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AT THIS HOUR

Caravan Of Central Americans Seeks Asylum At U.S. Border; Border Patrol Turns Away Caravan Of Migrants For Now; Reports: Ronny Jackson Won't Return As Trump's Physician; Trump Wants To Meet Kim On Border Between Koreas. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired April 30, 2018 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:00:00]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: -- I haven't seen a movie since the baby was born. Can you baby sit?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: "Avengers" is right up your alley, I think.

HARLOW: Thank you for joining us. I'm Poppy Harlow.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Showdown at the U.S./Mexico border. President Trump's immigration policies are facing major test today, and the world is watching. Right now, dozens of asylum seekers who say that they're hoping to escape crime and poverty in their native Central America are defiantly camped out right along the U.S. border.

They are vowing to stay there until the U.S. allows them into a processing center to formally apply for asylum. International law requires the U.S. to consider their asylum claims, but President Trump said just on Saturday night that they will not be allowed into the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Are you watching that mess that is going on right now with the caravan coming up? Are you watching this? And our laws are so weak, so pathetic, given to us by Democrats, they're so pathetic, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer. Our laws are so corrupt and so stupid, I call them the dumbest immigration laws anywhere on earth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: All right. CNN's Leyla Santiago has been following the caravan's long trip north and she's in Tijuana right now joining us from there. Leyla, what is going on? What is going on behind you? What is going on with the attempt to get into the processing center as we speak?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Let me walk you through what is going on behind me. You see we have been with this group all night as they have waited here in the cold in the dark. I've watched as shivering children are covered with blankets and tarps by their parents.

So, they have actually just received some food, someone brought some over to -- so they could eat something. I'm not sure if that's going to be the only meal they get today, Kate. But they're waking up, they're moving around, a lot of children, a lot of women, a lot of families and so this is the large group that is outside.

Organizers tell me about 100 people here, then inside, at the door, where a U.S. immigration official is, there is another, a smaller group, about 20 to 30 mostly women and children, who went all the way there, only to be told stop -- when I spoke to U.S. immigration officials, they tell me that is because they do not have the capacity to process asylum claims at this hour.

And so, I was there as they all just sort of looked at each other, thought about what to do and they said we wait, we'll stay here, and we will wait until we can go through the doors just simply say those words, to say I want to seek asylum.

Many of the mothers telling me they're concerned about possibly being separated from their children. Immigration officials telling me they will only separate children if they feel the child is in danger or not with a legal guardian.

But that is the talk after such a journey, where we have watched them get on trains, get on buses, sleep on floors, beg for money, beg for food, to make it to the United States to seek asylum, the legal way, by the way, under U.S. federal law, many saying they are fleeing violence.

I've been following a woman, a pregnant mother of two, who says she left Honduras when gangs threatened to kill her 12 -- excuse me, her 6-year-old son. So, she wants to do this a legal way, to go to a port of entry and tell her story and find a way to find a better life the legal way in the United States of America.

BOLDUAN: Leyla, are you getting any indication, I'm not even sure where it would come from, when this kind of waiting game will change? Waiting for opening hours? What are they waiting for?

SANTIAGO: They're waiting to get in and that uncertainty is something that they're dealing with. Actually, I'm going to pull Sarah in really quick. Sarah -- this is Sarah from Honduras. She's dealing with some of that uncertainty. Hold on one second. We have one of the kids here I've gotten to know pretty well next to me.

Sarah, (inaudible), I'm asking her what she's feeling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible).

SANTIAGO: She's saying she's waiting for immigration officials to open the door. (Inaudible). She's got three children that she's coming with. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible).

SANTIAGO: She says that she is trusting that God will get her through this. Hoping that President Trump will open his heart, as she says. They want to go there and work. They don't want to be a burden on anyone.

[11:05:07] (Inaudible). So, that is one story, one of many similar stories that we have heard here, but as you said, Kate, now they wait.

BOLDUAN: They wait. You're right there with them. Leyla, thanks so much, for bringing their stories, following it all along. Let's see what happens. I'm interested to see if what gives at some point maybe today.

Let's get over to the White House, though, and get the view from there. CNN's Kaitlan Collins is there for us as always. Kaitlin, we heard that what the president had to say about all of that this weekend. What are you hearing from the White House today about how it will handle this caravan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Kate, the president has been silent about this caravan today, no statement from him, no statement from the White House yet either though. We've asked what their thought is on this now that this caravan of migrants from Central America has arrived near that border crossing.

But the president certainly has not been silent about this in past weeks. He's been quite aggrieved by this caravan, using it, justifying it, saying it justifies his calls for a border wall on the U.S./Mexico border where he says those -- that border security is especially lax there.

During that rally in Michigan on Saturday night, he was speaking about this caravan when he said that he might threaten to shut down the government in September over a need for border security, which, of course, means money for building his border wall.

So, the president has long been aggrieved by this telling the Department of Homeland Security to turn these migrants away. We have not heard from him yet on this, but he will hold a press conference here in a few hours with the president of Nigeria where he will likely be asked about this caravan.

And he surely won't stay silent on this much longer as he continues to see the cable news coverage of this arrival, those pictures that Leyla just showed us there, certainly something that always grabs the president's attention typically -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: That's absolutely right. That's one thing we definitely know. But there's also news, Kaitlan, still about the White House doctor, Ronny Jackson, who withdrew his nomination to be VA secretary last week. What are you hearing about his job now? Is he seeing patients at the White House?

COLLINS: Well, there are a lot of questions about his future here at the White House. Of course, we did report on Friday that he returned to the White House Medical Unit, but he is no longer a physician in the medical unit that is tending to the president.

And the White House actually had to issue a statement of all these questions of whether or not he's going to retire. They did so earlier today, Raj Shah, the deputy press secretary, saying that he's currently on active duty, assigned to the White House.

But they said despite published reports there are no personnel announcements at this time. Of course, the White House has continued to ardently defend Dr. Ronny Jackson after these allegations up ended his nomination to be the next Veterans Affairs secretary.

They said they have documents that exonerate him, that he wasn't any kind of vehicle -- government vehicle when he wrecked, that he didn't improperly distribute pills and they're continuing to stand by him and even calling on the Democratic senator who released those allegations to resign as the president did Saturday night -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Kaitlan, let's see what happens today. Great to see you.

Joining me now, Mark Preston, CNN senior political analyst, and CNN senior political reporter, Nia Malika Henderson. Great to see both of you.

Nia, let me start with you on Ronny Jackson. The president that this weekend again offering a strong defense of Ronny Jackson, calling the allegations against him vicious rumors even. But Ronny Jackson as Kaitlan just said is not back in his previous role as the president's personal doctor at the White House today. What should people make of that?

NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, I think it is pretty clear that Ronny Jackson has been demoted, right. As much as the White House wants to say there are no personnel announcements, and that Ronny Jackson is innocent of all of the allegations and accusations have been made, it seems like some choice to demote him has been made.

And we don't know why that has been made, if it has something to do with the accusations that Jon Tester released -- the Democrats came up with based on interviews with about 23 folks, some of whom used to work with Dr. Jackson, so yes, something is going on here.

What is also clear here is that Ronny Jackson doesn't have many defenders. It is mainly the president. There are not many other people out here. As much as you hear the White House saying this is a Democratic sort of witch-hunt, there are not many Republican defenders.

Certainly, not many -- I can't think of any Republican senators who are out there defending Ronny Jackson and said that somehow, he's been wronged and should in fact be the VA secretary. So, yes, I mean, this is a mystery. We have more questions about what his status is right now and going forward. BOLDUAN: That's why this is complicated. Republicans not defending him. You actually have Democratic former president who had written a good review of Ronny Jackson, President Obama, and you have Democrats who have said, worked at the White House saying I had nothing but a good experience with him. So that -- this is a complicated issue. Maybe this is the most expected thing you can get, though, Mark, is that the president blames Jon Tester.

[11:10:07] He said over the weekend that he has dirt on Tester that would sink his re-election. Is there any word that the president actually has dirt on a Democratic senator and that he isn't -- that he isn't putting out there? Why hold the fire?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's outrageous. Look, if he had any information on Jon Tester, that would make him A, unworthy to serve because of something he may have done illegally, or that he knows something in his past that he has skeletons and Donald Trump would have handed that over to Republican operatives and taken out Jon Tester right now.

Because there is so much concern about the United States Senate slipping out of Republican hands and going into Democratic hands. This is important because if you just go back a year ago, Kate, and as a lot of our viewers know, the United States Senate was supposed to be very safe.

Republicans were supposed to do very well in November, well, because of the unpopularity of Donald Trump, which has also increased the excitement among liberals now, not only is the House of Representatives likely to go to the Democrats, there is a small possibility that the United States Senate can. That is why Donald Trump is not telling the truth.

BOLDUAN: Real dirt or not, this is now becoming a real thing that Jon Tester has to deal with though in his re-election because, of course, you guys know he's won one of the few Democrats up for re-election in a state that Trump won. So, he's facing this.

But let's talk about the caravan, Nia. It made its way to the U.S. border. Just talking to both Leyla and Kaitlan about exactly where things stand. I'm starting to wonder if this becomes a Rorschach test where Ds and Rs can claim victory.

Trump can blame Democrats as he is for what he calls weak immigration laws that led to this, even though it is a legal process, but Democrats can show the stats that vast majority of these people who apply, they're not -- they won't get in and show people waiting at the border to go through a legal process.

HENDERSON: Yes, and it is always a real educational process for everybody watching this. This is something that has happened for a number of years. It happens around this time. They go through this legal process. They officially turn themselves over to American authorities and they judge whether or not they should have asylum.

This is something that not many people know about and we're seeing the pictures there of these folks. And the president, of course, elevating it in a way that we haven't seen other presidents do.

Because this was so central to his identity, to his candidacy, build the wall, being hawkish on immigration, and talking about wanting America to remain a sovereign state, and there is no country without borders.

And now, of course, threatening government shutdown over the wall and all sorts of immigration laws. I think you'll see that and come November, we'll see if this is still something that either the parties are talking about.

BOLDUAN: It's amazing that the president is threatening a government shutdown. It's just so wild how it is all flipped. Anyway, today, Mark, I want to ask you, the president is meeting with the president of Nigeria.

This is the first African leader to visit the president. Another press conference, he can be asked anything and will be asked anything that comes up. Has the president put that, quote/unquote, "blank hole" countries comment behind him?

PRESTON: I don't think so come this press conference especially (inaudible) taking questions. But he is going to get a pass on it, he'll get a pass on it for this reason alone. I bet you he brushes it off, calls it fake news, talks about how great the relationship is with African countries.

And honestly, the African countries really need the United States. They really need our help and our money. So, you're not going to hear anything negative out of them from the Nigerian president today and I believe that Donald Trump will try to brush this under the rug as he has done with any other controversial topic.

BOLDUAN: Stand by to stand by, friends. Thanks, guys. Great to see you.

Coming up for us, President Trump crowd sourcing a key question ahead of his meeting with Kim Jong-un. Join in the conversation. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:18:02]

BOLDUAN: Don't invade us and we'll dismantle our nukes and journalists can even come watch. That's apparently the deal that North Korea's Kim Jong-un has reportedly offered the United States ahead of the historic face to face in the works between Kim and President Trump.

Meantime, President Trump is tweeting about that meeting. At least the location of it. With this, "Numerous countries are being considered for the meeting, but would peace house freedom house on the border of North and South Korea be a more representative and important and lasting site than a third-party country? Just asking." Trump said he expects the meeting to happen in three or four weeks and his new national security adviser had this to say about the location and any potential deal just yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: There is nobody starry eyed around here and we have all been called a number of things, naive is not usually one of them. I think the president sees the potential here for historic agreement. A breakthrough that nobody could have imagined even a few months ago.

That potential is there, but as he says repeatedly, the potential for no deal at all is also there. And we're not going to know until we actually have the meeting and see what Kim Jong-un is prepared to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: All right. Joining me now is Gary Samore, a former White House adviser and veteran of negotiations with North Korea in both the Clinton and Obama administrations. Gary, thanks for coming in.

GARY SAMORE, HARVARD'S BELFER CENTER FOR SCIENCE AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: My pleasure, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. So, I've seen some reporting that the location in top contention for this meeting is Singapore. You have President Trump asking, and since he is asking about the peace house and the demilitarized zone being the place, what do you think and does location matter so much?

SAMORE: I don't think it matters at all. I can understand why the president is interested in peace house because the pictures from last week's meeting between President Moon and North Korean Leader Kim were very impressive.

And obviously the facility has been refurbished and it is in very good shape for the kind of photo-ops that you would expect from that kind of a summit. I don't think it really matters where the meeting is held.

[11:20:07] BOLDUAN: Would it be a concession to Kim at all if it was held there?

SAMORE: I don't think so. Holding the meeting at all, no matter where it is held, would be a concession. But where it is held doesn't really matter.

BOLDUAN: I think it is fair to say, Gary, you have a healthy dose of skepticism with anything regarding Kim Jong-un. But that Kim -- that Kim is ready to give up anything of substance here especially. After hearing from John Bolton there and also Mike Pompeo saying that they go in with their eyes wide open, does that make you any more comfortable or confident how things play out?

SAMORE: Well, I think the administration is right to open the talks with a very tough position, demanding that North Korea give up all of its nuclear weapons before it receives any political or economic benefits, the so-called Libya model.

But if that doesn't turn out to be achievable, the administration will have to make a decision. Whether they want to end the negotiations or whether they're prepared to accept incremental steps with reciprocal actions by both sides.

But I think that's still months away. The important thing is to begin the diplomatic process, starting with the summit. And then presumably both Trump and Kim will appoint chief negotiators, put up teams, and will start to really tough process of negotiating the details of nuclear disarmament.

BOLDUAN: Well, let me ask you about the Libya model if you will. John Bolton talked about it a couple of times yesterday. They're looking at Libya as the model for denuclearization. Do you think that is a good example that was -- that is going to keep Kim at the table?

SAMORE: Well, it is a great example if we could achieve it. Unfortunately, I don't think it is achievable. The situation between Libya and North Korea are so completely different. Libya had a very small underdeveloped nuclear program, it was completely isolated in the region under tremendous pressure.

North Korea has a very advanced nuclear program, with probably several dozen nuclear weapons and missiles, and it is not isolated in the region. It is now developed better relations with South Korea, restored relations to some extent with China.

So, our bargaining leverage with North Korea is simply not strong enough, I believe, to be able to compel them to accept the Libya model. But nonetheless, I think it is a good opening position and we'll see where it takes us.

BOLDUAN: The new secretary of state was asked if Kim's watching, whether or not the Trump -- whether or not President Trump is going to pull the United States out of the Iran deal is something of an indicator for their coming talks. Pompeo said that in his view he does not think that Kim is watching everything that is going on with the Iran deal and is not concerned about it. What do you think?

SAMORE: I think it would be stupid for the U.S. to walk away from the Iran deal and cause a rift with our European allies. I'm not sure it matters very much for North Korea, mainly because whether we say in the Iran deal or not, I don't think Kim Jong-un is prepared to give up his nuclear weapons.

BOLDUAN: Regardless, for you, it comes back to regardless he won't get the point that Donald Trump is hoping he gets to. Do you think that Donald Trump deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for his work? The South Korean president told his cabinet he thinks so.

SAMORE: Let's wait and see what actually comes from these negotiations. It is true that I don't think North Korea would eliminate its nuclear weapons. I do think we can achieve limits. I think even a continuation of the test moratorium is important technically.

And that it is possible that North Korea will agree not to produce any more nuclear weapons, or limit its production of long range missiles, so those are all very important achievements in the absence of complete elimination. And if President Trump is able to achieve those, then I think you certainly merit consideration for a Nobel Peace Prize.

BOLDUAN: Gary Samore, thank you for coming in. Appreciate it.

SAMORE: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next, President Trump accuses Vladimir Putin of intervening in American politics, not in the way you might think. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:28:29]

BOLDUAN: President Trump says that Vladimir Putin is trying to stir things up in U.S. politics, but he's not talking about meddling in the 2016 election, he's actually talking about, follow me here, the Russian lawyer at the center of the 2016 meeting at the Trump Tower.

The one who had promised that he had dirt -- she had dirt and was going to give it to Donald Trump's son on Hillary Clinton, and also who just admitted that she is an informant for the kremlin. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT TRUMP: For a year, a woman, she was, like, oh, I know nothing. All of a sudden, she's supposedly involved with government. You know why? If she did that, because Putin and the group said, you know, this Trump is killing us. Why don't you say that you're involved with government so that we can go and make their life in the United States even more chaotic. Look at what has happened. Look at how the politicians have fallen for this junk. Russian collusion. Give me a break.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: All right, here with me now, Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York. Congressman, thanks for coming in.

REPRESENTATIVE HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), NEW YORK: Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: All right. So, you heard Donald Trump there, he thinks that Putin put her up to it and told her to lie to create chaos over here. You think with this admission is felony conspiracy. Make your case.

JEFFRIES: I think if you look at the overall picture, we understand Russian interfered with our elections. Seventeen different intelligence agencies drew that conclusion. We know that at the same time that Russia was interfering with our democracy, high level members of the Trump campaign including Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn and the son, the son-in-law, the personal attorney to foreign policy adviser, the longtime good friend, Roger Stone --

BOLDUAN: But you're not keeping track, don't worry about it. Keep going.

JEFFRIES: It goes on and on and on. All of the president's men --