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Inspection Team Turned Back; Front Porch Shooting Trail; Lawmakers Up Against the Clock on Immigration Reform

Aired July 28, 2014 - 08:30   ET



MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, time for the five things you need to know for your new day.

At number one, a top Israeli official says Israel is only firing on Hamas militants in Gaza when they are fired upon first. But a Palestinian official says Israel needs to stop its work on the ground demolishing tunnels.

An MH17 investigation team had to turn back before reaching the crash site in eastern Ukraine. Officials say no safe passage was possible because of intense fighting on the ground.

A severe storm turned deadly along the California coast. A young man was killed by a lightning strike at Venice Beach. At least a dozen others were also injured.

The federal corruption trial begins today for former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. He and his wife are accused of accepting cash and gifts in exchange for promoting a supporter's business.

And a pro-immigration group plans to rally outside the White House today. United We Dream will call on President Obama to push relief for parents of young migrants. Congress has just days to act before their summer recess.

We do update those five things to know, so be sure to visit for the very latest.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much, Michaela.

More now on that breaking news from Ukraine. We just told you about a team of investigators that had been trying to reach the MH17 crash site in eastern Ukraine. They had to turn back. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh was part of the press contingent traveling with them before it was stopped. He joins us now live from Donetsk in Ukraine.

And, Nick, we've been speaking to you all morning as those explosions and the smoke rising from that area, that team did not make it to where it was going.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, they did not, John. And I'm standing outside the hotel where some of them are based, their vehicles visible in the background behind me. Palpable frustration, even anger among some of this inspection mission. I've just been talking to the head of the OSCE part of it, Alexander Hoke (ph), who said, look, you know, we're going to try again tomorrow. They had, they said, got assurances from both sides they'll be able to pass through. They were still in rebel held territory in a town called Shaktors(ph), just about a kilometer into it, we'd been stopped from following them in Abad (ph) a kilometer earlier by the separatists. And then the separatists turned around to them and said, look, it's too dangerous here. He accepts (ph) himself, the ground shook from the volume of heavy artillery around them.

Now, they had to turn back. They're here. More talks going on. I hope that they will be able to have another go tomorrow, but you've got to bear in mind now the safety looks increasingly precarious for this mission. We ourselves heard very heavy rocket fire, some landing very close to us too. We had to get out of there very quickly. The fear, of course, being this is continually drags out the moment when investigators can get to the site, get to personal belongings, get to sadly the human remains that may still be there, get to the wreckage, begin looking at that properly too.

And now it seems, according to the Ukrainian government, they are moving actively to retake the towns around the crash site, perhaps looking to -- ensure that any access granted to them is, in fact, under Ukrainian government auspices. But that's just delaying the moments when these inspectors can actually get there. And we're hearing now this feeling, this town of Donetsk increasingly under pressure from the Ukrainian military advancing (INAUDIBLE) and I think it's fair to say there are more dangers days ahead here, John.

BERMAN: And you have to question the credibility, not to mention the capability, of those people, those forces who made promises to these investigators that it would be safe enough to travel. If they couldn't be trusted today, who knows if they can be trusted tomorrow and the next day as well. Nick Paton Walsh live for us in Donetsk this morning, thanks so much.

And next up for us on NEW DAY, the trial resumes today for a Detroit man who gunned down a teenager on his porch. Was he in danger? Was this murder? We'll take a closer look with our legal team.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Was it self-defense or was it murder? That really is kind of the core question at the -- as the so-called front porch shooting trial resumes this morning. Fifty-five-year-old Theodore Wafer, he claims that he shot 19-year-old Renisha McBride on his Detroit area porch after he heard banging on the door. But prosecutors say he said he did it -- it was an accident. He said it was self-defense. But prosecutors say the unarmed teenager wasn't a threat at all. Let's examine this. Mark Geragos, CNN legal analyst and defense attorney joining us, and Sunny Hostin, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor.

I want to get both of your takes on this because I - I am confused by all of this. I really am. And it's at its most basic. Let me ask you first, Sunny. He says, first, it was an accident.


BOLDUAN: He said also that he didn't know that his gun was loaded.


BOLDUAN: And now he's claiming self-defense. Are these conflicting?

HOSTIN: I think they are. And I will tell you, when I first started looking at this case, and certainly during opening statements, we heard such different stories. We heard the prosecution say, this was really unreasonable. And then we heard a defense sort of spin on this, which I'm sure Mark is going to talk about, which was, when you are in your home, you need to feel safe. If you feel that there is a home invasion going on, you have the ability to protect yourself. And so I thought, well, that actually - I see Mark is shaking his head -- that actually sounded pretty good to me.

But, second day of testimony, no. Now it doesn't make sense because first he tells police, this was an accident. I didn't even know the gun was loaded. We heard on the second day of testimony that in fact the peep hole was operational. He was inside of his home. Instead of just remaining inside of his home, he actually opens up the front door and shoots her in the face with the shotgun, through the screen door. If those indeed are the facts of this case, then I say he is certainly, certainly not -- he was not acting in self-defense. And I think the prosecution has a very, very strong case of murder here.

BOLDUAN: Mark, jump in. How does the defense make the case that he was threatened? He was inside his home.

MARK GERAGOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that's exactly it. He was inside of his home. We have something called the castle doctrine, which is, if you're in your home, it's your castle, you can protect it. Frankly, I think the prosecution's got a tough road to go on this because most people are going to say, if I'm in my house, somebody's on my porch, they're banging and they've got no reason to be there, it's reasonable that I'm going to be able to defend myself. And I don't think that they're going to be able to, at the end of the day in closing arguments say, well, oh, he orchestrated this or he decided to just wake up and murder somebody on his front porch. It doesn't make any sense at all.

What was she doing on the front porch? Why was she there banging on the doors? You know, all of those things are -- you don't have to sit and ask questions when somebody is banging on the door and you think they're trying to break into your house.

HOSTIN: And, see, and this is where Mark goes wrong. Bottom line is, I think - and I think a jury is going to listen to this, and they're going to think, what would I do, what would the reasonable person do if I am in my home? I'm not going to open up the door and look for trouble. But the reasonable thing to do is stay within the sanctity of your home, not be the aggressor, not be the person -

GERAGOS: Except - except -

HOSTIN: You can't -- you can't guess that there's a home invasion going on, Mark.

BOLDUAN: Well, and it's that issue -

GERAGOS: Sunny, you're -

HOSTIN: You can't just guess that there's a possible home invasion going on.

GERAGOS: Right. Their - well, you're sitting in your home, somebody's banging on the door, and let me just explain to you that their - Sunny, because we've had this discussion before --

HOSTIN: See, here we go.

GERAGOS: Race is going to play a factor - race is going to play a factor in this case and that's one of the reasons the prosecution was objecting to the preemptories (ph), meaning who the defense was getting rid of. You've got a white defendant, you've got a black victim, and you've got a split racially in that jury. I -- it would not surprise me in the least to see a hung jury in this case.

HOSTIN: Well, I think he - I think he has something there because -

BOLDUAN: You think race will play a factor in it?

HOSTIN: I think race will play a factor. It was very clear during Voir Dire (ph) when they were questioning jurors about this case, race came up. There are four African-Americans on this jury. And the bottom line is, the evidence is a bit conflicting as to whether or not he knew her race. He says he saw a shadowy figure. He afterwards told the police this was a neighbor girl. I didn't recognize her. So in my mind, there's no question that when he opened up that door, he saw a black woman and chose to fire. Did he then sort of react upon his biases and think, if it's a black woman, she must be invading my home? If there were a woman, let's say, that looked like you, Kate, perhaps she'd still be alive. And I do think in that instance race is going to be a crucial factor here.

BOLDUAN: In all of this, the one thing I haven't heard you guys talk about is how the defense has been bringing up that this was also -- part of the problem here is shoddy investigation work. Why is the defense talking about that? Is that -- what strategy is that, Mark?

HOSTIN: That's Mark's strategy.

GERAGOS: Well, it's clear to - it's clear in this case that they didn't exactly do a bang-up job of investigating this case. And you want to make sure that the jury understands that. That they decided that they had an agenda or that they were going to try to -- backfill the facts as they saw them. And if that's the case, that's something the jury should know about. The jury needs to know whether or not they came here and followed the facts or whether they fit the facts into the theory that they had pre-existing. BOLDUAN: We were talking to Toobin -- Jeffrey Toobin about this a

little earlier and it comes down to that area in the law of, is there a reasonable fear?


BOLDUAN: And you talk about also a reasonable person. What do you think from the perspective of the prosecution, what does the prosecution need to do here if Mark thinks that the defense has a strong case?

HOSTIN: I think the prosecution is doing what the prosecution needs to do, which is put out there what is unreasonable. The fact that the peep hole was working on that door. The fact that he was inside of his home. The fact that he didn't call 911 until after he shot her. I think those are crucial elements because any reasonable person put in that situation is going to say, you know what, if I'm in my home and hear banging --

BOLDUAN: There are other steps you can take before you're going to shoot someone.

HOSTIN: I'm going to call 911. And I think that that is going to resonate with the jury. It's going to resonate with everyone.

BOLDUAN: Well, and the thing that we all --

GERAGOS: It's so -- Sunny, you're -- she's so naive.

HOSTIN: There he goes.

GERAGOS: Sunny, you're in your house. You're in your house, Sunny. You don't have to sit and call 911 when somebody's banging down your door. You're in your house.

HOSTIN: Of course you do. Of course you do. That's why we have police officers.

GERAGOS: And this is hardly -- this is hardly a murder case. This is at worst some kind of a manslaughter or lesser. It's never going to be a murder.


HOSTIN: That's why Mark Geragos is one of the best defense attorneys out there, right?

BOLDUAN: And why you two are such good friends, despite the fact that you rarely agree on everything. And that's why we love you. Mark Geragos, Sunny Hostin, thanks so much. This trial picks back up. It is interesting and it could likely set precedent going forward. Why it's important even beyond the unusual nature of this case.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, lawmakers are up against the clock as they consider immigration reform before a month long recess. We're going to ask White House officials anything can get done -- she believes anything can get done before the end of the week.


BERMAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY everyone. Advocates pushing law makers to get immigration reform done before they go on recess at the end of this week.


BERMAN (voice-over): Of course, the last month filled with rhetoric and demonstrations on both sides. So, will law makers find the compromise that has alluded them so far?


BERMAN (on camera): Cecilia Munoz is the director of the Domestic Policy Council and assistant to the president. She joins us now from the White House. Thanks so much for being with us this morning.


BERMAN: So over the weekend we heard Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas say that he expects the House of Representatives to pass what he calls "a skinny-downed version of immigration reform" for the emergency funding to deal with the current border crisis. Maybe $1.5 billion, not the $4 billion the White House is looking for, but $1.5 billion. If something like that gets to the president's desk, would be sign it?

MUNOZ: Well, so the House isn't considering an immigration reform. We have been trying to get that done for five years and they have taken that off the table. What is at issue, is supplemental appropriations to help us deal with this border situation. We're showing signs of making progress, people are returning to Central America, they have gotten the message there is no free pass if they come to the United States. But really in order to fully get the job done we need resources. That's really what this debate is about.

I'm sorry to say that the House of Representatives may be bogging this debate down with things which are really not related to getting the job done. We have told folks that we are processing cases more quickly, that we're hearing humanitarian claims and sending people back more quickly. That's having impact. The debate this week is about making sure we have the resources to really get this job done and the House of Representatives may be slowing things down.

BERMAN: But less than $4 billion, say $1.5 billion, say even it goes to $2 billion, would the president sign something like that?

MUNOZ: Well, the most important thing is that we get, again, resources to make sure that we can deliver on the commitments that we have made to process cases more quickly, return people more quickly, but the thing that really worries me about the process in the House is that Republicans are talking about adding a lot of weight to this bill, they're not just talking about funding, but talking about things which really don't help us get this job done.

For example, there is a conversation about repealing the deferred action program which affects Dreamers, a completely different population that is unrelated to the situation. That sounds more like an ideological debate than an effort to really get the job done here.

BERMAN: Another part that they are talking about is the 2008 provision that was signed by President George W. Bush that does allow for a greater time period and processing immigrants who come from noncontiguous nations. That are people who say that that law currently is bogging down the process. At an earlier point the White House seemed to hint that it was willing to accept a change in that law. Are you currently willing to accept a change in that law?

MUNOZ: We are absolutely interested. In fact, we wrote to the speaker weeks ago to say we want to work with Congress on the right kinds of changes to the 2008 authorities. The problem is that the proposal that is before the Congress right now is too restrictive. It sets arbitrary deadlines. It could make the process worse. Here's what we know. The numbers are going down. People in Central America are getting the message there is no free pass in the United States. In order to make sure that we can deliver on our commitments, on what we are communicating to Central America, the most important thing we need in short order is resources. That's the debate we need in the Congress. We shouldn't be bogging it down with other issues.

BERMAN: Let's talk about the message they're getting in Central America right now because you had a visit from some Central American leaders last week, including the president of Honduras, who told "Time Magazine" that one of the problems right now is what he calls a lack of clarity of U.S. immigration policy. This sense in Central America that if you come to the United States, you can stay here.

MUNOZ: And we've turned that completely around as evidenced by coverage in "The Washington Post" today and "The Wall Street Journal" last week among others. The president has been communicating very clearly that the door is not open to folks. These are smugglers who are essentially marketing to people this notion that if you come to the United States, you can stay. That is false. We have been communicating that and that message is getting received in Central America, including the conversation that the president had with the Central American presidents on Friday.

BERMAN: Do you think that it wasn't clear before?

MUNOZ: What we do know is that the reason this year is different from previous years is because smugglers have been marketing this false notion that there is some kind of new policy in the United States that allows people to stay. That has never been true. Smugglers are exploiting people and, frankly, making a whole lot of money by exploiting their vulnerabilities. So we have been very clearly communicating that while we will process humanitarian claims, people who do not have the ability to stay in the United States will be returned and we have been returning people.

BERMAN: Let's talk about the idea of returning people. This George Will, a conservative commentator, you know who I don't think agrees with the White House on a lot of subjects, said this over the weekend. He says that the United States should tell the immigrant children now here, welcome to America, you're going it go to school, get a job, and become Americans. George Will says simply let's stop arguing about this, let them stay. Do you think they all should stay?

MUNOZ: So those who have humanitarian claims, our laws provide for a mechanism for them to stay, but that's not going to be the majority of people who have come. It is incredibly important in order to forestall an even bigger humanitarian situation than the one we have been facing this summer to communicate very clearly what the smugglers are telling you is wrong. There is no free pass. The border is not open in the United States. While we will honor humanitarian claims, the majority of cases are unlikely to qualify and the people who get on the other side of that process and are removable will be removed. We need to do that because that's the law. We also need to do that in order to communicate a clear message in Central America. What they're telling you is wrong. Don't put your child in that situation. It is incredibly dangerous.

BERMAN: I just want to have you clarify one point you just keep making here. You keep saying the majority of cases, they will not be allowed to stay. So just to be clear, the White House does not believe that a majority of these cases, particularly children, you don't believe that a majority of them should qualify as refugees. You think they're here as illegal, undocumented immigrants that should all go home?

MUNOZ: The law provides for humanitarian relief for people who can get political asylum, for children who have special situations. We're going to honor those claims, we're making sure to adjudicate them properly. But the bulk of the situation here is adults who are bringing children and while we hear their cases, once they're on the other side of those cases, many of those folks, most of the folks, end up being removable. Our job is to make sure that they're removed and that we're working with the countries in Central America to do that in a way that allows them to be resettled properly.

We're working with the Central Americans on reintegration centers for the people who are going back. But, the bottom line is this, the border is not open to Central Americans. And we have to make sure that we apply the law properly and, frankly, we need the resources in order to do that job with the humanity that it deserves, but also by applying the law. The debate in Congress this week is about resources, they need to get that done before they leave for the August recess.

BERMAN: Let's see if they do get it done before they leave for their summer recess. Cecilia Munoz, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate your perspective on this issue.

Coming up for us, more on two breaking stories we've been following all morning. A temporary truce breaks down in the Middle East. And investigators being turned away from the Flight 17 crash site. We're live with both stories ahead.

(COMMERICAL BREAK) BOLDUAN: Thanks for joining us this morning on NEW DAY, everybody. A lot happening around the world. Let's get you over to "NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello right now. Hey, Carol.

BERMAN: Happy birthday, Kate.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Happy birthday, Kate. Have a great day. NEWSROOM starts now.