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President Trump Addressed Urgent Humanitarian Crisis At The Southern Border; The Battle Over The U.S.-Mexico Border Turned Into A Social Media Firestorm For Wayfair; Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller Will Soon Face A Public Grilling From Congress. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 26, 2019 - 14:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, there. I'm Brooke Baldwin, you're watching CNN. Thanks for being with me. We just saw the President stop and speak to cameras. He's on his way now to the G20 summit in Japan. He just addressed the urgent humanitarian crisis at the southern border. And all of this comes as the senate is expected to vote this hour on billions of dollars in aid to migrants.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: I just spoke with Nancy Pelosi and we had a good conversation having to do with the bill humanitarian aid at the border for the children, mostly. And we are moving along very well with a bipartisan bill in the senate. I spoke with Mitch, I spoke to a lot of people. We're doing very well. It's very far along and I believe the House is going to also be getting together with the senate.

Hopefully, they can get something done. It's humanitarian aid. It's very important and I think that a lot of people are starting to realize that I was right when I said we have a crisis at the border. Everyone's saying now we had a crisis at the border wasn't a manufactured crisis, which they were saying. It wasn't manufactured at all. We have a crisis at the border.

BALDWIN: Jeff Mason is White House correspondent for Reuters. So Jeff, thanks for being here.


BALDWIN: You know, we've been watching what's been happening on the Hill with this bill. You heard the President saying he talked to Nancy Pelosi. Do you sense a turning point?

MASON: Well, it sounds like there's some movement anyway, and that Pelosi's office has also confirmed that they spoke so. And they said that she reached out to him. So, it sounds like the House is trying to move in the direction where they and the senate can come together on something.

It was interesting to me from his comments there that he sees or feels vindication in that but it is clear -- BALDWIN: Vindication in what specifically?

MASON: That there's a crisis on the border.

BALDWIN: That he is acknowledging.

MASON: That he has been calling it a crisis for all this time and that now he thinks that other people, particularly the Democratic side, are coming along.

BALDWIN: But yet when he's asked about this horrific photo, which we'll talk about in more detail in just a second, you know, you can tell he's -- or he says he is moved by the images, but he is sidestepping.

MASON: Also sidestepping what leads people to do that. I mean, that's the big divide, I think largely between how the President articulate his policy and how opponents to his policy see it.

There's a reason that migrants are coming from these countries and one of his solutions is to take away aid for most countries, despite the really difficult conditions they're facing there. Others would say, this is a good a good reason to put aid there to keep them from coming because the numbers of people who are coming in across the border clearly are more than this system can deal with, but there's a reason they're coming.

BALDWIN: I want to ask you about another comment that he spoke about Robert Mueller. He was asked about him a second ago, he's been lashing out at Robert Mueller, you know, in the last three weeks. We know that he's sitting down for those public hearings with two House Committees in July.

MASON: Right.

BALDWIN: So, this is what the President said this morning.


TRUMP (via phone): Well, my reaction is it never ends. We had no obstruction, we had no collusion. We had a report that was, you know, considering you had 18 people that hated Donald Trump, and you had Mueller that obviously was not a Trump fan... not a Trump person. How these people were picked is, you know, by itself, incredible and yet the reporters, no collusion, no obstruction which was ruled on by our great Attorney General, he's great. He's doing a fantastic job and many other ways, too.


BALDWIN: So it feels like several lifetimes ago, when he referred to the Mueller report as the Bible. Is this foreshadowing of what we're going to see from this White House, in this President in three weeks leading up to this testimony?

MASON: I think so. BALDWIN: Yes.

MASON: The President lashes out when he feels under threat. It is certainly a blow to him that Mueller is going to testify. I mean, I think the President would be happy just to set all this aside. Democrats obviously don't want to set it aside and Democrats think a lot of Americans have set it aside because they're not reading this big long Mueller report.

The fact that he's going to testify means it's going to be in the headlines again and the President is reacting to that.

BALDWIN: And even though Robert Mueller says, you know, everything I have to say is in the testimony.

MASON: Correct.

BALDWIN: Speaking to members of Congress, you know, they're just Democrats at least pleased to see him on camera, a televised version of all of this for the public.

MASON: Exactly.

BALDWIN: I want to ask you about Jerome Powell, the President also took a swipe this morning at the Fed Chair, here he was in that interview.


TRUMP (via phone): 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. Okay, let him show how tough he is. He is not doing a good job. I have the right to demote him. I have the right to fire him. I never suggested I was going to do that.

[14:05:10] TRUMP: I do have the right to do it, but let me just tell you, he has to lower interest rates for us to compete with China.


BALDWIN: So this is just one example. I think -- the bigger picture, I wanted to ask you just about how the President has this habit of appointing people, criticizing these people when they don't do his bidding. What Why do you think he thinks this public shaming? I mean, look at all these faces of -- his history of attacking his appointees. What has he gained by publicly shaming these officials?

MASON: Well, that's a hard question to answer. I mean, I think you're absolutely right. That is his style. I do think, however, this example is particularly unusual. And I can't underscore enough as a Reuters reporter who's covered economy stuff for a years.


MASON: How unusual it is to put this kind of political pressure on a Central Bank in a country like ours with Democratic institutions. It is unusual and many would say very inappropriate, but it is not something that bothers the President at all. It doesn't really seem to bother his people.

That said, I would add, I spoke to a source yesterday who said, despite what the President says about this, there are no plans to demote or try to fire Powell, but clearly the President, as he just articulated, thinks he can.

BALDWIN: Jeff Mason, good luck with the speech tonight.

MASON: Thanks a lot.

BALDWIN: Thank you very much.

MASON: Take care.

BALDWIN: The battle over the U.S.-Mexico border turned into a social media firestorm for Wayfair. And now, the retailer says it will donate profits from the sale of bedroom furniture to a migrant detention facility. Wayfair face growing pressure after employees stage to walk out today at the company's Boston headquarters to protest the estimated $200,000.00 sale.

Looking at live pictures. Last week, those employees sent a letter to senior management asking Wayfair to cut ties with a DHS contractor involved as well as give any money made to Raices, a nonprofit that reunites families at the border.

But Wayfair refused, saying company practices is to fill orders as well as sell to any customer that acts legally in the countries where the retailer operates in a new letter to employees obtained by us here at CNN, Wayfair says it will donate $100,000.00 to the American Red Cross to quote, "Help those in dire need of basic necessities at the border."

But the company did not say if that money in part is actually part of the proceeds from the sale to the detention center. Wayfair has declined CNN's request for comments.

For weeks, we have been inundated with partisan bickering and finger pointing over what to do at the border over how and when. But for right now, I want to focus on a father and a daughter who in the most tragic way possible, have put a very human face on this crisis.

I just want to warn you that the photo you're about to see is graphic but in this moment, it is important that we do not turn away from the reality that they and so many others face. Don't look away. Their names were Oscar Alberto and Angie Valeria Martinez, they were from El Salvador and on Sunday, they drowned as they tried to cross the Rio Grande. And you can see the two face down in the water.

You can see little Angie just 23 months old clinging to her dad. What you cannot see is what led up to this point. And again, please don't look away. The Martinezes drowned after a two-month wait in Mexico sometimes in triple digit temperatures, all in hopes of getting political asylum from the U.S. Oscar's widow, Tanya, tells a Mexican newspaper that the desperate family decided to risk crossing the river and they almost made it. Oscar dropped little Angie on the Texas side and then turned around in the water to get his wife but the toddler did what a toddler does -- followed her dad back into the water as he swam away.

And then Oscar Martinez did what any parent would do. He tried to save her. And that, according to Tanya is when a strong current swept over them both. The Salvadoran Minister of Foreign Affairs now urging people not to make the trip saying don't risk it. But this story is one that is played out repeatedly if not as publicly. Because on the same day that the Martinezes died. Border Patrol agents found four other bodies, three children and a 20-year-old woman about an hour west along the Rio Grande.

The U.S. senate, as we mentioned a second ago is expected to vote soon on that border funding bill, after a House version, which passed last night faced a veto threat from the President. But this morning, Republican Senator Ron Johnson made a plea of his very own to his colleagues.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): I realized tragedies occur all over this country -- all over the world. I don't want to see another picture like that on the U.S. border. I hope that picture alone will catalyze this Congress, this senate this committee to do something.


[14:10:10] BALDWIN: I just want to echo what you just heard. Senator Johnson said, it is time for Congress and the Trump White House to do something and to stop looking away.

Michael Breen is the President and CEO of "Human Rights First." Mike, thank you so much for being with me.


BALDWIN: I've read all your tweets. I want to hear it from you. I mean, it was so compelling what you are writing and what it elicited looking at that father and that little girl. What were you thinking?

BREEN: It's so hard for all of us to look at that? I mean, I'm a father, I know my little girl would have done exactly what that little girl did. When she's scared, she wants to be close to daddy, that's what she tried to do. I've served in combat in two wars. And that's -- it still hits you.

And to think that this is a direct result and a predictable result of this administration's policies. That wait you described is the result of a Trump administration policy called metering. It basically amounts to take a number. And that what ends up happening is we've now got about 20,000 people and Human Rights First has staff on the border for 40 years. Human Rights First has been representing asylum seekers in the legal

system. We've never seen anything like this. We've never seen an administration like this -- 20,000 people waiting for two or three months, you described the temperatures. There are criminal gangs actively preying on these families.

Our teams here at the border have come across kidnapping victims, assault victims, cases of rape. In the section of the border where Oscar and his family tried to cross, we know that on the other side of the bridge, when these families present about 15,000 other families have finally waited, they got their number, they got to go up, and then they were subjected to return to Mexico, or remain in Mexico policy, turn around and sent back.

And we know that there are criminal gangs who have kidnapped people at the bridge within sight of U.S. border officials who know those criminal gangs are there. So this administration is serving up families to criminal gangs and kidnappers on a silver platter and they know it. This is our policy.

So this tragedy is not an isolated incident. We're aware of many such cases. We've had clients who returned to Mexico who had their medication confiscated by Border Patrol, by U.S. border officials before they were sent back to Mexico, suffered seizures. During that period, they were waiting because they couldn't get their medication.

I imagine yourself in a situation where your choice is to remain -- is subject to your two-year-old daughter to that kind of criminal activity. Go back to El Salvador, which whatever their Foreign Minister is saying is not an option for these people or try to swim because the gate of America has been closed in your face, and they tried it but they didn't make it.

BALDWIN: Going off of what you just said, would you say that the photo and their deaths, as we've seen Beto O'Rourke say. Do you think it is a direct result of the Trump administration?

BREEN: It is incredibly predictable that if you do everything you can to restrict people's legal right to walk up to an American border crossing and ask for asylum. If you make that as hard as the administration has made it on purpose, people are going to try another way.

BALDWIN: Because Mike, we've seen -- because I wanted to understand, you know, this is horrible -- what we're talking about today. But deaths at the border. It's nothing new. I'm sure you know the numbers. We're looking up CBP numbers.

Under the Obama years in 2016 alone, 329 people had died, 2015 251, under President Bush 2007 398. So this has happened for years.

BREEN: It has, but look at the policy choices this administration is making. And there's another way, it doesn't have to be like this. This is an administration -- so the President who came into office campaign saying safety at the border was his number one issue and by any objective measure, he's made it worse for everyone. BALDWIN: What's one fix right now?

BREEN: Right now?

BALDWIN: Right now.

BREEN: We need to upgrade the adjudication system. There's a massive backlog of cases. And believe me, it's a lot less expensive for the American taxpayer to invest in more immigration judges and clear the backlog than it is to be detaining people. And by the way, I think it's fair to ask -- the conditions in detention facilities are horrible. Why are we detaining people at all? We know that 99 percent, Brooke, of families who have a lawyer show up for their hearing.

We don't have to have them in these detention facilities. This family died trying to reach a place where they knew there were no toothbrushes, no blankets, no soap. That was their goal.

BALDWIN: I know. Mike Breen, thank you so much, Human Rights First. Nice to have you on.

BREEN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you. Thank you.

As Robert Mueller gets ready to testify in a blockbuster hearing in just a couple of weeks, I'll talk with a reporter who watched all of his past testimonies. Plus, two Republican Senators say the President should be investigated after another woman comes forward, this time accusing him of rape.

And soccer star Megan Rufino says, she is not quote, "going to the effing White House." Well, guess what? The President has just responded. You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We will be right back.


[14:19:43] BALDWIN: We're back, you're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. The former Special Counsel Robert Mueller will soon face a public grilling from Congress. He has agreed to testify. Circle the date, is July 17th and he will be answering lawmaker's questions about his 448-page report. For nearly two years, Mueller did not say a single word in public about this investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia's election interference.

[14:20:07] BALDWIN: Just a couple weeks ago, he did addresses address his investigation publicly for the very first time.


ROBERT MUELLER, RUSSIA PROBE'S SPECIAL COUNSEL: The report is my testimony. I'm speaking out today because our investigation is complete. The attorney general has made the report on our investigation largely public. We are formally closing the Special Counsel's Office. And as well, I'm resigning from the Department of Justice to return to private life.

I'll make a few remarks about the results of our work. But beyond these few remarks, it is important that the offices written work speak for itself.


BALDWIN: Robert Miller, who took over as FBI Director one week before the 911 attacks, answering plenty of lawmakers' questions during his nomination hearings. He has testified before Congress roughly 50 times in the past 12 years. Darren Samuelson is a senior White House reporter for POLITICO who has spent 20 hours watching Mueller testimony. So, Darren, thank you for doing that for us. And you wrote this -- just a fascinating piece. Before we get into the substance, how was he -- how was he on style? How was he on answering the tough questions?

DARREN SAMUELSON, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: Sure. I took one for the team, they're watching all that C-SPAN footage.

BALDWIN: Appreciate it.

SAMUELSON: Absolutely, glad to do it. He's a very serious man, obviously. No doubt, running the FBI for that 12-year period right before 911 all the way through the first years of the Obama administration, the Boston Marathon bombing was in his final months.

Over that period of time, he obviously brought up -- got brought up to talk about, you know, the changing of the FBI after 911, the implementation of all kinds of changes to deal with intelligence and surveillance across the entire United States government, the implementation of the Patriot Act, again, all the way through the Boston Marathon bombing. So a lot of stuff that he covered.

And in Capitol Hill, I think he was treated with a lot of respect over the course of that 12-year period. And he showed it back to lawmakers. He looked him in the eye as they were asked questions. He has a sense of humor. He thanks people as they bring water to his table. You know, it was fascinating to watch those 20 hours and hear that voice. I had done that before Robert Mueller did his one and only statement to the press. And so, just hearing Robert Mueller's voice was fascinating.

BALDWIN: So, we're about to hear his voice July 17th. So to your point, he has handled tough, tough issues before. He has thought about targeting Presidents before and this is one example that you cited. Let me take everyone back. I'm going to play a clip. This is 2001. This is Mueller responding to a question from then Senator Jeff Sessions who urged Mueller to circumvent DOJ brass if you ever felt an FBI investigation was under political pressure. So here he was.


MUELLER: I do not exclude the possibility that the circumstances could be such that I would feel it necessary to circumvent the ordinary course of proceedings by which would be to go to the Attorney General first before I made, perhaps a disclosure to Congress. But I am not precluding the possibility that given the necessary independence of the Bureau in Investigation that there might not come a time where one seeks and alternative, where one believes that a political pressure is being brought to bear on the investigative process.

That may be somewhere else in the executive, beyond the Attorney General. It may be Congress, but I would look and explore at every option, if I believe that the FBI was being pressured for political reasons.


BALDWIN: So his carefully crafted words on asserting his independence as FBI Director seems almost eerie now. What is his response then, tell you about how we might handle similar questions?

SAMUELSON: Well, it's a fascinating exchange with Jeff Sessions, who would go on to become the Attorney General. They're talking there, I think in the context of the Clinton administration and some of the investigations and the pressure that some people said the Clinton administration put on the Justice Department. So, interesting flipping of the shoes there.

But here, you know, you take that statement, you think about the letter that Mr. Mueller sent to Bill Barr after Barr, rolled out the summary of Robert Mueller's investigation before Robert Mueller really had seen that report go public.

You kind of get a sense there that Robert Mueller is willing to speak out, if he finds that, you know, his words were distorted or not used in the way that he intended. And I think as members are questioning him and there's going to be a strong effort to try and find daylight between Bill Barr and Robert Mueller. Thinking back to what Robert Mueller said there in that context -- it's going to be very interesting to think about.

It's a little bit different here. I will just say, the Special Counsel that he served -- as he served as the Special Counsel, a very different role than the FBI Director. He was under underneath Rod Rosenstein, that was what we focused on for those last year and a half. You know, he did have a boss. It's very different than as the FBI Director, but nonetheless, that response is fascinating.

[14:25:09] BALDWIN: Here's another one. This is back in 2013. This is when he was asked why the FBI didn't check out a tip that the Boston bomber brothers frequented a local mosque.


MUELLER: Your facts are not all together.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): Well, I point out specifically --

MUELLER: May I finish my --

GOHMERT: Point out specifically -- Sir, if you're going to call me a liar, you need to point out specifically where any facts are wrong.

MUELLER: We went to the mosque. Prior to Boston.

GOHMERT: Prior to Boston.

MUELLER: Prior to Boston happening, we were in that mosque talking to the imam several months beforehand as part of our outreach efforts.

GOHMERT: Were you aware that those mosques were started by Al-Amoudi?

MUELLER: I have answered the question, Sir.

GOHMERT: You didn't answer the question. Were you aware that was started by Al-Amoudi.


GOHMERT: You were not, okay.


BALDWIN: "I have answered the question, sir." What does that tell you about him being in the hot seat, and how testy he might get?

SAMUELSON: I think we're going to see that kind of exchange play out over and over in the course of Robert Mueller's hearings on Capitol Hill. Louie Gohmert, the Texas Congressman who asked that question continues to set up a Judiciary Committee...

BALDWIN: I think we just lost your microphone, Darren. Darn it, I hate it when that happens. Darren Samuelson, thank you so much for joining us and Darren Samuelson on 20 going on 21 and on hours of listening to Mueller testify. Again, that's happening July 17th.

Two Republican Senators are now joining calls to investigate allegations of rape against President Trump. Plus, Democrats voting to subpoena White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway. Hear, why?