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Trump Signs Executive Order Reuniting Families; Jag Lawyers from DOJ to Assist Prosecutions; HHS Tells CNN It Is Awaiting Further Guidance On How Families Might Be Reunited. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired June 20, 2018 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: That's it for us. Thanks for watching 360. Time to hand it over to Don Lemon. CNN Tonight starts right now.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
We do have breaking news for you. President Trump leaving Washington after a stunning reversal on his own immigration policy. Giving in to overwhelming pressure from all sides but still trying to blame everybody else for the mess he made himself on the border.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So the Democrats want open borders, let everybody come in.
TRUMP: Let everybody pour in, we don't care, let them come in from the Middle East, let them come in from all over the place, we don't care. We're not going to let it happen.
And by the way, today I signed an executive order, we're going to keep families together, but the borders are going to be just as stuff as its been.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: It all sounds good, works up the ground of his base, they might believe him, but facts do matter. The fact is, this president caved on his own immigration policy after he and his administration lied repeatedly. They lied to defend the indefensible. Holding children hostage to gain political advantage, it is shameful.
Only caving when there were too many heartbreaking pictures to sweep under the rug. Too many defenseless children begging for their mothers and fathers.
LEMON: Awful. This president and his administration tried to convince you that Democrats were to blame.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I say it's very strongly the Democrats' fault.
SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We would like to fix these loopholes. And if Democrats want to get serious about it instead of playing political games they're welcome to come here and sit down with the president and actually do something about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: All right. So that's just two lies in a row there. The fact is, zero tolerance has nothing to do with Democrats. It was this White House that decided to prosecute every single adult caught crossing the border illegally, even if they came with children. Separating parents from their kids with no clear plan to unite them. It's not very clear now.
And even though this was his on policy, the president tried to claim his hands were tied, and tied and tried to blame Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Wait, you can't do it to an executive--
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: And so these loopholes are closed by Congress, it is not possible as a matter of law to detain and remove whole family units who arrive illegally in the United States.
SANDERS: It's Congress's job to change the law, we're calling on them to do exactly that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Three lies, two from the podium, one from the White House lawn. This administration tried to claim their policy, the policy, their policy, the policy that ripped children, crying children from the arms of their parents, was not a brutal deterrence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIELSEN: I have not been directed to do that for purposes of deterrence, no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: That's exactly what it was. Senior policy adviser - listen closely - senior policy Stephen Miller telling the New York Times this, quote, "It was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero-tolerance policy for illegal entry, period. The message is that no one is exempt from immigration law."
And they were trying to claim that they were just following the law, even at the expense of their own humanity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: It is this new zero-tolerance policy that the president has supported that the attorney general announced, is it humane?
THOMAS HOMAN, ACTING DIRECTOR, UNITED STATES IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT: I think the -- I think it's the law--
BLITZER: Maybe the law--
HOMAN: No, look, it's the policy.
BLITZER: But is it humane?
HOMAN: I think it's the law and I'm a law enforcement, I must follow the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: They even tried to claim that God was on their side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF SESSIONS, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: I would cite you to the Apostle Paul in his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the law of the government because God has ordained the government for His purposes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[22:05:01] LEMON: So, the president and the administration completely contradicting everything they have told us about their zero-tolerance policy. Their hands were not tied. They didn't have to wait for Congress to do something, to do anything.
And they can't blame the Democrats, but the fact remains, more than 2,000 children have already been separated from their parents. Some of them are being held thousands of miles from the border. And administration can't really say whether the president's executive order will do anything at all for them.
So, here we are. Still a ball of confusion. Parents away from their kids. All because the administration and now they have to backtrack for something that they did, they're trying to blame someone else. Let the gaslighting, it's not even begin. Still gaslighting.
I want to bring in now CNN political analyst Brian Karem, CNN contributor Salena Zito, the author of "The Great Revolt," and CNN political commentator Amanda Carpenter who knows all being gaslighting, because that's her book, "Gaslighting America: Why We love it When Trump Lies to Us."
I don't know, Amanda, since I said that, you know, going up for the title of your book there. People didn't like this gaslighting so much. They didn't fall for it. It was not good. They handled it poorly. The gaslighting did not work for most part here, did it?
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, and I think the silver lining is that Republicans didn't fall for it this time. Look at what happened today. President Donald Trump issued an executive order to outlaw a policy of his that his administration claimed up and down did not exist. That is gaslighting.
LEMON: And that they need Congress to fix in the first place--
CARPENTER: Yes, and it goes on and on.
LEMON: -- but all -- and everyone has been saying he can just do it himself. Go on. Sorry.
CARPENTER: Right. But his own executive order sort of proves that lie in real-time. And I think what pushed him to do that is that you had Republicans finally standing up and saying, you can't do this. We are not going to separate mothers and their kids at the border.
Republican governor stood up and said, we are not going to send National Guard troops to help you, and so that is helpful in this process. Because Donald Trump is not going to stop lying. The only thing that is going to stop him in his tracks, are Republicans who stand up and say, you have gone too far.
BRIAN KAREM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Who were scared they won't get reelected, that's what it boils down to.
LEMON: Well, Brian, I mean, in the face of world leaders, religious leaders, corporate America, Republicans, Democrats, first ladies, first lady of the United States, former first lady.
LEMON: He caved under massive pressure, he capitulated but he's still out there on the road saying, well, I fix this.
LEMON: He did the mess.
KAREM: And he did fix the problem--
LEMON: He didn't have to sign an executive order, he could just says, don't do this. But go on.
KAREM: Well, yes, he fix the policy that he claimed wasn't his that he didn't do anything after he started the problem that didn't need to exist anyway. I mean, the simple fact of the matter, boil it down, the president lied to us, got caught in a lie, tried to cover it up and at the end had to fold.
Now it's a nice thing the move that was made today it's a nice move in the right direction but it portends -- it portends disaster for the Republicans and for everybody else coming forward. I mean, when is this president ever going to tell us the truth.
The only reason, and I spoke with a couple of my sources on the Hill today who said look, the only reason he did this is because there were members of the GOP who told him point blank, they don't want to campaign for fall re-election with those posters and pictures and sounds of children ringing in their ear. And being, you know, at all the rallies.
And the protests that would occur, they told him, that if we don't get reelected and you're facing a Democratic majority after the fall elections you can look forward to a nice healthy impeachment.
So what did he do, he capitulated for his own self-interest. This was a problem that didn't need to exist. This is a problem that didn't exist beforehand. And it's nice to see that finally, you know, someone showed some empathy, the question I asked is who had some empathy. And that was a question that was answered by everyone else in the country, and the president had to capitulate to that.
LEMON: Salena, just becomes -- just because the arsonist comes back and throws a bucket of water on the fire doesn't mean that he didn't do start the fire in the first place, so, do you give him--
SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I feel like we're singing a Billy Jewell song now.
LEMON: Do you give the president any credit for stopping a crisis of his own making? He was the arsonist here but he did the bucket of water on it?
ZITO: That's hysterical.
KAREM: It's a great line. That was a great line.
ZITO: So, you know, the policy maybe on paper looked great, right. We're going to have zero tolerance on the border, yes, this is what we're going to do, we're fulfilling a campaign promise.
But you know, policies always look great on paper. But then you implement them and there's also a human component to it. And there was nothing about that, the children separated from their parents, there was nothing about that that you could like, rally around and say, this is great.
[22:10:07] I mean, people understand that, you know -- that something illegal is going on. But they also understand, we're not these people, we don't -- I mean, we don't separate children from their parents.
LEMON: Salena, let me ask you, but all these people screaming behind him at this rally, say, you know I signed an executive order, that like he fix it. So, what is it, do they believe that? Do they know he's just -- you know he's up there performing and--
KAREM: They don't care.
LEMON: Pulling their leg? I don't know, they don't care?
ZITO: Well, no. When you're at a rally, you know -- so we're not looking at the whole rally, right.
ZITO: So, I'm guessing that didn't happen at -- just that wasn't the only thing he said. He probably said a series of things that led up to it and then a series of things that are after it. And so--
LEMON: I can tell you, it was the Democrats, they did it, they started it. Congress have to work--
ZITO: At the campaign rally that's what--
KAREM: That's always his big point, somebody else's fault.
LEMON: I'm just guessing. I had to sign an executive order today, and I came to the rescue, and I fix the fire.
LEMON: And I threw the bucket on the water -- I mean, the bucket the on fire, the water on the fire.
KAREM: Yes. To your point though, Don--
LEMON: But let her finish. Let her finish.
KAREM: I'm sorry. Go ahead.
ZITO: So, should we be surprised, this is what he does, this is what he always does. And you know, if we don't -- you know, if people don't like what he does then show up and you vote against him and/or if you do like it and you show up and vote for him.
It's not like this is something new. You know, this is -- for better or worse, this is comportment, this is how he handles--
LEMON: And he's at a rally--
ZITO: -- his campaign.
LEMON: Yes. He's out there in a really. And the truth is though, I'm told that he didn't speak that much about it at this rally but--
ZITO: Yes, I'm going to guess he inserted it, you know, with a bunch of things and just sandwiched it in there--
LEMON: And he kept moving, yes.
ZITO: -- and it becomes part of the whole event.
LEMON: Yes. Go ahead, Brian.
KAREM: Yes, to your point, this is very indicative of how Donald Trump governs, and it's scary. This issue has Stephen Miller's fingerprints all over it. And the bottom line is they said, hey, let's get together and do something that will really be a deterrent and stop these people from coming over the border.
And they didn't examine this issue. It was with a massive amount of ignorance that they did this. To think that this would deter anyone from coming over the border after you face the conditions that these people face, they come over here already knowing that they could face death, robbery.
I mean, I've covered numerous stories like this where these people are going through hell on earth just to realize the American dream.
KAREM: So, if they want to be cold and factual they could have said, hey, even if we separate these children they're getting better living conditions than they are in their own country. And they be right, they'd be cold, and callous, and cruel and soulless, but they would be right. But they didn't look at it. And so it just tells you that when he said he got the best and the brightest, he didn't.
KAREM: And that's pointed.
LEMON: Amanda, I want you to take a look at this moment, this is from inside the Oval Office today between Vice President Pence and President Trump. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president has made clear as we believe it's a false choice, whether we are a country of law and order or a country of borders, and a country that demonstrates the compassion and the heart of the American people.
TRUMP: I think the word compassion comes into it but it's still equally is tough if not tougher.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, the vice president uses the word compassion, the president immediately turns it back to toughness. How should we read that, Amanda?
CARPENTER: I think he is sort of unhappy with the corner that he has been boxed into. I mean, I think he bought into the deterrence policy but didn't appreciate the human cost that would come with it. I mean, everybody was fine with this until the news stories coming -- started coming out with the pictures and the audio. And people learned there was a different.
Listen, I work for Ted Cruz, I know about the unaccompanied minors that come alone and get housed in facilities in Texas. This is going on for a long time. It's tragic. And we really need to look at where those children have gone. But there's a lot more children who have come to America without their parents who are lost in the system that we need to find and figure out what happened to.
But that put aside, I think, you know, John Kelly, Stephen Miller, Donald Trump really thought if we told people, you will lose your children that would stop it and now he realized that backfired on him. And he's upset because he wants to appear strong. He did cave and doesn't like it.
LEMON: And he also wanted to put the blame on someone else saying that it was the Democrats, and he thought I guess people would believe that as well.
KAREM: That's a standard basis. He wants to blame everybody for everything else--
[22:14:55] KAREM: -- and take no responsible for anything. And he's always blaming the Democrats or somebody who doesn't agree with him.
LEMON: Yes. Or Obama or Hillary or somebody, or Mueller.
KAREM: Yes. He's still running in the election. He's still--
LEMON: I'm sorry, Brian, I got to get Salena in on this.
LEMON: Because remember, Salena, your -- not your claim to fame, but we knew you during election as the person who wrote this that the press takes Trump literally but not seriously while his supporters take him seriously but not literally. I mean, does that still hold true? Because it seems like we have taken him literally and his actions -- his actions matched his words do you think on this one?
ZITO: I don't think any much -- in terms of his -- of the way the people that support him view him, and in the terms of the way he uses words and he uses language, I don't think much has changed. I don't think there's a level of expectation that his voters think, and the people that support him think that's going to be.
LEMON: Even though in this particular issue, Salena? I'm talking about this issue.
ZITO: Yes. Here's our problem, Don. I think about this all the time when I'm out there. Everything is like at the 11th decimal and the switch is sort of broken off, right? So every issue is all way up there. The small ones and the really, really important ones. The ones that have deep impact on people's lives.
And so because everything is at that level, I think everyone, everything has the same level of importance. Either that or people are tuning out, which is not a good thing.
LEMON: It's the sky -- I don't disagree with you. The sky is falling, the sky is falling.
LEMON: That sort of--
ZITO: Yes, and I'm worried about that.
ZITO: Because that's now how we should view politics and or government. We need to be able to step back and look at everything individually because everything is so heightened. I'm so concerned that we're losing that ability to view it that way.
LEMON: Are you -- but there's a -- maybe there is a lesson. I've got to run. But is it a lesson for Democrats and maybe even for -- the media's not Democrats that, you know, maybe--
ZITO: I think it's for all of us.
LEMON: For all of us that everything is not--
(CROSSTALK) ZITO: Yes, exactly.
LEMON: -- you know, deaf.
CARPENTER: Well, I'm just going to go real quick. We've been at 11 for immigration for a long time. I've been in the Republican camp trying to say there's a crises at the border off through the Obama years and there have been. I've seen the facilities. I've seen the pictures.
KAREM: It's older than that.
CARPENTER: It's terrible. Yes, many years.
KAREM: Yes. I've been covering since the 80s.
CARPENTER: And so when are we going to get together -- great, fantastic. But Republicans have been screaming about the crises at the border. And I've been part of the people that told, don't worry about that, you just hate brown people, et cetera. No. There's really bad things happening and at some point we have to come together, secure the border and take care of the people who are here.
KAREM: But each party uses this as a political football.
LEMON: I've got to go, Brain.
KAREM: That's the problem. They have to take it seriously and neither party has done that in the 35 years I've been covering it. They do, they won't change a thing.
LEMON: We got to take it seriously and literally. So, thank you all.
LEMON: I appreciate it. I appreciate the conversation.
When we come back, the president caving to intense political pressure, signing an executive order meant to keep immigrant families together. Yet, the fate thousands of children already separated from their mothers and fathers remain uncertain. One of my next guests says this is a bridge to another crises. We'll break that down. That's next.
[22:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: We have breaking news tonight. The Defense Secretary James Mattis has approved a request from the Justice Department for 21 jag lawyers to assist in prosecutions of misdemeanor illegal entry cases.
So let's bring in now our experts. CNN national security analyst, Juliette Kayyem, and CNN legal analyst, Laura Coates. Hello to both of you. Laura, I just want to get your reaction to this. I'm reading again. Mattis, this Mattis news, 21 jag lawyers reassigned to help process illegal immigration cases, will that make a dent in the problem do you think?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, given the fact that you have 600,000 according to the most recent reports of fiscal year 2016. It says you got about 600,000 deportation cases that are currently on the books, an enormous backlog and a disinterest by the presidents to have more judges.
So, even if you have the jag prosecutors who were there, who I'm sure will be effective trying to expedite everything. If you don't have the judges there to actually reconcile the cases and you have this enormous backlog, even having a small number of people who are devoted entire to this process won't make much of a dent.
It requires overall policy of legislatives accompanying that tactic, but I do hope that it does and do a good thing to try to undermine that backlog.
LEMON: OK. So Juliette, let's talk about now this executive order. You say it is a bridge to another crises. So, are you saying things could get even worse?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: They could. And look, if the hastily written executive order, which is agencies appear to have no idea what they're doing. So, I'm not -- you know, there's no victory here.
So first of all, it is setting up, you know, basically we're going to go from a family separation issue to a family detention issue. And there're a legal parameters around this. There's a 20-day deadline. So what happens in 20 days we don't know unless the consent order is changed?
Secondly, where are we going to put them? This is the thing with the Trump administration, they make these claims. There's agencies they have to figure out where we are going to put them. Military basis, are they equipped for families. What happens at those military bases.
The third and the most important, and I will harp on this for a very long time. There's nothing in the executive order and it is clear the agencies have no idea what to do with these plus 2,000 kids that we already have. There is no reunification plan. It is shocking, it is immoral at this stage.
It was clear to me a couple days ago that this administration made no plans to think through what is going to be, what is reunification going to look like. We do this all the time in disaster management. Identification, numbers, biometric information, fingerprinting, whatever it is, none of that was done.
And so the only headline today should be, honestly the Trump administration refuses to reunite 2500 plus kids with their family. So there's no smiling, there's no victory here. LEMON: Yes. Well, let's look, Laura, if you will, can you explain the
legal question here. If the federal courts don't give the administration the power to detain accompany children for more than 20 days, would the separation of parents and children continue?
COATES: Well, let's take a step back. We're talking about the Flores versus Reno case. It essentially says that you cannot hold a child in a very restrictive setting. They haven't broken any laws. And so detaining them and basically incarcerating them more than a period of 20 days is unlawful.
[22:25:07] The ninth circuit has back this up. This happen just in 2015 and supported by under the Obama administration when he tried to retain families together. And they said you cannot do this. We do not believe in prosecuting those who have not committed a crime including the children.
So you have that at the forefront of the mind. You know the president of the United States has been trying to say that it's Congress who must act and trying to blame Democrats for their inaction or indifference. But in reality what he is trying to do now is trying to light a fire under judge in that particular decision that says, listen, it's up to you now.
We're doing all we can but if you're going to hamper our decisions here and require us to separate families after 20 days, knowing full well that it's an average of over a thousand days for these people trying to seek asylum in this country, and for that process to run its course that are forcing our hand and now it's your fault. It's about deflection.
And what they're trying to do now is essentially say either that court has got to allow us to detain families together for a period of longer than 20 days, or Congress has to make that court ruling absolutely obsolete and moot by saying, we're going to give you the ability to do so.
Either way the Trump administration is trying to do the old, ask for forgiveness as oppose to permission and force people to sue and test the theory of the Flores decision rather than actually in view if you had any in this case.
LEMON: Well, this is the question then, Juliette. If the president has just stop the practice of separating children from their parents as other administrations had, would there any of these issues right now?
KAYYEM: There might be some, I mean, each case would be treated individually. But the real thing is Sessions' decision a couple of months ago to do sort of full prosecution, a 100 percent prosecution.
That is -- that is the -- your foundation of why we're here now. No one has ever believed in immigration, that people should -- 100 percent should be criminally prosecuted. We have saved or reserved that for the drug dealers, the child smugglers, the really bad people. The rest everyone else either seeks some sort of legal status, asylum or something else that the law would guarantee or suffer some misdemeanor and ask to come back to court, whatever.
And so the problem isn't that there's too many kids coming over at the states, the problem is that the administration will not back off their decision to do 100 percent prosecutions. And until they do we are just going to punt this issue for a very long time.
The crises is delayed 20 days and for - I'm going to say it again - for those 2,000 -- or e 2,500 kids right now, the crises continues. This administration refuses to focus on family reunification and they cannot be forgiven for that at this stage. I honestly believe that. They cannot be forgiven. It is outrageous that they have pulled these kids away, it is more outrageous that they're doing nothing to put them together with their parents.
LEMON: Juliette and Laura, thank you very much. I appreciate it.
COATES: Thank you.
LEMON: When we come back, the government isn't sure what happened to the thousands of kids who has already been separated from their parents. So how will these families be able to reunite when kids are being sent all over the country? We'll talk about that.
[22:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Tonight it is unclear how President Trump's executive order ending family separation affects those children already taken from their parents. Hundreds have been sent to states far away from the southern border. The Associated Press is reporting that 50 children are now in foster care in western Michigan.
So let's bring in now Agustin Arbulu who is the director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. Mr. Arbulu, so good to have you on, thank you very much.
AGUSTIN ARBULU, DIRECTOR, MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF CIVIL RIGHTS: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: You say in your state, immigrant children as little as three months of age have arrived from the separated families at the border? Talk to me about that.
ARBULU: Yes, we've -- obviously over the weekend, we had a lot of questions raised and concerns from commissioners that I work for, and we began to delve into that issue, and talked to the organizations that work directly with children that have been separated from parents, and had an opportunity to talk to one of the attorneys, and was directly informed that children as young as three months had been going through this process.
LEMON: How many children are you talking about to the best of the interest?
ARBULU: Well, Right now presently in Michigan under the transitional foster care program, there's approximately 54 that are in this program. They stay an average of about 56 days before they are shipped out again out of Michigan.
LEMON: Do you know if you'll get more?
ARBULU: Well, there are applications. I did talk to the two organizations. I think they were -- they're looking to an expansion to add about a total of 44 more, but they're not sure. I think on one organization, Samaritans, told me they're adding 12 -- capacity to bring in 12. And Bethany I think has made an application for 33.
LEMON: What is the long-term plan for these -- is there a long term plan for these children?
ARBULU: Well, the plan of course, Don, is based on the floor. So the goal -- and because that's what they are being brought under -- they are being brought to put them in the lease restrictive setting, with the goal of reuniting them with their parents or close relatives. As you know, this setting is quite different.
Because you're not dealing with unaccompanied children who arrived alone at the border, but these are children who are coming to the border with their parents, and are separated, and the parents are detained under DHS control and oversight. And my guess is that they are being united when there's a final jurisdiction being made as to the outcome of the parents' status.
ARBULU: That's my guess.
LEMON: Before the agreement which the administration has decided the solution to the crisis of family separation is to get rid of the 1977 federal court decision that strictly limits a government's ability to keep children in immigration detention. So they're trying to figure out how this is going to -- what's going to happen at least legally with all of this. But my question is, to you, this has been horrific to watch this, it's been horrific to...
LEMON: ... to see some of the videos, and to hear some of the audio. What do you think the turning point was?
ARBULU: Well, I think the -- when you talk about separating children who are three months of age -- here's another fact, a year ago, we were told that Bethany was handling children average age about 12.
[22:35:15] Today the average age is seven, so it's going down. So, I think that the focus on the most vulnerable population, children, who cannot communicate for themselves...
ARBULU: ... who are barely able to say words, and can only speak -- if they can speak is the Spanish, and some may have disabilities, and special needs. So all those factors I think come into play, and...
LEMON: But you say the audio of the crying babies really made a difference?
ARBULU: Of course. And I think all of that comes into play. You're talking about a human issue -- a human rights issue, not only a civil rights issue.
LEMON: Yes. Thank you, Mr. Arbulu. I appreciate your time.
ARBULU: You're welcome.
LEMON: When we come back, this is what the President said just yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you prosecute the parents for coming in illegally, which should happen, you have to take the children away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So now he's reversed himself. So what exchanged from yesterday to today?
[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: President Trump caved today after intense pressure from Congress, his family, and the American people to stop the separation of parents and children at the border. So let's discuss now with CNN Political Commentators Joan Walsh, National Affairs Correspondent for the Nation, Ana Navarro, a Republican Strategist, and Steve Cortes, a former Trump campaign Adviser.
Good evening, thank you all for coming on again. As I say every time this is an important conversation. So let's make the most out of it. Ana, were you surprised to see the President cave to the pressure today?
ANA NAVARRO, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: I was and I wasn't. Listen, the pressure, the national outrage over this issue had built up to beyond the boiling point. The minute you start seeing Republican groups, right, Congress people, senators, evangelicals, faith leaders, business leaders, the chamber of commerce, it was endless.
It was an endless array of outrage from all sorts of sectors in the United States, including corporations, United Airlines, American Airlines, it was on the media. It was all over the place. As I have told you before, everywhere I went I heard people speaking about this.
And so, what you see is a guy who cares about ratings, who cares about approvals, who cares about T.V. coverage, succumbing and caving in. What you see is a guy and an administration that has been revealed through this to be a bunch of folks that are cool, callus, cynical, lying, incompetent fools.
LEMON: Since you mentioned it -- Steve, let's talk about the handling of this because I don't think that you'll disagree that there was a level of incompetent here because the President says that it wasn't a law, and I think you even said that, it turns out that it was law, it turns out it wasn't a law.
He said that he couldn't do this, Congress had to do it. That was wrong, he backtracked on himself today. And then he said it was the Democrats fault. So, what is going on here? Especially as someone who's had to come on for last couple of days, and defend this, what's going on here?
STEVE CORTES, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Right, well, first to be very clear, I said for a long time the President was inaccurate went he said that he had no control over this. You know, he clearly did. For example, he could have defaulted to the Obama and Bush policies of catch and release. Now I think that was a terrible mistake. But he could have made that choice.
LEMON: Did you say that in our conversation on Thursday or Friday? I don't recall, maybe you did.
CORTES: I certainly said it on television, I'm not sure if I said it on your show, but certainly said it on CNN that he clearly had a choice. I think that's a bad choice. And by the way, I really think right now, quite frankly, what he's done is -- I'm not sure what the giggles about, I don't think I've made any jokes yet.
What he's done right now, I think is tell his base, and frankly people like me that we're going to take the risk, we're going to try to put this in the Congress, and we're going to try to put it on the courts. But we're going to take the risk of America having...
LEMON: What's funny, Ana?
NAVARRO: Seeing you...
CORTES: What did I say that's funny? Why are you laughing?
NAVARRO: ... bend yourself into pretzel shapes. I'm laughing at seeing you back peddle, I'm laughing at seeing you try to get some shred of dignity to the fact that you like so many others have been played like fools that have been on T.V., and all over the place defending the indefensible. And now somehow you have to justify it, and you have to justify the fact this is a backtrack.
LEMON: So let's get back -- let's get back on track here.
CORTES: Hold on. I'm not justifying.
LEMON: Steve and Ana -- Steve and Ana let's get back on track here, because, Steve...
CORTES: I'm not justifying anything.
LEMON: Steve, let's get back on track here, because I don't want to go off on something some tangent here. You didn't say it on the show. Everything that you said on the show with me, I'm just being honest, the President has contradicted what you said. And now you're still here defending what he said and I asked you, I said...
CORTES: No, I'm not, as a matter of fact...
LEMON: I said to you -- remember my question why is the President...
CORTES: Give me a second, I'm disagreeing with the President.
LEMON: ... and you said, what to lie? And I then, mean, here we are.
LEMON: I'm just sighing, brother.
CORTES: Don, I'm going to disagree with the President if you let me -- if you let me. I'm going to disagree with him. I disagreed with him when he said he didn't have a choice. And I've said that if not on your show, then certainly on CNN. I've said that when he called the Democrat law. I said that's not a Democrat law, that's an American law. He does have digression over gun law. I disagree from that.
CORTES: And by the way, I also disagree with him...
LEMON: That's not what you said on this show.
CORTES: I've said that on CNN.
CORTES: Listen, I've done a lot, and I've said...
LEMON: Maybe since then. Sorry, go on.
CORTES: More pertinently -- more pertinently right now, I think he's making a mistake, quite frankly. I really do. I think the United States unfortunately is getting closer to a European situation where we might allow and codify refugee camps within the United States of America.
[22:45:06] And we might incentivize that, and I think that's a mistake. I really do.
JOAN WALSH, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, I will agree with that, I'm very worried that we've got -- I'm happy that we're not separating families anymore, Don, but I'm very worried that we're going to have ongoing family detention centers, that is not good. We don't want baby jails, but we also don't want babies jailed with their parent.
But I just have to say, I'm not congratulating the President today, I'm not congratulating Steve, I'm not congratulating anybody who defended this policy. The President lied, and lied, and lied. And let's not forget, he still has 2,500 children that he's holding hostage.
He will not -- he and his government will not promise to reunite these kids with their parents, there is no process for doing that. This executive order, whatever the heck it is, does not apply to them in any way.
And we are hearing from lawyers, we are hearing from advocates, we are hearing from parents themselves that they have no idea how to find their children. They have no idea how to get their children back. So, I am not giving Donald Trump credit. He stopped lying, he saw that he was going to pay a price -- a political price, so did other republican, but this is not over.
LEMON: Well, he's still saying it's the Democrats' fault. Just...
LEMON: Just so you know.
WALSH: Of course.
LEMON: Here's what I want to know -- it's a good question, we're going to pick this up on the other side of the break. And I'm glad, we've got a diverse panel, we've got Latinos, we've got women here, and we have an African-American, right? So it's a very diverse panel. I wonder if the President will help himself if his administration was more diverse especially on issues like this. We'll discuss right after this.
[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Joan, Ana, and Steve are back with me now. So, Steve, President Trump's cabinet meeting, let's put this up, today had only one woman represented, and that was Liz Cheney sitting at the table alongside 15 men, the only other woman in the room with Sarah Sanders who was standing.
In addition to the lack of gender diversity everyone at the table was white. On an issue like this, as important, and as sticky as it is, tough immigration is, a diverse cabinet would help President Trump, don't you think?
CORTES: Don, I agree. By the way, listen, I think it's important that our government look like our country largely. I don't (Inaudible). But I think it should largely look like our country. And I think the administration has work to do in that regard.
And I've encouraged -- publicly and privately encouraged the administration particularly in regards to Hispanics, being an Hispanic, you know, that's sort of my lane, that I think we need more Hispanics. We have some who are in really important positions, people like of Mercedes Schlapp in the office, Secretary Acosta of labor, but I think we need more, quite frankly.
LEMON: Joan, let's take at this now. The President speaks to Republican lawmakers yesterday. We'll out that up, mostly everyone standing up and applauding, white men. What do you think?
WALSH: Well, this is big problem for the Republican Party. We know that, Don. They're facing demographic distinction if they don't drop their reliance on race to divide people. They are getting about 90 percent, 91 percent, 92 percent of Republicans voters are now white people in a country that is now about 64 percent white.
This cannot continue for the Republican Party. It will go the way of the wigs if they don't begin to appeal to more people. And they're not trying. I mean, in the President's speech tonight, he went back to saying Mexico doesn't send us their best. He's talked about immigrants infesting our country.
And you know, he's cut funding like Steve said a moment ago, and I agreed with Steve, that we don't want to see family detention camps explode on the border. But the President cut funding for groups that were doing -- that were helping immigrants represent themselves in these asylum hearings to get out, or be sent back. Often they're sent back.
They also have this amazing pilot program. One year ago tonight it ended. It was working with something like 700 parents seeking asylum. It kept in touch with them, it brought them back to their asylum hearings, 99 percent appeared in court.
So it wasn't catch and release, a term I don't like. It wasn't something where they were allowed to just disappear, and they never come back, which some people complain about. They had a protocol that was 99 percent effective, and they defunded it.
LEMON: I also -- listen, you can say whatever you want. I don't like that term. I don't like quotas because that's like a -- that's a buzzword.
LEMON: Sometimes a dog whistle. You know, this issue, Ana, has galvanized Democrats, terrified Republicans. I mean, just today a new CNN poll shows eight percent more voters would support Democrat or Republican on a generic ballot. What impact do this immigrant separation issues have on the midterms in November?
NAVARRO: Look, I think, we don't know what we have seen until recently is that the intensity on the Democratic side is much higher than it is on the Republican side. But we've also seen that Americans have a short attention span. It took a long while for this issue to get to this point. This has been going on now for what, two months? It's two months later, and 2,000 plus kids separated later that we are focusing on it like this. But this issue has something very -- you know, very particular. Look, this is not the first time that Trump fabricates, makes up, manufactures a culture divisive crisis right?
Whether it be Charlottesville, or whether it be the anthem, and kneeling, and flags, and confederate statues, whatever, you name it, this is what he does. To pit them versus us, to pit one side versus the other, this is how he fans the flames for his base. But this particular issue cut across all the demographics, it offended all the demographics, women, men, old people, young people, immigrants, non- immigrants, Hispanics, non-Hispanics.
And as far as diversity in the -- in the cabinet, Don, I want to address that because I have friends in that cabinet. Friends who I've known to be pro-immigration reform Republicans, friends who I know who were part of the Bush administration, and espoused immigration reform, and would have never stood for this before, but friends who have sold out their principles.
[22:55:10] I just read today that -- just right now, that Alex Acosta who I have known, who was the dean of FIU, Florida International University, is one of the most diverse schools in the country, full of DREAM act kids, full of immigrant kids canceled at the last minute his appearance at NALEO -- the NALEO Conference conference, the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, a nonpartisan organization.
Romney McDaniel -- Ronna McDaniel, if she is still using Romey, also canceled at the last minute. You know why, because they can't show their faces at Latino events as representatives of Trump. They will run the same fate as Kirstjen Nielsen.
NAVARRO: I mean, I recommend if any of them want to eat Mexican, or Salvadorian, or Nicaragua in the next few days, they get used to grab hub.
WALSH: Don't do it yet.
LEMON: I though it was also interesting today as well.
CORTES: You know, Ana...
LEMON: Hang on -- hang on, Steve. It was also interesting today because we don't use to speak of Cohen in this context.
LEMON: But Cohen, in his resignation letter he talked about having to deal with the Southern District of New York. And then he said more over, I cannot -- that he was resigning from the RNC, this is how this is cut across.
He said I cannot personally support a zero tolerance immigration policy that permits thousands of innocent children from being separated from their parents as the son of a polish holocaust survivor, and then he goes onto talk about that. But, I mean...
LEMON: ... when you lose your fixer...
WALSH: When you lose Michael Cohen.
LEMON: ... when you lose Michael Cohen you know it's...
WALSH: Yes. And good for him. It's never too late to save your soul. But I will point out 56 percent of Republicans based on CNN poll, they supported a family separation. Tragic.
LEMON: I've got to go, but quick, you've got five seconds. Sorry.
CORTES: None of us support family separation.
WALSH: That's what he said.
CORTES: We wish their parents didn't force family separation by committing crimes. The parents decided to separate themselves from...
WALSH: You are back to yourself.
LEMON: But you defended the policy.
WALSH: You're back your talking self.
CORTES: Yes, I think the policy should be intact. And, Don, you are accusing your duplicity.
LEMON: I've got to go.
CORTES: I'm saying the President made a mistake. Today, the policy should remain intact.
LEMON: Thank you. Thanks, everyone.
NAVARRO: Buenas noches.
WALSH: Baby jail. Buenas noches. Baby jail.
LEMON: Buenas noches, everyone. We'll be back -- I mean, this panel. We'll be right back.
LEMON: Oh my God.