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Trump Administration Changes Rule On Detaining Migrant Families; Former Overstock CEO Claims FBI Asked Him To Pursue Tryst With Russian Spy; Mayor Pete Buttigieg Tries To Regain Momentum In Iowa. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired August 23, 2019 - 07:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[07:30:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The overcrowding --

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

CAMEROTA: -- has gotten to a level that is unlivable.

CUCCINELLI: Alisyn -- yes. Alisyn, realize that the position the Trump administration took this week with the Flores Rule is in agreement with the position of the Obama administration before it. So look, this is not a partisan solution.

This is targeting one of the main motivators for the crisis at the southern border. This is a very important rule and it will allow us to detain families together. And families, by our definition, means with children. If children aren't present we don't call them families; we just refer to them as adults.

The facilities you showed in those pictures were designed, years ago, to handle adult Mexican males who were being returned, often within hours.

Now, thanks to the help we finally got from Congress just related to children, in June, the time children are spending in those facilities has been reduced dramatically -- what we call the tick times. The time in custody for children is down to about one day in those facilities now --

CAMEROTA: But just let me understand this. Hold on, Mr. Cuccinelli. I just want to get --

CUCCINELLI: -- and then they go to child-appropriate facilities.

CAMEROTA: -- point-by-point because I don't care if it's a Republican or a Democratic plan, I'm talking about solutions. So explain how this solves the problem.

CUCCINELLI: This is a critical part of the solution --

CAMEROTA: How?

CUCCINELLI: -- absolutely -- and I appreciate that question. This solves the problem by demonstrating to families that are considering coming to the southern border illegally that they will be detained for the duration -- until their hearings can be held.

CAMEROTA: I see. So it's -- just one clear -- this is a deterrent.

CUCCINELLI: The reason that's critical to the solution -- can I please finish answering the question?

CAMEROTA: So you're -- I think that you did answer the question. It's a deterrent.

CUCCINELLI: The reason this is so important -- this is a deterrent because they know that instead of rushing the border, which is what's been going on for a number of years now, by using the massive numbers coming to the border and overwhelming our facilities that -- and our capacity to hold folks, and our court rulings, which is what the Flores Rule is -- that now they can and will, to the extent we're able to do, hold them until those hearings happen.

CAMEROTA: OK.

CUCCINELLI: They won't simply be released into the interior for us to never see them again.

CAMEROTA: OK, thank you. That is -- that is a really helpful answer.

So you're hoping that the pictures of children with their families being detained indefinitely will trickle back to Guatemala and El Salvador and send the message that whatever violence or poverty they're dealing with there is not worth their children being held indefinitely inside those fences.

CUCCINELLI: Well, and, of course, risking the danger of the trip itself where 30 percent of women are sexually assaulted --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

CUCCINELLI: -- on the trip up.

CAMEROTA: You know --

CUCCINELLI: All of those things are things that we want to avoid --

CAMEROTA: Understood.

CUCCINELLI: -- to -- in this humanitarian situation.

CAMEROTA: One last question. You know, what we hear from all sorts of people who have dealt with this issue for years is that there was actually a solution.

If we're talking about solutions, there was one thing that worked and it was this pilot program started by the Obama administration where -- whereby when families would come to the border and request asylum, they would be assigned a case manager. And that case manager would check in with them -- sort of like parole -- and check on them.

And it had 100 percent -- it had a 99 percent success rate of the families being tracked and showing up when they were supposed to for meetings. It had a 100 percent success rate of the families making their court dates.

That was done away with by the Trump administration in 2017. Why not go back to that?

CUCCINELLI: Well, right now, our agency -- my agency, USCIS, handles asylum cases. And right now, we have a 330,000 case backlog and over half of that is more than two years old. It goes -- it predates 2017.

And the challenge we are facing right now from a manpower standpoint -- you saw overcrowded facilities. That's a border patrol challenge. ICE is at their limits for detention.

And we are doing all we can to -- just to deal with the things coming across the border, whether it's remain in Mexico, interviews. Whether it's credible fear interviews --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

CUCCINELLI: -- which are a huge problem that only Congress can fix and yet, they sit on their hands.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

CUCCINELLI: So we're literally swamped trying to deal with the short- term challenges of --

CAMEROTA: I understand, but would you consider reinstating that pilot program?

CUCCINELLI: Doing case management is not something we have personnel for.

CAMEROTA: Because you ended the program.

CUCCINELLI: We do not have the manpower right now to -- we're barely keeping the asylum backlog from going up and that's taking an enormous amount of effort.

We're hiring up this year to try to start lowering those numbers. So that -- I mean, that's what we're focused on --

[07:35:01] CAMEROTA: OK.

CUCCINELLI: -- is to try to process the cases we get.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

CUCCINELLI: And unfortunately, the people who come to our southern border knowing very well they're not asylum cases -- they're not persecution victims --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

CUCCINELLI: -- clog up the entire asylum system for the people who are persecution victims --

CAMEROTA: Why is that?

CUCCINELLI: -- who are being persecuted for -- because of their religion, their politics in their own country --

CAMEROTA: Sure.

CUCCINELLI: -- or for other -- for other --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

CUCCINELLI: -- related reasons.

CAMEROTA: OK.

CUCCINELLI: And those people are delayed --

CAMEROTA: Yes, understood.

CUCCINELLI: -- by the fraudulent asylum claims --

CAMEROTA: Got it.

CUCCINELLI: -- that we're trying to get through.

CAMEROTA: Director Ken Cuccinelli, thank you very much for explaining this new plan.

CUCCINELLI: Good to be with you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: You, too -- John.

JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: Next, a bizarre twist in the saga that is the Russia investigation. Wild allegations about the so-called "deep state" that led the CEO of overstock.com to resign. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:40:14] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATRICK BYRNE, FORMER CEO, OVERSTOCK.COM: Primarily, political espionage against Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. This isn't a theory of mine. It's not -- I was in the room when it happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: Get that? That's the former CEO of overstock.com levering outlandish claims in a wild CNN interview last night.

Patrick Byrne says the FBI wanted him to carry out political espionage before the 2016 election by having a romantic relationship with Russian spy Maria Butina. Now -- CAMEROTA: But fired FBI director James Comey called that ridiculous.

CNN's Sara Murray is live in Washington with all of the bizarre developments. Sara, what's happening here?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Patrick Byrne actually resigned as the CEO of Overstock yesterday after causing quite a stir over the last couple of weeks.

He revealed publicly that he had a romantic relationship with Maria Butina that spanned a number of years. He also said he eventually cooperated with the FBI and gave them information about Maria Butina.

Now, remember, she is the Russian woman who tried to infiltrate important political groups here in the U.S., including the National Rifle Association.

She ultimately pleaded guilty to failing to register as a foreign agent and she's serving 18 months behind bars.

Now, Patrick Byrne is taking this a step further and saying he didn't just cooperate with the FBI but he feels that he was part of some kind of political espionage -- some sort of deep state conspiracy -- and the FBI was actually directing him to have this relationship with Maria Butina.

Here's how he described it to CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATRICK BYRNE, FORMER CEO, OVERSTOCK.COM: They said we want to be clear this never happens in the United States. We are the good guys, but we're not -- we don't work like the bad guys, but we need to ask you to rekindle a romantic relationship with Maria Butina.

I was specifically told this request is coming from Jim Comey at the request of somebody who I'm not going to name. Do not assume it's the president. Do not assume it's the president -- it was the -- President Obama. Do not assume that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: Now, CNN heard back from former FBI director James Comey. He said, "That's just ridiculous. The FBI doesn't work that way."

And obviously, CNN has not independently corroborated many of those things you heard in that interview last night.

Back to you.

CAMEROTA: It's hard to assume anything --

AVLON: Yes.

CAMEROTA: -- actually, from that interview. It's really hard to understand what's happening. Sara, thank you very much for the reporting on that.

All right. So coming up, Pete Buttigieg is looking for a jolt to his campaign. So we'll tell you what he's doing now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), SOUTH BEND, INDIANA, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks for having us. Thank you for tolerating --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:46:50] AVLON: After an initial surge of support and fundraising, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg fighting to stand out in a crowded Democratic field, and he's looking to Iowa to get his groove back.

CNN's Phil Mattingly caught with Mayor Pete. He's back in Washington with more -- Phil.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John.

You know, it's kind of interesting. It's almost wild to think that just a few months ago, Pete Buttigieg's campaign consisted of about four people. And there's no question he had a moment -- a moment where he was the hottest candidate in the race. But the reality -- as you guys know very well, if you want to win you have to build an organization.

And we took a look at behind the scenes of what that has started to turn into.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY (voice-over): A biography can grab attention.

BUTTIGIEG: Well, I'm definitely the only left-handed, Episcopalian, Maltese-American, gay, war veteran in the race, so I've got that going for me.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): The message can create energy and raise money.

BUTTIGIEG: Are you ready to turn the page and start a new chapter in the American story?

MATTINGLY (voice-over): But it's here in homes like this just eight miles away from the Iowa state capital where campaigns live or die.

SHANNON SANKEY, BUTTIGIEG CAMPAIGN ORGANIZER: We just want to rethink how you guys think about campaigning and how you think a campaign is done, and this is kind of just the beginning that we're going to do this.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): It was the bio Harvard graduate, Rhodes Scholar, military veteran, mayor that, along with this CNN town hall --

BUTTIGIEG: We would be well-served if Washington started to look more like our best-run cities and town rather than the other way around.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): -- sent Pete Buttigieg from nowhere, polling at one percent in March in the CNN-Des Moines Register Iowa poll, to a blowout -- $25 million second-quarter fundraising number -- and firmly into the top five of Democratic primary candidates.

BUTTIGIEG: Well, it's been a rocket ship.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): But, Buttigieg's rocket ship moment, at least according to the polls, has passed. And now, the campaign is under pressure to turn that early rise and big cash into the type of operation that can win.

BUTTIGIEG: This is the stage where I think the campaign is really to be won because now we have people on the ground forming the interpersonal relationships that are the real stuff of good politics, especially in a place like Iowa.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Iowa and its looming caucus is ground zero for those efforts --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we're calling tonight to talk about Mayor Pete.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): -- with seven visits in the last seven weeks in a rapidly-growing organization.

Compared to his competitors who have spent a year or more building their Iowa organizations, Buttigieg's campaign launched lean and minimal and is just reaching full strength in the state with more than 60 staffers. And it's the campaign's volunteers who are key to their strategy.

PAM KENYON, BUTTIGIEG CAMPAIGN VOLUNTEER: So, there was a house party in Dallas County. Didn't know anybody.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Pam Kenyon, a Democrat who has never actively volunteered on a campaign before, is the prototype for that effort.

KENYON: Pete just held the room.

And I wanted more. And I signed up and I was invited to do some phone banking, which I did immediately the next week, and the week after that, and the week after that. And then, there was another house party. I just -- I couldn't get enough.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): With money, media, and more than five months to the caucuses, Buttigieg has staying power in the race even if, for the moment, the polling has hit a plateau.

BUTTIGIEG: You need to have that kind of army of people who can spread the message. And often, they find ways that I wouldn't have even thought of to describe what's at stake and why this candidacy matters.

[07:50:06] When they're -- when somebody's, you know, explaining what this campaign means to them it creates a whole new way to bring it home that just multiplies what I'm able to do from the podium or in an app (ph).

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: And, Alisyn, I think the interesting thing when you talk to Buttigieg's advisers, they acknowledge they just need to get his name out there. People need to know who he is in all of the early states but especially Iowa if they want to win.

And that's where those volunteers are so key. They're obviously doing the traditional campaign mechanisms -- the door-knocking, the call sheets. But what I was watching is volunteers listing out people they knew -- had relationships with -- calling them and trying to get them involved, spreading the word through their own concentric circles.

And why that matters right now? Alisyn, there are 23 campaigns calling every Democrat that's on any voter file, ever, every single day in Iowa. People aren't picking up those calls. They will pick up the calls for friends and the Buttigieg campaign thinks that is an opening, at least at this stage in the race -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: It makes sense. Pete -- Phil, thank you very much for showing us all of that great reporting.

All right, coming up, we're going to talk about the human cost of the Trump administration's environmental policies. Dr. Sanjay Gupta shares one family's heartbreaking story on this, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:55:20] (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The Environmental Protection Agency was created in part to protect human health and the environment. But a recent report found that under the Trump administration, the EPA has experienced unprecedented rollbacks of environmental regulations.

Tonight, a CNN special report investigates those changes and what it means for you and your family.

CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta here with a preview -- Sanjay.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. You know, sometimes it can be hard to draw a link between what you're hearing about or reading about in the news and these environmental deregulations and what it means to your own health.

When we were examining and investigating the story there was something that really struck me. There was a chemical that was scheduled to be banned in 2016. It was found to be dangerous -- it could even cause deaths -- and it was supposed to be banned and regulated. A new administration comes in and they basically roll all these regulations back.

That chemical is still out there at the time that we were investigating this and I want you to hear from one family that was affected by that chemical.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA (voice-over): Like most people, no one in the Wynne family had ever heard of methylene chloride until one tragic day in October 2017.

GUPTA (on camera): How did you find out about Drew?

CINDY WYNNE, MOTHER OF DREW WYNNE: Drew's business partner, Jimmy, was knocking at the door and --

HAL WYNNE, FATHER OF DREW WYNNE: And he was hysterical. And he was just yelling (crying) "he's gone" over and over again. He had apparently passed out on Saturday while stripping paint from the floor.

The first responders had to wear hazmat suits when they did the autopsy and the cause of death was methylene chloride inhalation.

GUPTA (on camera): This is the death certificate.

C. WYNNE: It is.

GUPTA (on camera): It says on here -- it says it.

C. WYNNE: Yes, that's it. Cause of death, methylene chloride inhalation.

GUPTA (on camera): You know, you don't typically see it that clear- cut.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: It was -- it was really remarkable to draw this cause and effect -- a chemical that was scheduled to be banned but was still being sold, listed on the death certificate as the cause of death for this young man.

These types of deregulations have an impact and that's part -- you know, that's one example of what you'll see tonight.

CAMEROTA: Sanjay, has that chemical -- the methylene chloride that killed Drew Winn -- now been banned by the EPA?

GUPTA: Yes, it's -- so, it's a bit of a nuance.

The Wynne family -- this is their life's work now, right? They lost their son, Drew. They're on -- they're in Washington. They're talking to all these people and ultimately, nothing is happening.

They go straight to the -- to the retailers and basically shame them into saying look, you're selling a deadly product on your shelves. And many of the retailers started to just stop selling it on their own.

Ultimately, in March of this year, there was a ban placed at the retail level, but commercial workers can still buy this product. So it's still out there, so it's not completely banned.

BERMAN: So when you look at the rollbacks that everyone's been talking about, which others will have a direct impact on people's health?

GUPTA: I mean, there's some obvious ones.

You know, you talk about these chemicals, you talk about fuel economy standards, you talk about air and water quality standards, so it's not just saying we're going to make the -- allow the air to potentially get more polluted. But we're even changing the standards by which we measure that pollution so it's not going to seem as polluted because we've sort of changed the -- changed the bar, if you will.

But if you look at -- you know, in this country, things were pretty bad in terms of our air and water quality until the EPA came in and gave us some of the best air and quality -- water quality standards in the world.

That is starting to change. We know that there are about 100,000 premature deaths a year linked -- associated with air pollution. And we now know that over the last couple of years our air has gotten even worse, according to the American Lung Association.

So that's a real impact. We're talking about possibly hundreds of thousands of people.

CAMEROTA: Sanjay, we're so glad that you're alerting everyone to all of this because again, it is sometimes hard to connect policy with real-world impact.

GUPTA: That's right, that's right.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Sanjay.

GUPTA: Thank you.

BERMAN: And, Sanjay's CNN special report, "A TOXIC TALE: TRUMP'S ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT," airs tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AVLON: All right, thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM" is next.

For our U.S. viewers, concerns about a new arms race with Russia, as NEW DAY continues, right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CAMEROTA: All right, good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Friday, August 23rd, 8:00 in the East. John Berman is off this morning. John Avlon joins me.

END