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Government Watchdog on Detention Centers; Trump's Celebration under Scrutiny; Remembering Luis Alvarez; State Department Responds to Tainted Alcohol Concerns; Democrats Move to Left on Health Care Issues. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired July 3, 2019 - 06:30   ET



[06:30:23] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: New, disturbing photos from inside U.S. detention centers. These show squalid, standing room only conditions. And these come from a watchdog report released by the Trump administration. So it will be tough for the president to call these fake, though we'll see.

Let's bring in John Avlon, CNN's senior political analyst, Sarah Isgur, CNN political analyst, and Joe Lockhart, former Clinton White House press secretary and CNN political commentator.

John, so it turns out the inhumane conditions in these detention centers are more widespread, worse and have gone on longer than we knew because these pictures have just been released, but these, I believe, were taken in May from this watchdog agency within the government. And they show -- I mean, you can see, people haven't showered -- that -- we're getting reports that they haven't showered for weeks. Children are being kept there longer than we knew. Just all sorts of really inhumane conditions.

Now what?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That -- that's right. And -- and President Trump and the administration can't spin their way out of this one by blaming Democrats or the media because this is an internal watch dog report. They have to own this to some extent.

And -- and it's important because it dovetails with what we've reported, with what the Democratic congresswoman saw and said.

This is a humanitarian crisis. Polls show that people agree on that now. They may have different definitions of the source of the crisis, the cause of the crisis, the content of the crisis. But this is a crisis happening on America's watch right now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's put up some of the numbers right now since you just brought them up. This is P101 (ph), 74 percent of Americans now say it's a crisis, 23 percent say no. Again, what kind of crisis splits on partisan lines.

And since you brought up the showers, I just want to read this. And this is P605 (ph). Everyone's supposed to get a shower within 72 hours. This says most single adults had not had a shower in CBP custody despite several being held for as long as a month.

So it's just not happening, Sarah. People aren't being treated the way that our own government insists that they should be, correct?

SARAH ISGUR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I saw a line in that report that I found very important was one official describing this as a ticking time bomb. Imagine what happens when you put too many people in too small a room for that long. And we could be heading to a very dangerous situation at the border as well.

You know, another poll that's coming out today, it relates to 2020, but it says that this is now overtaking health care as voters' number one issue. Forty-two percent right now are saying this is their number one issue. That is going to be something these candidates have to grapple with as well. And I think we've yet to hear someone emerge as the voice for that.

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, lots of them are trying to --

ISGUR: Very true.

CAMEROTA: You know, there're certainly sounding the alarm as the inspector general was trying to do with this report, Joe. I'll read you a portion of it. For your action is our final management alert. The purpose of which is to notify you of urgent issues that require immediate attention and action. Specifically, we encourage DHS to take immediate steps to alleviate dangerous overcrowding and prolonged detention of children and adults in the Rio Grande Valley.

I mean could they have used any stronger language here to try to get the administration -- to try to get their attention and do something about this?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think the administration is employing the strategy of, if we ignore it, it will go away. It won't go away and that's what makes it a scandal.

You know, we treat our -- the al Qaeda terrorists in Guantanamo better than we treat these children. And that is really an outrage.

But I think underpinning the administration's response is, in some respects, this is what they wanted. They said from the very beginning that this was a deterrence policy. You wanted to deter people from coming here to the United States. And what would deter people more than show that they would be treated, they'd be put in cages and treated not like human beings. So I -- there's not a lot of sympathy. The president, we haven't heard from him. We've heard from all of the Democrats on this. This is -- this is not one of these fake, manufactured scandals in Washington. This is a national tragedy and a scandal.

BERMAN: You know, take the Trump administration's own word for it from this inspector general report. Just one more question on the polling, then I want to move on here. As

we said, to an extent, the president's messaging that it's a crisis is starting to win over. He's been saying it's a crisis for a long time. A very different kind of crisis.

However, you know, when 75 percent say it's a crisis, when asked, and this is P102 (ph), if you approve or disapprove of how the president is handling immigration, 57 percent disapprove. So how the president's dealing with this is not popular and Democrats will tell you it's a humanitarian crisis, not a crisis that requires a wall here.

[06:35:01] John, I want to move on to this news about the big parade.

AVLON: Sure.

BERMAN: The big, expensive parade, right?

"The Washington Post," Josh Dawsey, reports overnight, the National Parks Service is diverting nearly $2.5 million in entrance and recreation fees primarily intended to improve parks across the country to cover costs associated with the president's Independence Day celebration.

They're getting money from Smokey the Bear, John.

AVLON: They're stealing -- they're stealing from Smokey the Bear.

BERMAN: And this is only a fraction. This is only a fraction of the cost here. This doesn't cover the planes flying overhead, the tanks rolling in.

CAMEROTA: They don't cost millions. We don't know the number yet.

AVLON: Yes, we -- we -- we don't -- I mean you roll it all up, this is -- this is -- this is a band aid on the total budget bust that's going to be this -- this presidential vanity process under the guise of celebrating America's independence.

And I'll say, look, you know, Erma Bombeck, the great columnist, had a quote once, she said, isn't it great that America is a country where we celebrate our independence not with a show of military strength and tanks, but with family picnics.

CAMEROTA: Until now.

AVLON: Until now. That's the spirt, I think, that normally infuses our Independence Day celebrations. And the president is fulfilling -- sort of scratching a long-term itch to have a military parade on the taxpayer dime.

CAMEROTA: And speaking of how -- the taxpayer dime and who's going to benefit from this, Sarah, the reports are that the RNC and the administration is offering tickets to this big event to big Republican donors. And so is this a political event? Is this a political rally?

ISGUR: It's not unusual, for instance, for the president to invite friends, political friends even, to the White House for the Fourth of July fireworks. What is unusual is everything else that's -- that's going on around this at a time when I think a lot of Americans would really just like a non-partisan day. You know, Nike's pulling the shoes with the American flags. And I think a lot of people are really looking forward to celebrating the Fourth of July on Sunday when our women win the World Cup Final. And so to have all this controversy around it, to make these sort of silly political mistakes, it's an unforced error.

BERMAN: I would note that Sarah Isgur has now mentioned the Women's World Cup team one more time than the president of the United States has this morning.

Joe Lockhart, to you. This parade, this moment for the president, what does it mean?

LOCKHART: Well, I'll make two points. One is, America doesn't need to put military parades on. Countries like Russia and France, who are insecure about their power, need to demonstrate their strength in a way that we don't have to. People know we're the strongest people -- country militarily in the world.

And on the -- on the -- I'm just personally outraged about the president hijacking the Fourth of July. It's for all people. I was really struck by the sound you played from the president and said, I want people who love America to come to this event, but I'm only giving VIP tickets to Republicans. All Americans love America. And we really have to stop and Trump has to stop pushing this idea that if you don't believe in him you don't believe in America. It's really wrong. And the Fourth of July is the single worst day of the year to be making that argument.

CAMEROTA: Guys, thank you all very much for the insight into this. We will cover both of those things and the developments, I know you're monitoring Twitter, all morning.

All right, an outpouring of support for a fallen hero who helped others on 9/11. How New York is saying good-bye to Luis Alvarez. That's next.


[06:42:20] BERMAN: This morning, America has lost a business icon. Lee Iacocca, a legend in the auto industry, has died. Iacocca credited with helping develop the iconic Ford Mustang and then he was CEO of Chrysler. He helped save the them number three automaker from bankruptcy in the 1980s. At the height of his career, Iacocca was arguably the most popular business figure in the world. He even flirted with running for president in 1988. Lee Iacocca was 94.

CAMEROTA: September 11th first responder and victim's rights advocate Luis Alvarez will be laid to rest this morning after his long battle with 9/11-related cancer. This was the scene at his wake yesterday.


CAMEROTA: Look at this line. It snaked through the funeral home's parking lot as people waited to pay their respects.

CNN's Miguel Marquez joins us live with more on how Alvarez is being remembered.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and the streets around the church here, the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Queens, are blocked off. It is going to be a very big, very difficult day for many people across the city, not only NYPD. He dies of colorectal cancer after spending -- linked to spending three months down at the 9/11 site looking for survivors and then any remains of his colleagues and others across that terrible, terrible time.

This was a guy that lost month was able to get to Congress. He -- remember, he had 69 bouts of chemo throughout his fight with cancer. He was able to get to Congress last month to argue on behalf of renewing the compensation fund for victims of 9/11.


LUIS ALVAREZ: 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.


MARQUEZ: Now, when you compare that Luis Alvarez with the Luis Alvarez who was in full health back in 2007, this was a picture released by his family, you can see the difference that that many rounds of chemotherapy and the cancer took on him.

He died shortly after speaking those words to Congress. He also -- the family released a statement in part saying that it was a blessing having him with them. The one words that they want people to hear, John, and remember is he asked people to please take care of yourselves and of each other.


[06:45:00] BERMAN: All right, Miguel Marquez. We're thinking of Luis' family today. We're also thinking of all of our friends who were Luis' friends. So I know we're having a tough day today.

CAMEROTA: Yes, it's a really tough day. But, I mean, again, when you just see what Luis went through to make it to Congress, to bring that powerful message, we owe him a debt of gratitude for 9/11 and then everything he did beyond.

BERMAN: All right, Americans getting sick by tainted alcohol at luxury resorts. We have new information this morning about what the U.S. government did not tell you about it. That's next.


BERMAN: So as the United States investigates a series of mysterious American deaths in the Dominican Republic, the State Department is finally releasing its response to a senator's concerns about tainted alcohol at resorts in Mexico. That senator first raised the issue two years ago. Two years.

Michelle Kosinski joins us now with the latest here. Strange.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so this is a Republican senator. It's not just Democrats trying to get information out of the State Department. This is the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. And you said two years. He's been asking the State Department for more information about all those cases down in Mexico. At this point, hundreds of people have come forward. American tourists who say that they were -- became violently ill after drinking what they believe was tainted alcohol. And some people died as well.

[06:50:10] Of course, this bears a striking resemblance to some of the cases going on currently now in the Dominican Republic. And Senator Johnson wrote this letter after the death of a young Wisconsin woman, Abby Connor (ph). And she and her brother, on the first day of their vacation, had a few drinks by the pool. They were unconscious, you know, almost immediately. She was found face down in the shallow end of the pool. He recovered, but she died later.

So now we get a response from the State Department's inspector general. And so we see some of the things that the State Department was able to do and not do in cases like this. They were able to pressure the Mexican government to raid a bunch of establishments. They shut down two bars. They seized 10,000 gallons of liquor of unknown origin. But they said none of it tested positive for anything dangerous. Nothing could be definitively linked, after two years. And that's pretty much where this ends. So you see the difficulties there.

But the response doesn't make any mention to the fact that there are multiple press reports out there saying that other Mexican government raids yielded hundreds of gallons of alcohol tainted with methanol, which is toxic and it's used in fuel and antifreeze.

So -- and also many of these victims, they just weren't able to get a whole lot of help from the State Department for various reasons. One of those reasons is because the guidance that the State Department people are given is very vague. So it kind of shows you where things go unless a lot is done about these Demonian Republican cases right now.

CAMEROTA: It's worrisome on so many levels.


CAMEROTA: Michelle, thank you very much for looking into that.


CAMEROTA: OK, so most Americans say that health care is at the top of their list for what they want to tackle in 2020. So are the Democratic candidates effectively speaking to those Americans? We talk about that next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, MODERATOR: Raise your hand if government -- if your government plan would provide coverage for undocumented immigrants.


[06:55:01] CAMEROTA: OK, that moment from last week's debate has some Democrats worried that the party may be moving too far left on health care. Will those positions cost Democrats in the general election?

Joining us now to talk about this and more, we have Terry McAuliffe, former Democratic governor of Virginia and a CNN political commentator.

Good morning, governor.

TERRY MCAULIFFE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Alisyn, good morning. Happy Fourth of July weekend for you.

CAMEROTA: You as well.


CAMEROTA: What did you think when you saw every Democrat on that stage raise their hand to ensure undocumented immigrants?

MCAULIFFE: The first thing I thought of, if you're sitting out there in America today, you have one question, hey, what about me? Who's talking about my prescription drug costs? Who's talking about my out of network expenses? Because, Alisyn, in this country today, I mean people are happy with their plans generally, they're happy with their doctor but they're not happy with prescription drug prices.

And, listen, undocumented workers, if they come to the country, they're going to get health care. They're going to get it through a plan or through emergency room. But we're not spending enough time in these debates talking to the American's about the issues that they face every single day at home. We spend a lot of time talking about Medicare for all. I talk about these shiny objects up there that people talk about. This is not what is affecting most Americans.


MCAULIFFE: And we better use these upcoming debates to be able to address these issue on health care. We lead on the issue of health care. But we've got to show people specific plans about not allowing insurance companies to deduct the cost of advertising. These are the big issues that these pharmaceutical companies that Congress needs to address. It's very important for us going forward.


MCAULIFFE: Like education. I didn't hear K-12 talked about. We have dilapidated schools.

CAMEROTA: Well, hold -- hold on one second, I want to stick with health care for one second --


CAMEROTA: Because your feelings, interestingly, echo that of President Trump's. That's exactly what he said after the debate. I'll just read you his tweet, all Democrats just raised their hands for giving millions of illegal aliens unlimited health care. How about taking care of American citizens first? That's the end of the race!.

Do you agree that this will hurt them fatally in the general election?

MCAULIFFE: No, not fatally. This -- this was the first debate of what we're going to have ten more debates. We have a long way to go.

I think these first debates, Alisyn, where people -- well, it was introductory debates for many people. The American people didn't know a lot of our candidates. But I just implore our Democrats, I've talked about this extensively, I have written, people want deliverables. That's why I always say, a governor's important running for president because, you know, we have a deliver every day. You know, we've got to balance budgets, we've got to build roads, we've got to clean roads. People want to know, what are you going to do for me? And this is a big bone (ph).


MCAULIFFE: But this is very early in the process.

CAMEROTA: But the problem is, governor, is that we have the videotape.


CAMEROTA: So they can't take that back. They can't take back that hand raise --


CAMEROTA: Unless they change their position.

MCAULIFFE: And -- yes.

CAMEROTA: People will remember that they voted that way, that they said they would vote that way.

MCAULIFFE: And I think Americans want to make sure these undocumented workers get health care. So what they did, put their hand up, it's the appropriate thing to do. But I want to see more kind of things that affect -- we're going to have plenty of things to discuss with Donald Trump as we go forward in that. Listen, he came into office, single handedly has really hurt individuals across this country on health care. What he has done, as it relates to the individual mandates, the cost-sharing with the states, I can tell you as a governor, our state premiums went up for individuals for health care. Listen, Trump's got to answer for all of the horrible things he's done

to health care in this country. So, no, I'm not overly concerned, but I do want to see us -- we've got, what, six, seven months until the Iowa caucus. We need to make sure, Alisyn, as we go forward, that we are talking to people about infrastructure, education.


MCAULIFFE: We got dilapidated schools. Every child should have a healthy, nutritious breakfast when they go to school in the morning.

CAMEROTA: Yes. But just back to health care for one second because when you say it's the right thing to do --


CAMEROTA: Are you saying that undocumented immigrants should be insured because the polls suggest that the majority of Americans don't feel that way. Sixty-one percent, in our latest poll, say that they disagree with that position that all of those Democrats take.

So, in other words, just on the position, should the Democratic candidates rethink that position?

MCAULIFFE: Yes, listen, I come from a place that every single person in this country, no matter how they came to our great country, should get health care because it's important for our nation that we keep our citizens and those that are not citizens yet healthy because there's a tremendous health risk. So of course we need to do that. But we spend a lot of time, as I say, talking about issues that don't affect us at home. We've got plenty of time to go forward. But, you know, people watched that debate the other day, they said, OK, people come into the country, there will be no crimes. Everybody's going to get health care. We -- we need -- and it's up to these candidates, no matter what question you ask, address the concerns that people have at home. We have issues. We have a ballooning deficit in this nation that nobody seems to talk about.

CAMEROTA: Former Governor Terry McAuliffe, thank you for talking about all of these things.

MCAULIFFE: Happy Fourth.

CAMEROTA: Have a great Fourth.

MCAULIFFE: Happy birthday, Jake Rubenstein (ph). Happy -- happy birthday, everybody.

[07:00:01] CAMEROTA: Wow.

BERMAN: America.

MCAULIFFE: John, happy birthday.

BERMAN: Happy birthday, America.

MCAULIFFE: Let's get some hot dogs and some beer. Let's go.

CAMEROTA: Let's do that.

BERMAN: We can do that any day, though. Let's -- let's be -- establish that.