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President Trump Makes Controversial Tweet Criticizing Maxine Waters; Trump Administration Reviving Catch and Release Immigration Policy; House To Vote On GOP Compromise Immigration Bill This Week; Trump Doubles Down On Rejecting Immigrants With No Due Process; Trump: A Harley "Should Never Be Built In Another Country"; Interview With Rep. Adam Kinzinger. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired June 26, 2018 - 8:00   ET


[08:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The president offered this not so civil message in response. He says, be careful what you wish for, Max.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: And as all of that is unfolding, there's still a number of questions about the thousands of children who remain separated from their parents. There are reports 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. That decision effectively revived the Obama administration's so called catch and release policy which of course President Trump has repeatedly slammed.

We begin with CNN's Abby Phillip who is live at the White House for us. Abby, good morning.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Erica. President Trump is trying to take advantage of some of the hostility directed toward his own administration officials, but that hasn't stopped the self-described counterpuncher from lodging his own insults at various people, as John just described. But meanwhile Democrats are still trying to figure out how exactly to counter President Trump ahead of the midterm elections there's year.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's the party of Maxine Waters -- do you believe her?

PHILLIP: 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 out of a Virginia restaurant.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I was asked to leave because I work for President Trump. Healthy debates 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 a 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!

CROWD: 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 if I would have done well, but I would have been boom, boom, boom, I'd beat that --

PHILLIP: Congresswoman Waters encouraging her supporters to protest over the weekends.

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' I.Q. and falsely accusing her of calling 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: The Democratic Party leadership also denouncing her behavior.

CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) SENATE 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 it. But what we have is two extremes. And I like it. I said, hey, 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 today at the White House President Trump is meeting with Congressional Republicans about the budget and also immigration, but he's also spending some time this morning dealing with another issue. The repercussions of his tariffs and his trade war with European countries and others. He responded to Harley-Davidson which said this week that they would be moving some of their production over to Europe in response to the president's tariffs on steel and aluminum products. John and Erica?

BERMAN: Abby Phillip for us at the White House. Abby, thanks so much.

Joining us now, CNN political director David Chalian and CNN politics reporter and editor at large Chris Cillizza. David, am I being too cynical here?



BERMAN: Thank you. Good night. Is it too cynical to suggest that the White House see that they had a nine point swing in the Gallup poll over the last week, they see the outrage over their policy to separate children from their parents at the border, the outcome of that, they see all that, and then they seize on this new cultural war about civility suggesting that Democrats are pushing too far here, they see this as an opportunity to diversity attention from what's going on?

[08:05:14] CHALIAN: Certainly, John, I've never seen this White House see a culture war and not seize on it. That has been part of the overall strategy -- communication strategy throughout the entire presidency, throughout the Trump campaign as well. So the fact that there were some of these culture war opportunities at the time that they were sort of taking a beating and reversing course on policy, no doubt, I would imagine playing up one over the other is clearly a strategic decision.

But what I also think we have seen time and again from this administration is that they don't always come up on the losing end of the culture wars. The battles that they pick sometimes work to the president's advantage because, as we've discussed, for the way this president gets political advantage is to enliven his base, that that is the fuel of his fire, and the culture wars tend to do that.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The one caveat I would add to what David is saying is certainly the president believed this is a winner for him, and there's no question it's part of the White House's strategy. But if you look at where Trump's numbers have hit that bottom of 35 as he ping pongs in this national approval between 45 and 35 in the Gallup poll, it's during Charlotte, it's when he really embraces Roy Moore, the candidate Doug Jones from Alabama defeated. So there is a sense that he can go too far on these culture war issues and really sink in the polls. It's not going to happen every time. He clearly believes it's a tactical winner, but there's evidence that it can hurt him as well.

HILL: I wonder if this one falls in that category. And Chris Cillizza I'll throw this to you, because as we look at this we know so well you cannot, and you may have actually written these words, my friend, you cannot out-Trump Trump, especially when it goes to coming low and when it comes to the insult and when it comes to this playground bully rhetoric.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: First of all, to John's point, he's broadly right I think, and I saw him talking about polls in the last hour which I think is really important to keep an eye on, the long-term trending gap. The long-term trending gap is Donald Trump around 41, 42. His average so far is 39 percent for his presidency. So this result this week he's at 41 feels more like where we've been than the 45 he was at briefly during the North Korea summit. So just broad context there.

On your other point, Erica, I just don't see how you go lower than Trump. He is willing to go places that no other politician will go. He showed that repeatedly during the presidential primary. He showed it during the general election. He's shown it over and over again. We get numb to it just because it's every day, but he's shown it over and over again as president of the United States, and I just don't think saying he's this guy, we're going to match his anger, his willingness to go over lines -- I don't know that that is a winning stretch for a presidential race. It may well be enough in a midterm election. I just don't know if that's enough of an alternative when you're offered a one versus one choice.

BERMAN: Is it disarming, though, David Chalian? Is it unilateral disarmament for the Democrats to take we'll talk about health care instead here? We're going to back off. We all went to school. What are you supposed to do with a bully in the schoolyard? Punch back, right?

CHALIAN: Here's the thing, John. Democrats are still searching for how to take on Trump in the Trump eras. As Chris is pointing out, Trump -- the president's a pretty unique figure in American politics. So I don't think just following his playbook for anybody else is going to work the same way. And yet there are demands in the democratic base to not, as you're saying, just talk about prescriptive message on health care or what have you. There are demands inside the Democratic base to stand up to the president and take him on more aggressively. But you see a party searching for how to hit the right notes on that, not a party that has settled on a communication strategy.

CILLIZZA: But there will be a sort of what I would term as an anger candidate in the 2020 Democratic primary that -- there will likely be that candidate versus someone who emerges as the sort of we need to be the party of ideas. But that -- do not underestimate in my opinion the chances of an anger candidate who says this guy, we should impeach him -- don't understand that candidate's chances.

BERMAN: Isn't 2,000 kids separated from their parents by the government something to get angry about? If you're going to get angry about something, wouldn't that be something to get angry about?

AVLON: But that's a good example of I think of what Doug Jones was saying albeit in his southern way of get angry on the substance. Do you need to stand up to Donald Trump if you're a Democrat? Sure. But I think it's important that they're happy warriors. If you try to out-demagogue Donald Trump you're going to lose and that's going to lose, and that's going to have a negative implication, too.

[08:10:02] So I think the key is, how can you stand up on policy and fight back on that ground and try to elevate the debate just a little bit without being Pollyannaish about it?

HILL: And the question there is how many Democrats will follow suit? We know it worked for him but it worked for him in Alabama. Even as he's continuing to try to do that as he told John in Washington.

AVLON: Don't forget, though, the most popular governors in America are Charlie Baker, Republican of Massachusetts, and Larry Hogan in Maryland. There is still an ability to play across party lines in a way that exemplifies some of our best traditions, not our worst. But those people are MIA in the national debate.

BERMAN: They are both, and I've tried -- they both are unwilling to come on national television and talk about the president even though they disagree with him on many, many different issues. David Chalian, we're at Tuesday now on this week where Republicans promised that they would talk about immigration and get legislation through the House of Representatives or try to get it on the floor. I don't believe it's going forward, and I don't believe we've seen any progress from the administration in reuniting these 2,000 children with their parents. Where will we be on Friday here?

CHALIAN: John, we've got to decouple these issues sometimes. The overall effort to try and reform immigration is different than trying to solve this immediate problem about reuniting children. The latter is a government competency issue. It was a policy put in place by the administration that had this effect that clearly was a negative impact and it needs to be fixed. And to me that is going to be a test in voter's minds about whether or not the government is competent to fix a problem. That is different than what has appeared to be a decade long intractable issue in politics about solving immigration reform, which is why I think when we get to Friday, certainly the solving of immigration reform is not done by the House of Representatives, and I don't have much confidence that solving this immediate problem is really happening either.

CILLIZZA: By the way, the White House -- what's difficult is Sarah Sanders yesterday says Congress needs to fix this. Go back to Donald Trump's Twitter feed on Thursday and Friday in which he says, Congress, there's no point in trying to fix this. It won't work.

AVLON: Conservatives in Congress are crying out for some presidential leadership on this, but he doesn't want to lead. Some have said this is a political win for him even though it's deeply destructive to the country and is taking a hit on his political --

BERMAN: I'm not sure it's the conservatives in Congress insofar it's the moderate Republicans who have put this compromise bill together with the leadership who want the president to say this is not amnesty and he won't say that.

AVLON: Right, which would create some cover.

BERMAN: I am curious though as to what the administration and Republicans will do about this issue that David Chalian, you were talking about, about the reunification, because there are measures to add judges and to get beyond the Flores ruling here. It does not seem as if Democrats -- I pushed Doug Jones on it there, it doesn't seem like Democrats want to get involved in this.

CHALIAN: They need to be held accountable for this, too. To just throw up your hands and step back and say it's other peoples' problems to solve, I don't think that reflects all that well in voters' minds either. Again, when you're talking about a clear problem being presented and nobody sort of coming together to actually complete the solution.

BERMAN: All right, David Chalian, Chris Cillizza, great to have you here with this morning, do appreciate it.

HILL: We are following breaking news out of Pennsylvania. You're looking at live pictures. These are protests in east Pittsburgh. Why are they there? Last week a police officer gunned down 17-year-old Antwon Rose who was unarmed. The teen was in a car which was suspected to be involved in a shooting when police say they ordered the driver out of the car. Antwon and another passenger ran off. Police are now investigating the actions of the officer Michael Rosfeld who opened fire on Antwon. He was laid to rest yesterday.

BERMAN: We want to talk much more about what this administration will do to reunite these 2,000 children with their families. Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger joins us next.



BERMAN: Just days after voting down a conservative immigration reform bill, House Republicans may try again this week to pass a more moderate immigration bill that addresses family separations. So far, the bill has not attracted enough support to pass.

Joining us now, Illinois Republican Adam Kinzinger. Thanks so much for being with us, Congressman. Really appreciate it. This bill has any chance of passing, seriously? REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLIONOIS: I think so. I mean, you know, it's going to be tough. If you look at it this way, we've got about probably 20 more, 25 more we need to get than we got from the bill last week.

I think we can get it done, but the president needs to lean into this, I think, so from a lot of members from my party they want to hear from the president. They want to hear this is something he supports. He was in front of our conference last week and said I support you guys 1,000 percent. So, I think he needs to be more clear about that.

But we're going to ahead anyway and frankly, I think the bill is good. It's got verifiable border security. It also takes care of the 1.8 million in the DACA population and ultimately gives them a path to citizenship pretty far down the road and a few other things.

So, I'm actually kind of confused why there's no Democrats on board. There won't be. I think we can get it done as Republicans hopefully.

BERMAN: You just gave the most optimistic assessment of the chances for this bill.

KINZINGER: I'm an optimist.

BERMAN: The question is, are you a hopeful optimist or just an optimist there? Who knows? I do not believe the votes there are based on what I've heard you still seem optimistic and you're on the inside. I guess we'll wait and see on that.

KINZINGER: I think it's possible. I think it's possible. If I had to guess today it would fail, but I think, you know, we still have another day left. They're working on a couple of issues. It just depends if my side really wants to fix this. Most of us do, but you know, there are some over and our friends in the freedom club that we need kind of to come --

BERMAN: You don't think they want to fix this?

KINZINGER: I think a lot of the times use perfect as the enemy of good. There's always something in every bill, everywhere at all times that you're not going to like. Sometimes you have to say this is good, but you're never going to get perfect. So, I don't know.

BERMAN: What do you think the president says you do not need more judges at the border. Do you agree with that?

KINZINGER: I mean, we do -- part of the whole issue we're in is a backlog in terms of getting people through the system. So, I'd like to see more judges and more capacity there. People that come and declare asylum they'll have to have a hearing and we'll have to figure out if there's a legitimate threat to them. So, I think to any extent we can have more judges --

BERMAN: Do you think he's wrong on that point?

KINZINGER: Yes, I don't agree with him. I put more judges for sure.

BERMAN: What about the suspension of due process? The White House says -- what about the president's plan to deport people without going through a legal proceeding?

[08:20:06] KINZINGER: Well, it depends. See, I don't know the details of is there something in place where you can already do that without having to put them through. If there is, then utilize that. If there isn't, then I think we have to do whatever is by law for anybody that crosses the border.

Here's the bottom line, I want people to be treated humanely all around the world including people that come to our border. The other point, though, is if you come illegally to the border of the United States of America, it's not going to be some kind of fairy tale. You will be detained.

You will not get into the United States of America and, frankly, if you send your children on a train unaccompanied or you come with your children, it's also not going to be a fairy tale. That's a very dangerous journey.

BERMAN: Is the administration doing enough?

KINZINGER: Don't do it.

BERMAN: Is the administration doing enough at this moment to reunite the 2,000 children it chose to separate from their parents?

KINZINGER: Well, I'm getting a briefing today on what HHS is doing on that, so I'll know a lot more.

BERMAN: Let us know.

KINZINGER: I will. Look, it's a big bureaucratic issue once you have people separated and now to track them down.

BERMAN: They created it. It's a bureaucratic issue they created.

KINZINGER: To an extent I agree, but this is also something -- keep in mind, the whole Flores decision came under Bill Clinton, the idea they had them separated and it was at that time under Janet Reno that they made the decision that after 20 days kids had to either be reunited with their parents or something. So, this isn't anything that's brand-new.

BERMAN: No, given that it happened during the Clinton administration, they had more than a decade to prepare for the consequences of their action, though, that's another way --

KINZINGER: It's happened everywhere.

BERMAN: I do want to ask you about a different subject and I know this is something you were deeply concerned about which is what's going on in Syria. I should say still going on in Syria. Every day and the whole world is watching. The Russians have now conducted air strikes in southwestern Syria, forces loyal to Assad are making an advance there. How do you see things on the ground there and what is this administration doing about it?

KINZINGER: Not enough. I mean, if you look back at what this administration has done, we have struck regime assets in de-escalation zones. We've shut down for the first time in 20 years, we had an air to air shoot down against Syrian jet. We bombed the red line situation twice. We killed over 100 Russian mercenaries.

There has been a lot of action but not enough. You know, Bill Clinton says his biggest regret of his presidency was inaction in Rwanda. I think President Obama and at this point on track, President Trump, are going to say that some of their biggest regrets is inaction in Syria, half a million dead Syrians.

This has generated ISIS. This will generate ISIS too and I'm not saying a full intervention by U.S. forces, but I think we have to hold strong in that area and unfortunately, I don't think we're doing enough.

BERMAN: The president wants to sit down with Vladimir Putin later this summer, is this something he should address or demand action from?

KINZINGER: Yes. Look, I have no problem with the president sitting down with Vladimir Putin. You go in from a position of strength. Keep in mind, the Russians said if you bomb Assad this is the beginning of World War III. We bombed Assad, they did absolutely nothing because the Russians don't have the capability.

This is not the old Soviet Union. The president can go in from a strong position and say, here's what I want from you guys. You extract yourself from Syria. Here's some deals we can work, but this is a no-go any more. So, we'll see what happens.

BERMAN: You have to have a will to do that and it's unclear at this point what this administration does want to do that. I want to do a dramatic reading from a statement put out by the president since you and I had been talking right now and it gets to the issue.


BERMAN: I love that smile. You know what's coming. This gets to the issue of Harley-Davidson and trade, and the tariffs that the president has placed on steel and aluminum. Harley-Davidson has announced as you know they'll move production of some motorcycles overseas.

The president just wrote, "A Harley-Davidson should never be built in another country, never. Their employees and customers are already very angry at them, if they move, watch, it will be the beginning of the end. They surrender. They quit. The aura will be gone, and they will be taxed like never before."

The president of the United States threatening not just an American company but Harley-Davidson? Your reaction. KINZINGER: I've gotten to know President Trump over the last couple years. I like him. One of my biggest problems is when he punches down, pointing out Harley-Davidson or people by name. Look, Harley- Davidson, I don't know all the details, but from what I saw it's a $200 increase on the final price of a bike -- and that's a significant -- that's going to impact sales.

I don't have a problem with the president taking on China. There's so many unfair practices that we could do a whole hour on it, but when you also take on Canada and Mexico and Europe at the same time, I feel like it's just trying to toss grenades everywhere instead of being focused on bringing our allies together to get more fair trade practices in China. I don't like tariffs or trade wars. I have a lot of farmers in my district. They don't like it either.

BERMAN: Not just taking on Canada and China, taking on Harley it seems that the president --

KINZINGER: Don't take them on. It's a great company.

BERMAN: You did say more than a year ago, Mr. President, it is incumbent upon all of us to tone down the divisive political rhetoric, #restorecivility. Has he done enough? Has he done anything on that front?

[08:25:07] KINZINGER: I think everybody needs to do it. Look, as I mentioned, when the president puts out a tweet I don't like, I'll say it. I like him individually. I like him as a person. I think he's a really funny guy and smarter than most people give him credit for.

But on this Twitter stuff, I just think, you know, when you are president, it's one thing to fight, it's another thing to punch down. But that is on all sides now. When you have people confronting people in public for eating dinner. We have a right to a political opinion in this country. We have a right to work for the government.

BERMAN: Is the tone coming from the top?

KINZINGER: I think -- no. There's so many bad tones everywhere right now, but that's very different what the president's saying than when Maxine Waters says confronts everybody in public at a gas station or restaurant or whatever. All this stuff has to end. You can have political debate all you want but allow somebody to go out to eat with their families for God's sake. If restaurants become political there is nothing sacred and that needs to stop.

BERMAN: As far as tones go, we appreciate your tones, Congressman.


BERMAN: Thank you for being with us this morning. I do appreciate it the discussion.

KINZINGER: Yes, take care.

HILL: Dana Bash had a question for Mitt Romney on primary day. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: When you go to the Senate, which Mitt Romney is going to go, the one that called Donald Trump a fake and a phony or the one who talked to him about being secretary of state?


BERMAN: That's a good question.

HILL: It's a great question. You can't get the answer, though, until after this. Stay with us.