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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Chaos After Trump Ends His Own Family Separation Policy; HHS: Still Awaiting Guidance On Reuniting 2,300 Kids; House Postpones Vote On Compromise Immigration Bill; FLOTUS Spokeswoman: "It's A Jacket, No Hidden Message"; Trump Contradicts His Defense Chief on North Korea's Nukes. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired June 21, 2018 - 19:00   ET

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


[09:00:00] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, chaos, confusion, thousands of kids separated from their parents still this evening as the attorney general says it was never the administration's intent to split up the families. Well then, why did they do it? And Melania Trump visiting children held in detention centers, the jacket, though. The words on the jacket specifically seemed to overshadow her trip. Plus, Trump at odds with his Defense secretary, why are they on completely different pages? Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, chaos. More than 28 hours after President Trump signed an executive order to end his own policy of separating parents and children at the southern border of the United States, the kids, as far as we know, are still separated. And no one in the administration seems to know how to reunite them.

Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen asked by CNN about plans to reunite the families, gave an acronym-filled answer that said nothing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Secretary, is there any plan for reuniting the children who have already been separated from their parents?

KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We have a plan to do that. As you know, we do have a back end, so a combination of DHS, DOJ, HHS reuniting as quickly as we can.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: We do it on the back end. Well, yes, reuniting does happen on the back end of separating. That doesn't answer the question though of how you're going to do it and when you're going to do it. The president said, quote, "Anyone with a heart would not like the sight or feeling of families being separated." But so far, there does not seem to be either the urgency or perhaps ability to fix the damage being done to the kids.

Let's be clear. There's no sign of the 2,300 kids are back with their families tonight. Some of them are sleeping behind chain link walls tonight. In fact, the Department of Health and Human Services just released a statement saying it, quote, "is awaiting further guidance on the implementation of the executive order. So they're waiting.

Even first lady Melania Trump, who made an unannounced trip to a Texas facility, did not seem to have a clear idea of her husband's plan.

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF UNITED STATES: And I also like to ask you help these children to reunite with their families, you know, as quickly as possible.

BURNETT: Hundreds of kids were taken from their camp, their families a week in the two months the Trump administration separated families, right? They were able to do it quickly, hundreds a week. It was a policy, though, without precedent, and so these kids were sent a whole lot of places.

Some of them tonight are thousands of miles away from their mothers and fathers. There are kids in Michigan, Virginia, New York, and many states in this country. In New York, the Governor Andrew Cuomo says, the feds won't tell him how many children are in his state or even where they are in his state.

New York Congresswoman Kathleen Rice just telling CNN that officials didn't take basic information when they seized the kids, so some of them are so young, they don't actually fully even know their own names. Meantime, the President speaking today, though, has a different picture. He says these kids have it good.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: They're really running them well and I give a lot of credit to Secretary Nielsen and all of the people that have worked. It's the nicest that people have seen. But it's still something that shouldn't be taking place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right, again, just to be clear here, it was his policy, done at his personal discretion. Yet today, the President's Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who of course has explicitly defended the policy, said the administration never intended to separate children from their parents, so here's Jeff Sessions today, and then just listen to Jeff Sessions 45 days ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: It hasn't been good. The American people don't like the idea that we're separating families. We never really intended to do that.

If you don't want your child to be separated, then don't bring him across the border illegally. It's not our fault that somebody does that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Sometimes the tape is the best way to find the truth here. They did intend to separate families, and frankly, from the very top, the president never minced words about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: When you prosecute the parents for coming in illegally, which should happen, you have to take the children away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OK. Meantime, as the president is standing by his zero tolerance policy of people coming into the country illegally, his administration is saying Americans better be ready for more kids. We're learning tonight that the Defense Department is being told to prepare to take in 20,000 unaccompanied immigrant children on US military bases around the nation. Boris Sanchez is OUTFRONT live at the White House.

And, Boris, look, the President says that anyone with a heart would have a problem with this. Here's the problem. Tonight, there's 2,300 kids that we are aware of at this time in custody right now, and there does not seem to be any plan.

[09:05:11] BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erin. There's no clear path to fulfill this promise of reunification for these 2,300 or so kids and their families. We've heard conflicting messages from the administration. Just yesterday an HHS official said that these kids would not be reunited with their parents only to have that comment then walked back and several promises being made from within the administration that this indeed would take place.

It's not going to be an easy task as you noted. These kids are scattered across the country in different states, different facilities. Their parents are still detained. We don't have a clear answer yet as to where these families would be held, if they're reunited. The administration not providing a clear answer on that, or whether they have sufficient facilities for new families that are coming in, how are they going to handle those families, especially if they're promising not to separate those children?

It appears the administration is trying to figure this out on the fly with no clear strategy for how to solve this problem and fulfill that promise of reunification with thousands of these children's lives and their well-being hanging in the balance, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Boris. And OUTFRONT tonight, Alan Bersin, former Border Czar under Presidents Obama and Clinton. Juliette Kayyem, former Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security during the Obama administration, and Mark Preston, our Senior Political Analyst at CNN. Mark is here with me.

There's a lot of confusion here. Kirstjen Nielsen rattled off every single acronym it seemed in the government of who was going to be dealing with and said, well, of course, this happens on the back end. Which, as we said, yes, reuniting happens on the back end of separating, but there's no plan. MARK PRESTON, CNN OUR SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, there is no plan, and this is a situation where we see an administration that is not fully staffed, with folks who understand this process very well. You have folks like Stephen Miller, that is there, who is really dictating an immigration policy right now without having any end game. That's the problem right now. There's no end game right now for President Trump.

And specifically, when you look and notice that the Department of Defense may have to take in 20,000 children --

BURNETT: On military bases.

PRESTON: On our military bases, while we are dealing with conflicts still in North Korea, in Iran, in Iraq, in Syria, all across the world. I don't think that's the appropriate place for them.

BURNETT: By the way, just a quick point, if there was a deep state as the President says, this policy wouldn't have been implemented.

PRESTON: Well, absolutely not.

BURNETT: They did exactly what he told them to do in every single way. Now he has to deal with it. No deep state stopped him. The people who work for the government did what the President told them to do.

PRESTON: No question about that, and the fact that he signed an executive order, which is basically meaningless because he didn't have to sign an executive order. But he did so in order to try to assign blame for his mistakes and his problems on the Democratic Party.

BURNETT: Alan, you know, clearly there is no plan tonight on how they're going to fix this problem. Are they going to be able to reunite these families as easily as they separated them? We were talking about hundreds of kids being taken from their parents a week over the past couple of months. Now they're all separated around the country. How easy is it going to be?

ALAN BERSIN, FORMER BORDER CZAR UNDER PRESIDENTS OBAMA & CLINTON: It's not going to be so easy to unscramble this egg. The important thing is that we're no longer breaking the eggs in that way. But it's going to take time for the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services and downstream with the assistance of the Defense Department to get these kids back into the arms of their parents where they shouldn't have been taken in the first place. But there will be a plan that's presumably being worked on right now, Erin, to as I say unscramble this mess.

BURNETT: Juliette, a spokesperson from the Department of Health and Human Services, which technically right now, as we understand it, is in charge of most of these kids told CNN they're, quote, "awaiting further guidance on the implementation of the executive order as I just said. OK. So they're awaiting the implementation, who is going to give them that guidance? JULIETTE KAYYEM, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Well, the White House should. There's a National Security staff and a Homeland Security staff. There's a new Homeland Security adviser. This is a complicated issue and it's requiring not just HHS, DHS, DOD, all the acronyms we talk about, but state and local officials, NGOs, non-governmental organizations, helping out, the private sector with the prison -- the child prison, I guess, owners.

And so this is the -- the White House is the planning entity and they're sort of punting it. So, you know, you create a task force. You determine what your pool looks like. It's 2,300. How many of those kids actually names are known and you identify where the parents are. You get them together. How many kids don't know where their parents are, you figure out how you get them together.

It is hard but this is not rocket science. This is a logistics challenge. I don't mean to sound heartless about it. But someone has to own it, the White House as a mere agency can't do it.

[09:10:03] And they're just -- they don't know how. Not only do they have bad policy, they just, you know, and bad ideas, they just don't know how to, you know, do anything. And that's what we're seeing.

BURNETT: I mean -- and part of the problem here is, Mark, is also, frankly, the lack of candor --

PRESTON: Right.

BURNETT: -- on what is happening and who's responsible and who's doing it. I mean, you're Jeff Sessions, right, we never intended to. Well, Jeff Sessions himself said that's exactly what they intended to do.

PRESTON: As a deterrent.

BURNETT: The President said, anyone with a heart would have a problem, he himself the day before had said, this is what we have to do. The Republican Congressman Mark Sanford, who has been in a war of words with the President, let's be fair, put it this way today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Do we give a pass to the highest office holder in the land, in uniformly and constantly or rather constantly saying things that aren't true?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESTON: Oh, he's right. So here's the problem. So people look at Mark Sanford and say he's a sore loser because President Trump opposed him in his primary and Mark Sanford lost.

Let us be very clear out there for all our viewers. Mark Sanford is probably one of the most conservative members of Congress. He is extremely conservative. So this isn't a partisan issue when it comes down to flat-out lying. We've seen on it this issue from this White House. We've seen it on other issues from this White House. I suspect we will continue to see it on other issues going forward.

BURNETT: I mean -- and, Alan, you know, the President today says, OK, now, you know, because I have zero tolerance, right? I'm not going to separate the families but no one's allowed in who isn't allowed in. And so, guess what, Ted Cruz, you're right, I do need a whole lot more judges. He said a very different thing the other day. Here is the president today in that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We have to hire thousands of judges. No country in the world is hiring judges like that. I don't want judges, I want border security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Does the President know exactly what he wants? What zero tolerance means? What it means to get there, Alan?

BERSIN: Yes, zero tolerance is a policy that's more about rhetoric and sound bites than it is something that can be sustained here on the border in terms of prosecution. There are far few resources in the federal court system, let alone in the immigration court system, to be able to handle it. So in fact, the President's identified the problem which is that we have a broken immigration system, and a few parts of it as broken as the asylum system. But you can only work to build up the immigration court system over years, not on days.

And on the interim, when they try to prosecute everybody who crosses the border, you're going to end up with an impossible situation in the border courts of the federal system, and in the detention centers. And there's a big problem looming out there because you can't keep people -- you can't keep the children detained with their parents for more than 20 days unless they get an adjustment of the order that's now governing it.

BURNETT: Right. And of course, Juliette, the President has indicated that he would want to be able to detain them at least until the end of the year. Department of Defense is being told to get ready for 20,000 kids as on US military bases around the country. I mean, is where we're going? So, you know, just kind of this backlog to get tens of thousands of people living on US military bases?

KAYYEM: That seems to be the plan. I would suspect that the Pentagon is not -- yes, it's not the same. Well, I mean, the -- first of all, the Pentagon is not only -- doesn't want this, the Pentagon is not equipped for this. This President consistently believes that the military is a solution for everything. It is not. These are children, these are families, this is a legal issue, a social issue, a health issue. It's not a military issue.

And so once again, the fact that they are prepping the military as a solution means that they have had no planning. And I just -- I have to say it again, what government separates children from families, period, but what government separates them with no plan for reunification? No data. No databases. No blood tests. No identification.

This is -- the heartlessness of this just comes out each day. I just cannot believe that they separated these kids from these families with no plan to reunify them. And then once reunified, we're going to put them on a military base. That's not a plan.

BURNETT: All right.

KAYYEM: That's not a plan.

BURNETT: Thank you all very much. And on that note, the President and his Defense secretary perhaps in extremely different pages tonight in a fundamental way. Breaking news on that later this hour. And the President deflecting blame on the immigration crisis, turning the tables on Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We have Democrats, open-border Democrats, Democrats say no. The Democrats are causing tremendous damage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Plus the first lady, famous for her fashion, Melania Trump visiting children in detention centers. Then why did she wear this jacket and now say you're weird if you ask why?

[09:15:01] And the desperate struggle of a father trying to reunite with his 12-year-old daughter, that story this hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Breaking News, the GOP-led House postponing a vote on its so-called compromise immigration bill. They were going to try tomorrow, and all the votes are going to wait until next week after a more conservative immigration bill was defeated earlier today.

So why? Well, because 41 Republicans voted against it. that this bill could pass with Republican votes alone in the House, that fact though not stopping President Trump today from blaming Democrats for the lack of an immigration bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: That's what they are. They're extremist, open-border Democrats. People are suffering because of the Democrats. Every time we ask for resources, the Democrats say no. They say no to everything. They don't care about the children. They don't care about the injury. They don't care about the problems. They don't care about anything. All they do is say, obstruct.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Just to say it again, the GOP in the House can pass a bill without Democrats. OUTFRONT now, Democratic Congressman from California, Eric Swalwell. Congressman, the President actually just tweeting about all this moments ago, you know, saying, you can't pass legislation on immigration without getting Democratic votes. And of course then went on to say you guys don't care about security. Your response to the President?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, Erin, good evening. I think it actually would be better for the country if we could collaborate and find a pathway for the DREAMers, immediately reunite these families who have been separated, have certainty for the undocumented who are in our country to have a pathway to citizenship, issues that have consensus in our country.

But the President isn't interested in that. Erin, I will give you that the President's best day in office was when he convened Republicans and Democrats around the DREAMers crisis and said, you pass the bill, I'll take the heat. Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin brought him a bill two days later, he didn't like it, he said those awful things about immigrants, and we've never made progress since then.

BURNETT: President Trump last night, Congressman, also claimed that he says democrats care more about illegal immigrants than they do about American citizens. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Democrats put illegal immigrants before they put American citizens. What the hell is going on?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[09:20:07] BURNETT: And of course, Congressman, there are so many children in America who are suffering. Nearly 20 percent of kids under 18 in this country, citizens living in poverty, according to the census bureau, does the President have a point? That more of the focus should be there?

SWALWELL: No, Erin. You know, we spend a lot of time in Congress trying to advocate for children in America. And the President is cutting and privatizing education programs. But we can have big hearts at the border, allow people to come in if they have a lawful asylum case, have a secure border if they are not lawfully seeking asylum.

We can do all of that, Erin, but he seeks to divide our country with his really, really vitriolic language and hateful speech. And it started day one. When he walked down that escalator and said that Mexicans are sending rapists and murderers to our country. He's never shown empathy or compassion for people who seek to come here.

And, Erin, he can't understand what a family would leave behind to make the journey here. They're leaving behind gangs, violence, abject poverty.

BURNETT: Yes. So, you know, look, you use the word vitriolic and there has been language that is just that from the President's most ardent supporters, his defenders about why separating families is OK. We've heard it in recent days. You know, his own word, infests. Others close to him calling them invaders. And it got even worse.

Now, we're seeing behavior that frankly many consider inappropriate from the left too. Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus screaming at the President this week, here they are.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, don't you have kids? Don't you have kids, Mr. President?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: White House Senior Adviser Stephen Miller, Congressman, reportedly called a fascist when he was out at dinner. Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen accosted while eating out this week, here's what happened to her. She had to leave the restaurant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKERS (in unison): Shame! Shame! Shame!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: End family separation!

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKERS: End family separation!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And then, speaking of crass behavior, after Peter Fonda tweeted it part, I mean, it's horrible to even read this, Congressman. "We should rip Barron Trump from his mother's arms and put him in a cage with pedophiles and see if mother still stand up against the giant a-hole she has married to." And then, Robert De Niro using the f-word, to refer to the President of the United States at the Tony Awards. I mean, stop this vile, are the Democrats and the opposition to Trump stooping too low too?

SWALWELL: Well, Erin, when you separate a baby from its breast- feeding mother and put that child in a cage? You're going to see emotion in this country. And if you saw the text messages coming to me saying, Congressman, what is Congress doing about this, people who have never contacted me about politics before.

And then I told them, well, the Judiciary Committee, we're meeting on Tuesday. But it's not on this issue. It's on Secretary Clinton's e- mails. People are passionate. This is life or death. And people respond in different ways. Some of them are more productive than others --

BURNETT: I understand your point, but I mean, just to be clear, you're not defending what -- or are you? De Niro, Fonda, those kinds of things?

SWALWELL: I will say my colleagues who went to the President and wanted to confront him had the passion of their constituents behind them. Now, certainly Fonda, you know, apologized rightfully for what he did.

BURNETT: Yes.

SWALWELL: But, the President has to be, you know, confronted about what he's doing. He has shown no empathy at all on this. The only reason he changed the policy, Erin, is because it was unpopular. Not because it was the wrong thing to do.

And it seems that getting the American people to speak up, call their members of Congress, tweet, show up at rallies, that's the only thing that gets this President's attention. Of course, we should never resort to violence, we should do it peacefully, as leaders before us of this country have done it, other trying times.

But this is an awakening for our country. And the president is doing actually exactly what he said he would do during the campaign, now we just must be louder.

BURNETT: Congressman Swalwell, thanks for your time tonight.

SWALWELL: My pleasure.

BURNETT: And next, first lady Melania Trump's message. So why did she wear a jacket with the words, "I really don't care, do you" as she headed to visit a child detention center on the border?

[09:24:16] And mixed messages over North Korean nukes, the president is saying something that completely contradicts perhaps the most storied and respected member of his administration, Defense Secretary Mattis.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Tonight, the first lady's surprise trip to a detention center in Texas. Wow, it was overshadowed by this image, a jacket that she wore on her way to Texas. And it says, "I really don't care, do you?" And the President of the United States once this, of course, became a story, tweets, "I really don't care, do you?", in caps, "written on the back of Melania's jacket refers to the fake news media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are and she truly no longer cares."

Nice try, Mr. President. Because the first lady's own communications director today already answered the question and she did not answer it the way you answered it. She said, it's a jacket, there was no hidden message. Now, one can be extremely skeptical of that explanation in and of itself. But even a Republican who is close to the White House tells us Trump's tweet is, quote, "revisionist history". Kate Bennett traveled with the first lady, she's OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

M. TRUMP: I'm here to learn about your facility, and I also like to ask you how I can help.

KATE BENNETT, FIRST LADY OF UNITED STATES: The first lady on the southern border today to see firsthand the reality behind her husband's zero tolerance border policy. But it wasn't what she said that created a stir. It was what she wore.

This jacket with the words "I don't really care, do you?" on the back as she left for Texas and, again, when she got home. The first lady's Communications Director Stephanie Grisham said, it's a jacket, there was no hidden message. While in Texas, she lost the jacket and visited a children's holding center.

M. TRUMP: When the children come here, what kind of stage, you know, physical and mental stage they come here?

MAYRA AYDEE SANCHEZ, LEAD CLINICIAN: Usually when they get here, they're very distraught in the sense they don't know where they're at.

BENNETT: She sat down with kids separated from their parents after being captured trying to illegally cross into the US.

M. TRUMP: How many times they speak with their relatives their families per week for example?

ROGELIO DE LA CERDA, JR., PROGRAM DIRECTOR: Well, the children are allowed to communicate with their family twice a week.

[19:30:01]

BENNETT: We weren't allowed to film her meeting the children, out of concern for their safety. But in one room, young girls made her this large paper American flag, and signed their names to it.

This facility holds almost 60 kids, most of them ages 12 to 17, and was chosen knowing media would be traveling with the first lady. One of many around the country designed to hold the almost 2,300 children separated from their families.

TRUMP: How long is the time that -- the max time that somebody spend here, not reunited with their family?

DE LA CERDA: Right now, we're averaging 42 to 45 days.

BENNETT: And expressing concern for unaccompanied kids.

TRUMP: Are these children, most of them come here alone, without parents?

JOSE GONZALEZ, FIELD SPECIALIST SUPERVISOR, DIVISION OF UNACCOMPANIED CHILDREN OPERATIONS: The majority of our children, yes, ma'am. They are unaccompanied.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BENNETT: Now this trip, the first lady's office tells us, was something the first lady wanted to do. She's informed the president she wanted to travel down there, told her staff two days ago that she wanted to visit and see it in person, Erin. As for the jacket, she wears what she typically wears, but thinking about it, she's very thoughtful about her fashion choices. It's a bit confusing again why she chose to wear that jacket on and off the plane.

Back to you.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Kate.

And OUTFRONT now, our senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson, "New York Times" politics editor, Patrick Healey, and former White House staff under George W. Bush, Margaret Hoover.

Hoover, so it's just a jacket from a first lady who knows fashion better than any other first lady in history, a former model, someone whose fashion choices are incredibly curated. Just a jacket.

MARGARET HOOVER, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: You can't say it's just a jacket this one time when it means more and has an explicit message, especially at a time when there's national outrage over this government's policies and treatment toward these children. It's quite clear that Melania went there because -- I mean, I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt that she cares that this is happening and she's deeply uncomfortable with it. She let herself be used as a bit of a prop, I think, for her husband's administration.

But it's hard to read who the message is directed at, right? Is it directed at the children? Is it directed at her husband? Her husband's fiery, almost defensive tweet in response trying to redirect the messages of what her jacket's message was about, suggests that maybe it was at him?

The point is it doesn't matter. The point is, there are children, 2,300 of them or more, who have been separated from their families. And an executive order hasn't fixed it. They have to be reunited with their families. And it is -- there's a moral imperative on us as a country to ensure that that happens.

BURNETT: Yes, and she went down there today, Patrick, sort of asked them, what can I do to help you? Clearly -- not that the first lady would be expected to set policy, but was no one in the White House made her aware of what was any of these policies would be? Obviously, no one knows.

Jeff Zeleny, our White House reporter, is saying the president's tweet when he sent that out blaming, saying it was the media --

PATRICK HEALY, FORMER DEPUTY CULTURE EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right.

BURNETT: -- led to an urgent staff meeting at the White House. They don't know who came up with the idea of blaming and saying this is pointed at the media but they got excited about it, and so, they decided he was going to go ahead and do that. Stephanie Grisham, the first lady's spokesperson, said today's visit with the children in Texas impacted FLOTUS does greatly. If the media would spend their time and energy in her actions and efforts to help kids rather than speculate and focused on her wardrobe, we could get so much more accomplished on behalf of the children.

Then why did she do it?

HEALEY: Yes, this is not speculating on the wardrobe, this is speculating on a message that was on the back of her jacket --

BURNETT: This is not discussion about her fashion choices.

HEALEY: And, frankly, there was the issue with the stiletto heels when she went to Texas after the hurricane, yes. That was focused on fashion. This is about a message from a first lady who hasn't been seen much in public, there's been a lot of reporting about her and the president being sort of angry about these questions about why she hasn't been out in public.

So here she is, she's going down as sort of the emissary of empathy from the White House after days of criticism when the White House and President Trump did not seem empathetic to these children. And she goes. She has her visit, and then she gets on a plane and has this message that seems to be saying like, hmm, you know --

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: I don't care to somebody, yes.

HEALEY: -- to the people, I don't care.

She knew that there were -- the White House invited the television crews along. There were several print reporters they did not invite. So, they knew they were going to get that coverage.

And they also knew President Trump very careful, and she knows, very carefully, President Trump watches the coverage of Mrs. Trump closely.

So was this a message to him about something that we don't know what was going, was it trolling the media because of the coverage that's been going on?

[19:35:01] I can't believe it was to the kids because that's --

BURNETT: That is so nonsensical if that is the case --

HEALEY: Why does the White House want that takeaway from this? Why wondering what this message was?

BURNETT: I mean, and, Nia, look, I mean, just to make it clear here, it's 85 degrees.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Right.

BURNETT: No one else was wearing a jacket, OK? She's wearing a jacket. She wasn't wearing it because she was cold.

Even if she was, let's be clear -- forget her resume, that she's a fashion model known for her sense of style. She -- her own press person, Stephanie Grisham, has said, Mrs. Trump wears what she likes and what is appropriate for the occasion. This was not appropriate.

Look at her in Riyadh. Perfect, everything was perfect. Long dress.

With the pope, she wore the exact perfect outfit. Colored her hair. Exactly as perfect. Culturally appropriate.

Republican national convention, dress from a designer born in Serbia, to recommend sort of the region from which she had come. One of the debates during the campaign, you know, she, well -- after the president made that comment on the "Access Hollywood" tape.

The point is, she is very thoughtful and very careful with what she does. She's never worn anything like this before. It wasn't like I grabbed it out of the closet by mistake.

(CROSSTALK)

HENDERSON: Yes. I mean, the sole purpose of that jacket is the message on the back, right? I mean, it's not some beautifully designed jacket in some brilliant color or something. It's a sort of jacket you would wear as a teenager during your angsty phases.

So, it's really odd she wears it today. I think it was certainly inappropriate.

The thing about the first lady, any first lady, is that they primarily convey messages visually, right? I mean, these messages or pictures of them with kids or pictures in some audio and video of her down there.

So, again, I mean, she knew that this image was going to be telegraphed. Not just here in the United States, but around the world, right? These messages.

I mean, I think the first story was from the United Kingdom on this jacket. So it was certainly a misstep. Then you have the White House essentially saying, oh, either this wasn't a message, it's just a jacket, or that it is a message.

Either way, I mean, it's a misstep. If it was meant to be a message to the president or to the press, it makes the first lady look petty and small on a day that I think called for grand gestures and bigness, certainly big-heartedness, which I think she displayed. Again, the jacket stepped on that message.

BURNETT: Right. She emblazoned those words instead of what else she wanted to convey -- Margaret.

HOOVER: But what you see is Melania Trump kind of freestyling in her own way. I mean, in her own lane, she has a way of making an influence, through fashion, through her messaging.

And that's a place where -- nobody's controlling what she's doing. I mean, nobody's telling her what to wear. She's doing it herself. And so, she is sort of exerting her First Amendment rights in her own way and making sort of her voice heard.

And she's -- you know, she's tipping her hat. Nobody approved that. That was her on her own.

HEALEY: And, boy, this is an insecure tweet from the president. You know, he really likes to convey --

BURNETT: It wasn't at me, guys! It wasn't at me.

HEALEY: It wasn't at me, it was the fake news media.

HOOVER: I think we know it was about him.

HEALEY: I think we know it was about him. I mean --

BURNETT: Maybe he should have said, if it was about me, I don't want it to be a $30 coat. Make it $30,000. Thank you all.

Up next, a father's struggle to find his 12-year-old daughter separated, now in detention, as again this policy is supposed to be over but these kids are not with their families tonight.

And then the president versus Mattis, the defense secretary. Why are they on such different pages, and what it could mean.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:41:36] BURNETT: New tonight, mass confusion. Health and Human Services admitting it's still waiting on guidance. They don't know how to reunite the more than 2,300 children taken away from their parents at the border over the past two months.

It's now been nearly 30 hours since President Trump signed an executive order to end his own policy that did just that, separating those families. That means right now, parents are desperately trying to track their children down. Some of the parents are in detention. The kids, some of them too young to even fully know their own names.

Ed Lavandera is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The day after President Trump signed an executive order billed as a plan to stop the separation of undocumented immigrant families --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm directing HHS, DHS, DOJ to work together to keep the illegal immigrant families together during the immigration process and reunite these previously separated groups.

LAVANDERA: Rochelle Garza, an immigration lawyer in Brownsville, Texas, says she's still trying to make sense of it all.

ROCHELLE GARZA, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: The order doesn't reunify my client with his daughter. It doesn't -- it doesn't speak to reunifying any of the parents with their children.

LAVANDERA: Garza represents one Central American father who was separated from his daughter in early June. More than 2,300 children have been separated from their families since the Trump administration rolled out the zero tolerance policy in early May.

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you. And that child may be separated from you as required by law.

LAVANDERA: The confusion is rampant. This group of almost 20 undocumented immigrants were shuttled in and out of the federal courthouse to face the misdemeanor charge of illegal entry.

This image has become a daily routine at this courthouse for several weeks now. But public defenders told them prosecutors dismissed their cases and the group was taken out of the courthouse. A few hours later, with little explanation, prosecutors insisted the charges were never dismissed.

CARLOS GARCIA, IMMIGRATION LAWYER: I think it's a direct result of what's going on with our administration, that they're changing things on the fly.

LAVANDERA: But Rochelle Garza says the reality on the border is much darker.

GARZA: The damage is done. All we're trying to do right now is pick up the pieces and see how we can connect these parents with their children.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: And, Erin, that really seems to be kind of the word of the day. We've heard from a number of people we've spoken with about how they're handling their clients and these stories of these undocumented immigrants, is that confusion kind of seems to be reigning right now -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much.

And next, President Trump splitting with his defense secretary, Jim Mattis. So, why?

And Don Lemon introducing you to something near and dear to his heart that's changing the lives of some remarkable young people.

We'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:47:34] BURNETT: Tonight, President Trump claiming North Korea has already started the denuclearization process. Here he is today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They're destroying their engine site. They're blowing it up. They've already blown up one of their big test sites. In fact, it was actually four of their big test sites. And the big thing is it will be a total denuclearization, which is

already starting taking place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Of course, that doesn't really add up. It's very different from what the defense secretary, Jim Mattis, said. Mattis in a very interesting moment went quiet when the president tried to engage him in a discussion about Japan and North Korea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I spoke to Prime Minister Abe, and he is so thrilled. He doesn't have rockets going over Japan. That makes him very happy, General, you know that, right? He's very thrilled not to see rockets going over Japan. There were plenty of them sent right over Japan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Barbara Starr is the one who questioned then -- after that, questioned the Defense Secretary Mattis about North Korea and its denuclearization. Of course, none of the weapons are gone at this point.

What did he tell you, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good evening, Erin. The defense secretary once again in the position of, you know, playing a little bit of cleanup before and after the president's remarks.

When we saw him yesterday at the Pentagon, I asked him about denuclearization. And he said he'd seen no evidence of it. That it has not begun yet. None of these sites in North Korea have been blown up.

And he actually said he wouldn't expect to see it right now because there will still have to be very detailed negotiations. So, where President Trump today got the idea that four of them had been blown up inside North Korea pretty much is anybody's guess.

BURNETT: I mean, it is just like making up a number, it seems like. I mean, I don't know, obviously, I don't know any more than anyone knows where he got it. But he said four sites are blown up and we're going complete denuclearization.

The defense secretary says there's no evidence of it to you. I mean, and frankly, this isn't the first time he's had to do a complete cleanup, a 180 from the president.

STARR: That's right. I mean, this is sort of somehow now the position that Secretary Mattis finds himself in.

A couple of quick examples. The other day the president said he's going to have a space force just like the Air Force, the Navy, the Army, the Marines. Secretary Mattis says, well, it's going to take a long time, there will have to be legislation, it will all have to be looked at.

You'll remember President Trump wanted to have no transgender members in the United States military. Secretary Mattis had to say, wait a minute, we will have to study it, there's legislation, there's court cases about all of this, it's going to take a long to figure it all out.

[19:50:07] These are just some of the examples that we continue to see of Secretary Mattis having to step in. Another one: the president wanted troops out of Syria in something like six months. The secretary said, well, we're not done fighting ISIS there just yet -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Barbara, thank you very much.

Pretty stunning, though. Defense secretary, no evidence of denuclearization and the president of the United States comes out and says they just destroyed four sites, of which the defense secretary said they did not.

OUTFRONT next, "Champions for Change". Don Lemon showing us a program that I believe will truly lift your heart tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: This week, we've been telling the stories of extraordinary people and organizations that are making a big difference. Tonight, Don Lemon explores a unique program. It's called Oliver Scholars.

Oliver prepares black and Latino students for success at the nation's best schools and colleges.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning. Hi. You're here to be interviewed?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How's it going? Hello, good morning. Good morning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm feeling a bit nervous, but I'm actually kind of excited to go the process. Will I do good? Will I do bad? I don't know.

MANNY VEGA, DIRECTOR OF PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT, OLIVER SCHOLARS: We are looking at selecting 100 students. We had over 1,000 nominations. It's a very selective program. I'm not sure that I would have gotten in if I were applying at this point.

I'm Manny Vega. I'm the director of program development at Oliver Scholars.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The most important thing today is to have fun. We're asking questions of you, but you should have questions of us.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR, "CNN TONIGHT": Any one or any organization that gives access to children who would probably not have it, I think it's important.

[19:55:01] And to be quite honest, a lot of kids look like me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning, everyone, and welcome to Barnard.

LEMON: Like Ariana, for example, who is going to graduate from Barnard College.

ARIANA JACOBS, OLIVER SCHOLARS STUDENT: Wow. Ten years since my first introduction to Oliver. This is where I am. I'm so excited.

I went through two very rigorous summers with the program.

SUGEIDY FERREIRA, OLIVER SCHOLAR STUDENT: I had a similar experience. My mom said this program is the best shot we got to great future.

LABEEBAH SUBAIR, OLIVER SCHOLARS STUDENT: They also teach you to be like very well-rounded. So, like, it's not just about like your academics.

MANNY VEGA, DIRECTOR OF PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT, OLIVER SCHOLARS: I give credit to Oliver for giving me the opportunity back when I was 12 years old for transforming my life to grow outside the bounds of zip codes and area codes and connect with the globe.

LEMON: Manny is the ultimate give-backer. He actually walks the walk and talks the talk. He was so grateful that he felt obligated, I mean, in a good way, to go back and share and make those experiences happen for other people.

Manny, what are you, a 2004 graduate? 2004 graduate.

VEGA: I live and breathe Oliver. I grew up to the program and have been working with Oliver for the past eight years.

JACOBS: One of the things that's engrained in Scholars immediately is Oliver's three tenets of leadership, scholarship and service.

SUBAIR: It's really like an essential part, where my motivation comes from, in terms of leadership. What I'm doing now is going to work to like build like my future.

KEVIN PEPIN, OLIVER SCHOLARS STUDENT: My favorite of those three is probably leadership. I think there's so many different types of leadership. I play quarterback. That's the leader of the team.

Having gone to Oliver and having experience with leadership kind of does prepare you in the classroom, on the field, just anywhere you go.

LEMON: I had to dig in the tunnel. I had to go into the tunnel. Kevin, what was that?

PEPIN: You were walking down the stairs and you fell and this was a dog. You had gotten dog I would have said you fell.

LEMON: A dog is this. That's a dog. Since you've been an Oliver scholar, do you feel different? Do you

think like you've changed?

PEPIN: I definitely I've changed. Oliver has made me proud of who I am. As a person of color, you kind of sometimes doubt yourself every now and then. But having gone to Oliver, it makes you solidify yourself.

I was eating and I got sick.

And making sure that you understand the best parts of yourself.

LEMON: Do you speak Chinese? Are you fluent?

FERREIRA: Four years into it.

LEMON: Give me a little.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every scholar must complete 150 hours of community service. Sugeidy completed a total of 452 hours of community service in the U.S. and abroad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sugeidy is one of my favorite students. She's a leader. I had so many great stories of her. Her decision to play on the football team. She's just incredibly fearless and has made her mark here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What Oliver does is forces you to look into the future.

LEMON: Labeebah is getting the scholarship award tonight.

SUBAIR: An Oliver experience is truly a rare gem that every child deserves and would benefit from immensely.

You have like an idea of like this is like sort of like what I want to do like with my future. And these are things I need to do to like get help with it.

LEMON: Did you pick your college?

SUBAIR: Yes.

LEMON: Where are you going?

SUBAIR: I'm going to Yale.

LEMON: You're going to Yale? Oh, my gosh. Yale! Yale! She's going to Yale.

VEGA: Oliver opens those doors to provide the foundation, mentorship, the support, the tough love and knowing that the world is tough.

JACOBS: Anything can happen. Literally, anything can happen.

I'm at this amazing juncture right now where this is the first time that I don't know what's coming next.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: Wow. I mean, that's incredible and uplifting. Yale. Barnard, I mean, these are -- these are incredible achievements.

Why is this organization so important to you?

LEMON: Well you mentioned Yale, Barnard, Harvard, all these Ivy League schools. I think, you know, traditionally in America, African- Americans, people of color, especially people from underserved communities and women to a certain extent, have not had the chance to build generational wealth which is important, which is what will really make the difference in having the playing field being as level as possible.

And I think Oliver Scholars is great start. If you come from one of those communities, you go to a school that is not such a great school and you get to go on to an Ivy League college, that's amazing. You're on your way to not only success but to wealth and to high achieving success and high level. Yes.

BURNETT: Something you can pass on no your kids whether the wealth or the education.

LEMON: You know how to fill out a college application. You know how to deal with people in the work force. It's just an amazing program.

BURNETT: It certainly is. And thank you so much for sharing it with us. Don Lemon --

LEMON: Thank you.

BURNETT: Wonderful to have him here with us.

And we are going to continue to share all of these inspirational stories this week. And tune in to the "Champions for Change" hour- long special this Saturday. It's at 8:00, right here on CNN.

And Anderson starts now.