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Confusion after Reversal; First Lady's Jacket Message; New Poll on Russia Investigation; Enquirer Sent Stories to Cohen. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired June 22, 2018 - 06:00   ET


[06:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: But e-mails obtained by CNN reveal that that policy appears to be on hold. So officials are also confused.

The Pentagon is making preparations to house up to 20,000 migrant children on U.S. military bases. And the Justice Department is asking a federal judge to allow them to detain these kids for longer than the current 20 days.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Listen, the conflicting messages here have conflicting messages in and of themselves. The most senior person connected to the Trump administration to go to the border at all for a firsthand look, First Lady Melania Trump, to see the consequences of the choices that her husband's administration has made. She did ask sharp questions and she made sharp statements that are open to interpretation. She said, the children are paying for the action of adults. But which adults? Is that some kind of code?

And while we're on the subject of code, the jacket. The jacket she wore as she left Washington in 81-degree heat read, "I really don't care, do u? It's hard to imagine it was an accident she wore that.

So what should we take from it? What should the president take from it? What should the kids in detention take from it?

And as for Congress, Republican leaders have delayed a vote on an immigration plan. They don't have the numbers to pass it right now, so it's delayed until next week at least.

Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Abby Phillip live at the White House.

Good morning, Abby.


It has been two days now since President Trump signed that executive order. But there's still a lot of questions about how exactly the administration plans to reunite some 2,300 children with their families and also uncertainty raising today over how the Trump administration plans to reunite families and detain families going forward.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PHILLIP (voice over): Chaos and confusion at the border, as federal agencies struggle with how to implement President Trump's executive order and how to reunite the thousands of children separated from their families. President Trump standing firm that his zero tolerance policy must be maintained at the border.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to have a very tough policy, otherwise you have millions and millions of people pouring into our country. We can't have that. We have no choice.

PHILLIP: But e-mails from Customs and Border Protection sent yesterday morning, obtained by CNN, shows that the zero tolerance policy has been effectively curtailed for now after the agency told its field offices to suspend referring any parents who cross the border illegally with their children for prosecution.

President Trump sparking further confusion by contradicting his own order, saying some family separations may still occur.

TRUMP: I signed a very good executive order yesterday, but that's only limited. No matter how you come, it leads to separation ultimately.

PHILLIP: The Justice Department now asking a federal judge to modify a court order that limits the ability of U.S. officials to detain immigrant children for more than 20 days.

More mixed messaging coming from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, changing his tune about family separations despite touting them a month ago.

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

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

PHILLIP: Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen stating the administration has plans to reunite the separated families, but offering no details or timeline.

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

KIRSTJEN NIELSON, HHS SECRETARY: We have a plan to do that. As you know, we do it on the back end. So it's a combination of DHS, DOJ, HHS, reuniting as quickly as we can.

PHILLIP: While Health and Human Services awaits further guidance on what to do about reunification, separated children continue to be sent to facilities and foster homes across the country, leaving states scrambling to track how many are in their care.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: I tried to get HHS, Health and Human Services, to tell us how many children were in the state today, so I can provide help. They won't even tell me. I don't know that they even now.

PHILLIP: The agency now requesting that they Defense Department prepare to house 20,000 undocumented children on military bases.

The first lady making a surprise trip to the border to tour a detention facility housing immigrant children.

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY: And I'd also like to ask you how I can help to these children to reunite with their families, you know, as quickly as possible.

PHILLIP: But her visit overshadowed by this jacket with graffiti-style writing on the back that read, "I really don't care, do u?" The first lady's spokesperson downplaying the wardrobe choice, saying there was no hidden message.


PHILLIP: And President Trump weighed in on this pseudo controversy of sorts on Twitter yesterday saying in a little bit of a revisionist history here that the jacket was actually a message to the press.

Meanwhile, he is going to have his own event later today on immigration. But a little bit different. He's going to be meeting with angel families. These are families who have lost loved ones to violence perpetrated by illegal immigrants.

[06:05:12] Back to you, John and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Abby, thank you very much for setting all of that up.

Joining us now is CNN political analyst and "New York Times" White House correspondent Maggie Haberman.

Maggie, this is madness. It's madness. It's one thing to be separated from your child. It's another thing that these parents don't know where their kids are today. Don't know how they're getting them back. If you're a toddler who speaks only Spanish, how are you to tell them who your mother is or where you last saw your mother?

Do you have -- are we -- should we have any confidence in the federal officials in Homeland Security that they have a system here where they will be restoring these 2,300 kids to their parents?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. What we have seen so far is nothing but chaos since the president signed this executive order. He wanted, as I understand it from people in the White House, he just wanted something signed. He wanted to make the problem go away. This is a problem the administration created. And then he wanted to be able to say he had dealt with it.

But, in the meantime, there was a lack of agreement by agencies in the federal government on how this is supposed to be implemented, what it means. So, to your point, you're going to continue to have children who are unable to be reunited with their parents or only able to be reunited after a very long period of time. And so far the system is not equipped to deal with this.

CAMEROTA: No, but it also sounds like they don't know exactly how to.

BERMAN: They don't. I mean the irony here -- the irony here is that they claim they had no policy to separate the children from their family. They did. Now is when they don't have a policy. They have no policy, no set plan to get them back together. It's crystal clear because different agencies are telling us different things about what they're doing.

CAMEROTA: I find it haunting to not know where your four-year-old is, who's caring you're your four-year-old, who's feeding your four-year- old, what are the conditions.


CAMEROTA: This is haunting.

HABERMAN: Right. I don't know whether the inability to reunite parents with children predates this administration. I do want to be really clear, as we are talking about this, that -- and I think it is important because there was a huge issue in 2014 in particular with the Obama administration. There were lots of children, many who were coming alone across the border, but there were also separations.

I'm not clear whether this is an aspect of this system that has been fundamentally broken for a long time and now the system is so swamped by the Trump policy that they can't figure it out or if this is just, you know, a system backup because of the chaos that has been created by the way they have gone about this. So --

BERMAN: And he never has (INAUDIBLE) numbers. This is the first time --


BERMAN: That you have anything along the lines of these numbers. By choice. Separated by choice.

HABERMAN: No question about that. No, because now -- because it -- because, yes, because now it is actually being done as a deterrent, as we had John Kelly say, as we had Jeff Sessions clearly enunciate in video that he now says he didn't say.

BERMAN: So what does this mean for the people involved here? There's the audio that we heard from Propublica (ph) of this mother from El Salvador.

CAMEROTA: Well, the daughter.

BERMAN: The daughter. We had the daughter.

CAMEROTA: The daughter from Propublica.

BERMAN: Let's just listen to the daughter. The daughter who was separated from her mother. This is the audio we remember. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BORDER PATROL AGENT: Where are you from?

CHILD: El Salvador.


CHILD: Guatemala.


CHILD: I want to go with my aunt.

BORDER PATROL AGENT: You're going to get there. Look, she will explain it and help you.

CHILD: At least can I go with my aunt? I want her to come.

CHILD: I want my aunt to come so she can take me to her house.


BERMAN: All right, we all heard that. I think that sound might have made a difference in the story.

Our Rosa Flores caught up with that girl's mother overnight. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Help me reunite with my daughter soon. I'm desperate. I want to see her.

I love her and that I miss her so much that I hope to see her very soon, God willing.

We've always been very close, her and I. We've shared everything together.

(INAUDIBLE) very fun. She's very (INAUDIBLE) pets. She likes (INAUDIBLE) very intelligent. She is (INAUDIBLE).


CAMEROTA: She's begging for help. She doesn't know where her daughter is. I mean this is like having a missing child.

HABERMAN: Yes, it's heartbreaking. I mean there's -- it's -- it's extremely painful to listen to. And I think you're going to hear case after case that is like this. Again, I think that immigration is an incredibly complicated issue. Dealing with the system is a complicated issue. This administration dove into a policy in the last six to seven weeks that has created what we are seeing and they have no plan clearly for how to deal with it.

It is not going away. They have created hundreds of children who are going to have trauma because of this. You can hear that little girl's cries, and it's -- it is heartbreaking.

BERMAN: We have one more thing we want to show you that happened overnight. There was a mother from Guatemala who was separated from her daughter a month ago. She sued the administration. They were actually reunited overnight. It happened in Baltimore Sun (ph).

[06:10:03] Let's just watch that.


CAMEROTA: This is one of the lucky ones. This is one of the lucky ones. What we're watching. Because she's got her son. And look at all of the trauma coming out because they had been separated and she didn't know if she would find her son.

This is just one. There are 2,300 at least that we know about.

I find this (INAUDIBLE). I find it (INAUDIBLE) that children are taken away from their parents and then they don't know -- the parents don't know where they are and don't know how to find them and don't know when they'll be returned, and don't know what condition they're in. this is --

HABERMAN: Unimaginable.

CAMEROTA: The executive order did not solve any of this.

HABERMAN: No. I mean the executive order, frankly, it's not even clear to most people who are reading it that it actually is going to end separations. Remember also the order is not -- the president was counting a headline that people were just going to take from it, which was end separations. In reality, even if it does end up doing that, if that is how this is interpreted, you're then talking about detaining families indefinitely. So, yes, they are kept together, but they are kept together under detained conditions, which is very -- that is what the zero tolerance piece that the president is pushing forward means.

I don't think that the president understands the degree to which people do realize this is his policy no matter how many times he says it isn't. I think that we have a president who has dissembled (ph) lied, obfuscated about any number of issues and this is finally one where he couldn't do it and couldn't convince people not to believe, you know, their lying eyes, right?

CAMEROTA: Their own eyes.

HABERMAN: And so I think you will continue to see images like that because they clearly do not have a fix.

I spoke to somebody at the White House yesterday who said it is -- it is utter confusion internally. Nobody knows how this is supposed to go. It's clearly utter confusion externally. They are running around trying to accomplish something where there have been total unintended consequences, I think, and in some cases intended consequences. Nobody is on the same page exactly how to do this. And the president does not seem to realize he bit off more than he can chew here. This is going -- nobody is mistaking the fact that this is on this White House and they have yet to solve it.

BERMAN: Yes, on the unintended consequences thing, one of the things Jeff Sessions claimed yesterday is that we never intended to separate the children from their parents.

HABERMAN: Well, that's -- I mean that is -- that's ridiculous. I mean that is --

BERMAN: Right. And all I'm saying is he clearly knew that. He's been talking about it for some time.

HABERMAN: Correct. Correct.

BERMAN: John Kelly was talking --

HABERMAN: I think an unintended consequence was that this was going to become a national story.

BERMAN: Yes. So the interesting thing is that the most senior member -- or the most senior figure connected to the Trump administration to go get a first-hand look is Melania Trump, the first lady, who went down. And good for her. Good for her to go down to the border and get a look at this. Good for her to ask, you know, when the children have last spoken to their parents right now.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I'd like to know some of those answers.


CAMEROTA: I think that those were the right questions.

But then it got muddied by this message, this billboard that she was wearing.


CAMEROTA: We'll show a picture of this. And it said, I don't really care. She wore a jacket onto the plane. On the back there was just a huge billboard that said, "I don't really care, do u?" And so it's hard to know what she doesn't care about and if she really cares.

So her questions were great. And let's -- let's play those. Her questions were great at the border. But now what? So listen to this. Listen to how she interacted with them.


MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY: When the children come here, what kind of stage, you know, physical and mental stage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Usually when they get here, they're very distraught.

TRUMP: And how many times they speak with their relatives or families?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The children are allowed to communicate with their family twice a -- twice a week.

TRUMP: How long is the time that -- the (INAUDIBLE) -- the time that they spend here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are averaging currently 42 to 45 days.

TRUMP: Most of them come here alone, without parents --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The majority of our children --

TRUMP: To this center, yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, ma'am. They are unaccompanied. And were detained by DHS and Border Patrol for the majority. And that's a big part of who we are and who we work with, yes, ma'am.

TRUMP: Because they are between 12 and 17 years old, right?


TRUMP: So kind of -- they kind of understand and they know where they are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, ma'am. Yes, ma'am.

TRUMP: They're not young, young children.


CAMEROTA: OK, so those are the teenagers. That's different than nine- month-olds and toddlers who can't figure out how to call their parents twice a week.

So she's asking the right questions, but I'm not sure where that gets us.

HABERMAN: Look, I think it's good that she went, right? I mean I think, to John's point, I think that what has been breathtaking is the number of people from this administration who haven't done this kind of a visit. So it is good that she did it. It would have been better if it had been open press. It would have been better if it had not been a secret trip where (INAUDIBLE) didn't know what was going on, which is traditionally how these kinds of first lady trips have gone. There's no security reason, obviously, why it had to be -- that is apparent that it had to be done this way.

[06:15:15] Yes, then she chose this choice of jacket that I don't know what she was trying to say, but it was obviously going to raise questions.


HABERMAN: And no one should have been surprised.

BERMAN: If the message about the trip, going in the first place, is I care. HABERMAN: Right.


BERMAN: Why do you --

HABERMAN: And I don't -- I have a hard time believing she did this trip and is trying to say, oh, I actually don't care about these children. That seems a little much to me.

BERMAN: No, but the jacket really makes (INAUDIBLE).

HABERMAN: But, yes, but the jacket is just going to raise instant is questions.

BERMAN: And she's smart enough to know that.

CAMEROTA: Listen, she speaks in fashion statements.


CAMEROTA: That -- she was a model.


CAMEROTA: She understands fashion.


CAMEROTA: She speaks in fashion statements. Let's take her at her word. That -- there is a very clear, overt message on there.

HABERMAN: Well, we -- I don't know that it's clear. It's certainly overt. I don't know who it's for.

BERMAN: Who doesn't she care about? That -- that's the question.

HABERMAN: I don't know what it's for. I don't know what it's for.

CAMEROTA: She doesn't-- I don't know. But she doesn't care about something and she wants us to know that. So let's take her at her word.



BERMAN: Stick around.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much.

BERMAN: Look, we have a brand-new CNN poll out. We're going to give you the numbers in just a minute. It has to do with the approval of the Mueller investigation. It tells you what the public thinks about where this is going. Surprising new numbers, next.


[06:20:10] CAMEROTA: A new CNN poll shows that a majority of Americans believe that Russian's efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election is a big deal and should be investigated. But President Trump's attacks on Special Counsel Robert Mueller appear to be taking a toll. CNN's senior political analyst Mark Preston is here with us with the new numbers.

Mark, tell us what you found.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Alisyn, you're absolutely right, we do have these new numbers out. And look at these numbers right here. There's a 20-point differential right now. Fifty- five percent of Americans believe that this investigation is a serious matter. But that's where the train goes a little bit off the rails. And let's explain why.

Look at the approval rating right now of Mr. Mueller, who is leading this independent investigation into possible collusion with Russia. If you go back in March, his approval rating was at 48 percent. Now it has dropped 7 points.

The question is, why is that? Well, a couple reasons. One is, you have this constant berating and attacking by President Trump directly on Robert Mueller and his teams, as well as his allies, are doing the same thing.

So where are the folks who agree with this investigation? Let's take a look at the issue of impeachment. More than four in ten Americans right now believe that President Trump should be impeached based upon the information that we know at this point. Fifty-one percent say no.

So what is driving that number? Well, it really does come down to party. Look at this. Less than 10 percent of Republicans believe that Donald Trump should be impeached. Look at the Democratic number. That's nearly eight in 10 Democrats believe that Donald Trump should be kicked out of office. And then independents kind of roughly equal where we are right now when the 42 percent number is brought in.

Now, for historical context, the last time the number was this high was during Richard Nixon's presidency in 1974.

Back to you, Alisyn, John.

BERMAN: Yes, it didn't end well for him either, if you'll remember.

Mark Preston, thanks very much.

Maggie, there are two numbers there that jump out to me.

Number one, the number Mark was just talking about, the 42 percent impeachment number. Thirty percent almost always say they want to see the president impeached, but 42 is significantly higher. And then you see Robert Mueller's approval rating dropping, dripping, dropping, dropping, which is exactly what Rudy Giuliani and the president have been trying to do. CAMEROTA: Yes.

HABERMAN: Oh, absolutely. I mean, look, even people around the president who initially were incredibly uncomfortable with what Rudy Giuliani was saying, doing, the fact that he clearly had not learned all of the facts in the case and was just thrown out there by the president on the first day or two, they are happy with what he is doing because he has sewed so much confusion, he has said so many different things. But mostly what he has done is he has punched Mueller in the face over and over and over again. All this president likes to do, as we know, is be on offense.

And if you repeat things often enough, people will start to believe it. So you are seeing that in those numbers when you're taking a poll.

CAMEROTA: But does Mueller need a high approval rating or can he just do his job and release the findings?

HABERMAN: Mueller -- where this comes into play is if you believe, as the president's team does, that you will not be indicted, that you -- the DOJ is going to abide by the guidelines that you can't indict a sitting president, then there will be report to Congress and then that becomes, in their mind, much more of a PR issue essentially, a political issue, because you are trying to influence public opinion with voters who are going to be talking to their own representatives. Their own representatives are going to be mindful if they want. This is going to be a vote in Congress if it gets to that. That's their end game.

BERMAN: The impeachment number is interesting.


BERMAN: Forty-two percent say they want to impeach. That's high.

HABERMAN: Very high.

BERMAN: I mean that's very -- we always talk about, oh, the president's got 30 to 35 percent of support no matter what. A 42 percent impeachment number, that's incredibly high on the other side.

HABERMAN: Yes, it is. I mean, look, again, we are talking right now in theory, right?


HABERMAN: I mean we are not there yet. But, look, there is no question that this president has not been able to, a, he has done very little to galvanize support around him, number one. Number two, there have been a series of lingering scandals around him. The Scott Pruitt issues that seem to be, you know, one a day, for instance. Issues related to the president's own business ties. And then I do think the fact that this appears to have been done in this poll, if I'm reading correctly, in the middle of this crisis about the border separation.

BERMAN: Sunday was the last day. HABERMAN: OK.

BERMAN: So it actually wasn't even the worst of it.

HABERMAN: No, but it was in the middle of it.

BERMAN: But it was happening, yes.

HABERMAN: And I'm -- I suspect that that played a role. I mean this is, again, this is going to -- this is going to be a stain on this president's tenure regardless of whether he can accept that. And that is, I think, part of what you are seeing in those numbers.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about Michael Cohen, the latest update in Michael Cohen and --

BERMAN: That's the president's least favorite sentence, you know, in the English language, by the way.


HABERMAN: It depends on who's delivering it.

BERMAN: Right.

HABERMAN: I mean if it's being delivered by a judge, maybe it was even less so by us, it's probably OK.

CAMEROTA: Possibly. He calls himself the president's fixer. And now we knows some of the things that he was tasked with fixing. "The Washington Post" has some new reporting. I'll read the paragraph for you.

During the presidential campaign, "The National Enquirer" executives sent digital copies of the tabloid's articles and cover images related to Donald Trump and his political opponents to Trump's attorney, Michael Cohen, in advance of publication. Once "Enquirer" editors sent a story or cover image sometimes a request for changes came back, according to two people with knowledge of this relationship.

[06:25:20] OK, so that's not allowed in real news.

HABERMAN: Not in real news, no.

CAMEROTA: Let's just tell people.

HABERMAN: Yes, you don't --

CAMEROTA: You don't vet our stories.

HABERMAN: Right, you don't -- you don't allow people editorial say, which is essentially what that is.

CAMEROTA: Control.

HABERMAN: But it speaks to the incredibly close relationship that we know the president has had with "The National Enquirer."

Remember, there was a symbiosis between him and "The National Enquirer" during the primaries when he was attacking Ted Cruz over a story they had written that sort of seemed to suggest his father had a connection to Lee Harvey Oswald. And the president ran with that and seized (ph) that.

So this is perhaps the least surprising thing that we have heard come out of this, but it is yet another component of the symbiosis between him and sort of a pay-for-play tabloid.

BERMAN: And we also know, there have been reports, "The Wall Street Journal" reported the other day, that "The Enquirer" has been subpoenaed to come in to testify.


BERMAN: The legal issue here is, Michael Cohen -- you can talk to a news organization if you want to call "The Enquirer" a news organization.

CAMEROTA: Well, I guess I don't know that I know --

BERMAN: Well, they're not being treated like that on subpoena. But the issue is, if Michael Cohen is directing them in the news coverage, and they're accepting that direction, then it's a contribution, and then they run into whole FEC problems.

HABERMAN: Correct. Correct. Yes, and that is -- and that is what they're looking at. Remember, the search warrant on Michael Cohen's home and hotel room and office contained a bunch of questions about AMI, which is the media company that owns "The National Enquirer." So it's not really a surprise to see this come out given that we know that they are sifting through all these documents that they retrieved from Cohen's office. But I suspect there will be intentionally more where that came from.

CAMEROTA: All right, Maggie, thank you very much for all of your reporting and sharing it with us.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: So, this morning we have all of these troubling issues that have cropped up with kids being taken from their parents and their parents now not being able to find them. And we're not sure that the government can find them.

Add to that the fact that we now also know from court filings that there are allegations of horrible things happening at some of these detention facilities. CNN has an investigation to share with you.