Return to Transcripts main page


Mother Successfully Sues to Get Child Back From Trump Administration; Michael Cohen Sending Message to Trump?. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired June 22, 2018 - 15:00   ET



SABINE DURDEN, MOTHER OF PERSON KILLED BY ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT: And if that wasn't enough to deal with, this is my only child. I have no family. That's it.

The public needs to know and they deserve to know that this could happen to each one of you at any given second. You hug your child, you send them off, no matter what age they are, and then you get that ugly phone call that will forever change your life.

And thank God our president and vice president, VOICE, my family of AVIAC, they rallied behind us. They were the only ones, and gave us a little light.

I was going to end my life. I had no purpose. But President Trump coming down that escalator that day and talking about illegal immigration stopped me in my tracks. And I had no clue at that point that I would ever be at the White House.

And I thank President Trump, Vice President Pence, everybody behind me. I thank you. I thank everybody out here.

Make sure you get our stories out. I brought my son. This is what I have left, his ashes. I wear his ashes in a locket. This is how I get to hug my son.

So, remember, when you go home and hug your kids, that there are many of us, thousands of us, who don't get to do that anymore. And let's work together and get this done, all politicians. I don't care what side you are on. You don't want your child in a casket or in an urn.

So get it together, for God's sake, for this country, for our citizens. Thank you.


RAY TRANCHANT, FORMER U.S. NAVY FIGHTER PILOT: My name is Ray Tranchant. And I retired from the Navy. I flew off of aircraft carriers and had a great Navy career, and then I started my family in the '90s. I had two little girls, Tessa and Kelsey (ph). And they had a bigger brother, Dylan (ph).

And I raised them and their mother and her -- BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: The president meeting with families whose loved ones were killed by undocumented immigrants.

Obviously, our hearts go out to them. I'm not sure why attacks on the media are necessary there.

But he is, of course, hosting this event as he faces criticism over the separation of families along the border.

And, right now, federal agencies are grappling with just how to implement President Trump's executive order. You have Senate and House leaders struggling to pass some sort of bill.

And the president's advice this morning -- quote -- "Republicans should stop wasting their time on immigration until after we elect more congress men and women in November."

Stop wasting their time. And with this tweet, the president effectively killed any hopes for now an immigration bill in Congress.

But in keep just a couple of days ago, in a closed-door meeting, the president himself told Republican lawmakers that he was -- quote -- "100 percent" behind their push to pass an immigration bill.

And on the House floor, drama today just a bit ago. Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu was just accused of breaking the rules of decorum by playing the recordings of wailing children who were taken from their parents at the border.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD (through translator): At least can I go with my aunt? I want her to come. I want my aunt to come, so she can take me to her house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): She will help you call your aunt if you have the number, so that you can talk to your aunt.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD (through translator): I have her number.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): OK, so she will help you right now so you can talk to her.


BALDWIN: That was the audio of the cries, and then the fallout on the floor.

The speaker called in the sergeant at arms, threatening to remove him. And Congressman Ted Lieu turned off the tape and yielded.

But the drama and confusion that we're seeing on Capitol Hill is nothing compared to what thousands of people are experiencing right now.

CNN's Nick Valencia joins me now from outside the Port Isabel Detention Center in Los Fresnos, Texas.

And we talked to Rosa last hour, who said that when those parents heard that president had signed that executive order, that they started crying tear of happiness, but now many are realizing the president's signature doesn't actually equate to a plan of reunification.

What are these parents saying to you?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not only that, Brooke, but some people inside this detention center don't even know that zero tolerance is over.

We would love to give you a tour inside this facility. In fact, we asked ICE to go inside. And they said a lack of resources presented them a challenge with facilitating that tour, so they denied our request.


We did, however, talk to two immigration attorneys who are working pro bono. They just came from meeting clients. What they are doing to get inside, they are going to the federal courthouses where these undocumented immigrants are making their court appearances, writing down the A number, the I.D. that undocumented immigrants are getting, coming here to this facility, cross-referencing, and then able to talk to people who end up becoming their clients.

They gave me some chilling details, saying that ICE officials inside say this reunification is not currently happening, it could take as long as a month, perhaps even more.

Here is what one attorney just told me a few minutes ago.


EILEEN BLESSINGER, VOLUNTEER ATTORNEY: My understanding is there is no process set yet. They are still in the process of figuring out the procedure for that.

What I was told was, it might take about a month just for that reunification to happen. The people inside the jail actually had no idea that was even a possibility. They were -- what -- they are getting information from the news. they had no idea.


VALENCIA: She said they're getting information the news because in some cases some of those that are inside are able to watch Spanish- language TV which is playing.

I asked about the conditions in there, Brooke. She said that they are, for all intents and purposes, ostensibly, they are good conditions, they are being fed well. It seems as though that those that are detained inside, which is a mixture of men and women, about 1,700 in all, are getting proper care. But the fact that they don't know that the zero tolerance policy is

over, that they are not being communicated to by these government officials is just shocking -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Awful. Nick Valencia, thank you.

And we mentioned Congressman Ted Lieu and what happened on the floor just a while ago up on Capitol Hill. Watch this with me.


REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: What must that sound like?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gentleman will suspend.

LIEU: For what reason, Madam Speaker?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gentleman is in breach of decorum.

LIEU: Cite the rule, Madam Speaker.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rule 17 of the House that prohibits...


LIEU: There's no rule that says I can't play sounds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gentleman will suspend.

LIEU: Why are you trying to prevent the American people from listening to what it sounds like in a detention facility?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rule 17 of the House prohibits the use of that device.

LIEU: These are babies and kids in the detention facility. Why do you not let the American people hear what they are saying?


BALDWIN: Now to the Department of Defense preparing to house as many as 20,000 undocumented children on U.S. military bases, 20,000.

Just to put this in perspective, that is a child in nearly every seat at New York's famous Madison Square Garden. If you translate it into school buses, 60 kids per bus, you would need 333 school buses.

As for where these children could be housed, the Department of Health and Human Services is taking a look at bases in Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico.

Let's talk to CNN military analyst and retired Colonel Cedric Leighton.

Colonel, thank you so much for coming on with me.

And I remember, when I first heard this number 20,000, socked me in the gut. And now trying to understand, what does that look like on these bases, period?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it is a huge thing, Brooke, because most of these bases, the biggest one, Fort Bliss, has a population of about -- of active-duty military of about 27,000 personnel, a little over that.

So they have as many troops as we have stationed in all of South Korea right on that one base and that one Army post. And most of the other bases are much smaller than that. And for them to house those 333 school buses worth of children would be a considerable undertaking for a base like Goodfellow, Dyess or Little Rock.

And any of those bases have an operational mission. Goodfellow has a training mission. The base at Dyess near Abilene, Texas, has a -- is home of the B-1 bomber. So they have got an operational mission, as well as, if they get this particular mission, they are going to have to have some massive expenditure of resources, create a tent city or something like that in order to house all of these kids and possibly their families.

BALDWIN: So maybe a tent city? That is 20,000 beds, right, spread out across the country.

What, are we talking about like parts of the base sort of turning into a day care? What modifications would be made? Would the kids be with their families?

LEIGHTON: Well, that depends on the decisions, the policy decisions, that are made here in Washington.

But if the families are going to be reunited per the latest executive order from the president, then it is going to be a situation where they would have to have facilities to house both the parents and the children.

And if that is the case, that brings up a whole 'nother series of policing functions, which kind of take you back to what we did for the Vietnamese refugees when they came to this country after the end of the Vietnam War.


And that was a lot of work that went into that. A lot of planning had to be done. And I don't think we have done any of that, based on what I have seen so far.

BALDWIN: So, I'm making almost like this list then of the cost, right? So if you are saying policing functions, then you have the 20,000 people getting to these various bases across the country, the housing, the food.

Do you have any idea, Colonel Leighton, how much that would cost and then who foots that bill?


LEIGHTON: Well, as far as who foots the bill, it would be definitely the American taxpayer.

The amount would really depend on a lot of different factors, such as the length of stay, the type of facility, whether or not you had to build a facility from scratch. And, in many cases, you would have to do that. So you would be talking easily in the tens of millions of dollars.

And, again, that really depends on the type of tenure that we're talking about, how long these people would actually be housed on these bases, what kind of court proceedings they would have, how expeditious those court hearings would be.

And so it's one of those situations, I think, Brooke, where there are going to be a lot of different factors. And any budgetary estimate for this kind of an effort would be probably quite inaccurate, at best.

BALDWIN: Then also just how the military feels about this. Right?

Colonel, Colonel Leighton, thank you very much for that.

Meantime, the mother who sued the Trump administration to get her son back is now with him. Their emotional reunion. And her lawyers join me on what is next.

Plus, another mother says that she would rather stay in Mexico and risk death than be separated from her daughter at the border. Is the Trump administration's efforts to deter immigrants from crossing illegally working, or is it hurting desperate families?

I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN.



BALDWIN: The cries of some of the youngest children separated from their families at the border may now become part of the congressional record after they were played as sound on the House floor today.

But for one mother, this audio means so much more to her, because this was the closest she could get to her daughter for now.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD (through translator): At least can I go with my aunt? I want her to come. I want my aunt to come, so she can take me to her house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): She will help you call your aunt if you have the number, so that you can talk to your aunt. UNIDENTIFIED CHILD (through translator): I have her number.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): OK, so she will help you right now so you can talk to her.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD (through translator): Daddy! Daddy!


BALDWIN: CNN's Rosa Flores actually tracked down the mother of one of the children whose cries you just heard. In fact, she asked Rosa to play the whole thing for her over the phone just so that she could hear her daughter.

She also had a plea for the first lady.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I would hope that she would help me. I think she understands (INAUDIBLE) a mom. (INAUDIBLE)


BALDWIN: A Trump administration official tells CNN that 500 children have been reunited with their families.

And we are seeing some proof of that. And it is powerful.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I love you. I love you. We are together. You are the only thing I have. We are together, my love. I love you so much.


BALDWIN: That little boy there wrapped up in the blanket, his name is Darwin. He is 7. And he and his mom are from Guatemala.

And with me now are two people who were right there when Darwin finally saw his mother again.

Mario Williams is the attorney who represents Darwin's mother. And also with us, Mike Donovan, the CEO of Nexus Services, who funded the mother's legal action and bailed her out.

So, gentlemen, welcome to both of you.

What a win for this family and for you.

Mario, I want to start with you, as she was your client. And tell me about what it took for this emotional reunion to happen, to have this mother finally embrace her child.

MARIO WILLIAMS, ATTORNEY: Well, it was a long journey, Brooke. We started off, we filed a lawsuit early 5:00 a.m. Tuesday morning.

At that point, the mother had not even known where her child was. Although she may repeated pleas try to find out where her child was, no one would tell her the location of the child.

We filed for an injunctive relief, an emergency motion, that Judge Friedman in the District Court of the D.C. Circuit granted. We had a hearing.

But before the hearing, honestly, Brooke -- and this is what the tragic part of it is -- is that the mother was actually promised that the child would be released a day before the hearing.

All the way up to point of letting the mother talk to the talk and represent that she was going to see her son on that day, the president decided to press the pause button, waited to five minutes before the actual hearing was going to take place to say they would release the child.

So, by the time she actually saw her child, as you can imagine, going a month being legally in this country, seeking asylum, being separated from her child, not being told where the child is, it was very emotional, very responsive reaction.


And just to put this in perspective, this is one child. Right? We're talking about 2,000 children on the border who have been separated.


And, Mike, just again to underscore again what you guys did, you sued several government agencies and top Trump administration officials asking this federal judge to basically release the son.

That is a lot to take on.

MIKE DONOVAN, CEO, NEXUS SERVICES INC.: That's right. It is a lot to take on.

But, Brooke, the amazing thing -- and I guess one thing that makes me feel so good about being an American is that only in this country could a migrant from Guatemala who walks across three countries with her son on her back, who experiences horrible trauma from this Trump policy that is out of control, only in the United States of America could she sue the president's administration and haul them into federal court and win and get her kid back.

So I guess, if there is a positive, to think about this. And it is horrible that she went through it. It's horrible that Darwin went through it. But they are together now, and the court system worked. The government should have done it sooner, but thank God she has her kid back today.

BALDWIN: Will we see more of scenes like these play out? Are you guys taking on more clients? DONOVAN: So, we have -- I have authorized funding for a class-action

to represent other similarly situated individuals.

And I know Mario and his team are working on that as we speak. In addition to that, we are offering to post charitable bond for any immigrant who was separated from their family as a result of this policy.

We need to get these kids back in the hands of their parents and close a chapter on this dark, dark spot in American history. What we have done is wrong, but we can make it right. We have to all work to make it right, right now.

BALDWIN: Mike Donovan: and Mario Williams, gentlemen, thank you so much for just shedding light on this one case.

Let me also point out Florida Senator Marco Rubio, he is weighing in on this crisis at the border and on the president's rhetoric. Here is what he told David Axelrod, host of CNN's "The AXE FILES."


DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The president has depicted the people who are coming as dangerous. He said they are not sending us their best, rapists and murderers.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Not based on a lottery or not people that snuck across the border. And they could be murderers, and thieves, and so much else.

AXELROD: The vast, vast -- 98 percent, 99 percent of these people are being charged with a misdemeanor. They don't have criminal histories. Is it fair to...


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Yes, I don't think it is ever wise to just cast a broad net, a generalization over any group of human beings.

So, yes, there are people that cross the border that are dangerous and criminals and the like. I would say, through my experience, the vast majority of people are coming over because they just want a better life.

And my sense of it is, if you're a father -- for example, my situation, my family is desperate, they're living in a dangerous situation, I would do almost anything to protect my children and find a better life for them.

So, we have to understand that element of it. That doesn't mean we don't have to have laws on our end. Mexico has immigration laws and Canada has immigration laws. But I don't think we should generalize that.

I think the vast majority of people crossing the border are just coming because they want something better.


BALDWIN: You can watch the full interview tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern, when Senator Rubio joins David Axelrod for "THE AXE FILES," again, tomorrow 7:00 here on CNN.

Next: President Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen now appearing alongside comedian Tom Arnold, who, by the way, is hosting the show "The Hunt For the Trump Tapes." It is the latest move that is raising eyebrows.

We will discuss.



BALDWIN: President Trump's former fixer, longtime attorney who is under criminal investigation, just met with one of the president's biggest critics.

Comedian Tom Arnold is working on this show for VICE. It's called "The Hunt For Trump Tapes. And Arnold tweeted out this photo and told NBC that Michael Cohen -- quote -- "has all the tapes."

The photo is raising so many eyebrows. Arnold just clarified with this: "Michael Cohen didn't say me and him were teaming up to take down Donald Trump. Michael has enough Trump on his plate. I'm the crazy person who said me and Michael Cohen were teaming up to take down Trump. Of course, I meant it."

Now, Cohen tells CNN appreciate his apology in correcting the record.

Let's start there.

With me is, Kristen Soltis Anderson. She is a columnist for "The Washington Examiner." And David Catanese is a senior politics writer for "U.S. News & World Report."

Welcome to both of you.

We had a little bit of fun with this last hour with Tom Arnold and Michael Cohen, but, Kristen, it is the latest bizarre move by Cohen. Right? He has just -- he has been critical of the president's immigration policy. And now he retweets this photo of Tom Arnold, who is trying to find all these unsavory tape of the president.

What is going on here?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I have -- the theory that you have is as good a theory as what I can have.

But I think what may be happening -- and, again, I feel like I'm spinning theories like I'm coming up upon the "Westworld" finale, is that he is someone who has gone through a lot of nonsense in defending Donald Trump, and now that he has had the feds raid his offense, he may be done putting up with nonsense to defend Donald Trump.

BALDWIN: David Catanese?

DAVID CATANESE, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": Look, I think we know from Trump world that the way to get president's attention is through media outlets, right, whether it be through "FOX & Friends" in the morning, whether it be through Twitter in the evening.

So, I don't have any inside read on this, but I would think, if Michael Cohen is going to allow himself to be photographed with Tom Arnold, an enemy of the president, it could be a signal to the president, saying look, hey, look out for me here. Look out for me in the end if I get hit with charges.