Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview With Miami, Florida, Mayor Francis Suarez; Trump Backing Down on Census Citizenship Question?; Sources: Trump Questioning Whether Acosta's Press Conference Was Sufficient to Keep His Job. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired July 11, 2019 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:01]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: And you can see, 10 seconds away from the closing bell, it will close above 27000 for the first time ever.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me.

"THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: There's something you don't see every day from President Trump.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Breaking news, President Trump expected to back down in his battle with the Supreme Court over the U.S. census, a fight he already kind of lost in the highest court of the land, but it might not be over just yet.

This as the Trump administration gears up to round up undocumented immigrants, migrant families living in fear right now, as ICE raids are about to begin this weekend. We are going to speak to the Republican mayor of one of the major cities on the target list.

Plus: impulsive, corrupt, incompetent and in love with Kim Jong-un. Joe Biden goes off on President Trump's leadership on the world stage, as Biden lays out his foreign policy plans.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin with breaking news. President Trump expected to change course, in less than an hour, the president expected to announce a different way to ask for citizenship information without inserting a question about it into the U.S. census.

Sources telling CNN that the president plans to direct the Commerce Department to get citizenship information through other means. The president has been pushing to add a citizenship question to the census, but the Supreme Court last month initially rejected the addition. Critics say the question will lead to minorities being undercounted,

allowing Republicans to gain seats in the House of Representatives and causing minority communities to lose out on critical federal funding and representation.

It's an argument boosted a few weeks ago by new evidence that a Republican consultant who worked on the effort to add the question to the census had concluded in a 2015 study that such an effort would help Republicans and hurt Democrats.

The Justice Department insisted that the 2015 study had not played a role in their decision-making.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House for us now.

And, Kaitlan, what exactly is the president expected to announce?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, essentially, Jake, if this reporting, if this is what the president is going to do and not change his mind, as we have seen him do related to this census just here in the last week, he's going to be taking this executive action.

But instead of going after putting that question on the census, as they have been trying for not only through the last several weeks, where you have seen all of this shifting around, but, really, this is something that president has wanted to do for a while. They are going to be trying to go a different route.

Now, they still want to be able to find out the information about how many undocumented immigrants there are living in the country. But they seem to realize that putting that question on the census just wasn't a legitimate path forward.

So now they're going to take this kind of executive action to try to use the government and through other means to find out what that number is, instead of adding a new question to the census, something that Democrats and critics of the president and even some courts said he just didn't have the authority to do.

TAPPER: And , Kaitlan, how exactly did we end up here, to abandon adding this question to the census entirely?

COLLINS: Well, Jake, this has been a battle to begin with.

We saw where the Supreme Court said their first defense for adding this was contrived, essentially telling them to do better. And then the courts were surprised when the administration said they were actually going to drop the effort altogether.

Then, just a few hours later, the president contradicted that and said, no, we're going to move forward. And in recent days, they have been expressing skep -- or, actually, positivity, saying that they did feel like they could move forward with this, with the attorney general, Bill Barr, saying that there were multiple paths they could take. But, clearly, Jake, none of those paths were sustainable. And that's

now what we're going to see the president announce here soon, a new path.

What's interesting about all of this is career officials from the beginning recommended this, trying to find out how many undocumented immigrants lived in the country through other means, whether it's Social Security, the IRS, all of these other methods they could use, instead of going down this path of adding the question to the census.

And now it seems to me that is the route they're going to take after all of this and this fight over the last few days.

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins at the White House for us.

Let's let's chew over all this.

Keith Boykin, let me start with you.

Earlier today, a lot of people thought President Trump was going to try to insert this question through executive action. And there were many commentators saying this was going to prompt a serious legitimate constitutional crisis.

Are you surprised that the president seems to be backing off that plan?

KEITH BOYKIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I am surprised and I don't believe it. And I won't believe it until I see it actually.

This was going to be a constitutional crisis because the president would be acting in direct defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court decision just two weeks ago. The idea that the president United States by executive order could go around, circumvent what the Supreme Court, the highest judiciary body of our land, has to say is an outrageous statement of affairs of where we are in our country right now.

And I just can't imagine that even his advisers would allow him to go forward with this. It looks like he's backing down. And if it is, I think that's finally a recognition that he's realizing that he is bound by the law like every other president.

TAPPER: What do you think? Are you surprised?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the checks and balances are working. And we should all be sort of relieved.

[16:05:02]

Whatever side of the issue you're on, whether you think that the census is the right place for this kind of question, or if you think this question is not the right one to ask at all, the checks and balances are working.

The Supreme Court made a ruling. The president, whatever, you know, by the grace of God realized, I'm not going to continue pursuing this. That's ultimately a good thing. And we have to keep reminding

ourselves to have faith in these institutions, despite Trump trying to test the fences constantly for weaknesses. Our institutions are stronger than he is.

TAPPER: Elie, are there any legal concerns if the president asks the Commerce Department to try to find out an answer to this question, to survey the American people -- or I shouldn't say the American people -- to survey the population in the country through other means?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: There could be.

And it depends what those other means are. There's no inherent problem or illegality with counting the number of citizens in this country. The problem that the administration ran into was their reasons and their method for doing it. The problem with putting this question on the census was that it was going intimidate non-citizens and people who live with them, leading to this undercount, which I think the Supreme Court strongly suggested was the true motive, leading to less congressional representation, less funding.

So how are they going to go about it now? If they're going to count through unobtrusive means, a means where you're not going to end up with an undercount with this intimidation factor, they should be OK to do it.

But if they're going to be doing it some other way that intimidates non-citizens and leads to an undercount, then we could end up right back in court.

TAPPER: And, Ana, I have to say, I mean, the fight over who is a citizen, who is not a citizen, whether it's through the census or through some other means, it's right in the president's wheelhouse in terms of like how he gets his base, issues that he thinks help him.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely.

Look, I think he thinks that helped him. I think he thinks making immigrants the boogey monster helped him win in 2016. We saw him again rev up the issue in the 2018 elections. He thinks it works. He's going back to his old playbook.

We see -- look, as we talk right now, there's kids in cages at the border. There is the entire census question thing going on. There's the announcement of mass deportations this weekend. He is going to fan the flames and provoke hate and division and fear through immigration over and over and over again between now and the elections.

Just take a deep breath, America, because it's not going to be pretty.

TAPPER: I do have to say, though, S.E., President Trump was critical of President Obama and how often he used executive orders and executive actions, the old pen and the phone, and yet he has already surpassed Obama in terms of executive orders and actions. And it's only July. CUPP: Same for boycotts.

I mean, you can find a whole long list of hypocrisy is in Trump's biography, in Trump's rhetoric. I am not surprised he has been so taken with executive actions. He seems envious of countries where they don't have to mess around with problems like Congress and these checks and balances like the law and constitutions, things he really doesn't have a lot of affection for.

So this is -- executive action is completely in his wheelhouse. And do as I say, not as I do, is very so often Trump's sort of byline.

TAPPER: All right, thanks. Everyone, stick around.

We got more to talk about, because thousands of undocumented immigrant families could soon be hauled off and deported from 10 major cities.

The mayor of one of those cities, a Republican, will join us next.

And then President Trump's one-sided summit, several questionable characters at the White House right now, looking to solve a perceived problem without the people who can actually solve the problem.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:12:42]

TAPPER: The national lead now.

We now know the 10 cities President Trump plans to target in ICE deportation raids set for this weekend starting Sunday. Agents from ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, will focus on Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, and San Francisco, arresting, they say, some 2,000 undocumented immigrants, many of them families who already have court orders instructing them to leave the country.

"The New York Times" was first to report that the roundups are expected to start on Sunday.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher is live in Atlanta, one of those 10 cities targeted.

And, Dianne, you have been talking to undocumented people in one specific Latin American community there. What are they telling you?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Jake, I will tell you the president's message, or in the way some are receiving it a threat, have definitely been received.

But their responses to it were pretty varied.

We're at a Latin mercado here, hundreds of families coming, bringing their children to shop and play and work. And they definitely know about this raid. It's spread throughout the community. I talked to one mother, though. She's been in the U.S. for 15 years. She's from Mexico. Her three children are U.S. citizens. Her husband has a work permit.

She said she has never been so afraid in the 15 years that she has been here, so much so that, for her job at a hotel, Jake, she's taking a taxi, instead of driving her car, just in case she got pulled over for something or somebody hit her, so she wouldn't become collateral damage.

She said that new immigrants have moved into her community. So, even though she doesn't have a deportation order, she is afraid that perhaps ICE would round her up as well, and has talked about a plan with her oldest son, what they need to do if something like this happens.

However, I was in a nail salon. One woman said: "I think it's just a scare tactic. The president threatened to do this last month. He didn't do anything. It's like the boy who cried wolf."

TAPPER: All right, Dianne Gallagher, thank you so much.

Joining me now is mayor of one of the 10 cities where the raids are planned, Mayor Francis Suarez of Miami.

Thanks so much for joining us, Mr. Mayor.

You're the mayor of a city that is nearly 70 percent Hispanic. What is your message to the people of Miami who are worried?

FRANCIS SUAREZ (R), MAYOR OF MIAMI, FLORIDA: Well, my message is, you shouldn't be worried.

The city of Miami is not coming after you.

[16:15:00]

You know, obviously, those who are violent criminals, who potentially are not in this country legally, certainly, we don't want those people in our city. But aside from that, you know, we as a city, are a city of immigrants. So we embrace the fact that we have a tremendous amount of aside from that, you know, we as a city, are a city of aside from that, you know, we as a city, are a city of immigrants. So we embrace the fact that we have a tremendous amount of diversity in our city.

And I'm obviously the product of two Cuban exiles. My dad came when he was 12 years old and my mother came when she was 5. I'm the first Miami-born mayor. My father was the first Cuban-born mayor.

So, you know, what we would say is you have nothing to fear from the city of Miami, that's for sure.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Is your understanding that the ICE raids expected to start this weekend are targeting violent people who are in this country illegally? Or that they are targeting families and others who have been ordered to leave the country and have not honored those orders?

SUAREZ: Frankly, Jake, we don't know, because the federal government hasn't communicated with our government. They haven't told us what the parameters are. They haven't asked us to support what they're doing or given us any information on who they're targeting, how they're targeting them.

So, frankly, we're in the dark. I don't know how whatever the crisis is in the southern border relates to the city of Miami. And the city of Miami, the immigration issues really relate more to countries like Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Haiti, many of which are seeking extensions of TPS status, having fled those countries.

TAPPER: Well, let me ask you a question, with all due respect, if the federal government hasn't communicated with you who they're targeting this weekend, how can you tell people in Miami that they have nothing to worry about, unless they're violent criminals? Because it sounds like --

SUAREZ: Yes.

TAPPER: -- I mean, what we are hearing is who's going to be targeted might be families, people who have been -- people who are not in the country legally, and they have been told they need to leaf, but are not necessarily violent criminals, not necessarily causing any harm to the communities. But if you're not sure, why should people not worry?

SUAREZ: Well, first, they have nothing to worry from the city of Miami.

TAPPER: From the city of Miami, OK.

SUAREZ: We are not -- yes, we are not -- we're not participating in any raids. We haven't asked to participate in any raids. And certainly, we are obviously a pro-immigrant city.

TAPPER: But shouldn't they worry about ICE, is what I'm saying? Might they not worry about ICE agents?

SUAREZ: You know, I think certain people who live in fear and we're, you know, a city where we do have a high immigrant position. So they maybe afraid of what would be happening this Sunday. You know, last time that there was going to be supposed raids that were canceled at the last minute. And frankly, the federal government hasn't given us any information, so we don't know how to inform anyone of what's going to happen.

So, those who are in fear, I can understand their fear. I can understand why they would be afraid. But frankly, we don't have any information, you know, to allay their fears or to -- my -- as mayor, what I hope is, that the people that they're focused on are people that are very dangerous, because those people obviously shouldn't be in our community to begin with. TAPPER: Well, I don't think anybody would have any problem with that,

but the concern is they're focusing on -- they're focusing on families. Let me ask you for people who don't know --

SUAREZ: That's not the case.

TAPPER: Yes, for people who don't know, you're a Republican.

SUAREZ: Yes.

TAPPER: Do you support President Trump in enacting this policy?

SUAREZ: Look, I'm a Republican, but I'm also an immigrant. I think in this country, so many of us came to this country seeking the American dream and to me, wanting to be an American is not a Republican or a Democratic issue. Those who come to this country, seeking freedom, seeking liberty, want to be tax-paying productive members of our society should be Americans.

I don't understand why it's even a difficult issue, frankly, at the national level. I understand it becomes very partisan and there's a -- you know, there's a tremendous amount of partisan rhetoric around this issue. But as a mayor, this is a very simple issue for us.

TAPPER: All right. Mayor Francis Suarez of Miami, thank you so much for your time, sir. We appreciate it.

SUAREZ: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Breaking news: we're now hearing what President Trump thought of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta's attempt to save his job yesterday.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:23:55] TAPPER: Breaking news. Sources are telling CNN that President Trump is questioning whether Labor Secretary Alex Acosta did enough to keep his job in that press conference yesterday. Acosta has been under intense scrutiny for his role in that 2008 plea deal for Jeffrey Epstein, who's now been charged with trafficking minors.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is back with me.

Kaitlan, what are you learning about the president's thinking?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the president has been completely silent publicly on how Alex Acosta did during that press conference. But now, we are being told that while initially he was pretty favorable with how he performed and how he defended himself, he has since become skeptical and is now quizzing people about whether they think his answers were sufficient to essentially make this controversy go away.

Now, it's not that the president has concerns necessarily about his role in the plea deal, but he's instead worried about this being something that is just following his administration, essentially looming over the White House, and now that is raising some concerns, since he's been quizzing people about how Alex Acosta did, about how long Alex Acosta could potentially last in this administration.

The president has been voicing confidence, we're told, from the people he's been speaking about with this and that is raising questions inside the West Wing about what is going to be next for the labor secretary.

[16:25:06] TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins at the White House with the latest, thank you so much.

In the national lead today, anxiety is high in cities nationwide with the president's deportation raid set to begin on Sunday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I put myself at risk to help my family in Guatemala and to get food for myself. Now, we're being very cautious. We're staying at home with the doors locked. Some of them are not working right now. They're afraid to go out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: And there are thousands with similar worries.

Phil Bump, you're joining us now. Let me ask you, do you think there is any chance that president Trump has ordered these ICE raids that he called off a few weeks ago in order to distract from the Epstein story, from the pending testimony of Robert Mueller? I mean, do you think that of the defeats he's had in terms of the census. I mean, a lot of his critics say that he does this to distract?

PHILIP BUMP, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, it's always hard to anticipate what Trump is doing, what his motivation is for anything at any point in time. I think that's probably less likely here, simply because on the campaign trail, he spent a lot of time talking about how I'm going to get all of those folks out of this country. You know, he claimed to be focusing primarily on people who had criminal backgrounds, but it was pretty clear given his rhetoric.

I mean, he cited this operation by Dwight Eisenhower in 1954 as an example of the thing that he wanted to do, which is this massive raid and deportation of folks. So, it seems clear, this is something he's wanted to do for quite some time. Quite frankly, I'm more surprised it's taken him this long to try to enact it.

TAPPER: Ana, you heard the mayor of Miami who didn't seem to know who was going to be targeted in these ICE raids. He said, the city of Miami, nobody has anything to fear from the city of Miami, which wasn't really the question. And he hopes it's just violent people.

Of course, I don't think anyone here has a problem with violent people who are not in this country illegally, but -- who are not in this country legally. But we're hearing that it might just be families. People who have been told they need to leave and haven't left.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it is outrageous that they are planning this for, what, three days from now and the city, the mayor of the city of Miami, one of the cities targeted, knows nothing. You know, does not have the information.

I mean, I would hope that Marco Rubio, that Francis Suarez, that Ron DeSantis, that the governor of Florida, are knocking down the doors to the White House trying to get some information because it is irresponsible. As Francis Suarez, the mayor, said, in Miami, you've got an enormous amount of Venezuelans right now who are fleeing the murderous, thuggish government of Maduro, somebody that Trump has spent a lot of time and resources targeting to try to get rid of because he is a murderer, because he is killing and starving Venezuelans.

Are we going to deport those people back to Venezuela? Is that the kind of America, is that the kind of people that we are? Is that the message we are sending the hemisphere and the world?

And just think about, you know, these are people who have homes, who are in schools, who have jobs, who do things that often Americans don't want to do. And some of them are doing great things. Some of them are professionals.

Are those the folks that we're targeting? They are mothers and they are fathers, or they are grandparents.

Do we need comprehensive immigration reform? Do we need to enforce the law? Absolutely.

But should we be doing this in this mean-spirited, disorganized way where even the mayors of the city don't know anything just to send a political message, that's disgusting and hateful.

TAPPER: And, S.E., as you know, it's not just undocumented immigrants who worry, so do people who live in their communities. They're also on edge.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right.

TAPPER: Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE CARDENAS, ALDERMAN IN CHICAGO: They slow us down wherever a potential raid is occurring or about to occur. It's in the public domain, so people hear about it through rumors, and they stop coming. So, it is affecting -- it affects your quality of life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Even the threat of raids could have a long-term ripple effect and again, the communication from the federal government to the city seems to be nonexistent. CUPP: That's because this isn't designed to solve a problem, right?

Rounding up 2,000 people amidst 11 million immigrants who are here illegally is not solving any kind of problem. It's designed to send a message.

And it's not designed to send a message to these people, the people who are feeling it the most, who are living in fear. It's designed to send a message to his supporters. To say, I'm on top of this, I'm strong, I've given Democrats and Republicans opportunities to come to the table. I'm doing something about this.

It's just for his fans, which makes it so much more odious and despicable that this is really part of a campaign platform. It has nothing to do with solving immigration.

Let me just say, on the other side, this issue has stymied Republicans and Democrats who at one time or another had full control of Congress. Obama had full control of Congress, did not do meaningful immigration reform. Trump had full control of Congress, did not build a wall, did not do meaningful immigration reform.

And the dirty secret is that this issue is so politically profitable, broken, solving it is almost getting rid of the incentive for Republicans, Democrats, to run on immigration, to fundraise on it. It's disgusting, the lack of leadership, politically, on this issue.

[16:30:00]