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Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX) Discusses Trump's Racist Comments, Possible Impeachment Vote Today; Massive Backlog Creates Challenges in Immigration Courts; National Association of Immigration Judges President Ashley Tabaddor Calls the Backlog in Immigration Courts "Chaos"; Former Mexican Drug Lord "El Chapo" Sentenced to Life in Prison, Speaks in Court. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired July 17, 2019 - 11:30   ET



[11:34:15] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Soon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be facing reporters. One big question today, even though she has long resisted a rush to impeach the president, is she going to be forced to face it head on today.

Joining me is Democratic Congressman Marc Veasey, of Texas.

Congressman, thanks for being here.


BOLDUAN: Al Green, a fellow Texan, filing articles of impeachment. He says it's not about obstruction of justice. It's about racism. And he says he expects a vote in the House today. Is that going to happen?

VEASEY: It's unsure whether that's going to happen or not. I believe that, under House rules, of course, he can bring certain privileged motions to the House floor.

But what I'll tell you is that there's been lots of different presidents over the course of history that have been racists.

[11:35:05] I mean, you think about Dwight Eisenhower, literally, when he brought Chief Justice Warren to the White House during Brown versus Board of Education and told Justice Warren later in the evening that southerners were typically good people. They just didn't want their daughters to sit next to black bucks in the classroom. Racism in the White House is nothing new.

The question --


BOLDUAN: You say it's no reason to impeach the president?

VEASEY: I'm saying that it's not new. It's been around a long time. We had lots of racist presidents. I think that members of Congress want to know if this president

obstructed justice. And, of course, we're going to have Mueller here soon to answer those questions.

BOLDUAN: If this comes for a vote, will you vote for it?

VEASEY: If this comes for a vote, you know, obviously, I'm going to have to weigh all of my votes, like I do right before I get on to the House floor. I look at all the facts and make a decision and will do so at that time.


BOLDUAN: Pardon me, but I'm getting a sense from you that you don't think this is the right time to be voting on impeaching the president?

VEASEY: I don't think this is the right time to be voting on impeaching the president. We have a process. We want to make sure this is not seen as political. If it's seen as political, it will backfire and it's only going to favor President Trump, and we don't want that right now.

We need this guy out of office come January 20th, 2021. This does not need to be seen as a political process. We need to listen to what Mueller has to say next week and move forward from there.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, you're on the whip team. Will you be whipping against this since you don't think this is the right time?

VEASEY: I am on the whip team. So, again, I haven't gotten any instructions from our chief whip, our head whip, Jim Clyburn. As soon as I get instructions from his office on whatever we're working on, I'm going to be happy to whip for it, whether it's this or another piece of legislation that we're working on.

BOLDUAN: But are you still considering whether or not -- because look, if you're asked to vote on this, you're faced with a real question. You would be forced to be on the record on impeaching the president on the grounds of -- well, Al Green says, on the grounds of his racist remarks. Which side will you be on if you're faced with that?

VEASEY: You know, again, we'll see how -- you never know how something will be worded once it actually makes it to the House floor. I've not had an opportunity to read anything that Representative Green has put into writing. Of course, him being a fellow Texan, whatever he does submit, I know that he's taking it very seriously and that he's put a lot of thought into it. And I'll read it and I'll go through it and I'll make my decision when we come on to the House floor.

BOLDUAN: On the president's attack and the impact they are having, my colleague, Kandi Kaye, sat down with eight Republican women in Dallas. Dallas is part of your district.

VEASEY: Absolutely. BOLDUAN: They told her that they don't see anything wrong with what the president said about the four Democratic congresswomen. Let me play you some of this, please.


DENA MILLER, REPUBLICAN VOTER: He was saying that, if they hate America so much, because what we're seeing out of them and hearing out of them, they hate America, if it's so bad, there's a lot of places they can go.

SHARON BODEN (ph), REPUBLICAN VOTER: I'm a brown-skinned woman. I am a legal immigrant. I agree with him.


RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: You don't think that's racist?

BODEN (ph): Not at all.


KATHLEEN LIEBERMAN, REPUBLICAN VOTER: It's demonstration of how their ideology spills over. Even though they are American now, so to speak, they are not acting American.


BOLDUAN: Look, Congressman, I don't know if these are votes that are ever gettable for a Democrats in that group of Republican --


BOLDUAN: -- women sitting there but they are not being convinced by what Democrats are saying on this. What does that mean for Democrats heading into your re-election?

VEASEY: Oh, look, you know, I actually had an opportunity to watch that entire segment this morning. And I will tell you that that, first of all, didn't surprise me at all.

I mean, that's the story of me as a black person growing up in Fort Worth, Texas, not too far from Dallas, where those women live. Oftentimes -- people forget, I'm a Gen-Xer. I'm in my 40s. Gen-Xers, we were the first generation of kids to go K through 12 in the Dallas Independent School District and in the Fort Worth Independent School District, which I went through. We were the first kids to actually go through that school system completely integrated K through 12.

Oftentimes, in school, kids would use the "N"-word over and over again and say, oh, it's not that big of a deal, you're just overreacting, you're too sensitive, you call each other that all time anyway.

So the fact that those women are basically repeating what I heard in school is not that big of a surprise to me, first of all. That's actually pretty normal thought amongst a lot of white people in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.

I don't want to generalize everybody. But for a lot of people, that is -- you would hear that at any social setting.

[11:40:08] So, do we have a tough, a very tough battle to win back the White House? It's always tough to beat an incumbent.

But what I'll tell you, if you look at the 2018 election results, and I do look at how we're doing in some of these battle ground states right now that are going to be key to us getting those 270 electoral votes that I think we're going need in order to win back the White House, I think we'll have good candidate that's going to have a good unifying message to beat Donald Trump.

I can tell you, I know that CNN --


VEASEY: -- likes to focus on a lot of the things that activists and what have you are saying out there and things that you guys hear on Twitter, but if you come to Fort Worth, Texas, or Dallas or Irving, Texas, or other cities I represent in the 33rd congressional district, the average guy that's putting seats in a car at a General Motors plant in Arlington or a woman working in a cafe in the metroplex, they will tell you they want this guy gone.


VEASEY: And we have that working to our advantage and we'll make full use of it.

BOLDUAN: First and foremost, there's an opportunity to move that process along maybe today. Let's see what happens in the House, if the vote does happen with articles of impeachment.

Congressman, thank you for coming in.


BOLDUAN: Ahead for us, a border crisis of Trump's own making. New numbers show the backlog of migrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border has grown by almost 70 percent. I'm talking to an immigration judge who calls it chaos. That's next.


[11:45:13] BOLDUAN: Often lost in the fight over the immigration crisis are immigration courts. There's, right now, a huge backlog of cases in immigration courts. It's grown by 68 percent under President Trump, according to analysis from the Marshall Project and "Politico."

The number of days it takes to complete a case heads to a 10-year high. And courts are so jammed in cities like New York, L.A. and Houston, judges are now scheduling hearings into 2023.

Make no mistake, the fate of all of these migrants ultimately lies in the hands of an immigration judge.

Joining me right now is Judge Ashley Tabaddor. She is president of the National Association of Immigration Judges.

Judge, thanks for being here.

When I hear --



BOLDUAN: When I hear there's a backlog of some 870,000 cases, that sounds almost insurmountable. What are immigration judges facing? How big is this problem?

TABADDOR: The backlog is now over 900,000 cases. And we have about 420 judges across the country that are responsible for these cases.

Approximately 5 percent to 10 percent cases are individuals who are in detention. Maybe 100, 130 judges are responsible for those cases. And so their dockets consist of maybe several hundred cases at a time because we want to be very sensitive to the detention or the custody nature of the individuals. The other judges are handling cases of 4,000 or 5,000 per judge.


TABADDOR: And our judges are in court every day, morning and afternoon. It's not unusual sometimes for some of our judges to be scheduling or be told that they have to schedule anywhere from 50 to 80 cases in any session.

BOLDUAN: Is the backlog due to the sheer number of people crossing the border, where the focus is a lot, or it is something else, is it the system?

TABADDOR: I think what a lot of people don't appreciate is that when you use the word "immigration judge," "immigration court," there are certain assumptions about the use of the court or a judge, which is that a court must be independent of the prosecutor, of the parties that appear before it. We are not.

Immigration court is within the Justice Department. And we're all accountable as to our chief federal prosecutor, who is the U.S. attorney general.

And because of that, because of that structural flaw, most of what we're seeing today in terms of the backlog, in terms of the challenges and the compromise of the integrity of the court, are all due from that structural flaw.

BOLDUAN: That is something that is lost on a lot of people.

Really quickly, there's been some proposals that flooding the border, if you will, with more immigration judges, 500 some have suggested, would that fix the problem?

TABADDOR: You can't fix this problem by just throwing more judges and more money at it. We've seen the backlog grow in the last three years from over 600,000 to over 900,000, even though we have now increased the number of immigration judges by 180.

So until you actually fix that structural flaw, until you remove the Justice Department, remove the immigration courts from the Justice Department, and allow it to function as a court, allow the judges to be judges, you're not going to be able to fix this problem. All we're doing is just reshuffling the chairs on the deck.

BOLDUAN: Wow. This is a voice in perspective that's completely often lost and absent from this conversation.

Judge, thank you for being here. I really appreciate it.

TABADDOR: Thank you.

[11:48:39] Coming up next for us, notorious drug kingpin, El Chapo, has just sentenced to life in prison. We'll have a live report straight ahead.


[11:53:42] BOLDUAN: Closing the book and opening the door for prison for Joaquin Guzman, better known as El Chapo. The convicted drug trafficker brazenly and famously escaped two maximum security prisons in Mexico. And he is now facing life in prison that was just handed down today. He also did speak in court.

Let's go there. Jason Carroll is outside of the court watching all of this.

Jason, what did El Chapo say in court today?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a lot of people were wondering if he would say something at all. Remember, he did not testify during his trial.

As he entered the court, he basically looked for his wife and then shook the hands of his attorneys, and then he spoke for about 10 minutes.

He said a couple of things. The headline is that he feels he did not get a fair trial. That's the headline. Second from there, he basically said there's no justice here. He also said, Kate, that he's never experienced so much physical, emotional and mental torture, he says, as he has felt in terms of being incarcerated here in the United States. He called it some of the most inhumane treatment he has ever experienced.

When you couple that with what the prosecution says he is accused of during this trial, which is the murder and torture of 26 people. Some of these murders and tortures, they say, he actually took part in and ordered. You talk about the funneling of billions of dollars of drugs through the United States over the course of decades.

[11:55:06] The prosecution basically summed it up in this way. They say, today was not just justice for the American people but it was also justice of the people of Mexico as well.


ANGEL MELENDEZ, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, NEW YORK OFFICE, HOMELAND SECURITY INVESTIGATIONS: This sentence today finally separates the myth of El Chapo from the man, Joaquin Guzman. And for the man, it is the end of the line and it is a reality that he will not be able to escape.


CARROLL: The defense says that what the U.S. government wants is for El Chapo to disappear in Colorado. What do they mean by that? In all likelihood, he'll head to the super max federal facility in Colorado where he will serve out a life sentence -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Much less likely to escape from that, that's for sure.

Great. Thank you, Jason.

Still ahead for us, House Democrats are weighing impeaching President Trump again. That vote could happen today. Is the vote going to happen? That's next.