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Christian Leaders Divided on Border Policy; Roseanne Makes Apology; Sanders Asked to Leave Restaurant. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired June 25, 2018 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:11] ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: One of Attorney General Jeff Sessions' pastors said yesterday she does not agree with the Trump administration's zero tolerance immigration policies that led to family separations. Other Christian leaders have remained silent on this divisive issue.

Joining me now Bishop T.D. Jakes. He's a senior pastor of the Potters House, a 30,000 member non-denominational church in Dallas.

Sir, good to have you with us this morning.


HILL: This is -- this is certainly an issue that has struck at the heart for so many Americans, seeing families separated, having this question again today, what is happening to these 2,000 plus children who remain separated from their parents. And for a lot of people it does come down to fate and it comes down to their beliefs of how they feel about families. What is missing from this conversation --

JAKES: You know, I would -- I would hope that whether you're a person of faith or not, that just our sense of right and wrong would make us have more compassion towards children. Certainly when you look at it through the lens of faith, and particularly through the lens of Christianity, Jesus' mother and father sought asylum in Egypt when Herod had made a death decree on them. Had we -- had Egypt handled that the way they did, the whole narrative of the story would have turned out differently.

I think that some religious leaders are quiet on it because those who are Trump supporters feel like to disagree with him is to somehow be disloyal to him. It's dangerous to have any leader of any stripe with whom we cannot be honest and transparent and say that we don't agree about particular things. We're losing our voice and our opinion for the sake of comradery with our team or our political world view. And I think that's not what democracy is really meant to be in our country.

HILL: Are we losing our morality?

JAKES: I think we are. I think that we -- we're almost becoming more interested in winning than we are being right. And the notion that the ends justifies the means by any means necessary can bring us to the atrocities that we have seen in the past. As an African-American, when I look -- and I listen to people say that

we have never done this before in this country, that's really not true. We have done this before. We've done this in slavery. We've ripped children out of the arms of their mothers, leaving families traumatized for financial gain or some economic excuse. We have done it before, that's why we have no excuse to do it again. We see the atrocities that came out of bad decisions and bad choices and heartlessness for financial gain before. We cannot afford to go back down this road again and create generations of people who were already traumatized before they got here and then further abused by a system that we failed to correct.

HILL: And we've also seen criticism more recently of immigration policies of the past. Some of them, you know, as recent as surrounding the Second World War.

When we look at all of that, there is the question, too, for many people, but I want to secure the borders. We know that immigration is a complicated issue. How do you have the conversation that, yes, we can have secure borders, yes, we can talk about comprehensive immigration policy and we can also be compassionate?

JAKES: I think it is possible to do one without compromising the other. I certainly don't leave my door open at night at my house. I think that we need to control our borders. I think that we need to vet people that are coming in, whether they're seeking asylum or whatever means that they may try to immigrate to our country. They certainly need to be vetted. Certainly in the complexities that we have with the atrocities of terrorism going on in the country today, we do need to be careful and diligent.

But it is possible to be careful and diligent without being abusive and robbing people of human dignity, especially when you start to think about children and children being abducted and abused. We have to give the most earnest heed to protecting all of our children.

Let me go a step further.

I think that one of the things that would really help if we would move to prevention where we started dealing with these countries and the atrocities that are causing people to need to run. They're not coming over here hiding out in the backs of cars and walking for miles in deserts because they want to go to Miami Beach. They're coming here because they are distraught and traumatized by governments and regimes and poverties and abuses of which we have not really sufficiently dealt with to correct those issues that would cause them to be more comfortable and the countries from which they left.

HILL: And for those who want to seek asylum, who are fleeing those situations that you talk about, we know that the president wants to see significant changes to immigration as a whole, including for those seeking asylum. What are your thoughts on that?

JAKES: Well, I think that we need to put our heads together. As long as we are polarized politically and each party is trying to one up the other one, we don't get the best from each party. And I think that we are best when we come together to have a holistic view of it and then for Congress and the president to work together in a cohesive manner.

[08:35:18] As an outsider, it just feels like nobody's listening to the people anymore. It seems like they're so consumed with the fighting and bickering and one-upmanship amongst themselves that the voice of the people of America are being snuffed out. And I think that's why we're seeing such frustration in the streets of America because the outrage is derived from the fact that a system that was supposed to be by the people for the people has anything but the people. HILL: It can often feel that way for a lot of folks.

There's a poll from -- the most recent polling for PRI (ph) from April in terms of the favorability of President Trump among white evangelical protestants. Seventy-five percent have a favorable view. As you just said earlier, it's your sense that people are sort of loathed to contradict the president. Do you think what we are all seeing though now, and this collective outrage at these pictures of children and the -- and the unknown whereabouts of them even today, could that change at all the way perhaps some of those folks would respond to that poll today?

JAKES: I think the way people respond to a poll versus the way they talk around their dinner tables are often quite different. I have not given up hope that a sense of right and compassion and the narrative that Jesus said, suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, will not permeate through the religious fibers of the American soul and cause us to have a greater consciousness.

What I am concerned about is our silence in the process of the public forum creates a narrative that suggests that we condone behavior that history teaches us leads to the demise of a civilization. Civilization is dependent upon how we treat our children and our women and our families. And so I don't think that we can afford to remain silent.

And I would encourage my evangelical brothers and sisters, particular white evangelicals, not to acquiesce to the notion that if you disagree about something that you are somehow disloyal to the president. If you voted for him and you selected him to be your candidate of choice, you still have to critique that choice and how -- to give account to your congregation, then you have integrity. And I'm afraid that the church is compromising its integrity for the benefit of photo-ops at the White House.

HILL: Bishop T.D. Jakes, some powerful points. We have to leave it there this morning. Appreciate your time, sir. Thank you.

JAKES: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Talked about compassion there, how much -- I'm sorry I didn't mean to interrupt him. But, you know, you're hearing about compassion there, among other things, is fascinating. And then hearing where he thinks the line is between his ministry and I think the political discourse is also fascinating.

JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: Fascinating. I mean a voice of such civility warning really about the demise of civilization. And there was a really interesting flow through with what he was talking about with white evangelicals, saying the disagreement is not disloyalty. Our politics can't be consumed by teamism. That's very similar, almost word for word, to what Mitt Romney was warning about in the op-ed we discussed earlier where he was saying, look, if I go to the Senate, I will disagree. That does not mean I am disloyal to the Republican Party. This teamism, this tribalism that's infected our politics is really something that we're confronting right now.

BERMAN: All right, since we've been on TV, we learned that Roseanne has come out with some kind of a statement I understand explaining what she said. Unclear to me, because I haven't seen it yet, whether it's an apology. We'll all watch it together, next.


[08:42:38] BERMAN: All right, so we're hearing this for the first time this morning. Roseanne Barr got emotional in a podcast interview. Apparently this was recorded in the days after the controversy when she put out that racist tweet about former adviser -- Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett that led to ABC canceling her show. Roseanne, the actress, says her words were misconstrued.


ROSEANNE BARR, ACTRESS: I didn't mean what they think I meant. And that's what's so painful. But I have to face that this hurt people. I horribly regret that. Are you kidding? I've lost everything. And I regretted it before I lost everything. And I said to God, I am willing to accept whatever consequences this brings because I know I've done wrong. I'm willing to accept what the consequences are. And I do. And I have.


BERMAN: Again, I think the important thing to remember here is this was recorded immediately after, my understanding is, this all happened. She got fired by ABC. We know now that ABC is going to "The Connors" on without Roseanne coming up. But this interview recorded some time ago only released now. And in the parts we didn't play, she also continues to blame Ambien, saying, in a part, it was Ambien. She also continues to suggest, and this is hard to believe, that she didn't know Valerie Jarrett was black.

HILL: Had no idea.

BERMAN: So, you know.

AVLON: I mean, look, very emotional and she's speaking there to her rabbi, Shmuley Boteach, who has a call and she's speaking of her faith and reliance on God. But there's still nothing resembling an explanation, let alone an excuse, and she's not trying to make one, for why you would put those sentences together, Muslim Brotherhood, "Planet of the Apes." That's no explanation. That's not a joke gone wrong. That's not being an idiot. That's just being racist. BERMAN: And it's also, since she did this interview, since this all happened, I feel as if she's been somewhat inconsistent, a non-linear remorse path she has been on since this all happened.

HILL: A non-linear remorse path.


HILL: If I wasn't afraid of mistyping that, I would hash tag it.

AVLON: You could sell tickets. It's like a weekend walking tour of lower Manhattan.

BERMAN: Yes, I'm trying -- trying to say it nicely.

All right, so, in the last few minutes, we just learned there will be no White House briefing today. What does that tell you about how the White House feels about how its positioning is on this immigration debate, this immigration choice that the administration made? We're going to have former Press Secretary Joe Lockhart sitting with us, telling us what he thinks, next.


[08:49:08] BERMAN: White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was asked to leave a Virginia restaurant over the weekend because of her political beliefs.

Joining us now is Joe Lockhart, CNN political commentator, former Clinton White House press secretary.

Joe, were you ever asked to leave a restaurant for any reason?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm not sure I had time to get out of my office to go to a restaurant during those four years. But -- but, no, never.

BERMAN: What do you make of this incident in and of itself? Do you feel that the restaurant was within its rights? I suppose within its legal rights is one question and whether or not you think it was helpful to the national discourse?

LOCKHART: Well, I think that, two things. One is, I don't think anyone should be denied service based on political beliefs, race, religion, any of those things. And as progressives, we really can't have it both ways. We can't say that a baker has to bake a cake for a gay couple, but for politics you're not going to serve someone. So I think that's first.

[08:50:03] Second, though, this is a strategy. This wasn't a cry for help. And it's rank hypocrisy. The strategy of the White House has from day one or even through the campaign is to divide people. And this was an attempt to both distract from some other things and to remind people it's us against them and we're governing for the "us" part. So it's a very cynical strategy. You know, it probably has worked because it has distracted and it has reinforced some negative views of the so-called elites among Trump voters, but it's cynical and it's wrong.

HILL: It may have been distracted. Maybe that's part of what you see as sort of, you know, the mission there. But then again we have Maxine Waters speaking up on it and saying, let's take this a step further. Let's keep it going. The next time you see an administration official, you know, yell at them. Cause a commotion. Cause a scene. They shouldn't be eating anywhere. How is that helping?

LOCKHART: I don't think it is helping. And I don't agree with Congresswoman Waters' approach here. I think there is a way to do this is, which is take to the streets. I know that there's a big protest planned around the country for next weekend. That's where you do it.

And probably the best thing you can do is in November. Get to the polls. Stop talking about it, stop whining, stop complaining, get to the polls and vote these people out who have enabled Trump, who have sat silently while we've done the travel ban, while Trump has praised neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, while we've separated women and children -- parents from their children. Let's get them out of office and that's when things will change. I don't think going up and yelling at someone in a restaurant is effective at all.

AVLON: Sure. And I just want to press you on one point. You've condemned the idea that people should not be served because of politics, but you also said that Sarah Sanders was playing a sort of a cynical strategy by elevating this. Do you really think that her tweet was designed to divide?

LOCKHART: Oh, absolutely. And I have -- you know, there's -- you know, we all have things where, you know, when I was press secretary, people would come up and say nasty things to you or would yell at you and, you know, yell obscenities at you. And your job isn't about you. It's -- this -- this was a strategic move to show -- to further that divide in the country because that's what Trump wants. That's what he thinks works for him. And I have no doubt at all that this wasn't a strategic move.

And it comes on the heels of Ms. Sanders not doing her job. I think we're now going to go ten days with one White House briefing. One White House briefing when we've had probably maybe the most consequential ten days or at least near consequential days of the president's presidency. That's unprecedented. In my time -- I went through impeachment with President Clinton and stood up there every day because the president has a right to see someone from the administration taking the questions and answering them honestly. We don't get a lot of honesty from this administration. Now we are getting absence.

BERMAN: I think the last White House briefing was last Monday, was it, and that's (INAUDIBLE). The president has answered questions in some of these pool situations in and of himself and today he's traveling. So they can always look at that as an excuse.

But the fact remains it's been seven days since the last official White House briefing. The president going wild on Twitter this morning. I get the sense, Joe, that the president's frustrated that he can't get the message that he wants out, but the professionals in the White House believe that they don't have control of the message yet. That they don't think they can gain anything by answering questions, at least not today, because they don't like where their position is.

LOCKHART: Yes, I think there's some of that. But I think there's another, larger piece. You know, I look at Twitter as the tool of cowards. That people who are not willing to engage, many of the people are anonymous on it. The president is certainly not anonymous. But it's not a back and forth. It's just him broadcasting.

And I think that that's what the White House wants. They want to speak to the people that they know support him that voted for him, because that's who they think they're governing, not the whole country. And it really is a difference between how every president in my lifetime has approached things, which is not all presidents were uniters, but they said they were, and they -- and they did the things in public to try to bring people together. This is just the opposite. And, again, I -- it's -- it's -- it is a cynical strategy but it is a strategy.

HILL: How much of where we're at do you think in terms of communications stems from the fact that there is not a communications director right now?

LOCKHART: Oh, listen, I think you can put a communications director in there and with this president it wouldn't matter very much. I think what's lacking is a commitment to keeping the public informed and a commitment to telling the truth. Without those things -- I mean I can complain, you know, personally about, well, why doesn't she have briefings? Well, she's not going to tell the truth in the briefings. You know, is that really a positive contribution to the discourse? I -- you know, we could debate that. But I don't know that the fact that there's no communications director, you know, has a big impact.

[08:55:09] BERMAN: Well, there is a communications director. His name is Donald J. Trump, right?

HILL: The president, yes.

BERMAN: It's Donald J. Trump.

HILL: True.

LOCKHART: Exactly.

BERMAN: And he occupies that office and another office right now.

And, John --

LOCKHART: And they're following his strategy.

BERMAN: Yes, he is following his strategy to a t.

AVLON: Funny how that works, yes.

BERMAN: Yes, but I do think -- I do think there's something to the fact right now that they don't have answers to the questions -- the most pressing questions. Those answers, John, I don't think exist right now.

AVLON: No. No. I mean, look, the --

LOCKHART: Well, but I think --

AVLON: They're fundamentally contradictory.

BERMAN: Go ahead, Joe.

LOCKHART: Yes. The one thing I'd say is, one of the great value of having that briefing is it forces the administration and the infrastructure of the administration to get answers. You -- you know, if you know you're going to brief every day at 1:00, people will, you know, turn over every piece of information they can to make sure that that spokesperson has the best and it looks like you're on top of things and you have a plan and you know what's going on. You don't have that deadline and you see what we have now, which is just chaos.

BERMAN: You are assuming there are answers. And right now I'm not sure that there are answers to the questions of how these children are going to be reunited with their parents in an expeditious way. And that, to me, is the biggest issue right now.

Joe Lockhart, always great to have you here with us.

LOCKHART: Thanks, guys.

HILL: Good to be with both of you this morning.


BERMAN: All right, CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow picks up right after a quick break.