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DNA Testing of Immigrants; Rescue Teams Prepare for Evacuation; Trump Completes Interviews; Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired July 6, 2018 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Were approached late last week by officials in blue military like uniforms who were asking for blood and saliva samples from mothers to match the DNA with children. She says she now knows those officials were with the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Now, it goes without saying that this has outraged immigrant advocacy groups, including one group here in Texas called RAICES. RAICES questions the intent of these tests and wonder about privacy concerns and consent that the mothers are giving. They also wonder if this DNA is being stored.

Now, we have confirmed that this is happening through a federal official with knowledge of these procedures. That federal official tells our CNN's Sonia Moghe that it's only to expedite the process of reunification. A process that the Trump administration says has been slowed because of congressional visits to facilities like the one I'm standing in front of.

The problem with all of this is, we don't know exactly how many children have been reunited with their parents because the feds still aren't giving us the number. They refuse to give us a breakdown on those reunification numbers. This process has been painstakingly slow and right around the corner is a deadline. A federal judge has recently ruled that the Trump administration must reunite all children by July 26th, I believe, and children under the age of five by July 10th.

John. Alisyn.


There are so many unanswered questions. Thank you very much for staying on it and that reporting.

Joining us now is Dr. Alicia Hart. She recently took care of some of the children who have been taken to immigration detention facilities in south Texas.

Dr. Hart, thank you very much.

I want to hear your personal experience.

But, first, are you heartened or troubled when you hear about that report that Nick just gave us about these kids and their parents now being DNA tested in an effort to try to identify them and match them up again?

DR. ALICIA HART, TREATED CHILDREN HELD IN DETENTION CENTERS: Well, I hope that we work diligently to get these kids back to their parents. And I think, unfortunately, if records haven't been kept, DNA's probably going to be our only way of doing that and ensuring these kids get back to a safe home.

CAMEROTA: OK, so you have encountered some of these kids without their parents at emergency rooms. Tell us what condition they're in and what you've seen.

HART: Well, I took care of one child that really, really upset me. An eight-year-old child that had been separated from his family, either before he crossed over or after. I wasn't really sure. And the child was being sent from a detention center to have a medical clearance to go to a psychiatric facility. And he was just very quiet, very withdrawn and scared. And when I approached him, he said he was sad. And I just couldn't get a lot of information. I mean a child at that age, at eight and scared, they're not going to give me history. And then, unfortunately, the staff with him couldn't provide much either. They did know where the parents were and they weren't going to allow us to contact the parents for more information either.

CAMEROTA: They told you they knew where their parents -- where his parents were and they -- you believed them. But then why wasn't he with his parents?

HART: I don't know.

CAMEROTA: I mean, this is the problem, is that -- I mean I think that your anecdote of seeing this eight-year-old boy, who was so upset and just surrounded by officials, some with a gun, it's not necessarily that there are physical, visible, physical wounds, but the psychiatric wounds. I mean he had been apart from his parents for a month and he was -- they said that he was acting out. But what do they expecting from an eight-year-old who's been separated from his parents for a month?

HART: I don't know. As a mom, I don't understand it. I just -- I don't know what trauma this child had experienced in his home country. I don't know what trauma he had experienced on his journey. But he's here and we're not helping to fix that trauma and we're contributing to more trauma.

And that's what worries me. I mean he just made my heart hurt. I looked at him and I could see my own son and what he would do in that kind of situation. And it was just -- it was just -- it was awful.

CAMEROTA: I mean I've read your account of this and how affecting it was for you. And one of the problems was that they were saying, if he didn't fix his behavior, this eight-year-old, somehow --

HART: Yes.

CAMEROTA: Himself, if he didn't solve his psychiatric problems, they weren't going to send him back to his parents.

HART: Yes. And they -- they told me that there was going to be a delay because of how he was acting. I was like, how do you expect the kid to act when they're not with their family and they're in a country where people don't speak the same language. I mean this is normal to act that way.

So I -- I just -- I couldn't reason with it. And it was one of the reasons I started saying something is, he couldn't speak for himself and someone needed to.

CAMEROTA: You've -- you are worried that the U.S., that our federal officials are traumatizing these children, possibly for a long period of time.

HART: Definitely so. And I think that, you know, I'm not arguing that we have rules about immigration, but we have to be compassionate towards kids and can we not find a solution that would be more rational and help these children heal? Whatever solution it is. I'm not an expert in that area. But what we're doing now doesn't seem to be working or the right thing for kids.

[08:35:07] CAMEROTA: Tell us -- have you seen children with physical problems presenting at the emergency room?

HART: Yes. I had a child with an injury. And it was another situation. The providers with them couldn't even tell me if they knew where the parents were. They couldn't give me any details. They hadn't even witnessed the injury. And here I am fixing something on a child where I can't get permission from the parents. I don't know the child's allergies. I don't know the child's past medical history. It was very frustrating and counter. And it really puts me, as a medical professional, concerned about consent. And do we have the right to allow others to consent for these children when their parents are in known locations.

CAMEROTA: The people who are bringing the children to you, the officials who are bringing the children who are hurt or who are traumatized to you, do they -- do you get any sense that they have a process? Is this chaotic? Do they have the right information? How will they ever find these kids' parents?

HART: I just -- I get very mixed feedback. Most of the times they're sent with just essentially babysitters. The child with the psychiatric illness was sent with someone who told me he was a clinician, and that was the only details I could get from him. I don't know what that means. I don't think he was a doctor. And I -- I just -- he was very, very evasive any time I asked him questions and would frequently answer, you don't need to know that.

CAMEROTA: Well, Dr. Alicia Hart, we really appreciate talking to people who have had firsthand experience and who can tell us the condition that these kids are in and whether or not we should have any hope that they will be reunited with their parents in any sort of timely manner and it doesn't sound good at the moment.

Dr. Alicia Hart, thank you for the work you're doing.

HART: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Listen, obviously every day that they're separated from their parents, their psychological wounds and the trauma gets worse. I mean she encountered that eight-year-old who, of course, was acting out. He was crying. He said that he -- she was the first hug that he had had in a month.


JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: Look, you know, we've got young kids. My kids are four and a half and two and a half and it is heartbreaking to hear this testimony from a doctor who's trying to help, who's saying that this policy is broken. Yes, we need -- you know, we need to take care of our borders, but this is not humane. It is not compassionate. And we need people who are thinking compassionately about these kids. And the pain also of trying to treat a child without any knowledge of their personal history, their medical history it's heartbreaking and there has to be a better way (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: And, look, the news today that they're using DNA testing to match the parents with their children just goes to show, they have no system in place. When they separated them, they had no idea how they would ever perhaps reunify them.

CAMEROTA: Obviously not. So they're relying on this, trying to get the blood from the parents and a cotton swab from the kids. And we don't know if the parents are still in the country. They don't know names. They haven't tracked this.

AVLON: No. No.

CAMEROTA: It's really worrisome. So we're staying on it every single day.

BERMAN: All right, all eyes in Thailand right now for those children and the coach trapped in that cave for 12 days. There is growing fear that the weather might force them to make a decision about how to get them out and soon.


[08:42:15] CAMEROTA: OK, so rescue teams apparently have come up with an evacuation plan to free those boys trapped in the cave in Thailand after 12 days in case of a flood. So this announcement comes as weather concerns continue to hamper a variety of their rescue options.

CNN's David McKenzie is live in Thailand with the latest.

What do you have for us, David? What has developed over the past couple of hours?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, important developments here in Thailand with the rush to save these 12 boys who have been stuck in this cave for days and days now. I want you to come with me. An interesting new development. They've just brought these oxygen tanks, big oxygen tanks, pure oxygen to the staging ground of the rescue effort. That lends (ph) to suggest that they have to get that oxygen into those caves to help the survivability for the boys and others because, you know, you spend a lot of time in a confined space, those oxygen levels will drop. That's the one critical factor.

Another critical factor, the weather. It could start raining soon. If it does, it could start -- rain for a very long time, Alisyn. It could be the beginning of a monsoon. Even with them pumping the water out of this cave system to try and lessen the threat, if the floodwaters come back, it could really threaten the entire -- the group of people down there, including the boys and the rescuers. So, if that happens, as you suggested, they might bring that emergency plan into effect to get those boys out with face masks, drag them out through those confined spaces.

Obviously (INAUDIBLE) teams here, highly specialized equipment and now they are going to try to get these young boys that are teenagers, some of them can't even swim. And a doctor's report suggests that they cannot get out today, it will be too dangerous for their health. And there's a big supply (INAUDIBLE).


BERMAN: David McKenzie for us, who is in Thailand. The audio's not great, but it's important to get this information. It's important to get the most current update, those oxygen tanks going in, what could that tell us?

We are getting a sense that the weather concerns are so great that they may -- it may force the issue over the next few days. So we'll be watching this very, very closely.

In the meantime, CNN has learned that President Trump wanted to do more than just impose sanctions on Venezuela. A senior administration official says the president asked several top foreign advisers about the possibility of invading Venezuela. This was last August. The president asked if it would be possible to intervene in that -- what was going on in the nation.

Trump aides, including then National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, strongly urged against it. They warned it could backfire and said U.S. allies in the region were opposed to such drastic action. Nicolas Maduro's government has instructed his armed forces not to lower their guard.

[06:45:04] Again, this information coming out just now. The discussion took place last August. It happened in the middle of Charlottesville and other things. The president, a lot of people thought at that point, was flailing around a little bit, asking all sorts of questions. Whether or not he really did want to invade Venezuela, who knows, but interesting that the subject came up.

CAMEROTA: Maybe that's his starting point.


AVLON: You know, it's just an opening bid. Look, this is totally bonkers. Put aside whatever's happening in August and he's looking for a distraction. This is the president's impulse, to invade Venezuela. Something that's not on the menu of American national security.

Among the many problems presumably pointed out to him by his advisers, including H.R. McMaster at the time is, look, the left wing populist government of Chavez and now Maduro has decimated this once prosperous country. It is a disaster on human rights levels, economic levels and everything else. But if you want to secure the position of that government, you would bring in the old accusation of Yankee imperialism by trying to invade the country. You can -- it is -- it is so counterproductive it is -- it is, frankly, just shocking it would even be floated by a president.

CAMEROTA: All right. Moving on.

BERMAN: How about that?

CAMEROTA: Yes, how about that, because we have other news.

And that is that President Trump is reportedly finished with his Supreme Court interviews with candidates. So we have "The Bottom Line" on what's next.


[08:50:24] BERMAN: The breaking news. CNN has learned that President Trump has completed interviews with candidates for the Supreme Court vacancy. He has spoken to seven contenders, we are told, either in person or on the phone. And we are now told he has narrowed the list down to two or three choices.

So let's get "The Bottom Line" with CNN political director David Chalian.

David, you've had all morning to report on this. Who's the pick?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Not a chance, John. Not going there.

But -- but you are right, I mean this process is coming to an end now. And if the president is really zeroing in on a couple of folks here, I would expect very much that this president is going to do as much as he can to tease out all the way to Monday to try to build suspense and drama to the big reveal.

I think there are few assignments for the president of the United States that President Trump has enjoyed more than the picking of a Supreme Court nominee.

CAMEROTA: I totally agree with you.

BERMAN: Because it's absolute power. It's absolute power. He has the pick. It's all his. And that's what he likes. CAMEROTA: And --


CAMEROTA: Yes, and he can stage it. It fits in perfectly with the reality show of the big reveal on Monday night. It's a cliffhanger. You know, everybody should tune in. We'll see what the ratings are for this prime time event.

And so what's the -- what's --

BERMAN: Also meatloaf. Also meatloaf is included.


BERMAN: No, I'm kidding.

AVLON: That's just the green room snack.


What's the scuttlebutt, David, about which way people -- the pundits think that he's leaning?

CHALIAN: Well, you know, right now I think a lot of people are looking at what divides exist within the conservative ranks over some of these picks. You see some of the folks there that he has interviewed. I'll talk about two in particular, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

You see a divide happening among conservatives. A lot of social, religious conservatives are really lobbying on behalf of Amy Coney Barrett, who, as you know, was just put on the bench last year. And Brett Kavanaugh was put on the bench by George W. Bush, served in the Bush White House, was indeed a member of Ken Starr's team investigating Bill Clinton. Much more an establishment conservative thinker, legal type, the kind of Republican that not necessarily have we seen Donald Trump warm to time and again throughout his campaign and his time in office.


AVLON: But, but, but a strong proponent of expanded executive power.

CHALIAN: Totally.

AVLON: And that could be very appealing to Donald Trump as he looks at future Supreme Court decisions down the line if there are real questions about his actions in office. So that's got to be appealing, even if the W. association ain't.

CHALIAN: I totally agree, John. That -- he has written extensively on this. He's seen it from both sides, from the side of investigating a president and then working inside the Bush White House. And he has written extensively about how distracting investigations of the president can be. BERMAN: Yes. To be crystal clear, what we're trying to say here is

that this president, who has investigations that have been tied to him, might pick a Supreme Court justice who has written extensively, precisely and clearly on the fact that there should be limits to how much a president is investigating. Am I getting that right, David?

CHALIAN: You are, John.


CHALIAN: That's exactly right.

And it clearly is a distraction for any president. I think -- I think many people can see that. Whether or not it should have sort of a legitimate purview to continue, Donald Trump may disagree with others on that. But Brett Kavanaugh is sort of -- has written about sort of creating a zone for the president where he need not get mired into these things. There's no doubt that that's appealing to President Trump.

CAMEROTA: Right. And then -- I mean, you know, obviously there's this overarching concern be so many Americans that Roe verses Wade could go away.


CAMEROTA: That abortion could become illegal again in this country. And so Susan Collins, Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, they just have a lot of thinking to do over the weekend.

CHALIAN: They do and they're going to start getting lobbied really hard by a whole host of folks. This, as you know, Alisyn, a Supreme Court vacancy is sort -- and then the nomination process, it's a cottage industry here in Washington. Interest groups on both sides are going to begin launching television ads, writing editorials in local newspapers, even going as far as knocking on doors and organizing around some key Senate votes. You identified two of them.

I still find it hard to believe that anybody that President Trump picks is going to go before the Senate Judiciary Committee in his or her hearing and say, Roe versus Wade is absolutely settled law and it will never be touched. I just don't think that's how most nominees talk about specific cases these days.

CAMEROTA: All right, David Chalian, thank you very much. Great to talk to you.

CHALIAN: Sure. No problem.

CAMEROTA: So much news today and I can't shake the whole Russian -- the idea that this Russian nerve agent was found in a public park and at Amesbury --

[08:55:05] BERMAN: Months after the initial attack.

CAMEROTA: Yes. BERMAN: That is a serious, serious problem.

CAMEROTA: OK. So obviously that will be on CNN's menu all day.

But, meanwhile, we have "The Good Stuff" next for you.


CAMEROTA: OK, thank goodness it is now time for "The Good Stuff."

It has been long overdue.

AVLON: We need some "Good Stuff."

CAMEROTA: Listen to this story. There were two first responders vacationing in Daytona Beach, Florida, and they wound up being at the right place at the right time. New York Firefighter Jessica Campeda (ph) recalls hearing a mother's desperate cry for help.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just heard a mother scream oh, my God. Her daughter was face down in the pool.


CAMEROTA: So she jumped into the pool and she handed the toddler to her boyfriend and went to work.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Immediately started compressions, mouth to mouth, just trying to clear her airway and get her going.


CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. It was a team effort. Campeda's boyfriend was a state trooper --


CAMEROTA: Who called 911 while she herself was performing CPR on the toddler. We're happy to report, the young girl is expected to make a full recovery.

AVLON: Thank God.

[09:00:03] BERMAN: Look, not to be all serious here, CPR is so important to know if you're a parent of young kids or if you do anything like that. Just saying.


CAMEROTA: Maybe we need to renew our lesson on that.

BERMAN: You definitely do. AVLON: Sure.

BERMAN: Time for CNN "NEWSROOM." Christine Romans and Dave