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CNN: Trump Increasingly Intrigued By Picking Female Justice; FBI: Man Plotted July 4th Terror Attack In Cleveland; Notorious Gangster Escapes Prison In Hijacked Helicopter; Top Questions Facing Sarah Sanders At White House Briefing. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired July 2, 2018 - 15:30   ET





DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I interviewed and met with four potential justices of our great Supreme Court. They are outstanding people. They are really incredible people in so many different ways, academically and every other way.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: That was the president just moments ago saying that he has already interviewed four potential nominees to be the next Supreme Court justice, and that he will meet with an additional two or three candidates soon.

He has vowed to announce his Supreme Court nominee one week from today. People familiar with the process tell CNN the president is increasingly intrigued with the idea of selecting a woman.

Sources tell CNN that one of the women under consideration is Judge Amy Coney Barrett. But Judge Brett Kavanaugh has also been considered an early frontrunner with a razon thin margin in the Senate.

The president needs every GOP vote to get his nominee through and some crucial Republican senators are already vowing to vote down any candidate who has shown opposition to a woman's abortion rights.


[05:05:07] SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I would not support a nominee who demonstrated hostility to Roe v Wade because that would be to me that their judicial philosophy did not include a respect for established decisions, established law.


SCIUTTO: With me now to discuss this is Joan Biskupic, CNN's Supreme Court analyst. Joan, walk us through those two frontrunners there, if you can, starting with Judge Barrett. JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Sure Jim. One thing I just want to say, I can't believe what you just reported about the president having already met with four and potentially ready to meet with three more because typically, presidents just meet with like two or three at the very end.

If the I remember right from last time around, I think President Trump actually interviewed only three candidates. So, this is getting very intriguing a week before our big announcement.

But, going to your question about Judge Amy Coney Barrett, she is 46. She would be one of the younger ones on the list right now. She recently was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which is based in Chicago.

She was a Notre Dame law professor. That's her alma mater. She is former clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia, which certainly got her conservative credentials punched there. She was narrowly confirmed in the Senate, Jim, by a vote of 55-43.

Only three Democrats voted for her when she was confirmed last fall to the 7th Circuit. And interestingly enough, you mentioned Roe v. Wade in your introduction, some Democratic senators back then expressed concerns about whether or not she would actually vote to uphold Roe.

Now, as an appeals court judge she said she would be bound to follow Supreme Court precedent. But she got into this sort of tough exchange with Senator Diane Feinstein about some of her religious writings. She happens to be Catholic.

And Senator Feinstein said something along the lines of the dogma lives loudly within you, and that's a concern. Now, there was a lot of pushback to Senator Feinstein for that line of questioning.

But it gives you feel for the kind of questions that could come up if the nominee turns out to be Judge Amy Coney Barrett. The second individual you mentioned, judge Brett Kavanaugh, who is 53, he's currently on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. He has been there since 2006.

He's former law clerk to Justice Anthony Kennedy. So, there would be a little bit of a succession to the man who is stepping down here.

[15:35:05] He is very much of an insider because he was part of Ken Starr's team that investigated Bill Clinton in the 1990s, and then he went to work for George W. Bush.

And if he ends up being the nominee, there could be a lot of questions about executive power. Because what happened after he work for George W. Bush is he suddenly became much more interested in shielding the president from litigation, much more than he was when he was with Ken Starr's team, that's for sure.

So, that could be interesting. And then also to the abortion question, he voted last year to side with the Trump administration to block an abortion for a migrant teenager. And the full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ended up reversing him. So, that would definitely be a flash point during his nomination if he turns out to be President Trump's choice.

SCIUTTO: Those numbers jump out at me, 46 years old, 53 years old, the possibility of many decades sitting in that chair. Enormous power and influence with this choice. Joan Biskupic, thanks very much for walking us through it.

We are now just minutes away from the White House press briefing. We will also take you live to Moscow as we learn that President Trump's upcoming summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin will for a time be one on one.

This as he appears to be leaving the door very open to recognizing Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea. That would just be a stunning move contravening U.S. policy for some years now.



SCIUTTO: Now to the upcoming summit between President Trump and Vladimir Putin. A shocking statement coming from President Trump's national security adviser. When asked about how Russia's illegal invasion into Crimea will factor into the Trump/Putin summit, John Bolton says he would not rule out the possibility of President Trump recognizing Russia's annexation of part of a sovereign nation. Listen to Bolton's full response.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On Air Force One this week, President Trump when he was speaking to reporters seemed to leave the door open to recognizing Russia's annexation of Crimea. Saying, we'll have to see what happens when the issue comes up in the meeting. Is the U.S. endorsing the idea that international borders can be redrawn by force? Is this actually a topic?

JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: No, that's not the position of the United States, but I think the president --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Which is why it was news worthy when he said it.

BOLTON: Well, I don't know that that's what he said. I think the president often says we will he see to show he is willing to talk to foreign leaders about a range of issues and hear their perspective. President Putin was pretty clear with me about it and my response was we are going to have to agree to disagree on Ukraine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But that's not for negotiations?

BOLTON: That's not the position of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But saying we'll see suggests it might be.

BOLTON: Well, we'll see. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, that's shocking for our European allies.

BOLTON: I don't think it's shocking at all. As I have said the position of the United States is clear on this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right, but is that open to changing as the United States' position if the president is saying the door is open?

BOLTON: The president makes the policy. I don't make the policy.


SCIUTTO: I want to bring in CNN's Fred Pleitgen in Moscow. So, Fred, the president has parroted kremlin talking points before recently doubting whether Russia was behind in meddling in the U.S. election. But on this issue Russia invaded Crimea, which is part of Ukraine. It would be remarkable for a U.S. president to even leave the door open to that possibility.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it certainly would be, and I think one of the things that would make the Russians very happy is hearing exactly what John Bolton said there, in that Sunday talk show, it is president who makes the policies, it's not me.

Because that's something that we've actually been hearing here from Russian media over the past couple of weeks. They say, look, if this summit takes place, it's important that President Trump is the one calling the shots and not people like John Bolton because they believe that John Bolton will be tougher on Russia than President Trump would.

Hearing that very sentence that John Bolton said we actually asked the kremlin about this earlier today, and they seemed pretty happy about the whole thing. They say, look, they say they can see now that the political will has finally prevailed, meaning President Trump.

And now the understanding that such points for discussion should not be an obstacle on the path of repairing and expanding the bilateral dialogue. Obviously, what the Russians are trying to do and hoping to do is sort of exclude that whole topic from any sort of negotiations to make sure the Americans don't press things like the issue of Crimea and try to get other concessions from the U.S. in the process.

It's something that they say that they have been wanting to do. Then they were also very clear going further on that call saying look for the Russians Crimea is not up for negotiations. They say Crimea is theirs and the U.S. is going to have to accept that fact -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: You might then ask what has Russia conceded to the U.S.? Hard to so what's on that list yet at this point. Fred Pleitgen in Moscow, thanks very much.

An Ohio man is accused of plotting a fourth of July terror attack in downtown Cleveland. The FBI says Dimitrius Pitts told an undercover FBI agent that he was planning to blow up a van packed with explosives at Wednesday's July 4th parade. Investigators say the suspect even plotted to harm the children of military families with remote controlled toy cars packed with explosives.


JUSTIN HERDMAN, U.S. ATTORNEY FOR NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO: He looked for locations to park a van that would be packed with explosives. He talked about taking targets like St. John's Cathedral off the map.

[15:45:07] And just yesterday he discussed giving remote control cars packed with explosives and shrapnel to the children of our military uniform members.


SCIUTTO: Investigators say that the suspect is a U.S. citizen but had become radicalized and allegedly pledged allegiance to al Qaeda.

News of a brazen escape straight out of really a mission impossible movie. A huge manhunt underway in France after the second escape in five years by a notorious gangster. In a commando-style operation, Redoine Faid was whisked from a prison yard in a hijacked helicopter as other inmates cheered from their cells. CNN's Melissa Bell has more on this story -- Melissa.

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, the extraordinary prison break that took place here in France on Sunday was the stuff of Hollywood movies. Redoine Faid was helped by accomplices on Sunday who managed to land a hijacked helicopter within the prison walls in which he was serving time.

France's justice minister said the break had been extremely well prepared, no doubt with the use of drones that were used to help carry out reconnaissance in the run-up to the breakout itself.

Redoine Faid was already very well known in France and boasted of inspiring himself from Hollywood movies and the sorts of criminals that you would find in those. Tonight, he remains at large. Some 3,000 police officers are involved in the search, in the attempt to recapture France's most notorious criminal who has now become that bit more notorious still -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: A remarkable story. Melissa Bell for us in Paris.

Japanese rocket scientists are going back to the drawing board after this epic crash and burn. The faces of the onlookers there, they saw the unmanned rocket managed a brief liftoff before reversing thrust going down in flames.

It would have been Japan's first privately owned rocket in space. Mission controllers only had time to plug their ears and watch helplessly. The initiative was the brainchild of a Maverick Japanese businessman who served time for fraud in the past.

Roseanne Barr is insisting that her television career is not over despite her racist Twitter rant ended with the reboot of her iconic sitcom being canceled. Speaking over the weekend, Barr says that she is fielding several job offers now.


ROSEANNE BARR, ACTOR (via telephone): Inside every bad thing is a good thing waiting to happen. I feel very excited because I already have been offered so many things and I've almost accepted one really good offer to go back on tv. And I might do it.


SCIUTTO: The relaunch of Roseanne premiered in March to a huge audience, 18 million viewers. That before being canceled. ABC has now announced plans for a Roseanne spin-off called "The Connors." It's set to air this fall without any involvement from Roseanne herself.

Minutes from now, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will come to the podium right there. A lot of pressing questions for her on the Supreme Court, North Korea, to Michael Cohen suggesting that he might flip on the president. We will bring the press conference to you live when it happens.



SCIUTTO: Any minute now we'll take you live to the White House for a press briefing. It has been a week since the last briefing and from the Supreme Court to immigration, certainly a lot happened in that time frame.

I want to bring in CNN's Kaitlan Collins at the White House. So, Kaitlan, where do we stand on the Supreme Court nomination? I was speaking with Jeff Zeleny earlier saying that the president is interested or intrigued by selecting a woman. Is he close to the final decision?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, we are learning a little bit more even from President Trump himself saying that he did interviewed four potential nominees this morning back here at the White House. He declined to say who it was that he had interviewed, but he did say he does expect to interview two or three more in the coming days as we go through this process.

And we do have sources telling CNN that the president is increasingly interested in selecting a woman to take Justice Anthony Kennedy's seat on the court believing to appeal to female voters ahead of the midterms and two crucial Republican votes, Senator Susan Collins and Senator Lisa Murkowski.

You heard Senator Susan Collins speaking with Jake Tapper yesterday saying that she will not vote to confirm someone who has showed hostility to the Roe versus Wade decision. Now that comes after the president as a candidate promised to put pro-life judges on the court.

So, we're going to see how the White House is going to appeal to them. What they are going to be saying to people like Senator Susan Collins but, Jim, the president really building anticipation here teasing this announcement that he says is going to happen on Monday.

Sources telling CNN it's going to happen during prime time on Monday. This former tv host really building the anticipation ahead of that decision. That is going to be made less than a week -- right now less than a week since Justice Anthony Kennedy announced that he was going to be retiring. So, this entire process seems to be moving quite quickly here -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And the president does like those big key announcements. Other topics certainly and today you have to think Sarah Sanders is going to be pressed on the issue of North Korea with the Defense Intelligence Agency saying it is assessing that North Korea has no intention to give up the nuclear weapons. How do you see the White House answering the questions after the president claimed that the North Korean nuclear threat is already over?

[15:55:02] COLLINS: That is going to be a big question. This White House has been declaring victory since that summit with Kim Jong-un in Singapore and now the new reports coming out that they are increasing their fuel production for nuclear weapons.

That's certainly something Sarah Sanders is asked about when she does take the podium behind me, but also several other questions. You saw that bombshell interview with Michael Cohen on ABC where he was making a series of stunning remarks about the relationship with the president.

And instead of defending him and praising him as he's didn't in the past instead saying he's putting his family first which raises obvious question of if it came down to it would he turn on the president?

That is certainly something Sarah's going to be asked about but several other topics, as well, here, Jim. The White House holding fewer and fewer briefings in recent days and more and more topics for them to be asked about.

One is going to be the Trump/Putin summit and whether the president feels to recognize Crimea as part of Russia and not part of the Ukraine. But also, we are going to see likely questions on the family reunification after the zero-tolerance immigration policy on the border led to several families separated and very few reunited. That's certainly something Sarah Sanders will be asked about when she does come out here today -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, certainly would be remarkable if the president recognizes a country that was invaded, taken over by another country inside Europe. I remind people it's in Europe. Kaitlan Collins, we'll be watching. Thanks very much from the White House.

In other news, we are now beginning to see some emotional reunions of the families separated at the border since a judge gave the Trump administration just 30 days to reunite families separated. This was Miami just yesterday.


SCIUTTO: Hugs and kisses. You can imagine how happy both of them are and just after all they've been through there. You will see thousands of these over the coming days and weeks. That was a mother with her 7-year-old daughter reunited. They were separated for some 60 days, two months. Across the country, in los Angeles, there was another reunion.


SCIUTTO: Her daughter there just 12 years old. She was separated from her mother a month ago as they crossed the border into Arizona. While images like this offer hope, we don't know when the more than 2,000 separated children will be reunited with families. A lot of work to do and emotional reunions to come.

Stunning new video of Australia and a woman that learned the hard way don't feed the sharks. Jordan Cutts from our Australian affiliate, Seven News, has the story.



JORDAN CUTTS, REPORTER, SEVEN NEWS (voice-over): When Melissa Brunning tells (inaudible) she was bitten by a shark, not everyone believes her. Then, she shows them this.

Standing on the back of a boat hand feeding fish to a group of sharks. Normally placid species with powerful jaws and multiple rows of sharp teeth.

MELISSA BRUNNING, SHARK BITE VICTIM: It happened so quickly. All I could really focus on was the fact that my finger is gone. So, it clamped on it and felt like it was shredding off the bone.

CUTTS: Despite the pain, the finger wasn't bitten off. The 34-year- old had to be told it was still attached.

BRUNNING: I've lost my finger. I couldn't look because I thought it was gone and looking at it I would probably go into shock.

CUTTS: Mel's three days in a two-week holiday. This is where she was bitten. Remote enough that Mel didn't immediately go to hospital. Hoping it would heal.

(on camera): But the finger didn't heal and ended up so badly infected that when she got home here she needed an operation to have it cleaned out. X ray revealed it fractured the bone and tore a ligament.

(voice-over): She admits she was in the wrong that day. Main message is, don't feed the sharks. It is safer and less painful to admire them from inside a boat.

BRUNNING: Be mindful of your surroundings and don't feed sharks. CUTTS: Jordan Cutts, Seven News.


SCIUTTO: Yes. You might have thought you would have known that. Thanks very much for joining us today. I'm Jim Sciutto. "THE LEAD" with Erica Hill starts right now.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Erica Hill in today for Jake. We're expecting to hear from the White House at any moment. This amid key questions about who is topping the list to replacement Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court, new signs that North Korea is not ready or willing to denuclearize, and signals from President Trump's longtime personal lawyer.