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Congress Holds Public Hearing in Biden Impeachment Probe; Interview With Former ICE Acting Director John Sandweg; New Texas Immigration Law on Hold; New York Attorney General Responds to Trump Motion. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired March 20, 2024 - 13:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Not so fast, Texas.

Just hours after the Supreme Court gave the state the green light to enforce a controversial immigration law, a lower court presses pause, but, ultimately, will Texas be barred from executing what are usually seen as federal powers? The dueling decisions creating uncertainty for law enforcement.

And hitting a wall. The Republican effort to impeach President Biden appears to be going nowhere fast, and, today, the panel hearing from a former family business associate testifying remotely from prison.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: And a debate over book bans turns ugly after a lawmaker reads a graphic depiction of rape and inserts a colleague's name into the story.

We're following these major developing stories and many more all coming in right here to CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

KEILAR: Today, President Biden heading to Texas after whiplash rulings over the state's controversial immigration law.

He is targeting the Latino vote. And just last hour, a three-judge appeals court panel finished hearing arguments on whether to allow Texas to enforce that law, S.B.4. It lets local and state authorities arrest people suspected of crossing the border illegally and even deport them.

CNN broke the news yesterday that the Supreme Court decided to let S.B.4 take effect. But a few hours later, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals put the law back on hold. A new ruling from that court could come down at any minute.

CNN's Ed Lavandera has been in Texas tracking this for us.

It's been a pretty confusing 24 hours here, Ed. What are you hearing there on the ground?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that confusion is -- reigns supreme here across law enforcement agencies, especially all across the state, as they try to make sense of what the legal system is doing with Senate bill 4, S.B.4, as it's known.

And, right now, those law enforcement agencies we have been reaching out to are, as I mentioned, kind of grappling with how they would enforce this law if it were to be allowed to go into effect. And that's the news that we're waiting on.

But the theme that we're hearing over and over, Brianna, is that there does not seem to be an appetite or a desire for law enforcement organizations, police departments and sheriff's departments to go out solely to enforce this law. Many people or many of these organizations are saying that, if it comes up in the course of investigating other crimes, then that law would be enforced.

But, for example, the mayor of El Paso here putting out a statement saying that they are going to focus on public security, public health, not enforce immigration laws. They believe that it is the federal government's duty to do that, Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection agents to carry that out.

And here's a little sample of what it was like in this hearing this morning. And you could just sense from the judges and even the lawyer representing the state of Texas confusion as to exactly how this law would be implemented.


JUDGE PRISCILLA RICHMAN, U.S. CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS: I was just trying to envision how this all plays out.

A couple other things, just because I'm not sure I understand the law totally. So, what if someone enters in -- let's say from Mexico into Arizona and lives there for five years, then moves to Texas? Are they covered?



LAVANDERA: So, some really crucial questions as to exactly what the implementation of this law would look like day to day.

And that is what so many organizations, law enforcement organizations, are grappling with right now. And just to recap, this would allow -- this law would allow local law enforcement officers to arrest people suspected of entering Texas illegally and also give judges the ability to deport those migrants to Mexico.

And we should also point out that Mexican officials are saying that they will not accept migrants from other countries that Texas sends back into Mexico. So, just the nuts and bolts of how this will work is still very much up in the air -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Ed, thank you so much for that.

Let's bring in CNN White House correspondent Arlette Saenz. She is in Phoenix following the president. [13:05:00]

Obviously, a lot of confusion there in Texas, Arlette, and there is a lot on the president's plate during the Southwest swing. Tell us about it.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, President Biden just happens to be in Arizona and Texas today, two critical border states, at a time when the immigration debate has once again come front and center in the 2024 campaign.

The White House yesterday, when the Supreme Court had issued its decision, expressed their disappointment with that decision, saying that it was -- they believe that this Texas law is unconstitutional.

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, saying in a statement -- quote -- "S.B.4 will not only make communities in Texas less safe. It would also burden law enforcement and sow chaos and confusion at our southern border." She added: "S.B.4 is just another example of Republican officials politicizing the border while blocking real solutions."

Of course, this is the latest flash point in the long-brewing tension between the federal government and the state of Texas. As Texas Governor Greg Abbott has taken some actions to try to counter what he feels is President Biden's inaction at the U.S. southern border.

Now, part of Biden's purpose as he is out here West yesterday in Nevada and here in Arizona yesterday and today is really trying to shore up support among Latino voters. He met with a group of Latino voters at a Mexican restaurant in South Phoenix last night talking about how critical they will be to his reelection in 2024.

It comes at a time where you have seen Trump really try to peel off some of that Hispanic support, Hispanic support that's typically gone to the Democratic coalition. Trump has tried to make some headway there for Republicans.

But it comes as the Biden campaign, the president are aware that they need to do some more work to keep Latinos on board. The president, while he has been here, has tried to stress the contrast between himself and Trump, especially when it comes to his rhetoric to immigrants, the president pointing to Trump's past comments saying that migrants are poisoning the blood of this country, the president condemning that and saying that he just simply has different values than the former president.

But in addition to these efforts to court Latinos here in Arizona and in Nevada yesterday, the president's also expected to really focus in on his economic agenda here in Chandler, Arizona, in just a few hours. The administration today announced the largest grant going to U.S. companies to produce computer chips here in the United States.

It's about $8.5 billion that will be going to Intel to construct, build, expand facilities here in the U.S. as they're trying to spur more job growth. The White House projects it could create up to 30,000 jobs, which partially could contribute here directly in a battleground state that he's looking to defend come November.

KEILAR: All right, Arlette, we will be awaiting his remarks there in Arizona. Thank you for that report -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: We're joined now by John Sandweg. He served as acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, under President Obama.

John, thanks so much for being with us.

I want to go back to that sound bite that Ed Lavandera played for us where an appeals court judge asks a hypothetical question regarding S.B.4. And it seems like the folks that are arguing on behalf of this law, for this law are struggling to explain it. What does that tell you?

JOHN SANDWEG, FORMER ACTING ICE DIRECTOR: Well, listen, if the state doesn't know how it's going to enforce this law, how is this going to fit into the broader ecosystem at the border? And how is it that you could say it's not going to create massive confusion?

Look, this is very delicate, Boris. There's a lot of moving parts here. But the idea that Texas could just adopt this law and kind of take on a big part of the border security role or do immigration enforcement, really just from a practical perspective, is kind of ludicrous.

This is a very complex system, and it's not so easy to just kind of change the law and then start enforcing it and solve things. It doesn't work that way.

SANCHEZ: And to your point about it being delicate, that question of local law enforcement taking on immigration enforcement, you could have very serious problems there.

I got two diametrically opposed views discussing that over the last two days, first Brandon Judd. He is the head of the National Border Patrol union. He says that Texans should have faith that officers at the local level will be properly equipped to handle the duties that up to now have been the purview of Border Patrol agents.

On the other side, we spoke to the mayor of Laredo yesterday, Dr. Victor Trevino. He says that this is a recipe for disaster, not limited to just outright discrimination against Latinos.

Which two of those do you see as closer to the truth?

SANDWEG: Boris, look, I think that if we -- obviously, as you know, with this Operation Lone Star, Texas has been deploying officers right at the immediate border.

To be fair, certainly, if you see somebody entering the United States and, right -- they're a Texas law enforcement officer watching someone unlawfully enter the United States, you're probably not going to have as many concerns that they're going to violate someone's civil rights if they effectuate an arrest for unlawful entry in that case. [13:10:00]

But certainly, the farther you get away from the border, it is going to be incredibly hard for Texas police officers to enforce this law in a way that doesn't step on -- in a nondiscriminatory fashion or doesn't step on civil rights.

Remember, federal agents have extensive training about how to do this. Even then, it's incredibly difficult. But probably more importantly is, we have -- ICE has access to databases that often reveal someone's immigration status or their immigration history. Texas police aren't going to have access to that information.

So I don't see, especially as you get away from the border, how they're going to be able to do this in a nondiscriminatory fashion. And if I just say very quickly, Boris, despite all that training, even at ICE, very rarely, but mistakes have been made even there, where U.S. citizens have been apprehended.

So, look, I think right at the border itself, to be fair, probably less concerns, but the farther you get away, it's going to be very difficult to do this in a nondiscriminatory manner.

SANCHEZ: Not to mention that those Border Patrol agents are also trained to offer humanitarian assistance, which folks crossing the border often need. That local law enforcement, it's not clear that they're going to have the resources necessary to provide that.

Now, John, if this law were to take effect, despite this long list of unanswered questions about how it would actually work, how likely is it that S.B.4 would be effective in stemming the record-shattering numbers that we have seen of people entering the country illegally?

Do you think it would help deter illegal immigration?

SANDWEG: It might have an immediate deterrent effect where migrant communities, based on the fear and confusion about the law, maybe avoid Texas and just it pushes traffic over different parts of the border.

But, look, writ large, Texas law enforcement have their hands full enforcing public safety laws. And I think, Boris, very quickly, what I would emphasize is, they play a critical role in border security. They're on task forces with ICE investigating drug smugglers and human traffickers.

Texas state prosecutors pick up the slack when the feds don't have enough resources to prosecute cases. We will -- ICE will frequently present cases involving drug cartels or human traffickers, et cetera, to state prosecutors. So now we're going to divert those resources away from those kind of key public safety and border security functions to just kind of doing the civil immigration enforcement, right, going after the economic migrants.

So I have a concern about that. But the -- look, the bottom line is, as I have said a million times, this crisis is a resource crisis. The federal government pours billions into it and is still overwhelmed by the numbers.

Texas doesn't have the resources to make a significant impact in what we're seeing, and certainly not one that justifies all the confusion this law is going to create.

SANCHEZ: And it seems to be quite confusing even for the folks that are supposed to be defending it.

John Sandweg, appreciate the perspective. Thanks so much.

SANDWEG: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Of course -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Right now, House Republicans are holding their second public impeachment inquiry hearing into President Biden, despite the fact that the main source was just indicted for allegedly lying to the FBI.

And while the hearing so far has been low on proof, it has had plenty of antics, Democratic Congressman Jared Moskowitz showing up wearing a mask of Vladimir Putin, as you see here, and Republicans keeping a nameplate for the empty seat meant for Hunter Biden, who declined to appear.

The GOP list of witnesses also includes a former business associate of the Biden family and a former business partner of Hunter Biden. He testified remotely from a federal prison, where he's serving time for fraud.

Democrats' main witness served time for campaign finance and wire fraud himself. A former colleague of Rudy Giuliani, Lev Parnas, testified that he knows firsthand the Ukraine corruption allegations against the Bidens are false.


LEV PARNAS, FORMER GIULIANI ASSOCIATE: In nearly a year traveling the world and interviewing officials in different countries, I found precisely zero evidence of the Bidens' corruption in Ukraine.

No credible sources ever provided proof of criminal activity, not the FBI, CIA, nor the NSA.


KEILAR: CNN's Annie Grayer joining us now live from Capitol Hill.

Annie, tell us what you're learning from this hearing.

ANNIE GRAYER, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, Brianna, we're not seeing much of anything new happening in the hearing room behind me, but what we are seeing is both sides really digging in.

Republicans are continuing to claim, without any evidence, that Joe Biden is somehow intimately involved in his family's foreign business dealings. Democrats, meanwhile, are using their own witness to undermine the key allegations of this Republican-led inquiry.

Take a listen to Lev Parnas, who you might recognize. He was a key witness in Donald Trump's first impeachment and is a former associate of Rudy Giuliani. Take a listen.


PARNAS: The only information ever pushed on the Bidens in Ukraine has come from one source, and one source only, Russia and Russian agents.

The impeachment proceedings that bring us here now are predicated on false information spread by the Kremlin. Because the team's investigations were centered around Biden and Ukraine, I was designated a point person in every matter they pursued. That is how I know with certainty that these Biden stories are untrue then and are untrue now.



GRAYER: Now, Brianna, this is only the second hearing Republicans have had since opening their investigation into the Bidens.

And now the inquiry is at a standstill, because, after 15 months of investigating countless interviews, subpoenas and documents, they haven't uncovered any evidence of wrongdoing by the president. And they certainly don't have the votes to impeach.

Republicans were hoping that Hunter Biden, the president's son, was going to show up in person for this hearing today, but he decided not to do so. So, instead of that, we're seeing a lot of antics happening in the room behind me and no clear consensus on where the inquiry goes from here.

KEILAR: Yes, and masks. It's like Halloween up there on the Hill.

Annie Grayer, thank you so much for that report. We do appreciate it.

And ahead this hour on CNN NEWS CENTRAL: A rescue flight from Haiti full of American evacuees is due back in the U.S. today. We will have details of the terrifying chaos that they're leaving behind.

Plus: The problems just keep stacking up for Boeing. What one of their leaders just revealed.

And a book ban debate turns very ugly. A Nebraska state lawmaker is facing calls to resign, including from within his own party, after he inserted a fellow senator's name into a novel's graphic depiction of rape. We're going to talk to a member of his own party who's among those telling him to step down.


[13:21:02] SANCHEZ: New York's attorney general is pushing back on Donald Trump's claim that he won't be able to post bond in his civil fraud case.

The former president is facing a Monday deadline. And, remember, Trump's lawyers say that they can't find a company willing to support that $464 million bond that he was turned down by some 30 insurance companies in the process of trying to secure that bond.

Now, Letitia James is saying that they need a better excuse.

CNN's Kara Scannell joins us now live.

So, Kara, what is the attorney general arguing here?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So they're arguing to the appeals court that Trump is making this pitch that he can't get anyone to underwrite this bond too late in the process.

So they're asking the appeals court panel of judges to ignore this argument. But they say, if they are going to consider it, they're pointing out some -- a couple of issues here. They're saying that it's why can't Trump get a couple of insurers to pool together to cover the nearly half-a-billion dollar bond that Trump would have to put forward?

They also suggested that there should be more detail from Trump in this about what terms these insurers were offering, not just to take Trump's claims for granted, because they're arguing that some of the insurance -- one insurance broker that is working on Trump that contacted him or these companies and their legal officer.

They say that their testimony and their sworn statements in this, that they're unreliable, because they have too much invested in the relationship as it is. So they're also suggesting that maybe Trump could have posted the properties directly with the court to avoid what will either be a fire sale by Trump if he could off-load anything over the next few days, or the attorney general's office beginning to seize these properties.

So, right now, the ball is still in the appeals court's hands. They will decide if Trump will be allowed to post a smaller amount than the half-a-billion dollars, or if they will give him more time, saying he doesn't have to post it by Monday. That's the 30-day grace period expires then.

Then, at that point, the New York attorney general's office could begin seizing some of Trump's assets. That could be bank accounts. It could be some specific properties. It will be a process that will kick off then if it's not done then.

And, Boris, just should note Trump just now sent a text where he is trying to campaign off of this, saying that New York is trying to seize Trump Tower. He wants to raise money now -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yes, no surprise. The Trump campaign has found all sorts of creative ways to raise funds around his legal issues.

Kara Scannell, thanks so much -- Brianna.

KEILAR: We're also following legal developments in Georgia, where Trump is facing charges for allegedly trying to overturn the state's 2020 election results.

A judge just now ruling that Trump and his co-defendants can appeal an order that allowed Fulton County DA Fani Willis to continue to oversee the case. You will recall there were efforts to disqualify Willis, which ultimately failed, Judge Scott McAfee ruling against that effort.

Zach Cohen has been following this case every step of the way.

OK, what are the chances that there will be an appeal and what happens with the timeline with that?

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, Brianna, that decision is now in the hands of the Georgia Court of Appeals.

McAfee green-lighting, basically giving Trump's lawyers and his co- defendants' lawyers permission to ask for an appeal. And the appeals court can say no. They can reject that. But they could also take this case up and they could decide to overturn McAfee's decision that ultimately allowed Fani Willis to stay on this case.

But it's really important to note here that, in his green-lighting of this request, he's also saying, making it very clear that the case itself is not being put on pause, that things are going to continue to move forward in unrelated motions as the appeals court decides whether or not it wants to take up this appeal and then, if an appeal is granted, as it weighs whether or not to overturn the decision.

Let's take a look at what McAfee wrote in this order.

He says: "The court intends to continue addressing the many other unrelated pending pretrial motions regardless of whether the petition is granted within 45 days of filing and even if any subsequent appeal is expedited by the appellate court."

So, obviously,over here, you're going to have a decision about whether or not Fani Willis could be disqualified. That's certainly going to hang over her head for at least 45 more days. But over here, the case is going to continue to move forward. And that is something that Fani Willis and her team desperately wants to shift focus back to.


KEILAR: He was so thought out in what was a couple dozen pages in his ruling here, you almost wonder if he was appeals-proofing it or really just showing his work, expecting there would be an appeals process.

COHEN: Absolutely.

He spent pages questioning Fani Willis' credibility and ultimately giving her a choice. She could have Nathan Wade, her top prosecutor, the one who she was alleged of an improper romantic relationship with, step aside from the case, or -- and she could stay -- or the whole office could be disqualified.

Obviously, Wade resigned shortly after that order came in. So it'll be interesting to see what the appeals court decides if they decide to take this up. And, ultimately, do they overturn McAfee's decision to let Willis stay on the case?

KEILAR: All right, we will be watching.

Zach Cohen, thank you, as always, for your reporting on this.

And coming up: Boeing is now predicting a major cash loss. But is it the cost of building safer planes?