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Trump Isn't Happy With House Border Bill; Haunting Photo of Migrant Crisis; Iran's Foreign Minister Hits Back; Mueller to Testify Before Congress; Democrats Subpoena Kellyanne Conway. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired June 26, 2019 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Looking like they were on top. And I think that's going to be something that they'll have to demonstrate.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: I'm guessing we won't have nasty nicknames, but we might see some aggressive -- we'll see.

Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. Brianna Keilar starts right now. Have a great afternoon.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, we are standing by. Any moment now, President Trump is going to be leaving for the G-20 Summit in Japan and he leaves behind escalating tension on multiple fronts. He is sounding off on it all, from accusing Robert Mueller of erasing evidence, to slamming his 2020 competitors.

And there's also uproar growing at the southern border. Children there, taking care of babies, and extreme overcrowding in detention facilities. The conversation reignited by this photo, which shows a father and his young daughter who drowned in an attempt to make it to the United States. We're going to have their heartbreaking story here in just a moment.

President Trump was asked about these horrific condition at the border and the new border aid bill that was just passed by the House, and here's what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not happy with it because there's no money for protection. It's like we're running hospitals over there now. You know, people are coming up. What people don't understand is you have separation. Separation is a terrible thing of the families. And I said, well, I'm going to put people together, but that's going to mean more people coming up.


KEILAR: All right, Eliana Johnson covers the White House for "Politico." She's here with us now.

First -- first off, we need to fact check what he said because it's completely wrong. He's saying that he put people together. That's not -- that's not at all what happened.

ELIANA JOHNSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. The president often likes to point the finger to his predecessor for things that are going wrong. And while it's true that some family separations occurred under President Obama, President Trump explicitly revised this policy under the advice and guidance of his immigration adviser and -- Steven Miller. So this happened under President Trump.

And we've often seen that immigration policies become controversial when there are images that really grab people's hearts. And we saw that when child separation first happened about a year ago and there were heart-wrenching images the southern border that led President Trump to end it after a very short period. It was one of the only times that he's backtracked and folded under pressure. And now this image of a parent and child on the southern border is renewing the controversy.

KEILAR: And the House now, the Democratic-led House, has passed this $4.5 billion border aid bill. The president doesn't like it. He -- he feels like it's very much a Democratic bill, that it doesn't address border security, more just the humanitarian crisis at the border.

Can Congress reach a deal to take care of both of those things and, if not, will the president just have to sign something to deal with the humanitarian crisis?

JOHNSON: YOU know, I think it's going to be difficult for them to reach a deal because it involves the Democrats in Congress acknowledging that there is an actual security crisis on the border and it would involve the president acknowledging that there's a real humanitarian crisis. And neither party seems to want to acknowledge those things.

But I think what we're -- what we're seeing is that really there is a crisis on the border happening and it's having real human costs. The Trump administration simply does not have the resources to deal with this crisis.

KEILAR: And I want to ask you about the president, because he's -- what he said about Jerome Powell. He has trashed his Fed chair again. Let's listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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? Let him show how tough he is. He's a -- he's -- he's not doing a good job.

I have the right to demote him. I have the right to -- I have the right to fire him. I never suggested I was going to do that. 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.


KEILAR: What -- he's done this before. But could he fire him? Will he fire him?

JOHNSON: You know, it's territory that we hadn't trod before and that's something -- that's a phrase, you know, that we've often confronted in the Trump era. But the White House Counsel's Office has explored the legality of the president firing his Fed chairman. And I think it's a question that we don't know the answer to right now.

But I think what you're seeing is, the president has said he likes acting cabinet secretaries because it gives him more control, it gives him more flexibility. He feels that he can hire and fire more easily when people aren't confirmed by the Senate.

Now, the Fed is traditionally independent. And I think that's why you see these sorts of conflicts erupting continually between the president and Jerome Powell because he cannot control Jerome Powell. And when Powell doesn't do with the interest rate what the president would like him to do, it leads to these repeated clashes. The president is not in control of this situation.

[13:05:18] KEILAR: And he is not exactly supposed to be, which is the whole point as well.

JOHNSON: Exactly.

KEILAR: Eliana Johnson, thank you so much.

And I do want to warn you that what we're about to show is this image that is very disturbing as we follow the latest on the humanitarian crisis at the border. I'm talking about this photo. It is a father and a toddler who drowned in the Rio Grande Sunday. And their bodies were found Monday on the Mexico side of the river.

And I -- I know this -- it's hard for me to watch having small children. Even if you don't, I'm assuming it's hard for you to watch as well. So if you need to look away, I understand. But just listen as we tell you this story, because it's important.

This is Oscar Alberto Martinez and the little girl clinging to him is his daughter, that's Angie Valeria, and they drowned while they were crossing the Rio Grande River from Mexico into the United States. But it's really not this simple because they'd been in Mexico for two months. They had actually secured a humanitarian visa there while they were waiting for their chance at asylum in the United States. And -- so they tried to do things the right way. But they grew desperate. They had two months, temperatures were reaching up to 113 degrees in their migrant camp in Madaoros (ph). And like many migrant families who initially seek asylum at legal ports of entry and then face open- ended delays, they tried to cross illegally instead.

So Oscar and his wife Tanya and little Angie Valeria came to the Mexican side of the river and they tried to swim across. Oscar and Angie Valeria, secured inside of her dad's t-shirt, they made it to the U.S. side, but Tanya had to turn back because the waters were rough. So Oscar left Angie Valeria on the American side of the river and swam back across the Rio Grande to get his wife. But his daughter, this little girl, who was frightened to lose contact with her dad, jumped in after him. And the current, it overtook them, and the two of them drowned as Tanya, Angie Valeria's mother, was watching.

So, why is this singular photo getting so much attention? It's because it's not just the story of this one family. Imagine, if you can, the desperation that that little girl felt as her dad turned away to go back across the river. The fear that she must have felt of being left alone in a strange place and now -- pardon me -- think of the thousands of Angie Valerias, some of them like her, almost two, some of them eight, 10, some 14, taking care of unrelated four-year-olds in border detention centers, in migrant shelters. You have heard their stories. No soap, no toothbrushes, no beds, just concrete floors, Mylar blankets and now imagine the desperation that they're feeling. They are cramped together. What are they thinking? Many were literally pried from their parents' arms.


CLARA HALL, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: There was one little girl, she was taken away from her mother and her father and her younger sister. And she didn't want to go. The Border Patrol officers were separating her. And she didn't want to be separated from her family, obviously. And her dad went to her and he leaned down and he said, honey, you need to go with these men, they're going to take you someplace that is better for children. And this is where they took her was the Clint Border Patrol facility. So I feel like, as a nation, we are failing these children.


KEILAR: Remember the story of the second grader, another little girl, the phone number of her parent in the U.S. written in permanent marker on a wristband, on her wrist, but no one at the facility had called to tell the parents where she had been for a month, that she was there, until a Human Rights Watch advocate dialed the number only to reach the parents very quickly.

So think of all of these children at this age who are in need of comfort. They need a simple hug from a parent, an aunt, a cousin, a friend. But they're sitting there in these crowded centers while adults are arguing about whether they deserve humane treatment. Yes, they need blankets and beds and they need more than oatmeal and frozen burritos day after day, but mostly they need a hug from a parent or a relative and they need to know that everything is going to be all right.

I want to check in now with Ed Lavandera. He is in Texas. He is near the U.S./Mexico border. He's actually outside of the facility in Clint, Texas, where these conditions are being described as horrific.

What can you tell us, Ed? ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is one of the three

locations that a group of lawyers and doctors and advocates toured last week and really brought to light these latest allegations and details of the conditions of the overcrowded sense of what they describe as unconscionable conditions, children who are essentially taking care of each other, sleeping on the floors, not having adequate showers and basic hygiene provided to them. CBP officials, Customs and Border Protection officials, have pushed back on some of the details that have been released by that group that toured these facilities or actually didn't tour the facilities, they interviewed various people who were inside. They weren't allowed to tour specifically inside the areas where these people were being kept. So this was details that were being relayed to them by the people that they had interviewed.

[13:10:32] But it has really brought out another kind of round of outrage about what exactly is going on and how all of these people are being treated. Customs and Border Protection admits that they are not equipped to take care of the massive amounts of children, that they are forced to deal with. They say the overcrowding has gotten to crisis levels. And that is essentially what is going on here.

Some of the children were removed from this border patrol processing facility over the last few days, but yesterday another group of them were brought back here. CBP officials say it had to do with crowding issues and this -- all of this is in flux, depending on the number of apprehensions that are made each day.


KEILAR: It seems, Ed, also, that there's a lot of frustration because people are watching these images, they're hearing these stories. They want to -- they want to do something. Even some people who just -- you know, whether it's non-profits or just good Samaritans who want to do something from the goodness of their hearts, and they're really unable to because these kids are really isolated from that outside assistance.

LAVANDERA: Well, we've heard stories from various people, like down in the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas, who had heard these stories and wanted to bring basic hygiene, soap and diapers and that sort of thing. And these folks were telling us that they were turned away by Customs and Border Protection officials and Border Patrol agents. They were saying that they were not allowed to accept these items. They said for a couple of reasons. One of them is by law, for security and safety reasons. And that is something that they're trying to work through. But also because CBP officials say they have -- they insist that they have all of these items and there are plenty of these items for these children. So you really see the frustration by people who wanted to help and kind of hitting these roadblocks. And we understand that they're in the process of trying to work out some agreement on that.

KEILAR: All right, Ed, thank you so much for that update for us from Clint, Texas.

We're going to have more on this story ahead. We're going to be following this all day.

And as Robert Mueller is getting ready to testify in a blockbuster hearing, what are the biggest questions that he faces?

Also, Democrats voting to subpoena White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway. Hear why.

And chilling video of police rescuing a crying newborn found abandoned in a plastic bag. I'm going to speak live with the officer who found this little girl.


[13:17:41] KEILAR: Iran's foreign minister is now hitting back. In a CNN exclusive interview, he responds to President Trump's threat to obliterate Iran if they attack anything American.

We have CNN's senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen. He is in Tehran with more of his exclusive.

Fred, what did he tell you?


Yes, we caught up with Javad Zarif at the sidelines of an event here in Tehran. Of course the first thing I asked him was, how does he react to President Trump's threats to not only obliterate Iran, but again saying this morning that a war with Iran would be very short. Here's what the foreign minister had to say.


PLEITGEN: What do you make of President Trump's threats of obliteration and that a war with the United States wouldn't last very long?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, he's certainly wrong, but that statement indicates that the United States' intentions are certainly illegal. The United States is not in a position to obliterate Iran. They do not have the capability, other than using prohibited weapons to do this.


PLEITGEN: One of the thing he also said, Brianna, was that Iran does not want a war with the United States. But really one of the other really interesting things that I thought is, he also seems to still believe that President Trump also doesn't want a war with Iran. He kept telling me that he thinks that there are people around President Trump, like, for instance, National Security Adviser John Bolton, who are sort of trying to push President Trump in that direction and he believes that President Trump is actually trying to walk things back, Brianna.

KEILAR: Interesting. Fred, thank you so much for that interview. He's with us from Tehran there.

And mark your calendars because three weeks from now we are going to hear from Special Counsel Robert Mueller. On July 17th, Mueller will testify publicly before members of two separate House committees. Both Republicans and Democrats will have a chance to ask him questions and you will hear his answers in real time, not through a transcript released later or a 400-page report that most people have not read.

Let's go to CNN's senior justice correspondent Evan Perez.

You have lived and breathed the Russian investigation -- you may have bled the Russia investigation, too, Evan, the last two years here. This is the day that Democrats and some Republicans and a lot of Americans have been waiting for. What are the most important questions that they're going to ask?


And you could tell from the way the president is already attacking Robert Mueller and the investigation that he already is anticipating what these answers might be. So let's take a look at some of the questions that we still have outstanding at this point.

[13:20:05] One of them, do you support the president's claim that you found zero collusion? You know, of course, if you read the report, the report says that there was not enough evidence found that -- enough to bring charges against anyone of a wider conspiracy. That was the answer that was in the report. We'll see what Mueller says at this -- at this hearing.

Number two, do you agree with the attorney general, William Barr's, overall interpretation of your report? You, of course, will remember that Bill Barr, the attorney general, has been attacked for the way he portrayed the report before the report was released. We'll hear from Mueller in his own words how he sees that.

Was this probe illegal? If not, why not? And, of course, it's going to be one of the major questions from some of the president's supporters during those two hearings. So we'll see how Mueller answers that question. That's going to be a big one.

And, number four, did you mean to put the onus on Congress to act on your conclusions? That's, of course, one of the big overarching questions that we have after this Mueller investigation. The question is, did you intend for Congress to actually take the action that you, as a Justice Department employee, as a federal prosecutor, could not do because the law says or the Justice Department says that you cannot indict a sitting president? That's going to be a key question for Robert Mueller on that day, Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, because he really seemed to put that in his report there that it, you know, is within Congress' purview to go ahead and do this. Why did he do -- why did he say that?

PEREZ: Right. KEILAR: We want to know.

Evan Perez, thank you so much.

Add another name to the list of Trump associates who are facing subpoenas from congressional Democrats. This time it's White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway, who was a no-show at a House Oversight Committee hearing today. The panel, led by Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings, voted 25-16 to subpoena Conway. A federal agency has recommended that she be fired for violating the Hatch Act, which is a law that limits the political activities of federal employees.

Walter Shaub is former director of the Office of Government Ethics. He's also a CNN contributor.

So how much weight does this subpoena hold for Kellyanne Conway?

WALTER SHAUB, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: So, you know, the subpoena's a serious escalation. And I -- but I think we can predict the White House is going to ignore it, as they have with others. I think, ultimately, this is going to have to be litigated in the courts. I think there's a very good chance the House is going to win this one. But, unfortunately, these things take time. And I think that's the broader strategy of the White House right now is resist everything across the board and stall, stall, stall.

KEILAR: So she refused to appear on the advice of White House counsel. Executive privilege has not been exercised here, right? So what's the legal -- what's the legal rationale for this?

SHAUB: So the White House is asserting sort of a strange claim that White House presidential advisers have absolute immunity to any kind of subpoena. That's not a viewpoint that either the Congress or the courts have endorsed at any point, which is why it's going to wind up having to be litigated. To be fair to the Trump administration, they're not the first administration to assert that. They are, however, the first one to stick to their guns on that and not accommodate the House and ultimately find some sort of compromise. At least not yet.

KEILAR: Same thing with Hope Hicks when she testified last week. Everything that she said was not -- everything about her time in the White House, she would not speak to, for the same reason.

SHAUB: Right.

KEILAR: So President Trump, at this point, he's ignoring this federal agency's recommendation that Conway be fired. They said she should be fired for, quote, numerous violations of the Hatch Act. Explain -- explain how she violated this and explanation this recommendation?

SHAUB: Yes, you know, interestingly, I sat in Henry Kerner's (ph) shoes. He's the head of the agency that recommended her firing because she violated the standards of conduct when I was leading the Office of Government Ethics. And just as the White House ignored me, they're ignoring Henry Kerner. The difference this time is Henry Kerner's a Trump appointee. So right there that makes it strange.

The way she violated it is she's used her position to advocate for the success or failure of individual candidates and political parties while being interviewed on television and on her Twitter page, which the Office of Special Counsel, not related to Mueller, the agency that does this, found was essentially an official account because she tweets so much government information on it. The defenses from the White House have ranged from saying, oh, this is a violation of her First Amendment rights, which the courts have rejected, to now a new one saying that somehow the Hatch Act doesn't apply to senior White House officials. But these are actually rather extreme positions for the White House to take, and they're not going to be supported in any form, whether by Congress or in a court or anywhere else.

KEILAR: Thank you, Walter, for making us smarter. We appreciate it.

Walter Shaub.

Just ahead, it's one of the largest online furniture companies, employees of Wayfair, are outraged after learning it was selling beds to furnish migrant detention facilities for children. What they're hoping -- now hoping that a walkout will do to spark change.

[13:25:10] Also, just in to CNN, prosecutors reveal a possible cause for a fire that ravaged the Notre Dame Cathedral. What common, human habit may have started this blaze.


[13:30:02] KEILAR: Breaking news.

You are looking now at live pictures of hundreds of Wayfair employees walking off the job at company headquarter.