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Supreme Court Lets Texas Enforce Controversial Immigration Law; Top Generals Testifying About U.S. Withdrawal From Afghanistan; Trump Says He'll Have To Mortgage Or Sell Assets To Pay NY Bond; Ohio Senate Race Could Determine Balance Of Power. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 19, 2024 - 15:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: We begin with our breaking news. The Supreme Court is letting Texas begin enforcing a controversial immigration policy that will allow state officials to detain and arrest people they suspect have entered the country illegally. Immigration advocates have raised concerns that the law could lead to an increase in racial profiling, detentions and attempted deportations in Texas, where Latinos make up 40 percent of the population.

CNN Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic is joining us.

Joan, and we understand now the three liberal justices dissented. What can you tell us?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Sure. Major news from the Supreme Court allowing this controversial Texas law to take effect immediately that would allow Texas state officials, not federal officials who normally are in charge of immigration to arrest and detain migrants who cross the border. You're right. The majority did not explain its reasoning, Brianna, but three dissenting justices did explain why they don't think this law should take effect.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson said this: "Today the court invites further chaos and crisis in immigration enforcement. Texas passed a law that directly regulates the entry and removal of non-citizens and explicitly instructs its state courts to disregard any ongoing federal immigration proceedings. The law upends federal state balance of power that has existed for over a century." And then the third liberal joining in was Justice Elena Kagan, who said the subject of immigration generally and the entry and removal of non- citizens particularly are matters long thought the special province of the federal government.

And that's the point here, Brianna. Looking at all the human drama at the border right now with those pictures and we've just seen so much turmoil as migrants have tried to make their way to America across the river there. But what this is about at this point is essentially state powers versus federal powers. And as the dissenter said, it's been - for more than a century that the federal government has had control of immigration and this is the first time any kind of law like this is being allowed to be enforced.

But let me just stress that this is not the end of anything. We're just very early in actually the legal proceedings on the merits of this law. Gov. Abbott signed it into law back in December, it was challenged by the Biden administration and immigration rights groups. And the lower court, the Fifth Circuit that's based in New Orleans is going to hold a hearing on the merits on April 3rd, which could begin to change some things. But it's that court that had said that this law should be able to take effect and today the majority agreed with it.

The only two justices in the majority, and it was the conservative dominated majority, the only two justices of that group to write to explain anything were justices Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh and they concurred in the majority decision talking about how they didn't want to second guess the Fifth Circuit. And it wasn't procedurally proper in their mind for the Supreme Court to intervene at this point.

But by this decision, they have essentially shaped what's going to happen at the border now, even if months or years from now things change. But for now, as I said, that a very potent state law is going to take effect.

KEILAR: Yes. And an experiment in a state executing what is normally the purview of the federal government is going to be playing out and we'll see that.

Joan Biskupic, thank you so much.

I want to go now to Priscilla Alvarez who is at the White House.

Priscilla, what is the White House saying?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, they have not yet weighed in on what the Supreme Court decided here, but this is a significant development in this ongoing feud between the White House and Texas governor, Greg Abbott. Of course, the Governor has launched his own border mission that has been - spurred controversy and pushback from the White House.

And just yesterday, the White House Press Secretary was asked about this law and she said that this was just another example of how the Texas governor has politicized the border. And then she also punted it to the DOJ filings and what they have said about this law.


And what they have said is that this is - federal law enforcement is charged with enforcing immigration law. That's what was unusual about this state law to begin with. So it's very unclear at this point how this is going to be executed operationally. I have been in touch with Homeland Security officials in the minutes since we've seen this and they have all been surprised and it's also unclear to them what happens next. Of course, we're talking specifically about the Texas-Mexico border here, but there is no doubt, Brianna, that this has been a politically vulnerable issue for the White House, for President Biden, even as he has tried to seize on border security. And this is going to mark another development in this feud between him and the Texas governor.

Where it goes from here, still unclear. The White House is going to - or we expect going to issue a statement on this and we'll get that to you as soon as we get it.

KEILAR: All right. We'll be looking for that.

Priscilla Alvarez at the White House, thank you. Boris?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: (Inaudible) ...

Sir, can you hear me?

KEILAR: All right. I think we're going to get Boris' microphone there reestablished as I bring in the mayor and I will hand off to Boris as soon as we get that figured out.

Mayor, I'm just going to stand in probably for one question here, Dr. Victor Trevino with us.

Can you just give us your reaction to the Supreme Court ruling that allows state officials in Texas to arrest and detain people that they suspect have entered the country illegally?

MAYOR VICTOR TREVINO, LAREDO, TEXAS: Well, first of all, thank you for having me. I think this is an important issue because this is departure from a century-old federal laws overseeing immigration. And I think this is a great concern, not only to us that are 95 percent Hispanic here on the border, but to our trading partners that might send a concerning message.

Being Mexico, the largest trading partner for the U.S., this is very concerning and we have to look at this in another way that local enforcement officials or policemen don't have the training as immigration officer to deal with these situations. So anybody can be profiled, even including me, I can get stopped. And as for my documents, I don't have them. I mean, I could be arrested and then later on asked to produce my citizenship.

So these are things that are very concerning and we have to look at this in a way that we have to understand that federal laws supersede any state laws. For us, it's concerning because we need direction onto how - which law to follow at this point.

SANCHEZ: Mayor, we were fortunate to get that mic issue fixed. Sir, thank you for being with us.

On that question of the problems caused by local law enforcement handling what is typically - what are typically duties handled by Customs and Border Protection. I was speaking with Brandon Judd. He's the head of the Border Patrol Union. And he was essentially arguing that people should put their faith in local law enforcement, that they will get the training, that they will get what they need in order to carry out these state policies. I'm curious to get your reaction to that specifically because it sounds like you're very skeptical.

TREVINO: It is a difficult situation because we have limited resources here. We don't have the jail capacity to House all these people that will be arrested. We don't have - we're short as it is of police officers. So that is another added burden that I think would be very important. So these are things that have to - be looked at a better way. There's better ways to handle this as bi-national collaboration, I think would work better. And we don't want to send a concerning message to our trading partners. We have received letters already from our counterparts across the border and from even state officials here saying that this could cause a strain in the relationships being that it's a number one trade partner of the US.

SANCHEZ: Yes. There's also the question of once those folks that have been put in the system, which you're saying that the legal system is already strained, once those folks are already processed and they served whatever time the state deems that they should serve for being undocumented, does the state have any clarity on how they're going to get those folks back out of the country? Because it doesn't seem from my reading of SB 4 that that's made clear. A lot of those immigrants aren't even from Mexico, so what is Texas going to do with them?

TREVINO: That is another situation. And that is why immigration officers need to handle this and not the local police officer.


This is a federal issue, not a state or a local issue. And I think this needs to be better looked at and thought, and a better process, there's better things to do. We have a lot of difficulties that we have to look at if that comes about and more so than - one of the main things is the racial profiling and financial devastation to our local communities.

SANCHEZ: Yes, Mayor, the other question I had for you was about the way that SB 4, whether it's constitutional or not, speaks to a desperation among communities at the border like yours that have had a serious difficulty with the unprecedented numbers of migrants crossing the border and have not seen much action from the federal government when it comes to immigration reform. We just saw a bipartisan Senate bill not even get a chance on the floor of the House. What's your message to federal lawmakers on what they need to do to ensure that something like SB 4 doesn't even need to happen?

TREVINO: Well, first of all, we need to understand we're not Democrats or Republicans who want to deal with this. We have to get together and get a good immigration reform going because this is long overdue. It's been overdue for decades. So anybody that tries to enforce any immigration laws with antiquated rules is dysfunctional. So we have to get a binational cooperation and get these immigration laws fixed.

We that work and live here at the border understand what the real situation is and how it can be handled rather than people a thousand miles away trying to understand what the border is like. It - you have to live and work here to understand. And my point of view is that you have to get countries involved to do a common sense immigration reform rather than putting band-aids on the situation or putting border walls.

SANCHEZ: Mayor, Dr. Victor Trevino, we very much appreciate your time. I send thanks from Brianna as well. Brianna?

KEILAR: Right now, retired generals who had been in charge of the chaotic U.S. exit from Afghanistan in 2021 are testifying on Capitol Hill. This is the first time that Gen. Mark Milley and Gen. Kenneth McKenzie are speaking to lawmakers since they left the Pentagon and entered civilian life. And the two former military leaders paid tribute to the 13 American troops who were killed outside of Hamid Karzai International Airport by a suicide bombing back in 2021. It happened in August of that year when the U.S. evacuated thousands of Afghans and Americans as the Taliban took control of the country.


GEN. KENNETH MCKENZIE (RET.), FORMER COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: It remains my opinion that if there is culpability in this attack, it lies in policy decisions that created the environment of August 2021 in Kabul. If there's fault, it lies in a policy decision that placed the joint force in this situation and exposed the force overtime to the possibility of these kinds of attacks.


KEILAR: CNN National Security and Politics Correspondent Natasha Bertrand has been following the hearing.

Natasha, what more are we learning about what they've said about what happened in Afghanistan?


So one of the big themes of this hearing really has been tension between the Pentagon and the State Department. And these two generals really underscoring the point that they believe that this evacuation operation which we saw ended so chaotically in August of 2021 was delayed and delayed and delayed. And that is the reason why the events of that August and the chaos that we saw unfold took place.

According to Gen. McKenzie, he was asking for the State Department's plan for an evacuation operation really, up until that point, up until August when they finally gave that order and that plan to begin the non-combatant evacuation operation. And his sense was that a lot of the chaos that unfolded could have been avoided if this was done sooner. Here's a little bit of what he said about the kind of back and forth that occurred during that time period.


MCKENZIE: So Chairman, every embassy has an evacuation plan for Afghanistan and Embassy Kabul had a plan, had what we would call an F77 list, which is the list of U.S. citizens and their families that are in the country. And we struggled to gain access to that plan and work with them over the months of July until we finally got a decision to execute the NEO, which as I've already mentioned, occurred on the 14th of August.

Now, we worked with the embassy before then, but we didn't have authority to move out and do the things that you have to do to make a NEO happen until the 14th of July - or correction - the 14th of August.


And as I noted, we were an extremist at that point.


BERTRAND: So the 14th of August, that - that's a really important date because that really was simply one day before the Taliban was able to overrun Kabul. And it was really, as he said, an extremist, that the U.S. military was under extreme pressure at that point to try to execute this very complex non-combatant evacuation operation, this very large operation. And they are saying that it was so delayed that it really just made it all the more chaotic.

Now, of course, the State Department, on the other hand, was trying to delay it because they didn't want there to be chaos in the government. They didn't want to undermine the Afghan government to the extent that it would then rapidly collapse. And so they were trying to maintain a diplomatic presence for as long as possible.

But, of course, that kind of backfired, according to what the generals are saying here. And another big theme of this has been that they recommended to the president that the U.S. ultimately keep roughly 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan in order to maintain that level of stability and hold the Taliban back. But, of course, the President ultimately chose a different path, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Natasha Bertrand, live for us from the Pentagon, thank you for that report.

Still to come, former President Trump says a fire sale of his real estate that it might be needed to pay the nearly half-billion-dollar bond he owes in his New York civil fraud case.

Also ahead, a 20-year prison sentence for the first of six now former police officers who tortured two innocent black men in Mississippi. A second ex-cop is being sentenced this afternoon.

And then later, despite bans in more than a dozen states, abortion rates reaching the highest level in more than a decade. We have those stories and many more coming up on CNN News Central.


[15:21:16] SANCHEZ: Former President Donald Trump says it'll be close to impossible for him to pay the nearly half-billion-dollar bond he owes in his New York civil fraud judgment. This morning, Trump brailed against the judge in the case, as he's done for months. But he also said he may need to mortgage or unload his assets in a "fire sale" to cover the cost as his appeal plays out.

CNN's Kristen Holmes and Tom Foreman are here to break it all down.

So, Kristen, first.

Trump going on a rant against Judge Engoron, which is par for the course, not unusual here. But this bit about the fire sale was new.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and look, this is just Trump ranting and complaining. I don't think anyone believes that he's actually going to have a fire sale of his assets. Also, his assets are all of his property and his brand, so it's unlikely he would try to offload all of that or if that would even be possible to do.

But I can tell you that inside Trump's camp, they are very consumed by figuring this out. There are a lot of excuses that they have come up with, and I will tell you that I ran some of these by financial advisors, and they're not completely off. One of them being any billionaire that is not going to be that liquid to provide half a billion dollars, it's tied up in assets.

The other part of this, essentially saying that it's the underwriter's fault because they can only underwrite up to a hundred million dollars because this is really an unprecedented amount of money.

Now, I have talked to, again, financial advisors who say that that is true. However, he's had a lot of time to do this. He knew this was coming, he was - knew it was going to be an enormous amount of money. It's not as though this was just a surprise.

However, in terms of a fire sale, it seems very unlikely.

SANCHEZ: And Tom, as a billionaire yourself ...

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As a billionaire myself, yes.

SANCHEZ: Walk us through the numbers, though, like what properties could be on the chopping block for Trump?

FOREMAN: Well, fire sale, as you point out, is fantasy talk. No serious real estate person is even using language like this. Let's look at some of Trump's properties based on a Forbes estimate from last fall, what they would be worth, if you wanted to get up to this roughly half-billion-dollar judgment here.

If they got rid of 1290 Avenue of the Americas, where he has a 30 percent stake, that'd be $287 million. Trump Park Avenue, condos and retail, about $100 million, 101. Trump Tower, offices and retail, $56 million. And Trump Plaza, with some co-op units, retail, garage, residential, $18 million. If they got rid of all of that, which, as Kristen pointed out, lot of Trump names there, a lot of Trump brand being struck down right there, he would get to $462 million. So just over the gold.

The problem is, I talked to Dr. Tim Savage over at NYU's Schack Institute of Real Estate and this is virtually impossible. In fact, I would say it is impossible for a couple of reasons. Commercial real estate is not like selling your House. You don't put a cardboard sign out front that says, for sale by owner. It takes a long time. There has to be an outside assessment of what it's worth. Occupancy of buildings in every major city has been way down since the pandemic. And Trump's buildings, aside from whatever debt might be involved, he points out, they are old.

Donald Trump doesn't want to hear this, but they have to compete against brand new, state-of-the-art buildings that people really want to be in. So even if he sold all that, he could come in at a much lower value. And look, if he were only - if he got 80 percent of the estimated value, 80 percent, if he did that well, that would still drop him to $370 million, way short of what he needs.

So the idea of a fire sale here is - it's absurdity. It has nothing to do with reality.

SANCHEZ: The issue of a fire sale and him describing it that way is also ironic because this judgment, this disgorgement was based on him inflating the value ...


SANCHEZ: ... of his properties to begin with.


FOREMAN: Yes, that's one of the real questions here, what is this stuff actually worth. And what we know, as you know, The Trump Organization is very wary about letting true outsiders come in and really walk the bricks, inspect the plumbing, and say, this is great or this is not. He wants to say Trump Tower is perfect. He probably doesn't want somebody to walk inside and say, well, you've got an old building here that has problems that needs a lot of upgrades.

HOLMES: And I can tell you one thing ...


HOLMES: ... he would not sell Mar-a-Lago for $18 million, which we have heard time and time again. He thinks it is worth five times that price, if not more, so ...

FOREMAN: And if he did, that would be in effect publicly admitting that his big sheen of being so successful at everything isn't so successful.

SANCHEZ: As Tom knows, it's tough to be a billionaire, right?

FOREMAN: Tough to be a billionaire.

SANCHEZ: Tom Foreman, Kristen Holmes, thank you both so much. Appreciate it. Brianna?

KEILAR: Voters in Ohio are heading to the polls right now in a high stakes Republican Senate primary. The three-way race, it's a critical test of the power of former President Trump's endorsement. And the winner will face off against Democratic incumbent Senator Sherrod Brown in a race that could decide the balance of power here in Washington.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is at a polling site for us.

Jeff, what have you been hearing there in Ohio?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORREPONDENT: Brianna, there are about four more hours left of voting here on this primary day in Ohio. And as you said, the Senate race is front and center here. The presidential candidate's also on the ballot, but that, of course, has already been decided.

But the Senate race, Democratic senator, Sherrod Brown, who's fighting for a fourth term in the Senate, knows that he has a very difficult race in November. Just how difficult, though, will be determined by the primary today? It's been a very spirited, heated, some would say ugly, and a nasty Republican primary campaign. Some $40 million has been spent in advertising alone.

But Donald Trump also has been sort of weighing heavy in this race. He was here campaigning just a couple days ago for his candidate, Bernie Moreno. He's a Cleveland businessman. He believes that he best represents the MAGA movement, if you will.

Well, Matt Dolan, a state senator, he essentially represents the old guard, the establishment wing of the Republican Party. He's endorsed by Ohio governor, Mike DeWine, and former senator, Rob Portman as well. And then the Ohio Secretary of State, Frank LaRose is also in this race.

But Sen. Matt Dolan last night at an event here in Columbus sort of summed up the stakes of the race like this.


SEN. MATT DOLAN (R-OH): Do what ultimately we need to do to get our country back, and that's beat Sherrod Brown and get the majority back in the United States Senate. That's what we're focused on.


ZELENY: So the question is, which candidate is the strongest or perhaps the weakest to challenge Sen. Brown. A Democratic Super PAC with ties to Chuck Schumer also has been weighing in, essentially promoting the Moreno candidacy, the Trump-backed candidate. So they clearly believe that he is the weakest to challenge Sen. Brown in November. So a lot of three-dimensional chess here, if you will, but the outcome of the primary tonight will certainly be an indication of how competitive this race will be in the fall. Sherrod Brown and Jon Tester out in Montana, the only two Democratic incumbent senators in red states that Trump won, so both of them have very difficult races. The question is how difficult, depending on the outcome of tonight's primary. Brianna?

KEILAR: Our chess master, Jeff Zeleny there in Columbus, Ohio. Thank you for that report.

Still ahead, the State Department says nearly 1,000 Americans in Haiti have reached out to the U.S. government as the nation is being ravaged by gang violence. When we come back, we will take you inside one of the last working trauma centers left in the country.