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Report: Arrests Sharply Down on U.S.-Mexico Border; Couple Sentenced for Terrorizing Children at Party; Trump to Give Major Address to Congress Tonight. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired February 28, 2017 - 15:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump is expected to bring up his pledge to build a border wall as he lays out his vision for America to a joint session of Congress tonight. While it's still unclear how the President plans to pay for it the number of those apprehended on the border actually decreased sharply in January, this is according to customs and border protection numbers obtained by CNN. It is not yet clear if the President's executive order is getting touch on immigration is behind the sudden drop but it will likely give the administration a talking point as it looks to ramp up border security. CNN's Say that fewer people seem to be crossing the border since President Trump took office. We will take you live behind this change Vanessa Yurkevich is live for us on the U.S.-Mexico border in Mission, Texas, tell us what has changed there.

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brianna, as you mentioned that report points to a drop since January. And that's what we've been hearing from agents along the border.

We spent two days on a ride along here in Mission. When Trump got elected people were coming over seeking asylum, but once Trump got into office that number has dropped significantly and now the people coming across are coming across desperately and they're not allowing agents to apprehend them. Just behind me is Mexico and in fact yesterday we found out a group of 20 people took a raft across the river. This is the Rio Grande into the U.S. and ended up hiding out in brush and we were there as it unfolded.


BRANDON JUDD, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL BORDER CONTROL COUNCIL: Eight agents cannot actually put their hands on 20 people. That's impossible to do. So, if they run from you, you know, you just have to take into custody as many as you can. To bring a helicopter in to do this, this is basically a last-ditch effort right here.

YURKEVICH: Are they scared right now do you think?

JUDD: Uh, I would be. Obviously, if this is the first time you ever crossed the border illegally of course you're going to be worried. You see a helicopter above you, you know there are all kind of agents all around.


[15:35:00] YURKEVICH: Now that scene played out for a couple hours but the border patrol agents ended up leaving the scene and turning the cameras on that area to allow the people hiding to feel more comfortable to come out in the open. Once they did, agents were only able to apprehend about half of those people, so that is 50 percent they were able to take in. And that's a real fact about what happens down here every day saying they are able to apprehend about 50 percent and 50 percent that got away.

KEILAR: The Trump administration wants to increase border patrol agents by 5,000, is the fact that this would have helped in a situation like this?

YURKEVICH: Yes, absolutely, the agents talked over and over again how under staffed they were and in that instance, they would have been able to apprehend the other 50 percent of people that got away, and that could potentially change if 5,000 border patrol agents are moved down and for people down here it would make a huge difference in being able to decrease those numbers!

KEILAR: Thank you so much. Tonight, some Democrats are bringing guests who disagree strongly with many of the President's policies, namely immigration and that travel ban and among those who will be in the audience is a woman who lost her son in the deadly attack inside Orlando's Pulse Night Club last June. Christine Leinonen is the mother of Christopher Leinonen. She's invited by a Florida Democratic Congresswoman, Val Demings, and says she can't understand why the President keeps using Orlando as an excuse to push his radical agenda, that is a quote. And she along with the congresswoman are joining me now. Thank you so much for both of you for being here. I cannot express enough our condolences but we appreciate you talking to us as you are here ahead of this joint address. What is your message?

CHRISTINE LEINONEN, SON KILLED IN ORLAND PULSE SHOOTING: My message is there are things that the President can actually do that would make us safer and he's choosing to pick things that cater to fear, that cater to hatred and cater to xenophobia and he's not representing reality the way that it would actually work.

KEILAR: When you look at a number of these recent shootings but look agent the Pulse Nightclub where 49 people were killed, Omar Mateen was a U.S. citizen, born in the U.S., his parents immigrated from Afghanistan so with that in mind that that is the person who killed your son, when you hear a travel ban come out, what would you like to see happen to stop something like happening again?

LEINONEN: Well, the common-sense thing to do would be to ban assault weapons, not ban Muslims. That we can do that. That's practical it's been done before, doesn't violate the U.S. constitution and the President swore when he was sworn in that he would uphold the United States constitution and then turned around and violated the United States constitution where we can do practical things.

[15:40:00] Banning assault weapons and high capacity clips, my son's killer was born like you said in the United States. He grew up in the United States. He has our culture, our culture and love of weapons and yet we're encouraging that kind of hatred this type of rhetoric and the Muslim ban is encouraging that hateful rhetoric that is going to encourage even more people -- and it already did.

The very, very week he illegally banned Muslims there were new -- there are six now fatherless Muslims in Quebec that was a direct result of his rhetoric and his ban, so his rhetoric is causing more crime. And he could do practical things. He could keep -- there's a direct correlation between people who commit domestic violence and those then that commit gun violence. So, we could ban people who are mentally ill and committing domestic abuse from owning and possessing handguns.

KEILAR: And when you look Congresswoman you polled people and they support exactly what you're describing here but not something even under President Obama was able to make it a movement. I wonder what your expectations are. Obviously, a message from President Trump in support of more gun regulations. That's definitely not going to happen tonight, but what are you hoping to hear tonight. What are your expectations?

VAL DEMINGS, CONGRESSPERSON, FLORIDA: First of all, it's my honor to have Christine here tonight. When you look at the pulse nightclub is now considered the deadliest mass shooting in our nation's history and as the President focuses on people in other countries and his Muslim ban -- he doesn't like to call it that but that's what it is -- I would like to hear him talk about what he's going to do right here at home to deal with the person who killed Christine's son and deal with the gun violence that we see right here in the United States committed by persons who were born right here in the United States.

KEILAR: Congresswoman Val Demings, and Christine, we really appreciate your time.

Two suspects weeping in court as they were sentenced for terrorizing a child's birthday party with racially charged threats. Hear one of the victims accept their apology.

[15: 45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: Just in, the White House is reacting to the deadly attack in a Kansas City bar against two Indian men, the White House says it is an act of racially motivated hatred. And according to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a spokeswoman, she says President Trump condemns the incident. This is an attack that happened last week, it left one man dead, two others were injured. The FBI is investigating this as a possible hate crime.

A Georgia couple will spend years in prison the terrorizing a child's birthday party. Jose Torres and Kayla Norton were part of a convoy that waived confederate flags and shouted racial slurs as they passed by a party in suburban Atlanta in 2015. The district attorney says Torres also pointed a shotgun at the party goers and threatened to kill them. It was an emotional day in court as she apologized to one of the moms at the party.


KAYLA NORTON, SENTENCED FOR TERRORIZING CHILD'S PARTY: But I want you to also know, that is not me. That is not me. That is not him. I would never walk up to you and say those words to you and I am so sorry that happened to you. I am so sorry. --

MOTHER OF CHILD AT THE PARTY: You affected my life. It affected my children's lives. I forgive you. I forgive all of you. I do. I forgive you.


KEILAR: I want to bring in CNN's Nick Valencia, he's been following the story. So, Nick, that was an emotional apology, did it make any difference to the judge?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The judge gave one more year than what the state proposed. Perhaps it coming because of the inspiration behind it. This came a month behind the Dylann Roof shooting. Who killed nine African American church goers, this incident in Georgia coming about a month after that. He used the confederate flag, as a symbolism. They decorated their pickup truck convoy and headed towards that party. That eight-year-old African American boy in suburban Atlanta, removed a pump shotgun in his pickup truck and pointed it at the adults and also trained it on the little kids and threatened to kill quote little n-words.

You heard the emotional plea that two defendants were sobbing uncontrollably, the police department was said to not do enough that day. They were not arrested until a while later, but on top of the stiff sentences, they went on a two-day spree going county to county, authorities said they were drunk at the time. After being released from prison they will not be allowed to go back to the county. They will have a lot of time to think about what they did in prison.

KEILAR: Thank you for that report. Next, as the President gets ready to address Congress tonight we're hearing both parties have issued warnings to their members about behavior both sides of the aisle and one Democrat says he refuses to shake Trump's hand. Details ahead.


KEILAR: The White House is promising a more optimistic tone tonight for the President's biggest address since his inauguration speech where he struck a rather dark tone and painted a bleak picture about fixing what he called, quote, American carnage. Joining me now is Bob Lehrman, former chief speech writer to Vice-President Al Gore, and he just wrote an op-ed for "USA Today" titled "I Hope Trump Surprises Me Tuesday." What do you hope he surprises you with?

BOB LEHRMAN, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR AL GORE: Well, I hope he surprises me by reaching out more than he seems to be willing to do. Look, I'm a Democrat. I mean, one part of me, one part of my brain hopes he just rants and raves and talks only to the people that got him through the Republican primaries. But I'm also an American and I think that there are ways that he could reach out that would not alienate his base. For example, Obamacare, you know, Obamacare put 20 million people on the insurance roles who never had it before. That was a big achievement. It needs repair, it's imperfect, but I would guess that he could say that those people will not lose their insurance. His base isn't going to be upset about that because a lot of those people are his base.

KEILAR: There are places where Obamacare is very popular where he carried overwhelmingly those areas. So, what is something, how can he message that in a way that isn't going to completely ostracize conservative Republicans who are already having issues with what he and other Congressional Republicans would want to do with the flan

LEHRMAN: Well, there's no question that Republicans in the house and the Senate have a lot of reservations about it. But they also see they are going to get a lot of their agenda through. They haven't had that, even when Ronald Reagan was President, he didn't have the house. So, he's got a lot of security about how well they'll go along. People say, well, you know, Bannon may talk about the agenda, but it's a the house that controls the vote. Yes, when I was on the house side, you would go to these message meetings and people say, you have to get 218, got to get 218. That's what you need to pass it. He'll get his 218.

KEILAR: Do you think that will actually sway President Trump away from what some people are seeing as the Steve Bannon effect?

LEHRMAN: Do I think it will happen? No, that's why I said I hope he surprises me. You know, there are things -- immigration, two Republican senators put in a bill that would cut legal immigration in half this month. Trump has said, well, I think immigration is fine as long as it's legal. Well, they're going to cut it from a million to 500,000. Why would they do that?

[15:55:00] KEILAR: Let me ask you about what we're hearing from some Democrats. For instance, Congresswoman Maxine Waters not going to the address. Elliott Engel who has long sought out one of those coveted seats on the aisle getting a little fester with the President after years of not doing that's correct says I'm not doing that. What do you think about that?

LEHRMAN: Well, there is no question that if you are a highly partisan Democrat, which I am and all my friends are, you're furious about a lot of the things that have happened, not only in the election, but afterwards. But we're going to have this President probably for four years, and I would rather, if he could get those people to stay on the rolls, if he could do a tax plan that -- like the tax plan he has now, if you're very rich, gives you a tax cut enough to buy 15 Teslas a year. If you're a middleclass person you get enough to buy half a Tesla battery. He could equalize that. The first thing he did after inauguration was to tell Republicans, hey, back off on that ethics dilution. Nobody ran away from him. That was a good thing for him to do.

KEILAR: Thank you so much. We really appreciate you, Robert Lehrman, being with us. You are familiar with this. You wrote one of the responses back in 1989 when Lloyd Benson gave it so you'll be looking at the response this year from former Kentucky governor with a specific expertise. So, thank you so much for being with us.

LEHRMAN: Thank you for having me.

KEILAR: Of course. And "The Lead" with Jake Tapper starts right now.