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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Pelosi: House Will Pass Senate's $4.6B Border Bill; Julian Castro On His Plan To Decriminalize Border Crossings; Ocasio-Cortez: Under No Circumstances Should House Vote On Senate's Border Funding Bill; TV Gremlins Haunt Debate But '76 Snafu Was Worse. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired June 27, 2019 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: States can do what they want.

[16:30:01] State politics has often dictated congressional districts. Take a look at this district three in Maryland. "The Washington Post" called that one America's most gerrymandered district.

How do you see this going forward? I mean, is this going to mean we have the most divided state governments in terms of the legislatures going forward?

KIM WEHLE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It's state and federal government. This is really a disaster for democracy and for the Constitution.

Basically, what the court said was the court can't take this question, period. No federal court can answer this because it's too vague. We don't have standards. We can't set off a test to determine when gerrymandering is too political.

That is 50 percent voting Republican, but nine of the 10 representatives end up in the Democratic Party because of the way they cut up in these distorted ways to particular districts.

Justice Kagan said, wait a minute, we said up tests all the time. If the intent is to basically consolidate power in an incumbent, that's not consistent with why we have a democracy that empowers we the people. The court said no, it's really terrible.

TAPPER: In your book, "How to Read the Constitution and Why", you write we are now at a crossroads in history where Congress is not functioning as a truly representative body or a measured check on the other two branches. There is a real chance of democracy failing in our lifetime, with tyranny taking its place.

Do you really think that's happening? What is the biggest threat do you think?

WEHLE: I think it's the amassing of power in the presidency. We're seeing it with the tweets today. Listen, I'm in charge of the census. Regardless of what Congress says and it's Congress not functioning in its oversight responsibility. So, the way this -- our system works, nobody is above the law and nobody is the boss. But that requires someone to issue spending tickets, right? So, if Congress is not going to issue spending tickets to the president when he blows off the speed limit, then the speed limit becomes irrelevant. And as Justice Douglas wrote famously, the twilight of democracy is not going to come overnight, it will come as a slow drip.

So, we need to take back our democracy, and unfortunately, the citizenship, or excuse me, the gerrymandering decision is going to make that even harder.

TAPPER: With blatantly Democratic districts, blatantly Republican districts.

WEHLE: It happens on both sides.


WEHLE: And to send it back to the legislature to fix, that's what the majority said, is kind of starting at square one. That's the reason they have the lawsuits to begin with.

TAPPER: The book is "How to Read the Constitution and Why", Kim Wehle, always great to see you. Thanks so much for joining us.

WEHLE: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Appreciate it.

One Democratic presidential hopeful is already cashing in on the first debate. Former Housing Secretary Julian Castro joins me live next.

Stay with us.


[16:37:03] TAPPER: We have some breaking news in our national lead now. In just minutes, we expect the House of Representatives to vote on the Senate's version of that bill that will provide humanitarian aid for people at the border, for migrants there. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is now saying that the House will pass that bill, the Senate version, which gives $4.6 billion to deal with the humanitarian crisis at the border.

More progressive members of her caucus are already slamming the decision. For instance, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeting, quote: Under no circumstances should the House vote for a McConnell-only bill with no negotiation with Democrats. Hell no. That's an abdication of power we should refuse to accept. They will keep hurting kids if we do.

Joining me now to talk about this and much more, Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro, a former HUD secretary. He had a standout moment discussing his immigration plans during last night's debate. He's also as I mentioned former housing secretary under President Obama.

Secretary Castro, you heard the argument Ocasio-Cortez is making. Do you agree with her do you agree with Speaker Pelosi, who's basically saying, I don't like it, but we need to get money to these kids at the border, so we should pass this, I don't like what the Senate is doing, but the kids come first?

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, as you know, Jake, this news just came down. I haven't had the opportunity to look at the Senate version of this bill.

However, I will say that I would only support this type of funding if there's strong enough guardrails, strong enough measures so that the administration has to use any money that's appropriated specifically to improve the living conditions of the children who are being impacted by this detention. We need to end this detention.

I also recognize that we want to make sure that children have what they need. The problem is that this administration has a habit and a pattern of taking money that was meant to be spent in one way, and using it in another way. A good example of that is a few months ago, the president cobbled together a billion dollars that was supposed to be spent for other things, to be spent for the wall that he wants to build.

So I understand the concern very much that, you know, you need to be sure that there are enough guard rails in place that they could take this money that's suppose to do go to the living conditions of children and spend it in some other way, and they need to accelerate getting thinks children out of these facilities and into the homes of relatives that live in the United States, or caregivers in their homes that will be better living conditions for them. We don't want to prolong children living in these types of conditions.

TAPPER: So, last night, you and Beto O'Rourke got into a back and forth about your proposal that other candidates, other Democrats are now backing to decriminalize the act of crossing the border illegally into the United States, making it a civil issue, not a criminal one. Right now, the immigration system, it seems fair to say, is overwhelmed with the number of people entering the country illegally, by taking away the criminality.

[16:40:06] Are you not worried that you would be incentivizing even more people to enter the country illegally, thus overwhelming the system even more?

CASTRO: Not at all. In fact, if you remember, about a year ago, this administration basically told us that as Americans, if we could just be cruel enough to separate little children from their parents, that that would deter more Central American families from coming. That's what they said, their way of doing things, this cruelty would deter more families from coming. And instead, more families actually came.

So I believe that that has nothing to do with whether these families are going to come. What I would do is, number one, I would make sure we put more judges and staff into an independent immigration judiciary court system, because people would still be in the court system so that we can get through the backlog of asylum cases and other cases so people are not waiting here in limbo for years.

Secondly, I would make sure we partner with Honduras and Eel Salvador, and these Northern Triangle countries, so people can find safety and opportunity there, instead of having to come to the United States.

TAPPER: During eight years of Obama, it also happened not to the same degree, but that there were other tragedies, other horrors, other things that shocked our system. During Obama, minors were put in cages. During Obama, hundreds were found dead trying to come into this country.

And I've heard people, immigration activists say, where was the Democratic Party then? Where was the outrage then? Sure, it's good to have it now, but how come it wasn't there when Obama was in charge?

CASTRO: Well, to the credit of immigration activists, they have been proposing things like the repeal of section 1325 for years.

Look, when I was mayor of San Antonio, I was at times critical of the Obama administration, critical of the Bush administration before that, and certainly I've been critical of the Trump administration. I don't see this first in terms of party. What I'm concerned about are the people that are involved.

I will say, though, that, you know, I believe that there was a real difference between the intention of President Obama and the compassion that he had for people who were seeking a better life in this country than what Donald Trump does. I mean, this is a feature of his administration. This cruelty is a feature of his administration. That wasn't the case, I don't believe, with Barack Obama.

TAPPER: Democratic presidential candidate, Secretary Julian Castro, thank you. Have fun. Good luck out there on the campaign trail.

CASTRO: Thanks a lot, Jake.

TAPPER: Democratic infighting as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announces the House will pass the Senate's version of a border funding bill progressives in the party take shots at Pelosi.

Stay with us.


[16:45:00] TAPPER: Breaking news. In just minutes, the House of Representatives will vote on the Senate's version of a bill to address the humanitarian crisis at the border. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying the House will pass the bill but more Progressive members of the Democratic caucus are slamming the decision including Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez from New York who joins me now.

Congresswoman, thanks for joining us. You tweeted, "Under no circumstances should the House vote for a McConnell only bill with no negotiation with Democrats. Hell no. That's an abdication of power. We should refuse to accept. They will keep hurting kids if we do." Those are strong words against Speaker Pelosi and that bill as you know passed 84 to 8 in the Senate. A lot of Liberal Democrats voted for it. Explain why you're taking such a strong stance here.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Because you know, Jake, this is an issue not just of the substance of the bill but also the process of how we got here. We passed a House version of this bill which had far more humanitarian provisions and accountability -- and accountability for the facilities that are abusing kids at our border.

And Mitch McConnell immediately smacked it down in order to pass and rammed through a Senate bill that has an enormous amount of funding for military as well as no guardrails and no accountability for facilities that are abusing our kids. So that's the bill that's in front of us here in front of the House.

However, we didn't even bother to negotiate. There our House amendments. We could have negotiated it in. We could have conference, we could have tried to get amendments in to get humanitarian provisions put in, to get consequences for facilities that abuse kids in, and instead what we're doing is that we're immediately going to just saying yes to what got passed out of the Senate.

And these are two completely different dynamics. The Senate, you have a minority Democratic Party there, and here we are the House of Representatives and we are a House majority and we need to act like it.

TAPPER: But Congresswoman, didn't you vote against the House version too?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I did. I did. And the reason that I did as well is because I understand you had Julian Castor right before. He disagreed with even the House version of the bill as do I. I do not believe that we should be throwing more money to ICE. My district is 50 percent immigrant and I have an obligation and a responsibility to protect them.

I believe that really what we should ideally be doing is passing a pure humanitarian bill to get money straight to those kids. No tricks, no riders, no poison pills. We need to get toothpaste, toothbrush, soap and we need to make sure that these kids are protected as well as having their resources funded. And the fact that this is even a game is a frankly a huge, huge disappointment.

TAPPER: Well, if you oppose the Senate bill and you also oppose the House bill, I guess I'm wondering what it is that you're willing to support that could pass in either the House or the Senate.

[16:50:04] OCASIO-CORTEZ: Right. And once again, I think that a pure humanitarian bill could pass. I do not believe that Republican voters are interested back home in preventing kids from getting toothbrush -- toothbrushes and toothpaste. Pass just the money for these -- for these kids. In addition, if the president wanted to, he could he -- could declare

an emergency right now and get that money to those kids. Because right now what he's able to do is he's able to put billions of dollars from the Pentagon, withhold funds from getting dispersed in Puerto Rico in order for him to build in an inanimate wall. But he will not lift a finger in the same capacity in order to get toothpaste to those kids. So --

TAPPER: But aren't -- go ahead.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: So I think that what we can do A, there's that provision with the president but also what we can do is pass a pure humanitarian bill. But you know what even if it came down to it, if it came down to brass tacks and we had to negotiate in an imperfect bill with House amendments, that at least is better than the situation that we have right now.

TAPPER: But I guess my point is, isn't your desire for your vision of this bill -- I mean there are kids as you point out, and the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, he's been talking -- he's been warning about this for months. It's going to be overcrowded. We need funding.

$3 billion of the $4.6 billion is going to housing for kids, for migrant kids. I think another 800,000 or so going to housing for other undocumented immigrants, adults. By opposing both bills, aren't you just ultimately depriving these kids of housing facilities that they need?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, when you look at both of how both of these bills happened, Jake, I think it's important that we have members of Congress that stand up and actually call truth to the situation. The House bill passed resoundingly. There were only four Democrats that defected including myself from that bill.

And the reason I defected is because I needed to send a message to my constituents and my folks back home and in fact, my constituents asked me to vote no on the bill. But if it ultimately came down to it, if we needed to -- if we needed 100 percent every single Democrat to vote on this bill we could do it with the amendments.

But the problems right now and the question at hand right now is that Mitch McConnell sent us a bill and we're just putting a big checkmark on it instead of even trying to negotiate. I have indicated that I'm willing to stay here. I don't need to go home on vacation. I don't need to go home to July 4th weekend. I will stay here all weekend to make sure that we get this thing done.

And instead what Mitch McConnell is doing is that he's relying on the time pressure of recess to try to ram through a bill that is completely irresponsible to the American people and to those kids on the border.

TAPPER: I want to ask you -- last night, you tweeted "Last week we called the concentration camps at the border for what they are. In the week since the Acting Director of Customs and Border Patrol resigned, the Bank of America announced they will stop financing for- profit immigration detention and private prisons. Words matter."

I guess two questions here. One, you're taking credit for calling these camps -- detention center. You're taking credit for those developments by using the term concentration camp. And two what do you say to Americans especially survivors of the Holocaust or individuals who are related to survivors of the Holocaust you say look, academically you're right, the term concentration camp did not necessarily mean death camp, but colloquially when most people hear it, they think death camp, they think Holocaust and you're undermining your argument and you're --and you're hurting us. What -- you're hurting our feelings, hurting our emotions, hurting our memories. What do you say to those Holocaust survivors?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Absolutely. Well you know, I have -- I have many in my district and our Jewish community has kind of -- has rallied around this issue because when we talk about concentration camps, if we do not also talk about Japanese internment, if we don't talk about the Boer War, if we don't talk about the many times that this has happened in the history of humanity, then we also erase the suffering of those people.

I believe that we have also made sure -- made sure that we explicitly use the term concentration camp and we have to learn from the slow process, the slow dehumanizing process that leads to horrible things happening to people. And I know that my folks back home and in my district in Queens and the Bronx our community has rallied around it.

We absolutely and absolutely have communicated with survivors to indicate that this is not the same thing as I as you had mentioned academically as an extermination or a death camp, and in fact this is an opportunity for us to talk about how we learn from our history in order to prevent it from ever happening in any form, at any step, whether it's a concentration camp or whether is the final steps of that phase from happening.

And even at the earliest steps, we have to make sure that dehumanizing, and that never again means never again for anyone.

TAPPER: When you retweeted a story from Esquire Magazine discussing all this talking about the academic definition versus the definition that most people think of, the colloquial definition that doesn't mean the concentration camp or just a concentration of individuals, but a Nazi death camp.

But one of the points that was made in that very story was that using that definition there were also concentration camps under Obama and under Bill Clinton. That is in the story that you retweeted. So did you call them concentration camps at the time when Obama was president?

[16:55:33] OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, at the time I was working in a restaurant, but I do -- but I absolutely was outspoken against Obama's immigration policies and the detention of families then. I this think it's a remarkably consistent position. And I'm not here to defend wrong actions just because they happened under a Democratic administration. I here to speak truth to power and if it's wrong, it's wrong and I frankly don't care what president does it.

TAPPER: Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez from Queens, thank you for your time, always good to see you.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Thank you so much.

TAPPER: We'll be right back.


TAPPER: Finally from us in our "POP CULTURE LEAD," more than 15 million people tuned into last night's debate hosted by NBC though President Trump's focus was to criticize the network and its cable arm for some technical issues that forced a premature commercial break. The President called it unprofessional.

And look, we aren't here to poke fun. It's live T.V. and stuff happens but the bout of T.V. gremlins did remind us of a far worse snafu back in 1976 when this glitch happened during the first debate between Governor Jimmy Carter and then President Gerald Ford.


JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's a breakdown in the trust among our people and --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The pool of broadcasters of Philadelphia had temporarily lost the audio. It's not a conspiracy against Governor Carter or President Ford.


TAPPER: Temporarily lost the audio. That lasted for 27 long and awkward minutes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both candidates are waiting. They have been tooled that they're on the air with a picture, but they are off the air --


TAPPER: It should be noted that at no point did Governor Carter or President Ford they take to Twitter to attack the media to attack the technical problems.

Our coverage on CNN continues right now.