Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Washington Congressman Adam Smith; Cave Rescue Continues; The Pruitt Problem; Protest at Statue of Liberty; Police Capture Protester After Statue of Liberty Standoff; Attorney: Nine Clients Received Bond in Step to Reunification. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired July 4, 2018 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: Statue standoff? A protester climbs Lady Liberty, forcing an evacuation as police attempt to coax her down. We're following this dramatic and dangerous protest as it unfolds.
Poisoned. Counterterrorism officials say two people have been exposed to the same nerve agents used against a former Russian spy and his daughter. Is this incident connected to the Kremlin?
The Pruitt problem. As more allegations against the embattled EPA chief surface, we're told Scott Pruitt is inching towards a tipping point within the administration. Is the president any closer to firing him?
And race for time. Rescuers are desperate to find a way out for a dozen boys trapped in a cave. We have new video of the boys, who have been stuck and suffering for nearly two weeks. How and when will they escape?
We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Acosta, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And this is a CNN SITUATION ROOM special report.
We're following breaking news on the standoff at the Statue of Liberty. A protester has climbed on to the base of the statue and police are trying to capture her. One of the nation's most famous landmarks, a symbol of America, has been evacuated on this Fourth of July.
This hour, I will talk with Representative Adam Smith, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, and our correspondents and analysts, they're also standing by.
First to CNN national correspondent Brynn Gingras in New York.
Brynn, we're learning more about the woman who climbed the statue. Isn't that right?
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Jim. Well, first of all, this standoff has been going on about three hours now. It's certainly hot here in New York City and I'm told through sources that police want to put an end to this quickly. But, yes, about that protester, we have learned that she's part of a group here based in New York called Rise and Resist.
This was a group that was formed in 2016, according to their Web site, as reaction to the election and their Web site says -- quote -- they "condemn policies that confine the current government regime" and they aim to oust the Trump administration.
But it's important to note, there was a group of protesters who went to the Statue of Liberty earlier today, eight in all. They held up a sign protesting against immigration policies. It said, "Abolish ICE," but this eighth protester made it up to the foot of the Statue of Liberty and this group says that that was without this other members' knowledge. They don't condone it, but seven other members of this Rise and Resist group have been arrested.
But back here to the scene that you're looking at unfolding, again, we're getting close to about three hours now that this eighth protester has been sitting at the foot of the Statue of Liberty. The harbor has been evacuated. That island has been evacuated, and we have NYPD emergency services units here on the scene.
Now, we can't see it from this vantage point, but I want to tell you, just when we have seen you last, and here we go, we're moving over, you can see now that red ladder. That is new within the last hour. What I'm being told through sources is that, at some point, a supervisor there on the scene is going to make the call that this has gone on long enough. And that could mean that they're going to actually send emergency personnel on to the base to try to get this protester.
That means that this coaxing this person is not working. And they would do that for several reasons. One is, obviously, for the safety of everybody involved, the officers and this protester, and then also to discourage others from doing something else like this.
But, at this point, for the last three hours, we have been watching emergency service unit personnel, highly trained and skill officers, try to coax this protester come down. In the meantime, hostage negotiators are also on the scene, learning any bits of information they can about this person to kind of sort of negotiate that person down to safety.
But it seems that it has been going on along enough, and we have been reporting that a rope rescue is the means of which they were going to try to get this person down. And that's what you're seeing with that red ladder and a long rope that we aren't positive, but we believe is connected to maybe the crown of the Statue of Liberty.
I just want to draw your attention. If you remember, back in 2016, we had a climber from Trump Tower using suction cups and, after a while, if you remember, ESU members cut out a piece of the window of Trump Tower in that year, in August, and they pulled him in. [18:05:02]
So, that's what it's going to get to at some point, where officers need to actually get at the foot of the Statue of Liberty and put this person in a harness, get them down, and then place them under arrest.
So, still unfolding. Nerve-racking situation, though, Jim, as this person keeps going back and forth at the foot there. And officers working tirelessly and in hot weather to get this person down.
ACOSTA: That's right, Brynn Gingras. And, obviously, with the fireworks getting started a couple of hours from now, they want to get that person out of there, and get that area reopened as well.
ACOSTA: So we are going to keep an eye on this situation. Brynn, thank you very much.
Let's bring in CNN justice correspondent Evan Perez and CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd to dissect this for us.
Phil, as you watch this unfold, as Brynn was saying, they brought in this additional ladder. They have to be careful with lowering this person off of Lady Liberty there, because, obviously, you can look at the pictures and just surmise this for yourself, I mean, that is a dangerous operation, not just for the protester, but for the rescuers themselves.
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Sure, but in a department of this size, 30-plus sworn officers in the New York Police Department, they practice this stuff all the time. Don't just think of Statue of Liberty.
Think of all the bridges around there and the risk those pose to people who are trying to jump off those bridges. Happens all the time. The number of adventure people who try to climb tall buildings in New York and jump off and parasailing.
So, you look at this, this is a dangerous situation. Anybody who believes that this protester is doing the right thing, I would encourage them to think about the risk they're putting officers into. But this is something NYPD does all the time, in terms of not only real-life situations, but also practicing this kind of stuff.
ACOSTA: And, Evan, what do you make of the timing of this protest? Obviously, it sounds like this group, and they're disassociating themselves, it sounds, somewhat from the protester who is on Lady Liberty, but they're trying to spread this message of opposing the president's immigration policies.
Obviously, this is not the right way to do it.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right, it really isn't. Look, there is an important conversation for people to be having here.
And if people want to bring attention to the fact that they believe these immigration policies, these policies by the president are inhumane, there are proper ways to do this.
I mean, driving down the street here in Washington, there are people who are putting up signs across the highway. There's all kinds of ways to do civil disobedience without putting people in danger. And this is extremely dangerous. I think the preference here for these police officers is to try to coax this person to come to her senses and to come down willingly, because there are other -- the other option is to try to force her down.
And that puts her in disabling. That puts these officers in danger.
ACOSTA: You could have a mishap, and you just don't know.
PEREZ: Right. There are so many ways that this could go wrong.
And that is a great distance for someone to fall. And, again, it detracts from their message. If you have a message here that the president is doing something inhumane, then this does not really help your message.
ACOSTA: Especially if you get these officers hurt, which we definitely don't want that to happen down there in New York City.
Gentlemen, thank you very much.
Stand by, because we have another breaking story right now, which is also in your wheelhouse. We just learned that two people found unconscious in Britain were exposed to the same nerve agent used in an attack on a former Russian spy.
CNN international correspondent Erin McLaughlin is in Amesbury, England, for us.
Erin, this is a very disturbing development over there. What's the latest?
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, disturbing and shocking, Jim.
Just a short while ago, the assistant commissioner for the counterterrorism police here in the U.K. confirming people's worst fears connected to this incident, that the deadly nerve agent Novichok, regarded by the British government as a weapon of mass destruction, somehow a British couple in their mid-40s became exposed to this nerve agent.
Take a listen to what the assistant commissioner had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEIL BASU, U.K. HEAD OF COUNTERTERRORISM OPERATIONS: We can confirm that the man and woman have been exposed to the nerve agent Novichok, which has been identified as the same nerve agent that contaminated both Yulia and Sergei Skripal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCLAUGHLIN: Now, British media have identified the couple as 45-year- old British national Charlie Rowley and his girlfriend, 44-year-old Dawn Sturgess.
And the timeline here is incredibly critical. It's thought that this couple had visited Salisbury some nine miles away on Friday evening. And Salisbury is very significant here, because that is where Sergei Skripal, the former Russian spy, and his daughter Yulia were exposed to a deadly nerve agent, the same exact nerve agent that this couple has now been exposed to.
Now, at the time, British government blamed Russia. Russia has denied that allegation. But this time around, British authorities saying they do not believe this particular couple in question was targeted. They cannot ascertain any sort of ties to Russia. But, again, this is a very ongoing and fluid investigation at this point as to how this ordinary British couple, four months after the Skripals were poisoned, became exposed to the very same nerve agent here in Wiltshire, England, Jim.
ACOSTA: Obviously, a lot of questions. CNN's Erin McLaughlin, thank you very much for that.
Joining me now, Representative Adam Smith, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.
You just heard that report from England, Congressman. This is very disturbing, because, obviously, either this is an attack on a target of some sort -- we don't know why investigators are looking into this -- or this is some sort of residual effect from the attack on the ex- Russian spy back in March, which I suppose speaks to the recklessness of that initial attack, because it not only put that ex-KGB spy in danger, but it also threatened the lives of people in that community, which is exactly what the British were worried about.
REP. ADAM SMITH (D), WASHINGTON: I mean, that would seem to be the most likely outcome here. There's no reason to believe that this couple was targeted.
But given where they were exposed, it seems quite likely this is residual from the original attack. But we will need more information on that. And it does bring us back to what Russia was doing there. And, of course, with the summit between President Trump and President Putin coming up here shortly, it brings into stark relief once again all that Russia is doing in the world, and really how concerned I am and a lot of others are about President Trump's meeting with President Putin.
What is he going to do? And now we hear that President Trump wants there to be nobody else in the room except for him and Putin, which means it won't even be documented. So, it so raises a lot of red flags.
ACOSTA: And do you trust President Trump -- I mean, you just mentioned this upcoming summit -- to confront Putin on this and other acts of Russian aggression? He is the president of the United States. Administration officials, they insist that the president will be tough with Vladimir Putin. Do you trust that when you hear that?
SMITH: Absolutely not.
I mean, there's no reason to believe that he will be. Look, I mean, you saw what happened at the G7. He's basically insulted and attacked our allies, placing tariffs on them, talking about how the G7 isn't pulling its weight, while at the same time praising Putin.
So, it so appears that the president is trying to reorient U.S. foreign policy towards Russia and away from our democratic allies in Europe. And that's deeply troubling, given all that Russia is doing to undermine democracy throughout Europe and our country and a lot of other places.
I believe the president is lining us up with an authoritarian dictator, instead of with democracies that promote economic and political freedom. I don't think that's what the United States should stand for. And I don't think it's in our long-term best interests in terms of our policy.
ACOSTA: And let's turn to the other breaking news we're following. What do you make of this Independence Day protest against President Trump's immigration policies?
There may have been an "Abolish ICE" T-shirt unfurled earlier or one by one of these protesters earlier in the afternoon. We're getting the latest on that as the information comes in.
But is this the best way to go about getting that message across? And are you concerned that, at some point, with this abolish ICE business, that Democrats are going to be painted as too extreme on this issue and you could be playing right into the president's hands on the immigration issue?
SMITH: Well, let's start with the most important issue, which is that President Trump's immigration policy and the way he has chosen to use ICE and enforce it is inhumane, horrific in terms of how it's treating people, and again directly contrary to best interests of the United States of America.
President Trump has basically made it clear that the U.S. no longer welcomes immigrants on a whole series of policies. Certainly, the one that has gotten the most attention was when he was separating children from their families.
But there have been a number of others. ICE is routinely making raids all across the country, picking up people who are legal permanent residents, based on, in many cases, a misdemeanor crime that they may have committed decades ago, ripping apart communities and sending the very clear message, immigrants aren't welcome. You see what President -- whenever President Trump talks about
immigrants, he talks about them as being criminals. He talks about...
ACOSTA: But what about this abolish ICE business? Is that going overboard, do you think?
SMITH: Well, it's not going overboard to say that we should stop what ICE is doing right now, that we should stop their policies. And I wouldn't even have a problem with saying, ICE, as it's currently constituted under the Department of Homeland Security, we should get rid of it.
But, look, obviously, you have to have some form of immigration enforcement. And in talking about abolish ICE, most of the people I have heard talk about that are really talking about the policies. They're not talking about open borders and talking about not having immigration enforcement.
But that immigration enforcement should be aimed at protecting our country, not terrorizing people in the community who pose no threat to our country.
ACOSTA: Let me ask you a related question on that. Members of Congress, they're trying to get answers on the families that have been separated, but the Department of Health and Human Services, you may be aware of this, says all of the congressional visits -- and you have seen a lot of them lately -- are creating -- quote -- "resource constraints" as it tries to reunite families.
Now, we know administration officials have been looking at these facilities, and the first lady went and visited some of these facilities.
What do you make of that? The administration saying, well, we can bring the DHS secretary over to these facilities and the first lady, but when members of Congress go, they're creating resource constraints. What do you make of that?
SMITH: I think that's absurd.
And this is another reason to want to get rid of ICE as it's currently constructed. There is no transparency. We don't know what's going on in there. And that's why members of Congress are desperately trying to get into these facilities to meet with the people and understand, well, what are you doing to unite families?
Why you holding the people that you're holding? There's a complete lack of transparency the way ICE currently does their business. And couple that with the open hostility of the Trump administration to all immigrants, and you can be very concerned about what they're doing if we can't see it.
So it's not a resource constraint. It's called the Constitution of the United States and Article I, the legislative prerogative to exercise oversight over the executive branch. And that's what we need to be doing.
And this lack of transparency only adds to the fear and concerns about what ICE is doing and how they are terrorizing families all across this country and, again, not in a way that makes us safer. When you're focused on people who are just members of their community who maybe committed a misdemeanor 20 years ago, you're not protecting the country from what might actually threaten us.
ACOSTA: OK, Representative Adam Smith raising some interesting questions. Thank you, Congressman, for your time. We appreciate it.
SMITH: Thank you.
ACOSTA: The breaking news continues ahead. We're going to have more on the poisoning of a British couple with the same Soviet-era nerve agent that was used on a former Russian spy.
And we're monitoring the standoff between a protester and police that has shut down the Statue of Liberty on this Fourth of July.
ACOSTA: And we're monitoring the situation at the Statue of Liberty, where a protester who climbed to the base is refusing to get down. Police are on the scene. We will have more on this breaking story just ahead.
Right now, though, President Trump is on the brink of finalizing one of his most significant and potentially enduring decisions. We're told he could settle on a Supreme Court nominee as soon as tomorrow.
Let's go to CNN senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.
Jeff, there's an 11th-hour lobbying campaign under way, as the president nears this decision. It's feeling very much like reality TV again over at the White House.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Jim, there's no question that people are trying to get their opinions to the president. Some are giving him phone calls directly. He was even taking calls when he was going to the golf course today on the July 4 holiday. Others are calling the White House.
But they're trying to make their views known. There is a fast and furious campaign going on in conservative media. Some arguing for and against various candidates. But it's clear tonight the president is nearing a decision only one week after Justice Anthony Kennedy retired.
ZELENY (voice-over): President Trump is only hours away from finalizing his choice for the Supreme Court.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have spent the last three days interviewing and thinking about Supreme Court justices. Such an important decision.
ZELENY: Tonight, CNN has learned the president is poised to make his decision Thursday or Friday. The pick will be a highly guarded secret until an announcement Monday, with a name included on a list with one or two other finalists, so aides in a new White House war room can spend the weekend gearing up for the confirmation fight.
The president leaving the White House on this holiday, spending four hours at his golf course in Sterling, Virginia, but taking calls along the way. At times this week, the president sounding like his mind is already made up.
TRUMP: I think you will be very impressed. These are really talented people, brilliant people. And I think you're going to really love it, like Justice Gorsuch. We hit a home run there, and we're going to hit a home run here.
ZELENY: To replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, the White House is following a similar rollout used for Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump's first nominee to the Supreme Court.
TRUMP: Please, Louise, Judge. Here they come. Here they come.
ZELENY: But the question is whether his second nominee will follow in the same ideological mode.
The president has interviewed at least seven potential justices, including these federal judges thought to be leading contenders, Brett Kavanaugh and Raymond Kethledge, both of whom clerked for Justice Kennedy, and Amy Coney Barrett and Joan Larsen, who clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
The president is also said to be considering Amul Thapar and Thomas Hardiman, who was runner-up to Gorsuch. All candidates are in their late 40 or low 50s, a sign the president is intent on leaving a long and lasting legacy.
TRUMP: We have to pick a great one. We have to pick one that's going to be there for 40 years, 45 years.
ZELENY: Tonight, the president is facing another decision, how long to keep embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in his Cabinet.
TRUMP: I'm not happy about certain things.
ZELENY: For months, the president has kept Pruitt on the job, despite more than a dozen investigations and far more controversies over his ethical conduct. But one administration telling CNN the White House is reaching a
tipping point on Pruitt, yet Pruitt is attending the Fourth of July picnic at the White House tonight.
TRUMP: Happy Fourth of July to everybody.
ZELENY: All this as new details are emerging about the president openly considering invading Venezuela during a meeting last August on diplomatic sanctions to the country. Aides urged him against using military force, fearing it would backfire on the U.S., but, a day later, the president publicly suggested he was still considering it.
TRUMP: We have many options for Venezuela. And, by the way, I'm not going to rule out a military option.
ZELENY: Tonight, one senior administration official telling CNN the president was simply thinking out loud about using force.
ZELENY: Now, the focus is on the Supreme Court pick. Again, it's been only one week, remarkably, since that retirement announcement from Anthony Kennedy, but Vice President Mike Pence, I'm told, also has met with more than one finalist.
Jim, one thing I'm remembering from that week ago when Justice Kennedy met with President Trump to bring over his retirement letter, the president asked Justice Kennedy if he had any advice on his successor. We don't know what he told him, but it is clear that one of the leading contenders, Brett Kavanaugh, was a former associate. He worked for Justice Kennedy as a law clerk.
So, certainly, that is one of the reasons, among many others, he is one of the leading contenders, but the president, of course, will have the final say on this, expected to make up his mind tomorrow or Friday, with that prime-time announcement, the big reveal, as he likes to say, on Monday -- Jim.
ACOSTA: Jeff Zeleny with the high-stakes pick for the president over at the White House, thank you very much.
Now, there's high drama, we should note, in New York City. You're looking at live pictures of the standoff between a protester and police at the Statue of Liberty. Police have made their way to where the protester is on the Statue of Liberty.
We are told by our Brynn Gingras there in New York that this protester has said she is not coming down until all of the children are released from the Trump administration's detention facilities.
You can see the police are up there on the Statue of Liberty right now. And just a few moments ago, they were very close to this protester. And then she moved away, around the side of the statue there. You're looking at that right now. You're looking at live pictures. But it appears these police
officers, these rescuers have had enough of this, and they're starting to make their way over to the protester. Obviously, as we were talking about this earlier with Phil Mudd and Evan Perez and Brynn Gingras, this is a very risky rescue operation that's unfolding on this Fourth of July.
But this protester, according to our Brynn Gingras -- and she's just reporting this, according to an NYPD source in the last few minutes -- this protester has said, because of the president's immigration policies, because of these children who have been separated from their parents, sometimes locked in cage-like jail cells, that this protester is saying she is not going to come down until all of the children are released.
Now, she has been up there around three hours now. She is associated with a group that is telling reporters that they did not intend to climb the Statue of Liberty. But, obviously, as you can see here, these police officers are trying to make their way over to the protester, but as they're making their way to her, she is trying to climb higher on to the Statue of Liberty, which is obviously a very dangerous thing to do.
She may have a very valid point when it comes to what's going on with those children on the border, but, as we're hearing from our experts and people who are up to speed on these kinds of rescue operations, this is not only a very dangerous thing to do for the protester; it's a very risky thing for these law enforcement officers.
You can see these rescuers right now. They have some harnessing equipment attached to their backs. That is apparently there, it seems to be there just in case they fall off. So this is an extremely dangerous operation, very high-risk, unfolding on the Fourth of July, in some pretty hot temperatures in New York City.
Liberty Island, as all of this is going on, has been evacuated. And we're watching this right now to see if these police officers can make their way around the statue to get a hold of this protester before she loses her grip and falls off of the Statue of Liberty, which, obviously, we don't want to see that happen.
As much as people might disagree with how she's trying to get her point across, we don't want anybody to get hurt, not on Lady Liberty, not on the Fourth of July.
And Phil Mudd is sitting down with us.
Phil, this has obviously taken a turn here in the last several minutes. We had not seen up until this point the police officers -- and you can see that harnessing equipment attached to them -- make their way onto the statue to try to pull this protester down, but this protester seems very determined to continue this protest against the president's immigration policy.
MUDD: Sure, but let's look at a couple of other characteristics here. First, if you have looked at the photos we've had on, the live photos
all the past couple of hours, there's a lot of officers at risk here. How long do you want them up there at risk?
The second is, this individual herself, how confident are you going to be there if she sits up there another half-an-hour, she's not going to misstep?
So, this is not all about the officers being aggressive. This is also about public safety issues.
One last issue, it's 6:30 at night here on the East Coast. You go into 7:30, 8:00, 8:30 at night, do you want to be doing this in the dark?
ACOSTA: No, it's going to get more dangerous. Yes.
MUDD: That's right. So, you have got to figure out to...
ACOSTA: And you have got a fireworks celebration that's going to be -- yes.
And it looks like the protester right now, she's taking her shoes and socks off. We're not exactly sure why. My guess is to get a better grip. She thinks she's going to get a better grip on the side of the statue, Phil Mudd. Is that what we're seeing? It's hard to tell.
MUDD: That's what I'm seeing.
And going back to a point I made a moment ago, the officers engaging with this individual have a sense of what her mental state is and whether, if they continue to engage her, she's likely to break down in the next 15, 20, 30 minutes.
If their assessment is no, at some point, they have got to engage her, because they can't be doing this at nighttime.
ACOSTA: And this has just been developing in the last few minutes, Phil Mudd.
Before they had those ladders there, it seemed as if, as you were saying earlier on this program, they were trying to empathize with her, try to talk her down, try to talk her out of this.
But they have moved on to the statue now. They have obviously run out of patience with this situation. Our Brynn Gingras is joining us live in New York.
Brynn, as you're watching this unfold, it does appear that the NYPD has said, enough is enough; it's time for this lady...
ACOSTA: ... no matter what her cause is, what her protest is about, she's got to come down.
GINGRAS: Yes, that's right, Jim. That's what I was told from a source, that a supervisor on the scene would make that call.
[18:30:10] That enough coaxing has happened and that these officers were going to be harnessed in and actually brought to the same level of this girl.
But this is unfolding right before our eyes. You can see she took her socks and shoes off, and she's actually trying to climb even further up the Statue of Liberty. And you can tell now these officers, this is even a more precarious situation. So they are moving in very quickly.
ACOSTA: And Brynn, they're moving in quickly right now. And this is getting more dangerous by the second. She is attempting -- this woman is attempting to climb the statue. She's taken her shoes and socks off.
ACOSTA: This is something else.
Phil Mudd, what is your impression, as you're watching this right now? Looks like the officer is trying to talk to her.
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Yes, but they've made -- they've made a judgment that they can't afford to have her continue to climb. She's putting herself at risk. This is just about closing out the situation. This is ensuring she doesn't slip and fall and kill herself. This is also securing her safety, not just theirs.
ACOSTA: A hundred and fifty-four feet up right now. That's from the base to the pedestal. And unlike those NYPD officers who have harnessing equipment, that, I suppose, is there, Phil, in case they have a misstep. They somehow fall. That harnessing equipment is there to make sure that they don't fall and get hurt.
But, it seems like they're getting much closer, Phil. This is the closest they've been in the last three hours. And now she's moving again. She's attempting took back under the shoe. The picture freezing up there a little bit, Phil.
How is this going to play out, do you think? I mean, it seems like --
GINGRAS: It looks like they're getting her. They got her. They got her. They got her.
ACOSTA: Our Brynn Gingras --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, wow!
ACOSTA: -- we're watching this on a little bit of a delay. We are now watching the live pictures with that delay. We can now see the officers have her. They are now helping her put her shoes back on. It looks as if they may try to put a harness on her. GINGRAS: Exactly.
ACOSTA: Brynn, this is such dangerous work.
GINGRAS: This is really dangerous work. Again, they practiced hours for this, but this is extremely dangerous work.
Remember, these officers have been working since 3:15. She's been up there since about then. So not only is it hot, it's tiring. But, yes, they were able to get to her, and that's exactly right, Jim. They'll put a harness on her and make sure that they can get her tethered to those ropes, just like the officers. They'll walk her down. Sometimes they even put them in handcuffs right there and then. It's unclear. I don't know about this sort of situation, being at the foot of the Statue of Liberty, if that will be safe enough.
But we know from experience of climbing on the bridges with these officers, that they will actually put them in handcuffs and lead them down in handcuffs. So we'll see if that happens.
But certainly, she's likely being placed under arrest very soon, if not now. And they will bring her down the same ladder that those officers came up, and then they'll be brought, what I'm told by a source, is to the harbor unit who are standing by there on the water, and she'll likely travel right to where the Staten Island Ferry is, and there's a police precinct in there; and that's where they'll process her.
But this was certainly a precarious situation, as this woman decided that maybe it was best if she even climbed further. Of course, as you saw, those officers did not want that to happen.
GINGRAS: But, you know, I want to mention, they did try for a long time to coax her down.
ACOSTA: That's right.
GINGRAS: Hostage negotiation teams were on the scene. And I was told by a source that she was saying she's not going to come down, because she wanted to, quote, "all the children to be released." Remember, she was part of an anti-immigration group protest that was there earlier this -- this evening, or this afternoon. So it's possible once she said that, these officers made that decision to go up there themselves.
ACOSTA: Well, they certainly can't allow a protester to go up on the Statue of Liberty, as much as our hearts go out for those kids down on the border, and we certainly want them released as soon as possible and sent back to their parents, you can haven't a protester on the Statue of Liberty saying, "I'm not coming down until those children are released" --
ACOSTA: -- because she could be up there for goodness knows how long.
Brynn, I'm trying to make my -- trying to make sense of these pictures we're looking at right now. It looks like they're restraining the protester, to some extent, or perhaps maybe putting a harness on this protester, much in the same way that those police officers have that harness equipment on them. In the event there's some kind of slip-up or mishap or even just, you know, somebody who's been up there for a while and they take a tumble, you want to make sure that harnessing equipment is on that person to make sure this doesn't get any worse.
GINGRAS: Exactly right. That's what they're going to do. They're placing multiple harnesses, usually around the legs and also the body, so that she's fully harnessed in.
And then what we've experienced when we train with them is that they then tether that to the same lines that those two officers are tethered to. And I'm unclear what they're tethered to, whether it be the crown of the Statue of Liberty or the base.
[18:35:05] But they will -- since there's two of them, one will likely walk in front of her, one will likely walk behind her, and they will walk her the same way they just got to her. They'll walk along the edge of the Statue of Liberty and then down that ladder and then again, right down to the base, into the boat, to bring her to an actual police precinct inside the Staten Island Ferry, is what I'm told, although that could change.
But yes, this is all about safety right now. I mean, it's about making sure that she's OK and also that she's safe, but also, she's going to be put under arrest.
I mean, she put these officers through a lot, Jim. And let's remember -- I know you've been saying it -- but it's July Fourth. We have ESU, other officers of the NYPD already taxed with all the fireworks displays --
ACOSTA: That's right.
GINGRAS: -- that are going to be happening here in the city. So this really took from resources. I mean, certainly, there's a lot of officers here in New York City, a lot of members of the ESU, but certainly, this is not something they wanted to have to deal with on such a busy day already.
ACOSTA: And it is a reminder, if you're diverting resources from other parts of their operations there on Fourth of July, you don't know whether or not you're putting some other situation at risk, if officers can't respond to another situation, because they've been diverted over here.
But Brynn, as we're watching this protester apparently being equipped with a harness to make sure this doesn't get any worse. A hundred and fifty-four feet from the base of the Statue of Liberty to the pedestal where Lady Liberty stands.
Tell us a little bit about the training that these officers the go through, as much as you can tell us, to deal with situations like this. My guess is that they're not afraid of heights, that they're used to dealing with this sort of thing.
GINGRAS: Yes, they're not afraid of heights. And listen, we did a training exercise, actually, climbing to the Brooklyn Bridge with them, which is a higher structure than this, I think almost double this.
GINGRAS: They deal with this stuff all the time. And they train for this stuff all the time. And it's a combined unit -- you know, combined units. It's not just ESU. You know, they're getting help right now from the aviation unit in the air, who was able to spot her constantly, while ESU members were on the side and out of -- you know, she was out of their line of sight.
It's also the members of the hostage negotiation team that were just there at the pedestal, basically just making phone calls, getting information about this woman, who she was, what she wanted, why she wasn't coming down, you know, sort of her demands and trying to coax her, which, again, as we said, they did for quite a while, until they made this sort of decision that they had to go up and actually get her for the safety of everyone.
But, they climb extremely high structures. They do these rope systems all the time. And in fact, that's probably, if I was to guess, what took the most time --
GINGRAS: -- is to actually build this rope system, so that they were safe when officers actually were able to get on. And I'll be honest, I put on one of those harnesses myself, they're very heavy and they take a while to put on. I remember when the officer was putting me in one for the bridge climb, it took a good, like, 15 minutes just to get one of those on me. I mean, those are -- really, you are tethered in, you are safe.
And we're talking about two officers and now this protester, who's going to be attached to one to get down. But that's what they're doing right now. So you can see --
GINGRAS: -- that's why it's taking a while. Because it is such a strong structure that they want to make sure it is safe and working correctly.
ACOSTA: Incredible, incredible work.
And Phil Mudd, when you're dealing, when you're negotiating with somebody like this, you obviously have to be talking to that person, reasoning with that person, getting that person comfortable with the fact that "The show is over. You're coming down." Can you talk to us a little bit about what these officers may be
saying to this person right now, to make sure this person doesn't flip out and endanger the whole situation there?
MUDD: Well, there's a couple of things going on. First, keep calm. We're talking about the safe resolution to this.
I have another question, whether you get a sense that the person is so mentally unstable that they're going to jump. To the first, is I don't want to agitate this individual. I want to have a calm dialogue that has some sense of reasonableness, and I want to express some sort of sympathy. Whether you want to believe it or not. "Look, what are you thinking? What's going on in your mind? I can understand how that would concern you. Let's talk about it."
But meanwhile, as Brynn was suggesting, as we've talked about, they've got to get a sense of whether she's going to talk through it or whether she's going to stay up there. And if their suggestion, as Brynn's suggesting, was that she ain't going to move, you can't sit there forever.
Last thing I'd say, boy, sigh of relief, what we haven't mentioned, is when they're walking over there, my first question is, my first question is, is she going to resist?
MUDD: We didn't see that happening.
ACOSTA: Can you do that, Phil? Can you handcuff somebody and equip them with a harness and bring them down involuntarily? That seems to me a very dangerous prospect, as we're watching this unfold.
MUDD: Again, I've got to believe they got a sense from her mentally about whether they were going to face a resistant scenario.
But Brynn was also talking about the amount of time it's going to take on that kind of structure to get them harnessed in, so if she does -- we're not just talking about potential accident here. We're talking about engaging with a suspect who doesn't want to move. If she does, they're safe. And that had to take them a lot of time. I'm sure that was part of the air gap between when they got up there and when they engaged her. They had to have harnessing that kept them safe.
[18:40:12] ACOSTA: OK. Well, let's recap for our viewers what they're watching right now. And some of this may be developing as we're talking, so we may have to just describe it as we're seeing it here.
But just to recap, about 3 1/2 hours ago, a protester affiliated with a group protesting the president's immigration policies climbed up onto the Statue of Liberty. We've been watching this rescue operation unfold over the last couple of hours.
For a while, police were showing some patience in allowing this person to be up there. They've obviously run out of patience and made the point to this person that they're coming down.
It does appear at this point that they're making their way around the base of the Statue of Liberty here, on top of the pedestal, and using this harness and rope system. It looks like they're trying to maneuver this person over to the point where they can then lower this person down off of the statue and onto the pedestal and then down to safety.
Brynn Gingras, as you're watching this unfold, what would you like to add? What are you seeing here? Because it looks like, again, this person was moving. Now this person is stopping.
ACOSTA: It doesn't -- it does not appear that this person, that this protester is a fully cooperative person who is coming down, hopefully, soon off of this statue.
GINGRAS: Right, she's looking like she's making the situation worse for herself is what it looks like to me. She looks a little defiant at this point.
You can see, though, as I mentioned before, there's the two officers, one in front who was guiding her at one point, and then the one in back. They don't have her handcuffed, but he's got his hold on her as an extra sort of reinforcement to all those harnesses you can see that she's wearing.
Again, she's tethered to those lines, so if there was a slip, she would be on a line. Let's remember that. So she is safe, but he does have his arm there, his hand on her waist, tethered there.
But, yes, this is just about now encouraging her, telling her, basically, this is over, and we need to come down safely. And it looks like now, finally, she's agreeing that maybe it's time. So --
ACOSTA: Looks like she's moving in that direction, doesn't it?
GINGRAS: Exactly. And right around the corner, I mean, it's really not too far from where she is. I know we have a close-up shot here.
ACOSTA: There's some tight spaces, right, Brynn? I mean, there was some space underneath the foot, but on other parts, if the camera zooms out at some point, you can see it's a little tighter as they move around, so they have to be careful.
GINGRAS: Yes, exactly. And I did talk to a source, Jim, before officers actually got up there, and there -- we mentioned that second ladder. I was hearing from a source that it was possible they were going to have an officer go around the other side of the Statue of Liberty --
GINGRAS: -- to actually get her, because she was just not coming to where they needed her to be, to almost sort of block her in and close off each way of running.
But it looks like the advantage for these officers at one point was the actual foot of the Statue of Liberty, which was blocking a way for this protester to get around. So, it looks like that's why these two officers went this direction.
But, you know, this is amazing to see, these officers working with someone who does seem to be incredibly defiant to their commands, obviously. And trying to get her down. So the next step is going to get her down that same ladder that you see that one officer standing on right now.
ACOSTA: And fortunately, they're getting closer, Brynn, it look like.
What can you tell us, though, about this protester and this group? Because you were making the point earlier, this person wanted to get up there and say, "I'm not coming down until all of the children are released down on the border, due to the president's family separation policy." This person was affiliated with a group. There were some other arrests earlier in the day. What can you tell us?
GINGRAS: Yes, this -- this group was -- is part of Rise and Resist, they call themselves. It's a group that was formed in 2016, a direct response to the election. They're New York-based.
If you look on their website, they say that they, quote, "condemn policies that define current government regime" and that they, quote, "aim to oust the Trump administration."
They showed up to the Statue of Liberty wearing T-shirts that read out, "Abolish ICE." There was eight in all. And then seven of them were arrested there on the scene.
But this eighth protester is the one who went and climbed, somewhere -- I'm waiting to hear how she actually got up there.
GINGRAS: And the group actually says that they didn't condone that. That was not part of the planned protest. It was done without their knowledge. So the group is really separating themselves from this individual protester.
Again, this is something that officers, once she is down and safely and arrested, this is something they're going to talk to her about. How did you get up there?
GINGRAS: Really, because if you remember, someone climbed the Brooklyn Bridge -- I'm forgetting the year, but if you remember, someone climbed the Brooklyn Bridge and changed out the American flags that are at the top of the bridge and turned them into white flags. And since then, NYPD has put up these big barriers on either side of the Brooklyn Bridge to prevent that from happening again.
[18:45:03] So I can imagine, after she gets down and has some sort of communication with officers and detectives, that there'll be some sort of safeguards put in place around the Lady Liberty there to prevent this from happening again.
ACOSTA: And, of course, we understand the connection between immigration and the Statue of Liberty. It is the immigrant statue, even says so on the National Park Service Website. It's been a symbol welcoming immigrants to the United States for decades now. Emma Lazarus' poem, "The New Colussus", that's affixed to the Statue of Liberty, give your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, we understand the connection between immigration and the Statue of Liberty. Lady Liberty, foreign birth, French birth, a gift from the nation of France to the United States, we are all very mindful of that.
But this person, Phil Mudd, going about it the wrong way, because you're just endangering so many people on the Fourth of July. Rescuers who are supposed to be there in the harbor, keeping the public safe from other things, and now, this person is involved in causing a very high-risk dangerous situation there on the Statue of Liberty. We've never seen anyone really do something like this, climbing up on the Statue of Liberty, that we know of. Obviously, we can go back and search our archives and see if something similar has happened, but we don't recall anything like this happening.
MUDD: And I think, it's going to turn out people who want to gain attention and turn out to be monumentally stupid. Look, we go back a week, and if you look at, to make this political for just a second, because it is a political protest. If you go back a week, there's a conversation about women and children, and separate them.
The conversation then shifts to abolish ICE, and I think a lot of people like me are saying, excuse me, ICE is simply executing the policy of a president that was duly elected by the American people. The president of the United States, I can't get in his brain, I don't want to, but I guarantee you, he's going to say, I told you so.
These people want --
ACOSTA: He's going to seize on this.
MUDD: He's going to seize on this and say, these people want law enforcement eliminated, they want open borders, they want criminals from Mexico in this country. As much as these people might have had an idea that they could succeed, this is going to be an epic failure.
By the way, I also hope they get to pay for this. You know how expensive this stuff is? They just cost us and New Yorkers a ton of money. Not only in what this is costing today, but in additional security measures you're going to have to put around the Statue of Liberty.
ACOSTA: Yes, because these special rescuers, I mean, they're on standby for something like this to happen, but they may not have been on duty, not all of them may have been on duty for something like this, but they have to spring into action, put down their barbecue or whatever family get-together they're at, and jump in a car and race over to the Statue of Liberty, which obviously takes time and manpower and resources. This is a hugely costly operation for the city of New York and all these agencies that are involved in this.
MUDD: Sure, and the after-action you have to go through at the NYPD and elsewhere. People on the island are going to have to say, do we have to put physical barriers in place to stop this? Future tourists who want see the Statue of Liberty, it's our statue, are you going to have to put restrictions on how they move?
ACOSTA: And remember how long it was closed in the post-9/11 days, as they were trying to provide additional security there. You don't want somebody doing something like this and causing other security measures there that make it a difficult experience for people coming to the statue.
OK, obviously, this is now developing into a situation where it appears this protester has come to her senses and she is now coming down the Statue of Liberty. She has that harness attached to her at this point. Something she didn't have when she first climbed up on to the statue. And it now looks like there's an officer, there's a rescuers underneath her.
And almost four hours now, since this whole saga began. And it seems that this protester is now willingly cooperating with authorities and climbing down that ladder there, to get down to the base of the statue.
Brynn Gingras, if I can bring you back in, tell us what you're seeing right now and what your impressions are? It does look like we're getting closer to the end.
GINGRAS: We are, and, Jim, I actually just learned from a source, the person in charge there is a member who was actually part of the Puerto Rico rescue efforts. This supervisor from the emergency services unit actually went to Puerto Rico, was part of those relief refrigerates, was part of the crew that would create these rope systems to get across flooded rivers, to get to people and get them relief packages.
So, it kind of speaks to the pulley system we're seeing here -- not pulley, but the rope system you're seeing there, how elaborate it is. You can imagine how long it took to build that on the statue of liberty, in order to make sure that those officers could safely get to her and then safely get her down. And a little while ago, we actually saw those officers putting her harness system to a rope system, a vertical rope system, when before she was attached to almost the officer.
[18:50:08] So then she was attached to a new rope. If you can sort of see it.
ACOSTA: Yes, we certainly can.
GINGRAS: So, it's a constant, you know, attaching and reattaching to ropes as they move her along safely, along this. But, yes, this is -- we're just seconds away from her safely being on ground. You can see all those officers there with the blue helmets. That's the S.U. These are the officers that did it.
ACOSTA: Brynn, looks like we are getting close to the conclusion of all this. Thank goodness, a safe conclusion.
ACOSTA: And, Phil Mudd, as you're looking at this, any final thoughts as we're going to be going to break here in just a few seconds?
MUDD: Yes, boy, I just have to tell you, watching the courage of people in Annapolis, Maryland, just a few days ago who stepped over and didn't know how many people were in that building and had the courage to save, the courage of these officers. I'm going to go home, have a drink and celebrate July 4th.
I am proud to be an American. These guys are great.
ACOSTA: We're so proud of our first responders in this country, and this is another shining example of you don't think about it every day but police officers, firefighters, rescuers such as these, they put their lives on the line each and every day.
Just an amazing effort. This took place over four hours, nearly four hours since this protester climbed up onto the Statue of Liberty. Obviously, a symbol to the world that we welcome immigrants in this country no matter who's in the White House.
But thank goodness this is coming to a safe conclusion here on the 4th of July.
We're going to have much more on the breaking news. Stick with us. We'll be right back.
[18:55:10] ACOSTA: A standoff at the Statue of Liberty ends as police remove a woman protesting the president's immigration policies.
Let's go live to CNN's Brynn Gingras in New York.
Brynn, we're looking at some pictures from just a few moments ago when the protester was removed from the statue. What more can you tell us?
GINGRAS: Yes, pretty incredible moments, Jim. They brought her down to safety, likely now put under arrest. We know she'll be transported via the harbor units there to a precinct on the Manhattan side to be arrested.
Again, this was a woman who was part of a larger protest, a group called Rise and Resist. They went to the Statue of Liberty earlier this afternoon with the intent to -- with shirts saying "Abolish ICE," the intent to speak out about immigration policies. And this according to the group was a rogue protester. All eight now have been arrested. The seven were arrested earlier, and now this eighth woman just arrested.
But this group basically on their Website says they aim to oust the Trump administration. And she had said to investigators who were there on the scene that she wasn't going to come down until, quote, all the children are released, end quote.
Of course officers had to get up there and get her down safely, which they did.
ACOSTA: All right. Brynn Gingras, great work following this for us. Thank you very much.
Now, let's get an update on immigration policy that this woman was protesting.
Let's go to CNN's national correspondent Miguel Marquez. He's in Texas near the border.
Miguel, you have new information about the fate of some of these detained immigrants. What can you tell us?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this may be the biggest news since a California judge ordered the repatriation, the reunification of those 2,047 children with their family. A lawyer that we work with here that knows a lot of the immigrants who are detained in Texas, she, her firm, and several volunteers that have come in to help represent some 210 parents of separated families, today, they got word detention officers or deportation officers at ICE are working on the 4th of July. They got word that nine of their clients have now been issued bond.
It sounds small. This is huge for these people. It is the first time -- they have been denied bond all along. It is the first time these individuals have the hope of getting out of detention and then finding their kids. This is how the lawyer described the moment when she told one of her clients they were actually going to get out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUEZ: When you told your clients you have bond, what was the response?
JODI GOODWIN, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: One of them fell down on her knees and just cried. She couldn't believe it.
MARQUEZ: And who is her child or children?
GOODWIN: She has a son that is 15 years old, and he's in New York.
MARQUEZ: So, they're going to have -- for these people, after all of this, the journey has really just begun.
GOODWIN: Right. But for them this is a major bright spot, to be able to know that not only did they finally pass their credible fear interviews, but now, they've been given the opportunity to be able to pay a bond, to be released from detention. (END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUEZ: So, this is the first sign that we have -- and this lawyer, Jodi Goodwin, believes that this is the first of many, many of these individuals who have passed part of the asylum claim. The credible fear test, as they say, as it's called. They passed that.
Then they're able to get bond. They have to make bond. It's $1,500 to $2,500. If they can do that, then they can get out of detention.
Then they have to find their kids. These nine families, all of their kids are in different states. Some of them have multiple kids. They'll have to work with Health and Human Services to find out where their kids are, apply to get their kids back and then probably get to that state to get their kids back.
So, it is going to be a very, very long process for these families, but it is the first sign that the reunifications ordered by a judge are beginning to take place on a much larger basis.
ACOSTA: And, Miguel, very quickly something, detainees say they were moved outside of a facility where the homeland security secretary was visiting last week. What can you tell us about that very quickly?
MARQUEZ: Yes, Kirstjen Nielsen visited three locations here. Some detainees say they were moved while she was visiting the Port Isabel Detention Center. DHS says it wasn't clear to them that anyone was moved. Some of the detainees indicate that they tried to ask her to release their kids, but it is not clear. DHS says that never happened.
So, it's really not clear what the truth is in that situation -- Jim.
ACOSTA: More to sort out there, but some good news down on the border.
Miguel Marquez, thank you very much.
I'm Jim Acosta. Thanks very much for watching us on this 4th of July. Happy 4th of July, and may the spirit of Lady Liberty be with all of you tonight.
More news ahead here on CNN.