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Trump's Cabinet Meeting; Trump Meets with Cabinet; Legislation on The Hill; Interview with Rep. Tom Reed; Melania Trump on Border. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired June 21, 2018 - 13:00   ET

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


[13:00:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Prime Minister Abe. And he was so thrilled. He doesn't have rockets going over Japan.

(TRUMP'S CABINET MEETING)

[13:04:06] MICK MULVANEY, BUDGET DIRECTOR: (INAUDIBLE) try really hard to make this not boring, Mr. President.

Mr. President, a lot of folks around this table have worked a long time, almost since you took over, to show you what's -- to get you where you are today at this meeting. I call this the drain the swamp cabinet meeting. I know we talked about --

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we're going to continue to monitor this cabinet meeting. Mick Mulvaney, the budget director, there making a precipitation. We'll watch that very, very closely.

You heard the president blistering the Democrats, going after them on the immigration policies. He says the Democrats are extremists. They only want open borders and they have nothing to offer. Massive child smuggling industry, he says, is underway.

Once again, we want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

I quickly want to go to our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta.

Jim, so what's the news now on this day after the president signed that executive order on this day when the first lady, Melania Trump, makes a visit to a holding facility for children along the border with Mexico? Update our viewers.

[13:05:11] JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's all very puzzling. I mean, first of all, we should point out, as the president was talking to the cabinet and the first lady was down on the border, he was once again blaming Democrats for this crisis down on the border, when, of course, it is his administration's policy that resulted in the separation of these children from their families. Let's just get that out at the front of all of this.

But at the same time, Wolf, we want to point out, he may have confused the matter greatly by saying just in the last several minutes at this cabinet meeting, talking about his executive action yesterday, that it reversed the administration's policy that resulted in these separation of these kids from their parents. He said -- talking about this executive action, quote, that's only limited. It leads to separation ultimately, end quote.

And so the curious thing there, Wolf, the puzzling thing there, Wolf, is why the president would say it's only limited. My guess is that it's only going to create more confusion and raise more questions as to what is ultimately going to happen to these children. And, at the same time, he made some comments that obviously are going to make people's jaws drop, as he often does. He said -- he talked about Democrats not providing enough money to take care of these children down on the border and he said, at one point, quote, let's run the most luxurious hotel in the world for everybody but they don't want to give us the money.

Wolf, obviously, these children, some of whom have been kept in cage- like settings, have not been living in hotel-like settings for the last several weeks after they've been separated from their parents. To the contrary, when you look at, for example, the cover of "Time" magazine and all of these pictures that have been released from these facilities, and so on, these children would probably argue with the notion that they've been kept in hotel-like settings or anything remotely close to that. And so the president, obviously, stepping on his own message to some extent while the first lady is down on the border trying to show some compassion, meeting with some of these officials who take care of these children down on the border.

The president is obviously talking about these children in very callous terms. And then as you heard during those comments just a few moments ago, Wolf, he was sort of pivoting back and forth, getting into political talk. He, at one point, said that there was not going to be a blue wave this fall, there's going to be a red wave. And as he was wrapping things up there and turning things over to his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, he was talking about his crowd size, which is obviously always on his mind, at that event that he -- the rally that he held last night in Duluth, Minnesota.

And so some very curious, strange, bizarre comments from the president that are obviously going to make people in the press shop over here tear their hair out over DHS and HHS tear their hair out because now they have to go back and try to make sense of what the president said here because at this moment it does not at all clear things up as to why the president would say this executive action was limited yesterday and that things may still end up in separations because, obviously, what a lot of people were at least breathing a short-term sigh of relief over when the president signed this executive action yesterday was that perhaps we've seen the end of the children being separated from their families and now the president has sort of thrown all of that up in the air with some of these recent comments that you heard in the last several minutes, Wolf.

BLITZER: A very tough statement from the president in that cabinet meeting over at the White House.

We're going to get back to you. Jim Acosta is our chief White House correspondent.

It all is happening any moment now, the House will start voting on the first of two immigration bills they're considering today. The first vote is on the conservative Goodlatte bill, as it's called, which denies a pathway to citizenship for the DACA recipients, the so-called dreamers. It funds the president's border wall with Mexico, puts new limits on illegal immigration. It's expected to fail.

The second bill is what's called the Compromise Bill, which gives those dreamers an eventual path to U.S. citizenship after a lengthy process. And it also deals with the family separation issue.

The debate led to this rather heated moment on the House floor between the speaker, Paul Ryan, and Congressman Mark Meadows. He's the head of the House Freedom Caucus. It ended with Meadows saying, and I'm quoting him now, I'm done.

Joining us now from Capitol Hill is Congressman Tom Reed. He's a Republican from western New York.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

REP. TOM REED (R), NEW YORK: Always a pleasure to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: I want to get to the legislation, these two pieces of legislation that you're going to be voting on today, but let me just get your quick reaction to what we just heard from the president of the United States. He says the Democrats, and he's referring to Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, and all of the Democrats basically, he calls them extremists. They're only interested in one thing, an open border. They want to continue to see massive child smuggling go on into the United States. And they have no interest in a real compromise.

Your reaction?

REED: Well, I think there's always some on the left that are extremists of that nature. But the heart of the folks I work with want to solve this problem. That's why they have border security, plus taking care of the dreamers and now these family situation is something that easily can be put together in my opinion for a deal.

[13:10:13] But I do want to clarify something else. The president is on something, Wolf -- on to something, Wolf, when he says the executive order temporarily handles this situation. That's the problem with the law. The law, as it's written today, as well as the Flores case, which is a court case controlling this situation. And that is why it's so incumbent upon Congress to act. We need to legislatively fix this. The president is doing what he can, and I appreciate him temporarily taking care of this, but this problem doesn't go away because the law is fundamentally flawed and needs to be fixed.

BLITZER: Yes, I -- and everybody realizes that comprehensive immigration reform is essential. Unfortunately, the House and Senate have not been able to achieve that over these many years. But you're absolutely right, the law needs to be fixed in so many areas, and I think Republicans and Democrats agree. REED: And, Wolf --

BLITZER: They disagree on how to do it.

Go ahead.

REED: Yes. Well, but in particular, on this family separation issue, that is a fundamental problem with the court cases and the law that Congress needs to weigh in on. That's why this problem today is not going to be taken care of with this vote if it goes down. We're going to have to deal with this legislatively.

BLITZER: Well, would you support --

REED: This little issue, as well as the larger issue.

BLITZER: Would you support, congressman, a standalone piece of legislation that saves comprehensive immigration reform for another day, but focuses in specifically on this separation of families, preventing children from being separated from their parents?

REED: Absolutely. I think if we -- we are -- if we are not successful today on these two immigration bills, which is probably the case as I see it today, we're still going to have to deal with this and I would support that type of legislative fix. And I know in the Senate there's some conversations occurring along those lines.

BLITZER: Yes, there would be a strong bipartisan support if there was that kind of stand-alone legislation.

So tell me how you're going to vote on these -- the more conservative and the more moderate two pieces of legislation today.

REED: You know, I've always been sensitive to these kids, these dreamers. And I think the second piece of legislation is the sweet spot. And that's why I'm supporting the second piece of legislation because it fixes our border security issues and it also takes care of these dreamers and deals with the family separation issue. I think that's a win-win-win and that's why I'll be supporting that second piece of legislation.

BLITZER: Are there 218 votes in the House of Representatives? That's the majority that would get that passed and send it to the Senate for then -- for consideration over there.

REED: My hope is some folks on the other side may come over, but that's probably not clear. And given the nature of where we are in a conference, it's not looking as if we're going to get to 18. But we can still get there. We've still got some time. I know we're close, so let's see if we can get it over the finish line.

BLITZER: Well, the first vote will be on the more conservative Goodlatte legislation, right? That's taking place as we speak, or almost as we speak, right?

REED: That's correct. And, you know, my concern about that is the dreamers are not given that certainty, those kids. I don't mind holding the parents accountable. I met with a lot of illegal immigrants over the years. And the parents themselves will say, I will suffer the penalty so long as my kids have the opportunity to live the American dream. I think that's a reasonable position.

BLITZER: So you'll vote against that. The first piece of legislation you'll vote against. You'll vote for the second piece of legislation. We'll see if the 218 votes -- certainly the first piece will -- is going to fail, in part because there are Republicans, like you, who oppose it, specifically because it doesn't provide an eventual pathway to citizenship for those DACA or dreamers as they're called.

One quick question, congressman, before I let you go.

The president was usually tough -- he's always tough on Mexico, but today he says, Mexico, quote, does nothing for us. All they do is take our money and send us drugs.

I want your reaction. Do you agree with the president when he blasts the U.S. ally to the south, Mexico, like that?

REED: Well, obviously, I'll let the White House and the president address those comments.

But, you know, there are bad guys coming in from Mexico and then they're here to do evil work. But most of the Mexican people are good people who want to have a close relationship with America. And I would not label them all of one caliber or the other.

BLITZER: Yes, the president was very firm.

Congressman Tom Reed from western New York, a fellow western New Yorker, thanks so much for joining us.

REED: Always a pleasure, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, let's go back. The president, I think, is speaking once again to the cabinet.

[13:14:17] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because our country cannot continue to run like this. We can't have open borders. You have to have borders. You don't have a country without border borders.

(PRESIDENT TRUMP'S CABINET MEETING)

[13:20:39] TRUMP: I am ready. I'm here. All of these people, these are very talented people. We're all ready. We're all here. We need votes from the Democrats or nothing can pass.

Thank you all very much. Thank you.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

BLITZER: All right, so there it is, the president meeting with his cabinet, answering a few questions from reporters, but delivering a lengthy statement blasting the current immigration system here in the United States. He says there will be no taking away the zero tolerance policy which forces the government to go ahead and arrest, detain anyone coming into the United States illegally, including those with children. But he does say, we don't want children separated from their parents, meaning the children will be taken together with their parents to some sort of detention facility.

He said at one point during his remarks that he wants to deal with the illegal immigration of families coming to the United States, but he wants those families to stay together. And he did say something significant. He says he wants to try to reunite separated groups, in his word, meaning those couple thousand, 2,300 or so children who were separated in recent weeks from their parents, he wants to see them reunited.

We'll see how that happens. Lots of confusion right now how that's unfolding. We're going to have full analysis of all of this news.

We're also going to be reporting on the first lady of the United States, Melania Trump. There you see her. She's down on the border with Mexico right now visiting a facility housing children, children who came into the United States illegally with or without their parents. We'll have a full report on that.

Lots of breaking news. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:26:34] BLITZER: We're following breaking news.

The first lady of the United States, Melania Trump, pushed the president towards his executive order that he signed yesterday on immigration. Today she made an unannounced visit to one of the detention centers in Texas along the border with Mexico, where she's been meeting with children.

Moments ago we heard from the first lady.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY: I'm glad I'm here and I'm looking forward to seeing and meeting children. I want to thank you for your hard word, your compassion and your kindness you're giving them in these difficult times. I'm here to learn about your facility and which I know you have children on a long-term basis. And I also would like to ask you how I can help to these children to reunite with their families.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, let's bring in our panel. Our senior political reporter, Nia-Malika Henderson is with us, CNN political correspondent Sara Murray, and our CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel.

Jamie, I think it's very significant that the first lady of the United States made this flight down to Texas, has been meeting with children, those that are taking care of these children, children who aren't with their parents.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And we have been told that her influence, Ivanka's influence, just about everybody's influence, the first lady's, had a -- were a big reason that he signed that yesterday. And clearly these images are going to have quite an impact today as well.

It was interesting, though, one of the questions she asked was, how often do these children get to talk to their parents or a family member. And they said twice a week. That's not a lot when you have a --

BLITZER: That's a phone call. That's a phone call. It's not in person, it's a phone call.

GANGEL: It's a phone call, when you do that.

Also, we just had a tweet about the same time from Ivanka Trump calling for swift action to getting families back together.

What all of this fails to deal with is that it is President Trump's policy that got us here in the first place.

BLITZER: Let me read that tweet from Ivanka Trump, a senior adviser to the president, also his daughter. Now that an executive order has been signed ending family separation at the border, it is time to focus on swiftly and safely reuniting the families that have been separated.

Sara, how significant is the fact these two women, the first lady and the president's daughter and senior adviser, the -- at least behind the scenes, and now in front of the scenes, have gotten involved and apparently have had some significant influence on the president, convincing him to move away from this separation policy?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, first of all, kudos to them because if President Trump, as we've seen in reports, didn't really believe the images down there, he's the one who should have gotten on a plane and gone to see what his -- what impact his policies was having. He didn't do that. Instead, we saw him today complaining about Democrats, bragging about his crowd size, while Melania is down there trying to figure out, you know, exactly what's going on when these kids reach these detention centers and Ivanka Trump is tweeting, now we need to focus on reuniting these kids.

But, you know, let's also remember that the first lady has a different role than Ivanka Trump. Ivanka Trump is a staffer in this White House. She, theoretically, as someone who has made, you know, children, families, women a part of her purview in the White House, could be on the phone with heads of these agencies saying, what is the plan for how we are going to do this in an expeditious manner because that's not a question that we have had answered from any of these agencies today.

[13:30:05] And if you can think about, you know, the anguish that these parents and kids have been in, from the moment that they were separated from their kids, to now go through another day of saying, OK, we're going to stop this