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Homeland Security Secretary Defends Controversial Family Separation Policy at U.S.-Mexico Border; Interview with Congressman Will Hurd of Texas; McCain Calls On Pres. Trump To Rescind Family Separation Policy; Stone Admits To 2016 Meeting With Russian For Clinton Dirt. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired June 18, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:12] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

A top administration official says we're a country of compassion. We're a country of heart. And as she said it, children were being held behind chain-link fencing apart from their parents on the border with Mexico.

As she spoke of compassion, people of all political stripes were reacting to scenes of this one, a toddler watching her mother being searched by a border agent and later being torn from her mom. In the last six weeks, upwards of 2,000 children have experienced this drama, what DHS Secretary Nielsen today called a country of compassion and heart.

So, we begin tonight keeping them honest with how the Trump administration can reconcile that claim with images like these. And sounds like these.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I don't want them to stop my father. I don't want them to deport him.




COOPER: Those are children crying waiting for the parents they've just been taken from. The audio obtained by "ProPublica". We don't know what facility it was recorded in. This is not separation anxiety, this is real separation, real trauma.

In just a moment, we'll be joined by a pediatrician. Her organization has written several letters now to DHS, calling for this to stop. It stems from a decision by the president to enforce longstanding immigration law in a way that neither his Democratic nor Republican predecessors did, in part because it could lead to this.

It was, as we reported and as members of the administration openly stated when they were actually selling this policy, a deliberate choice, yet now when faced with the consequences of it, and the bipartisan uproar against it, the response from President Trump on down has been to deny responsibility and shift the blame.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I say it's very strongly the Democrats' fault. They're obstructionists. And they are obstructing. We're stuck with these horrible laws. They're horrible laws.

What's happening is so sad. It's so sad. And it can be taken care of quickly, beautifully, and we'll have safety. This could really be something very special. It could be something maybe even for the world to watch.


COOPER: Something very special.

Well, the world is definitely watching and they are reacting. Former First Lady Laura Bush in the "Washington Post" said, I quote, "I live in a border state, I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral and breaks my heart.

She continues: These images are eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history. That's former First Lady Laura Bush.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama weighing in as well, citing Laura Bush and tweeting: sometimes truth transcends party.

Former Rosalynn Carter said, quote: The practice of policy today of removing children from their parents' care at our border with Mexico is disgraceful and a shame to our country.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers have weighed in condemning what's been done, including Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz late today.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: All of us who are seeing these images of children being pulled away from moms and dads in tears were horrified. This has to stop. Kids need their moms and dads.


COOPER: Well, the president has said he hates this. That he hates what's happening. Yet he and his top officials refuse to take responsibility for the policy decision that they in fact made happen. In fact, late today, the DHS secretary would not even concede the existence of a policy.


KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: This administration did not create a policy of separating families at the border.


COOPER: So, keeping them honest, Secretary Nielsen seems to be splitting hairs, no, the administration did not literally create a policy to specifically tear children from their parents. It created a zero-tolerance policy that resulted in children being torn from their parents. What's more, they were OK with that. In fact, touting it as a deterrent to child smuggling.

Listen to Chief of Staff John Kelly, then-DHS secretary, when asked about it back in March of last year.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: If you get some young kids who are coming in, manage to sneak into the United States with their parents, are Department of Homeland Security personnel going to separate the children from their moms and dads?

JOHN KELLY, THEN-DHS SECRETARY: We have tremendous experience with dealing with unaccompanied minors. We turn them over. They do a good job of putting them in foster care or linking them up with parents or family members in the United States.

Yes, I am considering in order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network, I am considering exactly that.


[20:05:04] COOPER: So in order to deter people from bringing their kids. So what the administration decided was to try each and every unauthorized border crosser in criminal court under existing law which hasn't been done before and because parents charged with crimes can't be detained alongside their kids, families would have to be split up. So, again, keeping them honest, this was a policy decision and intention at least in part was to send a message -- to act as you just heard Kelly say as a deterrent.

Yet when asked today about something General Kelly was on record saying way back in March of 2017, Secretary Nielsen seemed to be or at least acted offended.


REPORTER: Are you intending for this to play out as it is playing out? Are you intending for parents to be separated from their children? Are you intending to send a message?

NIELSEN: I find that offensive.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: So, what was a talking point in March is now offensive to even ask about. And a White House policy, that's not a policy, it's Democrats refusing to change a law that contains nothing actually mandating the breakup of families.

Here's how Senator Ben Sasse, a conservative Republican, put it. Quote: the administration's decision to separate families is a new discretionary choice. Anyone saying that their hands are tied or that the only conceivable way to fix the problem of catch and release is to rip families apart is flat wrong.

A discretionary choice, he said. Yet the administration will neither own it nor admit that what we're seeing at detention centers is even happening at all.



NIELSEN: Be more specific, please, enforcing the law?

ZELENY: The images that Cecilia was talking about and the sounds that we've seen from these big box stores, the Walmarts, the other stores, when you see this, how is this not specifically child abuse for these innocent children who are, indeed, being separated from their parents?

Are there any examples of child abuse, do you believe, and how could this not be child abuse for the people who are taken from their parents? Not the ones who are sent here with their parents' blessings, with the smugglers, the people who are taken from their parents?

NIELSEN: Unfortunately, I'm not in any position to deal with, you know, hearsay stories.


COOPER: Hearsay stories.

More now from a White House under fire from nearly all corners on this, CNN's Jeff Zeleny who just asked that last question joins us now.

So, you tried to press secretary Nielsen on the up to 2,000 kids who were taken from their parents as you said, not ones brought here or sent by their families with smugglers. What else did she say about it?

ZELENY: Anderson, that's about all she said about it right there, she said, I can't react to hearsay stories. She said, you know, if any specific examples come to us, we'll look into it. But the whole idea the secretary would not acknowledge today is, indeed, the idea that -- of the images and sounds that has transfixed the country on this. She would not acknowledge that this is, indeed, playing out. And the, you know, she quickly tried to change the subject. You know,

when I was asking just a simple question about child abuse, she said she simply couldn't answer that. And then changed the subject to the fact that there are all the children brought over here smuggled sort of with the blessing of their parents. But on that specific case, she said she has visited those detention centers and they're treated well. But on the specific examples of the images that we've seen in McAllen, Texas, and other sites across the border, she simply didn't have an answer.

And there was a sense, as she stood in the briefing room, Anderson, that all of these answers came without much humanity or emotion. You heard Senator Ted Cruz there, Republican of Texas, he's on the ballot in Texas. He was saying it's heart wrenching to see these images. That is one thing we did not hear today from the White House, any sense of the fact -- never mind the policy that these images and the sheer fact that this is heart wrenching.

The message was Congress needs to fix it. It's the Democrats' fault. She came out here and toe the line -- Anderson.

COOPER: The White House kept pushing the briefing later and later today. What more do you learn about why that occurred?

ZELENY: We did. The White House briefing was supposed to be at 1:15. It ended up happening about four hours later, around 5:15 or so. The reality is Secretary Nielsen is running sort of the front of the house on this. She's taking the lead on this.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders did not, we're told, want to address these questions all by herself because they wanted someone with more gravitas, if you will, someone with more specific information on all of the specifics of what's happening at the border.

So, Secretary Nielsen was in New Orleans giving a speech earlier today again saying the administration is not backing down. She flew back here to Washington, arrived around 1:30 or so, had a series of briefings throughout the afternoon and then finally the White House was ready to have this briefing.

But, Anderson, it was an example of the fact that this communications system here was in breakdown.

[20:10:00] The White House was -- a lot of anger in this building. They're hearing Republicans, Democrats, evangelicals. You know, the former first lady, Laura Bush, who never weighs in on things like this. So, they were figuring out how to react to the criticism, so they left it to Secretary Nielsen at the very end of the day.

But she certainly didn't clear up all the questions, Anderson. The president, of course, going to Capitol Hill tomorrow where many Republicans have questions of their own.

COOPER: Yes, Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, thanks very much. There's new CNN polling on the policy showing widespread disapproval,

67 percent among all voters. However, among just Republicans, it's far different with 58 percent saying they approve the zero tolerance policy.

I spoke about this earlier with Congressman Will Hurd, a Republican of Texas.


COOPER: Congressman Hurd, Secretary Nielsen just said that this administration does not have, did not create a policy of separating families at the border. Why does this administration refuse to take responsibility for what is inarguably their policy? It's based from the zero tolerance policy.

REP. WILL HURD (R), TEXAS: Yes, it's a question to me as well, Anderson, and something that if there is a homeland hearing, I'm looking forward to asking just that question because it's very clear that it's within Department of Justice, it's within DHS' ability to not separate kids from their parents. And so, acting as if this is something that Congress is preventing from happening is just incorrect and it's something that this administration could change right away.

COOPER: Sectary Nielsen also said that Congress alone can fix that. I mean, you said obviously this administration, the president, could change their policy. I mean, this is by their discretion you're doing this.

HURD: Yes, you're absolutely right. They also could be focusing more attention on working with El Salvador and Nicaragua and Honduras on addressing some of the root causes in those countries that is causing this migration. She talked in her press conference about the increase of folks that are coming to this country illegally.

I think part of that is because of the violence that's happening in Central America. We see an increase in that. I think it's compatible. They need to be talking about why when they made this decision of zero tolerance, what did they think was going to happen? Because we haven't seen a decrease in illegal immigration coming into our country, and what other alternatives did they look at before they accepted this policy?

There's a whole lot of questions. I also don't know if DOJ, DHS, and HHS are talking to each other the way they should. I experienced that over the weekend when I went to see a facility in my district.

COOPER: Well, what do you say to Secretary Nielsen or the president who says look, this is a deterrence. This is going to deter people. From making the dangerous journey with their children and trying to cross over illegally. And in effect, while it's terrible to see, long term, this is actually going to be better for kids because it's going to essentially prevent parents from making that trip.

HURD: Taking a 4-year-old out of his or her mommy's arms is not going to prevent terrorist or drugs from coming in this country. If we've already seen a net increase in illegal immigration since last summer, it's not stopping illegal immigration. What we need to be doing is focus on those root causes. We need to increase the amount of immigration judges that are working so we can decrease the amount of time that we have people in detention.

We need to make sure we have smart border policies and then we need to make sure that we're doing this in a bipartisan way. I think that's the only way we solve this problem and we also need to remember, and I said this a bunch of times, Anderson, in the land of the free and the home of the brave, we do not use kids as a deterrence.

COOPER: According to CNN's latest poll, 58 percent Republicans support this change of policy toward immigrant families, undocumented people crossing over. What does that say to you about where your party is right now? Because, obviously, you are Republican, but you, you know, your district is -- you have more border than anybody else.

HURD: Well, what I'm seeing on the ground is the exact opposite. I'm seeing on the ground people that are appalled by this -- people that have been Republicans all their lives, independents as well. So I can't speak to any of the national polling, but I do know in the 23rd congressional district of Texas, the supermajority of people believe this is something that shouldn't happen and shouldn't be continuing.

COOPER: The president of the American Academy of Pediatrics earlier today described the separation of families as a form of child abuse. Do you agree with that? I mean, is this a form of child abuse?

HURD: So, I'm not a doctor but I've seen all the same reports that separating kids unnaturally from their parents have long-term effects on their development, on their growth, and that's something we should not be doing.

[20:15:01] COOPER: Where do you think this ends? I mean, is there a scenario where the president picks up a phone and ends this policy, as it's in his power to do? Or will it come down to Congress to try to fix this?

HURD: Look, I hope the president comes to a realization that this is something that should end. I'm glad there's voices out there like Laura Bush and Anthony Scaramucci that are talking about how this policy should change. I -- it's unfortunate that we have to even debate whether a law needs to be put in place to say that let's not use children as a deterrence and let's not separate kids from their mother and father.

COOPER: Yes, Congressman Hurd, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

HURD: Thank you.


COOPER: A lot more to come on this, including we'll talk to a pediatrician on the kind of trauma that kids on the border are experiencing when separated from their parents.







COOPER: We'll have more on how that recording was taken.

Also later, the Russia story, these two failed to tell Congress about a certain encounter with a Russian during the campaign. What they're saying now, when we continue.


COOPER: We played a portion of the recording at the top of the program. Now, according to "ProPublica" who obtained it, it was recorded last week inside a U.S. Custom Border and Protection detention facility. We don't know which one.

The person who made the recording asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation. That person gave it to Jennifer Harbury (ph), a civil rights attorney who lives and practices along the border. The children you hear are as young estimated 4 years old as we're told. Toward the end of the clip, you'll also hear border patrol agent making an offhand comment as the kids cry.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I don't want them to stop my father. I don't want them to deport him.






BORDER PATROL AGENT: Well, we have an orchestra here, right?

BORDER PATROL AGENT: What we're missing is a conductor.


COOPER: Just want to repeat, those recording from "ProPublica". We don't know what facility it was recorded at. The images you saw there on the right. Those images are facility provided by Custom and Border Protection. Dr. Julie Linton is a pediatrician who's seen firsthand the

consequences of the trauma these kids can be experiencing, she chairs the immigrant health special interest group, the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Dr. Linton, can you just describe what the short-term or long-term effects of this kind of separation could be on children?

DR. JULIE LINTON, AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS' IMMGIRANT HEALTH SOCIAL INTEREST GROUP: Absolutely. So what we know is that highly stressful experiences like separation of children from their parents could cause irreparable harm to children. In the short term, we might see things like changes in bodily functions, so difficulty sleeping, difficulty eating, changes with toileting. We might see changes in their behavior, so we might see aggression, or we might see anxiety and we might also see changes in their memory or their ability to learn and to develop.

In the long term, we know that highly stressful experiences place children at risk for things like diabetes and heart disease and depression.

COOPER: It can have that kind of a long-term impact?

LINTON: Absolutely. When you think of what kind of stress children are faced with being in centers like detention centers and processing centers which I've seen with my own eyes, that in itself is profoundly traumatizing to a child, and then when you take away the protective support of the parent, you place that child in one of the most stressful experiences that I can imagine and you take away the ability to buffer that support with the love, comfort and protection of a parent.

COOPER: Earlier tonight, the Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen was asked whether or not this amounted to child abuse. I just want to play part of what she said.


NIELSEN: We have high standards. We give them meals. We give them education. We give them medical care. There's videos. There's TVs. I visited the detention centers myself.


COOPER: I'm wondering what goes through your mind when you hear that.

LINTON: As a pediatrician, I know that taking a child away from his or her loving parent threatens the health and wellbeing of that child. You can play a video in front of a child who is profoundly traumatized, and if all they want is mommy, they are not going to watch the video.

When you take a child and you put them if a situation where they are faced with cage-like fencing, when they're faced in situations where they are so frightened, all they want is that love and protection of the parent.

COOPER: The president of your organization, Dr. Colleen Kraft, reported that when she visited one of these shelters that the shelter workers couldn't touch, hold or pick up the children. They couldn't console them, which was the rule. I presume that's in order to prevent some sort of abuse.

But I mean, to not be able to console a suffering child who's been away from their parent, that just seems kind of stunning.

LINTON: I agree. It's profoundly stunning and we are traumatizing these children in two ways, through the trauma of detention, which is not a substitute for not separating parents from their children, and then the worst trauma imaginable, which is taking that child away from a parent.

To not allow that child to have the comfort and the protection of anyone is child abuse.

[20:25:00] COOPER: Dr. Linton, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

LINTON: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: We heard tonight from the White House, from politicians and from childhood trauma experts. Coming up, we're going to take you to the southern border and conversations with those families on the ground still desperate to come to the United States. Never mind the dangers.


COOPER: Well, for President Trump, the issue of children belonging to undocumented immigrants being separated from their parents at the southern border came down to one thing which is politics, pure and simple.


TRUMP: Immigration is the fault in all of the problems we're having, because we cannot get them to sign legislation. We cannot get them even to the negotiating table. And I say it's very strongly, the Democrats' fault. They're obstruction -- they're really obstructionist. They are obstructing.

The United States will not be a migrant camp, and it will not be a refugee holding facility. Won't be.


COOPER: Well, for those families on the ground desperate to enter the United States, politics is the last thing on their minds.

360's Gary Tuchman tonight is on the border -- Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I'm standing in Nogales, Mexico, 20 feet behind me, behind this gate, is the state of Arizona and the United States. The people on this line right here have passports, documentation. They can go in and out at will.

But the people here are migrants who have traveled hundreds of miles. They're with their children. They're hoping to get an interview inside and they're hoping if they get that interview, that their children aren't taken away.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): In the border town of Nogales, Mexico, the other side of this gate is the United States. And right next to the gate, sitting on the ground are migrant families living and sleeping outside hoping to be allowed to proceed just a few more feet into America.

Amalia is from Guatemala. Her son Kevin is seven and Uber is three.

(on-camera): What do you want to do in the United States?


(voice-over): The 29-year-old mother says, I want to go and protect my children and have a better life for them. Amalia says she fears for her life in Guatemala because of gang violence. These other people with passports and documents pass through the gate, these migrant families wait and hope for what is known as a credible fear interview with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. They say, only one person has been called in for an interview all day.

And Luis (ph) is from southern Mexico. And has three children with her.


(voice-over): The 46-year-old says, I'm scared. My kids are all I have in my life. I live for them, I'm scared for them. But half of the mothers here heard about the children who have been separated from their parents after crossing into the United States. Each mother we talked with said they heard nothing about it weeks ago when they left their towns.

Miriam came from Guatemala, with her 2-year-old son Franco.


(voice-over): The 23-year-old says, I am scared. I'm hearing rumors now they could take my child away. Amalia says there have been people telling me they're going to take our kids away, but I'm not sure. So why are these women willing to take such a risk? Amalia says because if I go back, they're going to kill me. So this is the better option.

The west government claims children will not be taken away from parents who turn themselves in it legal ports of entry. Many others including the ACLU and immigrant advocacy groups dispute that claims. But what definitely does not bold well for any of this women we talk with, is the recent decision by the Trump administration to over turn a silent protection for domestic violence and gang violence victims. I ask the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer on the other side of the gate this question.

(on-camera): And when do you enter the migrants in for their interviews?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to make sure that we have enough assets to do it. And my supervisors are working on it. If you were, you can go and ask my supervisor.

TUCHMAN (on-camera): OK.

(voice-over): We did. The supervisor said they were not permitted to comment out of the office. The migrants here who have been provided food, water and diapers by volunteers, say they don't want to lose their place in line, so they're not leaving. Miriam says she will not allow anybody to take her toddler away. What's happening now will not deter her, she says. And if she gets sent back to Guatemala.


(voice-over): I will come back, Miriam says. I want to be in the United States. I will come back again.


COOPER: So they're trying to cross at a point of entry where they can apply for asylum. Obviously, a lot of people who are caught illegally crossing or not crossing at a port of entry where they can -- can even apply. How -- what happens after they apply?

TUCHMAN: Well, the problem Anderson, is applying in the first place. We heard the HHS secretary say today, go to a legal port of entry. This people have, yet today not one person has been called inside this for an interview. The three women you saw in our story are all still here. Hello Miriam, Miriam is over there in the purple.

They're all still here, no one is going and stay (ph). And yesterday one person went in. So they're doing it by the book, but no one is being called in for the interview. So whatever reason this is the first step applying for asylum, they're taking their time, but not interviewing people. Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Gary, we'll continue following. Thank you, Gary.

The Trump administration of course continues to insist that Congress could fix all of this practically overnight. When we continue, it has the situations become so politically radioactive, solutions will be difficult, not impossible to find.


[20:36:16] COOPER: There's more breaking news tonight, the "Washington Post" is now reporting that President Trump is defiant in the face of the crisis the border, and determine to get Congress to fund his border wall whatever it takes. Reading from the story, "At a meeting with Senator Richard C. Shelby and Senator Shelley Moore Capito. At the White House on Monday. Trump re-upped his threat to shutdown the government in September if he doesn't get money for the border wall, according to two people familiar with the meeting.

The "Post", Josh Dawsey is on the byline, he joins us now by phone. So, Josh, just explain what you are -- are reporting tonight, the President is close and monitoring news converge of what's happening in the border. What's he'd been telling people in his inner circle about what he's seeing?

JOSH DAWSEY, REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Right Anderson, thanks for having me on. What the President has been saying is that he is defying and described, he thinks that he has been weak on immigration or "weak on immigration recent months". He's been giving the end here, pretty problematic. And sorry for the fire truck Anderson.

And he says that, you know, he really can't to take this despite coring (ph) this afternoon, he's demanded the border wall and the Oval Office meeting, the issue of a child separation merely came up and some of his advisers predicted that over the weekend that he may change course, distant (INAUDIBLE) and parents of children can have awhile (INAUDIBLE) everywhere. So far that has not occurred. And one thing that we found today is that a number of his aides have showed him more positive pictures of the children, playing video games, exercising outside, not relating images you seen on TV. And that's been one reason they've been able to convince him that some of the coverage is unfair and they came suspicions of it.

COOPER: So is it clear to you the extent to which the President is being swayed by the other images. I know you're reporting, you know, he'd been shown some other ones.

DAWSEY: Right. And that's going clearly are right now. But the economy is this, inside the White House you have a number of advisers John Kelly who is -- say this is a deterrent. Stephen Miller who has embrace as a policy of the administration, argued more forcefully. The President who still force the one go to go for it, but it's continue to forcefully claim that the policy of a Democrat.

But we'll -- yes, to see what will happen is whether it's a sustained coverage of it's continue then the President hears from more Republican allies. You notice over the weekend Anderson, part of the evangelical leaders who are normally with him publically broke on this. You're seeing some senators today, Orrin Hatch, said today to us that, the President (INAUDIBLE) wants to Susan Collins said that it was amazing that Kirstjen Nielsen she saying, it's on Congress. So a lot of traditional plan (ph) is with him, is kind of crumbling a little bit, whether that completely deteriorates on the issue I think will be key to whether the White House moves at all.

COOPER: All right, Josh Dawsey from the "Washington Post" just posting that story. Thanks very much. With us now is Bakari Sellers and Jason Miller. Jason you heard Secretary Nielsen earlier saying, that this is really up to Congress to deal with, this isn't some policy put in by this administration. But I mean, this is clearly -- I mean wouldn't you admit a result of the zero tolerance policy put in by this administration?

JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, certainly Congress does assume some of the blame here, and I think its both Republicans and Democrats I think assumed some of the blame. I mean, President Trump ran on these tough border policies during his campaign and they have known ever since he won the election that this day was going to be coming.

So, the fact that --

COOPER: Right, but they only recently put -- but they actually only recently put in the zero tolerance policy and you heard from the former secretary of Homeland Secretary who is now the chief of staff who said, yes he was thinking of doing it as a deterrence. So for the administration saying it's not being done as a deterrence, that's clearly how they were selling it up until recently.

[20:40:04] MILLER: Well, and I was saying is that, this is I think there are two parts of this and as a Trump supporter, I'm ticked off yet again, he's been let down here. I mean Congress should have gone and fixed these catching release loopholes. They going to address that. But I think also DHS, I think in a lot of ways dropped the ball with their implementation of administration of this. I mean they should have the necessary judges and the necessary administrators down at the border to be able to -- to be ready for this surge that was going to be coming.

I think they also knew that make sure that they were doing a site by site scan of -- because knew a certain point the media and other people would be coming through and make sure all of these different location where is up to snuff and taking a look at this and walk through the optics of everything. And so, as a Trump supporter, where I see both Congress dropping the ball and I don't think that DHS has done everything that they needed to. Then, I think it's the right policy, but the wrong implementation. And so now we're at this critical mass here.

COOPER: Right. But so Bakari, Jason is saying the policy itself is the right policy.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, it's not. I don't know how anybody who is a father, I don't know how anybody who believes and what the statue of liberty reads, who believes in what the essence of America is, can say that this is the right policy. The White House has bumbled messages before. And we seen in, I mean they came out and they lied, they say that this is the law. You've had (INAUDIBLE) say this the law. I mean you asked and what are you talking about, no one can point to it.

This is policy. This is policy implemented by one person and it can be changed with one phone call. Here we are, we're praying that Donald Trump gets positive images of children, we're talking about kids. We're talking about human beings, playing in cages smiling so that he may one day reverse course. That's what we are talking about here. It's a travesty, this is not who America is. I understand having a hard line approach on immigration. But this is exactly who Donald Trump is. And I'm disappointed that we weren't able to connect the dots. He talks about people being aliens, he talks about people being animals and he treats them as such. The problem that we're having are now the outcries that, he is treating the least of these, he's treating kids like pure trash and that's not who America is.


COOPER: I've got to take a break, but Jason we'll have you respond and we'll continue this discussion when we come back. Also we got reaction from -- we'll play the reaction from Senator John McCain who just tweeted on this. We'll read you that ahead.


[20:46:01] COOPER: And more breaking news. Senator John McCain is just weighed in on policy, now the White House still insist, it's not even a policy. He tweet and I quote, "The administrations current family separation policy is in the front of the decency of the American people, and contrary to principals and values upon which our nation was founded, the administration has the power to rescind this policy, it should do so now".

Back now with panel, Bakari Sellers, right before the break said the President was creating children trash. Jason Miller, your take on that. Because, again, I mean I know you point to Congress and you say it's a failure of DHS to kind of have all their ducks in a row before they start this policy. But this is -- I mean do you agree that this is a policy that the administration itself could reverse? The President could decide to do what prior administrations did which is I know he says is kicking the can down the road but to not have the zero tolerance policy.

MILLER: My understanding is that, it does need a Congressional fix to get this done. I think there might be fault some both sides of this legal argument. But it's also something -- I mean it's not like we have to seat around, wondering who's going to come up with the legislation. I think Ted Cruz has something, it gets a lot of the ways there right now, that addresses a lot of this. They'll keep families together as they're going through the process, obviously up to there rescind whether they try to enter the country illegally.

And I think through some of this, we're losing sight of the bigger picture here. That we are a country of laws. Unfortunately we can't allow just everybody in the entire world to just come in whenever they want. And we have to go and actually start enforcing some of these laws. Now if we built the wall or start building the wall, I think obviously, that will go and help. But I think with the Ted Cruz legislation will do is we'll keep families together, as they go through the process and return them back to their country.

But we just -- we can't have an open border, others really completely loose their sovereignty as a nation. And I mean this is an actual real crisis down at the border. You look at the impact, not just to the families that are trying to come across, then what happens to them, whether be with the coyotes or the other things that we're seeing with the children. When you look at the impact of obviously with the gang members, you look at the drug traffickers, and all the bad people they were coming through, when this is a real crisis at our southern border. And I feel like we're being a little bit pollenate (ph) and playing take and shoes on which crisis we want to talk about. COOPER: Well, we're talking about 2,000 children in detention, and, you know, wired mesh (ph) cages and shingling cages essentially, I mean that's -- that, you know, I know -- I mean there are gang issues, but there are 2,000 kids and that's -- those are real.

MILLER: Well, and that's why I said, I think this -- this could be dealt with very quickly. I think the President does want to have a humane solution to this. Obviously you can't let everybody into the country that wants to come in, especially illegally. But --


MILLER: -- Congress will move fact, I think, the administration can move fact here, and we can't deal with this, this isn't as difficult as, you know, some of the other challenges we face. I mean we can work together and get this done this week.


MILLER: There is no excuse.

COOPER: Bakari, what the administration says as well, you know, people should come in at legal points of entry and apply for asylum. Gary Tuchman who was just with the group and basically who -- you know, are waiting for days and hardly anyone is allowed to even apply for political asylum. At least the crossing he was at the last day or two.

SELLERS: Well of course, I mean Donald Trump has basically closed his door. You can look at the policy that Jeff Sessions implemented just last week ago, before it last, cutting off victims and women who are the victims of domestic abuse and rape and violent crimes from actually gaining asylum here in the United States of America. So you have a very hard line approach.

But I think Jason and many people in the Trump administration are conflating the issue. We have a larger immigration discussion that needs to be had, but right now Donald Trump is causing a humanitarian crisis. In falling back on this line that we are a nation of laws, yes, true, but we're also a nation of immigrants. And I think that this administration fails to realize that and forgets it conveniently often. We had a problem that Donald Trump can fix tonight.

[20:49:57] Donald Trump can pick up the phone, resend this policy, speak to his secretary at HHS and make -- or excuse me, Homeland Security, and make sure that these children are not taken away, ripped away from their family. And look, we're supposed to be the beacon of light for the rest of the world to follow, and we have kids in the United States of America eating off the floor in cages, and we have Trump and Trump surrogates that want to excuse it. I just --- it's mind-boggling this is where we've come.

COOPER: But Bakari, you know, though what the supporters of his policy will say is, look, you can't just let everybody who wants to come to the United States, enter the United States, and if you allow these families with their children to come in, it's going to encourage more people to make a dangerous journey and that this is, in fact, a deterrent which long term may be better for kids because it prevents people from trying to make that dangerous journey.

SELLERS: Well, I hate to integrate facts into that discussion, because yes, that is an argument that people make, but it's not even proving to be a deterrent. This policy doesn't even work. So, while we're destroying our image, our global image while we're actually ruining young people's lives, young people's lives, children's lives, putting them in harm's way, creating a humanitarian crisis, we have a policy Anderson, that doesn't even work. It's proven to be flawed.


MILLER: So Bakari, you think there was no crisis until now? You think the MS-13 and the drug traffickers --

SELLERS: You're conflating --



MILLER: -- and the human traffickers, you think none of that was happening until now?

SELLERS: With all due respect, Jason, these kids are not MS-13. These kids are not aliens. These kids are not animals. These are children, Jason. And so when you're talking about this issue, we have an MS-13 gang problem in the United States of America. That's one issue. But don't come here and try to put the audience in a pretzel conflating that with the fact that we have kids there, and the President of the United States, your former boss, calls this humanitarian crisis and he can fix it.

COOPER: All right --

MILLER: Bakari, I get that you don't like the zero tolerance policy, we can't have a 100% tolerance policy. And that's why Democrats and that's why they're losing on this.

COOPER: I going to get a break. Bakari Sellers, Jason Miller, thank you.

I want to check in with Chris to see what's coming up on "CUOMO PRIMETIME". Is just a few minutes. Hi Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, how you doing Anderson. Boy, that is the right debate to be having. You know, what is going on? Who will make this stop? We know the President can, its clear, he doesn't want to, it seems he favors this. The polls suggest he's right. He's got Republicans moving the right way on this issue. Their problem is they have two out of every three people in the country against them. But tonight, he's his great defender coming on the show, "CUOMO PRIMETIME." Kellyanne Conway will be here to make the case.

We also have Senator Kamala Harris about what the Democrats will do, and we're going to have a debate of our own tonight. Two on one. Both chairs will be filled with people who say this is the right policy. Let's see how it stands up.

COOPER: All right, that's seven minutes from now. Chris, thanks very much.

Coming up next, Trump associate, Roger Stone admits to a campaign meeting with a Russian that he did not admit to when asked under oath about meeting Russians. We'll explain ahead.


[20:56:06] COOPER: Through the President's supporters, who now admitting to campaign contact with a Russian promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, Roger Stone attended the May 26th -- 2016 meeting, while former Trump campaign communications official Michael Caputo, help arrange it. They both said, they forgot to tell Congressional investigators about it. This is not seating well on Democrats obviously.

Here's what Mr. Caputo said about all this early tonight on CNN.


MICHAEL CAPUTO, FMR CAMPAIGN AIDE, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: This was something that I didn't remember and answered to a question that where I should have responded to this, I said not that I recall. This -- I do recall now when I was -- I start -- I recalled it when I was preparing for my testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Mueller team on May 1st and 2nd just last month.


COOPER: Well, a letter to Congress from Stone's lawyers, the Trump confidante says, the Russian offered, "non-specific damaging Clinton information in exchange for $2 million from candidate -- Trump -- candidate Donald Trump. Stone says, he declined that offer.

Our chief political analyst Gloria Borger, joins us with more.

Gloria, what else do we know about this meeting?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, what we know is that Michael Caputo arranged a meeting with somebody called Henry Greenberg, who spoke with the fake Russian accent, with Roger Stone. Roger Stone goes meets with him, according to Roger Stone, and the guy says I've got this dirt on Hillary Clinton if you pay me $2 million for it. And we know from the text messages that were exchanged between Caputo and Stone that Stone kind of dismissed him. And of course, this was first reported in the "Washington Post" over the weekend with Stone saying, you know, sorry, Donald Trump doesn't spend $2 million on anything.

COOPER: Well, so -- I mean if nothing came of this, Stone's lawyer is arguing, from the lawyer's letter, I mean --


COOPER: -- it's another example of a person associated with the Trump campaign meeting with the Russians seeking damaging information or offering damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

BORGER: Right. By our count, there are 14 Trump associates who have met with Russians, and, you know, the attorney is saying -- and he had to send a letter amending the testimony, of course, but the attorney is saying, and these two men are saying, look, it turned out to be nothing. What we do know for a fact, Anderson, though, is that Russians were knocking on every door they could possibly knock on, and they didn't get a lot of resistance from a lot of folks in being willing to meet with them or collect dirt on Hillary Clinton. We know that from the Donald Trump Jr. meeting in Trump Tower, of course.

COOPER: So this was only revealed after Mueller had the text messages and asked Caputo about it, is that correct?

BORGER: Right. Well, Michael Caputo said that he first learn about it when his lawyer was reviewing his text messages, but he was asked about it in early may by Mueller. And, you know, he had to talk about it at that point, which he did. And, you know, they have amended their testimonies before Congress, but what they're clearly trying to do, Anderson, is get out in front of the story and say, look, the story that we forgot this stuff, we didn't perjure ourselves, we forgot it. But what they're saying is that this Greenberg man was actually a plant from a plan from the FBI and that this was really a sting operation on them.

So they're saying, wait a minute, you have to look at what the FBI is doing, don't look at us. And, you know, this person actually did have a history of working for the FBI for a bunch of years, but apparently it ended in 2013. They're saying, no, it didn't, he was used by the FBI to try and frame us, and that didn't work, obviously.

COOPER: And the FBI, have they said anything about this?

[21:00:00] BORGER: No, they not. You know, they never tell you who their informants are, as you know. But it's clear that Mueller may know a little bit more about this than we do.

COOPER: Gloria Borger, thanks very much.


COOPER: And that's all the time we have. Time to hand it over to Chris Cuomo. "CUOMO PRIMETIME".