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Flooding Ravages Historic District of Ellicott City, Maryland; Alberto Barrels Towards Gulf Coast; U.S., North Korea Race to Revive Trump-Kim Summit; Trump Administration Loses Track of Neary 1,500 Immigrant Children; Interview With Rep. Adriano Espaillat of New York. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired May 28, 2018 - 07:00   ET


LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.) CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: They were 20 or 30 years old when they paid the ultimate price and sacrificed their life. Today they would have been in their mid-30s, maybe sometimes early 40s. They have kids that are grown up. And it's just good to remember that this is why we do the things we do. And we have to respect them.

[07:00:23] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Well, General, we applaud your ritual that you share with us. And even though you do just give us a snapshot, it does bring it home for all of us with each one of these souls lost. And so we really appreciate your sharing your personal tradition with us.

And we were just taking a live there at the live shot of Arlington National Cemetery, where you see all of the gravestones. The president will be going there today.

General, thank you so much for being with us.

HERTLING: Thank you, Alisyn. Have a great day.

CAMEROTA: You, too.

Thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN TALK" is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every time it rains here, the community's heart stops.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really, truly devastating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tropical storm watches, possible tornado conditions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like we're going to have an active hurricane season. Get ready.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to have to be very focused. Very engaged. I am hopeful this summit is a success.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of us have been skeptical that North Korea will ever agree to total denuclearization.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In some ways, Kim Jong-un may have met his match here with our president.

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you. And that child may be separated from you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They followed up on these children, about 1,500. They could not account for what had happened to them.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: The ideal scenario is that families be kept together, but the better law to change to secure our border.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Dave Briggs joins me on this Memorial Day.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, my friend.

CAMEROTA: Great to have you.

All right. We have some breaking news for you right now. Flash flooding has turned this Maryland town's Main Street into a raging river. The video is just shocking to watch what it can do to these parked cars. These are cars swept up by the roaring, muddy water rushing through Ellicott City, Maryland.

Nearly eight inches of rain fell there in just six hours. So the state's governor has declared a state of emergency for this entire area. It was just two years ago that this historic town sustained catastrophic damage from flooding. At that time, it left two people did and cost millions in damages.

BRIGGS: And there's another severe weather threat to tell you about. Days before the hurricane season is set to begin, the year's first named storm barreling toward the coast. Alberto gaining strength, expected to dump heavy rain as it makes landfall this Memorial Day.

We have both of these weather stories covered for you, but let's start with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, live in Ellicott City, Maryland.

Good morning, Suzanne.


Catastrophic, heartbroken, historic. These are the words that people are describing. The residents, the businesses, and even officials here. I know this area well. My parents live in Ellicott City but on much higher ground outside of the historic district. A lot of people not so lucky here this morning.

I had a chance to talk to Howard County executive Allan Kittleman, who says here -- and Phil, if you'll just push in and show the aftermath of the damage -- that this catastrophic flash flood is worth than it was July 2016. As of 12:30 last night, Howard County police received a call that at least one person is missing. His name is Edison Herman. We don't know much more about him than that. There are no reported fatalities or serious injuries, which is absolutely incredible. But there there were 30 rescues that were carried out overnight.

The old courthouse came down, we understand. One gentleman barely escaping that, as well. There is no one this morning who's being allowed back into their businesses or their homes. It is just too dangerous.

And one of the biggest problems now, they say, is a huge gaping hole, a gap if you will, 25 to 30 feet between Elliott Mills and Main Street, washed out, not possible -- not passable, rather.

Also a gas main leak that occurred late last night. They have taken and shut off the gas, but it has not yet been restored.

Particularly devastating is the west end of Ellicott City here. But as you can imagine, I asked the county executive what is to take place here. They had a $1 million FEMA grant that was ready to be kicked off. They were going to do further renovations next year. And he said, "Look, we just recovered from 2016. We can't do anymore more than one or two years what we've done at this time."

So as you can imagine, Alisyn and Dave, just devastating this morning as people wake up and see what they have to do, again, to repair once again after, two years ago, a complete disaster.

CAMEROTA: Oh, gosh. Suzanne, thank you very much. Please keep us posted. We'll check back with you.

Flooding is also a big concern in the southeast today as Alberto gains strength and heads towards the Gulf Coast. Governors in three states are already declaring states of emergency ahead of this landfall.

[07:05:03] CNN's Jennifer Gray is live in Pensacola, Florida. What's the situation there, Jennifer?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Alisyn, people are getting ready. And this would normally be a huge beach day, Memorial Day. And so we expect the beaches to be far less crowded, if anyone at all. So no one out here so far this morning. However, it is quite early.

But you can see, the sun now up. We are getting first light. The seas are definitely higher than they normally would be, and the water is even coming up higher than it normally does. You can see that dark water line right there. It's what we've been dealing with this morning.

So we are planning on significant beach erosion, some coastal flooding, as well as inland flooding. And I think that's going to be the biggest concern with this storm.

This is a sloppy storm. It's not confined. And so the rain is spread out over states. Millions of people being impacted by this. People as far as South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, even South Florida still dealing with a lot of tropical moisture being pumped in.

And also at threat with this is going to be tornadoes. That right front quadrant of the storm will be a tornado threat for today. So anywhere from, say, Panama City Beach all the way through the big bend of Florida will need to watch out for tornados.

This storm is expected to make landfall later this afternoon. But the impacts are already being felt up and down the coast. A 65-mile-per- hour storm expected to stay that strength by the time it makes landfall -- Dave.

BRIGGS: OK, Jennifer, thank you.

Turning now to politics. Could the Singapore summit be back on just days after President Trump abruptly canceled it? A U.S. advance team traveling to North Korea Sunday, trying to resurrect a potential meeting between the president and Kim Jong-un.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins, live at the White House to set the table for us.

Good morning, Kaitlan.


It has only been four days since President Trump canceled this highly- anticipated summit. But the president seems to have found newfound optimism about the fact that the summit could still take place on June the 12th, as previously scheduled. Though his aides inside the White House seem deeply skeptical of that timing.

Right now, both the United States and North Korea seem to be racing to resurrect this meeting with only a little more than two weeks to go.


COLLINS: U.S. officials traveling to North Korea Sunday, the clearest sign that the canceled summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un may be back on.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're talking to them now. They very much want to do it. We'd like to do it. We're going to see what happens.

COLLINS: President Trump confirming the meeting on Twitter, praising North Korea's "brilliant potential to become a great economic and financial nation," noting, "Kim Jong-un agrees with me on this. It will happen."

The U.S. delegation, led by former South Korean Ambassador Sung Kim, meeting with their North Korean counterparts in the Demilitarized Zone after a surprise second meeting between the South Korean president and Kim Jong-un Saturday. President Moon telling reporters that Kim committed to a summit with Trump and to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, a key prerequisite for talks.

But lawmakers on Capitol Hill expressing skepticism.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I remain convinced that he does not want to denuclearize. In fact, he will not denuclearize. But he wants to give off this perception that he's this open leader, that he's peaceful, that he's reasonable.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: I think that the North Koreans realize that total denuclearization on their part is not in their national interest. That's how they see it.

COLLINS: In a sign of uncertainty about the summit's future, President Trump going after the "New York Times" Saturday for quoting a White House official who said that holding the summit on June 12, as previously planned, would be impossible due to timing restrictions. The president insisting the official doesn't exist and is a phony source. But the remark happened during a formal briefing organized by the White House that dozens of reporters attended. The only reason the remark wasn't on the record was at the White House's insistence.

The comment was later confirmed in audio posted online.

President Trump also continuing to attack Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, lamenting that "young and beautiful lives have been devastated and destroyed by the phony Russia collusion witch-hunt. They went back home in tatters." It's unclear who the president is referring to. But Mueller's team has brought charges against multiple former Trump campaign staffers.

Mr. Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, acknowledging that the attempt to undermine Mueller's investigation in the court of public opinion is part of their strategy.

RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER FOR DONALD TRUMP: It is for public opinion, because eventually the decision here is going to be impeach, not impeach. Members of the Congress, Democrat and Republican, are going to be informed a lot by their constituents. So our jury, as it should be, is the American people.


COLLINS: So Giuliani making the argument on television that the special counsel is illegitimate while the president made that same argument on Twitter this weekend, somewhere he has been very active over the past few days.

[07:10:02] Today on the president's public schedule, he is going to visit Arlington Cemetery right outside of Washington, where he's going to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony on Memorial Day.

CAMEROTA: OK, Kaitlan. Thank you very much for that preview of what will be happening today and what's happened over the weekend.

Joining us now to talk about all of it, we have Margaret Talev, CNN political analyst and senior White House correspondent for Bloomberg News; and Gordon Chang, columnist for "The Daily Beast" and author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World." Great to see you guys.


CAMEROTA: Thank you for spending a portion of your Memorial Day for us.

Gordon, what has happened since the letter? I mean, you were on here on NEW DAY here with us with the letter that appeared to be President Trump canceling the meeting but leaving the door open. Did that get North Korea's attention to the point where now something different has happened in this dynamic?

GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN": Well, it certainly has, because just hours after that letter, the North Koreans issued a string of unusually conciliatory statements, even saying that they would accept the, quote unquote, "Trump formula."

Now, of course, they're being cynical. Of course they're lying. But nonetheless, it shows that they really need the summit. And in public, they basically said to the world, "We've got the weaker hand here."

So, you know, President Trump has sort of gotten the public relations battle, saying, "Look, I'm the one with the power. You guys, North Koreans, have to do what I say."

BRIGGS: But we still haven't yet defined what denuclearization is.

CHANG: True.

BRIGGS: And Margaret, that's what has not changed. On the surface, it's all changed. But here's what Senator Marco Rubio said about that on Sunday.


RUBIO: Ultimately, I remain convinced that he does not want to denuclearize. In fact, he will not denuclearize. But he wants to give off this perception that he's this open leader, that he's peaceful, that he's reasonable.


BRIGGS: So is the president getting exactly what he wants, or is it the opposite?

TALEV: Well, what President Trump wants is to have the summit.

But on the question of denuclearization, yes, of course. If North Korea's definition of total denuclearization involves the U.S. withdrawing its military posture and protection of South Korea in order for North Korea to move, then we're, to some extent, right back where we've been, you know, for many decades. But I think for both of these leaders now, both for President Trump

and for Kim, there is a real urgency to address a domestic audiences, to show their domestic audiences that they can both get in this room together, although they have different reasons for wanting to do so.

And that's really what's driving the train. Not any expectation that Kim is going to go to this meeting and say, "Yes, you're right. I know the only reason that I have any leverage is my nuclear weapons, but yes, please take them." I mean, nobody thinks that's going to happen.

CAMEROTA: OK. And that leaves us to President Moon of South Korea. Dave's eyes popped out of his head when he saw President Moon hugging Kim Jong-un. What is going on --

BRIGGS: A killer, a murderer.

CAMEROTA: -- with this relationship?

CHANG: Moon is a pro-North Korean sympathizer. He wants to unify the two Koreas. And he's willing to do that on terms which are favorable to North Korea.

So for instance, he's trying to amend the South Korean constitution to take out the notion of, basically, liberal -- liberal democracy. And round Moon, he's got advisors who, in their youth, were part of these Juche Revolution groups, which wanted the North to take over the South. And young people can say all sorts of stupid things, but as adults, his advisors have not disavowed their viewers.

And so essentially, you've got a political establishment in Seoul which is more closer -- which is closer to Pyongyang than to Washington. This is dangerous not only for the South Korean people but for us. And therefore, we do not want Moon in Singapore, because he wants to be there.

CAMEROTA: He's trying to insert himself into the summit?


CAMEROTA: He wants to be there. But what we're told is there may be a meeting after the summit where Moon does -- is a part of it.

CHANG: Yes. Moon is going to take Kim's side on -- in terms of what denuclearization means, how you go about it. We want the North Koreans to give up everything first, and then we will give them relief on sanctions. Moon is going to want a step by step process, which is which Kim wants.

So you know, you get Moon there and then the Chinese want to be in Singapore. It gets to be a mess. So I would like to keep Moon as far away from Singapore as possible.

BRIGGS: So this reality television style of foreign policy, you would think James Clapper would be a huge critic of this, like he has with most things of President Trump, but that was not the case this weekend. Hear what the former director of national intelligence said right here.


JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I support the letter that President Trump sent to Kim Jong-un. I think it was a good thing to do.

Having done that, though, I think -- I've been long an advocate of -- and this is typical of North Korean. You know, one step back -- two steps forward, one step back. That's what they always do. And in some ways, Kim Jong-un may have met his match here with our very unconventional president.


BRIGGS: Has he met his match? Is this an effective strategy, Margaret?

TALEV: Well, it's interesting, because when you watch them negotiate, they do sort of publicly negotiate in similar ways where they'll use very optimistic language and then turn around the next day and say, "Never mind. Summit's off." Or "Look, my arsenal is bigger than your arsenal." Or this sort of thing.

[07:15:13] But the question is where is it all really going? And part of the U.S. posture from experts who, in many cases, have been critical of President Trump over the years or who have spanned multiple administrations from both parties is that knowledge is power, and that the more that the U.S. can learn from Kim -- what makes him tick, what makes him operate, what he wants -- than the better position the U.S. is to understand how to address the problem.

Certainly, if President Trump and Kim were in a room and top aides are in a room together talking, that is much more insight, directly, than we have seen before from a fairly new leader.

CAMEROTA: It will be fascinating to see what happens on the 12th.

Margaret, thank you.

Gordon, thank you very much for all of the expertise.

Listen to this story: 1,500 immigrant children are unaccounted for, and the feds say that they are not legally responsible, though they're the ones who put them in sponsor homes. Will anything be done to find them and keep immigrant families together? What is the U.S. policy? We ask the first formerly undocumented immigrant now serving in Congress, next.


[07:20:11] CAMEROTA: OK. So the federal government admits that it has lost track of nearly 1,500 unaccompanied minor immigrant children last year. But a Health and Human Services official says the employees there are not legally responsible for these children. So who are and where are they? Joining us now to discuss is Democratic Congressman Adriano Espaillat

of New York. He is the first former undocumented immigrant elected to Congress.

Congressman, thank you very much for being here. Nice to share part of our Memorial Days together.


CAMEROTA: OK. Last year the federal government placed 1,500, at least, unaccompanied immigrant children in the homes of sponsors. Some of those were blood relatives here in the U.S. Some of them were not. And now it has lost track of those children. What does that mean?

ESPAILLAT: I think that's a human rights crisis. Any time, first of all, you split children from their families, from their mother, their father, obviously, that's traumatizing; that's critical and unlike what we've done as a nation in the past.

And then to have 1,500 children, many of them, perhaps, with sponsors that are not blood-related and saying that we don't know where they are, I think that's a human rights crisis.

Now, you could stop any New Yorker in any street and tell -- ask them where their children are. And if they tell you they don't know, they're probably going to be investigated by the Agency for Children Services. We have -- government, we, government have custody of those children, and therefore, we have a responsibility to know where they are.

CAMEROTA: It sounds like we don't have the man power to figure that out. I mean, what happened -- the article that I've read, the Office of Refugee Resettlement has reached out to try to find these kids. One of the things that they learned is that 28 of them have run away.


CAMEROTA: So they're gone.

ESPAILLAT: And they may be in danger. They -- you never know whether these children have been kidnapped, whether they have been taken by --


ESPAILLAT: -- drug dealers or very rough people that could harm them.

CAMEROTA: So we are just ill-equipped -- we're not equipped to keep track of all of these unaccompanied minors. So what are we to do?

CAMEROTA: Well, Alisyn, that's a great question. Right? Because the president wants to deport -- he wants massive deportations. He wants a wall built with the Southern border. And yet, we don't have enough personnel to track 1,500 children, some of which, many of which are 4 years old. These are little children. Some of them are very young children. And we have no idea where they are. This is -- this puts into question our public policies with regards to

immigration and families. This really puts that into question and whether or not this immigration system is severely broken and how it needs to be fixed.

CAMEROTA: Well, here's what the president says via Twitter. He blames you all. "Put pressure on the Democrats to end this horrible law that separates children from their parents once they cross the border into the U.S." And he names all the things he wants to get rid of, catch and release, lottery, chain migration.

So do the Democrats bear some responsibility here?

ESPAILLAT: Well, look, he's the one that's perpetrating this. I would say this is close to being a crime. When you split a family away from -- a child away, a four-year-old --

CAMEROTA: But this policy has existed even during the Obama administration.

ESPAILLAT: That's true. The sponsoring of responsible, blood-related families is probably a good thing. But some of them have been placed with total strangers, and we don't know where they are.


ESPAILLAT: We should know where they are.

CAMEROTA: So but why don't Democrats bear some responsibility here?

ESPAILLAT: We have responsibilities with regards to having a comprehensive immigration reform. I agree with that. That's a bipartisan issue.

CAMEROTA: Right. But before we get there, OK? This is more pressing. I mean, look, it's taken years, as you know. It's really complicated to have comprehensive immigration reform. So in the meantime, what are Democrats doing for these 1,500?

ESPAILLAT: I think there should be hearings held immediately and find out where these children are. Find out where some of them have been displaced by unknown people that we don't know whether they're good or bad. As you say, 20 of them --

CAMEROTA: Twenty-eight.

ESPAILLAT: Twenty-eight of them have, you know, run away. And so we don't know where those children are. Did they cross the border back again? Are they still wandering around in some southern town? We really have no idea. And that amounts to a human rights crisis.

CAMEROTA: It sounds like our policy, the U.S. policy, is schizophrenic at best. We talk about compassion for kids who have been brought here through no choice of their own. And yet we hear from the administration that what they really want is deterrence. They want something to be punitive so that parents don't make the choice of bringing kids here.

So listen to Attorney General Jeff Sessions on this.


JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: If you don't want your child to be separated, then don't bring them across the border illegally.

[07:25:05] If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you. And that child may be separated from you, as required by law.


CAMEROTA: What about that argument, Congressman? If you don't want your child separated from you, don't bring them across the border.

ESPAILLAT: That's easy for him to say. But many of the families that are running from very violent situations. In fact, many of those families are coming from the triangle countries where MS-13 is threatening whole regions. So they're coming to America because they feel their life -- their lives are in danger. They should seek asylum. Any time a family feels that they could be murdered, that their children could be taken away, they have the right, the human right, to try to seek safety.

CAMEROTA: And then is it the U.S.'s responsibility to take care of those minor children?

ESPAILLAT: Well, you know, the U.S. has been a beacon of hope and opportunity. And we've seen people seek asylum in the United States from all over the world. It's been part of our tradition.

So right here, right next to our homes in Central America, you have a very violent crisis. You have natural calamities occurring that force people to come to the U.S. and try to seek refuge. That's the -- that's the comprehensive sort of like soul of our nation. And why stop doing that?

CAMEROTA: Very quickly, you're on House foreign relations -- Foreign Affairs Committee. So is this June 12 summit going to happen with North Korea?

ESPAILLAT: I hope it does. We want to see stability in the Korean Peninsula. But this cat and mouse game that's being played, I wonder whether there is theater just to sort of, like, heighten the expectation and score some major political points, if and when the summit happens.

CAMEROTA: OK. Congressman Espaillat, thank you very much is for being here with us --

ESPAILLAT: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: -- on all of this.

ESPAILLAT: Thank you so much. CAMEROTA: Dave.

BRIGGS: Thank you, Alisyn. President Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, says the push to undermine the Mueller probe is all part of a plan. A P.R. plan. But what effect will trying to discredit special counsel have on the investigation? We discuss next.