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Inside a Controversial Migrant Facility; Rep. Debbie Mucarsel- Powell (D-FL) is Interviewed on Immigration; South Carolina Residents on First Democratic Debate; Women Speak out on Trump Sexual Assault Claims. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired June 27, 2019 - 09:30   ET



[09:30:23] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back.

This morning, Congress is still clashing over the humanitarian crisis at the border and what they'll actually do about it as time is running out for a deal.

In the meantime, CNN has been granted rare access to this detention facility. It's in Clint, Texas, where just days ago hundreds of children were reported living in really deplorable, filthy conditions. Lawyers demanding the Trump administration be held in contempt.

Nick Valencia toured the facility.

So, I mean, you got in and I know, Nick, your cameras were not allowed in, but what did you see for yourself?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no cameras inside, Poppy. That was part of the agreement to allow reporters inside. They say that was because of the safety and to protect these child migrants.

When I saw inside -- this facility is only meant for 106 migrants. We saw 117 there. And last week when those legal monitors visited, there was 250. I couldn't imagine trying to cram in any more people from what we saw in the cells. Nine cells in all. And some of them were clearly overcapacity, between 20 to 24 migrants in a cell, some of them sleeping on the ground. Children as young as one, two years old. Many of them looked like they had been through some very hard days recently. They looked disheveled. In fact, one had bloodshot eyes. Another had yellow eyes and appeared to be sick but wasn't isolated.

There were items that were put out in plain sight for us, things like toothpaste and toothbrushes. Initially before we saw the migrants in the facilities where they were being held, we were taken through a galley where they showed us the pallets of food that were given to the migrants they say three times a day. Two times a day they get snacks as well.

We did ask if anything had changed in this facility from last week, if they specially -- or if they specially cleaned up for us and our visit and we were told that the environment was the exact same when the legal monitors visited last week. But a Customs and Border Protection source tells me that they did prep for our trip. And from my vantage point, Poppy, I could say that the environment in there smelled sterilized, almost like a hospital. That Customs and Borders Protection source adding that it is an endless cat and mouse game with Customs and Border Protection.


HARLOW: Look, if it did get better because you were coming, I'm glad it did for the sake of the children in there, but that's why these spontaneous visits, like by the IG, et cetera, are so important. Nick Valencia, it's such important and good reporting. Thank you very much.

Let's talk about this with Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel- Powell of Florida.

Good morning to you, congresswoman.

Just --


HARLOW: I'd like -- I'd like to begin with your reaction, and Nick's reporting, what you just heard, what he saw because you represent Florida's 26th district. That, of course, is where the Homestead Migrant Child Detention Facility is. It can hold 2,300 children. Elizabeth Warren went there yesterday. Bill de Blasio was there today. So you have seen a lot personally as well.

MUCARSEL-POWELL: Yes. And you bring a very important point, that what they do in these facilities is that we -- they're not allowing us entry when we show up. I try to show up when I was sworn in back in January, and they said that I had to follow a two week policy period to request to enter the facility. So I visited now the shelter -- no, it's not a shelter. Let me make that correction. It's a detention facility. It's a prison-like facility that's holding close to 3,000 kids now between the ages of 13 and 17 years old. It's overcrowded. They are getting food that you wouldn't feed your kids every day. And it's being managed right now by a for-profit company. The administration gave a contract to a company where John Kelly is one of its shareholders. He was the -- John Kelly, if you'll recall, started the family separation policy and now we're detaining kids in this facility. And knowing very well that many of them, I would say over 80 -- 80, 85 percent of them have family members, parents, aunts and uncles that are here in the United States, but there's no incentive of reuniting them.

HARLOW: So, congresswoman, you, this week, have reiterated your call for this facility that you just mentioned, the Homestead Migrant Child Detention Facility, to be closed. And you've just outlined many of the reasons why. But if that were to actually happen, what would you do with these 2,000 children? Where would they go?

MUCARSEL-POWELL: Poppy, 85 percent of these kids have family members living in the United States. Now, there's about 20 -- 15, 20 percent of the kids that are in the facility that may not have sponsors or family. We would move them to smaller facilities. There's no reason why they're in a prison-like facility. It's going to cause mental and emotional harm that we can't really measure at this point.

So, I know that there's several agencies like Catholic Charities, Our Kids, in the state of Florida that can take in, not all of them, but many of them. They need to be living in a home-style facility, getting good, public education. They're not even receiving education in the facility. I've toured it and they show me classes, but it's in a tent, extremely loud, basic education that they're providing for the kids. We need to move these kids out of this prison-like detention facility and place them with their family members instead of paying $2 million a day to a for-profit company that's managing the Homestead Detention Facility.

[09:35:34] Now, I just want to make one point very quickly. Homestead is a thriving community. I am proud to represent Homestead. This is becoming a scar to our community. And we should not be having anything like this, not in Homestead, not in Florida, not in this country.

HARLOW: During the debate last night, you heard the fight, it was a fight, debate, if you will, between Julian Castro and Beto O'Rourke over section 1325 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Something that's been law in this land since 1929, I think, but not really enforced until the -- until the Bush administration.

And the essential question is, should it be criminal to cross the southern border, to cross into this country as an immigrant illegally or should it be a civil violation? Beto O'Rourke comes down on one side. Julian Castro says this should be repealed. Beto O'Rourke does not go that far.

Who is right?

MUCARSEL-POWELL: Poppy, I think that Julian is reacting to the fact that we are treating immigrants that come to the border requesting asylum as criminals. They are not criminals. There is U.S. and international law --

HARLOW: But, congresswoman, just for the sake of time --


HARLOW: Just as -- a straight answer on -- it's beyond, as he said to Beto O'Rourke, beyond just the asylum seekers. He thinks that this should be repealed entirely, 1325, which would stop crossing over on -- of undocumented immigrants from being a crime, from them being held criminally liable for that.

Is that right?

MUCARSEL-POWELL: I think our priority is to have border security. I am not at this point willing to change that specific provision.


Let me ask you finally, in the control room, if we have the picture that I am just wondering if it's actually going to change anything in Congress of the father, a young father, and his 23-year-old daughter, this picture. Jim and I were saying on the show yesterday, congresswoman, that, you know, this reminded us so much of Alan Kurdi, that young little boy that washed up on the shore in Turkey fleeing the violence in Syria, right? That is -- that is a moment that everyone wondered, would that change that crisis?

And I wonder, is this picture -- let's keep it up -- is this picture, is this the moment that actually gets all of you in Congress to perhaps give up some of what you believe in to get something passed, to get this funding to help migrants? Does this change anything?

MUCARSEL-POWELL: This is such a heartbreaking picture. I'm not seeing it right now, but just thinking about it breaks my heart because I have seen it.

I would hope that all of us put the safety and the well-being of our children first. And --

HARLOW: So that's a -- that's a, yes, you hope so. I guess we'll see. We have days to go.

MUCARSEL-POWELL: I -- look, I -- I don't know how to teach compassion and sympathy and love to those that can see that picture and turn their heads. I just -- I don't know how to change people's hearts. But --

HARLOW: Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, I appreciate your time very much this morning. Thank you.


HARLOW: All right, South Carolina, a crucial state where Democrats are working very hard to gain support with more than 20 candidates there just last weekend. So, how do voters in that state think those ten candidates did on that debate stage last night? We'll take you live to South Carolina next.


[09:43:25] HARLOW: Of course South Carolina is a key primary state for the 2020 Democratic candidates. Just last week nearly all of them were in Columbia, South Carolina, making their case to voters at the annual fish fry.

So, after last night's debate, what do they think of half of the contenders now?

CNN correspondent Marty Savidge is on the trail in Greenville, South Carolina.

I always think it's interesting to watch the debate with other people who aren't news junkies. Here is his story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): At a pub called Conley's (ph) in Greenville, South Carolina, Democrats gather for debate round one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like, I want to learn more about all of the different candidates.

SHARON PETERSON, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: I want to be able to refine and kind of pickup out which one seems to be more electable really at this point.

ISABELLA RODRIGUEZ, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: A lot of them do have really similar positions, but I think this is their opportunity to really take assertive stances and kind of make themselves stick out.

SAVIDGE: But for the first half hour, the crowd seems to find few stand out moments. That changed when the split screen started as he candidates took on each other.

Like when Beto O'Rourke and Julian Castro debated on immigration.

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm still talking about everybody else.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But you're looking at just one small part of this.

SAVIDGE (on camera): Did you like that sparring back and forth?

JEVARUS HOWARD, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: Absolutely. I think it's important again for citizens to be able to see the differences between where they stand.

SAVIDGE: Who won that one?

JESSICA SMITH, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: I think Castro did. He has more experience, but he hasn't been on the national stage as much

SAVIDGE (voice over): In fact, it was the lesser known candidates that seemed to stand out the most for these Democrats, like the congressman from Ohio.

SAVIDGE (on camera): I noticed you were watching -- I think it was Ryan, Tim Ryan, who was sort of --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I really like Tim Ryan.

SAVIDGE: What did you like about what he was doing there?

[09:45:02] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's fiery.

SAVIDGE (voice over): And Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard, a combat veteran. She earns respect in this state with strong military ties.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's lesser known, but if you look at her compared to the other candidates, she's poised, she's presidential. I think saying a little less and saying it well might be more in the end.

SAVIDGE: Most of the crowd didn't stay for the full two hours, only a handful hung on to the bitter end.

PAMELA PARRISH, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: I think a lot -- just a lot of good ideas that bringing back the country to civility, to truth.

SAVIDGE: And for these Democrats, round one didn't provide any knock- outs or clear-cut winners, only more to ponder.

JUSTIN MEARS, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: I think it helped me better understand overall the candidates, not just the general ideas of what they stand for, but the actual policies that they're going to implement.


SAVIDGE: There was a lot of excitement I mean by many of the Democrats here. They truly know that this is a different phase of the election process here. Less scripted and a little more less predictable. Most people here are not trying to find the one. They're trying to just narrow the list, whittle it down to maybe their top five. Whether last night helped, I don't know.

Tonight I think is looked upon as more kind of the front runners that South Carolina voters look at. We'll see what they think tonight.


HARLOW: Yes. It will be another interesting one, I'm sure.

Marty Savidge, great reporting. Thank you so much.>

We do have new development this morning in the sexual assault allegations against the president. "The New York Times" is reporting that two women who the writer E. Jean Carroll confided in about an attack she says happened more than 20 years ago, they're speaking out publicly, corroborating her story for the first time in that alleged incident.


[09:51:15] HARLOW: All right. This morning we're learning more about the sexual assault claims against President Trump from the writer, E. Jean Carroll. Two women whom she confided in at the time of the alleged incident are going public with their stories this morning. In a "New York Times" podcast interview, those women give detailed descriptions along side E. Jean Carroll of what they say she told them. Here's one account from her friend Lisa Birnbach.


LISA BIRNBACH, FRIEND OF E. JEAN CARROLL: I remember her saying repeatedly, he pulled down my tights, he pulled down my tights, which got me to think that was as far as it went. Honestly, you did say he put his penis in me, and I said, my face just

did it, what? He raped you? And you said, (mumbles). He kept pulling down, he pulled down my tights! He pulled down my tights!


HARLOW: Wow. Carroll came forward last week saying that President Trump sexually assaulted her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in the mid '90s. The president has vehemently denied these accusations, said she's lying.

Joining me to discuss, CNN political correspondent Sara Murray.

OK, this is two of them sitting alongside of her. What else did they say?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: : That's right. And, you know, I spoke to both of these women before they were ready to come out publicly and now they're sharing these accounts. They're letting their names be used. And Lisa Birnbach had this really interesting account because she was the first person E. Jean Carroll told. She's a writer. She's an author.


MURRAY: She wrote "The Official Preppy Handbook." She's a journalist. And you hear her there talking about sort of this like tights moment that was really stuck in E. Jean Carroll's mind right after it happened. For Lisa Birnbach, her big takeaway was, you were just raped, you need to go to the police. Here's what she told her friend.


E. JEAN CARROLL: It was an episode. It was an action. It was a fight. It was not a crime. It was, I had a struggle with a guy. It's happened to me before.

LISA BIRNBACH, FRIEND OF E. JEAN CARROLL: Well, you felt, you -- you felt you encouraged it probably.

CARROLL: Oh, yes, I know I did. I know I did. Oh! Advise you? (INAUDIBLE). Lingerie? Great! This story (ph), it was getting better and better. It was getting better and better.

MEGAN TWOHEY, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": So you felt responsibility for what -- what had happened?

CARROLL: One hundred percent.


MURRAY: I think we got the wrong sound bite there, but that was her talking to Lisa Birnbach. E. Jean Carroll and Lisa Birnbach going back and forth about you know essentially why she didn't come forward sooner. And I think one of the things we've watched as this has played out is, E. Jean Carroll is still sort of reckoning with what happened with her with the idea that, you know, she encountered Donald Trump. You know this is, again, her version of events. Donald Trump denies it. She encountered Donald Trump and, you know, thought it was going to be this funny thing. He was going to try on this lingerie and she just felt like she kind of egged it on and was playing along and in some ways blames herself, which, of course --

HARLOW: Yes, well, so many victims feel that way.

MURRAY: So many victims do.

But, you know, I think it's so powerful to have her friends now speaking on the record because the other person that she shared her story with is Carol Martin, who was a long time anchor, news anchor, here in New York.

So these are both journalists, both people you know who don't actually tend to make up facts and who remembered these phone calls and these sit-downs with E. Jean Carroll some 20 years ago when it happened and I do think we have the right sound bite now.

HARLOW: Let's listen to that.

MURRAY: Of Lisa Birnbach trying -- and recalling basically trying to encourage her friend to go to the police.



LISA BIRNBACH, FRIEND OF E. JEAN CARROLL: I said, let's go to the police. No. Come to my house. No, I want to go home.


BIRNBACH: I'll take you to the police. No. It was 15 minutes of my life. It's over. Don't ever tell anybody. I just had to tell you.


[09:55:00] MURRAY: And, of course, Poppy, you know, I mean it's not uncommon for people not to report assaults like this. And E. Jean Carroll was getting, you know, very different guidance from both friends. Lisa Birnbach was saying you should go to the police. You should say that this is rape at the time. And her friend Carol Martin, she says this -- in this podcast with "The New York Times" told her, don't -- this guy will bury you.

HARLOW: Right, right, right.

MURRAY: You know, even Donald Trump at that time has so much power, so many more lawyers than you do, you should just forget it. You should bury it away. And that's basically what she says she's done for the last 20 years.

HARLOW: Wow. Thank you for that reporting. And you spoke with them even before they went on the record here with that. MURRAY: Yes.

HARLOW: Sara, thank you very much.

All right, we're waiting, it's almost 10:00 a.m., and that means we are moments away from the Supreme Court set to deliver several major cases that will impact all of us. Stay with us for the latest.