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Conditions in Texas Detention Facility; Trump Census Fight; Justice Department Changes Lawyers. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired July 8, 2019 - 08:30   ET



[08:32:30] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm going to start showing some of these detention centers because -- to the press. We're going to have some of the press go in and see it because they're crowded, and we were the ones who were complaining about they're crowded.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, that's President Trump talking about migrant detention center in Clint, Texas, amid continuing reports of unsanitary conditions and overcrowding.

Joining us now to discuss what the situation is there is Aaron Hull. He's the chief patrol agent of U.S. Border Patrols El Paso Sector, which includes the Clint, Texas, facility.

Mr. Hull, thank you so much for being here to help us understand just what is going on inside there because, you know, there was this big "New York Times" cover story this past weekend, which once again described the horrendous conditions that these children have to endure and the -- what the Border Patrol agents themselves are endures and the trauma that it's inflicting on them. I'll just read you a portion of it. It said, outbreaks of scabies, shingles and chickenpox were spreading among the hundreds of children who were being held in cramped cells, agents said. The stench of the children's dirty clothing was so strong it spread to the agent's own clothing.

So, Mr. Hull, what is the situation today and were you aware of how bad it had gotten in there?

AARON HULL, CHIEF U.S. BORDER PATROL AGENT, EL PASO SECTOR: Well, I would dispute that the conditions are so bad as have been reported. I can't understand why some people would be making some of the allegations that they're making. I can tell you that the Clint facility is inspected constantly. The CBP chief accountability offer, under the Flores settlement agreement was just here again last week. I actually communicated with him this weekend. This facility is inspected continuously. Just to address a couple of things you raised.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but I know it -- just one second, Mr. Hull, hold on one second because I know it's inspected continuously --

HULL: Yes.

CAMEROTA: And what they found is -- I mean, from "The New York Times," no evidence of misconduct, but evidence of horrendous conditions. We can see it with our own eyes. I mean the picture that we have on the split screen up with you are the overcrowded conditions. We can see the horrendous conditions that they're all sleeping in.

HULL: Well, we've been talking about overcrowded conditions for some time. That's no secret. Everyone from us up through the president has talked about that. That continues to be a problem.

But in terms of the care that they're being provided, the access to food, shower, hygiene, laundry, the things that we're doing, we continue to be inspected on that. We've said we're overcrowded. We've said we're going to remain overcrowded until the other entities in this chain, Health and Human Services and ERO are funded in order to take these children out of our custody as soon as possible. These children are processed and waiting to be placed.

[08:35:08] CAMEROTA: But are you disputing -- just to be clear -- just -- I just want -- I'm sorry to interrupt, but I just want to make sure that I'm clear on what you're disputing. Are you saying that there were not outbreaks of scabies, shingles, chicken pox, we've heard reports of lice and the flu? Are you saying that that did not happen?

HULL: I'm saying the term "outbreak" is not accurate. We encounter people from all over the world. When we encounter them and they get their medical screening, we often find that they have scabies, lice, chicken pox, the flu. We immediately treat those people. They're quarantined and separated.

So the term "outbreak" implies that it's something somehow occurring or being caused in our facility. These are people that we encounter with these conditions. We address them medically and we isolate and quarantine them from others. We have to do that in addition to all the other challenges we face.


HULL: Once they leave the cell that they're in after they receive their medical treatment, then we have to clean that facility before we put other people in it.

CAMEROTA: OK. That's a -- that is an important distinction.

What about the bathing? I mean what we have heard time and again from the advocates who have gone in, from reporters who have gone in, is that the kids are not being bathed. And we've even heard the stories of the dirty diapers, the babies being in dirty diapers.

So are kids getting -- are children getting regular baths? Because we hear all the time that they go weeks, sometimes a month, without showering. HULL: Again, you have to look at how we do things and the fact that

these things are tracked. We have a detention monitor -- or module that tracks how long they're in our custody. Every two days these children are getting offered shower facilities. Now, we cannot make them shower. We can take them to the shower and we can put them there, but we can't physically make them shower.

It's the same thing with brushing their teeth. We encounter children who have never brushed their teeth. We've had a lot of agents who had to teach them basic hygiene. So, no, it's not true that people are being denied showers, that are -- that these children are being denied access to these facilities. We make these things available. We encourage them. We brought in UAC monitors, who are not agents, who are contract professionals, to help encourage and assist children with these things. But, no, these are not denied.

These are -- this is no secret that all of these aspects, food, water, hygiene, showers, laundry, we're monitored in all of this. These things are documented and we're constantly having to show how and why we do these things. And were -- and were constantly adding more.

CAMEROTA: I mean I know, but this is what's so confusing, Mr. Hull. I know that there's oversight, that inspectors come down from Washington. But we just keep hearing time and again how filthy the children are. I mean surely they can shower more often than going weeks without showers. I mean I -- maybe a five-year-old refuses a shower. But you guys are in charge, right?

HULL: Well, again, you have to understand that these children are protected under the Flores settlement agreement. These are minors. They are not adults. They can't grant consent for things. They're not our own children. We have court requirements, we have laws that we have to comply with in their care and custody.

And -- but going back to the showering and the filthy piece again. We encounter people from all over the world that are often very dirty, in soiled clothing when we encounter them. At the Clint station, for example, we keep clothes on hand for children -- clean clothes on hand for children to change into. We launder their clothes and return them to them. We also have things like sweat suits that they can wear while they're showing. All of these things are laundered and returned.

CAMEROTA: You know --

HULL: We can't control how they come into our custody. They're often dirty. But we make these facilities available to them and these clean clothes available to them.


HULL: And then these children use them.

CAMEROTA: In terms of your own responsibility, Mr. Hull, I know that you were called to Washington in January because officials felt that you were not somehow being responsive enough to the crisis. Here's what "The New York Times" writes, the officials were concerned that Mr. Hull had moved too slowly to put safety measures in place after the deaths of migrant children. The officials believe that Mr. Hull and Matthew Harris, the chief of the Clint station, have been slow to follow directives and communicate developments at the facilities.

Have you changed your personal approach in any way or how you're communicating with Washington?

HULL: We communicate with Washington constantly. It's unfortunate -- if people want to criticize me, that's -- they're free to do that. But it's unfortunate that statements like that would be attributed to the patrol agent in charge of Clint, who's gone above and beyond, continues to go above and beyond every day, has been lauded for his efforts, his continuing efforts to care for these children.

And that -- that meeting that was referenced in the paper actually occurred in April and we weren't talking about that. We were actually talking about the volume of people we're encountering and what we're doing to process those people and move them as quickly as we can.

Again, I don't know why allegations like that would be made, particularly when they're inaccurate. But all we can do is tell you the truth that we see here in El Paso because we deal with it every day.

[08:40:01] CAMEROTA: Yes. Well, very, very quickly, it's that they had Border Patrol agents in the article talk to them. And at least two Border Patrol agents at the Clint station said they went to their superiors about the horrible conditions.

And so have you had border patrol agents come to you directly to tell you what they're enduring and how upsetting it is to them?

HULL: Every day. All of us are unhappy with this situation. Understand that the Border Patrol role is to catch, process and turn over. We're talking about aliens that have already been processed and are waiting for placement with other agencies, such as Health and Human Services at Clint, where ICRO (ph) (INAUDIBLE) for the adults and the family units.

When we do not have enough resources throughout the other -- our law enforcement partners so they can't take these people out of our custody, they tend to build up with us. It's like a police station that doesn't have a place to transfer people that it arrests. We have -- we are not designed for this. We're designed for short-term holding, yet we continue to add more and more capabilities, more and more space, more and more contracts to deal with it when we cannot properly and promptly turn these children over as quickly as possible.

Now, the good news is, Health and Human Services, additional funding, it's moving quicker. Currently this morning we only have 26 children in custody. So things are improving. But, again, it has been a continuous process of improvement. The Border Patrol has done and continues to do everything it can do to improve these conditions. That continues to come out in all of these reports.

CAMEROTA: Yes. HULL: The OIG report of May 30th. Mr. Mokes (ph) report.

CAMEROTA: Aaron Hull, we really appreciate you coming on NEW DAY to answer our questions and it is very good news, as you say, to hear that there are only 26 children in custody there now after hundreds having been there last month. So thank you very much for being with us.

HULL: Yes, ma'am.


HULL: Thank you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Stevie Wonder makes a major announcement about his health. That's next.


[08:45:23] BERMAN: Time now for the "Five Things to Know for Your New Day."

The U.S. women's soccer team is heading to New York for a ticker tape parade after winning their second straight World Cup. The players are now fighting for equal play with the men in a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation.

CAMEROTA: President Trump now says he wants to open border detention centers to the press. The president has said migrants are in, quote, much better shape in detention centers than their native countries.

BERMAN: Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein facing new sex crime charges in a New York City courtroom. That happens today. Epstein struck a hugely controversial plea deal following an investigation for similar charges more than a decade ago.

CAMEROTA: Fans are mourning the sudden death of Disney Channel star Cameron Boyce. A spokesperson for the family tells CNN that Boyce died in his sleep from a seizure after an ongoing medical condition. He was just 20 years old.

BERMAN: Music legend Stevie Wonder will receive a kidney transplant. The 69-year-old made the announcement during a concert in London over the weekend. Wonder says the surgery will happen in September and he does have a donor.

CAMEROTA: All right, for more on the "Five Things to Know," you can go to for the latest and to find out why we're standing on the stairs.

BERMAN: We're going up somewhere.

All right, the Supreme Court ruled against him, his own administration announced the fight was over, but this morning President Trump is still pushing for a question on citizenship in the 2020 census. The controversial actions he might take, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:50:51] BERMAN: The president shocked members of his own administration, announcing he would continue the fight to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census, this despite the fact the Supreme Court dealt him a setback and the fact that his own administration conceded the fight was over.

Joining us now is Toluse Olorunnipa, White House reporter for "The Washington Post" and a CNN political analyst.

Toluse, you've got a terrific article examining what's going on here. And one of the big points you make is that it's not necessarily about the win for the president, because that might be elusive here or impossible, it's the fight that matters.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, this is a president who told voters in 2016 that they would be so tired of winning. In part he's showing that he's willing to fight no matter what, even if it seems to be a losing fight. We've seen this in the past with the president and the national emergency, where he had the government shutdown back in December, 35 days of a government shutdown. He wanted to show that he was willing to fight for his border wall. In the end he basically caved and signed the spending bill and decided to declare a national emergency.

We've seen the same thing here with the census, that even though members of his administration were willing to cave and throw in the towel, the president called an audible and said, instead we're going to continue this fight.

BERMAN: He, in fact, did cave and throw in the towel. He just un-caved and un-threw that towel, Toluse.

And you note that one of the things that's being considered is some kind of executive action on this. What possible legal basis is there for executive action from the president here?

OLORUNNIPA: Yes, it's hard to see it. And there's a chance that this could be a constitutional clash where the Supreme Court says you can't move ahead and the president just says I'm going to sign an executive order and move ahead anyway. It does appear that the Justice Department is trying to find different types of legal maneuvers, to figure out how they can get in line with what the Supreme Court said because the Supreme Court didn't specifically say you can't ask this question at all, they just said that the rational that they had before was contrived and it didn't make sense.

So the Justice Department is trying to scramble and find a new rational for why they need to have this citizenship question on the census. But the president is saying that he may just sign an executive order and tack the question on in the end anyways. So it will be very interesting to see if the president decides to buck the Supreme Court or if the Justice Department finds some way to provide a rational that passes muster by the court. BERMAN: And there might be signs that his own lawyers, the

administration lawyers, don't necessarily agree with the tactics he's using. There was a massive legal shake-up here. The entire Justice Department team that had been working on this case gone and they're bringing in a new team. And the why isn't exactly clear, but some are inferring that the people working on the case before disagreed with the way the president wants to continue the fight.

What are you hearing?

OLORUNNIPA: Yes, it was very clear that there was a disagreement because some of these lawyers went before a judge and said, we have no idea what the president just tweeted when he said he wants to continue the fight after the Justice Department said that they were ending the fight. And they were very public in saying they did not know what the president was doing.

So those people have been replaced. The Justice Department is bringing in an entirely new team. And part of the reason we're sort of speculating that this new team is coming in is because the old team had already thrown in the towel and said there's nothing that we can do here. And the president, wanting to get his own way, is sort of forcing the Justice Department to push forward ideas and arguments that aren't necessarily in line with what they said in the past.

So they're bringing in a new team at this late stage in the game and it's not clear how they're going to be able to make this work.

BERMAN: Very quickly, are some of the president's own words perhaps undermining his case. He's now saying publically, this is for Congress. I'm not so sure the Supreme Court will like that justification here.

OLORUNNIPA: Yes, the previous legal team said this is exactly not for Congress, that this is about something else. So the president is undermining his legal advocates and is making it harder for the Justice Department to do its job.

BERMAN: All right, Toluse Olorunnipa, thank you very much for being with us this morning. There is a terrific article by Toluse in the paper. Everyone should go check it out.

Thanks so much.


BERMAN: All right, "The Good Stuff" is next.


[08:59:01] CAMEROTA: OK, time now for "The Good Stuff."

A young, Philadelphia Flyers fan gets the surprise of his life. This is Kayden (ph). Oh --

BERMAN: Look at that face. CAMEROTA: Look at Kayden's face. This is -- oh, my, gosh, he's so


This is Kayden O'Rourke. And that is Gritty, OK. That is the hockey team's mascot. Oh, my gosh, Kayden's so happy.

The mascot unexpectedly showed up at the hospital. Kayden received special Gritty-themed prosthetics.

BERMAN: Those are awesome.

CAMEROTA: That is very cool -- ahead of his eighth birthday. He was born without a full right leg. His right hand and left leg were also not fully formed. So Gritty also gave Kayden a custom Flyer's jersey.

BERMAN: Just look at that smile. He's going to pull a muscle smiling like that. I've never seen a smile so big before.

CAMEROTA: And Gritty is a little scary sometimes I think because Gritty's eyes aren't like -- go around like that. Gritty was the guest of honor at a -- my cousin's recent wedding, so I've danced with Gritty. But I think Kayden had a much better reaction than I did when I saw Gritty at the wedding.

[09:00:02] BERMAN: Yes. This isn't so much about your demons as it is about -- about young Kayden now happy this morning.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I'm glad that he's very happy.

BERMAN: And I'm glad you made it through.