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DHS Blacks House Oversight Committee Staff from Visiting Immigration Facilities; Trump Administration Limiting Citizenship for Some Kids Born to U.S. Military Members Living Overseas; Student Arrested for Planning Mass Shooting at North Carolina College; Manhunt for Husband & Wife Accused of Murder and Escaping Police; Kamala Harris' Biggest Little Supporters; EPA Proposes Easing Regulations of Methane Emissions. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired August 29, 2019 - 11:30   ET



[11:32:42] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Just into CNN, the Department of Homeland Security is blocking House Oversight Committee's staff from visiting immigration facilities.

In a letter to the DHS, committee members argue that this action goes against a pledge from DHS to welcome congressional inspections and to have open dialogue about improving conditions.

CNN's Lauren Fox joining me right now.

What are you learning, Lauren?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: We know that House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings sent this letter to DHS basically arguing that congressional staffers were blocked from visiting 11 facilities trying to look at the conditions within those facilities.

And in the letter Cummings writes, quote, "The department's last- minute denial of access to CBP facilities and unwarranted restrictions at ICE facilities are unacceptable and impair the committee's ability to conduct its oversight responsibilities in an effective manner. The committee requests that the department provide meaningful access to all facilities identified by committee staff."

And they are saying that this came after committee staff visited some facilities last week and found some troubling conditions.

I want to just read to you a few of those conditions that they found. They said that children were not given age-appropriate food in some conditions. They also said there was a lack of diapers for parents. And that children were placed in cold rooms without adequate clothing on.

And there was one more observation that one staffer wrote down, saying one detainee alleged that a Border Patrol agent told a child who had spilled soup that the child would not receive more food unless that child drank the spilled soup off the floor. And as you know, this is part of Democrats' operation to try to get

more information about what's going on in these facilities. Sometimes they have been, as in this case, blocked from being able to even get in -- Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: So what potentially is next?

FOX: Well, I think that's unclear at this point. I mean, obviously, the Democrats are very concerned about the lack of access here. That is what Cummings is trying to get to the bottom of. He wants to make sure that his staffers are able to get in and actually see these facilities.

But you can expect that there will be more letters exchanged, perhaps, and we'll be waiting to hear what DHS has to say in response -- Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: All right. Lauren Fox, thank you so much.

[11:35:03] And a new policy from the Trump administration is making it harder for children of some U.S. military members living overseas to claim citizenship. The rule affects children of naturalized U.S. citizens who are serving abroad if their parents have lived in the U.S. for less than five years.

While this doesn't make anyone ineligible for citizenship, it does create a hurdle and a lot of worries for these military families.

CNN's senior national correspondent, Alex Marquardt, is with me now.

Alex, what exactly does this new rule do?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fred, there was a lot of confusion when this rule was announced yesterday and what USCIS, which is the Citizenship and Immigration Services, is saying this is a policy that is being put into place to align it with the State Department policy.

But essentially, Fred, who this is affecting directly are new naturalized U.S. citizens who are serving in the military or the government overseas, as well as people who are not yet U.S. citizens, who are trying to become U.S. citizens and are doing so while they serve the United States government overseas.

So imagine you are someone who has been deployed overseas and you have just become a U.S. citizen in the last few years, or as there are thousands of cases of, you are a not-yet U.S. citizen serving in the military overseas. If you have a child overseas, that child will not automatically become a U.S. citizen.

As parents, you will have to then apply for that child to become a U.S. citizen. It doesn't make them ineligible, as you said, but it adds a process. It's a long and arduous process to apply for American citizenship, of course, and one that a lot of parents don't necessarily want to undertake. Now, the administration is downplaying the number of people who are

affected by this. The Department of Defense says it's around 100 people per year. USCIS just said on a phone call a short while ago that it's a handful of people.

But that's kind of beyond the point. If you look at this carefully, the people who are being affected are people who are not born in the U.S., who are not citizens from birth. And that is going to create a lot of fear and concern among people who are serving the United States, oftentimes, in harm's way.

Fred, I was speaking to a naval officer who said that there are probably a lot of spouses who are on bases overseas in places like Japan or Germany or Italy who are probably on their way back to the U.S. right now to make sure that they can have their kids in the U.S. to guarantee that they will become U.S. citizens.

This policy is meant to go into effect on October 29th -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: While people may think that's a small number, 100 per year, if you're one of the 100, it doesn't matter the volume. It still impacts you greatly. And it's very worrisome.

Alex Marquardt, thank you so much.

A nationwide manhunt underway right now for two escaped murder suspects. Coming up, how they got away and where they might be headed.


[11:43:04] WHITFIELD: A disturbing plot to kill college students disrupted by police. Police arresting a student who admitted to planning a mass shooting at High Point University in North Carolina.

Officers charged the 19-year-old freshman with two felony counts of having a gun on campus and making threats of mass violence after a classmate reported him.

CNN's Martin Savidge has the latest.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, 19-year-old Paul Steber has been charged with two counts of having a gun on educational property - he actually had two weapons -- and communicating a threat of mass violence.

The positive is that this appears to be a potential mass killing that was averted thanks to the involvement of students at High Point University, as well as faculty and administration here who notified the authorities.

This young man, who was a freshman, had only been on campus less than two weeks, but he had already started the preparations. Authorities say that he actually told them he began thinking about this last December.

But last weekend, he actually went out and purchased two weapons, a .9-millimeter handgun and a double-barrel shotgun.

In fact, he told authorities that the reason he went to school in North Carolina was because he thought it would be easier to purchase firearms in that state than it would be in his home state of Massachusetts.

On top of that, authorities say that he also had been looking at videos of other mass killings, including Charleston, South Carolina, apparently to learn what to do and what not to do.

And that, as far as motivation going on in his mind, two things. Authorities say he told them that he was, quote, "not going to be an outcast any longer," and also that he had been rushing for a fraternity on campus there.

And apparently he told authorities that, if his roommate was accepted but he was not, it would be some kind of trigger event and he would kill his roommate, kill himself, and possibly harm others in the whole process.

He has been expelled from the school and, right now, he has not been granted any kind of bond. He is expected to undergo a psychological evaluation.

[11:45:06] But again, this goes back to, if you see something, say something. And on the campus in High Point there, they did see something and, thankfully, it appears tragedy has been averted -- Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: Wow, incredibly frightening.

Martin Savidge, thank you so much.

Meantime, a manhunt is underway right now for a married couple who overpowered two security officers during a prisoner transport in Utah and they're still on the run. They were being moved to face charges in connection with the death of a 72-year-old man in Tucson, Arizona.

CNN's Dan Simon has more.


DAN SIMON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wanted for murder, these two suspects, a husband and wife, are on the run after overpowering the security guards transporting them across the country.

Authorities say Blane Barksdale, who has ties to the Arian Brotherhood, and his wife, Susan, pretended to have some kind of emergency, forcing their guards to pull over.

(on camera): How did they overpower these guards?

DAVID GONZALES, U.S. MARSHAL'S, DISTRICT OF ARIZONA: We believe that they used some kind of a medical emergency or a medical bathroom break for them to pull over to the side of the road. And once they got over to the side of the road, they were able to overpower them, bind them, and threw them in the back of the van they were in.

SIMON (voice-over): The Barksdales are suspected in the April murder of 72-year-old Frank Bligh, of Tucson, Arizona. His home burned but his body never found.

Bligh's brother telling CNN Frank had a relationship with the Barksdales, especially the wife.

WILLIAM BLIGH, BROTHER OF FRANK BLIGHT: Sue and my brother were very good friends. And it was just the -- it was a good friendship relationship.

SIMON: Police haven't commented on the motive, but the Barksdales also face robbery charges.

William Bligh stunned that the couple was able to get away.

BLIGH: We thought everything was going to be fine. We thought this week they were going in be in Arizona and they were going to start all the court processing and everything like that. And now everything is just up in the air. They don't know what's going to happen right now.

SIMON: In May, police arrested the couple in Upstate New York. This week, the cross-country extradition. The couple making their escape attacking the guards on Monday in southern Utah.

GONZALES: It took a few hours for the guards to break out of the van where they were able to notify the local sheriff's department. What kind of concerns me, at this point, is they need money and maybe another vehicle.

SIMON: That's why authorities worry about the potential for more violent crimes. On the lam now for a couple of days, the Barksdales could be anywhere.


SIMON: Well, Arizona authorities, the Pima County Sheriff's Office had a contract with a Kansas-based firm to transport the prisoners across the country. Right now, that firm is not saying anything about what happened. I can tell you that the contract has been suspended.

Of course, Fred, there will be plenty of questions as to how this occurred. But right now, the focus is on trying to locate those fugitives -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: And to locate them, Dan, there's a reward being offered, right?

SIMON: That's right. The U.S. Marshal's Office is offering a $20,000 reward for anybody who can lead information that will ultimately find them -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: Dan Simon, appreciate it. Thank you.

After seeing a dip in the polls, Kamala Harris says she is focused on her ground game in early states. Up next, a look at some of her biggest supporters who aren't even old enough to vote.


[11:53:14] WHITFIELD: The Democratic presidential candidates are hitting the campaign trail today as they await final word from the DNC on who made the debate stage.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand won't make the cut, dropping out of the race after failing to gain traction in the polls.

But one person who will be on that debate stage is California Senator Kamala Harris.

As CNN's Kyung Lah reports, families of color wanting to see Kamala Harris even if she hasn't locked down their vote.



KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Another rally in the race for 2020.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): Hi everyone.

LAH: For sisters, Anna Maddox --

ANA MADDOX, HARRIS SUPPORTER: I'm half Mexican, half Vietnamese

LAH: -- and Leah Chow, this is the destination.


LAH (on camera): Why did you drive two hours to be here?

MADDOX: Really, I want to for her, you know, to see a woman, if anything and especially a woman of color runs for president.

HARRIS: It's time to take action.


MADDOX: You know, it took 24 years to get to this point for me and she is only nine, so imagine when she is 24, she's not going to think this is abnormal.

LAH (voice-over): From Davenport, Iowa --


LAH: -- to Denver, Colorado --


LAH: -- there is a recurring theme among the parents who bring their children to see a biracial woman run for president.

(on camera): Your daughter asked you to come?

SHELDON SHADRACH, HARRIS SUPPORTER: Yes, she is actually a big fan, a big supporter, she's been following Kamala Harris.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: I think it is really special to be the first female president.



LAH (voice-over): Hillary Clinton helped pave the way. Elizabeth Warren shares that message.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): I am running for president because that is what girls do.

LAH: But 11-year-old Styler Tony (ph) sees her reflection in Harris.

STYLER TONY (ph), HARRIS SUPPORTER: I think she is pretty brave to try and do that. She's not like holding back or anything.

[11:55:02] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The connection and when they look and see someone who looks like them, a lot of times that kind of lift them sort of visualize their future and feel it's possible for them as children even.

LAH: It's something Harris knows, why she takes the time, especially with children of color.

(on camera): Win or lose what does that mean for you?

HARRIS: It means the world to me. I mean, when I see those little girls, in particular, I mean, I see myself, right. And I see the children of my family. And I see the children of our country. And I see the promise of our country.

My mother had many sayings and one of them is, you may be the first to do many things, make sure you are not the last.

And it is my true hope that my career and whatever I can do is -- empowers other people. Whatever it is.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Authorities investigating a racist anti- immigrant manifesto, that they believe it is posted by the shooter just before the massacre.

LAH: In these divided times, when children have questions about the news, some parents consider a political rally the antidote.

ERIC LITTLE (ph), HARRIS SUPPORTER: With us being interracial couple, it's important that we gave him a sense, it's OK to be who he is in his community.

JESSICA LITTLE (ph), HARRIS SUPPORTER: He's aware that his dad is black and that his mom is white. But we push really hard to make sure that he knows that is not bad, that's beautiful, that's wonderful, and that's what United States is.



WHITFIELD: And that was Kyung Lah reporting.

Now to a policy decision just announced by the Trump administration. This one would contribute significantly to the climate crisis. The EPA says it plans to ease regulations on methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas. It's a rollback that even major oil and gas companies oppose.

CNN government regulation correspondent, Rene Marsh, is joining us with more details on this.

So, Rene, what are you learning about this new rule?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION & GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, this proposal rolls back an Obama-era regulation on methane emissions. Scientists say that methane is a major contributor to climate change and it's so much more dangerous than carbon dioxide when it comes to climate because of how effectively it absorbs heat.

Now, the Trump EPA would no longer require the oil and gas industry to install technologies that monitor and limit methane gas leaks from new wells, tanks, pipelines.

This move, of course, is coming at a time when greenhouse gas emissions are at an all-time high and the world is already seeing many of the effects of climate change from more severe storms, wildfires.

But what's really interesting about today's move here is that the entire oil and gas industry is not in lock-step with the administration on this.

We know that big oil companies like Shell and ExxonMobil have warned that lack of regulations to curb these sorts of emissions could essentially undercut the argument that natural gas is a cleaner fuel.

But this isn't an isolated incident. If you remember, back when the Trump administration said it would relax fuel economy standards for cars, some of the largest automakers said, no, thank you. Many of them are opting to follow stricter fuel standards and voluntarily make more fuel-efficient cars.

So you're seeing a pattern here. An administration that is eager to aggressively roll back these sorts of environmental regulations and industry not necessarily saying that they are onboard here.

So the question today, though, is, what is the thinking behind EPA's latest move. And the agency, in a call just a while ago to reporters, said that they're not quite sure that they are the ones that should be regulating methane.

And they also brought up the cost savings that would come along with stripping back these regulations. They are estimating that the industry could save some $17 million to $19 million a year if they are able to roll back these regulations -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: So some of these oil and gas companies say they don't necessarily agree with this idea, this change. Does that mean they are going to compel themselves to adhere to the old standard, or are they going to dispute the EPA? I mean, what's next when you have this kind of incongruency?

MARSH: Right. That is the issue that the industry has. They like certainty. So what they don't want is a situation where the Trump EPA is saying we're going to relax the rule but then you have states like California saying, no, we plan on making our own rules and they'll be a lot more strict.

So what you're finding is that the industry is going with what they see is the safer bet. They're saying, look, they know that these sorts of rollbacks will be challenged. They have questions about it.

[12:00:01] Shell, for example, specifically saying that they're going to continue to operate in a way that would roll back the use of these sort of emissions. They plan on working to cap these emissions because they understand the impact on the environment -- Fred?