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GOP-Led Senate Panel Backs Up Intelligence Community Assessment That Putin Meddled in Election to Help Trump; Search Teams Unsure How to Free Trapped Soccer Team. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired July 3, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:11] JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: So, in just a couple of weeks, the man who directed an attack on this country and the man who took an oath to protect it will meet face-to-face. Now, what on earth could they ever talk about?

John Berman here in for Anderson Cooper.

With new breaking news, a new bipartisan report from the Republican- led Senate Intelligence Committee affirming the CIA, NSA and FBI's assessment that Russia on orders from Vladimir Putin waged cyber war on this country during the 2016 campaign to help get Donald Trump elected. To be clear, the Senate Intelligence Committee says it happened to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump. The intelligence community says it happened to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump.

You know who says it wasn't to hurt Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump? Vladimir Putin and the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee. So, Devin Nunes is an interesting and lonely company.

Another question, will this come up when President Trump and Vladimir Putin meet alone in Helsinki just after the NATO summit? Will the president, now armed with a clear assessment from Republicans and Democrats alike use that consensus to bolster the case he makes with Putin?

Now, in normal times, that might be the question. These days, though, the night before Independence Day, the question is will he even make the case at all?

He recently said he would, sort of.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to talk about Ukraine. We're going to be talk about Syria. We'll be talking about elections.

REPORTER: Which elections?

TRUMP: We don't want anybody tampering with elections.

(END AUDIO CLIP) BERMAN: Yet, if his lips say yes, albeit in a generic non-Russia specific way, his fingerers are saying something else. Just a day before he said that, he tweeted Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with meddling in our election.

Just this morning, the president trashed tweeted the National Security Agency. He has attacked NATO allies in recent days, weeks and months. On other occasions, when asked about Russian interference, the president has deflected attention instead to the intelligence community's failures on WMD in Iraq, and going as far back as the campaign, even as the intelligence committee was warning that Russia was up to no good, candidate Trump and later President Trump was saying things like this --


TRUMP: I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It could also be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?

Maybe there is no hacking. But they always blame Russia. And the reason they blame Russia, because they are trying to tarnish me with Russia. I know nothing about Russia.

They have no idea if it's Russia, or China, or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed some place. I mean, they have no idea.

As far as hacking, I think it was Russia, but I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people.

Knowing something about hacking, if you don't catch a hacker, OK, in the act, it's very hard to say who did the hacking.

Well, I think it was Russia, and I think it could have been other people in other countries. It could have been a lot of people interfered.

I believe that President Putin really feels, and he feels strongly, that he did not meddle in our election.

What I said there is I believe he believes that, and that's very important for somebody to believe.


BERMAN: Yes, believing is important. And today, the Senate Intelligence Committee said they believe the intelligence community's assessment, or ICA of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Let me give you the bottom line first. The committee believes the conclusions of the ICA are sound and notes that collection and analysis subsequent to the ICA's publication continue to reinforce its assessments.

Now some of the details on the intelligence community's assessment that Russian interference in 2016 was significantly worse than past elections. Quoting here again, the community found that this judgment was supported by the evidence presented in the ICA. Since its publication, further details have come to light that bolster the assessment.

Digging deeper now on whether Vladimir Putin ordered the attacks to undermine a Democratic process, harm Hillary Clinton, and help Donald Trump. Quote, the committee found that the ICA provided a range of all source reporting to support these assessments. On the assessment that the method used was to publicly discredit Secretary Clinton and publicly contrast her to candidate Trump, the report has this to say. The committee found that the ICA provided intelligence and open source reporting to support this assessment in information obtained subsequent to publication of the ICA provides further support.

Now as to all the heat the intelligence committee has been taking lately, all the men and women who go to work daily and just do their jobs are somehow suspect, today's committee report offers these words. The committee heard consistently that analysts were under no politically motivated pressure to reach any conclusions, which you might think these days constitutes a minor miracle, but in fact for years has been business as usual. What is not normal is what will happen in Helsinki.

[20:05:01] Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are expected to have a meeting with no one else in the room, just their interpreters, and them, no one taking notes, nothing for the record, nothing but their own accounts of what was said, and perhaps what went unspoken.

We should mention that tonight's intel subcommittee report only covers election interference, not whether anyone colluded with Russia. This is just one in what's expected to be a series of reports. Still, plenty to talk about all by itself.

Joining us now, former CIA and FBI senior official, Phil Mudd, former federal prosecutor, Jennifer Rodgers, and Steve Hall, former chief of Russia operations at the CIA.

So, Phil Mudd, way back in January of 2017, the intelligence community gave us this report that said the Russians meddled in the election to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton, and now it's July 2018. The Senate Intelligence Committee says yes, yes, that's what we see. It happened that way.

Significant to you?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: It is for one simple reason. Look, when you're an intelligence analyst, in my world -- you're developed, you're trained to look at events overseas. North Korean missiles, Iran nuclear program, what Vladimir Putin is doing in places like Syria, what's going on with ISIS.

To look at domestic political issues for somebody at the CIA or the national security agency is like bubonic plague. You don't do it unless you have to. It's seen as something you never want to step in to because that's domestic politics. My point, John, is for the intelligence community to step into

domestic politics and say not only did we collect intelligence about Russian engagement in the American electoral process, but we're persuaded that that intelligence tells us that engagement by the Russians favored Donald Trump. There's no way the analysts did that unless the intelligence was pretty persuasive. They don't want to get into the American electoral process.

BERMAN: So the intelligence community says they saw it like that. The Senate Intel Committee, Phil, says they saw it like that. Yet the House Intelligence Committee said, huh-uh, they saw no evidence that Russia meddled in the election to help Donald Trump.

So, how do you explain the discrepancy there, Phil?

MUDD: This is pretty straight forward. If you look at the leadership of the Senate Committee, that is leadership that you would teach in a civics class in eighth grade. The Democrats and Republicans leadership of that committee rarely spoke in public. It is an intelligence issue.

When they did speak in public, they spoke together. When they had final judgments, as they did today, they spoke in unison.

On the House side, you had a division between Republicans and Democrats, as we've seen for months. Devin Nunes talked to the White House before he talked to his Democratic colleagues. If you want to see in sort of contrast to the Senate side, if you want to see how not to teach a civics class, how government works, look at the House side and look at Devin Nunes -- no partnership and no unity between the Democrats and Republicans.

BERMAN: So, Steve Hall, pretty clearly, this report from the Senate Intelligence Committee echoes the intelligence community, which says that Vladimir Putin directed this cyberattack on the 2016 election to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump. So, how will this play out in this one-on-one meeting between President Trump and Vladimir Putin in a couple of weeks?

STEVE HALL, RETIRED CIA CHIEF OF RUSSIA OPERATIONS: Well, as you pointed out initially, John, we might not really know very much, because if it is indeed a one-on-one between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump and a couple of translators in there, you know, we might not have a real clear indication as the what happened. I would be very surprised if President Trump pushed hard on this because, of course, it's not in his interest to push hard on this. He doesn't want to hear anything about this.

The greatest problem for him when anybody ever mentions Russia is his grave insecurity that whenever you mention Russia, whenever you talk about something the Russians might have done, it somehow calls into question whether or not he is valid as the United States president, whether he was elected without any help of the Russians. Vladimir Putin, for his part, also probably doesn't want to talk about it very much because it was a very successful operation, and, why get into it, especially when you might have more where that came from when you're talking about 2018 midterm elections and, of course, 2020 presidential elections.

So, it's in neither guy's interests to want to say much about this.

BERMAN: So, Jennifer, this report from the Senate Intel Committee, it doesn't talk about collusion. That's coming later there. We know special counsel Robert Mueller has been investigating now for more than a year.

There is not necessarily direct overlap between what the intelligence community found today, but does this give him some cover to say, hey, look, the foundation of what I'm doing here is legit. Just look at what the intelligence committee just said?

JENNIFER RODGERS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF PUBLIC INTEGRITY: I think so. I mean, one of the things he is basing his investigation on, of course, is all the different kinds of interference. We saw the indictment with the social media manipulation. We're still waiting for an indictment on the DNC hack and for interfering in the electoral processes.

So, for them to say yes, there was interference, yes, Putin directed it, yes, there was social media manipulation, at least it justifies and says Mueller is on the right track. He is doing good work, but they stayed out of the collusion lane, which I think is smart of them. They're leaving that to Mueller and his team.

[20:10:00] They're much better at doing that than the Senate Intel Committee.

BERMAN: You know, as we said, this directly refutes a key finding from the House Intelligence Committee report, and in a way, it flies in the face of what President Trump is saying. It is a little curious that the Senate Intelligence Community chose to release this on Independence Day eve, you know, hours before everyone is getting in the car to go drive to the beach and have a barbecue somewhere. They don't seem awfully proud of their findings.

RODGERS: You know, it's hard to say. You know, look, maybe that was the chairman's decision to do it then, because he thought maybe it would make less of a splash.

But people are picking this up. People are going to talk about this. This is a big deal. You know, it's a shame that it's a big deal, that a Republican-led committee would actually do the right thing and do its work and do what should it be doing, but it is. And so, it's going to be a big deal no matter when they released it.

BERMAN: You know, we say Republican-led, there is a great deal of bipartisanship here, Phil, as you noted between Richard Burr, the committee chair, and Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on this committee.

Warner today said: Russia will be back in 2018. We need to be ready.

Based on everything you know, do you think the intelligence community, and perhaps more importantly, this administration, is ready to fight possible Russian interference in the 2018 midterms?

MUDD: No, for two reasons.

First, on day two of going into the Oval Office, any president typically would look at the national security staff and say, we need a plan that's coordinated across government that includes Homeland Security, State Department, CIA, FBI, et cetera to figure out how to stop this in coordination with Silicon Valley, people who are carrying those messages like Facebook. I've not seen anything that suggests that the president has ordered a coordinated plan to figure out how to stop this.

The second and more significant issue is the most powerful pulpit in this country is the Oval Office, going into mid terms in the next presidential election, who is going to talk to the American people about how they're vulnerable? And most significantly, to close here, John, what happens when people like the CIA director or the Department of State, the Department of Homeland security see stuff about Russian interference and get out and speak and the president says it's not happening?

Who do the American people believe?

BERMAN: Steve, maybe you can help me out with something here. I must have spoken to five or six members of the House Intelligence Committee, Republican members who told me that it was trade craft. They looked at the trade craft here from the intelligence community, and they felt there was something fishy in the trade craft, and that's why they were not confident there was evidence that the Russians did this to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump.

The Senate Intelligence Committee uses that word "trade craft" all through its report and says hey, we're confident. We're comfortable. This is consistent with all of our findings here.

What does that mean?

HALL: Trade craft is one of the phrases that is being slung around, and apparently everybody has it. I guess if the plumber comes and fixes your bathtub, he has great bathtub trade craft.

It means basically how well it is that you're doing, you know, the ins and outs of your job. There is analytical trade craft which is I think what both HPSCI and SSCI, both the committees, were talking about in saying, hey, analytically, did they come to right conclusion?

I -- you know, having worked with the committees before when I was one of the representatives to the oversight committees when I was at CIA, I can tell you that those guys really don't have a clue as to what they mean when they're talking about tradecraft, because you really have to be in the weeds to understand that. Their staffers overall a great group of people but are really stretched very thin. There is really nobody I think on either of those committees that can really goat the bottom of the trade craft when you a whole bunch of analysts who have dedicated their careers to getting it right with regard to the analytical results. That's what the trade craft is. And I think that it's really

undoubtable as the Senate guys indicated that there was really anything wrong with it.

BERMAN: You know, Jenifer, I asked you if this would give the special counsel confidence or people confidence that the special counsel is basing his investigation on this firm foundation. Anything in here where you think the special counsel will say, hey, I've got to go look at this a little bit more, or it might direct him where he goes? Where do you think he heads now?

RODGERS: Well, I think he is -- as I said before, is working on what I hope will be an indictment on the DNC hacking and on the actual efforts to interfere in specific state elections on Election Day in 2016. So, those are the two areas that we haven't seen legal action from the Mueller team yet where we know there were actually crimes committed and crimes committed by Russians.

So, I'm hoping that we'll see those indictments. And the question is, of course, will there be Americans in those indictments? Two, is this the collusion that people have been talking about or is he just going to charge the Russians who are responsible? So, that's what we're all waiting for.

BERMAN: Because we have seen a round of indictments on Russians and Russian companies already but not specifically for the hacking.


BERMAN: Jennifer Rodgers, Steve Hall, Phil Mudd, thanks so much. We appreciate it.

Next, a live report from Thailand where those kids trapped deep underground now face rising danger from the falling rain.

And later, President Trump's sunny beliefs about Kim Jong-un meet the hard realities of Kim's nuclear program which doesn't seem to be going away. Fareed Zakaria joins us with that.


[20:18:26] BERMAN: What first seemed a minor miracle has now become epic challenge. Twelve members of a boys' soccer team and their coach located after days trapped in a flooded cave. Yesterday, we learned it may take months to bring them to the surface in monsoon-drenched northern Thailand.

Today, we learned that initial efforts to drain the cave simply cannot keep up with the rainfall and that other options may be limited along with the time. CNN's Anna Coren is on the scene, joins us now with the very latest.

Anna, give us the latest from the ground.

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, authorities here seriously looking at putting full-face oxygen masks on these boys and then guiding them out. Navy SEALs guiding, leading them out through this labyrinth of a cave system that is now a real possibility. If they can get these boys comfortable with breathing through these oxygen masks, then we could see progress very, very soon.

Initially, they were discussing using more sophisticated scuba gear, but we know how technically difficult that can be. The challenges faced just by the expert divers that are here representing many, many countries. The challenges they have faced just shows how difficult it is.

But they are racing against the clock. We've had a break in the weather, but we are expecting heavy rains in the next couple of days, and they've drained so much water, 24/7 around the clock they are draining water, hundreds of thousands of liters every single hour. And if we get a massive downpour, then that could undo all that work.

So, they want to capitalize on the water levels going down in the cave so that they can bring those boys out.

[20:20:03] But in the meantime, John, they are feeding them. They're trying to boost their energy so that they are in a good condition for the time when they do come out, John.

BERMAN: Anna, I understand you've learned more about the coach who is with the boys. What's he like?

COREN: Yes, look, he is 25-year-old local guy who has been their coach for many, many years. And we spoke to his aunt late yesterday, and she said he loves these boys like they were his own.

And from what we understand, he was the one inside that cave who has been instrumental in keeping morale high whilst they were trap and cut off from the outside world. He told them to conserve their energy, not move around much. He told them to collect the rainwater that was drip do you think from the roof of the cave, a natural filtration system, flood water, polluted dirty floodwaters were lapping at their feet.

He has kept these boys in high spirits, which is remarkable considering they were trapped for almost 10 days. We know that Navy SEALs are now with them, one of them being a doctor and a nurse. They have not left their side.

So they are getting the medical attention they need. They are getting the food that they need. We know they slept with blankets for the first time last night. So, hopefully, they had a good sleep.

John, just to finish very briefly, well also understand they have laid those communication cables all the way to where the boys are. So, hopefully, hopefully, fingers crossed some time today they will get to speak to their parents.

BERMAN: I'm sure those parents would love for that to happen and soon. Anna Coren on the ground, thank you very much. It cannot be overstated how serious the concerns are for these boys and their coach, nor how great the joy was at their discovery.

These moods have shifted day by day, no doubt from one heart beat to the next.

"360's" Randi Kaye has more on how the moments and days have unfolded.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More than half a mile below the surface, members of the Wild Boar soccer team sit, waiting to be rescued.

The boy, 11 to 16, first disappeared with their coach on June 23rd. The group had been exploring a Thai cave when heavy seasonal rains flooded the cave's entrance. The team was forced deeper and deeper into the labyrinth of tunnels.

Hours after they disappeared, their bicycles and backpacks were found at the cave's entrance. Their loved ones feared the worst.

PINYO BHODI, FATHEROF TRAPPED BOY (through translator): When I saw the bike parked at the mouth of the cave, my tears just dropped. I was desperate to find my son. We need a miracle.

KAYE: That miracle arrived early Monday morning when a group of British divers located the boys and their coach in a dry chamber about two and a half miles inside the cave, all of them alive. The dramatic moment caught on video.

RESCUER: How many of you?

CHILDREN: Thirteen.

RESCUER: Thirteen?


RESCUER: Brilliant.

KAYE: The boys and their coach had only suffered light injuries and skin rashes, but were surrounded by murky water.

RESCUER: We're coming. It's OK. Many people are coming.

RESCUER: Many, many people.

RESCUER: We are the first.

KAYE: Families holding vigils at the cave's entrance, celebrated.

AIKAM WIBOONRUNREUNG, MOTHER OF TRAPPED BOY (through translator): Today is the best day. I have been waiting for my son for so many days. I thought he only had a 50 percent chance of survival.

KAYE: Thai Navy SEALs are attending to the boys along with a doctor and nurse. They're also supplying food, including grilled pork, sticky rice and milk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't have to rush.

KAYE: The group has been given four months' worth of food. And while the goal is to rescue the boys quickly, the reality is rescuers may need to wait until the rainy season ends in October. Rescue options are limited.

CAPT. JESSICA TAIT, U.S. AIR FORCE PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER: Obviously, the conditions in the cave, you know, they're ever changing. But everyone is working so hard to be able to mitigate the risks.

KAYE: By late Tuesday, still no solid plan to get the boys out, despite their pleas to leave.

RESCUER: No, not today. You have to dive. You are very strong. Very strong.

KAYE: Rescuers are pumping air in the cave to improve conditions and setting up phone lines so parents can stay in touch with their children.

CHIEF REAR ADM. APHAKOM YOO-KONGKAEW, THAI NAVY (through translator): We are now laying a telephone line so the parents can talk to their kids.

KAYE: Options being considered for evacuation include teaching the boys how to scuba dive, though some of them don't even know how to swim, or possibly lifting the boys through an opening in the roof of the cave. Whatever they decide, it will be high risk for all involved.

Randi Kaye, CNN.


BERMAN: Our thanks to Randi.

Coming up, after multiple reports that North Korea is not denuclearizing and has no intention to, the president tweets that everything is going well with North Korea, and if not for him, we'd be at war. And again, calls to the free press, the opposition party. I'm going to get Fareed Zakaria's take on this.

[20:25:00] That's next.


BERMAN: So, the president apparently doesn't believe or doesn't want his base to believe that the Defense Intelligence Agency assessment that North Korea has no intention of fully denuclearizing, at least not for now. That assessment is according to an administration official familiar with the agency's finding, and comes on the heels of reports that satellite imagery shows continuing activity at North Korean fuel and missile sites. Still, the president wrote this morning, quote: Many good

conversations with North Korea. It is going well. In the meantime, no rocket launches or nuclear testing in eight months. All of Asia is thrilled. Only the opposition party, which includes the fake news, is complaining. If not for me, we would now be at war with North Korea.

With me now Fareed Zakaria, host of "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS."

Let's break that into parts, Fareed. First, the president says it's going well. Yet if you listen to intelligence assessments from the U.S. government, it's not really going at all. North Korea hasn't taken any steps to denuclearize.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: If you contrast this with the president's approach to the Iran deal, you see how bizarre it is, because here you have a country with 60 nuclear bombs, with perhaps, you know, there are reports that there may be 100 separate facilities in which they do some kind of nuclear activity. They have not frozen any activity. They have not let inspectors in. They have done nothing.

And, in fact, what the satellite photo shows they are busily building up in the event that they do have to produce some kind of pretend -- you know, they will have actually solidified, hardened some sites. And this is what American intelligence shows.

The president is essentially taking North Korea's side and saying, no, no, no, none of that is going on.

It's truly bizarre. I cannot recall a circumstance where the President of the United States has essentially sided with the adversary rather than his own intelligence agency. And it goes back to the kind of bizarre Alice in Wonderland foreign policy that the Trump administration is pursuing.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You seem to think that talking means it's going well, even if there are no actual results to show for it.

ZAKARIA: Well, it's strange because it is almost like diplomacy 101, you know. Countries will always tell you what you want to hear. And that's why Ronald Reagan's famous line with the Soviet Union was trust but verify. It seems that Donald Trump's line -- you know, attitude with Kim Jong-un is trust, trust, trust, trust, trust and never verify. You know, where is the verification process here? It's completely absent, and yet you're placing your own intelligence agencies in this very awkward position where they are having to essentially publicly disagree with the commander in chief.

BERMAN: Is the President right that if not for him we'd be at war with North Korea right now?

ZAKARIA: It's a truly bizarre claim, because as somebody who wrote from the start and said from the start, the danger of war was massively hyped. It's outrageous. The President in a sense massively over-hyped the danger of war, then congratulates himself for having avoided the non-crisis that he had created in the first place. The North Koreans have always been approaching this in a highly rational way. Suicide is not a rational strategy. The North Koreans were never going to go to war. They were trying to build a nuclear program to give themselves insurance, to ensure their survival, and to negotiate a great deal. They've managed to do all those things. I don't know what we've managed to do in this process.

BERMAN: There is great global irony in that right now President Trump seems to be trust, trust, trusting Kim Jong-un at the same time as sowing distrust with some of America's greatest allies. He has written letters to NATO leaders chiding them for not spending more in their defense budgets. That's not unusual. That's something we've seen other Presidents do as well. However, what is unusual is threatening to reduce U.S. military presence around the world if they don't start spending more. What do the United States, what do America's NATO allies make of this?

ZAKARIA: Well, I was in Europe last week, and I have to tell you I've never quite seen the mood that I saw. More than anything else, what they are worried about is unless some of this kind of stuff that you mentioned, because as you say, other Presidents have done it. They understand bargaining. It's the completely erratic, unpredictable nature of the Trump administration, of the President in particular and the way in which he seems to fundamentally not value the western alliance.

So what George Osborne, the former Finance Minister of Britain, David Cameron's right-hand man said to me, look, in the past, whatever our disagreements, we always knew at the end of the day, the U.S. believed in the transatlantic alliance. We believed in it. They had our back. The United States had our back. He said, we have no such surety with the Trump administration, and it's not just Britain. Everyone has that feeling. And it comes from a place where I think most people doubt that President Trump really understands the value of the western alliance that has built a stable, prosperous and free world since 1945.

I mean somebody really should give him a history lesson and remind him what the world looked like for 75 years before 1945. Two world wars, multiple European wars, a couple of great depressions, not a great place to return to.

BERMAN: Very important few weeks ahead. Fareed Zakaria, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

New reporting tonight that the embattled EPA secretary or Administrator Scott Pruitt wanted the President to fire Jeff Sessions and make him attorney general instead. Really.


[20:37:40] BERMAN: So we've long known that the President is frustrated with Attorney General Jeff Session, who recused himself from the Russia investigation. Tonight we're learning that the scandal-plagued EPA administrator Scott Pruitt urged the President this spring to fire Sessions. He had a bright idea about who could replace him, Scott Pruitt. Kaitlan Collins joins us now with what she has learned. Kaitlan, you broke this story. What's going on here with this somewhat odd suggestion by Scott Pruitt?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: A stunning turn of events, John. And now we're learning more about why it was the President over the last few months has been floating the idea to his aides and advisers about replacing Sessions with Scott Pruitt. It's because Scott Pruitt went directly to President Trump during this meeting in the Oval Office, and he suggested firing Jeff Sessions, putting him in at the Department of Justice where he would stay for about 210 days under the Vacancies Reform Act which allows someone who has been Senate confirmed and is an agency head to take over a position like that, and then he told the President that after those days were up, he would go back to Oklahoma. He hoped to run for office, and the President could nominate a new person to be the attorney general.

This goes to show why it is the President has been floating this idea. This suggestion from Scott Pruitt came, it's stunning in and of itself, but it came at a time when the President's frustration with Jeff Sessions over his recusal from the Russia investigation had resurfaced. And it just shows what links Scott Pruitt was willing to go to.

Now, it also shows how the President has been willing to overlook these numbers of ethics scandals that are facing Scott Pruitt. He's facing 14 federal investigations right now as we speak, and it just goes to show what the relationship between Trump and Pruitt is like as these questions are being raised as to why Scott Pruitt stills has a job that he does given the number of scandals against him.

BERMAN: Kaitlan, what was the reaction to this offer or suggestion from Scott Pruitt?

COLLINS: So it certainly wasn't warmly received, certainly not by Sessions allies. But aides in the White House quickly shot down this idea to the President, explaining to him why they didn't believe it would work, what the reaction to this would be. We got a lot of pushback on this story from the EPA today. Not at first. At first they gave us a statement saying they weren't going to comment on a story with anonymous sources. That was a statement that was initially not attributed to a name, but a title, EPA spokesman.

But then we get a statement from EPA administrator himself, Scott Pruitt, calling the report false, saying that he and Jeff Sessions are good friends, and that he hopes to see his success at the Department of Justice that is certainly not the way, John, that my sources inside the White House have characterized their relationship.

[20:40:10] BERMAN: All right, Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much. I appreciate the reporting.

Joining me now with more on Scott Pruitt as well as the President thinking when it comes to Supreme Court picks, CNN Political Analyst, "New York Times" White House Correspondent Maggie Haberman. You have some of your own reporting on Scott Pruitt. And perhaps -- MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Who among us doesn't?

BERMAN: Exactly. Well, 14 investigations, they're falling from trees right now.


BERMAN: But there may be a timer, maybe, at his time at the EPA?

HABERMAN: I mean, there may be, or there may not be. You know, what we have been hearing last week was that Pruitt was pretty close to done, and it was certainly an agenda item that John Kelly, who also is said to be close to done himself, had wanted to take care of before he leaves.

Now, that's fine. And I think one of the decisions that Kaitlan was making, and she broke a fabulous story, one of the distinctions she was making appropriately was between the President and his aides. His aides have wanted this to happen for some time in terms of getting rid of Pruitt. The President has resisted it over and over and over. More recently, he has started telling people that he is exasperated by the daily drip of stories. That it's something -- I think he said to somebody recently, every day it's something else with this guy. Now, that is literally true, that every day -- and sometimes every hour there is some new story.

BERMAN: Today there were three new stories.


BERMAN: CNN, and "New York Times" and "The Washington Post." Three separate stories.

HABERMAN: Correct. Pruitt is very good at making himself available to the President, talking to him, flattering him, suggesting this idea which the President did actually take on and float to other people and quiz others in the White House about it. It floated around for quite some time. It didn't just die a quick death.

There is an expectation that Pruitt will be gone soon because it is essentially a big neon sign that says corruption allegations for the party heading into the mid terms. The President has resisted it. He is focused on a lot of other things is what has been said to me repeatedly. But a senior White House aide said to me a little bit ago Pruitt is still coming in terms of getting rid of him. We will see.

BERMAN: We will see. Wherever he goes, I hope there is lotion there.


BERMAN: That's all I can say.

HABERMAN: Then, no comment.

BERMAN: One of the reports they set his security detail to buy a certain kind of lotion for him. That's just one -- just one of the reports.

HABERMAN: I think many people got that joke, amazingly.

BERMAN: The Supreme Court. The President interviewed three other candidates today, up to seven. What's your reporting on that?

HABERMAN: So I'm actually not aware of a third candidate. I'm aware that there were two of who I think he talked to, and one was Hardiman. One was Larsen. Larsen is one of the two of women --

BERMAN: Joan Larsen.

HABERMAN: Joan Larsen, the other is Amy Coney Barrett who he met with yesterday. There were five yesterday, including a talk with Senator Mike Lee. The reporting that we have is that he has been leaning toward Kavanaugh as a favorite, but that was yesterday.

BERMAN: Right.

HABERMAN: And as we know, things can change very quickly with him. The fact that Kavanaugh, and I think we discussed this last week --


HABERMAN: -- was George W. Bush's staff secretary is going to be a black mark on him. It does not mean it will necessarily be a sticking black mark, but Trump is very concerned with the Bushs. He believes the Bush family is sought to get him. He has said this for months, and he has said it recently. I think that is not going to help. I think at the end of the day, he will change his mind, as his aides expect several more times until we get up to the moment of a choice. I think he will have a person picked before we get into the weekend most likely, because they have to start prepping this process.


HABERMAN: Before they roll this out on Monday. And the announcement still will be Monday before he leaves for his overseas trip.

BERMAN: I will say the volume of criticism in the blogosphere and so far is that still exists, but in the conservative world, Kavanaugh has really jumped I feel the last 12 hours.


BERMAN: More and more people criticizing where they can. I do want to get your take on something the President wrote late today. Let me read this to you. After having written many best-selling books and somewhat priding myself on my ability to write, it should be noted that the fake news constantly likes to pour over my tweets looking for a mistake. I capitalized certain words only for emphasize, not because they should be capitalize. So not only do we know that he has ghost writers --


BERMAN: For his books.

HABERMAN: As many people too, right? Not a shame.

BERMAN: Not only did he use the wrong version of the word poor in that tweet there. He actually probably didn't even write that tweet.

HABERMAN: Yes. I mean, so one of the things some of his aides do is sometimes they try to ghost tweets in his voice, and they do funky capitalizing and capitalization and misspellings to try to emulate an authentic style. More often than not, these tweets are workshoped in ways that I think people don't realize. Because sometimes they are just him firing something off. But lot of times he'll turn to an aide next to him and he'll talk about a tweet.

I don't know what prompted this one, you know, other than it became yet another thing where he could watch everyone talking about his tweet on TV. I don't really get the point. I do know that his White House likes to troll reporters for fact checking and their critics for fact checking the spelling errors.

In the list of things that the President says that require fact checking, I actually think the spelling errors are the least of it.

[20:45:04] BERMAN: I can't type. I have typos all the time.

HABERMAN: Same. I do it constantly.

BERMAN: Then against the President?

HABERMAN: Yes, I don't get what was behind this.

BERMAN: No, does he think he wrote his own books without help?

HABERMAN: I don't actually know the answer to that, but I know I don't think he realistically thinks that he sat at a typewriter and wrote all his books.

BERMAN: Maggie Haberman, great to have you. Have a wonderful Independence Day.

HABERMAN: Same to you.

BERMAN: Celebrate.

Up next, Republican Congressman Jim Jordan accused of ignoring allegations of sexual assault when he worked at a major university before he got into politics. How he is responding to the allegations when "360" continues.


BERMAN: Tonight, a powerful Republican congressman who is the founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, the defender of the President, and a potential contender for house speaker is accused of ignoring allegations of molestation and sexual assault while he was an assistant wrestling coach at a major university. [20:50:00] CNN's Jason Carroll joins us now with the details. Jason, what exactly are the accusations being made against Congressman Jim Jordan, and who is making them?

JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the person making the allegations is a former wrestler and former student from Ohio State University. His name is Michael DiSabato. DiSabato is alleging that a doctor responsible for examining athletes, Dr. Richard Strauss, sexually molested him beginning when he was a teenager back in 1986.

DiSabato also says that the doctor molested not only him but other teammates he knew as well. And he's alleging that several Ohio state administrators were told that this doctor was molesting athletes during physical exams and did nothing. And he says one of those school officials at the time was then Assistant Wrestling Coach Jim Jordan.


MIKE DISABATO, FORMER WRESTLER AT OSU: I was close to both Jim and coach Alexson (ph). We talked openly within our locker room about Strauss in particular, that he was a serial groper, that he required male athletes to take their pants down to have genital exams on every visit. It was well known within the wrestling team community as well as the athletic department that Strauss was a serial groper at best. I'm not sure that we all understood that what he was doing was defined as sexual abuse and/or sexual assault.


MILLER: Strauss died back in 2005, and DiSabato says that during that period of time when Jordan was an assistant coach, he says they talked about Strauss' behavior on more than one occasion. John?

BERMAN: And Jason, what is Congressman Jordan saying about all of this?

MILLER: Well, look, he -- you know, Congressman Jordan strongly denies that he ignored these allegations of abuse, and his office released a statement saying the following. Saying Congressman Jordan never saw any abuse, never heard about any abuse, and never had any abuse been reported to him during his time as a coach at Ohio State.

He has not been contacted by investigators about the matter but will assist them in any way they ask because if what is alleged is true, the victims deserve a full investigation and justice. That, again, according to the Congressman's office.

Now, in April, Ohio State began an independent investigation into the allegations. The law firm responsible for that says the following. They say the investigative team had previously contacted Representative Jordan's office by e-mail and phone to request that he participate in an interview. To date, Representative Jordan has not responded to those requests.

However, tonight, John, Congressman Jordan's office tells CNN they have received no such request from the investigative team and that they are willing to cooperate in any way they can.

We should also note that that independent investigation that we were talking about, it has now received reports of sexual misconduct allegedly committed by Dr. Strauss from former athletes involved in 14 sports at the school, including football, cheerleading, gymnastics, and ice hockey. John?

BERMAN: All right, Jason Carroll, thanks very much. We'll stay on this.

Meanwhile, let's check in with Chris Cuomo to see what's coming up tonight on "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "COUMO PRIME TIME: J.B., big night. These findings on the report released today by the Senate Intelligence Committee. They really change the narrative that you hear coming out of the White House about the Russia probe. We will take you through what it means. It will be part of the great debate we have. We have the attorney for Peter Strzok, looking at some of the stink on the probe itself. He's on to make the case for his client.

And LaVar Ball, distant cousin of John Berman, is on the show tonight to talk about what Lebron means to the Lakers and whether these two big personalities, big baller and the king, can coexist.

BERMAN: Here, saying no run do going, LaVar Ball leaving, my prediction. Chris Cuomo, we'll see you later. Thanks very much.

We're just now getting in new video from Thailand of the trapped soccer team. We'll take you back to the scene next.


[20:58:00] BERMAN: We do have breaking news in the cave rescue mission from Thailand. There is new video of the 12 boys trapped inside that cave along with their soccer coach. Let's go back to Anna Coren at the scene for details. Anna?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, what amazing footage of these boys there with a navy SEAL This is the second lot of footage of these kids, and the SEAL says to them, introduce yourself to your fans. And they each say, "sawadee kap" which is hello in Thai, and then they introduce themselves by their nicknames. And they go around to all 12 of these boys as well as the 25-year-old coach.

And at the very end, the navy SEAL says that the world is watching your story. And it is so true. Not just Thailand, but it is the world. There is a huge contingent of people here from across the globe that are following every single development, wanting these boys to get out safely, John.

BERMAN: The world is watching. And as I'm looking at this video for the first time, I think I actually see smiles on some of their faces, which is wonderful, and it's remarkable. Anna, any sense whether they know about the difficulties that lay ahead in trying to get them out of that cave? COREN: John, I have no doubt that they have been briefed about what is ahead. We know that they're looking at them having full-face oxygen masks and being led out by these navy SEALs. And I think what is pertinent about this video is that they say, I am healthy. We are healthy. So these boys are ready to get out. And I would have to say that we also got word from a relative who was shown that video literally minutes ago, and she said beyond excited, beyond exited.

BERMAN: As we said, it's wonderful to see their smiles. They look terrific. Hope this goes well over the next several days. Anna Coren, thank you so much for being with us.

[21:00:00] And thank you all for watching AC360. Time now to hand it over to Chris Cuomo. "Cuomo Prime Time" starts now.