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Senator Denied Entry into Detention Center; Shooting Deaths in Arizona; Trump on Pardoning Himself; Cuomo Previews Show. Aired 8:30- 9a ET

Aired June 04, 2018 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:46] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Access denied. Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley was barred from getting a look inside an immigration detention facility in Brownsville, Texas. Watch this.


SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: Yes, can I go in with you, please?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, sir, you cannot go in with me.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You cannot be here. It's private property.

MERKLEY: And let me -- let me introduce myself. I'm Senator Jeff Merkley from Congress. And I -- my team contacted this facility and asked for permission for me to come and see what is going on inside with these children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we don't have any permission on that. So I'm going to have to ask you to step away, sir.



CAMEROTA: Senator Jeff Merkley joins us now on the phone from Texas.

Good morning, senator.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON (via telephone): Good morning, Alisyn. Good to be with you.

CAMEROTA: It's good to have you.

So tell us what happened. Did you try to enter that facility yesterday? What -- what that the date? And what exactly did they tell you for banning your access?

MERKLEY: Yes, I did try to enter the facility yesterday. This was following up on President Trump's new policy of removing children from their parents when the families are seeking asylum. So these are families that have gone through traumatic experiences abroad and we've always treated such families very graciously as they wait adjudication of their case. And now we're -- they're being treated in an enormously cruel fashion, a fashion that rips children out of the arms of their parents, sends them off to places unknown while the parents are locked up.

And this is very, very traumatic for the children. So I wanted to be able to visit the facility where apparently upwards of 1,000 children are being held in that massive building, a former Walmart, and the federal government, President Trump and team, Attorney General Sessions, Homeland Security, they do not want members of Congress or the public to know what's going on.

CAMEROTA: And so when you called -- I mean I understand why the guards would say a man who just shows up and claims to be a senator shouldn't go in and be with these thousand kids. I understand their reluctance to let you in. But when your team called beforehand to say that you are a U.S. senator and you're going to be showing up there and you'd like to gain entry, what happened when you made those phone calls?

MERKLEY: Yes. When my team called, they were -- they were told it's the policy not to admit anyone into these centers and we would not be allowed to enter it. And I conveyed, or my team conveyed, that I was going down to visit the border and see what was going on and I would try to come by and visit and hope that they rethought their position. But, obviously, they didn't.

You know, Jeff Sessions is calling this a zero tolerance policy. Remember, this is for families seeking asylum who have gone through horrific circumstances overseas. This is not zero tolerance. This is zero humanity. It's damaging children, putting them through a horrific experience in a land where they know no one and they don't know where they're being sent and they don't understand why they're being sent, just as a way to be, if you will, cruel as a strategy of deterrence, not deterrence from people crossing the border, deterrence from people seeking asylum.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Well, look, I understand that you think that this is overly punitive and cruel from Jeff Sessions and from President Trump.

However, in terms of having to take care of undocumented and unaccompanied minors showing up, you know the story, that there were -- I mean we just reported on it last week, there's something like 1,500 minors that the Office of Refugee Resettlement has lost track of. And so it sounds like the U.S. is just ill equipped or all -- are overall incapable of keeping track of some of these kids. And so maybe we do need to change the policy because if we've -- if we can't find 1,500 of them when officers of the court are making phone calls, then what do we do about that?

MERKLEY: Well, and that's another very big problem. And when I was at the center at McAllen Border Station, this is the processing center, earlier and I was admitted there and I did see the people, hundreds of children locked up in cages there at that facility. The situation is that they claim, oh, we know exactly where the children are. They all have an "a" number they call it, "a" for alien. And we just look in the computer and we can find them. [08:35:14] And when I pushed them on this and said, that doesn't seem

to be the experience of anyone who's actually working in the system, they said, no, no, no, it's a very, very, very good system. And I -- and I -- this is -- my concern here is that our government is just completely whitewashing the challenges. They lose track of where people are, but they don't want to admit it. They're treating children cruelly in ways that are just totally inappropriate and then say that they're trying to help the children. This is -- this is not the America we know and love.

CAMEROTA: Senator, just to be clear, you recently saw children in cages? Because, you know, there was that photograph that was going around that went viral that was so shocking for people because their -- it showed children in cages and then it turned out, no, that was during the Obama administration, it was an old photo. You recently saw children being kept in cages?



MERKLEY: Yesterday morning at the McAllen Border Station, at the processing center. They have big cages made out of fencing and then wire and nets stretched across the top of them so people can't climb out of them.

CAMEROTA: And why do they have to -- why do kids have to be kept in cages? Why can't they just be in a building? What's the -- what's the justification for that?

MERKLEY: Well, that's an excellent question. I don't -- I don't have an answer for you. The -- I know that every time I probed yesterday on the circumstances, this -- the response was just basically a generic, this is what's required for security, this is what's required for control. And in a lot of these areas that I saw yesterday morning at the processing center, it's just a concrete floor and people are being given these space blankets to sleep on. Now, a space blanket is a very thin piece of -- the equivalent of foil. And so, obviously, a very uncomfortable situation to be in.

CAMEROTA: And, senator, who's in charge of that detention facility right there that we're looking at you trying to enter? Who could have let you in? Who can people take this up with? I mean who can you take it up with?

MERKLEY: Well, this was the Sacred Heart Church Refugee Center -- excuse me, I take that back -- I also went there. But this -- this was the previous Walmart. That is run by Southwest Key Programs. It's a -- it's a non-profit. It's contracting with the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is part of the Department of Homeland -- not Homeland Security but Health and Human Services. And so that's the -- that's the group. We contacted ORR, the Office of Refugee Resettlement.


MERKLEY: And we contacted directly the non-profit. So --

CAMEROTA: And, I mean, what do you -- we only have ten seconds left, but what are you going to do next about this?

MERKLEY: Well, I think there need to be hearing about what's going on with our treatment of these children being torn away from their families. There's absolutely no reason they shouldn't be left with their family while the family is awaiting adjudication on their asylum request. This is just as an effort to be cruel to children, damaging to children as a so-called deterrent to keep people from seeking asylum.


MERKLEY: But, you know, there's no need to do that.

CAMEROTA: Well, Senator Jeff Merkley, we really appreciate you sharing your video and your personal experience with us. Obviously, we will stay on this story. Thank you.

MERKLEY: Thank you very much.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, former President Bill Clinton grilled just moments ago about Monica Lewinsky and whether he owes her an apology. Wait until you hear the answer. That's next.


[08:42:38] BERMAN: Former President Bill Clinton facing tough questions this morning about the Monica -- well, about his impeachment scandal and how it is discussed some 20 years later in the Me Too era.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you ever apologize to her?

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: No, and -- yes. And nobody believes that I got out of that for free. I left the White House $16 million in debt. But you typically have ignored gaping facts in describing this and I bet you don't even know them. This was litigated 20 years ago. Two-thirds of the American people sided with me.


BERMAN: President Clinton said he apologized publicly, but never personally to Lewinsky. He also insisted he believed that he did the right thing when it came to the investigation.

A couple things there. Really the headline there -- and Craig Melon (ph) pushed him hard on this, you know, Monica -- Bill Clinton has never apologized to Monica Lewinsky.

CAMEROTA: Personally. BERMAN: Personally. Says he has never spoken to her. That came out

there. And, also, it just didn't seem as if the former president was prepared for these questions. How could he not be prepared going in for that?

CAMEROTA: Right. There could have been a more practiced answer or one that I think alluded to the notion that the rules have changed in the past 20 years. They've changed in the past 20 months. And I think that he could have said something about that, that obviously the rules were different and that he would have done something perhaps differently today or that he would say something differently about it today, but he hasn't been saying that in his interviews.

BERMAN: And I will note, as our friend Alex Burns at "The New York Times" says, the way he answered those questions is why Democrats this year in this cycle are nervous about having him out there on the trail for them. I doubt you'll see him quite as much.

CAMEROTA: All right, meanwhile, in Arizona, four people were shot and killed in just a little over 24 hours. Police say they believe the first three victims are now connected. Now authorities are trying to determine if a fourth person is also linked to this somehow.

So CNN's Nick Watt is live in Scottsdale, Arizona, with more.

What are the details here, Nick?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, that final victim was found in the early hours of Saturday morning. A 72-year-old man. He was a life coach. And he was found dead in his office. Now, that is the one that the police are still trying to connect to the other three murders. They say they're chasing down multiple leads.

Now, this killing spree began Thursday evening. A well renowned forensic psychiatrist by the name of Steven Pitt was leaving his office here in Scottsdale and he was shot on the street, died on the sidewalk. Witnesses told police that they heard an argument, then heard shots.

[08:45:14] Now, from that murder we do have an artist impression of the suspect. That is it. No motive. No name.

The second hit was on Friday afternoon. Two women, two paralegals, shot in their office in downtown Scottsdale. One of them managed to stumble out of that office and was trying to get help from people on a bus. And police followed a trail of blood back into the office, found the second victim.

Now, those first three, they say, are connected by evidence. We don't know what evidence. But, of course, the local legal community is concerned that this man may hit again. And, of course, the tragic irony here is that that forensic psychiatrist, Steven Pitt, were he still alive, he would probably be on the team trying to find this killer.

John. BERMAN: All right, Nick Watt for us in Scottsdale. Nick, thanks so much.

The president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, argues his boss is above the law. Is that a fact? The president weighing in on this just moments ago. Breaking news on that. We'll get "The Bottom Line," next.


[08:50:21] BERMAN: All right, just in, the president wrote this just moments ago, as has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to pardon myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong? In the meantime, the never ending witch hunt led by 13 very angry conflicted Democrats and others continues into the midterms.

This statement comes as the president's attorney has argued that the president, well, could not obstruct justice.

Let's get "The Bottom Line" with someone who has been an attorney. Oh, look, it's Chris Cuomo.

CAMEROTA: You just couldn't stay away, Chris Cuomo.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "CUOMO PRIME TIME": I've been trying to get booked on this show for a long time.

CAMEROTA: It's not easy.

BERMAN: His new show, "Cuomo Prime Time," premieres tonight at 9:00 Eastern.

How do you like it in the side chair there, captain?

CUOMO: I'll tell you what, this feels like a real seat of power. But I have to say, I love this. You look beautiful. The show is great. I'm very proud to be back here with you guys, and to help you out with "The Bottom Line." I always wanted to give the answers for this.


CUOMO: So the latest tweet of the president is not true, OK? I've been talking to legal scholars all weekend. There is no dispositive rule about a president pardoning himself. There are common sense issues with it. No man should be their own judge. There are practicality issues with it. There are ways around it. The 25th Amendment is being suggested that the president could claim incapacity, have the vice president assume the presidency, he could pardon him, but that's all convoluted. None of it's going to happen.

We I think the bottom line is this is, we need to have a reversal in the dynamic of the discussion. Rudy Giuliani has done a brilliant job of getting us to discuss why the president should have limited exposure to the law. I think you can easily argue the same and the opposite in law and common sense. Why shouldn't he have more exposure than less? That's what I say to you. CAMEROTA: And I think that's what you're going to say to Rudy Giuliani

when you have him as a guest tonight on "Cuomo Prime Time."

CUOMO: We are very optimistic that that will happen. And I think it's something that the counsellor has to answer for. Why should we have to subpoena a president? We've never had to do it in the past. And the only one who has --

CAMEROTA: There's been threats of it.

CUOMO: But -- and it's been practiced with Nixon, but he lost. He went to the mat and he lost. But why should we have to? Why should the person who holds the highest office in the land have less transparency duties than the rest of us? It doesn't make sense. Why should he plead the Fifth on anything for the American people? Why should he be above the law when he's supposed to be our apex of authority and transparency?

BERMAN: And Rudy Giuliani's going to sit there across from you and say, well, Chris, because he's got other things to do. He's got to handle North Korea right now. Plus, this whole investigation is B.S. from the beginning, he's going to say. So why should he sit down when it's tainted?

CUOMO: For exactly those reasons, counsellor. You suggest that Mueller should wrap this up because the elections are coming. I suggest, you're right, it should be wrapped up. Sit in the chair and state your truth. And that will expedite the end of this investigation.

BERMAN: Can I tell you the one irony in that is the one thing that Rudy Giuliani and others have suggested is the reason the president won't sit down is because they're afraid he won't tell the truth. I mean they have said that the truth is a problem.

CUOMO: Well, you laid out beautifully this morning -- I hope everyone looks online -- you guys put it out there on Twitter this morning. I have a special alert for you when you tweet. It's a quacking sound. Quack, quack, quack, quack, quack. So there's John Berman, beautiful commentary about an obvious and demonstrable lie. The president had everything to do with the statement about that meeting in Trump Tower with his son and those other officials. They lied about it. Who lied, who -- let's not get into it. It doesn't matter.

What matters is, it was a deception of what they knew to be true and that's why Mueller has to sit down with him because you don't know which story to believe. Yes, they've had lots of documents. Yes, they've had lots of people come in to talk to them. But who knows which to believe. Mueller himself reportedly in March said, I need to hear from the president directly, I have to get a sense of where his head was on these decisions. He's made his own case for why that's necessary.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about you. How much do you miss us?

CUOMO: I do. I miss it. This show is so important.

BERMAN: He's dodging the question.

CUOMO: I know, I miss you. I'm no Bill Clinton. I miss you personally.

BERMAN: It's either a lot or a little.

CUOMO: I miss you now. And it's not because things have changed recently. I miss being here. This show is the best thing that we have going here.

BERMAN: What time did you wake up this morning?

CUOMO: About 16 minutes ago.

CAMEROTA: God, that sounds good. That sounds delicious.

CUOMO: No, I'm kidding. I was up and I was watching.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but what is it -- tell us what we can expect with "Cuomo Prime Time." Not just tonight. I mean what's your vision for what will be happening at 9:00 now?

CUOMO: Well, the best part, which will you will like least, is more me. So we're going to -- we're going to --

CAMEROTA: That's --

BERMAN: All of that is true. All of that is true.

CUOMO: Demonstrably true.


CUOMO: We're going to go deeper on issues that allow for a longer interview, all right. So that's what we believe people are missing at night. Instead of getting told what to think, instead of playing to the partisan finger pointing, we'll call all that out and try to cut through it. We'll have reasonable debate, but you've got to disagree with decency. I'll have no big panels. I'll have no yelling as some kind of sport. Just like we are in the morning here.

[08:55:22] It's not about the theatricality. You know, you have to treat the people with respect, give them the information they need and test power and also push lawmakers, like Merkley this morning, brilliant for you guys to be ahead on that story.

So what is he going to do about that? There is common ground. Nobody wants to abuse kids. Nobody with to abuse kids. Nobody with a heart that beats warm blood through that heart wants to abuse kids. But what are they going to do? He did the exposure, but now where will be the action on common ground? We have to push for that. We'll do it at night.

BERMAN: What I like to say is, let's get after it.

CUOMO: Hashtag letsgetafterit, or as Alisyn says, let's go for it, let's get it, let's not -- CAMEROTA: Let's get near it, I say. Sometimes I accidently say, let's get right behind it.

CUOMO: Yes, let's get near it.

BERMAN: And Rudy Giuliani will join Chris Cuomo on the world premiere of "Cuomo Prime Time," 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

CAMEROTA: Great to see you, Chris. Best of luck.

CUOMO: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right, CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow and Brianna Keilar will pick up after this very quick break. We'll see you tomorrow.


[09:00:05] HARLOW: All right, top of the hour, 9:00 a.m. Eastern this Monday morning, and we begin with breaking news. So glad you're with us. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.