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Putin Calls Up 300,000 Reservists, Threatens Nuclear War; Migrants Flown to Martha's Vineyard File Lawsuit Against Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL); NASA Test Underway on Moon Rocket Ahead of Third Launch Attempt. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired September 21, 2022 - 07:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: How seriously are you taking Vladimir Putin's fairly direct nuclear threats here? He specifically said, I'm not bluffing that if Russian territory is violated in any way. It seems very much on the table.

JAMES CLEVERLY, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: Well, it was his decision to send troops into Ukraine. It was his decision to send those young Russian soldiers to their graves. It was his decision to violate the territorial integrity of his neighbors. And, of course, we've seen the threats before. At the beginning of the conflicts, we saw this saber- rattling.

Our resolve to support the Ukrainians in the defense of their country is unwavering. And I'm really pleased that here at the United Nations, so many countries from all parts of the globe joined forces in condemning his actions. We will continue to support the Ukrainians as they attempt to eject the Russians from their homeland.

We have never threatened Russia. We have never attempted to impinge on Russian territorial integrity. But we will continue to support the Ukrainians defending their homeland.

BERMAN: And what is your view of this announcement to hold the referenda in these four areas, some of which under complete Russian occupation, others under partial occupation in Ukraine?

CLEVERLY: Well, back in February when I was last year working with Secretary of State Tony Blinken and others, we warned the international community that this invasion was imminent. Some people didn't believe us then. And when I was with Tony yesterday, he highlighted the fact that we know these to be sham referenda. We know that they do not reflect the will of the people in those parts of Ukraine.

We will continue to highlight the nonsense that is the narrative that's trying to be built by Vladimir Putin that somehow the people in East Ukraine wants to be invaded by the Russians. We know it's not true. We'll continue to broadcast that dishonesty to the world. And I say, working alongside the U.S. and the international community we will continue to support the Ukrainians in every parts of Ukraine, including in East Ukraine.

BERMAN: Nonsense though it may be, do you have a concern that they will go there with what you call the sham votes? Russia will then say this is now part of Russia. These four provinces voted to be part of us. Ukraine is fighting in them, violating our territorial integrity, that's the pretext we just laid out to use nuclear weapons?

CLEVERLY: Well, Vladimir Putin has been using pretext for his actions for some time. We must not allow him to lean on this dishonesty as a justification for his unprovoked, illegal war in Ukraine.

And we will be making that case here at the United States and around the rest of the world. We will be reminding people that there is only one person responsible for these terrible actions. That is Vladimir Putin, his decision, his decision to attack Ukraine, his decision to cost the lives of Ukrainians and, of course, of Russians. We will continue to make that case. And we are absolutely resolved, determined to continue to support the Ukrainians as they defend themselves.

BERMAN: British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, we do appreciate you joining us this morning. Good luck on the new job, a big week here at the United Nations.

CLEVERLY: Thank you very much.

BERMAN: Governor Ron DeSantis and the state of Florida facing a lawsuit after dozens of migrants were flown to Martha's Vineyard. An attorney who is helping those immigrants joins New Day.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, a crane collapsing in New York City right onto a car. Inside that car, a 22-year-old woman. More on this close call ahead.




GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): If you believe in open borders, then it's the sanctuary jurisdictions that should have to bear the brunt of the open borders.


HILL: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis now facing a class action lawsuit from many of the nearly 50 migrants who were transported from Texas to Martha's Vineyard last week. That lawsuit claims the migrants were deprived of their liberty and due process over what it calls an unlawful goal and a personal political agenda. DeSantis responding to the lawsuit, saying the transport was done on a, quote, voluntary basis.

Joining me is Immigration Attorney Emily Leung. She's with the Justice Center of Southeast Massachusetts and has been working on the ground helping migrants who were sent to Martha's Vineyard, helping to connect them with proper legal representation. Emily, it's good to have you with us this morning.

You've been there for a number of days. You've been on the ground. You've been speaking with the migrants. Based on what you've heard from them, did DeSantis break the law here?

EMILY LEUNG, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY, JUSTICE CENTER OF SOUTHEAST MASSACHUSETTS: We do -- first of all, good morning and thank you so much for having me on and for reporting on this story.

We do believe that DeSantis did violate the law. But we know that at least one criminal investigation has been opened by Bexar Sheriff's County. There may be others coming. And we need to see the results of the investigation before we will know for sure.

HILL: One of the things that the governor's office has done is also released a copy of what's called an official consent to transport form. It does include a redacted signature of someone, you see it there, that they claim is a migrant who consented to the flight. Did any of the migrants you spoke with, as they are talking to you about their experience, did they consent to this?

LEUNG: I think that it's important to -- I know that DeSantis' office has released this information and is implying that they have agreed to this and, therefore, they couldn't have been transported sort of under false pretenses. But the reality is that the information that's provided, there's not a full translation of the information between English to Spanish of what the individuals had signed.


And also someone cannot consent to something if the information that provided to them was completely different from the circumstances of what happened. If I consent to you having a bite of my sandwich and then you take all of it, I didn't consent to that. So, I think it's important to distinguish between the fact that consent has to be knowing and voluntary and the extent to what you consent to has limits.

So, even though they have purported to show this document that establishes some kind of consent, we believe that that isn't insufficient because that's not the information that was provided to them and not all of the information in the document was even translated into a language that they understood.

HILL: As we continue to watch this play out, Delaware yesterday was preparing for a possible migrant flight, which didn't, of course, show up. As we're watching more and more of this play out, though, I'm guessing that you're talking with colleagues, you're talking with other folks around the country about how to best prepare for it, I'm curious, what do you think the impact is overall when it comes to the discussion, the very important discussion of immigration that, frankly, isn't happening?

LEUNG: I mean, I think that this certainly has thrust immigration once again into the spotlight. But the important thing to keep in mind is that there are legal processes for individuals who want to seek safety in this country and seek asylum to go through. And we need to make sure that those rights are being protected. And I think that is an important piece that isn't being discussed.

It is not common for individuals to be just kind of placed in a community, not knowing that they're going there and then being left there with no provisions or support. And I think that at the end of the day, we should be striving to treat everyone who comes to this country under whatever circumstances with some dignity and respect and allow them to access the legal processes that exist.

HILL: Emily Leung, I appreciate you joining us this morning. Thank you.

LEUNG: Thank you very much.

BERMAN: We do have new CNN reporting and new body cam video obtained by CNN that reveals the treacherous conditions faced by migrants smuggled into the United States. Human smuggling has grown into a billion dollar multinational business in recent years as the U.S. sees a jump in migrants from countries including Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba.

CNN's Rosa Flores has the story.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This is what human smuggling looks like, migrants gasping for air in this 2015 case, or a trailer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can anybody stand up?

FLORES: covered in wailing humans in this 2017 case, ten people died authorities say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know which one next. Just pick one and I'll help you up.

FLORES: A similar scene unfolded in June when 53 people died in San Antonio in a tractor trailer.


FLORES: Craig Larrabee is the acting special agent in charge with Homeland Security investigations in San Antonio, the arm of DHS that investigates human smuggling and says migrants have more than death to fear.

LARRABEE: The extortion, the assaults, physical assaults, sexual assaults, they're real.

FLORES: He says human smuggling has changed in the last decade, from small family businesses that charged $2,000 per migrant to multinational criminal organizations that charge $10,000 and make billions of dollars a year.

LARRABEE: So, maybe a vehicle had 50 bodies in it years and years ago, they'll put 150 bodies in that vehicle.

FLORES: Larrabee debunks the myth that migrants are usually smuggled into the U.S. in tractor trailers.

LARRABEE: They're smuggled across the country on foot. That's generally speaking.

FLORES: Once in the U.S., migrants are taken to so-called stash houses.

SGT. AARON MORENO, HIDALGO COUNTY SHERIFF: I've seen over 70 people in a little apartment.

FLORES: Hidalgo County sheriff's lieutenant Aaron Moreno shows us a stash house they dismantled last year, the windows of the small home, clues smugglers tried to hide 37 people inside.

This is a tactic. You put aluminum foil and/or cardboard so nobody can see inside, so they can't see outside.

FLORES: From those stash houses, migrants are packed in travel trailers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're under arrest for human smuggling.

FLORES: In the trunks of cars, tool boxes, vans and other vehicles that are sometimes locked shut, like this one last week, that had to be pried open by law enforcement. The driver sometimes get thousands of dollars per migrant, according to these TikTok videos used by the Mexican cartels and provided to CNN by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Why would the cartels pay drivers so much?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're trying to pass this checkpoint right here.


FLORES: There are Border Patrol checkpoints in South Texas that those drivers have to go through sometimes with human cargo.

Smugglers will try to avoid that checkpoint by guiding migrants through this tough terrain. Now, the migrants that can keep up continue north. The ones that can't are left behind, sometimes to die.

Migrant deaths so far this year, a record nearly 750, a number already exceeding last year's total of 557. The alleged driver in the deadly June tractor trailer tragedy in San Antonio apparently went through a checkpoint near Laredo. He has pleaded not guilty. It's unclear if the migrants were already on board. While a Larrabee says a lot has changed in the business of human smuggling, one thing is constant --


FLORES: -- smugglers have no regard for human life. (END VIDEOTAPE)

FLORES (on camera): In April, the Biden administration launched an effort to disrupt and dismantle human smuggling organizations. So far, nearly 5,000 individuals have been arrested in the United States and across the region. Now, just last week, eight individuals were arrested and they allegedly smuggled hundreds, if not thousands, of people in brutal conditions.

BERMAN: Our thanks to Rosa Flores for that. What an incredible look inside such a tragic process.

HILL: It's awful. It really is.

BERMAN: All right. Ahead for us, NASA conducts a test on its Artemis 1 rocket this morning, the one that frankly hasn't really worked, before making yet another attempt to circle the moon.

HILL: Also right now, stock futures up slightly this morning. We'll take it. Ahead of an announcement from the Federal Reserve on interest rates, we're going to take you live to the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Stay with us.



HILL: Right now, NASA is testing its Artemis 1 mega moon rocket again. This, of course, follows those two failed launch attempts to journey around the moon and back.

CNN Space and Defense Correspondent Kristin Fisher joining us now. So, I guess the thinking is -- or the hope, the crossed fingers, the third time is the charm?

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And just important to point out, this is not a launch, right? NASA is not going to try to actually launch this rocket today. This is only a test. And this test is to try to figure out if NASA engineers have successfully fixed some of the issues that they encountered during those first two launch attempts. And specifically, they're trying to figure out if they have fixed that hydrogen leak that they encountered during that second launch attempt.

And so right now, we've got a go for cryogenic loading. That's a go for fueling this giant rocket. And what they're trying to do is see if they have successfully fixed that seal.

If that test today is a success, and we should note, by around 3:00 P.M., and if the Space Force, which runs the eastern range, grants NASA a safety waiver on a separate issue, then that would pave the way for the third launch attempt, Erica and John, which hopefully would be next Tuesday.

So, there is a lot of ifs still that NASA needs to work through, but hopefully we'll have a much clearer picture by about 3:00 P.M. Eastern Time today.

BERMAN: And very quickly, if it doesn't pass, will they have to wheel the thing back, which I know it would be a big move?

FISHER: Yes, almost certainly, they would have to roll the whole thing back to the VAB, the big garage, essentially, and that would push the next launch attempt back to late October, possibly to November.

BERMAN: All right. On another, there is the Soyuz, the Russian Soyuz launch scheduled for this morning with an American astronaut on board. And this comes amid all kinds of questions about the future and everything else. So, what do we know about this?

FISHER: It's pretty remarkable, right? I mean, you have a U.S. NASA astronaut, a government astronaut just about two hours away from launching on a Russian Soyuz rocket along with two Russian cosmonaut crewmates. I mean, and this is in the middle of all these very inflammatory remarks that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been making over the last 24 hours. This is something that NASA and Russia space agency, Roscosmos, have done. They've swapped seats for many years but never in a time quite like this.

And so I had the chance a few weeks ago to speak with this NASA astronaut, Frank Rubio, about his experience in Moscow's Star City, where he has been training for many months, and I asked him has he talked about the war in Ukraine and has he talked about these tensions between the U.S. and Russia with his Russian crewmates. And here is what he said.


FRANK RUBIO, ASTRONAUT, NASA: We've addressed it very shortly, to be honest. And I think it's important to just focus on the mission and develop the trust that we need as a crew.

More than anything, we try to avoid, I think, anything that would take away from our camaraderie and the fact that we're focused on accomplishing this mission safely.


FISHER: And so he's going to be launching just about two hours, spending six months aboard the International Space Station with those Russian cosmonauts. And, John and Erica, next month, a Russian cosmonaut is supposed to be launching on a U.S. SpaceX rocket from the Kennedy Space Center. So, this partnership between the U.S. and the Russians continue in civil space despite these tensions on the ground here on Earth.

HILL: Yes, which is so interesting.

Kristin, great to see you this morning. Thank you.

FISHER: Thanks. HILL: Just ahead, our coverage of Vladimir Putin's major escalation against Ukraine continues, 300,000 additional Russian troops set to soon enter the fight. We're going to take you live to Ukraine for the latest.

BERMAN: A close call caught on camera, a crane falls on to a woman's car while she was stopped at a light. How she's doing this morning.



HILL: Talk about a close call here in New York City. Check out this video. You see the crane right on top of that car, all this captured on surveillance. This happened in the Bronx Tuesday morning.

Inside that crushed car, a 22-year-old woman who had just stopped at the intersection. You see people rushing in there to help. Officials say the crane was actually lifting metal rebar when it failed. The woman who was inside the car taken to the hospital.

And pretty remarkable, no serious injuries after an initial inspection of the scene. The Department of Buildings says the contractor could now face a handful of violations, I mean --

BERMAN: It's wonderful she walked away.

I get really nervous.

HILL: So, I was going to say the same thing.

BERMAN: Right? The cranes, I hate walking under them, driving under them.

HILL: You too? And on a windy day, I mean, you walk on certain streets in this city and there is a lot of construction -- there's a lot of construction around our offices, a lot of cranes.


BERMAN: I mean, I've got a lot to worry about already, this just adds.