Return to Transcripts main page


First Ladies Speak Out on Children Separated from Families at Border; Congress to Vote on Immigration Bills; "Champions for Change" Highlights Girls at Space Camp. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired June 18, 2018 - 13:30   ET



[13:31:35] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: It's not often we hear from first ladies over major policy issues, but the outrage in the United States over young children being separated from their families at the U.S.- Mexico border has the current and former first lady speaking out.

A statement was issued in response to a question from our White House reporter, Kate Bennett, from the press secretary to the current first lady, Melania Trump. And it says this, quote, "Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform. We need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart," closed quote.

Gloria is still with us, along with our White House reporter, Kate Bennett, who got that statement from the first lady.

Gloria, what do you make, first of all, of the statement from the current first lady?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I'm glad Kate asked the question of the first lady's office. And I think the fact that there actually was a response in and of itself is important. And that the first lady came out and effectively said -- she wasn't taking on her husband, I don't think so -- but she effectively said this has to stop. Which is, you know, getting in there in policy because she cares about children. That's one of her issues.

BLITZER: It's so heartbreaking to see these -- everybody has seen that photo of that little two-year-old girl standing there crying as her mother is being taken away. Anybody who sees that has to be sick.

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: I think that the first lady, you know, you can't champion children and say my whole platform is about helping kids and not weigh in on this. It's not something she does often, as you said. But I think also she tends to be the more compassionate voice of this administration where his tweets are all caps and brusque, and she puts in emotion, saying, I hate to see it, we need to govern with heart. Those kinds of words are very Melania Trump.

BLITZER: How did you see the statement they gave you? BENNETT: Again, I didn't think she broke from the presidency. She's

calling for a swift bipartisan, both side of the aisle, solution to immigration reform. She's certainly not breaking in that sense. She is saying it's a political issue, a Congress issue. But adding that she's moved by it, she's seen it, she acknowledges what people are feeling. That's the compassionate side.

BLITZER: The former first lady, Laura Bush, wrote an op-ed in the "Washington Post." It's a big deal. Quote, "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. 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."

How unusual, Gloria, is it for Laura Bush to write an article like this.

BORGER: Very unusual. I think it was stunning. I think it spoke from the heart obviously. But she doesn't often do this, if ever. To write an op-ed like this, calling this policy cruel and immoral, was really taking aim at Donald Trump. Don't forget, Donald Trump has been blaming previous administrations for this. And, in fact, I think in doing this, she is saying, don't blame my husband. She didn't come out and say it, but it's very clear that she was taking on Donald Trump, saying, you know, this is reminiscent of internment camps, which was shameful, and I'm sure Donald Trump didn't react to this kindly.

[13:35:08] BLITZER: What do you think?

BENNETT: She also talked about America, writ large, in the sort of spirit of the country, and welcoming. She made reference to former first lady, Barbara Bush, her mother-in-law, and another first lady who changed the perception of aids and HIV by holding a small child. Laura Bush said, "How can we see these small children and not want to hold them?" Here's something my mother-in-law did that was able to change the whole concept of something, can't we do that here, aren't we a country that can do that? It was really, really strong, scathing. And I think it was right for her to speak up. She wasn't a very vocal first lady. I don't recall her being that way. But again, children another part of her platform.

BORGER: And when a former first lady chooses not to just send out a statement but to write an op-ed, to write a long piece about this --


BORGER: -- that's also a distinction.

BLITZER: And if this zero-tolerance policy of taking kids away from their parents continues, I suspect the outrage here in the United States, indeed, around the world, is going to intensify big time. They'll need to stop this very, very quickly.

Guys, thank you very much. As outrage grows, what is Congress doing? You're going to hear the

proposals on the board right now, and which ones the president may actually support.


[13:40:40] BLITZER: Immigration and the family border separations clearly at the forefront this week in the House of Representatives. Members are expected to vote on two immigration bills, both of them authored by House Republicans.

Let's bring in CNN political analyst, Rachael Bade.

Rachel, walk us through these two bills. And do they tackle this extremely sensitive issue of family separation?

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: First, both of these bills are Republican bills. The Democrats are not going to vote for either of them.

The first one is a more conservative bill that the far right has been pushing for a long time. It cracks down on illegal immigration and also legal immigration. It gives DACA recipients, DREAMers, who are in this sort of the uncertain future right now, they can continue to renew a status that reserves deportation, but they don't really have an easy pathway to citizenship. But lawmakers, specifically Paul Ryan has been bringing in the moderates, Republicans from swing districts, to talk with the conservatives, to come up with some sort of compromise. They came up with this bill that includes a number of hardline positions for conservatives, but it also includes a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers. That's the difference between the two bills.

BLITZER: How do the two bills deal with the issue of children being separated from their moms and dads?

BADE: This issue has really caught Republicans off guard. They didn't see it coming just a week ago, and now it really is sucking up all the headlines, and could potentially even bigfoot any success they have in these bills should one of them pass. What they did was they tucked into actually both bills, to my understanding, provisions that would keep families together at the border. But I'm not sure that this is going to be a solution everybody likes because what it basically does is allow kids to be held in detention centers with their parents. And there's already Democrats and the ACLU have said you're basically dealing with migrant kids. This is also not a solution people are comfortable with. We'll see if it passes. Again, no Democrats are going to vote for this. They really need the president to lean in on either of these bills if they have a prayer of getting it over the finish line.

BLITZER: Remember, the president said he wants full funding, $25 billion, for that border wall if he's going to sign anything into law. We'll see if that holds as well.

BADE: Right. BLITZER: Rachael, thank you very much for that explanation.

BADE: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, the man who took this picture of a little girl crying in the dead of night on the border, you're going to hear the story behind it.

Plus, moments from now, lawmakers set to grill the head of the FBI and the Department of Justice inspector general on the FBI's handling of the Hillary Clinton's e-mail investigation. Live coverage coming up. Stand by.


[13:47:40] BLITZER: All week we're telling stories of truly extraordinary people and organizations that are making a difference. This special series called "CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE" gives us an opportunity to highlight issues that are important to us. And that took our Brooke Baldwin back to camp, space camp, where she had a chance to meet some of the young girls who could lead the next generation of space explorers.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: You're about to feel like you're walking on the moon.


BALDWIN: Which is possible in your lifetime, by the way.


BALDWIN: Are you ready?


BALDWIN: Should we do this?


BALDWIN: Let's walk on the moon.

How is it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It feels like I'm flying.

BALDWIN: It feels like you're flying?

ANDREA HANSON, NASA EXERCISE PHYSIOLOGY & COUNTERMEASURES LAB: This is going to be a lifechanging experience for them.

The goal is to get communications turned on, constructed in the middle of the super structure, and make sure we can communicate from Mars back to earth. When I see these kids, especially young girls on the floor, I'm so

excited for them because I know their possibilities have just exploded and had they're going to do great things.

BALDWIN: I was a space camp kid in 1993. I begged and begged my parents to send me here to Huntsville, Alabama, and I got to live my dream. I think, at the end of the day, it's about these kids and belief. Space camp believes this them.


BALDWIN: What has this place taught you about you?

MEDHA AGARWAL, SPACE CAMP STUDENT: I think it's taught me that I can do a lot more than I thought I could. Because before I got here, the idea of doing a mission where you, like, essentially simulate landings on the moon or Mars or whatever was really scary because I didn't think that was possible for someone like -- I'm a 16-year-old girl. How can I possibly do that?

DR. DEBORAH BARNHART, SPACE CAMP CEO: One of our amazing women, Andrea Hanson. She's now at the space center. What she does is she prepares astronauts for the physical rigors of space.

HANSON: When I talk to students, I encourage to remember that I didn't know there was a job called the international space station exercise countermeasure specialist that I could apply for. I'm the only one that has this job in the entire universe.

BALDWIN: You're talking to someone who gets really start struck every time I meet anyone from NASA. So I find Andrea to be a total rock star.

HANSON: I love coming home to space camp. It is home. It changed the trajectory of my professional career.

[13:50:03] BALDWIN: Why do you think there are fewer girls interested in space and astrophysics and science?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before women were prevented from doing all this stuff. And NASA didn't accept women. Now it's more accepted but it's still like a transition.

ADELINA PARIKH, SPACE CAMP STUDENT: Gender norms have contributed to just really less amount of girls in science.

BALDWIN: To actually have conversations with these fifth and sixth graders talking to me about, you know, gender norms and telling me stories behind the constellations, I'm so encouraged that we have young girls that are interested in science and space.

HANSON: Being here and working as a camp counselor, giving the brief sessions on the physiological adaptations that the body goes through when living and working in space just changed the way I thought about the world around me.

BALDWIN: What do you think that we will see in not only our lifetimes but the lifetimes of these space camp kids?

HANSON: With the proper national backing and the funding, we will land on the surface of the moon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have landed on the red planet.

HANSON: Will we get to Mars in these kids' lifetimes? I'm going to say yes. I'm going to put my money on yes.

BALDWIN: How does that force you to tackle issues in a new way?

HANSON: We are really rethinking the way we design our medical system. We are making real trades that would suggest that there's a serious medical emergency and we're not going to turn around and come back home. We're going to have to deal with it as we go.

Brooke, welcome back to space camp.

First lesson of the day, the multi-axis trainer or the MAT. We're going to have you practice an anomalous re-entry profile where your capsule is tumbling back towards the earth.


BALDWIN: Oh, my gosh.

HANSON: NASA is going back to the moon so it's time to train how to walk in one-sixth gravity.

BALDWIN: Flying through space. For me, it's a bit surreal. Flying over this place that I came to when I was 12.

What is it like for you?

HANSON: It does feel like I'm a kid again except I get to do it in real life every day.


HANSON: It's a family here. We take care of each other. We put a lot of energy into a tremendous mission and that is inspiring the next generation of engineers, scientists, teachers and astronauts.


BLITZER: And Brooke is with us right here now.

And what an amazing --


BALDWIN: Mars and the moon.

BLITZER: Tell us a little bit more. Take us behind the scenes. Clearly, this had a great impression on you. BALDWIN: Well, when I was a kid, I didn't always -- my first dream

was not becoming a journalist. I, spoiler alert, wanted to become an astronaut. That didn't actually work out for me. Sally Ride was my hero. I begged and begged my parents, I grew up in Atlanta. In Huntsville, Alabama, there is a U.S. space and rocket center, which is home to space camp. They bring in these kids. You saw those two young women who came in from Australia to go to this space camp for a week because they are just so in love with science and astrophysics, physics, and that's the pursuit they wanted to choose. So I thought, what an awesome opportunity for me to take my role and voice and highlight these young women specifically, because we need more women not only up in space but bolstering what's happening with space and NASA, like Andrea, who's essentially in charge of all of the space gyms in the ISS. And so I just wanted to show these young women what other, you know, girls are capable of.

BLITZER: It clearly gave you a lot of self-confidence, too.

BALDWIN: I mean, I credit my parents a little bit for that, but, yes, absolutely. Going to space camp for me as a 12-year-old, it was something that I had never done before. I mean, they take you through it. It is hard-core stuff. You know, you wake up and you take all these tests and you study and you learn about everything out there. And at the end of the week, you perform a mission and, you know, naturally, I became the commander of my space mission many years ago -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Of course.

BALDWIN: Those are things I'll never forget. It's leadership, communication, camaraderie. It's realizing maybe I won't become an astronaut but I'm going to go back 20, 25 years and tell the stories of other girls.

BLITZER: You were twirling there, too.

BALDWIN: Did you like that?

BLITZER: Did you get nauseous?

BALDWIN: No, I did all right.

BLITZER: Could have been an astronaut. You never know.

BALDWIN: Could have been.

BLITZER: Thanks for doing it.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Good work.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Welcome to Washington again.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

[13:55:04] BLITZER: And we're going to continue to share these truly inspirational stories all week on CNN. Watch the "CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE" one-hour special, by the way, this coming Saturday, 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

We'll be back in a moment.


BALDWIN: Hi, there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You are watching CNN here.

Live pictures of this rare TV event involving the FBI for the first time since his scathing 500-page report was released to the public. The Justice Department's inspector general, Michael Horowitz, will speak before the Senate panel on the series of mistakes made by former FBI Director James Comey in his handling of the Clinton administration. These are live pictures obviously from Capitol Hill for this hearing here. After -- the play by play is this. After Horowitz testifies --