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Pelosi Wraps Up Press Conference: "By It's Definition" Trump's Tweets Were Racist; Evangelical Republican Responds to Trump's Racist Attack after Only Four Republicans Vote to Condemn; CBP Deputy Commissioner Robert Perez Discusses Migrant Facilities as Trump Hits Campaign Trail Amid Firestorm over Horrific Conditions. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired July 17, 2019 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] NADEAM ELSHAMI, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO NANCY PELOSI: Let me talk about this is in the sense of history. Going back to when we first won the majority, we were dealing with the Iraq War. We were dealing with Social Security. We were dealing with the impeachment of President Bush.

Who was able to unify the Democratic Party in an off-year election and bring it into - and bring in -- in helping Barack Obama to the White House? I think it was Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats.

She's gone through this before. She had members back then, Congressman Kucinich, for example, right? Now she has this new crop of energized members on both the left, in the middle, and also more conservative. And she has to deal with a caucus. She has been capable. She has been doing this for a while.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, DAILYMAIL.COM: She is very effective in that, right? She walked in. She knew what she wanted to say. When people asked her about the divide between herself and the squad, I don't want to talk about that. When they asked about the impeachment, we'll deal with that on the floor. America the beautiful. Thanks, everybody else. Let's go. She's very, very effective, and you're seeing that.




KEILAR: And so on and so forth.



KEILAR: All right, thank you so much.

ELSHAMI: Thank you.

KEILAR: So how are evangelical Republicans responding to the firestorm? I'll speak, live, with one.

Notorious drug lord, El Chapo, speaking at his own sentencing. Hear what he said.


[13:35:54] Republican lawmakers are largely siding with the president, choosing to defend instead of condemn his racist remarks in which he told four Democratic lawmakers, all women of color, to, quote, "go back to their," quote, "crime-infested countries." All four women are Americans, three of them in America. Their country is the U.S.

And 187 Republicans voting against that resolution. And these four Republicans broke ranks and condemned the president's tweets, Will Hurd of Texas, Congresswoman Susan Brooks of Indiana, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, and Fred Upton of Michigan.

I want to bring in evangelical Republican leader, Bob Vander Plaats, the president and CEO of The Family Leader, a socially conservative political organization based in Iowa, and he also co-chaired Senator Ted Cruz's 2016 presidential campaign.

Bob, thanks for joining us.


KEILAR: So, when you initially saw this tweet, the first tweet of the president's, did you think it was racist?

VANDER PLAATS: Well, you know, I thought it was below the dignity of the office. Quite frankly, I thought I'm not quite sure why you want to get into that fight. These four were calling Nancy Pelosi racist. It was like an interparty fight. He stepped into it.

Yes, I wish he would tweet less on this type of things and talk about the issues more. There are a lot of good things happening under his presidency. If he would stay focused there, I think that would benefit him not only in his governing but also in the upcoming election.

KEILAR: But is it racist?

VANDER PLAATS: Well, you know, I don't know if it is racism. We had Kamala Harris calling Joe Biden racist. You had these four calling Nancy Pelosi racist. I would say it's insensitive. I also --


KEILAR: She didn't actually -- I just have to interject. She did not say that. I want to be clear.


KEILAR: So you say this isn't -- you don't know if it's racist. On what basis would it --


VANDER PLAATS: Well, we just -- we just had Senator Tim Scott and Senator James Lankford at our annual leadership summit. We talked about racial reconciliation. We have to be careful with the words that we use and the things that we say.

But the other thing we don't want to do is blow this out of proportion either and say everybody is a racist today as well.

I think President Trump would have called out these four congresswomen if they were white versus minority as well. I think he --


KEILAR: But the way -


KEILAR: It's the way he called them out. For instance, he didn't tell Bernie Sanders to go back to his home country. But there seems to be one basis for which he would assume these women did not come from the U.S., and that would be race. Isn't that the definition of racism?

VANDER PLAATS: Well, that's where it's definitely an insensitive tweet. There's no doubt about that.

Remember, Brianna, I grew up with a World War II dad who love this had country a great deal and talked to me about, you either love the country, embrace it, give to it, serve it, but if you don't like the country, find other some place, go find some better place to go. Knowing that there would not be a better option.

Just in Iowa last night -- I'm sure you've got footage of this, -- but presidential candidate, Kamala Harris, just said Donald Trump should go back to where he came from as well.

So, I don't think anybody wins when we start going to the lowest common denominator. I think we should think bigger. We should look higher, cast a vision of unity for this country.

But I don't think we should be just going to words real quickly either that are going to divide this country. I don't think that's helpful to anybody.

KEILAR: He is the one who put out the tweet.

Walk me through this. I'm seeing some similarities in Republican members of Congress, 187 of them, who voted against this resolution. And they don't want to publicly say something that is clearly racist is racist. You will only go as far as to say that it's insensitive.

Why are you making that distinction and not taking the step to condemn a remark that's clearly racist? There was one basis, race, by which he made this comment about them. It was not about their policies. He said go back to the countries --


KEILAR: -- crime-infested countries from which you came.


[13:40:09] KEILAR: So why won't you make -- why do you make that distinction to say insensitive?

VANDER PLAATS: Because I think we have to be careful when we use those words.

Remember, Brianna, I'm also one who stands up for the institution of marriage and God's design of sexuality. And when I do, I get called a hater and I get called a bigot right away. And there's nothing hateful or bigoted in me whatsoever.

That's why I'm careful when I read a tweet like that or any comment like that to say, what is it, what's in his heart, type thing. That's why I bring it up.

Just at the presidential debate, Kamala Harris was pointing at Joe Biden. You have these four calling Nancy Pelosi --


KEILAR: You don't waffle on that issue. Why waffle on this one?

VANDER PLAATS: I don't think I am waffling on this issue. Matter of fact, I've been very consistent in saying, about President Trump's tweets, as far as going into these types of things. I don't think it's helpful for the country.

I think more and more, if he can cast a vision on results and the things that he has done and the vision he has for this country, more the July 4th celebration, I think that's a way better element for the country.

I think, even right now, Nancy Pelosi, in the press conference she just had, she's trying to put this behind her. Because what she doesn't want to do is have these four congresswomen become the face of their party.

And I think these presidential candidates will have to start making a decision, too. These four, who have been very clear on their views in regard to whether it be Israel, whether it be infanticide or whether it be on Socialism or on Green Deal, is that the track that that party wants to go down?

I think that's why Nancy Pelosi wants to put it behind her as well.

KEILAR: Bob Vander Plaats, thank you for being with us, joining us from Iowa.

And one thing that the president is likely going to touch on tonight is the horrific conditions at migrant facilities. I'm going to speak live with the deputy commissioner of Customs and Border Protection.

Also, Senator Bernie Sanders will join CNN as Senator Kamala Harris and Joe Biden go after his Medicare-for-All plan. Stand by for that.


[13:46:45] KEILAR: On Friday, members of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee will head to the Rio Grande Valley to tour border protection facilities. An assistant inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security testified this week before Congress that overcrowding is getting worse and is, quote, "a ticking time bomb."

We have Robert Perez with us. He's the deputy commissioner for Customs and Border Protection.

In this report from Diana Shaw, she makes this assessment that this is a ticking time bomb. What's your reaction to that?


KEILAR: Of course. Thanks for being on.

PEREZ: It's good to be back with you.

It's what we've been talking about and you sounding the alarms on for better than over a year, the overcrowding, the system as it's built now, the legal framework that needs to be remedied and the entirety of an immigration system oversaturated by the volume and type of demographic we are seeing arrive on our borders.

We welcome this group that's coming down the end of the week. We've had over 60 different congressional delegations and staffers visit with us over the course of the past year. They're going down -- in addition to our own independent people, going down to check on how it is we're doing with respect to taking care and doing all we possibly can to deal with what continues to be an unprecedented crisis.

KEILAR: Teams documented noncompliance with standards applicable to the detention of, as the inspector calls it, alien children, undocumented children, including lack of access to hot meals, showers and a change of clothes. This is what we've been hearing. This is not, I would say, improving to the degree that we're noting it from this inspector general's reporting. Why not? When is this going to change?

PEREZ: So a couple of things. First, let me just say that everyone in our custody, in CBP Border Patrol stations and at our ports of entry have access to fresh water. They have access to meals. They have access to an unprecedented level of medical attention now, too, which we've gone out of our way to put into those facilities.

What is happening --

(CROSSTALK) KEILAR: So you're saying it's no longer the case? Is that what you're saying?

PEREZ: No. What I'm saying is that the volume in and of itself limits, like any other saturated volume. If you have a hotel that can only hold 2,000 people but now you have 20,000 people, it's going to take a little more time to come around to actually deliver some of those supporting items that you might have.

We are absolutely going over and above to provide everybody in our custody the best care we possibly can.

And, look, the supplemental funding that came through after nearly two months of us asking for it is really making a difference, particularly with the children, Brianna. The children are really the ones, the most vulnerable ones, that these alien-smuggling organizations are exploiting --


KEILAR: But I want to ask -- and understood.

But I want to ask you about the CBP and these children. Because NPR has reported there was an agent at the El Paso facility who asked a 3- year-old girl to pick which of her two parents would be allowed to stay with her while the other was to stay in Mexico in an attempted family separation. As you can imagine, this was traumatizing for this little girl here. Are children being forced to pick a parent?

PEREZ: Absolutely not.


KEILAR: Then this is not true?

PEREZ: So what -- what I can tell you is --


KEILAR: Are you saying that --


PEREZ: I'm not familiar with that particular case. But I will tell you is that the only time that we're separating children from adults is if there's a danger to that child. If the safety and well-being of that child, if there's a criminal history, a medical issue that is required to be addressed, a mental health or something else that might put that child in danger, that is what we're addressing.

[13:50:20] While I'm not familiar with the specific case you're referring to, I will tell you, that is the only time we are separating any children with any of their adults right now. And --


KEILAR: The number was up to more than 700 by May. This is still happening a bit.

PEREZ: What's happened, I'll tell you, is, again, on the backs of the most vulnerable, families and children. Alien smuggling organizations are exploiting these legal loopholes. And what they're doing is using children as virtual passports. Adults coming across with children that are not theirs, although they're claiming them to be theirs, and/or recycling children through the entirety of the immigration process, in order to just facilitate the movement of people through our borders.

KEILAR: They're infants. In this number THAT I quoted, they're infants.


KEILAR: Some of these children are not being recycled. They're not coming in, being used as decoys and what not by cartels. Some of these children are coming in with migrants who are attempting to cross.

Are you saying, in this case, that there are hundreds of children who -- CBP has to be in compliance with this border to stop family separations because there are that many situations where it's questionable? Are you saying that, in all of these cases, it's a question of the parent posing a danger to the child?

PEREZ: Again, I'm not familiar with the data points you're referring to, but what I can tell you is, so far this fiscal year --


KEILAR: What are your data points?

PEREZ: What we've identified is over 3500 fraudulent families that have come across the border just this fiscal year. Since October 1, CBP has identified over 3500 different cases of fraudulent families. And now, with an unprecedented degree and level of ICE and Homeland Security investigations -- investigators alongside our CBP officers and Border Patrol agents at our stations, we are uncovering and now they are investigating an unprecedented amount of child recycling cases.

It's absolutely terrible how these children are being exploited by these criminal organizations. That's why we need the changes to the legal framework we've been talking about, Brianna, for the past year.

KEILAR: There are 62 current, at least, CBP employees who internal investigators have identified as being connected with these Facebook groups where they have trafficked in derogatory inappropriate posts about migrants and about even members of Congress who have tried to support efforts for the migrants on the border.

Meanwhile, we see reporting in a recent "New York Times," "El Paso Times" report describing border agents who are working teary eyed, who are concerned about the children, who are even bringing in things they can to occupy children. But you have members, like these on the Facebook group, you have

people who are asking a 3-year-old to pick a parent, and it's making the Border Patrol such a boogey man. How do you come back from that?

PEREZ: Well, we come back from it in this way, by me assuring you and your viewers that the 60,000, the vast majority of the entirety of the 60,000 professionals of CBP, are exactly that, professionals that adhere to our core values every day.

KEILAR: These aren't one-off stories, though. There are a lot of -- there are so many stories --


KEILAR: -- of Border Patrol agents of behaving badly, treating migrants like they're subhuman. I mean, we just saw, these are just -- I could go on and on and on.

PEREZ: And --


KEILAR: What do you do about those people?

PEREZ: What we do about those people is we diligently and very aggressively investigate every allegation of misconduct. We have very high standards of conduct that we expect people to adhere to both on and off duty.

And I will tell you, Brianna, I have to respectfully disagree. It's a very small percentage of the total of that 60,000. The vast majority of our people, our agents and officers, every one of our employees, they are compassionate, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, who take very seriously the oath they took to perform this incredible mission every day.

And, yes, those are the stories, like the 4,000 rescues that we've affected so far this year as well, that I want to make sure you and your viewers are aware of. That is CBP. That is the face of this agency.

And, yes, we deal with any allegation of misconduct very aggressively because that really is something that disappoints every single one of us, beginning with me.

KEILAR: Robert Perez, deputy commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, thank you so much for coming in.

PEREZ: Thanks for having me, Brianna.

KEILAR: We appreciate it.

PEREZ: Thank you.

[13:54:48] KEILAR: Senator Bernie Sanders slamming Joe Biden on Twitter over his Medicare-for-All claim and accusing the former vice president of not telling the truth. His interview with CNN, next.


[13:59:55] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello on this Wednesday. I'm Ana Cabrera, in for Brooke Baldwin.

Digging in and sounding off. One day after the House passed a resolution condemning the president's racist tweets, the president is no closer to apologizing. While Speaker Pelosi said this just moments ago.