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Rep. Jackie Speier On Her Visit To Border Detention Centers; Trump's Approval Rating Drops To 41 Percent In Gallup Poll; Trump Doubles Down On Rejecting Immigrants With No Due Process. Aired 7:30- 8a ET

Aired June 26, 2018 - 07:30   ET



[07:30:29] ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: CNN has learned the Pentagon will be asked to OK plans to house thousands of immigrants, including unaccompanied children, on two military bases in Texas. This comes as lawmakers are getting firsthand look inside immigrant detention centers, some of them housing children separated from their parents at the border.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier toured two of those centers and she joins us now. Congresswoman, good to have you with us.


HILL: After visiting the Port Isabel ICE detention center, among others, you called this for all intents and purposes, a prison, over the weekend. Why did you call it a prison?

SPEIER: The women were shackled as they were brought into the facility, they're in prison garb, and there's barbed wire all over the facility, so that's a prison.

And the facility inside -- we met with about 40 women, all of whom said the following. They had been there for three weeks, some as much as a month.

They had -- 60 percent of the women had not had a conversation with their children. Many of their children were taken from them without their knowledge while they were in their court proceedings. They never had a chance to say goodbye. They don't know what the A-number is for their child.

So it is an absolute disaster and it shows the level of incompetence in the way the administration rolled out this program and the inhumanity as well.

HILL: Were these women -- did they know where their children were?

SPEIER: No, they have no idea where their children are. I think only two or three of them had actually talked to their children. HILL: We have heard a lot of outrage from your fellow lawmakers who have also visited facilities. Even lawmakers who have not been there calling for more answers here, understandably. And those calls coming from both sides of the aisle, we should point out.

What do you believe you can do there in Washington to get some of those answers?

SPEIER: Reunification has got to be our sole focus right now. No child should ever be taken away from his or her parents.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Kraft, has said over and over again that it creates toxic stress, that it's irreparable damage, and that it impacts the architecture of the brain. Do we need to know any more?

This is wrong. This is the most diabolical approach that you could ever imagine. This is not America and we will not be remade in President Trump's image.

HILL: Sarah Sanders saying again yesterday that Democrats need to work to fix this when talking on a broader level about immigration, but this falls under that umbrella as well.

How do you respond to that?

SPEIER: Well, I respond to that with this answer. Zero -- the whole zero policy that has been put in place has been -- the reason why we're at this place right now. Six weeks ago they weren't being separated from their kids. They are now.

And all the president has to do is revoke this policy, and if they're willing to do that we're going to step right up and help them.

But let me also point out that this effort to make these camps is incredibly costly and you're far better to place these families -- and most of them have families in the -- in the United States. Place them with their family members.

Put ankle bracelets on them. That's $5.00 a day as compared $350 a day or $750 a day in some of these cases.

HILL: Let me -- but let me bring back to you, especially when we talk about reunification.

What do you believe Congress can do? Is there anything that Congress can do to step in here because there are legitimate questions about not just the numbers but where they are? How the reunification is going to happen.

And if we're not getting those answers from the White House, can you reach across the aisle? Can you do it within your own party? Do you feel there's something that you can do to put pressure to get those answers and to get those families back together? SPEIER: Well, the reason why 25 members of the House went down to Fort -- McAllen just last weekend was because we want to put a spotlight on this issue. We wanted to see if they were being housed in cages, which they are. Whether or not these detention facilities were more like prisons, which they are.

We went -- I also went and saw one of these tender care facilities where actually, the children were being cared for well. But again, not with their parents.

So what Congress can do is put a spotlight on it. We can ask for a GAO report.

But all Sessions has to do -- our attorney general -- is to revoke this particular policy. And the president knows that but they want to stir up their base and they think this is a winning strategy.

[07:35:07] Meanwhile, families are truly being destroyed.

HILL: Let's talk about this so-called compromise bill in the House which, as we know, is not expected to pass. But based on our own reporting, there could be a more narrow bill that would essentially overturn Flores here.

Is that something that you could support?

SPEIER: Well, Flores requires that the children be in the least restrictive settings and that you can't house them for more than 20 days.

HILL: Right.

SPEIER: The question becomes do we want now to turn these various facilities into internment camps for these families or do we want them to be able to stay with their family members, put an ankle bracelet on them? Far less expensive.

HILL: So is that the only solution for you then, that they are not housed in detention centers and instead, there's --

SPEIER: Well, I think the cost alone is draconian.

I mean, create more judges. I mean, we need probably twice as many judges as we have right now. Increase the opportunity for the asylum claims to be made and be reviewed by judges and let these families be reunited.

HILL: Before I let you go I do want to get your take on this.

You told my colleague Erin Burnett, last week after Sec. Nielsen was confronted at a restaurant, that in your words "everyone has the right to have dinner where they want." And you went on to say this as well.


SPEIER: I do know that if you foment hate, as the president does on a daily basis, in his base it also creates a reaction by others. We need to recognize that if we want to be known as something other than ugly Americans we've got to act like beautiful Americans. And right now, that's not coming out of the administration.


HILL: I know that in response to what happened over the weekend you tweeted your support for Sarah Sanders, but then we saw what your colleague Maxine Waters said. And even as she has come out to try to defend it there is still a good amount of criticism being sent her way.

Is she behaving in the way that you would like to see of so-called beautiful American, as you point out?

SPEIER: I want everyone to tone done the rhetoric. I want the president to be the first. He's the leader of this country.

He's got to stop calling people names. He's got to respect the members of Congress, both in his party and in the Democratic Party. And we've got to find ways to find and seek common ground.

HILL: Have you reached out to Maxine Waters about this?

SPEIER: No, I haven't talked Maxine yet. We just returned to the House last night. But, I would --

HILL: Do you plan to?

SPEIER: Sure, of course. I'm happy to talk with Maxine. No one tells Maxine what to do, however.

But I would -- I would say to her that this does not serve our purpose nor the American people's purpose.

And I think everyone has the right to be able to dine in restaurants regardless of your political affiliation. I don't want to be kicked out of a restaurant because I'm a Democrat, and Sarah Sanders shouldn't have been kicked out of the Red Hen because she's a Republican.

HILL: Congresswoman, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

SPEIER: Thank you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It's interesting. She used the word beautiful which is a part of the statement that Nancy Pelosi used --

HILL: Yes.

BERMAN: -- yesterday when she was trying to push back on Maxine Waters. She said, "make America beautiful again." I wonder if that's going to be a new line from the Democrats and I wonder if it will work?

JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: I'm not sure branding has been their strength.


AVLON: But I think what was really striking is the fact that tone does come from the top and the president has a special responsibility. I don't think any of us should hold our breath expecting he's going to change his tone.

BERMAN: But that's what Democrats are saying. The tone does come from the top and the tone that we're receiving from the top and have been receiving since the beginning of the campaign here is one of utter and pure incivility.


BERMAN: So they're saying why should we play by a different set of rules? Why should we unilaterally --

AVLON: And that --

HILL: Isn't that a copout by now, by the way, this far in?

BERMAN: That is --

AVLON: What is?

HILL: That the tone -- yes, the tone is --


HILL: -- coming from the top but that doesn't require you to follow the tone.

AVLON: No, and I think that's the larger point. You need to recognize it so as to not simply --

HILL: Yes.

AVLON: -- create a moral equivalence but to recognize that if we're going to stop a cycle of situational ethics they need to do what Jackie Speier said, which is say hey look, I don't want to get kicked out of a restaurant because of my beliefs by conservatives. It shouldn't apply to Republicans either.

And to focus on the common ground, both which she and Will Hurd, the Republican Congressman earlier, both said that one solution to this problem is to increase the number of judges.

HILL: Yes.

AVLON: The president is resisting that but that is -- that seems to be a consensus among congressmen who care.

BERMAN: He doesn't resist it, he flat out opposes it.

AVLON: Yes. BERMAN: He mocks the notion of it. All right.

Coming up, the president has been touting his poll numbers but did he speak too soon? A big reversal on at least one poll over the last week.


[07:43:19] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've never done better than we're doing now. We've never had a time like we have been -- we've never had.

We've never had higher polls than we have now. Even Gallup, who treats me horribly.


AVLON: The president might have spoken just a little too soon at that rally last night in South Carolina, but let's dig into President Trump's approval numbers because that is where the rubber meets the road.

The president has been looking between 45 and 35 percent over the course of his presidency, beginning at 45. Just a week ago he was equaling that all-time high for him, but he went down four points in the most recent Gallup poll.

Now, for someone in the mid-40s, that's almost down 10 percent. Why? Well, some of that might be connected to the immigration crisis. Those optics don't work well for the president despite his belief that they benefit him politically.

But look, perspective is the thing we have least of in our politics so let's view the president's approval number through those lens.

The president is averaging 41 percent in this most recent number. Other presidents at this point in their presidency -- Obama, 45; Bush 43, 73 percent. That's a 9/11 bump.

Clinton, 44; Bush 41, 69. That's largely about winning the Cold War. Reagan, 45.

He is the lowest approval rating of any president at this point in his presidency in the last 40 years.

But let's go a little bit deeper because if you want to understand the president's popularity among Republicans and how he's doing in the electorate, let's look at the breakdown.

He's at 87 percent among Republicans. That is very good. That is, however, down from a week ago.

[07:45:01] Let's go deeper, though. His 87 percent approval rating is still sky-high among fellow Republicans. He -- Donald Trump is more popular with Republicans than Ronald Reagan

was -- Saint Ronald Reagan -- and this speaks to why Trump is Teflon with his base. That is a really powerful source of strength for the president.

But it's not the whole picture because if you want to understand national numbers you've got to look at the I's, the Independents. And with Independents, Donald Trump not so popular. He is at 38 percent. That is lower than President Obama, lower than W., higher than Clinton, but that's the exception.

He is doing worse with Independents and that is the bellwether in politics, folks. His national numbers are going to go up or down with that crucial swing demographic, the Independents.

Needless to say, this is a bottom feeder with Democrats. That's the key sate.

The other thing to keep in mind though, it's the economy, stupid. And if you look at Trump's approval rating, lower than any other president in the last 40 years, but with the lowest unemployment rate in the last 40 years. This is significant.

President Obama, 45 percent; Reagan, 45 percent with almost 10 percent unemployment. That's extraordinary. It speaks to a degree of softness because with a 3.8 percent unemployment rate, Donald Trump should be much more popular than he is today. It's the economy, stupid.

BERMAN: And look, people are suggesting that the president -- if he just ran on the economy, he'd be doing well.


BERMAN: But it's not as if people don't know that the economy is doing well and the fact that he's at 41 percent with the economic numbers so good tells you about his personal appeal to the wider electorate.

AVLON: It does, and it also says that if he was trying just a little bit more to be a uniter, not a divider, he might be doing even better. Independent voters, in particular -- that crucial swing -- respond to that kind of unifying rhetoric.

The base may love the division but the rest of electorate leaves them a bit cold. And if the economy does take a downturn those numbers are going seem soft.

HILL: And he's going to need something else to say.

AVLON: Absolutely.

HILL: We need to see if that changes.

BERMAN: All right. We're going to speak to a Democrat who runs in a Republican state.

What does he think about the president's positions right now on immigration?

And also, tariffs. Harley Davidson sending manufacturing overseas because of one of the president's policies. Stay around.


[07:51:20] BERMAN: With some 2,000 children still separated from their parents by the U.S. government, the president is rejecting one of the proposed long-term solutions. He says he does not want more judges. He suggests throwing out undocumented immigrants without a hearing.

Joining us now, Democratic Sen. Doug Jones from Alabama. Senator, thanks so much for being with us.

You spent your life in the legal profession as a prosecutor and what- not. What do you make of this assertion from the White House that the president is now saying no due process? A lot of negatives from the White House there when it says it doesn't feel like it needs to send the immigrants through a legal system.

SEN. DOUG JONES (D-AL), MEMBER, HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE, GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: You know, John -- one, I appreciate the opportunity to be here.

You know, when you start pulling back people's constitutional rights it's a real slippery slope no matter who it is. And so, I -- this bill that we had looked at last spring -- last winter -- would have brought more judges, would have made the system more efficient and move things through.

I think we've got to afford due process in this country to every citizen and every non-citizen. Everybody who has their feet on the ground in the United States of America is afforded due process under our constitution.

I think we do need more judges. I do think we need a system that can move people through the system more efficiently.

But yanking their constitutional rights and just wholesale sending people back is just simply not the answer. And as I said, I just think that that gets to be a really slippery slope.

BERMAN: It looks like the so-called compromise bill in the House is going to go down, even if it gets a vote at all.

But there are some different so-called skinny proposals. Ted Cruz and others have suggested legislation that would add more judges and allow parents to be held alongside their children. Circumvent Flores for a longer period of time.

Could you support that? JONES: You know, I'd like to look at a little bit more comprehensive approach. I mean, certainly, the issue du jour, almost, is the separation of families. And this was a -- this was a crisis that the president and the administration created and now there's just scrambling to try to figure out how to fix this because they really didn't think through the long-term consequences.

I'd like to see a little bit more. I'd like to go back. You know, some Democrats may not want to do DACA and the immigration because it is such a hot-button issue, but I think we need to really look at a little bit longer-term solution.

We can do border security and that's what getting lost often is that the president talks about border security but what has happened is that legal immigration has also gotten caught up in this debate and that's what caused some of the House bills to fail.

BERMAN: Just to be clear, though, it doesn't sound like you are ready to support one of these smaller, discreet measures that would add more judges but would also allow parents to be held along with their children for a longer period of time.

You don't seem like a committed yes on that.

JONES: I'm not committed -- I'm not a committed yes. I would like to look at those because I do think it's an important issue that we've got to face but the devil is in the details.

There's so many things that are being just floated around right now and Democrats haven't been in the discussion as much. They need to pull Democrats into the discussions.

BERMAN: The Democrats need to assert themselves -- insert themselves into the discussions.

JONES: It's hard to do John when you've got people meeting behind closed doors, just like they did with the health care bill last time.

We have to react to the stories that come out as we see them but we're always open. At least, I think most Democrats are open to try to work to find that common ground to see if we can get something done.

BERMAN: One of the big developments that happened overnight was not on this immigration issue. It was on the issue of trade.

Harley Davidson suggesting it would move production for some of its motorcycles overseas because of the president's steel --

JONES: Right.

BERMAN: -- and aluminum tariffs.

The president, over the last few minutes, has been going after Harley Davidson saying this move was going to happen anyway.

But what do you make of what Harley Davidson decided to do here?

JONES: Well, what I'm worried about is that it's just the first of many that we're going to see as a result of these tariffs. You know, I don't think the tariff process and the announcements that have come out have been very good for any number of things.

[07:55:05] Steel and aluminum in my state are really big. We are an exporting state but we use that steel and aluminum to make our cars, to make other items. Manufacturing in Alabama is really concerned about where we are.

Our farmers are concerned. It's easy for somebody like Harley Davidson to pick up a factory. It's a lot harder for my soybean farmers to move their farms overseas.

So, these tariffs need to be really, really carefully thought out and not just shotgun the way we see them. I think everyone in Congress is concerned about the effect of the tariffs.

And Harley is just one example, I think, and one of many examples where we're going to start losing our factories to overseas countries if we don't -- if we're not careful.

BERMAN: We'll see where this goes over the next few days as the president negotiates or slaps new tariffs on different countries.

I do want to ask you about the political discourse right now and I'm really interested in your opinion here.

You obviously are a Democrat in a red state. You won a special election that at times got very heated -- very heated, to say the least here.

What would you like Democrats to do? How would you like Democrats to go after this administration?

Maxine Waters called for confrontation with members of the cabinet. Others are saying that goes too far. We'd love to talk about health care.

What's the right way to take on this administration?

JONES: Well, John, you said something interesting. You said my race got very heated and it did, but we didn't engage in that in my campaign. We stayed focused on issues.

And I think the way to challenge the administration is only on issues that you disagree with them on, but also to agree when they make -- propose something that might help the state or the country. I think we've got to get a way --

I talked about in my campaign of having more dialogues than monologues. And when Democrats start trying to get down into the same level and essentially taking the bait, and that's what's happening here. The president is just throwing out some red meat for Democrats to latch onto. They do and it ends up hurting us. We need to be focusing on the issues of the day. The immigration issues, the trade issues, the manufacturing issues, the -- you know, jobs and education. And, health care is still a driving force in this country.

BERMAN: But I've heard --

JONES: But I could say focus on those.

BERMAN: But I've heard from Democrats on the left all morning on Twitter and my phone just going off right now that why should Democrats disarm here? Why should we let the president spout off and be uncivil without fighting back? And they also note, correctly, the president won doing that.

JONES: Yes. Well, I'm not saying don't fight back. You fight back on issues that are important. You don't have to fight back with name- calling and bullying and trying to yell people down. Fight back on the issues.

I still believe that the issues that we have facing this country, that Democrats have better solutions. That's how you fight back. You fight back in the trenches with the issues of the day.

I just don't believe -- I'm sorry, just maybe I was raised different than some of these folks, but I just don't happen to think you have to get down in the gutter and name-call and try to bully people like we see often happen because you're not going to win a Twitter war with the President of the United States but you can win the issues war. You can win the day just like I did in Alabama talking about the issues.

BERMAN: Doug Jones, Democratic senator from Alabama. Thanks so much for being with us.

Please come back. Appreciate talking to you.

JONES: You got it, John. Thank you so much.

BERMAN: All right. We are following a lot of news today so let's get to it.


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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has shredded the idea of civility from the moment he began running for president.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: No one should call for the harassment of political opponents.

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: I believe in very peaceful protests. I have not called for the harm of anybody.

TRUMP: It's the party of Maxine Waters. Do you believe her?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The situation is a real humanitarian disaster.

SANDERS: We're not changing the policy. We're simply out of resources.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are 2,000 kids who have been cruelly separated from their parents. That is a shame on the Trump presidency.

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.

BERMAN: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, June 26th, 8:00 in the east.

Alisyn is off. Erica Hill is here with us. John Avlon, as well. We survived all the way until 8:00, beating the odds, guys.

HILL: Well, we've got another hour to go. Let's be careful.

BERMAN: Don't get out ahead of her. It sounds right here.

This morning, 2,000 children still separated from their parents. Yet, the outrage coming from the Trump White House not about that, about something else. They're requiring a lack of civility in the political discourse. Really, this White House?

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders says quote, "We are allowed to disagree regardless of politics."

And while that may be true, that sentiment took a backseat last night in South Carolina. The president said Democrats wants crime. He even labeled one an "extraordinarily low I.Q. person."

Now, as Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters is cleaning up after calling people to confront an administration official, the president offered this not-so-civil message in response. He says, "Be careful what you wish for, Max."

HILL: And as all of that is unfolding there are still a number of questions about the thousands of children who remain separated from their parents.