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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Desperation on the Border. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired July 24, 2018 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:30:00]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Two mothers in tears desperately pleading their cases, both without their children, both ordered to be deported.

CNN's Nick Valencia now brings us the stories of the human tragedies behind the statistics.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the Port Isabel Detention Center, the stakes couldn't be higher.

In audio exclusively obtained by CNN, the anguish of parents separated from their children pours out at immigration court.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I beg of you, please don't remove me from the country. Do it for me, for my son.

VALENCIA: The clips were recorded earlier this month at the ICE-run facility in Los Fresnos, Texas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How old is your child?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Seven years old.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And where is your child?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I don't know. They told me he was here in Texas. I have no else, just me. I'm begging.

VALENCIA (on camera): The audio is two mothers at what are known as credible fear reviews. It's their last chance to prove that they have a reasonable fear of persecution or torture if returned to their home countries.

If parents like these fail, they may be faced with a heart-wrenching decision, be deported as a family or leave their children behind.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I want to say that when I had the interview, I understood some of the questions. Others, I did not. I was desperate, because, at the beginning, they asked about my son. I was separated from my son. My son remained back in an icebox, thrown on the floor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you say that you weren't able to say? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): To give me the opportunity, please, to stay in this country. I need to save my life and the life of my son.

VALENCIA (voice-over): The proceedings take just a few minutes, stunning in their brevity, given the weight of the decision.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Having considered all the evidence, the court finds you have not established a significant possibility that you could establish eligibility for asylum or withholding of removal under the immigration laws of the United States.

And the court hereby orders that the decision of the asylum officer is affirmed and your case is returned to the Department of Homeland Security for you to be removed from the United States.

VALENCIA: In audio from a second hearing, a detainee is so distraught over being separated from her son, she can barely continue. You don't have to speak Spanish to hear the pain in her voice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand that, ma'am. Is there anything you want to say regarding your case?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I cannot continue with this anymore. What I want is to be with son.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VALENCIA: This reporting is result of a collaboration with my colleague Tal Kopan.

CNN gave the Department of Justice a chance to comment, and it hasn't given us one.

In both of these cases, the judge found the women ineligible to stay in the United States.

Meanwhile, Jake, we have learned that the government has reported potentially at least 463 parents without their children. The feds haven't told us how they plan to reunite those parents with their kids by the July 26 deadline -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Nick Valencia, thank you so much.

The pain in the voices of these women is so powerful. And one wonders though if it matters to the public when they hear these stories anymore.

NINA TURNER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it should, Jake.

I mean, but for the grace of God, that could be any of us seeking refuge in this country. And just the anguish of a mother, mothers and fathers, but mothers in this case, being separated from their children is something that every ethnicity and every walk of life should be able to understand, them pleading to be here and also to be here with their children. And people wouldn't take that kind of risk if they were not trying to

find a better life for their families.

TAPPER: And one of the things that's going on is that the bar for asylum has gone up in the Trump administration. People had been turned away and deported during the Obama administration too.

But what's going on now is that gang violence and domestic violence are no longer being treated as an automatic reason for asylum. And so there are more of these cases where people say, if you send me back, I'm going to get killed than there were before.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right.

Well, here's the thing. If you're very, very generous, just take the moral considerations off the table. The administration wantonly overloaded a system that was already overloaded. They did not have a plan for how to work through that. And a lot of this is the result of not having a plan to having to work through something that is honestly a giant logistic move for any government to deal with at the border.

And so it's irresponsible and you end up with really sad stories like this that are going to be exacerbated.

JOE TRIPPI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: And, I mean, it's just the cruelty of the policy in terms of the way it was implemented, the incompetence of it, and their inability to put people back together, I mean, no way in time for the deadline.

I mean, let's get beyond what they're allowing for asylum and what they're not. This shouldn't have happened. And I think the American people, that's the problem for the administration right now, I, think and it's why there's so much deflection away from this. Anything but talking about this, because people hear these voices, they hear these mothers, they see the pictures of those children, and they're appalled by what's happened.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Listen, nobody can listen to that not be moved, right?

[16:35:01]

But facts matter, right? Facts matter here. And I don't know the underlying factor of these individual cases. You hear the judge asking saying, listen, I hear you with a voice sounds somewhat compassionate. Look, I hear you, but do you have anything else to tell me, right?

Because the facts matter. I don't know where these particular women came from, whether they came from Guatemala, El Salvador, wherever. But if they say they're fleeing violence, once they get to Mexico, they're safe.

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI: There's a mother and there's a child, and they're not together.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: That's a terrible tragedy.

And to date -- and they should have done way better, right? There's no -- there's no arguing that. But to date, they have reunified 879 children with their parents.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: And 540 have been cleared to be reunified as of right now, right?

And so there about 460 that are currently under review. And, look, this stuff takes time.

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: But there's still about 82 percent of those children between the ages of 5 and 17 have not been reunited. We're not talking about widgets here.

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: They should have never separated them in the first place.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: They were not prepared for the result...

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: Absolutely.

But, again, now that -- now that it's broken..

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: He was speaking to his base, David. I mean, come on.

URBAN: What they're doing now is, they're going as quickly as they can to make sure the kids are unified with the right folks who are eligible to get these kids back.

Some of the people who brought them here aren't necessarily their parents. Some of them have criminal records.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: They don't want to put a kid back with someone who's not eligible to have a kid back.

TAPPER: I think one of the reasons why this story is so moving, in addition to the fact that we're all parents, and we all can identify, we all put ourselves in the seat of the mom or the dad in some cases, is that when President Trump talks about illegal immigration, he talks about MS-13.

And obviously that's a horror and those people should be deported, if not put in prison. But the reality is that a lot of the story is these type of people, low-skilled migrant women fleeing violence with their small children.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: For economic opportunity.

(CROSSTALK)

HAM: We do have this issue where Trump and his supporters are way over here, where everybody's -- a majority of people are MS-13 is the story.

And then there's over here, where a bunch of people wish that there was kind of no border and that there was a perfect system in which everyone could just come in and there would be no emotional or physical hardships.

And that universe will never exist.

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: This country specializes in vilifying black and brown folks. Let's just be clear.

The president picked that narrative about gang activity deliberately, because he's picking that narrative to explain our Hispanic, mainly Hispanic on the southern border, sisters and brothers. He doesn't use that same narrative with other immigrants in this country.

Even when he made the shithole country comment, he was talking about countries and nations of color. So, let's not delude ourselves. This is a deliberate narrative that the president has used.

It is a deliberate policy that his administration has put in place to dehumanize black and brown people in this country. And it plays to a certain segment of this country.

URBAN: Listen, I think this president -- this is the same president you're talking about that wanted to have a pathway for citizenship for two million illegals that President Obama didn't offer.

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: That's all well and good.

URBAN: So how is that a racist policy?

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: What is he doing right now?

(CROSSTALK) URBAN: The Democrats rejected that out of hand.

TURNER: Forget the Democrats. The Republicans are in control, David.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: But I'm saying he put forth a credible proposal.

TURNER: Well, then do it with the Republicans.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: He did it. He put forth a credible proposal.

(CROSSTALK)

HAM: I do look forward to the midterm pitch that the United States of America specializes in vilifying black and brown people.

TURNER: Oh, they do.

HAM: I do not think that will work Democrats.

TURNER: They do.

HAM: But take it to the polls. Take it to the polls.

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: No, we will take it to polls, but the history of this country too. How many examples would you like me to give you about how this country specializes in that?

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: This year, 1619, next year, 1919, it will be 400 years since the first Africans were brought to this continent as slaves.

So it's not a pitch. It's a reality in this country. And the fact that you're taking such a cavalier attitude about the suffering of black and brown people in this country is appalling. It's absolutely appalling.

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: Are you trying to say that this country does not specialize in racism and bigotry?

HAM: I'm saying that racism exists.

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: But you have the luxury, you have the luxury to be cavalier about it. But people, my folks don't have the luxury to be cavalier about it.

(CROSSTALK)

HAM: I understand your point.

TURNER: No, you don't understand my point, because you never lived a day in my shoes or the shoes of my ancestors.

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: This is not a political pitch. This is a reality.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Let Mary Katharine finish her point, and then Joe...

(CROSSTALK)

HAM: What I'm being cavalier about is something that I think we all agree about, which is that the United States of America is the freest country on the face of the Earth.

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: Yes, with all kinds of oppression.

HAM: I know that, but gives the most opportunity possible to...

(CROSSTALK)

[16:40:02]

TURNER: You're talking about this through a political lens. I'm talking about this through a life lens.

TRIPPI: I think the saddest -- the saddest thing is that we have a president who plays on this division, instead of trying to bring people together.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: Really, this president? It hasn't happened anywhere before? Nowhere before?

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: No, you specialize in this stuff, buddy.

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI: That's whataboutism, man.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: You spin for a living, bud.

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: This is not a spin.

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: Kids have been separated from their parents. This is not spin.

TRIPPI: The president doesn't drive this division at all, never, oh, no.

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: Oh, my God.

URBAN: But for you to say, I'm shocked that the president is doing this, you do it for a career.

TURNER: He's doing it's for a career too.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Explain what you mean when you say Joe...

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: Joe is a political consultant. Joe run races. Joe run races. You have never run a negative ad against somebody? You just talked about the Doug Jones race. What happened there? Did you run any negative ads?

TRIPPI: Of course.

URBAN: Tons, right? So how is that...

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI: But what does that have with the president of the United States, who is the president of the United States, not a political consultant, deciding to divide the American people along deep-seated divisions that need to be healed and brought together?

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: So, I agree.

So, the politics of race is terrible on both sides, right? I think it's...

TURNER: Oh, terrible on...

URBAN: I think it's -- no, I think it's horrible.

TRIPPI: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: For Republicans to do it. (CROSSTALK)

TURNER: I'm not saying that Republicans have a monopoly on racism and bigotry.

What I'm saying is that we have become numb to some of the very real challenges in this country that are being exacerbated by this president.

But he didn't -- he didn't invent racism.

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: I will be the first one to say that.

But to have people who are not black and brown to be cavalier around this panel, I am highly offended. I am just highly offended by this.

HAM: All I'm asking is that we don't make it only that.

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: It's not about only that, but that is part of it.

(CROSSTALK)

HAM: That was all I was saying.

TURNER: Did this country enslave Africans? Did this country take away the land of the Native Americans? Did this country have Jim Crow and black codes? That's not in my imagination.

HAM: No, it's not.

TURNER: And, still, there are articles that are being written right now that still says that it will take about 228 years for the average African-American to catch up with the wealth of the average white person in this country.

And we all have to care about it. So it is race and it is class.

URBAN: But to say that the country, our country...

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: The country was founded on racism and bigotry, David.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: But to say that America specializes...

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: Black men are being shot. Oh, my lord.

URBAN: We shouldn't say it specializes. (CROSSTALK)

TURNER: It specializes in it.

TAPPER: Strong feelings.

What happens when you put the nation's top law enforcement officer in front of a crowd of conservative high schoolers? Apparently, you get Jeff Sessions unplugged.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The go-to chance that so many Trump rallies got something of an amen from an unusual source today with Attorney General Jeff Sessions laughing after the infamous words "lock her up." Sessions was speaking to a group of conservative high school students when the chants erupted as it does. CNN's Tom Foreman reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF SESSIONS, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: Lock her up.

AMERICAN CROWD: Lock her up! Lock her up!

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At a high-school conference for conservative leadership, students chanted lock her up and the Attorney General repeated the words, then he let it all hang out.

SESSIONS: Freedom of thought and speech on the American campus is under attack today of all places.

FOREMAN: In a series of blistering attacks, he tore into universities in general and by name Cornell, Kansas, William, and Mary.

SESSIONS: They have cry closets, safe spaces, optional exams, therapy goats, and grade inflation. Some schools are doing everything they can to create a generation of sanctimonious, sensitive, supercilious snowflakes.

FOREMAN: The University of Michigan took some of the hardest hits as Sessions noted rules against harassment, bullying, and bias, and also saluted conservative arguments that the restrictions go much further.

SESSIONS: They also forbid speech that is interpreted as demeaning, bothersome, or hurtful. These aren't legal terms. Who knows what that mean?

FOREMAN: And yet even as he pushed for more free speech, he praised conservative commentator Candace Owens who is called for journalists including several at CNN to be jailed.

SESSIONS: Kanye West, he like that you know, and she's got the same kind of drag on the energy that he says the President has, I got to say.

FOREMAN: He was referring to a tweet earlier this year from the controversial rapper. It all stood in contrast to U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley who spoke to the same group and warned against inflammatory language.

NIKKI HALEY, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: This kind of speech isn't leadership, it's the opposite. It's a recipe for both sides to dig in --

FOREMAN: Her comments were not aimed at Sessions nor is it clear he heard about them and his audience they just kept cheering.

SESSIONS: Donald Trump doesn't believe anybody can tell him how to speak, isn't that true?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: This was an unusual display of political passions for the Attorney General but precisely the kind of thing his boss Donald Trump really likes and how do we know that, because that boss has frequently let fly with his own tirades against Jeff Sessions. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Tom Foreman, thanks so much. This is the top law enforcement officer in the country joining into a degree, wasn't chanting but saying lock her up. Does that bother you at all?

[16:50:06] MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean it's an awkward moment on stage when you're faced with that. People may differ in the ways they deal with it. It's also an opportunity to say hey, I understand what you're referencing and I understand your concerns about it and also here's how the Justice Department works and why it can't go down certain roads. I mean, they are high school students, you have an opportunity -- I think they call it a teachable moment.

TAPPER: It's a teachable moment but it was not taken. I want to play some sound from Sessions' confirmation hearing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And during the course of this boisterous political campaign, did you ever chant lock her up?

SESSIONS: No I did not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Kind of interesting there considering that today he -- again, he didn't chant it but he did repeat it and giggle.

NINA TURNER, FORMER OHIO STATE SENATOR: He did. I mean, obviously, he was getting his practice in some kind of way.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I listened I was -- I campaign with Jeff Sessions during the -- during the campaign. I stood next to him at many of these things and I can tell you at the events that I was with him, he stood next to me that he didn't. But to Mary Katharine's point, it was a teachable moment. He could have -- he could have shushed everybody down and said let me -- let me -- let me explain how the Department of Justice works.

TAPPER: Yes, but you say --

JOE TRIPPI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Audience of one, he was talking to the President of the United States. He knew the President would be happy with his -- with what he was saying and I think he was -- it's a shame that he's willing to put his credibility as chief law enforcement officer of the country out there and help demolish it just so his boss can smile.

URBAN: Well, I think it's also you know, it's also in front of a crowd of X amount of right of center kind of lathering foamed up, fired up --

TAPPER: And yet Nikki Haley -- Nikki Haley had the opposite -- the opposite message.

HAM: Yes. I mean, she took the opportunity to be -- I mean, there has to be the adult in the room and say hey, there are downsides to the way that you're approaching what you're doing and that some of this does have bad effects, and that "owning the libs or the cons as it were on T.V. is not always the way to go about doing business.

TAPPER: And the lesson of persuasion as opposed to mockery as well, that Haley embraced.

TURNER: Yes, and I mean, you know the saying "raise a child up in the way that they should go," certainly he did not demonstrate that today.

URBAN: Look, again, teachable moment. He could have done much better at it. He didn't chant. He didn't lead the chant but I think he could have could have put up his hand and said look I understand --

TRIPPI: He reveled in it.

URBAN: -- bridle of enthusiasm but let me explain how the Department Justice work.

TRIPPI: John McCain had a moment like that when a supporter attacked of Barack Obama --

TAPPER: In 2008.

TRIPPI: In 2008. He did what Mary Katharine was talking about.

URBAN: That's what I just said.

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI: He hold up his hand and said, wait a minute, let me explain it. And I think that -- yes.

TURNER: But that's the point about being pleasing for the President of the United States.

TRIPPI: Yes, he didn't want to do that. He wanted to please the President.

TAPPER: All right, coming up, satellite images showing North Korea dismantling a missile test site, a move President Trump touted today. So why is the Secretary of State saying not so fast? We'll dive into that story next, stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: North Korea is now dismantling a key missile launch site according to the monitoring group 38 North. It's the same site where the North Korean regime developed much of the intercontinental ballistic missile program. But while this does seem an encouraging sign, it's unclear whether this is just another smoke and mirrors move by North Korea. CNN's Barbara Starr reports from the Pentagon.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: New commercial satellite imagery shows North Korea appears to have started to dismantle a missile engine test stand at a satellite launch station.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: New images just today show that North Korea has begun the process of dismantling a key missile site and we appreciate that.

STARR: But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offering a bit of candor.

MIKE POMPEO, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: We've been pressing for there to be inspectors on the ground when that engine test facility is dismantled.

STARR: Imagery also shows other areas including fuel bunkers untouched raising critical questions about just how important this is to Kim Jong-un's commitment to denuclearization.

POMPEO: They need to completely fully denuclearize. That's the steps that Chairman Kim committed to and that the world has demanded through U.N. Security Council resolutions, it's that straightforward.

STARR: This may be another case of North Korean expertise at avoiding their nuclear commitments.

TONY BLINKEN, FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: In the past, the North Koreans have actually -- especially when they're in the midst of a "negotiation" voluntarily chosen things to dismantle themselves, usually things of their own choosing not of our choosing. Maybe because the site is obsolete, maybe there's redundancy built in.

STARR: The site was largely used to develop and launch liquid-fueled long-range missiles, a technology North Korea has largely given up in favor of more advanced designs. And the minimal dismantlement comes as other satellite imagery shows the potential upgrading of a ballistic missile manufacturing site further casting doubt on North Korea's long-term intentions. (END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: And the State Department and the Pentagon both saying they will keep the pressure of economic sanctions on North Korea. There's a good deal of concern that China may secretly be bolstering the floundering regime. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Barbara Starr, thank you so much. You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer who is in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, don't believe your eyes. In a week of White House whiplash President Trump reverse his course on Russia and Iran but now he's telling supporters not to believe what they see or read.