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2020 Democrats Gearing Up for Next Week's CNN Debates; Warren Campaigns in New Hampshire Ahead of CNN Debate; Biden Says No More Mr. Nice Guy as He Faces Harris, Booker on Debate State Next Week; 101 House Democrats Now Calling for Impeachment Inquiry; Supreme Court Hands Trump Victory in Border Wall Funding; Rep. Elijah Cummings Responds after Trump Calls His District "Infested"; New York Father Charged after Twin Babies Die in Hot Car; 2020 Democrats Outline Their Immigration Plans; Republicans Block Election Security Bills as Mueller Warns of Russian Interference; Same-Sex Couple Sues Over Daughter's Denied Citizenship. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired July 27, 2019 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] VINCE CELLINI, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: USA water polo put out a statement this morning saying all athletes are accounted for and offered well wishes to everyone involved.

Back to you, Fred.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Thank you so much, Vince.

Still so much straight ahead in the next hour of the NEWSROOM right now.

Hello, again, everyone. Thanks so much for being with me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Right now, 2020 Democrats are canvassing across the country, making their cases to voters ahead of next week's CNN debates.

Minutes from now, Senator Elizabeth Warren will host a house party in New Hampshire. It's one of two events for Warren in that state. She'll take part in a town hall later on in the afternoon.

The six other candidates are out on the trail today, including Senator Bernie Sanders in Michigan, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, and Senator Michael Bennet in Iowa.

CNN political reporter, Rebecca Buck, is in New Hampshire with more.


We're here in New Hampshire where Elizabeth Warren will be on the campaign trail this afternoon in the Granite State ahead of her big debate appearance coming Tuesday with Bernie Sanders as well as Pete Buttigieg and Beto O'Rourke joining her on that stage.

Warren just passed a major campaign milestone this week. She has now one million donations to her campaign. And she hasn't been taking any of these big high-dollar donations. She hasn't been holding these fundraisers. This has been all grass roots support for Elizabeth Warren. So another sign of the momentum her campaign has been building.

And that is just one of the reasons that ahead of this debate, her team isn't necessarily feeling pressured to have a big breakout moment, to start a fight with another candidate, to draw contrast. They are feeling comfortable and positive about where Elizabeth Warren is in this race at this moment.

I want you to contrast that with the former vice president, Joe Biden, a very different situation for him heading into Wednesday night's debate next week where he's going to be on stage with Senator Kamala Harris and Senator Cory Booker.

You'll remember last debate, Kamala Harris held Joe Biden's feet to the fire giving her that major moment on stage and launching her campaign into the top tier.

Well, Senator Cory Booker might be looking for a similar moment this week with Biden. It's the first time he and Biden will share the stage together. And Booker has been increasingly critical on Joe Biden's record on justice reform, specifically his role in crafting the 1994 crime bill that Booker says made him an architect of mass incarceration.

Joe Biden punched back this week, calling into question Booker's record as mayo or Newark and his oversight of the Newark Police Department. This is all part of Biden's strategy, as he said this week, to be less polite on the debate stage, not take these attacks from other candidates. We'll see how that plays for him.

Again, we're on the trail today with Elizabeth Warren. She will be up against Bernie Sanders, who, although they are competitors, they're representing the liberal wing of the party, Elizabeth Warren has described Sanders as a friend. Sanders says they agree on a lot of policy issues. So we'll be watching to see if they try to draw some subtle contrasts or if, for now, they try to play nice -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: Rebecca Buck, thank you very much.

For more on the 2020 race, let's bring in Keith Boykin, a former Clinton White House aide, and Robert Zimmerman, a member of the Democratic National Committee.

Good to see you both.

All right, so, Keith --




WHITFIELD: Thank you.

It's been a while since I've seen either one of you. So welcome back.

Keith, we're going into another debate. But, this time, it really could be do or die for some candidates. They've got to really be noticed, distinguish themselves among the crowd. Ten for one night, 10 on another night. How do they poise themselves for this?

BOYKIN: I think you're right, Fred. It's 25 candidates we have in the race and they're going to debate these two nights on Tuesday and Wednesday.

It looks like we still have a frontrunner of four or five candidates and everyone else is kind of in second tier and they have to either do something now to stand out and distinguish themselves or potentially disappear in the mix of so many different candidates.

If I were advising the candidates in the second tier, my advice would be to go hard or go home.


BOYKIN: You don't do it now, you're not going to have another chance.

And for those in the top tier, it's not making mistakes, continue to add momentum to build where you are.

For Joe Biden, it's a little different because he's the frontrunner. His challenge is to not take too many punches and be able to fight back when he is hit.

So each of the three different categories have different roles to play.

WHITFIELD: Robert, Biden has already let everybody know that, no more Mr. Nice guy. Why is this advantageous for him going into this to give everyone fair warning so to speak?

[13:05:04] ZIMMERMAN: As you may know, Fred, I'm not a boxer but I know enough about politics to know you don't telegraph your punches. There's no reason to send that kind of message.

I think the reality for Joe Biden going forward is he just has to show he's got a pulse. He's got to bring energy. He's got bring fire and a vision to the future to his debate. That's going to be his challenge.

I think he shouldn't go in there, in my view, being on the defensive. The reason there was such buzz about the last debate is because he didn't really speak up and make the case for himself.


WHITFIELD: He said he was being too polite.

ZIMMERMAN: OK. But he wasn't being impactful. You can be polite and still be impactful, that's for sure..


ZIMMERMAN: Contrary to what Keith said, I agree with him that maybe a third or a half of the candidates will not be on the state by the September debate.

But as opposed to throwing Hail Mary passes, I would admonish and advise the candidates in the second and third tier they're not going to elevate themselves by trying to take shots at the others.

In fact, often times, in politic, we confuse retweets and we confuse media buzz with building organization and building political support.

Elizabeth Warren has built a tremendous organization and tremendous campaign by keeping on her message, talking about the future, and really having an impact that way.

WHITFIELD: And talking about this plan, it's really the strategy Elizabeth Warren has been taking, Keith, "I have a plan for that," when she is planning to put herself in a position to try to elaborate a big further on that.

But there are limitations on the debate stage. You only have two minutes or three minutes in which to do that that. Can she do that?

BOYKIN: She's very effective, Elizabeth Warren, at being able to articulate her message in sound bytes and clear, crisp, concise packages. She's learned this as a professor, a teacher. As a politician, she's very adept at that. So I'm confident in her ability to communicate her messages.

Her plans are far more detailed than you can communicate in a 60 or 90-second answer. I think that people know she has plans. And that's important compared to candidate who is do not have plans. I think she's in a good position.

Just one thing about what Robert said earlier. I'm not suggesting people in all the different tiers should go out and attack her other. I'm saying you have to do something to make yourself stand out. There's 25 candidates out there and 20 are on the debate stage. You can't stand out by just repeating talking points. You have to do something to make yourself distinguishable from all the other candidates.

WHITFIELD: OK, and then on --


ZIMMERMAN: Although, I've got to tell you, Keith --

WHITFIELD: Go ahead, Robert.

ZIMMERMAN: I've got to tell you, Keith, if they haven't distinguished themselves so far, they're not going to do it in seven minutes on a debate stage. They had their moment and they couldn't it a good many of them. WHITFIELD: Let's talk about members of Congress, and at least

particularly House Democrats, the number is growing for those interested in some sort of impeachment inquiry of the president now, 101 members in the House. But Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has expressed real concerns about riling up Trump's base ahead of 2020. She says it's time for more answers, a little bit more searching.

Does she have a good argument there, Robert, that starting impeachment proceedings only serves the president well?

ZIMMERMAN: Just for the record, I am for an impeachment inquiry. I believe the way Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Nadler are approaching it really is the smart way to do it. They're building consensus among the caucus. Right now, they say it's over 100.

I would stay, from my own discussions, that half the caucus supports and impeachment inquiry. And you can you do that, and the way of approaching it is by laying out the crimes committed by this administration. Doing that, an impeachment inquiry on the power of the grand jury. You can lay out the crimes, present it to the American people.

And maybe they wouldn't even get into an impeachment vote. But the most important thing Chairman Nadler can do on his committee is get the material together and demand legally whatever he can to get the witnesses in front of his committee to make the case. Because this is an affront to the nation..

WHITFIELD: So, Keith, that's one of the arguments, it would be a mistake to proceed without more witnesses. I can't just be Mueller testifying, reiterating what is in the report. But you need key witnesses, such as like a Don McGahn or even a Rod Rosenstein.

BOYKIN: That's what an impeachment hearing is for. Nobody is saying you have to go vote to impeachment Donald Trump today. But you have to begin the inquiry, the hearings, and the process.

Nancy Pelosi has said that Donald Trump is unfit for office. She said he belongs in prison. She says we're in a constitutional crisis. If that's not enough to begin an impeachment inquiry, then what on earth is?

The American people want accountability and want our leaders to hold our president accountability. Two-thirds of Democrats support impeachment for the president. And 69 percent of African-Americans support impeachment. Justin Amash, a Republican, who became an Independent, supports impeachment. George Conway, Kellyanne's husband, supports impeachment. Lawrence Tribe, my Harvard law professor, supports impeachment.

[13:10:19] This is not some left/right issues. This is a question about holding the president of the United States accountable for misbehavior, for high crimes and misdemeanors.

This is not something you decide based on political calculations, put your finger in the air and determine which way the wind is blowing. It's about what is right. And it's right to hold the president accountable.

It's wrong, and I think riskier, to allow the president to go -- establish that the president of the United States can engage in unlawful behavior and have no accountability for that.


BOYKIN: We have constitutional and a moral obligation to do something.

WHITFIELD: Final word, Robert?

ZIMMERMAN: That's just the point. Public opinion changes all the time. Preserving and protecting the Constitution should be forever. That should be the mission of this Congress. It is the mission of Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Nadler.

And we are facing an unprecedented assault on our democracy. If we don't stand up to a president who won't defend us when we are under attack, as we are by Russia, who ignores the concept of checks and balances, if we don't stand up and preserve that, we cease to be America.

WHITFIELD: We'll leave it right there for now.

Robert Zimmerman, Keith Boykin, good to see you both. Appreciate it.


WHITFIELD: Don't miss two big nights. The CNN Democratic debates this Tuesday and Wednesday, live from Detroit, starting at 8:00 Eastern time.

Coming up, the president gets a big win from the U.S. Supreme Court, so how soon could we seen more sections of his border wall or a section of the border wall go up?

Plus, President Trump now attacking one of the top Democrats on Capitol Hill, calling Representative Elijah Cummings' district a rat and rodent-invested mess, and the congressman responding.


[13:15:35] WHITFIELD: In a win for the White House, the U.S. Supreme Court says the president can use billions of Pentagon dollars to build a border wall. The high court overturned a lower court decision allowing the money to be spent while the legal fight continues. And while the battle isn't over yet, the president is already declaring victory.

CNN's Sarah Westwood joins us from the White House to break it all down for us -- Sarah?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Fred, this is absolutely a win for this administration, but it could be just a temporary one. The Supreme Court ruling the Trump administration can go ahead and start using that $2.5 billion sum in reprogrammed Pentagon funds to start construction of the wall while this lawsuit trying to prevent it works its way through the lower courts.

The Supreme Court did not make any kind of decision on whether or not the Trump administration will ultimately be allowed to use that money for construction of the wall.

That money was supposed to be used for personnel recruitment, aircraft upgrades, training for Afghan security forces. Now, because of President Trump's declaration of a national emergency earlier this year, it will be used to construct a border wall, it allows President Trump to start making progress on one of his biggest unfulfilled promises of his 2016 campaign that could have been a liability for him on the campaign trail.

For now, Fred, he's been able to inoculate himself against that and starts to move forward on construction of more news sections of wall.

WHITFIELD: Now you've got the president also taking time out to attack, via Twitter, attack Congressman Elijah Cummings, calling Elijah Cummings' district "disgusting, rodent infested and filthy." Reaction is pouring in Cummings and even from the House speaker.

WESTWOOD: That's right, Fred. Democratic chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Elijah Cummings, responding to the president's attacks on Twitter this morning, writing, "Mr. President, I go home to my district daily. Each morning, I wake up and I go home and I fight for my neighbors. It is my constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the executive branch, but it is my moral duty to fight for my constituents."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joining a wave of Democrats growing and growing this morning condemning the president's attack. She took it to Twitter: "Congressman Cummings' is a champion in the Congress and the country for civil rights and economic justice, and a deeply-valued colleague. We all reject racist attacks against him and support his steadfast leadership.

President Trump and Congressman Elijah Cummings have a pretty complicated past. It was back in 2017 that Cummings said he told Trump that sometimes his rhetoric toward African-Americans can be offensive.

President Trump, at one time, had sort of an affection for Cummings. Of course, they have, occasionally, throughout the past couple of years, sparred.

Now this current episode was sparked when Cummings when after President Trump's acting DHS head at a hearing earlier this week. And President Trump seemed to be responding to a "FOX and Friends" segment, Fred, that depicted dilapidated parts of Baltimore just before President Trump sent that tweet-- Fred?

WHITFIELD: Sarah Westwood, at the White House, thank you so much.

Let's talk more about this. I want to bring in Brian Stelter, CNN's chief media correspondent and host of "RELAIBLE SOURCES."

This is the third weekend in a row where the president has attacked Democratic congress members of color, starting with his racist tweets about the Squad, going back to countries from which they came. Three out of four were actually U.S. born.

What's behind this latest rant, however, and singling out Congressman Elijah Cummings, in your view?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, "RELIABILE SOURCES": I think the racist connotations of these newest tweets cannot be denied either, Fred, because this part of a pattern we've seen in recent weeks.

And it's part of a pattern that goes back many years, where the president exaggerates urban crime, saying, what the hell do you have to lose by voting for me. There's been a long pattern of these comments with regards to people who live in inner-city areas, African- Americans who live in inner-city areas.

There are factual inaccuracies with his tweets and then there are the moral and ethical problems.

This did clearly come from a FOX News segment earlier today. An hour after, there was a FOX News segment on their pro-Trump talk show talking about conditions in west Baltimore, which is s poverty stricken neighborhood with severe poverty and troubling conditions. The segment focused only on that part of Cummings' district and showed pictures from that area.

[13:20:11] It's very clear the president saw that segment and tweeted as a direct result.

What the president missed, factually, is Cummings has a big district. Parts of Maryland. I'm from Maryland. I lived near his district. Rural areas, suburban areas, yes, urban areas. It's a big area. It's heavily gerrymanders.

So there were factual mistakes to the president's attack and then there were the moral issues, the ethical issues when he tries to target an African-American conman and describes the man's district as crime infested. The word "infested" has deeply disturbing connotations in history.

There are issues here on multiple levels, factually, morally. Unfortunately, it's more of the same from the president. He hears things on FOX, he reacts with racist tweets, and it's unfortunately more of the same.

WHITFIELD: Yes, there's a pattern.

STELTER: That's right.

WHITFIELD: He often uses the word "infested" when talking about Latino people, Mexicans, talking about black people. That pattern is there. There have been a lot of tweets who have come whether it be from

Pelosi as well as on the campaign trail. Kamala Harris says, "My campaign headquarters is in Representative Elijah Cumming's district. Baltimore has become home to my team. And it's disgraceful the president has chosen to start this morning disparaging this great American city."

While the president may be inspired by programming on another network, I mean, at the core, it's still the president willing to be on full display and kind of left it all hang out and be hateful. I mean, there isn't another way to put it. Why, you know, does the president continue to believe that this is beneficial to him?

STELTER: I think it's because a lot of people that read his tweets, some of his greatest fans, don't have the full context. They see what he posts,. They take it as gospel. They move on with their day. In some cases, his words back up their existing prejudices.

If you only know Baltimore from the riots in 2015, which were partly within Cummings' neighborhood, within Cummings' broader district. If you only know Baltimore from that, then you might have a very warped view of the city of Baltimore actually is, an incredibly historic and wonderful city, within, again, a broader district where you've got small towns, great suburbs. It's a really diverse, really interest district.

But the president's only hearing these snapshots from FOX News that are really designed to make him angry and resentful.

And the roots of this are in the border crisis, with Cummings taking a stand, challenging Border Patrol officials earlier this month. "The Baltimore Sun" newspaper is pointing out that the roots of these tweets are in the idea that Cummings' has been trying to hold the executive branch accountable.

And it seems the president is now targeting Cummings personally and targeting the entire population of the district. I don't want to use the words he said in the tweet, but he said, no human being would want to live in the 7th district of Maryland.


STELTER: Hundreds of thousands of people would beg to differ.

WHITFIELD: It very insulting, very disturbing. You're a Marylander. I was born in Africa but --

STELTER: Yes. Yes.

WHITFIELD: -- it was Maryland in which I largely grew up. So I love it, too. It's a beautiful place.


WHITFIELD: It's diverse. It's incredible.


STELTER: -- conditions. They deserve help. They deserve support from the federal government.


STELTER: They don't deserve hateful tweets from the president.

WHITFIELD: Right. Nobody does.

Brian Stelter, thank you so much.

STELTER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: We'll be right back.


[13:27:26] WHITFIELD: This is terribly tragic, very sad story coming out of New York. A father has now been charged with the death of his twin babies that were found dead inside of a hot car. Police believe the boy and girl were left there for more than eight hours while their father went to work.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher joins me more on this heartbreaking situation.

What do we know about all the circumstances surrounding this tragedy?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This story is so difficult. This is a family that, no matter what, is broken right now, right?


GALLAGHER: This mother has lost her twin 1-year-old children, a little boy and a little girl. Her husband is now charged with two counts of manslaughter and two counts of criminal negligence.

Like you said, eight hours in that car, police say, those 1-year-olds strapped in the back seat of that Honda while police say their father was at work at the V.A. hospital that was nearby.

According to the father, whose name is Juan Rodriguez -- he's 39 years old. According to his best friend, they say that he was a social worker at the V.A. hospital.

We've talked to the V.A. hospital. They say they can only confirm, due to privacy reasons, that Rodriguez worked there.

But his friend said he was a good father. They had three children, that they had just celebrated those two twins, just celebrated their first birthday this past month with bubbles and bounce houses and a big neighborhood celebration of those two children's' lives. The mother now thinking, what happened, what is going on here.


GALLAGHER: Fred, I know --

WHITFIELD: Was he on the way somewhere?

GALLAGHER: We're trying to find out.


WHITFIELD: What's the story that police are saying --


WHITFIELD: -- he has why the kids were left in the back seat?

GALLAGHER: According to witnesses who were there, the father was saying it wasn't on purpose, it was a mistake, it's not my fault, I didn't do this.

But you would actually be shocked to find out how many -- there were 58 kids who died in hot cars last year in 2018. There are been more than 800 in the last 20 years. This is what shocked me. Almost a quarter of those were in the parking lot of a place of employment where either the parent or caretaker was at work.

So it sounds crazy but, look, we're overworked, we're underpaid, we're sleep deprived, people forget things. You've got to put something back there, remember your kids in the back of the car because it takes only a couple minutes for something like that to happen.

WHITFIELD: Especially with temperatures like that.

GALLAGHER: And 86 degrees that day.

WHITFIELD: It escalates within seconds.


[13:30:00] WHITFIELD: Dianne Gallagher, thank you so much. Appreciate that.

It is one of the big topics on the campaign trail. What should the nation do about immigration? The 2020 Democratic candidates have ideas. We'll check where they stand.


[13:30:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Dianne Gallagher, thank you so much. Appreciate that.

It is one of the big topics on the campaign trail. What should the nation do about immigration? The 2020 Democratic candidates have ideas. We'll check where they stand.


WHITFIELD: Several Democratic presidential candidates are out on the trail today gearing up for next week's CNN debates. Seven of them are out campaigning across the country and one of the biggest issues they are talking about is immigration.

Here's CNN's Ed Lavandera.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What happens here along the U.S. southern border casts a long shadow over the 2020 presidential election and Democrats are pushing their own immigration vision in the age of Trump.

PETE BUTTIGIEG, (D), SOUTH BEND MAYOR & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president thinks that he can turn people against immigrants in order to distract them from the things that are making it so hard to get ahead in this country right now.


LAVANDERA: The constant theme for most Democrats is they are the opposite of President Trump, vowing to end what they see as Trump using immigrants to stoke the fears of Americans.

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can enforce our immigration laws and still uphold our humanitarian obligations in this nation.

LAVANDERA: The two Texans in the Democratic field cast themselves as some of the strongest voices on this issue. In April, Julian Castro, the former San Antonio mayor who served as Housing and Urban Development Secretary under President Obama, was the first to unveil a detailed immigration plan while immigration is also a constant theme of former Congressman Beto O'Rourke's campaign stops.

[13:35:10] Both as well as many others in the Democratic field call for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the country, citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, known as DREAMers, and funding for more border wall construction. They want to close private for-profit immigration detention centers and reform the immigration court system.

Castro and O'Rourke have clashed over a section of the law that makes it a crime to enter the U.S. illegally. Castro wants to repeal the law, making illegal entry a simple civil violation.

JULIAN CASTRO, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER HUD SECRETARY: They're using Section 1325 of that act, which criminalizes coming across the border to incarcerate the parents and then separate them. Some of us on this stage have called to end that section, to terminate it. Some, like Congressman O'Rourke, have not.

BETO O'ROURKE, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER CONGRESSMAN: I helped to introduce legislation that would ensure that we don't criminalize those who are seeking asylum and refugees in this country.


CASTRO: I'm not talking -- I'm not talking about the ones that -- (CROSSTALK)

O'ROURKE: If you're fleeing -- if you're fleeing --


LAVANDERA: The detention of families over the last year has shaped the rhetoric of most Democrats. Elizabeth Warren is like most of the candidates calling for families not to be detained while immigration cases are being processed.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): No great nation tears families apart. No great nation locks up children.


WARREN: We need -- we must at the border respect the dignity of every human being who comes here.

LAVANDERA: The Trump administration's hardline approach on reducing the number of undocumented immigrants in the country has inspired some candidates to call for the end of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

BILL DE BLASIO, (D), NEW YORK CITY MAYOR & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We don't need this ICE though. That's the other thing I should say. This ICE, as it's formed now, should be abolished.

LAVANDERA: Most candidates aren't going that far. Instead calling for ICE to be reformed and some of its immigration enforcement duties to be passed off to other agencies.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): I think it is not just ICE. It is very clear that the immigration system itself -- you've heard some of it and there is more we haven't discussed today -- is completely broken. It is absolutely broken.


LAVANDERA: Democrats are facing accusations from President Trump of pushing for open borders and being weak on security. It's a question that will follow the candidates.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): It is part of what this president is trying to do to really misinform the American people, to say that Democrats don't care about border security. We have to enforce our laws and keep our borders safe.

LAVANDERA: A shadow of the border is casting a deep divide on the presidential campaign trail.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WHITFIELD: This week, Special Counsel Robert Mueller said Russia is still interfering with the 2020 election and it's happening as we speak, he said. At the same time, Senate Republicans blocked two election security bills. So what needs to happen to protect the nation's election security before the first votes are cast?


[13:42:10] WHITFIELD: Welcome back.

Robert Mueller was grilled about the special counsel's report on Russian interference in the election for hours on Capitol Hill this week. Mueller made clear Russians are still interfering in U.S. elections.


ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL: It wasn't a single attempt. They're doing it as we sit here and they expect to do it during the next campaign.

I hope this is not the new normal, but I fear it is.


WHITFIELD: Despite that stark warning, just one day later, the GOP blocked the advancement of two bills aimed at strengthening election security.

Former Secret Service agent under President Obama and CNN law enforcement analyst, Jonathan Wackrow, joins me now from New York.

How alarming, unsettling? What is your reaction to these attempts being blocked to protect U.S. elections?

JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Listen, the attempts to block a very progressive and pro-active attempt to provide a comprehensive cyber mitigation policy in advance of the election is disturbing.

It leads me to say that we need to shift the focus from trying to develop a national policy right now, in advance of the election, and states need to bear the responsibility to shift the mitigation policies and procedures and own it now 465 days in advance of the upcoming general election.

WHITFIELD: Wow. You have confidence that that could happen? Because, this week, the Senate Intelligence Committee report found that Florida officials actually failed to act on any warnings about the 2016 Russia hacking.

And we also learned there's a federal lawsuit accusing Georgia election officials of destroying evidence that was, quote, "ground zero for election hacking and possible manipulation of election results."

How much confidence do you have in states being able to manage this?

WACKROW: Fred, there's a lot there. But what it comes down to is two parts. It's awareness and resourcing for the states. It's understanding what are the vulnerabilities that the states face.

We know what the threat is. The threat is the attack of our electoral system. We know what that threat is. It's now understanding each state by state what are the vulnerabilities that they have internally and how were they going to put the proper resources against that to mitigate the threat.

The Florida incident should be a huge warning sign. The federal government did warn Florida officials that there were attempts by Russian intelligence to meddle in their election systems. Did they have the right resources, though, to respond to that alert? That's what we need to dissect right now and ensure that that doesn't happen again.

If the federal government is going to be out there working, you know, in a collaboration with the states, we have to understand how to respond. If states don't have the resources, we need to figure out a quick pathway on how to get them the proper resources, again, to protect one of the crown jewels of American democracy, is our electoral system.

[13:45:17] WHITFIELD: All right, Jonathan Wackrow, we'll leave there for now.

WACKROW: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much.

Coming up, a Georgia family now fighting to be together. A same-sex couple turns to the courts in hopes of forcing the government to recognize their daughter as an American citizen.


WHITFIELD: All right. They're calling it flat-out discrimination and now a married, same-sex couple in Georgia is suing the U.S. State Department for refusing to recognize their daughter as a citizen.

Derek Mize and Jonathan Gregg had their daughter, Simone, with the help of a surrogate in England last year. Both fathers are listed on Simone's birth certificate and both fathers are U.S. citizens.

They're claiming that under those circumstances, Baby Simone should be considered a U.S. citizen as well. Because of a State Department policy and because this couple is a same-sex couple, daughter, Simone, isn't. That is at the core of a lawsuit.

Joining me is Avery Friedman, a civil rights attorney and law professor, and Richard Herman, a criminal defense attorney and law professor.

Good to see you both. [13:50:08] AVERY FRIEDMAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Hi, Fredricka.


WHITFIELD: Richard, you first.

The State Department is the one that is denying, you know -- recognizing Simone as a U.S. citizen because both of these gentlemen, living aboard, working for the U.S. State Department, at least one of them was. The child is birthed in England, by way of a surrogate, but by way of one of the fathers, there's a biological connection to Simone.

Help us understand how it is that the State Department would be able to deny citizenship of a child that is biologically attached to at least one of those men who are in a legal same-sex marriage.

HERMAN: Right.

WHITFIELD: I just have to lay it all out because it's really, really complicated.


WHITFIELD: Now you pick it up from there.


HERMAN: It's really not that complicated, Fred. And I'll show you why. Here, what we're seeing is pretty much blatant discrimination by the Department of State. They should know better.

Lawyers spend their lives interpreting cases, watching precedents, stare decisis, listening to judges and advising their clients. But under this cult administration where things have been turned upside down, you can't do that.

Here, what happened was, the State Department turned down a right to get a passport for this little baby that was born from a same-sex marriage. These two men were married in the state of New York legally. They had the child via surrogacy in England. And when they went to come back to get a passport, the State Department said, no, because you're same-sex marriage, we're going to treat at if the child was born out of wedlock and, therefore, different standards apply --


WHITFIELD: There's the rub because they are legally married, they are legally married --

HERMAN: Yes, yes.

WHITFIELD: -- and it's recognized by the United States.

How is it that the State Department can say that and that will be honored, especially when you're talking about their service, right -- HERMAN: Absolutely.

WHITFIELD: -- of these individuals while working for the U.S. government and living aboard?


FRIEDMAN: That's the issue.

In 2015, the Supreme Court laid to rest the constitutional question, same-sex marriage is constitutional. In 2018, 2019, the State Department, an agency of the United States government, think about that, is ignoring what the Supreme Court said.

So understand the Fifth Amendment, under the Fifth Amendment, these two individuals are going forward in a federal district court and, frankly, a federal district judge will have very little difficulty enjoining, stopping, granting an injunction against the State Department for what they're doing.

And, Frankly, I think it's mean-spirited. I think it's grotesque. The idea that an agency of the United States government would ignore a four-year-old decision by the Supreme Court and penalize this couple and, frankly, Baby Simone, the child. It's just wrong. And ultimately, I think someone needs to be held accountable for it.

WHITFIELD: Richard, what is going to be the argument on behalf of the U.S. government or the State Department to be able to say that we don't recognize this as -- I don't know what the approach is going to be. Is it going to start with, we don't recognize this to be a legal marriage or we don't recognize --


WHITFIELD: -- the biological connection to the child born aboard. How will that happen?

HERMAN: They're ignoring the case that Avery mentioned in the Supreme Court in 2015 recognizing same-sex marriage. They're ignoring another Supreme Court decision in 2017 saying same-sex married couples have the same rights as opposite-sex married couples. They're ignoring all of that. They're trying to do a strict construction interpretation of this statute. And because they are --


HERMAN: -- want to be in line and show the president, who has been showing efforts to roll back --


WHITFIELD: But then, legally, will --


WHITFIELD: -- but legally -- (CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: But, Avery, I wonder, legally, will it be a losing battle? Because, you know, of the very precedent of the marriage being legal?

FRIEDMAN: There's no legal argument that the State Department has. It's not a political issue. It is a legal issue. And it gets right down to not an agency but some ministerial functionary dolt at the State Department wanting to do it his own way.

Remember the Kim Davis case, that Kentucky clerk that wouldn't issue a license because she was against same-sex marriage? It's the same thing.

We need to find out who it is. That individual has to go. That passport has to issue.

This case is not complicated. Any first-year law student will know how to answer it.


[13:55:07] FRIEDMAN: And the State Department is going to be held liable, responsible for what they have done here.

HERMAN: The problem is -- the problem is, Fred


HERMAN: -- nothing is that certain under the administration. Subpoenas get issued, people ignore them. People violate laws, they don't get prosecuted.

You don't know how this is going to come down, Avery.


FRIEDMAN: You're turning legal case into a --


HERMAN: Legally, legally, this child should get citizenship. She only has a 90-day visa right now. Legally, under this statute, and the law, she should. Because the same civil rights that apply to married couples apply to same-sex marriage couples.

FRIEDMAN: Exactly right. Exactly right.

HERMAN: You would think that. But you never know. You never know what's going to happen here, Fred.


WHITFIELD: Yes, it is fascinating.

FRIEDMAN: They're going to win, hands down. WHITFIELD: OK.

Avery Friedman, Richard Herman, good to see you all. Thank you very much.


HERMAN: Good to see you, Fred.

FRIEDMAN: So long.

WHITFIELD: It is a door-to-door search now in Canada for two teens wanted for murder. And get this. Those teens may be unintentionally getting help eluding police.


WHITFIELD: Hello, again. Thank you for being with me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

"A big win" -- that's how President Trump is celebrating the Supreme Court decision to let him move forward and spend military funds to build a border wall.

[13:59:58] The court cleared the way for the administration to begin using $2.5 billion in Pentagon money for construction along the southwestern border. But the fight is not exactly over. Yesterday's decision lets the Trump administration --