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White House Defends Controversial Family Separations at Border; Crying Children Separated from Parents Caught on Audio; Interview with Rep. Mike Turner; US Markets Brace As Trump Threatens New China Tariffs; First Ladies Speak Out Against Trump Practice Of Separating Families. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired June 19, 2018 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:19] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. 9:00 a.m. Eastern. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. Let's get right to it. A lot of news this morning and we are following two fast moving stories.

U.S. markets bracing as the president threatens to slap $200 billion in additional tariffs on Chinese goods. China this morning vows to strike back. Dow futures down triple digits right now. We'll bring you the opening bell in just a moment.

Also, the president taking the immigration crisis to Capitol Hill today despite this family separation practice being solely of the Trump administration's doing. The White House says it's up to Congress to fix this mess.

The president is heading to meet with Republican lawmakers on the Hill that are proposing these possible fixes. But this goes far beyond politics. This is about families being torn apart since April. More than 2,000 children have been separated from their parents at the border. That number continues to climb.

And take a moment and listen to this. This is heartbreaking sound regardless of your political beliefs, heartbreaking sound of children begging for their parents at a border protection facility last week. This was released by ProPublica.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we have an orchestra here. Right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we're missing is a conductor.


HARLOW: CNN has not been able to verify the original source of that tape or the events that led up to its recording. It's also not clear which detention facility that was recorded in.

Let's go to the White House this morning. Let's begin with Abby Phillip who joins us there.

So what is the message from the White House as the president heads to the Hill a little bit later today?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Poppy. This problem continues to metastasize. And the White House is really having a hard time dealing with it. They are giving really contradictory messages about what the purpose is of this policy of separating families at the border. On the one hand, you have some officials saying that it's not a deterrent and others saying that it is. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you intending to send a message?

KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I find that offensive. No. Because why would I ever create a policy that purposely does that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Perhaps it's a deterrence?


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Are you considering this a deterrence?

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I see the fact that no one was being prosecuted for this as a factor in a fivefold increase in four years and this kind of illegal immigration, so, yes, hopefully people will get the message and come through the border at the port of entry.


PHILLIP: And those clips were just from the last 24 hours, but over a year ago, now White House chief of staff John Kelly, he was then the DHS secretary, talked about this policy as a potential deterrent that they were looking in to over a year ago.

Now it's up to the White House to figure out what to do now because Republicans, along with Democrats, are growing increasingly outraged and concerned about the situation at the border while the White House is not backing down this morning. Mercedes Schlapp, communications adviser to the president, continue to say that it was the Democrats' fault and they were looking to Congress to find a fix.

Republicans are looking for a way out. There are several proposals being put forward on the Hill that would deal with this family separation issue alone and separate from other immigration priorities that the White House says they want Congress to deal with. Meanwhile, President Trump plans to meet with House Republicans later today where he's undoubtedly going to get a lot of questions about this very issue, though it remains unclear what exactly President Trump can support.

Is he willing to support a standalone bill that would deal with family separations or will he insist that he also get other priorities like his border wall and other changes to the legal and illegal immigration system in the United States?

Poppy, lots of questions here for this White House as we go forward.

HARLOW: Absolutely. Abby Phillip, thank you for that this morning. We're now hearing what it's like for these families, the children separated at the border. I played a little bit for you at the top of the show but our correspondent Nick Valencia is live in Brownsville, Texas, with more.

And Nick, I know there's a lot we don't know. Right? About these recordings. We don't know what facility they were taken in, we don't know the events around them, but what does it tell us?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is excruciating audio to hear these children. They're housed, Poppy, after they have been separated from their families. The White House says that the separation of children from their parents is happening at processing centers, not at shelters like the one you see behind me but in this audio, the investigative nonprofit ProPublica says it shows 10 Central American children, some of them as young as 4 years old, howling and crying for their parents right after they've been separated somewhere along the U.S.-Mexico border.

We have to warn you some of our viewers may find this audio disturbing.








UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we have an orchestra here. Right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we're missing is a conductor.


VALENCIA: CNN has been unable to independently verify this but we are reaching out to the government for answers. Meanwhile, we're getting new CNN polling this morning that shows that two-thirds of Americans disapprove with President Trump's zero tolerance immigration policy. It is the president himself who's blaming Democrats for creating this issue for not being tougher on border security. Democratic lawmakers here in Texas that I've spoken to say that is disingenuous and that the White House has chose this policy and that this is the policy of the White House alone -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Nick Valencia, reporting for us, I appreciate it.

Joining me now is Congressman Mike Turner, Republican from Ohio. He's headed back to Washington this afternoon. He will meet with the president today in all this.

It's nice to have you.

REP. MIKE TURNER (R), OHIO: Thank you for having me.

HARLOW: Thank you for being here. I should note in that polling it's interesting that 58 percent of Republicans, though, support this policy of separation at the border, the practice I should say.

You just heard the children. The president points to Democrats and says, this is the fault of the Democrats. Is it?

TURNER: Well, you know, I think the president's going to have to defend his own banter on this issue.

HARLOW: But do you defend it? Do you say -- would you point to Democrats and say it is their fault?

TURNER: I'm not going to defend a policy that I don't agree with, and I think the American public does not and certainly other Republicans in the House on that issue as you and I were discussing before the show opened.


TURNER: The bill that's currently being proposed by the speaker would end this practice. So, you know, obviously the leadership of the House is moving and taking action to change it. But I think what's important for us to do is to talk about what are we going to do moving forward.

HARLOW: Right.

TURNER: You know, there's an excellent article at NPR in January of this year that talks about the polling data of what Americans believe. 80 percent of Americans are opposed to an open border over half, overwhelming want some sort of barrier or closure to the border. Overwhelmingly over half want those individuals who are brought here, what we call the Dreamers, brought here as young people to be able to stay and to have a permanent ability to stay here.

Also, over -- you know, overwhelming numbers are for shifting to go a merit based system in immigration as opposed to the lottery system. That's actually what's in the bill that the speaker's bringing forward. I think that's what's important. No one's talking about keeping the system the same, whether you're Chuck Schumer, the administration or the House. HARLOW: Right.

TURNER: You know, everyone is talking about how do we move forward and overhaul the system.

HARLOW: The way that the system has been through the past two presidencies has been the same policy that exists now. It's just that the Trump administration has implemented the practice of actually following through on all of these criminal prosecutions and separating the children from their families at the border as they ensue that. Lisa Murkowski --

TURNER: But wait a minute. There were separations in the other two administrations.

HARLOW: Not nearly the number. So we've seen --

TURNER: But the American public believe --

HARLOW: Hold on.

TURNER: -- that catch and release does not work.

HARLOW: Hold on one second. I understand that. But it's 2300 separations since April according to DHS' own numbers. That is far more than in the past two administrations. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski says to blame the previous administration for a wrong committed today is not acceptable. Republican Senator Ben Sasse calls these separations wicked.

What will you say to the president today in this meeting?

TURNER: Well, I think it's inappropriate really to talk about blame. It's appropriate to talk about what are we going to do. And I think that --


HARLOW: Why is it inappropriate to talk about blame when --

TURNER: Because --

HARLOW: When it's an administration enacting a practice and the president --

TURNER: Right. We're talking about the administration talking the prior administration --

HARLOW: Right.

TURNER: The president's going to have to answer that himself. But I think when you talk about today, which is why he's coming to Capitol Hill, which is why you asked me on your show.


TURNER: Was to talk about what do we do.

HARLOW: So what would you tell him?

TURNER: And I believe that the bill that the speaker has brought forward that would address this issue end the separations, that would allow a path for Dreamers to be able to stay in the United States, that would -- as majority of Americans support -- close the border, that would also shift to a merit based immigration system is where the American public are.

I think it's where we need to be and I think it's part of our debate. No one is talking about leaving the immigration system the way it is. No one.

HARLOW: But you call the --

TURNER: Everyone's talking about how do we reform it, how do we reform it appropriately.

HARLOW: If given the opportunity, will you call the president out on pointing his finger and saying this is solely up to Democrats to fix, yes or no?

TURNER: Well, I think our meeting today is about a bill that the House Republicans and the speaker has so clearly it's not --

HARLOW: I hear you but if he --

TURNER: -- solely Democrats, if we have the speaker bringing forth a bill that in his bill -- before there was 72 hours news coverage on CNN on immigration the speaker already had on his bill ending this practice.

HARLOW: The president keeps --

TURNER: So this is not an issue of what -- it's an issue of what do we do.

HARLOW: All right. So then listen to what Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on FOX News last night.

[09:10:001] He was asked by Laura Ingraham about some comparing it to Nazi Germany, for example. Here's the response from Sessions.


SESSIONS: Well, it's a real exaggeration of course. In Nazi Germany they were keeping the Jews from leaving the country. But this is a serious matter. We need to think it through, be rational and thoughtful about it.


HARLOW: Do you agree with him that those comparisons, comparisons made by the likes of former first lady Laura Bush are exaggerations? TURNER: Well, I think the attorney general needs to defend his own

statements and I'll defend my statements and my statements are about what do we need to do to fix this?

HARLOW: You don't --

TURNER: And this is incredibly --

HARLOW: You don't agree with that?

TURNER: I think that again the attorney general is going to have to defend his own statements. I'm not going to be part of his own discussion, his debate. The debate that I'm in is the one in Congress on how do we find a bill that fixes this, the bill that the speaker brought forward addresses this and I think it's consistent with -- again, if you go to NPR's article in January that lists out where the American public are, that's where the solution is and that's the bill that we're trying to move forward.

HARLOW: So one example is what Republican Senator Ted Cruz from Texas, a border state, has proposed on this. It would mandate the kids stay with their parents, it would expedite the immigration proceedings that these asylum cases would be heard within 72 hours, entire cases decided within two weeks. Is that legislation you would support?

TURNER: Well, I think, you know, components of that are certainly very important. But I think the start is the bill that the speaker's brought forward in the House. This is going to be a debate that is going to be ongoing, but again, everyone's talking about fixing the system and that's where our debate needs to be.

HARLOW: But these are specific.

TURNER: How do we fix the system.

HARLOW: I mean, is this right?

TURNER: Right. I agree.

HARLOW: I mean, is this right? Is that --

TURNER: I think that's certainly is a sound proposal but we have to go through this process of the House bill and then the Senate bill. I think the crux of this, which is why this is so moving to Americans, is immigration is the strength and the heart of our country. And we know -- unlike any other country, when you raise your hand and become the United States citizen, you become an American and from day one, equal to all other Americans, and what we want to preserve is that spirit of immigration in our country at the same time that we have a system that's absolutely broken.

HARLOW: Republican congressman also from Texas, Will Hurd, said this to Anderson Cooper last night. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. WILL HURD (R), TEXAS: 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.


HARLOW: So your meeting with the administration, the president today, will you call on the president to change this policy, quote, "right away," just as your fellow Republican congressman said, Congress can and should?

TURNER: I think there's a lot of calls for that. And certainly I think the president, if he has the ability to do that should do that. But I think it's more important --

HARLOW: But I'm saying will you --

TURNER: I'm going to call the president to do --

HARLOW: Congressman, you get to be -- hold on one second. You get to be in the room.

TURNER: You ask this question --

HARLOW: We don't get to be in the room.

TURNER: I get to answer, right?

HARLOW: But you're not answering it.

TURNER: The question was --

HARLOW: Will you call on him --

TURNER: What will I call the president --

HARLOW: -- to end the practice?

TURNER: It is to support the House bill that I think reflects the American's sentiment on --

HARLOW: I hear you.

TURNER: -- immigration which includes ending the separation of families at the border. Now that's important. That's what do we do next.

HARLOW: It is. It is.

TURNER: That's what do we do next.

HARLOW: But as you know legislation takes time especially now to get through both chambers.

TURNER: Well, without the president --

HARLOW: So in the interim --

TURNER: Without the president stepping forward --

HARLOW: But let me ask you. In the interim --

TURNER: He supports this legislation, you still have the gridlock that you have.

HARLOW: OK. OK. So let's --

TURNER: So that's important.

HARLOW: Let's say he says he supports it, in the interim before it maybe makes it through both chambers and gets enough votes, will you call on the president to stop the practice, his administration's practice right now that is effectively resulting in these separations?

TURNER: Well, I'm opposed to the practice.


TURNER: If the president has the ability certainly the president should end the practice.


TURNER: But I think more importantly we have to talk about what are we going to do moving forward.

HARLOW: OK. He does --

TURNER: And the president needs to help us --

HARLOW: He does have the ability.

TURNER: -- go through the process of legislation and I think that today, I hopefully, he will support the speaker's bill.


TURNER: That's a way out of this that reforms immigration.

HARLOW: One final question to you, Steve Stivers, from your great state of Ohio, who chairs the Republican National Campaign Committee, came out yesterday and called on the administration to, quote, "stop needlessly separating children from their families."

Now that was a sign some analysts said to more vulnerable Republicans in their districts to say, it's OK, to break with the president on this issue. Are you concerned about the optics of all of this and what it means for your party heading into the midterms if this practice is not stopped very soon?

TURNER: Well, again, the bill that's in the House that the speaker's bringing forward has in it language to end this practice. So there's no --

HARLOW: I understand but it just takes a long time if you can actually get it through Congress.

TURNER: There's no one -- and there's no one, wait. Wait, wait. If you asked me about their position clearly --

HARLOW: I asked you about the optics if this practice doesn't --

TURNER: In the Republican House --

HARLOW: Hold on.

TURNER: -- is that this practice ends.

HARLOW: I asked you about the optics if the practice doesn't stop soon.

TURNER: I think that people have to stand on what their own positions are. My position is, is that I don't support this.

HARLOW: Right.

TURNER: And if there's a bill in the House that I support that would end the practice and I think certainly everyone has, who is opposed to the practice, would support the administration to the extent that they can of ending the practice.

HARLOW: We've got to wrap --


TURNER: I don't see how that's different other than today the president's coming forward and I hope he endorses the bill.

HARLOW: It's different because the president endorsing the bill doesn't mean the practice stops.

Finally, yes or no answer -

TURNER: If the president can end the practice -

HARLOW: Does it hurt the party? Does it hurt the Republican Party if this practice of separating families from children doesn't end in the near term?

TURNER: I don't think this is a partisan issue. I think it hurts families and I think it hurts our country. And I think that's what's more important. And that's why the president should end the practice if he's able to, but he should endorse the bill that ends the practice legislatively also and that reforms immigration because that's where we need to go.

HARLOW: Final line from you is the president should end the president if he's able to. He is able to. It's his administration's practice. Let us know what comes out of the meeting. And thank you for being here.

TURNER: Thank you for having me.

HARLOW: You're always welcome. We appreciate it.

So, to the markets, new trade tensions hitting new levels. The president threatens new tariffs, $200 billion, on Chinese goods. Alison Kosik on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange with more.

The market does not like that this morning. What are you seeing?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The market not liking it. One analyst putting it this way. Buckle up, this could get messy. Poppy, the latest skirmish began actually on Friday when President Trump announced a 25 percent tariff on $50 billion worth of Chinese exports.

China vowed to retaliate on American high-value products, like pork, soy beans, crude oil and cars.

Well, the Trump administration late last night came out and said, look, China, if you retaliate, we are going to go ahead and slap another $200 billion in tariffs on those Chinese exports.

The interesting thing with that announcement is that that $200 billion, that could actually wind up affecting products that consumers here in the US use. The American consumer is a big consumer of Chinese products, everything from clothing to shoes to makeup products.

So, if those tariffs actually come to fruition, the 200 billion, because that's less than half of what the US actually buys from China in the first place, consumers could really wind up feeling it in their wallet.

As for investors, they're worried about where this trade battle could escalate. Right now, if you look at what's happening, we're only seeing aluminum and steel tariffs actually taking effect.

But if these other threats of tariffs actually come to fruition, there's a lot of uncertainty and that what has the market looking to sell at the open. We're about 13 minutes away from the opening bell. Poppy, the Dow looking to drop over 300 points at the open. Poppy?

HARLOW: All right. Alison, thank you. I'm glad you're there. We'll come back to you.

Ahead for us, a lot this hour. Something you don't see every day. All five former first ladies, party aside, united on family separation at the border. More on that ahead.

Also, a week after his historic meeting with President Trump, Kim Jong-un makes his third trip to China since March. What impact will that have on future US negotiations with Kim.

And round two for the Justice Department's watchdog, the inspector general testifying on Capitol Hill about his investigation into the Clinton email probe. What else will we learn today?


[09:22:04] HARLOW: Undocumented children being torn away from their parents at the southern border has sparked reaction from all five living first ladies.

Melania Trump says the US must be a country that governs with heart. Laura Bush calls the zero tolerance policy cruel, immoral and says it breaks my heart.

Michelle Obama tweeted that had she agrees with Laura Bush, writing, sometimes truth transcends party.

Hillary Clinton writes, "every human being with a sense of compassion and decency should be outraged."

And Rosalynn Carter released a statement calling it disgraceful and a shame to our country.

Just how unique is it for every living first lady to agree on something like this, to speak out on something so divisive in such unanimity.

With me now, CNN contributor and author of "First In Line: Presidents, Vice Presidents and the Pursuit of Power", Kate Anderson Brower is with me. Nice to have you here.

So, the significance that we're hearing from all of them united?

KATE ANDERSON BROWER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's really unprecedented. And I talked to one Republican operative in Texas who said the unusual sound you hear is the sound of reason.

It is really a bridge too far, I think, for a lot of these women who are united as mothers. And as first ladies, it's incredibly unique that they would come out on something that is really political.

HARLOW: Yes. BROWER: And very divisive. I mean, it's astounding to me.

HARLOW: Especially since our new CNN polling this morning shows 58 percent of Republican voters right now agree with this practice, and yet all of these Republican first ladies are speaking out against it.

Sarah Sanders was asked about Laura Bush's op-ed in "The Washington Post" during the White House briefing yesterday. Here's what she said.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Frankly, this law was actually signed into effect in 2008 under her husband's leadership, not under this administration. We're not the ones responsible for creating this problem. We've inherited it.


HARLOW: Something we don't often see is a White House spokesperson pushing back against a first lady, especially former first lady.

BROWER: Never. We never see it. George W. Bush came out last year and talked about the isolationist policies of this administration, but he never named Donald Trump. And we've seen the same with President Obama. They're not calling out the administration.

And to me, it's surprising and also really interesting that these women are so brave they are able to do this. Rosalynn Carter brought up specific - her experience as first lady seeing refugees going from Cambodia to Thailand, how traumatizing it was for these children and their families.

And as first ladies, they are on the front lines, they are the consolers in chief. And so, they see pain first hand in ways that presidents often don't because they're sitting in the Oval Office, they're surrounded by a lot of yes men, frankly, and first ladies are more in touch with America.

They're able to talk to people. They're able to connect.

[09:25:00] HARLOW: Good point. You write about this in a new CNN opinion piece, which I would point everyone to it. It's important and fascinating.

Look, it's unclear if Melania Trump still has the ability or has the ability to persuade her husband's policy decisions in the Oval Office, but that she's demonstrated that she's certainly does not intend to let others influence her decision or really squash her voice.

BROWER: We saw the East Wing/West Wing feud that happens with almost every administration playout, I think it last week, when Rudy Giuliani came out and Melania Trump, her spokeswoman said, she doesn't speak with Rudy Giuliani about anything. And to me, that was astounding.

She hates it when people speak for her. She is very stubborn. She is outspoken. She does know what she wants. I think this kind of unfair portrayal of her as just this model who's disconnected, it's not true. It's simply not true.

And I think we're seeing some honesty from that side that we don't normally see.

HARLOW: Talk about another woman who is an influential voice in the White House and that is Ivanka Trump. She is a mother as well and she has been outspoken on women's rights and children's rights.

She hasn't said anything about this yet, but she has broken with her father, the president, on the Paris climate agreement, for example, on Roy Moore, on Alabama. Why the silence? Do you think we will hear from her?

BROWER: I don't think we'll hear from her on this. I mean, she has gotten some backlash for her social media feed where she said, Happy Father's Day to her husband and her father and, meanwhile, this is happening.

I think she's a bit tone deaf on social media especially. And this has happened many times with her where she's posing in these elegant ball gowns during some crisis.

In this case, I just think she's not as emotionally connected with the issue as her stepmother. I mean, Melania Trump came out in a way that, I think, was surprising. And as an immigrant herself, she has a really important platform on this issue.

HARLOW: Thank you. It's nice to have you here. We appreciate it.

All right. US markets on edge as the president threatens new tariffs on China. The opening bell, moments away.


HARLOW: Right now, all eyes on the opening bell on Wall Street as the president escalates his tariff fight with China.

Alison Kosik on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Markets set to open in just about 20 seconds. What are you seeing?

KOSIK: OK. We expect to see the Dow drop over 300 points at the opening, Poppy. Investors really expected to see the trade rhetoric die down. Instead, they see it intensify (INAUDIBLE) $50 billion worth of tariff beginning July 6. And then, he upped the ante to an additional $200 billion --