Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Political Pawns; Pardon Promise; Trump Admits to Dumping Immigrants to Sanctuary Cities; Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) Interviewed Regarding Immigrant Placement; Trump Is Strongly Looking At The Possibility Of Bringing Detained Migrants To Sanctuary Cities; Cheating Scandal Forces Crackdown In College Entrance Exams; Ecuador Says Close Collaborator Of Assange Under Arrest; Looking For Russians Who May Have Worked With Assange. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 12, 2019 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: It's at 9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Have a fantastic weekend. I'll see you Sunday morning.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news.

Political pawns. President Trump admits he's considering releasing undocumented immigrants into sanctuary cities as retribution against Democrats, even though administration lawyers have warned against such a move. Democrats accuse the president of using human beings as pawns.

Pardon promise. Officials tell CNN that when President Trump visited the border last week, he promised a pardon to the then chief of Customs and Border Protection if he were sent to jail for blocking migrants from entering the U.S.

New ties to Russia with "WikiLeaks" founder Julian Assange under arrest for allegedly plotting to help steal military secrets, an alleged collaborators also now in custody. Could he have information about Russia's attacks on the 2016 U.S. Election?

And scoring jail time. New developments and a new guilty plea in the scandal involving parents accused of bribery and rigging test scores to get children into top colleges. Are some of them facing jail time?

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

KEILAR: We have breaking news. An extraordinary admission by President Trump, declaring that he's strongly looking at the idea of releasing a, quote, "unlimited supply of undocumented immigrants into sanctuary cities, as political retribution against Democrats." That declaration torpedoes White House denials that the plan had ever been seriously considered.

CNN has learned that the president personally pushed then Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to follow through on this plan. She resisted and DHS lawyers managed to scuttle it. The president fired Nielsen this week.

And also breaking, sources tell CNN that when President Trump visited the border last week, he told the chief of Customs and Border Protection he would grant him a pardon, if he were sent to jail as a result of blocking migrants from entering the U.S. That official, Kevin McAleenan, is now acting secretary of Homeland Security.

I'll be speaking with Senator Mazie Hirono of the Judiciary Committee, and our correspondents and analysts have full coverage of the day's top stories.

Let's begin with our breaking news. And CNN White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, give us the latest.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, today, President Trump said publicly something he's been talking about privately for months now. This idea of putting migrants in sanctuary cities to punish Democrats for not meeting their border security requests. Now even though DHS lawyers warned about the legal repercussions of doing something like this, the president made clear today this is an idea that he still considers to be on the table.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can give them an unlimited supply.

COLLINS (voice-over): Tonight, President Trump is touting a proposal to place undocumented migrants in sanctuary cities to retaliate against Democrats. Shattering his own administration's denials of the policy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: So we'll give them to the sanctuary cities, maybe to take care of, if that's the way they want it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Trump making the threat in person after tweeting earlier that because "Democrats are unwilling to change our dangerous immigration laws, we are indeed, giving strong considerations to placing illegal immigrants in sanctuary cities only."

Those remarks coming just hours after a White House official said, "The idea was briefly and informally raised and quickly rejected. No one at I.C.E. was pressured by anyone at any time."

But sources tell CNN the president pushed former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to carry out the proposal. She resisted and the plan was scrapped for legal reasons.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR LIBBY SCHAAF (D-CA): This is an outrageous abuse of power and public resources.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Sources adding the White House adviser Stephen Miller was angry DHS lawyers refused to produce legal guidance that would make the plan possible. But Republican lawmakers say it's Trump making the final decision.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): Now, the president has chosen to use a stick. He may ultimately be right. I would try a carrot, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: News of the attempted proposal infuriating Democrats today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: It's just another notion that is unworthy of the presidency of the United States and disrespectful of the challenges that we face as a country, as a people, to address who we are, a nation of immigrants.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is from one of the highest profile sanctuary cities in California, saying in a statement that "The extent of this administration's cynicism and cruelty cannot be overstated. Using human beings, including little children, as pawns in their warped game to perpetuate fear and demonize immigrants is despicable, and in some cases, criminal."

[17:05:10] But today, Trump seemed to relish the outrage from Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Let's see if they're so happy. They say, we have open arms. They're always saying they have open arms. Let's see if they have open arms.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: The drama coming amid an upheaval at DHS, which is now being run by an acting secretary, acting deputy secretary, acting Customs and Border Protection commissioner, and an acting I.C.E. director. A border official announcing that starting today, they'll release immigrants in El Paso to local organizations, because I.C.E. is at capacity and six of the major border checkpoints are currently understaffed because agents are being sent to parts of the border that are facing a surge migrants.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Brianna, people we've spoken with has said that the president is growing increasingly frustrated with these soaring immigration numbers. And as he's watching these images play out across his television, he's making clear in some ways that he might be willing to push the boundaries of the law to change that.

KEILAR: Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much from the White House.

We have more breaking news right now. We're learning that when President Trump visited the border last week, he promised a pardon to the then chief of Customs and Border Protection if he were to be jailed for blocking migrants from entering the country.

I want to bring in now CNN chief Washington correspondent and anchor of "The Lead," Jake Tapper, who just broke this story. And you actually have some new reporting, Jake. Tell us.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE LEAD": Well, let's start with what happened. So in Calexico, California, one week ago today, President Trump was there. We know he's frustrated with the immigration laws. He tells a bunch of border agents, while he's there, just don't let these asylum seekers in. Don't let them in, stop them.

Now, after President Trump left the room, people who were, you know, the heads of these agencies had to tell the border patrol agents, no, no, you have to follow the law. If these people make it to American soil, you have to let them in, that's the law, otherwise you're going to be personally liable. What I'm breaking right now is that after that, President Trump talked to the head of Customs and Border Protection, who is now the acting head of Department of Homeland Security, Kevin McAleenan. And in that conversation he said, stop, keep them out. And if they send you to jail, don't worry, because I'll give you a presidential pardon.

Now, senior administration officials who were briefed on the conversation told me this. Nobody's clear on whether or not President Trump was joking or whether he was serious. But everyone agrees that he did say this.

Now, I asked the White House for a comment on this. They referred me to the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Homeland Security said the following in response. "At no time has the president indicated, asked, directed or pressured the acting secretary of Homeland Security," Kevin McAleenan, "to do anything illegal. Nor would the acting secretary take actions that are not in accordance with our responsibility to enforce the law." So, you see there, Brianna, you're sophisticated enough to know and I'm sure our viewers are as well. They're not denying the story. They're not denying that President Trump said this to Kevin McAleenan. They're just denying that he told him to break the law.

KEILAR: And you also have some reporting on this story, the president, who - he received pushback on this idea of taking undocumented immigrants who had been detained and dropping them into sanctuary cities -- basically cities that are governed by his political opponents.

TAPPER: That's right. The cities and states of Democrats. Sanctuary cities. What we heard President Trump confirm this story today, which "The Washington Post" broke last night, which is that he has this plan. And this was a plan that President Trump and Stephen Miller and others were pushing, to the point that in February, the general counsel for the Department of Homeland Security, John Mitnick, sent the White House legal guidance, written legal guidance, basically saying, you can't do this.

I mean, first of all, we can only spend the money from DHS to transport these detainees -- not detainees, to transport these migrants or undocumented immigrants, if it's in accordance with our purpose, meaning, we're sending them to get medical care, or we have to move them because facilities are becoming too crowded. And the unsaid was, we can't do it for political retribution. He also made clear that there would be lots of lawsuits, as a result, because this is a violation of due process, to take people and just send them hundreds, if not thousands of miles away from where you apprehended them, where they have no community, no job employment opportunities. And he also made the point, look, if you do this the odds that these individuals do not attend their deportation hearings will become much higher. So in other words, if you do this, not only will you undermine the rule of law, you're going to undermine your own goal to have these people go back to Central and South America.

KEILAR: Great reporting, Jake. Thank you so much.

TAPPER: Thanks, Brianna.

KEILAR: And joining me now is Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. She's a member of the Judiciary and Armed Services Committees. You just heard Jake Tapper's reporting there, Senator. Do you think that this is an impeachable offense?

[17:10:01] SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I had to think about that a little bit, because where do we start? You know, I would say that we should start with the full disclosure of the Mueller report and ultimately, the cumulative number of all of these kind of things where he's basically from your reporting or what Jake just said is that the president -- there are two things that the president thinks about immigrants. One, he doesn't think they're human beings. And two, he doesn't think the law applies to him. So whether he was joking or not, what he said to McAleenan is just, go ahead, break the law, I will pardon you. That is -- that's the president.

KEILAR: Are you concerned -- that may be the president, but are you concerned about that?

HIRONO: Of course. Just about everything the president says and all his so-called decision making gives me major pauses of concern.

KEILAR: Do you believe that denial from the Department of Homeland Security that the president ever pressured or even mentioned this to Kevin McAleenan? HIRONO: I thought your reporting was that nobody denied that he actually said this to Kevin. So that's really cause for concern. But then if you --

KEILAR: So I guess the perception of it, right, the being pressured. So they didn't deny that he said it, but the idea, I guess, that he was perceived as being pressured. Do you believe that (CROSSTALK) or do you think -- there's almost some plausible deniability built in there maybe?

HIRONO: I would say with this president, if you're going to get into his cabinet or going to get into his administration, you better be prepared to toe the line and be a yes person, otherwise you do not last long. So you already know that. Is that pressure? I'd say so. So when he says things like that, and he can wink and all that, but I think we know where he's going.

So again, you can explain his attitude towards the immigration issue. One, he doesn't think they're human beings. And you know I happen to be an immigrant myself and I'm sure you, if you have immigrant roots, this is a country of immigrants. So, one, he doesn't think immigrants are human beings.

And two, he doesn't have to apply the law with regard to his treatment of them. So all of these winking statements and whatever, everybody knows that when you join the Trump administration, you nod "yes" at every, basically, I would say insane and unsupportable, illegal things he comes up with.

KEILAR: Do you want to hear Kevin McAleenan testify before Congress, before your committee? What do you want to understand from him? What do you want to learn?

HIRONO: If he is going to become the nominee for Homeland Security, one of the major things for me has always been, how independent are you going to be? If the president asks you to do something unethical or illegal, are you going to give up your position? Are you going to stand up to the president?

KEILAR: The president also -- and this is our other breaking news that we're following today, Senator, confirming that he is considering releasing immigrant detainees into sanctuary cities, really undercutting what his White House said, they tried to make it sound like this was something that was just considered briefly and then dismissed. The idea being that he would retaliate against his political opponents. Do you take that as a serious threat?

HIRONO: I don't even know if the word serious can be applied to the president and his ideas and decisions.

KEILAR: Do you think he would do this? Do you think he would really do this?

HIRONO: Oh, sure, I think he's capable of doing anything. After all, he separated little children from their mothers and a lot of these children have still to be reunited. So he did that. There's a level of uncaring cruelty to the president that is off the charts.

KEILAR: The president says Democrats are actually coming around to his view that there's a crisis on the southern border, that they're increasingly using the word crisis. How do you respond to that?

HIRONO: There is a humanitarian crisis at the southern border. And let's remember who's coming across seeking asylum. It's children and families, whereas before, it used to be single males, mainly coming through Mexico. The entire characteristics of who's coming to our country seeking asylum has changed dramatically. And why? Because of the danger, murders, and lawlessness in Central America.

So what we ought to be doing is recognizing that we are part of that problem, because all of that drug money that fuels the murder and lawlessness in the Central American countries where these families are fleeing from is the insatiable need for appetite for drugs in our own country. So we need to provide aid and support to enable these countries to provide safety. Let's hope the rule of law and economic opportunities. But that's exactly what the president is not doing. He's just trying to, well, as I said, he thinks immigrants are not human beings and he can break the law with regard to them.

[17:15:07] KEILAR: He said he may -- he may need to send more troops to the border, as well. What's your reaction to that?

HIRONO: And what are these troops going to be doing? Because if they're going to be doing anything that relates to law enforcement, et cetera, and not just being ancillary. That is not their charge and that would lead to more lawsuits.

This is what happens. This is a characteristic of the Trump administration. He goes and does whatever he wants and all these lawsuits ensue. And thankfully, you know, the independence of the Judiciary, which he could also give a rip about, because he keeps saying, oh, the Judiciary, they're all against us. No, they're actually upholding the law. So the independence of the Judiciary, it becomes even more important with this administration that goes not just close to the edge of breaking the law, but beyond, leading to all of these lawsuits. What a waste of resources.

KEILAR: Senator Hirono, thank you so much for joining us from Capitol Hill.

HIRONO: Thank you.

KEILAR: And up next, we have some breaking news. Officials say President Trump promised a pardon to the then chief of Customs and Border Protection if he were jailed for blocking migrants from entering the United States.

And a new guilty plea gives an inside look at the scandal involving celebrity parents accused of bribery and rigging test scores to get their kids into top colleges.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:20:44] KEILAR: Our breaking news. CNN has learned President Trump last week told the Customs and Border Protection Agency's top official that he would get a presidential pardon if he were jailed for stopping asylum seekers from entering the U.S., something that the president obviously wants and is against the law.

Let's talk to our political and legal analysts about this. So, Gloria, it's -- it's a blatant disregard for the law.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You think?

KEILAR: How significant is this?

BORGER: Well, first of all, on the pardon question, I think that the thing I can't get my mind around this, and this is all Jake Tapper's great reporting is, no one can figure out -- the problem here is that no one can figure out there weather it was a joke or not. What does that tell you, right? Number one.

Number two is, you have people, according to Jake's reporting, asking their supervisors, do we follow the president or do we follow the law? Imagine that.

KEILAR: And they were told that they had to follow the law. That was the response.

BORGER: Well, what kind of a question is that? Imagine those people having to ask that question because the president of the United States was telling them to do something that was against the law.

KEILAR: Is that against the law, to do that, Joey, if it was not a joke, if he meant this sincerely?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Without question. So, you know, backing up, Brianna, here's the point. This is not a partisan issue, I believe. This is an issue about the country and the operation and the way things work. It's not even so much the offering of the pardon. It's the directive to break the law, right? And so the reality is that the president has vast powers. And you know one of those, of course, is to work with Congress and to get legislation passed, Civics lesson 101, House of Representatives.

BORGER: Thank you, Joey.

JACKSON: United States Senate, right? And therefore, the law is passed, signed, or vetoed. If you can't do that, let's remember that the president has something called the executive order authority. And as long as that authority by executive order, right, the president has vast powers to create law in and of himself, as long as it doesn't contravene or controvert what the Congress does. But the problem is that we all, as we sit here, right, Brianna, we may have differences about what laws are. We may not believe that you know driving 55 or 65 makes any sense at all.

The fact is that it's the law. And as a result of that, we are -- we are, right, emboldened and not only emboldened, but we are absolutely required to follow it. So when you have the chief executive who decides, I don't like it, so therefore you're going to break it and I'll pardon you, that becomes highly problematic. And he needs to be held accountable. The answer for me is -- the issue for me is will he ever be held accountable for anything he does?

KEILAR: Jackie, what are -- when you think of the real-life risks of this, of a president telling a U.S. official, and even border agents, as he did, to break the law, what are some of the risks? Even -- there would be some worst-case scenarios that could happen here.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's the absolute degradation of -- it's not only the office of the presidency, but the rule of law in this country. It's hard to -- if that is allowed to happen or if that is permissible, it really is hard to wrap your mind around what that could mean, you know, going forward. That said he also just complicated the ascension of his new Homeland Security secretary, who's going to be questioned by certainly the House. Perhaps the Senate, if there's ever a confirmation hearing, because there's lots of acting people in this administration right now. This is something he's going to have to answer to. And it being, oh, it was a joke, isn't going to cut it. No one's going to let him get away with that as a way to brush this off.

KEILAR: And this is a day, Ron, of headlines about the president pushing the boundaries of the law. The other one being that he's now confirming a report that he considered, is considering, actually, actively considering, as he put it in his tweet, taking detainees from the border and shipping them to sanctuary cities, cities where, states where Democrats govern, as political retaliation. This is stunning.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Look, it shows you first of all, how completely divorced he is from the idea of being president of all the people. He lost 87 of the 100 largest counties in America. He lost them by a combined 15 million votes, which is an unbelievable number. And rather than in any way trying to reach out to urban America, he uses them as a foil, in a way to try to mobilize and unify and consolidate his base, which is overwhelmingly non-urban.

[17:25:05] But it also, I think, even more importantly shows you know the real message of the DHS purge over the last several days, which is that this is just one of what is going to be a conveyor belt of ideas that push the boundaries of morality and law, if not you know steam right through them. And we have seen, I think, only minimal opposition and resistance from congressional Republicans. By and large, whether it's only a dozen in each chamber of voting as the emergency declaration or three quarters of them voting to cut illegal immigration, he has beaten down the resistance in the Republican Party. And they are now strapped in for what I think is going to be a very long procession of these kinds of head-shaking ideas between now and November 2020.

KEILAR: All right, you guys, stand by for me. We have much more breaking news ahead. We'll be back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:30:00]

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM: We're back now with our political and legal analysts.

And, Gloria, it was pretty interesting, the series of events that preceded the President Tweeting he was considering taking immigrants from the border and dropping them in sanctuary cities as political retaliation. The Washington Post reported that this was a plan that was considered in November and February. CNN matched reporting. Then you had the White House coming out and saying, this wasn't something that was really considered, basically making it like it was dismissed quickly. And you also had ICE saying, no, this didn't happen, which is what the reporting is. And then all of a sudden, the President gets on Twitter and says, I'm considering this. He torched his own administration.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Again.

KEILAR: Again.

BORGER: First of all, it explains to you why nobody from the White House will go on the record largely because they know that whatever they say can be undone by the President with a Tweet. Secondly, I think the President is doing this not because of immigration policy but because this is base politics. He really -- this 2020. He believes this is what his base wants. He hasn't delivered on immigration. He's pledged to build the wall, he's had some problems with that. And he wants to stop this flow of migrants into the United States. And if he has to close the border, he will. And he is being the tough guy. And I think he might have felt that them saying, well, you can't do it because the law wouldn't allow it and it's not policy, I don't think he'd like the way that sounded.

KEILAR: Well, that's my question. Does he just chafe against someone, even lawyers, who are saying, look, you can't do this legally? Does he just chafe against being told, no?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think that's part of this. But this isn't about what the logistical policy would be. This isn't even about -- these are real human beings that we are talking about. I mean, his Tweet, when you read it, is -- assumes that when you read it, that these are, you know, bad people, which is not the case. These are people seeking asylum and leaving really -- most of them are in really terrible conditions back in their home countries.

Take all of that aside, this is about politics. This is about people who support him, seeing that Tweet, and look like he is just giving them hell, and fighting for what they think is right.

KEILAR: That -- and, Joey, I wonder, though, and, look, I preface this with agreeing with you, Jackie, because the Cato numbers show that when you look at immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, they are less likely to be arrested, they commit crimes at a lower level. This is very important to note. The President though, Joey, describes them as violent criminals, rapists, murderers. So if you are his base and you accept that premise, untrue as it is, it's not the idea that you're dropping women and children, which two-thirds of these folks are, it's the idea that you are dropping people who could kill Americans into cities, which is diabolical.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Without question, Brianna. So let me give you the human side and the legal side. From a human perspective, the tone and discourse around immigration is really sickening, right? And remember, that tone gets set from on top, right, and that's the President of the United States. And so the way that he characterizes immigrants, it's almost as that they're these inhuman creatures who are coming to the country.

And remember, we had a discussion about invaders and elimination of judges and like what's going on, right? If you look at the founding of the country and the nature of immigration in the country, it's built the country, the diversity has strengthened the country. So that's problematic. From a human perspective and just as a citizen perspective, we have to wrap our head around that and that something needs to be done about it, whether it plays to his base or not, okay?

From a legal perspective, I thought, and I believed, and I thought I saw the President took an oath to support and defend the constitution of the United States. That constitution, Brianna, is predicated and built upon laws. Many of those laws protect immigrants who are coming from asylum and they deserve, in the event, right, that they're coming in in a legal way to be processed and to be evaluated and not to be treated as political pawns. And so that's what has to happen. And it's just a tough discussion to have. But you know what, we can't keep assailing -- not we, we, the President can't keep assailing immigrants and treating them as political footballs.

KEILAR: Ron, the President is not being straight with the American people when it comes to talking about immigrants.

[17:34:59]

But that said, how are democrats doing in this label that he's trying to -- this open arms, open borders, that he's trying to label them with? How are they doing with stopping that from sticking on them? Are they struggling?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I've heard about polling on immigration for 25 years. And it's very -- the patterns are very clear. The public does support, you know, security at the border. They don't want a chaotic situation. They also support a pragmatic policy that recognizes the importance of immigrants in the economy and the impracticality of deporting 11 million people.

And the President, as we're saying, with this very dehumanizing language and these very harsh policies clearly thinks he is mobilizing his base. What we've learned in the 2018 election is it's not only the base who was hearing what he is saying. And consistently, in these ideas, you know, yes, it is true that opposition to these hard line policies is evaporating. It's crumbling in the Republican Party if you look at both the elected officials and the voters in the polling. But in the country overall, he is consistently playing on the short side of the field. I mean, 55 to 60 percent oppose building the wall, two-thirds oppose the emergency declaration for the wall, and two- thirds oppose the policy of family separation that they're looking to revive in some ways. So while democrats, I think, do have to be mindful of the fact that the public does want there to be some level of order, clearly, on the border, and need to be respectful of that, and as they develop their own agenda. The fact is that Trump is playing to the short side and that does have consequences, as we saw in the suburban losses in 2018.

KEILAR: Ron, Joey, Gloria, Jackie, thank you all for the conversation. And stay with us. We have more on President Trump's apparent offer to pardon a top border protection official, if he were to be jailed for illegally blocking asylum seekers from entering the U.S.

Also, a defendant known as the brains of the college entrance scandal goes to court. What he allegedly did to help actress Felicity Huffman's daughter and others may have an impact on students across the country.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:40:00]

KEILAR: Tonight, there are new developments including a guilty plea in the scandal involving parents accused of cheating and bribery to get their children into top colleges. We're also learning how the scandal may impact students who are trying to get into college honestly.

Let's bring in CNN National Correspondent, Erica Hill. Tell us what's changing here.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So one of the things that the College Board is looking at is cracking down on abuse of the system, as they say. All of this as a man prosecutors say was an integral part of the college cheating scam is pleading guilty today, a law enforcement source telling CNN that prosecutors are suggesting 33 to 41 months in jail for Mark Riddell.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: The man known as the brain to the college cheating scandal pleading guilty in federal court today. Prosecutors say Mark Riddell played an essential role, ensuring students would get the test scores their parents paid for on their college entrance exams, scores the parents didn't think their kids could achieve on their own.

ANDREW LELLING, U.S. ATTORNEY: He was just smart enough to get a near-perfect score on demand or to calibrate the score.

HILL: As part of the scam, Riddell often administered the tests, as he reportedly did for actress Felicity Huffman's oldest daughter, flying to L.A. for that exam. According to records, she scored a 1420 on the SAT that day, $00 points higher than her practice test score. Court documents reveal Riddell was paid $10,000 per exam to either change answers after the fact or to help students cheat while taking the test. In at least one case, he took the exam in place of a student.

Riddell was careful. The mastermind of the operation, William Rick Singer advising him per court documents not to boost a score by more than 30 percent to avoid scrutiny. While at least 18 other defendants now have plea agreements, a source close to actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer, Mossimo Giannulli, tells CNN they are, quote, not ready to plead guilty, despite being hit on Tuesday with an additional charge of money laundering conspiracy.

JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It's serious and I'm sure that they don't want to spend any time in prison. At the end of the day, it's all up to the judge, but judges do frown upon and give longer sentences to defendants who force the government to take it to trial, use all of those resources.

HILL: The couple allegedly paid singer $500,000, the bulk of it made to look like a charitable donation to get their daughters into USC as recruits on the crew team, though neither participated in the sport.

OLIVIA JADE GIANNULLI, DAUGHTER OF LORI LOUGHLIN AND MOSSIMO GIANNULLI: I do want the experience of like, game days, partying, I don't really care about school.

HILL: This is their younger daughter, Olivia Jade, is devastated, a source tells CNN, and barely speaking to her parents. The so-called influencer, currently a freshman at USC, has a hefty and lucrative online following.

But in the wake of the scandal, she's lost a number of endorsement deals, including those with Sephora and H.P. While no students have been charged, prosecutors haven't ruled out the possibility as their investigation continues.

Huffman, seen here leaving court last week pleaded guilty to a wire fraud charge on Monday, apologizing in a statement.

[17:45:02]

And noting that her daughter knew absolutely nothing about the scam nor the $15,000 Huffman paid to have her daughter's test doctored. Prosecutors have recommended the low end of sentencing guidelines for Huffman.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: Now, as for the college board, one of the things it says, Brianna, is that students will now have to test their tests at their home schools wherever possible. And we've also just learned from court documents that two parents who were hit with that additional charge of money laundering conspiracy on Tuesday do plan to plead not guilty.

KEILAR: All right. Erica Hill, thank you so much for that report.

And coming up, more on this hour's breaking news, President Trump threatened to send detained immigrants to sanctuary cities.

And next, Ecuadorian officials pick up an alleged collaborator of newly arrested WikiLeaks Founder, Julian Assange. Does he have information on what Assange knew about Russia's hacking in the 2016 presidential campaign?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:50:00]

KEILAR: With WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange under arrest for allegedly plotting to help steal military secrets, Ecuador, which sheltered him for years in this London Embassy, has arrested an alleged collaborator. Our Brian Todd has been looking into this. And there's also a Russia connection here, Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There could be, Brianna, because Ecuadorian officials tonight say they could soon arrest two Russians living in Ecuador who may have worked with Julian Assange. We're told by veteran counterintelligence officials tonight that the rounding up of these suspects earlier on after the charging of Assange could be just the tip of the iceberg in the unraveling of his network.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: The investigation of the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, entering a critical phase tonight. Ecuadorian officials say they are now looking for two Russian who may have worked with Assange and that they have arrested another man, a, quote, close collaborator of Assange's.

REPORTER: He has been detained with a judicial order as a standard to determine whether suspicions and this relationship could be involved in any illegal activities.

TODD: Ecuadorian officials tell CNN the alleged collaborator operates Twitter account under the name Ola Bini. They say they picked him up as he was about to board a plane from Ecuador to Japan. Bini, they say, visited Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London several times.

ANTHONY FERRANTE, FORMER FBI CYBER COUNTERINTELLIGENCE AGENT: It's very clear that Assange had to rely on a network of people around the globe to help him further his cause. And now, all that evidence is in hands of government investigators and I'm very certain that we're going to start to see more people apprehended as they start to round up the various people associated with Julian Assange.

TODD: Ola Bini Tweeted on Thursday that the search for Assange's collaborators sounds like a witch hunt. A diplomat who visited him says he is confused and shocked. As officials in Britain and the United States try to determine what the WikiLeaks Founder knows and who he's worked with, experts wonder if this alleged collaborator could provide new information about Russia's efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election.

Tonight, Ecuadorian officials also say they are aware of two Russian hackers who have been living in Ecuador who they say have been working to destabilize the Ecuadorian government. What's not clear is if the two hackers who have yet to be arrested had anything to do with Russia's attack on the U.S. election.

U.S. intelligence said WikiLeaks aided and abetted the Russians by posting hacked emails stolen by Putin's henchman. Analysts say arresting any Russians with ties to Assange could help the U.S. learn more about how WikiLeaks got dirt Russia's dirt on Hillary Clinton.

FERRANTE: It is going to help add to the overall better understanding of the Russian influence operation.

TODD: Assange's lawyers said today Assange still denies working with Russia.

JENNIFER ROBINSON, LAWYER FOR JULIAN ASSANGE: WikiLeaks has made clear that they didn't get it from a state source. It was received from another source.

TODD: Tonight, as his lawyers work to free him, Assange, who spent seven years isolated in Ecuador's London embassy, is isolated once again, this time behind bars awaiting possible extradition to the U.S. The once clean cut advocate for free speech is now bearded with long hair.

Ecuadorian officials now say his mental health deteriorated during his time holed up in the embassy, that he became aggressive, confronted embassy staff. They say he rode scooters in the hallways, played soccer indoors and that his hygiene was terrible. They say, he often went several days without bathing and that smeared feces on embassy walls.

SCOTT MCHUGH, FORMER SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE OF U.S. DIPLOMATIC SECURITY SERVICE: In some respect, they were at his mercy. So as he seemed to be having some difficulties adjusting to the isolation that was associated with seven years of being in the embassy, then they had to respond and deal with those types of behavioral changes which doesn't sound like they were very pleasant.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: We reached out to Assange's lawyer several times to respond to the allegations from Ecuadorian officials of his poor behavior and bad hygiene, we did not hear back from her on that. She did claim that Assange had been refused medical treatment while he was at that embassy but CNN was told that Assange was visited by a doctor occasionally. Brianna?

KEILAR: Brian Todd, thank you for that.

And coming up, we have breaking news. Sources say that when President Trump visited the border last week, he promised a pardon to then Chief of Customs and Border and Protection if he were sent to jail for blocking migrants from entering the U.S.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:55:00]

KEILAR: Happening now, breaking news. Political retribution. President Trump admits he's seriously considering releasing undocumented immigrants into sanctuary cities to get back at his democratic opponents. We're also learning that Mr. Trump appeared to encourage an immigration official to break the law by promising a pardon.

Klan comparison. A federal judge publicly accuses President Trump of launching an assault on the courts, suggesting his attacks echo the dangerous words of lawyers who defended the Ku Klux Klan.

Heir Apparent. The President sings the praises of his daughter, Ivanka, arguing she'd be hard to beat if she ever wanted his job. Is the first daughter aiming to be the next President Trump.

[18:00:01]

And major recall. A new warning tonight that a very popular infant sleeper is being pulled after at least 30 babies died.