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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

President Trump Bows to Pressure, Charity CEO Who Runs Shelters Earns $1.5 Mil; Lewis: Trump's Immigration Comments "Racist"; Reverses Family Separation Policy. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired June 20, 2018 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:30:00]

JOSH HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The inability to get your story straight on the back end about who is in charge of what and how this thing is getting put together, I think that, more than anything, even the policy itself, sort of tells middle-of-the-road voters these guys don't know what they're doing.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: There are a lot of Democrats out there who intend to make this President Trump's Hurricane Katrina.

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, absolutely, I mean, rightfully so.

The policy lays at the feet of the Trump administration and every -- and Secretary Nielsen, for that matter. And so I definitely think this does present an issue for the president that will not go away, because this executive order does not effect -- really overturn this policy.

I think another question that folks will have is what about Secretary Nielsen? Many members of Congress have called for her resignation, given her performance at the White House press podium the other day. But now we have the White House certainly basically saying whatever Secretary Nielsen said, don't believe her.

So how -- the DHS secretary, who, when a crisis happens in this country, when there is a crisis, she is the person that is supposed to stand before the American people and assuage us of our fears. She cannot credibly do that, because she lied.

TAPPER: So a lot of people think that Secretary Nielsen is the face of this policy, even though it was enacted by Attorney General Sessions.

A lot of people also trying to make Corey Lewandowski the face of this policy, even though he doesn't actually work for the Trump administration, former Trump campaign manager.

He went on FOX last night, and, well, here's what he initially said when a Democratic activist started telling a story about a young girl with Down syndrome who had separated from her mother at the border.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I read today about a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome who was taken from her mother and put in a cage.

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Wah, wah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I read about a -- did you say "Wah, wah" to a 10- year-old with Down syndrome begin taken from her mother? How dare you? How dare you?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How absolutely dare you, sir?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Here's Corey Lewandowski responding today when asked if he thought he should apologize.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Do you feel that you owe an apology of any sort?

LEWANDOWSKI: An apology? I owe an apology to the children whose parents are putting them in a position that is forcing them to be separated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I want to believe that Vice President Mike Pence is still a good man with a good heart.

He has Corey Lewandowski working for his political action committee. You should not employ a person in any capacity that reflects -- projects such heartlessness and then doubles down on it. And I can understand the administration's frustrations that this crisis was not created on their watch.

But there's a reason why President Obama didn't get the hate and blame that this administration is, because they don't say things like that. They don't project heartlessness. They actually take the time and care to figure out what's going on, rather than just firing off some tweets and bungling around the White House. And so they own this.

TAPPER: Symone? Wah, wah?

SANDERS: Yes, wah, wah was extremely inappropriate.

And I -- like, I don't think Corey Lewandowski understood that he had a window today to try to make this right, and that window is now closed.

And so for everyone that continues to have Corey Lewandowski on their payroll, to invite him in to have -- to hire him as a -- to work with him, to be clients of his, all of these folks, in my opinion, are saying that they endorse the policies and views of Corey Lewandowski and they think that this is OK.

TAPPER: So just -- we did some research as to this story about this girl, and it's a true story. I first read about it in "The Wall Street Journal." Her mother was being smuggled across the border, and -- by a U.S. citizen, and the mother is being held not for breaking the law by crossing the border, but as a witness in the case.

And for that reason, she was separated from her daughter, who has Down syndrome.

Corey says he was mocking the Democratic activist who was playing politics with children.

HOLMES: It doesn't matter.

I mean, look, the story itself does illustrate how complicated this issue is. Right? I think there are a fair number of Democrats who would like to believe that this is just kind of one decision in the wrong direction, as soon as you reverse it, everything is going to be fine.

TAPPER: Right, very complicated.

HOLMES: It is not. It is extremely complicated.

TAPPER: Yes, absolutely.

HOLMES: And it's going to take a long time to try to unwind and get actually the right policy, which, by the way, we haven't had in 20 years. We haven't had the right policy.

As to Lewandowski, look, I think part of the problem the administration has had with this and many other issues is they have got folks that speak with sort of a dispassionate analysis of real human issues that don't seem to identify with what has to be the desperation of people coming to the border in the first place, right?

If you can't figure out in your head how desperate an individual has to be to put their child, knowing that they're likely to be separated with them into that border facility, you can't figure out why that's not a law and order issue, you ought to have somebody else speak about it.

CARPENTER: But here's the flaw, and it's not exclusive to Corey Lewandowski, is that you have a number of public messengers who want to make the president look good.

You have people like Laura Ingraham on FOX saying, well, it's like a summer camp. You have Ann Coulter saying these are child actors. You have very nice "FOX & Friends" hosts saying, well, it's not like Nazi Germany. They're not being gassed.

[16:35:08]

These people are putting a higher priority on trying to cover for the president than searching the humanity in their own heart. HOLMES: But I think on the other side of that is that you saw

congressional Republicans, and in particular I thought right away Senate Republicans come to...

CARPENTER: Thank God.

HOLMES: ... a very quick consensus that something needed to be done and were ready to pass legislation on it.

So, I don't think this is sort of a monolithic critique.

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: But to that, there was a Feinstein bill on the table that all of the Democrats had signed on to, and it took days for the Senate Republican Caucus to say something of that matter.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: I think that actually illustrates that the Feinstein bill has got a tremendous flaw that would prohibit the enforcement of violent criminals.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: And we will talk about that. We're not going -- we're keeping you guys around. Stick around. I just have to take another quick break.

The government is calling them -- quote -- "tender-age" facilities. These are detention centers for young children under the age of 10. Does softening the name make it any better? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:40:35]

TAPPER: President Trump's new executive order to keep families detained together at the border opens a whole different Pandora's box of problems.

Among the outstanding questions, what happens to the more than 2,300 children already separated from their parents who are sitting in detention centers and shelters now?

CNN's Polo Sandoval reports from Combes, Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is a detention facility for the youngest immigrant children being held against their will in a U.S. city.

It's a nondescript former private home in the tiny Texas town of Combes, 20 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. From outside, these black strollers and a small outdoor playground are the only sign that some 60 children ranging in age from infants to 10 years old housed inside.

Some may have been forcibly separated from their parents after crossing into the country illegally. The U.S. government calls it a tender-age facility, one of at least three in Texas alone.

Today, the CEO of Southwest Key, the company that operates the center and others, offered his own description.

JUAN SANCHEZ, CEO, SOUTHWEST KEY: I want to make it very, very clear that this is not a detention center. We have a license by the state of Texas to run a child care facility. And what we run is a child care facility.

SANDOVAL (on camera): This facility in Combes is right in the middle of a South Texas working-class neighborhood. Speaking to some of the neighbors, they tell me they often hear children playing in the playground and often kick back soccer balls over this big white wall.

But we don't really know what happens here. You see, our cameras haven't been given any access.

(voice-over): The government has only given this handout video and some photos showing families behind chain-link cages resting on green sleeping pads and wrapped in Mylar blankets. None of the government handout materials show girls.

QUESTION: We have only seen the boys.

KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I will look into that. I'm not aware that there's...

SANDOVAL: CNN spoke to Democratic Texas Congressman Filemon Vela, who got a rare glimpse inside one of these centers.

REP. FILEMON VELA (D), TEXAS: The idea that you could walk into a facility like this one and see children at the age of 8 months or one year who have been taken from their parents, and the idea that it's the American government in the year 2018 holding them hostage, for whatever ambitions the president may have, it's just abhorrent.

SANDOVAL: Now, as President Trump signs an executive order to keep detained families together, the question is, what is next for those who have already been torn apart?

Texas attorney Thelma Garcia represents parents separated from their children.

THELMA GARCIA, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: All they do is cry, because no one has contact with their children.

SANDOVAL: Heartbroken parents charged under the president's zero tolerance policy are making up more of Garcia's caseload these days.

GARCIA: Before, they would be placed in family facilities, where you would have the mothers or the fathers with the children. Now, as far as I know, those facilities don't exist. So where are you going to reunite them?

It's going to be anywhere from a month to two months, minimum, for them to go through a process.

SANDOVAL (on camera): Before they are able to hold their child again?

GARCIA: Yes, yes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANDOVAL: Will we see more of these family housing units? That's certainly the question.

Meanwhile, for the staff at some of these facilities, we're told they are still waiting on their marching orders this afternoon. Jake, they are still trying to see how this executive order will be implemented, and how soon could these roughly 2,300 recently separated children be by their parents' side again.

TAPPER: All right, Polo Sandoval, thank you so much.

New focus on the company, a charity caring for these children -- why the CEO's seven-figure salary is now drawing attention.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00] TAPPER: In our "NATIONAL LEAD" today, the CEO who runs 26 immigrant shelters across the country, makes nearly $1.5 million a year. It's not just a huge salary that the head of Southwest Key makes, Southwest Key is a nonprofit organization. And as CNN's Drew Griffin reports, this man is among the highest paid charity CEOs rated by charity watch in the entire country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He calls himself El Presidente. His staff once played hail to the chief and applauded when he arrived at one facility. It may be all tongue-in-cheek humor but there's nothing funny about how much Juan Sanchez is being paid to run Southwest Key a non-profit housing half of all the migrant children separated from their families. According to the latest tax filings in 2017, Sanchez's Southwest Key nonprofit paid him $1.47 million doubling the $770,000 dollars he made the year before. Is that a lot even for a non-profit of his size? Apparently yes.

DANIEL BOROCHOFF, FOUNDER, CHARITY WATCH: The head of the American Red Cross receives a six $600,000 salary. It's a multi-billion dollar charity. They control half of our blood-supply, a lead disaster provider. You've got this charity, the budget is like a tenth of its size not nearly the size of the responsibilities so that's -- it does appear high.

[16:50:04] GRIFFIN: CNN analyzed non-profits as large as Southwest Key and operating under similar classification and found Sanchez paid among the very top. He operates 83 shelters or schools or detention centers across the country. The federal government contracts in the last ten years add up to $1.5 billion. By many accounts, Southwest key does provide safe housing to unaccompanied minors though they have been cited in the past for some violations. In an interview with Austin's KLRU T.V., Sanchez said the new Trump policy left him inundated with children.

JUAN SANCHEZ, CEO, SOUTHWEST KEY: We never imagined that we would have these many kids. We never imagined that we would see the kind of policies that we're seeing now.

GRIFFIN: Sanchez defense of his high salary the early years were a struggle.

SANCHEZ: When we started, we set it with nothing, very low salaries no health insurance, no 401(k)s, nothing. Over time our board had got to a point where they said we are now in a position where we can pay you a decent salary.

GRIFFIN: That history doesn't quite match with the group's own tax filings. CNN went back to 1997 where Sanchez was paid nearly $130,000 nearly every year since except for two gap years showing no income, his salary has increased. That doesn't even include his wife listed as the vice president who in the latest filings made an additional $262,000. Marc Owen who for ten years ran the IRS department on nonprofits says compensation should be adequate to what Owen could make in the private sector performing similar work. He sees nothing comparable.

MARC OWEN, FORMER DIRECTOR, IRS NON-PROFIT DIVISION: The salary is extraordinarily high for a charity even a large charity. It's a complex organization with a lot of for-profits and tax-exempt subsidiaries and the president is making a lot of money.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: Jake, Southwest Key spokesperson just got back to us saying Sanchez's salary is based on their revenue sending CNN a statement saying the compensation of Dr. Sanchez when compared to CEOs of similarly sized non-profits is within a reasonable range. The increase in the salary of Dr. Sanchez reflects the increase in Southwest Keys growth approximately 414 percent increase over a six- year period, goes on to say a board approves its salary and an annual analysis is done to compare Sanchez's salary to the CEOs of other non- profits. That statement and the information they sent Jake is precisely proving the point that we make in our story. He is one of the highest-paid CEOs of his size.

TAPPER: Top five. Drew Griffin, thank you so much. What's the one thing all of President Trump's biggest controversies have in common according to his critics? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: I want to take a moment to quickly clarify something I said at the top over a graphic that we showed on air for our new CNN polls. To be clear, this poll showing 55 percent Democrat, 40 percent Republican, this shows that the choices for enthusiastic voters who did they want to vote, how did they want to vote enthusiastic voters -- of enthusiastic voters 55 percent want to vote Democratic, 40 percent want to vote Republican. Anyway, turning to our "POLITICS LEAD," Congressman John Lewis today called the President's comment that Democrats want migrants to "infest our country." He called that comment racist.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: Shameful, racist, it's not in keeping with the dreams and the hope of the American people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it dangerous?

LEWIS: It is very dangerous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Let's bring back my panel. Lewis is calling this racist, Amanda you want to handle that one, saying that undocumented immigrants want to infest the country?

CARPENTER: Yes. I think it's a racist statement and I think Donald Trump says a lot of racist things. And honestly, I don't know if it's because he actually is a racist in his heart or if he wants to inflame those tensions for a political benefit. Both are terrible. And what's even worse is that after he has told these things are racists, he never clarifies, he never pivots, he never budges. And so the take was whether he means it or not, he's promoting racism.

SANDERS: This is a talking point that is literally -- he is literally parroting a talking point of the white nationalist movement. That is something about immigrant people invading their countries. That is a talking point like from the white nationalist movement.

TAPPER: So critics of the President Trump point to a lot of his biggest flashpoints controversies as having a through-line. His handling of the Hurricane Maria aftermath in Puerto Rico, attacking NFL players who kneel during the anthem to protest racial inequity, calling protesters who marched in Charlottesville very fine people, the Muslim ban, calling some African nations S-holes, the critics would say that the common theme is at the very least a lack of ability to see the humanity in people of color.

HOLMES: Well, I think we remember all of those most because there are areas where they don't divide along -- the critiques don't divide along partisan lines, right? They are the things that Republicans are least comfortable with and the ones that they have spoken out with and therefore make the biggest deal in retrospect.

TAPPER: All right, thanks one and all for being here. I really appreciate it. That's it for THE LEAD. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer. He is in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, caving to pressure. President Trump does what he earlier had insisted only Congress could do ordering a stop to separating undocumented families at the border.