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Interview with Rep. Karen Bass; Undocumented Mother Says Daughter Taken While Breastfeeding; New York Attorney General Sues President and His Children. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired June 14, 2018 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] REP. KAREN BASS, D-CALIFORNIA: Well, you know what, I also think today we are safer than we were when the president was calling the leader rocket man and talking about whose buttons were bigger. So absolutely. I do think that's the case. The question is, how long will this last.

I want to see this come out good, but I will tell you that if you read the document and I'm sure you have, that the two of them signed, it really doesn't say very much. So, you know, we will see what Secretary Pompeo is able to do with it.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I have read it. It does not say complete and irreversible denuclearization.

BASS: Right.

HARLOW: Pompeo pushed back and said look, that was the understanding. Let's see what comes of this for the betterment of the entire world, right?

BASS: Absolutely.

HARLOW: Before you go, you were surrogate for President Obama, speaking out on his behalf during the 2012 campaign. Even he said, you'll remember, all the way back in 2007, when he was asked in a CNN debate whether he would meet with the leaders of regimes like North Korea without preconditions.

BASS: Right.

HARLOW: And he said he would. Do you think that President Obama could have, should have done more on North Korea?

BASS: I'm not sure if he could have or should have done more. He definitely tried. And, again, I don't have a problem with the fact that Trump wanted to meet with him. What I do have a problem with, though, is him saying he wants to rely on his gut instincts, him feeling as though there is not a tremendous need to understand history.

You know, the North Koreans have agreed to denuclearize a number of times over the last 30 years and every single time they broke the agreement. So I think that, although President Obama said he would go in without conditions, I have no doubt that he would have spent a tremendous amount of time studying history, listening to experts, and going through what had happened in the past.

HARLOW: And the fact is, though, President Obama didn't have the meeting with the North Korean leader, President Trump did.

BASS: Right.

HARLOW: What comes of it, we will see.

BASS: We'll see.

HARLOW: Congresswoman Karen Bass of California, it's nice to have you this morning. Thanks for being here.

BASS: Thanks. Thanks for having me on.

HARLOW: An undocumented mother says immigration authorities took her child, her baby from her, while she was breastfeeding. Customs and Border Patrol this morning, though, pushing back saying nothing could be further from the truth, and that's just one of many family separations happening at the border.

Our Ed Lavandera is there. He'll join me next with the details.


[10:36:27] HARLOW: All right. We're getting a new look at the reality for a number of families separated at the border, specifically children taken from their parents as their parents await criminal proceedings for coming into this country as undocumented immigrants.

Take a look at this. This is video out of a detention center in Texas. It's a former Wal-Mart superstore that is now holding 1400 immigrant children.

We're also hearing from an undocumented mother, from Honduras, she tells CNN authorities took her daughter from her while she was breast- feeding at one of those detention centers. Federal authorities are disputing that claim, saying nothing could be further from the truth.

Ed Lavandera is live for us in Texas with more.

Ed, what did you see and what are you hearing?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. Well, at that particular facility that federal officials gave the news media a tour of, the numbers of minors inside that facility have jumped by 300 in just the last month. That coincides with the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy that has really changed things here on the border dramatically, .and it emits a lot of anger and frustration about the way families are being treated. There is also signs that is not consistent and at times seems arbitrary.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): Hundreds, possibly thousands of undocumented immigrants have been separated after crossing the border in the last month. It is the emotional fallout from a Trump administration's attempt to prosecute all migrants who have illegally entered the United States.

Natalia Cornelio, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project, has met with dozens of these families and describes the controversial zero tolerance policy as torture.

NATALIA CORNELIO, ATTORNEY, TEXAS CIVIL RIGHTS PROJECT: One of the women that I interviewed today told me that she was breast-feeding her daughter when the government took her daughter from her, and when she resisted, she said that was when they put handcuffs on her.

LAVANDERA: Other activists say some families have been misled by federal authorities so that the children can be separated and sent to different detention facilities. A Customs and Border Protection officials says nothing could be further from the truth and these allegations are unsubstantiated.

The zero tolerance policy is such a dramatic change that it is confusing and appears arbitrary. On the bridges across the Rio Grande, federal agents are often standing right at the international boundary, turning away many immigrants, some who come requesting asylum. It is a move immigrant rights activists say they have never seen before.

And while hundreds of immigrants are escorted by bus into federal court in McAllen, Texas, to face a judge, just a block away at an immigrant shelter hundreds who also crossed illegally have been released.

With tears in his eyes, Arbid Moran (PH) feels like one of the lucky ones. He and his son crossed the Rio Grande a week ago in a raft.

(On camera): Did they take you to court?


LAVANDERA: Did they separate you from your child?

(Voice-over): He was given a court date and a GPS ankle monitor, now he's on his way to reunite with family in Colorado. A Department of Homeland Security official says the number of undocumented immigrants handed over to federal prosecutors has doubled in the last month. But it is still not clear why and how some are sent to court and others are released.

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We have a goal. And the goal and that goal is to end the lawlessness that now exists in our immigration system.

LAVANDERA: Miguel Nogueras, a federal public defender, says the Trump administration's border crackdown is inhumane.

MIGUEL NOGUERAS, FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER: I don't think this represents the values of the American people.


[10:40:04] LAVANDERA: And Poppy, this is dramatic changes as we've mentioned. And really the Trump administration unapologetic from the way all of this is unfolding. We heard from a DHS official who referenced there that number -- the number of people who were being transferred from DHS custody to DOJ custody for prosecution has doubled just in the last month. And they went on to say that under the Trump administration no longer will entire categories or classes of aliens be exempted from the law.

So as all of this has created dramatic changes here on the border, the Trump administration unapologetic for the way it's rolling out.

HARLOW: Yes. Right. As you reported earlier this week with us, Ed, the big overhaul to the immigration courts and the asylum seekers in this country trying to come to this country as well.

Thank you for being on top of this for all of us. Appreciate it.

So a warning from the chair of the Republican National Committee, she says embrace President Trump's agenda or you will be making a mistake. Pretty hard to argue she's wrong, right? If you look at the polling, next.


[10:45:28] HARLOW: We're back with breaking news. The New York attorney general has just announced a lawsuit against the Donald J. Trump Foundation. This is the charitable foundation of the president.

Let's get right to our Jean Casarez who has more.

Jean, what is alleged in this lawsuit?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's very serious allegations and this was just filed minutes ago. It is the attorney general of New York is filing suit against Donald J. Trump Foundation, and its board of directors for extensive and persistent, they allege, violations of state and federal law.

They say in this petition that has been just filed that there was a pattern of persistent illegal conduct occurring over more than a decade. And it includes extensive unlawful political coordination with the Trump political presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing transactions to benefit Mr. Trump's personal and professional business interests in violation of basic legal obligations for nonprofit foundations.

In other words, they believe that there is a violation of New York law, of New York charitable law, and they say that the investigation has been extensive for the last two years. As our investigation reveals, they say, the Trump Foundation was little more than a checkbook for payments for Mr. Trump or his business to nonprofits regardless of their purpose or legality.

And this is from the Attorney General Underwood, "This is not how private foundations should function and my office intends to hold the foundation and its directors accountable for the misuse of charitable assets."

And, Poppy, they are asking for retribution of $2.8 million, plus penalties, that the foundation itself not be able to function in the future and with the aid of a court to have the dissolution of that charity and that Donald Trump and his family cannot have another charitable foundation in the state of New York for a number of years, Poppy.

HARLOW: OK, Jean Casarez, stay with me. I should note because this is against the foundation and its board members, Jean, the board members, some of the board members are Donald Trump Jr., the president's son, Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and a senior adviser in the White House, Eric Trump, the president's other oldest son. You've also got referral letters sent, the AG says, to the IRS and to the Federal Election Commission.

What is the White House saying about this?

CASAREZ: Well, we are reaching out right now because this is truly breaking news, it has just been filed minutes ago. We are waiting to get a reaction from the White House as well as from the foundation. And the board of directors, which are being sued in a personal capacity right here in New York.

HARLOW: Jean, thank you, stay with me. And do let me know if we hear anything from the White House.

Let's talk about the implications of this, the big picture, our legal analyst Paul Callan is with me.

So, Paul, just what's your initial reaction to this suit and then we'll get into some of the details.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's a serious matter. And you know, by way of background, Barbara Underwood, who is the new attorney general of New York, the new acting attorney general of New York, she succeeded Schneiderman who was forced out in a sex harassment scandal. At least until the next, you know, election. She may run for AG herself, but she's widely respected as a seasoned professional. She's not really a politician.

So I think, you know, there is probably some respect behind the suit because she's involved in it. But I think looking at the big picture here, what this says to me is that the president is going to be in danger as his administration continues of being hauled into these local lawsuits. Now remember, he's got a defamation lawsuit pending in Manhattan Supreme Court, which they're going to seek testimony from him. They may seek testimony from him in this lawsuit and I think you're going to see a situation where this is going to wind up in the U.S. Supreme Court. Because the --

HARLOW: So, Paul, you bring up --

CALLAN: Yes. HARLOW: -- an important point. I mean, any AG and their team would

want to depose the defendant in this case and would want to depose the head of the foundation, would want to depose that person. That person just happens to be the president. So you're arguing the president's legal team then, if they don't want the president to be deposed in this, would argue it all the way up to the Supreme Court to decide a really key thing, which we don't have precedent for, right?

CALLAN: Yes, they would. They would move to quash the subpoena because bear in mind, it is not just New York. California may have lawsuits that they're looking to file against the president.

[10:50:04] And he really could spend a lot of his presidency testifying and preparing for depositions and I wonder if the Supreme Court would ultimately say given the volume of litigation potentially against him, maybe these cases have to be postponed until after he's out of office. I don't know what the decision would be.

HARLOW: Right.

CALLAN: But it certainly is going to be decided by the Supreme Court I'm betting.

HARLOW: Yes. Paul, stick with me. Jean is reporting this out. We're trying to get word from the White House on their response. Of course we'll bring that to you as soon as we do. But also with me are political commentators Robby Mook, Republican strategist -- excuse me, Robby Mook on the left. Kevin Madden, Republican strategist on the right.

Guys, thank you for being here. This is not what I was planning to discuss with you. But I have you and I'd like you to weigh in on this.

Kevin Madden, first, as a Republican strategist, look, since the president announced he was running, there were questions about his businesses, his -- you know, the private sector life that he ran, the Trump Organization, the foundation, and then the office he holds, the highest office in the land, the public office of the presidency.

What do you make of what we're seeing now from the New York AG who says there has been an extensive unlawful political coordination with the Trump presidential campaign and repeated self-dealing transactions to benefit the president?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Well, it's obviously a very serious problem for the president. I think, first of all, with the -- one of the things is that this is -- because this is a state action taken by the New York state attorney general, this may be outside of the reach of some of the executive powers that the president has into how, you know, an investigation like this would even be conducted. And some of the decisions that he makes. So much of --

HARLOW: Well, and pardon power, by the way, because it's not federal. Because it's state. MADDEN: Exactly. And I think the president has always been very

feisty fighter when he doesn't have some level of influence over some investigations like this.

The second part of it, too, is that this opens up a whole new front for the president, as it relates to having to deal with another legal challenge. We see that the president has the Mueller probe already undergoing, we see the Southern District of New York has its own probe. And now you have a state action. So this is just another burden I think on the White House to have to fight the daily drip, drip of news coming out on this and then also the daily legal challenges.

And then lastly, you know, any time this president, I think the focus on his family and a foundation that's very close to him, the president always fights the hardest when his family is threatened. And I think you're going to see some response from the president, I think he's going to come out very fast and furious on this.

HARLOW: That's a good point, I'm keeping an eye on that to see what we hear from the president and the White House.

Robby, you know, this is, I believe, the first major action case brought by the new attorney general, Attorney General Underwood, in -- y k, taking over after Eric Schneiderman was ousted in disgrace obviously. But there have been a lot of people who looked at Schneiderman and a lot of the president's opponents who looked at him and who there was a lot of talk about a case that he -- you know, was he building a case against the president And now she has stepped in and put this forward. What is the significance in your mind of it?

ROBBY MOOK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, what's a little sad to me, to be honest with you, is there is nothing really here in my view that we didn't already know. It's just that investigators had the opportunity to shape a case and bring it forward. You know, we were -- David Fahrenthold of the "Washington Post" did extensive reporting --


MOOK: -- on these issues during the campaign. We were told that, you know, he was using this foundation to buy art works for his properties, that he was running events for the foundation at his own properties and profiting from them. And, by the way, I will say, the same thing is happening at the Republican National Committee and by his campaign. Both of those entities spend millions, I believe might even be tens of millions of dollars at Trump properties. And that's illegal, too, by the way. It's illegal to use campaign dollars to enrich yourself. So what's -- you know, what's frustrating sometimes about these things is we knew this.

I'm glad action is finally being taken, and I'm glad it's getting the attention it deserves. But to me this is pretty cut and dry. And by the way, you know, I think Kevin made a really good point about the kids. I think there is a lot of -- a lot more sketchy things that are going to come out about the family. HARLOW: Let's just be clear these are allegations and we haven't

heard any response from the White House yet, any response from the president. We'll bring that as soon as we do.

One thing that I think, Robby, and just for Kevin to address, maybe makes this different than what you're pointing to and Fahrenthold's reporting, et cetera, and what we've seen throughout the campaign is that this is alleging political coordination, Kevin.

MADDEN: Yes. And I think that's one of the things that you're going to see as part of the response. Again these are allegations, we don't really know a whole lot of the details.

[10:55:01] But one of the things you're going to say is that this is a highly politicized or politically motivated effort by a New York state attorney general that is looking not only to target President Trump, but also just the Republican Party.

HARLOW: Right.

MADDEN: And we can pretty much guarantee that this is going to break down along partisan lines, it will essentially serve as like a bit of a political inkblot for political partisans.

HARLOW: All right, Thank you, both, Robby Mook, Kevin Madden, appreciate it, Paul Callan, Jean Casarez.

Again the breaking news, the attorney general of New York has filed suit against the president and his children in terms of how their foundation, their charitable foundation was run. Some very serious allegations, much more after the break.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. We are following breaking --