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DOJ May Ask for Extension on Reunification Deadlines; Trump Launches Trade War Against China. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired July 6, 2018 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:00] ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: -- New Jersey. She's just down the road from where President Trump is spending the weekend.

So, Abby, the Department of Justice says it might need an extension on one of these deadlines, correct?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erica. This is coming amidst some news from the Department of Homeland Security and the Health and Human Services Department that they are working on this problem but the Department of Justice lawyers facing status update hearing this afternoon in San Diego, it submitted a new filing basically saying they need more time to figure out how to get these parents back together with their children, including some parents who are potentially already deported or are scattered across the country.

The government is saying that they are working on the problem. They devoted additional resources to it. But the judge had set a July 10th date for children under the age of 5 to be reunited. And a July 26th date for children over the age of 5. They're saying they may not be able to meet those deadlines.

Now this is coming after Health and Human Services head, Alex Azar, said just yesterday that there were under 3,000 children in DHS custody who had been separated from their families. Now that's more people than we initially thought. Just nine days ago we had been told by the government that there were about 2,000 children. This is now a larger universe of children that might encompass kids who were separated before the beginning of May.

The Department of Justice is now saying they are trying to use other techniques, including DNA testing, to reunite these children with their parents. But those kinds of techniques require more time. They're also seeking some additional guidance about what to do with those parents who may not be entitled to be reunited with their child perhaps because it's not safe or because they have concerns that the child might not be safe with their parent who might have crossed the border illegally.

So there's a lot that they're asking for here. But it's clear that they are not quite ready to meet that filing deadline, the first of which coming up in just a few days on July 10th for the youngest of the children in the government's custody right now -- Erica.

HILL: And that is raising more and more questions. Abby, thank you. Breaking this morning, the administration, as we mentioned, said it

may need to extend the reunification deadlines for migrant families. This on the first day of those three deadlines. Today is the deadline for separated parents at the border to be able to speak with their children. It is still unclear, though, how many separated children are actually in the government's care. Health and Human Services says there are less than 3,000 children. But here's the thing. That number is far higher than what we had previously been told. Remember, the last number we had was 2,047.

CNN correspondent Nick Valencia is at a call center in Texas. So where they should be putting parents and children in contact today -- Nick.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we're at this call center here run by RAICES, it's an advocacy group for undocumented immigrants. They provide legal services as well as services pro bono as well.

We're here with the executive director, Jonathan Ryan.

Thank you so much for taking the time this morning. You guys are going to have a busy day today. What's going on here?

JONATHAN RYAN, RAICES EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Yes, well, we're up against a deadline for the government to connect families over the phone. We've, as we have for the past few weeks, been working the phones with our hotline. Families and detained folks are calling on our 866- ESTAMOS, which mean we are here, hotline to try to connect families and help reunify them here stateside, not through deportation or mass detention.

VALENCIA: You're part of so many groups and immigration lawyers that are trying to hold the Trump administration accountable to this deadline. The first in a series of deadlines. We're talking about phone communication, July 10th being, with children 5 and under. In your efforts, what have been hurdles for you?

RYAN: They've really been hurdles all along the way. When we get information about people who are being searched for, we have to call out to detention centers, all of which have different protocols as to whether they'll confirm or deny. There are detention centers that are at this point of just hanging up on us once we call them. And then even when we have been able to connect with people and be able to pay their bonds, yesterday I went to immigration to try to pay five bonds. There are five women who should be free right now. But we were essentially rejected at the front desk because we didn't have bus tickets and airplane tickets for them.

VALENCIA: Is that standard procedure? I mean, I have never heard of that before.

RYAN: No, it's new to us as well. And in fact that's been ironed out through communications. Then we hope to pay those bonds today. But these are examples of these little hurdles, these little pushbacks that we get that makes helping so many people quickly really a difficult logistic. VALENCIA: And we have just a little bit of time here, tell us what

these folks here are doing right now and what they're going to be doing throughout the morning.

RYAN: Sure. So, you know, we receive phone calls from families, from detained people. And we work the phones. We are reaching out to other service providers who may be already serving them. We call the detention centers. And then overnight, as these phone messages are coming in, we're then following up with family members. And also following up with those who have already called us to try to confirm that we have located their family member and that we're going to be sending somebody out to the detention center to work with them.

VALENCIA: Jonathan Ryan, executive director with RAICES, you guys have a busy day today here.

One of the first deadlines, or the first deadline I should say, Erica, in the series of deadlines ordered by a federal judge today, July 6, phone contact for parents and children.

[10:05:05] And we are hearing reports in some cases, I spoke to a detained mother yesterday, HHS Secretary Azar said that these families were getting two phone calls a week. This mother says a much different story, that she's not getting communication. In fact, she really doesn't know where her child is.

We're working on other reports as well from immigration attorneys who say that some families have not made any contact at all. We're working to verify those reports as well -- Erica.

HILL: All right, Nick. Thank you.

And joining me now, CNN political commentators Patti Solis Doyle and Kevin Madden.

As we look at all of this, so the new number is under 3,000 children. That's still significant. And one would imagine if there were just under 3,000, that's a jump from the 2,047 children that we knew of previously. 100 of them are 5 and under. The government only has until next week to reunite those kids with their parents.

Kevin, this is a PR nightmare to put it mildly. But these are children that we're talking about. How has this been so badly bungled? What is the sense of why it's become so difficult for this to be fixed?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think quite simply, it's just administrative chaos. There's not a lot of clarity on the policy. And therefore, there is not a lot of efficiency on the execution of how these folks are handled down at the border. And I think it's a sign -- I think one of the big problems now for the administration and many of the administration supporters in Congress is that this is a sign that administrative chaos is going to continue.

That they still have problems executing with the folks that are supposed to be administrating the policy at the border. And that this is going to be a problem that lingers all the way through November. And so I think what you'll see now, you know, a lot of people thought maybe we put this behind us with the executive order from two weeks ago. But instead, you're going to have similar problems with the optics of children not being connected with their families.

And you're going to have some constituents who are outraged about some of these images or some of this news that's coming out of the border. And they're going to continue to put pressure on members of Congress. And we're back to where we were two weeks ago. So it seems like nothing really has changed in the last two to three weeks.

HILL: Yes. It does seem exactly that way, Patti, except that there appear to be perhaps more children than we were told initially who are in the care of government. But the fact that they don't have accurate record keeping here is mind boggling to say the least. And the fact that there doesn't seem to be a lot of pressure in terms of fixing it. To Kevin's point, we're really seeing it's this circuitous back and forth of finger pointing.

PATTI SOLIS DOYLE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's right. I mean, with all due respect, this is much more than a PR bungle. This is a humanitarian crisis created by the president of the United States of America. And I believe that our country will wear the stain of this crisis for decades and decades to come.

The fact that the number jumped from 2,000 to 3,000, you know, seemingly overnight is horrifying and jaw-dropping. As the federal judge famously said, you know, when you go to prison, you get a receipt for your wallet. But when they take away your child, you get nothing. And on top of the -- you know, these horrendous images of the cages and now, you know, just today we heard a story of a 14- month-old -- a 14-month-old who had not been bathed for 85 days, covered in lice.

These stories will continue. But there's no sense of urgency on behalf of the administration to reunite these children with their families. There's no task force, there's no czar, there's no anything, you know, lighting a fire under HHS and DHS to unify these children despite the court order. And it's just -- it's tragic.

HILL: And to your point, this is far more than a PR nightmare. So please don't think I was in any way making light of this. It is horrifying and these are thousands of children and thousands of parents who don't know where potentially -- who don't know where their children are. There's no getting around that and there's nothing partisan about the outrage as we all look at that.

Kevin, one would think, though, that that would be enough of a motivator, even if you are simply looking at it from a PR standpoint, even if it is that callous. Simply just to get things together. You talked about how there's chaos. Shouldn't this be the thing that can cut through that chaos, though? It's nothing but a win for the president if he can fix this. Even though he created it.

MADDEN: But if we return to two weeks ago, that was what motivated the White House to provide a little bit more clarity to the folks that are dealing with this at the border. And I think that's where the pressure will come. I know we don't want to think about the politics of this. But the pressure will come when a lot of people who see these images and recognize this chaos start putting pressure on some members of Congress that are up for re-election this year.

And when those messages are then transported to the White House and I think that's what will motivate them into action.

[10:10:07] It's what happened two weeks ago. I expect we'll be going through this cycle again.

HILL: We're certainly going to stay on this story because these are answers that not only those families deserve but that the American public deserves as well.

I do want to pivot a little bit to what we heard from the president last night. A lot of talk from the president back up there stumping in many ways, with many similar themes as to what we heard in 2016. But what really stood out were certain comments, especially directed at Senator Warren. Take a listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let's say I'm debating Pocahontas, right? I promise you I'll do this. I will take -- you know those little kits they sell on television for $2? Learn your heritage. We will take that little kit and say -- but we have to do it gently because we're in the Me Too generation so we have to be very gentle.


HILL: Tone deaf on a number of levels. Obviously this shows the president doesn't fully grasp what the Me Too movement is. The myriad issues in terms of continuing to use Pocahontas. But at the same time he's also joking about DNA testing when children are being DNA tested after being separated from their parents.

Patti, the bottom line, though, is this plays well with the president's base. And so we're probably going to hear a lot more of it.

SOLIS DOYLE: But I think that the attack on Senator Warren is not new and it's not surprising. I think the public mocking of the Me Too movement is new. It's not surprising, but it is new. And look, this is a man, a president who has zero respect for women, whether it's -- he is bragging about grabbing them by their genitals or ranking them on a scale from one to 10, or calling them pigs.

He has 20 women who have accused him of sexual harassment or sexual assault. And now publicly mocking the Me Too movement is another layer of that disrespect for women. The problem is, is that women have already proven that they are a pivotal voice in the midterm elections. They have proven that as candidates, more women than ever are running and actually winning. And they've proven that more importantly as voters. We saw that in the Virginia election, in the Alabama election, in the Pennsylvania elections.

And I believe that this rhetoric on behalf of the president is only going to motivate them more and ignite their anger towards him and towards, you know, all of the men, whether it's Harvey Weinstein or Bill Cosby, or, I can go down the list.

HILL: Kevin, when it comes to all of this rhetoric, there has been, of course, this discussion in the country over the last couple of weeks about the need for more civility, which probably most people would agree with we need across the board here. But with the White House pushing for more civility and then hearing this rhetoric from the top -- I know we had this conversation -- do they have a leg to stand on here when it's consistently back and forth? Is it really about civil discourse or is it more about having control of the political narrative?

MADDEN: Well, look, there's always a canyon between what the White House staff is promoting as their message and what the president is actually saying. Most political professionals will be puzzled that the president continues to return to these type of topics, particularly when you have -- you know, we had a jobs report come out today, 213,000 new jobs created, unemployment at a very strong low.

You know, GDP growth clocking in around 4 percent. And yet the president is litigating on areas and terrain that he's most vulnerable on. But he simply doesn't care. And in many times when he gets before these crowds, his most adoring fans, he loves to sort of, you know, pick somebody who's an easy foil like Elizabeth Warren, and attack them. And get an applause line.

It's not moving the ball on his agenda, it's creating a huge distraction for him rhetorically. But the president doesn't care. And that's why he's really the communications director of this White House.

HILL: As we have seen time and again. Good to see you both this morning. Thank you.

MADDEN: Great to be with you.

SOLIS DOYLE: Thank you.

HILL: Still to come, another blockbuster jobs report in the opening hours of a potentially brutal trade war. Christine Romans is here with the U.S. versus China, tariffs threats, higher prices. We'll break it all down.

Plus a former Thai Navy SEAL diver dies during an operation to get supplies to those boys trapped in that cave. It is now a race against time. Oxygen running low. We're just learning, though, a rescue not likely to happen in the next 24 hours.

Plus Secretary of State Mike Pompeo back in North Korea looking for concrete proof that Kim Jong-un is ready to denuclearize. Will he leave disappointed?


[10:18:49] HILL: The world's two biggest economies are now 10 plus hours into a trade war. At midnight Eastern Time, the U.S. slapping tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese imports. China doing the same on -- goods, rather, from the U.S. Easy for me to say. Beijing is already calling this the largest trade war in economic history. President Trump is promising more tariffs to come later this month.

This also happens to be the first Friday of the month, which of course means a jobs report for the U.S. and it's another strong one. 213,000 new jobs, more job seekers getting back in the hunt, the unemployment rate ticking up to an even 4 percent.

Our chief business correspondent Christine Romans joins me to break it all down.

So as we're talking about the trade war, let's start off with this jobs report. There's a lot for the president to celebrate here.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: The backdrop here is a very strong economy. And this is one of the reasons why you hear from the trade advisers in the White House that the president is confident that this is the right time for the U.S. to be making these moves on trade. Even as the conventional wisdom is otherwise.

The president is confident the U.S. economy is very strong here. And these numbers back up the strength of the economy part of that formula. Jobs added, 213,000. If you look at April and May, those were also revised higher. So the past three months more than 200,000 jobs -- there are more jobs available than there are people looking for jobs in this country right now, which is very, very rare.

[10:20:05] The unemployment rate, 4 percent. You can see from this chart just how far it's come down. It was at 10 percent at the worst of the financial crisis at the beginning of the Obama administration. And now down to 4 percent. That 4 percent is up a little bit and here is why. People entered the work force. The labor force grew by about 600,000 people. You had at least 200,000 of those who are people who didn't have a job before and now are coming back in to get a job again after being unemployed.

So that's a good sign there of people entering the job market. Where are the jobs overall? Business, information services, strong job growth there. Manufacturing, 36,000 jobs here. Folks tied to the White House will say this is a result of the president's trade policy. If you look downstream at somewhere like metal fabrication and some of those kinds of businesses, they think that that's helping add some jobs because of the steel and aluminum tariffs in this country.

And healthcare, 25,000 there. That has been a steady performer now for years. There are jobs at hospitals and at university hospitals in particular and on health campuses across the country. And that has been a case for some time. It's a real driver in the economy.

Wages up only 2.7 percent, though. So it just defies economic logic that you would have, you know, more jobs than you have people to fill them. You know, that should mean that wages are going up.

HILL: Right.

ROMANS: They're not really going up very strongly. So that's still a riddle.

HILL: That's a consistent issue for many Americans.


HILL: Now we're going to deal with the tariffs. Right?

ROMANS: Right.

HILL: The president says if you look at all of those factors or a number of those factors that you just laid out, we have this strong economy, this is the perfect time to dive in.

ROMANS: So, look, it happened at midnight, the stroke of midnight, the U.S. put these tariffs on. And, you know, the Chinese are saying the U.S. fired the first shot. The Americans are saying, no, no, for 20 years there's been a trade war that was started by China and now for the first time the president is trying to fight back. But here's what we're talking about. $34 billion U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods.

China then doing the same thing back. China is putting tariffs on our cars, our crude oil, our soybeans. This is not popular in Iowa. It is not popular in Illinois. You had this -- Mexico double some tariffs on pork producers. So there's going to be some blow back to the administration I think from farmers and some (INAUDIBLE) right now. But this is where we stand. There'll be another $16 billion that will go into effect I think next week or the week after. So how this escalates will be critical.

HILL: Right.

ROMANS: For whether this is a full blown trade war or it stops here.

HILL: $16 million which China says they'll retaliate.


HILL: Well, Christine, thank you.

Want to dive a little deeper now with Douglas Holt-Eakin, former head of the Congressional Budget Office, former economic adviser to John McCain and president now of American Action Forum.

Good to have you here. So as we see, you know, more tariffs to come as we know, China says they're going to get back. The president threatening last night this could go as high as $500 billion. No one is blinking. How far do you see this going?

DOUGLAS HOLTZ-EAKIN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN ACTION FORUM: It's hard to say. The promise has always been that higher tariffs by the U.S. will bring them to the table and cause them to change their behavior in ways that the White House would find acceptable and then tariffs will go down on both sides. And the end result would be no tariffs and a China that's complying with its international obligations.

That's the strategy. There's a good news and a bad news part of that. The good news is, China behaves. The bad news is we have the tariffs. So far we only have the bad news. We've got the higher prices in the U.S., the diminished export sales, the retaliation, not just from China but from other allies around the globe. So this is a very high risk strategy.

HILL: There are some concerns that if this does continue in terms of that high risk, that it could lead to even recession. We're hearing that from Bank of America, Merrill Lynch economist Michelle Meyer who pointed that out specifically. Is that a realistic concern at this point?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: I don't think it's a realistic concern for July of 2018. But if you roll the clock forward and the president is true to his word and imposes tariffs on $500 billion worth of Chinese exports, then that's a real possibility. The retaliation will be enormous. The impact on global trade would be quite devastating. So, you know, you heard the report by Christine where the White House says, look, this is a good time to do this because the economy is quite strong.

What that's acknowledging is, this is a bad idea. It's going to hurt economic growth. We can just take it at the moment. But we can't take it forever.

HILL: Well, and you can't -- I mean, we know this is a president who's not going to back down.

HOLTZ-EAKIN: Yes. I think there has to be a strategy that says, look, we want this from China, and lay out the specifics and changes and observable changes in Chinese behavior that would allow the tariffs to come down. So far that's been missing from this entire strategy. So you can't tell the difference between tariffs for the sake of tariffs and tariffs that are making progress towards some end. And we really do need to make some progress toward an end.

HILL: And need a more clear definition of what success looks like. I do want to get your take on this, too. They're the minutes from the most recent meeting with the Federal Reserve showing that Fed officials are increasingly worried about some of this administration's trade policies and their impact on the economy.

[10:25:03] Are those fears at this point you believe well founded?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: Absolutely. I was in the George W. Bush White House when he imposed steel tariffs. They were a bad idea. The steel and aluminum tariffs that the president imposed are a bad idea. They will harm consumers of steel products more than they'll help the producers. They've already had retaliation by the EU, India, Mexico, Canada. Those are just bad news from the point of view of the economy. And now we've got this tariff battle with China going on. He has threatened tariffs on autos from Europe and invited retaliation there.

All of this is bad economic policies taken at face value. And so the Fed has every reason to be nervous about that.

HILL: Douglas Holtz-Eakin, appreciate it as always. Thank you.

HOLTZ-EAKIN: Thank you.

HILL: Joining us now on the phone, Brooks Hurst. He's president of the Missouri Soybean Association.

Sir, good to have you with us. We know that from the very beginning when China said they would retaliate, we knew that they were going after certain products, soybeans among them, and in certain areas. How do you feel about today's tariff news?

BROOKS HURST, PRESIDENT OF THE MISSOURI SOYBEAN ASSOCIATION: You know, it hurts. One in three rows of soybeans in the United States are exported. And China buys about 60 percent of them. And so that is a big chunk of our exports. And that's a big part of our income.

HILL: And this is not just -- help us put this in context, too, for folks at home who may not know someone who is involved in the agriculture industry at this point. This is not just about you personally. This is your business. This is your livelihood, there's your family, there's your community. How widespread is the impact?

HURST: I think it has the potential to be very widespread. You know, it's already a down economy in agriculture. And these tariffs just go to further the downward turn of the farm economy. And it's going to affect far and wide in the agriculture community.

HILL: What's the conversation? I mean, with other folks -- you're president of the soybean association there in Missouri. What's the conversation with your fellow farmers?

HURST: I think that we just need to, you know, carry on. Do the best you can. And get ahold of your elected officials and just try to see if we can back this off. You know, we're good at what we do. We grow a lot of soybeans. And if we could sell to China more as opposed to have them bump a tariff on us, then we would be much more like that than tariffs.

HILL: If you had the opportunity to speak with the president and you were laying out that case for him, what else would you say to him to appeal to him, to make him understand where you're at today?

HURST: You know, it's not just the tariffs on soybeans. They were talking about steel and aluminum. That also goes to the equipment that we buy. So it's kind of a double-edged sword. It gets us coming and going. We don't make any money on our soybeans. And then we have to pay more money for our equipment. It's double painful. So, you know, like I said, if we could do it by selling them more instead of charging a tariff, then we'd be all for that.

HILL: And how much success have you had in getting that message through to your lawmakers who I know you would like to bring that message to the president? HURST: I think that the Missouri delegation, both in Jefferson City

and Washington, D.C. is very into agriculture as a whole. And I think that they are aware of our situation. It's just bumping it up the line, I think.

HILL: Are you -- I mean, as you look at this, we know that more tariffs could be coming. When you see that potentially coming down the line, is there a way to prepare for that?

HURST: You know, as a farmer, we have to deal with not only the weather and the price in Chicago. There's just so many things to deal with. And we have to plan. And if this is the new normal, then it's a new plan that we have to take on.

HILL: Really quickly before I let you go, China has said specifically they were targeting states where the president did very well in the last election. In talking with your fellow farmers, is this something that would influence their political decisions?

HURST: You know, I hate to get into the politics of it. I know that's tough to do. And it's something that -- this isn't the whole pie of his presidency. And he is the president. So, you know, I give him a chance to see what he can do. And if he can back this off or figure out a way to make it better for all Americans and farmers, too, then that would be great.

HILL: Brooks Hurst, really appreciate you taking the time for us. Thank you.

HURST: Thank you.

HILL: We are following breaking news at this hour out of Thailand. We're learning that any rescue attempt to free those boys trapped inside a cave with their soccer coach unlikely to happen over the next 24 hours.

We will take you live to the scene to tell you why.