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Trump Meets with 4 Potential Supreme Court Candidates; Aired 9- 9:30a ET

Aired July 3, 2018 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Also no word on any plan or process that is in place to reunite those families as a federal court has demanded.

This morning, though, the president is speaking out on the border and MS-13 and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, which he calls tougher and smarter than these rough criminal elements that bad immigration laws allow in our country.

In a flurry of executive time pronouncements, the president also touting the economy, trashing Democrats, taking credit for the U.S. not being at war with North Korea. As for his own core decision on a Supreme Court pick he says the candidate he met with yesterday are very impressive and that the big reveal still set for Monday, July 9th.

CNN's Abby Phillip joins us from the White House with the very latest.

Abby, good morning.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Erica. The search for the president's next Supreme Court pick is really heating up. Less than a week left before he plans to make an announcement next Monday night, likely during primetime and our sources are telling us that the president is really intrigued by the prospect that he could appoint a woman to the Supreme Court making her -- in the minds of a lot of conservatives the only truly conservative woman on the Supreme Court.

Now one of the reasons for that is potentially because there are two Republican senators who are moderates and who are potential holdouts, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, both women who the president believes might be intrigued by a female candidate.

I asked the press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders a little bit about this this morning and here's what she said.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The criteria the president has outlined is what I said yesterday and what we've said several times before. He's looking for somebody with tremendous intellect. He likes somebody with the right judicial temperament and he wants somebody who's going to be focused on upholding the Constitution. (END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP: But Sanders did not explicitly deny that that's one of the reasons the president was looking toward a potential woman be appointed to the Supreme Court and we expect that he'll continue with his interviews this week even as early as this morning, adding a couple of more people to his list. He interviewed four candidates yesterday and it seems very much that the president is very eager to get these people in and through the process. The White House wants to be able to make a decision by this weekend so they can be on track to announce it on Monday.

HILL: We're ready for that big announcement possibly in prime time as you mentioned, Abby. There's also some interest in these letters that the president reportedly sent to NATO allies. What more do we know about that?

PHILLIP: Yes. Well, these is really fascinating. These letters sent in June, some strongly worded letters according to the "New York Times" to the U.S.'s NATO allies reiterating what we've heard from the president repeatedly in the past. He wants NATO countries to pay more for their defense, to spend more on defense as many of them have promised to do.

The letters expressed his frustration that many of these countries haven't done that and in particular the letters sent to Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel was particularly strongly worded. He said other countries look up to Germany to see what they're doing and they take their cues from Germany.

Now what's interesting about this is that this is coming just days before the president is headed to Europe to meet with NATO allies. Tensions are quite high. The president is clearly very frustrated with this situation and threatening potentially to change the U.S.'s troop levels stationed around the world. In Germany the United States has 35,000 troops stationed there. We'll see how this turns out next week but it really bodes for potentially a tense situation as President Trump heads to Europe next Tuesday -- Erica.

HILL: Certainly does. Abby Phillip with the latest for us at the White House. Abby, thank you.

Joining me now, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Laura Coates.

Laura, as we take a look at all of this there's been some pushback from the White House both this morning and yesterday when asked for more specifics in terms of how these meetings are going, what the president is talking about. Sarah Sanders, though, making it very clear the president is not asking these potential nominees how they feel about specific decisions. He's not asked them about how they feel about Roe v. Wade, according to the White House.

What would he be asking them in these meetings?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, he'd likely be asking them questions about their views on a principle called stare decisis, whether or not you believe that precedent that has been established through court opinions should be or could be overturned, and still allow for the public to have confidence in judicial decisions and the Supreme Court. But it's not unheard of that he wouldn't have asked this question.

Remember just a few years ago when Neil Gorsuch, the now ninth confirmed Supreme Court justice, was asked whether the president of the United States asked him about whether he'd reverse Roe v. Wade he now infamously said, "I would have walked out of the room if he'd asked that question. I wouldn't. It's not what justices are supposed to do."

So I'm not surprised by the lack of questions but I would be shocked if he wasn't asking about their views on precedent.

HILL: And that's so important obviously on the heels of what we heard from Senator Collins, of course, over the weekend.


HILL: Who talked about how important it was for her that justices respect that precedent and it also brings up what we see that was written in 2013 by one of the people on that list.

[09:05:04] Amy Coney Barrett, who wrote, "I tend to agree with those who say a justice's duty is to the Constitution and that it is thus more legitimate for her to enforce her best understanding of the Constitution rather than a precedent she thinks clearly in conflict with it."

Which raises an interesting point because when we're looking at Roe versus Wade, the president has made it very clear and said so in an interview with "60 Minutes" just after the inauguration, he could see this being sent back to the state, sort of brushing off whether he wanted it overturned. It could be sent back to the states but then when asked in that interview how he felt about same-sex marriage he was very clear in saying it's been decided by the Supreme Court, we have a decision, it's established.

It seems that there's a lot of picking and choosing going on here which begs the question, Laura, is a decision from the Supreme Court ever really final?

COATES: Well, the hope is that when most people are relying on interpreting the Supreme Court's precedent and you can rely on that to have notice of the laws and how different states can interpret it and make no mistake, Erica, when you say that the Roe v. Wade case could go back to the states, that would mean effectively it had been overturned so in many ways he's saying the same thing.

But ultimately, especially for the person you just mentioned, Judge Barrett, she has infamously not just in that one "Law Review" article but she's also talked about the notion of that the idea of a Supreme Court ruling being the permanent victor when there's a constitutionally divisive issue such as Roe v. Wade would be a problem in our democracy so I think that the greater concern people have this particular case is that on the one hand people have come to rely on Roe v. Wade's legitimacy for the last 45 years. And yet -- and reinforcing the Planned Parenthood versus Casey in 1990s.

And now this notion that that would not be a permanent state of affairs, so there could be some way to either overturn or erode it based on a complete thumbing of the nose is a real problem for people who've come to believe in the value of precedent which is most justices and most lawyers and most judges.

HILL: Interesting, though, that Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1985 warned of the sweeping detail of Roe v. Wade and predicted that we would see a mobilization of a right to live movement.

Laura Coates, always appreciate your insight. Thank you.

COATES: Thank you, Erica.

HILL: Joining me now Matt Lewis, CNN political commentator, and Julia (INAUDIBLE) Davis, CNN political analyst.

Good to have both of you with us.

Matt, as we look at these picks everybody is trying to obviously figure out where is the president's head at in this because we've had the list, we know that there were meetings being held. How much do you think the headlines coming out of this are a factor for the president? This is a president who likes the idea we know of making history, whether that is a pick who is a woman, it could be a pick who is an Indian American.

How much do you think that will come into play?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it does. I mean, first of all anyone who tries to predict what Donald Trump is going to do is in a very dangerous business so, you know, I don't want to pretend that I can do that but I think just reading the tea leaves if you have to look at Donald Trump's -- you know, psychoanalyze Donald Trump, like what does he like to do, I think that he will be reading the news and I think that he does like to make a splash and make history. And that's why I actually think Barrett is probably -- Amy Barrett is probably the most likely pick for a variety of reasons.

I also think Donald Trump likes to pick fights, he likes to, quote, "own the libs," and I think picking a 46-year-old mother of seven who's a devout Catholic and who is probably, you know, arguably the most conservative, you know, in terms of her judicial philosophy would certainly do that. I think he thinks that's a fight he could win in the court of public opinion. Democrats come after this young woman, I think Donald Trump would -- he has him right where he wants him.

HILL: And it will be interesting to see how that plays out. The fact that having Democrats right where he would want them, Julie, just to pick up on that point, it is easy to say it's perhaps more difficult for Democrats to go after a woman than it is just another white guy. JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, perhaps that's

true and in the past when Judge Barrett was facing confirmation hearings for her current position, there was a give-and-take with Democrats who talked about how religiously devout she is. She's a member of this charismatic somewhat secretive religious organization and they took aim at her for that and I think the White House does see that as a potential, big overreach for Democrats where they would alienate a large segment of the public if they chose to go after her on that front.

On the other hand, when you look at the senators that they're targeting, whose support they're going to need, Abby said earlier, she was talking about Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, if you care about Roe v. Wade, if you care about having a justice that's more moderate, picking the woman in this situation may not get you there and so I think they'll have to take that into account as well as they look at the horizon here.

HILL: The Supreme Court tends to be a big motivator for Republicans, as we know in presidential elections. Coming on the heels of what I think we can predict will be a second confirmation of a conservative justice by the time we're getting to November.

[09:10:03] Julie, I want you to pick up on this point for us. Do you think there's still be that passion within the Republican Party in November?

DAVIS: Well, I think for certain -- Republicans and conservatives in particular have been particularly pleased with the president's judicial nominations with the Neil Gorsuch, the Supreme Court justice, and I think this is going to be a big deal for them as well. On the other hand, I think it will be a huge motivator for Democrats, maybe more so than for Republicans if this president is able to secure the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice who they believe will overturn Roe, will overturn other cases.

In court precedence having to do with same-sex marriage and affirmative action, that will be a huge motivator for them and a momentum builder potentially for Democrats in the midterms and beyond.

HILL: Immigration also very important as we know. It's big on the campaign trail, it certainly works well at rallies, Matt. An interesting op-ed today in the "New York Times" from some political scientist who found that immigration actually tends to be more of a motivator for Democrats in terms of getting them to the polls than it is for a Republican. Based on what we're hearing just in terms of the rhetoric today, is that surprising at all to you, Matt?

LEWIS: Not only is it surprising I don't believe it. To be quite frank with you. And I know it puts me in this unviable position of saying I disagree with these smart political scientists who've done a study. But I don't -- and I have to say it's an interesting phenomenon because the op-ed that they have is actually pretty consistent with some of the other things I've seen. And I could tell you going back years now I've seen exit polling, say, for example, exit polling even in Republican primaries where they ask Republican voters, you know, does immigration matter to you, where does it rank? Is it a top issue?

And the Republican voters would say in exit polling it's not that big of a deal, it's not my top priority. I think they're lying or it's just wrong. It's very, you know, anecdotally but I think very observable that this issue does resonate. That Donald Trump by outflanking everybody on the immigration issue was able to win the Republican nomination and I do think it dramatically helped him turn out working class white voters in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and that's how he won the electoral college.

HILL: Although fascinating, to your point, that you're saying even though that's what we're hearing it at the exit polls you're not buying it. Julie, I want you to just pick up real quickly before we let you go, in terms of immigration for Democrats. We have 2,047 children who are still separated from their parents. We have no word on a plan to reunite them. We have a ruling yesterday which found that the Department of Homeland Security was actually violating its own regulations in terms of asylum seekers, and yet Democrats are handing Republicans this talking point about abolishing ICE.

Are they missing an opportunity here to bring immigration to the forefront?

DAVIS: Well, I think there is no question that the issue of family separations had the potential to be a very powerful one for Democrats and has the potential if they can keep people focused on that. I do think that all the discussion about ICE and abolishing ICE gives the president an opening which we all have seen in the last couple of days he's been exploiting to try to paint Democrats falsely as somehow against law and order, for open borders and the like.

I mean, the interesting thing is, and I agree with Matt that I don't agree with everything in that study but it did look at the motivations of these voters in the center, people who are swing voters, and found that, you know, they broke for President Trump. This reaction on the part of Democrats has the potential to swing them in the other direction and so if they can figure out a way to talk about it that speaks to those people, I do think that this is an issue where they could have an opening in November.

HILL: A lot of folks in the middle up for grabs as we make our way towards November.

Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Matt Lewis, appreciate it. Thank you.

LEWIS: Thank you.

HILL: The race to save a soccer team found alive after more than a week deep inside a cave in Thailand. Tonight we're learning rescuers may make their first attempt to pull them out.

Plus, the swamp getting a little swampier, and this is not about the heat wave. The ethical scandals mount for embattled EPA chief Scott Pruitt. What ex-aides are now saying about his spending and management. Plus two weeks after the president orders family separations' end, and the White House still isn't telling us how many children are being held.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Rescue workers in Thailand racing against the clock. British scuba divers finding those 12 young soccer players and their coach alive in a flooded cave nearly 10 days after the group went missing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many of you?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thirteen. Brilliant.


HILL: We're learning now that rescuers are sent to make an attempt to pull the children from the cave tonight. Keep in mind, this will not be easy. There are more heavy rains on the way and fears are growing that the children could actually be stuck a half mile below ground for not days, not weeks, but months.

Here's the vice chairman of the rescue team who found those children and talking more about what getting them out could entail.


BILL WHITEHOUSE, VICE CHAIRMAN, THE BRITISH CAVE RESCUE COUNCIL: If they can package them in a sort of a streamlined way and then propel them through the narrow bits, toe them through, push and pull them through underwater - it's a big ask for divers doing that. It's a big ask psychologically for the children, but one has to ask oneself what are the other options?


HILL: A big ask for the team and the children. Jonathan Miller joins us now from Thailand with the latest there on the ground. Jonathan?

JONATHAN MILLER, CHANNEL 4 NEWS: Hi. Well, yes, it's just gone 8 p.m. here in Thailand. And here at command and control HQ, you can probably see behind me some activity. There are police, there are soldiers, there are Navy SEALs.

And just up there, you can probably make out some of the oxygen tanks used by the divers, who every so often come out of the cave complex itself, which is just about 200 yards up the track there into the jungle.

The options. Well, this is really difficult. A big ask as that guy said. I mean, right now, they're talking about trying to get these kids out fast, tonight even.

But you know what? I think that might be gloriously optimistic because they are stuck 3 miles nearly into this cave complex. There are passage ways which weave this way and that. They're very, very narrow, sharp rock.

And these kids don't swim and many of these passages are submerged. So, the act of actually maybe even stretchering them out with scuba oxygen masks, I don't know, that sounds a pretty impossible task.

The option, though, is that they stay in there until the monsoon ends. I mean, this month is just a taster of what the monsoon is going to be like. There will be deluge after deluge and torrential rain will flow into the cavern system. And they will be stuck.

And maybe the option is to move them into a slightly higher place inside the cavern, so that they can at least get some respite from the flood waters.

But that means that they'll be sitting there in the darkness for months on end. Tonight, they have the company of seven Navy SEALs, one of them a doctor, another one a nurse who have given them a check over.

They're remarkably resilient. They're in physically pretty good shape, considering that they've been down there for ten days.

There is another option, which I should just mention, which - I don't know - if you remember back to 2010, the rescue of those 33 Chilean miners from the copper mine in the Atacama Desert. They came in from above and they drilled deep into the cavern where the miners were.

Now, that is something that could be looked at here. There are fissures and shards being explored in the mountain ridge line up in here behind me. It's only limestone. It's soft shale. It could be drilled into.

They are so desperate to get these children out. The prospect of them spending four months in there is too grim to even contemplate.

HILL: It is quite a situation. Jonathan Miller, appreciate the reporting. Thank you.

Joining me now on the phone, Pat Moret, who has been involved in several mine and cave rescue teams for more than 15 years, he's currently a diving officer for the Cornwall search-and-rescue team in the UK.

Pat, thanks for being with us. We heard some of the potential scenarios laid out there. The real issue here, obviously, is that after they went into that cave, the rains filled it up and there are more to come. This is the beginning of the season.

How difficult would it be to try to teach these kids to deal with scuba equipment, especially if some of them don't even know how to swim?

PAT MORET, RESCUE CONSULTANT: It's going to be extremely difficult. Even for an experienced diver, it's an incredibly hostile situation.

Hopefully, the kids will be so desperate to get out, they'll grit their teeth and just be able to push through it.

Often, in these sort of moments of absolute terror, people become robotic and are quite easy to steer and just will be entirely compliant with whoever is in control.

I would imagine the boys would be triaged out in a sort of order that will some sort of sense psychologically. They'll want the first few to go through very successfully without any trouble.

So, possibly the most confident boys first, so they set an example to the others. And I'd imagine the coach will be last just because he will feel that sort of sense of being one of the last ones out. And the boys will be looking to him because the bond between him and them will be incredibly strong. But they're going to need very strong leadership there.

There are so many variables here. It's a big ask, as we know, for both the dive team and the kids, as we heard from one official.

In your experience, how do you think this compares to the dangers that you've been through?

MORET: Hopefully, they'll be practicing with the breathing masks on their faces or be immersing them in the water, but all this will be tiring for them in their such weakened state. They need to go very, very softly with them, but also very firmly to prepare them for the journey ahead.

It will also be very dangerous for the rescuers alongside them because the children have the potential to sort of lash out and grab things in panic and it could be potential hazard to the rescue divers alongside them.

HILL: And as we understand, the waters are tough to see, it is murky, it is dark as we know down there. A lot of variables and a lot of brave SEALs who are down there with them right now helping out. And so many up above as well.

Pat, appreciate your insight. Thanks for joining us.

MORET: Thank you very much.

HILL: Days now before the president sits down with key NATO allies, he is warning them, we've learned, pay up.

Plus, just moments away now from the opening bell, Wall Street set for a higher open on a shorter trading day because of the Fourth of July holiday. A rally in tech stocks is offsetting trade tensions between the US and key ally partners.