Return to Transcripts main page


White House Announces New Legal Immigration Rule; Former White House Communications Director, Anthony Scaramucci Suggests Trump Should Be Replaced At Top Of 2020 Ticket; Federal Prosecutors: Dayton Shooter's Friend Bought High-Capacity Magazine, Boy Armor Used In Deadly Shooting; Source: Epstein Was Not Checked On For Hours Before His Death. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired August 12, 2019 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: As you can see, the Dow down nearly 400 points as we are approaching the closing bell.

I am Brooke Baldwin. Thank you very much for being with me. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And now, they're focusing on limiting legal immigration. THE LEAD starts right now.

The Trump administration wants immigrants who are willing to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. That's the message today as the White House announces a new immigration rule that could impact hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people.

The motive remains a mystery, but, today, new answers on how the Dayton killer got his arsenal, including a high-capacity magazine. Thanks to a friend who also says he used to get high with the killer many times a week.

Plus, it could be one of the worst nuclear accidents since Chernobyl. Why Russia's evasive explanations about five scientists killed at a military test site are setting off alarm bells for national security officials around the world.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

In our politics LEAD today, this morning, the Trump administration announced it is seeking to change the rules for legal immigration, seeking to make it harder to get into this country legally. Specifically, the administration is targeting immigrants who are low- income and less educated and thus more likely to rely on food stamps or of other government benefits.

The Trump administration claims it is merely trying to restore integrity to a broken system, but today's announcement is being interpreted by critics as an attempt to discourage immigrants who are poor and uneducated. Potentially flying in the face of that famous Emma Lazarus poem at the Statue of Liberty, which a reporter asked Trump administration immigration official Ken Cuccinelli about earlier today.


STEVE PORTNOY, CBS NEWS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Is that sentiment, "give us your tired, your poor," still operative in the United States, or should those words come down? Should that plaque come down off the Statue of Liberty?

KEN CUCCINELLI, ACTING DIRECTOR, UNITED STATES CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES: Well, I'm certainly not prepared to take anything down off the Statue of Liberty.


TAPPER: Cuccinelli insisted that this rule is not aimed specifically at the Latinos and Latinas that the President has focused on rhetorically and with his border wall. Cuccinelli insisting there's no reason for any particular group to feel as though this is targeting them.


CUCCINELLI: If we had been having this conversation a hundred years ago, it would have applied more to Italians.


TAPPER: Of course, it's not a hundred years ago. This rule has been in the works for months, sources tell me, but it happens to come at a particularly fraught time for the Latino community in the United States -- just a week and a couple of days after the deadliest attack on Latinos in this nation's modern history, that massacre in El Paso.

Not to mention the biggest single-state raid on undocumented immigrants in Mississippi last week where nearly 700 people were picked up at factories across the state. An ICE raid that did not focus at all on violent criminals as President Trump had previously suggested would be ICE's number one target. All of it leaving emotional scenes of children left at daycare centers asking what had their parents done wrong, when would they ever see them again.

The timing of that raid, the Department of Homeland Security Secretary called unfortunate. Cuccinelli said, today, more ICE raids are to come.

CNN's Jessica Schneider joins me. And, Jessica, talk us through what's in these new regulations and what it means for individuals who are trying to legally immigrate to the United States.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Jake, I mean, this will really mark a drastic shift in the way that immigrants are evaluated during that application process for visas and green cards. Under congressional statute, really, the government has long considered how dependent an immigrant is or would be on government assistance when they're determining the eligibility for permanent resident status. But up until now, the government has only considered the cash benefits that immigrants received. But under this new rule announced today and set to go into effect on

October 15th, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will now also factor in whether the immigrant receives any number of public benefits, including food stamps, Medicaid, or housing vouchers. And they will consider those as negative factors in an immigrant's application. Now, of course, the White House is defending this rule, saying that this is a way to ensure and encourage immigrants already here and those looking to come to the U.S. are self-sufficient.


CUCCINELLI: We certainly expect people of any income to be able to stand on their own two feet. And so, if people are not able to be self-sufficient, then this negative factor is going to bear very heavily against them in a decision about whether they'll be able to become a legal permanent resident.


SCHNEIDER: So that's the White House's stance but, of course, critics are already crying foul. They're saying that this amounts to, really, a wealth test; that it will lead to discrimination against immigrants from poorer countries. It could keep families apart, and it could also prompt legal immigrants already here in the U.S. to refrain from seeking public aid.

[16:05:07] And, Jake, earlier today, we heard that the National Immigrant Law Center has said that they will be filing a lawsuit to challenge this new rule -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jessica Schneider, thanks so much. Let's talk about all of this.

Seung Min, let me start with you. Is it fair to say that this rule says don't give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free, give me people who are educated and have some money and, you know, can blend easier into the United States?

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, it's certainly -- the Trump administration, through this action and other actions, are certainly making it clear what type of immigrant that they're looking for into the United States. So obviously, with the public charge rule that was ruled out earlier today, they want -- as administration officials said, they want these immigrants who come legally to the United States to be more or less self-sufficient.

But remember what the administration is also doing here, too. The big legislative plan that Jared Kushner has been drafting also veers the current U.S. immigration system to more one that's based on merit at the expense of people who may be lower-income and what not.

And while there's been so much focus on the President's crusade against illegal immigration and the border wall, there have been so many changes to the legal immigration that has gone under the radar, such as this long debate over the public charge rule that became public today. The administration is slashing the number of refugees admitted to the -- admitted to the United States. They are cutting temporary protective status programs. So they really are reshaping the legal immigration system, you know, day by day.

TAPPER: And there was, I remember, a move by Senator Tom Cotton and some other Republicans, David Perdue from Georgia, I think, to limit legal immigration. It didn't go anywhere in the Senate, so now the Trump administration is kind of trying to do it through rule-making in a way.

RAFAEL BERNAL, REPORTER, THE HILL: Right, it's -- the U.S. Congress has an inability, almost an intrinsic inability, to legislate on immigration, and that's going to continue to be the case unless we see a sea change in the election. That -- and because of that, the only way that the Trump administration can make changes is through these rules and through these procedures. And these rules can often be more difficult for immigrants to manage, like in the -- in the case of what happened today.

You're going to have immigrants who maybe -- maybe one member of the family is on an assistance program, and they won't be able to have that -- have that. And if their children are U.S. citizens, they're going to be scared to get that assistance program, and their U.S. citizen children are going to have lesser outcomes for the future. And then you -- you know, you end up with immigrants being poor and having, you know, lower -- sort of higher crime rates and just a worse outcome, generally.

TAPPER: What's your take on all of this?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I mean, I'm pretty libertarian when it comes to, especially, legal immigration. I'm not on board for the idea that it is somehow bad for American workers. I think, largely, it's good for the economy, it's good for us, to bring people in.

There does need to be a way to adjudicate, and it does seem that often, whenever Trump changes the rules, there is going to be an objection no matter what he changes the rules in which direction. I think his, I think, moves to enforce immigration -- illegal immigration are far more defensible than a lot of the changes made to legal immigration, which I think is legal and largely enriches our country. But we are -- I mean, here's the thing, we don't actually legislate via a poem. Like, we want to --

TAPPER: Right.

HAM: We want to embody the spirit of it, but it is an unfair expectation that that should be the letter of the law. And the letter of the law does have to have very specific rules. And I'm OK with changing some of those to make this very, very bad legal system better at the expense of -- I mean, when we cannot in the absence of doing this legislatively, which, as we have seen, we are incapable of doing, unfortunately.

TAPPER: What's your take on this? KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yet again, though, here we

are demonizing the immigrants and we're not -- and so we're dealing with this part of the problem and not -- I mean, it's a holistic problem, right?

HAM: Yes.

FINNEY: There are people who are already here, there are these children in cages at the border, and there are the people who hire people who are undocumented in this country. And very rarely do those folks ever get -- face any kind of serious penalties. I think there was a study recently that showed something like 11, you know, companies or individuals have actually been prosecuted but with minimal --

TAPPER: Right, when that --

FINNEY: -- you know, sort of punishment.

TAPPER: When that one year -- Syracuse did a study, in one year, 11 individuals were prosecuted.

FINNEY: Yes. As opposed to a much higher number of --

TAPPER: But this is some -- yes.

FINNEY: Yes. So, I mean, I certainly -- you know, and this has been a trend we've seen for a very long time. The second thing I would say very quickly is, having grown up in California, this reminds me a lot of what Pete Wilson tried to do with Proposition 187, which was to say that undocumented immigrants could not access non-emergency social services. And so then you were saying doctors and social workers and teachers were the arbiters of who is legal, who is not legal.

[16:09:58] And what I worry about with this -- with this framework, given the sort of -- the incapacity of this administration to effectively administer any change of any kind of legislation is, how is this going to be administered? Who decides -- what's the rubric for which we're deciding? Well, you might -- you know what, you're a little darker skinned so you look like you might actually need to be on assistance later down the road. I mean, who decides and how do we decide that?

And to what Rafael said, do we end up with a system where we then have people who won't use social services that are needed? Which actually puts the rest of us at risk for health outcomes. And let's remember, these are people who pay about $7 billion in social service -- in social security, so --

TAPPER: Yes. And undocumented immigrants make about --


TAPPER: -- make up about five percent of the workforce. They're a big part of the labor industry, more than half the hired labor on farms, 15 percent in construction. There's this -- you know, everybody, we're all pretending that --

FINNEY: Are you?

TAPPER: -- undocumented immigrants aren't an essential part of the workforce, especially doing jobs that citizens do not want to do.

Seung Min, just quickly if you could, this does seem to be of a piece of what we're hearing from the Trump administration on the politics side of it in terms of talking a lot about people would are not White. Whether it is the squad or Elijah Cummings. I get that this is policy indifferent, but, again, it doesn't feel like a coincidence.

KIM: There's been certainly a lot of this focus on race and the President recently. I mean, just going back to the stunning racist comments, with him telling the four lawmakers to go back to -- for U.S. citizen congresswomen to go back to where they came from and then to the comments involving Baltimore. The President, as we've seen constantly, is really -- and the campaign -- is really driving on that base-focused strategy to the expense of trying to kind of broaden his base. And this is going to be a tactic that we're going to continue to see on and on.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. We've got a lot more to talk about. President Trump just went after a former member of his own White House. What set him off?

Then, a nuclear accident in Russia raising new questions about a possible serious threat to the U.S. Stay with us.


[16:16:07] TAPPER: We're back with our politics lead now.

A former Trump White House official is now suggesting that the Republican Party should consider replacing President Trump as the party's 2020 nominee after President Trump had perhaps one of the worst weeks in his presidency.

Anthony Scaramucci who served as a communications director at the White House for all of 11 days is now warning that each day for President Trump is only getting worse.

CNN's Pamela Brown picks up our coverage now from New Jersey near where the president is vacationing.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump may be on summer break. But he's not taking a vacation from Twitter. Going after his one-time communication director Anthony Scaramucci for this comment on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher".

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I do try to defend him but there are things that he's done that are actually undefensible. BROWN: Trump saying he saw the show by accident and says Scaramucci

was quickly terminated 11 days for a position that he was totally incapable of handling, now seems to do nothing but television as the all time expert on President Trump.

SCARAMUCCI: I try to stay loyal to him. But you can't be loyal to somebody that again is asymmetric in his loyalty.

BROWN: Scaramucci telling CNN he no longer supports the president and hopes Republicans will reconsider their support as well.

SCARAMUCCI: He is giving people a license to hate, to provide a source of anger to go after each other. I think you have to consider a change at the top of the ticket when someone is acting like this.

BROWN: The president also spent part of the weekend re-tweeting baseless conspiracy theories about the death of Jeffrey Epstein. Those tweets seemingly questioning if the alleged sex trafficker killed himself and instead linking it to his political rivals, the Clintons, claiming Epstein had dirt on Bill Clinton.

Sunday, White House Counselor, Kellyanne Conway told "Politico" the president, quote, wants everything to be investigated. Something she repeated on "Fox News Sunday" and didn't exactly put the conspiracy theories to rest.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: There are some unsealed information implicating some people very high up. But you do hear different people asking questions. And they want to know who else was involved in Epstein's crimes or even just activities.


BROWN: And President Trump's first tweet of the day not long ago, he continued to slam Anthony Scaramucci, his one-time communication director, saying he's just upset that he wasn't offered a job in the administration. President Trump going on to say in his tweet that he seldom had time to return his many calls.

So, it appears, Jake, that this cat fight isn't going to end any time soon.

TAPPER: Pamela Brown in New Jersey where the president is vacationing, thanks so much.

I've never heard anybody describe a fight between two men as a cat fight. And I love it. I love it.

FINNEY: Quite appropriate.

TAPPER: And I thought the term had been banned. But, OK, we could bring it back for that.

We should point out -- Scaramucci just responded to President Trump saying, quote: You are losing your fastball. Many have called and are willing to work on a necessary replacement. Time to call in a good relief pitcher.

Earlier, Scaramucci tweeted, quote: To those asking what took so long, you're right. I tried to see the best in Donald Trump based on private interactions and select policy alignment. But his increasingly divisive rhetoric and damage its doing to the fabric of our country outweighs any short-term economic game.

And, Rafael, let me start with you. Because any other administration, this would be just four-alarm fire news. The former communications director for the White House is calling for President Trump to be replaced on the ticket. But it's the Trump administration so --

RAFAEL BERNAL, STAFF WRITER, THE HILL: Our heads would be exploding and instead, you know, we're chatting about it in a civilized manner.

The one thing is Trump does run a big risk here. He runs a risk of hitting a sweet spot where he's not harsh enough for his base and for the likes of Ann Coulter, for example, and he's too harsh for Scaramucci and people who want to see his economic policies continue.

[16:20:03] TAPPER: You mean, harsh, like you're talking about like immigration policy?

BERNAL: Especially on immigration. I think immigration is the Trump issue, whether that's good for him or not. So if he hits that sweet spot, he could be in real political danger.

I would say, it's sort of a worst case scenario for him but now we know that it exists. And that is -- he should be worried.

TAPPER: Scaramucci has said that there is a risk that other former Trump administration officials will come out and say similar things or hasn't exactly been a stampede of them but by the same token is not hard to imagine a few of them saying something.

FINNEY: I think it's possible. But it's more likely, I mean, my own interpretation of what he was saying is he's channeling what Republicans are feeling which is why are you tweeting when you should be doing your job, right? The sort of -- remember the beginning when we were waiting for the pivot and we're still kind of waiting.

HAM: I mean, it was cute, yes.

FINNEY: Right, it was kind of cute, right? There are all these stories about the pivot. It's not happening.

TAPPER: There is no pivot.

FINNEY: What the Smooch is pointing out, right, is this guy is not going to change. This is who he is. So, either we settle with the devils bargain and know this is the guy and he won't talk about the things we want him to talk about, he's not capable of again enacting some of these policy things. I disagree with him on policy. But still other than the --

TAPPER: Talking about the economy. FINNEY: Right. Or heck anything other than the Squad, the this,

that. I think, because the other piece of this is I think voter think, doesn't the president of the United States of America have other things to do?

TAPPER: Other things to do than feud with Donny Deutsche and Anthony Scaramucci.

Seung Min, your paper, "The Washington Post" has reported that the Republican Party leaders are worried about being able to win back these suburbs that they lost in 2018 in the midterms. And the president's antics and racism and constant feuding on Twitter, et cetera, they are worried it will hurt the party chances, not just for President Trump to win re-election but House and the Senate.

KIM: Look, there are a lot of Republicans who held their nose and voted for Trump because a lot of it based on the policies. And Republican senators tell you time and time again that they are happy with the tax policies, their deregulatory policies and particularly, the transformation of the judiciary, but they just really wish he would put down his phone, A, so we stop asking -- asking them questions about his tweets every day, but also because they know his rhetoric could be damaging to the voters that they need.

Clearly, the suburban area will be one heavily targeted area for both parties next year. And on the suburb issue, obviously, we talked about the -- the race issues, the lack of focus on the economy, but also the issue of guns, which is a very rising critical issue for suburban voters and the Republican Party writ at large clearly still opposes any sort of restrictions on guns and that's something that some Republicans are cognizant of that could hurt them.

TAPPER: And, Mary Katharine, obviously, the president gave more fodder to his critics this week when he retweeted this derange conspiracy theories tying Epstein's death to the Clintons.

HAM: Right, although the conspiracy theories about Epstein's death, no matter who is the culprit, maybe the one unifying thing in America right now is just the left and the right, (INAUDIBLE) the perpetrator (ph).

TAPPER: But we don't expect the president.

HAM: No, I'm just --


HAM: But like, no, no, it's ridiculous. It's irresponsible.

I love the part about the story where he's accidentally watching Bill Maher on a Friday.


HAM: Oops. And as far as Scaramucci goes, look, he's not usually an embodiment of the average American, but I will say, this one sentence I'm paraphrasing where he says he's not worth the economic upsides, the bad is not worth the good is something -- that is a real calculation that many people including in the suburbs, college- educated women voters are making.

The problem is that Democrats have to give them somewhere to go.

TAPPER: Right.

HAM: We can talk about that later in the show.

TAPPER: And we will.


TAPPER: Coming up, new information about how the Dayton shooter got his double drum magazine thanks to a friend who admitted to having done acid and pot with him. Stay with us.


[16:28:31] TAPPER: Breaking news in our national lead today. New details on the help that the Dayton shooter got in the months before his deadly attack.

According to federal prosecutors, the gunman's friend bought the high- capacity magazine and body armor that the killer used to slaughter nine people and injure 22 others. This friend hid all of that in his house so the shooter's parents would not find them. He also told officials that he and the gunman regularly did hard drugs together but between 2014 and 2015. He's now in custody and being charged with lying on federal forms in order to obtain the firearms for himself.

And some more breaking news in our national LEAD, sources are now telling CNN that accused pedophile Jeffrey Epstein was not checked on for hours before his death in a New York City jail over the weekend, despite protocol mandating a check every 30 minutes. Sources also say the investigation is now focused on not only the 24 hours before Epstein's death but into wider systemic problems at that jail.

CNN's Brynn Gingras is outside the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.

And, Brynn, what else are you learning about the issues at the jail?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, Jake, listen, this correctional center has a good reputation. It's actually considered one of the best-run in the whole Bureau of Prisons facility. But obviously something went wrong here.

You talked about the protocols that were not followed when it came to Epstein. Well, a different source is saying that two guards who were charged with keeping a watch on Epstein were working overtime shifts, something that was complained about or has been complained about by people who work inside this facility and likely something that's going to be looked into by an admitted angry Attorney General Barr.