Return to Transcripts main page


Some Migrant Children Lack Soap, Toothpaste, Toothbrushes; Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) Is Interviewed About The Manmade Humanitarian Disaster At Border; Democrats Hoping For Breakout Moments At First Presidential Debates, Biden Still Leading Pack; Mitch McConnell Meets With 9/11 First Responders, Commits To Passing Funding Extension In August; Government Prosecutors Unveil More Information Against Rep. Hunter; Former Republican EPA Administrator Blasts Trump's Administration's Refusal To Acknowledge That Climate Change Is A Threat. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired June 25, 2019 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:17] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: There is breaking news tonight, action in Congress on the humanitarian crisis on the border and we'll bring that to you as we go tonight.

We begin, though, with the graphic reminder what this is about. It's a new photo which I do want to warn you is hard to look at but we think shouldn't be ignored. With that, the photo shows the bodies of a man, his name is Alberto Martinez, and his daughter Angie washed up on the Mexican side of the Rio Bravo River.

Now, they were from El Salvador and drowned trying to cross into the country, drowned trying to cross into the United States. Even had they made it across that river, they might have faced a difficult and possibly dangerous future.

What has become, keeping them honest, a human disaster involving the conditions these migrants face in U.S. custody especially kids. There are kids living in filth and crowded together, young children who are caring for even younger children. They are living this way because the number of people crossing the border in decisions made in Washington and policies set at the very top.

A guest who joins us momentarily, a pediatrician describes it this way. Children being held in conditions comparable she says to torture facilities. Extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care or basic sanitation or water or adequate food. Now, those are the conditions being reported to her.

It's some of the people responsible, as you'll see, simply don't acknowledge that as they compare the influx of migrants to a storm or flood or a tide as if this all fell from the sky or rolled in from the sea.

At the end of the day, though, this is not an act of god. These are people, poor people, young people and whoever you think about the case they may have for coming here, they are here. They are now in custody here and those words in custody don't just mean are being held, they mean in the care of or as Webster's has it, the act or process of preserving in safety, which is not what is happening.

We and others reported on it. Here is what "The New York Times" wrote after children's advocates visited the facility in Clint, Texas. Now, this is a facility where yesterday, we learned that about 250 kids had been taken out of because the overcrowding was so bad. This is also the facility where today we learned that about 100 kids have to be returned to.

Quoting now from "The Times", quote: Most of the young detainees have not been able to shower or wash clothes since they arrived at the facility. Those who visited said they have no access to toothbrushes, tooth paste or soap. There is a stench, said Elora Mukherjee, director of the Immigrants Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School, one of the lawyers who visited the facility.

The overwhelming majority of children have not bathed since they crossed the border, she said. There is a stench, she said, speaking literally of human beings living worse than animals because animals at least have the means to clean themselves. She might have well been speaking figuratively of the stench coming from the places where the people responsible for all this are failing to take responsibility.

Today, John Sanders, acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, stepped down. An official unnamed tells "The Times" it was not clear whether his departure is or is not related to the revelations of the facilities. He'll be replaced by another acting official, the acting head of ICE in yet another acting capacity.

Today, his boss, the president, was asked whether he'd asked Acting Commissioner Sanders to step down.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNIED STATES: I didn't speak to him. I don't think I've ever spoken to him actually. But we have some very good people running it and, you know, I don't know anything about it.

I hear he's a very good man. I hear he's a good person. I don't know him. I don't think I ever spoke to him.


COOPER: He's heard good things about him, this official responsible for enforcing the president's supposedly tough border policy. But he's never spoken to the man, doesn't even know him. For all the president's tough talk on the border, he's never spoken to one of his front line officials apparently or perhaps he's doing what he did with Paul Manafort, barely knew him. Michael Cohen wasn't really important or George Papadopoulos, the coffee boy.

And again, perhaps, it's not so bad the president might be acquainted with an official carrying out the policy. He also seems confused about one of the policies that began this cycle of kids in custody. Zero tolerance enforcement which separated families at the border.

The policy has been abandoned. He still maintains falsely the last administration was responsible for it and that he, President Trump actually ended it and now in a new twist, this is what is driving the latest influx of families.


TRUMP: You know, under President Obama, you had separation. I was the one that ended it. I said one thing, when I ended it, I said here's what's going to happen. More families are going to come up and that's what happened.


COOPER: Again, keeping them honest. The zero tolerance policy that produced family's separation was conceived and executed by the Trump administration as a deterrent. They admitted that.

[20:05:01] Not the president.

As for the current influx, experts say, there are many factors driving migration through Mexico from Central America's Northern Triangle countries. It starts in those countries and President Trump has said he's cutting off aid to them or wants to which used to go to improving conditions there and trying to reduce the reasons to leave. It continues through Mexico which is only sporadically guarded the southern border.

But right now seems the main problem the influx of migrants into detention facilities and top U.S. officials who talk tough but don't seem prepared to actually deal with the consequences of it. That is unless dealing with it means awkwardly chuckling while shifting blame elsewhere.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We have money to give toothpaste and soap and blankets to these kids in El Paso County right now.


TAPPER: So, why aren't we?

PENCE: My point is, it's all a part of the appropriations process.


COOPER: Well, part of the appropriations or part of the stench.

Perspective now from Dr. Dolly Lucio Sevier. She's a pediatrician who recently visited the detention center in McAllen, Texas.


COOPER: Dr. Sevier, what exactly did the kids you talked to tell you about the conditions that they are being kept in?

DR. DOLLY LUCIO SEVIER, PEDIATRICIAN: They have very similar stories. They all reported that the lights were kept on 24 hours. I think that was the most uncomfortable thing for them but, you know, the stuff that alarmed me the most like I mentioned is that they all reported no access to hand washing and equally alarming was the mothers with infants drinking formula from a bottle reported no access of washing bottles for those infants.

COOPER: Were you able to see, you know, the areas that they are kept in? Because I understand the room you were in there was some sort of wet wipes and things that could be used for cleaning. Were you able to see other areas?

SEVIER: No, we did ask for access into where the detainees were being held but denied. The area I saw was very clean. It was an office space that's where they did their work, but it just stood out that at every single workstation there must have been 12 or 15 computers in the room. There was a hand sanitizer and a container of Clorox wipes.

So, clearly, the border patrol officers are worried about getting sick, which I understand but it's just incomprehensible why that concern is not extended to the detainees that are in the crowded space themselves.

COOPER: You also write about seeing evidence of trauma in these kids. Can you explain what the evidence was, how you came to that conclusion?

SEVIER: Yes, the evidence I saw was entirely based on their behavior. They were all responding in an appropriately for their age. They were all extremely fearful, which I understand considering the circumstances but then after that extremely subdued in that they allowed me to examine them easily, which is completely unexpected and inappropriate behavior for their age.

The three children that were unaccompanied in the daycare setting had more evidence of trauma. One of them when he came to the room where I was, was breathing heavily the entire time and I asked the coast guard officer and she said, no, he just started doing this. But I think that trauma was from seeing his teenage mother he hadn't seen in three weeks, the person he came into the center with but initially there was no bonding. He didn't run to his brother. There was looking straight down and panting.

The two other girls alone kept repeating the statement. Maybe it's something they're being told, but they said my dad is getting the papers, my dad is getting the papers, and that's all they kept going back to and inappropriately I would say.

COOPER: Is this anything what you expected it to be? I mean, did you expect to find this? Did you -- is it better, worse than you anticipated?

SEVIER: Some things were better and some things were worse. The hygiene I'm completely dumb because if you don't care about the humanity and thinking of dollars and cents, it's cheaper to get soap than send people to the E.R. or quarantine them with flu. That's common sense. You don't need a doctor to tell you washing your hands will reduce the spread of infection. So, that I was completely dumbfounded by.

The bottles, that feels reportable to CPS. Really, it is. I had a parent come to my office and say they are not washing formula bottles for days on end, I would be concerned about the child's safety at home. So, that I was floored by.

The better parts -- the human decency I did see, I mean, the coast guard officer I saw was lovely. There was a lady who was cleaning the bathrooms when one of the unaccompanied kids, the 3-year-old walked out. You know, she said, hey, and named her by her first name and gave her a big hug.

[20:10:05] So, I mean, there is good and bad. Like anything else, it depends on who is showing up for work and how as a human with basic human decency treating the people they are there to protect.

COOPER: Dr. Sevier, I appreciate you being on. Thank you.

SEVIER: No problem. Thank you.


COOPER: As we said -- as we said at the top, there is action in Congress on this tonight. The Democratic-controlled House expected to vote on about $4.5 billion in funding for the border situation. The White House is threatening a veto.

Joining us now is Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. He serves on the Foreign Relations Committee and spends considerable time on the border.

Senator Merkley, I just want to start by asking about the photograph that we showed earlier, a father, his almost 2-year-old child who drowned while trying to cross into the U.S. Obviously, the passage is incredibly dangerous for many people.

But when you see something like this, the reality of the situation for so many, it's hard to ignore.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): Anderson, this father, this child were victims of American metering, where they attempted to cross at a port of entry. Reportedly, they were refused the ability, put back into Mexico and where they had no family, no friends, no resources, so they did what so many others try to do in that situation and say we've just got to try to get across the border.

And that means some people who approached the wall, crossed the river and in this case, we don't know all the specific details, but it's my understanding that this is a family that was rejected at the border.

COOPER: We just heard about some of the conditions that Dr. Sevier, a pediatrician, heard from some of the children at facility in Texas. Who is to blame for all of this and why -- is it just a question of numbers of people and that they are just, that these facilities aren't set up to deal with that or what is the problem? What is the kind of the breakdown? I mean, you know, not having soap and toothpaste seems a ridiculous problem.

MERKLEY: No, this is a huge level of incompetence and lack of compassion. The Flores standards for sanitation, for food, for medicine, for water, for cleanliness have been violated repeatedly and it seems like intentionally. I think any American would be horrified to see these conditions.

These are -- many of these things that are fairly easily remedied with bottles water, with soap, with access to a bathroom, with taking small children who have a medical condition and getting them to medical care.

So, I don't think we can simply say that it's the level of the influx. I just think that we need to have a thorough investigation of what has happened and hold people accountable for failures, whether intentional and deliberate. This is absolutely unacceptable.

COOPER: What do you make of the president's comments saying he didn't know the acting head of Customs and Border Patrol, that he had never spoken to them? You know, he clearly has made being tough on the boarder or what he considering tough on the boarder to be a major part of his administration, I can understand them not knowing a lot of lower level front line officials. But the acting head of Customs and Border Patrol, you would think he would know who that person is.

MERKLEY: Absolutely. With all of his attention on the border, you would expect he would have heads in there of ICE, the Department of Homeland Security, the head of Customs and Border Protection and then say, we got to solve these problems. What resources do you need? We're moving them over. Take care of these things.

But under line administration's approach has been the argument that if people suffer as immigrants, it will discourage them from immigrating. That was the base of child separation, mistreat or inflict trauma on children and it will discourage immigration.

So when you start from that perspective, there isn't this sense we would expect of our government in which they are doing everything possible to address these problems. They are not doing everything possible and the result is the horrific conditions we're seeing now. Many of these conditions would be neglect and prosecutable in any other setting.

COOPER: Senator Merkley, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

MERKLEY: Thank you.

COOPER: Just ahead in the wake of the most recent assault allegation against President Trump, I'll talk with Jessica Leeds who went public with her allegation of assault in the heat of 2016 campaign.

[20:15:03] And later, the aftermath of emotional meeting on Capitol Hill between first responders of 9/11 to Senator Mitch McConnell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're satisfied. Are we happy? No. We're -- we're going to leave here and Louie Alvarez is going to die.



COOPER: Most Capitol Hill Republicans are either defending the president or keeping radio silence. Two high profile GOP senators now say New York writers revealed sexual assault allegations against President Trump should be looked into. Senators Mitt Romney of Utah and Joni Ernst of Iowa said today the assertions made by writer and advice columnist E. Jean Carroll should be examined.

On the program last night, I talked at length with Ms. Carroll who repeated her claim that two decades ago, the president sexually assaulted her in a New York City department store.

[20:20:06] She also reacted to the president denying her accusation saying, quote, she's not my type.


COOPER: I'm wondering, the statement that he said which he just made which is she's not my type, number one -- that was the number one thing.

E. JEAN CARROLL, COLUMNIST: I love that I'm not his type. Don't you love you're not his type?

He also called Miss Universe fat. Miss Piggy, I think he called her. Miss Universe, one of the most beautiful women in the solar system and he called her fat.


COOPER: Well, 15 women over the years now made sexual assault allegations against Donald Trump. One of those women is Jessica Leeds, who went public with her claims against the president during the closing weeks of the 2016 campaign and it didn't take the president long to go after her.


TRUMP: When you looked at that horrible woman last night, you said, I don't think so. She would not be my first choice that I can tell you. Man! You don't know. That would not be my first choice.


COOPER: Well, joining me tonight is Jessica Leeds.

Jessica, were you surprised to hear the president essentially kind of using the same words against Ms. Carroll that he used against you, essentially talking about appearances and that, you know, he said she's not my type about Carroll. JESSICA LEEDS, SAYS PRESIDENT TRUMP GROPED HER ON PLANE DECADES AGO:

I was not surprised. He is set in his ways and he really needs a new script, but he's not going to change.

COOPER: It's interesting with Ms. Carroll that his first thing -- he said I'm saying this with respect, the first thing he said is she's not my type and then, you know, that it's not true and that she's lying.

The idea that that's the first thing one would talk about is the appearance of the person is interesting.

LEEDS: Yes. Yes. That's a common thread through all the other episodes that have come to light. He lies so much that he really is incapable of recognizing this situation as it literally exists.

COOPER: I remember when you and I first spoke back in October, it was of 2016, you told me that you knew when you came forward that the president would comment about your looks and that's intentionally why you came forward, you showed pictures of yourself when you were the age of the incident that you say happened. That was already in your mind. You knew that's what he would do?

LEEDS: Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely.

My experience with men like Trump, they cannot see themselves in the mirror. They don't recognize their own ageing, so they can't recognize the ageing of other people, of women and they really basically are only attracted to younger women, to young women.

COOPER: When you came forward, you know, and again, this was in the during disturb -- during the campaign and -- during the campaign and other women came forward and would, were you surprised by the response and also by the lack of response and I'm wondering what you make of the response to Ms. Carroll's allegation as well, the sort of public response or lack thereof?

LEEDS: I was totally amazed at the response that I got because 100 percent support. I never ran into anybody who criticized my story or who gave me a hard time. I was surprised at this new story that it got any attention at all and, you know, thank you for giving it some time because it's still an important issue.

COOPER: You said you had great interactions with people face-to-face. Obviously, you know, there was a lot of coverage that was, you know, probably quite -- that was questioning what you -- your allegations. Would you recommend that women come forward?

LEEDS: Yes, I would encourage women if they feel strong enough. You know, we're so acculturated to make it our fault, as did Ms. Carroll the other night. She took responsibility to be stupid enough to go into the dressing room, so she feels and she --she's a strong woman.

[20:25:02] She wants to feel in control of her own life and what's happening. And, of course, the fact is he's bigger, he's stronger and he raped her. And she -- whether or not she wishes to acknowledge that, that's exactly what happened.

COOPER: Do you wish she had come forward at the time that you and other people came forward? Would that have somehow made a difference?

LEEDS: Oh, yes. Yes, I think -- yes. Numbers do matter, although to some degree the news media keeps mentioning the woman on the airplane which is me and my story without names. It seems to resonate with some of the media people. So, yes, I wish she had come forward at the time.

COOPER: Jessica Leeds, I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. Thank you.

LEEDS: Thank you and please take care.

COOPER: A lot more ahead including who has the edge going to the first round of the Democratic primary debate that is one night away. More on that ahead.


[20:30:27] COOPER: Preparations are underway tonight for the first Democratic debate of the 2020 campaign. 20 candidates are going to face-off over the next two nights in Miami.

Looking ahead for us tonight is Jen Psaki, the former communications director for President Obama, and Joe Lockhart, the former press secretary for President Clinton, both CNN Political Commentators.

So, Jen, I mean, debates are tough enough in general when there are nine other candidates on the stage. That's a really difficult thing for candidates to navigate because they don't get much time that can often because of debate rules just end up kind of ping-ponging between, you know, one or two or three candidates.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's exactly right. I mean, they have 60 seconds to give their answers and 30 seconds to respond. That's a very small amount of time. Each candidate might only have a couple of minutes over the course of two hours.

So, you know, they all are going to have different strategies depending on where they are in the lineup right now or where they are in the polls. But for most of them, it's not about having a viral moment, that's actually really hard to do and it rarely is from a prepared line or prepared attack.

It's usually from being strong on your feet or really being firm and consistent about what impression you want to leave with voters. So is it about immigration? Is it about abortion rights? Is it about income inequality?

They have to be disciplined. I think many of them will be and really think about what they want to get out of the debate because they're going to have very few minutes to your point to really -- to make their impression.

COOPER: Joe, for Vice President Biden, how big of a test do you think this is going to be for him, especially given the fact that he's, you know, largely avoided sit down interviews and, you know, he's given some long speeches. But, again, this is a much different situation.

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I think he's advantaged by exactly what Jen was talking about. This is more like a cable T.V. interview where you have a minute, a minute and a half and then, you know, you just -- you try to work your way in rather than a formal debate that you'll see in the general election.

So I think, you know, he will focus on Trump as I think a lot of the candidates will be. He has to pick out a couple of issues that he wants to hone in on. But I think the format, the amount of people allows him to stand out just because people know who he is.

COOPER: Jen, do you think other candidates -- I mean, how are they going to deal with Biden? I mean, do you expect them to kind of, you know, play nice, ignore him or go after him?

PSAKI: I think they'll each have a different approach. So if you're Bernie Sanders, you're thrilled that you're not on the same night as Elizabeth Warren because she has been positioning herself as the progressive alternative to Biden. So he has to figure out how to position himself effectively that way.

Now, he doesn't want to appear nasty, but he also wants to appear strong, so he has to find a way to balance that. If you're some of the other candidates on the stage, you know, like a Beto O'Rourke or an Amy Klobuchar, you really want to make a move into the top tier.

So how do you do that? You know, you leave an impression on an issue. You have a good moment maybe with another candidate. People love, you know, the commitment to work together.

And if you're some candidates like Kirsten Gillibrand, you really want to survive. I mean, you want to make an impression that people -- to get vote -- to get more donations and support so that you can make in September.

So, I think they're all going to have different approaches. Most of them, I don't expect will be nasty off the bat, especially since it's the first debate. I expect most of them will be pretty congenial with each other, but they'll look for moment of like contrast, especially Bernie with Biden, I think.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, Joe, you talked about Biden, you know, focusing on Trump. I can't imagine that they're all going to be kind of focusing on Trump because -- I mean, that basically will be a Greek chorus of Democrats just going after President Trump. And at the end, none of them will have -- if that's happens, they won't have stated their actual positions or talk about what they're for as oppose to just what they're against.

LOCKHART: Yes, no. I do think that the sort of Trump is the baseline and then they'll all draw their own contrast amongst themselves. Some of them will be subtle references to both Bernie's age and Joe Biden's age. Some of them will be talking about the difference between new ideas and old ideas.

But, you know, I never thought I would disagree with Jen Psaki, but the one thing I do disagree with is that most of the great moments in these debates were practiced before the debates. Where is the beef line that the Ronald Reagan. I won't let your -- my youthful inexperience of my opponent, all of those things. So they're all practicing this one liners.

The question of executing though is really, you know, getting it at the right time with the right emphasis behind it. They have all got them. We're just going to have to wait and see which one works.

[20:35:08] PSAKI: That's totally fair.

COOPER: Yes. There's nothing worse than when they practiced a one- liner and it doesn't work and it falls flat.

PSAKI: And it falls flat. Exactly.

COOPER: We've got to leave it there.

LOCKHART: Exactly.

COOPER: Joe Lockhart, Jen Psaki, thanks very much.

PSAKI: Thank you.

COOPER: The emotional testimony of 9/11 first responders and John Stewart may have gotten some results, next, and also the lobbying of first responders, frankly, from 9/11 for years now that meet with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell today. The deal they may have struck for victim's compensation, ahead.


COOPER: 9/11 first responders left a meeting today with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, confident that a bill to fully fund the 9/11 victim compensation fund will pass both Houses by August.

As you remember, Jon Stewart and others gave an emotional testimony before Congress two weeks ago. Senator McConnell reacted by saying he supported funding, did not understand why Stewart was "all bent out of shape."

The first responders today said that McConnell sat with them and for a lot longer than he had during meetings in previous years, still, they say they know the fight is not over.


JOHN FEAL, 9/11 RESPONDER: We're satisfied. Are we happy? No. We're going --if he strays from his commitment, then we'll go back into attack mode. But for now, we're going to put down our swords, we're going to pick up our rakes, we're going to form and we're going to be with our friends who are sick and dying.


[20:40:19] COOPER: Let's talk about that meeting with two 9/11 first responders who were there, Brendan Fitzpatrick, retired lieutenant with the New York Police Department, and Michael O'Connell, retired lieutenant for the New York Fire Department, both also work for the FealGood Foundation which helps injured emergency personnel.

Michael, does meeting with Majority Leader McConnell, I'm wondering your impression of how it went. Did he promise you that this funding would get passed?

MICHAEL O'CONNELL, RETIRED LIEUTENANT, NEW YORK FIRE DEPARTMENT: Well, for the most part we were very pleased with how the meeting went. We walked out of there, pleased that he actually gave us a timeline. He sense that there would -- was urgency behind it.

He listened to our voices and really showed that -- he showed some compassion and he actually gave us a timeline of August. So, there was no promises meant on the actual length of how long he would extend, so I can't say that. But my team walked out of there, pleased with how the meeting went.

COOPER: Brendan, do you take McConnell at his word that this will get -- you know, it will come up in August that will be done by August.

BRENDAN FITZPATRICK, RETIRED LIEUTENANT, NYPD: Yes, absolutely. We all shook his hand at the end of the meeting. Before we left the meeting, we went over everything again just to be sure. And he agreed to everything that Mike just said. He's taking the House bill and he's going to put -- bring it through the Senate.

COOPER: And Michael, I know that you all presented McConnell with the badge of your friend, Detective Luis Alvarez. I'm wondering -- I know he's obviously, you know, in very bad shape. He testified on the Hill before. Explain the idea behind presenting McConnell with that badge. Because giving -- an officer giving a badge is a -- that -- I mean that's a big thing.

O'CONNELL: It is. It's part of your life. It's part of your career. It's something that signifies what you've done. And, you know, it just goes to show you the resilience and the passion that somebody like Luis Alvarez has.

You know, it -- this came from him. It was his idea while he is basically on his death bed, that in his last few days of his life, what he wants to do is he wants to keep fighting and he wants to keep serving the public.

So, he extended that offer that we would bring this shield of his down to Washington with us and presented to Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and tell him that, you know, this is from Luis Alvarez.

It's the shield that he wore his entire career and he wants you to have it as momentum of knowing that he needs you to pass this bill. There's a lot of people that are very much in the same circumstance he is and this means a lot to everybody.

And Luis is in a -- Luis is going to be in a spot where, you know, we're not going to have him much longer and we'll miss him dearly and we got to all speak to him after the meeting, just basically get to tell him how much we loved him, that we love him and that he means the world to us. And his fight and his momentum through that shield is going to meet a big dividends for a lot of people.

COOPER: I do not understand how this is something that you all have to essentially repeatedly go down to Congress for to get done. I mean, when I heard earlier today, you know, over the course of a long time there's been hundreds and hundreds of meetings you've had. Hundreds of 9/11 first responders, you know, personally walking the halls of Congress.

It's -- as somebody who, you know, is a lifelong New Yorker, it just doesn't make any sense to me that this is an issue that it just -- it shouldn't be an issue. It's -- I mean, it just should be done.

O'CONNELL: You know, and that's -- that came up actually during our meeting. You know, it's mind-boggling to think that we have to fight. Here we are 18 years later and we put a little bit of real life scenario into that meeting.

I mean, I personally told him that, you know, we're not lobbyists. You know, we're firemen. We're police officers. We're construction workers. We're correction officers. And this isn't our job to come down here and fight. You know, we did our job on 9/11. In one of the darkest days of this country, we went down there and we fought like so many did to build this country back up.

It's just sad to say that, you know, although we did have a nice meeting and it seems like, you know, we came out happy, in the grand scheme of things, what are you happy about? At the end of the day, people are still dying, and what do we do? We're giving them a little bit more -- that they don't have to worry about find it-- to be financially taken care of but you can't put a price tag on human life.

[20:45:16] FITZPATRICK: We keep coming down here every five years and with hat in hand saying, we need more of this and more of that. There are people sick and people are dying and Senator McConnell understood that. He said today that he understands the urgency of this. So we hope that gets through and we hope it gets through the Senate as soon as possible, hopefully, August.

COOPER: Lieutenant Michael O'Connell and Lieutenant Brendan Fitzpatrick, I appreciate you taking time to talk to us today. Thank you.

FITZPATRICK: Thank you for having us.

O'CONNELL: Thank you. I appreciate it, Anderson.

COOPER: Well, there's new revelations about a California congressman already in hot water with federal prosecutors, details in that ahead.


[20:50:08] COOPER: A government prosecutors tonight have unveiled new evidence against California Congressman Duncan Hunter. The latest allegation said that he used campaign funds to pay for extra marital affairs with lobbyist and congressional staffers. He's been charged with wire fraud, false filling records and campaign finance violations. The congressman has denied any wrongdoing and won reelection last year. Hunter's wife, who's also facing charges, is now cooperating with federal prosecutors.

And Chris joins us now. Despite all this, he showed up today at White House Medal of Honor ceremony which is interesting.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, he is caring forward. First of all, that's his right, right? We all have that right of due process in this country. But he's also going with what we have learned recently works in politics, haven't we? Deny, deny, fight, fight --

COOPER: Just ignore it.

CUOMO: -- attack your accusers, say it's fake, it's rigged. We've seen it work at a pretty high level. Why not try it?

COOPER: Yes. I mean, it seems like everything is looked through the lens of politics and people just decide, you know, to kind of go along with what the -- whatever their side is saying. It's unfortunate. What are you working on tonight?

CUOMO: I am going to take a look at what's going to happen tomorrow night with the debates. We have a couple of surrogates for some of the big shots to do a plus, minus on who's better. I have Harry Enten who we're calling the wizard of odds, O-D-D-S, not O-Z. Don't let my queens get in a way of a great line.

COOPER: I got it. I got it.

CUOMO: It seems that my writer did. So, we're going to take you through it that way tonight.

COOPER: The wizard of odds, there it is. All right, Chris, thanks very much.

CUOMO: Come on.

COOPER: I'll see you just couple of minutes from now. I love it. I like it. It's good.

Coming up next, former EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman on why Vice President Pence cannot answer a simple question about global warming.


[20:55:29] COOPER: Well, the Trump administration doesn't believe there's a global climate crisis. Today, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue appeared on CNN saying it's just weather patterns that change adding by way of example that "it rained yesterday. It's a nice pretty day today".

On Monday, "Politico" reported Perdue's department intentionally does not publicize study showing the dangers of climate change. And there's Vice President Pence on Sunday who was unable or unwilling to answer pretty simple question from CNN's Jake Tapper.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: So you don't think it's a threat? That's all I'm saying. You don't think it's a threat?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we're making great progress reducing carbon emissions. America has the cleanest air and water in the world. We'll continue to use market forces --

TAPPER: That's not true. We don't have the cleanest air and water in the world.

PENCE: I think --

TAPPER: We don't.


TAPPER: I mean, you could get back to me with some statistics to show it.

PENCE: But we're making progress on reducing carbon emissions. We're doing it through technology, through natural gas, through continuing to support as our administration is.

TAPPER: You just rolled back all these claim.

PENCE: Turned back to nuclear energy, clean energy. The answer though is not to raise the utility rates of millions of utility rate payers across the country.


COOPER: You heard the vice president claim the U.S. has the cleanest air and water in the world. According to an off cited index compiled by Columbia and Yale University, United States does ranked first in drinking water but ranks 10th in air quality.

Earlier, I spoke to Christine Todd Whitman, EPA Administrator under President George W. Bush and former Republican governor of New Jersey.


COOPER: You've said before that this administration is actually making it difficult for scientists. This is hamstringing government scientists.

CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN, FORMER EPA ADMINISTRATOR: Well, it's not allowing them to even go to conferences where this might be discussed, climate change might be discussed, and that's all across. It's not just at EPA, it's every --

COOPER: They cannot go to conferences where climate change is being discussed.

WHITMAN: No. No, they can't talk about climate change at all. I mean --

COOPER: That phrase is being -- is not something they use.

WHITMAN: We have -- our Secretary of State Pompeo went up to the Arctic Councils Meeting. Our joint chiefs of staffs have said this is a climate change in and of itself. It's a national security issue. And he won't let them put climate change in the final document.

I mean, it's happening. It's real. You can't keep -- you can pretend and act like an ostrich, but there's an off of big part of an ostrich that's still a wonderful target sitting up there.

COOPER: It was also interesting that Vice President Pence kept sort of saying, well, you know, we're going to follow the science on this.

WHITMAN: The science has decided. I mean, you can always find -- science is never absolute. And you can always find scientist that will find things that aren't as positive as people would like it to be. But it's so overwhelming now, the science, that this is happening.

COOPER: I've also heard you say in the past that essentially that the Trump administration is just kind of blanket rolling back regulations without even kind of looking at or why is this regulation in place.


COOPER: Is it still something that is important?

WHITMAN: Anything that had anything to do with President Obama, gone, good, bad or indifferent. I mean, every administration comes in and tries to put their own stamp on everything.


WHITMAN: But without looking at this, it's good to review regulations. You should do it from time to time because science evolves. We find new technologies. We can do things in a different way or we may find that this issue has already been dealt with.

COOPER: It's also interesting that they're sort of framing it as many as, you know, people increasingly have done as a liberal or conservative kind of argument. When you actually look at the history of environmentalism in this country, Teddy Roosevelt is responsible for so many of the national parks. You have Nixon --

WHITMAN: Abraham Lincoln set the first national land site, Yosemite.

COOPER: And Nixon created -- WHITMAN: And Nixon signed the Clean Air Act and established the EPA. It was Ronald Reagan that put climate change on the agenda of the National Security Council as a regular item. Not that he believed that necessarily humans were "causing it," but that he knew this was an issue that was coming and needed to be looked at.

COOPER: So, will anything change in terms of -- I mean, it's not like they're going to have a change of heart all of a sudden on this.

WHITMAN: They're not, but we have a chance to. I mean, 2020 is coming. And this is going to be the first time in my memory, and I don't know maybe you've gone through the history better than I, but where an environmental issue is going to be on the national agenda, is going to be part of the conversation.

And I think this election is a pivotal election. It's really going to be about who are we as Americans, what's right, what can we accept in our way of governance? And one of these issues is going to be what are we going to accept on climate, on environment overall because it's making us les healthy. It is threatening our health.

COOPER: Governor, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

WHITMAN: My pleasure.


COOPER: Governor Christine Todd Whitman. I want to hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME."