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CNN NEWSROOM

White House Preparing $3 Trillion Jobs & Infrastructure Plan for Biden; Inside a Closed-Door U.S. Border Patrol Facility in Texas Amid Crisis; Former Top Capitol Riot Prosecutor: Trump May be Culpable; Trump Endorses Primary Opponent of GA Secretary of State Raffensperger; Rep. Brooks to Make Senate Announcement after Talking to Trump; Spokesman: Trump to Return to Social Media with Own Platform; Florida Governor Attends Mar-a-Largo Fundraiser Despite COVID Outbreak There. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired March 22, 2021 - 14:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:30:00]

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: And our Phil Mattingly is reporting that it's likely to be broken down into two parts.

One would be infrastructure and clean energy. The other would be devised as sort of a catch-all, a care economy. And that's involving a childcare, involving education.

Those are the -- this is the next big legislative item for President Biden.

This is certainly weeks and months away from passage. This is the beginning of the next round of conversation for his agenda item. But interesting, $3 trillion price tag.

By combining a variety of these things, it certainly raises the question, if the White House is, A, looking for bipartisan support or will even have the potential of getting bipartisan support when they combine infrastructure, which is fixing the nation's roads and airports, which, you know, certainly are in need of repair.

But combining that with clean energy, some scaled-back version of the Green New Deal, if you will. It certainly makes it difficult for some Republicans to swallow.

This is the beginning phases. The next big item for the Biden White House. We're told it will likely be presented to the president at the end of this week.

And we're also told that it's likely to, you know, get going on Capitol Hill. So the White House is certainly going to play a role in this.

But Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and their various committees are also going to be reining and shepherding this over the next several months or so. So we're probably looking at the end of summer for passage for this.

But certainly the next agenda item.

Brianna, it also has the effect of changing the subject, at least in the short-term, from the immigration crisis the White House is now dealing with -- Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Yes, they are not calling it a crisis. They are calling it a challenge. We heard that from the vice-president a short time ago as well.

Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much.

ZELENY: Sure.

KEILAR: Next, I'll speak to an immigration attorney about the crisis at the border. Thousands of children in custody. And we'll share new images what life is like inside the crowded Border Patrol tents in Texas.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:35:57]

KEILAR: Right now, senior Biden administration officials are traveling to Mexico and Guatemala. The White House press secretary says the officials will discuss ways to stem the tide of immigrants flocking to the southern border.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I will also note that there's also part -- part of the trip declaration as our new special envoy for the Northern Triangle, who I'm certain will be playing a prominent role in leading efforts and negotiations moving forward.

Obviously, addressing issues like corruption, violence in the region, and in these countries, is something that is often raised with the government.

We need to work in partnership with the countries to address the root causes in their countries, convey clearly and systematically that this is not the time to travel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: The arrival of thousands of unaccompanied minors has overwhelmed Border Patrol. These photos, released by Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar's office, show us the conditions inside of one facility in Donna, Texas. This was just over the weekend.

Shaw Drake is a staff attorney and policy counsel for border and immigrants' rights at the ACLU of Texas.

Can you describe, Shaw, what this is, how bad this is, and if you see this as a crisis that we're witnessing?

SHAW DRAKE, STAFF ATTORNEY & POLICY COUNSEL FOR BORDER AND IMMIGRANTS' RIGHTS, ACLU OF TEXAS: Yes, absolutely. Thank you so much for having me on. And good afternoon.

I think the most important thing to remember is, first and foremost, what population we're talking about here. We are talking about people fleeing for their lives, fleeing persecution from their home country.

As you heard the press secretary say, addressing root causes and preventing the reasons why people have to flee are important.

But right now, we're dealing with people arriving at the border fleeing for their lives, and particularly unaccompanied children.

And so what the government has to be doing is processing those people at the border in a humane way and a way that respects the laws passed by Congress to provide appropriate due process and access to the asylum system in the U.S.

KEILAR: Are they doing that?

DRAKE: They are to some extent. The Biden administration has taken an important step in changing the Trump administration's expulsion policy of unaccompanied children.

Under the Trump administration, we saw officials summarily expel unaccompanied children back to their home countries, back into Mexico and to an immediate ongoing danger.

The Biden administration has appropriately backed off that policy and is not unlawfully expelling children at this time. However, they continue to keep in place that same unlawful expulsion policy when it comes to families and single adults.

And so they are taking important steps to respect the rights of children. But not fully rolling back unlawful policies under the Trump administration that continues to harm thousands of people.

KEILAR: Children are only -- they're only supposed to be held a certain amount of time. Right? We know, on average, they're being held longer than that because there are so many of them.

And they're not immediately available, the facilities that are needed, to get them where they need to go in a timely enough manner to meet that threshold, that amount of time.

What about that? Because that is -- that is a mark that is supposed to be hit. And it's running longer right now.

DRAKE: Absolutely. We have reports that children are remaining days -- upwards of 10 days. I believe the reported average is 130 hours in Border Patrol custody. And we have deep concerns about that.

The CBP, Customs and Border Protection, that are responsible for the facilities, have a long history of holding children in inhumane conditions, even abusing children in their custody.

And so we have grave concerns about the amount of time children are spending in the facilities and type of conditions that they're facing.

And the bottom line is the federal government has ample resources. Customs and Border Protection alone has a budget upwards of $17 billion at its disposal.

[14:40:07]

They should be moving rapidly and quickly to find alternatives to humanely house and process children that do not leave them languishing in Border Patrol facilities for as long as they currently are.

KEILAR: Why do you think they haven't been able to do that at this point?

I mean -- look, it sounds like the administration doesn't want -- they don't want to call it a crisis. It's very clear just to look and see that it is a crisis.

They also are facing -- look, they have different policies. I know some Americans are going to agree with their policies and some are going to disagree with their policies. The same you would say about the Trump administration.

But these policies are different. That may also be something that is affecting this. The surge and the factors coming from the home countries of migrants is something that could be affecting this.

But knowing all of that, why do you think the administration has not been able to be prepared, have all of these things in place to meet the demands of this moment and stay within the law when it comes to how long they have kids in custody?

DRAKE: I don't know that I have a -- a satisfactory answer for why the administration hasn't moved for quickly. These types of increases in numbers crossing are cyclical. They occurred under the Trump administration. They occurred under past administrations.

As you laid out, it is very complicated set of reasons why they occur or you know what drives them.

But the fact of the matter is that the government has known that these surges are -- are likely in certain periods.

And they have not. And they did not prior to this take the steps necessary to put the pieces in place to ensure that children aren't facing these types of conditions under Border Patrol custody.

Now, the Biden administration is taking important steps, inserting FEMA resources and looking for creative and new alternatives to moving kids to better facilities more quickly. We welcome that.

But the fact of the matter is that this was a known reality that was likely to occur. And the pieces should have been in place ahead of time to address it.

KEILAR: Shaw Drake, thank you so much for joining us from El Paso.

DRAKE: Thank you.

KEILAR: President Trump may be on the hook criminally for the insurrection, according to Michael Sherwin, the former top prosecutor on the January 6th insurrection cases.

Sherwin spoke with CBS News last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL SHERWIN, FORMER ACTING WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. ATTORNEY: It's unequivocal that Trump was the magnet that brought the people to D.C. on the 6th. Now the question is: Is he criminally culpable for everything that happened during the siege, during the breach?

We have soccer moms from Ohio that were arrested saying, well, I did this because my president said I had to take back our House. That moves the need willing that direction. Maybe the president is culpable for action.

But also you see in the public record, too, the militia members saying, you know what, we did this because Trump just talks a big game. He is just all talk.

SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: In short, you have investigators looking into the president's role.

SHERWIN: We have people looking at everything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Trump denies any responsibility for the insurrection.

Joining me now to discuss this is former U.S. attorney and former deputy assistant attorney general, Harry Litman.

Harry, great to see you again.

HARRY LITMAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Likewise.

KEILAR: There's no question, a formal criminal investigation has been opened against Trump. Do you think, though, he eventually could be charged?

LITMAN: Well, I think the charging might be a long shot. It will depend on what the facts and evidence show and the law shows.

Sherwin says it's unequivocal he was the force that drew them to D.C. I think that is unequivocal.

But the bigger question will be: Did he intend for all that happened in the melee to occur? That will be his card in his defense. No doubt, they have to investigate. You can't just go after these 400

or 2000 and leave alone the possibility that he, Giuliani, Trump Junior bear some criminal culpability. They might.

And we knew from the start any thorough DOJ investigation would look into that possibility.

KEILAR: He also mentioned the charges on the table right now for the rioters could get more serious as the investigation unfolds. They could be charged with sedition.

How hard a charge would that be to prove?

LITMAN: Sounds pretty hard. Historically, it has been hard. Though it was done with the Blind Sheik in the mid-'90s.

But, Brianna, if you break it down to the elements that the jury will hear from the judge, an agreement to, by force, pretty easy, impede or hinder, pretty easy, the execution of a law of the United States, here Congress's statutory responsibility to certify the election, it fits the elements here in what we have all seen on TV pretty well.

[14:45:00]

And I don't see Sherwin saying it unless he had pretty good reason to think it's happening. I'm betting that it happens and in pretty short order against a few of the higher ups.

KEILAR: We'll be watching.

Harry, great to see you. Harry Litman, thank you.

LITMAN: Thank you.

KEILAR: Next, former President Trump is trying to get revenge on Georgia's secretary of state, who refused to help him overturn the election results in that state. Trump is now endorsing Brad Raffensperger's primary opponent.

Plus, we're learning Florida's governor held a fundraiser at Mar-a- Lago this weekend despite part of the resort being closed due to a coronavirus outbreak.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:50:03]

KEILAR: Former President Trump is throwing his weight behind Republican Congressman Jody Hice to be the next secretary of state.

The incumbent, Brad Raffensperger, is, of course, the same man that Trump tried to pressure to overturn the election on a phone call where he suggested that Raffensperger, quote, "find him votes."

Another Trump ally, Alabama Republican Congressman Mo Brooks is expected to announce tonight whether he will run for Senate. Brooks, who led the House effort to object to the election results,

may have tipped his hand when he told CNN he has already consulted with Trump about the decision.

The former president speaking about his primary power on the radio this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (voice-over): I'm giving endorsements and I'm endorsing people that have been good for us and good for the Republican Party. And that have voted our way.

And if they've said something a little bit off color with respect to me, I mean, I can handle that, if they voted our way.

So, I'm endorsing some people that I think have been very good. And they're all going to win and they're going to win big.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: CNN political commentator, S.E. Cupp, is here with us now.

Is this what Republican primary season is going to look like? And is there any possibility that that means that what would normally be safe Republican seats will be endangered or do you see this meaning we're going to end up with more Marjorie Taylor Greenes in Congress?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that really is, in a lot of ways, up to Donald Trump and how influential he wants to be and how influential he still is.

And believe me, Bri -- you know me -- there's no one on the planet who wants to be past Trump more than I do. But we're not there yet.

We've seen over the past couple of months the influence of people, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, grow, and people like Liz Cheney be sort of sidelined and marginalized. We'll have to see how that shakes out.

We're not past Trump yet. And I think whether it's his weighing in on these primaries or trying to sort of crawl back onto social media or do whatever kind of PACs he's going to start, all of that is going to be, I think, important to watch.

KEILAR: Aside from him trying to be a kingmaker or being on the money side of things here, there is also about how is he going to influence the message?

Because he confirmed today that he's planning to return to social media here in the next few months. But this time, with a platform of his own.

What do you think that would look like? Do you think that's something that could be sustainable, successful? I mean, that's also a lot of responsibility and maneuvering, not just to use a platform like Twitter but to have his own. CUPP: Yes, I have no doubt that other people will be, you know,

running it and working with him on it, even if he was just sort of voicing tweets into the ecosystem and someone else is really running it.

Because you're right. It is a lot. You can't just go and start a platform and hope people come to it.

However, that said, Trump is still, like I said, very influential in the party. And people, when we talk about Trump or focus on Trump, like to say, well, we must really miss him, we can't quit him, we're addicted to the ratings or whatever.

It's not that. I don't care what Trump does personally with the twilight of his life. I do care about his voters, where they go, what they do.

And that's for very practical reasons. We saw what Trump voters did during a global pandemic. They were, in many cases, anti-mask, anti- science. That affects when your kids' school opens. That affects when my family members get sick.

We saw what they did on January 6th, storming the capitol, trying to undo a free and fair election. That matters every time you go to the voting booth.

We should be talking about where Trump is going and what he's doing, how successful that will be, because it matters for his voters.

They're still -- you know, they're still not an insignificant number of people when it comes to the ballot box, and what they think, what they believe in, where they go, and how they vote will affect us all.

KEILAR: Yes, I agree with you on that. The power that brought him into office and also the power that he bolstered and unleashed is still there. It's very much a force in what we're seeing play out even today.

CUPP: Yes.

KEILAR: I also want to ask you, while I have you, S.E., about something else. Did you see this, that on Friday at Mar-a-Lago, which, of course, is Trump's resort and a place lots of Republicans go for fundraisers.

It was partially shut down because there was a COVID outbreak among staff. And yet, the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, still went ahead and held a fundraiser there Saturday night.

What do you think about that?

CUPP: Yes, you know, is that the height of irony? Yes.

[14:55:01]

But I don't -- I take zero pleasure any time COVID is affecting Americans. I don't care if they're Americans I agree with, I disagree with, Americans in position of power, American workers that is at some rich guy's private club. It's awful.

And I think that's why we all should still really focus on the science and not demagoguing and politicizing all of this.

KEILAR: All right, S.E. Cupp, thank you so much.

CUPP: Sure.

KEILAR: S.E. Cupp, appreciate you being with us.

Next, AstraZeneca turns in its vaccine trial results in the U.S. and the numbers are promising, despite the issues with the rollout in Europe.

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