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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Source: Cohen "Confused" Over Relationship with Trump; Trump Falsely Blames Dems for Separating Families at Border; A.G. Sessions Uses Bible To Defend Separating Families; Undocumented Immigrant: If I Go Back, MS-13 Will Kill Me. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired June 15, 2018 - 16:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:31:43] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The same time President Trump's campaign chair is headed to jail, his fixer is also in a fix. Investigators have pieced together 16 pages worth of shredded documents collected in the raid on Michael Cohen's home, office and hotel room. Could that be why the president's former longtime personal lawyer, according to a source, is telling family and friends he's willing to cooperate with the feds?

CNN's Brynn Gingras joins me.

And, Brynn, what can you tell us about Michael Cohen's thinking?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake, CNN has just learned that Michael Cohen feels he really is in a tough spot here and that's according to someone familiar with his thinking. This is a man who has been by Donald Trump's side for 15 years and now, he feels like that relationship has deteriorated and therefore Cohen feels confused about what he should do it facing criminal charges.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GINGRAS (voice-over): Michael Cohen, the president's former personal attorney and fixer, hinting to friends and family he may cooperate with federal investigators in an effort to alleviate pressure, according to a CNN source, in part because he is said to be feeling isolated by his long-term friend Donald Trump.

A source close to Cohen says the possibility of criminal charges are taking a major toll on his family and they are his top priority. This could mean trouble for the president.

But this morning, Trump called Cohen a good friend and expressed little concern about him flipping.

REPORTER: Cohen might flip --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, I did nothing wrong. You have to understand. This stuff would have come out a long time ago. I did nothing wrong. GINGRAS: And in April, not long after the FBI seized more than 3.5

million records from Cohen's home, office and hotel room, Trump tweeted this, most people will flip if the government lets them out of trouble, even if it means lying or making up stories. Sorry, I don't see Michael doing that despite the horrible witch hunt and the dishonest media.

But those close to the president spoke differently earlier this week when news broke about Cohen's plans to switch attorneys handling his case, a possible signal of a new legal strategy. This is very disturbing, said one Trump ally to CNN. He is facing the end of a barrel, said another about Cohen.

Cohen's current attorneys reached a crucial deadline today in their fight to get a first look at the files taken in the April raid to determine if they fall under attorney/client privilege. The feds are investigating Cohen's business practices and personal financial dealings, including the payment he made to porn star Stormy Daniels on Trump's behalf just weeks before the election.

Daniels accuses the president of an affair in 2006 which Trump denies.

And an attempt by Cohen to silence Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti from talking to the press has been rejected for now. The order claims Avenatti could jeopardize Cohen's chances at a fair trial citing his more than 120 media appearances. Avenatti called the motion an attack on the First Amendment.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, LAWYER FOR STORMY DANIELS: They want to intimidate people, shut them up. It doesn't matter if you're a judge or the press or an attorney. They don't like people that speak the truth.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GINGRAS: Now, sources close to Cohen say he has not spoken to prosecutors as of yet but a quick update from the government about the evidence seized in the FBI raid. Investigators have reconstructed 15 pages worth of shredded documents and 731 pages of messages and call logs from WhatsApp and Signal communications extracted from one of Cohen's BlackBerrys.

[16:35:02] Investigators are still trying to access another phone and lawyers have until June 25th to review this new material. Of course, Jake, now, it's unclear which lawyers will be looking at this evidence since Cohen plans to part ways with his current attorneys -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Brynn Gingras, thank you so much.

A wild White House flip flop on immigration that could impact thousands of families coming to the United States. This as we learn shocking new numbers about how many kids are being separated from their families at the border.

Stay with us.

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TRUMP: The children can be taken care of quickly, beautifully and immediately. The Democrats forced that law upon our nation. I hate it. I hate to see separation of parents and children.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Another falsehood from President Trump today, blaming Democrats for a new Trump administration policy that has resulted in hundreds more children being separated from parents if they are caught crossing the border illegally.

The weirdest thing about the president and the White House lying about this is the fact that separately, the Attorney General Jeff Sessions is out there owning this new policy proudly.

[16:40:08] Now, family separations happened before Donald Trump, but the reason hundreds if not thousands more are happening now is because every illegal crossing of the southwest border is now being criminally prosecuted, every single one. The Trump Justice Department using its prosecutorial discretion in April administration imposed a brand-new zero tolerance policy in April.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: If you are smuggling a child, then we're going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you probably as required by law. If you don't want your child to be separated, then don't bring him across the border illegally.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That's a reference to anyone smuggling children, human traffickers or parents, whomever.

The president this morning surprised lawmakers by saying he would refuse to sign a Republican compromise effort to address this issue and immigration in general. This afternoon, a White House official told CNN that the president just misunderstood the question and does support the compromise measure.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is moving forward on plans to temporarily house some of the almost 2,000 immigrant children taken from their parents over a six-week period, 2,000, moving them into tents in Tornillo, Texas. It's a move that Attorney General Sessions defended by quoting a bible verse that commands citizens to obey the laws of government.

The high temperature today in Tornillo is 98 degrees. The Trump administration says the shelters will have cooling systems.

Let's play that sound of Attorney General Sessions using a bible verse to justify this new administration policy of separation of children and their parents at the border using zero tolerance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SESSIONS: I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government, because God has ordained the government for his purpose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: My political panel is here to talk about this.

Scott, a lot of people -- a lot of Christian conservatives siding with Attorney General Sessions on this. Others I've heard from the evangelical movement being offended by it, talking about that which you do to the least of me, you do to me. What's your response to invoking the bible for this policy?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I wouldn't do it. I think it's -- look, I have four babies at home. My wife breast fed all of them. The thought of somebody ripping one of these children away from a mother during that precious moment, I'll be honest, it makes my blood boil.

We ought not be separating these families. It's wrong. We need to stop the policy right now.

That having been said, I think the Democrats have been a block on a big deal. They don't want to give Trump a win on this.

And on the other hand, I think Trump is the only person who can sell an immigration deal to the Republican Party. If it comes out as the congressional compromise, Republicans aren't going to trust it. If it comes out as the Trump compromise, the Republicans will trust it.

So, Congress needs to get on it, they need a compromise the president will sign which means it has to have border security and the other things that he wants.

But I got to tell you, every time I hear another story about a baby, a kid being ripped away from a parent, all I could only think about my own kids and think this is wrong and the American people are not going to stand for this.

TAPPER: Symone, what's your reaction?

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: My reaction is that Donald Trump can stop this today. This is a policy and a choice by the Trump administration.

Look, a Trump appointed U.S. attorney from the southern district of Texas was on NPR this morning and said that exact same thing. I think it's just so disgusting, so disgusting that people are, one, trying to use the bible in the same way that they use the bible to justify slavery and the same way they use the bible to justify Jim Crow laws and the same way they use the bible to justify the raping and pillaging of the land from native people.

This is just crazy to me. And for folks that are saying, oh, this isn't who we are as Americans, this is exactly who the hell America is. If people want this to change, they have to hold the Trump administration accountable.

Now, this Ryan bill that everybody is talking about, Jake, there is nothing in the Ryan bill that will prevent kids being ripped away from their parents. If the Trump administration policy is zero tolerance or prosecuting anyone that comes over the border, if they are criminally prosecuting those kinds under this bill, the bill will do nothing to keep them from being separated.

So, the Donald Trump administration, Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions and the folks at DOJ are the people that can stop this, and any expression that the Democrats are holding this up is a bunch of B.S. and Donald Trump is trying to get the Game of Thrones style wall built that nobody wants.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: And you can tell that Donald Trump and the White House understood that with all this swirl of North Korea or Michael Cohen or the I.G. report, what was their biggest political problem today, it is this issue of separating children from their parents on the border. How do we know? Because they rarely come out and say the president made a mistake. He misunderstood that questions. They saw that his comments this morning were derailing something that Paul Ryan was trying to put together which may be a bit of a fig leaf.

[16:45:00]

Symone may be right that we're still going to see these stories come of families being separated. It is not purely a legislative fix on the issue but the White House was keenly aware that this was their biggest political problem of the day today and I still don't see a solution.

TAPPER: One thing that's interesting, Scott, if you talk to people at the Justice Department they'll say two things. One of them is if you go to the points of entry, appropriate points of entry if you're trying to get into the United States, the separation with -- from children does not happen. This only happens if you're trying to cross the country across the border illegally.

And the second point they make is they are trying to stop undocumented immigrants from entering this country because of the Coyotes, because of people who end up dying in trucks. They think that that is inhumane and that is why they are creating this zero tolerance. But what's odd to me is if the Attorney General Sessions feels passionately about this and he wants to make this case, A, he should make it somewhere other than Fox News and B, why is the White House pretending that this is not their policy?

JENNINGS: I don't know. I mean look, I think what the White House is trying to do is create an environment that forces a deal. I don't think they want to deal with all this via executive order and policy the way the previous administration did. I think they want a legislative fix and I think that's the correct answer. I just don't know that we're any closer to that today than we were you know five days ago. Meanwhile, all these stories keep piling up and it's not helping the President as David just said. At the end of the day, we have to also understand in this country that the economy right now is so good. I mean, we've got more jobs than people.

Folks are going to be coming to the United States of America. Folks are going to continue to try to come here. This is not going to dry up no matter what policies you implement. It's just the market, it's the nature of human behavior. We've got to get this right and I'm just -- my advice to the President, my advice to the White House is get this fixed. You'll be a hero if you can be the Republican that finally forces a compromise fix that ends these terrible stories of these parents being separated from their children.

SANDERS: I just want to know -- OK, so I agree with Scott that we do need a legislative fix to our broken immigration system in this country. We need humane and family-first immigration policy. So what happens if in fact Congress does its job finally on immigration and the Trump administration does not change their policy? Then whose fault is it? Who then do we hold accountable? The Congress did -- like we can't -- we could not just bake this and just -- so Donald Trump can get his wall and nothing happens, no policy change is made for these kids. No one has made an effective argument on that so what happens next?

JENNINGS: In my -- in my opinion, in my opinion, Symone, the legislation has to end this policy via law.

SANDERS: But the legislation did enact the policy.

JENNINGS: The legislation, it has to be in there. It's my view. It has to be in there.

TAPPER: All right, everyone thanks so much. I appreciate it. She says if she's deported, she'll be murdered. We're going to talk to an undocumented immigrant who's now living in fear over current immigration policies and being forced out of the United States. Stay with us.

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[16:50:00] TAPPER: In our "NATIONAL LEAD" now. As Congressional Republicans try to work on a bill to change U.S. immigration policy, a reminder now about the very real consequences for those already living in the shadows in this country. CNN's Nick Valencia has a story of a 29-year-old mother of three who believes that she'll be murdered by the gang MS-13 if the U.S. government forces her to go back to Honduras.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING SPANISH)

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If go back to Honduras, they'll kill you.

In many ways, Joanna feels like she's already dead. An undocumented immigrant from Honduras, she's too scared to show her face or use her real name. She says MS-13 gang members murdered her brother and two relatives back home which is why in 2011 she fled. If sent back, she says, she will most certainly die.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING SPANISH)

VALENCIA: You'd rather they kill you here than you die there.

For the last seven years, Joanna and her American-born children have lived in the shadows of America. She thought fleeing MS-13 gang violence and being a victim of sexual assault would help her qualify for asylum. She applied in 2011 but admits like so many others she was too scared to show up to her court date. Now with the new edict from the Trump administration, her greatest fear is what will happen to her children when or if she's deported. She has three children, all U.S. citizens under the age of seven.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): What will happen to my kids? Will I be able to take them? If I go alone what will happen to my children who are here practically alone?

VALENCIA: On Monday, she's in court for driving without insurance and a license. She could be detained by immigration officers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): With the orders that the President gave to get out all of immigrants, why doesn't he take the time to know how someone's life is? Why on the border are they treating us like animals? That's not being human to not feel the pain of someone else.

VALENCIA: Joanna says under President Obama she was aware that deportations were at an all-time high but she still had hope with the prospect of asylum. Not anymore. Now the only thing she could think of is how best to shield her children from the strong chances of her being sent back.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VALENCIA: Joanna has been getting help from an immigrant rights organization here in Milwaukee called Voces De La Frontera. They say not only is she at risk of being deported but so is her husband who's been detained and in detention since May 4th. Joanna tells her children that their father is on vacation. And Jake, I asked her what she's prepared to tell her own kids after her court date the chances of her being deported are very high. She says that she's yet to express that to them because saying it out loud will make it all the more real that she's going back to Honduras and back to certain death. Jake?

[16:55:18] TAPPER: All right, Nick Valencia in Wisconsin, thank you so much. I appreciate it. Why do North Koreans stand at attention for their leader Kim Jong-un? A deeper dive on that ahead.

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TAPPER: This Sunday morning President Trump's Attorney Rudy Giuliani will be joining me on "STATE OF THE UNION." Democratic Texas Senate Candidate Beto O'Rourke who's challenging Ted Cruz will also join us. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. That's it for THE LEAD. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Have a great weekend. I'll see you Sunday morning.