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White House Calls for Civility While Trump Continues Hurling Insults; Rep. Will Hurd Interviewed; Immigrant Parents Await Word on Their Children's Fate. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired June 26, 2018 - 07:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: is expedited.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Sending people back means for them a possible death sentence.


[07:00:10] ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Alisyn is off this morning. Erica Hill joins us. Also here is John Avlon, and Admiral Ackbar will make an appearance at some point today


BERMAN: Because it is, in fact -- it is a trap.

Two thousand children still separated from their parents this morning by the U.S. government. And overnight, the president complaining about late-night comics and the White House complaining about a lack of civility. Yes, the pot exploded while calling the kettle black.

However, the kettle does have some issues here. Democrat Maxine Waters over the weekend called on Democrats to confront the president and people who work for him on different issues, including the immigration issue. That playing into the president's hands and in the immortal words of Admiral Ackbar, it is a trap.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Throughout all of this, there's the question of the children. Today reports that Customs and Border Protection agents will stop referring migrant families for prosecution until there is a policy in place to keep parents and children together. So the decision effectively revives the Obama administration's so-called catch-and-release policy, which President Trump has repeatedly slammed.

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

Abby, good morning.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Erica. President Trump is attempting to capitalize on some of the vitriol

that's been directed at his own administration officials in the last several days, but he's doing it while also not holding back on his own insults.

Meanwhile, Democrats are trying to figure out how exactly to respond to President Trump as we head into these midterm elections.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: 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 FEMALE: Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shame. 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.

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: 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 Defense Department to make plans to temporarily house these families at two military bases in Texas.

And the -- President Trump on his schedule today, he's got another meeting with congressional Republicans about government funding and also this immigration issue -- Erica and John.

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

I want to bring in reporter for the "Washington Post," Wes Lowery; and reporter and editor at large at CNN Politics, Chris Cillizza. I feel like I should mess up Chris's name just for equal time there.

Wes, I want to start with you. It does seem to me that this White House was just eager, chomping at the bit, champing at the bit to jump all over this civility question, rather than answer more questions about 2,000 children separated by this government from their parents.

WES LOWERY, REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Of course. And I'm glad you -- I'm glad you bring up the number of the children, because I do think that is the most important number and conversation to have, right, is the number, the thousands of children who today, as we wake up, remain separated from their parents. We do have to remember that.

But that said, of course the White House is eager for this, because it allows them to paint themselves as a victim in a story where it's very hard to see them as the victim.

Again, this is an administration that made a subjective decision to separate thousands of children from their parents. We saw many of those children being placed in cages, parents not knowing where they are. The public was outraged about this and remains outraged about this.

And now because of this political conversation, the White House is able to position itself in the way it has from the beginning and going back to the campaign, where Trump argues he's been treated unfairly and everyone is out to get him and the media is beating up on him and it's Nancy Pelosi's fault and Chuck Todd's fault. And again, as we have this conversation, there are, to our knowledge, at least 2,000 kids who are still somewhere in a cage and not with their parents.

HILL: And yet here we are again, right, having this conversation.

And look, there is a part of this where, in this country, there is a long, overdue conversation about civility. I'm not convinced, Chris Cillizza, this is what's actually going to bring us to, sadly, the tipping point where we have a real conversation and we see some change.

But is there a chance that this could spur a little bit of action to behave better on the part of the Democrats? Because this is not helping them at all.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: No. To be succinct. And I think the reason for that, Erica, is because there's a lot of Democrats who are very angry about Donald Trump and the way in which he treats people, the statements he makes, the way he plays with racism and xenophobia. And they cheer Maxine Waters's comments.

I'm on -- I am firmly in the camp with David Axelrod of, this is cutting off your nose to spite your face-ism by Democrats, that anger against Donald Trump only gets you so far. It may well get them wins in the midterm elections, but I don't know, you go to 2020, and just saying you're angry that Donald Trump isn't a great guy. Voters voted for him, and they didn't think he was a great time. One in three said he was honest and trustworthy. Less than that said he was -- had the temperament to be president, and he still won.

So I think you have to do more than anger. I think it's appealing at some level, because it's a quick fix. Makes you feel better. But I don't think it's a long-term solution.

BERMAN: What people like Axe will say is that Democratic voters know these things. They know that the president has this record of being uncivil here, so you don't need to remind people of that. You should be talking about health care instead.

AVLON: Yes. To actually put the focus on the substance. Put a focus on the policies that divide them, that being the essence of incivility separating kids.

I think two flavors of angry doesn't provide the differentiation that voters are going to look for. But it is tempting. It is frustrating because politics does follow the line of physics and you want to create every action with an equal and opposite reaction. It's not a winner for Democrats.

CILLIZZA: You know, I'll --

AVLON: Putting a focus on the policy, I think, is really the key. Because otherwise you fall into the trap.

CILLIZZA: I'll add just very quickly to John's point, you can't out- Trump Trump. Right? He will go lower than you are willing to go. We've seen that time and time and time again.

BERMAN: It's almost as if it's a trap. Right? Let's just play that before we move on.




BERMAN: Sorry. Go ahead.

CILLIZZA: Admiral Ackbar, so wise. So wise.

HILL: He is. He is. Our guiding force this morning.

BERMAN: Wes Lowery, to me it does not seem as if the White House has an answer on how it intends to reunify these 2,000 children with their parents. It doesn't seem to be happening in any kind of rapid way, and if anything, there seems to be more confusion at the border.

LOWERY: Correct. And that again, more than any conversation about civility, is basically the only thing that matters, is where are these 2,000 kids? That's 2,000 individual stories more important than where Sarah Huckabee Sanders almost had dinner on Friday, right, more important than Maxine Waters calling for peaceful protests.

You know, more important than Democratic infighting about their strategy, which believe it or not, is going to happen next week and the week after that and every week for the rest of the administration, right, and probably indefinitely forever. Because is we know one thing about the Democrats, is they like to fight with each other about how they should do this, right?

We don't know when these children are going to be reunified. We don't, in fact, even have real reassurances from the administration that these policies have completely stopped happening. You know, we believe, we've been told the prosecutions have stopped from the head of customs and Border Patrol, but at the same time the attorney general is arguing that "No, we're continuing this zero-tolerance policy." And so I do think we want to continue to look at this and think about it.

And that said, also, though, I think we should be careful in demonizing or even decrying the Democratic strategy here. I mean, the -- we think back just one cycle ago. Republicans took the House and took the Senate and took the presidency basically by demagoguing the president of the United States, right?

And the John Boehners of the world and the Paul Ryans of the world weren't slapping the wrist of the far right. They allowed this energy to build for years and this is how we ended up with Donald Trump as a president.

AVLON: Yes, but more of that is incredibly destructive to our democracy. I understand the temptation. We understand the precedent, but I think there's a larger problem that we've got to address, and someone has got to be the adult in the room.

You know, one of my favorite old political aphorisms, and I think it might have been Lyndon Johnson, is you don't mud wrestle with a pig, because you get dirty and the pig likes it.

LOWERY: Yes. And then Donald Trump becomes the president.

AVLON: Yes. But that -- let me tell you, if Democrats say the answer is to try to out-Trump Trump; if it's going to be "Let's ratchet up the demagoguery," that's bad for our democracy, and someone should be thinking about that, for God's sakes.

HILL: Go ahead.

LOWERY: I was going to say -- and I don't disagree with that broadly, but I don't think that protesters outside of the head of the Department of Homeland Security's home is more destructive to our democracy than 2,000 children in cages.

AVLON: Neither do I.

LOWERY: Right? And so the -- and so the idea that, after the kids are put in the cages, peaceful protesters are somehow the destructive part, I think, does kind of --

AVLON: No, no, no. Keep -- keep the focus on the kids. Keep the focus on the substance. Don't get distracted by the style. I agree with that.

HILL: In terms of keeping the focus on the substance, one thing that's been fascinating to watch -- and Chris, I'll kick this one to you -- is when we heard from the president, you know, "This can't be fixed by an executive order. It can only be fixed by Congress," which we all knew was not true.

CILLIZZA: That's right.

HILL: Then the president signs the executive order. And when that happened, you and I had this conversation, actually, that morning, and we talked about, well, wait a minute, because there's going to be a legal challenge here. Is this going to be sent to the courts? Is this going to be sent to Congress?

So now we're going to hear again, "Oh, it's up to Congress." And now that's what we're hearing once again out of this White House, Chris Cillizza. So not only do we not have the details on where these children are, nor do we have details on a plan, but we also don't have a plan on how to deal with this executive order that created more of a mess, that was created by the president, because you know what? We're just going to push it over to Congress again.

CILLIZZA: Yes. I -- the thing I was most struck by with Sarah Huckabee Sanders's press briefing yesterday, was essentially, "Well, Congress can just fix this. They just need to pass immigration legislation."

Do you know the last time they passed comprehensive immigration legislation?


CILLIZZA: 1986. So it seems unlikely to me that they are going to suddenly do it. They have failed multiple times: after the 2004 election, in 2009, in 2013, in 2015. So I think that's not the solution.

And I'd remind people, Republicans are in control of the House, Senate, and the White House. Let's not lose track of that.

BERMAN: And --


BERMAN: And it's hard --

CILLIZZA: You need more than -- you need more than a simple majority in the Senate on many of these issues. But Republicans are in charge.

BERMAN: And the president keeps on throwing roadblocks up. I mean, if he wants to have Congress pass something, he's got to lay off the tweets that obstruct the process every third day.

AVLON: He has given no guidance to the Republican Party. He has shown no desire to actually solve the problem, but rather grandstand on it. And look, the last Republican president to put forward immigration reform was George W. Bush, and it got derailed by the Tea Party, the proto-Tea Party that now has taken the figure of Donald Trump. So the president provided leadership, I think he could pull off a

Nixon in China. But he has shown no desire or willingness.

BERMAN: I will say, and this gets to something you were talking about, Wes, is I think Democrats are learning the lesson that the out party doesn't have to actually do anything.

The Republicans, you know, they understood that during the Obama administration. Just stop progress, get in the way, get in the way. They got in the way, and they benefited politically from it. I'm talking about raw politics here.

The Democrats seem to have learned that lesson. Chuck Schumer is sort of hesitant in getting all squishy on whether he wants to support some kind of law to keep children with their parents together at the border here. What do you make of what the Democrats will do going forward?

LOWERY: Of course. I mean, I think we're very likely going to see the Democratic leadership behave the way it has. People like Senate Minority Leader Schumer and House Minority Leader Pelosi calling for civility, kind of advancing arguments like the ones we've kind of been hearing this morning, talking about going high when they go low.

I do think it's going to continue to stoke tension with the grassroots, who watch the Republican grassroots sort of purely as an oppositional party to President Obama and be awarded richly politically for that. That does work in our politics. We've seen it work for Republicans. There's a question of if it would work for Democrats, as well.

[07:15:00] But I also think there's a column by my colleague, Charles Lane, today in "The Washington Post," where he talks about the idea that civility happens and civility works when people believe in legitimacy of the political system.

AVLON: That's right.

LOWERY: And they believe we're working toward -- now again, we've got an election where we know there was foreign interference, where the person who received fewer votes became the president, where people are being disenfranchised and the Voting Rights Act has been gutted. There are people, for legitimate reasons, who believe our political system is illegitimate, and that makes this very difficult.

BERMAN: It's interesting, and now the discussion Democrats are having is should they, in a way, unilaterally disarm the war of words, not the war of ideas. I think that's where the line is.

All right, guys. Do appreciate you being here with us.

What are Republicans going to do? As we just discussed, Republicans control the White House, both wings of Congress. What are they going to do to address this crisis created by the White House? The separation of children from their parents at the border. We're going to talk to a key member of Congress who represents a border district next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: More than 2,000 children separated from their parents at the border, separated by the U.S. government, and they are still waiting to be reunited. The House set to vote this week on a compromise immigration bill. That is unlikely to pass, if they even vote on it.

[07:20:11] Joining us now is Republican Congressman Will Hurd of Texas. His district runs along the majority of the Texas-Mexico border.

Congressman, thanks so much for being with us. You're in Washington now, but I wonder if you can give us an update on what you have heard about these reunifications?

REP. WILL HURD (R), TEXAS: Well, one of the things that I have concerns with is talking about the new facilities that are going to be at U.S. military bases and that some of them are going to house families. Some of them are going to house unaccompanied minors.

I think the reunification hasn't gone as quickly as -- as most of us would like. I think, you know, one of the concerns I have is, HHS' ability to do this. We were supposed to have a conference call yesterday with members of Congress and their staff to talk about this process, and the phone number didn't work. So if they can't do that with us, I'm concerned with the ability of connecting kids.

But let's fast forward a couple of weeks. We are still operating under the Flores settlement, and this says that the government can't hold kids for more than 20 days. So we may not be separating families at the border, but when they have them in custody, that means HHS or, potentially DOJ might be taking these families after those 20 days, if we don't figure out an alternative to detention.

So these are -- these are some of the concerns that I'm having and trying to get some questions about what's happening going forward and how do we make sure that we're taking care of kids when they're in our custody?

John, the bottom line is this: if people have violated the law, guess what? There should be consequences. But when we have somebody in our custody, we should treat them humanely. And I think most of the -- most Americans believe that separating kids from their mom and dad is a terrible strategy and if we're having the results of that, then it might be time to rethink what we're doing.

BERMAN: Well, let me ask you this, because one of the things that might happen when this so-called compromise bill doesn't pass or doesn't get voted on is some kind of skinny agreement where Congress would pass a measure -- and there have been several proposed -- that would subvert or circumvent the Flores decision and allow parents to be held alongside their children.

I believe you said, if Congress has to pass a law to keep parents and their children together, there's something wrong here. What do you mean by that? HURD: Well, what I mean is, we should intrinsically know that keeping

kids with their parents is a good thing unless, of course, the parents are doing something bad to the child, right? I think that's a given.

So -- so if our strategy is indefinite detention, then -- then we have a problem. You know, that's a potential violation of the 14th Amendment and the 5th Amendment. And so we need to be thinking -- we need to think strategically about this.

And there's alternatives to detention. You can put an ankle bracelet on folks, and they show up for their court case at higher numbers than we see in criminal courts right now in the United States.

We need to be talking about the root causes that is bringing migration to the United States. I've sat down with the ambassadors from El Salvador and Honduras to talk about the root causes and what we can be doing to improve security and economic situations in those countries.

So we need to be thinking about the acute problem, which is the fact that there's probably still 2,000 kids separated from their families and that we have more of this coming. But we've got to be thinking about the long-term problem, as well, too.

BERMAN: And look, as far as we know this morning, we haven't seen any progress, or we don't know what the progress is in reuniting those children with their parents. We haven't seen the process play out in front of our very eyes.

The president says -- and you're talking about long-term fixes, and there have been proposals for this, as well. He does not want one of those fixes to be more judges. Just listen to what he says.


TRUMP: We have thousands of judges already. So if a person comes into our country, steps one foot, they take their name, they bring them to court. They then release them. They go into the country. You never see them again. It's the craziest thing I've ever seen. So I said today -- I said today, I don't want judges. I want ICE and Border Patrol agents.


BERMAN: There are not thousands of judges. That's a lie. There are hundreds of judges. There are proposals to double that number, add numbers to that. Do you think the president's solution is a feasible one, or do you think judges would help?

HURD: I think judges would absolutely help. This is something -- we need to decrease the amount of time it takes to process folks, right? And to administer consequences that's a potential violation of the law. If we could get that within 20 days, that prevents having to hold people. That prevents having to separate kids from their families and those consequences.

BERMAN: So is the president -- so is the president helping fix this problem, then when he holds a rally in South Carolina and he says he doesn't want more judges at all?

HURD: Well, I think rhetoric matters, and oftentimes -- I think Congress should be asserting our Article I authorities, which means we pass legislation. And the House should pass it over to the Senate. The Senate does what it does and gets something to the president's desk, and the president has the opportunity to sign something or veto it.

[07:25:14] So we are a co-equal branch of government, and -- and the White House isn't our boss. And so we should be finding the legislation. We should be representing the 800,000 folks in our home districts and pass legislation that makes sense.

BLITZER: You've been focused so much on immigration in the last few weeks, I do want to ask you one question that has to do with the House Intelligence Committee, which you sit on. And of course, you were a former CIA agent for a long time.

Your chair, Devin Nunes, has been pushing the DOJ for documents. The DOJ basically came out last night and says, "Hey, look we're following the law. We've given you everything we need to give you."

Do you think Nunes is within his rights to push as hard as he has?

HURD: I think we should have access to all the documents we need in order to do our work. The judiciary branch and DOJ is supposed to be independent, have a level of independence from the White House, but they still -- they still answer to Congress. Congress provides oversight. And we should be able to have the documentations and information that we need. And right now, we haven't gotten all the information that we -- that we have requested.

BERMAN: All right. Will Hurd, Republican congressman from Texas, thanks so much for being with us, sir. Do appreciate it.

HURD: Thank you.

BERMAN: Erica.

HILL: Are Democrats going too far in their opposition of President Trump? We'll ask Jackie Speier next.