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Supreme Court Can't Escape 2020, 2024 Races in Looming Term; Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) Defends Sending Migrants to Martha's Vineyard; New Data Shows Democracy on the Rise, Autocracy on Retreat. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired September 20, 2022 - 07:30   ET



ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COUR REPORTER: And Democrats are worried because, right now as things stand, the majority of state legislatures are controlled by Republicans.

So, what's coming up now in the last few days is we have seen that supporters of President Trump who brought this legal theory during the last cycle, that really have been laying dormant, are now aggressively coming to the court and saying, adopt it, adopt this legal theory. People like, remember, John Eastman, he's the lawyer who served as architect of Trump's plan to sort of overturn election results, he's weighed in. The RNC has weighed in asking the Supreme Court to adopt this, although the RNC takes a more narrow approach.

So, what we're seeing now is the court looking at this case and really maybe changing how elections are done going forward. It's a big deal. It's going to be argued this fall in the backdrop of the midterms.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: It's so timely at this people. Ariane, thank you for the reporting.

Is the movement of migrants from border states to states up north legal? We'll discuss.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Several stars like falling on stage, for real. How they're doing this morning, ahead.




GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): They all signed consent forms to go and then the vendor that is doing this for Florida provided them with a packet that had a map of Martha's Vineyard. It had the numbers for different services on Martha's Vineyard. So, it was clearly voluntary and all the other nonsense you're hearing is just not true. And why wouldn't they want to go given where they were?

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis defending his decision to fly nearly 50 Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Martha's Vineyard last week. This as the sheriff of Bear County, Texas, says he believed that in transporting the migrants, laws were broken not only locally but on a federal level.

Lawyers for the migrants in Martha's Vineyard say the brochures given to their clients were highly misleading and were used to enticed their clients to travel under the guise that resettlement support was available to them.

With me now is Attorney Raul Reyes and former Acting Secretary of Homeland Security under President Trump Chad Wolf.

Raul, if I can just start with you. For those who say that laws might have been broken, they fall on two legal arguments generally. Number one, that the migrants were misled when they were lured, their words, onto the plane to go to Martha's Vineyard. The other law they say may have been broken or at least may not constitution constitutional per se, is that it's the federal government, not states, that make migration policy. So, explain these arguments to me.

RAUL REYES, ATTORNEY: Right. Well, in the first case, this is based on what we know based on the circumstances so far. In the first instance, some people are saying that this could potentially be an issue of trafficking. And when you look at it at the framework of what we know, we have a targeted group of people, they were transported, there was some element of fraud or coercion involved. That's based on what some of the migrants have said, there are some element of fraud or coercion and there was commercial gain in the subcontractors who were paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to transport them. That right there is a basis for a trafficking claim.

And Governor DeSantis mentioned the fact that these migrants consented. Generally, in a trafficking claim, consent is not a defense unless it was made with complete and full knowledge. But I think what's more important here, as you touched on the federal issue, our Constitution and our Supreme Court have been crystal clear on this issue, immigration is a federal matter. You can go back to Supreme Court cases all the way to 1893 and more recently in 2012 with the Arizona v. U.S. case, where the court has said, states cannot basically take matters into their own hands and take actions on immigrations. If they were to do so, this is an issue where it's important that the country speaks with one voice. So, that is something, you know states may not like what the administration is doing but I think the best option is always to work with them or just find some way -- and let it happen.

BERMAN: And, again, argument has gone in the past, what if all 50 states had their own immigration policy? How would that work?

REYES: Exactly. It would be chaotic.

BERMAN: It's something you tend to hear.

All right, Secretary, what's your response to these two discussion points?

CHAD WOLF, ACTING SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY UNDER TRUMP: Well, first let me say I think we're in a situation where we've never seen this type of action before, right? Because I think this gets back to fundamentally trying to solve the problem at the border but we're not doing. So, that's point number one.

Point number two, I think to the moderator -- sorry, the question here is really about DHS, once they process these immigrants at the border, it's usually CBP or it's ICE, they then release these individuals from immigration proceedings. They are then released into these communities in South Texas. Lots of times, NGOs, non-governmental organizations, then take them up and transport them. In this case, the state of Texas is stepping in and transporting them.

So, it's not a matter of the states stepping in and doing something that the federal government is doing, the federal government has decided to take action to release these individuals into the state of Texas in this case and not transport them.

We do know that DHS does transport a number of migrants, and have been for the past 18 months, to different parts of the country. So, we know that they do that. But in many, many cases, because they don't have the capacity, they will release these individuals into communities in South Texas and that is where the state of Texas is now stepping. It's also where NGOs, like catholic charities, steps in, to transport these migrants.

So, I don't give a lot of weight to that last argument, that it's not only the federal government that can transport migrants around. That is true if they are in DHS custody. But in many cases, and certainly in the cases that we're talking about here, DHS has released these migrants from their custody, and, therefore, they're in the state of Texas, they can wander street, they can get on buses, they can get on aircraft, that they do, and go to different parts of the country.

BERMAN: Raul, what do you say to that?

REYES: Well, it is true. It is true that the federal government itself and other agencies transport migrants around the country.


The Biden administration did that under -- excuse me, the Trump administration, the Obama administration transferred migrants around the country.

What's different in this scenario is that it is one thing when you have entities doing it acting on behalf of the federal government, another situation where the circumstances seem to be very murky where an individual is approaching these migrants, offering them free trips with allegations of potentially false promises, that's a totally different thing.

And one point legally that is very important, these migrants are -- they are undocumented. However, they have been processed by the government. Many of them are pursuing lawful asylum claims. So, they're pursuing a legal right to be here. As you know, asylum requires physical presence in the United States.

So, I think what Governor DeSantis and the governor of Texas, legally, they are walking a very fine line, and I would expect lawsuits from the federal government -- from the Biden administration soon.

BERMAN: And, look, whether or not they were misled or not is an issue that would have to be adjudicated. That is a separate issue.

I do want to ask you something, Mr. Secretary, about something that is interesting, an interesting trend that was just announced by the federal government. And this is in the process of saying that record numbers of migrants have been apprehended at the border this year, but they did say in August there's a fascinating trend. The number of undocumented immigrants from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras is down 43 percent from 2021. The number of Cubans, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans is up 175 percent.

And just on the issue of Cubans, Axios and the A.P. pointed out more Cubans were apprehended at the border in the first six months of this year. I believe the numbers was 155,000, then came over in the six months of the Mariel boatlift 1980s. So, what's your assessment of these numbers?

WOLF: Well, I think we've got a troubling trend here, and you point that out, which is Central Americans and Mexicans no longer appear to be the vast majority of folks crossing that border. Instead, you have individuals from 130 different nationalities and different countries crossing that border because I think they know what most Americans know and most people in the world know, which is you can cross that border and likely be released into the United States. So, you see Venezuelans, you see Cubans, you see a lot of different folks.

When I was in DHS, we had to work with the government of Mexico and other folks to stem the flow of these individuals using a variety of different circumstances and policies. I think what you see now though is there are no new policies along that border for 18 months. And that's why you continue to see these numbers increase month after month after month. DHS just released numbers yesterday for the month of August, again, over 200,000 illegal apprehensions along that border.

This is unsustainable and the facilities along that border in South Texas or even in Arizona, in California, they are overwhelmed. The shelters are overwhelmed. There's nowhere to put these individuals. There's hardly anywhere to process these individuals. So, this idea of, oh, you can't move migrants from one place of the country to the other, there's 2.1 million illegal apprehensions since the Biden administration has started. Where do you suspect we're going to put these individuals? There's no place in Brownsville, McAllen and Del Rio and El Paso. You have to move these individuals. If you're not going to remove them back to their home countries, which the Biden administration has clearly said they will not do, then you have to move them to other parts of the country. BERMAN: Well, I will say they legally they can't, right? They legally they can't put them back in Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, right? That's -- again, that's one of the issues here. That's one of the changes here. That's a big change.

REYES: Right. And in the case of Cuba and Venezuela, because we do not have full diplomatic relationships with them, we cannot repatriate those individuals. In fact, it's very difficult for those individuals as they pursue asylum cases to even get the type of documentation that they need to support their claims. So, it's the territory in that sense.

BERMAN: And, Mr. Secretary, I didn't mean to cut you off. This is an interesting discussion, right?

WOLF: I will say that, though, you can -- the Remain in Mexico Program actually dealt with it, the difficulty DHS has in removing certain migrants, you're exactly right, two certain countries. That's why the Remain in Mexico Program was put in place, or MPP. That program is no longer functional, right? They have dismantled that program.

So, they're taking away tools that border patrol and other elements of DHS law enforcement have to control that border. And that's why we're dealing with this issue. That's why we're talking about, you know, migrants moving in one jurisdiction to the other. We're not fundamentally addressing the issue of border security.

BERMAN: I understand what you're saying there. I will say that there does seem to be a geopolitical trend of movement of people coming from countries that often the United States has pointed out, people are under political persecution. It is something that will have to be addressed and discussed going forward, no doubt.

I do appreciate you coming on, Chad Wolf, Raul Reyes. Thank you very much.

REYES: Thank you.

BERMAN: New this morning, video emerging of Trump allies and Republican operatives inside a restricted elections office on the day of a breach.


KEILAR: And the developers of the upcoming Grand Theft Auto video game hit with a major hack. What happened, ahead.


KEILAR: After years of doubt, the world is expressing signs of confidence in America and global institutions. A welcome sign as leaders gather in New York to address a number of dire crises.

John Avlon has more in today's Reality Check. JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: As world leaders fly from Queen Elizabeth's funeral in London to the United Nations' General Assembly in New York, there's been a major shift in perceptions between democracies and autocracies, one that few folks saw it coming. And it's not just Ukraine pushing Russia back on the battlefield, because global attitudes towards the United States and NATO are vastly improved among major allied nations, a sea change from 2020, the last year of the Trump presidency.


Not only that, Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, are now seen as pariahs with a stunning 90 percent of respondents in the annual Pew Global Attitude Survey saying they have no confidence in Putin to do the right thing in world affairs.

Now, if that seems like a dispatch from captain obvious, remember that just less than a year ago, it seemed to many that autocrats were ascendant, that The Atlantic Magazine capturing the bleak assessments on its cover with a headline, the bad guys are winning.

Now, we often overestimate the power of our enemies. Russia's invasion of Ukraine was predicted to be inevitable by many experts, and the twisted impulse to denigrate democracy as weak always has its defeatist cheerleaders, like this guy as a rally in Youngstown, Ohio, over the weekend.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Perhaps most importantly, we are a nation that is no longer respected or listened to around the world. We are a nation that, in many ways, has become a joke and we are a nation that is hostile to liberty, freedom and faith.


AVLON: Now, take Trump's insults to America with a pound of salt. He was saying variations on the same nonsense back when Ronald Reagan was president and winning the cold war. And Trump praised the Chinese communist government slaughter of students in Tiananmen Square as showing the power of strength while complaining in 1990 that our country is right now perceived as weak, as being spit on by the rest of the world.

So, it's really just what he says about America when he's not in power. But as with all of Trump's unhinged accusations, they're really projections and confections. Because here's the real deal, data shows that among the nations surveyed, the lowest point for America's reputation as a dependable ally was during his presidency.

And what is really stunning is how fast perception have turned. The U.S. is increasingly seen as a reliable partner across the board with the U.S. favorability is now at a 21st century year high in nations like Poland, South Korea, Australia and Belgium.

Now, compare that to rock bottom ratings in eight of these nations just two years ago, even allies like the United Kingdom. It's sad and not a little sickening to see that, in 2020, then-President Trump was less trusted to do the right thing than Russian President Putin and China's President Xi Jinping.

Today, President Biden is trusted to do the right thing by 60 percent of response to the survey compared just 17 percent under Trump towards the end of his presidency.

Now, it's not all good news. Biden's international favorability as has declined over the last year. Most world pundits (ph) recognize that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was not handled well despite most saying it was the right thing to do. Our allies also recognize that we have a serious problem with hyper-partisan polarization in the United States.

But perhaps the biggest news from the survey is the sharp decline in the reputation of autocrats, and it's not just Putin, it's also Chinese President Xi who just 18 percent trust to do the right thing in global affairs while Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron enjoy numbers more than three times that amount.

Look, taken together, this is a significant shift of public attitudes away from autocracies and toward democracies. It's a reminder of how high the stakes we face really are and why Ukraine's gains on the battlefield could determine the trajectory of the century.

It's not that democracies are perfect. We are too open and diverse to claim that. It's that we're human and creative and more honest than the alternatives. One country not included in the survey just reminded us of these difference between autocracies and democracies.

In an interview with 60 Minutes, the hard line Iranian president, Raisi, said that there are some signs that the holocaust happened, and if so, they should be allowed to be investigated and researched. Seriously, call for further research into the holocaust in 2022.

Now, on the world stage, there are always attempts to prey upon pessimism while appealing to tribal divides, and that's why it's useful to get some perspective. But as world leaders gather at the United Nations, it should bolster our collective confidence to see autocrats being exposed while democracies are getting their due from citizens around the world.

And that's your Reality Check.

KEILAR: John Avlon, thank you.

Next, CNN is live on the ground in Puerto Rico with a look at the devastation that Hurricane Fiona has left behind.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Still a lot of flooding. I can hear generators powering the home and it is still pouring down with rain.




KEILAR: All right, it's time for Morning Pop. Video game fanatics waking up to a bit of a surprise, fans of Grand Theft Auto were given an early peek into the game's next edition after a hack of Rockstar Games. In a statement, the company says an unauthorized third party illegally accessed and downloaded confidential information from our systems. We do not anticipate any disruption to our live game services nor any long-term effect on the development of our ongoing projects.

BERMAN: Will it work on my Atari 2600?

KEILAR: I don't think so.

BERMAN: Tim McGraw fell off the side of the stage while performing at a concert in Arizona. He did get right back up and kept on performing.

Kate Winslet slipped and fell on set while filming a new film in Croatia. After a precautionary visit to the hospital, her team confirmed she'll be back on set to continue filming this week.

And Rapper Post Malone tripped and fell into a hole on stage. He ended up bruising his ribs but he did post a video to Twitter afterwards to tell fans he's all right. That's scary.

KEILAR: And, finally, Lady Gaga getting emotional. Fierce rain and lightning in Miami forced her to end the final show of her Chromatica tour early. The pop star there apologized to her fans in a video on Instagram.


LADY GAGA, ARTIST: I don't know what I would do if anything happened to anybody in the audience, or to any member of my crew, my band, my dancers. So, I'm sorry that we didn't get to do the epic performance of Rain On Me in the rain, but what's more worth it to me is life.