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Trump Administration To Enforce Rule That Could Drastically Cut Legal Immigration; Cuccinelli: No One Factor Alone Will Decide An Applicant's Case; USCIS Chief: New Rule Isn't Meant To Target Latinos; Immigration Rule To Be Enforced Allows Some Government Aid; CBP Chief: I Understand That The Girl Is Upset But Her Father Committed A Crime; Poll: 80 Percent Says Priority Should Be Legal Pathways To Citizenship; Scaramucci To GOP: Consider Dumping Trump; Barr: Proposal To Make Mass Shootings A Capital Crime Coming; Pressure Mounts On Congress To Act After Mass Shootings; Scaramucci Compares Trump To Chernobyl Disaster; O'Rourke Forgoing Iowa To Stay In Texas After Mass Shooting; O'Rourke Lagging In National, Key Early State Polls. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 12, 2019 - 12:30   ET



[12:31:07] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: The Trump administration is widening its crackdown on immigration today, this time targeting legal immigration. A new regulation released this morning advances the administration goal of restricting new legal immigration, making it easier to reject green card and visa applications if the government deems it unlikely, applicants can support themselves.

And immigrants already here in the United States legally could be denied permanent status if they accept food stamps or government housing assistance. Critics have filed a lawsuit to challenge the new rule. At the White House today the acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ken Cuccinelli, defended it.


KEN CUCCINELLI, ACTING DIRECTOR, U.S. CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES: 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.

A poor person can be prepared to be self-sufficient. Many have been through the history of this country. So let's not look at that as the be all and end all. It's not the deciding factor, which is why we continue to use the totality of circumstances test.


KING: CNN's Priscilla Alvarez joins our conversation. Help me through the details or so. If you are legally in the United States and you're applying for permanent status and you accept government assistance, general assistance, welfare, supplemental security income, supplemental nutrition assistance program, Medicaid, subsidized housing, the government can say, never mind, you're not self- sufficient, you've got to go?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN IMMIGRATION REPORTER: So we have to break this down in a few ways, because it's an incredibly complicated regulation that they put out today. It is more than 800 pages. And as you mentioned, it really widens the scope of who is considered a public charge. Both within the U.S. applying for these different visas, green cards and those coming to the U.S. And it really gives a lot of discretion to the officers to decide who is going to be a public charge.

So who is going to rely on government assistance to be here in the U.S. And really Cuccinelli's remarks is the crux of the administration's argument here, which is they want immigrants to be self-sufficient. And again I want to be clear, public charge has existed in the current regulations that we have date back three decades. But what we're doing here is that they are widening it. So there are more programs, as you mentioned housing vouchers for example, they are going to play into and factor into whether an immigrant is going to be relying on government assistance.

KING: And so, P.S. (ph) public charge has existed. Now they're widening number one. And number two, it's always the case, it's the emphasis. What does any given administration at any given time want to emphasize. Which rules do they want to enforce.

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, ASSOCIATED PRESS: And basically what this does, is it changes -- could change the face of legal immigration in this country where it would put the emphasis on people who are able to be in this country who would be wealthier, who would be better educated, who would stand a better chance of having a job that could provide -- where they could provide all services for themselves or their family.

And, you know, you hear from immigration advocates is that really goes against the foundation of this country, which is to be a place where people can come and seek -- legally to seek, to move here to immigrate here if they are coming from a place where they didn't have as many economic opportunities, where they are poor, where they are looking for a better home for their families.

So it is a really, I think, what you do hear from immigration, because they really could undercut the foundation of immigration in this country.

KING: And long -- this has long been a goal of Stephen Miller, the President's White House advisor on domestic policy issues, primarily immigration is his calling card. And it comes in a time, it's going to question, so who's in charge because of the turnover at all these agencies who's calling the shots. In this case is it fair to say Stephen Miller is calling the shots?

SHAWNA THOMAS, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, VICE NEWS: It seems to be, because I think they've been working on the public charge and magnifying that rule for a while. And that was something that Stephen Miller has definitely, definitely wanted to do.

But I also think, like you said, this puts a focus on who we want in this country, it also puts a focus on who do we not want in this country. And then a week where Latinos were targeted at a Walmart and we had 600 people swept up in the Mississippi raids.

[12:35:03] And then this, I mean there are one, there's real fear in the Latino community right now just in general that they are targeted, whether by the administration or someone else. And, two, if you feel that way, then you start to believe that you're not wanted here. And that is an impression that this administration seems to be giving over and over and over again. And I think that cannot be denied.

KING: And to that point you have this new rule now which would change -- could potentially change dramatically the face of legal immigration and affect people who are in the country legally waiting to get status. Then you do have these raids.

After the raids of the moment that went viral was this 11-year-old girl talking about her dad. And then on Sunday that Mark Morgan, the acting custom and border patrol was defending it. Let's just show the moments.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need my dad. My dad didn't do nothing. He's not a criminal.

MARK MORGAN, ACTING COMMISSIONER, CUSTOM AND BORDER PATROL: I understand that the girl is upset and I get that. But her father committed a crime. And just so the American people know also is that girl, her mother was home and she was reunited with her mother within a few hours that night.


KING: It's a tough moment.

JOSH JAMERSON, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes. One of the things that I think is interesting is that we're seeing you kind of laid out thing after thing after thing that we're seeing play out in the immigration space. And I think on the campaign trail when you look at these Democratic candidates, it's really moved them from a place of not just looking and draw that moral contrast with what the President is doing.

But they're actually starting to put out robust plans on what they would do. I mean Elizabeth Warren, you know, running as the queen of policy didn't have an immigration plan rollout until a few weeks ago.

You saw Cory Booker now come out with an idea about ending detention facilities as we know it. And so I do think that the candidates, the Democrats running for President are starting to move a little bit. Just in March they were not offering --

KING: And to that point it's fascinating. The Republicans want to focus on those Democrats who support say giving health care to the undocumented, because they believe that's unpopular. Abolishing ICE, that's the label (ph). Now the presidential candidates -- are couple the presidents, because we're not the leading ones right now if said that. But the members (INAUDIBLE).

If you look at the numbers on the question of should the government's top priority be to develop legal pathways for those are in the country illegally or deport them, develop legal pathways tests off the charts, right? So you would think very safe ground for the Democrats. However, the President believes that it motivates his base to vote.

That that may be universal public opinion, that's 80 percent, he didn't get anything, 80% in America that's a wow. But he believes it motivates his base to turn out and that's one of the reasons. They believe, some of them in the administration believe in these policies. But the reason they're happening now is connected to the calendar.

ALVAREZ: And to that end I think as you mentioned, public charge is something that they proposed months ago and they had to work through the process to get it where it is today. And we're going to continue to see the administration roll out immigration policies and the raids, the work site enforcement raids that we saw last week and that will ramp up.

KING: And in this case the -- again, some of the numbers, you have to be a contrarian to understand their view. But the President believes it motivates his people more than does the other side even though they favor the numbers we'll see.

Up next, Anthony Scaramucci says a Trump meltdown is happening before our very eyes, and he says Republicans better do something about it.


[12:42:35] KING: Topping our political radar today, the Attorney General, William Barr, says the Trump administration next month will propose legislation that would make mass shootings a capital crime. Speaking at a policing conference in New Orleans today, Barr says the new law will also make killing a police officer punishable by death. The Attorney General says he's been directed by President Trump to develop strategies and measures to address mass shootings, that of course in the wake of last week's deadly attacks in Dayton and El Paso.

Those tragedies in Ohio and Texas have much of the country demanding action from the Congress. Various proposals for curbing gun violence are on the table but it's not clear which ones have a realistic chance of going anywhere when lawmakers return from their August recess. One of the latest from the Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. He says anyone who tries to buy body armor should have to pass an FBI background check.

Let's see in congressional of course by our own Manu Raju joins us now from Capitol Hill. Manu, what's real and what is talk in the idea of will Congress vote on specific proposals? MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's going to be a lot of push to get bills voted on. The House Judiciary Committee is going to come back a week early but that's not until early September to take up bills. Probably most of them will not become law. One bill that probably does have a chance of actually getting through both chambers is so-called red-flag legislation. That's a legislation, the different versions of that particular bill, but one that's being talked about would give grants, federal grants to states and localities to give them the authority to develop laws.

So enforcement -- law enforcement and others could come in and prevent people from getting access to guns if they are considered safety risks. But other issues such as background checks legislation, which is going to be pushed on, is very uncertain its future. The Democrats in the House have been trying to get Senate Republicans to take up a bill that they passed in their chamber to provide universal background checks. That bill may get a vote in the Senate eventually, but that is almost certainly likely to fall well short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster.

There are other background checks (INAUDIBLE) the Manchin-Toomey Bill which is narrower than the House-passed bill. But the Manchin-Toomey Bill also has had its problems in the past, did not pass in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Massacre that bill failed in 2013. So what alter (ph) they can get behind remains to be seen. And John, as you know, this town is in a recess -- this chamber is in recess right now. There's no indication that the Republicans are going to bring back the Senate, the House Democrats don't want to do that.

So these talks, will not materialize until the fall session. So it could take weeks and weeks to play out. And the outcome of these bills certainly unknown. John?

[12:45:04] KING: In the past those weeks and weeks has dropped the impetuous, if you will, the political will to get it done. Manu Raju live on the Hill, appreciate that.

The former Trump communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, is taking his spat with the President Trump up a notch this weekend by comparing the President's tenure to the world's worst nuclear disaster. Scaramucci says he no longer supports his former boss's bid for re-election and that Republicans should consider replacing him on the 2020 ticket.

Their predicament Scaramucci says, not unlike the one, follow along here, depicted in the HBO series "Chernobyl" when Soviet party bosses tried to cover up how serious that crisis was.


ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER TRUMP COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: How are we all tolerating it? To me a couple more weeks like this, I really do believe there will be a groundswell in the party where people say, hey, the policies are great, but you're setting us up the way Jimmy Carter set up the Democratic Party where they went into the wilderness for 40 years. And if you saw the Chernobyl series, it did not end well. So, we're in the first two episodes now. Let's see how this thing unfolds.


KING: Huh?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Not to challenge his wisdom, but it's kind of the opposite way. We were talking about that earlier in the show, right, where there's so much that's out there that it's -- were kind of inured to the impact of anything Trump says. It's kind of the opposite of when the, you know, USSR was keeping everything very close in the inner circle. But the fact that he's kind of said this anyway is a moment in itself.

KING: I mean he wants to be on television which is why he says provocative things. But he someone who was once in the inner circle now on the outs. We shall see. I don't think the Republican Party will listen to Anthony Scaramucci. Just, you know, make a relative safe about there.

When we come back, there was one Democrat conspicuously missing from Iowa this weekend, at home in El Paso because of tragedy.


[12:50:09] KING: Beto O'Rourke skipped Iowa this weekend to stay at home in El Paso. The former congressman is struggling in the Democratic race and so skipping big events in Iowa is a risk, but he said it was much more important to be home, to help El Paso deal with the horrific mass shootings.

"The New York Times" noting this, "A presidential candidate whose campaign was stalled was suddenly back in the spotlight but only because of a tragedy in a city that is core to his personal and political identity." O'Rourke's response to the shooting includes very harsh criticism of President Trump.


BETO O'ROURKE (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People in El Paso told me they didn't want to see the President and didn't want him to come here.

Donald Trump is dangerous to the future of America and will destroy what makes us so unique and so special and the genius that we represent to ourselves and to the rest of the world. And so I appeal to my fellow Americans to choose a candidate who will bring this very divided and highly polarized country together.


KING: It's a somewhat awkward conversation in the sense that you don't want to minimize for a second the pain in El Paso and the former congressman's, I think decent decision to be at home.


KING: To be part of these events. Whether you support him or not, he wanted to be at home, not in Iowa giving a speech. But also it comes at an interesting moment for a guy who is running for president and getting a lot of people, you know, whispering in his ear why don't you drop out and run for Senate.

PACE: Absolutely. El Paso is so core to who Beto O'Rourke is, what his political career has been about, this idea of a city that is a majority and minority city that is on the border, that is a lot of families that go back and forth to the United States and Mexico.

And so in some ways what appears to be the motivation behind this shooting also really goes to that whole ethos. This idea of someone who went there, drove to El Paso, specifically to target immigrants, to target Mexicans.

And it has given O'Rourke, though he certainly wouldn't have wished for this opportunity, it has given him this opportunity to really reclaim that core message of his campaign as somebody who would campaign and govern as someone who is more respectful to immigrants, more tolerant of immigrants and more just understanding of the idea of immigrants' place in this country than certainly President Trump.

THOMAS: But I think some of what we're seeing working here for him is that he authentically feels something about El Paso and what happened, and sort of it knows like that first 24 hours, there was that interaction with the media where someone asked him about President Trump and he kind of went off. Like you were like, oh, that's the real Beto O'Rourke that we saw in the 2018 election during his Senate race. That is a real human being.

And this authenticity, like this is one thing that President Trump has made very, very clear, is people appreciate authenticity. And even if you don't believe everything the president says, you feel like that is him. I feel like the Beto O'Rourke I've been seeing in all of these interviews is him. It's also why the Andrew Yang moment worked this weekend too.

KING: That's an interesting point. The numbers are the numbers and so that's what's hard for Beto O'Rourke. If you look at the polling, in national polls he's at two percent. In Iowa he's less than 1 percent. In New Hampshire he's two percent. In South Carolina he's one percent.

There is a growth, you've seen all these retirements from House Republicans in Texas. There's this thought that maybe Beto could -- after coming close against Ted Cruz, could beat John Cornyn. He says no in "The New York Times, "I'm running for president. He said firmly when asked to respond to those pushing a Senate bid.

This community holds so much for the rest of the country, whether it's immigration, whether it's our safety, whether it's our connection to the rest of the world, whether it's the fact that we're on the front line of so many issues that can and will define America." That's to your point -- and to both of your points, that he believes El Paso is the future of America and he's very authentic and passionate about it. He has until December 9th to make a decision about Texas, but he seems pretty adamant.

DEMIRJIAN: Yes. And that gives him a lot of time. I mean look, if he becomes the candidate that takes the gun control message on as his character now and on the debate stage, if he becomes the candidate that becomes the most listened to one on issues of immigration, then maybe he does have a catapulting moment off of this.

And as you said not when he created, but it could give him that sort of moment. He has a few more times to test that out and see if he's able to deliver that message on a national stage in a way that people hear it that makes his numbers bump up. And if it doesn't work, like you said he still has time. The irony is, though, that for the Democratic Party to talk about the gun control message, to talk about the immigration message really, really works. Unclear in a state that's as mixed politically as Texas, if those are the same messages that would play to his advantage in a Senate race.

THOMAS: I'd also like to say he also said he wasn't running for president too. But he was running for president.

DEMIRJIAN: Yes. They always say no until they said yes.

THOMAS: Exactly.

KING: Things change. Up next, we asked you to send some questions. Next we answer them.


[12:58:21] KING: Welcome back. We asked you to tweet us some questions. Let's try to get to them quickly here. From Just George, I feel Cory Booker is a very strong candidate to face off against Donald Trump. Why are his polling numbers so low and what do you think he can do to bring up his polling numbers? Get more recognition.

JAMERSON: I think he's got a pretty impressive Iowa operation. I mean the two candidates was really, really impressive Iowa operations are Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker. So, long primary. Maybe he'll get a shot.

KING: Maybe a surprise in the horizon there. This from Tyler Payton. Assuming the 2020 field will be whittled down significantly by the third debate, who in the lower tier of the field are you looking to make a big splash once on stage with the entire top tier. Now, we mentioned Beto O'Rourke, that's one possibility for him. He has qualified in this -- maybe he gets a splash if the field shrinks for the later debate. Who else?

PACE: I think Booker is a good one to look at. I think we're looking at him in the bottom tier right now. I'm looking to see if there's another moderate, who's going to surface in here, maybe Michael Bennett, maybe a moment for Amy Klobuchar. There is part of this party that leans towards the moderates and Joe Biden has really taken up that space all to himself.

KING: Right. And to Joe Biden's point, Nathan Price tweets at us, if Biden has a big stumble in the next debate, who's in the best position to get some of his voters?

THOMAS: I think it depends on what those voters are looking for, but we've seen his numbers drop slightly and Elizabeth Warren's go up. And like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are competing. But I think if Biden stumbles, what happens is people start looking around. So I'm not sure it's one person gets it but everyone starts to get another consideration.


DEMIRJIAN: No I think -- yes that Shawna is absolutely right on that one. And I think the first people to grab at it are the ones in the second and third place and that is Sanders and Warren. And -- but as we see --

KING: That's why Harris has park in Iowa for five days, to move up on the second chance. But thanks for joining us for INSIDE POLITICS. See you back here this time tomorrow.

Brianna Keilar starts right now. Have a great day.