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Attorneys Seek Federal Court Order to Allow Public Health Experts Inside Migrant Facilities; Washington Post: U.S. Asylum Officers Ask Federal Court to Block Trump Border Policy; Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) is Interviewed about the Border Crisis. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired June 26, 2019 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:18] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

We left you last night with the image of a father and young daughter face down in the water on the U.S.-Mexico border. Tonight, we've just gotten another reminder -- if one is even needed -- of the human tragedy taking place there and it runs as deep as the Rio Grande and as wide as the political differences over what to do about it. Flows with tears as this new video shows.

The bodies of that father Oscar Martinez and his daughter being put into a hearse in the border city of Matamoros, Mexico.

Angie Valeria only 23 months old when she and her father drowned. That photo of her bodies in the river, her arm around her father shocked not just this country but the entire region and added a new urgency to legislation aimed at addressing at least some of the problems facing migrants and border enforcement alike. We'll have more on that shortly.

We begin, though, on the banks of the Rio Grande, where CNN's Michael Holmes is learning more details about Oscar Martinez and Angie Valeria and spoke to the photographer who took that photo.

Michael, the picture is obviously horrific and sickening and heartbreaking. What have you learned about exactly what happened to this father and his daughter?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Just such a horrible story, isn't it, Anderson? They came here looking for a better life for the family. They went up to try to apply for asylum.

The place was closed, that is what happened. They got inpatient. They came down here and they walked along the river. Now, according to Oscar Ramirez's wife, her husband just decided, we're going to go across. We're going to enter the U.S.

This is how close it is. Rio Grande here, it really is stunning. It's only about 30 meters across here. He goes across, puts her daughter on the far bank, and starts to come back because he wants to get his wife and take her over. The daughter panics and gets in the river. He goes back to try to save her. These currents are much worse than they look. They got swept up in

them and right here behind me is where those bodies ended up and where that photograph was taken.

It's interesting, Anderson, just in the last hour, a lady came down, a local put that rose right there and said a prayer and crossed herself to mark the loss of these people. Just such a staggering tragedy.

COOPER: I mean, from this vantage point and, you know, I've talked about this before. The river there seems -- it doesn't look all that rough but obviously, it's deceptive?

HOLMES: Yes, we're talking to locals about that because you're right. There is a current going down here and you can see the vegetation going by. The locals say you got to get underneath that. It's uneven underneath and a lot of rips basically, eddies going along under there. You can walk across here and lose your footing and your feet get taken by the strength of what is going on underneath the surface and be pulled down and swept down very easily.

So, yes, looks are deceptive. It looks like you can get across easy. It's not that easy especially if you can't swim well.

COOPER: You spoke to the photographer that took that picture that's been seen around the world. What did she tell you?

HOLMES: Yes, Julie Le Duc, she's a vibrant lady. She's also furious. She's photographed 25 bodies along the Rio Grande in the last few months, she told us.

She's very aware of the significance of the photo she took and the significance it's taken on but says that is not enough. Have a listen.


JULIA DE LUC, PHOTOGRAPHER (through translator): This is happening now on the border of Mexico and the U.S. This should be an invitation to debate and to consider changes on the migratory policies and for the two governments to ask themselves, what are we doing for the immigrants or why in the middle of despair a father and head of a family doesn't care on risking his life and daughter's life just to try to make it to the other side, thinking that he will find a better future only to find death? At what point do you lose your capacity as a father to protect your child? At what point crossing and being on the other side matter so much to you that you risk even dying?


HOLMES: And that is the desperation there she's referring to.

And it would appear that Oscar Ramirez was more of an economic migrant rather than many of those that we speak to and we were on the Guatemalan border with Mexico, a couple weeks ago, and spoke to many people who literally were fearing for their lives. Notices pinned on their front door saying, get out or you're all dead. So, a lot of those people, they're coming and making this perilous

journey for a reason.

[20:05:03] They're not doing it because they necessarily want to leave home, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Michael Holmes, appreciate it. Thank you.

Now, before that picture emerged yesterday of Oscar Martinez and his daughter Angie Valeria, there was a separate over conditions that children are living under, customs and border and protecting holding facilities. There was reports of no soap, toothbrushes or opportunities to bathe for the kids held there.

Today, authorities give CNN's Nick Valencia tour of one of the detention centers cited, and he joins us now.

So, what was the facility like when you toured it today, Nick?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I think it's important to start out saying when these legal monitors, these independent monitors visited the Clint Border Patrol station last week, there was about 250 children inside. Today, there is 117, 117.

So, I can't imagine 100 more children being housed in the areas that we saw. We're initially taken in the conference, debriefed and then ushered into a galley area where we saw pallets of food, things that ramen noodles, juice packs, food and snacks.

And then we were taken to a processing center where we saw a total of nine cells, several of them over capacity and we're talking about between 20 and 24 child migrants being held in these cells with big glass windows that look out towards the processing center but no windows to look outdoors.

And just looking at these children in custody, some of them looked like they had been through the worst days of their lives. They looked disheveled, perhaps even wearing some of the same clothes that they had crossed in. There were children that I saw that were -- had bloodshot eyes, one child had yellow eyes and appear appeared to be sick, and wasn't quarantined. There was another child who I saw who was quarantined because of the flu.

Some children were being forced to sleep on the floor on these one- inch-thick blue padded mattresses. The children when I looked at them, they were passing the time, some of them braiding their hair. I tried to -- we weren't allowed to talk to any of the child migrants but I tried to make eye contact and give them a thumbs up or thumbs down sign and I got a couple shoulder shrugs.

We were then transferred to an area that was a sally port, that's not meant to hold migrants. But because the influx, the Customs and Border Protection says, that they're dealing with right now, this is where they are holding the teenage boys. A group of five children between 7 and 10 years old were playing soccer that CBP had said they provided this soccer ball with them. I think it's really important, one of the more shocking things I saw,

Anderson, and, heard was, I asked how much access do they have to the bathroom? There was an outside, area about 50 yards by 50 yards, where there were seven port-a-johns for the young teenage boys.

They told me that they had to draw chips from a pocket. If there are no chips, left they can't go to the bathroom. That is why they hold a measure of lines or allow access to these port-a-johns. It was very heartbreaking to see this, to see these conditions.

Probably the most heartbreaking thing I heard was a teenage girl who was on a landline, calling back home to give proof of life to her family. Calling them, I overheard say in Spanish, that she is still alive -- Anderson.

COOPER: I mean, it sounds like they, I assume, they cleaned up the detention center a bit. I mean, did you, and obviously, there are fewer children they're than they were when others went last week. Did you get a chance to ask the authorities any questions about this? About them cleaning it, up or do they have access to soap? Do they have access to toothpaste?

VALENCIA: Well, I asked, you know, if they had cleaned up, especially cleaned up for the tour. They said no. But I can say that the facility smell to clean, sterile. Almost like a hospital.

We saw toothbrushes being put out. When we walked into the sally port area, there was a box of small toothbrushes, small, yellow toothbrushes, just single use, with some small fluoride gel pack they use for toothpaste.

I didn't see actually a soap there. We saw a supply room, a ready supply room, that seemed to be halfway for. They did say there were other storage areas where there were more supplies. But we weren't allowed to see that.

It is worth noting, Anderson, there is a whole other building of this facility that we weren't allowed to see. Customs and Border Protection says that facility were area of this facility is currently shut down, and that we were allowed to see every child migrant that they had in custody currently.

COOPER: Nick Valencia, appreciate it. Thank you.

Another view from someone who's also been to those facilities and whose account of it played a part in making this a national story.

Elora Mukherjee is director of Immigrants' Rights Clinic at Columbia University's Law School here in New York.

We are glad to have her on the broadcast.

Professor, thanks so much for being with us.

ELORA MUKHERJEE, DIRECTOR, IMMIGRANTS' RIGHTS CLINIC, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: Thank you, Anderson. COOPER: First of all, when you hear what Nick is saying, what do you

make of what his account is, versus what you saw just a week ago?

MUKHERJEE: Right. So, when we arrived at the facility last Monday morning, we were told by CBP officials and their lawyers that there were more than 350 children detained at that facility, which has the capacity for just over 100, and was designed for adults and not for children.

COOPER: Is that the same facility that Nick is at?

MUKHERJEE: Exactly, in Clint, Texas.

COOPER: Right.

MUKHERJEE: And we demanded an inspection of the entire facility. We wanted a tour.

[20:10:01] And CBP flatly rejected our request.

COOPER: On what grounds where they let you -- I mean, if there is nothing to hide, why not let you go around?

MUKHERJEE: If there's nothing to hide, why not let us inspect the facility?

I have done monitoring visits up children in federal immigration custody before. And in all my previous visits, I have been able to go on tours. And tours were made available to inspectors like me.

COOPER: I mean, it's odd, I guess that is after basically, when you were you there?

MUKHERJEE: I was there last week, Monday through Wednesday.

COOPER: So it basically has been about a week. There are fewer children, although you are saying it is still overcapacity. And clearly, now, they feel comfortable enough for whatever reason to show a limited view to reporters.

MUKHERJEE: Right. And it's easy for them to point out toothbrushes and to offer a soccer ball after having days to clean it up, in response to outrage from Americans and people around the world about the inhumane and degrading conditions that we witnessed last week.

COOPER: You are part of a lawsuit that has now been filed against the federal government over the detention of these kids. What are you seeking?

MUKHERJEE: So the lawsuit is about to be filed. We are seeking a temporary restraining order, requiring at a public health expert has access to all of the center -- all of the CBP facilities where immigrant children are being held.

We want that expert to have access and power to order remediation so that the facilities are safe and sanitary. We want independent doctors to have access to the facility and triage emergency medical needs. We also want children to be released from these facilities as quickly as possible as required by law.

And, finally, we are seeking to hold the government in contempt. Two years ago, the federal court found these same violations of the Flores agreement. And instead of improving conditions, two years, later we are seeing things as worse as they've ever even.

COOPER: I don't understand a lack of soap and toothbrushes, which is what the reports were last week. And you told me before we went on air, that the federal government argued in court -- what was their position?

MUKHERJEE: The position of the Department of Justice of the United States is that safe and sanitary conditions does not require the government -- means the government is not required to provide soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, or beds for children to sleep in. This is what DOJ lawyer Sara Fabian argued before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last Tuesday.

COOPER: That you can have safe and sanitary conditions for children without soap or toothbrushes or beds?


COOPER: That's -- I mean, that's extraordinary.

MUKHERJEE: It's shocking. It is shocking. And that is the government's official position. We saw the consequences of that when we went to Clint.

COOPER: It reminds you of, what, decades ago, with the administration talking about catch-up as a vegetable. I mean, that seems gracious by comparison to this, that you can have sanitary conditions without giving kids soap and ability to bathe.

MUKHERJEE: Especially when there is a flu epidemic in the facility. And when there is a lice infestation. The previous week, my colleagues went to McAllen and investigated the conditions. The team of doctors and lawyers who went there found five babies who were so sick they needed immediate hospitalization. All five of those babies were at admitted to the NICU.

Over the last year, there have been multiple reports of children dying in federal immigration custody. And this, compared with almost a decade previously of no reported deaths of children in federal immigration custody.

COOPER: Elora Mukherjee, appreciate you being with us. And we'll obviously keep following this. Thanks you very much.

MUKHERJEE: Thank you for having me.

COOPER: More now on the competing House and Senate legislation which is now on the table. How they might be reconciled? What happens if they're not? Senator Chris Coons of Delaware joins us. And later, Robert Mueller's upcoming testimony and President Trump's

apparent freak out over it today.

That and more as we continue.


[20:18:19] COOPER: There's news just breaking tonight. We're just getting it. It is really something.

"The Washington Post" reporting that federal asylum officers, the very people carrying out the president's policy, have just asked a federal court to end it. They see the policy of forcing migrants to remain in Mexico, while awaiting immigration court hearings, is putting their lives at risk. Again these are federal asylum officers, challenging their own policy, calling it, quote, fundamentally contrary to the moral fabric of our nation and our international and domestic obligations.

That's on top of breaking news made by our guest in the last segment. She tells us attorneys are in the process of asking for a temporary restraining order in Flores v. Meese, a class action lawsuit on behalf of children in federal immigration custody. Attorneys are seeking access for public health expert to inspect all CBP facilities for independent doctors to be able to see children there, the expeditious release of certain categories of kids, and for the government to be held in contempt.

Also breaking, House and Senate border bills are now on the tables. So, the question now is, what if anything will happen next?

That and, of course, how quickly the president likes to invoke the idea that the entire immigration problem could be solved in a 45- minute negotiation. He sometimes says 15 minutes. Sometimes he says instantly as he's done on Twitter today.

Te reality is, this is embroiled right now in a political process during an election year. There's another, though. There's human beings dying and many more suffering, and many of them children. Whether it's risking their lives on the Rio Grande, trying to sleep with the lights on 24 hours a day in detention facilities, or back in Central American countries living in fear of gangs and getting killed, which is driving people to risk rivers and camps because it's better they believe than the alternative.

[20:20:00] That's the competing reality and it's growing larger in the public eye and probably in the political arena as well.

I want to talk about what Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, and a member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee.

Senator Coons, first off, I just want to get your reaction to this news that we're just getting from "The Washington Post" about, you know, personnel who are actually asylum officers saying the policy has to change. SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Well, I think those asylum officers are advocating for what are the real core values of our country. We have signed laws and international treaties in this country that say when people are fleeing violence and persecution, they have to have a chance to present themselves in our country and seek asylum here, rather than being held off from entering our country and forced to stay in another country.

I think the riveting -- the heartbreaking story of Oscar Martinez Ramirez and his daughter, Valeria, who drowned in the Rio Grande, attempting to reach our country, has moved a lot of people to action in recent days. And it's my hope that everyone who takes a moment to think about the desperation that must have been in their hearts, to risk their lives and lose their lives, trying to come to this country, I hope folks to reflect on that desperation will also recognize that these officers are making a claim that is rooted in the best traditions of our country.

COOPER: It is extraordinary to hear asylum officers speaking out against the policy that they're being asked to execute, which should be pointed out, is a different policy. Then this administration has made it tougher in many ways to apply for asylum. Even the criteria of what you -- you know, why you left, that too has been made tougher.

COONS: That's right.

We have seen two things change. You know, first is that this administration has frozen or cut back on funding that the previous administration had invested in stabilizing the three Northern Triangle countries, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, and that has contributed to a sense of hopelessness and increased violence and disorganization in those countries that has driven more parents to come here. They have also made the standards for applying for asylum in this country, the method and where and how, more difficult in a number of ways.

And then last -- as your previous guest pointed out, painfully -- we now have a government lawyers arguing that safe and sanity conditions for children in our government's custody don't include things like beds, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, we are in an Alice in Wonderland world where some of the best traditions, welcoming those fleeing violence, are being turned on their head.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, even if all you just care about is economic argument, giving kids soap and the ability to clean themselves prevents the spread of disease, prevents kids from ending up in the hospital, which is going to be paid by taxpayers. If that's -- I mean, if that is the only concern you have, even on that basis, it makes no sense to not have soap and toothbrushes for children.

Just in terms of what's going on in Congress right now, Speaker Pelosi reportedly told her caucus today that while the Senate bill is good, that the House is much better. Is she right?

COONS: She is. We took up both bills today in the Senate. First, we considered the House bill, which they had passed, and sent to us. I voted for it. Most of my colleagues voted for it. But many Republicans voted against it, and it did not pass.

We then took up the Senate version that came out of our committee, the Appropriations Committee. And I voted for that as well, and it passed.

There's a few key differences, Anderson. The most important one is that the House version has tougher standards for the care and protection of children in the custody of CBP and HHS.

COOPER: Senator Coons, I appreciate your time. And, obviously, this is something we're going to keep following for -- well, a long time. Appreciate your time. Thank you.

COONS: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Still ahead, the Mueller report will be televised. The special counsel will testify publicly in three weeks. And already, Trump is weighing in.


[20:28:24] COOPER: Robert Mueller's first public testimony is three weeks from today. While Democrats caution against, quote, excessive expectations and the president's lawyer today told CNN they expect nothing new, nor will they try to prevent testimony, the president appears quite agitated. This afternoon, he tweeted: Does it ever end? -- while en route to the G20 in Japan.

And this morning, during and often one-sided phone interview, he had this to say about Mueller and the two former FBI employees, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here's the problem. Robert Mueller, they worked for him and the two lovers were together and they had to text back and forth.

MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX BUSINESS HOST: Well, how come we haven't seen it all? I mean, you, you did be -- you gave William Barr the authority to de --

TRUMP: You know why? Because Mueller terminated them illegally. He terminated the emails. He terminated all of the stuff between Strzok and Page.


TRUMP: You know they sung, you've never seen -- Robert Mueller terminated their text messages together. He terminated them. They're gone, and that's illegal. He -- that's a crime.


COOPER: So, just a reality check, fact check. Mueller had nothing to do with any of that, the idea that he terminated these messages. An inspector general's report in December blamed various technical reasons that actually existed across the FBI. It wasn't like it was just those text messages that disappeared.

The president, Trump, claiming they were terminated is just not the case. Some were recovered and made public.

Joining me now is Garrett Graff, CNN contributor and author of "The Threat Matrix", the history that covers Robert Mueller's time as FBI director; Jeffrey Toobin, chief legal analyst and a federal prosecutor; and Rick Santorum, a CNN senior political commentator and Republican senator of Pennsylvania.

So, Jeff, the president saying these things now I guess, you know, we can only imagine what he's going to be saying next month when Mueller actually is on television even if he's just repeating what is in the Mueller report.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I'm sure, you know, it's going to be more of the same. But I just think it's worth pausing for a second to point out that the President of the United States in this interview accused Robert Mueller of committing crimes, of committing crimes in a thought -- in a furry of lies.

Everything the President said was a lie about Mueller. And, you know, we just sort of shrug our shoulders the same way, you know, when a woman accused him of rape last week, everybody is well, I guess, I don't know, maybe it happened. I mean, this is sort of what our national dialogue has degenerated into and I just hope we haven't entirely lost our capacity for outrage?

COOPER: Senator Santorum, have we lost capacity for outrage? Were you concerned about the President accusing -- or not even accusing, just saying Robert Mueller committed a crime?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, you know, it's -- I don't think we've lost our capacity for outrage, but I think we have lost some of the energy behind the outrage because it is a constant drum beat.

I've said it many times, I mean, I think this President would -- should be 20 points ahead of anybody in the election right now and would be based on the policies and what his administration has done, but he's not 20 points ahead because of incidents like we've seen on this radio interview.

And it's -- you know, I wish I could say that it's going to change. It's not. But it's -- I think it has -- it continues to have a lot of people in this country very disturbed that it continues to do it.

Well, I mean, it disturbed -- you know, I mean, it's -- to Jeff's point, it's bizarre. It's -- it does seem like this is just what -- you know, it's easy to say that this is just what he does. But I mean, he was just lying and now accusing Mueller of a crime. I mean, it's like what it's -- I hate to compare it to like some Deskbot (ph), Garrett, but I mean that's, you know, that's what they do. I mean, they lie and they accuse people of crimes. GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And I think that that's what we're going to continue to see over the next three weeks which is, you know, Donald Trump is legitimately terrified of what Robert Mueller is going to go before Capitol Hill and say even if he's just reading his existing report.

I mean, his existing report is pretty devastating for the President. And Donald Trump's goal over the next three weeks is going to be to muddy that water as much as possible, which is what he's been doing for the last two years throughout this investigation.

COOPER: And, Garrett, that's what -- I mean, you know more about Mueller and everything he's ever said and you've read it all. You think Mueller is basically going to stick to as much as possible just what is in the report, because obviously Republicans on the committee are going to try to, you know, move this in all sorts of directions.

GRAFF: Yes. And I'm sure he will feel the variety of questions. I mean, Mueller is an experienced prosecutor and he has cross-examined a lot of people, a lot more talented than the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees.

And that this is a case though where even just Mueller speaking the words of his own report allowed carry a lot of weight, which we saw in his very brief statement where he basically came out and said, you know, "America, I wrote it all down for you. Could you at least do me the favor of reading it now?"

And that was for many people the first time that they actually learned what -- just how devastating some of what Robert Mueller had gathered was really for the President.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, Senator, the -- Senator Santorum, the vast majority of Americans have not read the Mueller report, even the President's attorney, Jay Sekulow, today wouldn't say whether or not the President himself has read it. It would be surprising if he did read 448 pages of single spaced type.

I mean, is this -- shouldn't this be a welcome opportunity, I mean, to have Mueller layout the facts on television?

SANTORUM: No. I mean, this is -- look, give Bob Mueller credit. I mean, he's been a workhorse through this entire process. I mean, he's been very diligent. They've put a lot of time and energy in producing this report and the House Democrats want to turn him into a show horse.

They want him to go up there and prance around and -- in making, you know, making accusations and saying things that are in the report. But the reality is, the public knows what's in the report. They know the sum and sum. No, they don't know all 430 of whatever pages.

But they know the substance of what's in that report and having Bob Mueller say it again and again, I know why the Democrats are doing. They think it's going to, you know, spark some sort of outrage for impeachment. I just think they -- and this is why the President is frustrated is because they won't let go. They won't let -- they won't accept the fact that the American public has moved on and they haven't.

[20:35:01] COOPER: Jeff, has the American public moved on?

TOOBIN: You know, I hesitate to speak for the entire American public. I think the job of Congress is to exercise oversight on the executive branch. And we now have a major report that says the President of the United States committed serious crimes in office.

That's -- and I -- you know, it just seems to me so obvious that the Democrats should simply say should you -- can you tell us about the crimes the President committed? And then let him talk about Don McGahn, the former White House counsel and the evidence that's in it.

Now, you know, will that spark impeachment? I doubt it. Will it change a public opinion? I doubt it. But, I think Congress has a job to do regardless of what the polls are and this is a very serious matter.

COOPER: Yes. Jeff Toobin, Garrett Graff, Senator Santorum, appreciate it. Thank you.

The first debates of the 2020 Democratic campaign scheduled tonight in Miami. Just ahead, our political team weighs in on who's got the most to gain and who's got the most to lose. Details ahead.


COOPER: The stage is set for the first 10 Democratic presidential candidates to debate one another in Miami. 10 more will follow tomorrow night. It's probably way too early for anything definitive to come out of this, but unless -- nonetheless, a poor performance by someone in the top tier or breakout performance by someone near the bottom could be meaningful. We're going to keep a close eye in what happens tonight.

[20:40:00] Here with me to get us started, our political team, CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger, CNN Political Commentator Van Jones, and CNN Political Director David Chalian.

Gloria, Senator Warren is certainly center of stage tonight and -- I mean, literally and figuratively.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, she's the top polling candidate on that stage and she's going to be perhaps attacked by some of the Democrats with her because they want to try and differentiate themselves. And what she has to say to Democratic voters is, "I'm the candidate who can go toe-to-toe with Donald Trump." That's all anybody has to prove tonight.

Some of these candidates need to introduce themselves and say, "Hello, here I am and I'm telling you why I'm here." But she needs to say, "I am the first candidate -- best candidate to represent you against that guy." COOPER: Van, I mean, which is obviously the strategy that Vice President Biden has been using from the get-go of being on a par with Donald Trump and able to take him on more than anybody else. Are they going to talk about more -- I mean, they can't all just be talking about Donald Trump tonight.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I mean, they can't. But, first of all, this is like the probably the most consequential speed dating episode in the history of the republic (ph) in terms of everybody's going to get such a short period of time, they got to make it count.

Elizabeth Warren is so important because she did something different than anybody else. She said, "I'm not going to spend my time talking to rich donors. I'm going to spend my time -- I'm not going to talk to any of them. I'm going to talk to ordinary people." So her message is so different because -- not because she's the best speaker, she's the best listener in this party and you're going to see that tonight.

She knows how to deliver these plans and stuff, and it's usually really wonky stuff. She can make that stuff sing. So I think she's going to have a great opportunity tonight. You got other people though, if they don't perform, they are done. You will never see them again.

You know, so tonight, you know, Beto, to me it's live or die for Beto tonight. Cory Booker, he's somebody -- everybody has such high expectations for. He's probably the most likely to have a breakout moment. But if he doesn't, you're looking at somebody that has great future behind him, right? You don't want to be that guy.

The last thing I want to say is Tulsi Gabbard is the only veteran I believe on that stage. With this march to war, she does have an opportunity to speak. She's a peace candidate in a country that forgot we're in a war. So, she could have a moment tonight.

But, look, I -- you know, I've been very sad about this migrant stuff, but I'm -- tonight, we finally get a chance to hear these people talk about ideas and solutions. I'm fired up.

COOPER: It is. I mean, again, just when you start to see people on a stage together, it does sort of change how you see them, even when we have that town hall meeting with back-to-back.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, they started responding to each other but not next to each other.

COOPER: Right.

CHALIAN: Yes. This is a turning point in the campaign. There's no doubt. It also is coming, you know, just days before the second fundraising quarter closes. So, we are at a real pivot point in this race. There's been sort of the preliminaries for these first six months. People introducing themselves getting out there and now comes the contact sport in this. And so, you know, Van is right. The window is closing. For it-- this is a -- and the most crowded field in the history. So the window is closing for the great majority of the people across these two nights of debating and they got to make the time that they have, no matter how limited it is, count for something.

And, it doesn't have to be a viral moment. I don't expect that there's going to be knock-down, drag-out punches. The goal here if you talk to a bunch of these campaigns is give Democratic voters something that they go Google later.

They're like, "Oh, that's really interesting. Maybe I'll give $5 to that candidate. Let me search more about what that person has said." It's that kind of introduction. And giving Democrats something to grab on to, that's what each candidate is needed.

BORGER: Each one of them is being told or has been told, we're going to look for that little breakout, that's the word. You have a breakout moment, not necessarily viral, but you do have to have something that says, I'm different from the rest of these people or I've got a sense of humor, maybe. I'm quick on my feet, maybe. Something like that.

You've got a bunch of people here tonight who are from the Congress and they're not very good at short and succinct and humor, so we'll see.

COOPER: Do you -- Van, do you envision them going after each other in any way or at this stage is there Delaney?

JONES: No, I think Delaney will. Listen, you -- I think because Elizabeth Warren is such -- she's just the massive star of the night. She's at center stage. It could not have worked out better for her. You know, she slipped on some banana peels early. People rode her off early. The grit, the determination, the character, now she's center stage.

COOPER: She is -- I mean, I've only -- you see her on T.V. I've seen her in a room. She's very good in a room.

JONES: Very good in a room and underestimated and -- but, you're going to start to see now why did Donald Trump want to knock her off. Why would the Pocahontas? Why? Why? Because she's the populist, she's the other populist. Donald Trump is a populist. Sanders is a populist. Elizabeth Warren, the third populist.

And so, she's going to have to have her moment. And then when she's going to have it, you don't have Delaney or somebody try to get some elevation by going after her.

[20:45:06] BORGER: Congressman Ryan, maybe.

JONES: Ryan or somebody.

BORGER: Yes JONES: So, listen, you know, you're going too far. I know the heartland of this country. You're going to lose. I'm the guy. So people will go to try to come after her but, you know, from my point of view, she's the person to watch not just tonight but going forward.

COOPER: All right, Gloria Borger, Van Jones, David Chalian. We're going to talk to them and others tonight at 11:00 p.m. Eastern for special post debate program, two hours, 11:00 to 1:00 a.m. Stay up with us.

Still ahead right now, another public beef with another high-profile athlete. The back and forth between President Trump and soccer star Megan Rapinoe.


COOPER: Well, two days before her women's national team takes on France in the quarterfinals of the Women's World Cup, co-captain Megan Rapinoe is in another match with President Trump. He replied to her today via Twitter after she told a soccer magazine, "I'm not going to the f---ing White House," if they win."

[20:50:06] The President responded, "I'm a big fan of the American Team and women's soccer, but Megan should win first before she talks. Finish the job." He goes on "We haven't yet invited Megan or the team, but I'm now inviting the team, win or lose. Megan should never disrespect our country, the White House or our flag, especially since so much has been done for her and the team. Be proud of the flag that you wear. The USA is doing great."

Let's bring in Chris to see what he is working on for "Cuomo Prime Time" at the top of the hour. I mean, I guess nobody should be surprised that he responded and sort of turned it around and made it about the flag. But, it's not -- you know, you don't have to respond to everything, although I got to say, you kind of respond to everything on Twitter, so.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: That's not true. That's not fair.


CUOMO: That's not fair and I'm not President of the United States.

COOPER: Well, that is true. Yes.

CUOMO: He is the biggest man in the room and never acts like it.


CUOMO: Everything about his behavior is anathema to being the biggest man in the room. He ignores no threat. He's a small as small can be coming at him. But let's be honest, Rapinoe, this is not unusual. She has been controversial. She has courted controversy and she's done it with cause.

As a member of the LGBTQ community, she has a legitimate gripe about which of her rights are protect and which are not. I don't have to tell you about this as a journalist or as a man.

But, why don't the NBA players come? You know, they haven't because they believe this President represents things that are bad for them. She feels the same way. He wants to respond, that's on him. She has the same right.

COOPER: Yes. What do you got tonight?

COUMO: Huge. Look, the debate is on when I'm on. My feeling is, if you've got political fatigue, if you don't want to watch, fine. I'm not going to cover politics when the debate is on. Obviously, if you want to watch politics, there it is.

We're doing the whole hour on mental health. We're going to have people on here. Sanjay is going to be on to give us a piece that gives us a look at how mental health is killing us in this country and it doesn't have to.

We're going to talk to different people with different perspectives on what it's like to have this happen in your life and how we can change and shine a light on something that should not be in shadows.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, I'm with you on that. I think it's so important and it obviously -- it's very personal to me. Chris, appreciate it. Appreciate what you're doing. I'll see you in just a few minutes. "Cuomo Prime Time" coming up

More ahead, President Trump has gone sour on one of his key appointees, no surprise. In fact, he says he's never really heard of the guy.


[20:56:10] COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." And tonight, embrace yourself because the President is playing one of his favorite games.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Trump: The Game" where you deal for everything you've ever wanted to own because it's not whether you win or lose, it's whether you win.



COOPER: No, no, it's not that old new game, "Trump: The Game." It's an older game he's played for decades, although, now that he's president, he's playing it way more than he ever has.

It's sort of like that game where, you know, you pick petals off of a flower each time saying he loves me, he loves me not. Except, in the President's case, it's more like, I like him, I don't know the guy and he's a loser.

Yes. The commander-in-chief is distancing himself again from someone he not only knows but whom he put in office. His latest target is Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.

And because Judge Jeanine apparently doesn't leave her crystal list on weekdays, here is the President today making his morning zoo crew call to Fox Business.


TRUMP: We have a man that doesn't -- he doesn't do anything for us. Nobody ever heard of him before and now I made him and he wants to show how tough he is, OK.


COOPER: OK. So first of all, just consider the fact that it's now normal for the President of the United States to routinely call in to morning shows and play skeet shoot with the American economy.

Also, consider what the President said about Mr. Powell when he himself nominated Powell. The President sang his praises. The same guy, the President now says no one had ever heard of him.


TRUMP: Jay has earned the respect and admiration of his colleagues. Jay has earned the respect of members of Congress straight across party lines. He's strong. He's committed. He's smart.


COOPER: Wow. Kind of seems like people had heard of him, in Congress, his colleagues. Now, if the President's approach to the Federal Reserve, I'm starting to feel like a shady boot leg version of monopoly and the President is the player who insists on being the car even if all that's left is the thimble and you don't trust him to be the banker or the real estate broker, you might be on to something.


TRUMP: My new game is "Trump: The Game."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Trump: The Game" where you deal for everything you've ever wanted to own because it's not whether you win or lose, it's whether you win.



COOPER: Yes. Losers. I know we already played that, but only losers play it once. Who among us doesn't recall rainy afternoons spent with your siblings and your parents playing "Trump: The Game," having a high cup of cocoa or some Chardonnay. When you won, you scream at your dad, you're a loser. You too, mom. Losers a lot of you, sad.

By the way, in terms of whom the President allegedly does or doesn't know, this isn't something new. He couldn't even keep it straight in the quaint old days when he was pretending to be his own publicist.


JOHN MILLER, PUBLICIST: He treats everybody well. You know, you don't know but he's a --


MILLER: Have you met him?


MILLER: He's a good guy and he's not going to hurt anybody.


COPPER: Yes, that was then citizen Donald Trump posing as his fictional publicist, John Miller, not to be confused with his other fictional publicist John Barron. I know that was not part of his board game or some unauthorized off Broadway version of "Eyes Wide Shut," it was just how he rolled in the game of life back then.

And wait, this is one of my favorites. Remember when the President nominated Matt Whitaker to be acting attorney general? I know it seems like a long time ago. This is what he said in October before he nominated him and then shortly after November.


TRUMP: I can tell you Matt Whitaker's a great guy. I mean, I know Matt Whitaker.

I don't know Matt Whitaker.


COOPER: The what? It was a month apart. Not even. I don't -- I think both weren't true. You know, he does have the best memory. He, himself has admitted that. I know that was hard to pull out of him, but he finally admitted he has the best memory, so how to explain this discrepancy?

The President knows everyone, has heard of everyone, has made everyone until it becomes inconvenient or it become angry then they're not fit to shine his golf cleats or get his Big Max. And if they don't like it, tough luck, they can take it up with him or with John Miller or John Barron on "The Ridiculist."

The news continues. I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?