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Cohen Willing to Give Information; Children Held at Shelters; Strzok Escorted from FBI. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired June 20, 2018 - 06:30   ET


[06:33:21] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, signaling to friends that he may be willing to give information about the president to investigators.

CNN's MJ Lee joins us now with more.

How do we know this development, MJ?

MJ LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, we know Michael Cohen is weighing his options. He is currently under a criminal investigation and is facing the possibility of a potential indictment. And as he thinks through what is best for his family, we are told that he's increasingly thinking about the willingness to cooperate with investigators. And this might potentially include offering up information that investigators might be interested in that Michael Cohen has.

Here's what a friend of Michael Cohen's, who is in touch with him, told CNN. They said, quote, he knows a lot of things about the president and he's not averse to talking in the right situation. If they want information on Trump, he is willing to give it."

Now, of course, the context here is that Michael Cohen is angry at Donald Trump these days because he feels like Donald Trump, his long- time boss, has not had his back in public. We have seen Trump go out in public and say, look, this is someone who didn't do a lot of legal work for me. I haven't even spoken to him in a long time. And a friend of Michael Cohen's, another friend, says that Michael Cohen is feeling let down and isolated by Donald Trump.

Now, the other news to report on this front is that Michael Cohen is planning to hire a new lawyer. His name is Guy Petrillo. He is an experienced trial lawyer. He's the former head of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorneys' Office in Manhattan. This could signal another willingness for Michael Cohen to cooperate with investigators. But at the very least, it shows that Michael Cohen gets how serious all of this is.

[06:35:04] Of course, we know that he's been interested in hiring a lawyer who understands the southern district of New York.

Alisyn and John.

BERMAN: All right, MJ Lee, thanks very much. What does this possible cooperation, this possible Michael Cohen be

willing to flip thing, what does that mean in the investigation? We'll ask former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper coming up.

Plus, what does he think about what this immigration debate is doing to the U.S. image around the world?


BERMAN: It is a choice by this White House to separate children from their parents when they come across the border. And "The Associated Press" is morning is reporting that children younger than five, younger than two, children too young to talk are now being kept in so- called tender age facilities.

Joining us now to discuss this, CNN national security analyst, former director of national intelligence, James Clapper.

Director, thanks so much for being with us.

I want to touch on your international, global expertise here.

You've been all around the world. You've talked to people all around the world. When the United States, by the choice and decision of the government, is separating parents from their children, keeping children at these so-called tender age centers, what image does that portray to the rest of the world? What do they see?

[06:40:14] JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, John, I think, first, and I'm alluding to many countries that I have spent time in oversees over the years, that I would observe there is a pretty fine line between civility and brutality. I think much thinner than people might think is based on what I've observed in other countries. And so I think it's very disturbing to our friends and allies and probably satisfying to our adversaries.

So this is not good in any measure, particularly from the standpoint of the international image. You know, the United States is known as a beacon of freedom and justice and a haven for the downtrodden, the weak. And this is not consistent with -- it doesn't comport with -- with our values and our standards. So it's very disturbing, I think, to people overseas.

BERMAN: You say there's a fine line between civility and brutality. In your view, does this cross that line?

CLAPPER: Well, it certainly -- it shows the line is, at least in this instance, is eroding. I'll put it that way.

BERMAN: You, of course, have worked in national security for decades. There is a genuine concern. There are questions. There are needs at the border when it comes to security. Do any of these measures -- well, what are the biggest risks that you see and do the measures that this White House has chosen to take address them?

CLAPPER: Well, I don't think that -- again, focusing on the image, both, you know, what you hear and what you see with these children being ripped away from their parents, you know, I don't quite see how that's congruent with what the real threat is, which are terrorists, druggies, et cetera. So I don't see how this particular program contributes to enhance security. I get it on the need for border security, no question about it, but there has got to be a better way than this.

BERMAN: The White House says that these parents are breaking the law. They're breaking the law when they cross the border and they need to be treated as if they're breaking the law. These parents sometimes, they say, go on to lives of crime. They say these children, if not cared for by their parents, end up in MS-13. Is that a genuine risk, in your mind?

CLAPPER: Well, it may be. I don't know the facts here, but I suspect that it's, you know, not very many cases of that. I think this is -- if this is the rationale for it, it is -- it is overkill by a long stretch.

BERMAN: We just reported Michael Cohen, of course, the president's former personal attorney, might be willing to flip, might be willing to talk about his relationship with the president and things the president has done. How much of a risk do you think that would be for President Trump?

CLAPPER: Well, I don't -- I don't have any inside baseball insight here, John, but I think potentially, given Michael Cohen's long history as President Trump's fixer, that potentially I think, you know, raises the vulnerability for the president, the legal jeopardy for him, I would guess. But, again, I don't know. But I think it's interesting that he's seen the reality of the situation and it appears to be lawyering up with a competent defense attorney.

BERMAN: On the subject of inside baseball, you said within the last 24 hours or so that you find it hard to believe that the president did not have any discussion with the likes of Roger Stone or perhaps others on their various meetings with Russians during the campaign. Meetings which are only coming to light right now.

You say you find it hard to believe. Do you have any inside knowledge of that or is it just speculation?

CLAPPER: Well, no, I -- this actually goes back to when I was still in the government, still with DNI, and, you know, we began to see the frequently of meetings between various associates of either the Trump campaign or the Trump enterprises meeting with Russians. And now we have yet another revelation of a meeting with Russians.

And, of course, it's fallen into a very familiar pattern for us where the media finds out about these meetings and then, of course, the participants protest innocence and nothing burgers. Nothing came of them. An all too familiar pattern. And just, you know, statistically, or numerically, there are just so many of these meetings that it's just hard for me to believe that there wasn't awareness of at least some of them by Mr. Trump. [06:45:06] So, no, I don't have any insight here. But just logic tells

me that given Mr. Trump's detailed insight into his businesses and this sort of thing that he wouldn't know about at least some of these meetings.

BERMAN: "Hard to believe" is a phrase actually, in some cases, being used by Republicans now when dealing with FBI Agent Peter Strzok, who was marched out of the FBI yesterday as part of the investigation.

Michael Horowitz, the inspector general, says that I can't imagine FBI agents suggesting even that they might use their powers investigating frankly any candidate for office.

Do you think it --

CLAPPER: Well --

BERMAN: I mean it really is problematic that this agent said what he said about the president and was involved in the Mueller investigation for some time.

CLAPPER: Yes, there's no question about it. This is extremely poor judgment on the part of Mr. Strzok. And it's -- unfortunately, it reflects negatively on the entire FBI, which I think is very regrettable.

And I will say, though, that at least as far as I understand in the IG report, that there was no political bias that had any influence on any decisions that were made in the course of the investigation.

BERMAN: In the Clinton e-mail investigation. They haven't ruled yet on the Mueller investigation. We'll find out about that going forward.

James Clapper, thanks so much.

We'll be right back.

CLAPPER: Thanks, John.


[06:50:28] CAMEROTA: OK, we're learning more this morning about the youngest migrant children being separated from their parents. "The Associated Press" reports that babies and toddlers are being held at several so-called tender age shelters in Texas. But what goes on inside there?

Let's bring in Michelle Brane. She is the director of Migrant Rights and Justice Program at the Women's Refugee Commission. She visited the processing center at a border patrol station in McCallum, Texas, last week, where many children are being separated from their parents.

Michelle, thank you so much for being here.


eyes because our cameras are not being allowed in. Tell us what you saw at this large processing center.

BRANE: Well, what I saw at the processing center is what you've seen in some of the pictures, and that is the large cages that are set up in a giant warehouse. They have children divided by age, more or less. And there's children I saw caged full of five-year-olds who were alone, many of them crying. Some of them occasionally playing and being told to quiet down by guards. But, other than that, there was no supervision of these children. No toys. No appropriate bedding. And, in fact, the lights were on 24 hours a day. And really entirely inappropriate conditions for these children.

CAMEROTA: So how are they sleeping? I mean is this -- this is the picture that was released by Customs and Border Protection. So they're just on mats with like sort of those tin foil blankets over them?

BRANE: Exactly. Exactly. That's exactly right.

CAMEROTA: Did you --

BRANE: That's what you see in that picture.

CAMEROTA: Did you see children being separated from their parents?

BRANE: I did. At a border patrol station, I saw a -- I was actually speaking to a young girl, a nine-year-old girl and her father when they came and took the girl away.

CAMEROTA: And what happened? Describe that scene.

BRANE: They came in. They knocked on the door. They said they needed to take the girl. I asked them where they were taking her. And they told me that they were taking her for process to a shelter. I asked if they were going to explain this to the father and to the girl. And really the agent just stared at me.

And so I suggested that he might want to give them a few moments to say good-bye and understand what was happening. Again, he just stared at me and said, well, I'm not separating them, ma'am, I'm just taking her for processing to a shelter.

CAMEROTA: What does he call it?

BRANE: He said he was just --

CAMEROTA: I mean if that's not separating them.

BRANE: He literally just said, I'm just taking her to a shelter. So I said to him, well, you're taking her and not her father, so that means you're separating them. Why don't we give them a moment? They had about a minute to talk and then he waved for the girl to come over. She stood up and walked away with him and the father broke down crying.

CAMEROTA: Do they know where their kids are going? Do the kids know where their parents are going to be?

BRANE: They have no idea. I spoke to them and eventually they did understand that he was probably going to court and that she would be going to this Ursula (ph) processing center. And I did happen to find her the next day when I was in that processing center. She had received a shower and new clothing and had no idea where her father was.

CAMEROTA: I mean thank goodness you're there to be the interpreter and to be the intermediary, because not everybody has an advocate who's there functioning as you were.

And what happens after 20 days with these kids who have to be released? Where do they go?

BRANE: So they are there for as long as it takes for ORR, the agency who's responsible for their care and custody and release, to find a place to put them. And that's where this issue of tender aged facilities come in because the Office of Refugee Resettlement, their job is to take these children, put them into licensed shelters and group homes until they can find their family or a sponsor in the community where they can release these children to. Because our child welfare standards say children should not be institutionalized. They should be in the community. They should be with their parents.


BRANE: So what's happening now is that these kids are being separated from their parents. Those aren't the kinds of kids they're used to having. They're used to getting kids who have come here on their own who are usually older.

CAMEROTA: Unaccompanied minors. Yes.

BRANE: Exactly.

So these young -- these children that are separated are traumatized. They're much younger. And the facilities that ORR has had in place so far, you know, some of them are equipped to handle young children because once in a while they get those, but not in these numbers.


BRANE: And so they're scrambling to find places for these kids.

CAMEROTA: Michelle, I want to read to you something that the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, said in "USA Today" today. These children are well cared for. In fact, they get better care than a lot of American kids do. They are provided plenty of food, education in their language, health and dental care, and transported to their destination city all at taxpayer expense.

[06:55:08] Is that what you saw? Were they getting tutored in their language? Were they getting lots of dental care?

BRANE: Well, in the CVP (ph) facilities where they're separated from their parents, they are absolutely not getting any of those services and no appropriate services at all.

I do want to be clear, though, the Office of Refugee Resettlement does have shelters that do meet child licensing standards. They are licensed to take care of children. And so they do have some of those services.


BRANE: But that's not the issue here. The issue here is that these children were separated from their parents and are traumatized. They shouldn't be in these facilities in the first place. They should be with their parents. And there's so many options.

I just want to add in. The administration is trying to make this look like their only choice is to --

CAMEROTA: Separate these kids.

BRANE: Separate these kids or release them, right? And they want -- what they're trying to do is get waivers of family -- of child welfare standards waived, have those applications -- those not apply to these families so that they can detain children in prisons that are not licensed for children. That's what they're trying to do.

And we need (ph) no law, no change in law whatsoever for them to immediately stop separating these kids.


BRANE: There are alternatives where you can release them to the community. And we've had -- we've seen programs in place where 99 percent of these families show up for court.

CAMEROTA: There you go.

BRANE: And even leave the country. Ninety-nine percent. This administration shut that program down.

CAMEROTA: That's really valuable for our viewers to hear and it's really valuable to have had your eyes on the scene for us to tell us what is really going on inside their.

Michelle Brane, thank you very much for sharing all of that.

BRANE: You're welcome.

CAMEROTA: We'll be right back on NEW DAY.