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At This Hour
Trump DOJ to Charge Julian Assange; White House Negotiates Release of American Aid worker in Egypt; White House Takes Another Stab at Health Care; Montes Deportation Tests Trump's Stance on Dreamers. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired April 21, 2017 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: I know. But everyone thinks -- we do love a countdown clock. We did not come up with this one, Tony Blinken, we did not!
Tony, what did you make of, of course, the attorney general will be careful in speaking publicly about any plan of bringing charges against Julian Assange in order to secure his arrest, but what do you make of this reporting that the Justice Department is preparing -- has found a way, if you will, to try to -- they want to bring charges against Assange, which I want to know what's changed?
TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, you know, they're walking a very, very fine line. It's very challenging. Look, I have no -- there's no love lost for Julian Assange.
BOLDUAN: Right. You would have loved to have done it as well, I mean --
BLINKEN: Absolutely. But we want to make sure that first we're not having a chilling effect on the media and on the press. And there's a real issue there. If he is simply publishing information that happened to come his way, albeit classified, that doesn't make him a whole heck of a lot different, perhaps, then "The New York Times" and the Pentagon papers or CNN. But if, on the other hand, he is actually instructing people to try to steal classified information that he can publish, that might be different.
But what I would focus on is this with Assange. What we've seen in recent months, of course, are reports that he may have colluded and WikiLeaks may have colluded with the Russians to infiltrate the election and put out information that they did, got to WikiLeaks, and we know what happened from that. That's where the focus I think should be.
And of course, I'd focus on Mr. Snowden, who is not a publisher, who was sworn to protect secrets as an employee of the government, and who violated that trust, and he should certainly come back and face justice.
BOLDUAN: Tony, I was just getting -- the Control Room was just telling me in my ear that in the Oval Office right now -- and I think we're waiting on getting some video of it -- is that American Egyptian aid worker who the Trump administration was able -- was able to help secure and negotiate her release. She's been held -- she and her husband have been held for years in Egypt. It is a very good thing that she is out.
You, though, have some concerns about how it came about. You think this could have a long-term effect. Can you just give me your reaction on the fact that she is now on U.S. soil, she's at the White House right now, and that?
BLINKEN: Well, two things, Kate. First, I am thrilled that she's out. We worked hard on this. I'm really glad that the Trump administration kept the focus on it. They got her out. I think it's a credit to the president, to Dina Powell, the deputy national security adviser, who worked on this, but they stuck with it and got her out. So, that's good news and everyone should rejoice in that.
But here's the concern. I'm afraid that we did pay a price for it, and the price may have been the president's unconditional support for president al Sisi. And my concern is that that simply reinforces al Sisi's unfortunate tendencies to repress his own people.
BOLDUAN: I'm just going to cut in, so we can watch this together.
BOLDUAN: This is new video coming in from the Oval Office. There she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good job, right?
AYA HIJAZI, AMERICAN AID WORKER RELEASED FROM EGYPT: Wonderful job.
TRUMP: That's even better than I thought.
HIJAZI: Yes. (INAUDIBLE)
TRUMP: Great strength.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're not taking questions.
TRUMP: No, no questions.
TRUMP: I think we're in good shape.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)
TRUMP: We are very happy to have Aya back home. And it's a great honor to have her in the Oval Office with her brother.
And thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: All right, so you see there, very brief remarks, but a very powerful image there.
Tony, to continue our conversation, the president saying he's very happy to have Aya Hijazi back home. Continue.
BLINKEN: Good. This is a good thing. It's great that she's back. And again, I want to emphasize, it's good that the administration stuck with this. But I think there was a price paid, and the price was the president's unconditional support for al Sisi. And I'm afraid that that reinforces al Sisi's own tendencies to crack down on his own people, and that's something that at some point is going to blow up against him and maybe against us.
BOLDUAN: Laura, another part of my conversation with the attorney general and secretary of Homeland Security was about this so-called Dreamer case, the DACA case, and the judge involved now, Gonzalo Curiel. When I asked the attorney general if he thought that Judge Curiel, because of the past when he became unwitting to himself a spotlight in the election and a target of then-Candidate Trump, if he should recuse himself, and he said that that would be up to him. But I thought it was interesting that the attorney general said he doesn't expect anything but a fair day in court. He does not want to make this an issue.
[11:35:13] LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, no, although, he did raise the recusal issue yesterday, which raised some eyebrows, since typically, recusal happens when the judge does something, right? So, the judge says or does something or there's a conflict of interest with a family member. But instead, everyone remembers President Trump, then candidate Trump, came out against that federal judge in California. The judge didn't do anything. And so, to raise the specter of recusal in this situation I think has some people questioning exactly what the issue is there. But of course, the attorney general did say he expects nothing more than to get a fair shake in the courtroom. But certainly, the resurgence of Judge Curiel came at a particularly interesting time when the Trump administration is really going to be tested on their position on DACA in the coming weeks and months -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: Amazing coincidence, that is for sure.
Thank you all so much. Really appreciate it. Tony, Chris, Laura, great to see you all. Thank you.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Thanks, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, the White House takes a new stab at health care reform, but can they make something happen before the big 100-day mark? Or does it even matter anymore, according to President Trump's tweet? Where do things stand on this new effort of a possible breakthrough? That's ahead.
[11:40:56] BOLDUAN: President Trump has not given up on his hope and plans to repeal and replace Obamacare. But listen to this. According to a Republican aide, telling CNN, "The legislative language is still being workshopped and there is no deadline for finalizing it."
A new deal between the House Freedom Caucus and moderates in the House as well, it could bring more "yes" votes to the table, but it's not clear if that would be enough to pass the bill or, really, what would be in the bill at this point.
Let me bring in right now M.J. Lee, CNN national politics reporter, who is all things health care, the poor thing; Angela Rye, CNN political commentator, former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus; and Amanda Carpenter is a CNN political commentator and former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz.
OK, M.J., lay it out for us. Make it easy. Where do things stand? What direction are we moving? Because we talked yesterday and it was a possible breakthrough reached.
M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Right, a possible deal, but as of right now, there is no legislative text, and it's really unclear until we see the details of that bill whether the House Republican conference can actually get to the 216 votes to pass this bill. Now, we know that the Freedom Caucus and the Tuesday Group have been in conversations. But again, the two sides really do want different things, and whether those two sides can come together and reach a deal that gets to that magic number is really a big question. And tomorrow, we might learn a little bit more information because there is going to be a conference call that House Republicans are going to call in to, to talk about next week, to talk about their legislative agenda, and you can bet that health care is going to come up.
BOLDUAN: I think it might, or maybe should be maybe the first thing that will come up.
LEE: Should be.
BOLDUAN: Amanda, what does your gut tell you on this? Do you think they can pull this off before the 100-day mark?
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, here, I think we need a little bit of real keeping in judging this scenario. Just because the House passes a bill doesn't mean this is anywhere near finished.
CARPENTER: That's nowhere near getting to the president's desk. So, I don't know --
BOLDUAN: But -- (CROSSTALK)
CARPENTER: Trying to move --
BOLDUAN: Would you give them a win if they passed it through the House before day 100?
CARPENTER: No. Not really. It would be good news. I'm all for progress. I think this should go well into the summer. I'm fine with that but that's not what Trump is really promising. I don't know where his goal posts are. It seems right now they're trying to make the bar Republicans make a deal among themselves. Well, OK, without any text? I mean, the bar is so low. I am for them taking time, but I think they should be more clearly explaining what their timeline really is, because we're all talking about this deal and having a victor in the first 100 days. No! Just having some bill text on paper is not what we were promised. That's not anywhere near where he should be at this point in time. That may be OK, but there is a long way to go on this, even if it passes the House next week, which, hey, could happen. It should happen. It really shouldn't be this hard. But let's just be real about where we are in this process.
BOLDUAN: Democrats are not going to be doing anything to help, let's just be honest, Angela, on this one. But the other factor of this is they need to keep the government funded. They need to pass some kind of stop gap, continuing resolution, whatever you want to call it, funding bill by the end of the week. You know how the Hill works. Can they do both things at once?
ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's nearly impossible. Kate, you said earlier in the broadcast that this bill is still being workshopped. If they're still negotiating legislative text, members are not going to have an opportunity to review this bill before it can even go to the floor, not to mention preventing yet another government shutdown. Thanks, gerrymandering, that is what happens when you redistrict by very conservative, draw very conservative Republican districts.
CARPENTER: Everybody gerrymanders.
RYE: What'd you say?
CARPENTER: I said everybody gerrymanders. It's a problem on both sides.
RYE: I appreciate you chiming in right there, Amanda, but I think the issue is very, very clearly that these districts are far too conservative. And so, you have people that are no and then absolutely hell no. That is what we're dealing with right now. So, there is no middle ground. There's no room for compromise. People forgot that that was even what Congress is supposed to do. So, you're right. It's not a real victory if this bill passes the
House, but let's try to get it out of committee first. Let's try to get it to the House floor first. We have miles and miles to go there, and I don't think that it's going to happen. Not to mention there's nothing affordable about this health care bill. You're talking about yet again cuts to Medicaid. You're talking about yet again trying to find tax breaks for the wealthy. That does not help the people who need relief in this country.
[11:45:24] BOLDUAN: So, Angela actually raised the point I was going to ask you about. Even if, let's say, they come to an agreement today. Let's just put that in. Are they expecting they would, you know, have a cost estimate? Were they expected it would go back through committee? I mean, it's like we've collapsed the time-space continuum, thinking these things go quickly.
LEE: Right. At this point in time, there are no real conversations happening right now about whether we would see a CBO report. Remember last time, that was a point of such contention because people wanted to see --
BOLDUAN: That's one of the things that helped it fall apart.
LEE: Right. And they wanted to know what they were voting for. And I take Amanda's point about the White House sort of moving the goal post throughout this process. Remember, it wasn't that long ago that when they were trying to vote on this first bill, the president communicated to members through his deputies that if they don't get this done this time, that there wouldn't be another chance.
BOLDUAN: There was no plan "B."
LEE: And clearly, the White House has now realized that you are sort of confronting the challenges of governing and the importance of trying to keep the biggest campaign promises. And repealing and replacing Obamacare is at the very top of that list.
BOLDUAN: I think it is a safe bet to say that. All eyes on this one.
Great to see you, M.J. Thank you.
Angela and Amanda, thank you.
Coming up for us, was this young man wrongly deported or did he lose his Dreamer status because of his own illegal actions? That comes down to the crux of the case now at the center of the illegal immigration fight. The lawyer for the man that you see right there is joining us next.
[11:51:03] BOLDUAN: It could be the first test of President Trump's immigration policy, the case of Juan Manuel Montes-Bojorquez, one of the millions of undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers who were brought to the United States as children and granted protective status under President Obama. That program is known as DACA. But the 23- year-old is now in Mexico. How he got there is really what's the center of his case now.
His attorney, Monica Ramirez Almadani, is joining me.
Thank you for coming in.
MONICA RAMIREZ ALMADANI, ATTORNEY FOR JUAN MANUEL BOJORQUEZ: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: There appears to be some pretty clear cut questions in this case. Was he deported illegally or not? Is that something that should be easily identifiable?
RAMIREZ ALMADANI: It should be for the government. Our client, Juan Manuel, has been very consistent and very adamant that he did not leave this country of his own volition. He was physically removed. And then reentered. And so we have been seeking the truth, seeking answers from the federal government for many, many weeks. We filed this lawsuit on Tuesday. However, we've been asking the government for information about this case to better understand what occurred for several weeks. And the government has yet to provide any detailed answers. They have spoken to the press and explained what they believe to be their position. Their position has been inconsistent. On Tuesday, they said our client didn't have DACA status, that his status had expired. That was not true. On Wednesday, they corrected that and they recognized that he had DACA status that did not expire until 2018. So our client is a DACA recipient. He did not leave this country of his own volition. And he is now in Mexico. And we brought the suit, again, to seek answers. As of today, we have not received his immigration file. We have not received any of the documentation that the government says it has and that they maintain proves what happened.
BOLDUAN: In terms of the government's response, the secretary of Homeland Security, John Kelly, he said this about the case yesterday. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KELLY, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: There was a time in his life that this individual was a DACA registrant, but he gave that up by his behavior and by his illegal actions. He's no longer covered by the DACA arrangement that President Obama brought in. And so he's now, to the best of my knowledge, he has been returned to Mexico.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: What do you have to say to the secretary?
RAMIREZ ALMADANI: Well, DHS never formally revoked Juan Manuel's DACA status. On Tuesday, they said that he lost his status in 2015 and then on Wednesday they corrected that. Again, they have recognized that he had DACA status. His DACA status was never revoked. The reason that he no longer has DACA status is because he was physically removed from the United States. And so that's really the issue here. Our client, again, has been very consistent and very unequivocal that he did not leave this country of his own volition. That he was arrested by a border patrol agent. He was detained. He was interrogated and he was physically removed. And so that's really the issue here. We need answers from the government.
BOLDUAN: If they do answer it, if it comes down to paperwork and they show you the paperwork that shows that they did deport him, you know, that they did do a paperwork showing they did this and that he lost status, does your client have a case?
RAMIREZ ALMADANI: There was no basis for him to lose his DACA status. There was no basis.
BOLDUAN: There's no chance he left the country of his own volition?
RAMIREZ ALMADANI: He did not leave of his own volition.
BOLDUAN: Very clear, different stories on this, and that is why it's important that the process takes place so everyone can get some answers.
Monica, thank you so much. We'll follow this case closely.
[11:55:09] RAMIREZ ALMADANI: Thank you so much. Thank you.
BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, an important milestone or ridiculous standard. President Trump going with the latter description this morning for the first 100-day mark. But is that due to a lack of big wins? What's behind that this morning? We'll discuss.
BOLDUAN: For 10 years, "CNN Heroes" has been recognizing everyday people doing extraordinary things for others. Now it's touching more lives. One fifth grade teacher has found a unique way to incorporate the best of CNN heroes into his curriculum.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED CNN HERO: Throughout our school year we will set up several skype calls with various heroes.
UNIDENTIFIED CNN HERO: They're a celebrity to my kids. As they should be. The kids come up with amazing questions.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: How long did it take you to --
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: How is it different --
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Did you ever feel --
UNIDENTIFIED CNN HERO: When I see how excited that fifth grader is, it makes me realize that we're doing something right in here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: You are.
To see the full impact of "CNN Heroes" in the classroom, go to cnnheroes.com.
Thanks so much for joining us AT THIS HOUR all this week.
"Inside Politics" with the one and only John King starts right now.
[12:00:02] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Kate.
Welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your day with us.
One week to 100 days, and a deadline to keep the government open, President Trump pushes Congress to try again on repealing Obamacare and to find more money --