Return to Transcripts main page


Republicans Voting On Two Immigration Bills; Trump Blames Dems For Zero-Tolerance Policy; Stocks Fall As U.S.-China Trade Spat Escalates; Trump Defends Halting South Korea Military Drills. Aired 5- 5:30a ET

Aired June 18, 2018 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, a deadly earthquake in Japan kills at least three people and injures over 200 more.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START, everyone. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It is Monday, June 18th, 5 a.m. in the East. We will hear from Laura Bush and Melania Trump on this divisive and emotional issue of immigration. It is one that will dominate this week in politics as Republicans set to vote on two immigration bills this week as the White House tries to deflect all of these outrage over its zero-tolerance border policy by blaming it on Democrats.

Administration critics accusing the president of separating migrant children from their families for political leverage and here is why. The president tweeting over the weekend, "Democrats can fix the forced family break up at the border by working with Republicans on new legislation for a change. This is why we need more Republicans elected in November. Democrats are good at only three things, high taxes, high crime and obstruction."

ROMANS: The president, later added, "Democrats should get together with their Republican counterparts to work something out on Border Security and Safety. Don't wait until after the election because you are going to lose."

Several Democratic lawmakers chose Father's Day for a tour of the Southern Texas border and its detention centers. They got a first- hand look at the impact of the zero-tolerance policy.

Let's get more this morning from CNN's Nick Valencia in Brownsville, Texas.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, this was one of the last stops for Democratic lawmakers as they did their Father's Day tour of processing centers along the U.S.-Mexico border. They said their intention was to highlight the zero-tolerance immigration policy currently implemented by President Trump. But what they called it after seeing what they saw inside these facilities is zero humanity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: There is zero logic to this policy. The administration is arguing that by inflicting this harm on children and parents, this stress, that they are sending the message, a deterrent message for people not to seek asylum in the United States.

It is completely unacceptable under any moral code or under any religious tradition to injured children, inflict trauma on them in order to send some political message to adults somewhere overseas.

The president is also arguing in the last few days that this policy gives him political leverage with legislation. Hurting kids to get legislative leverage is unacceptable. It is evil.


VALENCIA: One of the Democratic lawmakers on this Father's Day tour was Congressman Pete Welsh of Vermont. So far, he says that there have been at least 2,000 children separated from their families over the course of the last six weeks. I asked him if he's heard of any plans to reunite children with their parents. He said right now there is just a lot of uncertainty -- Dave, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Nick in Brownsville, thanks, Nick. Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen trying to diffuse the controversy over the zero-tolerance border policy. She took to Twitter last night accusing the press advocacy groups and even members of Congress of, irresponsible and unproductive reporting.

She claims we do not have a policy of separating families at the border. She goes on to say, there is no reason to illegally cross between ports of entry for anyone seeking asylum.

BRIGGS: The first lady is also entering the immigration debate. In a rare statement on policy, Melania Trump's spokeswoman tells CNN, "Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families. She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart. The first lady says she is hopeful both sides of the aisle will come together to achieve successful immigration reform.

ROMANS: Laura Bush lashing out at the Trump administration for separating children from their parents. It is rare for the former first lady to weigh in on politics or criticize an administration since her husband left office.

But in a Sunday opinion piece in "The Washington Post," she writes, "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 it breaks my heart."

BRIGGS: All right. Let's break this down with CNN Politics Digital Director, Zachary Wolf. He is in D.C. for us this morning. Good to see you, sir.

Let's talk about the administration's policy here. Steven Miller has been the architect to basically anything related to immigration. Whether it's the botched rollout of the Muslim ban or this particular issue.

Here is what Steven Miller told "The New York Times," "The separation of children from their families was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero-tolerance policy for illegal entry." Here is what his boss, the president of the United States, said.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hate the children being taken away. The Democrats have to change their law. That's their law. Quiet. That's the Democrats law. We can change it tonight. We can change it right now. The children -- the children can be taken care of quickly and immediately. The Democrats forced that law upon our nation.


[05:05:12] BRIGGS: True or false, Zach? It's the Democrats law?

ZACHARY WOLF, CNN POLITICS DIGITAL EDITOR: The law is the law. The way the law gets there is usually by Republicans and Democrats voting for something. That is beside the point here because the reason this is happening is because the Trump administration decided to enforce the law in a new way.

To make quote/unquote, "zero-tolerance policy." So, the only person you can legitimately blame in any reality here is the Trump administration for doing this because they are interpreting it the way they are now interpreting it. They are the ones who made the change.

ROMANS: Yet, the Homeland secretary says, "That this is not a policy to separate people at the border. I want to reiterate this, we do not have a policy of separating families at the border. For those seeking asylum at ports of entry, we have continued the policy from previous administrations and was only separated if the child is in endanger. There is no custodial relationship between family members or if the adult has broken a law."

Is she trying to thread a very fine needle here saying that people should not come into the country if they are seeking asylum? They need to go to port of entry and say I need asylum? Give me the paperwork. Is that what she's saying?

WOLF: I think it is trying to thread a very, very fine needle in saying, you know, our policy is not to do this. It might happen if we have to criminally prosecute you, we will separate you from your family and we are now going to criminally prosecute you for doing something in a different way. Yes, that is definition of threading the needle in kind of a weird way.

ROMANS: I wonder if you are going to get today, you know, the optics are pretty bad here, right. You have Laura Bush and the current first lady here saying this is heartbreaking what we're seeing here. I wonder if they are going to start to change the tone here a little bit. BRIGGS: Well, first off, this week, there are two immigration bills going through the House, Zach. Either directly address this issue and what is likely to come out of the House? Does anything get passed?

WOLF: Well, if something can get through the House, it would also have to get through the Senate. It is not clear that President Trump -- it would also have to get through him, too. It is not entirely clear to me that he would sign any of the bills that are out there.

He has kind of said that he doesn't really like them, but then the White House has through the back door said he would sign them. So, you know, I'm not sure they always speak for him. He said they don't always speak for him.

So, we need to see him actually say I will sign these bills, I think, but then they don't deal with the underlying issue. They don't change the, quote/unquote, "Democrats law," that he says is forcing him to do this.

ROMANS: Yes, and it is giving fodder to the late-night hosts to already have plenty have of fodder with this president. Let's listen to John Oliver from the weekend.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: The Democrats gave us the laws. Now, I want the laws to be beautiful, humane, but strong.

JOHN OLIVER, HOST, "LAST WEEK TONIGHT": First, beautiful, humane, but strong? That is not how you describe a law. That's how you describe a Viola Davis character in a movie that hasn't been written yet, but you will still win an Oscar. Also, Democrats did not give them these laws and I cannot stress this enough.

There is no law that suddenly required separating parents from their children. This was the result of the deliberate policy choice by Jeff Sessions, a man so small he can wear, and this is true, a raspberry as a hat. That's a fact.


ROMANS: Raspberry as a hat is not a fact actually, that was a joke. It gives the president's critics ample ammunition when you see these heartbreaking pictures of these little children being taken away from their parents. It's --

BRIGGS: But it gives Democrats an issue, too? Ahead of the midterms? Doesn't it hand them a gift?

WOLF: Yes, sure, I think absolutely it does. They will take it and run with it. But I also want you to look back at the previous policy, you know, things like this that the Trump administration has faced.

There was the Muslim ban or the ban on people from majority Muslim countries. There was destabilizing Obamacare when they could not repeal Obamacare, they basically tried to, you know, sabotage the law. So, they have not -- President Trump has not shown himself willing to buckle to public pressure. That is the opposite of what he would like to do in most sense.

ROMANS: I can remember arguing with him about Syrian refugees. He just saw no need for young children to come here.

BRIGGS: All right. Zach, we will check in with you in about 30 minutes. Thank you, sir.

ROMANS: All right. Global stocks falling overnight as the U.S. and China inch closer to an all-out trade war. The White House says China tariffs are back on punishment for stealing U.S. tax and trade secrets.

It plans to slap a 25 percent tariff on $50 billion in Chinese exports targeting tech industries that Beijing vowed to dominate that Xi Jinping made in China 2025 initiative with aerospace and robotics and manufacturing cars.

[05:10:01] Beijing retaliated immediately accusing the U.S. of launching a trade war and Beijing will target high-value American exports like soybeans, pork, cars and crude oil. The farm products are strategic hitting states that supported Trump. Chinese soybean tariffs could cost Iowa farmers $624 million. It is not just Trump country. Some big U.S. companies are also caught in the middle.

American computer chipmakers who they they'll be hurt by U.S. tariffs. U.S. companies send finished chips to China for testing. Now those chips face tariffs when shipped back to the U.S.

Tariffs also hurt companies that do big business in China like Boeing and Caterpillar. Shares of both fell Friday. China is a critical market for Boeing. America's biggest exporter. It expects to make a trillion dollars in China over the next 20 years.

BRIGGS: The China tariffs like the separation, might be giving two issues to Democrats when they desperately needed one with the economy so hot. Let us know.

A strong earthquake hits the Japanese city during rush hour with deadly results. We will have the details next.



BRIGGS: Its' 5:15 Eastern Time. At least three people are dead, and more than 200 others injured, after a 5.3 magnitude earthquake hit Osaka, Japan last night. Government officials say a nine-year-old girl and an adult male were killed by collapsing walls. Also getting reports of major travel delays in the region with train service suspended across Osaka.

ROMANS: The FBI agent who was removed from the Russia probe for his anti-Trump texts is willing to testify before Congress. On Friday, the House Judiciary Committee started processing a subpoena to compel Peter Strzok to testify. But his lawyer is making it clear a subpoena is not necessary. He says Strzok, who President Trump, of course, calls a sick loser, will voluntarily testify before any committee that asks.

BRIGGS: Ex-Trump associate, Roger Stone, tells CNN he met with a Russian national in May of 2016, was offered damaging information about Hillary Clinton in exchange for $2 million. Stone and former Trump campaign communication official, Michael Caputo, now claim the meeting was part of a larger effort by law enforcement to set up the Trump campaign.

Both men accusing the Russian national of being an FBI informant. Stone has denied contact with Russians in the past and says no information was exchanged and the offer was turned down.

ROMANS: President Trump is defending his decision to suspend joint military exercises with South Korea after a Singapore summit with Kim Jong-un, the president is claiming the drills were costly and provocative. How is that playing in South Korea?

CNN's Nic Robertson live in Seoul with the latest. And the president, you know, using language that presidents usually don't when he called these war games and a waste of money. His own military brass has supported these games as readiness and drills between two allies. How is this playing out in Seoul?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Sure. Yes. Ready to fight tonight, I mean, that is the idea of these drills with U.S. forces and South Korean fellow soldiers are ready. And you know, the drop of a hat should they are ready at the drop of a hat should there be provocation from North Korea.

South Korean officials have been pushed about this over the weekend and Monday here to inquire where does this dialogue stand because remember last week what we heard from South Korean officials was reading between the lines and surprised about the announcement and discussion of better coordination with the United States and this is a bilateral agreement that one side cannot make up their mind about it.

So, in that context, South Korean officials here asked about this over the weekend and again today are saying that they are not clear themselves when the decision or what the decision might look like to actually stop these joint military exercises.

So, for the moment, as far as South Koreans are concerned, this is something they expect may happen. There is an indication they realize this may be necessary to get the talks between the United States and North Korea really up and running.

But for the specifics of it, it is not happened yet. Details are not out there. It does fit in the scenario of the South Koreans want to be engaged if an important decision will be made and that appears to be part of the conversation. The foreign minister had that conversation late last night with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Nic in South Korea, thank you so much for that.

BRIGGS: All right. Coming up, a World Cup shocker. Defending champion Germany knocked off by Mexico. Fans cheering so hard in Mexico City, they may have caused an earthquake. Andy Scholes with more in the "Bleacher Report" next.



BRIGGS: What a weekend it was on the pitch. Mexico stunning Germany in the World Cup opener. This one is Mexico's biggest wins ever.

ROMANS: Yes, this is something. Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report." Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, guys. Yes, this was such a huge upset. You know, Germany, the defending champ, one of the favorites to win again this year, but it was Mexico's day. Check out the crowd in Mexico City celebrating when they scored their first goal.

So many people were jumping up and down in Mexico when they won, seismic sensors in Mexico City detected a small earthquake according to the Institute of Geologic and Atmospheric Investigations in Mexico.

Germany hadn't lost a World Cup game opener since 1982. Irving Lozano scoring the lone goal for Mexico late in the first half and Mexico would hold on to win that game 1-0. They will take on South Korea in the second game on Saturday.

The most frustrating U.S. Open ever coming to an end yesterday. Players all weekend voicing frustration over how tough the course at Shinnecock Hills was playing. The defending U.S. Open champ, Brooks Koepka, was able to hang on for the win to defend his title. The first back-to-back U.S. Open winner in 29 years. He told CNN the win is a perfect Father's Day gift for his dad.


BROOKS KOEPKA, 2-TIME U.S. OPEN CHAMPION: Second year in a row. I hadn't gotten him anything. Next year, it will be the same thing. It is cool to have him here this week. He missed last year. Glad to have my family and friends here and to do it on Father's Day is cool.


SCHOLES: Quite the week for Texas Rangers catcher, Jose Trevino. A week ago, he welcomed his first child and Friday, then called up in major. Then yesterday on Father's Day, he got the game-winning hit. He dedicated that hit to his dad who passed away back in 2013.


JOSE TREVINO, TEXAS RANGERS CATCHER: Crazy. My dad, I wish he was here. I knew he would help me. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: Just an emotional Father's Day for Trevino. I'm sure one he will never forget.

BRIGGS: Good stuff, my friend. Thank you, Andy Scholes.

ROMANS: All right. It's 25 minutes past the hour. Critical week for immigration begins in Washington with Republicans voting on two key bills and two first ladies take a rare step of weighing in on the zero-tolerance policy that led families being separated at the border.