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Trump Pushed to Release Migrants Into Sanctuary Cities; Vice President Mike Pence is Interviewed on His Escalating Feud with Pete Buttigieg; Julian Assange Faces Extradition to the U.S.; Michael Avenatti Indicted on Embezzlement & Fraud Charges; Pete Buttigieg Surges in New Polls. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired April 12, 2019 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They leaned on ICE to consider moving undocumented immigrants to sanctuary cities.

[05:58:52] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't believe we should be releasing anyone who crosses the border illegally.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: These are human beings. To treat them like a plague is grotesque

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What he said was true. There was spying

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The attorney general testified to an audience of one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was most certainly surveillance. That should be open to examination.

MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hope that Pete will offer more than attacks on my faith as he seeks the highest office.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not critical of his faith. I'm critical of bad policies.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Friday, April 12, 6 a.m. here in New York.

Happy Friday.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: "F" is for "Friday," I like to say.

CAMEROTA: It's gone quickly.

BERMAN: Yes. CAMEROTA: I feel, this week.

BERMAN: What has? The week?


BERMAN: All right. The last ten minutes have gone quickly.

CAMEROTA: Well, that is also true.

OK. Up first, we have this new report to tell you about. It reveals an extreme idea that the White House was considering to deal with undocumented immigrants at the border.

CNN has learned that President Trump personally pushed his ousted homeland security secretary to release undocumented migrants onto the streets of so-called sanctuary cities in order to target his political foes. A source tells CNN that Kirstjen Nielsen resisted that plan.

CNN has also learned that top Trump adviser Stephen Miller had a big hand in pushing that plan. "The Washington Post," which first reported this story, found that this idea came up more than once in six months.

Meanwhile, CNN's Dana Bash gets an exclusive interview with Vice President Mike Pence about the situation at the border and much more.

BERMAN: He makes a pledge on family separations, which will be interesting to hear what he says on that.

Meanwhile, we're officially in the window where we could see the redacted Mueller report. It could be today, and it would make for a heck of a Friday news dump.

All of it can now be viewed through the new filter of the attorney general's stunning comments. He said he believes the Trump campaign was spied on by U.S. intelligence, though he didn't exactly tell us what he meant or provide evidence. President Trump, though, is rejoicing in that statement.

And this morning we're hearing from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the man who oversaw the Mueller probe. How does he explain William Barr's words and choices?

Let's begin our coverage, though, with CNN's Boris Sanchez, live at the White House, Boris, with what appears to be an effort to use law enforcement, not to mention human beings as a form of political retribution.


For years, President Trump has railed against the country's immigration laws. But now, according to new reporting, it appears that the White House at least explored the possibility of using those immigration laws to punish the president's political enemies.


SANCHEZ (voice-over): President Trump is no fan of sanctuary cities.

TRUMP: My administration is launching a nationwide crackdown on sanctuary cities.

SANCHEZ: And that's exactly where he wanted to send migrants detained at the southern border. A source tells CNN the White House pressured homeland security officials to release detained migrants into so- called sanctuary cities that limit cooperation with federal law enforcement to protect most immigrants from deportation.

The president himself pushed former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to follow through on his plan, according to a source. Why? In part to retaliate against Democrats who opposed his border wall.

But Nielsen resisted, and the DHS legal team eventually produced analysis that killed the plan. "The Washington Post" reports House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's district in San Francisco was among those targeted. Pelosi firing back saying, quote, "Using human beings, including little children, as pawns in their warped game to perpetuate fear and demonize immigrants is despicable."

Meanwhile, President Trump embracing controversial comments from his attorney general, William Barr.

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think spying did occur, yes. I think spying did occur.

TRUMP: I think what he said was absolutely true. There was absolutely spying into my campaign. I'll go a step further. In my opinion, it was illegal spying, unprecedented spying.

SANCHEZ: A counter-intelligence investigation into a Trump campaign staffer was launched legally through a warrant approved by a foreign intelligence surveillance court.

Now, as Washington braces for Barr to release his redacted version of the Mueller report, outgoing Deputy Rod Rosenstein is defending Barr's four-page summary of the nearly 400-page report.

Rosenstein telling "The Wall Street Journal," quote, "He's being as forthcoming as he can, and so this notion that he's trying to mislead people, I think is just completely bizarre."


SANCHEZ: According to reporting in the "New York Times" and "The Washington Post," this sanctuary cities idea was first brought up last November around the time of the midterm elections in an email from a White House policy adviser to DHS attorneys. It was brought up again in February for ultimately being abandoned, John.

Boris Sanchez for us at the White House. Yes, brought up at least to times.

Want to bring in CNN senior political analyst John Avlon.

And John, I want to read the lead from "The Washington Post." Rachael Bade, one of the reporters, will be with us a little bit later, which is great to hear from her.

CNN has matched the story, but "The Post" broke it. White House officials have tried to pressure U.S. immigration authorities to release detainees onto the streets of sanctuary cities to retaliate against President Trump's political adversaries, according to Department of Homeland Security officials and e-mail messages reviewed by "The Washington Post."

A, that's a heck of a lead. B, retaliate against political adversaries with human beings.

AVLON: That is the fact of what is being being reported. It is completely insane. Do not accept this as the new normal or just another day in the Trump administration.

This is the latest and, in some ways, the most sinister bit of evidence that this president and his administration do not respect the rule of law. And they are being contained by professionals in agencies who try to tell them that their plans to release detainees on the streets of sanctuary cities, small and mid-sized, by the way, to punish their political enemies cannot be done.

[06:05:11] And for that, they come under intense political pressure. This is deeply, deeply troubling if this is the instinct of the president and his political advisers to try to pull off kind of a domestic Mariel boatlift, to disrupt and undercut his perceived political opponents in America's cities and towns.

BERMAN: You said they are being contained by other officials there. How does it color the view of what they tried to do, the fact that it didn't happen?

AVLON: I think that is the cold comfort we can take is that we're living through a civic stress test. But the president's worst impulses, his most autocratic and, you know, vengeful impulses. And those of his senior aides on some of these issues are being contained by administration officials, some of whom are Trump appointees, some of whom are simply people who've dedicated their life to serving the people of the United States.

But the system is straining. And we've already seen a degree of retaliation or attempted retaliation against some of these people, particularly in the Office of Legal Counsel.

So that is what's troubling. The good news is the system is holding, and the president's worst impulses are being contained, but it is being strained every day by the occupant of the Oval Office.

BERMAN: I will note that people are clearly leaking to "The Post," to "The Times," and to us about this about this, posting email messages about this. None have been sent by Stephen Miller, according to "The Post," but his name is associated with this. He is thought to be behind some of these notions. And now, more powerful than ever on the issue of immigration.

AVLON: He has been empowered by the president. He is trying to systematically purge, apparently, policy opponents inside the organization. Again, that word "purge." Not one noticeably used in American politics for administrations' on staffers, but that's the degree of the ideological divide.

That's the degree of the impulse to say, "Break the law on my behalf to punish my political enemies." These are not sentences we say very often in American history. It's happening right now on our watch.

BERMAN: All right, John. We're going to talk much more about this coming up. Thank you very much.

CAMEROTA: And meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence getting a first- hand look at the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border. CNN's Dana Bash spoke exclusively with the vice president about the Trump administration's plan for families at the border and much more.

Watch this.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: CPB says that family unit apprehensions have increased nearly 375 percent. The spike is incredible. Can you explain how the administration that ran on making sure that this didn't happen let things get to this point?

PENCE: Well, first, I think the president and I appreciate the fact that people around the country and even many people in the media are now beginning to recognize that we have a genuine crisis at our southern border.

I heard about it again today here in Nogales. On Tuesday, 4,300 people came across our border illegally along the Southern border in its entirety. The vast majority of those people were families and unaccompanied minors, begin driven by human traffickers and drug cartels that are exploiting these vulnerable families, and they're exploiting loopholes in our laws.

BASH: We have information that the president has been talking about reinstating the zero tolerance policy. Can you vow, standing here at the border, that family separation will never be reinstated?

PENCE: The president made it very clear this week we're not rethinking bringing back family separation. But it's absolutely essential to end a humanitarian crisis that really threatens the security of the American people and is creating hardship on both sides of our border. Congress needs to act.

BASH: The president tweeted last night the following: "I think what the Democrats are doing with the border is TREASONOUS," all caps. "Their open-border mindset is putting our country at risk. We'll not let that happen."

I know you generally say that the president has his own style of talking, but to to use the word "treason," which is supposed to be punished by death, how do you get from that rhetoric to the kind of working across the aisle that you're talking about that's needed to fix things here?

PENCE: I think what you hear the president expressing is the frustration of the American people. That last month alone, more than 100,000 people came across our southern border illegally.

BASH: I just have to ask you about the mayor of South Bend, Pete Buttigieg. He said, "I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand that, if you've got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator."

What he's saying is he didn't choose to be gay. His creator did. What's your response to that?

PENCE: You know, I've known Mayor Pete for many years. We worked very closely together when I was governor. And I considered him a friend.

And he knows I don't have a problem with him. I -- I don't believe in discrimination against anybody. I treat everybody the way that I want to be treated.

[06:10:13] BASH: Do you agree with him that God made him gay?

PENCE: Well, look, the truth of the matter is that all of us have our own religious convictions. Pete has his convictions. I have mine.

BASH: Right. Well, he argues that your quarrel is with him as a gay man and that he says, "I was born with way, and this is the way God made me." That's just not your belief?

PENCE: Well, I think -- I think Pete's quarrel is with the First Amendment.

BASH: How so?

PENCE: All of us in this country have the -- the right to our religious beliefs. I'm a Bible believing Christian.

BASH: Julian Assange. I want to ask you about something that Mike Pompeo, when he was the CIA director, said. He called WikiLeaks a "non-state house (ph) intelligence service, often abetted by state actors like Russia." Do you agree with that characterization?

PENCE: Yes, we strongly agree with that. That's why the Justice Department is now seeking extradition. And we're going to bring Julian Assange to justice.

Look, we're working with Chelsea Manning. Julian Assange was involved in one of the greatest compromises of classified information in American history. It literally put American military personnel at risk, and we'll hold him to account in the American justice system.

BASH: What about what he did in 2016? The president, when he was a candidate, welcomed seeing WikiLeaks and the information that they got from Hillary Clinton. Has that changed?

PENCE: Well, I think the president always, as you in the media do, always welcomes information. That was in no way an endorsement.

BASH: Even though (UNINTELLIGIBLE) said that?

PENCE: An organization that we now understand was involved in disseminating classified information by the United States of America.


BERMAN: All right. A lot more to discuss about Dana's exclusive interview with the vice president at the border coming up.

This morning, as you heard in that interview, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is behind bars in Britain, facing extradition to the United States for allegedly conspiring to hack into government computers to steal U.S. military secrets.

WikiLeaks played a key role also, as you heard right there, in the release of DNC and Clinton campaign e-mails in 2016. Back then, President Trump said, "I love WikiLeaks." Now he says he knows nothing about WikiLeaks.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh live in London with the very latest -- Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, behind me, I think, in the Ecuadorian embassy, they're probably breathing a sigh of relief, maybe even cleaning up after their lengthy unwelcome house guest, even reports from Ecuadoran officials of feces on the walls at some point, damage to the building's infrastructure.

But what ahead now for Julian Assange, always a man not to be afraid of the spotlight? Ell, certainly, he has to face a sentencing hearing here in London in probably the next weeks ahead because of the bail he skipped out on here when he hid inside the embassy back in 2012.

And then on May the 2nd, most likely after he's sentenced, he'll have an extradition hearing. That is to face this indictment in the United States, which specifies that he worked with Chelsea Manning to try and crack part of a password that would have enabled Chelsea Manning to masquerade as an administrator in a U.S. computer system during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, classified information here, so she could have downloaded that. Well, he at the time, Bradley Manning, could have downloaded that and then released it through WikiLeaks.

But Donald Trump here, President Trump very clear, and we often see this, on how he's very much more ignorant about WikiLeaks than he was simply a matter of years ago. Here's what he said.


TRUMP: WikiLeaks. I love WikiLeaks.

This WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable. It tells you the inner heart. You've got to read it. It's been amazing what's coming out on WikiLeaks.

This WikiLeaks is fascinating.

This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove.

I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It's not my thing. I know nothing really about them. It's not my deal in life.


WALSH: Now, it is the British court system, though, that will decide whether or not Julian Assange goes to the United States. That process could take months. Frankly, it may even be that whatever sentence he has to serve here in the U.K. for violating that bail is, in fact, expended while he's waiting to learn his extradition fate.

And then it's possible in the United States he will face further charges. Now, there will be intense political debate here. His pretty substantial defense team already using the open court system to make a very clear case that he's a journalist who published information who's being persecuted. The indictment says he conspired to commit a criminal act. It will be up to U.K. judges to decide his fate -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Nick Paton Walsh, thank you very much for all of that reporting.

Let's bring in CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero. She is the former counsel to U.S. assistant attorney general.

Carrie, great to see you. So yesterday, as John and I were watching this arrest unfold on our air, I kept wondering why that day, why yesterday, after seven years, you know, of him being holed up in that embassy?

[06:15:06] And I think that we've gotten the answer, which is there was this ticking statute of limitations. I was surprised to hear there is an eight-year statute of limitations for at least one of his charges. And so it sounds like -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- is that why they had to move with alacrity?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it certainly was a factor. And I think it's important to keep in mind that this case against him and the investigations involving him and the process of extradition, this would have been work that was done behind the scenes by law enforcement and prosecutors and diplomats from the U.S., the U.K. and Ecuador, which was housing him for some time.

And so I think it was a confluence, perhaps, where you had the statute of limitations. The legal process had been under seal. The indictment had been under seal in the Eastern District of Virginia for some time. And then we needed the other factor -- U.S. Law enforcement needed the other factor in play, which was the government of Ecuador finally making the decision to release him to U.K. authorities. CAMEROTA: Yes, and it sounds like their patience really ran out with him. I mean, certainly, we hear Nick Paton Walsh's reporting about the conditions that he was living in.

Let me read to you the indictment, because I think that it's interesting what we found out that he's being accused of. "On or about March 8, 2010, Assange agreed to assist Chelsea Manning in cracking a password stored on United States Department of Defense computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network, a United States government network, used for classified documents and communications."

So that is different, right? That's different than just publishing classified documents. That is taking an active role in getting them.

CORDERO: Exactly right, Alisyn. So the passage that you just put up, that's really the crux of this particular indictment and charge against him.

Julian Assange is not being charged with publishing classified information. I'll say it again. He's not being charged with publishing classified information. What he's being charged with is being an active participant in a conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse.

In other words, he did a specific thing to try to assist Chelsea Manning to crack a password to get unauthorized access into Department of Defense procedures. And so what the Justice Department is going to argue is that is not traditional journalist behavior.

CAMEROTA: Indeed. Carrie Cordero, thank you very much for all of the legal expertise -- John.

CORDERO: Thanks.

BERMAN: Just saying, I prefer posters as wall hangings. Just letting that out there.

CAMEROTA: That's good. That is more traditional.

BERMAN: Posters more traditional, to be sure.

What a swirl of controversy surrounding attorney Michael Avenatti this morning. He is fighting back against a new string of new charges. The former lawyer for Stormy Daniels was indicted on 36 counts, including embezzlement prosecutors claim was part of a scheme to steal tens of millions of dollars from his clients.

Our Sara Sidner live in Los Angeles with the details here. And this is a big, big list of indictments.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is. Thirty-six counts, including embezzlement, wire fraud, tax fraud, bank fraud, bankruptcy fraud here. The U.S. attorney for the Central District of California coming out very strongly, condemning the things that he's accused Michael Avenatti of. And one of the things in this case that was stunning to a lot of

people as they listened to it were the five people that the prosecutors say Michael defrauded. Five of them were clients of his, they say, who were defrauded of millions of dollars, including a paraplegic client, a client who had won a $4 million settlement that prosecutors say Michael Avenatti took, put into a trust account, as you are supposed to do for your clients, but then drained that trust account of more than $3.5 million, only giving the client somewhere around $125,000, telling him that the full settlement hadn't come in when he had already spent the money.

Here's a little bit more of what prosecutors had to say.


NICK HANNA, U.S. ATTORNEY: As it turns out, within months after receiving the settlement proceeds in early 2015, Mr. Avenatti had drained the entire $4 million payment from his trust account, using significant portions of the funds to finance his coffee business, his auto racing enterprise and his own personal lifestyle.


SIDNER: Now, Michael has shot back, saying that he's not guilty of any of the charges against him, and he claims that any moneys owed due to his clients are bogus.

But we should mention that, with all of these charges -- and that's just in this case here in California -- that he faces up to 335 -- 335 years in prison. And that does not include the case that the SDNY has against him, which involves Nike, where they have said that he tried to extort Nike.

[06:20:05] CAMEROTA: My gosh. Sara Sidner, thank you for explaining all of that and laying it out for us.

All right. He is not officially in the race yet. But Pete Buttigieg is surging in some new polls. We discuss those next.


BERMAN: All right. New this morning, major movement in the Democratic race for president. Truly from nowhere in the polls, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg appears to be breaking out in two early voting states. Look at these numbers from Iowa and New Hampshire. Pete Buttigieg has launched himself into third place behind Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, and ahead of some pretty big names.

Joining us now to discuss, Howard Dean, former presidential candidate, governor of Vermont; Laura Barron-Lopez, national political reporter for Politico; and Joe Lockhart. He is the former White House press secretary for President Clinton and hosts the "Words Matter" podcast.

Congratulations on that, Mr. Lockhart.

Governor Dean, I want to start with you. And I know it's early. So let's stipulate --


BERMAN: Polls change.

DEAN: Really early.

BERMAN: You know that.

But Pete Buttigieg was the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, at zero or minus in the polls to months ago. And now he's ahead of people who have been in the Senate. He's ahead of people who live next door to New Hampshire. There is clearly something happening with this South Bend mayor.

DEAN: Our core base is young people, people of color and women. And Pete Buttigieg is incredibly attractive to young people.

[06:25:05] I was supporting him for the Democratic National Committee chairmanship, because that's our core base. And he has gotten his message out there, partly on CNN town meetings and things like that. People like him a lot. I'm shocked at the number of people who come up to me and say, "What do you think of this guy?"

And I demur, because I have to stay neutral, because I'm running the data project. And they say, "Well, I sent him some money."

"You did?" These are people my age. So this is real. He's basically, I think, assured him, as barring some scandal or something, that he's going to be in the first cut.

CAMEROTA: So Joe, strategically, what has Mayor Pete Buttigieg done better than other people? Why has he leapfrogged?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I agree that it's early. And I think that you've seen several of these candidates get a little bit of a bump around the time of their announcement. It's always the anticipation. Kamala Harris did, certainly. And then settled back down.

CAMEROTA: And is that what you think is happening here?

LOCKHART: I actually think it's a little bit more. I think -- I agree with Governor Dean that he touches constituencies he is, in some ways, touches all of the elements.

If you look at Iowa and New Hampshire, the votes he's taking from are from Beto supporters but more than anyone, Bernie Sanders supporters, which was surprising when I looked at the numbers yesterday.

And I think what that's about is people tend to look at, like, Sanders as Democrats want an ultra-progressive, a Democratic socialist. I don't think that's it at all. I think the Democratic constituency's much more in the middle.

I think it's -- I think it's people rebelling against incremental politics, the politics that I think Hillary talked about. We've got to go slow, we've got to make change.

And what Buttigieg is doing here is tapping into this idea that we can think big, Obama-like; we can change the system. We don't have to do it incrementally. And he's doing it in a language that young people understand, and they feel an affinity.

So I think the bottom line is I don't know who's going to win. But he's now in, you know, the first tier or 1-B tier and will have to be taken seriously.

BERMAN: And he's getting some help, maybe, we could put it, from Mike Pence, the vice president of the United States?

CAMEROTA: Well, he's getting some help from picking a fight with Mike Pence, I would say.

BERMAN: You know, it's interesting. Because Buttigieg's entry into exploring the race did not, you know, circle around Mike Pence. It was not talking about his own sexuality that much. It really wasn't. It was "I'm a Midwest governor. I know how to win in a Trump state." That was his main focus.

But day by day, Laura, he does talk more about the fact that he's married, which is something that Mike Pence opposed in his state. And I want to play for you what Pete Buttigieg just told Ellen DeGeneres on a clip that's going to air today.


BUTTIGIEG: I'm not interested in feuding with the vice president. But if he wanted to clear this out, he could come out today and say he's changed his mind, that it shouldn't be legal to discriminate against anybody in this country for who they are. That's all.



BERMAN: It's interesting. You heard in the interview with Dana Bash, Laura, that the vice president would not say he believes that people are born gay.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Right. I think that even though Pete Buttigieg hasn't made this debate with Pence a central part of his campaign, it definitely helps him. I mean, any time that a Democratic candidate can be seen at odds with either the president or with the vice president, it boosts them. And that could be, also, part of why he's surging in the polls.

And again, I think that Buttigieg is really getting attention because of how young he is, because of his policy ideas, as we mentioned earlier.

But it's so early that in a month, we could see this drastically change. We could see Warren or Harris be third. And I think that if anyone -- if we pretend to know what is going to happen nine months out, we'll be shocked when -- when the first contest happens.

CAMEROTA: That's for sure. Understood. Today is just a snapshot of where we are today. It's nothing more. It's not predictive.

However, given that, Governor, where is Beto O'Rourke? After all the excitement and the splash of the "Vanity Fair" cover, why isn't he in those two states in the top?

DEAN: Well, he's doing pretty well. But you know, this is a hard, long process. There's two ways of doing this.

One is to raise a lot of money, and the other is to be on the ground and set up a great network. He's not going to have any trouble setting up a network, and he's raised a lot of money. The problem is the expectations for -- for Beto were much higher than they were for Pete Buttigieg.

But Beto raised $83 million for a Senate race in Texas. Buttigieg, nobody ever heard of. But he's got momentum., and you guys are giving that momentum. I got that ride up, and of course, I got the ride down once I was the frontrunner.

CAMEROTA: It's a round trip ride we give you.

BERMAN: Exactly.

DEAN: Let me say something quickly. Joe is absolutely right, and nobody is talking about this in the media. This party is not moving to the left. All you guys are focusing on, Ocasio and Rashida Tlaib and so forth and so on.

We won 40 seats.