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Border Crisis; Children and Hot Cars; Tensions in Israel

Aired July 10, 2014 - 15:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

And we have to begin with this humanitarian crisis consuming Capitol Hill, not Syria, not Iraq, but this crisis inside our borders along the Texas-Mexico line. Tens of thousands of undocumented and often unaccompanied children are overwhelming federal facilities right now.

A Capitol Hill hearing is under way to see how to solve the problem, specifically if the U.S. should spend that $3.7 billion that the president is asking of Congress. Center stage here is this man, Homeland Security Secretary, Jeh Johnson.

And the background, criticism from Republicans. House Speaker John Boehner stressing today that there will be no -- quote -- "blank check." More from Speaker Boehner here in just a minute. But this issue is also drawing critics from the president's own party. Congressman Henry Cuellar represents a border district in Texas, did not mince words.

He was all over CNN, had a lot to say about the president's choice not to visit the border during this Texas fund-raising trip.


REP. HENRY CUELLAR (D), TEXAS: Words are important. But it's the actions I want to see. This didn't just happen last night. He's asking for an emergency.

If he looks at it, this has been going on for one year or two years. Why is he calling this emergency funding? Look, if he's afraid that if he goes down to the border, and he's going to own this situation, let me tell you, he can't hide from this. He had time, with all due respect, to have a beer, play pool, like he did in Colorado last night. Then I think after the fund-raisers, then I think he should make time to go down there.


BALDWIN: That was Congressman Cuellar on CNN, OK? Fast forward to when this Democratic congressman was on FOX News. He said that the White House contacted him and basically said to him, cool it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of times, this administration gets angry when their own party speaks up and speaks out. Ask Cory Booker about that. Have you gotten that call?

CUELLAR: Yes, I have.

But let me just say this. I'm more concerned not about who gets angry with me at the White House. I'm more concerned about my constituents that want to find a practical solution to this question that we're facing down there at the border.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who called you?

CUELLAR: We will just leave it like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did they tell you to pipe down?

CUELLAR: We will just leave it like that.


BALDWIN: All right.

Michael Smerconish, let me bring you in, because that's my springboard, host Michael Smerconish on CNN's "SMERCONISH."

You have the White House now, someone from the White House calling Congressman Cuellar saying cool it. Do you think that sun is unfair or a necessary evil in politics?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think you and I are getting to watch some sausage being made. I think that's the status quo. I think that's the way it usually is.

And the only surprise here is that the congressman confirmed he got such a call. The stakes are high, Brooke, for both parties with the midterms looming in the fall. And it's important to them politically that they present a united front.

So when someone steps out of line in either party, I'm not surprised at all they would get a call from the White House, from political operatives or from Speaker Boehner's office.

BALDWIN: To your point on the high stakes, we have just turned around some sound. Let me just throw to it here. This is President Obama, and he's just been in Austin. During this visit, he was just heckled. Roll it.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm on your side, man. Sit down, guys. We will talk about it later. I promise, all right? So, look, here is what we could do. We could do so much more -- no, you don't have to escort them out. They will sit down. I promise I will talk to you afterwards.

We could do so much more if Republicans in Congress would focus less on stacking the deck for those on the top...


OBAMA: ... and focus more on creating opportunity for everybody. And I want to work with them. I don't expect them to agree with me on everything. But at least agree with me on the things that you used to say you were for before I was for them.



BALDWIN: All right. So we will cut out of this. Just a little background. You heard he's talking about the do-nothing Congress. We have heard this chorus before from the president. Apparently, the heckling was about executive orders, just as a layer, as we continue this discussion, Michael, because let's get to Speaker Boehner.

Listen, we know this man wears his emotion on his sleeve. We have seen him cry, we have seen him raise his voice. Today, we saw him in really full form. Let me just show you and our viewers what Speaker Boehner said today about this money, this basically $4 billion the president is asking from Congress for this border crisis.

But first let's hear from the president on how bad partisan politics is really getting.


OBAMA: I think it's fair to say that these days in Washington, everybody is always concerned about everything falling victim to partisan politics.

You know, if I sponsored a bill declaring an apple pie American, it might fall victim to partisan politics. I get that. On the other hand, this is an issue in which my Republican friends have said, it's urgent and we need to fix it. And if that's the case, then let's go ahead and fix it.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We're not giving the president a blank check. This is a problem of the president's own making. He's been president for five-and-a-half years. When is he going to take responsibility for something?


BALDWIN: Back to that sausage being made, Michael. Are they both a little right?

SMERCONISH: Or both a little wrong. I mean, look, they're both stoking each of their respective bases for the November general election.

And I guess, Brooke, the answer is that it's far less sexy to talk about the substance. If either of them were addressing what's at issue here, I think what they would be saying is, there was a law passed in 2008. The intention of the law was to keep kids out of the hands of sex traffickers, kids who were coming from Central America. This, frankly, is a situation of unintended consequences. And it's

time for us to go back and quickly rewrite that law and deal with this problem.

But, you know, you can't fund-raise based on a statement like I just made. You can't drive people to the polls based on a statement like I just offered. And so it's political season, and the difference is, it's always political season. You know, even if it's a midterm, general election, it seems like we never get out of this cycle and, consequently, there is no progress made. And that's what's frustrating.

BALDWIN: You have a lot of the theater you can talk about and the substance, we know, Saturday morning, when you hit the airwaves on CNN, 9:00 eastern. Michael Smerconish, as always, a pleasure to have you on.

SMERCONISH: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you very much.

It is now day four in the legal drama Sterling vs. Sterling. And the testimony in Donald Sterling's case is against his wife, his estranged wife, Shelly Sterling. And it is boiling over, even getting downright nasty, because Sterling called his wife a pig in open court.

The two were battling it out over whether or not she has the right to sell their NBA team, the Los Angeles Clippers. And the drama continues. The trial was expected to conclude today. That may not happen.

Sara Sidner has been all over this for us, and she is in Los Angeles.

You have seen the outbreaks, the crickets and everything in between, Sara. Is there any reason we might not see a verdict today from the judge?


The judge was very clear, there will be no verdict today. There has been a lot of testimony, most of it coming from Donald Sterling, taking the stand, sometimes making grand speeches on the stand. At one point during hi trial, the judge threw up his hands and said, can anybody help me with this?

So it has been in the judge's own words entertaining. But there are some serious matters at the heart of all this and it is a judge that is going to decide them all.


SIDNER (voice-over): Day three in court filled with fiery testimony. Both Donald Sterling and his estranged wife, Shelly, took the stand. It began with a it tender moment. Shelly Sterling approached her husband, and they chatted and held hands.

But after her testimony, Donald lashed out as she approached him on her way back to her seat.

"Get away from me, you pig," he said and then muttered, "Shelly, how could you lie?" The judge admonished him, saying his comments were disturbing.

ADAM STREISAND, ATTORNEY FOR STEVE BALLMER: It was a shameful display by a seriously demented tyrant.

BOBBY SAMINI, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD STERLING: I know that Donald felt very upset by watching her testimony. I think he felt betrayed by it.

SIDNER: Betrayed, because he thought his wife, Shelly, deceived him about why she had hired doctors to examine him. "I trusted her. I believed her. I never thought that a woman would not stand by her husband," Donald testified.

Shelly Sterling testified: "He's getting more forgetful. He gets mad for no particular reason. He is just not the same person that he used to be," she said. Donald didn't agree, saying he is still the man in charge and his wife could never run all his corporations, including the trust that owns the Clippers.

"To say someone else can take over is ludicrous," he testified. Sterling also blasted the NBA. He called it a joke, the worst corporation in America, and then made this promise. "I will never, ever, ever sell this team. And until I die, I will be suing the NBA," he said.


SIDNER: Now, we know that Shelly Sterling will be taking the stand again today. But I have to mention this. Look, the courts here have had huge cutbacks and these courts are packed with cases, and it looks like this case will move into next week and they're only doing half- days, because they have other cases to see. This could actually move in even to the week after that.

And we will have to wait and see if there's going to be some more outbursts today. We do expect Shelly. Not sure if Donald will be in court -- Brooke.

BLITZER: To be determined. Sara Sidner, thank you so much in Los Angeles for us this afternoon.

Coming up next, the toxicology report has now been released in the death of that Georgia toddler who died after he was left in that hot car. Was anything in little Cooper Harris' system the day he died? And should car companies step in to prevent hot car deaths? We will discuss that.

And just a gruesome murder scene in Texas. Police chase this guy, there is a three-hour standoff. Family of four killed before the suspect finally surrenders to police. But now we're learning about this heroic 15-year-old girl. She was shot in the head, managed to dial 911 and potentially save other lives in the process. We will tell you that story out of Texas. You're watching CNN.


BALDWIN: Welcome back. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

We have a huge development to share with you today in this disturbing case of this toddler who died after being left in his father's sweltering hot SUV. So CNN can now confirm this toxicology report proves 22-month-old Cooper Harris was not drugged.

We have also just learned that Cooper's mom, Leanna Harris, the woman who allegedly asked her husband -- quote -- "Did you say too much?" in a police interrogation room when they thought no one was listening, she has just hired a defense attorney.

And it may be the case that has us talking, but just this week alone, at least five kids were left in hot cars across the country. In fact, it's not just kids. CNN has just learned that a Washington, D.C., woman is now accused of leaving her elderly, partially paralyzed mother locked in a hot car for 16 hours.

And the question that keeps popping up, forgetting someone in a car may be a mistake, but is it also a crime? I said forgetting. OK. Big difference. "The Washington Post" talked to one father who accidentally left his son in a car back in 2002. That little boy died. He is still being punished, mostly by himself.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did not believe he was with me, that he was at the babysitter's, that I could start my day and get into the normal routine. There's nothing that they can say that would hurt me anymore than I have already hurt myself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This can happen to anybody. And if you hear about it on the news, and you think, oh, I would never -- that would never happen to me, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a setup.


BALDWIN: Kelly Wallace, let me bring you in, CNN digital correspondent.


BALDWIN: It's tough to hear his story. I talked to a woman a couple of weeks ago who accidentally left her child who died in a car. And I want to get to your piece.

But let's just -- let's begin with what we just heard. You know, I'm curious what you're hearing and just your thoughts on if someone accidentally leaves a child or a mother in a car, accidentally, again, it feels like the punishment is really for the rest of one's life. Right?

WALLACE: I know. It is so heartbreaking listening to that sound that you just played.

What I found surprising, Brooke, I talked to a lot of parents through social media, via e-mail yesterday for my story. And you know what, Brooke? There is a real difference of opinion. Some people feel like, you know what, oh, my God, it's the worst thing that could ever happen. They will be punished for the rest of their lives. We all have to work together to figure out how to stop this.

But there are a lot of people, Brooke, who feel like, oh, my God. Parental responsibility.

BALDWIN: You should rot in prison.

WALLACE: Yes. How could you forget your child? Would you forget your iPhone? Would you forget your purse? People feel very passionately that parents did something wrong in these cases. And when you listen to what those parents just said, they're clearly saying it could happen to anyone.

BALDWIN: The fact that we're talking about it obviously raises awareness, which is a great thing. Sunny Hostin, she has come on TV and said, hey, I accidentally did this. Her child is fine. But she says, from here on out, she takes off her shoe when she drives with a child in the car and remember to have to put it back on, which triggers the memory that you have got a kid in the car.

But then there is the point you bring up in your piece about there are so many different dings and flashes and lights in a car, right, that remind us to buckle up, et cetera. Why not have something to help remind a parent that there's a child in the back seat?

WALLACE: Right. And we were sort of looking at the parallels, too.

In 2018, all new cars will be required to have a rear visibility standard or technology, so that you can prevent backing out and over children and elderly people. So why not have something like that?

Well, a couple things. Number one, when you talk to government officials, they say that technology is not there yet. They said they did a big test in 2012, and looking mainly at sensors that would detect kind of the presence of an infant, and when you leave the car, there would be some alert, they were saying they are not quite reliable.

Safety advocates will say, no, no, no, the technology is there. Let's do it. Let's save lives. So you have a difference of opinion there about whether there should be this standard and whether the technology is really there to help as well.

BALDWIN: And then I can just hear parents also saying, I don't need technology. It's my child. I'm just not going to forget my child in the back of the car. You wrote this entire piece.

Please read Kelly's column. It's at And let you us know your thoughts. Tweet us @BrookeBCNN.

Coming up next, the battle escalating between Israel in Gaza and Hamas. Today, the Israeli prime minister explained exactly what has to happen before his country stops the offensive. And Hamas is doing something different in terms of their firepower -- a live report from the region coming up.


BALDWIN: Over the past couple of hours, we have received reports on rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel. We showed you this before, this video shot into the Israeli city Beersheba, fewer than 20 miles from Gaza.

And if you look closely enough there on the face of this building you see what appears to be shrapnel marks reportedly from those missiles. Israel says no one was injured in this attack, but two soldiers were wounded in a separate rocket strike.

Meantime, officials in Gaza say Israeli air attacks since midnight have killed more than a dozen Gaza Palestinians, the death toll just since Monday, 81 Palestinians, zero Israelis.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is in the Gaza Strip for us. It's incredibly dangerous for him and his crew there. We heard him report just a short time ago about conditions faced by a fairly typical family.

Have a listen, if you would.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I was in one house yesterday very close to the border with Israel, front-line area, where rockets are fired from and the Israelis respond to. And I said, do you have a safe room, do you have a spot in this house where you can hide?

And he said, look, it's a small house. We're 15 people. I just tell my kids, go hide in the corner.


BALDWIN: That was Ben Wedeman recorded.

Let's bring in Ben Wedeman live.

Ben, and we saw that family, we saw all the kids crawling up, looking out the window on camera. They seemed resigned to having rockets flying over their home, both incoming rockets and outgoing rockets. I also heard you mention a sense of defiance in Gaza, particularly toward the Israelis. Tell me what the mood is there.

WEDEMAN: Well, you know, as the death toll rises -- and our number is now 83 since this flare-up began. As it rises, there is rising anger.

Last night, in Khan Yunis, to the south of here, there was an outdoor cafe where some young men were watching the World Cup. And it got hit by an Israeli airstrike, at least five dead in that case. And as the death toll rises, sort of the factional differences between Palestinians seem to go into the background and people get angry.

They get angry at Israel, and, increasingly, we're seeing that -- for instance, when I had that live shot that you just played, I told the men there, because rockets had just flown over our heads -- I heard that there were -- sirens went off in Jerusalem. And I told them that, and they were all quite pleased.

So this is beginning to get in this cycle of anger, a desire for vengeance and revenge and whatnot. So we're not in a good cycle at the moment -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: By having you there, you really are helping put a face on this. You're talking to a bunch of different people there in Gaza City.

And we talked yesterday, Ben, about the Israelis having this modern society. You have the fallout shelters, the bunkers in their homes. And we even learned today that the Israelis have an app for incoming missile strikes.

Can you just contrast that again for me today with life there that you're seeing and experiencing with the Palestinians in Gaza?

WEDEMAN: Well, here, there's no warning system. There's no Iron Dome. There are no bomb shelters. There is really nothing.

Basically, you keep an eye on the horizon, and maybe you will see something. You keep your eyes on the sky. There's lots of drones overhead much of the time. But you listen. Does the plane sound like it's going in for a strike? Does it sound like it's going away?

You really -- you're basically back to your -- your five senses, and there's no machinery or technology that helps you here. You just have to keep your eyes wide open all of the time, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Ben Wedeman in Gaza City, we appreciate you being there and telling these stories, Ben.

And I should mention, Wolf Blitzer will be anchoring live from Israel this evening. So make sure to tune in to a special edition of "THE SITUATION ROOM," 5:00 Eastern here on CNN.

Next, we are learning more about the suspect accused of killing those six people, leading police on a chase, holding them at bay for three hours. And the amazing story of this 15-year-old girl who was shot in her head, manages to pick up the phone and call police, and, officers believe, help prevent future killings, heart to this story.

Just so happened to be quite similar to John Walsh's first episode of CNN's "THE HUNT," and he joins me live next.