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Hurricane Watch in Effect as Flash Floods Hit New Orleans; NYT: ICE Raids on Undocumented Families Set to Begin Sunday; Acosta Defends Role in Secret Plea Deal for Epstein; Four Dem Progressives Struggle as Pelosi Isolates Them. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired July 11, 2019 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Walloped by wet weather. The worst is yet to come.

[05:59:25] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The Gulf Coast bracing for a hurricane.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have formally declared a state of emergency. We will be affected, and we must be prepared.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to get ahold of sand and the sand bags out.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They came in illegally, and we're bringing them out legally.

ROMANS: "The New York Times" reporting nationwide raids targeting undocumented immigrants will begin Sunday.

KEN CUCCINELLI, ACTING DIRECTOR OF CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES: They are absolutely going to happen. There's approximately a million people in this country with removal orders.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Thursday, July 11, 6 a.m. here in New York.

The New York weather looks beautiful, but Louisiana is under a state of emergency this morning. Hurricane watches just went into effect, with the first tropical system to hit the United States this year. It is expected to make landfall as a hurricane this weekend.

Now, those hurricane watches extend from just shy of the Texas border to the mouth of the Mississippi River. Tropical storm watches extend to the north of that.

The system is already doing damage. I mean, look what it's doing. This is a play House --


CAMEROTA: Was -- in Weatherford, Texas. And heavy flooding already hitting New Orleans, as well. Parts of Bourbon Street are under water. Hundreds of floodgates have been closed.

BERMAN: We also have breaking news overnight. Immigration raids coming Sunday. That is according to "The New York Times." Thousands of undocumented migrants and their families will be targeted in at least ten cities, and "The Times" reports that authorities might detain immigrants who happen to be on the scene, even if they were not the targets of the raids.

And there are new details in this report about what happens to children, babies detained with their parents. We'll bring you those new details shortly.

But first, the severe weather threat in Louisiana. Natasha Chen live in New Orleans. There's been so much rain already, Natasha.


Yesterday, people here saw intense amounts of rain during their morning commute. It caused a flash flood emergency mid-morning, in addition to a tornado warning yesterday.

Luckily, throughout the day, it dried out. And as you can see this morning, right now it is relatively dry. We are expecting, though, much worse as we head into Saturday.

And as people prepare for that, the Flood Protection Authority here, according to local reports, is closing more than 200 out of a total of 250 floodgates. They've started to do that already and even by the end of today, by 5 p.m. Eastern, the floodgate here at the port of New Orleans where we're standing is going to close.

They've also been in the process of closing pedestrian gates at Spanish Plaza, at the River Walk, at the Hilton Hotel. These are places that tourists love to come to. And we've even seen a bunch of people here for a sorority reunion, a big one. And lots of people we saw on the plane yesterday said they wanted to stick it out. But some we've already seen started to leave for the airport just to avoid the entire thing.

City hall was closed yesterday, will continue to be closed today. John and Alisyn, we are definitely going to be tracking how this goes as there is a state of emergency in the city of New Orleans, as well as the state of Louisiana.

BERMAN: All right, Natasha. Stand by for us in New Orleans. Again, we're watching this very closely.

We just got an update from the hurricane center. So let's go to our meteorologist, Chad Myers, for the latest on that -- Chad. CHAD MYERS, CNN AMS METEOROLOGIST: John, the good news is overnight

we didn't get much development. Now only a 30 mile-per-hour event right now. Can't even call it the name Barry yet. And that's the great news.

It may get stronger. That's the forecast. All the way to a hurricane, a Category 1, about a 75 mile-per-hour storm, Saturday night and maybe even into the afternoon hours by the time it would get the major effect for New Orleans.

But this is the storm that still has a lot of time in the water. We talk about that a lot. This water is 88 degrees where this storm is now. It will get its circulation together. And if it does, it will get big quickly.

We're watching the models, and we're just watching how much rainfall is coming in.

You know what? People can deal with the 75-mile-per-hour wind gusts or something like that, but you cannot deal with 10 or 20 inches of rain. And that's still what the forecast calls for. The American model and the European model both calling for that.

Now, the European model on the west side of Louisiana; the American model right over New Orleans. We'll watch to see what happens. Still have a few more days in the water. We'll see this. This could be still something big.

CAMEROTA: OK, Chad. We will check in with you throughout the program.

Also breaking overnight, "The New York Times" is reporting that nationwide ICE raids on undocumented immigrants living here in the U.S. will start this Sunday.

Let's get right to CNN's Nick Valencia. He is on the border of El Paso, Texas. What do we know about this, Nick?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, you remember the raids that were expected to happen back in June in ten major U.S. cities that were later called off in an unprecedented announcement by President Trump. Well, those raids are back on.

This according to "The New York Times," who spoke to two current Department of Homeland Security officials, as well as one former official. They say the raids are expected to happen on Sunday and last several days.

The target of these raids will be at least 2,000 undocumented immigrants with current removal orders. But how these raids might be different is they will also, according to "The Times," include collateral arrest. Meaning, even if an undocumented immigrant is not the target of a raid but happens to be on the scene of one, they, too, may be detained by ICE officials.

Now, U.S. customs -- U.S. citizenship and immigration services acting director was asked about this. Here's what Ken Cuccinelli had to say.


CUCCINELLI: They're absolutely going to happen. There's approximately a million people in this country with removal orders. And of course, that isn't what ICE will go after in this, but -- but that's the pool of people who have been all the way through the due process chain.


VALENCIA: According to "The New York Times," the Trump administration's goal in these raids is to send a -- send a strong message to those who are thinking about crossing the southern border illegally -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Much more on this in a second. Nick Valencia in El Paso. Thank you very much.

In the meantime, we do have new reporting this morning on the fate of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta. Is his job more secure this morning after he offered no regrets, no apologies in defending his role in a secret plea deal for sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein? Acosta claims he got the best agreement possible when he helped prosecute the well- connected millionaire a decade ago.

Joe Johns is at the White House.

Joe, the labor secretary gave a news conference, seemed targeted at an audience of one. So did the president like it?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It sure did. At some point, Acosta seemed to be speaking straight to the camera, John.

And look, the White House did want Alex Acosta to go out and face the cameras, face the public, make the case for that plea deal he struck with Jeffrey Epstein more than a decade ago. And it seems clear that the president was not inclined to show him the door based on that, but there's still a lot of pushback now about how that went down and his version of events, compared to what some other people are saying.


ALEXANDER ACOSTA, U.S. LABOR SECRETARY: Facts are important, and facts are being overlooked. These cases are complex. Especially when they involve children.

JOHNS (voice-over): Embattled Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta defending a controversial plea deal he oversaw in 2008 that allowed multi-millionaire Jeffrey Epstein to avoid federal sex crime charges allegedly involving dozens of underage girls. Amid growing calls to resign, Acosta maintaining Wednesday he secured the best deal he could in the prosecution of the hedge fund manager. The former U.S. attorney putting the blame on the then-state attorney.

ACOSTA: The Palm Beach State Attorney's Office was ready to let Epstein walk free: no jail time, nothing. We did what we did, because we wanted to see Epstein go to jail. He needed to go to jail.

JOHNS: The former state attorney blasting those comments, arguing Acosta pushed for the lenient deal: "Mr. Acosta brokered a secret plea deal that resulted in a non-prosecution agreement in violation of the Crime Victim's Rights Act. Mr. Acosta should not be allowed to rewrite history."

Acosta not apologizing for the deal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Standing here today, are you basically saying that you feel that you did everything you could? You got the best deal you could get, and you have no regrets?

ACOSTA: We believe that we proceeded appropriately.

JOHNS: Adding he believes there was insufficient evidence in this case, despite a federal investigation identifying 36 underage victims and his deal effectively halting a grand jury investigation.

JULIE BROWN, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, "THE MIAMI HERALD": Even if he felt that this was a little shaky and he couldn't get a conviction, he should have followed what his FBI wanted, which they wanted; they were already finding evidence that this went beyond Palm Beach.

JOHNS: Acosta's statement comes after sources say President Trump ordered him to explain himself publicly. Officials say Trump was pleased with Acosta's performance and remained supportive. Another source saying the White House is prepared to fight the controversy.

Democrats continuing to push for Acosta's resignation.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): He should resign, and the president should ask him to step down.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Nothing in Secretary Acosta's attempt to justify his misconduct changes the verdict. He must go.


JOHNS: Just to be clear, no Republicans are calling for Alex Acosta's resignation. As a matter of fact, they're saying that they need to wait until the Department of Justice investigation is completed, but Democrats on the House side are not trying to wait. The chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Elijah Cummings, wants Acosta to testify this month.

John, Alisyn, back to you.

CAMEROTA: We will see if something happens today. Joe, thank you very much.

Joining us now to talk about all of this, we have Alex Burns, national political correspondent for "The New York Times"; Raul Reyes, attorney and CNN opinion columnist; and Catherine Rampell, "Washington Post" opinion columnist and CNN political commentator. Great to have you all with us here in studio. So Alex, this -- the roundups that we will see of undocumented people

who were already living here in the U.S., the president had threatened that -- has threatened it for weeks. But nobody knew if it was an idle threat or if it was really going to happen. Nobody could sort of imagine what it would look like, if it were to happen. But now it's "The New York Times" reporting, as you know, that it is going to start this weekend.

[06:10:02] ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we're not going to have to imagine anymore. That what my colleagues are reporting is it will start to happen this weekend, and it really will be a test -- it will be a test of a couple things.

It will be a test of the Trump administration's ability, on just a level of sort of competence and coordination and legal responsibility, to carry out its stated and desired policies. It will be a test of whether Democrats are able to push back and scrutinize their behavior -- behavior of the administration effectively.

And it will be a test of the country. One of the big criticisms of the idea of mass deportation for years has been the country would not stand for it. That, you know, when people see images of families being sort of rounded up together, that it just would be untenable for an administration. We're going to find out if that's true.

BERMAN: Some details in this report: it's going to initially target some 2,000 migrants and their families. It is going to focus on at least ten cities. These people will be brought to detention centers in Pennsylvania and, I believe, Texas. Two states.

CAMEROTA: The Texas one is concerning, since we've all seen with our own eyes and heard for months now that they're overcrowded and can't take any more people.

BERMAN: And -- and there's a quote inside the story in "The New York Times" today: "Agents have expressed apprehensions about arresting babies and young children, officials have said."

Raul, do you think they have their ducks in a row here for these raids?

RAUL REYES, CNN OPINION COLUMNIST: You know, based on -- on the Trump administration's competence so far in conducting these large operations that involve a lot of logistics, no. And I think they're taking a real risk here.

Because one of the things that sets this administration apart from the Obama administration in terms of immigration enforcement is the Trump administration conducts what they call collateral arrests. Basically, they may have someone who they're looking for who has the final order of deportation.

But if they go to an address, they'll arrest everyone in that house who they think is undocumented. No. 1, that opens the door for racial profiling of Latinos who may not have the documents with them. But No. 2, we have in this country about 4 million kids who are

citizens with a parent who is undocumented. We have 5 million kids, U.S. citizens, again, who live with someone who is undocumented.

So this raises the possibility of a new round of family separations. And given what we've seen over the last few weeks about the horrendous conditions in detention in these facilities, even in Health and Human Services custody, who in this country feels comfortable turning over these children to the government -- the government's care when sometimes they can't even find them later?

So it's a very -- I think it's a risky strategy for the Trump administration that way. And especially given that right now, about 60 percent of Americans favor giving the undocumented some legal status or path to citizenship or some way to adjust their status and stay.

CAMEROTA: See, I think what the Trump administration will say is that these are all folks that they're targeting with deportation orders already. So this is not what's happening at the border, where somebody shows up for asylum and they get put in a cage and separated from their children. This is -- these are people who have been adjudicated.

And so what the Trump administration, Catherine, will say is that you must have law and order. And if you have been adjudicated to be here unlawfully, you must leave. And I think that that's something that does resonate with voters and voters certainly understand.

But of course, the devil's in the details, as we've all seen, because they haven't done this in any way that has seemed streamlined or often humane.

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, and if you look at the -- the data on who's being detained, the most serious criminals, detentions of the most serious criminals has actually fallen under this administration. Detention of people who have either much lesser crimes or have no crime at all other than unlawful status, their numbers have shot up.

So you know, for all of the talk of law and order and getting the "bad hombres" out and all of that, they're being very indiscriminate, and they're just creating a climate of fear. And I would point out, it's not only these very visible raids that we should expect to, presumably, happen soon.

There's been a lot of other stuff happening sort of under the radar that is also contributing to this climate of fear and animus towards immigrants, including an ongoing rule that Ken Cuccinelli suggested is going to be finalized quite soon called public charge, that basically says if you or anyone in your family uses some sort of services, whether that's health services, maybe for your kid, even, who's a U.S. citizen. There's a little bit of unclarity about what that means. That you can lose access to a green card. You can be kicked out. Again, people who are here lawfully. So there's been a lot of intimidation of this population to keep them

from doing the kinds of things that they need to do to keep their families safe.

BERMAN: Very quickly. Hang on --

REYES: The question of the resources here, the government is saying they're going to do these mass raids of non-violent people. And meanwhile, they -- on the other hand, they're saying they don't have money to provide soap and toothbrushes and blankets to children in detention?

BERMAN: Anything political about this? Would it be naive, Alexa, to say, "Hey, we're a week and a half before a Democratic debate. Hey, the president wants to play to his base here with these visible raids"?

BURNS: I don't think it's ever naive to suggest that the president might be leaning into the immigrant issue for political reasons. It's one of the reasons why, when we sort of look at the large shape of the 2020 election and people within the Republican Party, within the media sort of keep on pressuring the president to talk about the economy, talk about the economy, talk about the economy. He doesn't want to talk about the economy.

He wants to talk about national identity, the security of America's borders, and his resolve to do things exactly like this. We're going to see what kind of reaction the country has to it as it plays out.

CAMEROTA: OK. So let's move onto Jeffrey Epstein. Because there's a lot happening with that and mostly of how he was prosecuted.

And so Alex Acosta was the top federal prosecutor in Miami at the time that Jeffrey Epstein was given this stunning plea deal. And, in his recollection, this was a -- this was the best he could get. This plea deal where he got 13 months and was able to leave for 6 days to go to work -- and didn't tell the victims about the plea deal -- was the best he could ever have gotten.

Well, the Palm Beach County attorney, former state attorney in Palm Beach, remembers it quite differently. And we want to read his entire statement for you. It's long, but it is really telling about how he remembers what happened with Jeffrey Epstein.

So I will begin.


CAMEROTA: When I tire out, you'll pick it up.

All right. Here is what Krischer says: "As the state attorney for Palm Beach County for 16 years (1993-2009), which included the entire period of the Epstein investigation, I can emphatically state that Mr. Acosta's recollection of this matter is completely wrong. Federal prosecutors do not take a back seat to state prosecutors. That's not how the system works in the real world. The State Attorney's Office took the Palm Beach Police Department's investigation to a grand jury and subpoenaed witnesses. The grand jury heard all the evidence that was available at the time (which did not include later evidence that emerged from civil depositions) and returned a single count indictment of felony solicitation of prostitution, a third-degree felony."

BERMAN: "Subsequently, the U.S. Attorney's Office produced a 53-page indictment that was abandoned after secret negotiations between Mr. Epstein's lawyers and Mr. Acosta. The State Attorney's Office was not a party to those meetings or negotiations and definitely had no part in the federal non-prosecution agreement and the unusual confidentiality arrangement that kept everything hidden from the victims. No matter how my office resolved the state charges, the U.S. Attorney's Office always had the ability to file its own federal charges. If Mr. Acosta was truly concerned with the state's case and felt he had to recuse on the -- or rescue the matter, he would have moved forward with the 53-page indictment that his own office drafted. Instead, Mr. Acosta brokered a secret plea deal that resulted in a non-prosecution agreement in violation of the Crime Victim's Right Act. Mr. Acosta should not be allowed to rewrite history."

So Raul, two things may be true here. It may be true that the state of Florida did a lousy job prosecuting this case or couldn't get their act together. However, does that absolve the federal government and Acosta from also making a lousy deal?

REYES: No, absolutely not. And anyone who has worked in a prosecutor's office or even as a -- say, a public defender would recognize that that doesn't make sense. Even if they were running a terrible case at the local level, he still could have kept it going. And he also could have cooperated with New York.

And when I watched that press conference yesterday, to me it was just all about justification. Not justice.

And the questions he could not answer that were, to me, the most significant were, No. 1, no matter how he explained this, why did it all have to be kept secret from the victims? Why did he not -- It was built into the agreement that they would not find out about it until after the fact.

And No. 2, why was it kept secret, as well, from the press? Why that deliberate lack of transparency?

CAMEROTA: Those are the really sketchy parts. Because obviously, rape cases are notoriously hard to prosecute. There could be reasons that they decided not to move forward, particularly if it involves 14- year-old girls. OK. Fine.

However, they didn't tell the victims about the plea deal. That's illegal.

RAMPELL: And there were dozens of them. I'd just like to point out, I'm from down there. So I know some of these players involved. And from what I understand, neither the state prosecutor nor the feds covered themselves in glory. They basically both let this guy off the hook; and now they're passing the buck when, in fact, no one was standing up for these victims.

And there were dozens of victims who came forward to police. If you look at news coverage from the time, you will see that the police deputy, I think, he was who was in charge of this case was screaming bloody murder, saying, "We found all of these people for you. They're coming forward." It's not just one 14-year-old girl, right? It's dozens of girls who were underage who were willing to come forward. They ended up -- many of them ended up in this 53-page indictment or whatever it was.

And yet, both the feds and the state let him off the hook.

And it's not just in Florida, by the way. You know, there was reporting yesterday about how he was supposed to check in with the judge in New York something like every 90 days; and the NYPD said, "No, you don't have to do that either."

So he has this weird stranglehold over law enforcement jurisdictions all over the place.

CAMEROTA: And that's what we need to get to the bottom of, frankly. We have the investigative reporter coming on with more about this, because why does he have that?

In other Florida news, the strip club golf tournament that was scheduled to take place at Doral, the Trump golf course, it has been canceled.


[06:20:01] BERMAN: Now, "The Washington Post" was the first to report this a couple days ago. We mentioned it yesterday. But now this event called off. This was the event where these strip club performers were going to --

CAMEROTA: Strippers is what you mean?


CAMEROTA: Strippers?

BERMAN: You know, I don't know what the terminology is.

CAMEROTA: I think the terminology is strippers.

BERMAN: I'll take your word for it. That's what the terminology is.

CAMEROTA: And they were going to be caddie girls for this.

BERMAN: Yes, yes.

CAMEROTA: For whoever paid money for this --


CAMEROTA: -- fundraiser. BERMAN: At the Trump-owned golf club.

CAMEROTA: And we were assured that there would not be nudity on the golf course itself.

BERMAN: On the golf course.


BERMAN: Right.

CAMEROTA: But during the afterparty, there would be. At the president's --

BERMAN: I don't know we were sure of that.

CAMEROTA: Oh, there could --

BERMAN: I think it was always a possibility.

CAMEROTA: They said, but there could be.

BERMAN: I know what you were sure of.

CAMEROTA: There could be at the end of the party.

BERMAN: All right, all right. OK, OK, OK.

CAMEROTA: At the president's club.

BERMAN: So it was a possibility.

All right. So now a statement from the Trump Organization: "The event was originally booked with the understanding that it would be raising money to support a local charity benefitting underprivileged children."

CAMEROTA: Well-played.

BERMAN: It was for the children.

CAMEROTA: Well-played.

BERMAN: "Now that the charity --



BERMAN: "The charity -- the charity involved here has removed its affiliation, the event will no longer be take place at our property and all amounts paid will be refunded."

Alex, do you want to weigh in here?

BURNS: I think we can all rest easier at night, knowing that that charity did the right thing, right?

CAMEROTA: I think --

BURNS: Look, there are bigger -- there are bigger issues here related to that property than sort of this one specific, you know --

BERMAN: Strip club gold tournament.

BURNS: -- strip club golf tournament, to use the technical term. Right? That the amount of money that moves through the president's properties through entities that are actually much more politically questionable and, in terms of government integrity, questionable than a strip club golf tournament is sort of where I think people are most focused, long-term. This one is sort of a good "news of the weird" Florida story.

CAMEROTA: Here's what I think is most noteworthy. Apparently, people can still feel shame. I didn't know that. And so after "The Washington Post" revealed it, and then we covered it yesterday morning, they canceled. When -- how often does that happen nowadays?

REYES: Right, right.

BERMAN: And what happens to the children who would have benefitted from the strip club golf tournament?


BERMAN: All right. Alex, Catherine, Raul, thank you for being with us.

Developing overnight, outright disrespectful. Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez and a group of progressive Democrats reacting to a closed-door meeting with Nancy Pelosi. This morning, they are plotting their response. The reporter who broke the story joins us, next.


[06:27:00] BERMAN: So new this morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pleading for unity within the Democratic caucus after weeks of infighting.

Police [SIC] told -- Pelosi told members behind closed doors, quote, "You got a complaint? You come and talk to me about it. But do not tweet about our members and expect us to think that that is just OK."

"The Washington Post" reports that four high-profile progressives who call themselves "The Squad," Representative Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Tlaib, and Pressley, believe the speaker is trying to isolate them.

Joining us now is Rachael Bade, congressional correspondent for "The Washington Post," part of the team that really broke this story.

So Rachael, tell us what's going on here.

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. No, it's interesting, because Pelosi spent all yesterday sort of warning progressives not to tweet at their moderate colleagues, not to call them out, saying it sort of undermines the majority.

But a lot of these -- well, these four women who call themselves "The Squad," as you mentioned, they feel like Pelosi is the one actually doing the bullying.

There was a story over the weekend where Pelosi told "The New York Times" that this group doesn't really have any power. She said they have their Twitter whatever following, but that they're not influencing any votes in the House.

And it's not the first time she has made a snide remark about The Squad, particularly AOC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

And so I came to the Hill on Tuesday and basically wanted to talk to these women about what is going on? What is up with your relationship with Pelosi. How do you feel about these comments? And you know, I talked to three of the four women, talked to a lot of congressional aides who work for them, or allies. And the sense I got was that they feel like she's trying to marginalize them.

They feel disrespected. And they're grappling with what to do about this, because they don't want to be in a war with Nancy Pelosi. But they also feel the comments that she is making, these sort of side jabs at them or their policies, are disrespectful. And they're -- they're in a pickle right now about what to do.

CAMEROTA: Rachael, I think the comments that you got from them, from the freshmen, are really interesting. I'll just read a couple. Here's from AOC.

She says, "When these comments first started," meaning Pelosi's, "I kind of thought that she was keeping the progressive flank at more of an arm's distance in order to protect the more moderate members, which I understood. But the persistent singling out, it got to a point where it was just outright disrespectful. The explicit singling out of newly-elected women of color."

OK. That went in a different direction. I mean, she's suggesting that Nancy Pelosi is singling them out, because they're women of color? Or why did she weave that in?

BADE: I mean, I think the optics of this are not great. And I think that that's what AOC was pointing out.

But a lot of these women, they talked about how, when they were elected, they brought a whole bunch of new voices to the table in terms of politics, people who were marginalized. People who are minorities and feel like their voices are not heard at the table.

Two of them are Muslim women. The first Muslim women elected to Congress.

And they feel that, you know, sort of in belittling what they stand for, that Pelosi is effectively belittling the people they represent. And that's what Ayanna Pressley sort of said to me.