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Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) On Trump CNN Town Hall; Title 42 Set To Expire Tonight As Migrants Line Up At Border; Suspect In Natalee Holloway's 2005 Disappearance To Be Extradited To U.S. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired May 11, 2023 - 07:30   ET



PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: If President Biden had been asked a yes or no question about whether he wanted Ukraine to win, and he had hedged like you just heard from the former president, would you have been OK with that? Would you say that's smart strategically because they needed to fill out the policy later?

REP. BRIAN MAST (R-FL): I would slam Joe Biden because --

MATTINGLY: So why aren't you slamming the former president?

MAST: Because they're two very different people and they act in two very different ways.

Donald Trump is strong. He's the kind of a guy that would go out there and launch 80 cruise missiles into Syria and then talk to Xi Jinping and say listen, if you go into Taiwan that's exactly what's going to happen with Beijing. That's a level of strength.

But he's going to do something like that between him and the president. He's not going to create that policy on a -- on a town hall interview.

Joe Biden doesn't have that ability to do peace through strength because of what happened in Afghanistan. Because of the way he abandoned there. Because of the way he turned to the Taliban and said I'm going to rely on you to secure our checkpoints and leave Americans behind.

Because of what he did on the U.S. southern border. Because of the way he does --

MATTINGLY: Can I just note -- we don't have a lot of time left so I do want to get through a couple of those things.

MAST: Domestic and foreign policy is that weak --

MATTINGLY: All right.

MAST: -- that he doesn't have the ability to exercise it in that way.

MATTINGLY: One note, and then I do want to close with this. Obviously, the president has acted -- he's ordered missile strikes on Syria several times over the course of his administration. But I understand the context of what you're putting out there.

The president was asked last night -- and I know you don't want to have the look-back conversation, but this specifically is tied to a statement that you made at the time whether or not those who attacked the Capitol should be pardoned. He said this. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you pardon the January 6 rioters who were convicted of federal offenses?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am inclined to pardon many of them. I can't say for every single one because a couple of them -- probably they got out of control.


MATTINGLY: Congressman, a few days after the attack you said in a statement, "There are not enough angry words in the English language to adequately condemn the violent attack on the Capitol and, in turn, our democracy on January 6. The moment the barricades were torn down, police officers were assaulted, and our Capitol was laid siege to. The constitutionally-protected assembly became wholly un-American, wholly unconstitutional, and wholly illegal. Each and every perpetrator of this crime must be held accountable and should turn themselves in."

What do you think of what the president said about pardoning those people that you said should be held accountable?

MAST: I look back at those statements, and I look back at now, we have video of what took place instead of looking at something in the real-time and not understanding the full situation. People that tore down barricades or that attacked the building -- yes, those are probably people that the president is talking about, saying if they did something wrong, they shouldn't be pardoned.

MATTINGLY: There were quite a few. There were dozens and dozens.

MAST: But if somebody was let through -- if somebody had the -- if somebody had the gate open to them, if somebody was allowed to -- not told hey, listen, you can't do this, but you can walk through -- they (INAUDIBLE) -- that is a different situation and that's probably who the president is talking about.

MATTINGLY: The president said -- but this is not --

MAST: And we're not talking about individual --

MATTINGLY: You're parsing language the president simply just didn't say. And the president is also aligned --

MAST: He didn't have a chance to say it. And I'm not saying that he said that. He didn't have a chance to say it, but that is what I -- my opinion of what he was looking at. MATTINGLY: I don't think the president's willingness to side with many of the people who attacked the Capitol on that day or went inside the Capitol that day is something that the hasn't had an opportunity to elaborate on. I think he's --

MAST: Some people attacked --

MATTINGLY: -- (INAUDIBLE) with them quite often.

MAST: Some people followed into open doors or the fact that there were not barricades there, and you can't deny that fact. And so if somebody is walking -- following a crowd and walking through an open door and not being told to stop, that is a different situation than somebody that tears down a barricade -- somebody that attacks an officer.

MATTINGLY: There have been -- there have been hundreds of individuals charged. There have also been most recently seditious conspiracy --

MAST: Those are two very different situations.

MATTINGLY: This is such a -- can I just say respectfully, sir --

MAST: Please.

MATTINGLY: -- like, this is a -- it's just a bizarre construct when you were in the Capitol and you saw what happened that day. Hundreds of people have been charged. We just had seditious conspiracy charges that were proven guilty just last week.

The trying to hedge and parse on this -- I guess I just don't really understand. We were -- you and I were both there that day. Like, what's the value of it?

MAST: I'll tell you my story.

MATTINGLY: No, please.

MAST: I was in the Capitol.


MAST: I was with my two oldest sons who are now 13 and 11 in my office. No staff -- I think I had one staff member because the Capitol Police said hey, please, everybody keep your staffs at home. Don't bring anybody in there.

I had my pistol in my car. So with my family in my office having just left the Capitol floor, my pistol in my vehicle -- one of my pistols in my vehicle -- I sat there and said, should I go down and get my pistol out of the car with my family literally next to me? And I decided no.

I wasn't worried about it in that instance. That's what was taking place in that instance for me. I wasn't worried about what I was seeing based upon what I got to see play out before my eyes. MATTINGLY: Yes, I understand that. And you have your personal story

and I certainly am glad you and your family were safe.

Sir, I know you guys have a lot going on today. You have an immigration vote later -- a big immigration vote for House Republicans. I know you're in the middle of the debt ceiling stuff as well. It's a very busy day, and I appreciate you taking some time this morning.

MAST: Because we're going to work to secure the border like Joe Biden is not working to do, but that's another debate, I guess, for another time.


MATTINGLY: We are going to have to get into that later, but it's certainly worth getting into.

Sir, I appreciate your time as always. Thanks so much.

MAST: All the best.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Phil, that was a really important interview.

And speaking of immigration and that vote today, also a huge development today as the Biden administration rolls out a new program for migrant families released in the United States as Title 42 expires at midnight tonight.

We're going to be joined by the former Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson about what else needs to be done. He joins us live in studio next.



ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We are clear-eyed about the challenges we are likely to face in the days and weeks ahead, which have the potential to be very difficult.


HARLOW: In just hours, at 11:59 Eastern time tonight, Title 42 will expire. That is the pandemic-era policy that has been used nearly three million times to expel migrants from the United States. Hundreds of U.S. troops are set to begin a new mission along the southern border as officials and migrants brace for the unknown.

Cities across the country also bracing. Last night, in anticipation of a migrant surge, New York City Mayor Eric Adams signed an executive order suspending portions of the city's longstanding guarantee of shelter to anyone who needs it. That's a really big deal. A spokesman for Mayor Andrew -- Adams said the city had, quote, "reached our limit." [07:40:11]

Let's talk about what is ahead for this country, for cities like New York, for border cities with former Homeland Security secretary under President Obama, Jeh Johnson. He is now a partner at Paul, Weiss Law Firm. It's great to have you. Good morning.


MATTINGLY: Good morning, sir.

HARLOW: We knew this authority, right, which was about having a health crisis -- a pandemic authority would expire at some point, and now it's happening. What happens tomorrow?

JOHNSON: The administration is emphasizing an enforcement message. Title 42 is going away at midnight tonight. That is a public health authority. It's not an authority of DHS. And Sec. Mayorkas keeps talking about what authorities DHS has under Title 8 to deport people, remove them, expel them, send them back to their home countries. And I think in this current environment it's important to emphasize the enforcement message.

One of the things I learned when I was in office managing this problem is illegal immigration is a very information-sensitive phenomenon. It reacts sharply and quickly to perceived changes in our enforcement policy on the southern border. And so, it's important to continually send the message that if you come here the wrong way we will send you back. And that's what -- that's what they're doing now.

HARLOW: Do you think, though -- because the Obama administration was criticized for its deportation by a lot of Democrats. Do you think that the Biden administration has been strong enough throughout on sending that message clearly, or have they not and that is why we see the numbers we see now?

JOHNSON: Well, first of all, no matter what you do in this space somebody's going to be very unhappy. Somebody is going to be very upset and screaming loudly from the right or the left, or both.

I would like to see and I would have liked to have seen throughout the last 2 1/2 years a consistent message that was consistent with our values as Americans. We treat migrants fairly humanely, but there is a right way and a wrong way to come here, and if you come here the wrong way we will send you back.

When I was in office I used to go to Central America and hold press conferences highlighting and showing the airplanes coming back that ICE sends back. Showing people being deported back in their home country. I'd bring the press with me -- the local press to see -- so people can see we're actually sending --

HARLOW: I remember that.

JOHNSON: -- people back.

The administration has -- is setting up regional processing centers in Colombia and Guatemala. I think that's an excellent idea. I think we need to do a lot more of that to give people alternative legal safe path to flee a very, very dangerous situation.

And so that's the message that they need to continually highlight.

MATTINGLY: You mentioned the regional processing centers. Having covered the last several months of preparations for this -- I think they've been preparing for this for the last couple of years -- but you have kind of the diplomatic effort. You have the processing speed -- the elements that go into how fast you can process. And then you have the deterrence effort -- the enforcement effort as well.

One of the things -- I think the thing I always wonder is why is now different, if it is at all, in terms of the scale of the flow -- in part, because the countries of origin have seemed to have shifted over the course of the last six to eight months, in particular? And can you contextualize for people if now is different? What's making this happen beyond kind of a political back and forth, which I don't think helps anything at this point in time?

JOHNSON: Good question.

We -- the problem is much bigger now than it was seven-eight years ago. We have a hemispheric migration crisis.

When I was in office the countries contributing to this flow were principally Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Now it's, in addition, Venezuela, Haiti, Nicaragua, Cuba. And the environment in those countries is terrible and --

MATTINGLY: And we have -- we don't have diplomatic relations with half of them.

JOHNSON: -- in addition, the smugglers now have a much bigger operation. They have the ability to move much larger numbers of people. So we're seeing the numbers we're seeing because of these circumstances.

Ultimately, to address this problem you've got to address the problem at the source. People will always make the basic choice to flee a burning building or send their families out of a burning building. No matter how much of a defense we throw up on our southern border, no matter what our laws look like, people will make the basic choice to flee a burning building.


So we have an interest in seeing the poverty, the violence, the corruption in some of these countries eradicated, and there is a way to do that. We began that in the last year of the Obama administration with a drug in the bucket of $750 million. It was suspended during the Trump administration. And I know President Biden believes in this because he and I used to talk about it when he was vice president and I was secretary.

MATTINGLY: One last one?

HARLOW: Have you talked to Sec. Mayorkas?

JOHNSON: Once in a while, yes.

HARLOW: Recently?

JOHNSON: Recently? Not recently.

HARLOW: What would you do if --

JOHNSON: The last time he and I had an in-depth conversation was at my portrait unveiling in January at DHS.

HARLOW: What would you do if you were him right now?

JOHNSON: Well, I'm not him and I'm not in the job, and I am very happy I'm not in the job. It's very different circumstances. The problem, as I said, is much, much bigger and so he's juggling a lot right now.

MATTINGLY: That's a tough -- it's a tough job. I don't know why anybody would want to be DHS secretary. It's a tough job. It is a massive, massive portfolio.

JOHNSON: It's much easier to come on CNN and talk about the job --

MATTINGLY: Afterwards.

JOHNSON: -- then be in the job.

MATTINGLY: There's an interesting point there you made earlier. Title 8 actually has a fairly dramatic effect over time compared to Title 42 in terms of repeat crossers, which the administration is trying to get that message out but it takes time.

HARLOW: Can you just explain to people what Title 8 is so they can -- our viewers can understand?

JOHNSON: Title 8 is basically the section of the law that lays out the authorities the Department of Homeland Security has. Title 42 is public health.


MATTINGLY: But with Title 42 people can keep coming back.


MATTINGLY: Whereas, Title 8 is an immediate removal and then criminal prosecution for coming back.

JOHNSON: Title 8 is an ongoing authority.

MATTINGLY: Yes, which is always there.

JOHNSON: The provision of Title 42 that was invoked is an emergency authority. It's always meant to be temporary.


HARLOW: Thank you.

MATTINGLY: Jeh Johnson, thanks so much -- appreciate it.

HARLOW: And thanks for your service --

JOHNSON: Thank you.

HARLOW: -- to this country.

A prime suspect in the unsolved 2005 disappearance of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway is about to be extradited to this country -- to the United States. Details on why ahead.



MATTINGLY: This morning, a prime suspect in the 2005 disappearance of American student Natalee Holloway is set to be extradited to the U.S. from Peru.

Joran van der Sloot is facing extortion and wire fraud charges stemming from the Holloway case. He was one of the last people to see the 18-year-old Holloway alive in Aruba. That's where she was last seen leaving a nightclub with van der Sloot and two other men. No one was charged in her disappearance and her body has never been found.

CNN's Jean Casarez joins me now. Jean, you have covered this case for years -- the ins and outs and everything in between. Why is Peru sending van der Sloot back to the U.S. now?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, I'm not surprised they're doing that because when I was in Peru for Joran van der Sloot they immediately said that after he served a number of years for murder, which he is in prison for there, they would extradite him on these U.S. federal charges. It is extortion and wire fraud.

In 2010, Natalee Holloway had been missing for five years and her family still wanted to know where she was. They were constantly trying to find out the truth and they were offering a $250,000 reward.

Joran van der Sloot heard about that in Aruba. He contacted an associate with the family and he said look, I will pay -- I will tell you exactly what happened to Natalee, where she is. I'll take you to where her body is, but I want the $250,000 in cash.

So the family began to work with the FBI and they arranged that an associate -- cooperating witness, as it is referred to in the complaint -- would go to Aruba. He did. A $25,000 cash downpayment was put in the bank account of Joran van der Sloot.

Joran van der Sloot told this associate of the family I was with Natalee -- I was the last one and we got into an argument. She didn't want me to leave. I pushed her to the ground. Her head hit a rock and she died.

I hid her body. I went to my father and my father buried it. I will take you in a car where she is. They went in the car and there was a house. He said she's within the foundation.

So that was it. He had $25,000 cash. He later emailed the family saying I lied to you. The whole story is a lie but at that point he had the money. And that's the basis of these charges.

He then -- and this is very sad. It is believed he took that $25,000 cash, flew to Lima, Peru, decided to go to a casino and gamble. He met a woman there, Stephany Flores -- a young woman. Went to her apartment and within hours she was dead.

I was there. I covered all the legal proceedings in Peru and he was ultimately convicted of her murder.

MATTINGLY: And will now be coming back to the U.S. -- wow. What -- I mean, it's great reporting.

CASAREZ: And this case here -- they want answers. They want to know the truth. This may be extortion, this may be wire fraud --

HARLOW: Right.


CASAREZ: -- but they want to find out what happened to Natalee and where she is.

HARLOW: And her parents --

MATTINGLY: Rightfully so.

HARLOW: -- deserve those answers.


MATTINGLY: Jean Casarez, thanks so much -- appreciate it.

HARLOW: Former President Trump refusing to apologize to Vice President Pence at a CNN town hall even after January 6 rioters threatened Pence's life.


CAPITOL RIOTERS: Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!


HARLOW: Mike Pence's former chief of staff will weigh in on that just ahead.



HARLOW: Well, good morning, everyone. It's the top of the hour. We are so glad that you are with us this morning.

Donald Trump facing critical questions from our friend and colleague Kaitlan Collins during last night's CNN town hall. Does he support a federal abortion ban? Does he want Ukraine to win against Russia? We will break down all of the key moments and get reaction from the Biden campaign and former Trump officials.

MATTINGLY: And Title 42, the controversial immigration policy, is about to expire just hours from now. U.S. troops and federal agents -- they have surged to the southern border as crowds of migrants gather on the other side.

HARLOW: Plus, we're going to take a closer look at the criminal case against Congressman George Santos. He's now been charged with 13 felonies. A growing number of fellow Republicans are calling on him to resign after he pleaded guilty -- not guilty. He pleaded not guilty to federal charges.

It's all ahead. This hour of CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

And here is where we begin this hour. Our own Kaitlan Collins challenging, fact-checking in real time former President Donald Trump on everything from abortion to Ukraine as he runs again for president under the cloud of criminal --