Return to Transcripts main page
Trump Blasts Paul Ryan; ICE Raids Expected This Weekend; Secretary of Labor Resigns. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired July 12, 2019 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And, according to officials, initially, it sounded as though Acosta had stabilized things.
But as things were -- as time was going on later on in the week, my understanding is -- from talking to a senior White House official, is that the president started to stew over Acosta's fate, and wondering, along with other officials inside the White House, whether or not he was just going to be too much of a burden and a distraction.
And, Brooke, I will tell you, one of the considerations that was coming into play as they were thinking about this internally doing their deliberations was how this was going to play out in the 2020 election and having Acosta on, whether or not he was just going to continue to be damaged goods for the administration.
And I think that played a part in all of this. You heard the president say, well, we just did this, this morning, I talked to Alex Acosta this morning, and then we came out in front of the cameras, like the boardroom on "The Apprentice" or something like that.
But our understanding from talking to sources that is that some of this was falling apart yesterday, Brooke.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: What about Dan Coats? I know sources say he's looking to go back into retirement. But, again, as we mentioned, this isn't first time President Trump has thought about replacing him. So why is this coming up again?
And we have talked about Dan Coats before. The president and Dan Coats have clashed at times. Dan Coats has gone rogue in terms of giving his own assessment of things when it comes to the Russia investigation and so on. And that has irked the president from time to time. And he's grumbled about Dan Coats for a good while.
But from what we understand talking to our sources is that these discussions have picked back up again. I talked to a senior White House official earlier this morning, who said, listen, Dan Coats has been in this position for two-and-a-half years. He's thinking about retirement again. Whenever senior White House officials are talking about high-level positions in the federal government in this fashion, that means that these kinds of talks are under way. The question is whether or not the president can find somebody who would be palatable up on Capitol Hill.
Dan Coats is widely respected in Washington, as you know, Brooke, but, at the same time, as we have been discussing all day long, the president and Coats just do not see eye to eye when it comes to some of these matters like Russian meddling, or -- and how the federal government has responded to all of that.
You will recall, it was not that long ago that Dan Coats was issuing this warning to the public that the lights are blinking red inside the intelligence community about Russian interference. He's very concerned that the Russians are going to try this again.
And when you talk to the president, when you hear from the president, we press him on this from time to time, he just does not share the same level of concern, doesn't express it publicly, as Dan Coats does. So they have never really been on the same page.
And it sounds as though -- I talked to a source close to the president earlier this morning who said the president is just deeply frustrated with Dan Coats. So this may be coming down the pike soon, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Yes, that red light blinking line -- I remember we talked about this before -- that did not go well with President Trump.
Jim Acosta, keep your eyes and ears peeled on that for us, please, sir. Thank you very much.
And back to the labor secretary, Alex Acosta. Obviously, this is just the latest individual to join this growing list of Trump administration departures over the past two-and-a-half yours. You look at all these faces, and you kind of have to squint, there are so many on the screen.
I mean, as at the end of June, eight confirmed Cabinet officials have left office, and that doesn't include Acosta. All told, there are 260 vacant key leadership positions that include 61 at the State Department, 12 within Defense Department and 15 within Department of Justice.
Never mind the fact that key posts are still being filled only in the acting capacity, including acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper, DHS acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan, and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
President Trump has said having officials in the acting capacity gives him much more flexibility, is his word, makes it a lot easier to do things. But acting officials may have a lot less authority within their agency and a harder time enacting policies.
Daniel Dale is a CNN reporter. Michael Zeldin is a former federal prosecutor and a CNN legal analyst. And he was also a special assistant to Robert Mueller over at DOJ.
So, gentlemen, happy Friday. Thanks for being on with me.
And, Daniel, let me go to you first, because I just want to get your reaction. We just threw all those faces up on the screen, right, all these vacancies in the White House; 14 Cabinet-level officials have left since Trump took office. Your reaction?
DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: Well, it speaks to the nature of this president's personality, that, in his business career, in his personal life with his marriages even, there has been churn there.
He wants things done his way. He is hard to deal with in many cases, and people have trouble dealing with that. I think it also speaks to Trump's willingness to allow people to leave, so he can have the benefit of having acting officials.
He has said on numerous occasions he likes the flexibility that he gets without having people in there who have Senate confirmation. There are people who say that this is essentially a violation of the Constitution, of his duty to get people confirmed by the Senate.
He doesn't care. He likes it. And he's going to continue doing it.
BALDWIN: CNN has learned that one reason Acosta is leaving is because President Trump was concerned about more revelations going into the 2020 campaign. That's what Jim Acosta was also just reporting out, potential legal problems, Michael.
So, realistically, legally speaking, does Alex Acosta face any?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think so. I don't think there's any personal jeopardy that could attach to Acosta this many years later.
What really should happen, though, is that Attorney General Barr should be as public in his announcement about wanting to find out what happened here, why the U.S. attorney's office appears to have blinked in the face of the allegations against Epstein, so that we can make sure that this doesn't happen again.
Remember, Acosta came to the U.S. attorney's office position as a Bush appointee with really no prior criminal law experience. And that's really a prescription for failure in the U.S. attorney's office, when the chief doesn't really have the expertise to deal with what will come his way.
And that's what we see here.
BALDWIN: What about, Daniel, pivoting just to the Justice Department and Attorney General Bill Barr, who said this yesterday after the president announced he would not push to add that citizenship question to the census. Here he was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Thank you, Mr. President, and congratulations on today's executive order. I applaud the president for recognizing in his executive order that including a question the census is not the only way to obtain this vital information.
Congratulations, again, Mr. President, on taking this effective action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: So, Daniel, on that congratulations piece, you fact-check me. The president boasted about how he was going to fight to get that citizenship question the census. And now he's doing this total reversal. And you tell me why the A.G. is congratulating him.
DALE: He is.
Well, we -- I think he's congratulating him because he knows that, in this administration, you have to president every defeat, even the most obvious of defeats, as a victory. We saw this with the midterm election, for example, where Trump said, look, we won the Senate, we're actually the great champion here.
And so this is like -- to me, it's like having a boxer getting pummeled. He's lying on the mat. And then his corner man comes over and says, congratulations, you won, when he just got knocked out.
The option that Trump chose with this executive order was precisely the option that the Census Bureau presented to him before he launched into this fight. We have a memo that shows that, in early 2018, the Census Bureau told Wilbur Ross, the secretary of commerce, that they could get this information from government data without all the trouble of trying to put it on the census.
Ross rejected that option. Trump rejected that option. Now they have chosen that option, and Barr is congratulating Trump for belatedly choosing the option.
BALDWIN: And also on the congratulating, just staying with you, hearing Barr applauding the president, going around the Supreme Court ruling, isn't that startling? Because that doesn't sound very impartial.
DALE: Yes, I mean, I feel like it's not for me to say as a reporter how troubling it is. But that's certainly something we have heard from critics of the administration, that Attorney General Barr is not playing the neutral sort of arbiter of the law role that he's supposed to play, or that he's siding with the president, that he's executing the president's view, regardless of what the law says.
And this is more fodder for those critics.
BALDWIN: Michael, how about you answer that one?
ZELDIN: OK. So the attorney general did acknowledge that the Supreme Court has
prevented them from moving forward with the citizenship question, if the explanation for it is to enforce the Voting Rights Act, which has been the administration's position since April of 2018.
So he acknowledged that that argument won't be availing in the Supreme Court. He did, though, say, I think we could have had better arguments, if I were here, essentially, but I wasn't. And so what we're going to do is what the Census Bureau has always said from the beginning, is, you have all the data, go aggregate it and analyze it and use it as is legally appropriate.
So I don't think he was thumbing his nose at the Supreme Court. He really was sort of casting shade, as you say, on Wilbur Ross. But the thing that is important, I think, and, again, in the oversight hearings, the Commerce Department took the position which a court said was contemptible that this was to enforce the Voting Rights Act, and that the Justice Department had asked for that.
Barr has to find out, how did that happen? How is it that the Justice Department was used to create this phony argument for Voting Rights Act protection in order to get this citizenship question on the census, when they knew that the outcome of that was going to be suppression of the count of Hispanic votes?
That's what Barr should be focused on. How did that happen, and what can I do to prevent it?
BALDWIN: And, quickly, Michael, just on your former boss Robert Mueller, he was supposed to testify at that congressional hearing next Wednesday. Instead, we're hearing it may be delayed a week to allow for extended testimony on his Russia report.
As of now, he was supposed to do those back-to-back sessions, but that wouldn't allow all lawmakers to actually question him. What are your thoughts on that?
ZELDIN: Well, I think that one day for Robert Mueller and two committees was ill-considered from the outset.
ZELDIN: That Mueller really needs to be there for one full day at least before each committee. There's just too much stuff in these -- in his two-part report to go through.
I sent notes around this morning, here are the key conclusions from the report. That lasted 12 pages before I could get to the end of it. It is just too much stuff. You will never get what you want out of this in such a short, truncated hearing.
So I'm hopeful that they will actually do it the following week over a two-day period, so we can hear what Mueller has to say.
BALDWIN: OK, Michael Zeldin, Daniel Dale, gentlemen, thank you very much.
ZELDIN: Thanks, Brooke.
DALE: Thank you.
BALDWIN: Coming up next: The president confirms raids on undocumented immigrants are coming this weekend, leading some to skip work and go into hiding.
Plus, he hasn't been in office for months now, but former Speaker Paul Ryan is drawing the ire of President Trump today. We will tell you why.
And Tropical Storm Barry gaining strength and threatening to flood the Gulf. We are live in New Orleans, where people there are being asked to shelter in place this evening.
You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
BALDWIN: Today, the president confirmed the crackdown, sending many migrant families into fear and panic.
President Trump backed up reports that ICE will execute raids starting in two days in these major cities and others. An immigration official says agents will target undocumented immigrants with deportation orders.
And the president said, in that group, that criminals will be the focus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nothing to be secret about. If the word gets out, it gets out. It starts on Sunday. And they're going to take people out. And they're going to bring them back to their countries, or they're going to take criminals out, put them in prison, or put them in prison in the countries they came from.
We're focused on criminals as much as we can before we do anything else. So we are really specifically looking for bad players. But we're also looking for people that came into our country, not through a process. They just walked over a line. They have to leave.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Democrats and migrant advocates are putting all undocumented people on alert about their rights. They're giving them some advice.
And city officials have sounded the alarm about the distress gripping so many in their community.
Listen to the Houston police chief. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ART ACEVEDO, HOUSTON POLICE CHIEF: There's a lot of fear across our immigrant community. And we're not one of the most diverse. We're the most diverse city in the nation.
And so there's -- there's great fear and amongst our immigrant community as to what's going to happen. I have had children come up to me at forums, saying, what -- I'm afraid to go to school, afraid to leave the house. I'm afraid to come home and find that my parents are gone.
And these are American children, U.S.-born children. So it's creating havoc in our community.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Let's go to El Paso to my colleague Ed Lavandera.
And, Ed, you tell me what you have been seeing. Are people not showing up to work? Are kids staying indoors? What's the story there?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's going to be a real question that we see this weekend, exactly how undocumented immigrant communities across the country, and not just undocumented immigrant communities, but immigrant communities overall, how they're going to react to this.
We have heard anecdotally that people are preparing for this as if it were some sort of a hurricane storm approaching, gathering up on food and water and supplies, because they don't plan on leaving their homes for the next several days as they wait this out.
So just how far-reaching the effects of all this will be, but it's clear that the fear and the anxiety is cutting deep through many of these communities.
BALDWIN: You have done so much reporting on this very issue. You have a huge special specifically dedicated to immigrants and immigration. Tell me about it.
LAVANDERA: Well, it's called "The Hidden Workforce."
And we really take a look at exploring the lives of undocumented immigrants here in the United States. As you well know, the debate around immigration in this country has really reached kind of toxic levels. And it's really hard to have a serious discussion. It's much more complicated than the talking points you hear many pundits kind of shouting at each other over this issue.
It's an issue that is extremely complicated, that deserves a much more deeper and thoughtful approach. And we have an hour kind of exploring just how deeply embedded -- whether people like it or not, how deeply embedded undocumented immigrant communities are embedded into the fabric of American society. And part of that journey took us to Minnesota. You can see a little
bit of what we found there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAVANDERA: You have made St. Mary's a sanctuary church.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a week after the election of President Trump. You could feel the fear within the community.
LAVANDERA: And that hasn't changed?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. We have mental health issues. People are suffering from depression. We have a rise in alcoholism, drug addiction, abuse and domestic violence.
And it's all as a result of what's taking place within our country.
LAVANDERA: What do you say to those people who say, you know what, all these undocumented immigrants in places like Worthington, they need to round them up and get them out of here? What would that do to a place like Worthington?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If all the immigrants were to leave tomorrow, this town would die.
LAVANDERA: What percentage of these farms and these agricultural businesses around here, what percentage of undocumented work force do they depend on?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say probably 90 percent.
LAVANDERA: That's an astounding number.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAVANDERA: So, Brooke, I think if you watch news coverage of immigration issues over the last year so, people are used to seeing undocumented immigrants here on the border, where we are.
But we're really going to take you in this hour to places in other parts of the country where you're least likely to expect and kind of be overwhelmed and shocked by just how deeply embedded many of these people are in communities in the least likely of places -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: We will be tuning in.
Again, it is called "The Hidden Workforce." It airs tonight 10:00 eastern right here on CNN.
Ed Lavandera, thank you so much for your work on this. Coming up: The president unleashes on the former Speaker of the House
Paul Ryan after Ryan accuses him of not knowing a thing about government. But we're asking, where was Ryan's criticism when he was speaker?
And an unsettling warning from Trump's treasury secretary: The U.S. government is running out of cash a lot faster than expected. So what happens next?
BALDWIN: We continue to follow the breaking news. Yet another major shake up could be coming to the Trump administration. Sources are telling CNN that the president is considering replacing Dan Coats. He's director of national intelligence.
David Axelrod is a former senior adviser to President Obama and host of "THE AXE FILES" here on CNN.
And, David, we have spoken about this in the past. It's sort of somehow come back, right, the notion of his potential departure. What do you make of this and that just the revolving door that is this White House?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, this is not a bastion of job security. We know that. There's been tons of turnover.
And Dan Coats has been the subject of a lot of speculation for quite some time, in part because he's fulfilled his obligation to his oath and to be honest about what he sees and what he hears.
Now, there was a piece in "The Post" today I think that was recounting the anniversary of the whole calamitous week in which the president stood next to Putin and essentially -- in Helsinki -- and essentially threw the intelligence community under the bus and took Putin's word on the election meddling.
And that same week, Coats was in Aspen and was being interviewed, and was told that the president had invited Putin to Washington. And he was stunned because he hadn't heard that news. And he just said, "Well, that will be special."
BALDWIN: Blinking red lights.
AXELROD: And there was this huge -- yes, exactly.
BALDWIN: Yes. Yes.
AXELROD: And so -- and that -- I don't know whether the president read that this morning, and that kindled his fire again.
BALDWIN: Re-triggered? AXELROD: But he's been after this guy for a long time. So it
wouldn't be surprising if he removed him, because he doesn't think he's loyal to him first.
BALDWIN: I have got more for you. Let me set this next one up, because President Trump also unloaded today on the former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, the tongue-lashing in response to excerpts now coming out from this new book, where the former Wisconsin Republican takes a few parting shots at Trump.
This is an example of what set the president off.
Let me quote this for you. So in this new book -- it's called "American Carnage" by Tim Alberta -- Paul Ryan is quoted as saying this about Trump -- quote -- "I told myself I got to have a relationship with this guy to help him get his mind right, because I'm telling you, he didn't know anything about government. I wanted to scold him all the time" -- end quote.
Needless to say, the president not really loving the criticism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Paul Ryan was not a talent. He wasn't a leader. Paul Ryan was a lame-duck for a long time as speaker. He was unable to raise money. He lost control of the House.
The only success Paul Ryan had was the time that he was with me, because we got taxes cut. Frankly, he was a baby. He didn't know what the hell he was doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: So, David, obviously, we're not surprised how the president's reacting to this.
But my question to you really is, aside from Justin Amash, or maybe Mitt Romney, this once again follows this pattern of a Republican speaking up, right, criticizing this president either as they're on their way out of office or as they're already out of office, when they're finally speaking their mind.
AXELROD: Yes, this isn't exactly parting shots. This is parted shots.
And he obviously gave this interview because he wanted to unburden himself. They have had a very trying relationship from even before the president's election. You will remember during the 2016 campaign, at one point, Ryan suggested one of the comments of the president's was racist.
By the end of the campaign, after the "Access Hollywood" incident, he -- or disclosure -- he separated himself from Trump. And so they have not had a good relationship historically. But it's not surprising to see the president react this way. He's getting the same treatment the British ambassador and countless others have.
One thing we know for sure, that if you in any way insult the president, he will come back and insult you with a fury. And we see it again today. It's like...
BALDWIN: Unless you're a dictator.
AXELROD: Then you can get away with quite a bit.
Let's talk about you. Let's talk about "THE AXE FILES."
You sat down with South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Here's a clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AXELROD: I thought you did a fine job in those debates. But you didn't get the headline because you didn't throw the punch.
PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think people right now are looking for a president who is steady.
Now, I am a competitive person. This is a fierce contest. And I will be competitive with my Democratic competitors, just as I plan to be fiercely competitive with the president when the time comes to take him on.