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White House Rip Senator Denied Access To Immigrant Detention Center; Flying Cars May Soon Become A Reality; White House Accuses Philadelphia Eagles Of Pulling A "Political Stunt." Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired June 6, 2018 - 07:30   ET




On Sunday, Sen. Jeff Merkley was blocked from an immigration detention center in Texas where he thinks hundreds of children are being detained without their parents. The White House is now trying to blame Sen. Merkley for this policy, somehow.

So joining us now is Sen. Jeff Merkley.

Senator, we had you on, on Monday, just after you had tried to enter that detention center. You were blocked by officials from doing so, even after you showed your congressional credentials.

Were you ever able to get in and see what was happening inside there?

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR), MEMBER, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE, APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE: No, I wasn't getting in. The supervisor did come out to talk to me but when he came out he said he wasn't able to actually converse about anything that was going on inside the facility. So I neither got in nor did I get any information about the details of what was happening with those children.

CAMEROTA: Do you still think a thousand children are in there without their parents?

MERKLEY: Well, we don't know the number for sure because that's just the -- that's the -- we've heard from others that that's the guess about how many are inside there. It's one of the questions I wanted to ask.

How many children are here, how long have they been there? How many came unaccompanied to the United States? How many were taken away from their parents?

Do you have the medical support? Do you have the psychological support for these children who have experienced trauma?

I couldn't get any -- I didn't get any answers.

CAMEROTA: Well, the White House is very -- seems to be very upset about you trying to expose this story. They put out a statement and I just want to go through it line-by-line because there are so many incendiary claims about you in this statement.

Here we go.

"Senator Merkley is irresponsibly spreading blatant lies about routine immigration enforcement."

Let's stop right there. Is it routine to have hundreds of children?

MERKLEY: No, it's not routine.

They have a -- they have a new policy they've implemented. They started a pilot project last summer -- now they've implemented it completely -- of taking away children from parents when the families are seeking asylum -- even when they present themselves legally at border posts.

[07:35:05] CAMEROTA: But hold on one second, Senator, because I -- because this is a really important point. This also happened under the Obama administration and I believe the Bush administration.

So what is different about what's happening now?

MERKLEY: Well, I think what you're referring to is unaccompanied children under those administrations.

These are children who are accompanied by their parents being taken away from their parents when they're seeking asylum. That is new, that is different. That has not been done before.


Here's the next sentence of their statement from the White House.

"He (you) voted against the closing the catch and release loopholes used by child smugglers."

Did you vote against closing catch and release loopholes of child smugglers?

MERKLEY: No. This is an old claim the administration used when they had the Grassley amendment that had all kinds of unacceptable modifications of immigration policy. And that was basically the president's plan with none of the things that we were fighting for to help the -- help the Dreamers.

So no, it's a -- listen, all of these are about turning the attention somewhere other than their new policy of ripping children away from their parents.

CAMEROTA: They go on to say you and "your reckless open borders policies are responsible for the permanent separation of thousands of American families who have been forced to bury their loved ones."

Do you know what they're talking about why they're blaming you for this -- these deaths?

MERKLEY: This is the open borders argument they use against anybody who criticizes the treatment of children.

Certainly, I have advocated for closed borders from when I first ran for the Senate -- that we need to strengthen our borders. We need to strengthen a system of law. We need to use our visas in an appropriate fashion.

Look, I -- you know, this is an administration that's just determined to sling mud to distract from their policy. And I'm -- of course, I'm encouraging the media, don't let them do it. Go back and talk to them directly about this policy of ripping children away from their families at border points when they're presenting themselves for asylum.

CAMEROTA: And we will do that when we have an opportunity.

Meanwhile, Senator, you had said something on Monday to us on NEW DAY that was really shocking, and you said that in one of the detention facilities that you had been able to get into you saw children in cages, and the White House says that you couldn't possibly have seen that. Sorry, the Department of Justice says you couldn't possibly have seen that.

Let me read their statement.

"These short-term facilities do not employ the use of cages to house unaccompanied minors, but portions of the facility makes use of barriers in order to separate minors of different genders and age groups."

Can you tell -- can you describe exactly what you saw?

MERKLEY: You bet, and what I described was that what you have is cyclone fencing and fence posts that look like cages -- and they do look like cages. Then it's -- I mean, it's a -- they look like the way you could construct a dog kennel.

CAMEROTA: And so when the Department of Justice says that they don't use cages --

MERKLEY: It's --

CAMEROTA: -- what are they doing?

MERKLEY: Well, it's just a matter of them not being comfortable with that term to describe it. They are big boxes made out of wire and fence posts. Call them whatever you want.

I mean, that is not the -- that's not really the heart of this. I understand that in a detention center -- it wasn't a detention center -- but in a processing center you're going to separate groups from each other.

But I'll tell you what really got to me was going into the adjacent warehouse room where they have much larger versions of these fenced and chain-link areas where many -- one of them I was standing next to, it's just filled with young boys. They were lining up for food, starting with the smallest in front.

And the smallest was just, you know, knee-high. Not knee-high, but maybe belt high. Maybe four or five years old on up through 16 or 17.

And you see all these children -- you know, some of them may have been unaccompanied minors but many of them were folks who had been just separated probably in the last 24 hours from their parents.

And you start to think about that -- about the trauma they've gone through abroad, the trauma coming to the U.S. Their families are applying for asylum.

And then the only thing they have is the security of their parents. And the medical professionals keep telling us that at that point, tearing them away from their parents is a horrific additional trauma. So that's what bothered me the most.

CAMEROTA: Senator Jeff Merkley, we really appreciate you bringing this to our attention. Obviously, we will stay on this story until we get answers.

MERKLEY: Thank you very much.

CAMEROTA: Thank you -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thanks, Alisyn.

George Jetson, he had one sweet ride. It turns out that flying cars, not just a futuristic dream. How one company is trying to make it a reality.

CNN brings you the exclusive first look, next.


[07:44:02] CAMEROTA: The northeast is experiencing unseasonably cool temperatures.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has our forecast. What's up with this, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, summer just taking a break for a while and going back to spring, where we should be.

In fact, it should be 56 for a low in Boston -- you're 54. So, yes, a little bit cooler but you just got so used to 60s, 70s, 80s in the northeast.

New York City there, going to be a nice day today. A little bit of sunshine.

This weather is brought to you by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, packed with goodness. You'll need an extra cup of coffee to keep you warm today.

That cold front went south. It went south of New York, it went south of D.C., even down toward Richmond, bringing in drier, cooler air.

Kind of a refreshing cooler air, I guess, compared to where we were. It has been a muggy couple of days here across the southeast and also in the mid-Atlantic. Finally, a little bit of mild air coming in.

In fact, for the weekend, New York City -- you hit 70 today, 70 tomorrow, 82 on Friday. And even over the weekend things are about exactly where we should be.

[07:45:00] John, enjoy this weather. It's pleasant, at least.

BERMAN: Unseasonably cool, just like Chad Myers. All right, Chad. Thanks very much.

All right. Imagine beating traffic by flying above it in your own car. That may soon be the case.

CNN got an exclusive first look at a new vehicle that is bringing the Jetsons to life. Our Rachel Crane live in Las Vegas with what's a pretty incredible story -- Rachel.

RACHEL CRANE, CNN INNOVATION AND SPACE REPORTER: Yes, John. I have a feeling you're a little jealous of this assignment here because I'm sure, like me, you too grew up obsessed with the Jetsons. In fact, I was so obsessed I even named my dog Astro, which is the name of their dog.

So when I heard that I was going to get in Kitty Hawk's Flyer, I was equal parts ecstatic and terrified. And I have to say, it was a lot simpler than I expected. Take a look at my wild ride.


CRANE (voice-over): OK, so this was definitely one of the crazier experiences of my career. But what is this thing and why am I flying it?

I'm at a secret facility in Lake Las Vegas, the training center for company Kitty Hawk.

SEBASTIAN THRUN, CEO, KITTY HAWK: The mission of Kitty Hawk is to get everybody to fly every day and eventually to get rid of traffic.

CRANE: That's Kitty Hawk's CEO Sebastian Thrun, and what he's basically describing is making the Jetsons flying cars a reality.

THRUN: Now, it's a long step from Flyer to that, honestly. This is a recreational vehicle. But in the far distant future, I can see that maybe take something similar like this and fly into New York or Manhattan.

CRANE: Flyer is Kitty Hawk's first commercial vehicle.

Todd Reichert is the company's lead engineer.

TODD REICHERT, LEAD ENGINEER, KITTY HAWK: You basically have 12 moving parts.

CRANE (on camera): OK, what are those moving parts?

REICHERT: Ten motors --

CRANE: Right.

REICHERT: -- and two control sticks, and that's it.

CRANE: Pretty simple.

CRANE (voice-over): While operating it may be simple, incorporating vehicles like this into our everyday commutes, that's going to be a whole lot more complicated.

For now, Kitty Hawk's playing it safe. Their engineers wouldn't let me fly over land or faster than six miles per hour. And trust me, I wanted to. But, Kitty Hawk says the vehicle is capable of going much faster.

THRUN: I think it's very conceivable that a vehicle like this might go, at some point, 50, 60, maybe even 100 miles per hour.

CRANE: Even with the conservative safety restrictions I still had a blast. And I have to say, they made it pretty idiot-proof. To fly this thing you don't need a pilot's license. And if you take your hands off the controls it just hovers in place.

REICHERT: This is transformational in terms of how accessible we can make flights.

CRANE: But in order for it to be truly transformational, people have to be willing to fly them.

CRANE (on camera): When most people think about flying cars they're actually pretty scared and also very intrigued.

THRUN: The number one most important thing other than safety, for us, is the public acceptance. Will people be willing to fly on these devices, live next to a device that flies in your neighborhood, and so on?

CRANE (voice-over): The public acceptance is just a hurdle. Flyer's battery only lasts about 20 minutes so, for now, its applications are limited.

CRANE (on camera): But, Kitty Hawk's mission --


CRANE: -- is to eradicate traffic. You can't do that with a recreational vehicle.

REICHERT: We're on sort of a story arc from recreation to exploration to transportation, and we will have to evolve along the way.

CRANE: It sounds awesome.


CRANE: Now, John and Alisyn, as you saw when I landed I was completely elated. In fact, I was begging my producers to let me take back to the skies. Unfortunately, they insisted that I sit down and do the interview with the CEO.

Now, Kitty Hawk has not said how much these vehicles will cost or when they will be delivered. However, they are taking applications for pre-sales on their Website which just went live. They say that they will be selling to individuals but Kitty Hawk will first be focusing on partnerships with companies.

So, who knows? You may be flying one of these at an amusement park sometime in the near future -- Alisyn, John.

CAMEROTA: Well, Rachel, hold on one second. How do you take off in that thing?

CRANE: It just -- it's a -- it's a vertical take-off and landing. It just --

BERMAN: Obviously.

CRANE: -- like lifts up like a drone.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh.

CRANE: It's absolutely amazing, and you can feel the vibration when you're lifting off.

And it was -- like I said, it was a lot less scary than I expected. I mean, granted, I wasn't that high off the ground or doing that as a safety precaution but really, truly amazing and a glimpse into the future of what this stuff will actually look like.

BERMAN: Alisyn Camerota said she's a very good driver. Alisyn, you claim to be a very good driver. Do you think you could handle that?

CAMEROTA: Yes. I think I would also be a fantastic flyer. And I think it's super cool even though there were moments where you did look a little like Snoopy flying his doghouse, but that's fine. It's still extremely cool. All right.

Rachel, you're wonderful. Thank you very much for showing us all that.

I think our lives have just been changed.

BERMAN: Twenty minutes, it's not a long commute.

CAMEROTA: Buy me one.

BERMAN: All right.

CAMEROTA: All right.

Meanwhile, no Eagles, no problem. President Trump continued the battle with the Philly Eagles and pressed on with the celebration without them.

Maggie Haberman has the backstory. She joins us.


[07:53:42] CAMEROTA: The White House blaming the Philadelphia Eagles for the cancellation of their Super Bowl celebration. The president accuses the team of pulling a political stunt -- actually, Sarah Sanders did.

The president, instead, held a celebration for America on the south lawn.

And now, sources tell CNN the president plans on taking this battle against the NFL on the campaign trail.

So joining us now is CNN political analyst and "New York Times" White House correspondent Maggie Haberman. Hi, Maggie.


CAMEROTA: So what does the president like about this culture war and why does he think he's winning it?

HABERMAN: Look, we've him bring this up repeatedly over the last year and we saw him move some numbers on it, right? I mean, it ended up that most of his voters ended up sharing his view about players who were protesting police brutality by going down on bended knee during the National Anthem.

The NFL ended up telling players they should not do it, so that was a victory for Trump that he was able to wave and talk about with his own supporters.

I'm not convinced that yesterday was a win for him. It is true that he wants to keep talking about that because often when he tests something out -- for instance, he had tested out talking about monuments -- Confederate monuments last year over the summer. That didn't play as well, but this did play better so he wants to keep talking about it.

[07:55:00] What I think you're going to see a lot of voters in Pennsylvania, which is a swing state, see as news coverage of this event not happening and the White House canceling the event and then criticizing the players.

There was another way to handle this, which was to let the delegation -- however small it was -- from the Eagles that said it would come to White House, come, let the fans come, and let Donald Trump play greeter in chief, which he loves doing at Mar-a-Lago, for instance. That might have actually sent a better message. I'm not sure this is going to play the way they think it is. I'm also

not sure --

BERMAN: Nick Foles, the quarterback, who won the Super Bowl for the Eagles --


BERMAN: -- I guess was the guy who was going to go. You could do worse than meeting with Nick Foles one-on-one.

HABERMAN: Right. I mean, I think also they didn't actually -- the thing is that Donald Trump often has a strategy in his head and he can execute it better than the people who are working for him who don't entirely understand that there was a divide within the White House yesterday and the night before about how to handle this.

I understand that their argument -- or some of their arguments were we were set up. Not everybody sees it that way --


HABERMAN: -- and I don't -- I don't know that this was set up. People just didn't want to come. It was not necessarily all about trying to hurt somebody.

BERMAN: Sarah Sanders actually, flat out claims that. That was their public response --


BERMAN: -- from the podium yesterday, they were set up. The Eagles told them we were bringing 80 people --


BERMAN: -- and then we dwindled it down --


BERMAN: -- there. So there's like a chicken and egg problem here.

HABERMAN: Right, and that was actually a pretty breathtaking performance from Sarah Sanders at the podium that I don't think should be overlooked. I think that we have gotten used to these briefings not being particularly substantive and being sort of one-note hits on a -- on a theme and not varying from that.

But she got asked about what the difference is between this Supreme Court case involving a baker and the baker's right to free speech on choosing who to cater to and the NFL players. And her answer was not the NFL players are employees and they don't really have protected speech in this regard.

The answer was the president doesn't see this as protected free speech. It's about patriotism. That is a really, really remarkable statement for the press secretary for a president to make in this country.

CAMEROTA: Another moment that we should play for you was during the celebration, "God Bless America" was played and President Trump didn't seem to know the words.

HABERMAN: That was a less remarkable moment but, yes.

CAMEROTA: Well, it's a -- it's a visually striking moment.

HABERMAN: Yes, it is.

CAMEROTA: So let's watch this.


"GOD BLESS AMERICA" PLAYING: President Trump singing some of the words.


BERMAN: Yes. So, you know, he kind of did what I do to songs that my kids listen to where I don't really know the words. I just sort of bebop, bebop, and then I sort of shake awkwardly.

That's what he did there to "God Bless America," a very patriotic song --


BERMAN: -- Maggie.


BERMAN: And as you know, Sarah Sanders says this is all about patriotism for the president.

HABERMAN: Sure. Well, I mean, your analogy of your children is a good one that reminded me of how I do -- how I am with songs my kids like or how my kids are with songs that they don't know.

He did seem to join in on the lyrics that almost everyone knows to that song.

CAMEROTA: The "God Bless America" part.

HABERMAN: Right, and to the prairies, white with foam.

I don't think that -- I don't think that the president is somebody who ever bathed himself in patriotism before he became -- in terms of just songs, anthems, and so forth before -- and lyrics before he took the presidency.

But it is striking the degree in which he still doesn't know some of these things.

CAMEROTA: Right. I mean, also, that every third-grader or second- grader is taught this. And I'm just wondering --


CAMEROTA: -- are you sure the president was born here?

HABERMAN: Wow, I'm --

CAMEROTA: I'm trying -- I do -- have you seen evidence of that?

BERMAN: You're so lucky you're not on Twitter now.

CAMEROTA: Have you seen evidence that -- because it would be very hard to be born here and not have to sing along -- not know how to sing along with that? Anything on that, Mag?

HABERMAN: I'm just going to smile at you.

BERMAN: I'll ask that another way. Had President Obama not sung along to all the words --


BERMAN: -- of "God Bless America: --


BERMAN: -- there would be hearings, practically, on Congress. If not hearings, there would be another --


BERMAN: -- cable news network that would be going --


BERMAN: -- you know, nearly 24 hours a day on it.

HABERMAN: But, John, there are -- there are so many things that if President Obama had done them that President Trump does it would be really hard to separate them out -- that he does not get called on by the same Republicans who were critical of President Obama. That one is -- that is but one.

CAMEROTA: That's a truism.

Maggie, please stick around. You're not going to get out of more questions by smiling --


CAMEROTA: -- nicely at us.

HABERMAN: Let's move to another topic. Moving on, OK.

CAMEROTA: OK, we will. For you, we will.

There's a lot of big headlines right now so let's get to it.


GAVIN NEWSOM (D), WINNER OF PRIMARY FOR CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR: We're engaged in an epic battle. It looks like voters will have a real choice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If they are really looking to be an enormous blue wave, a lot of people did expect it to start in California.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE ATLANTIC": It was a good night for Democrats. It's a likelihood that they will not get locked out of any targeted seats.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We always proudly stand for the National Anthem.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president plans on making the NFL and patriotism an issue throughout the 2018 midterm campaign.

LEBRON JAMES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: It's typical of him. No one wants an invite anyways.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It looked like I was saying I didn't apologize, and I was mad at me.