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Government Watching: Photos Show Overcrowded Migrant Centers; Acting DHS Secretary Orders Investigation into "Unacceptable" Facebook Posts by Border Patrol Agents; Border Patrol Agent Sounds Alarm on Migrant Conditions; Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX) Discusses News Report on Migrant Facilities Conditions, Child Drawings from Inside Border Detention Center; CNN: Military Chiefs Concerned About Trump's July 4th Event; Democratic Candidates Descend on Iowa. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired July 3, 2019 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:12] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thanks so much for joining me.

A ticking time bomb. That's what federal investigators warn in a new report about the dangerous overcrowding occurring in government border facilities. A government report, not an advocacy group, not Democratic members of Congress, not attorneys representing migrants. This is a 16-page report compiled by the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security.

Look at these images that we're showing right here.

What they found is shocking. Mass overcrowding of children and adults. Some with no access to showers or clean clothes, no laundry facilities. It's all detailed in the report. Some children with no access to warm meals for days. Adults forced into standing-room-only conditions for a week, the report says. Officials describe the migrants even as banging on cell windows and holding up signs for help.

And then there are these images. These are images drawn by children who recently were released from border facilities. The drawings appear to show children -- you know exactly what your eyes tell you -- in cages, in jail. The American Academy of Pediatrics released these pictures, saying

these facilities, in their words, are no place for children.

It's a painful reminder of what these children are going through and are going through right now.

Let's get straight over to CNN's Nick Valencia at a border facility in El Paso, Texas.

Nick, what's the latest?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a bit of breaking news this morning. We're hearing from acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan about those social media posts.

Remember, earlier this week, Kate, we reported "ProPublica," their investigative team first reported about this closed Facebook group that featured current and former, they say, Border Patrol agents making lewd comments, derogatory comments, racially inflammatory comments, joking about dead migrants.

Now Kevin McAleenan, the acting DHS secretary, tweeting this, this morning: "I have directed an immediate investigation, and as the U.S. Border Patrol chief has made clear, any employee found to have compromised the public's trust in their law enforcement mission will be held accountable."

What's unclear at this moment, we were under the understanding that earlier this week an investigation had already been under way. The posts were said to have been turned over to internal affairs at CBP. The DHS inspector general is also said to have gotten their hands on these social media posts.

A broader question, Kate, we're also wondering, if he's calling for an investigation into these social media posts, when will he call for an investigation into the conditions in these Border Patrol facilities.

Speaking on that, it was yesterday that I spoke to a longtime veteran El Paso Border Patrol agent who said they're tired of seeing the conditions migrants are being held in and decided to speak out, so long as we concealed their identity.


VALENCIA: You're taking a big risk by doing this.

UNIDENTIFIED BORDER PATROL AGENT: Yes, but America needs to know. They need to know the truth.


VALENCIA (voice-over): A Border Patrol agent who's had enough. In a CNN exclusive interview, the veteran agent, who agreed to go on camera only if their identity was concealed, expressed disgust at a closed Facebook group reportedly comprised of thousands of current and former agents.

"ProPublica," the first to expose the group, where members shared lewd and sexist content about Latina members of Congress, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The agent telling CNN, being derogatory is part of the Border Patrol culture, even hearing a supervisor joke about dead migrants.

UNIDENTIFIED BORDER PATROL AGENT: He was making fun of them.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Saying what?

UNIDENTIFIED BORDER PATROL AGENT: That what difference does it make? It's just another life. He made a comment also regarding running over illegals. I'm like, you cannot run over people.

VALENCIA (voice-over): In describing the conditions inside the El Paso detention facilities, the agent compared them to a zoo.

UNIDENTIFIED BORDER PATROL AGENT: The holding facility, the cells, they are, what I will say, filthy. We have a maintenance and cleaning crew that clean the general area, like the hallways, but I have never seen them cleaning counters or cleaning toilets in the cells or cleaning sinks in the cell. Sometimes you go in a cell, and there's trash everywhere.

VALENCIA (on camera): There are those in leadership of Customs and Border Protection, they say that migrants are getting basic human rights. What do you say to leaders who say that migrants are getting basic human rights?

UNIDENTIFIED BORDER PATROL AGENT: What is basic human rights? Toilet paper? Water from the sink? Or in the same clothing for days?

[11:05:00] I remember when there used to be a processing center. We used to have -- especially in winter, we used to have these blankets. Ten different aliens would use the same blanket. We would recycle them. We'll put them in a bag and they wouldn't get washed.

VALENCIA: I feel like, you know, multiple times during our interview, you've sort of stared off in the distance and thought about some things you've seen. It seems as though there are things that you might take home with you.


VALENCIA: Like what?


VALENCIA: What about the kids?

UNIDENTIFIED BORDER PATROL AGENT: You know, they just want hope. They want to believe in something. They want a future.

VALENCIA: Do you support President Trump's immigration policies?

UNIDENTIFIED BORDER PATROL AGENT: President Trump is our commander- in-chief. Unless he's unethical, illegal, or immoral, we should obey.

VALENCIA (voice-over): The question is, at what cost?


VALENCIA: Customs and Border Protection did not directly respond to those allegations, Kate. But they did say they're handing them over to the office of the inspector general.

BOLDUAN: Nick, thanks so much. Really, great reporting down there. Really appreciate it.

Joining me right now to discuss this further, Congressman Marc Veasey, of Texas. He was among the Democratic lawmakers who visited some of the border detention facilities in his stated this week. Congressman, I was just seeing you shaking your head.

REP. MARC VEASEY (D-TX): Yes, I mean, just hearing that, how can you hear that and not just break your heart? It's awful.

And based on what I saw on my trip day before yesterday, I 100 percent believe him. They did everything they could to give us the "there's nothing here to see" tour. But when you talked to migrants that were in custody, they told us firsthand that they were being told to drink out of toilets when they were thirsty, that there were kids who were walking around in clothing, where there was days of mucus from -- days and days-worth of mucus and other debris on their clothing, showers being denied for days.

They told us they could shower any time, at least once a day. But what we were told was that they were being denied showers for days by migrants.

Based on this Facebook post, how can you not believe that the migrants were telling us the truth? Now based on what this Border Patrol agent was just telling us and the I.G. report, I mean, something has to change.

BOLDUAN: Well, let's talk about that. Before we get there, on top of those two things, there's something else that has come out, these images, these drawings from the American Academy of Pediatrics. They released these pictures of drawings that young children made once they were released. They were made of their time in custody. You can see with your own eyes what it clearly looked like to them and, more importantly, what it felt like to them to be in there.

What do you say to that when you see this?

VEASEY: Yes, well, I can't see images. But I can tell you that we saw young children that appeared to me to be 3 or 4 years old that were in holding cells, holding cells similar to what you would see at a county lockup.

And again, just based on the I.G.'s report and the interviews that we just heard, yes, the kids are being -- there's no question in my mind these children are being treated very poorly.

And I think that it also illustrates that President Trump will do anything that he can to try to appease his base when it comes to immigration. And that he's using these migrants as pawns in a political game, and that is just -- that's absolutely sick. And it has to stop now.

I will tell you that one of the things that has to change today is that members of Congress need to be able to go and visit these facilities without 48-hour notice. Right now, we have to give 48-hour notice. We need to be able to go into these facilities whenever we want to. And we can fly down there on our own dime. We can fly down there at the spur of the moment.

(CROSSTALK) BOLDUAN: I'm wondering about this, Congressman. It's interesting you bring this up. I've been wondering this. Coming from the I.G. report, where they did surprise visits at five facilities, and that's what they found. And even when the amount of notice that you were given, that you had to give to go into this facility and the stories you were told, I'm starting to wonder if -- because journalists can't go in there with cameras. That's the thing I continue to have to say to our viewers.

Why don't you just make a tour of it? Just give that 48 hours' notice and make a tour of it and keep visiting these facilities over and over again? Maybe that is what would bring about change.

[11:10:00] VEASEY: Yes. No, I think that, again, obviously, more tours would be helpful, but not having to give the notice.

I mean, If I wanted to go down there right now and visit that facility at Clint or any of them along the border, I need to be able to, as a member of Congress. We have oversight of these committees. And the game that they're playing -- and I personally feel like the reason they're playing games is they feel empowered by this president and Stephen Miller, who's his so-called immigration czar.

BOLDUAN: But you have someone appointed by the president as well, the new acting chief of the Department of Homeland Security, who says he's acting. Talking about the Facebook postings, that secret Facebook page --

VEASEY: Right.

BOLDUAN: -- he's directed an investigation. And he says anyone who's done wrong should be and will be held accountable. We learned that today. Do you applaud him?

VEASEY: Yes. No, absolutely. He's certainly saying the right thing when it comes to that. We need to see it followed up with action. We need to see -- of course, you probably saw that Elijah Cummings, the chair of the Oversight Committee, that he is going to conduct investigations. The acting secretary said he's going to conduct investigations. And not only did people need to be disciplined, people need to be fired.

I can't tell you, Kate, just the fact that knowing some of the people that were supposed to be our security for that day when we were at the press conference and all of the people that were in the MAGA hats out there, screaming obscenities at us, those were supposed to be our security personnel. Those are the people that are supposed to be in charge of making sure that these migrants are being treated humanely. They're a part of that Facebook page. That's just absolutely unacceptable.

So when investigations are conducted, and I hope they'll be conducted swiftly, people need to be terminated. Again, depending on what is found out, there may need to be some people that need to be prosecuted. BOLDUAN: Well, one thing that we do know is there's something like

9500 members of that Facebook page. What we don't know exactly is who those Facebook pages -- who those postings are from, who those people are in real life. That's part of the investigation. That's what Kevin McAleenan says they're going to get to the bottom of.

There's so much more to this, especially from this I.G. report. I just cannot turn away from it. And no one else should.

Congressman, thank you for coming on. Let us know when you go on your next tour.

VEASEY: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: We have another story we're following this morning. CNN has learned that military chiefs have concerns over what President Trump's Fourth of July event is turning into.

A source with direct knowledge says that while the planning -- while planning the event, Pentagon leaders expressed reservations about putting military hardware, like tanks and other armored vehicles, on display. Those concerns mean they don't appear to have had much of an impact. As we know, tanks are already on the National Mall as of this morning.

So what's this all going to cost? That's also unclear.

CNN's Tom Foreman is in Washington at the National Mall for us.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kate. Preparations are under way all up and down the National Mall here with things like this big piece of military hardware being brought in, as the president has requested, to have a great show of American power and influence.

But his critics are saying, what this is really all about is a great show of his ego.


FOREMAN (on camera): The iconic fireworks over the National Mall will be moved to a new spot. All flights will be grounded at Washington's Reagan National Airport for more than two hours. And three times the usual number of National Guard troops will be deployed for security.

All so President Donald Trump can be the centerpiece for D.C.'s Fourth of July celebration, giving an unprecedented speech at the Lincoln Memorial.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to have a great Fourth of July in Washington, D.C. It'll be like no other.


FOREMAN: For all the costly changes, it's still not precisely what he wanted early on, a grand military parade, as seen in some other countries, such as France, Russia, and North Korea. But cost estimates for that plan quickly ran into tens of millions of dollars.

The D.C. city council, mindful of expensive street damage, howled, no tanks.

The Park Service has remained quiet about how much it will cost to take on the additional requirements.

And the Pentagon is not discussing the price tag for a flyover by the Blue Angels, a plane that serves as Air Force One, some other aircraft, and a couple of tanks and troop carriers that will also be there but simply parked near the mall.

TRUMP: We want to bring millions of people into the city. And we want people to come who love our country. Those are the people we want.

FOREMAN: The president tweeting, "The Pentagon and our great military leaders are thrilled," after asking the chiefs of every branch to stand with him during the celebration. The Pentagon not saying which, if any, are going.

And adding to the frustration of those who claim the traditionally nonpartisan event is being hijacked by team Trump, the White House and Republican national committee are reportedly giving VIP access to favored friends and colleagues.

[11:15:09] Democrats say, on this scorching week, they are largely being frozen out.

The White House response --

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: This is a public event. It's open to the public.

FOREMAN (on camera): One part of the public I don't think they're going to like too much, Kate, is protesters have received a permit to fly that baby Trump balloon over everything. So that will also be up in the air here, no doubt to the displeasure of the White House -- Kate?


BOLDUAN: Tom, thank you so much.

So it is, of course, the Fourth of July, as we're discussing. And we're of course in the middle of an election season. You know what that means.

All roads lead to Iowa, at least for almost everyone. Most of the top Democratic presidential contenders converging on the state right now. What does that look like on the ground and what are Iowa caucus goers really talking about right now?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [11:20:45] BOLDUAN: If you're running for president, there are some general rules of the road. This is in no way a complete list. You need to get used to shaking hands, lots of them. You need to get used to kissing really cute babies. And you better get yourself to Iowa if it's the Fourth of July.

Seven candidates are campaigning across the state today, including four of the five top-tier in the latest polling out of Iowa. All crisscrossing the state to make their pitch, capitalize on their debate bounce, or make up ground for their recent drop-off, if you will.

So let's go there. Joining me now is chief politics reporter for "The Des Moines Register," Brianne Pfannenstiel.

Brianne, thanks for being here.


BOLDUAN: So the latest polling numbers we have out of Iowa really show that the race has reset. You've got Kamala Harris seeing a big bounce, launching into second place. Biden in the front still but seeing a slide in support. What are you hearing on the ground? Is Kamala's rise for real?

PFANNENSTIEL: Well, I think you're hearing a lot of voters who are really interested in Kamala.

Even in Iowa, a lot of people are really tuning into this whole process for the first time during the national debates. They're seeing these candidates lined up, side by side, so they're getting their first sense of how they interact, how they appeal to voters.

People are really interested in Kamala right now, interested to see what she's going to be talking about during her campaign swing. She's got several events across the state. So we'll be following here.

But Joe Biden is also in town. So people also are curious to see how he's going to respond to this new pressure.

BOLDUAN: Yes, that's a great question.

The candidate who seems to be also facing some real trouble in Iowa right now is Bernie Sanders. Pre-debate, Sanders was holding on in second place at 16 percent. Post-debate, the "USA Today"/Suffolk University poll, he dropped to fourth place and, for the first time, hitting into the single digits there.

You were just at a Sanders event. What about his message isn't connecting with folks there? What are you hearing?

PFANNENSTIEL: Well, I think there's a little bit of a disconnect because the people who like Bernie Sanders really like Bernie Sanders. You go to some events, and the people there are very much for him. They're committed to him in a way they're not committed to a lot of these other candidates.

On the ground here, you go to these events and people say, you know, I'm shopping around, I want to hear from more people, I'm trying to see what they have to say. You go to a Bernie Sanders event, and they say I'm here for Bernie, I'm planning to caucus for him.

So while he's certainly slipped in the polls, I wouldn't necessarily underestimate how much support he has here in Iowa from his core base. You know, these polls are showing him slipping, so he may need to adjust his message a little bit.

But I also think we're going to be seeing a lot of movement between now and caucus day in those polls.

BOLDUAN: Also, one thing we know about Bernie Sanders is adjusting his message is not something he does. He's had the same message for a long time and that's what his supporters love about him.

Watching the debate, there were a million issues in the four hours over the two nights that the candidates cared about, were talked about, and were asked about.

Are there one or two issues you're hearing most from Democrats in Iowa as they're facing this big field of Democrats right now to choose from?

PFANNENSTIEL: Yes, and we try to track this a lot. You know, what questions are Iowans asking at these events? What's top of mind for them? We try to do a lot of polling of the crowds, just one on one as reporters.

What we hear every single time is health care is a huge issue. Where they fall on health care, where they want these candidates to stand on, say, Medicare-for-All, is vast. There's a lot of differences in what they want. But health care is, I would say, the top issue that we're hearing about.

I think that's followed really closely by climate change right now.

BOLDUAN: Oh, that's really interesting to see, to hear that from Democrats. It can be telling on what the messaging will be that we hear from all the Democrats there right now.

Trump won Iowa in the general in 2016. Before that, Obama won twice in Iowa. The president was back recently, holding rallies in Iowa. How has his level of support in Iowa right now? What are you hearing about President Trump?

PFANNENSTIEL: Well, among Republicans, his support has stayed very strong in Iowa. You know, all of our polling from the time he was elected to where he's at right now, he gets in the 80s, 80 percent support among Republicans who really approve of the job he's doing. So to the degree that Iowa Republicans supported him in 2016, we haven't seen that wavering.

[11:25:08] I think there are some Republicans who are skeptical, certainly some Independents who are shopping around, but among his core base, we've really seen those numbers hold steady.

BOLDUAN: Brianne, much more to come. Thank you so much. Good luck tracking all these candidates for the next couple of days. Thank you.


BOLDUAN: Programming note for all of you. A CNN exclusive, former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, will be sitting down with Chris Cuomo. That interview airs Friday morning at 6:00 and 8:00 a.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

Still to come for us, the Supreme Court blocked a question about citizenship from the U.S. census. We have talked a lot about that since that decision happened. The administration then conceded defeat and said it was going ahead and printing the census forms without having the question, without fighting it anymore. But President Trump just now says that the fight isn't over. What is going on here?

We'll be back.