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Justice Department Reverses Course On Census Citizenship Question; Harris & Biden Campaigns Again, Trade Barbs Over Busing; Several Leading 2020 Democratic Candidates In Iowa; Trump Defends Costs Of July 4th Event Amid Politicization Fears; Military Chiefs Concerned About Politicization Of July 4 Event; Tanks & Fighter Jets Featured In Trump's July 4th Celebration; Trump Tweet Catches Government Lawyers Off Guard In Census Battle; Powerful Pictures; Trump Claims Border Facilities "Far Better Than Where Migrants Came From"; Federal Inspectors Capture Images Of Overcrowded Migrant Center; NYC Prepares For July 4th Fireworks Show; NYPD Beefs Up Security For Fireworks Show Tonight; Fourth Of July Holiday Weekend Forecast. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired July 4, 2019 - 06:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: I see you representing.

JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: Independence Day. I love it.

CAMEROTA: I love it too. Great to have you here. So John Berman is off. John Avlon joins me. It's 6:00 am in the East. Up first, another about faced by the Trump administration, one day after giving up on the fight to include a citizenship question on the census. The Justice Department now says it is looking for a legally available path to include a question on the 2020 census.

President Trump catching government lawyers off guard apparently and leaving them to scramble to figure out next steps. You will remember that last week, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the administration's reason for adding that citizenship question.

AVLON: And there is another setback for the Trump administration. A federal appeals court has blocked President Trump's plan to shift $2.5 billion from the military's budget to build his proposed border wall. All of this as the President prepares for his Fourth of July event, defending the costs of displaying the nation's military muscle. And CNN has learned that military chiefs are concerned about the President politicizing tonight's celebration.

Let's begin with Joe Johns live at the White House. Joe, Happy 4th. Tell us what you got.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Happy 4th to you, John. Look, this actually happened, the President of the United States refusing to take no for an answer on that question of putting citizenship question on the 2020 census even after the United States Supreme Court had called the government's reasons for doing it contrived, suggesting they're actually hiding their reasons for doing it. The Commerce Department, the Justice Department had both said they're going to drop this whole issue and move forward, but then the President tweeted this, of course, cause George Hazel, the Federal Judge in Maryland to call the lawyers together on a conference call, picking out the reason for the President's tweet as well as asking the lawyers if they actually represented the government. Here's part of the transcript from that conversation.

"I don't know how many federal judges have Twitter accounts, but I happen to be one of them, and I follow the President, and so I saw a tweet that directly contradicted the position that Mr. Gardner," the attorney, "had shared with me yesterday." Mr. Gardner responds, "The tweet this morning," he says, "was the first I heard of the President's position on this issue just like the plaintiffs and Your Honor. I do not have a deeper understanding of what that means at this juncture other than what the President has tweeted."

So there you go, the President essentially contradicting his lawyers, contradicting the government. The judge essentially told all of them, "You have until 2:00 tomorrow Eastern time to figure this out and get back to me." So a lot of questions still out there. Back to you.

CAMEROTA: OK, Joe. Please keep us posted on anything that develops from the White House. Thank you very much. We're seeing some fireworks this morning of the political variety on the campaign trail. Senator Kamala Harris' campaign facing off with former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign over again busing. Taking the issue from the debate stage to Iowa. CNN's Arlette Saenz is live in Waterloo, Iowa with more.

This is very interesting what Kamala Harris is now saying.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. That's right, Alis. That it's been a week since that fiery debate exchange between Kamala Harris and Joe Biden over school busing. And now their campaigns are going at it on Twitter over that very issue.

Just last week, Kamala Harris was criticizing taking on Joe Biden over his opposition to school busing back in the 1970s. And now the Biden campaign is taking issue with Kamala Harris' response to a question yesterday about whether she supported federally mandated busing in cases of de facto segregation. Take a listen to what she had to say here in Iowa, yesterday.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Busing is a tool, among many that should be considered, when we address the issue, which is a very current issue as well as a past issue of desegregation in America's schools. So I think of busing as being in the toolbox of what is available and what can be used for the goal of desegregating America's schools.


SAENZ: Now, that answer just isn't enough for the Biden campaign. Biden's deputy campaign manager taking to Twitter last night saying, "It's disappointing that Senator Harris chose to distort Vice President Biden's position on busing, particularly now that she is tying herself in knots trying not to answer the very question she posed to him."

And one of Biden's press secretaries fired back to the Biden campaign last night quoting a Biden quote from several decades ago saying, "VP Biden said, 'Who the hell do we think we are that the only way a black man or woman can learn is if they rub shoulders with my white child?' He called busing an asinine concept. C'mon. Y'all are better than this."

Now, we'll see if the candidates themselves decided to engage today. Here in Iowa, Biden and Harris are starting their day about 150 miles apart from each other. There are just among the many candidates who are descending on Iowa for this Fourth of July holiday, John.

[06:05:06] AVLON: Thank you, Arlette. All right. President Trump touting the show of a lifetime tonight at his Fourth of July event, featuring tanks and flyovers from military jets. The President's defending the cost of the show of America's military might as some military leaders are feeling uneasy about it. CNN's Kylie Atwood live outside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. with more, Kylie.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes. Good morning. We are here at the Lincoln Memorial where President Trump will have his unprecedented extravagant Fourth of July celebration. And one of the things that has caused some controversy is the fact that he will have armored military vehicles on display. And you can see that those are already in place right here.


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.



ATWOOD (voice-over): A celebration clouded in controversy. In just hours, President Trump's Salute to America is set to begin. In what he is billing the show of a lifetime. The event will include military vehicles and weaponry on the streets of Washington. Something he claims, quote, the Pentagon & our great Military Leaders are thrilled to be doing.

But a source telling CNN some Pentagon leaders and military chiefs do not share his enthusiasm and worry that it will get political. The President also breaking tradition by delivering a speech and saving VIP tickets in front of the Lincoln Memorial for his allies.


SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): The Fourth of July is supposed to be on national holiday. He's making it not only political, but he's making it all about himself.


ATWOOD(voice-over): President Trump downplaying the cost, tweeting, quote, it will be very little compared to what it is worth. But that claim is misleading, as many of the aircraft involved in this ceremony will be flying in from around the country. F-35C fighter jets from California. A B-52 stealth bomber from Missouri. Apache helicopters from Kentucky and the Blue Angels from Florida.

The President is also overlooking the additional costs of security personnel and infrastructure required to put on an event of the size. Democratic lawmakers now requesting a detailed accounting from the Interior Department on how those funds are being used. After the Washington Post reported, the National Park Service is diverting nearly $2.5 million to pay for this.


REP. RAUL GRIJALVA (D-AZ): To divert it on a use that is not prescribed for that fund for what essentially is a self-aggrandization event that Trump is having for himself we believe is illegal.


ATWOOD(voice-over): Despite the backlash, the White House maintains tonight's event is open to all.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: The public is welcome to come and celebrate our great country, the greatest democracy. I'm not going to allow you to politicize it.



ATWOOD: Now, there were about 15,000 tickets that were given out for this event today and about 500 of those will go to President Trump's allies and donors. But we should know that despite some reservations from military leaders that we have heard from, President Trump will be flanked by the Acting Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Joseph Dunford here on the National Mall later tonight when he delivers his speech, Alisyn and John.

CAMEROTA: Thanks so much.

AVLON: All right. Kylie, thank you very much. Joining us now Toluse Olorunnipa, White House Correspondent for "The Washington Post," Margaret Talev, Senior White House Correspondent for Bloomberg News, and Joe Lockhart, former White House Press Secretary under President Clinton.

Guys, a lot to get to today. Toluse, I want to start with you and I want to read you a quote from

the conversation yesterday with Department of Justice lawyer Josh Gardner talking to the judge kind of crystallizing the chaos around the citizenship question. He said, "The tweet this morning was the first I had heard of the President's position on the issue, just like the plaintiffs and Your Honor. I do not have a deeper understanding of what this means at this juncture other than what the President has tweeted. I am doing my absolute best to figure out what's going on."

Not exactly a vote of administrative conference. Toluse, what are you hearing from your reporting about how this disconnect occurred between the administration, the Department of Justice, which essentially gave up on this issue two days ago and the President and his tweet?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. This is how the President operates. He's incredibly impulsive. A lot of times, he doesn't know what his administration is doing and a lot of times he responds to criticism and how certain things that are happening within this administration play on TV.

So after the Department of Commerce and the Department of Justice decided to fold their hand and basically say they were not going to move forward with putting the citizenship question on the census, President Trump started to hear some criticism from conservative allies, from folks on TV and conservative media.

And he decided that he was going to tweet out something very different from what his administration was doing and leaving his Department of Justice scrambling to try to figure out how to basically formulate themselves in a way that puts them in line with what the President is doing. It's not clear yet that they have a strategy for how to do that.

[06:10:11] They told the judge earlier this month that they had to have the census printed and they had to begin printing it by the end of June in order to get it done in time and now they seem to be saying they need more time and they can use more time to try to formulate a different type of strategy. So this really is a messy approach to governing and it was clear from those words from the Department of Justice lawyer that even he was confused by what the President was doing and they have no idea how to sort this out.

CAMEROTA: Yes, quite confused. You don't often hear, "I am doing my absolute best to figure out what's going on." But, Joe, just to be clear, just to rewind, the Supreme Court shot this down. They shot down the administration's proposal to add a citizenship question because they found their argument so specious. That's what John Roberts, Chief Justice, basically said. And so now I guess the President doesn't accept the Supreme Court's decision on that.

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I guess the President believes if he can defy Congress the way he's doing it, he can defy the Supreme Court. I think a big problem here is that it really has laid bare how political Bill Barr has made the Department of Justice. I think any other attorney general in the recent past would have gone back to the President and said, "You can't do this. The Supreme Court has ruled on this."

And that the idea that they're going to search around for an argument in the next couple of days, it kind of reminds me of that old George Bush funny video of him searching around for weapons of mass destruction in the Oval Office. I mean where are they going to look? They argued this, they prepared for months to argue it for the Supreme Court and they lost and now they're going to find something in the next 36 hours. It's more than disarray though. It's making politics, the driving force at DOJ which is wrong.

AVLON: We should point out also that the president described his own administration statements previously as fake news, which gives you an idea of the integrity behind that statement in the past. Margaret, let's switch to the Fourth of July event the President is hosting tonight. CNN reporting that military leaders are really concerned about the President's potential comments as being political and the politicization of the military. What are you hearing?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and John that's right and you have - the President is going to be flanked by two good men whose careers have been about understanding the rules, the separation between politics in the military with Dunford and with Mark Esper, the Army Secretary turned Pentagon Chief in waiting.

And I think this is going to be a tricky needle for both of these men to thread are reporting - everyone's reporting is that everyone in the military brass is a little bit uneasy about being seen as political props for the President. So I think it does depend very much on what he actually says and how he actually handles these remarks tonight.

The president considers this a winning issue for himself. Sees them embracing the military as sort of the ultimate sign of patriotism and believes that at least for most of his base, the more criticism piles on, the more it's going to allow him to make the argument that Democrats are unpatriotic and that he is more patriotic than anyone else and has the military's back so on and so forth.

But aside from all of these concerns, there is a basic optical consideration for the President which is there's like at least a 60 percent chance of thunderstorms throughout the day. It's going to be very hot on the National Mall, a lot of barriers to actually getting there.

There are some concerns about him being able to have a strong enough showing, if he goes through all of these hoops to have this event, it really only works for him politically if the crowds are there. And so in the sort of final hours, he's never really been concerned about whether politics is bleeding into the military and vice versa. He's much more concerned about having this event go off the way he wants it to.

And the truth as we all know is that this firework celebration on the National Mall has always attracted a lot of young people of all partisan stripes and so there is kind of a natural protest crowd for the President also baked into the people who were going to be coming to the National Mall. I think it'd be very interesting to see how this actually unfolds.

AVLON: We will monitor the weather for everyone and let them know how tonight looks. OK. Meanwhile, Toluse, we need to talk about what's going on with Senator Kamala Harris and former Vice President Joe Biden. It turns - OK, so everybody remembers that Kamala Harris had this breakout moment in the debate where she confronted Joe Biden about his past, not wanting a federal mandate on busing.

Well, it turns out on the campaign trail when reporters asked a Senator Kamala Harris if she believes in a federal mandate for busing which it sounded like she did that night, she doesn't. Here is what she said about that.

[06:15:12] "I think of busing as being in the toolbox of what is available and what can be used for the goal of desegregating America's schools. I believe that any tool that is in the toolbox should be considered by a school district." That was his point. Is it possible that they have the exact same position on busing after all of this?

OLORUNNIPA: Yes, this is becoming this sort of this internessing fight within the Democratic Party about busing, about segregation during the '70s and about segregation which is still very much an issue today in 2019 and none of these candidates have really been able to put forward a specific plan or policy that would be acceptable for the party about how to deal with it.

Senator Harris felt that she was on much safer ground talking about the '70s and talking about her own personal experience and how Joe Biden was an opponent to busing back then. But it does appear that, the fact that there is still serious segregation in our schools now, there isn't necessarily a plan from Senator Harris to address this by using busing today and I think that's part of the reason why you saw the two campaigns going back and forth at each other.

One campaign saying that Senator Harris was twisting herself at knots trying to answer the question that she posed to Joe Biden. This is something that the Democrats did not want to be talking about going into the 2020 race, but it's very clearly a defining issue right now.

AVLON: All right. Toluse, Joe, Margaret, thank you for joining us. We appreciate it. Happy Fourth of July.

TALEV: Happy 4th.

AVLON: And a quick programming note, we got a CNN exclusive tomorrow as Chris Cuomo interviews former Vice President Joe Biden. How does the 2020 Democratic frontrunner plan to stay ahead of the pack? Well, the interview airs tomorrow morning right here on new day at 6:00 am and 8:00 am Eastern.

CAMEROTA: Really looking forward to that.

AVLON: You're right.

CAMEROTA: All right. We're seeing pictures drawn by migrant children being held in detention centers near the border. The story that these pictures tell, next.


[06:21:38] CAMEROTA: President Trump made an interesting statement about what's happening at the border. He claims that the migrant detention facilities near Mexico are, quote, far better than where the migrants came from, end quote. This as we're getting at look at these dramatic pictures that were drawn by children who are being detained by the U.S. government.

Our CNN's Nick Valencia is live for us in El Paso with more. What's the latest, Nick?

NICK VALANECIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. President Trump taking to Twitter to get his message out as he often does. This time, focusing in on the conditions at Customs and Border Protection facilities taking exception with the recent criticism and this is what the President is saying.

"Our Border Patrol People are not hospital workers, doctors or nurses. The Democrats' bad immigration Laws, which could be easily fixed are the problem. Great job by Border Patrol above and beyond. Many of these illegal aliens are living far better now than where they came from, and in far safer conditions.

No matter how good things actually look, even if perfect, the Democrat visitors will act shocked & aghast at how terrible things are. Just politicians. If they really want to fix them, change the Immigration Laws and Loopholes. So easy to do!"

These tweets from the President coming as we're getting new images from inside these detention centers, thanks to Inspector General report. These disturbing images showing dangerously overcrowded conditions that pose a health and safety risk, not just to the migrants, but also the agents themselves.

I also wanted to share with you these - just a heartbreaking images from children in detention drawings done by 10 or 11-year-old children that show the psychological impact of detention. These drawings, John and Alisyn, showing children in cages behind bars.

AVLON: Thank you, Nick. Phenomenal reporting down there. Those pictures are just heartbreaking, thank you very much.

Millions of spectators, thousands of police officers and tons of fireworks, New York City is getting ready to celebrate the nation's 243rd birthday in a big way. Authorities said they've got plans to keep everybody safe. CNN's Brynn Gingras live at the Brooklyn Bridge with more. Brynn.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. Yes, we are standing underneath the Brooklyn Bridge this morning because this is going to be the showstopper tonight for the first time in five years. Fireworks are actually going to launch off of this iconic bridge as part of the big celebration. In addition, two to four barges that we typically see on this evening celebration for the Macy's fireworks here in New York City.

It takes a lot of planning. It takes a lot of security and we had a special opportunity to go around with one of the specialized units, couple of specialized units of the NYPD to talk about all of that planning. We're talking about the special operations teams and the harbor units. We're talking about the emergency services units, the aviation.

These are all units, part of special ops in NYPD that coordinate together for the past really several months to get the planning done perfectly for tonight's festivities. And we really saw an opportunity of the scuba teams to go in the water with the Harbor units and really make sure all of the barges that the fireworks are going to be launched off of are clear of any sort of obstructions that might be suspicious.

We're able to see from above, up in the air in the helicopters, the planning it takes just to oversee this wide area, because thousands and thousands of spectators are going to be here tonight to watch these shows. But listen to the chief of the special operations unit, what he has to say about more of the security that people can expect when they come tonight.


[06:25:05] HARRY WEDIN, NYPD CHIEF OF SPECIAL OPERATIONS: There's rooftop observation post that you will not see, but they will see you when you're out there. We have explosive detective K9s at every entry point and in some of the areas. So it's a great safe event that people should come out and enjoy themselves.


GINGRAS: Yes. It's going to be a great event. I can tell you right now, Alisyn, I'm seeing officers actually at the top of the Brooklyn Bridge right at the foot because every day the ESU units go up to the top to make sure the fireworks are safe, to make sure nobody gets up there and so they keep a post there. There's posts as well over at the barges near Staten Island where the fireworks are kept until tonight, until they moved into the East River behind me.

A lot of stuff going on already and it's going to continue for the next 24 hours, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Brynn, just great, great snapshot of the Herculean effort it takes to keep New York safe in moments like this.


CAMEROTA: Thank you very much. So will storms put a damper on the fireworks show wherever you are? CNN Meteorologist, Derek Van Dam has our forecast. Oh, some of that looks ominous, Derek.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. I think in New York though, Alisyn, will be fine. Mother nature shouldn't get in the way of the fireworks display. But from D.C. to Atlanta, that's another story. I think anyone who lives across the mid-Atlantic and the southeast this time of year knows that it gets hot and we have our pop-up summertime thunderstorms that typically can get into the way of our afternoon plans, especially firing up the barbecues across this region.

You can see as we time things out with our high res forecast radar imagery, some of those thunderstorms across the mid-Atlantic, D.C., we should get that parade off right around midday today, no problem. But the Salute to America events taking place later this evening will and possibly be impacted by some slow-moving thunderstorms with the potential for lightning that could be a bit of a logistical nightmare. Those are temperatures and this is what it will feel like outside, very sticky. Alisyn, back to you.

CAMEROTA: Wowie, that looks extremely hot. Derek, thank you.

DAM: Yes.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. All right. She's already been part of one World Cup win. So what does U.S. soccer star Ali Krieger think it will take to do it again. We ask live next.