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Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D) California And Rep. Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez (D) New York Meeting Face-To-Face; Biden Dominates Democratic Field In New Polls; Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) South Bend, Indiana Calls Out Tech Companies In New Economic Proposal; Democrats Worry Window Is Closing On Impeachment Probe; CNN Reports, Hundreds Of Red Flags Raised Internally On Family Separation. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired July 26, 2019 - 07:00   ET

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


[07:00:00]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is New Day. There is growing concern this morning among some democrats that time is running out to pursue an impeachment inquiry against President Trump. Some House Democrats now say that it needs to happen by September or not at all. And the House Judiciary Chair, Jerry Nadler, has at least considered the possibility of beginning an inquiry without a full House vote.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: Other big news, the democratic caucus this morning, we are waiting to see a meeting between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. This is their first meeting in months and the very first since their public feud.

So Jason Carroll is staking out this upcoming meeting. I'm sure they appreciate that, Jason. And he joins us from Capitol Hill. Act natural. I'm sure it is what they're saying.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, you know, look, this is a meeting that has really been a long time coming. And one democratic lawmaker put it to me this way. He said, look, if these two can get inside this room and at the very least decide not to publicly go after each other, that would be a start.

I mean, these are two people who really share a strained history. When you go back, you look at Pelosi trying to, some say, downplay AOC's influence, whether it'd be on Twitter or otherwise. You also have the Speaker going after this so-called squad for voting against that immigration bill. And then you have AOC, for her part, calling out the Speaker for singling out the squad, who just happen to be four people, four women of color.

And yesterday, I caught up with Ocasio-Cortez and tried to get more of a sense of where her head is at going into this meeting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARROLL: What would you say is your main objective going into this meeting with her tomorrow?

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Well, I think the objective is just that, to make sure that we're opening a line of communication, that all aspects of the party are on the same page and to make sure that, you know, for me, as always, that working people have a seat at the table in what's happening in Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARROLL: So a lot of eyes on this meeting, Alisyn. A lot of folks up here on the Hill trying to find out what's going to happen and hoping for some sort of a positive outcome. That meeting -- private meeting is scheduled to happen at 8:30. Obviously, we're going to be standing be to see what happens.

The Speaker, for her part, is planning to hold her regularly scheduled press briefing. That's going to be some time after the meeting this morning. So we're sure to get some sort of insight from her when that happens. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Perhaps you could just plant a microphone in the room.

CARROLL: That would be great.

CAMEROTA: Okay, thank you very much.

So there are new polls that show former Vice President Joe Biden is still the person to beat among democrats running for president.

On the national scale, Biden is leading his competitors by 18 points. Then in the states, it gets also interesting.

In South Carolina, that lead is even wider, with Biden up 27 points over his nearest competitor, Kamala Harris.

Biden is also on top in the important State of Ohio. And right now, he is the only democratic challenger to beat President Trump in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup.

Pete Buttigieg is in fifth place in all of these polls. But he just released his economic policy exclusively to CNN and CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich is here with the details. What do you see in his economic plan?

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS REPORTER: Hi. Good morning, Alisyn. Well, this plan is really aimed at protecting the American worker and really putting in the hot seat some of these bigger tech companies.

Here are some highlights from the plan that I just want to name right away. He's guaranteeing that all American workers have the right to join a union, introducing multimillion dollar penalties for employers who interfere with workers' rights. And he's calling for legislation that makes pay gaps at every large company public.

He's also calling out in this plan companies like Google, Lyft, and Uber for using contractors and not hiring full-time employees, contractors like Lyft drivers, for example, don't get those full-time benefits. And what he's proposing is that these contracted workers can form unions, they can collective bargain and he would make it so that every company would have to follow very strict guidelines in order to determine whether or not their employees are, in fact, contractors.

I spoke to the Mayor exclusively last night and he told me that he is willing to take on these big tech companies. He said, quote, I think they need to recognize the consequences if we continue moving into an economic reality where workers are eviscerated.

[07:05:07]

I have nothing against these companies succeeding when workers are doing well, but they can't have it both ways.

This policy is also incredibly pro-union, which is really interesting because we know that President Trump did really well with unions and the Mayor says that this plan is in part to try to get those labor unions back on the supportive side of democrats. And he is hoping that this plan will really resonate with those union voters.

BERMAN: Right. Vanessa Yurkevich for us. Very interesting, Vanessa. Pete Buttigieg will be in night one of the debates alongside Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. And this provides him some talking points there. And all democrats and, frankly, republicans too feel comfortable taking on big tech. Very interesting to see how that will develop over the course of the campaign.

Joining us now, M.J. Lee, CNN Political Correspondent, John Avalon, CNN Senior Political Analyst, and Alex Burns, National Political Correspondent for The New York Times and a CNN Political Analyst.

And, friends, we have some new reporting about the current frontrunner in the democratic race, Joe Biden, and the strategy he plans to employ in these debates. Let me read to you. This is P119 (ph), our new CNN reporting.

Several advisers had encouraged Biden to be more aggressive earlier in the campaign, one adviser said. But after the debate, which Biden re- watched afterward, the former Vice President told aides he felt he needed to fight back more.

One official said Biden genuinely believes he was a little too polite in the last debate, noting that he abided by the ground rules of the debate while other candidates did not.

Alex Burns, first of all, interesting that they somehow got the Vice President to go back and watch the last debate, look at what you did, they were saying there, but also interesting that they're telegraphing this more aggressive approach.

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they're telegraphing it in that kind of reporting it and they're telegraphing it just with his public behavior, right, that Joe Biden, after spending his first two months as a candidate trying to sail above the field, talked to Donald Trump and about Donald Trump and sort of pretend that these other two dozen people are basically irrelevant, has been going after -- you know, probably (ph) going after candidates like Cory Booker, who is at 2 percent, 3 percent in the polls, are responding very, very forcefully to criticism of his own record on issues like civil rights and criminal justice.

And, you know, the folks I talk to in Joe Biden's world say that, yes, part of it is because he wants to, you know, draw some lines in the sand before he is face-to-face with Cory Booker, with Kamala Harris next week. Part of it is also just about projecting this other sort of more intangible sense that he's a fighter, he is tough.

If you look at Biden's poll numbers after that first debate, democratic voters do not like him less than they did beforehand. His personal favorability has hot dropped. But his strength in the polls has dropped as a primary candidate. And what Biden folks think that reflects is unease about him as a general election opponent for Donald Trump. And the answer to that, they believe, is to come out swinging.

CAMEROTA: But if they dropped, they've surged (ph) back up, because in these latest polls, if he is twice -- he has more than twice where the nearest competitor is. In South Carolina, he has more than three times where his nearest competitor is.

BURNS: Those numbers have stabilized. They're not back to where they were before the first debate. And South Carolina, it bears repeating as often as people can bear to repeat it. South Carolina continues to be just a huge toe hold of strength for his campaign. Iowa is looking pretty tight. New Hampshire, very much up in the air. As long as he continues to be the runaway favorite with African-American voters and white moderates, South Carolina is a fantastic source of strength for him.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think the thing about South Carolina is it's a mistake for campaigns to bet too much on primaries down the field, because there's momentum that comes after Iowa and New Hampshire, of course.

What I think these two polls show though is that electability is not some abstract idea that should cause furrowed brows (ph) and dark corners to the Democratic Party. This is a real deal. South Carolina, Ohio, you know, the country is big and Biden seems reassuring to a lot of folks. I think the thing that he needs to shore up, which he's already doing, is that can he be feisty? Can he be a counterpuncher in the language of Donald Trump? Is he going to really be someone who can be focused and fired up when the time is right?

That ohio number head-to-head against Donald Trump is really important, eight points outside the margin error, as well as these primary polls. So he's got a lot of strength but he still has got to show he can be focused fired up in the next debate. BERMAN: Put up that Ohio number so we can see there. He is the only candidate in this Ohio Poll who has a lead outside the margin of error or lead at all against President Trump. That's interesting. And, M.J., back to South Carolina, what Alex was talking about just there, and the persistent strength that Joe Biden has among the African-American vote there. This is P110 (ph). He's at 51 percent among black voters in South Carolina, 51 percent. Kamala Harris is down to 12 percent. And this is after that first debate where Senator Harris made race a central issue.

M.J. LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right.

[07:09:58]

Well, you know, Biden came into this race with such an enormous advantage and a leg up with the African-American community because of the fact that he served as Obama's Vice President because he has developed these relationships for decades and decades.

I do think though we do a little bit of a disservice whenever we try to paint an entire demographic group with broad brush. You know, with Biden and the kinds of African-American voters and the relationships that he has with the community, yes, that is strong and, yes that is born out in some of the early polls that we have seen.

But that doesn't take into account the fact that within the African- American community, there are people who have competing interests, there are people who have competing needs and reasons for them to look at and survey the other options that they have in this democratic race, right?

I mean, the simple fact that we have a Kamala Harris and a Cory Booker for the black community to look to, the fact that we have a number of candidates who are specifically putting out policy ideas that address the racial gap or address issues that are very specific to the black community. I mean, this just means that further down the line, there's sort of the potential there for that support that he has right now to factor. We just haven't seen that yet.

CAMEROTA: Can you just tell us about tour reporting about Elizabeth Warren and her fundraising?

LEE: Her campaign is going to announce they have crossed the $1 million donation threshold in terms of fundraising later this morning. Obviously, this comes after the campaign announced really strong $19 million-plus fundraising in the second quarter.

And I believe Bernie Sanders is the only other democrat who have previously already announced that he also crossed the 1 million donation threshold. Obviously, this is going to be another data point for the Warren campaign to say, look, we're running an unconventional fundraising strategy. But right now, it is working.

BERMAN: Democrats in the House. I think that all democrats nationwide would like people to focus on the debates next week rather than what's going on inside of the democratic caucus right now, which is a struggle with how to deal with the investigation going forward, particularly after the Mueller testimony this week, Alex. And what we're hearing while we have had a few more democrats come out and say they wanted an impeachment inquiry is Nancy Pelosi not going there just yet, but Jerry Nadler and others getting more frustrated about it.

BURNS: Right. And I think democratic sort of base voters around the country are getting frustrated about it. There's not, I don't think, a groundswell of support to literally impeach the President. But I think there is, I think, a broad sense in the Democratic Party, including a lot of members of the house who have not endorsed impeachment, a broad sense that the investigations are not gaining the kind of traction that democrats believe that they would and that they have not had the success in holding the administration accountable that they told voters that they would have during the midterm election.

So I don't know what that frustration turns into. I think at this point, you have to assume until further notice that impeachment itself as an issue is probably not going anywhere. The Speaker has control of that caucus that no other legislative leader in recent times has had. And she remains totally opposed to it. And for a lot of purposes, that's kind of the end of the story.

AVLON: Yes. I mean, look, they can play the game out and say, look, we're not going to win in the Senate, so why bother? There's a political loss here. But I think what you're starting to see among members of Congress after the last Mueller hearing is actually the sense of, look, we can improve that he met all the normal applications of obstruction and what are the constitutional implications for not pursuing impeachment. And that's an argument I think you're going to hear more and more while we're going to look back at the rearview mirror of history and say, we let someone off the hook who deserved to be impeached and what kind of precedent does that set.

BERMAN: That's a really interesting discussion to have here and one that I've tried to have with democratic leaders, which is that if you consistently say the President broke the law, that he obstructed justice, how can you then not say that the impeachment is the way to go? It's the only remedy the constitution provides if you believe those things.

AVLON: That's right. That's exactly right.

CAMEROTA: I mean, basically, they're saying politics over posterity. And that's what they're saying, that if their goal is to get -- is to remove President Trump from office, they want to do it at the ballot box and they don't want to get bogged down on this. It makes sense politically.

AVLON: Yes, because they're not going to pass in the Senate and know that. But -- then there's the question of the principle, the politics versus the posterity, as you just said. And I think that is a conversation that's going to be increasingly had among members of the caucus. They try to get the number of democrats who support impeachment up on that argument alone. BURNS: This is also what you get for having two generations of a bipartisan effort to make the presidency so powerful, that it's essentially beyond accountability by any normal means, that you had two different presidents facing impeachment, facing criminal investigations from two different parties, Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon. Their Justice Departments both miraculously concluded the President cannot be indicted, and that's actually where we live in now.

And if you think that the next time a democrat controls the executive branch, they're suddenly going to start stripping back the powers of the presidency,, well, I've got a bruise to sell you.

BERMAN: There's a really interesting op-ed and a paper today from a Harvard professor saying that our institutions may need updating because of all of these things you're seeing right now.

[07:15:05]

CAMEROTA: It is infrastructure week.

BERMAN: Yes.

AVLON: Thank God, finally.

CAMEROTA: Alex, John, M.J., thank you very much.

BERMAN: And, of course, the lineups are set for the CNN democratic presidential debates. Two big nights, ten candidates each night, Tuesday and Wednesday at 8:00 P.M. live from Detroit. We will be there only on CNN.

CAMEROTA: All right. CNN has exclusively learned that hundreds of red flags were raised within the Trump administration about those family separations even before the policy was officially announced. So we'll speak to a Texas democrat who has been working to investigate these family separations and what exactly is going on at the border right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: New this morning, a CNN exclusive about migrant children forcibly separated from their families at the southern border. Our CNN reporting finds that officials in the Health and Human Services Department were so concerned, they tried to raise red flags with the Department of Homeland Security.

[07:20:00]

Here is the top line. Hundreds of red flags were raised internally within the Trump administration about how families were being separated at the U.S./Mexico border, including some from months before the controversial zero tolerance policy was announced.

Joining us to talk about this and more, we have Democratic Congressman from Texas, Henry Cueller. Congressman, thanks so much for being here.

I want to start with that CNN reporting that we found. Because I think it is really telling that other departments could see what was starting to happen what was threatening to happen and they tried within their own internal ways to say that this could be a big problem.

They gave some anecdotes. CNN has reviewed tons of documents that show internally what was happening when the family separations was starting. And there're just three anecdotes that I want to share from these documents about kids and how they were separated from their parents.

Here it is. There was a 14-year-old who said he was separated from his father in May 2018 after a meal break while in custody and was told by officers that his father would be deported. Okay?

In another situation, an 11-year-old stated that he was called aside by an officer and then he did not see his father again.

A 10-year-old with poor communication skills was allegedly separated from his mother a year ago in June of 2018.

So these were just three examples of kids who didn't know what was happening, didn't have the communication skills to tell officials and were basically blindsided by their parents vanishing. What have you learned in these hearings?

REP. HENRY CUELLAR (D-TX): All right. Even when -- I can give you another example. I've heard also that when they -- when parents were taken over to go before a magistrate, because, as you know, it's a misdemeanor to come in the first time across the U.S. without the proper documentation, they were told, here are your kids, and when you come back from court -- hours later, they would come back and the kids will come back. I know that because I've heard that from some of the officials there. So, again, there are examples. That is wrong. That is wrong to separate the kids.

Now, there are some limited circumstances that if you have a parent that has a criminal record or has possibility of abusing that child, I can understand that. We do that to U.S. citizens, of course, all the time. But, again, if they were just doing just to separate that is wrong and this is why Congress needs to make sure we do our oversight and hold people accountable if they do that particular type of situation.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, we have heard from other lawmakers that family separations are still happening. What do you know about this?

CULLER: Well, you know, again, we have to make sure that if it's happening, we need to make sure that we get after the officials. You know, whether, as you know, there's three different law enforcement officials down there at the border, should I say the main ones are Border Patrol and ICE, and, of course, on a separate note, it's Health and Human Services along with other officers. If they're doing that and it's not one of the limited reasons why they separate them or they need to separate them, then that's wrong and we need to make sure we do that.

But, again, you know, overall the men and women are trying to do the right job. But sf somebody's doing the -- following the wrong policy or the policy has to be changed, so we've got a bad apple, we definitely have to go after any bad apples.

CAMEROTA: I know you were involved with these hearings yesterday with the head of ICE. Is there news that you want to share with us about what you all have been able to unearth about how things are being conducted at the border?

CUELLER: Well, you know, basically, it was an oversight provision. There were members that had different types of questions to the work that they -- that they were doing down there. And they brought up circumstances where, for example, if somebody is held and they're a U.S. citizen, what happens to that individual, because U.S. citizens are not supposed to be held or attempted to be deported. So there were various types of questions.

You know, my thing is just generally this. You know, we cannot demonize any of our law enforcement officials down there. You know, they're trying to do their job. But, again, I'm one of those that if somebody is a bad apple, we definitely have to go over that. And the meetings that we had on ICE and the meetings that we had on Border Patrol, we need to make sure that as Homeland appropriators on that particular subcommittee that we have to make sure that we keep having those hearings and we keep going, inviting our members to go down to the border.

I live at the border. I don't go visit. I live at the border. I talk to a lot of those men and women. And, again, generally speaking, they're good people trying to do their job. But if the policy is wrong, we need to change the policy. If there's a bad apple, we go after that bad apple.

CAMEROTA: But, Congressman, do you know about the ICE raids? I mean, it's been reported in The New York Times that 35 people were arrested.

[07:25:03]

The President had telegraphed that there would be tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands. Did they update you on what's happening with those ICE raids?

CUELLER: Well, you know, they generally talked about this. Look, you know, they are -- it depends what they're going after. You know, if they're going after immigrants that have criminal records and then there was a discussion what sort of criminal records were they felony, traffic tickets. So we went into some of that details. If they're criminal aliens, definitely, we need to get those people picked up.

So, you know, those are the type of questions that we need to make sure, are the deporting priority people, you know, the people with criminal records or, as I said, people with the traffic ticket.

CAMEROTA: That would be important to note. I want to ask you about what your feeling is after the Robert Mueller hearing. 96 House Democrats are still calling or now calling for an impeachment inquiry. Where are you now?

CUELLER: I'm not there yet. You know, I'm one of those who believe in the process. We're going to let this -- you know, let the committees finish their work, make sure that we get all the information that we can, hold people in contempt if they don't want to show up.

You know, the administration cannot decide who comes in, who comes out, what sort of questions they're going to ask. They cannot do that. And we need to make sure that we hold people in contempt, do the subpoenas, get the information, and get to a point where we decide as a caucus or as a -- I shouldn't say as a democrat caucus, but, really, as a U.S. House of Representatives and see if we need to move forward.

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, that hasn't happened yet. Don McGahn obviously hasn't appeared. There doesn't seem to have been any action on that. So has anything changed, do you sense, since Robert Mueller's testimony?

CUELLER: Well, you know, certainly after the meeting -- after the hearing, as you know, there was a caucus meeting. It was people had their opinions. But right now, the caucus as a whole, we've decided not to move forward on the impeachment. We're continuing getting -- letting the committees continue their work on the oversight. And then we'll take it from there.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Congressman Henry Cuellar, thank you very for the information.

CUELLER: Thank you. And you have a good weekend.

CAMEROTA: You too. John?

BERMAN: A stunning new report on the extent of the Russian attack on the U.S. elections, and it is released the same day that Senate Republicans block election security bill. That's next.

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