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Democrats Flock to Iowa Union Event; Expanded Detentions of Migrant Families; Arrests for Violent Threats Rise to 27. Aired 9:30- 10a ET

Aired August 21, 2019 - 09:30   ET



[09:31:46] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back.

Today a flurry of 2020 presidential candidates descending on Iowa, making their pitch to union workers across the state. The Iowa Federation of Labor hosting 16 candidates throughout the day. There they all are. That includes frontrunners Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren. Their ultimate goal, to swing voters in a state President Trump won by 10 points in 2016.

I'm joined now by Brianne Pfannenstiel. She's chief politics reporter for "The Des Moines Register."

Great to have you on this morning, Brianne.

So, Democrats, they've got a lot of ground to make up to win back Iowa voters in a general election. As they speak to union workers there, what are the key concerns for those workers today?

BRIANNE PFANNENSTIEL, CHIEF POLITICS REPORTER, "DES MOINES REGISTER": Well, a lot of union workers right now are telling us that they feel like the Democratic Party is not really talking to them, not speaking to their issues. They want to hear people talking about trade. They want to hear support for unions to bring back unions in Iowa like across the country.

Unions here have kind of weakened. They account for about 8 percent of the workforce right now. That's down from 15 percent 30 years ago.

So unions are feeling under attack. Iowa gutted its collective bargaining laws for public sector unions a couple of years ago. So they're just feeling the pressure. They're not feeling supported. They want a president who's going to come in and talk about worker rights.

SCIUTTO: How about the economy because clearly the White House is concerned about the potential softening of economic numbers. And are union workers feeling that? Is that a question they're going to be asking the Democratic candidates about?

PFANNENSTIEL: I think absolutely they'll be asking those questions. You know another thing they're going to be talking about is support for a $15 minimum wage. We've seen some of these candidates come in and not just talk about these things but attend rallies. We saw Bernie Sanders rallying with McDonald's workers for higher wages, for, you know, the ability to unionize. And so we're seeing some of these candidates really come in and put their money where their mouth is, so to speak. And so I think a lot of union workers are looking not just for them to say the right things, but to really indicate, in actions and in policies, what they would do to help these workers.

SCIUTTO: I spoke to a representative of Minnesota farmers last week who said definitively in the view of farmers there, the U.S., President Trump are losing the trade war. They feel left out in the cold on this. I'm curious, is that a similar view among farmers in Iowa?

PFANNENSTIEL: Well, you're really, of course, split along party lines. A lot of farmers here are Republican. And so when you talk to them, they do say, you know, we want the president to be tougher on China, we want him to be tougher on trade, we think he's going in the right direction, but we can't hold out forever. You know, at a certain point, you know, they're losing money. This is hurting them financially and they need to see some real results and so it really depends.

And you go and you talk to some more progressive farmers who are looking at the plans laid out by people like Senator Elizabeth Warren. And so you really do get a lot of variation. But you do hear kind of universally from farmers, we want a tougher stance on China, we want better trade deals, but we need to see some results.

SCIUTTO: Joe Biden, as you know, sticking to the top of the Democratic field. In fact, increasing his lead in the most recent CNN polling. On Monday, the former second lady, Dr. Jill Biden, of course the former vice president's wife, she told New Hampshire voters that they should not vote for -- what they should really do is focus on the candidate who can beat Donald Trump.

[09:35:12] I want to play her comments and get your reaction.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She was making the case, you should pick the person you think could win because none of our issues will matter if Donald Trump wins.


SCIUTTO: Of course that's Joe Biden defending his wife's comments there. But I wonder, in Iowa, Iowa voters, you know better than me, there are very issues focused. They know the issues. They demand a lot from the candidates in getting hard answers to hard questions.

How is electability playing into their decision here?

PFANNENSTIEL: Electability is huge for Iowa voters right now. When you ask people what they want in a candidate, nine times out of 10 the first thing they say is, we want someone who can defeat the president. we want someone who can win in a general election. And so you get a lot of different answers about what that actually means to them, what electability looks like.

But Joe Biden is making the case that I think resonates with a lot of Iowa voters right now that, you know, maybe we align on 85 percent on -- of the issues and not 100 percent. But if you think I can win, then that matters most because you're not going to get any of the issues that you care about if Donald Trump is re-elected.

SCIUTTO: You saw CNN's polling today showing that the president's approval rating has fallen down to 40 percent. This is reflective of other polls. And I'm curious, in Iowa, because those are national numbers, in Iowa, are you seeing evidence of the same?

PFANNENSTIEL: Yes and no. Our latest polling is a couple of months old here on the ground for his approval rating. But among Republicans, he's still extremely popular. I think his approval rating was something of like 81 percent among registered Republicans.

So among his base, among voters who typically support Republicans, he's doing quite well. But across the state, you do run into people who said, I voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and I'm not planning to do it again. I'm looking for a new home. I'm looking for someone else that I can put my support behind.

SCIUTTO: The question is who that is.

Brianne Pfannenstiel, great to have you on. Perspective from Iowa.


SCIUTTO: The Trump administration wants to increase the amounts of time that it can hold migrant families in detention facilities like this one you're seeing here. Those details ahead.


[09:42:38] SCIUTTO: Right now the Trump administration is announcing a new regulation that will allow migrant families to be detained longer. Currently, migrant children cannot be held in federal custody in centers like the one you're seeing here longer than 20 days. The administration says the current rule forces officials to either release immigrant families together or to separate them. And one official says migrant families could exploit that loophole.

Joining us now CNN national correspondent Dianne Gallagher.

Dianne, as you know, this is an administration that has not hesitated to increase restrictions along the border with the intention of deterring people from coming. I wonder if you find the administration's explanation of this credible based on your own reporting?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So let's just be clear about this, Jim. This regulation doesn't just close a loophole. It literally blows up the standards that the government has abided by for the past 20 years. It potentially could hold families together indefinitely. You guys probably all remember hearing something called the Flores

Settlement Agreement, especially last summer during the child separation crisis that the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy created. We talked about it a lot then. It sets the conditions and the limits on the length of time which the government can detain immigrant children. Now, that time limit has been set at 20 days.

Well, this new regulation, it essentially removes any time limit. Instead, it keeps kids in custody, with or without their families, for the duration of their immigration proceedings. The regulation does this by giving the government the authority to use either state licensing or ICE detention standards. Immigration Customs Enforcement standards.

Now, look, ICE currently operates three family facilities for undocumented people. And immigration proceedings can take a couple of months or, in some cases, up to five years to be completed. Look, that's according to the acting DHS secretary, Kevin McAleenan.

Now, the regulation, they say, will include provisions for parole and bonding out and third party audit. And a DHS official says that migrants who have valid asylum claims, or they can gain other legal status, could be released from detention. But the government still has to brief the judge who oversees the Flores Agreement and it wouldn't take effect for 60 days after this post.

But, look, Jim, this is likely going to be challenged pretty quickly in the court system. Advocacy groups, lawmakers already speaking out. And the bottom line here is, this affects children and adults. These families who are coming here.

[09:45:05] And, look, there were thousands and thousands of them this year. Wouldn't have an end date for when they would be let out of detention.

SCIUTTO: Listen, thank you for cutting through the talking points. That's what reporting is.

Dianne Gallagher, good to have you on.

Meanwhile, U.S. Customs and Border Protection says it will not give flu vaccines to migrants in border camps. At least three, we should note, migrant children have died in U.S. custody just since December after contracting the flu. Border officials say they made the decision because of the complexity of vaccination programs and the short amount of time migrants are in CBP custody. CBP is supposed to hold migrants for 72 hours or less, but they are often there longer. After children without parents leave CBP custody, they're placed in the care of HHS where flu vaccines are given out.

This morning, as we learn that President Trump is backing off plans once again to expand background checks for gun purchases, new information on more than two dozen arrests over the threats to carry out a mass shooting just in recent days.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [09:50:41] SCIUTTO: This just in to CNN.

We have learned that a 15-year-old girl in California was arrested last week and charged with making a terrorist threat. Police say the teen posted a picture of guns online with the caption "don't come to school tomorrow." She's among more than two dozen people arrested for making violent threats just in the days following the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton.

CNN's Rosa Flores is in Daytona Beach, Florida, with more details on these cases.

And, Rosa, I'm curious how seriously authorities have been taking these cases. Do they think that deadly violence was averted here?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, they definitely do, Jim. And law enforcement around the country sending a very clear message that any threats that are either posted online, on social media, that are tweeted, that are called in to friends or family members, will be taken very seriously, and also asking people, asking the public, to continue to submit those tips to law enforcement because here's what we've seen around the country. Law enforcement have been receiving tips, mostly about young men or men posting threats online. Police are taking these very seriously. They are following those leads, investigating. And once probable cause has been established, they are making arrests.

Now, these arrests are being captured on body camera video. And one of the fascinating things is that then parents are caught in this camera video questioning police, saying that perhaps their child is just a kid, that these are just jokes. And police officers are telling parents that they have to take these threats seriously, especially after the mass shootings that we have seen lately, especially after El Paso, Sandy Hook, and all of these various shootings, Jim.

And so -- so here's the summary for us. CNN has been tallying all of these incidents. Twenty-seven arrests lately since the El Paso and the Dayton shootings in Ohio, in 26 cases. Again, law enforcement taking this very, very seriously.


SCIUTTO: No question. Of course you saw in past case where those threats were not taken seriously and violence followed. But then the worry, of course, is that innocent people get swept up as well.

Rosa Flores, great to have you on this story. We know you're going to continue to follow it.

SCIUTTO: President Trump is standing by his controversial comments that Jewish-Americans who vote for Democrats would be disloyal. I'm going to speak to the head of the Anti-Defamation League about it. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [09:58:02] SCIUTTO: This morning, a California school district is reopening an investigation into a group of students accused of giving a Nazi salute during an off-campus sports banquet. It comes a day after this disturbing video went viral appearing to show students giving that Nazi salute. They were also singing a Nazi marching song. This video from November 2018.

The Garden Grove School District says it learned of the incident in March, disciplined the students then. Officials would not say what that discipline was, citing privacy laws. Now that this video has gone public and gone viral, the district said it has learned new details about the incident and is reopening its investigation.

A very good morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington. Poppy Harlow is off today.

No sale, no visit. President Trump says that he is scrapping a state visit to U.S. ally, NATO ally, Denmark in two weeks after Danish officials rejected his expressed interest in buying Greenland, a sovereign part of Denmark. The Danish royal family calling the cancellation a, quote, complete surprise.

It comes as the president changes his mind on another issue, universal background checks for gun purchases here at home. According to a source, a phone call with the head of the NRA, combined with pressure from GOP lawmakers, has cemented the president's reversal against supporting stricter background checks. The president telling the NRA chief, Wayne LaPierre, that they are now off the table, which is something, of course, the NRA sought.

And is the G-7 soon to be back to the G-8? President Trump says that he wants to bring Russia back in 2020. And according to a senior administration official, so does the French president, Macron -- Emmanuel Macron. The two men allegedly agreed during a Tuesday phone call and President Trump is expected to bring up the topic this weekend at the G-7 with other world leaders.

[10:00:04] Of course we should remind you, Russia was kicked out of the G-8 for its annexation and invasion.