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Trump Wants Russia Back into G8 Despite Ejection Over Crimea; Trump Moves to Detain Migrant Families and Children Indefinitely; Mom Awaiting Liver Transplant in Battle to Stay Alive; Amazon Rain Forest Burning at Record Rate. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired August 21, 2019 - 15:30   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Today President Trump is renewing his call for Russia to rejoin the G-7 making it G-8. Of course, the group made up of the world's largest economies.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's come up, should we put Russia back in? We spend a lot of time talking about Russia at those meetings and they're not there. I think Russia should be a part of it, because we're looking for world peace. And other things, trade and other things, and it would be a lot easier to have Russia in, where they have always been.


BALDWIN: Russia did belong to what was then known as the G-8 in 2014, it was kicked out after Vladimir Putin illegally annexed Crimea from Ukraine. The land is still under dispute and the majority of the G-8 members at the time supported Russia's ousting. CNN national security reporter Kylie Atwood is here with me. And Kylie, you have quite the scoop. I mean, this whole idea came from whom?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, according to a senior administration official, both President Trump and President Macron agreed during their conversation over the phone yesterday that Russia should be allowed back to the table. That Russia should be invited to the G-7 in 2020, which the U.S. will host.

And that official told me that it was actually President Macron's idea to suggest inviting Russia back to the table. And that President agreed. There were not discussions during that phone call of concessions, of Russian concessions in terms of Crimea, when it comes to their illegal annexation of Crimea.

Now the French officials that I've talked to today says there's no change, that Macron still would not be in favor of bringing Russia back to the fold unless there were some demonstrable change on Crimea. But they aren't saying for sure that he didn't propose this.

So that could mean that if it does come up this weekend as we expect President Trump to bring it up, he's going to be the one that bears the brunt of any criticism over folks saying, we can't let Russia back to the table if they don't make any changes on the issue over which we kicked them out from.

BALDWIN: We'll listen for it I suppose this weekend if it's mentioned and he will be the one who receives the criticism. Kylie Atwood thank you very much with the back story there.

Coming up next. Backlash over a new Trump administration plan to keep migrant families and children in custody indefinitely, I will speak to an attorney who's worked with these families at the border about what this would mean for them?


BALDWIN: New today. The Trump administration unveiling an aggressive new immigration rule that broadly expands the detentions of migrant families and children. Today's move dumps the decades old Flores Settlement which set a 20-day limit for holding for children. The new plan paves the way for indefinite detention of families while allowing the government to use different detention standards.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan says the rule change is meant to reduce the number of families illegally entering the United States. A federal judge must sign off on today's proposed immigration rule change which faces an almost certain legal challenge.

So, with me now, Elora Mukherjee, Director of Columbia Law School's Immigrant Rights Clinic. She's also an attorney who has testified before Congress about these detention conditions. Thank you so much for coming in today.


BALDWIN: It's nice to have you on. You visited the detained children in Texas earlier this year?

MUKHERJEE: Right. In June, I visited children detained in Clint, Texas and found children who were dirty, hungry, scared and detained for long periods of time.

BALDWIN: To hear McAleenan floating this notion that they would just totally change the rules on the Flores Settlement leading to indefinite detention. They're thinking it would be a deterrent. You say what?

MUKHERJEE: I say that it won't be a deterrent. So the Obama administration tried to hold families together indefinitely during the course of their immigration court proceedings. The federal court said that is not permissible that refugee families cannot be detained indefinitely for the deterrence purposes, for the purpose of deterring future refugee families.

And empirical studies studying the period found that the detention actually had no deterrent effect. [15:40:00] BALDWIN: So from those studies, it didn't work. They are

obviously hoping it would work. It would have massive, massive legal challenges. Do you have any idea what the likelihood of this is even happening?

MUKHERJEE: The proposed regulations which should be finalized and announced and published this Friday will almost certainly face legal challenges. They will face challenges in the Flores case itself as contrary to the spirit of the Flores Settlement agreement and the proposed regulations that should be announced as final on Friday will also likely face a constitutional challenge, a challenge under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. As well as a challenge under the Administrative Procedures Act.

BALDWIN: So as it will be challenged, let me just play some of what President Trump said today about his record on family separations.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am the one that kept the families together, OK? You remember that, right?

Just remember I said it and now it gets even better. President Obama and others brought the families apart. But I'm the one that kept the families together with what we're doing now we'll do even more of that, but it will make it almost impossible for people to come into our country illegally.


BALDWIN: You were a critic of all the deportations under the Obama administration, so how do these two administrations compare?

MUKHERJEE: What the President just said in that clip is not true. This President is responsible for a policy of separating families and children at the border, it started in 2017 it continues through this day. The family separation policy has resulted in about 4,500 children who are identified as being separated from their parents. Additional children's case files are currently being reviewed to determine if they have also been separated from a parent.

BALDWIN: I want to ask you also. When the President was speaking before he left for Kentucky today, he went off on a lot of issues. One specifically on birth right citizenship. So just let me bring everyone up to speed. The 14th Amendment passed after the Civil War to ensure that black Americans had full citizenship rights, grants citizenship to quote, all persons born or naturalized in the United States. President Trump said, quote, we are looking at birth right citizenship very seriously, it's frankly ridiculous. You say what?

MUKHERJEE: Birth right citizenship is enshrined in our Constitution. It is one of the most fundamental, important protections that the Constitution grants to every person who is within the United States borders. A challenge to birth right citizenship would be obviously and blatantly unconstitutional.

BALDWIN: Elora, thank you very much for coming in.

MUKHERJEE: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Nice to have you on.

Coming up next, a young mother who beat stage four cancer is now at risk of dying while she waits for a liver transplant. Her family is fighting to move her higher on the transplant list. But she says she doesn't know how much longer she may make it. Her sister joins me live to share their powerful story in just a few moments.


BALDWIN: An Oregon mom is facing the biggest battle of her life to receive a lifesaving liver transplant. Erika Zak is already a brave cancer survivor. But her liver was severely damaged due to surgery to remove her tumors. CNN first covered her story when she had to fight the insurance company just to cover the liver transplant.

She prevailed but now she's waging a different kind of battle. After she was moved down on this transplant list because of the change in qualifying rules. And that has led to an unthinkable conversation where this mother has been forced to explain to her 5-year-old daughter that mom may not survive.

Wayne Drash is this extraordinary CNN enterprise writer who's reported extensively about Erika's struggle, brings us the story today. Her twin sister, Jenna, is also with me, so thank you both for being here. And Jenna, I just have to start with you. How is Erika today?

JENNA ZAK, TWIN SISTER IS IN DESPERATE NEED LIVER TRANSPLANT: I mean, she's struggling every day, but she has newfound hope that you guys covering her story will get her a liver.

BALDWIN: Maybe somebody's watching and can help. Wayne to you, you've done this incredible reporting, now the "New York Times" editorial board is calling attention to the obstacles within this system. Can you just explain to us how this system is failing Erika?

WAYNE DRASH, CNN ENTERPRISE WRITER: The easiest way to explain what happened with Erika was up until May of this year the score that a transplant candidate given that would put on the wait list and would raise you higher on the wait list, was changed from regional area boards around the hospital to a national board.

[15:50:00] Regionally, Erika was given what is called a MELD score of 30. And that was because there were exception points. Her doctor teams added basically seven points to reflect basically the urgency and seriousness and nearness of death for her.

But when it went to the national board level, things kind of re-set and it went back to her natural MELD score of a 23. And just to explain what that means, that sets her back to where she was basically a year and a half ago when I first met with her.

But also just to describe a little bit of the trauma that is inflicted on the family. MELD score of 30, that is the average score that most people had a liver transplant, when they get a liver transplant, the average score is a 30.

So when you get a MELD score of 30, it brings hope to the family that a liver transplant could literally come at any moment. And so to be set back over a year, you could obviously understand what Jenna and her sister and the whole family is going through.

BALDWIN: Yes. I just want to show a picture of Erika. Because this is actually, Jenna, what you Instagramed of your own sister a couple of days ago. And you wrote this.

This is the photo I took of my sister after she almost bled to death due to her liver failure. Do you take this into account when you deny her points? Do you factor in she coughs up cups of blood because her liver is failing?

Obviously, you're angry and understandably so and you here, you tagged anyone with an affiliation to UNOS, that's the acronym for United Network for Organ Sharing. Have you gotten anywhere with this?

ZAK: No. They keep untagging us on all social media.

BALDWIN: Untagging you?

ZAK: Yes. On Instagram they've been untagging us. And then when anyone is reaching out to their email proxy, they all get the same blanket email back. So it's not like they are taking into account anyone's words or shares or anything we've shared on social media. They've been completely silent and they also haven't reached back to Erika's hospital, the Cleveland Clinic either.

BALDWIN: You are on national television right now. What would you say to them, to UNOS?

ZAK: I don't think UNOS should be in the business of determining who gets a liver. They should only be in the business of deciding if their score does not reflect how sick they are. Erika needs a liver. I don't think that they understand how sick she is and if they were able to see her or talk to her, they would understand she is very close to dying. And it's awful and we don't want her to suffer any more and she's so close.

BALDWIN: She's close to what?

ZAK: She's close -- I mean, she's so close to death. And so I mean she needs a liver or she's going to die.

BALDWIN: My goodness. I just want to read -- this is part of the UNOS's statement back to CNN. Wayne, this was in your piece. Our hearts break for Erika and her family and the many others like her who continue to wait for a transplant. And just looking at numbers that you included in your story, Wayne. In 2018, 1,170 people died while waiting for livers.

DRASH: Correct. And, Brooke, while Jenna describes what is happening on social media there and being untagged, transplant doctors and surgeons around the country are behind the scenes doing all they can to meet -- to figure out collectively how they can save her.

There are -- I know of two surgeons, the family doesn't want me to say where they are, who are -- who specialize in living donor transplants. They're known for basically taking the most damaged livers and finding a living donor to see if that's an option.

From talking with Erica medical team, they have previously always thought that was not doable because of the extensive damage to her liver. But I can tell you behind the scenes, there are doctors and surgeons around the country who are very concerned about Erica and doing all they can to try to right the situation.

BALDWIN: Can't even begin to appreciate what your family, Jenna, is going through and the conversations that your sister is having to have with her little girl and her husband. We are thinking of you. Hopefully this could help in some way.

[15:55:00] Jenna and Wayne, thank you very much. And just to all of you watching, if would you like to register as an organ donor, you can do so at Thank you very much.

The President tries distancing himself from his own trade war calling himself the chosen one today.

Plus, the inside story of hundreds of workers being laid off at U.S. Steel and even though the President is all over the place on background checks, hear the talking point showing how the NRA got to him.


BALDWIN: Stunning images out of Brazil where the Amazon Rainforest is burning at a record rate. Now keep in mind 20 percent of the world's atmosphere, oxygen actually comes from there. And scientists say it is key to slowing global warming. The fires have been burning for weeks. We just want to call your attention to what is happening there in Brazil.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.