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tv   Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  June 18, 2018 2:00pm-3:00pm PDT

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and -- when does he listen to anybody. he doesn't listen to anybody. >> i think steven miller is undercutting and the president should follow his instincts and he understands the immigration issue. >> and that is all of the time we have. i apologize. thanks so much. the white house briefing with homeland security secretary nielsen is coming up next. that is it for "the lead." turning it over to wolf blitzer. >> announcer: this is cnn breaking news. i'm wolf blitzer in "the situation room." we're following breaking news. we're standing by for white house briefing. now delays four hours as the administration faces increasing pressure from democrats and now many republicans as well condemning the policy of separating undocumented children from their parents at the border. top administration officials are defending the actions including
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the homeland security secretary kirstjen nielsen speaking at the white house briefing momentarily. we'll have live coverage. president trump continues to falsely blame democrats where this new policy. the first lady melania trump is among those speaking out against it and all four former first ladies have now also condemned what is happening along the border. let's go to our senior white house correspondent jeff zeleny standing by for the briefing. this is a significant moment we're about to see. >> it certainly is. the white house has struggled throughout the day and the last several days and certainly the last hours explaining and defending this immigration policy. we heard the president earlier today essentially act as his best spokesperson, essentially defending and doubling down on what he believes is the right policy. but again of course blaming democrats for this. take a listen to what he said earlier today. >> the united states will not be a migrant camp and it will not
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be a refugee holding facility. it won't be. >> reporter: but that's exactly what has happened. those searing images throughout father's day weekend, and certainly bringing this issue to life. but the new face of the policy who is trying to explain this policy perhaps will be here shortly and the secretary of homeland security kirstjen nielsen going to be delivering that briefing as you said, but she is a prime example of the administration not having one single message. take a listen to what she said today speaking to sheriffs in new orleans. >> we will not apologize for doing our job. we have sworn to do this job. this administration has a simple message. if you cross the border illegally, we will prosecute you. >> reporter: so talking about prosecuting and that is a different message than she was treating out on sunday. take a look at this tweet from the secretary it said we do not
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have a policy of separating families at the border, period. so a disconnect on several levels as criticism is coming in from across the board, from republicans on capitol hill and democrats of course, but it is the words of the former first lady particularly laura bush saying it simply inhumane and calling on leaders to do better about this. but, wolf, what has been transpiring here in the white house briefing room speaks to the tact that the white house has struggled to answer these questions. white house press secretary sarah sanders initially scheduled to be here at 1:15, about four hours ago. that was delayed until 3:30 and not unusual but spoo-- speaks t sign they were having meetings and i'm told they did have meetings with the president and secretary nielsen and then the briefing was supposed to be at 4:00 and that was delayed until 5:00. so a sign the administration
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trying to perhaps explain this, trying to perhaps move on beyond this. but we have no sign here, no sense that the administration is backing away from its policy here. but even supporters of this president, wolf, certainly raising questions saying it is not a good look for the president and we know the president -- a big watcher of television, has seen the images as well. i'm told he's not pleased. we'll is he what the secretary says when she comes out. >> we see the pictures of the little kids crying along the border as their mothers are being questioned by police and many of them taken away and kids going to a separate location. it is clearly an awful, awful situation. is there any reason to believe the president might do what so many want him to do, simply pick up the phone and say no more. >> reporter: at this point, wolf, we do not have any indication that they would be backing away from this policy. this has been the policy of this administration for a couple of months or so. the attorney general jeff
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sessions announced this zero-tolerance policy in april. it did not get all that much attention but it certainly has gained steam since then. we do not have an indication if they are going to change the policy. but indeed we should point out this is something that president can do. even though white house officials have repeatedly blamed democrats for this, it is simply a trump administration policy. it is true of course that people on both sides have spent very little time trying to work through a broader immigration bill. the president has talked about immigration a lot. and has not made it a priority in terms of trying to find essentially a bipartisan agreement here. so we'll see what secretary nielsen said and if she would back down from what she said earlier, that is extraordinary but we don't know what the president is directing on this. he was involved in meetings here in the west wing this afternoon. this is something that certainly is not going away. they're getting a earful from everyone and he's going to capitol hill tomorrow to talk to house republicans about a broader immigration bill, of course including this as well.
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so wolf, we'll just have to wait and see what secretary nielsen says. she is the homeland security secretary. she worked here at the white house as a chief of staff essentially for the chief of staff john kelly so she's very familiar with the president. but she and the president have been at odds over this policy and over immigration as well. so we'll have to stay tuned to see what she said. so far no indication that we're hearing that they are going to change their tune on the policy. >> i want you to stand by. we'll have live coverage of the homeland security secretary's briefing which is supposed to have been -- begin fairly soon. we'll stand by for that. our panel of experts is also standing by. but i want to get more right now from a leading democrat on the senate judiciary committee, richard blumenthal of connecticut. senator, thank you so much for joining us. let's talk about this new policy of separating children from their mothers and fathers at the border. as you know, the president could
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easily change that comprehensive immigration reform very difficult but this is a relatively easy fix. >> my wish, wolf, is that we would interrupt this conversation between the two of us for sek-- for secretary to c this briefing and in moments reverse a policy that holds these children hostage. they are used as pawns. i've been to the border and i've seen the cages where they've been held. and i've met with a number of the parents whose children have been taken away from them and it is inhumane and immoral. and there is nothing -- and i repeat absolutely nothing in the law that requires it. it is the result of the prosecution of people coming across the border as jeff just pointed out exactly right, coming across the border which
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requires them to be separated from their children in an instant and in a phone call and in this press briefing the administration could reverse it. >> and i'll have oint ru-- to it you if she does come out and we'll go to her right away but will she start off with the announcement that you want to hear and so many others want to hear that the policy is being changed. >> if she failed to announce that reversal of policy, i think she ought to have her resignation on the president's desk this evening. because she knows it is wrong. in her heart, and in some of her public statements in the inconsistency of what she said, she's indicated that she knows it is inhumane and immoral and illegal. so i would hope she would resign if that is not her announcement tonight. but let's be clear, wolf, there is growing bipartisan unanimity on this cause. my republican colleagues over the weekend -- and in their public statements that they have
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no defense for this policy. but they have failed to join the legislation that i have helped plead and every democrat has joined, no republicans have joined the legislation that would reverse this policy. it is time for them to stand up and use that moral campus -- mo compass and show moral backbone. >> do you think it is possible she'll do that at the beginning of the briefing, announce they are walk away from this policy. >> i would say realistically, probably she's there to defend it not to reverse it. and that makes me very sad, genuinely sad as an american because it is so betraying american values. it recalls the worst period in american history during world war ii when we put people of japanese decent into separate encampments and separated them from the communities and in other times in our world history when families have been torn apart as
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is happening right now. but it is certainly -- it is very far from what we americans would hope. i still think given the president's statement this is morning and her statement -- and her statements in new orleans that the likelihood of reversing the policy tonight is probably slim. i devoutly hope as a democrat but also as an american that they do the right thing. >> do you believe, senator, that this policy amounts to what some have suggested as -- in effect as child abuse. >> it is child abuse. plain and simple. you know, when we talk about fragmenting families and i was a state attorney general and i protected children against child abuse and neglect and thousands of cases each year children are traumatized by this kind of separation and in a life of a child a few weeks is like three years for them. because of the shortness of
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their life. and this kind of trauma will have lasting effects on many of them, tragic enduring harm for these children. we should have them in mind and put them first. >> you said earlier that this policy in your words, quote, reminds us of the cattle cars of nazi germany when children were separated from their parents. i know you're very sensitive to this issue. you told me last year your father escaped nazi germany when he was only 17 years old. but tell us why you are drawing this comparison to the holocaust and what is happening along the u.s.-mexico border with the young kid and parents right now. >> obviously, wolf, there are some very critical differences and i -- and i don't mean to compare the trump administration to nazi germany by any means but the stories of the children being marched away from their
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families to cages and showers and told they would -- they would be clean and given new clothes but separated from their family with no prospect of reunification, it is reminiscent in the intense -- >> i'm going to interrupt you. the secretary will be introduced by sarah sanders. >> to laid out immigration reform proposal that closes loopholes an provides the necessary resources to secure the border. sko congress needs to fix our broken immigration system. so answer your questions on this topic, i invited secretary of homeland security kirstjen nielsen and the custom and border protection administrator to the podium and i'll be back up afterwards to take questions on other news of the day. thanks. >> well good afternoon. it is my pleasure to be here because i would love to see if i could help explain some of what is going on and give you some of
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the facts. i know there have been a lot put out there but hopefully we could clarify some things today. i just wanted to start by thanking the sheriffs of the united states. i had the privilege of speaking to them this morning at the national sheriffs association conference. we are seeking further partnership at dhs to protect our community so i thank them. so i want to provide you an update on the illegal crisis on the southern border and the efforts the administration is taking to solve this crisis. and to stop the flood of illegal immigrants an drugs contraband and crime coming across the border. so let's start with a few numbers and facts. so in the last three months we've seen illegal immigration on our southern border exceed 50,000 people each month. multiples over each month last year. since this time last year, there has been a 325% increase in unaccompanied alien children and
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a 435% increase in family units entering the country illegally. over the last ten years, there has been a 1700% increase in asylum claims. resulting in asylum backlog of 600,000 cases. since 2013 the united states has admitted more than half a million illegal immigrant minors and family units from central america. most of whom today are at large in the united states. at the same time, large criminal organizations such as ms-13 have violated our borders and gained a deadly foot hold within the united states. this entire crisis, just to be clear, is not new. it is been occurring and expanded over many decades. but currently it is the exclusive product of loopholes in our federal immigration laws that prevent illegal immigrant miners and family members from being detained and removed to their home countries. in other words, these loopholes
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create a functionally open border, apprehension without detention and removal is not border security. we have reedly call on congress to close the loopholes. i have met with many members meeting with me and i testified seven times and i will continue to make myself available to ask that they work with us to solve this crisis. yet the voices most loudly criticizing the enforcement of our current laws are those who policies created this crisis and whose policies perpetrate it. in particular, we need to reform three major loopholes, let me quickly walk you through them. first, we need to amend the 2008 trafficking victims prevention reauthorization act or tbpr which is much easier to say. this puts children in the hands of smugglers to bring them alone on this dangerous trek northward. and make no mistake, we've talked about this before, this trek is dangerous and deadly.
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second, we need to reform our asylum laws to end the systemic abuse of our asylum system and stop fraud. right now our asylum system fails to assist asylum seeker who legitimately need it. we are a country of compassion and heart. we must fix this system so that those who truly need asylum can in fact receive it. third, we need to amend the flores settlement agreement and recent expansions which would allow for family detention during the removal process. and we need congress to fully fund our ability to hold families together through the immigration process. and until these loopholes are closed by congress, it is not possible as a matter of law to detain and remove whole family units who arrive illegally in the united states. congress and the courts created this problem and congress alone can fix it. until then, we will enforce every law we have on the books to defend the sovereignty and
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security of the united states. those who criticize the enforcement of our lauers have offered only one counter measure. open boarders. the quick release of all illegal alien families and the decision not to enforce our laws. this policy would be disastrous. it is prime beneficiary would be the smuggling organizations themselves and the prime victims would be the children who would be plunged into the smuggling machines on the trip north. there is a lot of misinformation about what dhs is and is not doing as it relates to families at the border. and i want to correct the record here. here are the facts. first, this administration does d not create a policy of separating families at the border. we have a statutory responsibility that we take seriously to protect alien children from human smuggling and trafficking and other criminal actions while enforcing our immigration laws. we have a long existing policy,
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multiple administrations have followed, that outline when we may take action to protect children. we will separate those who claim to be a parent and child if we cannot determine a familiar or custodial relationship exists. for example, if there is no documentation to confirm the claimed relationship between an adult and a child, we do so if the parent is a national security public or safety risk, including when there are criminal charges at issue and it may not be appropriate to maintain the family in detention together. we also separate a parent and child if the adult is suspected of human trafficking. there are cases where minors were used and trafficked by unrelated adults in an effort to avoid detention and i stop here to say in the last five months we have a 314% increase in adults and children arriving at the border fraudulently claiming to be a family unit. this is obviously of concern.
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and separation can occur when the parent is charged with human smuggling. under those circumstances, we would detain the parent in an appropriate secure detention facility separate from the child. what has changed is that we no longer exempt entire classes of people who break the law. everyone is subject to prosecution. when dhs refers a case against a parent or legal guardian for prosecution, the parent or legal guardian will be placed into the u.s. marshal service custody for pretrial determination pursuant to an order by a federal judge and any accompanied child will be transferred to the department of health and human services and will be reclassified as an unaccompanied alien child. that is in accordance with the tbpra, a law that was passed by congress. and following a court order, neither are which actions the trump administration has taken. and let's be clear, if an american were to commit a crime anywhere in the united states, they would go to jail and they would be separated from their
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family. this is not a controversial idea. second, children in dhs and hhs custody are being well taken care of. the office of refugee resettlement provides meals, medical care and educational services to these children. they are provided temporary shelter in hhs works hard to find a parent, relative or foster home to care for these children. parents can still communicate with their children through phone calls and video conferencing. and a parent released from custody can be a sponsor and ask hhs to release the child back into their care. further, these minors could still apply for asylum under u.s. immigration law if eligible. we take allegations of mistreatment seriously. and i want to stress this point. we investigate, we hold those accountable when and if it should occur. we have some of the highest detention standards in the
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country. claiming these children and their parents are treated inhumanely is not true. and completely disrespects the hard working men and women at the office of refugee resettlement. third, parents who entered illegally are by definition criminals. illegal entry is a crime as determined by congress. by entering our country illegally, often in dangerous circumstances, illegal immigrants putz their children at risk. fourth, cvp and i.c.e. officers are trained to care for minors in they are custody. dhs and hhs treats all individuals with dignity and respect and complies with all laws and policy. this reinforced and reiterates the need of the best interest of the children and mandates adherence to establish protocol to protect at risk populations to include standard for the transport and treatment of minors in dhs and hhs custody.
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additionally, all u.s. border patrol personnel in the southwest border are bilingual. every last one of them. they are directed to clearly explain the relevance process to apprehended individuals and provide detainees with written documentation in both spanish and english that lays out the process and appropriate phone numbers to contact. and finally, dhs is not separating families legitimately seeking asylum at ports of entry. if an adult enters at a port of ebts -- entry and claim as sile em, they will not face prosecution for illegal entry. they have not committed a crime by come together port of entry. as i mentioned, dhs does have a responsibility to protect minors and in that case we'll only separate the family if we cannot determine there is a family relationship if the child may be at risk with the parent or legal guardian or if the parent or legal guardian is referred for prosecution.
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we have a duty to protect the american people and it is one that i take very seriously. here is the bottom line. dhs is no longer ignoring the law. we're enforcing the law as they exist on the books. as long as illegal entry remains a criminal offense, dhs will not look the other way. dls will faithfully execute the laws and enacted by congress as we are sworn to do. as i said earlier today, surely it is the beginning of the unraveling of the democracy when the body who makes the laws instead of changing them tells the enforcement body not to enforce the law. i ask congress to ask this week so that we could secure our borders and uphold our humanitarian ideas. these two missions should not be pitted against each other. if we close the loopholes woe could accomplish both. before i take questions, i just want to ask that in your reporting, please consider the men and women of dhs who are
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dedicated law enforcement officers and who often put their lives at risk. let's remember their sacrifice and commitment to this country. and with that i'll take some questions. yes. >> secretary nielsen, you talked about, dhs and is no longer ignoring the law, you're calling on korgs to change the law. that is the big message here. >> yes. >> members of congress say you are using children as a lever to try to get them to take legislative action. what do you say to that? >> i say that is a cowardly response. it is clearly within their power to make and change the laws. they should do so. >> you have seen the photos of children in cages? have you heard the audio clip of these children wailing that just came out today? >> i have -- i have not seen something that came out today but i've been to detention centers and again i would reference you to our standards and reference you to the care provided not just by the department of homeland security, but by the department of health
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and human services when they get to hhs. >> is that the image of country you want out there, the children -- >> the -- the image i want is a secure border and humanitarian ideals and congress needs to fix it. >> i want to give you a chance to respond to laura bush's op ed and supporting a application of law and current first lady melania trump said we should be a nation of laws and do so with heart. do you have anything you want to tell them, do you believe they are misunderstanding the situation or do you believe there is -- component of this policy because you outlined other administrations have done but you are using it in a way that is more -- intense and creates the separation issue. >> what my response would be is calling attention to this matter is important. this is a very serious issue that has resulted after years and years of congress not taking
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action. so i would think them both for their comments and for their concerns, i share their concerns, but congress is the one that needs to fix it. >> the policy is not by your definition in any way cruel? >> it is not a policy. our policy at dhs is to do what we're sworn to do which is to enforce the law. >> but -- >> i'm following up on megan's question there. former first lady bush compared this to japanese internment one of the darkest days in the nation history and do you believe the effect of this policy, not the law, but the effect of it on separating children from families in those instances is moral? is it ethical and american? >> what i believe is that we should exercise our democratic rights as americans and fix the problem. it is a problem and let's fix it. >> yes. >> how is this not child abuse? >> be more specific. enforcing the law. >> what cecilia was talking about and the sounds that we've seen from the big box stores,
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the walmart and the other stores, when you see this, how is this not specifically child abuse for these innocent children who are indeed being separated from their parents. >> so i want to be clear on a couple of other things. the vast majority, vast majority of children who are in the care of the hhs, 10,000 of the 12,000 were sent here alone by their parents. that is when they were separated. so somehow we've conflated everything. but there is two separate issues. 10,000 of those currently in custody were sent by their parents with strangers to undertake a completely dangerous and deadly travel alone. we now care for them. we have high standards. we give them meals an we give them education and we give them medical care. there is videos, there is tvs, i visited the detention centers myself, that would be my answer to that question. >> if i could follow up. of the hundreds not included and
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you said 10,000 but the hundreds, perhaps up to 2,000, are there any examples of child abuse that you believe and how could this not be child abuse for the people taken from their parents? not the ones who are sent here with their parents blessing or with the smuggler and the people taken from their parents. >> unfortunately, i'm not in any position to deal with hearsay stories. if someone has a specific allegation as i always do when i testify, i ask they provide that information to the department of homeland security. we will look into it. of course we do not want any situation where a child is not completely adequately taken care of. yes. >> a couple of questions. one, why is the government only releasing [ inaudible ] the boys being held, where are the girls and the young toddlers? >> i don't know. i'm not familiar with those particular images so i would have -- >> do you know where the girls are and -- >> we have children in dhs care both, but as you know, most of the children after 72 hours are transferred to hhs.
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so i don't know what pictures you're referring. but i would have to refer you to hhs. >> but we haven't seen any of the girls or young toddlers and you're saying they are being well cared for. so how could you make that claim? if you don't know where they are. >> it is not that i don't know where they are. i'm saying the vast majority of children are held by health and human services. we transfer them after 72 hours. i don't know what pictures you're speaking about. but perhaps there -- >> released to the public and aired all over national television. >> by dhs or hhs. >> by hhs. >> so let's find out from hhs. i don't think there is anything other than the pictures -- >> your department have been aired all over national television throughout the day, the kids being held in the cages. >> i will look floor that. i am not aware of other -- >> let me ask, secretary, to follow up, because you continue to insist that this is something that congress can change and yet -- >> yes. >> and this is something enacted after the attorney general announced the zero-tolerance policy and this never happened before -- >> that is not true.
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the last administration -- the obama administration and the bush administration all separated families at the border -- >> [ inaudible question ]. >> they absolutely did. their rate was less than ours but they absolutely did do this. this is not new. >> there are minors, there is no doubt about that. >> they separated families. >> and separated kids from parents is something new and specific to this administration once the attorney general announced a zero toll tans policy so why does the president pick up the phone and change the policy. he said that he hates it. >> i think the president is trying to find a long-term fix. so why don't we have congress change the laws -- >> just get fixes home. [ overlapping speakers ] >> president trump had a lost lott to say the last few days about immigration and offered no compassion to the families that are being separated at the border. do you know why that is and why won't he pause the department enforcement of the administration policy until
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congress reaches that long-term fix so that the families could be reunited. >> he has been attempting to work with congress since he's been in office. he's made it very clear that we will enforce the laws of the united states as long as this administration is here. as part of that, he has continually reached out to congress to fix this. and i think what you've seen him do in the last few days is that. is continue to tell congress, please work with hu-- with us, system is broken. the only people that benefit from the system right now are the smugglers and the traffickers, those who are peddling drugs and terrorists. so let's fix this system. >> and does he feel any compassion for the families being separated? he's talked about the parents being possible criminals and blamed it on democrats, he's offered no words of compassion. >> i think he has said in tweets that he would like congress to act to end the underlying laws that require the separation.
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>> madam secretary, it seemed like a couple of days ago both the president and your tweets -- that the main posture or point was to say this is not the administration policy, but it seems like in the last -- well today that the message is a little bit different and to say this is our plsy but it is because either we believe it is a deterrent or we don't believe we have the resources to move families entirely and i'm wondering, i want to mike -- make sure we get it right, which of those is the most way to describe how the administration feels and given the blowback from republicans and democrats, are you considering rethinking this based on feedback or is this the administration's position going forward -- >> the laws prohibit us from detaining families while they go through prosecution for illegally entering the border and while they go through prosecutions for immigration proceedings. if we close the loopholes, we can keep the families together. which is what think did in the
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last administration until a court ruled that we can no longer do that. after 20 days we have to release both unaccompanied children and accompanied children. which means that we cannot detain families together. the only option is to not enforce the law at all. >> so going back to these two questions from christen and margaret, you said that you want congress to close some loopholes. with that, you also said that you want to make this work. now are these kids being used as pawns for a wall? many people are asking that and democrats are saying this is your discretion and there is no law that said that this white house could separate parents from their children. >> the kids are being used by pawns by the smugglers and the traffickers. again, let's just pause to think about this statistic. 314% increase in adults showing up with kids that are not a family unit.
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those are traffickers, those are smugglers and that is ms-13 and criminals and abusers. >> women have -- >> so all i'm trying to say is the closing of the loophole will enable us to detain families together throughout the proceeding as they've done in previous administrations. >> madam secretary, could you say, are the children being used as pawns against a border wall, yes or no? can you say yes or no to that. >> the children are not being used as a pawn and we're trying to protect the children which is why i'm asking congress to act. >> as the legal framework for the decisions that your administration is taking? what we're seeing, the pikes, the audio and the stories, are they any intended consequence of the administration or unintended consequence? >> i think that they reflect the focus of those who post such pictures and narratives. the narratives we don't see are the narratives of the crime, of
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the opioids, of the smugglers, of people killed by gang members of american children who are recruited and then when they lose the drugs they're tased and beaten. so we don't have a balance view of what is hang but what is happening at the border is the border is being overrun by those who have no right to cross it. as i said before, if you are seeking asylum, go to a port of entry. you do into the need to break the law of the united states to seek asylum. >> before being turned away from ports of entry? >> that actually is incorrect. we have limited resources, we have multiple missions at cbp and what we do is based on the very high standards we have, if we do not have enough bed space, if we do not have enough medical personnel on staff, if we do not have enough caretakers on staff, then we'll tell people that they
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need to come back. we are not turning them away. we are saying we want to take care of you in the right way, right now we do not have the resources at this particular moment in time, come back. [ multiple speakers ] >> thank you very much. are you intending for this to play out as it is playing out? are you intending for parents to be separated from children and intending to send a message? >> i find that offensive. no. because why would i create a policy that purposely does that. >> it is deterrence. >> no. the way that it works -- >> [ inaudible question ]. >> that is not the question that you asked me. but the answer is, it is a law passed by the united states congress. rather than fixing the law, congress is asking those of white house enforce the law to turn our backs on the law and not enforce the law.
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it is not an answer. the answer is -- fix the laws. >> will the administration refrain from the current policy, if congress were to pass something that is close to what you want, or will it continue to require the separation of parents from children until the president gets exactly what he wants? >> if congress closes the loopholes, some of which many -- many of which are closed in the two bills that we hope are taken up this week by the house then they close the loopholes and the families will stay together throughout the proceedings. thank you. [ multiple speakers ] >> do you believe the policy is a deterrent. >> thank you secretary nielsen. i'll jump right in and go to other questions. news of the day. steve. >> the president said he would talk to north korean leader kim yesterday. do you know if that happened? >> i know the president has spoken with a number of administration officials that
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are working on the details following the north korean summit and we'll keep you posted on those details but i'm not aware of a specific call between the two leaders at this time. >> there is a report that the united states and south korea have agreed to suspend joints military drills in august. is that real -- >> the last part of the question? >> they've agreed to suspend joints military drills in august. are you aware of this? >> those conversations are orn going at this point as long as the north koreans continue to act in good faith as we saw in singapore, then we expect those things to be on pause at this point. >> sarah, has the president discussed the family separation policy with the first lady in light of her statement yesterday? and does he have any plans to come out and address the american people and maybe take some questions about how his administration is enforcing -- >> the president did take a number of questions as i'm sure
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you're all aware on friday in which what he actually said very closely mirrored what the first lady said. he said he hates seeing this. he's called on congress not just friday, but for months he's called on democrats in congress to work with him, let's fix this problem. the president isn't trying to kick the can down the road. he's trying to work with congress to get real solutions and to fix the problem and that is what we're doing. >> jeff, i'll take your question since you and your network falsely accused me of not wanting to be here so i will be glad to pass that question on to you now. >> why did you decide to have secretary nielsen answer questions instead of you? >> i'm here answering questions as well but i thought it was important for the secretary and one of the primary experts on the process and the things that are going on to come out here and have the chance to speak to you and for you to be able to ask questions directly of her and the leaders in this administration. but i'm standing here in front of you. john. >> i have a real question.
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will the president sign a bill that -- >> i wonder if you were going to -- >> would the president sign a bill that did not include border funding if it did indeed close this loophole, the secretary talked about, would he sign that specific bill or does he require an entire bill with that $25 billion in border -- >> we laid out what we would like to see on a number of different occasions. there are currently two bills that are in process in the house. the president supports both of those pieces of legislation that we have voiced support for the details in those. the president doesn't just want to see a band aid put on this. he wants us to actually fix our immigration system. he's tired of administrations claiming that they want to help the system and kicking the can down the road. he wants to actually fix the problem and secure our border. this isn't something we have to tinker with. we have to fix the entire system and he's committed to doing that. >> it would require border -- >> and we lay laid out what we
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want to see in legislation and the president wants to fix the smim and we're committed to do that and we hope congress would do their part and democrats have to stop playing political games and come to the table and get real about solving the problems. >> on the i.g. report and the hearings in congress with mr. horowitz and the director wray, the president tweeted yesterday and today that the mueller investigation continues to be a quote, witch hunt. he said on friday that after reviewing the i.g. report it shows there is no evidence of collusion. his own fbi director today said that the mueller -- that mule ser not on a witch hunt and the report doesn't speak to the special counsel investigation. how is there that disconnect stwen what the president believes another branch of his administration is doingish of the preside-- >> the president is clear and he was very involved in the campaign and laid out a number of times that there was no collusion and he strongly feels this is a witch hunt. the president is also said that the i.g. report clearly calls in question the credibility of james comey and many other
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senior fbi investigators who have been involved in the russia investigation and that report validates the claims he's made repeatedly. >> the governor of massachusetts who is a republican reversed course and ordered the national guard not to send assets or personnel to the southwest border because he said -- the actions of the federal government are resulting in the inhumane treatment of children. would you comment on that and have you seen any other impact on border operations from this whole situation? >> i haven't seen his comments specifically. but i would tell him that he should call every member of congress particularly those in his own state and ask them to fix the laws. there is only one body here that gets to create legislation and it is congress. our job is to enforce it and we would like to see congress fix it and that is why the president has repeatedly called on them to work with him to do just that. deborah. >> what was the president's reaction to laura bush's piece in "the washington post." >> i'm sorry, what was the last part of the question. >> what was the president's
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reaction to laura bush's piece in "the washington post"? >> i didn't speak with him about that but i'm happy to address the concerns and echo what secretary nielsen said. look, we share the concern. the president himself said that he doesn't like this process. but once again it is congress's job to change the law, we're calling on them to do exactly that. and frankly this law was actually signed into effect in 2008 under her husband's leadership. not under this administration. we're not the ones responsible for creating this problem. we've inherited and we're the first administration stepping up and trying to fix it. john. >> thank you, sarah. i have here in my hand figures from the german ministry of the interior under minister seal hopper who said that crime has gone down 5.1% in germany, in fact, it is the lowest rate in a quarter century in germany and violent crime down 2.4% and
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burglary down 23% and theft down 11.8%. where did the president get the statement that crime was way up in germany under the merkel plan for american jews. >> i'm not aware of the report and i would be happy. >> it is from the german ministry. >> and i heard that but i haven't heard that and i will there to check into it. >> and i read the first lady's statement put out and she seems very troubled by the zero -- this zero-tolerance policy. is there any sort of daylight between the president and the first lady on this issue? >> i think we've made it abundantly clear the daylight exists between democrats in congress and their ability to change this law. the president himself said that he doesn't -- he hates the images and hates the process and that is why he's asked for it to be fixed.
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i feel like we keep ignoring the fact that the president isn't the one that creates the law, but it is congress's job to create the law and the president is already laid out and gladly stated a number of times publicly that he would sign legislation that fixes the loopholes and fixes our immigration system. i think that people should be begging and banging down the doors of congress and asking them to join with the president instead of fighting him and constantly criticizing, why aren't they offering solutions. you have people like nancy pelosi and chuck schumer who come out and complain and attack because they have no message or solutions. we've laid out a solution and we would like to see them work with us to put it in place. >> on this particular policy besides the people you mentioned on the democratic side, are a number of republicans and also some very prominent members of some of the president's base,
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evangelical christians. do you know if the president has heard from those members of his base evangelicals in particular or had discussions with the president about this particular policy and can you sort of fill us in on discussions the president may have had in that regard. >> i think any evangelical that -- or any church for that matter that feels strongly they should open up their doors an help facilitate the individuals. i think that is -- that is the calling and the mission of the church and they should fulfill that. if he want to fix the immigration system, then they should call the members of congress and ask them to join with us to do that. steve. >> there are some confusion about this space force that the president announced today. did he actually sign anything? does he believe that this could be done without the approval of congress? the air force appears opposed to it. where is the support for this coming from beside the president. >> the president's asked the
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department of defense to start the process. we're in the beginning stages of it. we're going to work with the department of defense and the other relevant parties to put it into place. francesca. >> thank you, sarah. if the administration is as it said not using the children as pawns in this situation, then why not just have congress pass legislation that narrowly deals with the family separation issue and sign it and then deal with the other aspects of the immigration system that the pesident wants overhauled at a different time. >> once again, we want to fix the entire system. w don't want to just tinker with it. the president is tired of watching people kick it down the road and not take responsibility and not fix the problem that we have. >> sarah, he would like to see all of the other things change about the immigration system but dealing with this particular situation right now. why -- >> we're dealing with a number of situations. that is not the only one. we have people flooding over the borders. the president wants people to come to this country but we want them to come legally and through the right process.
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and that is what we're asking. we want to secure the border. there have been a number of individuals that are permanently separated from their families due to the illegal aliens come across this border and murdered and killed american citizens, where is the outrage over that separation? we want to fix the whole thing. we don't want to just tinker with one part and this is a broken system and we have to quit ignoring it. and that is what this administration is trying to do. i'll take one last question. >> secretary pompeo came out today and he said that an exchange for denuclearization on the korean peninsula that the united states had committed to updating the armistice agreement in place and could you confirm the president did make this commitment to kim jong-un and what exactly does updating the armistice mean? does it put the future of u.s. forces on the korean peninsula in question and just any more information you could update us on in that regard? >> we're finalizing the details of what the process will look
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like. certainly would confirm secretary pompeo's comments and would refer you to the state department and the department of defense who will be putting those details out and together. thanks so much. have a great day. >> sarah sanders, the white house press secretary walking off that podium over there earlier kirstjen nielsen and both of them strongly defending this very, very controversial policy of going ahead and separating young kids, children from their parents as they cross into the united states. about 2,000 kids now separated from their moms and dads over the past couple of months alone. kirstjen nielsen saying they will -- this administration will no longer, in her words, exempt entire categories. we're no longer ignoring the law she said. we will not look the other way. strongly defending this very, very controversial
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policy. what was your reaction? >> that was hard to watch. i think it was a disaster, particularly kirstjen nielsen. let's remember the stakes here. we're talking about kids, including kids that are similar to the age of kids i have, being separated from their parents. i can't imagine my kid being separated from me in a foreign place. i think we get so deep into the ideology of, well, this is how we want it and he ran on this and it's going to be like this. there's so many things that aren't accurate. it's not a law. he can change it if he wants to. he can pick up the phone and say we institute aid sded a zero to policy, we're going back on that. i'm committed to ensuring we don't allow undocumented immigrants in the country, but this is not the right solution right now. i won't let it go further. the other thing, and then i will stop, the thing that i think
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that i think is most offensive is kirstjen nielsen saying she couldn't comment on the images of kids in cages and kids crying because she hadn't seen them and that was just what the story the media wants to tell. i don't know what that means. these are -- some of the pictures are government provided and their attempt to say, everything is fine. you cannot stick your hand in the sand and say my ideological position is this and i'm going to stick to it. these policies hay ies have consequences. the kids being brought over here are not willfully breaking the law. they are 6 years old. my son no more knows -- my son is 5. he no more knows what breaking the law means -- we cannot penalize these little kids for this. the idea you would hide behind rhetoric and untruths, candidly, i mean -- it's appalling. i don't know what else to call
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it. >> it's really awful, the pictures we have seen of these 2 and 3-year-old, 4-year-old little kids crying as their mothers are being handcuffed, taken away. she said, the secretary of homeland security, parents who enter the united states illegally, that's a crime. as a result, they are criminals. you see some of the pictures on the screen. they are criminals and as a result, you can take their kids and send them off someplace else. >> this is a humanitarian crisis. i don't tli ithink it's an understatement to say this. they point to this idea they have to enforce the existing law. no previous administration interpreted it to mean to separate the children from their family. it's their own statistics show 2,000 children separated from their parents at the border. they are separating some children from their families when they are showing up at legal points of entry. it's not just those crossing
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illegally. that bears repeating. sarah sanders was asked, why would you not support standalone legislation. if you are saying it needs a fix, why not support standalone legislation in congress to reverse this policy? she insisted they want to look at a broader immigration package that would include as we know funding for the president's border wall, restricting legal immigration. it's clear this administration is willing to use these children as political pawns to gain concessions on ill gracioummigr >> donald trump tweeted almost that exact same thing. democrats should come to the table if they want this problem solves. kierst kierstrstjen nielsen said we're using them as pawns. what would you call that? >> pressure on the democrats, they say, to accept what he wants, money for a border wall among other issues.
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>> what stood out was when kirstjen nielsen said we have a duty to protect the american people. what kind of threat does a 5-year-old, a 6-year-old, a 10-year-old have to the american public? for her to conflate the two and raise it as a security threat, that was a bit stunning. if you think about the longer term ramifications, what place does the u.s. have -- not that it's the number one priority of this administration. what place does the u.s. have right now when meeting with foreign leaders, meeting with kim jong-un, when meeting with vladimir putin, to even raise the idea of human rights violations? this is happening in our own backyard, when it's something the president himself can undo and yet now it's being called law. it's not law. it's a policy that he can change. there's a reason why immigration reform is difficult. if it was easy, it would have been handled by previous presidents. we have had two previous
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administrations toy with this idea and call it too inhumane, too heartless. you look at laura bush. how many times did we hear from her when she was the first lady of the united states when it came to policy issues? this is a matter that crosses party lines and needs to be addressed immediately. this is not america. >> ann, the former new jersey attorney general, our legal analyst right now. you heard the secretary of homeland security say their hands are tied. what does the law actually say? >> nothing could be farther from the truth. the law does not require this. i think everything she said confirmed that this is a policy and it's a choice that they are making. when you think about the law, she was talking about, it's a 2008 law related to unaccompanied minors. basically who were being smuggled in. that's not the situation we're talking about. we are talking about kids coming in with their parents, with their family, who are being
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ripped from their families. what we know that the law in every state in america protects is children. it protects children. the question that courts ask is what is in the best interest of children. we cannot violate that. we cannot endanger children. everything we see from the science we know about the harm that can be done to kids is that that is exactly what the american government is doing now. what i can't figure out is why none of my colleagues who today sit in attorney general seats, why no one is challenging the administration on the legal aspects of this. it's completely a falsehood to say it's legally required. it's the opposite. >> everybody stand by. we have more on the breaking news. we will have more on this growing opposition to separating families at the border, taking little kids away from their moms and dads. does president trump know how unpopular this policy is? a former cia chief's controversial condemnation of what's happening at the border. general michael hayden is standing by. we will discuss this and more.
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