tv MSNBC Live MSNBC June 23, 2018 5:30am-6:00am PDT
good morning. i'm in for alex witt at msnbc world headquarters in new york. at the half hour, here's what we're watching. we begin with a live picture of the white house where in a half hour from now, president trump is scheduled to leave for los angeles for events with nevada's republican party. and his executive order thursday ending it. new insight this morning from the "new york times" and the "washington post" on what led the president to retreat on that policy and the confusion his executive order created between the justice department and the department of homeland security.
there's new developments in texas where illegal entry criminal cases are heard in a federal district court. a judge in mcallen, texas combined both the pleas and the sentencing of roughly 60 defendants into one giant hearing. msnbc legal analyst danny savales was there. set the scene. you were inside the courtroom. you heard about the chaos, the confusion surrounding this executive order. what did you see inside that building? >> reporter: you see rows and rows of 60 to 70 defendants all shackled one arm to the waist, the other, the right hand free to take an oath or sign documents. and the magistrate judge, who was only authorize said to hear pleas in misdemeanor cases, does them conveyor belt style. they are sentenced minutes after
taking a plea. that is unusual nor federal court, especially in my experience. because typically you have a pre-sentence investigation. probation gets involved. sentencing and pleas are very prolong said processes. here they are done in minutes with just a few minutes spent on each defendant. the federal public defender has to come in two hours before court to interview each of these folks and try to get an individualized plan for each of them before they go in and see the judge. >> i gather there were no parents in that group yesterday. what have you heard from lawyers you have been talking to there about the concerns that parents have. obviously the principle concern is being reunited with their children. what does that mean for the cases they are having to fight and deal with? >> we did not see any parents in so far as they were parents that had been separated from their children by the u.s. government.
however, i would say the majority of defendants were parents of children who were back home in their home countries. and that was part of their argument to the judge. give a short jail term so i can get back to my family. i am the only provider for them back home. in these cases, most of the sentences range from time serve said, which meant a day or two, however long they had been in custody, up to 130 days prior on a prior record of illegal entry or prior criminal history. so from this point the defendants were mostly remanded back to the custody of customs and border protection. not to the federal bureau of prisons. they are still technically within dhs, which means that reunification should be a slightly easier process as long as dhs is keeping track of these parents and their children once they're separated. >> great to speak with you. danny cevallas joining me from
mcallen, texas. zerlina maxwell of sirius xm, joe watkins is with me as well. former aide to george h.w. bush, and michael steele, former senior adviser to jeb bush. zerlina, let me start with you. and the confusion i was talking about with danny just a moment ago. we learned from political, the department of health and human services creating a task force to deal in some capacity with what's happened here. what is your sense of the magnitude of the confusion, the chaos and engagement from this administration in trying to figure out what needs to happen next? >> it's clear at this stage they did not have a plan for reunification, or at least it wasn't a priority. as this has all unfolded throughout the week, it is clear the administration was surprised by the backlash. the "washington post" and the "times" this morning, we are
learning more about the fact that steven miller loves these images, he loves the sight of asylum seekers and undocumented people in these detention facilities. and i think that's particularly alarming if you're an american who is repulsed by these images of people in cages and children and babies separated from their parents. so i think this administration, their priorities seem to be not aligned with really just american values in this moment. and i think that the priority right now should be to immediately and as quickly as possible, reunite these children with their parents. we should not have taken them away from their parents in the first place. now our job is to get them back with their parents where they should be. >> joe watkins, those two articles in the post, "new york times", detailing the contentious meetings that took place in the white house. there was agreement therein about what the policies should be. there has been agreement on capitol hill about what needs to
happen next. we had that on bob goodlatte's bill. and then these tweets from the president of the united states indicating he doesn't have much faith here that congress, at least in its current configuration, will be able to do anything when it comes to immigration. let me ask you about that. the connection here or lack thereof, the consequences of those tweets from the president sort of railroading what they were trying to do on capitol hill. >> you said it right, david. the tweets railroaded the legislation and really doomed it, which is unfortunate. so many people's lives hang in the balance, of course. and i don't think the president and his staff were prepared for the optics, how bad the optics would look with regard to little kids being separated from their parents. it's been really, really difficult i think for those families. but also for the american people to digest. republicans and democrats. because nobody who has any sense of humanity could sit by idly
and not be moved and saddened by the pictures of little kids being separated from their parents. so the administration was kinds of caught off guard i think. they weren't prepared for that kind of backlash. that being said, the lack of agency coordination is really hurting certainly the families and their kids being reunited. and it's unfortunate to the see this kind of confusion. but there needs to be a much more clear policy and better coordination between the president and the agencies in these kinds of manners to get things done. >> michael steele, i want to read one quotation from the piece that was in the "washington post" about what the president thought could happen or might happen. in private conversations with aides, trump said he wanted to sign a full immigration bill as part of an executive order which one administration official described as a pretty insane idea. the president was told by government lawyers that he could not change immigration law by
fiat, said a person familiar with the discussions. he talked an awful lot about immigration since before he was president. the engagement of policy hasn't quite been there. >> not even remotely close. this is what happens when you have a president with strong opinions and weak grasp of the facts and his responsibilities. he's the president, not the god emperor of the united states. this is a situation where the only real solution is to work with congress on more comprehensive immigration reform that addresses the dreamers, that improves security at the border, that could involve is building a physical barrier like the wall when it's appropriate. the only way the president makes progress on his priorities is to engage with congress in a constructive way. the executive branch of the federal government cannot make the law. the executive branch, right now their response has been marked by cruelty and incompetence. the only way to get that better, the only way to improve the situation for these people and their lives is to work with
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to homes than anyone else in the country, we never forget... that your business is our business the united states postal service. priority: you ♪ welcome back. i'm in for alex witt. president trump escalating his call for merit-based immigration after he was forced to retreat from his policy of separating children from their parents at the u.s./mexico border. using angel families to once again channel his vision for who should be allowed into the country. >> we want people in our country based on merit, not based on a draw where other countries put their absolutely worst in a bin and they start drawing people. >> congressman quigley of illinois. great to have you with me. >> good morning. >> let me start by asking what
you have heard from stit constituents. you have had 800 falls. what are you hearing and what are you telling them about what congress might do to correct this problem? >> that is over 3,000 contacts with my office now. after this discussion, i'm heading up to a rally in the middle of my district where kids and families will be there. people who are ashamed, disgusted and extraordinary ily angry at what's happening. i have a former marine who talked about his post-traumatic stress and actions in vietnam where u.s. soldiers were forced to separate vie vietnamese fami from their children. >> you have written a letter, along with several colleagues, the department of home land
security, health and human services as well, there are questions about how this reunification will work, where these children are, among other things. how much confusion is there on capitol hill? >> there is absolutely no plan for reuniting these families. honestly, even if their heart was in the right place, i'm not sure how they would do that. there was extraordinary communication issues. these are very young children. they're not going to be able to help in this process. and we're now talking on capitol hill, we are hearing from the administration they are going to put up to 20,000 people in military establishments and forts. apparently we think these kids are so dangerous we need to use tanks and guns. it actually makes no sense. at this point in time we are orphaned thousands without the hope of reuniting them.
it is an extraordinary disgrace for our cup. >> congressman, we were talking about the politics of all of this and what republicans in particular, your republican colleagues have heard from this president, from the white house. let me read one tweet from the president here. we must maintain a strong southern border. we cannot allow our country to be overrun by illegal immigrants as the democrats tell their phony stories of sadness and grief, hoping it will help them in the elections. obama and others had the same pictures and did nothing about it. what do you make b of the way in which this white house is infusing politics into this? >> yeah. it's using kids we have now made orphans as political bargaining chips. i think there were opportunities this last week for bipartisan cooperation to show the president of the united states this isn't the country that we are. unfortunately, my friends across the aisle, the republicans, they couldn't even pass a bill in their own caucus. they passed the goodlatte bill,
which was far for conservative. and they couldn't even put the ryan bill on the floor. i think it is the lead from the administration that makes this worse. but as democrats, we're willing to work together. there are bills that should be on the floor that could solve this problem tomorrow. then we would begin the process of trying to reunite these families. >> it wouldn't be a saturday morning if we didn't get a tweet from the president about the russia investigation, him calling it a witch-hunt. in fact, he did that this morning as well. i want to draw your attention to a new cnn poll looking at approval for robert mueller and the investigation he's conducting. we see approval has gone down from 48% in march, to 41% here in june. how worried are you at this point? you sit on the house intelligence committee about that investigation running its course, about bob mueller being protected as he continues and concludes his investigation. >> yes. mr. mueller took his position.
he received bipartisan kudos all across the board. he is an extraordinarily well respected war hero who is doing an amazing job. he needs to be allowed to continue this investigation. i do remember when watergate took place. from the date of the break-in to the day the president left office was 28 months, and that was with a democratic caucus. the american public has to be much more patient than i want that they want to be. this is a far more complicated investigation. and i believe a far more important political and criminal investigation that watergate ever was because it involved a foreign adversary. so all i can do is stress with the american public the great job mr. mueller is doing, the stresses we have face, facing hand in glove cooperation to obstruct the investigation from
house republicans on the intel committee, working with the white house to make sure the truth doesn't come out. >> congressman mike quigley, the fifth district in illinois, thank you very much for your time. >> thank you. >> next a cowl duel vote against republicans in november. and you might not believe who is making it. actually. we've got aging roadways, aging power grids, ...aging everything. we also have the age-old problem of bias in the workplace. really... never heard of it. the question is... who's going to fix all of this? an actor? probably not. but you know who can solve it? business. because solving big problems is what business does best. so let's take on the wage gap, the opportunity gap, the achievement gap. whatever the problem, business can help. and i know who can help them do it. better things than for rheumatoid arthritis. before you and your rheumatologist move to another treatment, ask if xeljanz xr is right for you. xeljanz xr is a once-daily pill for adults with moderate to severe ra
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welcome back. i'm david garia in for alex witt. i want to turn to a new column by george will. causing quite a stir. the conservative columnist and msnbc contributor is urging americans to vote against the gop in november writing that the trump administration's border policy has given independents and temperate republicans fresh if redundant evidence for the principle by which they should vote. he goes on to say to vote against trump's party, cowering congressional caucus is to quarantine him. let's turn to you first, michael
steele here. george will writes with a flourish here. i'll read one piece, the congressional caucuses must be substancely reduced, that rare remnants reduced to minorities will be stripped of the constitutional article 1 powers that are so invertebraate. they see him as the leader of the party. they're not going to criticize him as perhaps they should. is that how you read george will? >> let's hook at how the rouse republicans spent the last two weeks. they passed 58 bills to deal with the opioid crisis that killed 42,000 americans last year. they've passed tax cuts and regulatory relief that have led to a booming economy. the alternative is a democratic party that is offering candidates who want open borders, who want government-run health care for all and who are promising a futile effort to impeach president trump. i understand george will's
frustration in some measure i share it. but the remedy he proposes is completely wrong-headed. >> joe watkins, let me have you weigh in on this as well. something else that george will said is that paul ryan has traded his political soul for a tax cut. you've got michael steele talking about that opioid legislation passed this week. there's a lot that hasn't been passed, you can't say this has been an especially productive congress. >> i agree, that george will is saying that too many republicans in congress lack backbone. backbone to stand up to the president if thee the feel he's wrong and to do what's right. he's saying that you're elected to congress to serve the american people and to move the country forward and you're not there for self-service. and unfortunately i think he's right. too many members of congress are there to self-service, willing to trade on their values to keep themselves in office. and he's urging americans to, to really consider how they vote in november. i think it's a smart thing for americans to do that.
>> i don't mean to suggest there's going to be a george will bump in the mid terms, i want to ask you about how this translates to the electorate. recent pew research poll, which looks at the degree to which donald trump is going to influence voters in november. 26% will consider it a vote for president trump. 34 will consider it a vote against president trump. 39% say president trump isn't a factor. for democrats in particular, how much do they want this to be about president trump and his policies? >> i think it's going to be about president trump, whether or not democrats run on you know focusing on trump or not. i don't think that there are any democrats that are running explicitly on impeaching the president. certainly there are people in the democratic base that are putting forth that argument. but i think for the most part democrats are trying to run in their specific districts, on a message of holding this president accountable. and being that check and balance like the constitution lays out in article two. and insuring that you know, the
congress is actually that check and balance. right now, they're letting the president do whatever he wants. they haven't held a hearing, around the myriad allegations against scott pruitt. who is spending all of our money on phone booths and other ridiculous things, i think we need a congress that is actually going to like joe said, have a backbone, stand up to this president and insure that we are not doing things that are inhumane to babies and children. i think it's not really about what political party you find yourself affiliated with or whether or not you're going to vote for a republican or a democrat. it's really about voting for what's right and not doing what's wrong. >> michael steele, you've got 30 seconds here, what have you learned about the integrity of the cohesiveness of the republican party from what we saw in that debate over immigration legislation this week? the divide between conservatives and moderates still seems pretty yawning. >> this is a debate that's divided republicans for over a
decade. since president george w. bush tried to reform our broken immigration system. i think ultimately this issue won't be resolved on a party line vote. we'll need a bipartisan solution. i think a good first step would have been the protection for dreamers and increased border security we could have gotten the funding bill this spring, but the president chose not to. michael steel, joe watkins and verlinda gray. i'm going 0 speak to someone involved in reuniting families and the legal battles they're forced to endure.
the u.s./mexico border. and the president pointing to what he calls waves of migrants as a security threat. and the report about michael cohen and his connection to a tabloid during the 2016 campaign. we begin with a live picture of the white house. any moment now, president trump scheduled to leave for las vegas for events with nevada's republican party. he lives for the trip amid fallout over his separation policy and his row luck tans to end it on thursday. fresh insight into what led president trump to retreat on that policy. and the confusion his executive order created between the justice department and the department of homeland security. meanwhile, the administration is reportedly trying to figure out how to reunite more families through a nowly-formed task force, according to internal documents that were obtained by politico. help us go through the headlines, nbc white house correspondent kelly o'donnell,