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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Stormy Daniels Attorney Michael Avenatti; Interview With Delaware Senator Chris Coons; Civility in Trump's America; Does Trump Administration Know Where Migrant Children Are?; New Deadline Tonight for DOJ and FBI to Provide Information on Trump Campaign Informants. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired June 25, 2018 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Will Devin Nunes make good on his threat to hold the deputy attorney general in contempt of Congress?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the president's zero tolerance immigration policy.
Tonight, the White House is defending a new tweet by Mr. Trump urging deportations without giving undocumented immigrants a day in court. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders claiming that would not be a denial of due process rights. But it sure sounded like it to many Americans.
I will get reaction from Senate Judiciary Committee member Chris Coons. And I will also speak with Stormy Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, about the porn star's canceled interview with prosecutors.
Our correspondents are analysts, they are all standing by as well.
First, let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, you're there.
South Carolina, the president getting ready, ready to host a rally in the next hour. Update our viewers.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
President Trump will be campaigning here in South Carolina about an hour from now, later on this evening. And it's no secret he is going to continue to hammer this issue of immigration tonight and right up until the midterm elections later on this fall.
And even with children being separated from their families down at the border, the president believes this is a winning issue for the Republican Party. And earlier today, the White House was defending the president's call to end due process rights for people coming across the border.
ACOSTA (voice-over): As his aides tried to drown out questions from reporters, President Trump pushed back on any notion that he regrets signing an executive order that was supposed to halt child separations at the border.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The executive order was great. It was something that I felt we had to do. We want children staying together. The law has been this law for a long period of time.
ACOSTA: The president doubled down on his hard-line stance, declaring he wants to set up a system that sends migrants back to their home countries, no matter their circumstances.
TRUMP: We want a system where, when people come in illegally, they have to go out, and a nice, simple system that works.
We want strong borders and we want no crime. Strong borders. We want no crime. The Democrats want open borders, and they don't care about crime. And they don't care about our military.
ACOSTA: Describing migrants as invaders, the president said he wants to deny due process rights to border crossers ,tweeting: "We cannot allow all of these people to invade our country. When somebody comes in, we must immediately with no judges or court cases bring them back from where they came."
The tough talk was echoed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who didn't close the door on the possibility that more children could be separated from their migrant parents.
JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The president has made this clear. We're going to continue to prosecute those adults who enter here illegally. We are going to do everything in our power, however, to avoid separating families.
ACOSTA: The president revealed part of the reason for his crackdown at the border that has led to the separations of more than 2,000 children. He thinks it's good politics.
TRUMP: Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, they just want...
TRUMP: They want to use the issue. And I like the issue for election too. Our issue is strong borders, no crime.
ACOSTA: A few of Mr. Trump's fellow Republicans wonder how the president will solve the immigration issue while he is using it to beat up on top Democrats.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: When the president says that and calls them clowns and losers, how does he suspect or expect the Democrats to sit down and work with Republicans on these issues? And so words matter. What the president says matters. And he ought to knock that off.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Shame, shame, shame!
ACOSTA: Democrats are punching back, booing administration officials as they dine out in Washington. One restaurant in Virginia refused to serve Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, drawing praise from Democratic lawmaker Maxine Waters.
REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: And if you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
WATERS: And you push back on them. And you tell them they're not welcome anymore anywhere.
ACOSTA: The president seemed to relish the fight, tweeting: "Congresswoman Maxine Waters, an extraordinarily low I.Q. person, has become, together with Nancy Pelosi, the face of the Democratic Party. Be careful what you wish for, Max."
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Healthy debate on ideas and political philosophy is important. But the calls for harassment and push for any Trump supporter to avoid the public is unacceptable. America is a great country. And our ability to find solutions despite those disagreements is what makes us unique.
ACOSTA: And with all of this talk of civility, Wolf, I can tell you that not all of the people in this crowd here in West Columbia, South Carolina, treated us with that level of civility that we all think that Americans should be entitled to across this country.
While we have had some people come up to us and be very nice this evening, I did have an elderly woman come up to me just a short while ago.
We have some video we can show you where she came up to me and said that we at CNN should get the F. out of this auditorium at this high school in West Columbia. She then turned to the crowd and whipped them up into a frenzy, calling on us to leave this auditorium before President Trump arrives.
But, of course, as you know, we are here to do our job, is report the news and report on this rally. And we're not going anywhere -- Wolf.
BLITZER: You are doing an excellent job as well. Thanks very much, Jim Acosta, on the scene, where he always is.
Let's go to Texas right now near the border with Mexico for the latest on the uncertainty hanging over those immigrant families, still so desperate to be reunited.
CNN's Ed Lavandera is in McAllen, Texas, for us.
Ed, hundreds of children still are in those facilities and they are still in limbo.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
Well, the Trump administration says it's working to reunify these children from their separated parents. But any lawyer and activist you talk to who has been inside the detention facilities in South Texas, they say it's far from a simple process.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: We care! We care!
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Tonight, more protests over the separation of children at the border.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Set the children free!
LAVANDERA: There's no clear reunification process for divided immigrant families.
TRUMP: I didn't like the sight or the feeling of families being separated.
LAVANDERA: Since President Trump's executive order last week, the federal government says over 500 children have been reunited with their families. But that leaves more than 2,000 others still in limbo, scattered around the country.
REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (D), ILLINOIS: There's no plan in place. There's a lot of confusion. There's a lot of contradiction.
LAVANDERA: Under the Trump administration's plan, those children will keep waiting in Health and Human Services' custody with unifications only happening once the parents' deportation proceedings are complete. The families will either be reunited before deportation or if the parent is released from detention and after the parent applies to serve as the child's sponsor.
"The Washington Post" spoke with a father who was just deported to El Salvador without his daughter. He finally spoke with his 6-year-old daughter, Meybelin (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): When are you going to take me out of here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They're going to bring you soon, my love.
LAVANDERA: And we spoke to a mother held in the Port Isabel Detention Center in Texas on Friday. Today, she's still separated from her 9- year-old son. "It's a trauma we will never forget," she says, "every one of us, all
of the mothers who are here, as well as all of the kids." She hasn't been able to speak to her son or find out in which facility he is being held.
EILEEN BLESSINGER, VOLUNTEER ATTORNEY: One woman told me about her 7- year-old finally being able to call. And she couldn't actually hear anything because the child was crying so hard. And the only thing the child could say that she could hear was, "Mom, you don't love me. Why did you leave me?"
LAVANDERA: ICE officials are working to set up phone calls between parents and their children today, according to an attorney working with clients Port Isabel.
BLESSINGER: They are telling us it's a logistical process. But, in reality, I mean, the vast majority of people we spoke with have not spoken with their children at all. No contact. They don't even -- they're not even told where their child is.
LAVANDERA: But Senator James Lankford of the Senate Homeland Security Committee insists the Trump administration does know where every single child is located.
SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA: These are not political appointees. These are career folks. They know where every child is to be able to connect them to their parent or the relative that came.
LAVANDERA: And today at the Tornillo tent facility near El Paso, Texas, one of the temporary facilities where children are being held, separated from their parents, CNN and other journalists were given a tour off-camera.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No cameras, no recording devices of any kind on the tour.
LAVANDERA: One again only allowing these images provided by the Department of Health and Human Services.
LAVANDERA: And, Wolf, I have spoken with two different detainees inside these detention centers, undocumented immigrants from Central America, who simply describe their confusion and anxiety as they think about their children in these other facilities and what they must be thinking about at night.
And one other note. The secretary of defense today, Wolf, saying that there are two military installations here in Texas that are preparing to house many more immigrants and that those changes will be coming here in the weeks ahead -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And they would be housing immigrants with their children on these U.S. military bases? Is that right?
LAVANDERA: That's the question that I think we need to wait and see. There wasn't a lot of specifics that I saw coming from Secretary Mattis this morning.
But that is definitely the push you are seeing urgently from activists and lawyers here who are dealing -- dealing with these families, as well as many lawmakers who have been pushing for that kind of scenario as well. We will see how it plays out, as all of these situations here have been very fluid, changed quite dramatically, as we have seen in the last few weeks.
BLITZER: Certainly has.
Ed Lavandera on the scene for us on the border with Mexico, thank you.
Joining us now, Senator Chris Coons. He's a Democrat. He serves on the Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees.
Senator, thanks so much for joining us.
On Sunday, as you know, the president said when somebody -- I'm quoting him now -- "When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no judges or court cases, bring them back from where they came "-- close quote.
Is that proposal constitutional?
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: No, it's not, Wolf. Our president is not a king. He cannot simply wipe away the due process rights of folks once they're in the United States in American detention.
They do have habeas corpus rights. They do have due process rights. That's something that is decided by courts under our Constitution, but not by President Trump.
BLITZER: Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, said earlier that just because you don't see a judge, in her words, that doesn't mean you are not receiving due process. Do you buy that?
COONS: I don't buy that.
And I, frankly, think this is where having an independent judiciary that defends the rule of law is an important underpinning of our constitutional order. President Trump may want to spin this issue up further for his own campaign purposes. He may want to describe immigrants in very negative and critical terms.
But he should not be allowed to undermine the rule of law and to suggest that he alone has the ability to decide who does and doesn't get rights and get to appear before a judge before they are removed.
I will remind you, many of the folks who come to this country illegally are seeking a better life for their kids and end up not being able to stay here after a court hearing. Some are presenting with legitimate claims of a fear of persecution, are fleeing violence in another country. And they end up being able to stay here, because they have an asylum claim under international law. That should be decided by a judge, not at the whim of a president or a
BLITZER: Have you heard any of your Republican colleagues respond specifically to that? Do Republicans need to push back and say that the Constitution wouldn't allow what the president is proposing?
COONS: I do think it's important for my Republican colleagues to clarify, especially since there are so many senators who are lawyers and who understand these core issues.
But, frankly, Wolf, I think Americans get this in their gut, that this isn't the sort of thing that President Trump gets to decide in a tweet. It's been decided over centuries by our independent judiciary, as they interpret and apply the Constitution that is the foundation of our country.
And a lot of what distinguishes the United States from other countries is that we have a rule of law here and it doesn't bend at the whim of any particular president.
BLITZER: Do you trust the Trump administration, Senator, to reunite all of these children, about 2,000, maybe more, with their parents?
COONS: Well, this is a problem of President Trump's creation. And I intend to work with my colleagues here to hold him accountable for using the capabilities of the executive branch to reunite the children, now that he signed an executive order and made public pronouncements that they would end the forceable separation of parents from their children as a cruel tool for their immigration policy.
I think I will simply use the phrase trust, but verify. We will hold them accountable for getting this job done.
BLITZER: The Trump administration is trying to change the court order that prevents these families have being held for more than 20 days. Right now, do you know if families are still being separated as we speak, or if there's been a return to what is called the catch and release policy until the government can overturn that Flores settlement and build enough facilities to hold families together?
COONS: Well, this is a very murky situation right now, Wolf.
That's why I have called for hearings on the Judiciary Committee on which I serve, so that we can have clarity about both the impact and interpretation of this executive order, which flies in the face of a long-settled court agreement that says that juveniles shouldn't be held in detention more than 20 days, and so that we can explore whether there aren't more humane, cost-effective and appropriate means of ensuring that families with children, if released in the United States, pending a future hear, can in fact be made to return for that hearing.
There have been trial programs that have succeed in getting more than 90 percent, close to 100 percent of those who are released in the United States to return for their court hearing on time. And I think that's the sort of thing we should be looking at in the Judiciary Committee.
BLITZER: The defense secretary, Defense Secretary Mattis, is confirming that some of those immigrants are going to be detained on military bases, two military bases in Texas now being prepared apparently for that.
What message does that send?
COONS: Well, the challenge here is that President Trump has moved from -- hopefully has moved from a cruel policy of separating parents from their children as a tool of immigration policy to an approach that says, well, then let's detain indefinitely parents and children together.
Given how long it takes for an asylum case to be heard here in the United States, it will take months, even years to get the number of immigration judges up, to develop or build a appropriate facilities for this indefinite detention.
And many Democrats, myself included, have been asking whether that is wise or humane.
Let me remind you, despite President Trump's tweets suggesting that Democrats support open borders, that legislation that I co-sponsored and fought for five years ago, legislation I co-sponsored and fought for earlier this year would invest tens of billions of dollars in border security, in responsible paths forward to secure our borders, yet still treat those who come here seeking asylum or refuge humanely and in a way that respects our law.
Democrats are committed to solving this problem. President Trump, in my view, recently has been blowing it up for political purposes.
BLITZER: After a restaurant in Virginia refused to serve the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California said this. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WATERS: And if you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
WATERS: And you push back on them. And you tell them they're not welcome anymore anywhere.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What's your response to that?
COONS: Frankly, Wolf, I think our country is strongest and best when we respect each other. I understand how there are folks who have gotten very upset and very
agitated and motivated in opposition to the ways in which President Trump has used the bully pulpit and his Twitter skills to bully people and to marginalize the press and those who might seek rule of law or exercise free speech in this country.
But I frankly disagree with Congresswoman Waters. I don't think we're at our strongest or best whether we simply pay back hate speech with hate speech, when we further inflame disrespect for each other. I think it's important that we try to maintain civility as we also express strongly our disagreement with President Trump and his administration's policies.
BLITZER: Senator Coons, thanks so much for joining us.
COONS: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, why did federal prosecutors call off a planned interview with Stormy Daniels? And what could it all mean for the Michael Cohen investigation? I will speak live with Stormy Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti. There you see him.
We will discuss when we come back.
BLITZER: Tonight, Stormy Daniels has been stood up by prosecutors in the Michael Cohen investigation. Her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, says the feds planned to interview the porn star today, but the meeting was abruptly canceled.
Avenatti is standing by. I will speak with him in just a moment.
But, first, let's get some background from CNN reporter Kara Scannell.
Kara, tell us more about this interview and the cancellation.
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, federal prosecutors in Manhattan, that same office that is investigating Michael Cohen, were set to interview Stormy Daniels today.
Now, they were expected to talk to her about that $130,000 payment that Cohen facilitated to her just before the election to silence her story of an alleged affair with the president a decade ago. And the White House, of course, denied any affair took place.
Now, last night, after several media organizations, including CNN, had reported about the planned interview, it was abruptly canceled. And Michael Avenatti tweeted about that last night. He had some strong words for the prosecution.
And let's take a look at that tweet. Avenatti said: "So, I was just informed by the U.S. attorney's office that they are canceling the meeting tomorrow scheduled with me and my client for weeks because the press found out about the meeting, and they can't handle a few cameras outside their offices. If they consider this a big deal, how will they ever bring any serious criminal charges against Cohen, et cetera, let alone handle a trial in such a high-profile matter? We have bent over backwards to accommodate them. This is unheard of. We remain willing to cooperate, but something isn't right."
Now, Avenatti also shared with us a private e-mail exchange that he had with the prosecutors. And here is what Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Roos said, according to the documents provided by Avenatti.
Roos said: "We have learned that you leaked to the press the fact and location of our meeting with your client. Such leaks are inappropriate in and of themselves and more importantly call into question your commitment to maintaining the required confidentiality of the substance of our meeting with your client. Such confidentiality is critical to the diligence, fairness, and integrity of this and indeed all investigations conducted by this office. For these reasons, we have canceled our meeting and will reassess how to proceed."
So, a war of words between Avenatti and the prosecutors investigating Michael Cohen. It's unknown when a meeting with will be rescheduled, but Avenatti has said they are willing to cooperate and Daniels will testify before a grand jury, Wolf.
BLITZER: Very strong words, indeed.
Federal prosecutors, at the same time, Kara, they are also opposing a request by the Trump Organization to postpone the deadline to review Michael Cohen's audio files and documents.
What can you tell us about that?
SCANNELL: The Trump Organization has until Wednesday under a decision by the judge to review all of the documents.
Now, they asked the judge to give them two more weeks, because they say they received 22,000 new documents late last week and several audio files. They are saying they need several more weeks to complete that review.
Now, the prosecutors have said that's way too long. They have waited. It's been nearly three months since the raid. And they are saying they oppose it. But if the judge is going to give them any time, they are saying, one week would be appropriate.
Now, we have not heard from the judge weighing in on this yet.
BLITZER: We're also learning that Michael Cohen's lawyers have now completed their document review. Is that right?
SCANNELL: That's right, Wolf.
Michael Cohen's lawyers notified the court that they finished reviewing four million documents and files. And what we know from that is that about -- that included 13 mobile devices, 20 external hard drives, flash drives and laptops and numerous documents.
And they said, out of that four million, about 12,000 they considered to file under attorney/client privilege. That's not that large of a number. But now that this review is complete and this process will begin to move forward, which has taken almost two months of a process to work through, Wolf.
BLITZER: Kara Scannell doing some excellent reporting for us, as usual, thank you.
Joining us now, Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti.
Michael, thanks so much for joining us. We got lots to go through. I will go through it.
First, did you leak the meeting that was supposed to take place today between your client, Stormy Daniels, and the prosecutors?
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: No, Wolf.
And any suggestion otherwise is absolutely absurd and, in fact, the reason that the U.S. attorney's office gave me by way of the e-mail, they only provided that e-mail after I notified the press that they had canceled the meeting. And I sent out the tweet that your correspondent referenced.
This is absolutely absurd for us to go through all of this effort. My client came here. I came here. I spent 35 hours preparing for this meeting. You don't just drop in to one of these meetings. And to have it canceled the night before because the U.S. attorney's office can't handle a few cameras outside the office is ridiculous.
CNN nor the other press outlets were going to be allowed into the meeting. I have never seen anything quite like it. And it doesn't bode well for the future. This is a very serious criminal investigation. And if these individuals are going to ultimately indict Michael Cohen and there's going to be a legal proceeding, let alone a trial, what are they going to do?
It's going to attract worldwide media attention. Everybody knows that. I don't understand what happened here.
BLITZER: Who do you think leaked it?
AVENATTI: Well, Wolf, I don't know who leaked it. There's a lot of people that have access to this information.
There was a story that ran in "The Wall Street Journal" that was false a few weeks ago relating to the level of our cooperation with that office. I certainly didn't leak that. Why would we? So, I don't have an explanation for it. But my question is, who cares?
The bottom line is, they're trying to do an investigation. We hear them repeatedly claim that they want to get to the bottom of this. We come all this way. My client is ready to go. We're ready to cooperate and do whatever we can to assist them. And they pull the plug on the meeting the night before. I have never seen anything like this in almost 20 years of practice.
BLITZER: Well, those prosecutors, clearly, they care. You heard the statement from that assistant U.S. attorney, that leaking calls into question -- and I'm quoting him once again -- your, your commitment to maintaining the required confidentiality of the meeting.
How do you respond specifically to that charge? He is blaming you for deviating from the norm.
AVENATTI: Well, first of all, it's not a deviation from the norm. And no one would be under an obligation to keep what happens in that interview confidential, even if we wanted to disclose it. There's no such requirement. That's first of all.
And, second of all, Wolf, I have asked the assistant U.S. attorney who sent that, I have asked him for what evidence he has to substantiate his claim that I leaked anything. I have asked him repeatedly. And I have heard nothing.
And the reason is because they have nothing. It's just not true. And in any event, the meeting should have gone forward. It's absurd.
BLITZER: Does this leak, the cancellation of the interview hurt your client? Does Stormy Daniels support your strategy with the news media?
AVENATTI: Well, Stormy Daniels has always supported our strategy with the news media, because it's worked. Wolf, it has resulted in the disclosure, the acquisition and disclosure of a significant amount of information to the American public about this case and about Michael Cohen.
We have done the American public a service. There's no question about that. You and many of your colleagues have reported for weeks on facts and evidence that we have disclosed by way of the media strategy. So, there's no question that it's working.
Look, we offered to conduct this interview to assist federal prosecutors. If they didn't want to conduct the interview, I guess, at the end of the day, that's their business. We informed them earlier today my client is prepared to testify in front of the grand jury.
We have asked for advance notice of that. We're waiting to hear back from them. But we're going to continue to do anything and everything we can to cooperate with the government in the course of its investigation.
BLITZER: Michael, let's turn to the audio files recovered in the Michael Cohen raid.
The FBI, they went into his apartment, they went into this hotel, his office, the safe deposit box. The Trump Organization, as you know, will succeed in getting some of
those files designated as privileged. Or at least do you believe they will?
[18:30:15] AVENATTI: I think there's some of those files that will be, in fact, designated successfully as privileged. I don't think all of the files by any stretch of the imagination.
And you know, Wolf, now that you brought up these audio files, we're still waiting for the return of the audio files relating to my client and her attorney-client privileged information. You know, we've requested those weeks ago from Michael Cohen and his attorney at the time, Mr. Ryan. They have an ethical obligation to return that information and provide it to us immediately. They have not done so. They've refused to even respond, which I think is outrageous.
BLITZER: Michael Avenatti, thanks, as usual, for joining us.
AVENATTI: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, more on the president. He's doubling down on his so-called zero-tolerance immigration policy. What will it mean for the due process rights of people who cross the border illegally?
And deadline set by the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Devin Nunes, came and went just a little while ago. Could it lead to the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, being held in contempt of Congress?
[18:35:57] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news on the president's call for undocumented immigrants to be deported without any judges or court hearing their case. The White House weighing in tonight, arguing that would not necessarily violate the right to due process.
Let's bring in our analysts. And Jeffrey Toobin, you're our legal analyst. What do you make of this interpretation from Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, today?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, remember, the president of the United States regards immigrants as vermin. He referred to them as an infestation. So it's not surprising that he thinks they don't have constitutional rights.
Remember, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, speaks of the rights of persons, not of citizens. So it is true that -- that people coming across the border, even undocumented people, have rights under the Constitution.
Now, do they have the same rights as in a criminal trial, where you get a jury and a lawyer and a -- no. But there are due process protections even at the border. And the precise contours of those have never been defined, you know, under all circumstances. But it's quite clear that there is a requirement that immigrants be treated with due process of law.
BLITZER: Yes. The 2001 decision in the Supreme Court, you know, Ryan, said, once an alien enters the country, the legal circumstance changes, for the due process clause applies to all persons within the United States, including aliens, whether their presence is lawful, unlawful, temporary or permanent.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, and there are treaty obligations, as well, that would be violated if Trump followed through on this tweet.
I mean, you know, it's not surprising that we got to this point where Trump is just saying they have no -- they have no rights. They have no legal rights. Remember, he started his campaign calling Mexican immigrants racists.
As Jeff just pointed out, the rhetoric has gotten more into this dehumanizing awful rhetoric, using words like "infest"; calling -- I know perhaps he was talking about the gang members, but whether he was talking about criminals or not, calling immigrants "animals"; talking about, in this tweet, "invasion."
So it's just continued since three years ago when he announced his campaign. And we're now at a place where the president of the United States is talking about violating the law.
I think the truly -- that's not surprising. We all know where Trump came from, what it's like. The truly surprising thing is you don't see any Republicans, you don't see any members of his own party, being outraged by this or going on TV and saying it has to end. It's just like another day. That's what I think is so horrible, is how normal it is.
BLITZER: Yes, he used the word "rapists" not "racists."
LIZZA: Did I say "racist"?
BLITZER: I know -- I know what you meant.
Phil, in the tweet, the president wrote, quote, "We cannot allow all of these people to invade our country." He keeps saying things like "invade," "infest." Those are pretty specific words. What's the message he's sending?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think the message is pretty straight-forward. Ryan picked it up. And that is the word "dehumanizing."
Look, I speak the English natively since 1962. When I use the word "infest," typically -- and the president, by the way, also has used the word "animals" to refer to some people coming to this country. "Infest" in my experience typically refers to insects and rodents in the home. For example, "My home is infested by cockroaches."
What the heck is the president trying to do? I think it's pretty straightforward. On Sundays, whether you go to synagogue, temple, church, any place else in a religious experience, you're told to love your neighbor. What the president is trying to do between Monday and Saturday is tell the same people who are told Sunday "love your neighbor" that your neighbor, if they're Guatemalan, El Salvadorian, Mexican, Honduran, Syrian, Iraqi, Afghan, Somali, Eritrean, Ethiopian, that those people are insects and rodents invading the country. It's a way to tell people it's OK to treat people inappropriately. I don't think it's very complicated.
BLITZER: You know, Sabrina Siddiqui, the rollout of this zero- tolerance immigration policy clearly was ugly. Didn't work. I'm sure administration officials themselves agree.
But the backlash among the president's base doesn't seem to be happening. The latest Gallup poll, president's support among Republicans is at 87 percent right now. Look at that. Among Democrats, 5 percent approve of the job he's doing; 38 percent among independents. But 87 percent of Republicans approve of the job he's doing.
[18:40:17] SABRINA SIDDIQUI, "THE GUARDIAN": And this just reinforces that this is Donald Trump's Republican Party. And so you have Republicans on Capitol Hill -- I've certainly spoken to many who say that they don't like the president's tone. They don't always agree with his policies when it comes to immigration.
But publicly, they have very much acquiesced to the president's position on broader immigration policy, even when you look at the family separation issue. A lot of the Republicans who called for the president to end the practice of separating children from their parents at the border, they're now pushing a proposal that would effectively lead to indefinite detention of families but also that is seeking to extract concessions that would support the president's immigration agenda: funding for the border wall, ending even legal immigration.
And so what they're effectively doing is enabling the president to use these immigrants and their children as bargaining chips. And I do think that, as others have noted, not really coming out and unequivocally rejecting the president's tone, that allows, of course, the majority of the Republican base to see this as the new normal when it comes to immigration within the GOP.
BLITZER: Good point. There's more we need to discuss.
Just ahead, with a deadline just passed, will the head of the House Intelligence Committee make good on his threat to hold the deputy attorney general of the United States in contempt of Congress?
[18:46:09] BLITZER: We're back with our analysts.
And a new deadline in connection with the Russia investigation, pitting the House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes against the deputy attorney general of the United States, Rod Rosenstein. And, Ryan Lizza, Peter King, one of Devin Nunes' allies said the
deadline was not met. It was an hour and 45 minutes ago, 5:00 p.m. Eastern, that they haven't received the answers. Nunes simply says he doesn't discuss committee business in public, even though he was on "Fox and Friends" this morning discussing committee business in public. What's going to happen?
LIZZA: He doesn't discuss it in every forum.
I don't know what's going to happen. This is now a party-wide position for the Republicans. The speaker of the House and Republican leadership have said that they will hold senior Justice Department officials in contempt of Congress unless they hand over the exact documents that Nunes has requested.
Some Justice Department official are going to be on the Hill later this week and they're going to be grilled about this, including I believe the director of the FBI. I think you have to point out how unusual it is for some of -- at least the documents related to the ongoing investigation in the Russia probe, how unusual it is for the U.S. Congress to get involved in an ongoing criminal investigation and just sort of poke its nose under the tent of that investigation and frankly to defend one of the people or several of the people that they're going after.
BLITZER: Jeffrey, the president tweeted this this morning. I want you to respond to the tweet and also what Ryan said. Quote, I have tried to stay uninvolved with the Department of Justice and FBI, although I do not legally have to, because of the now totally discredited and very expensive witch hunt currently going on. But you do have to ask why the DOJ, Department of Justice, and FBI aren't giving over requested documents.
He says legally he doesn't have to stay uninvolved. What's he implying?
TOOBIN: Well, he's implying that he's going to tell the Department of Justice to comply with the subpoena. But I think something else might be going on here.
Remember, the Republican House of Representatives found Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over documents. I mean, they don't turn over documents of pending investigations. This is a longstanding process, procedure on the part of the Justice Department.
However, I think what may be going on here is they may be looking to find Rosenstein in contempt to give the president a pretext in order to fire him. That's the thing that I think is really in the background here.
These documents, it's ridiculous that the House of Representatives wants this. This is part of them carrying water. Remember, these documents are not aimed at uncovering what the Russians did. They're about uncovering how the investigation proceeded. And they are looking to find a pretext to fire Rod Rosenstein. BLITZER: And the president in another earlier today, Phil, sort of
tried to revive widely debunked conspiracy theory. Let me put it up on the screen. Quote: Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey said that President Trump is probably correct that there was surveillance on Trump Tower, actually far greater than what have ever -- that would ever have been believed.
So, what's the goal here?
MUDD: Well, that's an eye roll.
Let me, look, I worked for Judge Mukasey. The man is brilliant. Take what he says seriously. But he is being very precise about language. The president isn't.
Surprising the president missed quoting the first part of what Mukasey said, which is that the president is wrong. This is Mukasey speaking. The president is wrong in saying Obama authorized a tap of Trump Tower. Incorrect.
You look at the specifics, the precision of language that Judge Mukasey uses, surveillance of the building. Let's say there's an individual who's a subject of an FBI investigation, authorized by a judge. That individual, someone like Carter Page, walks into Trump Tower with the cell phone that the FBI is listening to.
[18:50:00] Would you say that Trump tower is being surveilled? I think you could say that. But what the president is trying to suggest is that Mukasey said Trump Tower is being surveilled. That is not what the judge said.
BLITZER: And we want to point out those comments from Michael Mukasey, former attorney general, were made a year or so ago. They weren't made in the last few days.
So, Sabrina, where is all of this heading?
SIDDIQUI: Well, look, I think that the president is trying to revive what was an unsubstantiated claim that President Obama had somehow wiretapped Trump Tower, as Phil alluded to. And this is part of a long list now of falsehoods that the president has perpetuated with respect to the Russia investigation, because he has only one objection, and that is to discredit the work of the FBI and the special counsel.
I also think it's notable that every time you return to this idea of Rod Rosenstein as a target of Republicans, the president has time and again refused to rule out firing Rosenstein, which is also telling, because I think as Jeffrey said, there could be perhaps a pretext here, where Republicans trying to give him an opportunity to dismiss Rosenstein.
Ultimately, the president is trying to persuade the court of public opinion, and that is to try to draw the battle lines before the FBI is even able to conclude its work.
BLITZER: Yes, good point.
There's a lot more happening, including the partisan battle over immigration and growing concerns about the lack of civility in politics. CNN's Chris Cuomo, he's standing by live. He'll share his thoughts. There you see him.
We'll be right back.
[18:56:05] BLITZER: Tonight, the White House is calling for civility in politics, even as the president hurls some new insults at his opponents.
Let's bring in CNN's Chris Cuomo. He's the anchor of "CUOMO PRIME TIME".
Chris, you're going to be wading into this debate over civility in politics later tonight, and you've got someone who's calling for civility now, but engaged in some very uncivil attacks against President Obama. What can you tell us about your guest tonight?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "CUOMO PRIME TIME": You're talking about Antonio Sabato Jr., whom believe now will be making a run for Congress in California and he wants to talk about what he experiences in the Hollywood culture as a Trump supporter and as a conservative. And we'll get his perspective.
We're going to talk to Debbie Wasserman Schultz tonight, see what she wants to own in terms of the Democratic role in this culture and what they're trying to fight for and against.
And then we have Draymond Green on. You're a big sports fan. But he's not coming on to speak sports, captain. He's going to talk about what is motivating him outside of the court and what is generating the feelings towards the president that we saw reflected on his team, the world champions, Golden State Warriors.
But, you know, sometimes, Wolf, your old friend, my father, used to say, if you can't say something profound, say something obvious. And the obvious thing in this moment is, this is no good. This toxic dialogue is no good.
I'm not saying Maxine Waters outwardly said, go hurt people. I don't believe that's true. I think Trump is doing what he does best, he's spinning an opportunity from an opponent of his and he's exaggerating its effect. Now, the irony, of course, is nobody baits people, nobody is more provocative than we've seen in modern politics at the level that he's at than President Trump.
So, it's just bad. It's not getting us anywhere. It's making it very difficult to find common ground.
We're not seeing action in Congress, as a result. We're not seeing any bipartisanship. People are frozen in silos.
It's just bad, Wolf. It just is. So we're going to take it on tonight, in the hopes of making people see, there's a better way.
BLITZER: Yes, let's see. If there is a better way, a lot of us are pretty worried about what's going on right now.
As you know, the president, he won the White House by being a very strong counterpuncher. He often said, you hit him, he's going to hit you ten times harder.
BLTZER: But it doesn't seem like his supporters right now admire that kind of behavior when it's being used against the Trump administration.
CUOMO: Well, but I don't think they're going to be unusual in that way, right? That's what's good for the goose is good for the gander. That's always what someone's being told. They never say that about themselves when something is happening to them.
The only thing I would have a different take on, captain, is the idea of him being a counterpuncher. I don't think that's true. I think that he is a puncher. I think he suffers absolutely no slight.
And we're not used to that from a president. Presidents tend to act like the biggest man in the room. And the biggest man in the room doesn't look at the smaller men who are saying small things.
They look down at them, because they're the big man. That's how you act like the big man. Not to be gender insensitive about this, but in Trump's case, that's the analogy that would apply.
He never does that. You know the expression you see all the time -- lions are never concerned with the opinions of sheep. He needs to act more like a lion.
BLITZER: Chris Cuomo, thank you very much.
And to our viewers, tune in later tonight, "CUOMO PRIME TIME", 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.
Finally, tonight, excellent, excellent news. We want to congratulate CNN's senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown, and her husband, Adam. They're now the proud new parents of their first child, a beautiful baby boy. He was born Friday morning, weighing in at a healthy 6 pounds, 8 ounces.
Pamela says they're still getting to know their son before they announce his name. We can't wait to meet him. We will always welcome him into THE SITUATION ROOM family. And by the way, we also want to wish his new grandmother, Phyllis, a very happy birthday.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.