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CNN NEWSROOM

Drawings From Migrant Children Show Themselves In Cages; Sources Say Military Chiefs Are Concerned About Politicizing Parade; Trump Asked Commerce Department, DOJ To Do Whatever is Necessary To Bring Census Case To A Successful Conclusion; Candidates Campaign In Iowa Over Holiday Week; Hundreds Gather To Remember 9/11 Responder Luis Alvarez. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired July 3, 2019 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: -- in those illustrations in cages.

[10:00:01]

Nick Valencia has been covering it all. He joins us now live from the border in El Paso. And, Nick, we're hearing this now very publicly from the sitting DHS Secretary, but you're also talking to sitting border agents who have their concerns.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are. And I want to get to those Tweets initially, Jim, because they are significant, the fact that the acting DHS Secretary, Kevin McAleenan, is weighing in.

What is unclear to us at this time though is what he's talking about. What is clear to us is that Customs and Border Protection had already handed over these allegations about this social media post set to feature current and former members making lewd comments, derogatory, inflammatory statements. They'd already handed that over to the Office of the Inspector General. So it is really unclear what kind of investigation the acting Secretary is calling for.

Also a bigger question is why isn't he calling into an investigation of the conditions into these border patrol stations, especially after the Inspector General released those disturbing images? Those are things that we're working on getting answers to right now.

But you mentioned I've been speaking to a long time agent here, a veteran agent who is just tired of seeing the conditions inside these facilities and decided to speak out. Yesterday, they agreed to go on camera only if their image and face was concealed, saying that enough is enough.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VALENCIA: Customs and Border Protection here in El Paso did not directly respond to the allegations made by the agent that we interviewed but did say they take the allegations seriously and are handing them over to the Office of the Inspector General. A lot of moving parts here, a lot of news today along the southern border, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, Nick, I mean, it's a good point there, because you're hearing it from inside the CBP. And it's the CBP's own Inspector General that is finding these conditions here. Glad to have you on the story.

Also this morning, new exclusive reporting into CNN that seems to contradict President Trump's claim that U.S. military leaders are, quote, thrilled about tomorrow's salute to America event. A source with direct knowledge tells CNN that military chiefs have concerns about politicizing the July 4th event.

In the planning for that event, they had reservations in putting tanks or other armored vehicles on display. As the final details come together, several top military chiefs of the individual services are not attending and are sending alternates in their place, though some say they had prior plans. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Dunn Ford, however, will attend.

Joining me now is CNN's Sarah Westwood. She is live at the White House. Sarah, as you know, the administration won't say how much this is costing, but now we at least get one indicator, and that is that the National Park Service has to divert funds, in effect, $2.5 million from things that would normally keep park up and running.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Jim. That $2.5 million is coming out of the entrance and recreation fees, pot of money that the National Park Service has. That's according to Washington Post reporting. And that could be just a fraction of the overall cost of the event. Like you mentioned, the White House is remaining tight-lipped about the overall cost, so is the interior department, which is technically the agency that's administering this.

And asked yesterday about the cost, White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway referred reporters to the Pentagon, yet another agency that is going to be bearing the burden of the cost of this event because of the extravagant show of force, of military might that the President has requested for this event. There will be flyovers from jets. There will be tanks and armored vehicles on display, and a larger than usual fireworks show that the President has commissioned. So it will be a very big event.

Now, D.C. officials here in Washington, they have expressed concerns that the security required for the President to be present on the National Mall could also put strain on local law enforcement. Typically, the President watches the festivities from the White House. So there are concerns that this could be a very massive taxpayer- funded political event for the President.

Counselor Kellyanne Conway said yesterday, Jim, that the speech will touch on what Trump sees as the success of this administration. That could be inherently partisan territory.

SCIUTTO: Sure. Another indicator, the big republican donors, they're getting VIP tickets but not democrats.

WESTWOOD: That's right, Jim. The spots around steps of the Lincoln Memorial, that's where the President will be giving the speech. The best seat in the house, so to speak, will be going to some major GOP donors. The White House controls the tickets for that area. It could be as much as 500 tickets, one source told CNN.

[10:05:02]

And those are going to -- some were given to the RNC to be dispersed to donors, some were given to the campaign, so campaign supporters could be brought out. And others were dispersed throughout the cabinet agencies so senior leaderships, political appointees at those agencies, could give them to friends and family.

The DNC told CNN they did not receive an allotment of tickets. So, again, that is another reason why this is being considered a potentially partisan event because those donors will be rewarded with the best seats in the house for Trump's speech, Jim.

SCIUTTO: It sounds like it. Sarah Westwood at the White House, thanks very much.

Let's discus now with Julie Pace. She is Washington Bureau Chief for the Associated Press. First, let's start with new reporting that I just reported, sources speaking to me, the President has said repeatedly that the Pentagon and the military, they are thrilled, in his words, about the parade. But, in fact, I'm told that they had deep reservations about politicizing this event. They did not want to put tanks out there and several of the service chiefs not attending now. How does the President claim that this is something that the Pentagon wants when, in fact, it seems he was hearing the opposite from inside that building?

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Right. This whole event has put the military in a really uncomfortable position because, on the one hand, Trump is the Commander-in-chief and this is what he wants. And he's giving orders to the military about having tanks, having flyovers and having the service chiefs standing with him on the National Mall. So they are trying to follow the orders of their Commander-in-Chief. At the same time, the military inherently gets uncomfortable when they have moments like this when the military is being used for political purposes.

Trump, we don't know exactly what he's going to say when he stands before this crowd, but certainly there will be a political element to him being up there. His remarks may include some political rhetoric. We don't know what he'll say about democrats, for example. And that's just not a situation that the military is very comfortable in.

So, again, a lot of tension here between their efforts to follow the orders of their Commander-in-Chief and then try to resist this effort by Trump himself to politicize the military. SCIUTTO: The White House says the President's speech itself will not turn political, but oftentimes -- I was just in South Korea, when the President visited troops there, again, traditionally not a place or an audience where a sitting president should make political comments. But the President was very political. He was laying into democrats and so on. Do we expect him to pull political punches at his speech tomorrow?

PACE: Well, there will be the prepared speech and then there will be the remarks Trump may actually give. You know, often he will step in front of a crowd and advisers will have a plan for what they want him to talk about, and then we all know over the last couple years that those actual remarks can veer in many different directions.

So I think that's one of the big questions about tomorrow night. You know, does he stick to prepared remarks? Does he make this, you know, simply a celebration of America's birthday? Or does he use this as a really high-profile opportunity to go after his political opponents? And we won't know until he's really standing up there.

SCIUTTO: I know the White House is claiming this is not a political event. But if you're giving VIP tickets to republican donors and you haven't, as Sarah Westwood was reporting a couple of minutes ago to the DNC, isn't that explicitly a political event?

PACE: Sure, absolutely. And, again, that is why this whole argument from the White House that this is not a political event doesn't really hold water. You know, if they're going to give seats to republican donors, which, look, that is not unusual for a White House to give donors or supporters access to events, but it's something like this where you're celebrating the 4th of July. You know, it's really hard to make the argument that it's not a political event when tickets are only going to republicans.

Now, I don't know if there would be a lot of DNC members who would actually want to go and be sitting there in front of the President during this event, but at the same time, if you are trying to say this is not political, you do have to make it available to both sides.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, no less. Julie Pace, thanks very much.

PACE: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, the Trump administration says that it has started printing the 2020 census without the citizenship question on it, but it appears that President Trump is still fighting or at least saying he's fighting to include it.

Overnight, the President said he has asked the Commerce Department and the Department of Justice to, quote, do whatever is necessary to get the case to, quote, a successful conclusion. For more on what could be next, if that's at all possible, let's speak to former NSA Attorney and CNN National Security and Legal Analyst, Susan Hennessey.

The President, at least publicly saying he doesn't want to give up here, but if they're printing the census, is this a done deal. Is there any way to turn this around?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: I think that is the way to read it. So sort of despite the President's Tweets last night, you know, the fact that the Department of Justice has now said that they are going to be printing the census without this citizenship question on it does sort of bring this case to a conclusion as it pertains to the 2020 census.

What the Supreme Court had ruled was that the government's stated rationale for including this question was pre-textual, and they'd sent it back to the lower courts for some fact-finding.

[10:10:00]

That left opened the question of whether or not the citizenship question would ultimately be included on the census. The legal question is still technically open.

This is all playing out against a printing deadline. The Department of Justice has said they needed to start printing by July 1st in order to meet that deadline. The actual plaintiffs in that case said, no, you have up until October that you can make changes. So the fact that the government has said, no, we're going to go ahead and print these without the question, I think it does settle the matter, at least for this round of the census.

SCIUTTO: Explain for folks at home and for me as well, you know, what the Supreme Court ruling actually was on this. You say it left the legal question open. I mean, do you just say that the lower courts had not provided enough clarity? Explain.

HENNESSEY: So the Supreme Court case is sort of a nightmare law exam, essentially. But the argument here was the Department of Justice said that the government was including this citizenship question in order to enforce provisions of the Voting Rights Act. But the plaintiffs had argued was, no, you aren't including that citizenship question for the reasons stated. You actually want to include it because you want to discourage Latinos and non-white Hispanics from filling out the census in order to undercount them. The census is the way we determine among other things voting representatives in Congress.

So this is a really dramatic case. It had a dramatic 11th hour twist in which the daughter of a deceased republican strategist, while going through his papers, actually found communications with government officials in which he was discussing a study that showed the inclusion of this question would benefit republicans electorally. So there was this new piece of evidence.

And so what the Supreme Court essentially decided was, well, the reasons that the government has said on paper don't match this new piece of evidence. We're going to send it back down to the lower courts in order to basically figure out what's going on. But, of course, because there's a time limitation here, the census has to be printed and sent out, you know, that decision ended up being conclusive.

SCIUTTO: Susan Hennessey, thanks for helping clear it up.

Still to come, former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris return to Iowa today as the latest polling shows the race between the two democrats tightening in that key early voting state.

And funeral services, they're now under way for a fallen hero who rushed to help at ground zero after 9/11. We're going to be live as New York and the NYPD honors Luis Alvarez. That's a live picture there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:15:00]

SCIUTTO: Senator Kamala Harris is rolling into Iowa this holiday week with a big boost from recent polls. It shows her gaining on frontrunner Joe Biden in the key state after last week's debate. They are just two of several 2020 democrats now crisscrossing Iowa over the July 4th holiday.

Public Opinion Researcher J. Ann Selzer joins me now. So, first, let's start with what Iowa voters want to hear from these frontrunners now.

J. ANN SELZER, PUBLIC OPINION RESEARCHER: Well, I think Iowa voters are really excited to hear what the plans are and understand how it is that they intend to do two things. First of all, convince Iowa caucus goers that they can clear the field, this enormous field of candidates. And secondly, and this is a piece of it, how it is that they can defeat Donald Trump.

SCIUTTO: So the first couple polls, including CNN's that came out post-debate, showed Joe Biden's lead shrinking dramatically, Harris getting the biggest boost, although Elizabeth Warren doing well. There is a new Washington Post/ABC poll out today that has Biden's lead bigger nationally, 30 percent, Bernie Sanders second with 19, Harris behind there, you see, at 13 percent.

I'm just curious, with your hand on the pulse, your finger on the pulse there in Iowa, do you think Biden's drop was as dramatic as those early polls showed or perhaps did they overstate the weakness of his performance?

SELZER: Well, you know, things are going to go up and down. That's my prediction for this race. But our poll in June showed several things. It still showed Joe Biden in the lead, but the conclusion that I came to, looking deep into the tea leaves, if you will, is that Joe Biden was not invincible. He was vincible.

And it really -- this was just before the debate, just before a big event here in Iowa with 17 of the candidates, that it was time for the whole nest of candidates to try to strike out and make a showing. We certainly saw in our poll the foreshadowing of a rise of both Elizabeth Warren and of Kamala Harris and the potential fall of Joe Biden and of Bernie Sanders. And so this is playing out the way I expected the next step to go. Now, anything can still happen, and candidates will be spending many, many days and millions of dollars to make something happen.

[10:20:07]

SCIUTTO: Well, I mean, it's early and it's a race, no question there.

You know better than me, Iowa voters, they pride themselves on knowing the issues, going into those caucuses, asking hard questions. They don't mess around, as you know. And on the issue of which candidate knows the issues best, one of the polls showed that Elizabeth Warren, they have at the top of the list, with 31 percent, picking her. Does Warren, in your view, is she the one who has that sense from Iowans that, listen, she really gets the issues?

SELZER: Well, I think that's what she decided to make her brand, if you will. So not only is she knowledgeable and can talk about the issues, she has a plan for what it is she's going to do. I think that Joe Biden having been Vice President was given a lot of credit for knowing how the federal government works and for having an idea of how it could work well in democrats' minds. They feel some nostalgia for those times. But she has been more forward-looking in saying here's how we go forward. And it's really up to the other candidates to begin to speak at that -- at a bar held that high.

SCIUTTO: Yes. A final note, just on Pete Buttigieg, a new Iowa poll has a decrease in support for him down to 6 percent there. And I wonder if his experience at home, back in South Bend, the police shooting controversy he's had to deal with there, is it your sense that that's been hurting him in Iowa?

SELZER: Well, I think this is always true of a candidate who kind of pops out of nowhere, is that you can get some very good press and make a very good impression, but things can happen, and you have to keep proving yourself again and again and again. And we'll see if he can rally and come back from that. He certainly had some support initially.

SCIUTTO: Yes, it's a marathon, not a sprint. I'm sure we're going to be talking to you a lot, J. Ann Selzer, in the coming months as we head into 2020. Thanks for coming on today.

SELZER: My pleasure.

SCIUTTO: Later this week, a CNN exclusive interview. Former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, are going to sit down with my colleague, Chris Cuomo. As the competition surges, how does the 2020 democratic frontrunner stay ahead of the pack with his lead shrinking? Friday morning, 6:00 A.M., 8:00 A.M. Eastern time, only here on CNN.

And right now, hundreds are gathering in New York to remember the life of 9/11 first responder, Luis Alvarez, a very vocal voice for 9/11 victims. We're going to take you there next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [10:25:00]

SCIUTTO: Right now, hundreds of people are gathering at the Immaculate Conception Church in New York to remember the life of 9/11 first responder and retired NYPD Bomb Squad Detective, Luis Alvarez. Earlier, Jon Stewart, 9/11 Victims Advocate and a friend of Alvarez, he arrived at the service. You can see him there. Both of the men made headlines last month delivering very emotional testimony in front of Congress, asking lawmakers for additional money for the 9/11 victim compensation fund.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LUIS ALVAREZ, 9/11 FIRST RESPONDER: 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: That was such a powerful moment there. Alvarez, he died just a short time later, dying last week from complications of cancer, cancer that was linked to the time he spent searching for victims at ground zero after the 9/11 attacks.

Our Miguel Marquez, he is in New York. He's live at the scene there at this memorial, there at the funeral. Good morning. And, Miguel, you know as well as I, the NYPD, they take care of their own when they pass away. And I think you can see some of that in these last hours as they honor Alvarez.

MIGUEL MARQUZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What is amazing, this isn't a full police sort of honors ceremony, but it is as close as you can get. Hundreds and hundreds of police officers, K-9 units and their handlers, the motorcycle police, all lining the avenue here in Queens.

This church, the Church of the Immaculate Conception, the priest was just speaking, talking about Alvarez has somebody who went to this church, who was from this neighborhood, went right into the marines and then was a detective in the bomb squad. They did have the bomb squad members right in front of the church to receive his body and take it into the church.

It is incredibly moving and difficult to -- just as an outsider, to be part of this and to see the outpouring of emotion for this individual that spent not only three months at the 9/11 site looking for colleagues, hopefully survivors. And then that was no longer an option, looking for the remains of not only his friends, colleagues, but just strangers who died in that terrible time.

The cancer that he had, colorectal cancer, was linked to that time he spent there. And he wanted that fund, the multibillion dollar fund that is due to run out next year, to be refunded, and he might get his final wish, which that was his final wish.

The majority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, has agreed to a vote. One of his colleagues at one.

END