Return to Transcripts main page


Cohen: Loyalty is to Family & Country Before President Trump; CNN: U.S. Intel Agency Believes Kim Jong Un Won't Fully Denuclearize; Some Democrats Call for Abolishing or Overhauling ICE. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired July 2, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:17] JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: So, is the man who once said he would take a bullet for Donald Trump changing his tune? Warming up his vocal chords. And just in case that mixed metaphor is not clear enough, is Michael Cohen getting ready to sing?

John Berman here in for Anderson.

That is the question tonight about Michael Cohen who wants to declare his allegiance and loyalty to the president with the kind of Brooklyn swagger that Sammy the Bull Gravano wants to display for his boss, until he flipped.

And if you're thinking that comparing a real estate attorney to a mob enforcer is somehow unfair, well, that's the image Mr. Cohen cultivated for himself. If somebody does something in Mr. Trump -- does something Mr. Trump doesn't like, he once said, I'm going to come at you, grab you by the neck, and I'm not going let you go until I'm finished.

Today, however, under federal investigation in Southern District of New York, President Trump's former personal attorney, his self- described Ray Donovan, his loyal lieutenant, seems to have other higher priorities.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP'S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: My wife, my daughter, and my son have my first loyalty and always will. I put family and country first.


BERMAN: And that's not all he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos over the weekend. The interview, as you just heard there, was off camera but on the record. So, is he saying he is ready to cooperate, or fishing for a pardon on charges which we should point out here, he has yet to face? We'll talk about it shortly with our legal panel, including former Nixon White House counsel John Dean who did cooperate with federal investigators.

First, though, the other hints he offered. Also, keeping them honest, how some of what Michael Cohen said undermines or even contradicts some of what the president has said, such as this shortly after the FBI raided Cohen's home, office and hotel rooms.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys, a good man, and it's a disgraceful situation. It's a total witch-hunt. It's an attack on our country in a true sense. It's an attack on what we all stand for.


BERMAN: A day later, the president tweeted this: Attorney-client privilege is dead.

Now, here's what Cohen told George Stephanopoulos.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: He said I don't agree with those who demonize or vilify the FBI. I respect the FBI as an institution as well as their agency.


BERMAN: He also said they were courteous, polite. They came, of course, with warrants, did not break in, and afterwards, he shook their hands.

Cohen also spoke about the money he paid to buy Stormy Daniels' silence, which the president said this about.


REPORTER: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payments to Stormy Daniels?

TRUMP: No, no. What else?

REPOTER: Then why -- why did Michael Cohen make them, if there was no truth to her allegations?

TRUMP: Well, you'll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney, and you'll have to ask Michael Cohen.

REPORTER: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?

TRUMP: I don't know.


BERMAN: When asked whether the president in fact directed him to make the payoff, Michael Cohen would only offer his non-denial. I want to answer one day. I will answer, but I can't comment now on the advice of my counsel. He also declined a comment when asked whether candidate Trump knew in advance about the Trump Tower meeting with the Russians. He called it poor judgment on the campaign's part, but neither confirmed nor denied the president's knowledge of it.

It's a far cry from the Michael Cohen who tweeted this back in April. A person who deserves my loyalty receives it. I will always protect our POTUS, Donald Trump.

The president meantime has not tweeted about Michael Cohen for nearly two months. He did not talk about him in a press opportunity today with the Dutch prime minister. However, his name did come up with the White House today.

Our Jeff Zeleny is there for us tonight.

Jeff, Sarah Sanders brushed aside questions about Cohen, pushed him off to the president's outside counsel. What's your sense about how concern the president and his allies might be tonight about Cohen?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, there is no question that the White House and the president's allies certainly would have been more relieved if Michael Cohen had told George Stephanopoulos that I put my family, the country and my president first. But he did not say, I put my president first. He said I put my family and country first.

So, there was a sense here. Now this is more than 12 hours later, a sense of what is Michael Cohen exactly up to, what exactly is he doing? Why did he do the interview with George Stephanopoulos over the weekend, not on camera, but on record, as you said? You saw the picture there of George there in short sleeves, talking to Michael Cohen, clearly trying to send a message to the White House here.

The question is what is that message? Is he about on the verge of cooperating with the feds? Is he looking for a pardon? We don't know the answer to that question.

[20:05:00] But the White House press secretary today Sarah Sanders not surprisingly not answering any of those questions. They've routinely been dismissing all of them to outside lawyers. But it is still a very big question here as sunsets in Washington, what was Michael Cohen up to?

BERMAN: So, Jeff, the president is always known to watch and react to the news. How telling it will be, frankly, if he does not react to the Cohen interview?

ZELENY: John, I think it will be pretty extraordinary because up until now, again, more than 12 hours after that interview aired, we have heard nothing from the president, not speaking out loud, not on Twitter, not through his allies or associates. And it is keeping with that pattern.

You said it's been two months since he talked about Michael Cohen. There is no one who is closer to this president save for some family members who work here at the White House than Michael Cohen. So, the president clearly seems to be to me following the advice of lawyers or advisers in keeping his mouth shut, basically, on this front. We'll see if he keeps that up or if he tweets overnight or in the morning. But as of now, John, I think that silence is telling. The question is

what is it telling us? We don't know the answer to that yet.

BERMAN: Don't poke the bear, legally speaking. Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.


BERMAN: One other possible telling item surrounding Michael Cohen's conversation, according to ABC News, the joint legal defense agreement he shares with the president will end this week as Cohen's new lead counsel Guy Petrillo, takes charge. Cohen told George Stephanopoulos that he will rely on Petrillo's advice in deciding whether or not to cooperate with the government.

Joining us now, our own legal team, John Dean and Carrie Cordero.

John, great to have you with us. You heard Michael Cohen say that he did -- and also what he did not say. Cohen spoke of putting his family first, but made no mention of loyalty to the president.

You, of course, famously flipped on Richard Nixon during Watergate. So, what's your read (AUDIO GAP) signal to the federal prosecutor? It's a signal to the president or both?

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I don't think it's both. I think he has an audience of one, really, and the way he did it in particular, and that is for Trump. He floated this publicly so Trump would know he is serious, where his thinking might be going.

He doesn't talk to Trump anymore. He doesn't really have any close links anymore. So this is a very public way to do it.

You've got to also realize the fact that it was not on camera and wasn't recorded means it's pure hearsay to what he all he -- all that's on the record now is George's repetition or quoting of what he did or did not say. So, his lawyer or himself decided they didn't want a hard record of this public statement either.

BERMAN: Carrie, do you think this will have any effect on how prosecutors deal with Cohen?

CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE U.S. ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: Well, it's interesting, John, because really, if Michael Cohen, if the only thing he was after is cooperating with the government, then doing this very publicly actually is not quite the way to go about it. If all he was interested in was cooperating, then the way to do that would be to go through the channel of his lawyer quietly, directly talking to the prosecutors and the agents, telling them what information of value he has to offer, and then they would make a decision as to whether or not that's worth cutting some kind of deal or giving him some kind of leniency or listening to what it is he has to say.

So, it does seem like there is some ulterior motive other than just cooperating with the government. BERMAN: And, John, would that ulterior motive be either getting the

president to pay his legal bills, or would it be perhaps some kind of preemptive pardon?

DEAN: It could be either. Theoretically, a president could pardon before even an offense is charged in this instance. He can give that kind of blanket immunity. The pardon is that broad.

Also theoretically, he could pay the legal expenses. That gets a little closer to obstruction and some serious problems. But, you know, I think he is fishing and floating at this point. I think his experienced defense attorney will just pick up the phone when he is ready to cooperate and talk to his former colleagues in the Southern District.

BERMAN: One thing that's not fishing or floating but is a concrete fact here, Carrie, is that the joint agreement between Michael Cohen's representation and the president's legal team will end this week. That happened also before Michael Flynn copped a plea. What does that tell you here?

CORDERO: Well, I think the big question with Michael Cohen is, first, what criminal penalties is he actually going to be facing, what kind of legal jeopardy is he in that would motivate him to cooperate in some substantial way? And then the second major question is, what does he know that would be of value to the government?

So, there is questions about he wasn't in the campaign, does he really know things that would be important to the Russia investigation? We don't know. Is there some other aspect of the government's investigation, for example, that we don't know about publicly yet? For example, is there some inquiry into Trump organization finances?

[20:10:02] If there is, that seems like something to me that Michael Cohen would be knowledgeable about and could potentially provide information about. So, there's just big questions about what exposure he has and what information of value he has to offer.

BERMAN: Sure. But severing ties with the president's legal team is a significant step, correct?

CORDERO: It sure is. And what's clear, I mean, clearly through his public statements is that Michael Cohen's interests are now his own. He -- that he is saying publicly where he is decoupling his interests that was previously aligned with the president for whatever reason that was, and now he is own -- he is acting in his own interests.

BERMAN: And, John, I just want to read you one of the things he said here, because you have a unique experience, having lived through -- I don't want the say something similar, but lived through your own story here. Michael Cohen says, I will not be a punching bag as a part of anyone's defense strategy. I am not a villain of this story, and I will not allow others to try to depict me that way.

What did you hear, though? DEAN: Well, I heard him sending a message to the Trump people and

those around him. I did something very similar at one time. I didn't talk to the press a lot, but I at one point did dictate a message to my secretary to read to "The Washington Post" and the "A.P.", and that was if they decided to pick me as a scapegoat, they had the wrong person.

But that's a whole other story from the time.

BERMAN: If -- how do you think the White House should read that message then, from Michael Cohen?

DEAN: I think very much as we're saying, that he is sending the message that he is now his own man, that he is not going to play for the president. He's going to look at what's best in his interests, and the president might be able to do something for him that's in that interest, or the prosecutors might. Wait until the charges and then make a decision.

BERMAN: An unusual moment, to say the least.

John Dean, Carrie Cordero, thanks so much for helping us try to understand it.

Next up, new developments that cast a dark nuclear shadow on President Trump's sunny assessment of his summit with Kim Jong-un and his claim that the Korean crisis was all but over.

And later, incredibly good news about the children missing for days in a flooded cave. But it comes with a catch that's even harder to imagine about how long they may have to wait and what they may have to learn just to reach the surface.


[20:16:01] BERMAN: On his way back from the summit with Kim Jong-un, the president told Americans to sleep well. North Korea and its nuclear program, he said, were no longer a big problem.

Keeping them honest, here's a wake-up call. CNN has learned that the Defense Intelligence Agency has learned that Kim has no intention of fully denuclearizing, at least for now. And "The Washington Post" citing intelligence officials is reporting that the North Koreans are considering ways of concealing the number of weapons it has as well as the facilities for producing them.

The reports came up today at the White House briefing.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We aren't going to confirm or deny any intelligence reports. What I can tell you is that we're continuing to make progress. Ambassador Kim had a meeting just yesterday with members of the North Korean delegation, and Secretary Pompeo, as I just mentioned, will be headed to North Korea later this week, and we're going to continue those conversations. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: She would not elaborate on the conversations or the progress.

Joining us now, CNN global affairs analyst Max Boot, and CNN military and diplomatic analyst, retired Rear Admiral John Kirby.

And, Max, I want to start with you here. This assessment is coming from the Defense Intelligence Agency. This is the U.S. government saying it believes that North Korea has no intention of full denuclearization. Should this really come as a surprise?

MAX BOOT, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: It's absolutely not a surprise to anybody who knows the first thing about North Korea. There was never any indication that North Korea was planning to denuclearize. The only surprise here is that Donald Trump was credulous enough to believe Kim Jong-un's empty assurances that he would work towards the, quote/unquote, complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, which is the same thing that the North Koreans have been saying since at least 1992.

There was never any substance to this empty promise, and yet Donald Trump believed that. It's pretty interesting to me that it seems that there are a lot of people in the U.S. government who are now eager to leak these top secret intelligence assessments, I would assume because they're worried that otherwise, Trump would bury the evidence of North Korea cheating. They clearly want this out in the open so people will know how the United States was swindled and continues to be swindled, as long as the Trump administration pretends that they're still making real progress.

BERMAN: Admiral Kirby, and according to "The Washington Post," their reporting sheer that the North Koreans are considering ways to conceal the number of weapons and facilities it has, believing the U.S. just doesn't know the full range of their activities. Obviously getting that count, getting that baseline is so key in the process toward denuclearization.

So, how do you read this on the heels of the summit?

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Yes, I think to follow up on Max's point, I mean, you just -- you can not trust them. This is the playbook. This is what they have done in the past. They will not be transparent about this.

That's why the regimen, the verification inspection regimen has to be as stringent as it possibly can, and you have to expect them to cheat and to try to conceal things going forward. Look, it's the nuclear and ballistic missile program that got Trump to the table. Kim thinks it's vital for his regime's survival. There is no way he is going to give that up, and no way he is going to give it up easily or quickly, and he is going to want to preserve as much capability throughout these negotiations all the way to the end as he possibly can.

BERMAN: What do you make of the leaks, admiral? KIRBY: I'm troubled by them, but I agree with Max. I think that

these leaks are coming from the intelligence community because they are trying to draw -- show a bright light on the fact that Trump was too naive and that the North Koreans aren't negotiating in good faith right now.

I do think, though, as much -- as troubling as they are, I do think that Pompeo can use it maybe to his advantage when he goes there this week and make it so that it can be clear to the North Koreans that we know what you're up to, we're watching it very, very closely, we're not going to be fooled. Let's start down a path to trying to actually get to some details here.

BERMAN: What do you think, Max, that we will see from the secretary of state when he goes to Pyongyang?

BOOT: Well, that's the big question. I mean, it's been pretty interesting that Donald Trump has not actually reacted personally to this information about North Korea cheating.

[20:20:05] And I assume that he is holding off on that, waiting to see what Pompeo finds out in North Korea.

Now, this can go one two of ways. One, Kim is offer more empty assurances to Pompeo, and Pompeo can either accept them or not. The other way kit go is if Kim shows that he is serious about denuclearization, which I think is unlikely, but if he is serious, that he will make a complete declaration of their entire nuclear program, including secret facilities which they have not declared to date.

And then depending what happens in Pyongyang, we'll see what Donald Trump's reaction, whether he is going to basically continue to assist in this con job that Kim Jong-un is carrying out in the hopes of winning a Nobel Peace Prize, or whether the other possibility which is just as disturbing is that he may decide he has been fleeced, fly off the handle and react very violently. So, that's what we have to stay tuned for.

BERMAN: Admiral Kirby, you have been at the podium at both the Pentagon and the State Department. Faced with this mounting evidence, leaks from the Defense Intelligence Agency, the "Washington Post" reporting separate things, "The Wall Street Journal" had a cutout this last week, how can you continue to say that the process is moving forward? It does put the administration in a real bind here.

KIRBY: It does. It's a tough place for any spokesman to be. I suppose you could logically say that yes, the process is moving forward because talks are happening, meetings are -- you know, (INAUDIBLE) is traveling in there. You can say it's moving forward, and you don't want to give away the inside discussions that are happening.

But what you got to do is understand how long it's going to take, how difficult it's going to be, and how much that -- because there is no trust between our two countries, they have to start building some sort of confidence-building measures in place that are transparent, as transparent as possible so that when Sarah Sanders gets up there the next time, she can actually point to something tangible rather than just say, eh, it's going forward.

BERMAN: Max, doesn't North Korea want to string this along? Wouldn't it be against their interests to show the president up in a major way? Shouldn't they or wouldn't they in your mind give him something he can hang his hat on?

BOOT: Yes, absolutely. And I was surprise they'd did not make greater concessions in Singapore. I'm also surprised that they continued increasing their nuclear and missile capability so blatantly. And I assume because they were probably not aware of the extent of the U.S. intelligence collection capabilities. So they were surprised that we caught them.

But, yes, both Kim and Trump have a mutual interest here in stringing the public along because Kim, of course, wants to avoid a violent blowback from Trump. He doesn't want a U.S. military strike. He wants to see sanctions continue to be relaxed as they are today. He wants to collect legitimacy on the world stage that Trump has given him.

And, of course, Trump also has an interest in stringing the public along because he wants everybody to think that this was in fact a highly successful deal instead of a swindle in which he was the mark.

BERMAN: Max Boot, Admiral Kirby, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

Coming up, as anger grows over the Trump administration's immigration policy, calls to abolish ICE, not just from protests but prominent Democratic lawmakers. It's something the president is all too happy to tweet about.


BERMAN: In the wake of the Trump administration's enforcement of a zero tolerance policy for illegal immigration which led to kids being separated from their parents, again, the government separated children from their parents and still has not reunited those children from their -- with their parents, a growing number of Democrats are calling to abolish or overhaul ICE, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Now, Congressman Mark Pocan of Wisconsin says he will introduce legislation to dismantle ICE which he says is tearing families apart and ripping apart the fabric of our nation.

Here is what Senator Elizabeth Warren said in a protest in Boston over the weekend.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We need to rebuild our immigration system from top to bottom, starting by replacing ICE with something that reflects our morality and -- (CHEERS)

BERMAN: There's lots to get into with CNN political director David Chalian and political commentator Ryan Lizza.

You know, David, we heard it from Elizabeth Warren. We heard it from candidates for Congress. We've heard it from Kirsten Gillibrand now, there are Democrats, more and more, though not a wave, calling to abolish ICE.

How do you see it?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right. Certainly not a wave. There are many more Democrats who have not taken this position than have. But you are right to note it is growing.

And a lot of this, of course, grows out of that congressional primary in New York last weekend, where it got sort of super charged as an issue because Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who defeated Joe Crowley, in that race, John, this was one of her policy position.

This is something that's been building in the progressive community, the immigration reform advocates that are part of the fuel of the Democratic base energy right now. And so, that's why I think you're starting to see some of these Democratic politician, especially those that are looking to the 2020 presidential race, see where the energy is in the base of the party and think they need to move there if they're going to be right with the base.

BERMAN: And, Ryan, obviously, the White House has responded very quickly to this, the president was practically gleeful over the weekend. In what we saw this afternoon was a little bit remarkable, I think and some people see it as troubling. From the official White House Twitter account, attacks on Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, accusing them of supporting MS-13 gang members and criminals, which is not true.

But you could see how the Republicans are using this and the White House is using this because of their opposition to ICE, wanting to create a new system to enforce the border. They're saying, they're supporting MS-13.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, you can see how easily it can be for the White House if it wants to be completely irresponsible with the facts to demagogue the issue. And look, this is a new issue for most Democrats. And I think you've seen a lot of confusion among older Democratic elected officials over how to approach it.

And, you know, I think there are a lot of more conservative politician who are scared of this, because they see this, oh, this is sort of a security issue, we're going to get hammered. And I think on the left, the argument is, look, you have to widen the window of debate on some of these issues, and you have to push as far as you can, otherwise you'll never get anywhere.

Because if we were sitting here three years ago, look at Donald Trump and the effort to build the wall, so many pundits thought that was a ridiculous idea. He is going to lose presidential election if he runs on this -- on that. And that didn't happen. So I think we have to be very -- uses exercise a certain amount of humility when looking at this in terms of how it plays politically. It's not really clear to me at this point whether it's a good or a bad issue for Democrats. I do know that Democrats who believe in abolishing ICE, it would probably benefit them to explain it clearly, right? And for them to understand that what they're opposed to is this essentially what the deportation force that is going into communities, ripping families apart, and stems from Donald Trump's executive order that he signed early in 2017 saying ICE is no longer going to go after just criminals, but anyone who is here and is undocumented. That's a big change, and it's having a profound effect in communities across the country.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, but being against ICE or wanting to abolish ICE doesn't mean being for open borders. But David, you know that there are Democrats who are uncomfortable even saying that sentence. We heard from Amy Klobuchar and Tammy Duckworth over the weekend. Senator Duckworth told Jake yesterday that you can't win the White House without the Midwest, and you can't win the Midwest if you go too far left. You know, that's some pretty far down the line, through. Right now so many Democrats are thinking we have to win primaries.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right. Well, you mentioned those two senators there. Also the congressional Hispanic caucus has put out talking points on this, suggesting that abolishing ICE may not be the policy prescription that makes most sense. Many Democrats are concerned as Ryan is saying. Unclear what the politics will be here and how it will play out. It is clear to me that the Republicans have an easier bumper sticker attack, factually or not to make here, which I think is the concern among Democrats than explanatory, this is what we mean and this is what needs to be replaced. That doesn't fit on a bumper sticker. That's why I think it's potentially politically treacherous terrain for Democrats, but as Ryan pointed out about the wall or the Muslim ban, we're in an era, John, perhaps where base politics has more of driver to electoral outcome than we've seen before in modern political history.

BERMAN: And just over the last few weeks in the Quinnipiac Poll, the Democrats have picked up significant ground on the issue of immigration. We'll see if that continues throughout the summer. Ryan Lizza, David Chalian, thanks so much for being with us. I appreciate it.

LIZZA: Thanks, John.


BERMAN: Just ahead, we do have breaking news. CNN has just learned the names of four potential Supreme Court nominees that the President spoke with today. We will give you their names and talk about the impact of any of them on the issue of abortion going forward.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:36:26] BERMAN: Breaking news, the President said today he interviewed four candidates this morning for a position that will shape the court and the country for decades. And this evening sources tell CNN those four candidates are Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, Raymond Kethledge and Amul Thapar.

Joining me now is CNN Political Commentator, Former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania and also just on the phone now CNN Legal Analyst and Supreme Court Biographer Joan Biskupic.

And Joan, we just found out the four names of the people, the President spoke with today. The names are not surprising and so far as they run all of the short list but Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, Raymond Kethledge, Amul Thapar, what comes out to you?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN LEGAL ANALYST (via telephone): Well, first of all they're all young. They're people who are already on U.S. courts of appeals. In fact two of them are individuals who President Trump named himself. Judge Coney Barrett is 46. She is one of the youngest down the list. And President Trump chose her for the Chicago based Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals just last September.

John, she is a former law clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia. She had been a law professor at Notre Dame, her alma mater. She was narrowly confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 55 to 43 last October and only three Democrats supported her.

One other point on her John is that some Democratic lawmakers express doubt that she would uphold row and she got into kind of conflict with Senator Dianne Feinstein about some of her religious writings. So she could -- there could be a flash point there if she is the nominee.

The other one that I will mention right of the bad is Judge Brett Kavanaugh who is 53 and seats on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Now, she is someone who was put on the appeals court here Washington by George W. Bush. But he is a former law clerk to Justice Anthony Kennedy so we'd have a nice, you know, passing the baton from the man who is leaving the bench.

And then real quickly just so the audience knows the others, amongst the poor is another individual who President Trump named already to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, he is actually a favorite of Mitch McConnell. He is from Kentucky, she is 49. He went to Brooklyn Law School.

And then finally, Raymond Kethledge, 51, he is also a President W. Bush appointee.

BERMAN: In my understanding and Joan correct me if I'm wrong but I'm going to bring the conversation over Charlie now, is that there is every reason to believe that those four judges as with the other 21 on the list of 25 we've seen from the federal society and others all of them opposed abortion rights and would in theory work to roll back parts of Roe versus Wade.

So Congressman Dent, I'm going to bring you into this conversation right now. The President says, he is on asking about Roe, what he means with these people? But the fact is he doesn't have to ask, does he?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, he doesn't. We've always gone through this pretense from presidential (ph) parties that there should be no litmus test. One fact we know there are. And that's unfortunate. I mean, it's really the sad day I think that in this country that this election of the Supreme Court nomination really comes down to this one issue of abortion. People are strongly held opinions, but we can't find more people like Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy, you know, people who are completely predictable on the court and I think started this nation extraordinary well. Now we -- it seems on both sides we judges we are -- our justices will be predictable and frankly very ideological.

[20:40:11] BERMAN: You know, Senator Collins, Senator McCaskill are in theory Republicans in the Senate who support abortion rights, don't want to overturn Roe versus Wade. Susan Collins has said she would not support someone who was openly hostile to Roe there, do you she'll take us in here?

DENT: Well, I'd know Susan Collins very well. She is very tough and she has strongly held views and I saw her on health care when the bill went too far --

BERMAN: Right.

DENT: -- in the Senate as well as the House. She pushed back, and she is not afraid to stand up. And she is pro-choice to be sure, and she has a very strong voting record in support of women's reproductive right.

BERMAN: Critics will say that she did on take the shells though, on taxes though she was promised something she voted ultimately for the tax cut. It was never delivered. So she -- to an extent was pushed around a bit on that fought. It does seem here she is getting assurances, oh, oh, you know, this isn't about Roe v. Wade, but again, all 25 people on the list seem pretty committed?

DENT: Yes, those STR payments at that time were a very big issue, but at the moment, the tax credits are sufficient. So it's less of an issue. Yes, you're right, I don't think she was treated as fairly as she should have been, given her vote. But the point is I think that the market is more or less stabilized since that time. But don't count her out. She is going to do what she --

BERMAN: Right.

DENT: She is not afraid to go against the tide.

BERMAN: I will note again, we just read that list of the four judges that were interviewed by the President today. Amy Coney Barrett is on that list of people the President has already spoken with, Joan Larsen another name. Two women the President said he is speaking to. How do you think if he nominated a woman that would affect the dynamic in the confirmation process? DENT: Well, often times those who support abortion rights will say those who oppose abortion rights are somehow anti-woman. So it's hard to do that when a woman is nominated, particularly one who may be well qualified, but may be pro-life or anti-choice, depending on your perspective. So I think it's really harder to demonize a woman nominee based on that one issue. So I think if the President were playing smart politics here, he would probably nominate a woman just to try to mitigate some of the damage on the abortion issue.

BERMAN: As I let you go, Congressman Dent, I just want to remind people that more than six in 10 voters agree with the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion. However, a majority of Republicans disagree.

Charlie Dent, thank you so much. Joan Biskupic, great to have you with us as well.

Time now to check in with Chris Cuomo to see what's coming up tonight on "Cuomo Prime Time."

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "COUMO PRIME TIME: Good interview, J.B. People should do their own research. But those cost sharing we have the news we're needed. The markets are not stabilized. People should do that work we've got a lot of trouble coming on in insurance. We're going to be talking tonight about policy and politics, my brother.

On the politics side, you've got the Michael Cohen intrigue. Why is he giving these interviews? Who is his audience? Is it just an audience of one? And what message is see sending? And is Trump responsible for this? Not on the legal side, but on the personal side. Has he mishandled it? Anthony Scaramucci he knows a little bit about being mishandled personally when it comes to the administration. He is going to talk to us about that and to some other topics because you saw the poll. J.B., usually you sent that stuff to be first to get a couple a little early now. And I get the information from you, the pew pole about people wanting to vote on immigration as the top issue instead of the economy. What a weird turn of fate for this President. We'll take that on.

BERMAN: Democrats getting some back wind on that for now. Will it last? Chris Cuomo, great to see you.

Up next, a CNN exclusive, a whistle-blower claims that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and his staff kept secret calendars with details on meetings that they wanted to hide from the public. If true, they could be breaking federal law, details ahead.


[20:48:11] BERMAN: Tonight a CNN exclusive. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt kept secret calendars to hide controversial meetings from the public. That's according to an EPA whistle-blower who says Pruitt also directed his staff to scrub his official schedule.

Pruitt is already the subject of 14 different probes into alleged ethical violations. As CNN's Senior Investigative Correspondent Drew Griffin explains, if the whistle-blower allegations are true, Pruitt may have violated federal law.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This EPA whistle-blower says Scott Pruitt and his staff kept secret calendars or schedules, detailing many meetings with industry representatives that have never been made public. According Kevin Chmielewski, Pruitt's former deputy chief of staff, a secret calendar containing the actual events was printed out, then staff would gather around a table, determine which events would be kept on, which would be kept off, and which would be altered. He says it was often done in Pruitt's office and under Pruitt's direction.

GRIFFIN (on camera): Scrubbed?


GRIFFIN: -- of the official EPA administrator's schedule?

CHMIELEWSKI: Absolutely, which happens quite a bit.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): CNN found more than two dozen meetings, events or calls left off Pruitt's publicly released calendar which is only released weeks after the events occur. What's missing? Meetings with energy industry officials, lawyers, Washington insiders who could potentially benefit from a friendlier EPA.

GRIFFIN (on camera): So he would meet with industry lobbyists, somebody from industry itself and decide later that was not going to look good so let's scrub it off the calendar?

CHMIELEWSKI: Sometimes later, even before, we would always put on the scheduled meeting with staff. The default button was meeting with staff.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Want some examples? Internal e-mails show that in April 2017, Pruitt has a briefing and attends a dinner at Trump International Hotel with coal company executive Joseph Craft.

[20:50:05] It is not listed on the public EPA calendar. September 2017, the official schedule shows Pruitt met with former senator turned energy industry lobbyist Trent Lott, but left off that the meeting included the CEO of a shipping company and the discussion of ships and their fuel source.

In October 2017, a staff briefing appeared on Pruitt's official calendar. E-mails show the actual meeting was with private attorneys representing a water district over a super fund site.

CHMIELEWSKI: We had at one point three different schedules. One of them was one that no one else saw besides three or four of us.

GRIFFIN: Two government experts tell CNN altering, sanitizing official government records to protect the boss could lead to legal trouble. LARRY NOBLE, FORMER GENERAL COUNSEL, FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION: If somebody changed, deleted, scrubbed a federal record with the intent of deceiving the public or intent of deceiving anybody, it could very well be a violation of federal law.

GRIFFIN: The most controversial deletion of all, according to Chmielewski came after Pruitt's $120,000 taxpayer-funded trip to Rome in June 2017. That trip included extensive interaction with Catholic Cardinal George Fell, who was charged with multiple historical charges of sexual offenses a few weeks later, to which Pell pleaded not guilty. But this itinerary shows a tour with Cardinal Pell. It's not on Pruitt's official calendar, also missing, a lunch with cardinal Pell.

CHMIELEWSKI: All of our time at the Vatican was spent with Cardinal Pell. Cardinal Pell was basically our host.

GRIFFIN: Yet none of those tours, dinners or lunches appeared later when Scott Pruitt released his official calendar. Chmielewski says that was intentional.

CHMIELEWSKI: Once we came back and the cardinal was actually charged with these offenses, I alerted them, and that's when it was basically taken off the schedule that we met with Cardinal Pell.

GRIFFIN: Chmielewski says he was fired from the EPA after raising questions about Scott Pruitt's extravagant spending. He supports Donald Trump and Donald Trump's pledge to drain the D.C. swamp. He says keeping Pruitt at EPA makes no sense.

CHMIELEWSKI: If there's something wrong, I don't care if it's Republican or Democrat, right's right and wrong is wrong. And what he's doing right now is completely wrong.


BERMAN: Drew Griffin joins me now. Drew, these are serious, stunning new allegations for an EPA administrator already facing a lot of investigations in Washington? What's his response?

GRIFFIN: John, despite the fact that we are talking about potential federal crimes, neither Pruitt nor anyone in his office has bothered to respond at all. We've given the EPA detailed accounts of this report, have reached out multiple times, but this EPA administrator and his communications officers are just choosing not to respond. John?

BERMAN: All right, I want to stay on this. This is peculiar to say the least. Drew Griffin, thanks so much.

Up next, breaking news on the kids found alive deep inside a flooded cave and the danger they still face.


[20:56:58] BERMAN: More breaking news. After nine days of searching through dark flooded caves, all 12 missing Thai soccer players and their coach have been found alive. This video shows the moment the Thai Navy SEALs finally located them, but their ordeal is far from over. This shows you what rescuers are up against. Tight crevices, then a deep dive and there's this, the possibility this may take four months in part because the children will have to be trained how to dive.

Earlier I spoke about the challenges with cave rescue specialist Anmar Mirza.

So Anmar, what do you expect is happening now? What are the rescuers trying to determine now that they know where this soccer team is?

ANMAR MIRZA, U.S. NATIONAL CAVE RESCUE COMMISSION: Right now they're trying to figure out their options for either evacuating them immediately via diving or whether or not they can allow them to shelter in place until such time that the conditions are safer.

BERMAN: Out of all the options you believe to be available, which do you think is most ideal, and what's the most dangerous?

MIRZA: Diving them out is hands down the most dangerous unless they're in a location in the cave where the water could come up and is no longer safe. If they are in a location in the cave where it's safe for them to shelter in place, then the safest option is to provide them with supplies and wait until either the water goes down or a new entrance can be made or found.

The biggest challenge that they're immediately facing, though, is the fact that these kids and their coach have been without food for nine days, and that means that we can't just give them food. They have to be reintroduced to food very carefully because just providing them with food unto itself could kill them. There's something we call the refeeding syndrome for people who have been without food for an extended period of time.

BERMAN: Can you get the kind of medical care you need to get to them while they're still trapped in that cave?

MIRZA: Most likely. It's not a complicated situation as far as the refeeding process, and my understanding is that of course the U.S. military has sent divers as well as the Thai SEAL Team. My guess would be that they would actually have experienced medical personnel available to them.

BERMAN: What is the most dangerous part? You say that actually diving to get them out could be the most dangerous path available here. What makes that so dangerous? Does it put the divers at risk themselves?

MIRZA: It can put the divers at risk. The biggest risk is actually to the kids themselves. Cave diving is an incredibly dangerous activity for people who are very experienced doing it, and now you're looking at taking people who have no experience or very little experience with diving and putting them into a complete blackout situation where they have to rely on the regulator and the tanks with them to breathe. And losing that regulator even for a minute or two could be fatal.

BERMAN: It's not just a matter of swimming out because I am sure that's what those members of that soccer team and the coach are thinking right now. They're thinking the rescuers got here. We can just go out with them.

MIRZA: My guess is that they know what they went through, and if they went through some fairly tight places to get in, and now those tight places are completely submerged with water, I would hope they would understand it's not a simple matter of just swimming out.

BERMAN: All right, Anmar Mirza thanks so much for being with us. Let's hope this goes well over the next few days.

MIRZA: You're quite welcome.

BERMAN: And thanks for watching 360. Time now to hand it over to Chris Cuomo on Cuomo Prime Time.