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Sheriff To Biden On Migrant Deaths: I'm "Angry" & "Disappointed"; Ex-WH Aide Testifies About Trump's Erratic Behavior On 1/6. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired June 29, 2022 - 12:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: The sheriff in Bexar County, Texas where dozens of migrants were found dead in the back of a semi-truck is now writing to President Biden for help. Sheriff Javier Salazar says he's quote angry he could not stop this tragic loss of life and that he has not received a response from the administration. Salazar also taking aim at the Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott, sheriff says the governor is using the immigration issue quote as one big campaign stunt. CNN's Priscilla Alvarez is live for us in Texas with the latest. Priscilla?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN REPORTER: John, we're also now learning that the county medical examiner's office says that the death toll has risen again to 53, 40 of those male and 13 female. And as you mentioned, the sheriff of this county said in his letter to President Biden that he was angry about the loss of life and disappointed with Texas Governor Greg Abbott for playing politics. Now remember, Abbott launched a state operation on the Texas Mexico border last year and that operation has been criticized for straining state resources.

But that aside, the sheriff pleading with the president for assistance in what he called a quote, humanitarian crisis. And remember, John, border crossings are high. They remain high. And that is of particular concern this time of year in the sweltering Texas heat, where temperatures often reached the triple digits. And we have learned this week what that can mean for migrants who are transported by human smugglers in those rigs. And I've spoken with the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alexandria Mayorkas, and he has told me earlier this month that they launched an operation to try to dismantle human smuggling networks.

But this is exactly what they were worried about incidents in which migrants will put their hands in human smugglers to come across the U.S.-Mexico border. And so John, the Texas County Sheriff, you're asking for assistance from the President, as he -- as this remains a top concern, John?

KING: Priscilla Alvarez on the ground for us appreciate that, on the scene reporting, Priscilla. Let's bring the conversation back in the room. And let's read a little bit from the letter. Again, this is Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar, I'm angry, that despite my best efforts to appeal to your administration, I have not received a response. I'm disappointed that a perceived lack of action on the part of the United States government has allowed the governor of my state to use this issue as one big campaign stunt.

So the sheriff is trying to stay in the middle of this. But most of all, he saying I'm on the front lines, I need help. There is a sense for a lot of people who have to do border policy at the local level, that there's not a strategic or consistent approach from the Biden White House.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's been a theme throughout this administration thus far. And they've been criticized for that for having a sort of inconsistent approach to the border. Now look, that in part recently is due to the courts as well. The administration has tried just to take a step back. The administration is still implementing these two Trump era restrictions, one that forces migrants to wait in Mexico. And another that rapidly turns them away. They have tried to lift that. The question has always been what do you then replace that with? What kind of approach do you have going forward?

I do think it's important to note too, that these incidents of, you know, desperate families, most of the time from Central America, paying somebody who is, you know, making a profit off of their livelihoods. It's not new. You know, we've seen that both with people trying to cross the Rio. We've seen it with people being stored in stash houses and then being brought in dangerous kind of tractor trailer trucks. That is not new. There is a critique from the human rights advocates as well, that when you start to close some of the legal entry points to the border that allow people to come in and ask for protection, like some of these policies do, then people may be more likely, especially if they've been pushed to the south to then pursue some of those dangerous routes as well.

It'll be interesting how the administration and handles that. The question here is just how much can you rely on deterrence at the border especially when you're weighing whether or not people are going to continue to make these dangerous pass, so.


KING: The political paralysis, or at least near paralysis on this issue goes back, Democratic presidents, Republican presidents, it goes back 20 plus years, it goes back to the days when I was covering the White House. But in this moment, Jeremy, Zolan mentioned, there's been this inconsistency or at least the perception of inconsistency from the Biden White House, Republicans see this as we go from June to July and a midterm election year. They know what motivates their base. And you heard the sheriff, he's not happy with the governor. But the governor says this is Joe Biden's fault.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): It was just a year and a half ago, when we had the most secure border in decades. And today, we have a worst human smuggling problem than ever before. These people who lost their lives, they did so because President Biden has empowered and embolden the cartels.


KING: The White House would take substantive issue with that. But the White -- does the White House understand politically, this is a motivator for Republicans?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, I mean, if you've been around politics in any way, you know that illegal immigration is always going to be a motivating factor for Republicans in the midterms and in elections generally. It's a huge motivating factor for them. And obviously, as you look at this summer, as we're expecting those numbers to continue to go up, no real change, substantive change in border and immigration policy. It's going to be a major issue for Republicans, particularly in some of these key districts along the U.S.-Mexico border.

So it's something the Biden White House is concerned about, but they also have bigger fish to fry, bigger concerns electorally, in terms of inflation, the economy, et cetera. All of these are going to play in, of course, the results that we're anticipating in November with Republicans potentially poised.

KING: Before that, we will get the Supreme Court decision on the Remain in Mexico Policy that will come this week. But Marianna, so in the middle of this we have today a word, remember, the Senate, the Congress, the President did sign a modest but significant change in gun laws because of a bipartisan group that got together. Senator Dick Durbin, who's the Majority Whip, says I think what happened at the border with finding, he said 51 dead. The death toll has now been scaled up unfortunately, the 53 migrants in that tractor trailer is what I would call Uvalde moment. I hope it sparks the interest in finding a bipartisan approach to dealing with immigration.

And apparently, Senator Durbin, a Democrat is going to have some conversations with Senator Tillis of North Carolina, a Republican. Is there any hope, guns was an intractable issue and they did do something? Is there any way to say immigration has been an intractable issue? Maybe they can do something?

MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Color me skeptical. I would have said the same thing when, you know, we first talking about guns and reforms on that front. This has happened so many times, especially among the senators. They do have agreement on, you know, DREAMers, farmworkers, bipartisan support, beefing up security at the border. But this issue has just become so politically toxic, it's really frozen any kind of conversations or potential pathways to any real reform. Still a couple of weeks ago, but also the summer recess, just not that many weeks left to get anything big done.

KING: It is depressing when you hear again and again and again, they have agreement on this, this, and this. But because they have a disagreement here, they won't do anything. That's welcome to Washington. [12:38:07]

Up next, more from that blockbuster new January 6th Committee testimony, a West Wing aide says White House Counsel Pat Cipollone warned her that President Trump would face charges if he marched on the Capitol. Well, because of that, the Committee stop Republicans says it is past time for Cipollone to take the witness chair.


KING: Congresswoman Liz Cheney today trying to recruit another star witness for the January 6th Committee. The Trump White House Counsel Pat Cipollone came up a lot, a lot during the dramatic testimony Tuesday of West Wing aide Cassidy Hutchinson. In a tweet today Congresswoman Cheney says it's time for Cipollone to testify on the record. And then in her view, the public's right to know outweighs any privilege or tradition. Our panel is back with us. And Shan, here is one of the things. This is one of the things, this is Pat Cipollone. Cassidy Hutchinson says she was going to Donald -- with Donald Trump's the ellipse on January 6th, Pat Cipollone pulled her aside and said this.


CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE AIDE: Mr. Cipollone said something to the effect of please make sure we don't go up to the Capitol, Cassidy. Keep in touch with me. We're going to get charged every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen.


KING: Every crime under then. A, what is Cipollone's value as a witness? And B, as someone who understands the law as well as you do, if you were him, would you testify?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It's very, very valuable. I mean, his quote says it all. And that's the opinion of the White House Counsel, opining that they're potentially engaged in criminal activity. If I were his counsel, there's no way that he would testify. I mean, he is got enormous exposure. But on the other hand, he has a lot of leverage to negotiate with Congress to negotiate with the Justice Department, even for possible immunity. A little bit different than John Dean situation. It's a different Justice Department. It's actually a far more egregious situation floating around, more unknowns. So he has some bargaining power for the immunity, but they have to be careful with that, as we saw in Iran-Contra giving congressional immunity can really mess up a criminal case.

KING: Right. And so legally, legally, Pat Cipollone's testimony could be critical to have somebody with the stature, the experience of the White House Counsel, confirming what other witnesses said. One of the other questions about these hearings is politically what does it do to Donald Trump? And on that front, this is Cassidy Hutchinson saying Cipollone was among the people who gave her the evidence that when the rioters were chanting hang Mike Pence, Donald Trump liked it.



HUTCHINSON: I remember Pat saying something to the effect of, Mark we need to do something more. They're literally calling for the Vice President to be effing hung. And Mark had responded something to the effect of, you heard him, Pat. He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn't think they're doing anything wrong. Knowing what I had heard briefly in the dining room, coupled with Pat discussing the hang Mike Pence chance in the lobby of our office, and then Mark's response, I understood there to be the rioters in the Capitol.


KING: According to that, the White House Chief of Staff and the White House Counsel essentially had firsthand testimony that Trump thought it was fine that the rioters were saying we're going to hang Mike Pence.

SOTOMAYOR: Yes. And that's exactly what this Committee is trying to present, right? The question of, can you criminally charge the President? What did he know? And that was really the explosive testimony from yesterday. We got many more details in the room in those moments. And you know, there is this debate within the Committee about, you know, at the end of the day, are we going to recommend a criminal charge to the DOJ. You've heard Chairman Bennie Thompson say maybe not Cheney quickly, after we're saying, well, we haven't made that decision yet.

But, you know, it would be pretty ignorant to say that the DOJ isn't paying attention isn't reading the headlines, isn't watching, isn't also tuning in, they couldn't make that decision on their own.

KING: And are Trump voters paying attention in the sense that are Trump voters paying attention, number one, to say, I can't vote for this guy again, or number two, you know, I don't think he can win again. So I won't vote for him again, because I don't think he can win again, because of all this. Part of the testimony yesterday was remember, Bill Barr testified he three times met with Donald Trump. In between those meetings, he didn't think he was breaking through. So he gave an interview to the Associated Press where he went on the record saying that we've looked at this, we see not -- we see no fraud or not that we see no fraud, but we see no fraud tantamount enough to change the results in any of the states. Cassidy Hutchinson describe the President's reaction on that day. It wasn't pretty.


HUTCHINSON: There was ketchup dripping down the wall. And there's a shattered porcelain plate on the floor. The valet had articulated that the President was extremely angry at the Attorney General's AP interview and had thrown his lunch against the wall.


KING: You've covered the Trump White House in those days, sound out of the realm?

DIAMOND: It sounds a little familiar, just in the sense that Trump was known for losing his temper. He was known for having temper tantrums and for screaming and cursing aides out. And apparently now we know throwing things at the wall not once but multiple times. And that's why Cassidy Hutchinson was such a good witness because beyond the revelations that she gave, it was also the way in which she delivered some of this, the color that she was able to deliver bring you into the room to give you a sense of this portrait of a man who was losing power and who was grasping at everything that he possibly can to try and prevent it from slipping away and ultimately he was unsuccessful.

KING: Ultimately, ultimately, ultimately the Committee hearings continue.


Up next for us, mapping out the new primary lessons, New York picks its candidates for governor. Colorado Republicans reject election deniers.


KING: A quick look now at some of the notable primary results from yesterday. We'll start in Colorado and the Secretary of State's rates. That doesn't come up that much, right? But because of Trump's big lie, and the supporters out there are Republican primary, these are big races that people who count the votes. Tina Peters was a local election official indicted for breaking into her own election office because she supports the big lie. Well, she lost the primary for Secretary of State. Pam Anderson, who was a election clerk in the suburbs of Denver will be the Republican candidate for Secretary of State.

Also an issue in the race for Senate here, let me move up here in the Senate. Republican primary Michael Bennett is the Democratic incumbent more mainstream Republican Joe O'Dea will face him in November not, not the more Trumpy candidate Ron Hanks in that race and in the governor's race in Colorado as well. I told you about the woman who broke into her own office. Well, Greg Lopez made the ballot, Colorado Republicans nominated him for Governor after he said he would pardon her instead more mainstream Republican Heidi Ganahl will be the Republican candidate against the Democratic incumbent in Colorado, so three election deniers losing in big statewide races in Colorado.

Now let's move on to some House primaries. I bring this up here. It comes to Illinois, two Trump victories here. Trump you could say lost in Colorado but he won here in some member on member, House incumbents running against each other because the lines were drawn. One of them was this race. Remember, Trump recently had a rally for Mary Miller, a Republican House member running against incumbent Rodney Davis, Mary Miller among the winners there.

And in a big governor's race this fall. Let's move over to New York, come back out to the national map, come up to governor here. Republicans pick their candidate for governor the Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul also one renomination, the Republican candidate will be Congressman Lee Zeldin. You see him getting about 44 percent of the vote. The son of the former New York Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, Andrew Giuliani, coming in a very distant second there. So Lee Zeldin versus Kathy Hochul in the big governor's race in the state of New York this November.


Up next for us, a pandemic first, changing COVID shots to target the extremely contagious Omicron.


KING: Topping our political radar today and FDA panel now recommends changing the COVID-19 vaccine to target the Omicron variant. It's the first time the Committee has pushed to update COVID shots. If approved, we could see a rollout of the new vaccine this fall.

The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi receiving communion at the Vatican today, the California Democrat attending morning mass and she was given communion not by the Pope but by another priest at that service. Last month, you might remember Pelosi was barred from receiving communion in San Francisco.

And so much for the separation of church and state, at least according to Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert.



REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): The church is supposed to direct the government. The government is not supposed to direct the church. That is not how our founding fathers intended it. And I'm tired of the separation of church and state junk.


KING: She might want to read history book. She made those comments that religious service on Sunday. Yesterday, she won her primary election. Thanks for your time today in Inside Politics. We'll see you back here tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.