saying, whoa, wait a minute, this wasn't how it was presented to us last week. And so they held a couple of calls. Ocasio-Cortez, on the call on Saturday, said I'm going to oppose this. I encourage you guys to oppose this.

Speaker Pelosi had basically a come to Jesus meeting last night to go into damage control. And then this morning she was walking around the room we're told with a whip list talking to individual members and saying, come outside and share your concerns with me. And basically the progressive and some of the Hispanic members are worried that the administration is going to take this money and do what they want with it and not actually help the children.

KING: All right, and so to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's point, here's what she said to "The New York Times," I will not fund another dime to ICE to continue its manipulative tactics.

They have legitimate policy questions about ICE. They're afraid, they give the president this money, it institutionalizes this policy essentially. Here you go. Here's more money. Make it a little better. But keep doing it.

It also, though, from a tactic perspective, reminds me, and they won't like the -- they won't like this comparison, but when the Tea Party members first came to town after the 2010 and the 2014 elections, they started challenging their leadership on just about everything by voting no.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": You know, you can understand some of the frustration on the part of the progressives when you -- when you see the -- an administration which, yes, is dealing with a crisis, a detention crisis at the moment, they don't have room to put places, but they're -- that crisis is not only because there's a lot of -- excuse me, a lot of migrants coming -- coming up and sort of overwhelming the border, but it's also the administration's own determination to keep more people detained. That's -- they're obsessed with largely because the president is obsessed with the idea of not catching and releasing people. And the process of asylum seeking, when had in the past largely been that you detained people and then you released them while their cases are pending. The administration is increasingly refuse to release families, refusing to release adults who are seeking asylum, and that is, you know, contributing to the problem that they don't have anywhere to put them.

And so, you know, the suspicion on the part of the progressives and the people who are opposing this money is, look, if we give them a lot more money, we build them more detention space, it will just sort of enable a policy that we think is horrific.

KING: And so nothing gets things done in Congress like a flight reservation, essentially, when they have a recess. And I've said that with a little snark before and I'll say it again in the sense that you might not have to worry about delaying your trip home if you did your job before the deadline. Everything in this town is done on a deadline. And that's a bipartisan affliction. It's neither. Sorry, that happens all the time in any administration.

Here's some differences. Manu mentioned some of this between the House and the Senate version. The House Democrats want to give some developmental aide to border triangle countries. The administration says no, and it actually wants to cut that money back. There's money for the Defense Department in the Senate version. There's money to cover some ICE pay shortfalls in the Senate version. The Democrats in the House want to require HHS to report deaths of unaccompanied minors very quickly, within 24 hours.

In a normal Washington, you can figure that out. My question is, if they do, will the president sign it? Because the president's tweet was -- or will the president sign it and then still implement the raids? Because his tweet was, change asylum laws, two weeks, or I do ICE raids. There's just no way. The Republicans would tell you this in the Senate. And even if the Republicans still controlled the House, they're not going to change asylum laws in the next week or two.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. And so that's definitely not going to be happening anytime soon. And it's curious that the president seemed to hang the delay on the raids on that one issue when it does also seem to be the case that the raids had kind of been spoiled from the beginning because he kept tweeting about it and they're supposed to be -- they're supposed to be secret by nature.

But, secondly, on this bill, the border supplemental, the White House is hinging their opposition to this on the fact that they don't get additional money for detention beds, which is a problem in the House bill. It's also a problem in the Senate bill. And the reality is, that that is going to have -- probably have to be something that they have to compromise on. And, you know, they might be putting out their statement of principle saying we don't like this on principle, but at the end of the day they may be forced into a corner where the president has to sign something. And that something might be whatever Mitch McConnell says that it is, frankly, and that might not include as much detention capacity as they want and also this idea they're opposing in the House bill that the Democrats want to force them to spend money on aid to Central American countries. That's also something that I -- the White House is sticking their opposition -- hanging their opposition on.

KING: And so I just want to remind people that under President Trump, the Democrats don't like anything he said about immigration. He's had problems with his own party on immigration. But this particular issue is not new. I just want to go back. This is an interview going back to 2014 with the then Democratic president of the United States. There were some Democrats who come to the table and say, Trump created this crisis. This is all about Trump.

[12:10:08] It may be escalating under Trump. The numbers are certainly higher under Trump. But this has been a problem the United States government has had to figure out a solution to for a very long time.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT (June 2014): The problem is, is that under current law, once those kids come across the border, there's a system in which we're supposed to process them, take care of them, until we can send them back. There's a lengthy process. So what we've --

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: So is -- is your message, don't come?

OBAMA: Oh, our message absolutely is don't send your children, unaccompanied, on trains or through a bunch of smugglers. That is our direct message to the families in Central America. Do not send your children to the borders. If they do make it, they'll get sent back.


KING: That is five years ago this week. That's five years ago this very week in the sense that, again, you know, there are -- there's a current divide. The current president evokes emotions among Democrats. A lot of progressives weren't happen with that president, President Obama. They called him the deporter in chief.

But this has been -- this issue has been unresolved, different pieces of it, for 20 plus years about unaccompanied children. That's a clip from five years ago this week. When? How?

SHEAR: Well, part of the problem is that the Obama administration did confront the same problem, but there were lines that they drew for themselves that they wouldn't cross. They wouldn't routinely separate all children from their parents when they crossed the border. That was considered and rejected. They did detain families but were told by a court ultimately that they couldn't. And their policies were much less draconian when it came to the -- to the people who were seeking asylum in the country.

And so, you know, the level of trust, you're right, there was anger, even among -- among Democrats towards President Obama, but that level of anger has deepened and the -- there is almost zero trust. So when you're in a negotiation like they're in right now, there isn't the kind of back and forth that you normally have because there is just zero ability to sort of look across the aisle and say, we sort of think that everybody is working in the interest of these kids.

PHILLIP: And can I also --

KING: And you hear it. You don't hear much from the Republicans in the sense that they want to pass their bill. But they're not sure where the president's line is either, right?


KING: Isn't this kind of like -- like we've seen on any number of issues, whether it's trade, whether it's health care, that the president tweets some things and says some things, but they're not sure if they give him, here's a deal, we think it's a reasonable compromise. They're not sure, right?

CAYGLE: Yes, you know, I think there is a fear, especially talking to Republicans in the Senate, that they could negotiate something with the House, get it to the president, and then they leave town and his hard line immigration aides get in his ear and he tweets something and doesn't sign it and then they're gone for a week and these children are continuing to suffer. And, like you said, that's a problem that they have with basically any issue.

But I think what we're seeing is both the House and the Senate, the reporting of these like wretched conditions that these children are in have really moved them to try to get something to the table. I mean even last week folks on both sides of the Capitol were saying there's no way we can get this done by the July 4th recess and people are really motivated now to try to get something to him and put it in his court.

KING: All right. We'll keep an eye on it as it goes. This is -- this issue's been the quicksand of American politics for a very long time. And maybe those images and maybe those accounts will force a little something, do you job.

Up next, President Trump reinforces a stern warning to Iran, attack America, he says, and face, the president's words, obliteration.


[12:17:52] KING: President Trump responding with strong words today to what he calls an ignorant and insulting statement from Iran. In a series of late morning tweets, the president warning, quote, any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, the president goes on to say, overwhelming will mean obliteration.

Those tweets were a response to Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, who earlier today used highly personal and insulting language and saying Iran had no interest in negotiate with this president or his team.


HASSAN ROUHANI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): 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 become mentally disabled. The White House is suffering from mental disability.


KING: The president angered because he thinks he did a nice and compassionate thing, as he suggests in his tweets. He called off military strikes that were recommended by his advisers and then that -- that is highly -- whatever you think of President Trump, for a president of another nation to use that kind of language about a president of the United States, you can understand why the president's upset. That doesn't necessarily mean you go to Twitter and vent it.

Where are we now?

PHILLIP: I mean I think that this is clearly something the president took very personally, which is why he responded. This administration does not always respond to what Rouhani has to say. Rouhani says things all the time. They don't always respond this way.

And just a few minutes ago, John Bolton tweeted that he spoke to President Trump a few minutes before Trump sent those tweets and Trump told him, he said, to get the message out to Iran that they would face overwhelming force. So the president is clearly anchored by this. And in his -- in his rhetoric he's changing his strategy.

But, again, we are still where we have been all the whole time. Iran did use force against a U.S. asset and they threatened to use force against another U.S. asset that had American personnel on it. The president decided in that moment not to use force against Iran. That's the decision that is on the table that everyone is looking at saying, well, is President Trump just using this rhetoric and unwilling to actually carry it out? I think that's where the world is right now as they try to decide how much bite is behind a lot of these words that are coming from the president.

[12:20:10] KING: Right. And the president, his view of this, is, I decided no. I decided it wasn't proportional to bomb radar and missile installations. Said he was told maybe 150 people would die. And he decided, I'm not going to do that because they shot down a drone. He thinks that is an act of de-escalation. And so now he's anchored that Iran's response is essentially to tell him, go away.

TARINI PARTI, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Right, but he's gone from that to now obliteration very quickly and he was clearly provoked by what Rouhani said today. And that sort of quick switch is, you know, is going to send the rest of our allies, who have been watching this situation very closely in somewhat of a panic or confusion and it kind of also reminds me of what happened with North Korea, where we saw the president kind of switch off from taking a very tough, you know, rocket man approach to then trying to go on a more diplomatic tactic.

KING: And you mentioned John Bolton and the president speaking to John Bolton today. John Bolton is in the Middle East on a very difficult mission. The Israeli government, the United States government trying to get the Russian government, they're in a three-way conference, to join them in a posture against Iran, which is a very steep hill to climb.

But this is an interesting moment. You listen to John Bolton here. The Iranians' mistrust of John Bolton goes way back to the George W. Bush administration. It's not unique to the Trump administration. But he is the public front-man in the region saying this.


JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We convene at a particularly critical moment in the Middle East as the radical regime in Iran and its terrorist surrogates engage in yet more rounds of violent provocations abroad.

All around the Middle East, we see Iran as the source of belligerence and aggression.

At the same time, the president has held the door open to real negotiations.

All that Iran needs to do is to walk through that open door.


KING: The Iranians see Bolton and they say, no, because they don't think there's anything productive on the other side of that door. Whether that -- whether that's true or real or whatever, the president says he makes the decisions. But that's what the Iranians say, there's no reason to walk through that door because that guy's going to be there.

SHEAR: Right. And not only do they see Bolton on the other side, but they also see Trump. And they -- and as we've sort of already said here, they don't know what to believe about Trump. I mean part of what you have to understand about the way he reacts to things is that President Trump's reaction is about what he -- what the -- what the response is going the be to what he did in the next five seconds, not the next, you know, five weeks or five years. I mean he doesn't think long term. So to the extent that he was happy that, you know, at the response that he got when he pulled back on the strikes, that made him happy for that moment. But now, you know, he's looking at a different response and he sees the -- what the Iranians have said about him and so he's -- he goes all the way over to obliteration.

But from the Iranian perspective, or for that matter our allies, they don't know which to believe. Where is the president's line when it comes to dealing with Iran? Is it obliteration or is it, you know, kind of concern for 150 Iranians that, you know, he said made him pull back. Nobody quite knows. And that's confusing. And it makes for a lot of --

KING: In part because you look at the president's words today. You read them on Twitter. And then you compare them, again, let's go back, this is Saturday outside the White House, and then in an interview with "The Hill," where the president talks about his views and he sounds more, shall we say, moderated.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: John Bolton is doing a very good job. But he takes it -- generally a tough posture. But I have other people that don't take that posture. But the only one that matters is me.

I like the idea of keeping Congress abreast, but I wouldn't have to do that.

I do like keeping them -- they have ideas. They're intelligent people. They'll come up with some thoughts. I actually learned a couple of things the other day when we had our meeting with Congress, which were, I think, helpful to me. But I do like keeping them abreast, but I don't have to do it legally.


KING: It's a just much more calmer tone there than Bolton. Yes, Bolton's a hawk, but I make the decisions, the president's saying. And, Congress, I want them at the table. I want to talk to them about it. I think I have the legal authority to retaliate, if I so choose. But the tone there very different than obliteration.

CAYGLE: And, you know, there's a fear on The Hill that Trump is going to be provoked by something like the comments we saw overnight. And he will do something rash egged on by John Bolton. I mean there was a wave of relief on Friday that he called off this military strike, but also alarm that no one had bothered to tell Speaker Pelosi ahead of time. And we saw her come out after that and say, in no uncertain terms, you have to have permission from us if you want to engage in military conflict. And he, you know, Trump disputes that, but that's her way of trying to nudge him into at least keeping them in the loop and talking to them before making these decisions.

KING: Right. The other side of that coin, I would only argue, though, is a lot of Democrats, even some Republicans, blame Trump for the poison atmosphere right now. But, Iran did shoot down a drone. Iran did mine those ships. If Iran does something else, the question is, what then? Right now it's tough rhetoric. We will keep an eye.

[12:24:44] Up next, Elizabeth Warren drops yet another signature policy plan. Can she hold her grounds as the policy candidate to beat?


KING: This news just into CNN on the U.S. response to Iran's shoot- down of that American drone. U.S. officials telling CNN the Pentagon launched a major cyberattack against an Iran-backed militia group.

CNN's Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon with the details.

Barbara, what do we know?


[12:29:46] Well, we are learning that last Thursday night, of course, when the president called off those air strikes against Iran, he did approve cyberattacks. And CNN has now been able to confirm that some of those cyberattacks were, in fact, launched late last week against a group called Kata'ib Hezbollah. This is one of Iran's proxy groups. They have a large number of fighters in