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Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) Discusses Trump's Attempt to End Birthright Citizenship, Pushing to Hold Immigrant Families in Detention Longer, Giuliani Investigating Biden Ties to Ukraine, Trump Blaming Obama on a Variety of Topics; Fires Raging at Record Rate in Amazon Rainforest, Veering Toward Disaster; Uproar after Trump's Ex- Press Secretaries Get TV Jobs; White House Drops Attempt to Cancel Foreign Aid. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired August 22, 2019 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): Secondly, I think it shows his lack of respect for the Constitution and for the millions of Americans who fall within this category.

We have to remember the history of the 14th Amendment. It was designed to clarify and to overturn the worst ruling in the history of the Supreme Court, the Dred Scott decision, that said that freedmen were not citizens of the United States, even though they were freed from slavery. Because the fact that they were born here had nothing do with being citizens.

The 14th Amendment clarified that, saying, oh, no, anyone born in the United States is a citizen, period.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: The Trump administration is implementing a policy change to terminate what's called the Flores agreement. This is the agreement that's been around for decades that limits how long the U.S. government can hold minor immigrant children in detention, which is 20 days. It also sets the standard for the conditions in which they're held. And this change would allow the administration to hold children indefinitely.

What are your concerns with getting rid of that protection?

CONNOLLY: As an American and as a father, I cannot fathom how the Trump administration thinks it's OK to separate kids from their families. And then to incarcerate them indefinitely. It's just plain wrong. It doesn't reflect American values. It doesn't reflect humane values. We can't go down that road.

This is the evil influence of Stephen Miller, who has a ready and willing receptor in Donald J. Trump. It's just plain wrong. And I hope Republicans, as well as Democrats will speak out against it.

KEILAR: They're trying to make the point that this is because parents would be detained. But there's a limit on children. That this would allow families to stay together. Of course, in detention. What do you say to that?

CONNOLLY: I don't think children should be in detention. We know from a number of my colleagues that visited these detention centers at the border, that the conditions are anything but humane. The idea that they would prolong those conditions and those detentions, with or without family members, is startling and reprehensible, in my opinion.

KEILAR: I had on the acting ICE director yesterday and he was making a point these are not the detention centers that we're seeing on the border, these CBP detention centers. These are ICE detention centers. He was saying that they're great, they're like dorms. What do you say to that?

CONNOLLY: Well, then he ought to spend a month in them and have his family join him as well. Maybe he can tell us how humane and hygiene and comfortable those facilities really are.

KEILAR: I want to talk to you about something that we've learned from the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, that he has spoken personally, he said, with Ukrainian officials as he looks for potential dirt on Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who served on the board of a gas company in Ukraine.

You and I talked about this back in May when Giuliani was planning a trip to Ukraine for this purpose, which, ultimately, he called off. You said that Congress should investigate. Instead, he met with his contact in Madrid last month. Is this something that Democrats are going to investigate?

CONNOLLY: If you mean by investigating, I meant Rudy Giuliani. I think Mr. Giuliani's activities threatened back in May and now going on today are really un-American.

I mean, it's not his business to be investigating the former vice president of the United States. It's a canard. It's been disproved. But it lingers in social media on blogs, right-wing blogs. And Rudy Giuliani is trying to discredit the former vice president.

None of us can fully account for the activities of our family members, but they don't necessarily reflect on us. They certainly, in this case -- there's no evidence that Joe Biden ever took any improper action with respect to the Ukraine.

KEILAR: The president referenced former President Obama several times yesterday when he had this extended Q&A session on the South Lawn with reporters. He blamed him on a variety of topics. He does this a lot. But there seemed to be this uptick of it yesterday. Why do you think he does that?

CONNOLLY: Well, I think the contrast bothers him. President Obama was a historic figure. He comported himself for eight long years without scandal. Without blemish. He comported himself in a respectful and dignified manner. He added luster to the presidency.

Trump is the antithesis of all of that. He has degraded and debased the office of the president. He is held in contempt by most Americans in terms of his behavior. He can't resist nasty tweets and bullying behavior. He's anything but a model for parents to point to you can be like that. No parent is going to do that. I think that contrast eats away at him.

[13:35:12] KEILAR: Congressman Gerry Connolly, thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.

CONNOLLY: My great pleasure, Brianna.

KEILAR: The Amazon Rainforest is burning at a record rate. Why Brazil's president doesn't seem in a hurry to stop it.

And how President Trump's 2016 rivals predicted his presidency. The clip that you have to see.


[13:40:05] KEILAR: Now, to an undercover story that we're trying to shine a light on. The Amazon Rainforest is burning. Just to get an idea of how much smoke this is creating, this is Sao Paulo in the middle of the day. This is not a nighttime picture that you're seeing. This was earlier this week. We have other looks at this as well. All of this is smoke.

Brazil's space research center says the number of fires in the Amazon are currently 80 percent higher than this time last year.

This is not only terrible news for the local ecosystem. This will have a global impact. The Amazon Rainforest produces 20 percent of the air that we breathe. It's known as the planet's lungs. And 99 percent of these fires are estimated to be caused by humans.

CNN's Shasta Darlington is live from Sao Paulo.

Shasta, what's the prognosis of making sure, one, that other fires don't start but also putting these ones out?

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN REPORTER: So, Brianna, unfortunately, a big part of the problem is that many of these fires ravaging the Amazon at an alarming rate have been started by people, by farmers and loggers and ranchers trying to clear land.

And the best way to control them is by cracking down on that. We haven't seen that happen.

The institute that tracks deforestation says there have been 72,000 fires in Brazil so far this year. Many of them in the Amazon.

And environmentalists blame the administration, the highest level of government, saying that the new president, Jair Bolsonaro, has encouraged the development of the Amazon, saying that it should be developed not protected. And he defunded the agencies that crack down on illegal activity, leaving them toothless.

Ironically, when Bolsonaro was asked about this, he laughed it off, and said, without providing any evidence, well, maybe the NGOs are lighting the fires to make me look bad.

So with this kind of flippant response, there isn't a lot of hope that the situation is going to be resolved quickly -- Brianna?

KEILAR: What does that mean there in Brazil? And what does that mean in a more widespread fashion for other parts of the world?

DARLINGTON: I think, realistically, we're looking at a situation where the government doesn't take climate change seriously. Believes that most NGOs operating in the Amazon are representing foreign governments trying to get their hands on the Amazon. So there isn't going to be a whole lot of cracking down on this activity. The outlook for the Amazon is pretty poor.

I think the most pressure we could actually see would be from economic partners, from people saying, well, countries, we're not going to buy your beef, we're not going to buy your soybean if you can't prove that this isn't coming from illegally deforested lands. And we've already seen that kind of mumbling and rumbling coming from Europe. And that would really be where most of the pressure would come from -- Brianna?

KEILAR: That's very interesting.

Shasta, thank you so much. Shasta Darlington for us in Sao Paulo.

And in less than 24 hours, both of President Trump's former press secretaries have landed new jobs and not everyone is happy about it.


[13:48:11] KEILAR: Big job news for President Trump's former press secretaries. They both landed TV gigs within 24 hours of each other.

Sarah Sanders will be joining FOX News as a contributor, while her predecessor, Sean Spicer, will be a contestant on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars."

We're told that not everyone at ABC is thrilled about that news. In fact, some of the staffers are reportedly up in the arms, calling the decision, quote, "a slap in the face."

Joining me now is CNN's Brian Stelter. And we also have Oliver Darcy with us.

Oliver, even the host of "Dancing with the Stars" is upset. What can you tell us?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Yes, not everybody is happy at ABC over Sean Spicer being selected for the "Dancing with the Stars" gig, like you said.

Brian and spoke with nine staffers about this appointment. Some people said there are moans and grumblings, eye rolls going on at ABC news. But other people were more furious about it. Some people described it as a slap in the face. Others said they were disgusted by this because Sean, as press secretary, had mislead a lot of reporters at ABC news. So they're not too happy.

As you mentioned, it's not only coming from ABC news. And, anonymously, it's coming on the record from the host of "Dancing with the Stars" Tom Bergeron, who released a statement.

I can read part of it. He said, "My hope was that 'Dancing with the Stars' in its return, following unprecedented year-long hiatus, would be joyful respite from our exhausting political climate and free of divisive bookings and any party affiliations. We can agree to disagree as we do now but, ultimately, it's their call." Referring to the show's producers.

I spoke to Sean Spicer by phone. He dismissed concerned by ABC staffers, saying, if people are upset, they should watch a news program and not "Dancing with the Stars."

I know he was on "FOX & Friend" earlier this morning addressing that. I think we have video if you want to roll that.


[13:50:07] SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I share his sentiment. This should be two hours of politics free.

But more than that, and I hope what this show is at the end of the season is an example of people of a bunch of different backgrounds getting together, leaving politics aside, and having a good time in a civil and respectful way. My hope and goal is that, at the end of the season, Tom looks back and says, you know what, we need more of this, not less of it.


DARCY: Spicer's basically saying that he's hoping to show a different side of him on "Dancing with the Stars" this season, that people may not have seen as press secretary. I guess we're going to have to stay tuned and see what happens.

KEILAR: Well, we have not seen him dance as press secretary, I don't believe. I don't believe anyway, Brian Stelter. You can fact-check me there.

But let's be fair here. Spicer and Sanders, it's like they're the only ex-White House officials to land TV jobs after leaving office. That's not unusual, right? They have been the most visible. Is that why we're seeing so much backlash, you think, Brian?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Well, ABC has George Stephanopoulos, who was at the White House during the Clinton years. There are many examples of this.

The difference is the Trump White House has a record of misleading the public. This administration lies consistently, whether it's Sanders or Spicer or other White House aides. And it's all led from the top by a president who lies even about the weather and the time of day. That is why this deserves outrage and backlash.

Obviously, Sanders going to FOX is not surprising. There's been a revolving door between FOX and the White House for several years. It should be surprising that someone who misled the public and defended a man who called the press the enemy would land these types of jobs.

Let me just say, though, Spicer is not at the top of his career right now. You don't go to "Dancing with the Stars" when you're at your peak. As one sources said to me, it's more like dancing with the down and out. This is the kind of job you take when you may not have many other options.

But, hey, maybe he has an incredible dancing talent that we don't know about. I guess we'll find out -- Brianna?

KEILAR: We will find out.

Oliver Darcy, Brian Stelter, thank you so much, to both of you.

STELTER: Thank you.

KEILAR: We have breaking news. Subpoenas have been issued in the suicide of Jeffrey Epstein, aimed at re-creating the night he died behind bars.

Plus, the stunning discovery divers found on their first trip to the Titanic in 14 years.


[13:57:06] KEILAR: Just into CNN, the White House is dropping plans to cut billions of dollars in foreign aid. Members of both parties as well as the State Department have been asking the administration not to move ahead with these planned cuts.

Our Sara Westwood is at the White House. She's following this for us.

How did she come to this decision, Sarah?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, President Trump the White House, they were facing a wave of opposition from congressional appropriators in both parties and from the State Department, who thought this move could do harm to national security, could undermine U.S. interests around the world.

But the administration had been trying to cut $4 billion in foreign assistance using what's known as a rescission package. They made the decision not to pursue that package, not to try to get that $4 billion in foreign aid cuts.

Sources tell me this decision was made by President Trump himself today, that despite the fact that the administration is saying there's fat in the foreign assistance that needs to be trimmed, but there's work that needs to be done reforming foreign aid.

They're not going to move forward with this package, because it was so poorly received on Capitol Hill -- Brianna?

KEILAR: This is really one of the flip-flops we've seen this week, Sarah. WESTWOOD: That's right, Brianna. President Trump has been all over

the map on policy this week, alone. He's flip-flopped on guns, going from supporting background checks to saying, behind closed doors, that he was cooling to the idea amid pressure from allies, lawmakers, the NRA, to saying maybe he does support background checks, maybe he doesn't. Are they considering a red flag proposal? White House all over the map on that.

And on taxes, President Trump assuring people that the economy is doing well while also proposing a payroll tax cut, proposing something to do with capital gains, indexing to inflation, and, Brianna, walking away from that yesterday as well.

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

In a special film, CNN tells the fascinating story of American fashion designer, Roy Halston. From models to celebrities to even the first lady of the United States, the Iowa native dressed them all. If you've never heard of his famous pill box hat, chances are you have seen it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was dealing with the creme day la creme of the women in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were you the person who put the pill box on Jackie Kennedy?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That hat was genius. If you look at the inauguration, most of those ladies wore a mink coat. Jackie was in a cloth coat and a cloth hat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll never forget the impact that hat had, even out in Montana where I was sitting at the time.

FROWICK: It was a rather funny story. Because it was a rather windy day, and she put her hand on the hat and it ended up having a dent in it. During the ceremonies, it had a dent in the hat. Everyone who copied it put a dent in it, which was so funny.


KEILAR: Be sure to watch CNN's special film "HALSTON" premiering this Sunday at 9:00.

[14:00:06] And that is it for me.

"NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.