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Trump Bows to Political Pressure; Trump Administration Pushes Moderate Legislation on Immigration; South Korean President Makes First State Visit to Russia; Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired June 21, 2018 - 04:00   ET



[04:00:13] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I signed an executive order. We're going to keep families together.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: The president now wants families kept together at the border, but getting families back together after separation is another story and it won't be so easy.


The president reportedly wants to merge the Departments of Labor and Education. It's the centerpiece of a plan rolling out today to consolidate American bureaucracy.

NOBLES: And devastating floods in south Texas. Over a foot of rain in just a few days. A 91-year-old woman among those rescued.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Ryan Nobles.

ROMANS: Nice to have you here today, this Thursday morning. I'm Christine Romans. It is Thursday, June 21. The first day of summer. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

Let's begin with those families divided at the border. They still face a long road to reunification even after a major reversal for President Trump. He signed an executive order ending the separation of children and parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Sources tell CNN the president was frustrated by contradicting messages from his administration and with Republican allies questioning his heart.

Still, it was an abrupt decision for a president known for leaning in to his unpopular decisions than abandoning them.


TRUMP: So we're keeping families together and this will solve that problem. At the same time, we are keeping a very powerful border. And it continues to be a zero tolerance. We have zero tolerance for people that enter our country illegally.

(END VIDEO CLIP) NOBLES: First Lady Melania Trump has been working behind the scenes for the past several days encouraging her husband to change course on family separation.

The Trump executive order solves one political issue, but leaves many others unsettled. It does not address the families that have already been split. Existing policies put the onus on parents to reunite with children in the custody of Health and Human Services. More than 2300 children have been separated from their parents at the border since last month.

ROMANS: And HHS is also now walking back earlier comments that the sponsorship process will proceed for those kids, meaning they would end up back with their parents. A spokesman now says they are awaiting further guidance.

And even though families will now be kept together at the border, there is a legal issue. An earlier court decision says kids can't be detained longer than three weeks. So it's not clear what happens when their parents' cases take longer.

NOBLES: In just hours after the immigration order, President Trump back out on the campaign trail.

We get more from CNN's Jeff Zeleny.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Ryan, President Trump in Duluth, Minnesota, on Wednesday night starting the beginning of a series of campaign rallies he'll be holding really throughout the fall, leading up into the midterm election campaign.

Of course immigration front and center in Washington. The president did not dwell on immigration much at all at his rally in Duluth. This is the entirety of what he said about that executive order.


TRUMP: Today I signed an executive order. We're going to keep families together, but the border is going to be just as tough as it's been. Democrats don't care about the impact of uncontrolled migration on your communities, your schools, your hospitals, your jobs or your safety. Democrats put illegal immigrants before they put American citizens. What the hell is going on?


ZELENY: So the president taking some familiar jabs at Democrats about immigration. Clearly trying to keep this an issue that will drive his base into the midterm election campaign. The one thing not mentioned at all the Republican criticism about that family separation issue. Now it should be noted this is a -- what many believe is a short-term fix. This is likely to be challenged in a legal sense. This is likely to be revisited again and again.

The White House has constantly said it did not want a band-aid. Well, that's what many people believe it is. But in the short-term at least the president moving beyond that. But certainly not drawing on that executive order.

And Ryan, as you know, covering Congress on Capitol Hill, this remains a major issue as House Republicans are still trying to get enough votes for that immigration bill today -- Christine and Ryan.

ROMANS: All right, Jeff Zeleny. Thank you.

Hundreds of children separated from their parents at the border. They have been quietly taken here to New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio says as many as 350 children have come through one facility alone. Most of them are still there, including a 9 month old infant. Cameras from New York 1 News caught five girls being brought to a foster agency shortly after midnight Wednesday. De Blasio is wondering how this all could have happened without the city government having been made aware.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: What is happening here? How is it possible that none of us knew there were 239 kids right here in our own city? How is the federal government holding back that information from the people of this city?

[04:05:03] And holding back the help that these kids could need? This has been a traumatic process for a lot of these kids. The mental health issues alone, they made clear to us, are very real, very painful.


NOBLES: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sharing that outrage in an op- ed, calling family separation, quote, "a dark stain on the history of our nation." Saying, "You can't un-abuse more than 2300 children who've been separated from their parents. The administration family separation policy has already done potentially irreparable harm to those children who were used as pawns in the president's political agenda."

Protesters expressing their anger overnight at New York's LaGuardia Airport. Out West, Immigration and Customs Enforcement had to shut down their Portland office due to protests.

ROMANS: As protesters line up at that New York airport, American United and Frontier Airlines are asking the government to stop using their planes to fly migrant children separated from their families. American says it has no desire to be associated with separating families or worse to profit from it. Frontier promised that it will not knowingly fly migrant children away from their parents.

The problem is none of the airlines do know. Many have contracts with the U.S. government to use their planes but have no idea who uses those tickets. The Department of the Homeland Securities says, "It is unfortunate the airlines no longer want to partner with the brave men and women of DHS to protect the traveling public." But airlines are not the only ones protesting their association with

this issue. Walmart says it is disturbed their former Texas store is now a shelter for migrant children separated from their parents, tweeting that it had no idea the building would be used for this purpose when it sold it in 2016. The former Walmart supercenter is the largest child shelter in the U.S.

President Trump may have ended the practice of separating families at the border, but before that, many companies spoke out strongly against that policy calling it un-American. Facebook, Uber, JPMorgan Chase, Apple, many CEOs coming out and saying they should end. This is not what the American dream was all about.

NOBLES: So now the big question comes, will Congress do anything about this? The executive order to end family separations comes as the House prepares to vote on actual immigration legislation later today. On the table a moderate and a conservative bill. Ahead of the votes, tensions boiling over on the House floor.

Take a look at this. This rarely happens. House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows says the compromise bill is not ready for primetime. Unloading on House Speaker Paul Ryan. Congressman Carlos Curbelo who is nearby when the feud erupted says he thinks conservative critics of the bill are trying to blow it up at the last minute.

So does the moderate bill have the votes it needs? Let's get to CNN's Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Ryan, if this executive order related to the zero tolerance policy served as some sort of pressure release valve for Republicans on Capitol Hill, at least on the near term, another pressing issue very quickly came to the forefront. One that the Trump administration basically delivered a full court pressure on.

That's their broader immigration bill they're supposed to vote on that today. Here's the reality. This is a bill that addresses DACA. This is a bill that addresses the president's border wall. This a bill that also had recent language that addressed family separation. This is also a bill that has been far short of votes for the last couple of weeks.

The Trump administration went all out to try and change that shortly after they released the executive order. The president bringing down more than two dozen Republicans to try to give them the hard sell, get them off the fence to yes. Attorney General Jeff Sessions meeting with Republicans in the capitol. DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen meeting with Republicans in the capitol.

Here's where the reality is after that, after House Republican leaders again whipped the votes, I'm told they're still short. At this point, there is no clear path forward to actually getting majority of votes to pass. The real question is, are they actually going to have the votes or are they going to pull them all together -- Ryan and Christine. ROMANS: All right. Phil, thank you for that.

Breaking overnight. The "Washington Post" reports the White House will push forward with its plan to shrink the size of the federal government by merging the Labor and Education Departments. It would be the centerpiece of a long awaited proposal to make Washington function more effectively.

The plan also calls for streamlining the way that the government provides benefits for low-income Americans. An area conservatives have long railed against. No immediate word on job cuts. The Education and Labor Departments employ a total of 19,000 workers. Any consolidation would need congressional approval. Of course that means making a merger of those two agencies really a long shot here.

NOBLES: Actor Peter Fonda is apologizing for a tweet that targeted President Trump's youngest son Barron. The tweet, which has since been deleted, said, quote, "We should rip Barron Trump from his mother's arms and put him in a cage with pedophiles." First Lady Melania Trump's communications director calls it sick and irresponsible, adding the Secret Service has been notified.

Fonda now says his tweet was highly inappropriate and vulgar, and says he went way too far in voicing his anger over the Trump administration's practice of separating families at the southern border.

[04:10:11] ROMANS: All right. Two major political players pledging their time and resources to try and flip the House to Democrats in November. Steve Schmidt, a top GOP strategist is renouncing his party affiliation. He is urging Americans to vote Democrat in the midterm elections. Schmidt tells the "Washington Post," "Our founders always predicted that one day there would be a president like Trump. And that's why they designed the system of government they way they designed it. What they never imagined is the utter abdication of a co-equal branch of government which we're seeing now. The definition of conservatism now is the requirement of complete and utter obedience to the leader."

NOBLES: Meantime, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg announcing his intention to spend $80 million on the midterms, throwing most of that financial weight behind Democrats. In a statement he says Republicans had failed in their control of Congress, adding, quote, "I believe that we the people cannot afford to elect another Congress that lacks the courage to reach across the aisle and the independence to assert its constitutional authority." But Bloomberg has previously divided his political spending between candidates from both parties.

There's some good news for Democrats. A new CNN poll shows support for Democratic House candidates has ticked up slightly to 50 percent. That's up three points in the last month.

ROMANS: All right. A teenager shot and killed running from police in East Pittsburgh. What police and the family lawyer are now saying.


[04:15:35] NOBLES: The number of sexual assaults on commercial flights is increasing at an alarming rate. An FBI investigation reveals cases have increased by 66 percent from 2014 to 2017. As for a cause, the FBI says it's not sure why. Investigators say the numbers are likely higher since many cases go unreported. The agency says the bulk of the incidents happen on red-eye flights where alcohol is being consumed.

ROMANS: Protests erupt in Pennsylvania after an unarmed 17-year-old is gunned down by police. We got to warn you here. This video is disturbing. This happened in East Pittsburgh. That's where police stopped the vehicle matching the description of a car linked to a shooting. When the driver was ordered out of the car, two people ran off. One person identified as Antwon Rose were shot by officers several times. He died later at the hospital. Wednesday night protesters gathered demanding justice for the slain teenager.

NOBLES: A Chicago father whose son was shot and later died is demanding answers. Eric Carey says he wants to know why his son Erin was covered in a sheet while he was still alive. Officials say paramedics treating the 17-year-old at the scene thought he was dead. Witnesses alerted first responders that Erin appeared to be breathing. His father tells reporters that emergency officials dropped the ball.


ERIC CAREY, FATHER OF ERIN CAREY: Watching the video and seeing what happened with my son, that could not have been proper procedure. You know, just throwing a sheet over a person. If they had seen my son lying there with a gunshot wound to his head, you don't throw a sheet over his head and walk to the next person.


NOBLES: A spokesperson for Chicago's fire department acknowledges something went wrong, adding, quote, "This is not acceptable."

ROMANS: All right. Flash flood emergencies ravaged south Texas over a foot of rain falling the last several days. Look at those pictures. Heavy rain reported in Victoria, Corpus Christi, and McAllen. That's where a 91-year-old woman had to be rescued when water rose in her home. In the city of San Juan, cars nearly submerged while some stranded drivers had to be rescued by kayaks. Parts of south Texas remained under flash flood watches through the afternoon. But some good news. The situation should slowly start to improve today.

NOBLES: Move over movie pass. America's largest movie chain AMC Theaters unveiling the AMC stubs A-list. It allows members to see up to three movies each week in any format they want including iMax and 3D. It will cost you 20 bucks a month. It also allows movie goers to book tickets in advance.

Now Movie Pass offers one free movie a day and that's 10 bucks a month. Throwing some shade at AMC with this tweet, saying, quote, "Heard AMC Theaters jumped on board the movie subscription train. Twice the price for a quarter of the theater network and 60 percent fewer movies. Thanks for making us look good, AMC."

Christine, the only thing I could think of is somebody that gets to go to the movies three times a month must not have four children.

ROMANS: Yes -- no. I have three children and I have not seen a movie I think in five years.


ROMANS: All right. 18 minutes past the hour. The president of South Korea making his first trip to Russia. Infrastructure and North Korea a big discussion point. We're live in Moscow.


[04:23:11] NOBLES: South Korean President Moon Jae-in making his first state visit to Russia. He's addressing Russia's parliament in a meeting with Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev ahead of a summit with Vladimir Putin tomorrow. North Korea expected to be high on the agenda.

Let's bring in CNN's Matthew Chance, he is live in Moscow.

Matthew, this is the continuation of President Putin welcoming world leaders as the world cup is in Russia.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is the Russia's World Cup diplomacy in full swing. Because, you know, previously Russia has been considered somewhat isolated because of the sanctions that had been placed on it by the United States, by the European Union and others over sanctions in Ukraine and the Syrian conflict. But this tournament which has brought in nations from all over the world is providing some cover and some excuse for these top world leaders to come and, you know, have high-level contacts with their Russian counterparts.

So that's exactly what the South Korean president, President Moon, is doing right now. They've got serious things to discuss. Not least the situation on the Korean peninsula. Russia is a player in that situation because it has diplomatic relations with Pyongyang and it has a good relationship with South Korea as well. And so it's been pushing itself forward as an important player whose interests should be considered if there is a settlement on the Korean peninsula in terms of denuclearization.

There's also an important trade relationship that Russia wants to discuss with South Korea. They're talking about building an oil pipeline, a gas pipeline and a railway link to ferry goods and passengers between the two countries. That would of course cross North Korean territory.

And so there is a lot at stake in these talks. And, you know, again World Cup diplomacy. President Moon of South Korea will be watching his team play on Saturday when they face Mexico in the latest game in the World Cup. And so propaganda, too, in some ways for Putin.

[04:25:05] NOBLES: All right, Matthew Chance live in Moscow. Matthew, thank you.

ROMANS: Well, some happy news. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern giving birth to a baby girl. She posted a picture at her Instagram saying, "Feeling very lucky to have a healthy baby girl." The deputy prime minister will fill in for Ardern during her six-week maternity leave. The baby shares a birthday with former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto who was the first and until now only other world leader to have a baby while in office back in 1990.

NOBLES: All right. The president signs an executive order to solve a problem he said he couldn't -- that couldn't be fixed with an executive order. But some kids already flown thousands of miles facing a long road to reunification.