Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

Two Charged After 51 Migrants Found Dead In A Texas Truck; Soon: President Biden Meets With Turkey's President; Soon: R. Kelly To Be Sentenced For Luring Children Into Sex. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired June 29, 2022 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning. Two people have been charged after more than 50 migrants were found dead in a tractor- trailer in San Antonio. And we're now learning more about those people who are found inside. CNN's Rosa Flores is live in San Antonio following the very latest in this investigation. So, Rosa, what are you learning?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Kate, officials here telling us that just because of the nature of how these individuals were found, it's going to be slow and it's going to be difficult to identify them. The latest information that we have learned about the scene is actually coming from a statement that was issued by the U.S. attorney who was actually filing the charges in this particular case. She said in a statement. "Dozens of immigrants were found dead or incapacitated in and around a tractor-trailer with over a dozen others hospitalized in critical condition." The key new development there is in and around the tractor-trailer, so they were not just inside.

Now, this is the U.S. attorney who is also filing charges. So far, two individuals have charged -- have been charged according to charging documents. And what these documents show is that federal agents were able to trace the plate of the semi, they found the registered address, went to that address, and arrested and charged two individuals with weapons charges. And those weapons charges -- and these are Mexican nationals carry up to 10 years in prison.

HSI is the lead investigating agency. This is Homeland Security Investigations, Kate. And from talking to their head investigator here, they say that this is the worst smuggling event in the United States, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Rosa, thank you very much for that. Joining me now for more on this is Democratic Congressman from Texas, Sylvia Garcia. Congressman, thank you very much for coming in. Have you been able to learn anything more? I mean Rosa is doing great reporting there, of course, but from your side, have you learned more about what happened here? What connection do these arrests now have to this tragedy?

REP. SYLVIA GARCIA (D-TX): No, I have not. And obviously, you know, I am certainly very deeply saddened by this situation. I -- it's just horrific that any human being would treat another human being like this. It's just horrific. And the sooner that we can get the investigation top to bottom to give us more detail, the better off we are. I'm certain that the two arrests that have been made will probably lead to just who is behind this operation because obviously, I'm guessing that the owner of the truck must have contracted with someone.

I -- we still don't know whether the -- those -- the victims were smuggled in and then put on the truck. We don't know if they've been through some border checks. You know, there are still so many unknowns here but I have full confidence that Secretary Mayorkas and his team from Homeland Security will get to the bottom of this.

BOLDUAN: Generally, this is an example of a huge human tragedy. It also speaks to just the migrant crisis, the border crisis that is not getting better as we speak. I mean some of the facts -- just some of the latest facts are rescues across the southern -- U.S. southern border have outpaced those of the last fiscal year. Since October, there have been more than 14,000 searches and rescues, and that is up from almost 13,000 from fiscal year 2021. They're clearly still months to go in this fiscal year. Why hasn't the White House got any better handle on this?

GARCIA: Well, I think -- I think they've had a plan and will recall, you know, for some time, and they put it into place, and I think we're seeing some change as Secretary Mayorkas briefed us on a five-point plan that included everything from, you know, trying to put more people down there in terms of staffing, providing a quicker processing of the asylum requests. So just remember that for the last, you know two or three years, you know, all this has been understood so with all the programs that have been implemented by the previous administration, forcing people to remain in Mexico, forcing people -- turning people away.

So there's been a lot of built-up bottlenecks if you will, that now, I think we're seeing people -- more and more people coming through. And it's cyclical. It's that migration pattern that happens every so many years, so I think the administration is working hard at it. We need to do more, particularly zeroing in on human smuggling, and traffickers because this is -- this is a -- this is a huge, huge issue because it's nearly impossible to check every single truck.


GARCIA: You know, working my way through the law school, I was actually a customs inspector here in Houston. And I can tell you there was no way we could check every container. We couldn't check every single box in a warehouse. But we've got to find a way to find the signs and find the things that might lead us to suspect that a truck may be a carrier for human beings in it.

Again, it's hard for me to imagine any human being treating another human being like cattle in mistreating them at that level this horrific scene was, but I think we could -- we can always do more. And certainly, I would call on the governor to do more on his part. He has put together a border plan and has spent billions of dollars when Rick Perry was in the office on the border. But obviously, something's gone wrong. If you know the president's program has to work, the governor's program has to work. We both have to do better.

BOLDUAN: And it's not just Republicans, though, Congresswoman, I mean, the local sheriff that has issues here, if that's you're pointing to right now. The local sheriff down there dealing with this massive tragedy in San Antonio is putting this partially on President Biden and his administration. I mean, the sheriff sent a letter to the president. And in it, he wrote, I'm angry, Mr. President. I'm angry that I could not stop this massive loss of life in my county. I'm angry that despite my best efforts to appeal to your administration, I've not received a response. Mr. President, I'm slowly watching your support from Texas law enforcement be eroded by a perceived lack of action.

To be clear, this Sheriff, he's also critical, the Republican governor of the state in his handling of this too, but he is asking for help from this White House and he is not getting it.

GARCIA: Well, I -- you know, I don't know. I'm not seeing the letter. I don't know when he wrote the letter. But I can tell him I'm angry too. I'm angry that is very indecent, evil human beings would put people and treat them like cattle in a trailer. But then I want to make sure that people understand that this is a huge challenge for us, not just us, but all these triangle countries.

I mean, what is going on in their countries? What can we do to get the root causes of migration to assist because they're obviously leaving horrific situations of war and poverty and human trafficking, and crime and violence, seeking asylum, which they have a right to do? That is the law.

The law says you have a right to seek asylum. They come here, but they're getting nothing but barriers. Again, Title 42 remain in Mexico, so they find other ways to come across. And that is where the challenge is. We've got to have a balanced approach and we've got to have comprehensive immigration reform, but we also have to do everything we can to help the countries like Guatemala and Honduras, and Mexico in terms of their own economic recovery, their own programs for jobs, their own programs to attract and keep people in their country. It's not an easy solution but I joined the sheriff in his frustration. I joined him because I do run for something, so we know this --

BOLDUAN: Yes. Look, it's not easy. It is complicated that it wasn't complicated. If it wasn't complicated, it wouldn't be three decades since the last time that any kind of major immigration reform was actually putting passed by Congress and put in place. That's no question. But right now, it seems that nothing's in place it's going to guarantee that this tragedy doesn't happen again and that's why we're putting such a spotlight on it. Congresswoman, thank you for coming in. I appreciate your time.

GARCIA: Thank you. BOLDUAN: Coming up for us. President Biden will soon meet with Turkey's president, a meeting all the more important today after NATO formally invited two new nations, to new countries to join the Alliance. The very latest, next.



BOLDUAN: Moments from now, President Biden will be meeting one on one with Turkey's president on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Spain. And this meeting comes after a very big announcement, NATO formally inviting Sweden and Finland to join the Alliance which Turkey had initially opposed, but just yesterday dropped that -- their objection. CNN's Kaitlan Collins is live in Madrid following the president's visit. Kaitlan, a very big day for a meeting like this.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: A huge day. And the fact that they are able to have this conversation between President Biden and Turkish President Erdogan after Turkey dropped its objections to having Finland and Sweden join NATO, Kate, is a really significant deal because officials inside the administration were always confident that they would eventually get here. They did not think it was going to happen this soon. They actually told reporters they didn't expect this issue to be resolved by the time these leaders were here meeting in Madrid. But now, as of yesterday, Turkey has dropped its objections.

And the reason that is so significant is because one country can stand in the way of having others join NATO. And obviously having Finland and Sweden join is incredibly significant after Russia invaded Ukraine. Finland has a large border with Russia, Sweden obviously controls a lot of access to the Baltic Sea, so it's very notable for them to be involved in this and they really sped up their application process after that Russian invasion started because what is so critical about NATO this military alliance, is the article that every nation must pledge to come to the defense of another one should it come under attack.


COLLINS: And obviously, that's been a big point of discussion ever since Russia invaded Ukraine. And so you will see President Biden and the Turkish President sitting down now, any moment. We should note that officials told reporters that Turkey did not ask for anything and the U.S. did not guarantee anything in return for Turkey dropping its objections to having Finland and Sweden join. Of course, whether or not there is some kind of agreement or they have said that they would do something else that Turkey wanted to see, remains to be seen. But it is notable to have such a big announcement come as these meetings -- these leaders are coming together here in Madrid.

BOLDUAN: Yes, absolutely. Kaitlan, thank you so much for that. We're keeping an eye out for that meeting to begin. Joining us right now in the meantime is CNN's military analyst, retired General Wesley Clark. He's a former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, of course. So, Sweden and Finland, now a giant step closer to joining the NATO alliance, General, U.S. officials have been describing to CNN this NATO Summit is the most consequential meeting of its type this century. What's your reaction to this moment?

WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Oh, it is extremely controversial -- it's extremely consequential. Look, the alliance is back in Ukraine and are -- in a war that's the largest war in Europe in 70 years. That's the first thing. And so the Alliance members seem very strongly resolved or continue to support Ukraine. Bringing in Finland and Sweden, well, that strengthens any potential challenge against us -- against the Baltic States, it strengthens Estonia, Latvia, Estonia -- Lithuania. It gives us the Baltic Sea working exercises. So that's a good thing. And more importantly, it's just one more chance for the leaders of the West to get together and say security is at risk, it's not only about the military. It's also about sanctions. It's about politics. Got to hang together on this, and we have to somehow deal with the food issue that's arisen coming out of this.

BOLDUAN: Yes, that's becoming more and more of an issue coming out of this. One thing that is also clear from this, General. You've talked about this as Russia's goal of dividing NATO. It is backfiring in a very concrete way now with this kind of announcement. I mean, what impact do you think today's NATO announcement has on Vladimir Putin?

CLARK: Well, I think it confirms his worst fears, honestly because NATO does seem to be stronger. But remember, Kate, he also has lots of intelligence agents and he knows that behind the scenes in NATO, there are still some countries that say, oh, let's get this over with as soon as possible. And what about our -- than the inflation in our country, and what about the cost of fuel, and what are we going to do if this goes into the winter, and we can't get Russian gas? And so he is still maintaining hope that he is going to succeed.

And that's why it's very important what President Macron said yesterday. He said he will not succeed. And that's got to be said by the members of the alliance, by the leaders, he will not succeed. We've got to convince Putin he's not going to win and he'll then back out of it. He's very rational, he's very strategic, but he still believes he can win.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And President Biden -- I mean, he's also announced during this visit that he's adding quite a bit to the fight, more forces and equipment to Eastern Europe in light of the Russian invasion, including on that list. I'll read it to you to get your kind of -- your take on it. Establishing a permanent headquarters for the Fifth Army Corps in Poland, maintaining an extra rotational brigade of 3000 troops in Romania, enhancing rotational deployments to the five Baltic states, ascending two more F-35 fighter jet squadrons to the UK -- to the UK, and stationing additional air defense and other capabilities in Germany and Italy, as it is explained. What does all of that mean?

CLARK: A sot stronger NATO forward presence. There's lots more there to react quickly should there be a certain sudden Russian lurch into the Baltics or against Poland or Romania. So before we -- yes, we had a very small presence. It was a tripwire presence. This is much more robust. It's much more assurance to these countries that if something were to happen, the alliance will come in with both feet.

BOLDUAN: It's great to see you, General. Thank you very much.

CLARK: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us. Singer R. Kelly is set to be sentenced very shortly after being convicted of decades of sexual and psychological abuse of young girls and young women. Details on what prosecutors are asking for in court right now, next.



BOLDUAN: R&B singer R. Kelly is in a New York courtroom right now waiting to hear his sentence in his Federal sex trafficking case. A jury, you'll recall, found Kelly guilty last year of racketeering in a vast scheme to recruit women and minors for sex. Federal prosecutors are recommending more than 25 years in prison for R. Kelly while his defense team though says a sentence of 10 years or less is all that he deserved citing newly unsealed court documents, graphic details of Kelly's own childhood abuse that his attorneys hope will convince the judge to give him a more lenient sentence. We're standing by to hear more about that.

But also, there's new from the Supreme Court today. Supreme Court has reinstated a Republican-drawn congressional map in Louisiana that a federal judge struck down for violating the Voting Rights Act. That judge found that the map likely discriminates against black voters. The Republican-drawn map was vetoed by the state's Democratic governor, but the Supreme Court is now allowing that map to be used in the next election while they decide on a similar case out of Alabama in the next term.


BOLDUAN: I think we need to go overseas. Right now, President Biden meeting with the Turkish president, that meeting is beginning, let's jump in.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we are on, President.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: OK. This Mr. President it's good to see you, yes. And thank you for -- are we ready?


BIDEN: Thank you for making the effort to come over. I want to particularly thank you for what you did, putting together the situation with regard to Finland and Sweden, and all the incredible work you're doing to try to get Ukraine out of -- out of Ukraine and Russia. I mean, you're doing a great job. I just want to thank you. And I like to talk to you about those things we have a chance. So the floor is yours. RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, PRESIDENT OF TURKEY: Speaking in a foreign language.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, hello. I would like to specially mention that it gives me great -- Mr. President, it gives me great pleasure to be able to get together with you after a long interval. And this NATO Summit that we're attending, in terms of its agenda is going to be quite busy and it's going to be quite important. And tomorrow, the activities will be sustained. And thanks to our efforts, we believe that we will be able to go back to our countries with our hands full and with full satisfaction.

And as the United States, we think you're pioneering in this regard is going to be crucial in terms of strengthening NATO for the future and it's going to have a very positive contribution to the process between Ukraine and Russia. The Russia and Ukraine conflict and the negative developments with regards to taking out of the grain from the Ukrainian ports, as well as the developments involving oil and natural gas require all of us to work together in order to settle the disputes once and for all.

I hope and pray that we will be able to establish a balance to diplomacy in order to cultivate positive results, especially with regard to the grain. There are countries deprived of grains and we will open corridors and we will allow them to have access to the grains that they still need. Thank you.

BIDEN: For your leadership, thank you. I mean it. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, we will wrap up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, guys. Thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, guys, let's go. Keep it up. Thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, guys let's go. Turn around, guys. Let's go.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John King in Washington, and welcome to INSIDE POLITICS, little chaos at the end of the scene there, reporters being ushered out of the room, the president of the United States meeting with the President of Turkey in Madrid, Spain on the sidelines of the NATO summit. That meeting, critical, Turkey has now dropped its objection to Finland and Sweden joining the NATO alliance that in part, because of direct diplomacy from President Biden.

That is the big takeaway of this big NATO Summit. The president meeting there with the president of Turkey not much said both men not saying much there, the president of the United States thanking the president of Turkey for his efforts, so far unsuccessful, to arrange some safe harbor to get grain shipments out of Ukraine. We're watching that play out.

With me in studio to discuss this including the big NATO meeting is CNN's Jeremy Diamond, Marianna Sotomayor of The Washington Post, Zolan Kanno-Youngs of the New York Times, and CNN's state department correspondent, Kylie Atwood. So -- oh, we have Kaitlan Collins on the seat. I didn't know Kaitlan was available.

Kaitlan Collins, our chief White House correspondent available on the scene, Kaitlan, thank you. Not much said there but just the fact that Erdogan got this meeting with the president of the United States, which was part of what he wanted. He wanted to be seen with the president of the United States. And in return, the President got something critical to him, Turkey dropping its objections to Finland and Sweden joining the NATO alliance.

COLLINS: Absolutely. And at first, we should note, the White House would not even confirm that this meeting was going to happen and said -- they said they were waiting to see once President Biden arrived here whether or not there was going to be this one-on-one sit-down with the two of them. Then they said they'd likely meet on the sidelines of the summit.

But this is a full one-on-one sit-down between President Biden and President Erdogan and no surprise after it comes one day after Turkey dropped its objections to having Finland and Sweden join the military alliance known as NATO, which is quite significant because officials were confident that officially that they would eventually get here and have Turkey allow Finland and Sweden to join because obviously if they are standing in the way, as you know, John, Finland, and Sweden would not have been able to ultimately join NATO.