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ACLU Sues Trump Administration For Narrowing Asylum Program; Children Found In New Mexico Compound Were Training For School Shootings; CNN Reality Check: President Richard Nixon's Resignation; State Of Emergency Declared Ahead Of Charlottesville Anniversary. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired August 9, 2018 - 07:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:32:05] ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: The ACLU is suing the Trump administration over new proposals dealing with asylum.

Joining us now with more, Lee Gelernt, who is the deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project and also, lead attorney in the suit over separated families.

And I want to start with these separated families because --

LEE GELERNT, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, ACLU IMMIGRANTS' RIGHTS PROJECT: Right.

HILL: -- there's been such a focus. And, of course, the judge, last week, really slammed the government for saying hey, the ACLU should take the lead on this.

GELERNT: Right.

HILL: But also said to the ACLU can you put together a steering committee and also, can you help out here. What can you do?

GELERNT: Right.

HILL: So where does that stand?

GELERNT: Right. So, tonight at 6:00 eastern, both sides are going to submit proposals.

And what we are going to say is we have this steering committee with worldwide law firms, NGOs here, NGOs in Central America. We are ready to help. Just give us as much information as you can so we can find the parents.

But we also expect, and I think the judge expects the government to come up with a plan and say look, this is what we can do. So we hope the government will do things like run PSAs in Central America --

HILL: Yes.

GELERNT: -- and take other steps.

We can put together a big team that will pale compared to the resources the United States government has.

HILL: In terms of information, the judge also said -- I mean, there's deadline information --

GELERNT: Right.

HILL: -- but also said it should be offered up on a rolling basis.

GELERNT: Right.

HILL: How much information are you getting? What are you not getting?

GELERNT: Right. So, until the judge said that, we were getting virtually nothing.

We've now very, very recently gotten phone numbers. We have no idea how up-to-date those phone numbers are. We intend to start calling all those phone numbers.

We want other information -- even little bits of information like, for example, do they speak an indigenous language because if they speak an indigenous language we can go to that region of Guatemala.

HILL: Right.

GELERNT: And so we'll take any piece of information but we're hoping the phone numbers work.

HILL: I mean this very seriously. How much of that information -- those little tidbits, right --

GELERNT: Right.

HILL: Do they speak indigenous language? Like, how much of that do you think the government actually has because there were a lot of questions in the beginning just in terms of actually --

GELERNT: Right.

HILL: -- identifying information that was or was not there.

GELERNT: Yes, exactly.

So, what I think the government did not have, which was shocking, is the ability to sort of track the parents and children and put them together.

HILL: Right.

GELERNT: But I do think they have information about the parents because when they did the enforcement proceedings to try and get the parents out, they have to take down certain information. So we do think the government has that information.

What's unfortunate is is that some of the information, like phone numbers, could have been given to us months ago and we could have already been tracking the parents, so we are way behind the eight ball.

And it's not just -- it's every day that we don't track the parents it's a little child sitting by himself in a facility.

HILL: How many children -- there's still hundreds of kids, right?

GELERNT: Yes.

HILL: We're talking about hundreds of little kids.

GELERNT: Absolutely.

HILL: How many do you think -- or what are your latest numbers in terms of families who've been able to reunite children and parents based on the information that you are now getting?

GELERNT: Right. So we believe about 1,900 have been reunited and we're thrilled by that. Absent the public outcry, absent our lawsuit, not only with those 1,900 maybe not have been reunited that there might have been 4,000-5,000.

[07:35:04] So we're thrilled about that but there's still 500 to 600 still sitting without their parents.

HILL: Is that -- there was public outcry in the beginning --

GELERNT: There was.

HILL: -- for a long time.

GELERNT: Right.

HILL: Do you feel that that momentum is still with you?

GELERNT: I do. I mean, we are getting letters, e-mails, calls. I do believe that until every child is reunited, people are going to still be outraged.

And I also think that this has shown it goes beyond just this issue. I think people are saying maybe we should take a look at what the administration's actually doing because before, things were just sort of moving and people were desensitized. I think this has galvanized people to say maybe we should look at what's being done in our name.

HILL: So we should point out too, as I mentioned off the top, the ACLU also filing a case against the DOJ --

GELERNT: Right.

HILL: -- for Attorney General Sessions' decision to exclude domestic and gang violence as reasons to grant asylum. The DOJ, as you know, says it has the right to narrow the definition --

GELERNT: Right. HILL: -- and basically came back and that's what they said.

The ACLU also filed against the Obama administration when it came to the way certain asylum cases were dealt with. That was ultimately settled, I believe, in 2014-2015.

But what's different this time around and what is your main concern here because as the DOJ points out -- look, we can -- we can change the definition and people who are dealing with a personal situation don't necessarily fall under --

GELERNT: Yes.

HILL: -- the definition?

GELERNT: We think it's wrong under domestic asylum law and international asylum law.

We'll be in court in D.C. this morning at 9:30 to explain why we think what Attorney General Sessions has done is patently unlawful.

It's going to mean that people who are fleeing the very gangs that the administration is saying are so dangerous -- these are people who stood up to the gangs, came here, and now are going to be sent back by the administration -- perhaps killed, their children killed -- and also domestic violence.

Those have, for a long time, fallen under the asylum laws. The attorney general just abruptly changed the definition.

We think that Congress needs to step in because these -- a lot of what's going on is congressionally mandated, but it's also internationally mandated. And under our domestic asylums they've worked well. It's transparent that what's going on is the administration simply doesn't want these migrants coming.

HILL: That hearing, you said, 9:30.

Lee, appreciate it, as always. Thank you.

GELERNT: Thank you.

HILL: Disturbing new details on the New Mexico compound where children were found in horrid conditions. Police now talking about the adults who were arrested and what they were training those children for -- that's next.

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[07:41:40] HILL: Five suspects accused of starving and abusing 11 children at a New Mexico compound were allegedly training those children to commit school shootings. When police raided the compound last week they found a shooting range and loaded firearms on the property.

CNN's Scott McLean joins us now from Taos, New Mexico, live with more. Disturbing to say the least, Scott.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely, Erica.

So this accusation, it actually stemmed from the criminal complaints that were filed in district court yesterday against these five adult defendants who were found on this compound.

And all five criminal complaints read, in part, "A foster parent of one of the 11 children stated the defendant had trained the child in the use of an assault rifle in preparation for future school shootings."

I cannot stress enough though that this is just an accusation at this point. It has not been proven in court.

The defense attorney, he is also urging caution. He said look, take this with a grain of salt because this may very well be secondhand. It may very well not have any basis in fact or at least not any definitive proof that it's true.

The local sheriff here said that early on he called the people on this compound extremists of the Muslim belief, but when he was pressed on that he didn't elaborate.

He did, though, tell a newspaper in Santa Fe that that information came from an FBI analyst. The FBI, of course, was surveilling this property for quite some time.

Now, police -- they did find guns here -- pistols and an AR-15. The property owner also found a couple of more rifles. And then they also had this shooting range.

So we're actually at the back of the complex right now Erica and you can see this seems to be part of the target practice apparatus. It's a bunch of sheet metal and some tires there. There's also a tire berm at the back with some dirt built up to -- just in case any stray bullets end up back there.

And then this seems to be part of the paper targets -- it just broke. But it looks like a person there drawn by a child.

We also spoke with the father of one of the defendants here, Lucas Morton, and he painted a vastly different picture.

He said look, these people, they were peaceful. Yes, they had guns but a lot of people here have guns. They are for protection from people or animals.

He said that their only crime really was being unprepared to start what he called a homestead.

And we've also gotten new text messages -- from a neighbor who did not want to be identified -- between himself and a man that he says is Lucas Morton.

And these messages seem to corroborate what the father is saying -- that they were ill-prepared to live out here, really in the middle of nowhere. He's constantly asking to borrow equipment, borrow supplies, buy gas off of him.

But perhaps the most bizarre thing from those text messages is that Lucas Morton made clear that he would not drive during the day. He would not leave the compound during the day -- only between dusk and dawn. He does not say why but at one point, he says, it's on God's orders -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Scott McLean for us in Taos. Scott, you just have remarkable access to that scene and it has been fascinating to see. Thanks so much, Scott.

Forty-four years to the day that President Nixon resigned and left the White House in disgrace, but some of Nixon's words are making a comeback four decades later.

John Avlon joins us with our "Reality Check" -- sir.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right, J.B.

Look, President Nixon took that unprecedented step to avoid impeachment. Now there are some Democrats and even Republicans who seem to want to make the coming midterms about the possible impeachment of President Trump.

[07:45:03] But we're not going to go there. No one should be an instinctive impeachment enthusiast.

But it does seem like an appropriate time to look back at the striking and surprising ways that President Trump has identified with and echoed his most polarizing predecessor.

It goes back to at least 1987 when Nixon sent a letter to Trump that the president still cherishes. In it, Nixon wrote of his wife Pat, quote, "She is an expert on politics and she predicts that whenever you decide to run for office you will be a winner."

Not surprising Donald Trump liked that prophetic document.

And echoes of Nixon were evident throughout Trump's presidential campaign. For example, Trump called his supporters --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The silent majority, it's back and it's not silent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: Now, that is a line lifted directly from Nixon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD M. NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So tonight, to you, the great silent majority and my fellow Americans, I ask for your support.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: Different style, same substance.

And, in fact, Trump's 2016 convention speech was specifically touted by then-campaign manager chairman Paul Manafort as a return to Nixon's 1968 convention speech and its law and order theme.

Now, both men are attracted to not just the same type of person to their sides but in some cases, these same people as advisers. Roger Ailes, Roy Cohn, who was an influential adviser to Trump before he entered politics, and Roger Stone.

Now, both men see themselves as artipal (ph) tough guys in the arena.

And on the value of fear, let's play a quick game of who said it.

Quote, "People react to fear, not love. They don't teach that in Sunday school but it's true." And, "Real power is -- I don't even want to use the word -- fear."

Well, the first is Richard Nixon. The second is President Trump in a quote he gave to, actually, Watergate scribe Bob Woodward for the title of his upcoming book.

Now, once in office, both men declared war on the media. Here's Nixon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIXON: The press is the enemy. The press is the enemy. The press is the enemy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: Sound familiar? Here's President Trump.

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TRUMP: A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people, and they are. They are the enemy of the people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: Now, as the Watergate investigation heated up, Nixon declared it was nothing but a witch hunt. Trump, of course, cries witch hunt constantly, more than 20 times in May and June alone.

And when the political noose tightened around Nixon, he tried to loosen it by claiming he was above the law, as he famously told David Frost.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIXON: Well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal.

DAVID FROST, FORMER BRITISH JOURNALIST: By definition?

NIXON: Exactly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: Now, Trump's legal team said something suspiciously similar.

Quote, "It remains our position that the president's actions here, by virtue of his position as the chief law enforcement officer, could neither constitutionally nor legally constitute obstruction because that would amount to him obstructing himself."

And, Trump has said somewhat the same thing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Yes, I do have an absolute right to pardon myself but I'll never have to do it because I didn't do anything wrong.

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AVLON: Now, finally, Nixon's resignation came after the Supreme Court decided unanimously that he had to turn over the secret White House tapes involving Watergate.

Now, Judge Brett Kavanaugh has suggested that the Supreme Court might have made the wrong call against Nixon. But, Kavanaugh, of course, was President Trump's pick for the Supreme Court.

So as you can see, while many presidents are happy to treat Nixon as political kryptonite, Donald Trump likes to keep them close.

And that's your "Reality Check."

BERMAN: Yes, it so interesting. I don't think that President Trump would have any problems with the comparison up until that point 44 years ago today.

AVLON: No, I think that's exactly right. He doesn't want to take the parallel too far but he really does identify with Richard Nixon in a way that is unusual in modern American politics.

BERMAN: All right, John.

HILL: Unusual is one way to put it.

BERMAN: Thanks very, very much.

So, Charlottesville, Virginia under a state of emergency as we approach one year since the deadly white supremacist rally there. The reporter who did so much great work from inside the rally tells us what has changed and what's the same.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [07:53:26] BERMAN: Virginia's governor has declared a state of emergency as Charlottesville marks one year since the deadly white supremacist rally there.

Tonight on HBO, "VICE NEWS" follows up its award-winning coverage of the Charlottesville march, taking a look at politics and the alt-right while bringing a familiar face back into the spotlight.

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ELLE REEVE, CORRESPONDENT, "VICE NEWS TONIGHT" : Do you think the GOP is adopting any of the alt-right's ideas?

CHRISTOPHER CANTWELL, WHITE SUPREMACIST: Not explicitly. It might be -- it might be influencing it though. We're influence culture and culture influences politics.

REEVE: Yes. And then, I guess -- let me put it this way. So --

CANTWELL: I don't -- I

REEVE: I just feel like you're saying it both ways like --

CANTWELL: So what I'm trying -- well, here's what I'm trying to -- here's the difficulty of it, OK?

You're trying to tie the Republican Party to the alt-right because you think that will be politically advantageous for you, and I think it's a disgusting tactic and I'm trying not to help you.

The fact of the matter is the more the left goes (bleeping) insane and makes -- and drives up hyperawareness of the racial tensions, more and more people come to us, and that's a very good thing. And that is going to start influencing politics if it hasn't already.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Joining us now, "VICE NEWS TONIGHT" correspondent Elle Reeve. Elle and her "VICE NEWS" team won a 2017 Peabody Award after -- or Peabody Award after she embedded herself among neo-Nazi sympathizers at last year's really.

Elle, thanks so much for being with us. Congratulations --

REEVE: Oh, thank you.

BERMAN: -- on everything that you've accomplished over the last year.

Let me just ask you about the next few days because you've been in the middle of this for so long.

Charlottesville's mayor -- the governor, actually, in Virginia, declaring a state of emergency there. Are you concerned that there might be violence this weekend in Charlottesville?

REEVE: Well, there's a very damning report about what the police did in preparation for last year's rally. It led to the resignation of the chief of police and I don't think they want to make that mistake again, so there's a very heavy police presence there.

[07:55:07] That being said, the guy who organized the rally last year, Jason Kessler, has lost his constituency within the alt-right. He just doesn't have a lot of followers.

He's been denounced by all kinds of alt-right leaders. So I don't think he'll be able to marshal anywhere near the numbers that he did last year.

BERMAN: That's one of the things I think that you talk about which is so interesting.

Assess the state of the alt-right and the movement among those people who marched one year ago -- one year ago versus today. Is it an upward trajectory or a downward trajectory?

REEVE: Oh, it's been devastating for them and that's their words.

Initially, after the rally, they were in a bit of denial about that -- that maybe that just shook out the weaker elements. But over time, the problems have been compounding.

Of course, they're kicked off social media, but they've also been kicked off payment processors which means they can't raise money online. You know, it's an Internet movement. They need Internet donations and it's impossible for them to get that.

So, Chris Cantell, the man I interviewed, he can only raise money through Bitcoin.

Further, there's all this infighting in between groups. Some have been ousted.

One leader named Eli Mosley was exposed by the "Times" as a fake war veteran. So they're really just back on their heels.

BERMAN: It's so interesting because this was such a giant issue one year ago and for many people, it hasn't drifted into the distance.

But let's remind people that President Trump said this -- said about this one year ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You also had people that were very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group -- excuse me, excuse me. I saw the same pictures as you did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So one year ago we all watched that and there were great fears that President Trump, for the first time, was giving official legitimacy to some in that movement. But as you note, one year has passed and it's been devastating for them -- the ramifications of Charlottesville. That's an interesting juxtaposition.

REEVE: That's right. They want to influence politics but they know that their biggest influence on politics is making the politicians they like look really bad.

So you saw in that interview with Cantwell, he doesn't want to say that he has anything to do with Trump -- that Trump is -- makes any racial appeals in any way -- even though he's sitting in front of a giant flag with Trump's face on it.

BERMAN: It's so interesting. He said a statement on politics, you know -- he is influencing culture -- culture influences politics. I thought that was an interesting statement.

REEVE: Yes.

Again, this started as an Internet movement -- a bunch of kids trolling people online. And they've benefitted from having this kind of ironic distance from the cruelty of their racial positions and their jokes.

And that -- and they were able to affect reporters. This is another thing that they're very, very good at. They understand how to manipulate us and they know how to get their ideas in the news even though they have relatively small numbers.

BERMAN: Antifa -- you note there are times when there are more protesters against some of these white supremacists than the actual numbers themselves.

Where is the Antifa movement now?

REEVE: Oh, they certainly had a surge after Charlottesville. I've talked to many members who started protesting alt-right and white nationalist events after Charlottesville.

They're known for getting in fist fights with Nazis.

And while that does sort of suppress turnout for Nazis, what's really important is that Antifa does incredible research and they are able to infiltrate the communications networks of white nationalists. And that has made it impossible for white nationalists to organize public events because Antifa will always be there.

BERMAN: It's interesting Chris Cantwell -- again, so consider the source here -- says that there's a real risk and benefit to people like him from overreach from Antifa and the left.

Do you see that?

REEVE: Yes. They are trying to create propaganda. They want to show that their ideas are so powerful and so dangerous that the left must suppress them with violence.

And so they want to get that on video. They want to get punched in the face and have that on video and say look at us, we're the victims. BERMAN: All right.

I have to say, again, terrific reporting one year ago. Thank you for staying on it, Elle. Great to have you here.

You can see Elle's latest reporting on "VICE NEWS TONIGHT." It airs at 7:30 eastern time on HBO.

A lot of news to follow this morning so let's stay on it.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If he needs the president to testify then he will proceed to do that.

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We do not want to run into the November elections. This should be over with by September first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you obstruct justice and you don't sit in the chair, it takes a lot longer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Time is on Mueller's side, not President Trump's.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The indictment is stunning, showing Collins purposely passed on insider information.

REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), NEW YORK: I believe I acted properly and within the law at all times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chris Collins is going to be in for a really rough road here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got triple-digit temperatures. We have a red flag warning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People have parked their cars in their driveway, nose out, ready to go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was really hard to see because you could tell where the staircase was. It was like trying to picture what our home was like.

(END VIDEO CLIP)