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Michael Caputo On His Contacts With Russians; White House Defends Controversial Family Separation Practice At The Border; Trump Threatens New Tariffs On $200 Billion Of Chinese Goods; DHS Chief Denies Family Separation Amounts To Child Abuse. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired June 19, 2018 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER AIDE TO TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: I think it defies credulity and I think we need to find out, true or false, whether he was working for the FBI that day like he was for 17 years.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: There is no evidence -- There is no evidence that he worked for the FBI past 2013, just to be clear. No evidence he did, but no evidence --

CAPUTO: No, but there is also --

BERMAN: -- that he did --

CAPUTO: -- no evidence that he didn't.

BERMAN: No, he -- OK, OK. And again, you didn't know it one way or the other. All you knew, just to recap and in closing here, a Russian was calling you offering dirt on Hillary Clinton and you said yes, please.

CAPUTO: I would have said yes to a French-Canadian, a Hawaiian, someone from St. Louis, from a Canadian -- and listen, when people are offering --

BERMAN: Is it plausible -- is it plausible --

CAPUTO: -- information on your opponent it --

BERMAN: Is it plausible that Roger Stone -- do you know if Roger Stone ever talked about this meeting with the president or ever talked about his various contacts with the president?

CAPUTO: I can tell you that if you just look at the text communication between Roger and myself, Roger thought it was a big waste of time.

We never spoke about it again but I realized that I had sent somebody to him that just wasted his time, as you saw from my reply to his answer that it was a stupid meeting. I said that's just the Russian way. Sorry about that.

Listen, at the end of the day, I never should have bounced this guy to Roger Stone -- not because he was from another country originally but because he was an idiot.

But at the same time, we know that he was an FBI informant for 17 years and we need to find out if he was still working for the FBI that day because he's in the country --

BERMAN: Mike Caputo --

CAPUTO: -- right now.

BERMAN: -- thank you.

CAPUTO: Yes, sir?

BERMAN: Thank you so much for being with us. We always appreciate your willingness to come on and give us your point of view. Appreciate it, sir.

CAPUTO: John, you are always fair. Thanks a lot.

BERMAN: Thanks, Michael -- Alisyn.


So there are images of the kids being kept in pens here. Is this what we want to do? Are we comfortable with this as a nation? Is this our moral compass?

So we have a debate coming up that you'll want to hear -- Ana Navarro and Steve Cortes, who have very different feelings about what's happening at the border.


[07:36:32] CAMEROTA: The Trump administration is trying to defend its policy of separating children from their parents at the border.

This, as we hear cries coming from those kids. This comes from inside one of the detention centers. It's audio released by "ProPublica."


CHILD CRYING: Daddy! Daddy!




CAMEROTA: OK. Joining us now to talk about all of this, we have CNN political commentators Ana Navarro and Steve Cortes.

Steve, I want to start with you because I read in the notes that you call this an excellent new policy. So what do you like about it?

STEVE CORTES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER HEAD OF TRUMP HISPANIC ADVISORY COUNCIL: Yes, and by the way, you play the crying children there and I have nothing but empathy for those children, and their parents have completely mistreated them by committing a crime with their children in tow.

But you could also -- you could open a demagogue --

CAMEROTA: Hold on, hold on. Let me just stop you -- let me just stop you point-by-point.

So you know that these parents aren't doing this for a fun vacation, right? You know that they're coming from Honduras and from whatever their horrible situation is. So when you say they've mistreated them --


CAMEROTA: -- you know they're trying to get their kids a better life.

CORTES: OK, and I'm glad you mention that, by the way, because if they're coming from Honduras, which a lot are, the first place they can request asylum is Mexico.

Instead, they have chosen to cross the gigantic country of Mexico to come to the United States --

CAMEROTA: And why would they do that, Steve?

CORTES: -- which tells me they're not just trying to get out of trouble in Honduras.

Because they're economic migrants. Because they want what we have in the United States. And I don't begrudge them wanting that, by the way.


CORTES: But it's also our right as a country to determine who gets to enter the United States and under what circumstances.

CAMEROTA: Of course.

CORTES: And that's not racist, it's not xenophobic --


CORTES: -- that's just common sense.

CAMEROTA: Of course. We're allowed to have an immigration policy --

CORTES: And we could also play the crime --

CAMEROTA: Hold on one second, Steve. We are allowed to have an immigration policy.

Do you think that separating children -- some of them toddlers as you heard there -- is the most effective immigration policy that we could have?

CORTES: I think if people commit crimes they need to be prosecuted, whether it's an American breaking and entering into a house or a Honduran breaking and entering into our country.

Unfortunately, when people commit crimes in the U.S. and elsewhere they are separated from their children. That's a terrible consequence for the child. It's not the child fault.

But it doesn't mean that we can hold the parent blameless and allow them to wantonly break the law --


CORTES: -- and have an open border --


CORTES: -- which is terrible for our economic --


CORTES: -- and national security.

CAMEROTA: And one last thing, Steve. You know that there is a law on our books that protects families that come here seeking asylum. How do you know that they're not seeking asylum?

CORTES: Right. Because they're not doing it the right way. When you sneak across the border --


CORTES: -- you can't request asylum.

CAMEROTA: At the border, you're allowed to seek asylum.

CORTES: When you come to a checkpoint -- no, you -- Alisyn, learn the law. You have to come to the checkpoint and raise your hand and say I'm here for asylum. And if you do that -- even right now, even today -- you are not separated from your children because you're not committing a crime.

CAMEROTA: I don't think that's what the 1967 protocol says --

CORTES: And we vent --

CAMEROTA: -- but OK. So you're saying that you -- so you reject --

CORTES: Yes, that is exactly what happens. But if you sneak across --


CORTES: If you sneak across and commit a crime and then once you're caught say oh, I'd like asylum as a backup plan, well that doesn't work and then you are going to be separated from your children.

If you come the right way and ask for asylum at the checkpoints, as you're supposed to at the legal crossing points --


CORTES: -- then we take a look at the merits of that case.


Ana, your thoughts on all of this?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's just -- it's just too much heartbreak for this time in the morning.

I -- you know, I don't know how anybody can hear the wails of that child asking for her mamita and defend this policy and not realize just how against American values it goes. How hurtful it is for the image of the United States around the world.

[07:40:15] How hurtful it is for Americans to realize that this is their government, their country that is doing this -- separating children.

Look, I think it's a mistake. I think it's a human mistake, I think it's a moral mistake, I think it's a political mistake. And I think that if continued, Republicans are going to pay a high price in November because people are outraged. There is a lot of things that Americans will put up with but these images -- American people are compassionate people.

And there's a reason why DHS, there's a reason why DOJ is going to such lengths for us not to see the images of the girls. The images from inside. Why they're not allowing reporters and journalists with cameras into these centers because it's heartbreaking.

CAMEROTA: And why? What is that reason?

NAVARRO: Because when you see it -- when you see it, it completely changes the narrative.

Listen, Alisyn, this has been going on for what, seven-eight weeks now. It's eight weeks later and 2,000 children later until now that we are seeing the images. That we saw that 2-year-old girl wailing. That we are hearing the cries, that we are hearing the reality.

And there's going to be more of that because there's going to be more whistleblowers inside those detention centers who release this information.


NAVARRO: We're going to be hearing more stories and it's not going to go away. And if they think it was going to be like any other story that has gone away and been replaced by a bigger story, I assure you this is one that pulls at the heartstrings of Americans where they will not look the other way.

Everywhere I go right now -- everywhere I go people are talking about this, whether it be an airplane, a supermarket or a gasoline station. People are outraged.

CAMEROTA: Steve, does it affect your moral compass at all when you hear those cries?

CORTES: Of course. Again, I said it's a tragedy and their parents shouldn't misbehave. They shouldn't commit crimes with their children in tow.

CAMEROTA: And I want to just ask you about that because I keep hearing that, Steve. Just one second about that.

Is that the country that we are that we punish infants, and toddlers, and adolescents, and teenagers for the crimes of the parents? Do we do that?

CORTES: Well, yes we do, every day. Again, if you break and enter into a home with your child in tow you will be separated from your child, and that's a terrible consequence of your behavior as a parent, as an adult.

And by the way, when we talk about the crying and the pain -- and I have tremendous empathy, again, for these children. They didn't choose this.


CORTES: I also have tremendous empathy for the pain that is caused by an open border.

So we could play -- we could play, for instance, the crying of the family of Sandra Duran as an example. A young Hispanic mother who was killed ruthlessly in Los Angeles by a five-times deported illegal alien. That's the consequence of an open border -- Kate Steinle, Jamiel Shaw.

CAMEROTA: Understood.

CORTES: Unfortunately, there's countless -- so compassion isn't only --

CAMEROTA: Listen, I --

CORTES: -- compassion for those children --


CORTES: -- but compassion for Americans --

CAMEROTA: Agreed, and it's not a one-way street.

CORTES: -- and protecting our security.

CAMEROTA: But in terms -- look, there are --

CORTES: Right.

CAMEROTA: -- a dozen ways to skin this cat, Steve. There are a dozen ways to try to fix the issue of immigration and you know Democrats have been bedeviled by it and Republicans have.

But are you feeling today that separating toddlers from their parents is the most effective way?

CORTES: Arresting people who willfully break the law and cross our border without permission --

CAMEROTA: Yes, you can arrest them and keep families together.

CORTES: -- has to be this zero tolerance policy is a priority.

CAMEROTA: You can keep families together. That's --

CORTES: Well, if they bring their children with them we don't have a choice.

CAMEROTA: Hold on a second. That's what George Bush did and that's what Obama did.

CORTES: Your kids don't go to jail with you.

CAMEROTA: They kept the families together.

CORTES: And that was a mistake.

CAMEROTA: It was a mistake to keep the families together, you're saying?

CORTES: Because what you also do then is you incentivize people to bring children along because it becomes almost a ticket into the country. You want to --


CORTES: If you want to have real compassion, do you know how much pain that will cause? How many children will be smuggled and kidnapped will be effectively rented out to get across the border?

CAMEROTA: I hear you but you look at this if you -- they're using this as a deterrent.

Steve, if they're using this as a deterrent it doesn't seem to be working. In the two and half months that it's been happening there has been an uptick in families showing up at the border. The deterrent isn't working in these two and a half months.

So your idea isn't --

CORTES: Well, the biggest deterrent will be to build the wall which was the -- CAMEROTA: -- working. OK, that -- and there you go.

CORTES: -- which was the signature issue of the 2016 campaign --

CAMEROTA: Yes, right, and there it is.

CORTES: -- which Congress, unfortunately, has not cooperated on. But if you --

CAMEROTA: Ana, that -- is that what's happening is that this is a bargaining chip for the building the wall or whatever else the president actually wants with immigration?

NAVARRO: Look, I think this has evolved. You see the interview with John Kelly and Wolf Blitzer from over a year ago, they were talking about instituting this policy of separating families as a deterrent.

But now that it's become so toxic, now that it's become such a nuclear bomb politically and that you see so much backlash and outrage, I think that they're trying to somehow turn it into a leverage -- into some sort of using the children as pawns to get something in order to score a win because they need an elegant exit strategy.

And we know this White House and this president doubles down on stuff, does not apologize, does not admit mistakes. Thinks he is the second coming of Christ, perfect and infallible in every way. And thinks that admitting mistakes, going back and reanalyzing things and saying we're doing this the wrong way is a sign of weakness.

[07:45:06] And so now, they're trying to figure out how do we get out of this. And the only way they can get out of this without looking weak in front of their base is to somehow score a political win which they think they would do with a wall.

But the truth is -- look, if -- they keep saying the hypocrisy here and the inconsistency and the lack of morality, it really is astounding from us and that's a very high bar for this administration to leave us astounded by their lack of morality and their hypocrisy.

They keep saying, on one hand, oh, what a horrible policy. This is just heartbreaking. This is a horrible policy. Then they keep lying about it being a Democrat bill.


NAVARRO: But they forget that Republicans are in charge of the House, Republicans are in charge of the Senate, and Republicans are in charge of the White House. How long do you think it would take Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to pack a one-paragraph bill prohibiting this practice if that was necessary, if Donald Trump asked for it?


NAVARRO: It wouldn't take a week.

CAMEROTA: We will be speaking with one of the lawmakers who is spearheading all of this or attempting to, Bob Goodlatte, coming up.

So, Ana Navarro and Steve Cortes, thank you both very much for sharing your opinions --

CORTES: Thank you.

NAVARRO: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: -- on this -- John.

BERMAN: Great discussion.

Look, we have another breaking story developing as we speak.

Global markets rattled to say the least. The Dow way down in premarket trading. There are serious jitters across the globe right. Why? Fears -- new fears -- escalating fears of a trade war.

Stay with us.


[07:50:10] CAMEROTA: Global markets are sharply down this morning after President Trump threatens to impose an additional $200 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods. China vows to strike back hard.

So, all this happening at the same time that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is meeting with China's president. What's that about?

CNN's Matt Rivers is live in Beijing for us with more. What's happening there, Matt?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, what's happening is that the Chinese are calling this latest threat from the Trump administration blackmail and saying that if the United -- if the Trump administration goes forward with an additional $200 billion in tariffs they're going to do the same.

And that's why people keep calling this a trade war. The United States hits first, China hits back, and so on and so forth.

If China does hit back it's going to hurt the American consumer. They're going to put more tariffs on American imports and they're going to target companies -- big American companies that rely on China for their bottom lines. Think Apple, Boeing, Sysco, Ford, GM. All those companies employ Americans.

And it all -- at the same time, as if that's not enough, Kim Jong Un is here in Beijing, his third visit to Beijing in the last several months alone. He is going to be talking with Chinese President Xi Jinping about that summit.

And clearly, what's going to happen is Chinese President Xi Jinping going to make sure that China's strategic interests, which often do not align with those of the United States, will be represented at the negotiating table going forward -- John. BERMAN: Matt Rivers, thank you very, very much.

These 2,000 children separated from their parents -- the key question, is it child abuse? We're going to speak to the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics and put that question to her.

Stay with us.


BERMAN: We have heard the cries of the children and seen the images from inside the detention centers at the border where children are being separated from their parents.

Does this amount to child abuse? The White House says no.


KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: We have high standards. We give them meals, we give them education, we give them medical care. There is videos, there's T.V.s. I visited the detention centers myself.

That would be my answer to that question.


BERMAN: Joining us now, Dr. Colleen Kraft, the president at the American Academy of Pediatrics. And, Antar Davidson, a former shelter employee turned whistleblower.

[07:55:00] Dr. Kraft, I want to start with you. You heard the response from the secretary of Homeland Security on the question of whether this is child abuse.

What did you make of her answer and what's your view?

DR. COLLEEN KRAFT, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS: I think that one has to understand what's foundational in building child health, and that is the relationship with a nurturing adult -- with a caring parent.

And apart from that you can have the most beautiful surroundings, and food, and water, and shelter, and games, but if you don't have a parent -- if you don't have that adult who cares for that child, you're taking away what's foundational and what's most important to that child's health.

And so, taking a child away from a young -- from a parent is child abuse.

BERMAN: You have visited the border. You have been to these shelters. What is the long-term impact of this separation on a child that we've heard accounts of them being anywhere from six months old to 11? KRAFT: So particularly for very young children, the body has its own stress response where you see increases in cortisol and epinephrine and norepinephrine -- the fight or flight hormones. And in the presence of an adult who can help them buffer those hormones, you have a child who can get upset but then can be calmed down -- whose needs can be met -- and they can become resilient.

When that buffer is taken away -- when you no longer have that parent to calm or console, then you have a situation that's called toxic stress. And toxic stress is prolonged exposure to these fight or flight hormones and it actually disrupts the architecture of the brain in these children as they're developing.

So you have long-term damage in their social-emotional bonding, in their speech, in the language, in their ability to learn. And eventually, it becomes a risk factor for chronic health conditions.

BERMAN: Antar, you worked in a shelter in Tucson until last week. You quit. Why?

ANTAR DAVIDSON, FORMER MIGRANT YOUTH SHELTER EMPLOYEE: Well, officially, I felt that the direction the organization was taking was ultimately one that was very damaging to the children, especially considering the fact that these kids are being placed directly into public schools upon reunification.

It's easy for a person on an official visit being shown by the organization itself to determine that the facility is nice. It's a different thing to basically work there day in and day out. You can't determine the widespread treatment.

You have so many interactions, so many facilities, so many employees that on one visit to unequivocally say that everything is fine is quite a stretch.

BERMAN: What did you see from these children? What was their behavior like after being in these shelters, Antar?

DAVIDSON: Well, prior to the zero tolerance policy, the kids were a lot better -- it was a lot better behaved. The kids that came mostly were prepared for the journey. They came knowing prior that they would spend some time in the shelter and then they would ultimately be reunified. So for that reason they were much more calm.

As -- in the past six weeks, however, the kids were not those kids -- it was not the same population. There began to show up kids that did not have being in the shelter in mind. They didn't know what was happening.

They were kids who had just been ripped from their parents and so for that reason were extremely distressed and very showing a lot of traumatized behavior -- symptoms of trauma.

BERMAN: I want to play what secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said about respecting the workers at the border -- the people interacting with these children. Let's listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEILSEN: We take allegations of mistreatment seriously and I want to stress this point. We investigate. We hold those accountable when and if it should occur.

We have some of highest detention standards in the country. Claiming these children and their parents are treated inhumanely is not true and completely disrespects the hardworking men and women at the Office of Refugee Resettlement.


BERMAN: So you could see what she's trying to do there, Dr. Kraft. She's trying to suggest that the people questioning this policy are pointing the finger at the men and women who are working at the border there.

But it's your contention, Dr. Kraft, that even if these are the best caregivers in the world it won't make up for the separation from the parent.

KRAFT: That's absolutely right. And in the shelter that I visited, the staff and the workers were actually very kind people. They were not allowed to hold and console these young children but they really tried to give them toys and crayons and they were -- they were as kind as they could possibly be.

That's still no substitute for having a parent because -- particularly, these very young children who are not quite verbal yet can't express what's going on there. And the person that they need the most is their mother or father -- that person that they've known all along who's been able to console and comfort them.