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President Trump Blasts Supreme Court Over Citizenship Question; Democratic Candidates Barnstorm Iowa Over Holiday Week; Team USA Beats England 2-1 to Advance to World Cup Final. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 3, 2019 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: E.T. was the fairest.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: I didn't see that one coming.

BERMAN: He's good.

CAMEROTA: All right, everyone. Have a wonderful holiday. I'll see you tomorrow. Have a great weekend.

BERMAN: Yes, I'm not going to be here.


BERMAN: Just saying.

CAMEROTA: Dont let the viewers know. '"NEWSROOM" with Jim Sciutto starts right now.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And we begin this morning with breaking news. Just moments ago, the acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan has called for an immediate investigation into, quote, "inexcusable social media posts" by border agents.

Nick Valencia has the latest. This is remarkable really, Nick, holding to account here of current Border Patrol officials and agents.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At the very highest level, Jim, and we know that immediately afterwards Border Patrol and the chief there was swift condemnation of these social media posts. Now we're hearing from the acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan calling these inexcusable, saying he's going to launch an investigation.

If you remember it was those social media reports or posts first reported by ProPublica which is said to feature current and former Border Patrol agents, they featured jokes about dead migrants. They also talk about just really racially inflammatory things making jokes about Latina congresswomen including Representative Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez.

Now the DHS secretary tweeting this this morning. "Reporting this week highlighted disturbing and inexcusable social media activity that allegedly includes active Border Patrol personnel. These statements are completely unacceptable especially if made by those sworn to uphold mission, our values and standards of conduct."

Jim, he goes on to say, "I've directed an immediate investigation and as the U.S. VP chief has made clear any employee found to have comprised the public's trust in our law enforcement mission will be held accountable. They do not represent the men and women of Border Patrol of DHS" -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: And Nick, I know you've spoken to a current agent who had his own concerns internally about conditions at the border, treatment of these asylum seekers. What did he tell you?

VALENCIA: Jim, this is an exclusive interview, this Border Patrol agent, a longtime agent agreed to go on camera only if we concealed their identity. They said the reason that they decided to do the interview is because they said enough and enough.


VALENCIA (on camera): You're taking a big risk by doing this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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 I'm 10-15, 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 MALE: He was making fun of them.

VALENCIA (on camera): Saying what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That what difference does it make, it's just another life. He made a comment also regarding running over illegals and 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 MALE: The holding facility, the cells, they are what I would say filthy. We have our maintenance and cleaning crew that clean the general area by the hallways, but I have never seen them cleaning Pampers 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 at Customs and Border Protection.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. VALENCIA: They say that migrants are getting basic human rights.

What do you say to leaders who are saying migrants are getting basic human rights?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is basic human rights? Toilet paper, water from the sink? Wearing the same clothing for days? I remember when there used to be a processing center and we used to have -- especially in winter we used to have these blankets. And 10 different aliens would use the same blanket or we recycle them. You know, we put them in a bag and they wouldn't get washed.

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


VALENCIA: Like what?


VALENCIA: What about the kids?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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?

[09:05:04] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump is our commander-in- chief. I know this is unethical, immoral or illegal, it's your way.

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


VALENCIA: Customs and Border Protection here in El Paso did not directly respond to the allegations made by the Border Patrol agent in our piece but did say they take the allegations seriously and will hand them over to the Office of the Inspector General -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Nick, it's a remarkable interview. A sitting agent. Thanks very much.

With me now is Eliana Johnson. She's CNN political analyst as well as White House reporter for Politico.

So, Eliana, it's a remarkable step by the acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan here. He calls them disturbing, inexcusable, these social media posts, launching an immediate investigation. I imagine this is an indication that they're aware that the politics of this are very dangerous.

ELIANA JOHNSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think that's right, Jim. You know, the 101 of crisis management is to acknowledge the problem and to take responsibility for it. So, I think this is a first step and it will quell the crisis for now. And the second step will be to reveal the results of that investigation. Were these in fact DHS officials, and then what's going to happen to them. Will they be terminated and so on?

But this is only 50 percent of the controversy that's engulfing the agency right now. The other 50 percent has to do with the images that we're seeing coming out of the detention facilities on the border right now, and then that I.G. report that the results of which we got yesterday about the conditions at these five border facilities -- sorry, at these five detention facilities down at the border.

SCIUTTO: No. It's a good point. Because I mean the social media posts are one thing but really the focus, should it not be, is on the actual conditions, how these thousands of migrants are being treated. And the accounts that we're hearing from there, from these sitting lawmakers, even as you saw with Nick Valencia's interview with a sitting border agent concerned. To our -- you mentioned an I.G. report. The DHS says that it is investigating this more broadly.

But should we expect a similar focus on the actual conditions themselves as we've seen now with this focus on the social media posts?

JOHNSON: You know, they overlap a little bit because the social media posts would suggest that the people running these facilities down at the border are not fit to be in charge of them and that the attitudes and, you know, are completely off. But yes, I think the bulk of the focus is going to be on these facilities down at the border, and there's nothing like images, I think, to really bring the situation to life.


JOHNSON: And to shift the focus from -- you know, outside of Washington politics to what's really going on down there. So, DHS is going to have to respond to them -- to it. And I think it makes the issue somewhat less political and really highlights the humanitarian situation that --


JOHNSON: That really is happening down there.

SCIUTTO: There are, of course, politics, new CNN polling shows that 57 percent of voters disapprove of Trump's immigration handling. In light of the fact the GOP's own studies showed that the president's harsh policies at the border focus on immigration actually hurt GOP candidates in the midterm elections. I wonder if the president's political advisers are concerned that images like these, stories like these, the social media posting, et cetera, would be politically damaging for the president and other GOP candidates in 2020?

JOHNSON: You know, I don't hear a great deal of concern from the Trump campaign. Immigration was the issue that the president rode to election in 2016. And I think you're seeing Democrats grapple with whether they can take what they see as the president's mishandling of the situation and seize on some of the images we're seeing at the border. It came up in the Democratic debates last week, so seize on how Trump has handled the issue and use it as a campaign issue in 2020.

But for me it seems to be more of an issue in the Democratic primary right now than for the Trump campaign and I think we'll see in the general election how much it -- Democrats will be able to use it to bludgeon the president.

SCIUTTO: Right. Well, it did hurt some midterm candidates for Republicans. We'll see if it lasts --

JOHNSON: Absolutely.

SCIUTTO: -- the 18 months from now until then.

Eliana Johnson, thanks very much.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Also this morning, President Trump is promising his Salute to America will be the show of a lifetime. But how much is it actually costing you, taxpayers, costing America? "The Washington Post" reporting that the National Park Service must divert $2.5 million to pay for the president's July Fourth celebration.

[09:10:05] This is money that would typically be used for projects like roads and bridges at national parks across the country that you and I visit. A D.C. airport is also set to halt flights during the event, and the National Guard will need to triple its manpower to secure the event, and then of course there's the military might. At the president's urging, the military has provided tanks and fighter jets for the event.

But we're not just talking about money here. What's the cost of taking this day and turning it into something that more closely resembles a political rally?

Joining me now, CNN's Tom Foreman. He is live at the National Mall in Washington.

Tell us what you're seeing there and have the -- well, there you are, the tanks have arrived.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you're the White House what you see is preparations for a grand celebration with vehicles like this, armored personnel carrier, one more down there, a couple of tanks coming in. We haven't seen them yet. If you are a critic you see something that's laughable, a president who wanted a grand military parade and ends up instead with a couple of things sitting on trailers. And yes, he'll get some planes overhead.

But beyond that if you're a tourist who's here what you're seeing frankly is a very difficult path to get to the Lincoln Memorial on July Fourth because there are so many barricades and so many things that have been put up down here that aren't normally here simply to accommodate the fact that this president wants to be in the middle of it all to give a speech -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Understood. The White House won't say how much this is costing but we have an indicator now that the National Park Service has to divert $2.5 million. Is that a total cost or is that just a big chunk of the cost? What do we know?

FOREMAN: We don't know because the White House is not being transparent at all about what this is costing and who is going to pay for it. Who is being transparent about it is Democrats who are basically saying, look, if the president is using this as a political rally his campaign should pay for all of this. I don't think that'll get any traction, but that's the real complaint here. People are saying this has been turned from a nonpartisan celebration of the country into something that the critics see as very partisan and very much about bolstering his re-election campaign -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And tickets for major GOP donors as well. That's another indicator.

Tom Foreman, thanks very much.

Let's discuss now with Jeff Mason. He is White House correspondent for Reuters.

So, the White House says the president's speech itself won't turn political, but you and I have seen the president's speeches and comments turn very political even in forums where they shouldn't. By past practice, I mean, this weekend, for instance, when I was in South Korea the president visited troops there and he took some shots at Democrats in front of the troops.

What do you expect from the president tomorrow?

JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: Well, I think you're exactly right, Jim. And you're right to say first that the White House is saying this won't be a political speech. I was in the Oval Office the other day and we asked him about that and he said, no, I'll be speaking to all Americans and I can't speak for all Americans. But it is really a part of President Donald Trump's DNA to get political. And as you said at issues or at speeches where they aren't supposed to be political rallies he ends up getting that way.

A couple that come to mind for me are the first day that he was in office when he went to the CIA headquarters. He gave a very political speech. There was the Boy Scouts rally where he got very political. There was a -- or an event at a tank factory earlier this year in Ohio where he started going off on John McCain. That was supposed to be an event about jobs. So it is certainly based on his own history likely that he will at least have the instinct tomorrow to get political as well.

SCIUTTO: Yes. We were live on the air during that CIA speech and that still rankles --

MASON: I believe -- SCIUTTO: -- longtime intelligence agents. So the president says that

as far as the Pentagon is concerned, or the military, they are thrilled for the parade but in fact there are a lot of reservations in that building, are there not?

MASON: Yes. I think that there are some reservations and in particular because it is bringing the military in on what looks like a political event when the military is supposed to stay neutral. And the military obviously supports the commander-in-chief whether he or she is Democrat or a Republican, and in this case there's a sense anyway by some that they're being brought in on something that is overtly or becoming overtly political and overtly Republican.

SCIUTTO: By definition, if as is the case, the president, the White House is giving VIP tickets to GOP donors, does that not by definition make this a political event?

MASON: Well, that's a good question. The White House told me yesterday that the VIP tickets were going to military families, to staff, to people who would normally be at the White House on the Fourth of July. Normally the White House holds an event on the South Lawn where people come and listen to music and then watch the fireworks, so at least some of those VIP tickets are going to them, but I've seen the reporting that they're also going to some big Republican donors. And yes, absolutely that makes it seem even more like a political event.

SCIUTTO: Jeff Mason, "Reuters", always good to have you on.

MASON: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: The president is signaling that the fight over the citizen question on the U.S. census is not over. We're going to have the latest on that. And Iowa-bound 2020 candidates fan out across the all important state ahead of the 4th of July holiday. We will be live from the ground there.

Plus, sweet team, team USA is bound for the Women's World Cup final after a victory over England, it was a great match to watch. Alex Morgan celebrating her game-winning goal there in interesting style. The big question after sitting out yesterday's win, will the star Megan Rapinoe be ready to play for the final?


[09:20:00] SCIUTTO: Just hours after the Trump administration announced it will not put the citizenship question on the 2020 census, the president is now asking that the Department of Justice and Commerce to do whatever is necessary to get the case to a quote, "successful conclusion."

Trump also calling the Supreme Court's decision, quote, "very sad for America." CNN's Justice correspondent Jessica Schneider joins me now. So, you know, the White House essentially gave up on this after Supreme Court ruled against him seemingly very clear.

But now the president resurrecting the idea, he might have a way out of this. I mean, is there?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It seems like a pipe dream, Jim, because really --


SCHNEIDER: All indications are that a citizenship question will not despite the president's pleas appear on this 2020 census. And here are few reasons why? So, first, the deadline for these census questionnaires to go to print was actually Monday, July 1st. And it was yesterday that a DOJ attorney told all of the challengers in these cases that the printer has in fact, begun the printing process without including the citizenship question.

And on top of that, there was actually a hearing last night for a legal challenge on this. This was an issue and a case happening out of Maryland, and in that case, the DOJ told a judge that the decision not to include the citizenship question was in fact final.

So, Jim, effectively this battle is over. The DOJ has backed down and even the Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross who was leading this fight, he issued a statement last night and said that the process is in motion, the census is going to print without the citizenship question.

You know, there is some lingering litigation in both New York and Maryland. But we've heard from sources that all indications are, that in the next few days, once the DOJ assures these judges that the citizenship question will not be on it, these judges will issue a final order and effectively get rid of that litigation. And all signs are that this is happening without that big question. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Go ahead, there you go, that's the bottom line, Jessica Schneider, thanks very much. Just minutes from now, hundreds will turn out to remember the life of 9/11 first responder Luis Alvarez. Moments ago, Jon Stewart, 9/11 victims advocate and a friend of Alvarez arrived at the service, you can see him there in a very vocal voice on this.

Alvarez made headlines last month with emotional testimony in front of Congress, asking lawmakers for additional money for the 9/11 victim compensation fund.


LUIS ALVAREZ, LATE FORMER DETECTIVE: This fund is not a ticket to paradise. It is there to provide for our families when we can't, nothing more. You all said you would never forget, well, I'm here to make sure that you don't.


SCIUTTO: That was such a powerful moment during that testimony. Alvarez died last week from complications of cancer, cancer linked to the time he spent searching for victims at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks. CNN's Miguel Marquez, he's in New York with more. Tell us Miguel, about the turn out there and just about the emotion of this moment.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we're about to get started with just that impressively somber New York City, an NYPD ritual of laying one of their own to rest. This is someone who was absolutely beloved, he will get the key to the city or his family will later today. This is somebody who went through 69 rounds of chemo and was a mere shell of himself at the end when you see him in -- when he was at full health.

This is the church here in Queens where police -- hundreds of police are gathering, lining the boulevard in front of the church. They've just asked for the bomb squad to come to the front of the church. He was a detective with the bomb squad, and they will honor him.

There are members of Congress up there, Jon Stewart, the comedian and also activists for 9/11 victims and remembering the work they did. Alvarez spent three months searching for his friends, his colleagues and anyone else they could find down there at the 9/11 site.

It was that, that is linked to colorectal cancer that eventually killed him. He then spent years on behalf of victims and their families advocating for their rights. At one point, one of his friends was able to get his badge, Alvarez's badge to Mitch McConnell, to the Majority leader in the Senate, asking him, begging him to hold a vote to refund the compensation fund which McConnell has now agreed to.

Just an enormous outpouring of emotion here for a man who was 53 years old, has three kids, three boys, two of them, teenagers, leaves his wife, his parents are still alive. It's going to be a very difficult day for all of them. He is just somebody who fought literally to the very end. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Yes, the NYPD knows how to say good-bye to its own, doesn't it? I could see the turnout behind you there. Miguel Marquez, great to have you on the story.

[09:25:00] Well, some of the 2020 Democratic front-runners are kicking off the long holiday weekend by barnstorming in Iowa. And a few are hoping great news from recent polls will help sway potential voters there.

Plus, we're just moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street, it will be a short day for traders. The markets close at 1:00 p.m., early, they'll stay closed of course tomorrow for the July 4th holiday. They will reopen Friday when crucial news coming out, the jobs report.