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Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA On House Democrats Border Bill Changes; Ag Sec. Perdue Says U.S. Farmers Are A Casualty Of Trade War With China; Tourists Flock To Chernobyl After HBO Miniseries. Aired 7:30- 8a ET

Aired June 25, 2019 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: You make such a good point because some of the watchdogs have gone down -- different professors, say, from universities who have gone down to interview these kids.

Let me read to you one of the -- one of their assessments. Listen to this.

"A bracelet on a second grader's wrist had the words 'U.S. parent' and a phone number written in permanent marker. We called the number on the spot and found out that no one had informed her desperate parents where she was being held. Some of the most emotional moments of our visit came witnessing children speak for the first time with their parents on an attorney's phone."

So, yes, children are --


CAMEROTA: -- still being separated.

BASS: You know, this is human rights abuse. This is such a stain on our country.

I have spent the last 20-plus years working to transform our nation's child welfare system and this is a situation like my tweet said. If any parent did anything that is going on on the border, the children would literally be taken away and put in foster care. You can't tell me that this problem cannot be solved.

You remember that President Trump, just a few days ago, said well, he was going to cancel education, cancel recreation, cancel the hygiene needs. This was deliberate. How dare you torture children to try to get a compromise out of Democrats?

And I am sorry but looking -- but hearing about children walking around in soiled diapers, hearing about children taking care of toddlers, you are talking about straight up child abuse. And I think that this needs to be condemned internationally, frankly.

CAMEROTA: Well, look, the Trump administration -- some in the Trump administration -- even Jeff Sessions at the time -- admitted that they were separating families as part of a deterrent. They were hoping that word would get back to those Central American countries and that people wouldn't come. That hasn't happened. The numbers have spiked, as we know, under the Trump administration.

However, Congresswoman, it's not like the Democrats have solved this problem. In fact, there are these reports that last night Nancy Pelosi, the speaker, had this 3-hour sort of contentious meeting. It was described as very tense with high decibel levels. Of people, you know, yelling at each other or whatever, exchanging ideas.

So what is making it -- why is it so hard for Democrats to figure out what to do right now?

BASS: Well, you know, I wasn't in the meeting so I'll be anxious to hear. We have a caucus meeting this morning and I'm sure that it will be reported on.

But I know that my colleagues are struggling over money for the border wall, money for security when the primary resources need to be targeted to humanitarian needs.

You know, the other thing that the president did that is just exacerbating the situation is he cut the assistance to the Central American countries, which is why people are leaving to begin with. And so, we have to get --

CAMEROTA: Yes, I understand. I mean -- I am sorry to interrupt.

BASS: Yes.

CAMEROTA: I understand that he's not solving the problem at the root and a lot of people believe that they should. But it does sound like Democrats -- why squabble over money? Why are you all still squabbling over money when the kids need the soap today? I mean, why was that meeting among only Democrats so contentious last night?

BASS: Well, again, I wasn't in the meeting so I can't tell you that.

But what I can tell you is that my colleagues that are fighting to make sure that these families are no longer separated, that the children are cared for, looking at how those resources are distributed is absolutely critical because they don't want to give the Trump administration money that then they will allocate in some other direction.

And I know that they're fighting to make sure that the money goes toward the children, goes toward humanitarian efforts, and also doesn't go for for-profit facilities. One of the things that we're going to look at, at some point, is who is getting extremely rich off of this situation.

So, I know that those are some of the issues that my colleagues were concerned about -- for-profit facilities, the money's not being diverted, the money's focusing just on the children. And so, I'll find out later what any further specifics are.

CAMEROTA: I mean, meanwhile, the Office of Refugees and Resettlement runs out of money at the end --

BASS: Right.

CAMEROTA: -- of this month. So --

BASS: But children are still being separated from their families, and so those children that are there, they need to be connected with families. A 2-year-old, a 3-year-old, a 5-year-old did not walk across that border alone. Who brought them there? And since when are siblings and grandparents and aunts not considered families?

CAMEROTA: And by the way, they're being cared for -- as we know from, again, the watchdogs, that -- by teenagers who are not related to them. So, a 14-year-old stranger --

BASS: Which is against our law. That is against the law.


BASS: If it is child abuse for a parent or child neglect, why is it OK for the government to do that?

CAMEROTA: So, I know you weren't in the meeting last night but do you have hope that this week the Democrats -- that the House will have a bill -- a funding bill that will work with the Senate and that there will be money?

[07:35:04] BASS: I do have hope that that will happen. But I will say again, the money that we allocate is no excuse not to provide basic humanitarian resources for children. It is no excuse. As far as I'm concerned, it has nothing to do with our vote this week.

We have plenty of money in this government and you cannot tell me that you can't take care of children and feed them properly. If you reunited them with their family you wouldn't even have to have these concerns because their family members would be taking care of them.

CAMEROTA: Congresswoman Karen Bass, thank you very much for your perspective. We look forward to hearing what happens today.

BASS: You're welcome.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, a Trump cabinet secretary grilled in Iowa farm country.


VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS REPORTER: Is the American farmer the casualty in this trade war?


BERMAN: His answer in a CNN exclusive, next.


[07:40:06] BERMAN: This morning, we have a CNN exclusive. One of the president's cabinet secretaries admits that American farmers are a casualty in the president's trade war.

CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich spoke exclusively with Agriculture Sec. Sonny Perdue. She is live in Council Bluffs, Iowa. It was fascinating to hear one of the president's cabinet secretaries admit this, Vanessa.

YURKEVICH: Good morning, John.

Yes, farmers have had a tough year and especially, here in Iowa after historic flooding months ago still has many of their farms underwater. Now, the administration has provided some disaster relief funds for them, but what they really want is an end to this trade war.

I spoke to the secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, and asked him when this trade war would come to an end.


YURKEVICH (voice-over): It's a sunny day in Iowa for the great tractor ride, a welcomed 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, SECRETARY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE: President Trump has a lot of respect for farmers and ranchers across this country. He appreciates your patience. He understands it is tough out there.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): 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.

YURKEVICH (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 G20 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.

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


YURKEVICH (on camera): You seem excited.

DE BRUIN: Yes, yes. YURKEVICH (on camera): 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 a beginning of let's really get serious about negotiation.

YURKEVICH (on camera): 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.

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

YURKEVICH (voice-over): Last month, the president approved another bailout package for farmers -- $16 billion for 2019.

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: And I think that President Trump has demonstrated they can count on him. Obviously, we 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.


YURKEVICH: Now, many of the farmers we've spoken to here in Iowa say they very much still support the president despite this trade war. But they will be watching very closely, Alisyn, to this meeting between President Trump and President Xi trying to see if any progress can be made on these trade talks this week -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Vanessa, thank you very much for bringing us your interview there.

All right, royal family alert, John. British taxpayers are picking up the tab for the $3 million worth of renovations -- don't look at me like that -- at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's new home. What do you want them to do, John? They need renovations.

The royal updates at Frogmore Cottage include the removal of the chimney, refinishing the roof -- that sounds important -- new staircases, fireplace installations -- they do need it to be a little cozier -- and a floating wooden floor, whatever that means.

The British monarchy cost taxpayers a total of $85.3 million in the 2018 fiscal year. That was up 41 percent from a year earlier. A leading anti-monarchy group, that you should join, calls the increase in royal spending outrageous.

BERMAN: I get that you tried to bury this story, first of all.


BERMAN: Completely bury it.

CAMEROTA: Well, I tried to spin it positively.


CAMEROTA: But actually, I'm not sure it's a positive one.

BERMAN: No. I don't know that I'm allowed to comment on it because I've been more or less been banned from talking about the --

CAMEROTA: I don't think that stopped you.

BERMAN: -- royals at all.


BERMAN: You're OK with taxpayers paying for that? Again, they're lovely and I wish them the best of luck, and congratulations on the new kid. But why should people pay for their chimney?


BERMAN: And why is their cottage called Frogmore? Come on.

CAMEROTA: But it's quaint.


[07:45:00] CAMEROTA: It has a charming, charming quaint look.

Look, I love looking at the royals. I find them attractive -- the younger ones -- but I don't know if I'd pay $85 million for that. More like -- I don't know -- $60 million, I guess I'd be willing to pay.

BERMAN: All right.

The scene -- oh, this story is amazing.

CAMEROTA: OK. BERMAN: OK, the scene of the world's worst-ever nuclear disaster has now become a tourist hotspot. Have you heard about this? CNN takes you to Chernobyl. Selfies at Chernobyl -- that's next.


CAMEROTA: An HBO miniseries about the world's worst nuclear disaster is leading tourists to flock to Chernobyl.

CNN's Matthew Chance is live in Moscow with more. What's this about, Matthew?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that miniseries -- the HBO miniseries is certainly kind of boosting the visits in numbers.

I mean, look, I mean, I've been to Chernobyl now three times. On the first two occasions I went there was virtually nobody there apart from me.

[07:50:00] This time, literally busloads -- hundreds of people from all corners of the world taking selfies, trapesing through this exclusion zone which, of course, was the scene of the world's worst nuclear disaster.


CHANCE (voice-over): It used to be a nursery school for the children of Chernobyl. Now it's one of the morbid attractions for the tourist hordes exploring this nuclear exclusion zone.

TOUR GUIDE: (INAUDIBLE) is continuing.

CHANCE (voice-over): And beeping radiation alarms, part of the creepy experience.

This entire area, complete with a Ferris wheel that was never used, was evacuated back in 1986 after the then-Soviet Union acknowledged the catastrophic release of radiation from Chernobyl reactor number four. You can still see it looming on the horizon.

CLIP FROM HBO MINISERIES "CHERNOBYL": You will need to move quickly and you will need to move carefully.

CHANCE (voice-over): It's also the dramatic backdrop for the recent HBO drama, which paints a terrifying picture of the Soviet regime in denial --

CLIP FROM HBO MINISERIES "CHERNOBYL": In terms of radiation, I'm told it's the equivalent of a chest x-ray.

CHANCE (voice-over): -- leaving its own citizens in harm's way.

"CHERNOBYL", the miniseries, has been viewed so widely that it's credited with raising global awareness of the dangers of our nuclear age.

EDGARS BOITMANIS, TOURIST: What I liked about it was how real it was and how intense it was, so like it kept you in suspense. And then you realize it's actually -- it all happened in real life. So -- and then after the show I was watching a lot of documentaries.

CHANCE (on camera): Yes.

BOITMANIS: I wanted to find out more about this.

CHANCE (on camera): Yes.

BOITMANIS: And I found that there is tours there and that you can come over.

CHANCE (on camera): You're not worried about the radiation? I mean, you saw there what it --

BOITMANIS: Well, the way -- the way I understand is the risk of being here one day is like the same as smoking three cigarettes --

CHANCE (on camera): Yes.

BOITMANIS: -- and I'm a non-smoker.

TOUR GUIDE: OK, that facility is an art school.

CHANCE (voice-over): Tour operators say visitor numbers are expected to double this year as caution toward Chernobyl turns to curiosity.

CHANCE (on camera): Walking through this nuclear ghost town you get a strong sense of the catastrophic dangers of nuclear power. I mean, how could avoid it?

But there's something much broader, too -- an idea that Chernobyl is a warning from the past about what can happen when governments try to hide the truth and how even innocent people can be sacrificed to protect those in power.

CHANCE (voice-over): For some Chernobyl visitors, like Ed from Texas, it's a message still relevant today.

ED CHARLESWORTH, TOURIST: I think it symbolizes a very strong need for not prevaricating about information.

CHANCE (on camera): Not lying.

CHARLESWORTH: Not lying about information, but being forthright. And a lot could have happened differently had the lying not taken place. Although, I mean, it still --

CHANCE (on camera): Kind of just Chernobyl is the ultimate consequence, isn't it?


CHANCE (on camera): What happens when governments fail to acknowledge reality -- the truth.

CHARLESWORTH: Yes, exactly.

CLIP FROM HBO MINISERIES "CHERNOBYL": We're approaching the power plant.

What have they done?

CHANCE (voice-over): But there are concerns. The horrors portrayed so graphically in the HBO series, especially of the so-called liquidators' sacrifice to clean up the radioactive mess are being trivialized by Chernobyl's tourism boom.

One Instragrammer recently posted these racy images of herself, apparently near the reactor. She later apologized and said she wasn't really at Chernobyl at all.

But perhaps a few tasteless selfies are a low price to pay for relearning the terrible lessons of the world's worst nuclear disaster.

TOUR GUIDE: One more time, say "Radiation."

TOURISTS: Radiation.

TOUR GUIDE: Yes, thank you.


BERMAN: Oh, my -- selfies at Chernobyl. I will never cease to be amazed by people.

Matthew, I can't help but notice you drew a short straw. I mean, you got to go to Chernobyl. You said you've been before.

Are you concerned? Were you concerned for your own safety?

CHANCE: Yes, I've been -- I've actually been twice -- three times now, all together, so I'm probably -- I'm probably going to think twice about going a fourth or a fifth time.

Look, we're told that you get the same radiation dose visiting Chernobyl for a day as you do on a transatlantic flight, and so that's sort of reassuring.

I mean, having said that -- I mean, I have to confess I did throw away all of the clothes that I was wearing during that report. An abundance of caution perhaps, but better safe than sorry, I thought.

CAMEROTA: I mean, Matthew, is this just about the power of T.V.? So people see it on T.V. and then it becomes this fascination.

I mean, one of the people you interviewed said was it sort of a history lesson. But there's something else. There's an amusement park quality as well.

CHANCE: Yes. I mean, it all fits into this whole kind of phenomenon of sort of dark tourism.

[07:55:00] And, you know, this HBO miniseries isn't the first time that Chernobyl has been used as a dramatic backdrop for something that's culturally popular.

I mean, it's been the centerpiece of a very popular video game that a lot of people played a couple of years ago, which really started off the trend. There's been a series of books written, which use Chernobyl as a -- as a backdrop as well. And so all of these things have sparked touristic interest in Chernobyl.

But that miniseries, which has been so broadly viewed, is really supercharging those numbers. And the tour operators are saying they're expecting, as I said, the numbers to really pick up now.

BERMAN: And, first of all, the miniseries is fantastic. But quickly, Matthew, are the people who live there who may have lost loved ones to thyroid cancer -- are they happy to see these tourists?

CHANCE: Well, I mean, there's mixed feelings. I mean, some of them are glad that these issues are being aired once again.

But I spoke to one liquidator -- a fireman who was used to put out the fires and to clear up the mess -- and he was like, "I'm worried that our plight is being forgotten."

They're remembering the miniseries, remembering the book and the video game. They're forgetting about us survivors. We not getting our pensions through. So that's a concern that some people have.

BERMAN: All right, Matthew Chance. Thank you. What a story that is.

So, the 2020 elections are already notching at least one milestone. For the first time ever, spending on digital campaign ads is expected to outpace television advertising. But exactly what that money is being spent on, it will shock you.

Our friend, John Avlon, here with a reality check -- John.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: So, if you want to find out the truth in politics follow the money. That's especially true in presidential campaigns where spending tells you what's really going on behind the scenes.

And that's why it's notable that the conservative Club for Growth is taking out television ads in Iowa already, opposite the first Democratic debate this week, with the sole purpose of attacking Joe Biden because their polling shows he's their greatest threat to Trump's reelection.

And get this. They are attacking him from the left, trying to soften his support among African Americans and liberal voters by pointing out his less than savory 1970s-era votes on bussing and past opposition to reparations.

But this is just the first salvo in the T.V. ad wars. The bigger game is digital ad buys. And get this, as of this year, digital advertising is expected to exceed T.V. and print advertising for the first time ever.

So it's no surprise the Trump campaign is doubling down on its innovative digital strategy and the lapping (ph) as Democratic competitors in the process.

Through mid-June, the Trump campaign spent approximately $4.4 million on Facebook ads and another $1.2 million with Google. And that's not including the $14 million from the totally unaffiliated Trump "Make America Great Again" committee.

What are they spending all that money on? Well, more than $1 million asking supporters to sign a birthday card for the president. Though oddly, some of the ads said he was turning 72 rather than 73. But, hey, alternative facts.

Women 55 and older are apparently a key demo they're targeting, according to a male analysis of Facebook ad data. And they've also made some smart counterintuitive plays like Spanish language ads focusing on the failing socialist state of Venezuela.

And they're trying to fire up the base with some of Trump's greatest hits like railing against so-called chain migration, also known as family reunification. But they better hope that none of their supporters notice that chain migration is how the first lady's family got here.

Trump's even found a way to make money off the campaign. According to "Forbes," at least $1.3 million of campaign donor money has been spent at Trump properties to date.

OK, but what about the Democrats? Well, Elizabeth Warren's campaign leads the pack with $1.4 million on Facebook ads. And as of April, she's got the biggest campaign staff of anyone in the field.

Joe Biden got in the race relatively late but came out strong out of the gate with some $800,000 in Facebook and Google ads during the first week alone. But his total digital spending is essentially tied for second place with Kamala Harris at $1.7 million.

Bringing up the bottom of the Democratic pack is New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Now, these are still early days in the campaign and the Iowa caucuses are still more than seven months away, but we know from 2016 how powerful these digital ads can be in addition to the shadowy disinformation campaigns that do some of the dirtiest work. So if you are already sick of negative ads, get ready to fumigate your Facebook feed.

But consider this -- the Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is currently blocking a vote on a bipartisan bill known as the Honest Ads Act that would reveal who is really paying for these digital ads. What could possibly go wrong?

Follow the money, folks.

And that's your reality check.

CAMEROTA: Fumigate your Facebook feed, the line of the day, John Avlon.

BERMAN: It's the opposite of like.

CAMEROTA: That's right. Thank you very much.

All right, NEW DAY continues right now.


BERMAN: House Democrats at odds over implementing a strategy at the border.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No American should approve of this mass influx of people coming across our border.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It doesn't take more than common sense to know you need to give kids soap and toothbrushes. The conditions are inhumane.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": Twenty-twenty Democratic hopefuls prepare to take the stage for the first round of debates.

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The challenge is how do you say things in a way the American people can understand?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is our chance to dream big, fight hard, and win.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": He said, "She's not my type. It never happened."

E. JEAN CARROLL, TRUMP ACCUSER: I am so glad I am not his type.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president was very angry. He believes that.