Return to Transcripts main page


Elizabeth Warren Visits Child Detention Facility; Democrats Set to Debate; Mueller Set to Testify Publicly; Border Crisis. Aired 3- 3:30p ET

Aired June 26, 2019 - 15:00   ET




DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They have to change the laws. And then that father, who probably was this wonderful guy, with his daughter, things like that wouldn't happen, because that journey across that river, that journey across that river is a very dangerous journey.

That's a very, very dangerous journey.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And we go now to CNN international correspondent Michael Holmes. He is there live for us on the U.S.- Mexico border with more of the backstory of this father and little girl.

Michael, what have you learned?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Oscar Martinez and his little daughter, Angie Valeria, what a sad, sad story.

And, Brooke, sometimes, lost in the politics and the rhetoric of the immigration debate, sometimes, one photograph -- and we have seen that happen before in the Mediterranean -- one photograph can change the discussion.

And perhaps that is going to happen this time around. Behind me, you will see were Oscar Martinez came with his family on Sunday. He had left El Salvador back in April, fleeing his country's mayhem in many ways to get a better life for his family.

Back in April, they made that long journey up here, came here on Sunday to try to apply for asylum. Now, what happened was, it was actually closed on that day. But, in his frustration and his desperation, he had had enough.

And I'm just going to walk around here and show you. There's trees back here, but just on the back of the end of those trees is the river, the Rio Grande.

So, he comes from there. He walks along here. They walk along the bank, not very far down, and he says, I'm going to go for it.

So he takes his daughter, he gets across, he puts her on the other side of the bank. She's only 23 months old. But he says stay there. I'm going to go get mom. Comes back. And on his way back, she jumps in. She's terrified. She jumps in the water.

He goes back, gets her. The current took them away. They were carried away downstream. And that's where that photograph was taken, where their bodies ended up. His wife saw the whole thing. She's actually being interviewed right now back there in one of the government offices to give her side of this.

The bodies were taken out of the river, obviously. They're at the morgue right now, as we speak. And we're hearing they're going to be taken back to El Salvador today for burial.

Utterly tragic. And, Brooke, we were here a week ago. We spent eight, nine days down where they were in Tapachula down on the Guatemalan-Mexico border. That's where they had come from. They had come through that place.

They got their papers to stay in Mexico legally in Tapachula. This is where they wanted to be to put that application in for asylum. And, of course, they didn't get it. It was closed. He was desperate. He couldn't take it anymore. He said, I'm going to go for it. And this is what happened -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: As I'm listening to you, I can't help but notice that the sign over your right shoulder, it says "Feliz viaje," which means, "Have a good trip."

As you're telling me this horrible story of this journey of this family, can you talk a little bit more about where they come from and what they might have been fleeing?


Well, the thing is, the vast majority of the migrants who are coming to the U.S. border who want to claim asylum, they're coming from those so-called Northern Triangle countries. We're talking about Guatemala, we're talking about El Salvador and Honduras as well.

And when we were in Tapachula, down on the Guatemalan border, last week, we heard horror stories from those countries, Honduras and El Salvador, specific stories. We met a family of eight, three generations.

The father had been killed by gangs in Honduras. The son-in-law drove a bus, didn't pay a tax to the gang. His bus was shot up. They then went back to their house. The next day, there was a notice on the door. And that notice said, you have got 24 hours to get out, all of you, or we will kill you all.

They, at that point, when we met them, were in Tapachula. They had spent nine days on the streets. They had absolutely no money. Their next appointment for processing was a month away. They are sleeping -- it's hot, it's humid, it rains every afternoon. The youngest member of that family was 5 months old.

These, generally, speaking of many of the stories that you hear from these people. And Oscar Martinez was one of those people. He was escaping a life, coming from a dysfunctional government, a dysfunctional country. These countries are dangerous. The drug gangs, the criminal gangs, all of those three countries -- and this is what Mexico has been saying.

There needs to be a regional solution to this. They're trying to get these nations together to talk about what they can do to try to improve the structure that sort of holds the fabric of society together that is at the moment being rent apart.

And it's interesting too, and it should be pointed out, the Trump -- well, the U.S. government used to give funds that would sponsor programs for children and government and security and things like that.


The Trump administration, of course, has taken those programs away. And you talk to any of the human rights groups or the aid groups, they will tell you that money was crucial in stopping the reasons that these people want to leave those countries in the first place.

There's no doubt a lot of these people are escaping economic privation, not necessarily fearing for their lives. But we met so many of them who had horrific stories of threats, deaths in the family, and so on.

That's what they're escaping from. And if those problems in those countries aren't solved, you can do whatever you like on the border. Those people are still going to run. What would you do? That's always the question -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Michael Holmes, excellent reporting. Thank you for the hustle and getting up live for us along the U.S.-Mexico border. To you and your team, we appreciate it.

I have with me now in New York CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

Gloria, we will get into the funding battle and everything in just a second, but, I mean, I don't even have -- I don't have words.


BALDWIN: Do you think -- listening to the president a bit ago, he's he's blaming Democrats.

BORGER: It's ridiculous.

Something has to be done about immigration in this country. They have been working on it for years. There was something that passed the Senate that got stuck in the House. And we all -- we all know about that. To say, as the president does, that the Democrats don't care about this, or that this could be solved in 15 minutes, is not really true. I think that lots of minds have gotten together to try and solve this problem in the past, and could do so right now, if they could see what is really going on at the border.

BALDWIN: But we have the photo. Why is not the turning point?

BORGER: And here it is. Well, and I think -- well, it might be.


BORGER: It might be.

The president reacts to things visually, as we know. I mean, just think about Syria. Just think about when he saw the chemical weapons attack. And, finally, he said, well, this -- this cannot stand and we -- there was an attack as a response to. It is because he saw that. He saw the children, he saw the chemical weapons.

In this particular situation, you cannot look away, not if you're Donald Trump, not if you're Nancy Pelosi, not if you're Mitch McConnell.

Now, the president was leaving on his foreign trip, said he had a conversation with Nancy Pelosi.

BALDWIN: With Nancy Pelosi.

BORGER: She called him. So these are people who -- she's trying to get something done here.

There are differences between these two bills. But, to me, it seems like they ought to be able to resolve them. They are not that huge. I mean, they're -- the House bill tries to restrict how you're going to use this money, because they don't want the money spent on things they don't like, like more detention beds, for example.

And it seems to me that if you want to solve the problem, there's a way to do it. And that is to solve the problem. Now, you're not going to please all the liberals in the Democratic House. Certainly, she had to work hard to get most of them on this -- on this measure.

But it seems to me they ought to go to a conference committee pretty quickly. Mitch McConnell wants to bring his bill up in the Senate. OK, great. Pass your bill in the Senate, but get to work making sure that you come out with something that can pass both houses, not after the August recess...

BALDWIN: But before.

BORGER: ... but before, soon, quickly. And I just don't understand why they can't figure out a way to do it. And I think that's what Pelosi was calling the president about.

BALDWIN: What does it say to you that she called him? BORGER: Well, it seems to me that she really wants to get this done.

I mean, in her caucus the other day, she kept saying, this is about the children. This is about the children. She repeated herself. And then you heard the president say that. So I think when the American public looks at these pictures, and when members of Congress look at these pictures, and hopefully they're hearing from their constituents.

BALDWIN: Yes, constituents.

BORGER: Because, as the cliche goes, a picture is worth 1,000 words. You see this.

There have been restrictions about cameras going to these detention facilities, or you would have more pictures.

BALDWIN: We have had descriptions. We have had reports, but nothing quite like this.

BORGER: Right. So you don't have the cameras inside the facilities the way I think we would like.


BORGER: You have presidential candidates now going to visit facilities. And whenever that happens, it just becomes part of the political discussion.

There is a humanitarian discussion here right now. The president said, I was right. There's a humanitarian crisis.

OK, fine. Let's just -- let's just say that. We don't want to know who was right, who was wrong, whose fault it is at this point. Just get it done. And I think that's kind of where Nancy Pelosi is. And I think that's why she picked up the phone to the president.

BALDWIN: Yes. They have got to get it together.


BALDWIN: Get it together.

Gloria Borger, thank you so much.


BALDWIN: At least eight Democratic candidates for president are spending part of their week, as Gloria just mentioned, visiting this migrant detention facility in Florida.


Hear Senator Elizabeth Warren's emotional response to the conditions that the kids there are facing.

Plus, President Trump says it is disgraceful that Robert Mueller has agreed to testify publicly in just a couple weeks. We will break down the unanswered questions for the former special counsel.

And, later, CNN gets an exclusive interview with the Iranian foreign minister, who had harsh words for President Trump, as tensions escalate between these two countries. We are all over it.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We will be right back.



BALDWIN: Robert Mueller reluctantly agreeing to play a starring role in what will likely be an unprecedented Capitol Hill circus.

The former special counsel will testify before Congress on July 17, answering questions on his 448-page report and his two-year investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia's election interference.

The world will be watching Mueller's every move, listening to his every word, and President Trump none too thrilled about that.


TRUMP: The Mueller thing never stops. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. There was no nothing. How many times do we have to hear it? It never ends.

It just keeps going on and on. I have been going through this for two years, two-and-a-half years.


BALDWIN: Kim Wehle is a former federal prosecutor and author of "How to Read the Constitution and Why." And CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin worked for Mueller, serving as his special assistant at the Department of Justice.

So, welcome, welcome to both of you.

And just, Kim, to you first.

What are your two burning questions for Bob Mueller that you want him asked?

KIM WEHLE, FORMER ASSOCIATE INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: Well, I think the objective has to be to convey the facts and the law clear-headedly to the American public, because so much of it has been distorted by the White House and, frankly, by the attorney general.

So number one is, but for this policy, would a prosecutor have -- feel that they had sufficient evidence to charge someone with obstruction of justice as a private party? That's number one.

Number two is to explain what the difference legally is between collusion and conspiracy. Just because there's not enough evidence for conspiracy does not mean there's not enough evidence, so to speak, of collusion, which is really a political question for the Congress, not for a federal judge or for a jury.

BALDWIN: And what say you, sir, on the things that he does not want to discuss?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, first, I think he will not discuss speculative questions, what if. What if the president wasn't the president? What if the OLC opinion wasn't there? What if -- I just don't see Mueller going down that road.

BALDWIN: He won't be freelancing.

What will his response be?

ZELDIN: My report -- my report speaks for itself. And with respect to that, this is what we said. He is the president and, therefore, we're bound by OLC opinion.

If we were to say that he was charged with a crime, that would have been unfair, because he has no forum in which to defend himself. I think that's what he will say.

So, if you're a Democrat, asking questions, and you understand that the American people have not read this report, you want him essentially to read the report in its most damaging aspects.

And that relates to obstruction of justice, McGahn trying to fire Mueller, Sessions trying to capitate the investigations, the firing of Comey, and say to him, what facts did you find as to those issues when you were doing this investigation, and have them say out loud, this is what we found.

Then they can argue after the fact, aha, you see, this is obstruction.

BALDWIN: How much of this are we going to see from him , just reading the report?

ZELDIN: It's a good question. He may read the report, or he may have it memorized at this point, where he can say, in volume two, section one, on this question, we write, and he says it.


WEHLE: He can certainly read the summaries, right?


WEHLE: And I think, from a legal perspective, the question of what -- even if we accept your point that he's not going to speculate if he were a private party, there's also been some, I think, distortion around whether obstruction requires that you actually fired Mueller or you actually took the obstructive act.

And I think he can clarify legally, listen, you can obstruct just by trying to do stuff, not by necessarily executing it, because people seem to think, well, so what? The facts are pretty much out there. He needs to tie them together to let people know, this is the implications of it legally.

And then -- so have a -- we all have a common agreement and understanding of what it means.

BALDWIN: Go ahead, Michael.

ZELDIN: And there is the -- this one sentence that sits there, which says, if I could have exonerated him, I would have, but I didn't.

That has to be the heart of the matter. What was it in the investigation that didn't allow you to exonerate him? Let's walk through those one by one.

BALDWIN: How does this work logistically? He's up -- I mean, this is going to be a long day. I mean, count how many members of Congress are on each of these committees. How will this work logistically?

WEHLE: Well, I think we saw it with the Kavanaugh hearings to some degree. Obviously, that was for a confirmation process.

And the goal of it was a little bit different. They only have a certain number of minutes per person to ask questions.

BALDWIN: Would it be five minutes per member of Congress?


WEHLE: Five minutes.

And so that's really different from like in a jury trial, where you can keep asking, the lawyers can keep asking and asking, until they sort of work through a whole thread of sort of commonsense argument.


Here, we're going to see little snippets. We will see speeches that don't actually get anywhere. And I think we're going to see the Republicans try to create some specter of wrongdoing by virtue of the existence of the very investigation.

And I think people need to remember, the whole point of the special counsel was independence. That's why Rod Rosenstein appointed him, was so that it would not be politicized. And I think there's going to be an attempt, of course, to politicize it anyway.

And, hopefully, Mueller will hold his ground and come across as the person that he was appointed to be, which is this neutral, rule of law guy, I call it like it is, it is balls and strikes, I'm not on team red, I'm not on team blue, I'm on team law.

And I think that would be a really good message for the American public, even if he just reads the summaries of the report.

BALDWIN: OK. OK. ZELDIN: And it'll be very interesting to see whether he has a lengthy opening statement, or they go straight into question and answers.

BALDWIN: July 17, circle it, highlight it. It's the day.

Guys, thank you very much, Kim and Michael.

ZELDIN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: We are also watching the Senate very closely right now, as a vote takes place over billions of dollars to address the humanitarian crisis along the southern border.

I will speak live with a man who tried to bring supplies to one of the shelters that houses migrant children, only to be turned away. We will be right back.



BALDWIN: We are just hours away from the first Democratic presidential debate.

And Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has visited this detention center in South Florida that's housing unaccompanied migrant children. Her visit was a last-minute decision. And when she arrived, the senator climbed the ladder to look over the center's wall and then, as you see, waving to the children.

This is the area that the senator saw from that ladder. And here is what she told CNN that she witnessed when she peered over the facilities wall.



There weren't children laughing the way children usually do when they're moving from one place to another. These were children who were being marched, like little soldiers, like little prisoners, from one place to another.

This is not what we should be doing as a country. These children did not commit a crime. These children pose no threat to people here in the United States of America. And yet they are locked up for weeks, for months, because our government is following a policy of inflicting maximum pain on families that flee here trying to build a better life.


BALDWIN: M.J. Lee is our CNN political correspondent down there in South Florida following the Massachusetts senator.

And so why did she want to visit this detention center specifically? M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, this was

not a part of Elizabeth Warren's original plan for the week.

She made this decision, as you said, at the last minute, because she says that she spoke with some advocates backstage when she was having a town hall in Miami last night.

Just to remind you again and give you a sense of exactly where we are, this facility is a facility where unaccompanied minor children are held. They are held here until they can be placed with sponsors within the United States.

And, according to the government, there are around 2,300 children here at the moment. And the reason that Warren has been so critical of places like this is because she says these are run by private companies, private contractors, and essentially she sees these companies as profiting off of these children and the conditions that they are having to be put through.

And she says that that is not acceptable. And that is why she has released a plan actually recently calling for the ban of all private prisons and detention centers.

And one of the things that I asked Senator Warren, Brooke, is about her own young grandchildren. They are actually here in Miami to be here to watch their grandmother debate tonight on the Democratic debate stage.

And I asked her, how do you even talk to your own young grandchildren about an issue like this? This is what she said:


WARREN: My own grandchildren's father is an immigrant to the United States.

And they want to understand why some children are locked up by our government. The first question I was asked is, what did they do wrong?

And the answer is nothing. They're just the children who are pawns in Donald Trump's ugly political game.


LEE: So, obviously, Brooke, this ended up being a sizable chunk of Elizabeth Warren's day today.

You can imagine that the hours that she has left now before the debate, she's probably trying to squeeze in some last-minute debate prep, which she obviously couldn't do this morning -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: M.J. Lee, thank you very much in Homestead.

My next guest says migrants who have been taken into federal custody are living, in his words, squalor. His name is Austin Savage. And just this weekend, Austin and his friends tried to donate supplies to a detention center in Texas. Instead, they were turned away.

And Austin Savage is with me now live from El Paso.

Austin, thank you so much for taking the time.


BALDWIN: So, you went to this facility, not once, but twice. Tell me more.