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Trade War Fears Hit Markets; Firestorm Grows Over Family Separation Policy at Border. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired June 19, 2018 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hour two. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

And I just want to start this hour by sharing with you the sounds of wails of children, frightened, confused and alone, separated from their parents at the nation's southern border.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Where are you from?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD (through translator): El Salvador.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD (through translator): Guatemala.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Don't cry.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD (through translator): I want to go with my aunt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): You're going to get there. Look, she will explain it and help you.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD (through translator): Dad!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I'm going to take you to speak to the person from your consulate, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD (through translator): At least can I go with my aunt? I want her to come. I want my aunt to come, so she can take me to her house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): She will help you call your aunt if you have the number, so that you can talk to your aunt.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD (through translator): I have her number.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): OK, so she will help you right now so you can talk to her.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD (through translator): Daddy! Daddy!

(END AUDIO CLIP) BALDWIN: While many lawmakers can't escape that disturbing sound and the images of these children huddled under thermal blankets and grouped together in these cages, the president remains defiant.

In a Twitter tirade, he insists this policy isn't his policy, pointing the finger of blame squarely on the Democrats, before this:


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Those are the only two options, totally open borders or criminal prosecution for law- breaking.

We want to solve this problem. We want to solve family separation. I don't want children taken away from parents. And when you prosecute the parents for coming in illegally, which should happen, you have to take the children away.


BALDWIN: In just two months, more than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents or their guardians. And to be clear, while families could be separated prior to April, those incidents were rare.

And when you compare that to what we have been seeing now, there is no question that this was a deliberate policy shift by the Trump administration.

To repeat, the Trump administration implemented the current separation policy.

But don't take my word for it. Here are all the times the president's own team said so.


JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have put in place a zero tolerance policy for illegal entry on our southwest border. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you. And that child might be separated from you, as required by law.

KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: We cannot detain children with their parents, so we must either release both the parents and the children -- this is the historic get out of jail free practice of the previous administration -- or the adult and minor will be separated as a result of prosecuting the adult. Those are the only two options.

HOGAN GIDLEY, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: It's the law of the land. You have to enforce these laws. The situation at the border is a crisis.

MARC SHORT, WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS: Separating parents from the children is not a policy that we want to pursue.

At the same time, letting children and parents come across the border unbounded, illegally, is not a policy either.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: If you get some young kids who are coming in, who manage to sneak into the United States with their parents, our department of homeland security personnel can separate the children from their moms and dads.

JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We have tremendous experience in dealing with unaccompanied minors.

We turn them over to HHS, and they do a very, very good job of either putting them in kind of foster care or linking them up with parents or family members in the United States.


BALDWIN: President Trump will soon be heading to Capitol Hill to talk immigration options with House Republicans, many of whom agree with Democrats that this policy has to end.

Earlier today, Democratic House Congressman Elijah Cummings got emotional as he pleaded with his Republican colleagues to convince the president to change his mind.


REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: Even if you believe immigration should be halted entirely, we all should be able to agree that, in the United States of America, we will not intentionally separate children from their parents.

We will not do that. We are better than that. We are so much better. We should be able to agree that we will not keep kids in child internment camps indefinitely and hidden away from public view. What country is that?

In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, we need you. Those children need you.


Now, I'm talking directly to my Republican colleagues. We need you to stand up to President Trump. We need you to join us in telling him, yes, we reject this mean policy.


BALDWIN: Let's go to Capitol Hill now.

Our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, is there.

And so, as we said, the president will be up on the Hill. Tell me about this meeting later this afternoon.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are few things going on as we speak, Brooke.

First and foremost, in the Senate, which is down behind me, the Senate Republicans came out of their weekly lunch that they had saying -- starting with the leader, the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, saying that they had this robust discussion about dealing legislatively with ending the practice of separating children who come across the border with their families.

So, that was an announcement. They had this consensus. It's a big question about how they will procedurally come up with legislation that is narrow enough to actually get Democrats on board with that or even narrow enough to fully pass the Senate. They're working on it. It might happen as soon as this week.

Meanwhile, let's talk about the House of Representatives. As you said, the president is going to come up here in about two-and-a-half hours, have a meeting with House Republicans. And the original intent of that meeting was to talk about more broad House Republican legislation, a pair of bills dealing with immigration, illegal immigration in general, one of that is supported by and crafted by the leadership of the House that has a bunch of provisions in it, including funding for the president's wall and other issues dealing with illegal immigration.

What we just got a short while ago is that, in that piece of legislation, Brooke, they are now going to add a legislative fix to this child separation issue, that they are going to explicitly say...

BALDWIN: Oh, wow.

BASH: ... legislatively that the Department of Homeland Security cannot separate children from their families, that that is a policy that needs to change.

So, that is something that they're going to be discussing. It's a big -- even though they're adding that, I just want to say this caveat, it is a big open question, Brooke, whether or not, number one, that bill will even get enough votes to pass the House, never mind the Senate, because it has all these other provisions dealing with illegal immigration in it that many Democrats oppose.

But the fact that that is at least going to be addressed is certainly noteworthy and new. And then the question that you asked about what we expect to hear from the president. It's actually kind of remarkable, in talking to Republican sources up here. They have no idea what to expect from the president.

The hope was that he would come in and he would kind of bless one of these bills. Probably, they would hope that he would bless the leadership sales, because it has the funding for his wall and other things. But they don't know exactly what he's going to say. That have learned that the hard way, that they are just going to buckle up and see what happens, whether he's going to make members happy or angry or a combination of all of that.

We're just going to have to talk to people after the meeting.

BALDWIN: To find out what exactly is said behind closed doors.

BASH: Exactly.

BALDWIN: While I have you, Dana Bash, let me just ask you about the comment, this tweet from Trump's reelection campaign manager.

While this whole debate is raging over the family separations, he's tweeting that Sessions should be fired. And I know you have some new reporting on sort of the strategy behind that tweet.

BASH: I mean, yes, if you can just take a step back, in any other world, it would be remarkable for a president's campaign manager to call on the president to fire his own attorney general. And it is remarkable.

And the obvious question is, why now? Well, the Republicans who are focused on November, who are focused on sort of the political implication of all of this coverage of the -- separating children from their families at the border, they understand that that is overshadowing some news that they think is beneficial to them, like, believe it or not, either Russia, because they think that actually helps them politically, and/or the I.G. report.

And so this was an attempt basically to try to change the subject away from the -- what's happening at the border and to what has happened in the president's own Justice Department.

But it is kind of remarkable that changing the subject in Trump's world means calling on his own attorney general to be fire by his campaign manager. That just kind of shows you how unbelievably mixed up the politics and those sort of loyalties are right now.


Thank you for the background, the scoop. And keep your ear to the ground, because I'm sure we will be talking to you all night as far as what happens from this meeting with the president on the Hill.


Dana, thank you.

I want to get back now just to these voices that we can't hear enough of from this crisis on the border, these young children who have been taken from their parents.

Audio of their cries comes from the nonprofit news outlet ProPublica. It reports these children are somewhere between the years of 4 and 10.

The reporting also captured the words of border agents caring for them.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD (through translator): Daddy!


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD (through translator): Daddy! Daddy!

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD (through translator): Mommy!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Well, we have an orchestra here, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): What we're missing is a conductor.


BALDWIN: With me now from McAllen, Texas, Border Patrol agent Chris Cabrera. He's also the spokesman for the National Border Patrol Council.

Chris, thank you so much for being with me.

CHRIS CABRERA, BORDER PATROL AGENT: No, thank you for having me.

BALDWIN: Listen, I know you're a father. I know you're a father of four.

I know this is hard for you too. But when you hear that audio where one of these agents refers to the cries of children, he says (SPEAKING SPANISH) right? "We have an orchestra."

What did you think?

CABRERA: Actually, this is the first I'm hearing.

I mean, I try and distance myself a lot of -- from a lot of this. I think the real issue we need to get at here is, we need to solve this problem.


BALDWIN: But, Chris,, hang on, hang on. I can't let you off the hook. Hang on.

But if that is -- that is the audio, even if you're hearing it for the first time, and you hear this Border Patrol hearing saying -- speaking about the cries of children, saying, "We have an orchestra," and then the next one says, "Well, all we need is a conductor," I need to have you respond to that.

CABRERA: Well, I mean, it's probably -- you know, like I said, I wasn't there. I don't know.

And, you know, it's -- they're probably just making light of a bad situation. It is what it is, you know? You can't change that.


BALDWIN: Hang on, hang on, hang on. (CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: You can't change the fact that that is what it is.

BALDWIN: But, Chris -- but making light of a bad situation, why should you ever make light of these children being ripped from their parents, period?

CABRERA: Well, you know, look at it this way.

I understand where you're coming from. I don't think everybody understands what's actually happening down here. You have a lot of these kids that are coming down here and put through terrible, terrible situations by their parents.

They're brought over in extremely dangerous conditions and in extremely dangerous terrain. And all this can be avoided if they just go through the port of entry. There would be no crime committed by them and they wouldn't get separated.

Why don't they do this is beyond me. But this problem is very easily solved, at least on the short-term basis, by going through the port of entry. If they choose to go through the river, they're committing a crime. Just like anyone else, they're subject to arrest.

And we all know, when you get arrested, you don't get to stay with your family. It's just the sad reality of life.

BALDWIN: So, a couple of things.

And I think you're right to point out the port of entry -- I think there's so much being thrown at people who don't know as much about immigration certainly as you do as a Border Patrol agent, right?

But there a couple of ways to come into this country. If you are an undocumented immigrant and you are in the Rio Grande River and you come out on the other side, that is illegal, right? If you are coming across from the...

CABRERA: Even if you're a U.S. citizen and you do that, it's illegal.

BALDWIN: It's illegal. It's illegal.

If you're coming across the -- let's say the Matamoros, Mexico, bridge on over to Texas at -- across that bridge at that port of entry and you're seeking asylum, that is legal. I know you have to be inspected and the process needs to be -- needs to happen to be appropriate.

But the problem is, even in some of those cases, those families -- I talked to an NPR reporter yesterday -- some of those families are being turned away. And it's not just a day delay. It's an indefinite delay.

CABRERA: Well, and therein lies the problem.

We have had this situation going on for four years now. And for some reason, we haven't fixed it. I don't think you can necessarily blame it on one administration or the other. It started under one, and it's continuing under -- under another. It hasn't -- it hasn't been fixed and it needs to be fixed.

Right now, we have this beacon of we will leave the light on for you, you come across illegally, and we will let you into the country. And if you guys have seen some of the stuff that we have seen down here, you would understand just how important it is to have a tough stance, to divert people from coming here.

When you see a 12-year-old girl with a Plan B pill or with their -- their parents put her on birth control because they know that getting violated as part of a journey, that's just a terrible way to live.


CABRERA: When you see a 4-year-old girl traveling completely alone with just her parents' phone number written across her shirt, I mean, come on now.

Something needs to be done. We had a 9-year-old boy last year have a heatstroke and die in front of us with no family around. And that's because we're allowing people to continue to take advantage of this system.


And let's be honest here. If we want the law changed, then we need to do -- that's on Congress. That's on nobody else but Congress. They need to come in there. They need to get to work and they need to change this law.

Until then, us, as Border Patrol agents, we have a duty to enforce these laws. And we will continue to do it, until they change this law. And, hopefully, they will.


And just -- let me just underscore some of what you're saying. Seeing a 9-year-old boy suffering heatstroke, seeing young girls come to you with Plan B or birth control pills because their parents provide them for them because they know the journey involve them being raped, this is what you are seeing. And I can't even begin, Chris, to put myself in your shoes.

But keeping the focus on the kids, America is outraged by what is happening. And I want you, as a Border Patrol agent, can you assure everyone watching that you and your Border Patrol colleagues are treating these children humanely?

CABRERA: I can tell you with absolute certainty that they're being treated humanely.

Most of our agents are parents. I have seen guys -- and I have done it myself -- you give your last bottle of water to a kid. You will take a toy out of your car to give to one of these kids because you know the situation they're in.


CABRERA: Agents are very sympathetic. We're human. We're fathers. We have families. We do a lot for the communities here, whether or not a camera is involved.

Our agents are very involved. And nobody saves more lives along the southwestern border than the U.S. Border Patrol. And I can tell you for a fact one of the worst things that you would ever have to do is have to pull the body of a young kid out of the river because they were crossing and they just didn't make it.

So, something needs to change, so we can avoid some of these tragedies that happen. Granted, having these kids in detention centers, obviously, it's not ideal.


CABRERA: But it's far better than the alternative, a lot of these kids not making it.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes.

And I know you say ultimately it's up to you. You're doing your job. But I know you say it's up Congress.

But, actually, it is up to President Trump. I mean, they don't have to separate these children from their parents. That is what's different from, say, under the Obama administration vs. now.

So, Chris, just straight up, do you think the president should right now end this policy of separating families?

CABRERA: I think -- I think you're wrong there. It is a law.

And the law needs to be enforced, regardless -- if we don't like the law, we can't just decide which law we're going...

BALDWIN: What is the law?

CABRERA: As far -- if you come across that river illegally, you're subject to arrest and to prosecution. And you will get arrested and you will get prosecuted.

BALDWIN: But this is the difference, Chris.

CABRERA: If you don't like that option, then you can go through the port of entry.

BALDWIN: Listen, I absolutely hear you. And I respect that law.

CABRERA: Say again?

BALDWIN: I hear you. And I respect that law.

But there is no law on the books that says if a family comes over illegally, that the parents and the children need to be separated.

It's a zero tolerance policy that the Trump administration put into place this spring. That's the difference between now and a couple years ago.


Well, and the thing is, is, not every family is getting separated. Some are. Some aren't. It depends on the circumstances, if you have a criminal history.

For instance, just a couple of days ago, we caught a guy coming across with his 5-year-old daughter. And we had to separate that family, reason being he had a criminal conviction and he was subject to prosecution. He had a criminal conviction for rape here in the United States.

So, I mean, obviously, we wouldn't want that guy walking free. But we had to separate that family.

BALDWIN: No. Sure.


CABRERA: I don't see anybody up in arms over that one.


BALDWIN: Sure. No. And I think that, yes, if you're a criminal...


BALDWIN: Go ahead. Go ahead. What happens to the little girl?


She's going to get -- she got -- she gets placed in a center, until they can find some family that they can place her with, whether it's here in the United States or back in her home country.

And another thing that we look at is we get all the time, daily, that people are claiming to be family units, and they're not. And that's very dangerous for these kids. If we don't find those -- I mean, what can come of those kids once this adult doesn't have the need for this child anymore?


And I know some children are used as mules, are they not? Some children, Chris, are used -- are used as mules. Some of this is nefarious. It's not all just a family.

Can you still hear me?

CABRERA: Yes. You know, yes, it is. Some of these children are used like that. And it's a shame. And I think the other thing that needs to be looked at here is, we do have a lot of unaccompanied children coming over.

And the fact remains is, the parents are already here in the United States. And they're sending for these kids. And these kids are traveling solo across two or three countries. And, when they get here, they are reunited with your -- the families.


And, to me, that is mind-blowing, because you can't do that as a United States citizen. You can't send your 5-year-old kid to ride on top of a train through three states, and when they get there, they're coming back to you.

You would get prosecuted. Yet when it comes to illegal families, we put on the kid gloves with them and we don't -- we don't look out for the best interest of this child. And that's another thing that needs to be changed.


Chris Cabrera, as a Border Patrol agent, we just haven't heard from as many of you all. And I appreciate you coming on live national TV to explain what your job is like and enforcing it, and also just what you see in being a father. I appreciate you. I appreciate your voice. Thank you.

CABRERA: All right, thank you for having me.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Just in to us here at CNN, a big, big development involving this outcry. We're now learning the creator of "Modern Family" is leaving the FOX network over the FOX News coverage of these separations, among other things.

That's next.



BALDWIN: Fears of an all-out trade war with China rattling Wall Street today. We will take a look at the Dow together. And it is still down, down about 300 points here, 35 minutes left of the trading day.

President Trump escalating trade tensions with China. He is now threatening to impose tariffs on an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. That threat comes after China vowed to retaliate after Trump slapped tariffs on $50 billion of imported Chinese products.

With me now to discuss all of this, Catherine Rampell, CNN political commentator and columnist for "The Washington Post." And also with us, Richard Quest, CNN business correspondent and money editor at large.

So, welcome to both of you.

And, Richard Quest, just first to you.

When you see the markets are down, with Trump doubling down, put it all -- just put it in perspective for me.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At the moment, it could be a great deal worse.

The markets are holding their own. They don't believe that the worse scenario will come to fruition. And what we saw today, we were down 419 at the worst moment, was the knee-jerk reaction.

But, substantially, the market is saying, look, we ultimately believe this will be settled. Now, they could be in for a very nasty, rude shock, and find that actually isn't settled, because when you look at the -- when you look at the tariffs, and you look at the tit for tat, and you look at the statements, particularly coming out of the White House, it's not easy to see a way out of this.

And let us not forget it was the president last night that upped the ante with his statement that basically poured gasoline on the flames. He was the one that said last night, if you do this, I will do that.

Well, they did it, and he has. It's not easy to see the way backwards.

BALDWIN: If all of this goes through, Catherine, it will make life more difficult for U.S. companies operating inside China. Do you think that the complaints of CEOs will outweigh, say, the concerns of farmers in America, who Trump often cites?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think there are a lot of constituencies who stand to lose out as a result of this trade war, including companies that operate in China, including companies that operate here that export to China, of course, since they will be bearing the brunt of those retaliatory tariffs, and including American consumers themselves who will face higher prices as a result of the tariffs that we are imposing.

As to whether the companies that operate in China, the U.S. companies that operate in China will have a voice at the table, it's hard to say. I mean, they actually have the most legitimate complaint here, in that China has been behaving badly in stealing American companies' I.P., enforcing technology transfer if companies want to operate within China.

So there is a valid concern here. The problem is that the Trump administration has been going out about fixing or addressing that concern in exactly the wrong way. Rather than banding together with our allies who have faced similar problems, the co-signatories of -- or -- excuse me -- yes -- the co-signatories of what was TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we're trying to go it alone, slapping tariffs every we can. And instead of helping American companies, we're finding that they're probably going to face further retaliation if they continue to operate within China.

BALDWIN: And just another layer of this, I'm fascinated by this story today.

Guess where, Richard Quest, President Trump's new partner in negotiations is today? Kim Jong-un is in China. Remember, it was China who provided the 747 for Kim to go to Singapore to have the Singapore summit .

Is this Kim going to President Xi to spill the beans on all things President Trump?

QUEST: Look, it's about time that many people in the United States realized that whilst the U.S. is pulling up the drawbridge, and whilst you're getting a very good look at what America first actually means in practice, China is going in exactly the opposite direction.

Now, maybe with some mendacity and certainly not with a lot of generosity, but China is building bridges Latin America. China is investing in Africa. China has the Silk Road, where it's pouring tens of billions of dollars into impoverished countries, helping them build infrastructure.

Of course it's not doing it out of any goodness of its heart, any great philanthropic wish and will.

But the net effect is that, whilst the U.S., the reputation of the country is being dragged through the mud in other parts of the world, unpleasant though it is for me to say, and perhaps difficult for -- it is for you to hear, but that is the reality of the situation at the moment.

China, on the other hand, is spreading largess amiss and afar with exactly the opposite goal.

BALDWIN: Richard and Catherine, thank you.

RAMPELL: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Just into us, here, "Modern Family" co-creator and executive producer Steve Levitan says he intends to leave FOX because of its news coverage of family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Here was just a little snippet of what happened last night on their air.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: Since more illegal immigrants are rushing the border, more kids are being separated from their parents