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Vice President Kamala Harris Facing First Major Diplomatic Test During Trip to Central America; Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) Says, Trump's Incitement Most Dangerous Thing a President Has Done; Two Killed, Three Others Injured in Miami-Dade Shooting. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired June 7, 2021 - 10:00   ET

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


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POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. Glad you're with us this Monday. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: And I'm Jim Sciutto.

Next hour, Vice President Kamala Harris set to meet with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei. Her trip billed by the administration as an opportunity to deepen the U.S. partnership with Latin America but also crucially of flow of migrants, growing flow of migrants heading to the U.S. border from those Central American countries.

HARLOW: Harris is facing what really is the first major diplomatic mission of her vice presidency. This is a top priority for her as she is tasked with addressing really the core issue to the surge at the southern border.

Let's begin this hour with our White House Correspondent Jeremy Diamond who is traveling with her. He is in Guatemala City. Her first foreign trip, you saw the pomp and circumstance she was welcomed with, but this is a key issue that administration's prior to this have not been able to successfully tackle despite a lot of money being poured into the issue.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right, Poppy. And so the vice president is here looking for new solutions, looking to build out this strategy that she has been trying to lay the groundwork for in the weeks before coming here.

You know, in talking with the vice president's top officials, they say that they feel like the Vice President Harris is picking up where then Vice President Biden left off when he had this portfolio of addressing the root causes of migration here in Central America. But there is no question that will be a big diplomatic test for the vice president, the vice president who came into office with very little foreign policy experience and really has been looking to burnish those credentials.

That is where her focus will be during this trip, not only on addressing those root causes but also seeing what she can do diplomatically here to also bolster and buttress her resume going forward.

Now, there will be a series of intractable issues that the vice president is trying to address here, from poverty and hunger to the climate crisis as well as corruption issues. And on that last point, that is where the delegate diplomatic dance will take place between Vice President Harris and Guatemalan president, Alejandro Giammattei.

The Vice President Harris' visit here comes on the heels of a series of efforts by the Guatemalan government to roll back some of these anti-corruption measures in this country, including some legal challenges to a special prosecutor's office that is tackling corruption in Guatemala. So that will be a point of contention.

But make no mistake, Vice President Harris' advisers tell us that she will be tackling those issues head on, and there is a dual track here too. She is not only meeting and speaking with the Guatemalan president about those issues and many of the other root causes of migration, but she will also, in the afternoon, be meeting with civil society leaders as well to make clear to the Guatemalan government that they're not the only game in town here as it relates to trying to address some of the systemic issues in this country and in the northern triangle at large.

SCIUTTO: Jeremy Diamond traveling with the vice president.

Joining me now, Congressman Vicente Gonzalez, he's a Democrat who represents a portion of Texas that touches the U.S.-Mexico border, also sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee as a member of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. Congressman, thanks for taking the time this morning.

REP. VICENTE GONZALEZ (D-TX): Thank you for having me.

SCIUTTO: So, part of the motivation for this trip is for the U.S. to help these Central American countries address some of the big issues that help feed the surge in migrants leaving them and heading north, among them climate change, effect on the agriculture, their economies, crime, corruption, violence, and so on. In your view, can the U.S. credibly and substantially help these countries address those problems or is the surge we're seeing along the border primarily a border security issue?

GONZALEZ: No. I think we can. Obviously, there are security issues in those countries and there are economic issues in those counties. And I think what the vice president is trying to do is address in a holistic approach but also a surgical approach in how we invest resources to create conditions for people who want to stay in the native country.

And this has been ongoing, but we're going to make surgical investments that are result-driven and with time bars and result bars to test it.

[10:05:00] We had a meeting a few weeks ago with the vice president, and I think she has a very good plan to get to the root causes, which will be the only way to ultimately curb the mass migration. If we don't address the root causes, all we're doing is putting a band aid on it on our border.

SCIUTTO: For sure. I went down to the border, Arizona-Mexico border with border patrol, my team and I did just a couple of weeks ago. Agents told us there that migrants coming up, including from Central America, falsely believe that the new administration has a more welcoming policy. And the border agents say, no, that's not true, we're still enforcing the laws.

I wonder though, do you believe the administration is unwittingly fed that impression by some of the changes it's made?

GONZALEZ: Well, I think it was an unintended consequence that when Donald Trump left, the world just felt that we had a kinder, gentler America and including Central American migrants that made this trek to the border.

Also, we have the cartel element that is down there marketing for these folks to come up and something that I have been we're very aggressively trying to communicate to the administration and others on Capitol Hill, that I believe we should have a massive asylum-seeking center, processing center, on Mexico and Guatemala's border where people can seek asylum there.

And if they qualify, they're able to fly in from there. And if they don't, we deal with it at that point and try to help and address them at that juncture instead of letting make this very dangerous trek through Mexico, where cartels take advantage and, obviously, they've enriched themselves to the value, about $1.3 billion just by the end of March is what we calculated, an average of $6,000 a head. So it's something that is a very serious issue that needs to be addressed and I think it could be best addressed on the border of Mexico and Guatemala.

SCIUTTO: Understood. Absolutely, border agents told us the same. I mean, the smugglers, a lot of migrants, they tell them it's a much short walk than it actually is. A lot of them die on the way and they pay a lot of money, as you know, to do that.

You have been critical though of some proposed steps in response to this, critical, for instance, of progressives to call for the abolishment of ICE as a service. Tell us what you believe needs to happen today to address then the surge on the border. What would work in your view?

GONZALEZ: Well, clearly, we need to create more jobs and better paying jobs in these countries. We need to uplift the people that are mostly migrating. And they don't migrate from the entire country. They migrate from certain pockets within the country. So we need to go in there and make surgical, thoughtful, intelligent investments that create jobs, that create security, that, you know, invest in agriculture projects and manufacturing and tourism, and ideas that create better jobs for people that want to stay.

I visited one area of Guatemala that had almost zero migration, because they had a lot of tourism in that area. We can invest more in manufacturing area. In fact, I believe that we should be advocating to bring some of American manufacturing that is happening in China and Southeast Asia that will never come back to America, bring it to those countries that are closer to our neighborhood, that create jobs and slow this migrant surge and really help our entire hemisphere.

SCIUTTO: A lot of the solutions, right, they have been around a long time, frankly, and have been posed by Democrats and Republicans for, it seems, years, okay? And yet, it runs into obstacles, ditches, chasms in Congress. And I just wonder, this was on the list. This was on Biden's list. And there has been some communication back and forth between the parties, and you're part of the Problem Solvers Caucus. Is it DOA though? Is there an immigration reform bill that could a reform bill that could make it through Congress the way it is today?

GONZALEZ: I certainly hope so. Because if you notice, all these migrants who come to our border get absorbed by our economy because we clearly have a labor shortage in this country that needs to be addressed with guest worker programs or other ways of bringing them in legally and orderly, not in the way that is happening now.

And so I think that also needs to be part of the solution is to create labor programs for people to be able to come on nine-month rotations, kind of like what Canada is doing, and create conditions where we know who they are, what they're doing. We get to vet them in their home country. They apply for this in their home country and they're able to get in the plane and fly in and do the work and go home at the right time. And then with time, be able to apply for permanent legal status or even citizenship down the road once we know who they are, they're credible, they have proven themselves.

I think there is great ideas that we can do and that haven't been done before. And I certainly hope that this visit is the beginning of many great things to happen. And I feel fully confident that the vice president is on the right track.

SCIUTTO: We'll see. I did hear a lot about our guest worker program do you remember down at the border as well. Congressman Vicente Gonzalez, thanks very much for joining us this morning.

GONZALEZ: Thank you.

HARLOW: Well, Liz Cheney, the former GOP conference chair, is now slamming the de facto leader of the Republican Party for an egregious violation of his oath.

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Congresswoman Cheney is once again criticizing not only former President Trump for his actions ahead of the Capitol insurrection, calling them, quote, the most dangerous thing a president has ever done, but also, Jim, Kevin McCarthy. SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, she's been consistent, right? McCarthy did hold the president responsible in the days after January 6th. He changed his tune, Cheney did not.

CNN's Manu Raju joins us from Capitol Hill. Shots, right, at Kevin McCarthy who, frankly, personally pushed her out or helped push her out from GOP leadership. How else did she take aim?

MANU RAJU, CN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. She was very critical of the way that Kevin McCarthy essentially went down to Mar- a-Lago, met with Donald Trump and the aftermath of Trump of being impeached, and the aftermath of inciting the January 6th insurrection and made clear that in Kevin McCarthy's, the Republican Party was with Donald Trump.

And she, Liz Cheney, has steered clear of criticizing McCarthy for some time until the push to oust her from that leadership position, the number three spot, because o her speaking out against Donald Trump and criticizing Donald Trump's lie, that he won the election. And now she is unsparing in her criticism of McCarthy and that trip down to Mar-a-Lago.

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REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): There was no question who was responsible then. But then, of course, Kevin McCarthy decided to go to Mar-a-Lago at the end of January. And I think that that was a real moment where it became clear we weren't going to be able to move forward and focus on substance and policy because we had leaders who were embracing the president who had just been impeached.

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RAJU: And she also told our colleague, David Axelrod, as part of the Ax Files podcast, went after Donald Trump's language, saying that his language in saying that democracy doesn't work is similar to the Chinese Communist Party.

But the report to remember that Cheney is decidedly in the minority of her conference in the House side. There are only a handful of Republicans who are speaking out against Donald Trump, only a handful who will call out his lie that he won the election. And even Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader who did call out Donald Trump after the impeachment trial, of course, he voted to acquit Donald Trump, but he called out Trump then. He just refuses to do so again.

Last week, he was asked about whether or not he should call out Donald Trump. He said, I'm looking at the future, not the past. Guys?

HARLOW: Okay. Manu, thank you for that significant update.

SCIUTTO: Breaking news, from the Supreme Court, the court with a decision out just moments ago ruled against immigrants in temporary status during that time applying for green cards.

HARLOW: Let's get straight to Jessica Schneider, who is reading through the opinion. What stands out?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is a unanimous decision from the Supreme Court, guys. It's very short and succinct. And, basically, the Supreme Court issuing this decision on immigration, saying that immigrants who seek these green cards, they're not eligible. They arrived here legally even if while they've been here in the U.S., they've been granted this temporary protected status. This is often granted by the government for people who come from dangerous countries.

This man in particular came from El Salvador. He entered the U.S. illegally. But then a few years later, the U.S. government granted him temporary protective status, which entitled him to stay here and work here. But then he wanted to apply for a green card to become a legal permanent resident here. And that's what this case is about, whether he can do that since he arrived here illegally but then was allowed to stay under TPS.

So the Supreme Court this morning, in a decision written by Justice Elena Kagan and joined by all the justices, this is a unanimous decision, saying this morning that he cannot apply for a green card. He cannot get a green card. And this affects about 400,000 people potentially who are here under TPS, maybe a fraction of that amount got here, entered illegally. So this decision saying that anyone here illegally who was then subsequently granted this temporary protected status and allowed to stay here in the end, guys, cannot apply for or receive green cards. Poppy and Jim?

HARLOW: Okay. Jess, thank you very much.

SCIUTTO: A rare unanimous opinion.

Still to come, multiple mass shootings across this country this weekend yet again. These shootings left at least six people dead. Authorities, community leaders, citizens asking what it will take to stop the violence.

HARLOW: Also new focus on a classified report that said it was possible COVID-19 escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China, details on that.

And U.S. oil prices just hit a price we haven't seen in three years, of course, you'll be paying for it at the pump. An update ahead.

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SCIUTTO: We are learning of and sorry, frankly, to report another deadly shooting this morning. This one in Miami-Dade, Florida, where at least two people were killed, including a 15-year-old boy, three others injured.

HARLOW: This is the latest in at least nine different mass shootings in cities across the country this weekend, this weekend alone, as the country appears to be in the midst of a summer surge once again in gun violence. Our colleague, Natasha Chen, is following all of it. Natasha, what can you share?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy and Jim, if you look at the side of your screen there, 253 mass shootings this year alone. think of all the families suffering right now, just dealing with lost loved ones, dealing with people recovering from gunshot wounds.

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And as you mentioned, quite a number of them happened this weekend alone.

Let's take a look at the map now. Since Friday through Sunday, Chicago had at least five people killed, 40 wounded, one dead in Freeport, Michigan, on Friday, two dead in Indianapolis on Saturday, three dead in Maury, near Baltimore, on Sunday in New Orleans, eight injured. St. Louis had four people injured. Salt Lake City, one died, four injured. Cleveland, Ohio, seven injured. And we're just learning now after this map was made also in Portland, Oregon, last night, a shooting that killed four people.

You mention the Miami-Dade shooting that happened very early this morning that killed two, including a 15-year-old. That's just one in a series of shooting incidents in that same county. Over the weekend, they also had three people killed outside of a graduation party. And this all comes a week after a mass shooting they had over Memorial Day weekend, where more than 20 people were shot, two of them died.

And we met the father last week of one of the people who died, who was just so emotional, could not understand what happened, kept saying to us, they got the wrong person.

And the Miami-Dade County Police director told us that a lot of the problems or at least in their county and likely across the country, they're dealing with groups of people retaliating against each other over there. And, you know, a couple of the problems he said is that people do not want to tell on each other and social media is exacerbating some of the tensions between parties. And that's not something that they necessarily had to deal with when facing gun violence perhaps a couple decades ago. Jim and Poppy?

SCIUTTO: Natasha Chen, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Well, a federal judge has overturned California's three- decade ban on assault weapons. This is a ruling that came on Friday and the state's governor calls it a direct threat to public safety.

SCIUTTO: In writing his decision, U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez called the assault ban, quote, a failed experiment. He even compared the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle to a Swiss army knife, calling it, quote, a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment, good for both home and battle.

Trauma surgeons tell a story about the kinds of wounds these weapons cause. Fred Guttenberg, who lost his daughter to gun violence in the Parkland shooting, responded this way.

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FRED GUTTENBERG, FATHER OF PARKLAND SHOOTING VICTIM: if a Swiss army knife were used, my daughter and most of those other kids and adults would be alive today. So let me deliver a message to this activist judge who has been at this for a while. You are a liar. And your opinion is written, utilizing the exact language of the gun lobby. These are not new words. These are not new phrases. They are not new expressions. You took the language from the gun lobby to write this opinion.

My daughter was born in 2003 when there was a federal assault weapons ban, okay? Following that, ending of that ban in 2004, the weapons were not common. They were not typical.

I'm fearful because I know there is someone out there right now who will go out and buy an AR-15 because of this judge and use it.

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HARLOW: Powerful words from a grieving father, obviously. Joining us now to talk about what is happening in his state, the speaker of the California State Assembly, Anthony Rendon. He himself has lost several, three members of his family to gun violence. We appreciate you being here.

It is -- you know, I don't know the word to save. The fact that this came down on national gun violence awareness day also just adds pain to what we just heard from that father. Where does California go from here? You've got these 30 days before this takes effect. But where does this leave the state?

ANTHONY RENDON (D), SPEAKER, CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLY: Well, Poppy, it leaves us with a couple of options. First of all, our attorney general, Rob Bonta, is going to appeal the decision. He's already stated that. As you said, he has a 30-day stay. I have incredible faith in Rob Bonta's efforts to lead our charge in the appeal.

But we in California are going to continue our being a national leader in gun control. We have laws on the books which say that if you're not over the age of 21, you can't own a gun. We have laws on the books which say that if you've been convicted of domestic abuse, you can't own a gun. We're going to continue these laws, adopting these laws and making sure that we're a national leader in California because we know they make us safer.

SCIUTTO: Gun laws vary enormously from state to state in this country, and you see them moving even more in the direction, a state like Texas, right?

[10:25:00]

You have a law there proposed, right, to not even require a license to carry a gun. I wonder, of course, there are now walls between our state, easily move back and forth, has California found that having a state ban not repeated by its neighboring states and others, has it made a difference in terms of reducing the number of gun crimes that use these weapons?

RENDON: It does make a difference. It makes a difference not only in California but in other places as well. There is a study from Northwestern University, which looked at the decade from 1994 to 2004, and it showed conclusively that it does make a difference, that these laws do make a difference.

That being said, you're right, people with bring guns illegally from other states. We had a shooting in Gilroy two years ago, in Gilroy, California. It was a weapon that was brought in from Nevada. So we need stronger gun control legislation, not only from the federal government but also from our neighbors.

HARLOW: Could you speak to this both in your professional capacity but also as a father? Because you tweeted back in March, I think it was, about your child, about your little girl who will be two in September. And you said, we must stop this. Statewide gun control helps but we cannot do it alone. We need federal gun control. I want to be in a country where my daughter with grow up safely.

Given the impasse though, I mean, how long has it been since we've had federal gun legislation? And you do have some Democrats now that are opposed to HR-8 and HR-1446, so there's not, it appears, going to be a lot of movement there it doesn't seem like there. Can you say with confidence your daughter will grow up in a safer America?

RENDON: Unfortunately, I can't. The reality is that it's been far too long since we've had meaningful gun control legislation in the United States. To hear the words of the father who lost his daughter on the lead in to this interview, it was heartbreaking. And to think that he's just one American who has experienced that is awful.

SCIUTTO: Right, when I see him on the air, I can't imagine how he survives a tragedy like that.

I do want to ask you, because when you look at the broader issue here, you see on our screen the number of mass shootings, four or more injured or killed is the way CNN defines that, is going up. But you also have gun crime going up in cities. And these are not necessarily two separate problems. I mean, there's a lot of overlap there. But what do you see as the principle spark for this rise that we're seeing in recent months?

RENDON: Well, unfortunately, we live in a society that is been dominated by fear. We saw that over the four years of the Trump presidency and Americans are reacting to last year. What we need is a strong and sensible gun control legislation so that people don't have to fear something else. People don't have to fear going to school. People don't have to fear going to work. People don't have to fear going to church.

We saw, again, in California, in Poway, a couple of years ago incident where worshippers that were gunned down.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Well, thank you very much Mr. Speaker, for being with us on this today. We appreciate your voice very much.

RENDON: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney is comparing former President Trump's election lies rhetoric and communist China. What more she had to say, ahead.

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