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Cohen Ordered Released; Stimulus Plan Stalls on Capitol Hill; Arizona Schools to Start Online; Covid-19 in an Immigration Facility; China Orders Consulate Closure. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired July 24, 2020 - 09:30   ET



ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You may not speak publicly, you may not exercise your First Amendment rights. And not only is it unusual, it's a big deal. The federal government threw someone in prison for several weeks because he would not give up his First Amendment right. That's dictatorship type stuff. That's not what we do here in the United States.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: The federal judge, Alvin Hellerstein, said just the same, Elie, that he hadn't seen anything like this in 21 years.


HARLOW: And then I just thought the plain language that he used to describe what happened is really striking. Quote, all of a sudden, when "The New York Post" article comes out and the Bureau of Prisons understands that Cohen is writing a book and will likely finish before election time, he imposed it with conditions.

HONIG: Yes, I know that judge a bit --

HARLOW: It's like so out there.

HONIG: Yes. Yes. Look, I know this judge. I've been in front of him many times. He is a straight shooter. He's absolutely right.

And the big question to me now is, how high up did this go? Where did this decision come from? Because it's clear to me this -- this condition of, you cannot speak to the public, you cannot publish a book, somebody made that decision to put that in there for Michael Cohen. Was it just somebody in the Bureau of Prisons?


HONIG: Was it a higher level person at the Justice Department or elsewhere? I think we're going to see more litigation for Michael Cohen and I think we'll get answers to that.

SCIUTTO: Remarkable. Hey, let's talk about this other move because there was deep suspicion around the time of this decision by DHS to suspend the global entry program for New Yorkers that this was political, right? It was taking a shot at a blue state over this. Now DHS is admitting that in making the policy, it made inaccurate statements and has now reversed it.

Tell us the significance of that.

HONIG: Big deal on two levels. First of all, to have the federal government, DHS, caught and admit that they made inaccurate statements on the record is a big deal. We need -- the number one thing we need to have with our federal government is credibility. And if the Justice Department and DHS are making false statements, that's a big deal.

It's also a big deal because we are seeing this pattern of the federal government and law enforcement be used for really retaliatory ends. And I think the even bigger concern is the way we're seeing federal agents I think wrongfully deployed out in the streets to do things that are arguably not legal and certainly not normal or effective. Federal agents should not be patrolling the streets. They certainly should not be used as revenge tactics.

HARLOW: Right. To your point, the president last night on Fox News said he would, you know, deploy up to 75,000 of them. There's only 100,000 or so in the country.


HARLOW: And he said, you know, it may go beyond just being invited in by a city, right?

HONIG: Yes. And I want to make sure people understand what a big deal that would be. Federal agents investigate and charge, with federal prosecutors, like I was, federal crimes. We're talking about complex frauds, public corruption, bribery, organized crime, racketeering, terrorism. You're going to take three-quarters of those agents, say, stop what you're doing, stop those cases, we're going to put you out on the streets. And, by the way, federal agents cannot charge state crimes, things like destruction of property --

HARLOW: Right.

HONIG: Vandalism, assault even. So it's arguably not legal. It's certainly a really mismatch and a misuse of federal resources.

HARLOW: Glad we have your brain on all of this, this morning.


HARLOW: Thanks, Elie.

HONIG: Thanks, Jim.

Thanks, Poppy.

HARLOW: Have a good weekend. The Senate GOP relief plan hits a roadblock. The holdup reportedly over the enhanced $600 per week unemployment benefits. Those end this week and many people need them. Need them to pay for their rent, their mortgage, food for their families. Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang is here to discuss.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

The Senate GOP's coronavirus relief bill is stalled for now. The $1 trillion aid package was supposed to be unveiled yesterday. Now Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says that will not happen until next week. Sources tell CNN, the primary holdup is the extension of the $600 a week federal unemployment enhancement as it's known, specifically how Republicans would implement changes to that expiring program. So divisions there within the Republican Party.

Let's speak now to CNN political commentator, as well as former 2020 presidential candidate, Andrew Yang.

Mr. Yang, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.

ANDREW YANG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: My pleasure, Jim. It's great to be here.

SCIUTTO: All right, let's start on the extension of -- not just, of course, unemployment insurance, but this enhancement, this extra $600 a week. You, of course, ran your campaign on a universal, basic income, a much broader program admittedly. But explain if you can why, in your view, it's important to keep this support going through this pandemic?

YANG: Well, we can just look around us and see the impact of Covid on our communities. We've lost 30 to 40 million jobs and 42 percent of those jobs are not coming back. All you have to do, again, is look around where the bartenders, the security guards, the hairstylists, a lot of them don't have work to come back to. And asking them to go out and find a job in this environment is utterly ridiculous. It's one reason why 74 percent of Americans agree that we should put cash into people's hands. And the unemployment benefits have kept 12 million plus Americans afloat during this time. That's exactly what we need to continue because if we don't continue some version of these unemployment benefits, desperation will set in like that. Since many of these families do not have any cushion of savings to fall back on.

SCIUTTO: OK, let me ask you about a concern here, because according to a survey by the National Federation of Independent Business Research, that one in five businesses have had an employee decline an actual job offer because he or she wanted to remain on unemployment.


Does it -- that this benefit often the combination of the state unemployment insurance with the federal benefit pays more than a job would.

How do you prevent those expanded unemployment payments from becoming a disincentive to work?

YANG: It's one reason why I'm in favor of unconditional cash. Like those $1,200 grants that everyone got in the mail, it had nothing to do with their employment status. So if we want to put money into people's hands, we should put money into people's hands and say, look, if you go back to work, so much the better. So there is talk about having like a back to work bonus, which would not be a negative thing. But we should make most of the money unconditional.

The hardest part, though, is that our systems are set up so that it's tied to not working. But in this situation, the unemployment benefits are 100 percent the right thing to do because, realistically, these people are not going to be able to find jobs in this environment.

SCIUTTO: I want to ask you about the deficit because in the midst of this, even prior to this, right, you know, the deficit was jumping, partly coming out of the tax cut in 2017 but now also this flood of trillions of dollars of stimulus money.

In your view, should Congress be spending right now without any concern for how much it adds to the deficit, or is it reaching a point now where you've got to say, listen, we can't throw, you know, as Democrats are proposing, $3 trillion into this. Let's, you know, be more conservative here.

YANG: The right perspective on this, Jim, is that you have a house that's on fire in our economy and you just need to do everything you can to put the fire out. The last thing we should be worried about is using too much water on the fire. This is why you have a Federal Reserve and a $22 trillion economy is to help address a pandemic and a crisis. Make it so that the last thing people are worried about is putting food on the table or keeping a roof over their heads during a pandemic.

So any concern about inflation, for example, is complete ill-founded. If there's anything we have to worry about its deflation at this point.


YANG: We should have absolutely no fear of putting money out there into the economy. The danger is doing too little, not too much.

SCIUTTO: There's, of course, a presidential race on. You were in it.

YANG: Yes, I remember.

SCIUTTO: Joe Biden now the Democratic nominee. He's close to choosing a running mate. He's committed to choosing a woman and his campaign has said they are considering several African-American women. In your view, given the enormous outpouring in this country of concern over racial bias, racial justice, should he choose an African-American woman as his running mate? YANG: You know, this is a deeply personal decision for Joe and he knows that better than anyone because he's been the VP. And he needs to find a partner that he's comfortable governing with and working with for years and years to come and entrusting potentially the -- you know, like the highest responsibility in the land to. So you can never try and put yourself in Joe's shoes. He needs to make the right determination. But he's had the best experience to figure out what sort of partner he's looking for.

SCIUTTO: Andrew Yang, we appreciate you coming on this morning. And we wish you and your family the best of luck.

YANG: You too. Have a great weekend.

Bye, Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.


We were all talking about parenting kids in the summer during the commercial because that's how it goes for all of us.

All right, a federal judge blocking a request to release families from immigration custody. This is despite -- and these numbers are startling -- more than 3,700 confirmed Covid-19 cases at ICE facilities. More than 70 percent of those being held at one facility in Virginia have coronavirus. The details, next.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

In Arizona, where cases are soaring, the governor says public schools need to begin on time, even if that means starting the year with remote learning.

HARLOW: Our Miguel Marquez joining us this morning from Phoenix with the latest there.

Good morning, Miguel.

You know, we just heard Dr. Birx this morning in her interview on NBC talk about, you know, how do we prevent more places from becoming like the tragedy that has happened in Phoenix.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So it looks like most, if not all, of Arizona will go to online learning, at least for now. The governor had previously said that he wanted on August 17th to open up schools to in-person, but that was an aspirational date. Now they've come out with a new plan, and that new plan is basically to bring that level of community spread down.

Right now the seven-day average for the transmission rate here, the positivity rate, is about a quarter of those testing test positive for the virus. It's stuck at that high level.

A lot of the trends are coming down. The retransmission rate's coming down. The cases are coming down. Hospitalizations are coming down. But the number of people getting tested and that positively rate is remaining very, very high.

For example, in mid-May, when the governor opened everything back up, just before that, that positively rate, that seven-day positivity rate was just over 6 percent. Now it's at about 24 percent. So once if they can bring that down, if they can get their testing, not just more testing, but they can get those tests back faster here, it's taking about seven days right now to get the test results back.


That doesn't work for teachers and schools and parents and everybody else. If they can bring those things under control and continue on the path that they're on, at some point in the not too distant future they will be able to open up all schools to in-person instruction. But, for right now, individual districts are saying no in person until October, no in person until 2021. All of that is underway right now across Arizona. And it's unlikely that the state will be able to get a single plan in place any time soon.

Back to you guys.

HARLOW: Wow, Miguel, thank you very much for being on the ground for us there all week.

While this virus grips the nation, a federal judge is denying a blanket request to release families from immigration custody. This as nearly 75 percent of detainees at one ICE facility in Virginia have now tested positive for Covid-19.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Leyla Santiago is following the latest.

Leyla, immigration lawyers, advocates, they've been warning about deteriorating conditions, creating conditions for the virus to spread. What more are you hearing? What's being done about it?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, let's look at that detention facility specifically in Farmville, as Poppy mention, 75 percent. That ain't a small number, right? So the overwhelming majority of that facility that houses 360 males in that detention facility has had confirmed coronavirus cases.

Now, when you -- when you look at why this happened, if you talk to the attorneys and the advocates that have really raised the red flags here. They will tell you that much of this stems from transfers at this facility in particular, transfers of detainees from Arizona and Florida. Back in June, 74 detainees were transferred, 51 of them eventually ended up testing positive.

Now, while ICE will tell you that they were not put in general population, some of the lawyers and the detainees themselves will tell you they're still intermingling. Our Priscilla Alvarez (ph) actually has been following this for quite some time and she spoke to one of the detainees, a 39-year-old male, who said, I feel stuck and we all are sort of living in fear because of the uptick and the overwhelming majority of us that now have tested positive.

So, what's being done about that? That's the key question for ICE. ICE will tell you that they have more sanitizing stations now in detention facilities, that they have masks and, most recently, that they have started comprehensive testing for Covid-19. But that still leaves a lot of people worried, the families of the detainees that lawyers and advocates and the detainees themselves. And this is one small example of a system that is seeing that uptick we're talking about. If you look at the numbers, 3,736 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in ICE custody.

SCIUTTO: Sad to hear for those families, those parents certainly.

Leyla Santiago, thanks very much.

The tension escalating between the U.S. and China. China now retaliating for the closure of its consulate in Houston.

CAMEROTA: Also, W. Kamau Bell is in Oklahoma digging up the truth on farming in America from non-profit crops to bank discrimination. The people growing our food are just fighting to keep their land. It is an all-new episode of "United Shades of America." It starts this Sunday night, 10:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.



HARLOW: China now ordering the U.S. to shut down the American consulate in Chengdu. The move is obviously a retaliation and a response to the U.S. government ordering China to close its consulate in Houston earlier this week.

SCIUTTO: CNN's David Culver joins us now from Beijing.

I mean typically these diplomatic spats, they're reciprocal, right? You close one, someone else will close the other. But the concern really is that this is -- this is going much more broadly between the U.S. and China, on trade, diplomatic issues, military. Well, what's the level of concern in China right now?

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Jim, the question is, where does it stop, too? I mean there's no seemingly exit ramp here.

There is a lot of concern here because it's obvious from a state media perspective that China has had to respond to this most recent act. And when you say it's reciprocal, but what we've seen in recent weeks and months is as the U.S. has done things that has angered China, for the most part the Chinese foreign ministry has responded with tough rhetoric, harsh words, very little actions, with the exception of sanctioning a few U.S. officials. With this one, they knew they had to respond because of the rising nationalism here and the pressure that certainly state media was even putting out there to say, hey, pick the consulate you want to have closed, essentially in this open poll that they put out to the public here.

Well, they've decided on Chengdu in central China. And the reason that the Chinese foreign ministry gave is that they claim this is a place where U.S. personnel were essentially engaging in activities that were harmful to China's national security. They're obviously likening it to the same really claim that the U.S. made about the Houston consulate the Chinese were operating down there, claiming it was essentially a front for illegal spying. But now this back and forth getting more intense. I mean it is possible they could have closed obviously a more devastating for the U.S. diplomatically consulate like Shanghai or Hong Kong or Guangzhou, but they chose this one and it seems maybe they're holding on to these other ones for potential future retaliation.



David, thanks a lot. Really important reporting for us, live from -- for Beijing.


Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto.