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British Prime Minister and Pope Francis Criticize U.S. Policy of Separating Immigrant Children from Parents at U.S. Border; Congress to Propose Bills on Immigration; Interview With Rep. Bob Goodlatte.. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired June 20, 2018 - 8:00   ET



THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The pictures of children being held in what appear to be cages are deeply disturbing. This is wrong. This is not something that we agree with. This is not the United Kingdom's approach.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Prime Minister May says she plans to talk to President Trump about this when he visits the next month. I suppose I should say, if he visits the U.K. next month.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Now that he knows that, it's possible that he won't visit the U.K.

BERMAN: Donald Trump Jr. canceled a fundraiser with George P. Bush after the Bush family spoke out against this.

CAMEROTA: We shall see what happens. Meanwhile, Pope Francis is also criticizing the separation of families as immoral and contrary to Catholic values. The Pope tweeted moments ago that a person's dignity does not depend on them being a citizen, a migrant or refugee. Saving the life of someone fleeing war and poverty is an act of humanity, #withrefugees. This comes as we are learning from the Associated Press that babies and toddlers and children are being held in so- called tender age shelters in Texas. What are those? And what happens inside?

BERMAN: Joining us, CNN political analysts Josh Green and Jonathan Martin. Josh, I want to start with you here. It's interesting because of course you wrote the book on Steve Bannon and this and this idea of globalists versus those in his mind with Americans. You have Theresa May, you have the Pope lining up now against the president here, but I doubt President Trump cares about that condemnation.

JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, not only do I think he doesn't care. I was actually talking to a White House, an outside White House adviser who said this is a winning issue for us. Immigration is still a winning issue for us. When you see foreign leaders getting angry, when you see liberal snowflakes wringing their hands over these images of detained children, this is what is firing up Trump's base.

This is what got him elected. You remember his original announcement speech. He talked about immigrants as rapists. You remember his trip to the Laredo border shortly after he became a candidate. It was to push this issue of immigration. Trump is doing as president, this adviser said, exactly what he promised to do, and that is what is going to keep him in power and get him reelected.

CAMEROTA: And in fact, Jonathan, you shared with us your reporting on this very thing yesterday that the president believes that there's actually more intensity that could turn out the vote around immigration than even around lowering taxes.

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. That's certainly the gamble that the Democratic base is fired up to come out and register their anger about President Trump, the GOP base needs some kind of a motivating force that is not just tax cuts and a good economy, and that these kinds of cultural war issues can speak to that.

I think there's a nuance here, though, guys. I think that the broader issue of immigration and making Democrats be seen as soft on illegal immigration I think has real potential for the GOP in some parts of the country. I'm very skeptical, though, that kids locked in cages at the border is a winning issue at all for the Republicans and, frankly, I think that they're going to address the issue at some point in the next week or less because they know that this is bad politics.

CAMEROTA: When you say they, who is going to fix this issue in the next week or less?

MARTIN: The Hill. The Hill.

BERMAN: I do think Jonathan has a great point. The nuance here, even if the president likes this issue and thinks immigration is a winning issue here, is that the Republican Party risks becoming the party of womp womp, and what I mean by that is the comments that Corey Lewandowski made on FOX News when he was presented with the story of a special needs girls being separated from her parents held at the border. Listen to how he handled it.


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.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I read about a -- did you say womp womp to a 10- year-old with Down syndrome being taken from her mother? How dare you? How dare you?

LEWANDOWSKI: What I said is you can pick anything you want, but the bottom line is --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How absolutely dare you, sir?


BERMAN: That's a sentiment, Josh, that I do have to believe it may rile up the base or sections of the base but not even the whole base there, and that's hard to sell. Womp womp is hard to sell in Philadelphia suburbs.

GREEN: I don't know. I can't imagine that there's much even of Trump's base that's going to be fired up by Corey Lewandowski mocking a special needs girl. That just seems perverted and wrong. The issue of immigration, generally I think Jonathan has a good point.

This is something that potentially motivates Republicans, but I think the problem that we've seen over the last couple of weeks is that the way in which it's being presented, little kids in cages and the language that the president is using on Twitter, talking about immigrants infesting our countries, if you go and look at the vulnerable House districts this fall, places like the four districts in Orange County, California, these are very heavily immigrant, highly educated districts that I don't think are going to take kindly to that kind of language, and this could potentially imperil the GOP's majority in November.

[08:05:03] I think that's one reason why you see such angst among Republicans on the Hill and so much frustration after Trump's meeting yesterday in which he essentially didn't give a lot of indication that he had any plans to change course.

CAMEROTA: The way I hear what Corey said, as despicable as it is, is the same thing we've heard from President Trump's most ardent supporters who have been on with us, which is, hey, they're the criminals. If you can just put everybody into a box of they're criminals, then it does dehumanize them. And what Corey is saying cry me a river. Cry me a river for whatever choice you made, you criminals, bringing your kids for a vacation here to the United States.

This is the language that you're starting to hear from President Trump's supporters, as though they don't know the facts, they've never done any research, they don't know the conditions that people are facing in Honduras and Central America and why somebody would embark on a death defying trip like this, and it just seems like that's what they're sticking with, Jonathan.

MARTIN: The president doesn't know the facts of why these folks are coming to the country. He sees, A, a political issue, and B, he sees a gut level issue of people coming into this country that he thinks represent a threat. So he's not familiar with the nuance of the issue. I do, though, think that for somebody who consumed a lot of TV, I think he understands that this narrow issue of kids at the border is not good for him --

CAMEROTA: And he said that last night. Supposedly our reporting is that in the meeting that's the one thing that he focused on, politically, this isn't working.

MARTIN: I think he gets that. And I'd be surprised if there's not some kind of bill coming out of Congress in the next week to address the issue of family separation. The question then becomes, what does Steve Miller and the White House hardline gang when it comes to immigration do when that bill gets to President Trump's desk?

BERMAN: The other real question is, does it get to his desk? There's Stephen Miller and Jeff Sessions on one side there, but Alisyn had this fascinating interview, incisive interview with Chris Coons, Democrat from Delaware, in our last hour, and Chris Coons and Chuck Schumer, they don't even want to vote on this. They say the president could fix this with a phone call. They don't want to vote. And then you press him more and Chris Coons and the Democrats will tell you, well, they're not even sure they would support the notion that's being put forward by Republicans which is some kind of a fix where you could hold parents -- you tell me. You're the expert, Jonathan Martin, you tell me.

MARTIN: I think given these images, given this drumbeat, playing soundbites there from the prime minister of Great Britain and the Pope speaking out, I think any fix that addresses this whether it's executive or legislative, I just think it's hard for mainstream legislators of either party to oppose that.

CAMEROTA: Listen, Josh, what he said is they basically feel like the goalposts have been moved so many times on them they're not going to fall for it again. They feel like the football has been pulled out. They gave the president what he wanted, they gave him border wall funding, this is what Senator Chris Coons, and nothing has worked and they're not going to fall for it again, Josh.

GREEN: I think part of it is they don't want to accept the responsibility for fixing a problem the president could fix easily through executive authority right now.

CAMEROTA: But that's silly. That part is silly. Just fix the problem.

GREEN: The idea that Democrats should have to bear the responsibility for correcting a policy that the Trump administration imposed I don't think most Democrats think it's fair. That's why you see the resistance.

CAMEROTA: They don't think it's fair. But is it fair to the kids while everybody uses them as a political football?

GREEN: Of course it's not fair to the kids. And I think that's one reason why you see everybody from the Pope and Theresa May to leaders in both parties appalled at what the administration has put in motion here, and so I do think that if there is a bill that starts to move through Congress, Democrats are going to feel an awful lot of pressure despite what Chris Coons said to get in there and fix the problem because ultimately it's children who are bearing the fallout for this policy.

BERMAN: It's tough. It's tough. President Trump set the fire here and now he's saying to the Democrats, how come you don't build fire resistant houses. You have a choice to do this. But meanwhile, I guess to extend the metaphor, there are kids caught in the houses right now. So what do you about it? And I don't know. I don't know, Jonathan, if you're right that Democrats will ultimately cave on this. It didn't sound like it this morning. It does sound like they think they have a potent issue with their base to push this forward.

I'm also struck by the fact the president's got an eight-day roadshow. He's going all over the country in the next several days, speaking at these big rallies. Hard to believe he's going to hold back at these rallies. Hard to believe that he's going to be giving a reasoned discourse on the nuances of immigration.

MARTIN: No. I think we're going to be hearing more about immigrants infesting the country to use the phrase he put out yesterday on Twitter. I think you're going to hear more about MS-13, the Central American gang that he seems to be fixated on.

[08:10:00] The culture war is going to be a central issue in the midterms, especially in the Senate states, which as Josh pointed out earlier, were dealing with two maps this fall, John. There's the House map which is more suburban, it's more upscale, it's more purple, even blue, and the Senate map is very different. It's more rural, it's more Trumpy, and it's more conservative leaning. So I think Trump's message could play OK in some of these Senate states. The House map is very different story.

BERMAN: Normally Republicans like the culture war here, but in some cases this culture war is obscuring the tax message that a lot of Republicans want to be sending right now.

CAMEROTA: I don't know if people like any of it. I don't know if just regular people like anything that's happening in Congress or the White House.

BERMAN: They like Jonathan and Josh. People love them.

MARTIN: We hope so.

CAMEROTA: Back by popular demand, Josh Green, Jonathan Martin, thank you very much.

MARTIN: Thanks, guys.

So also back by popular demand, Congressman Goodlatte, because yesterday we didn't get to cover all of the issues that he wanted to, and then there's all these developments in terms of what's going on with the crisis at the border. So he's back.

BERMAN: Goodlatte, the sequel. This time it's personal.



CAMEROTA: We have breaking news. Strong condemnation from America's closest ally to the Trump administration's policy of separating children from their parents who have illegally crossed the border. Here's British Prime Minister Theresa May on the floor of parliament reacting to those images of children in cages.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The pictures of children being held in what appear to be cages are deeply disturbing. This is wrong. This is not something that we agree with. This is not the United Kingdom's approach.


CAMEROTA: OK, so what will Congress do? Joining us now is Republican Congressman Bob Goodlatte. He is deeply involved in both of the immigration bills the House Republicans could vote on this week. Congressman, great to have you back this morning.

REP. BOB GOODLATTE, (R) VIRGINIA: Good morning, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK. Do you agree that it is deeply disturbing as Theresa May just said?

GOODLATTE: No one likes to look at pictures of children who are in unhappy situations and it is important that whenever possible they be with their parents. But in addition to addressing the root problem of parents should be discouraged from bringing their children across a desert or across a river into the United States, we also agree that when they are apprehended, if the charge against them is violating our immigration laws by entering the country illegally, it's the first time so it's a misdemeanor, that those children should be with their parents.

So the legislation that I introduced yesterday along with Carlos Curbelo and Mike McCaul and Jeff Denham and many others includes a provision that would allow for both the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to arrange for those children be with their parents under those circumstances.

[08:15:17] CAMEROTA: We just had Congressman Denham on, he did not sound confident that that measure has the votes?

GOODLATTE: Well, we are going to find out. The whip check is in process right now.

CAMEROTA: Do you think you have the votes?

GOODLATTE: I don't know yet, but I do know that I have two great bills and I believe that between one or the other of those two bills, almost every Republican in the conference would vote for one or the other and we need to find the common ground that gets them all on one to get us to 218 votes. I'm determined to do that.

CAMEROTA: Was it your understanding from the meeting last night with President Trump that he would vote for either?

GOODLATTE: The president has always advocated for the bill that I and Mike McCaul, and Raul Labrador and Martha McSally introduced way back at the beginning of the year, but he came in last night to emphasize how important it is to pass a bill and therefore he indicated that he was 1,000 percent behind the new consensus bill as well.

CAMEROTA: So, even if it has a pathway for Dreamers that as you know some of the more hard-line folks in Congress are not comfortable with, that you think that this will happen and will get enough votes?

GOODLATTE: Both of these bills address the DACA population. I think that's one of the important things that came out of the president's decision to end what he and I -- I agree with him -- is an unconstitutional program in the way it was established by the former President Obama but he immediately turned around, you'll recall, and said, but, Congress, you've got to fix this problem.

So, we address it. We address it in somewhat different ways in both these bills but both bills address the DACA population. The new one creates a new merit-based immigration category that both people who are lawfully present in the United States and DACA recipients can apply for. The DACA recipients can apply for it after they have been in the country for five years.

CAMEROTA: And so, Congressman --

GOODLATTE: On this new status for five years.

CAMEROTA: OK. And so, Congressman, while you wait for the votes and to see what happens with legislation, which as we know can take a long time, how about if the president with the stroke of a pen stops the separation and the reason that I say this is because we have new information this morning from people who have gone in to some of these processing centers and here's what they described going on inside. They've seen with their own eyes and told us.

There are no toys for the kids. There's bedding for the kids. There are no sheets. They're sleeping on the floor.

They're in crowded conditions. They're crying like the audio that we all heard yesterday. They're not being told where their parents are and their parents aren't being told where the kids are being taken.

So I think we all agree that that's unacceptable, so how about if while we wait for legislation if the president just fixes that today?

GOODLATTE: Well, how about if we make sure that children are being treated properly as we change all of the things that are necessary to change to make sure that children are not placed in this kind of situation in the first place --

CAMEROTA: Sure, but they're not being treated properly.

GOODLATTE: -- or exposed, or exposed, or exposed to the danger of coming across Mexico, coming across the desert, coming across our border, trying to evade the border patrol agents. They should be encouraged to come right to the border stations.

I have been to detention facilities both during the Obama administration and during the Trump administration. They look very similar in both instances and most of the time, they look very humane --

CAMEROTA: Have you been in the past week as children are being separated from parents?

GOODLATTE: I have not -- no. But children have been separated from their parents for years.

CAMEROTA: No, no. Congressman, this is a new policy. This is a new zero tolerance policy.

GOODLATTE: It is a new policy for some people, but children have been separated from their parents under previous administrations and in this administration prior. But now with the zero tolerance policy, if you are apprehended across the border, you're automatically going to be placed in prosecution and the Department of Justice doesn't have the facilities to take care of the children. Therefore, they are being placed elsewhere --

CAMEROTA: Yes, that's right, 2,342 children is the latest number we have. This is -- look. I'm listening to the administration saying that this is their new policy, that they decided.

GOODLATTE: During the surge, during the Obama administration there were plenty of children --


CAMEROTA: Those were unaccompanied minors. These are separated from their parents intentionally as a deterrent as we've heard from the administration. This is different, Congressman.

GOODLATTE: It was true in both instances and the Obama administration did it until a court said that they couldn't do it.

[08:20:02] CAMEROTA: Those are unaccompanied minors.

GOODLATTE: No. There were unaccompanied minors and there were families with children as well.

CAMEROTA: So, Congressman, I don't know what your answer is. I don't know what your answer is. Are you OK -- if the president can end it today and he can why not end it today while you hammer out the details of the legislation?

GOODLATTE: The president -- if he ends it, then he has to allow these families to enter the interior of the United States --

CAMEROTA: Hold them in together in detention.

GOODLATTE: They never return.

CAMEROTA: Hold them together in detention.

GOODLATTE: He can't do that. The law doesn't permit them to hold them for the department of justice more than 72 hours. That's a court ruling and for -- for the Department of Homeland Security, 20 days. So, that's -- that's the issue that has to be addressed. It has to be

addressed legislatively and we are doing that.

CAMEROTA: OK. I want to move on to what I know is really pressing for you to talk about and that is the inspector general's report. He was on Congress -- sorry, he was on Capitol Hill yesterday, so now that the report is out. What's your issue with it? What are still your burning questions from Michael Horowitz?

GOODLATTE: Well, first of all, we made it very clear that we thought that his was a very in-depth comprehensive report, but as he noted repeatedly during the hearing yesterday, it is only a partial investigation of what the FBI was doing in the treatment of these campaigns, both in 2016 and in the aftermath into 2017.

Peter Strzok who was a lead investigator in both the Clinton email case and in the Russia collusion case has agreed now to come and testify --

CAMEROTA: Yes, when will that happen? You don't know a date yet?

GOODLATTE: No. We're about to issue a subpoena because we're happy to have him voluntarily appear, but he has to do it on our timetable. He can't put it off and put it off.

So, a subpoena is about to go unless his attorney is calling our counsel right now saying we are ready for an agreement on a date for the appearance.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I know that one of the big sticking points is whether or not there was bias and it sounds like what the I.G. report says is there was no evidence. They couldn't find any evidence of bias. Here it is -- here's -- here's the Inspector General Horowitz talking about that.


MICHAEL HOROWITZ, INSPECTOR GENERAL, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence with improper considerations, including political bias directly, affected those specific investigative decisions in part because the decisions were made by the mid-year team, by the larger midyear team, or by the prosecutors.


CAMEROTA: Do you accept that now, Congressman?

GOODLATTE: No. First of all, that's only a small part of what he had to say but he found two things. One, he found very serious improprieties in how the investigation was handled, and he found extreme bias particularly on the part of Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page, but also on the part of other yet to be identified FBI agents and lawyers --


CAMEROTA: We've seen those text but no evidence that it effected the investigation?

GOODLATTE: Well, I would disagree with that conclusion as well, but I would say this, if you are using government offices, government equipment and expressing extreme political opinions about anyone, you should not be engaged in an investigation of that person or anyone else, and that is a serious problem.

The FBI has acknowledged that. The new director, Christopher Wray, has acknowledged that. He's hard at work and personnel changes and in terms of implementing recommendations that he has, recommendations that the inspector general has made.

All of those things are important and we're going to oversee to make sure that in any future election, particularly a presidential election, something at the highest level, but anybody being investigated by the FBI should be assured that there is not that kind of bias underlying the investigation.

CAMEROTA: Congressman Goodlatte, thank you very much for coming in and sharing your perspective on all of this with us.

GOODLATTE: Thanks, Alisyn.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Twenty-three hundred children separated from their parents. Some we learned overnight being held at what's called a tender age shelter, tender age shelters. What are these? Are they humane?

We're going to speak to a former cabinet secretary about this, next.


[08:28:50] BERMAN: "Associated Press" reports that babies and toddlers are being held in what's being called tender age shelters in three locations in Texas. Some so young many can't even talk yet. This comes as Attorney General Jeff Sessions insist that's immigrant children are getting better care than a lot of American kids.

Joining us now is Kathleen Sebelius, former secretary of health and human services under President Obama.

Secretary, thank you so much for being with us.


BERMAN: We learned about these tender age centers specifically overnight. We had all suspected they were being held in dedicated centers, but we learned about them overnight.

Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, says, and let me quote, these children are well-cared for, in fact, they get better care than a lot of American kids do. Do you believe that to be the case?

SEBELIUS: Well, I don't think any child should be wrenched out of the arms of his or her parents and put with strangers in any kind of center. I can't imagine a more inhumane treatment, more terrifying results. So, I don't know where they're housing these kids. I've seen the photos of kids in cages, of kids who are weeping uncontrollably.

They've already been through incredible trauma to try and get to the border, let's start there. These are not -- they didn't hop out of a car at a movie theater. These are kids that have been traveling, some of them for days or weeks in very terrifying situations.