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President Trump's Speech; Trump on Immigration; Interview with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee; Trump Defends Separations; Dow Plunges over Trade Threats. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired June 19, 2018 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They started is up more than 10 percent. And that's one of the reasons it's at that level is because they don't like reporting that kind of crime, so they put it down as a different kind of crime. But their crime is up more than 10 percent since they started taking them in.


[13:06:11] TRUMP: So we're here today to talk about small business and the incredible progress we're making as a country.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so there's the president of the United States, Donald Trump, doubling down on the very controversial policy that he has put forward over the past several weeks that will separate -- continue to separate children from their parents as they cross into the United States illegally.

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Washington.

I quickly want to go to our White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins.

Kaitlan, as you know, House Republicans, at the same time, they're working on a plan to try to keep these families from being separated. That could be part of broader immigration legislation or a separate piece of legislation. What do we expect from the president? He's going to be meeting with these Republicans fairly soon.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you just heard from the president right there. He's speaking to small business owners, may I remind you, but clearly he was wanting to speak about immigration, something that has been in the headlines in recent days, especially the growing outrage over the separation of those families at the border.

And the president is scheduled to go to Capitol Hill today, where they are going to discuss, with House Republicans, these two immigration bills that were already on the table, as well as this family separation policy there. And the White House has said, Wolf, that the president supports both of the bills that are up for votes in the House for Republicans, and they're going to try to speak with the president about with tonight. But he just said right there that he is going to look at this bill and

then he's going to make changes to it. That is not what the White House has been saying. But we essentially saw that coming after, on Friday, the president surprised a lot of people when he said he wouldn't support the more moderate of those two bills. And then the White House came out later and said he misheard the question, that he did support both of them. But, we just heard from the president himself, and clearly he does not seem to be a fan of that.

Now, related specifically to the separation of families at the border, of course, Wolf, you know that Senator Cruz has floated the idea of increasing the number of judges to help clear the immigration backlogs, which they say is contributing to a problem of people crossing the border illegally because it takes too long to get in legally. The president just made clear there, he said, I do not want judges. He said he wanted a wall. He wanted border security. So there, Wolf, he seemed to be talking less about these policy changes and instead saying he wanted fewer people to come into the country so they wouldn't even have to deal with that issue.

Several astonishing statements from the president there ranging from he said he didn't want children to be separated from their parent but then noting that that was the policy of his administration. That is what is really going to be something that has roiled Capitol Hill in recent weeks, and that is going to be on the agenda when the president goes up the street, up Pennsylvania Avenue, to discuss that tonight.

It was supposed to be just immigration, Wolf, something that is already a divisive problem in the conservative party. But now, with this policy from the Trump administration and the way that the administration has essentially botched this by not being clear, not having one communication strategy about this and contradicting other officials, now they are going to have to deal with that. That is something that the president is going to have to talk about tonight.

But we heard a lot of his thoughts there, Wolf. He doesn't seem to be open to the idea from Senator Cruz. He seems to say he wants less people to just come into the country in general. He doesn't want to have to have more judges for that. And also he did not give a vote of confidence to either of those bills that House Republicans were hoping they could get some support for from the president. And that really, Wolf, speaks to the larger issue they've had. They don't know where the White House's mind on all of this is. They haven't gotten a clear strategy from the president on immigration broadly or specifically regarding that policy about separating families from their children on the border. That really just summed it all up in that speech right there, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, he had a chance to show some daylight, a willingness to move away from that new policy, the zero tolerance policy, and let kids stay with their moms and dads. He was doubling down, even tripling down on that policy, not budging at all.

[13:10:09] Kaitlan, we're going to get back to you.

Right now I want to go up to Capitol Hill. Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas is joining us.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.


BLITZER: And I know you personally have seen a lot of these gut- wrenching moments with these kids being separated from their parents. You just heard the president doubling and tripling down, not budging at all on this, at least not now. What's your message to the president?

LEE: Wolf, I think everyone has awakened with the cries and screams and pain of these little ones that I actually saw for the two days I spent on the border with my colleagues. And we got up in the morning, went to bed at night with these horrific cries.

The real question, Wolf, is whether the Republican leadership and members tonight will have the courage to stand up against the deadly and disastrous comments of this president and to be able to insist that he cease and desist with the zero tolerance policy.

He has immersed himself with it. He is anti-immigration As he's indicated, he doesn't want a migrant camp. He has been called cruel by -- or the policies by the former first lady of the United States. He's been called disgraceful by Franklin Graham -- the policies are disgraceful. He and his attorney general, Wolf, have wrapped themselves in Romans 13, which all Evangelicals and others have spoken towards the idea of mercy, and he has used a verse that was used in slavery and Nazism according to "The Washington Post" and "The Chicago Sun Times."

So I want courage. I want courage. The Democrats have courage. We'll be introducing legislation to stop the criminalizing of these families and children.

BLITZER: In a tweet today, congresswoman, the president, once again, falsely blamed the Democrats for the crisis along the U.S.-Mexican border, and he used the term "infest" to describe many undocumented immigrants. Let me read precisely what the president tweeted this morning.

Democrats are the problem. They don't care about crime and want illegal immigrants no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infect our country, like MS-13. They can't win on their terrible policies, so they view them as potential voters.

All right, you're a Democrat. I want you to react?

LEE: Well, first of all, it is typical of the president's inhumane policies and his belief that these are not human beings. Frankly, my question to the president of the United States -- and I don't want to take this as a one on one to the president of the United States, to take it as Republicans and Democrats. Frankly this should be non- partisan.

But, Mr. President, have you been to the border? Have you held in your arms little Roger, who is nine months old, who his mother who was basically killed but his sister, who is his mother, a 19-year-old, was criminalized? Do you actually know that MS-13 is in this country and that the people who are fleeing are fleeing MS-13? Have you actually talked to your border patrol agents, as I have, to determine whether or not these mothers coming with these young babies, 2,000 of them, have been separated from these mothers and fathers because they've been criminalized by a policy by this president. Have you asked your border patrol agents in vetting these individuals, has they found -- or have they found in the babies, little Roger, in little one-year-old Leah (ph), have they found MS-13?

This, Wolf, is a falsehood. It is internal terrorizing of the American people by scaring them that they're being under sieged by these poor immigrants, migrants who are coming, who are fleeing violence themselves, like the mother, Gabby (ph), who I met, who was told by the cartel -- she was eight and a half months pregnant, minding her own business in her country of Honduras, they said, you owe us money. We will wait until you have this baby and then we will kill you. At eight and a half months, she fled the country, had the baby on the road, and has come. And when we saw her, she had had no medical treatment postpartum.

Thank God I spoke to one of the border patrol agents who was going to take her to the hospital, along with the baby. Has the president asked the question? No. He is attempting to scare us with fear.

Wolf, this should be placed squarely at his feet. He can handle this. This is not a question of passing a law. The Republicans are trying to put a straw man up to act like they're doing something. But Democrats have a single bill. Nadler and Lucille Roybal-Allard, of which I am joining and other members, stop the criminalizing of babies and separating them from their families. That's who the Democrats are. The question is, who is he?

[13:15:01] BLITZER: Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, thanks so much for joining us.

LEE: Thank you for having me.

BLITZER: All right, let's get some analysis.

Joining us right now, Josh Dawsey, he's a CNN political analyst, he's a White House reporter for "The Washington Post." Also with us, our senior media correspondent Brian Stelter, and with me here in Washington, our chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

So, Gloria, what's your reaction to the president clearly not budging on this issue --


BLITZER: This zero tolerance policy that his administration enacted in April that will separate children from their parents if they illegally cross into the United States?

BORGER: Look, I think what we heard is Trump digging in. That he made a few points, is that, you know, he is accusing the media of focusing on immigration because we want to get the cameras away from the testimony of the inspector general, which he says clears him of collusion, et cetera, which is not true. He indicated that whatever Congress gives to him, he's going to make changes because he wants what he wants.

And he said, and we might as well get it right or keep it going, meaning that this detention at the border of children will continue until the president gets what he wants, which is, I think, funding for the border wall to the tune of $25 million, which, as you know, is not in the Senate bill. He doesn't want judges. Ted Cruz wants to add judges. Does that mean he wants to deny due process at the border? We don't know.

And he said, whether it's politically correct or not, we have a country that needs to be protected. And if these people still come in through our border, which he claims is porous, he is going to stop aid to these countries. So all in one -- all in one speech, clearly off script, the president has let the country know how angry he is about this and he is not backing down.

BLITZER: Let me get Josh into this.

Josh, you've been doing some really strong reporting over there at "The Washington Post." You heard what the president just said. He's also ready to ask Congress for some sort of option he says to keep families as a unit. But as you know, he could do that if he wanted to, just reverse the policy his administration enacted starting in April.

JOSH DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, Wolf. I was over at the White House last night and today talking to a number of his advisers and what I picked up is that the president, in the last few months, has gotten frustrated, where he didn't get all of the money he wanted for the wall in the omnibus spending bill. He sees these numbers rising over 50,000 a month of folks coming across the border and he think he's looking weak on immigration. And I think the president really wants immigration to be a center point of a 2018 midterm elections and he wants to look tougher on immigration.

So I picked up this morning from a number of folks that the president is willing to make this fight go on for a while. He thinks it will give him some leverage to bring Democrats and lawmakers to the table. He think that more of the country supports him than maybe what looks like on the television. He sees some of these images and are suspicious of him because his own aides have shown more cheerful images of children playing video games, exercising. And he has a number of folks around him, Stephen Miller, John Kelly among them, who are telling him to hold the line with this and, you know, if he doesn't give in, he will end up, you know, getting maybe a more monumental or more concrete fix later on that gets some of what he wants.

So I think what he's signaling in the speech today is that this wall to wall coverage will not move him and that the president is kind of baring in for a fight. And, obviously, tonight he speaks to the House Republicans and it will be really interesting to see what tone he strikes there and whether he can get any of the conservative members to go along with him.

BLITZER: And very quickly, Josh, have you heard whether his wife or his daughter are trying to influence him on this? Because the pictures are so awful.

DAWSEY: Well, you saw the muted statement from Melania Trump where she seemed to disagree with the policy but also did not, you know, call on him explicitly to end it, saying both sides needed to end it. And, you know, that was an interesting move, I thought, on her behalf.

We really haven't seen anything from Ivanka Trump here. I haven't seen any comments from her publicly. No tweets. You know, if she wanted to say something, she obviously could. She may be influencing behind the scenes.

You know, one thing that's been interesting to me, Wolf, is there's not as much dissent on this policy in the White House as you might thing. The conversations I'm having with people, they think the media is misreporting it and they think the president is taking a bold stand because there's a crisis on the border. And if anything they're saying, we just haven't told the story well yet. They're trying to cast it in pretty stark terms. Either, you know, we have free borders or either we do this. Obviously, that's not the way it is. I would say it's not a Democrat policy. We know all of this. But there doesn't seem to be the dissent in the White House that you might think on this.

BLITZER: Well, what about that, Brian? You know, once again, in his speech just now, he said some awful things about the news media involving smugglers. When you hear this, and we're getting used to, obviously, the president going after what he calls fake news, but it -- it seems to be escalating all the time.

[13:20:05] BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, actions speak louder than words, but the words are getting more extreme. And I'll give you three examples. A couple of them from just now.

When the president was speaking, he was saying the media is helping smugglers and traffickers through the framing of this coverage. You know, that's hogwash, but that's pretty extreme rhetoric. It's similar to what he was saying last week about the press being America's biggest enemy.

There was also a comment he made on Twitter earlier today. You were talking about the comment about infesting -- the immigrants are infesting America. I checked the history of the president's speeches, his Twitter comments. He's never used the word "infest" to refer to people before. That is a new line of thinking or a new line of rhetoric from the president, to refer to people having an infestation. Again, pretty extreme rhetoric.

And as we know, he's been using the term "witch hunt" a lot more often with regards to Mueller. So these are a bunch of examples of how his rhetoric is getting worse. Now whether that's because he's more desperate or because he feels more emboldened, I suppose we could debate that all day long. BLITZER: You know --

BORGER: You know, Wolf, I think this is also about motivating his base. I mean if you -- you know, we saw a quote, I believe it was in "The Washington Post" piece or "The Times" piece, I'm not sure, but Corey Lewandowski saying, you know, you have to give your voters some reason to get out there. And immigration, as we know, is the number one issue out there for a lot of Republicans who supported Donald Trump. And I think this is one way to fire him up again, quite honestly.

BLITZER: You know, and, Gloria, we just got this tweet. I just want to --

STELTER: Well --

BLITZER: Hold on for one second because the president's re-election campaign manager, Brad Parscale, tweeted this. And I'll put it up on the screen. Time to fire Sessions. End the Mueller investigation. You can't obstruct something that was phony against you. The inspector general report gives Donald Trump the truth to end it all.

So the question -- the question I want to know is, is he -- is Brad just doing this on his own, or is this something authorized by the president of the United States?

BORGER: Well, I can't answer that. I don't know. But I'll tell you, we're talking about motivating the base. This is one way to motivate the base, to get out there and have an enemy to run against. And the enemy is Sessions and the enemy is Mueller, and I think that's -- and the enemy is the Democrats on immigration. So as you gear up to 2018, you know, you have to have a rallying cry. And this firing Sessions, which the president could well do after the midterms, who knows, is a rallying cry.

BLITZER: Let me get Josh to weigh in on this as well.

What do you think, Josh?

DAWSEY: Well, I know yesterday, an example, Wolf, the president's Gallup poll numbers are 45 percent, trying his personal best. You know, you're seeing, even among the cacophony in Washington, lots of, you know, chatter about the -- whether we actually got anything out of North Korea last week, whether this policy at the border is, you know, deleterious, inhumane. You're hearing lots of criticism here.

But across the country, you're seeing the president's numbers, while not as great as some presidents in the past, are actually going up. And the president wants to make the midterms about immigration.

You know, one of the other Republicans on The Hill particularly would love to be talking about, you know, tax cuts, the economy, the unemployment rate beneath 4 percent, you know, other -- other things -- you know, kind of a stable world in which peace in a lot of different areas, no new big wars. There are a lot of things that other Republicans would rather talk about. The president likes to talk about immigration. He thinks that brings his voters out.

You know, immigration and trade are the two things that animate this president unlike anything else. And it's what we're seeing him time and time again, putting new tariffs on China, going back to the well repeatedly on immigration. Unlike the other Republicans, that's what he wants the message to be about. And whether it's a winner or not, we don't know. But we do know his numbers have actually improved in recent weeks.

BORGER: Right. You know --

STELTER: And if he's going to spend the next five months talking about immigration, it's incumbent on us to talk about racism and how much of this is fueled by racism.

BORGER: You know, the one -- the one thing you don't want if you're Donald Trump is having complacent supporters who feel like they don't have to go out and vote. So with the use of this issue, he feels like he's going to get them out there. And so he said today, well, so what if it goes on longer. I'm going to stick, I'm going to stick, and it carries this issue for him extensively, and he feels that that obviously is an issue that helps him, as Josh was -- was just talking about. I mean it is cynical politics, but these days all politics seem to be cynical.

BLITZER: And we all just heard the president not only blast China, but also blast close allies of the United States, like Mexico and Canada, going after both of those neighbors as well.

Gloria, Brian, Josh, guys, thank you very much.

Fox News hosts, meanwhile, they're comparing the detention centers to what -- at least one Fox host called "summer camps" and suggesting that critics like, quote, "foreigners" more than they like Americans.

[13:25:04] Plus, a live look at Wall Street right now. The Dow plunging over the president's new trade war threats against China. The Dow down more than 340 points as we speak.

And this new rhetoric all comes as this meeting is occurring. Kim Jong-un and the Chinese president, they're meeting in Beijing. You're going to hear that story.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Amidst everything else, President Trump, today, taking direct aim at China once again over trade. And Wall Street, clearly, as you can see, reacting to the Dow, down now more than 350 points. A week after announcing new tariffs on China goods to the tune of $50 billion, the president now has his eyes set on another round of new charges. China, as it did with the first round of U.S. tariffs, has promised to retaliate.

Joining us now is Stephen Moore. He's a senior economic analyst for CNN, a former economic adviser to Donald Trump.

[13:30:00] Stephen, thanks for coming in.


BLITZER: I know you don't like a trade war, whether with China or Mexico or Canada, but that's clearly where the U.S. is heading.

MOORE: Well, you're getting this tit for tat situation. We don't like to use the term trade war yet.