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Trump Hurls Insults as White House Wants to Focus on Lack of Civility in Politics; Thousands of Immigrant Children Still Separated from Families. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired June 26, 2018 - 06:00   ET



SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're allowed to disagree, but we should be able to do so freely.

[05:59:26] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump is not the poster child for civility.

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: I believe in very peaceful protest.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's the party of Maxine Waters.

Do you believe her?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The situation is a real humanitarian disaster.

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We're going to continue to prosecute those adults who enter here illegally.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Tuesday, June 26, 6 a.m. here in New York. Alisyn is off. Erica Hill joins me now. Also with us, John Avlon.

And with your permission I want to start with a pop quiz this morning, if I can.


BERMAN: This is the starting line. With 2,000 children still separated from their parents -- this is the quiz -- from the Trump White House's decrying the lack of civility in politics, you know that, A, they desperately want to change the focus; B, Democrats have handed them a golden opportunity; C, irony is dead; or D, all of the above? The correct answer is?


HILL: "D."

AVLON: Got to be "D."

BERMAN: All of the above.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders says we are allow to disagree regardless of politics, and she said that out loud. Now, it's not that she's wrong. It's just that she said it on the same day that her boss accused a U.S. senator of being drunk. She said -- he said Democrats want crime, and he blew a punchline on a joke attacking a congressman for infidelity.

So yes, to an extent Democrats asked for this when California Representative Maxine Waters called on people to confront administration officials, but the president responded with his own loaded rhetoric, saying, "Be careful what you wish for, Max."

HILL: Well, throughout all of this, there is still the question of the children. Today reports that Customs and Border Protections agents will stop referring migrant families for prosecution until there is a policy in place to keep parents and children together.

That decision effectively revives the Obama administration's so-called catch-and-release policy, which President Trump has repeatedly slammed.

At a rally in South Carolina last night, President Trump talking immigration, noting he sees the uproar over his immigration policy as an advantage for Republicans in the midterm elections, repeating his call for strong borders and his claim that Democrats want, in his words, "open borders."

The president also insisting the detention facilities are better, in his words, than they were under President Obama.

We begin our coverage this morning with CNN's Abby Phillip, who is live at the White House.

Abby, good morning.


President Trump last night seeking to capitalize on some of the hostility that has been shown to some of his employees, most notably Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, who was asked to leave a restaurant over the weekend.

But all of this is happening while Democrats are struggling to figure out how to counter President Trump ahead of what will be a tough fight in these midterm elections. Should they counter him with his own type of rhetoric or should they take the high road?


TRUMP: It's the party of Maxine Waters. Do you believe her? PHILLIP (voice-over): President Trump ramping up his feud with

veteran Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, just hours after press secretary Sarah Sanders called for political civility after being ousted from a Virginia restaurant.

SANDERS: I was asked to leave, because I work for President Trump. 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.

PHILLIP: Sanders is the latest in a string of Trump backers who have been publicly rebuked for their support of the administration.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shame on you! Shame on you!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shame. Shame. Shame.


PHILLIP: The confrontations dividing Democrats, who have struggled over how aggressively to challenge the administration, particularly in light of the president's own history of inflammatory remarks.

TRUMP: Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd, he's a sleeping son of a bitch.

They call her Pocahontas.

You see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them.

I don't know about if I would have done well, but I would have been boom, boom, boom. I'll beat that --

PHILLIP: Congressman Waters encouraging her supporters to protest over the weekend.

WATERS: If you see anybody from that cabinet, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them.

PHILLIP: President Trump responding by insulting Waters's I.Q. And falsely accusing her of calling for harm to his supporters before seemingly issuing a threat of his own, tweeting, "Be careful what you wish for, Max."

Waters denying she encouraged violence.

WATERS: I believe in peaceful, very peaceful protests. I have not called for the harm of anybody. This president has lied again.

PHILLIP: But Democratic Party leadership also denouncing her behavior.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: No one should call for the harassment of political opponents. That's not right; that's not American.

PHILLIP: Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi tweeting a rare rebuke: "Trump's daily lack of civility has provoked responses that are predictable but unacceptable. As we go forward, we must conduct elections in a way that achieve unity."

The firestorm coming as President Trump continues to downplay the outrage over thousands of children who have been separated from their families by his administration.

TRUMP: Our facilities are cleaner, better kept and better run. That's the one thing I learned. OK. I saw them. But what we have is two extremes. And I liked it. I said, "This is fine for us."

PHILLIP: President Trump abruptly halted that practice last week, and on Monday, another key element of the president's zero-tolerance immigration policy was scaled back.

The head of Customs and Border Protection telling reporters that agents have stopped turning over adults with children for prosecution, a decision that will at least temporarily revive the catch-and-release approach used during the Obama administration that President Trump has repeatedly criticized.

SANDERS: This will only last a short amount of time, because we're going to run out of space. We're going to run out of resources.


PHILLIP: And the Department of Homeland Security is now asking the Pentagon to approve plans to potentially hold immigrants and their families at two military bases in Texas.

Meanwhile, here at the White House, President Trump has another meeting planned with Republican lawmakers today -- John and Erica.

BERMAN: All right. Abby Phillip for us at the White House.

Joining us now, CNN political analyst David Drucker; CNN political commentator Michael Smerconish.

And we want to talk about sort of this discussion about civility in light of what's going on at the border, 2,000 children still separated from their parents. We have some esteemed political analysts here.

But the first piece of sound, I want to call on is from another CNN political analyst, Admiral Ackbar from "Return of the Jedi." Listen to this.



(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: David Drucker, it's a trap. This is a trap. Democrats

walked into it with both feet and now there's a discussion about civility, from of all places, this White House.

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Look, I think Democrats have to understand where their political success lies and where the path to that success lies. They have spent the last couple of years focusing on the incivility and the cultural divide that President Trump drives every day.

And if they want to offer voters another choice, that those -- that many voters are looking for, aping Trump is not going to work. One, they're not going to do it as well as him. Two, if you're a disaffected Republican, if you're an independent -- and John, we've talked about where independents are -- and you're looking at the midterm elections for another choice, let alone what they're going to be looking for in 2020, offering them more of the same is going to be a turn off.

And as far as they're going to be concerned, it's going to be the choice that they don't like versus the choice they thought they might like, but actually, it's all the same. They're either going to throw up their hands and not vote, or they're not going to deliver their vote for the Democrat. And that's what they risk with this behavior.

BERMAN: Sounds like he's saying it's a trip.

HILL: I think he's saying it's a trap, yes, but he's using more words.

But it's exactly what we heard, too, from Marco Rubio and not for the first time. Rubio knows better than anybody when you try to play Trump's game, it backfires on you.

And Michael, he was very clear about that. Recently, as well.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. And we remember it was the hand reference that Marco Rubio tried to use against candidate Trump, and it went absolutely nowhere.

Look, it's not as if the Democratic party as an institution put these events in motion. It was a restauranteur in rural Virginia who started the very recent cycle.

And I think there is a consensus that it was wrong for Sarah Huckabee Sanders to be asked to leave that restaurant. I base that largely anecdotally on what I heard from radio listeners on what I heard across the country yesterday.

Then the question becomes of, OK, what are the party officials then going to do with those facts? And I think that Maxine Waters really did throw gas on this fire, make it a heck of a lot worse.

The president's response to Waters is a bit of a Rorschach test. Right? Was he saying, "Maxine, be careful what you wish for, because you might be the victim of violence or harassment?" Or was he saying, "This is terrible. You're going to bring about the harassment of public servants."

I happen to think it was in the latter category. Apparently, Chuck Schumer heard it the right way.

BERMAN: I'm going option "A." I'm going option "A" on that, given from what we've heard from the president before, Michael, and the fact that he always uses that phrase, "Be careful. Be careful here," when he's warning people.

AVLON: Yes. That's an old-school like, you know, zoot suit threat, you know? That's what that is.

Look, this is -- this president is not an avatar for civility. He's the first president in modern history who is proudly a divider, not a uniter. So whenever they trot out a fig leaf or a little bit of rhetoric about civility it is in contrast to what the president does. That may put the press secretary in a difficult situation, but them's [SIC] the facts, based on what he said and what he even said last night at a rally in South Carolina.

BERMAN: There are not enough pots here to signify, you know, how black the kettle is in some cases. I know, I mixed up that metaphor but let me just walk you down some of the things that this president has said before. Listen.


TRUMP: Get him out. Try not to hurt him. If you do, I'll defend you in court. Don't worry about it.

If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously.

I'd like to punch him in the face. I'll tell you.

I don't know if I would have done well, but I would have been out there fighting. I don't know if I would have done well, but I would have been boom, boom, boom. Beat that --


BERMAN: So Michael, you're still sticking with option "B," that when the president is saying "Be careful" to Maxine Waters, what he's really saying is that the rhetoric is getting too hot here?

[06:10:04] SMERCONISH: John, John, I run that same highlight reel on my own program. I defend none of it. Please don't misunderstand where I'm coming from. I'm all about civility.

The question here is, what's the proper Democratic response to that and I don't think engaging him at his level is a winning strategy.

If it's Maxine Waters who is the spokesperson, all you're doing is inciting those high-school-educated white guys in Rust Belt states who don't like her, see her as the face of the Democratic opposition; and they'll be there in November. And conversely, you have to ask what's the impact on suburban moms,

those soccer moms, that the Democratic candidates are going to need when Sarah Huckabee Sanders gets thrown out of a restaurant?

I'm just trying to assess here the political ramifications of it. But please don't put me in a category of defending the president on any of this behavior. Because it's not the way I roll.

AVLON: Yes. And -- but I think the point Michael is making, and it's important here, is it ends up feeding arguments of "what about-ism" that we hear about from the president and his defenders. Right?

Which is yes, the president may say all these things, but what about? And so it puts Democrats in a tricky position. Should they hold themselves to a higher standard to cut that clear contrast, or should they give into the temptation to fight fire with fire? Politics, every action compels an equal and opposite reaction. And risk whitewashing and creating a sense of moral equivalence about civility and the kind of bitter tribalism in American politics today.

DRUCKER: And the problem with doing that is that the Democrats are trying to get ahead politically by criticizing the president's behavior, and you're not going to do that and be successful if you're doing exactly what he's doing.

And I think it's important for public officials to be smart about this, because Maxine Waters is trying to say that she did not incite anybody to violence. But if you're telling people to go surround people at all sorts of places and protest them, this is the kind of thing that could get out of control. It's why when the president trolls the press by saying we're the enemy of the people -- look, he loves us, and he loves the attention.

BERMAN: Which he did last night.


BERMAN: He did last night after the press secretary was talking about somebody.

DRUCKER: Correct. The danger is somebody is going to hear him say we're the enemy --

HILL: Right.

DRUCKER: -- and they're going to do something he would never sanction. And that's why public officials need to watch their words carefully.

HILL: And we'll have more of that, but we have to take a short break. So nobody go anywhere, because we're going to solve the issue of civility.

BERMAN: Can we hear from Admiral Ackbar one more time? Because Michael Smerconish and I are not disagreeing. Michael, I actually agree with you 100 percent here, and so does Admiral Ackbar. Let me just play this for you as we go to break.





HILL: While more than 2,000 migrant children still remain separated from their parents, the White House is trying to turn our attention to this plea for civility. Yes, it's one this country desperately needs. This, tough, of course, comes amidst the president's launching of a new flurry of insults.

Back with us Michael Smerconish and David Drucker. We started off at the top of the hour with it's a trap. Thank you, John Berman

BERMAN: Admiral Ackbar. Don't thank me.

HILL: Seriously --

AVALON: He's a new analyst.

HILL: Yes. New CNN analyst, recently signed.

In all seriousness, it may be a trap not only to change the conversation, but it's also a trap to distract from the very real questions, Michael, about where these children are, how they're going to be reunited, what the plan is. All of those answers are still very murky at best.

SMERCONISH: Erica, you remember that we've learned the president views every day in the Oval Office as another episode of a reality show. And I think you're really putting your finger on something significant now, because he likes it when the narrative is one of the president versus Maxine Waters or the president versus Peter Fonda or Robert de Niro or Jimmy Fallon. Whatever the issue of the day might be in his mind.

But look at what's going on at the border. Look at this iconic American brand in Harley-Davidson, now saying, "We're going to have to move overseas some of our responsibilities."

And so you're right, all of these very substantive issues that should be taking our attention. The other stuff is much more fun.

And you don't have to read in so deeply to take a position in Donald Trump versus Maxine Waters, et cetera, et cetera. So there's a lot of real news going on out there that he probably doesn't want us focused on, including what's going on with the border kids.

BERMAN: Yes. Look, as far as I can tell, there's been no progress from yesterday or the day before about how to get these 2,000 kids reunited with their parents, David, and the administration doesn't seem to have the answers. DRUCKER: No. They're not exactly sure how they want to handle this,

because you have a disagreement between a White House that wants to put an end to zero -- to -- to illegal border crossings and allowing people to stay in the country by gaming U.S. asylum laws; and an administration, agencies, that do not know how to carry this out with the zero-tolerance policy.

And the biggest problem the president has is, you can change the law, but Republicans are paralyzed when it comes to immigration, in part because they feel like they have no political cover from him. When is he going to tweet and blow everything up and make them look bad just before a big midterm election and the fact that the Republicans on the Hill cannot agree among themselves.

And they run the Hill, so even though they're not getting a lot of cooperation from Democrats, a lot of voters are not going to look at it that way.

AVLON: No. And look, let's separate the style from the substance. I think Smerconish makes a good point about the president wanting to have these sort of celebrity slap fights to distract from the substance. And the substance is really, you want to talk incivility? Let's talk policies that put kids in cages and separate them from their parents. That's the essence of incivility.

So let's make -- let's make a distinction. We can do both, but let's never get distracted from the substance of the policies that get put in place.

BERMAN: And that's why I keep saying it's a trap. I mean, this is a trap. It's a trap for Democrats because, you know, they fall in and, you know, they get into that sandbox, and they can't win that sandbox fight. And it's a trap, because you're not focusing on the bigger things.

DRUCKER: And if you want to know how nervous Republicans are about this, in the Senate, where Mitch McConnell has vowed not to put any immigration bill on the floor that the president has not said in advance he will sign, they are moving ahead without him on a narrow fix to this family separations issue. Will it go anywhere? Hard to tell.

AVLON: and you know, one thing. Just yesterday, good example. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, among the things she said in her press conference, was something to the effect that due process does not require seeing a judge. All right. That's building on the president's tweets from the other day in a way that really does have constitutional and policy implications.

[06:20:04] BERMAN: Smerconish -- we happen to have a lawyer with us, Michael Smerconish. You know, what do you make of that, the due process argument?

SMERCONISH: Well, if you're here, you're entitled to due process, regardless of whether you're a United States citizen. That's the view from the Supreme Court of the United States. That's the view from -- from the legal intelligentsia. So I think the White House is flat-out wrong on that.

I mean, what they're struggling with here is that you can't keep kids in detention indefinitely. So you really can't hold families together wait that they're saying they would like to try do, even though there's news today that has suggested they've gone back to a catch- and-release, there's no simple solution here.

And one other thing, John. You don't want to get played, right, by those who are coming here who bring a child with them, just so they have these additional protections. And I think that's a part of this, as well.

HILL: There's also, you know, Joe Biden wrote an op-ed about ignoring part of the larger problem, right, which what is these people from Central America are actually fleeing. We know the Obama administration tried to address it and did in certain ways. Some of that worked.

You know, I was reading a piece yesterday about how moving the border to the southern border of Mexico did not work in that time frame when they brought Mexico in to work on it.

But there's a part there, too, that we're also not talking about, about the funding that used to go to some of these countries to try to help stem the violence there, and in turn, stem the flow of migrants.

DRUCKER: Senator Marco Rubio this morning was tweeting that when you have people who find it more preferable to be in a jail in the United States than at home in Central America, you have a problem that will not be fixed if you do not fix what's going on in those countries.

BERMAN: George W. Bush ran an entire campaign as a compassionate conservative, saying family values don't stop at the Rio Grande River. That was 18 years ago. It might as well have been 180 years ago based on the language we're hearing now and the different rhetoric.

It does occur to me, David and Michael -- you were both talking about this. Not only is the president perhaps trying to distract from this, the White House with the civility discussion.

But also the Harley-Davidson thing, which is absolutely his base. He has brought Harley-Davidson to this White House as much as he possibly can. He'd, you know, exchanged The Beast, if he could, for a Harley- Davidson and ride that, if he could ride it. Who knows?

But the point is here, is that Harley-Davidson is moving jobs overseas, we think. We don't know how many. They're moving production there because of the president's trade policies, Michael Smerconish. Pure and simple.

SMERCONISH: Well, you know what's interesting to me, is that it's not some obscure, hardware manufacturer for computers that we're talking about. I cannot think of -- unless you said it's the Ford F-150 or maybe the ingredients that go into apple pie, are now going to be made in China. I mean, it's Harley Davidson for crying out loud. Everybody gets, you

know, the identification of a Harley with the United States flag. And because of the president having brought your call, the Harley-Davidson executives to the White House, it's really significant. It will play, and he's going -- he's going to to have to address it. Protectionism has consequences. That's the lesson.


BERMAN: I do -- we only have a minute left in this discussion and I don't want to let something pass that happened last night at this rally. Because it sort of ties up what we're talking about here.

The president went to South Carolina, the home state of former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, current congressman, who lost in a primary. The president has actually been attacking him again and again and again, and he tried to do it on stage last night. I want to play this moment for everybody.


BLITZER: Never liked him too much. I wasn't a big fan. The Tallahassee Trail. It must be a beautiful place. Unfortunately, he didn't go there.



BERMAN: You know why he didn't go there? There's no Tallahassee trail, OK, A. B, there's an Appalachian Trail which people go back and look at the story of Mark Sanford had a relationship with a woman. He denied it, saying he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail. He wasn't.

But if you're going to make a joke about someone. you have to nail the punch line.

AVLON: Nail the punch line. Again, pot meet kettle when it comes to infidelity judgments. And also, just to bring up one thing, South Carolina is my home state, my folks live there, and he also went on trade, went against German automakers. Guess who's one of the biggest employers in South Carolina? BMW.


AVLON: So I mean, this is know your audience, step -- nail the punch line, and be careful of your own problems, people.

HILL: And to your point, and know your facts on your American companies that you're talking about and how this all affects them.

BERMAN: BMWs handle well on the Tallahassee Trail. I will say that. They take those corners very well.

HILL: Was that a BMW motor bike or in a car? BERMAN: The answer is yes.


BERMAN: "D." All of the above.

HILL: All right. Still to come, we are talking about Secretary Mattis in China today. All of this, we're talking about Harley- Davidson, worrying about tariffs with the E.U. What about those tariffs with China? That's ahead.


[07:28:59] BERMAN: Defense Secretary James Mattis is in China today amid strained tensions over the president's new tariffs on that country. Among the key topics set to be discussed this week, the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and how China could possibly help.

Our Will Ripley live in Beijing with the very latest. Hey, Will.


Secretary Mattis, John, touching down here in Beijing overnight, and he faces some very tricky discussions in the coming hours, because he has to convince Chinese President Xi Jinping to keep up the pressure on North Korea.

The United States knows that without China enforcing those economic sanctions the maximum pressure campaign would not be able to continue and without that pressure, the U.S. really has no way to kind of force North Korea to continue down this road towards denuclearization.

So he needs China to stay on board with the sanctions. At the same time, though, the United States is citing national security as one of the reasons why the trade relationship between the U.S. and China, this trade war, continues to escalate.

We're expecting an announcement in the coming days. The Trump administration expected to block Chinese investment in key areas of U.S. technology the United States feels China has been stealing or would steal, potentially --