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New Photo Shows Migrants' Peril; Trump Not Happy with House Border Bill; Mueller to Testify Before Congress; Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired June 26, 2019 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:00] TERRY MCAULIFFE, FORMER DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Those lines and zingers for tonight, you know, that people can take away from tonight and remember, well, that person said that.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: But do -- is there timing right with that line? That is everything. And that is up to the candidate in that moment.


BOLDUAN: Governor, it's great to see you. Thank you for being here.

MCAULIFFE: All right. Good night.

BOLDUAN: Let's see what happens tonight.

MCAULIFFE: You got it.

BOLDUAN: Thank you all so much for joining me. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Kate.

And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

Democrats get their star witness. Robert Mueller scheduled to testify next month on camera. Those pushing for impeachment predict the special counsel will help their case.

Plus, it's debate night for the 2020 Democrats. Elizabeth Warren, center stage for the first group of ten. President Trump predicts it will be boring but says he plans to tune in.

And a sad and shocking image from the U.S./Mexico border. A father and his young daughter drowned in the Rio Grande. It comes as Washington tries to overcome partisan differences over emergency funding for border detention centers.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There weren't children playing. 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.


KING: We begin there with the nation's immigration divide and with the heartbreaking image from the U.S./Mexico border. An image that's upsetting to see but also very important for you to see. And you see it there. A photographer captured this photo of a father and his toddler daughter, almost two years old. Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez (ph), and his daughter, Valeria, face down in the water of the Rio Grande River. The man's wife says she watched them drown. Her husband had safely ferried Valeria to the U.S. side of the river and was heading back to help his wife when the little girl panicked and followed her father back into the water. The current then overwhelmed them.

A Mexican newspaper says the family fled El Salvador and then had been waiting two months for an appointment to seek asylum in the United States and then attempted the river crossing as an act of desperation.

Let's get to CNN's Ed Lavandera. He is live from the border town of Clint, Texas.

Ed, you see the photo and you get heartsick. What is the mood there today?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a horrific photo to see, but the stark reality of what has been going on here along the U.S./Mexico border, especially here in the Texas area, for quite some time. We have heard reports of dozens of rescues by Border Patrol agents over the last few months, having to jump into the river to rescue people from nearly drowning.

But critics of the Trump administration say, John, that this is really the push by the Trump administration and caused by this, this idea of what is waiting for asylum processes and these migrants being forced to wait in Mexico. The Trump administration has put a policy in place limiting the number of people that can cross the border, the legal ports of entry to request asylum on a daily basis, forcing these migrants to wait in Mexico. Critics of the administration have been saying for months that this is forcing migrants to make much more dangerous and treacherous journeys across the border in illegal ways, as we've seen here, crossing the river illegally, which obviously can lead to a much more deadly situation. And this is what critics of the administration have been warning about for months.

KING: Ed Lavandera for us on the border.

Ed, appreciate the reporting from the scene.

The photo of that father and daughter immediately becoming an issue here in Washington. The Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, brought a blowup to the Senate floor to challenge Trump administration policies he says lack compassion. The Republican chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee says he almost canceled the committee hearing today when he saw that image.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): I didn't have time to have a picture blown up, but we've all seen it, of Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria. Now, I realize 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.


KING: Here with me to share their reporting and their insights, Catherine Lucey with "The Wall Street Journal," Olivier Knox with Sirius XM, Laura Barron-Lopez with "Politico," and Julie Hirschfeld Davis with "The New York Times."

The senator says he hopes that image, which is heartbreaking, will catalyze Washington. Will it? The House has passed an emergency funding bill. The Senate has an emergency funding bill. And as we come on air, we see word that the Senate says it won't negotiate with the House, essentially take it or leave it. Take the Senate Republican version. Will House Democrats do that? Will they at least -- and that's not -- that's not -- there's no big immigration deal here. This is emergency funding for these detention centers and some other things for the here and now. There are bigger issues, like asylum, to be discussed. But on this issue, before they go home this week, will they have a deal?

[12:05:30] LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "POLITICO": So the Senate is planning -- I mean it is a bipartisan bill. It's one that Democrats in the Senate are also signed on to. And they want to show that the House bill can't pass in the Senate and that they are hoping to jam the House pretty much and say you need to take up our bill and pass it before we leave for the July recess or we may end up leaving with no options at all.

House Speaker Pelosi and Hoyer have spoken fondly of the Senate bill. So there's the potential that they will take it up. But there's key differences in the bills across the chambers. In the House, the Democrats have restricted, put up guardrails pretty much, saying that they don't want money going toward deportation and they don't want money going towards the wall and restoring foreign aid to Central America. So --

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think -- I think that, you know, you asked whether the photograph is going to make the difference. I do think some of these images -- that image clearly, but also the images of the horrible conditions in these shelters have really brought home for members of Congress, from both parties, the fact that this money is needed and it's needed quickly. And even though there are a lot of reservations among Democrats about sending any money to any of the agencies that have been a part of resident Trump's crackdown, they recognize how badly the resources are needed. And I think it's going to be very difficult for Democrats to -- on the House side to push back on this. As Laura says, they -- the leaders there have said the Senate bill is OK with them.

But, importantly, the Senate bill does include some of those restrictions against money going toward enforcement. What it doesn't have is what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the appropriators had to add to the House bill in order to get it over the hump with some of their progressives and Hispanic members who really wanted to see higher standards for health, safety, cleanliness and release times for children being held in these -- in these shelters. And I -- it looks pretty clear that those are not going to be able to stick if this is going to get through the Congress this week.

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": I also think sometimes photos do things that other -- other things can't in these kinds of debates. And there this really devastating image has struck a lot of people. We're hearing people react very emotionally today. And it's -- it's being compared a lot to other sort of searing images with children, the little boy who was washed up, the Syrian refugee, that photo, or the photo of the little girl who was injured in a napalm attack in Vietnam. These images, these sort of indelible images that really speak to tragedies with children.

And so I think when you sort of take a step back, these things can make a difference. One person we haven't heard from yet reacting is President Trump. Is he known to be -- he's sort of influenced and moved with -- you know, with sort of tragedy with children. It will be interesting to see if we do hear from him specifically on this photo.

KING: And he did an interview this morning with the Fox Business Channel where he was not asked about the image.


KING: He was not asked about the image. But he was asked what he thought about the House bill, the House Democratic bill, and the president says he doesn't like it.


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.

I can't understand it, OK? They want those people to come into the United States. So I say it must be politics. They must think that having a big, open border and having hundreds of thousands of people flowing into the United States is a good thing for our country. It's ruinous to our country.


KING: That's the argument he wants to make in his re-election campaign. I'll come to some of the other questions about that. He has been president for a long time. He has powers to do certain things, but that's the argument he wants to make in his re-election campaign, Democrats are for open borders, Democrats want all these people to just come into this country. Democrats don't care about laws. Democrats want to decriminalize crossing the border.

He does not sound like a man whose willing to sit down with the Democrats and give what it would take to get a bigger deal, nor do they, let's be honest, they seem willing to sit down with him and give what it would take to get a deal.

OLIVIER KNOX, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, SIRIUS XM: Look, he's got a handful of issues on which he hasn't changed in decades, and this is one of them, and I don't see him changing now just because of a -- even -- even as evocative, as powerful as that image is, I just don't see him changing his mind on that.

You know, on the -- the narrow question of the politics, yes, that's very clear that that's going to be a central part of his 2020 message. It was at the core of 2016. The question now, though, is, after 2018, when a lot of the more aggressive rhetoric appears to have cost Republican seats, especially swing seats, I sort of -- I wonder whether that's going to lead the campaign to tinker with their message a little bit, maybe put some more emphasis on Hispanics for Trump or Latinos for Trump, the group that Mike Pence travelled to Florida to unveil yesterday.

KING: Right. They are -- there they target more conservative Latinos, people who came here legally, and they're trying to say that you're the ones getting the shaft from all of this playing off. That's one way to look at it.

[12:10:01] Again, the question is, you have this horrific image and you also have just 25 years or more of paralysis on this issue in Washington, D.C., that has been put on steroids in the Trump ages but it predates him.

Chuck Schumer, to the floor this morning with that image, says this to the president.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): President Trump, I want you to look at this photo. These are not drug dealers or vagrants or criminals.

The president's actions at the border are a whirlwind of incompetence leading to pictures like this. We've got to change our policies. So, President Trump, if you want to know the real reason there's chaos at the border, look in the mirror.


KING: You sat with the president yesterday. You were working with your colleague, Michael Shear, on a book on immigration. The president gave you an interview because he said he wanted to talk to you for your book.

Chuck Schumer says he should look in the mirror, that these problems are his -- of his making. Does the president see it that way?

DAVIS: He does not. Unfortunately, for us, because obviously we would have loved to have asked him about that picture, it came out while we were in the Oval Office with him. But we did ask him whether he felt at all responsible for the other pictures we've seen of the state of these shelters and the way that these migrants are being treated, many people say because of his own policies and what they've led to, overcrowding and just sort of a crush in the system. He feels no responsibility for it.

He -- his answer is that it's because Democrats will not join him in changing law. They can't change the asylum rules. There are all these loopholes that need to be gotten rid of. He points the finger back at Barack Obama and says he caged children and he built detention centers, which he did build detention centers. This migrant influx did start under President Obama, but the conditions were never like this. And the president does not take any ownership of that and does seem to think that it's just going to be a political argument, that it's -- he's pushing back against the notion that this is his policy.

And you have to wonder, not only will that hurt other Republicans in 2020, but after being president for now two and a half years by then almost four years, will people really buy that argument, that all of this that you see around you is actually not his fault, not his responsibility, notwithstanding the fact that he has focused so much on immigration since he came in.

KING: Right. And notwithstanding the fact that it didn't deal with all of the issues that are front and center today that's become more complicated, but he walked away from a deal that he negotiated and said he was going to sign with the Democrats when Republicans controlled the Congress and he had more leverage, they controlled both the House and the Senate, he walked away from that at the last minute because he was afraid of his base. I'm sorry, you were going to say something.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Right. No, that's the key point I was going to make, John, which is just that Democrats -- I mean, sorry, Republicans, when they control all of government under Trump early in his administration, they weren't able to agree amongst themselves on immigration.

Also, to Julie's point about the political ramifications, in 2018, when I was in Texas, there were a number of voters that told me that they had been Republican but because of the family separation policy change under Trump, they were deciding to vote for Democrats. And we saw a number of House districts flip there.

LUCEY: We're also --

KING: That's why you see -- I'm sorry, go ahead.

LUCEY: No, I was (INAUDIBLE) strain on another self-imposed deadline on this immigration clash. The president delayed planned immigration raids across the country. And he has given Democrats two weeks to work with him on, you know, what he calls closing asylum loopholes. It's not clear anything is going to happen there. And so we'll have to see what he's going to do when that -- that eases up.

KING: I think you're being kind. I think it's pretty --


KING: I think it's pretty --


KING: Look, even -- even if they were all going to get into a room, they have such differences, legitimate differences, arguing about this, it would take them more than two weeks to set it up (ph).

LUCEY: That comes right after the Fourth of July. So is he going to go through with those?

KING: That's -- yes, that's not -- right, is he going to go through with that is a great question. We shall see.

Up next for us, Democrats get one of their biggest wishes granted, Robert Mueller headed to Capitol Hill to testify on TV.


[12:18:18] KING: House Democrats are getting their star witness and there's a big debate today about the potential impact of Robert Mueller's televised testimony. July 17th is the day, mark your calendars, the special counsel subpoenaed by the House Judiciary and House Intelligence Committees. Nothing to see is the president's spin today.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, my reaction is it never ends. We had no obstruction. We had no collusion.

I have had 24/7 a phony witch hunt --


TRUMP: A disgusting, phony witch hunt that nobody else would even have even been take -- a normal person couldn't have even taken that.

BARTIROMO: I know that, Mr. President.

TRUMP: And I've fought through that. And now I hear Mueller's going to go yet again -- I mean how many times are we going to go through this stuff?


KING: That's not right, but you can listen to that a little more closely. You'll understand what I'm trying to say there.

Remember, the Mueller report detailed ten episodes of potential obstruction of justice by the president. Democrats are wagering that hearing the facts spelled out on live television, replayed on the nightly news, on cable news and on the Internet, will hit home with Americans in a way the 448 printed page report did not. The chair of the Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, also promises committee members will ask Mr. Mueller questions that go beyond his report and the chairman says they expect answers. But Mueller has already cautioned the public, remember, and he's cautioned Congress, temper your expectations.


ROBERT MUELLER, SPECIAL COUNSEL: Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report. It contains our findings and analysis and the reasons for the decisions we made. We chose those words carefully and the work speaks for itself. And the report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.


[12:20:04] KING: CNN's Evan Perez joins our conversation.

He made clear there when -- after he finally gave a news conference he wanted to be done. Just the subpoenas, he comes forward, and any indication he's prepared to do anything but say, here on page 27 it says this, here on page 448 it says that?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, even if he just does that, we know for a fact that it will probably have a different impact. I mean we saw it just in his -- in that press conference that he gave, right? The president reacted to that much more strongly than he did when the report was released. And we know why. Because the president hasn't read the report. And most Americans have not read the report. So just hearing those words from -- from Robert Mueller's mouth and just him choosing different words sometimes can have a bigger impact.

I think, frankly, his press conference clarified some things that we were all sort of left guessing after reading the report, reading the summaries that he thought were crystal clear. They weren't. So I think whether Mueller intends to or not, I think he is going to provide a bigger impact from his live testimony that perhaps reading the report and his press conference did not -- did not provide.

KING: It's a great point. And to that -- to that point, you could read the report, and it had a very important sentence in it, or when Mueller finally agreed to give that press conference, well, he decided, it was his decision, to hear it is different.


ROBERT MUELLER, SPECIAL COUNSEL: If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.


KING: A short sentence there. PEREZ: Right.

KING: At a hearing, the Democrats can go through each of the ten potential counts of obstruction and read them, try to get Mueller to engage on them. And as long as they stays within the parameters -- he says he'll only talk about the report. If they stay within the parameters of that, one assumes he will at least talk about it to a degree. Incredibly powerful witness, no?

DAVIS: Well, I mean, I can't tell you how many -- not just the president, but how many members of Congress I've talked to who said that just hearing that come out of his mouth, even though many of them had read the report, was actually a turning point to hear him actually say out loud, and they thought for their constituents potentially as well. People do not -- have not come to grips with what is in this report and hearing him say it, even to choose words that are different than were on the paper, saying the same thing, is going to have a different effect.

The other thing is, the report is very carefully worded. You might even say tortured language in some places where it seems like the team was trying to really carefully sort of navigate on some very important issues when it comes to obstruction and when it comes to the --

PEREZ: That's what happens when you have like 17 lawyers, right?

DAVIS: Exactly, who don't necessarily -- and who -- and who have a very specific mandate, who are not independent of the Justice Department, who understand, you know, that this is going to be seen in a political context. And so having him -- he's also going to be very careful, you have to imagine, and very well prepared. But having him sort of speak in spoken English about some of these issues is going to be very different.

KING: And to your point, since Mueller spoke, the number of Democrats calling for impeachment has gone from the 30s up to -- it's approaching 80 now.

PEREZ: That's right.

KING: It's 78 or 79 --

PEREZ: And a Republican.

KING: In the latest count. And one Republican, Justin Amash.

Listen here, our team on The Hill, trying to ask some Democrats, do you think, when the American people hear from Mueller, and when you hear directly from Mueller, is that push for impeachment going to go up more?



REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D-IL): I don't think there's any question about it. When people see the facts.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I don't think people should have excessive expectations.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): The pressure to impeach grows every single day. And I think that having testimony -- public testimony from Robert Mueller will add credence to the case.


KING: Will the leadership regret getting what they want here if Nancy Pelosi's goal is to calm the impeachment talk? Are they going to regret -- obviously they feel they, a, they want it politically, but, b, they think it's -- you spend tens of millions on this investigation, the guy who did it should testify. They're going to maybe live -- is this going to make it harder to stop the pro- impeachment forces?

KNOX: Well, what happens when a majority of the Democratic House caucus, if that happens, tips into the pro-start the impeachment inquiry? You know, there's a majority on House Judiciary, right, already. So what happens when it tips over into a majority of the actual caucus? Does that change the way Nancy Pelosi manages this problem? I don't have the answer to that.

KING: I just want to sneak this in. Democrats are trying to lower expectations. Here's a Republican on the Judiciary Committee, maybe trying to raise the bar, suggesting, be careful, Robert Mueller.


REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC): Mueller better be prepared because I can tell you, he will be cross examined for the first time and the American people will start to see the flaws in his report.


KING: Anyone going to bet on Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows over Robert Mueller?

LUCEY: I think Robert Mueller is going to be entirely prepared for this, but certainly President Trump's allies are going to be looking for any way to get a shot at him. But it's hard to imagine that he won't (INAUDIBLE).

PEREZ: I think that's going to be one of the most important parts of this will be the -- the sort of the tension between the Mark Meadows people and Gates and those people, and what they believe is the origins -- are the origins of this report, of this investigation, and Mueller, who will defend it, who will say that this was -- this began because of a Russian attack on our political system. I mean to hear that from Mueller, I think, will be very powerful. And I think you'll hear a lot of that from him, despite whatever the Republicans on the president's defenders on the panels come with -- come armed with.

[12:25:23] KING: I think that's a great point. Can't wait. Up next for us, the first Democratic debate is tonight. How can the candidates break through on a very, very, very crowded stage?