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President Trump Orders U.S. Agencies to Provide Citizenship Information, Instead of Including Question of 2020 Census; Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) is Interviewed About Immigration Raids Expected to Target Undocumented Families; Immigration Raids Expected To Begin Nationwide Sunday; Mayor Buttigieg Unveils Racial Justice Plan In Bid For African-American Voters; President Trump Ordering U.S. Agencies To Provide Citizenship Information, Instead Of Including Question In 2020 Census; Tropical Storm Barry Threatens Louisiana; Hurricane Warnings Issued For Part Of Coastline. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired July 11, 2019 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:14] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

Today, President Trump chose not to defy the Supreme Court. He backed down on putting a question about citizenship on the 2020 census.

The court, you'll recall, didn't buy the administration's rationale that this was being done to protect minorities by allowing better enforcement of the voting rights act and putting the citizenship question on the census was the only way to get accurate data. This evening in the Rose Garden, the president revealed that argument to be about as credible as the court did.

Then, he did something pretty remarkable. He actually undercut his own original argument and said there's really no need for a census question at all. Instead, he directed agencies to gather citizenship data by other means. And as he typically does when blocked on something, whether it's legislation, executive action or golf course he wants to build, he pitched plan B as even better than plan A.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With today's executive order, which eliminates long-standing obstacles to data sharing, we're aiming to count everyone. Ultimately, this will allow us to have an even more complete count of citizens than through asking the single question alone.


COOPER: So, keeping them honest, that option was always open to the president, but it doesn't have the benefit -- and I'm putting that word in quotes -- of doing what numerous studies have shown, that it will depress the count in primarily Hispanic majority Democratic areas. As the Census Bureau itself warned last year, a citizenship question, quote, is very costly, harms the quality of the census count, and would use substantially less accurate citizenship data than are available from administrative sources. So if the goal is to more accurately count people, the experts say the

citizenship question is a bad idea. And just to remind you, Article 1 Section 2 of the Constitution is pretty clear on this, laying out what the census should count and what the numbers should be used for.

Here's, quoting now from the Constitution. Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons. The actual enumeration shall be made within three years after the meeting of the Congress of the United States and within every subsequent term of ten years in such manner as they shall be law direct.

The whole number of free people, not citizens, people. Yet the president continues to say otherwise, including behind closed doors today and recently on camera.


REPORTER: What's the reason, Mr. President, for trying to get a citizenship question?

TRUMP: Well, you need it for many reasons. Number one, you need it for Congress. You need it for Congress, for districting. You need it for appropriations. Where are the funds going? How many people are there? Are they citizens, are they not citizens? You need it for many reasons.


COOPER: Again, that's not true, nor is the more accurate data rationale, which the president himself actually destroyed today with his own words, whether he knows it or not.

So then the question is what does the president want to get out of all this? Because the president has never shied away from saying the normally unspoken stuff out loud, he offered something of an answer today which is red meat for the base.


TRUMP: As shocking as it may be, far left Democrats in our country are determined to conceal the number of illegal aliens in our midst. They probably know the number is far greater, much higher than anyone would have ever believed before. Maybe that's why they fight so hard. This is part of a broader left-wing effort to erode the rights of the American citizen and it's very unfair to our country.


COOPER: Illegal aliens in our midst, he says, which -- whatever you may think about the census, citizenship or immigration -- has a certain ring to it or depending on your perspective, that term, a certain odor.

CNN's Jim Acosta has been talking to sources at the White House. He joins us now.

So, Jim, regardless of how the president is choosing to frame this, I mean, this was him backing down.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It certainly was, Anderson. This was the president and he does not do this very often, raising the white flag in the Rose Garden of the White House, backing off of this quest that he's been on for months now, which is to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

I talked to a source close to the White House earlier this evening who was remarking that this does not happen to the president very often. He does not back down from a fight that often, and that this was essentially a failing on the part of the White House that could have been avoided, in the words of the source close to the White House, Anderson, reminds me of the Bad News Bears.

And I talked to a separate White House official who said earlier this evening the president does not like to concede anything. So, for the president to admit he didn't have any further options at this point was a very big sign that they have run out of options.

[20:05:09] COOPER: Is there actually a working plan to carry out this -- the president's executive order about counting undocumented people by other means?

ACOSTA: It doesn't seem like it at this point. The president was announcing at this press conference, they called it a press conference but it ended up not being a press conference, because he didn't take questions, that he's ordering all of these departments of the federal government to start turning over this information.

My understanding from talking to officials inside the White House, Anderson, is they were not prepared in terms of what the president was going to do until very close to the last minute. There was one White House official who told me earlier today, people were confused inside the White House which way this was going to go.

So it stands to reason, Anderson, that they don't have a plan at this point. We should point out, though, the census folks over at the Commerce Department, they've been working on doing this administratively for sometime now, and as a matter of fact, people over at the Commerce Department have been urging the administration to do this administratively and not do this through a census question. So there's been sort of a battle going on inside the administration over whether or not they would want to do this.

But keep in mind, Anderson, the Attorney General William Barr was saying as of earlier this week that they thought they still had a legal route in the courts to take on all of this. Then, we saw William Barr then cleaning things up in the rose garden for the president saying, well, we could have won this in the courts if we had taken it that route. This was a logistical problem because they've essentially run out of time -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jim Acosta, appreciate it. Thanks very much. In addition to running for the Democratic presidential nomination,

Senator Cory Booker has introduced legislation, now essentially moot, to bar the Census Bureau from sharing data from any citizenship question with state redistricting officials. I spoke to him about the issue earlier this evening.


COOPER: Senator Booker, what do you make of the president announcing that he's going to pursue a citizenship question outside the census? I mean, is this the president declaring victory in the face of defeat here?

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think this is a clear defeat for him, and I think it's a defeat because activists around our country, including the Supreme Court, that we already know is tilted in the conservative direction, even calling him out and saying that he's not been truthful with this. This has been a cynical attempt, in my opinion, to not only try to subvert a quality count and quality representation, but somebody who has just failed. This is yet another one of his boasting and braggadociosness and now he's failed and trying to make the best of it.

COOPER: I mean, does the Commerce Department even have the means to survey everyone in the United States? Is this going to be like the president's announced voter fraud commission which folded after doing nothing?

BOOKER: Yes, again, we've seen so many takes of this, domestic and foreign policy. Everything from tweeting out we have nothing to worry about North Korea. He's taken care of that problem, to now what we're seeing today.

Having now served in the Senate for two years, I see Republicans and Democrats often say in our hallways that this is yet another example of where people just see -- hear him talk, hear him shout things out from Twitter or from the White House and ultimately don't come to pass.

So I don't put much stock in what he says, but I'm going to remain ever vigilant in trying to stop him from undermining the Constitution, and whether that is in trying to prevent us continuing to investigate his administration for things that clearly indicate malpractice or misconducts, all the way to the constitutionally prescribed obligations we have, which is to conduct a fair count of people within our country.

COOPER: I wonder if this has already had the impact that the president had hoped by getting -- you know, making people who may be here -- who are undocumented or even not, who are immigrants, making them afraid of actually taking part in the census.

BOOKER: Anderson, this is somebody who is trying to drive within this great country a fear-based culture. He tried to tell us we should be terrified about migrants coming up from the south, to the point that he had the media writing about a caravan as if that's going to threaten the mightiest country on the Planet Earth. His fear-based politics is undermining the safety of communities all around this country, where now you have immigrant communities are afraid to even go forward and report crime, sexual assault, violence, robberies to local police because they're afraid of being deported, afraid of dropping their kids off to school.

This fear-based culture is a toxic thing that he's doing. It may help him gin up parts of his base, but it's undermining the fabric of our country and actually undermining our ability to come together and do things, like pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill in a bipartisan way.

[20:10:01] COOPER: You condemn the impending ICE raids. The people, though, who are being targeted have received court orders to leave the U.S. that they have not complied with. So what exactly are you taking issue with? I mean, the supporters say what's wrong with enforcing existing court orders?

BOOKER: I'm saying that when we have real urgent needs, where there's real challenges to our public safety, we should be prioritizing this enforcement. And when I see parents being taken away from their children, their American children, when I see an American losing their spouse, when I see business owners as someone who is telling me about today being pulled away from -- that pose no threat to us whatever, when we could be using these law enforcement resources to really go after the folks who are real threats to our communities. This is all kinds of wrong and we're a better country than this to be separating families throughout our country, having children now have to grow up without a parent present in their house.

This is not our values, shouldn't be our priorities. It's the wrong way to go about immigration.

COOPER: Just one last question about the campaign. How do you see your position here? How far away are you from making, for instance, the September debate stage? I think you need 130,000 donors to register, 2 percent in four polls.

Do you think that threshold is fair? Is it too tough?

BOOKER: Well, we'll make that threshold, especially if people go to and make a dollar contribution wherever they can to our campaign. We're definitely looking like we can make it especially if we get more people supporting our candidacy.

I think it's a good thing we set some kind of lines because obviously with two debate stages and 20-plus people in this race, it's hard for people to focus. But remember, we are so many months out. We haven't had a nominee from our party go on to be president who is leading this far out in the polls since before Carter. There's a lot more campaign to go.

I'm really excited about how well we're doing. After the last debate, we raised over a million dollars in about a week. We certainly need more help. So I'm hoping more people will learn about what I stand for, the values that I speak to, and go to and keep me in this race.

COOPER: Senator Booker, I appreciate your time, and also, all our best to everyone there in New Orleans and surrounding region on the Gulf Coast who are prepping for Tropical Storm Barry, which obviously could be a hurricane if it makes landfall this weekend. We wish you the best. Thanks very much.

BOOKER: Thank you very much. Thank you.


COOPER: And we'll have more on that storm coming up later. Just ahead tonight, another candidate's take on this, Mayor Buttigieg talks about it. Also his new racial justice plan and the uphill climb he faces when it comes to winning African-American support, so far.

And coming up next our legal panel weighs in on what the president said this evening and what will come of it.

We'll be right back.


[20:17:00] COOPER: I'm joined tonight by the president's backed down on the census, which he offered up in a cloud of nationalistic language seeming to be aimed at his base voters. Attorney General Barr was there as well to give in what one CNN political analyst called a dear leader language, his congratulations for the decision.

The attorney general saying there was no time to do anything else.


WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: So as a practical matter, the Supreme Court's decision closed all paths to adding the question to the 2020 census. Put simply, the impediment was not -- was a logistical impediment, not a legal one. We simply cannot complete the litigation in time to carry out the census.


COOPER: The attorney general also suggesting that with the proper rationale, the administration would prevail. He made a number of other legal and potentially constitutional claims as well, which is why our legal team joins us right now.

Carrie Cordero, who's a senior fellow at the center for New American Security, and Elliot Williams, who served as deputy attorney general during the Obama administration.

So, Carrie, is this a nice way of saying the president caved?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think the attorney general is putting a really happy spin on a situation that was not a decision in favor of the administration. The Supreme Court did something really interesting in the case that they then had to accept, the decision they had to accept, which is that the court looked behind the decision that the commerce secretary was made -- was making and basically said it was pretextual. It was not what the secretary -- the reasons that they were using to put the question in were not what the secretary was saying in the litigation. And so, the attorney general can sort of try to --

COOPER: Which is essentially saying they're lying.

CORDERO: It is. And, I mean, the court was actually pretty strong against the commerce secretary. It said that the evidence tells a story that does not match the secretary's explanation. So it was pretty strong language in the court opinion from the chief justice.

COOPOER: Elliot, I mean, it's interesting that neither the president nor the attorney general acknowledged that the Supreme Court disagreed with their, essentially to Carrie's point, saying that they were essentially lying and why -- how they were trying to justify this.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS: Right. And what they were trying to do was restrict legal immigration to the United States or at least frighten immigrants.

But here's the thing, Anderson: every major -- when we look back in ten years or 20 years, we will find that every major policy decision made by this administration has been in furtherance of the goal of restricting even legal immigration to the United States. Its biggest Supreme Court victory was the Muslim ban. Its biggest infrastructure fight over the years has been a border wall. And now it's the use or the weaponizing of the census in order to I guess frighten immigrants or create what is, in effect, a registry of even legal immigrants to the United States.

Again, this is who is a citizen versus who is not, and that question pulls into it a number of lawful permanent residents.

[20:20:05] And so, what we need to ask is what they're doing. Exactly like you said, Anderson, the court that had addressed this question found that they just were not honest and what this was about was immigration diluting the voting rights of heavily immigrant communities, but also using the census as a pretextual reason for meddling in immigration policy.

COOPER: Carrie, I mean, Nancy Pelosi when asked if she was happy about the president's decision, she responded, quote, "not happy, jubilant." I mean, is this a good day for the checks and balances of our branches of government?

CORDERO: I think it is. I think it is a good day for those of us who are concerned about the rule of law, who are concerned about this administration pushing the boundaries and trying to step on the authorities and the checks and balances in our constitutional system. It is a good day, because what the president had to acknowledge today, whatever happy language the attorney general wants to put on it, the president had to acknowledge that he couldn't put the question in the census that he wanted to because the Supreme Court said that he couldn't do it in 2020. And that's the reality of the effect of that Supreme Court decision,

which was a 5-4 decision written by the Chief Justice Roberts. And so the president had to abide by it. And so the fact that he didn't try to do something extra constitutionally and try to go beyond that is a good day, I would say, for the checks and balances in our system.

But not that they haven't tried. I mean, they took this all the way to the Supreme Court to be able to get to today.

WILLIAMS: Yes, but what I would say, though --

COOPER: But it's interesting, Elliot, I mean, the president undercut his own argument that attorneys were making in court. The president says he's going to issue this executive order that will use the, quote, vast federal databases as a work-around. If that was an option before and a better option as the president is portraying it, why did they go to court in the first place?

WILLIAMS: Yes, and I disagree with Carrie a little bit only insofar as this vast databases question. There are no guardrails here. So, again, if the question is, do we not have the means of tracking down immigrants in the country, there is a vast apparatus that already exists for it. I worked for ICE for five years. I know that. If we need to stop people from voting or whatever, the Justice Department has an apparatus for that.

So, they're working under this premise that somehow we need to better target immigrants who are here, and we just don't know what the parameters of this are. And I think the most instructive thing today was that they didn't consult Congress about the decision. So what are the appropriations committees, the folks who handle the spending, going to think about now that the tapping of government resources just to start identifying people?

So there are a lot of questions here, and I think to some extent -- I mean, Carrie's point's very well-taken, you know, when we're conforming with the parameters set by courts, we're in a much better place. We just don't know what comes next and there is a pretty vast power that I think that they have taken here. And we should just keep an eye on it.

CORDERO: I think --

COOPER: Carrie, what do you think comes next?

CORDERO: The bigger point that I'm trying to make is that this is an example where the courts are cabining the president's attempts to use his authorities in ways that are not legal. And so we see other examples of this. So, for example, right now there is litigation ongoing in the president's use of his emergency authorities on the border. We did see the court push back some on the original travel ban which had a pretextual reason.

So, these are all examples, the travel ban was pretextual, the use of emergency authorities is pretextual, and now the Supreme Court pushback on the census question, which was pretextual use of authorities.

COOPER: Yes. Carrie Cordero, appreciate it. Elliot Williams as well, thanks very much.

CORDERO: Thanks.

COOPER: Coming up, more on those immigration raids, where they're expected to start this Sunday, and what officials in those cities say they are going to do about it.

Also, my conversation with presidential candidate and mayor, Pete Buttigieg. His reaction to the breaking news on the census and we'll talk about the plan he just rolled out for -- to court African- American voters and address racial injustice.

We'll be right back.


[20:28:09] COOPER: As President Trump abandoned his campaign to put the citizenship question on the 2020 census, those promised deportation raids on migrant families across the country now are set to begin this Sunday. The government official says the Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids are expected in ten cities across the country, though in one of those cities, New Orleans, they're being suspended because of tropical storm or hurricane.

In many of those cities, local officials plan to distribute leaflets outlining rights for undocumented residents. President Trump tweeted plans for ICE raids in late June, I should say, which certainly might have destroyed any element of surprise if that's what was intended.

In any case, they were delayed until this weekend. And, again, this time they're no secret.

Joining us today is "USA Today" columnist and CNN political analyst, Kirsten Powers, former campaign strategist for President Trump, David Urban, and CNN national correspondent Ed Lavandera, who has been working on an hour-long special documentary about undocumented workers in America.

So, Ed, what is the expectation for these raids? What are you -- what are you learning?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you mentioned, it appears that some 2,000 people or so will be targeted in the coming days. Far from the millions that President Trump had talked about last month, but we are told from immigration officials that they would be focusing on rounding up migrant families that had recently arrived and they were in the process of -- had exhausted their immigration court proceedings, and that they are slated to be deported.

And now, all of this is being met with a great deal of skepticism. I spoke with the police chief in Houston, Texas, one of the cities being targeted. He said that we are not in the business of arresting crooks. We're in the business of arresting crooks, not cooks, is what he told me. He said that he simply thought this was political theater and he thought it was strange that routine -- raids like this are routine across the country, but what is not routine, Anderson, is publicizing them.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: David, I mean, the former acting ICE director under the Obama administration said that the raids aren't announce like this or shouldn't be and he said, "Somebody has determined the political value of talking about this publicly exceeds the operational value of surprise." Is there political motivation behind this in terms of, you know, obviously the President appealing to his base. This is probably very popular.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: All right, let's just be clear. You heard Ed talking about roughly 2,000 folks are expected to be deported this -- in this raid. During the four years of the Obama administration, they deported 1.6 million folks, OK, 1.6 million. It's a big number.

And let's not forget, Anderson, you pointed out in the previous segment that these individuals were adjudicated by court to be deported. A court has said you've overstayed, you can't be here, you need to leave. So all that's being undertaken is the law is being enforced.

Why now? I think why now is because the President wants to illustrate to the Congress that our asylum laws are broken. We have roughly a million plus people here who have overstayed, who have been ordered by a court to be deported and who are yet here, and still on the border, there are thousands and thousands of folks waiting to get in.

And the line, Anderson, as you've heard before is, well, let them in, they'll show up for their court dates, we promise, and yet we have a million plus people who haven't upheld that promise.

COOPER: Kirsten, what about that? I mean, David makes good points. Under the Obama administration more people were actually deported than under this administration so far and these are people who have court orders ordering them to leave, which they are in defiance of.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, I mean, in terms of the deporting them, President Obama was actually quite -- was criticized by the Hispanic community, by many people. I wrote many columns criticizing his immigration policy.

So, I don't think just because President Obama did something means it was the right thing to do and it's interesting to hear David making that argument. It's something that I think was inhumane when President Obama was doing it and I think its inhumane now.

You know, you may remember the Hispanic community actually referred to President Obama as the "deporter in chief." So, it actually was quite an issue for many people on the left.

In terms of them not showing up for their court dates, basically, studies have found that if you give the people that come to this country, when they come over the border, remember a lot of them don't speak English or, you know, have -- maybe only have like a high school education. If you give them a lawyer or you give them some sort of -- the court appoints someone to sort of help them through the process, 90 percent of them show up for their court dates.

So, there's a very good chance that a lot of these people that are going to be -- you know, have their families completely traumatized here shortly if this happens or people who just didn't understand that they were supposed to show up. So treating them like they're criminals because they may have missed a court date I think is completely wrong headed.

URBAN: Well, in this instance let's point out, I think they're only targeting in this weekend's raid people who are actually adjudicated as criminals if I'm not mistaken.

POWERS: Well, that's different.

URBAN: So that is an important distinction. So, they are only going after people who are adjudicated as criminals this weekend. So your point is we need -- we don't want criminals remaining in our communities. We should have them taken out as ordered by the court.

POWERS: Well, I mean, it depends on what you're talking about --

COOPER: Ed, is that you --

POWERS: Oh, sorry.

COOPER: No, no, go ahead, Kirsten.

POWERS: Well, no, no. I mean, I just -- first of all, that's the first I've heard of that. So if that's true, that would make this very different. I mean, what I have read is that they're going to be going in and there's going to be a lot of collateral damage here even if that is who they're going after that they're going to, you know, probably arrest families, you know, if they're going in after a person who has committed a crime.

And so when you say committed a crime, I don't know what you mean. Do you mean they're a violent criminal or do you mean that they entered the country illegally?

URBAN: No, no, they've been adjudicated as criminals, not just because they entered the country illegally, but they have some sort of criminal behavior on top of that. So, (INAUDIBLE) -- you know, there's an additional crime other than just crossing the border illegally.

COOPER: Ed, is that your understanding as well?

LAVANDERA: I'm not sure. I'm not convinced that we're 100 percent clear on that just yet. And I think a lot of times what happens, you know, the way it's been described to us is that they are going after migrant families who have recently arrived. Now, if some of those people had some sort of criminal other than entering the country illegally, it's not really clear. And as Kirsten points out, really the question of this is collateral damage.

If they show -- if ICE agents show up at a house and there is someone who is on this list and scheduled to be deported, if there are other undocumented people in the house, they could easily be rounded up as well.

And in speaking with migrant communities across the country over the last few months, many of these families have contingency plans. They have packets of information. So if a high school kid comes home and finds that his parents didn't come home from work that day, they have packets with phone numbers, addresses, bank account numbers or any kind of important documents that they need to have. They have these contingency plans in place.

[20:35:04] And we've spoken with some of them who've even said that they've stocked up as this -- this weekend was going to be some sort of hurricane storm situation where they're stocking up on food and water and groceries and not planning on leaving their homes for the next several days.

COOPER: So, David, if, you know, if the purpose of this is to execute court order -- legitimate legal court orders, why telegraph raids so much in advance? I mean, clearly, even if, you know, the raids don't happen, it certainly sends the message to his voters and to the country and to anyone who is listening that, you know, the President is doing this whether or not he actually does it.

URBAN: No, no. Anderson, I think it's also designed to illustrate that there's a gigantic problem with our asylum system, not only the President, but this Congress. The Congress that's sitting here up on the Hill, Republican and Democrat, need to get together and repair. The asylum system is broken. It is badly broken and it needs to be repaired.

And I think this is a way to illustrate -- we have a million folks here that need to go and we're still taking more people in under the asylum system. We can't hold them in the United States. We can't hold them at the border. The system is broken, it needs to be repaired. I think that's a large reason why this is being done.

COOPER: David Urban, Kirsten Powers, Ed Lavandera, appreciate it. Thank you very much. We'll see what happen this weekend.

URBAN: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Be sure to catch Ed's special report tomorrow night here on CNN, "The Hidden Workforce: Undocumented in America." That's at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

Just ahead tonight, a lot more to cover. We're going to have my conversation with presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. I spoke to him earlier today about the President's retreat from the citizenship question on the census. And the mayor's new plan to appeal to one voting segment he's failed to attract, African-Americans, and try to address racial injustice in this country.


[20:40:33] COOPER: Mayor Pete Buttigieg shot out of the gate as a presidential candidate quickly raising money along with his profile. Since that initial burst, his poll numbers really haven't moved much, hovering around 4 percent to 7 percent. One reason is his standing with African-America voters. He got zero percent support from them in a CNN poll released just last week.

Now, that's in part because of scrutiny of his record as mayor of South Bend, Indiana. He fired a popular police chief who was African- American and the killing of a black man by a white police officer last month has tested his leadership as well.

Today, Mayor Buttigieg introduced what he calls the Douglass Plan, named after abolitionist Frederick Douglass, aiming to fight racial bias in health care, criminal justice, and education.

Just before air time, I spoke to the mayor about the census news, this new plan and his presidential campaign.


COOPER: Mayor Buttigieg, I want to ask you about your new initiative in a moment, but I first want to just get your take on President Trump's backing down from the census citizenship question and instead ordering essentially entire federal government to spend time and resources on getting him these numbers that he wants about undocumented immigrants. Does that make sense?

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it sounds like a face-saving way to recognize that he's been on the wrong side of the law throughout. There are many number of ways to do research on issues like immigration, but tinkering with the census was clearly racially and politically motivated. It's why it was held to be unlawful by the courts.

And it sound, although he changes his mind from day to day so I don't really know for sure, but it sounds like he's at least -- at last recognizing reality and backing down, which is good news.

COOPER: As you now, ICE is set to begin nationwide immigration raids on Sunday. The people set to be targeted have ignored a lawful court order to leave. As president, would you have ICE officers doing raids like this?

BUTTIGIEG: As president, our enforcement priority would be on public safety, and we would also be working to establish a pathway to citizenship so that people with these issues could get them cleared up.

We had somebody in our own community who was a beloved member of the community working to get his immigration status sorted out and instead deported in a way that harmed the small business that he ran, all of its employees, and the community he was part of. I mean, the idea on Sunday of working to strike fear in the hearts of communities, you know, the same Sunday when a lot of Americans are going to be gathering in churches to hear messages about our responsibility to welcome the stranger, shows you just how unmoored this presidency has become.

And it's really, of course, not about making America safer, but about striking fear into as many people as possible in order to keep this crisis in the headlines and keep Americans divided for the benefit of the political agenda of this White House.

COOPER: I want to talk about your plan that you introduced today. You're calling it the Douglass Plan, which is obviously named for the abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Now, in it you pledge to reduce incarceration by 50 percent, allow prisoners to access Medicaid, increase funding to historically black colleges, universities by $25 billion. How can you promise the American people that you can cut the prison population in half, not end up with an uptake in crime in any way?

BUTTIGIEG: Because in many countries and many states that have managed to reduce incarceration, we've actually seen the opposite happen. Often more incarceration is associated with more crime. There are a lot of cases around the country where the incarceration is doing more harm than the original offense. Not just that, but some of these harms are generational.

And what we see today is a whole generation of people in the wake of the crime policies of the '90s where the incarceration of a parent became a traumatic childhood experience that was unnecessary, that didn't make us safer, and that made that child more likely to grow up and wind up encountering the criminal justice system themselves.

If incarceration made people safer, it's a bit like what I've said about guns, then we'd be the safest country in the world. But instead, we are the most incarcerated and that has not correlated to an absolute reduction in crime.

COOPER: Is a 50 percent reduction, though, realistic? It's been pointed out certain proposals of yours don't fall within the purview of the federal government and the majority of inmates in the country aren't in federal custody, they're in state prisons in local jails.

BUTTIGIEG: That's right. But I believe we can do it with federal leadership, not only by reducing incarceration at the federal level, but by increasing support for states where there are often a lot of jurisdictions that are already trying to do this, but lack some of the resources they need.

[20:45:07] We know right now that if we had more resources going into alternatives to incarceration, diversion programs, drug courts, other things that have a tremendous track record but often a big backlog, we could be supporting local and state jurisdictions that are working right now to reduce incarceration.

Other measures like ending cash bail would deal with the fact that a lot of people incarcerated right now haven't even been convicted of a crime and that there are tremendous economic and racial disparities in who is able to benefit from that system.

COOPER: One of the other criticisms of the proposal so far has been that it's an attempt -- it's a political attempt to bolster support or your support among African-Americans. There's the latest CNN polling has you I think getting about zero percent support among African- Americans. And obviously the problems you've been having in South Bend, with at least some in the African-American community those are well-documented. Is this at least in part of a political play for support?

BUTTIGIEG: This is an effort to address systemic racism in our country. And we've been developing this for months. I've been speak -- today is the day that we put out the full detail, but I've also been speaking about it for many weeks.

Look, I think everybody running for office right now, everybody running for president has a responsibility to explain what we're actually going to do when it comes to systemic racism in this country.

Not just describing the problem, but actually talking about concrete solutions across the fields of housing, education, health, homeownership, access to capital and economic empowerment, criminal justice, and democracy. These are all areas where it's as though we're living in two countries.

Of course, it is part of the political process that candidates, especially candidates who are not candidates of color and are new on the scene nationally like me, explain to black audiences what we are going to do to make the black experience more equitable in this country. But, I'm also going to be talking to largely white audiences about this because this is a national concern.

COOPER: None of these issues, as you well know, you know, as well as anyone, are easy, you know, diversifying the South Bend Police Department. You said very pointedly in the last debate that, you know, you couldn't get it done. I guess, you know, a critic of yours, an opponent of yours would turn to you on a debate stage and say, well, if you can't get that done, how are you going to fix racial injustice in the entire country?

BUTTIGIEG: Yes. I'm not staking my candidacy on the idea that we've resolved racial injustice in my city during my time as mayor. This is a problem that was there when I arrived. And while we've taken many steps forward, it's a problem that we are dealing with today and will be into the future. This is a step that I think will make a tremendous difference.

But the other thing I've learned as an urban mayor wrestling with issues of racial inequality everywhere from diversity in our policing to the effective segregation in many of our neighborhoods and inequality in our schools, is that no community, even the best-run city, no community can do this alone. We need comprehensive, coordinated, ambitious national action. And it's why I believe the Douglass Plan, something that is as ambitious in scope as the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe is called for. Only this time, we're spending those resources right here at home.

COOPER: Mayor Buttigieg, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

BUTTIGIEG: Thanks for having me on.


COOPER: Still to come tonight, an update on Louisiana, which as you may know, is bracing for what could be the first hurricane to hit the U.S. this summer. Flooding already a problem there, the question now, what more can they expect? We'll have details ahead.


[20:52:54] COOPER: A hurricane warning is in effect for portions of who Louisiana. Tropical storm Barry could reach hurricane first levels late tomorrow or early Saturday. We'll have more in that in a moment.

First, I want to check on Chris to see what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time" at the top of the hour. Chris, what do you got?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: So, we are going to take on the argument against responding to the subpoenas. If these authorized subpoenas by the Democrats, if the introductory summons of, hey, come on in doesn't work and they issue a subpoenas, what is the case to not complying? We have the head of the American Conservative Union, Matt Schlapp, live in studio to make the case and be tested.

Then, we're going to have the man who wrote the book, Mr. Patterson, on Jeffrey Epstein. The mystery behind the money, the mystery behind the contacts and now you heard about the deal he's trying to work, Coop, right? Epstein wants to get out on bail and just house arrest.

COOPER: Which -- I mean, it seems like he's been getting, you know, breaks all along the way. I mean, it would hard to -- it seems like it would be hard to imagine him getting out on bail, but I guess it's up to the judge.

CUOMO: This is a hard statement move for the Southern District. This is a top tier registered sex offender. He supposed to report in every month. They haven't even been checking in with him. Will they hold the line now?


CUOMO: We'll see.

COOPER: Yes. Chris, thanks very much. We'll see you in just a couple minutes.

Up next, we'll check in on Louisiana, waiting for landfall from a storm that could strengthen and strike as a hurricane. We'll be right back.


[20:57:57] COOPER: Tropical storm Barry is closing in on Louisiana. Forecasters have already issued a hurricane warning for parts of the state's coastline. Mississippi River, usually which is about six to eight feet at this time of the year, it's already at 16 feet because of record flooding really all along the waterway.

Our Tom Sater joins us now from CNN Weather Center. So, Tom, the governor of Louisiana made it clear today, there are three ways, state floods, storm surge, high rivers and rain all seem possible at this moment, no?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. More than possible. I think it is imminent. We're looking at an unprecedented situation here, Anderson. Never before have we had a tropical system move toward the mouth of the Mississippi as the Mississippi River is swollen with record levels trying to exit the mouth of the Mississippi. It's going to be a battle here.

And red is the warnings, landfalls late Saturday morning. I think the marsh land will absorb a lot of the wind with this. Could it reach category 1? Sure. I doubt it, but it doesn't matter. This is not about a category, it's about the rain and what the battle is going to be between the river levels and the storm surge.

Poorly organized. No core to this. The bath water right now, those like a Jacuzzi. Waters are -- temperatures are much higher than they should be, but it's all about the rain. And it's more that just about New Orleans. I mean, you're talking Baton Rouge, Lake Charles up toward Jackson, Mississippi.

Ten, 15, 20 inches, we could have isolated totals of 25. That will flood anywhere in the world. But here's the problem, the storm surge, even at 2 to 4 feet as the wind circulate counterclockwise in toward the Mississippi and the mouth of the Mississippi Delta, the waters are trying to get out.

Even though we're at 16 feet on the Mississippi River, 2 to 4 foot storm surge, Anderson, will be enough to really battle it and push it up so the water levels may rise. Remember, New Orleans is in a bowl, big problem with the levee system.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, so much work has been done on the levees. A lot of money put in, a lot of hard work done. It's still a worry, of course.

SATER: Yes. There's about 250 flood gates. They've closed 90 of them, which means in New Orleans now, it's going to catch the rainfall. They're going to have to depend on the pumps, which pump out about an inch in the first hour and then a half inch every hour after that.

All of these red dots you see are under 20 feet high in the levees, so we're looking at night 19 feet, Anderson. These areas could be overtopped, much like they were with Katrina on the area of the lower nightward (ph) and in the same (INAUDIBLE) on the eastside. So this is going to be something we're going to watch. We've never seen it before.

COOPER: All right. Tom Sater, thanks very much. We'll be watching it. The news continues. I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?