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Pompeo to Meet with Kim Jong-un; Pruitt Kept Secret Calendar; Separated Kids Still in Custody. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired July 3, 2018 - 09:30   ET



[09:30:10] ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump crediting himself this morning for heading off war with North Korea, saying many good conversations with North Korea, it is going well. In the meantime, no rocket launches or nuclear testing in eight months. If not for me, we would now be at war with North Korea.

That tweet comes as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo prepares to return to North Korea on Thursday. But we're told he'll meet again with Kim Jong-un and his officials. CNN correspondent Will Ripley joins us now with the latest.

So, Will, the pressure is really on Secretary Pompeo with this trip.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, you've got that right, Erica. I mean he has two days in Pyongyang to convince the North Koreans, one of the most secretive nations on the planet, to be fully transparent about their heavily guarded nuclear program with the United States, the country's enemy for more than six decades. The Americans are going to be asking for a full inventory of North Korea's nuclear warheads, their nuclear facilities where they're enriching plutonium and uranium, their missile production facility, and they're going to give a pretty aggressive timetable for how quickly they want North Korea to get rid of all these things that they've spent decades developing and building. And Kim Jong-un has built much of his legacy around. The United States is hoping it will happen in 12 months.

And you have the United States intelligence agencies, including the Defense Intelligence Agency, telling CNN they believe Kim Jong-un has no intention of denuclearizing, at least not right now. Some have even suggested that the North Koreans may try to deceive the United States and not tell the Americans where their weapons are, where their warheads are, how much they really have.

So there certainly is a lot of pressure on Pompeo to kind of try to build on the good vibes from the summit in Singapore. President Trump, obviously, very optimistic given the tone of his tweet. But can Pompeo deliver the goods? Really the credibility of the Singapore summit rests in what he can accomplish in Pyongyang going in on Thursday, going out on Saturday. After that he flies to Tokyo to meet with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts. And then later he will head to Brussels to brief President Trump at the NATO summit. And then, of course, the big question, is he going to get the remains

of the American service members returned while he's there, because that still hasn't happened. And Axios is reporting there could be a Trump/Kim round two, a summit in New York in September. Could there be a date announced for that? Well, a lot depends on what they can get done in North Korea later this week.


HILL: A lot of questions to be answered.

Will Ripley, appreciate it. Thank you.

I want to bring in now CNN military and diplomatic analyst, retired Rear Admiral John Kirby.

When we look at this, as Will points out, the credibility of this summit in many ways lies -- the Singapore summit lies with Secretary Pompeo coming up this week. All of this as we're seeing the president essentially ignoring information from his own intelligence community, this time involving North Korea. We've seen the president do this before. But, instead, using it as an opportunity to slam the media for reporting on it. How difficult does that make your job if you're part of that intelligence community who's trying to give this administration the best possible information as they move forward with these talks?

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: I don't think the intelligence community is too worried about the media coverage of it. But I agree, Erica, that it's certainly not making their job any easier when the prime audience, the president of the United States, the commander-in-chief, who is the consumer of this intelligence, seems to be doubting its veracity.

I also think, you know, it's very stunning to me that these leaks -- very, very top secret information coming out of elements of the intelligence community, that's worrisome. That's never a good thing for leaks of this kind of sensitive material to get out. But it certainly tells you that they -- many in the IC community, the intelligence community, are concerned that the president isn't taking the actual tangible threat that North Korea poses seriously.

HILL: And so -- so to your point there, is that the reason they're putting their information out, plain and simple?

KIRBY: I don't know. I mean I'm not inside the community. I don't know. But I think that's a plausible explanation, that they don't believe the president is taking it seriously enough. I think they think Pompeo is, and Mattis certainly is, but not the president. And I think that's why that's probably getting out there.

Now, look, not that I'm counseling that leaks are a good thing, I'm not, but Pompeo could use this as a sense of momentum going into Pyongyang. Now that the information is out there, even though it's not optimal, he can use that to North -- to his advantage to show North Korea, hey, look, we know what you're doing, OK. We're watching you closely. We probably know about stuff you don't even think we know about. So let's not -- let's not play games here. Let's talk some Turkey. Let's try to get something going.

HILL: Do you think that message is going to be more effective coming from Secretary Pompeo than it would be if it were the president sitting down again?

KIRBY: No. Look, this -- Kim Jong-un is the autocratic leader of North Korea. He knows that Donald Trump is the head of the U.S. government right now and that's why it was so important for him to have Trump at a summit face to face, get those -- those images, a meeting with the president of the United States. Something no North Korea leader has ever gotten before. So I think while he considers Pompeo a serious negotiator, and certainly a very credible representative of the United States of America and President Trump, it's not the same as when it comes right from President Donald Trump.

[09:35:09] HILL: I want to get your take on this. "The New York Times" reporting that letters were sent to leaders of a number of NATO allies, including, as we know, a very sternly worded one to Germany. The president saying once again it's time to pay up. He's not happy with the way things have been going. There's even been talk about perhaps reducing the number of troops overseas, U.S. troops.

KIRBY: Right.

HILL: How does all of this sit as we're moving into that summit?

KIRBY: I think it's a very calculated move by the president to shape the agenda for the summit. To make sure that burden-sharing becomes a top priority when he sits down with his NATO colleagues in Brussels.

And, look, the president isn't wrong. President Bush complained about burden sharing. President Obama complained about it. And Trump is -- you know, he's not wrong to make the case that the United States does contribute far more proportionately to the burden of NATO expenditures, something like 70 percent, than anybody else.

That said, he also has to keep in mind he's meeting with Putin a few days later and you don't want to make the summit all about burden sharing and you don't want to -- you don't want to give Putin the impression that we're balking on our NATO commitments or that he has -- he, Putin, has successfully caused disunion and dissension within the western democracy bloc.

HILL: Or unless maybe the president wants Putin to see him as a very strong leader who holds his grounds and wants others to pay up. It will be interesting to see.

Always appreciate your insight, sir. We've got to leave it there. Thanks.

KIRBY: You bet.

HILL: Secret meetings, fake schedules. The length EPA chief Scott Pruitt allegedly went to, to keep his activities secret. That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:40:54] HILL: This morning, pressure continues to grow on embattled EPA Chief Scott Pruitt as he faces more allegations of unethical behavior. A former EPA official, who is set to meet with Congress, says Pruitt kept secret calendars and schedules to hide meetings and calls with controversial figures, hide them from the public.

Joining me now, CNN's Sara Ganim, who has more on this.

I mean another day, another treasure trove of questions.

SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This all comes at a crucial time as congressional investigators are looking into whether he used his office for personal gain. That makes these calendars and the meetings that he was holding particularly important.

This whistle-blower says that Pruitt kept a secret calendar and often instructed his staff to scrub certain meetings from the official calendar the public could see. CNN was actually able to verify more than two dozen undisclosed meetings by searching through thousands of e-mails that were made public by the Sierra Club through open records laws. Those meetings include one with a coal producer, the meeting was at the Trump International Hotel, this guy donated millions to Republican candidates, and another one to -- with a top Vatican official who was at the time, Erica, under investigation for sexual assault.

HILL: And there are also reports, as I understand it, that top Pruitt aides have actually been giving Congress some details about the lavish spending we've heard so much about, but also questionable management practice.

GANIM: Right. They've been talking to congressional investigators. The House Oversight Committee is overviewing Pruitt's closest aides. And what we're learning is that one former senior staffer reportedly told investigators Pruitt instructed her to find a job for his wife with a salary topping $200,000 with the Republican Governor's Association, where she had previously worked. When she pushed back on that saying that it would need to be disclosed, Pruitt allegedly told her he'd get around it by forming an LLC. The staffer ended up not making that phone call, made the choice not to do that, but she did get Pruitt's wife a different job, eventually something with a much lower salary than what they wanted.

I'm told that the congressional investigation is still in its first phase and they plan to continue these interviews and also gathering documents throughout the rest of the summer as they look into this and many, many more of the allegations of Pruitt's unethical behavior.

HILL: There's a lot there.

GANIM: There's a lot there.

HILL: The president, though, apparently still very confident in the job that he's doing and there Scott Pruitt remains. GANIM: Right. He's -- it's interesting, he's the one person that

matters, right? The president's vote on this is the one person that matters, even if he lost the confidence of so many others.

HILL: Sara Ganim, appreciate it, as always. Thank you.

GANIM: The suspects who shot and killed five people at the "Capital Gazette" reportedly sent letters threatening the paper on the day of the attack. According to "The Baltimore Sun," which owns "The Gazette" -- "The Capital Gazette." The suspect sent one of the letters to "The Gazette's" former attorney. That letter is dated June 28th, the day of the attack. It just arrived yesterday. It also includes the suspect's name and return address. And this comes as President Trump, this morning, ordered flags lowered to half-staff in honor of the five shooting victims. Those flags will be lowered until sunset tonight.

A crew member of a cruise ship is safe nearly one day after falling overboard. The 33-year-old fell off a Norwegian cruise liner on Saturday afternoon. It happened about 30 miles off the coast of Cuba. It was a full 22 hours later that a hotel steward on board a different Carnival ship spotted the man treading water. Crews lowered a lifeboat, pulled him to safety. We're told the man is being treated and expected to make a full recovery.

A judge says all children must be reunited with their families by -- within weeks. Coming up, why a former acting director of ICE says that will be very hard to do.


[09:48:59] HILL: The Trump administration has one week to meet a court ordered deadline to reunite children under the age of five with their parents after being separated at the border. Here's the thing, though. The Department of Health and Human Services is refusing to discuss even how many families may be involved here, how many children have been reunited so far. We know last month alone nearly 35,000 people were arrested crossing the southern U.S. border illegally.

CNN national correspondent Nick Valencia joins us now live from McAllen, Texas, with more.

There are so many unanswered questions, Nick.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erica, it was two weeks ago that the Trump administration told us that there was 2,053 separated children in their care. A week went by. That number went down by six to 2,047. And now we just have no idea because HHS refuses to provide us those numbers.

It's not just frustrating for the journalists here asking for those numbers, but also to the immigrant rights groups on the ground here in Texas which say that this is evidence that the Trump administration still has no plans on reuniting families.

It was also something that the former acting ICE director spoke about earlier on CNN's "NEW DAY." [09:50:06] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN SANDWEG, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, U.S. IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT: There's a very good reason why we, during the Obama administration, never, you know, intentionally separated families. And the reason you do that, is it's very hard to reunite them. Once they get caught up in the system, the children go off in one direction, where it's a very slow process. The parents, when they're locked in detention, go through a very expedited process. The children get under the custody of foster -- they get caught up in the foster care system. It gets very difficult to bring them back together.


VALENCIA: Meanwhile, more bad news for the Trump administration. A federal judge ruling late Monday that they are wrongfully detaining asylum seekers, going against a long standing policy for DHS to make a case by case determination for asylum seekers. That's not the case under the Trump administration. The judge ruling that they must go back to the policy.

You know, Erica, we've been covering this for several weeks now and it seems that the Trump administration's efforts to fix what they call a broken immigration system has only caused more confusion and more chaos.

HILL: Nick Valencia with the latest for us. Nick, thank you.

Joining me now to discuss further, CNN political commentator, former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, Charlie Dent.

Sir, always good to have you with us.

You know, as Nick paints there, this separation debacle continues. The administration trying to do what it saw as a fix on immigration, making things worse. Are Republicans missing a chance to lead here in terms of pressuring this administration to get some real answers? Even just in terms of numbers here.

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean, what we're witnessing right now is the fact that we're trying to fix this situation administratively. And that is, obviously, not going well. Congress, on the other hand, is not able to address this issue legislatively. Just look what happened last week in Congress. I mean an immigration reform bill dealing with the dreamers, you know, could not pass. And there's a lot of bitter feelings from members because they felt that various members didn't negotiate in good faith, the president sent mixed messages. And so, legislatively, congress really doesn't have the ability to change the current administration policy on these children separated at the border.

So it's a very chaotic situation. I'm really not sure of the path forward. I have visited these office of refugee resettlement programs around in my congressional district at the time a few years back and I'll tell you what, I think it is hard to keep track of these kids, once they're in those settings and their -- and then they're sent out. It's -- they're not close to their -- they're not approximate to their parents. So I think we've got a hell of a mess on our hands and I'm not sure of the way out.

HILL: You're not sure of the way out. Do you think that the administration has any sense of the way out? Because you paint this picture here too of Congress -- and we've heard multiple times in the administration, well, Congress needs to fix this, Congress needs to do something. Democrats have told a number of us they can't get a seat at the table to have discussions with Republicans. Republicans aren't getting the support that they need and the cover that they need from the president. Based on those mixed messages alone, two different tweets about supporting or not supporting these various bills, is there a sense of urgency, do you feel, within the administration to actually get this fixed?

DENT: Well, look, the administration -- I don't know what their plan is right now. Congress needs to lead here. But on immigration -- the problem on immigration is House leadership has demanded that only solution -- the only solutions that can pass are ones that have, you know, Republican only support or at least a majority of the majority. And that's why there was no solution on the dreamers last week because they fell a few signatures short on the discharge petition and many of the more centrist members, who were trying to come to a good faith resolution, are very angry with the Freedom Caucus because they felt they didn't negotiate in good faith on this -- on this dreamer matter.

And then, of course, the president -- the president sent signals that he supported the bills. Then he sent out a tweet later saying, well, he gave people a pass. And so everybody's mad at everybody right now. And so the bottom line is, the only way they're going to solve this legislatively is with a bipartisan fix. But that might not get you a majority of Republicans in the House.

HILL: A lot of finger pointing and still at least, as far as we know 2,047 children who remain separated, who should be the focus. And to your point, here we are.

I want to get your take on this because, of course, you're (INAUDIBLE) the House Ethics Committee. The official White House Twitter account tweeting at two Democratic senators accusing them of supporting MS-13. How problematic is that, that it's coming from the official White House Twitter account?

DENT: Well, if it's a -- if he's talking about policy, I guess he's probably on safe ground. If he's talking policy, if he gets in -- if he borders -- if he goes into the campaign, if it's more of a campaign statement, I haven't examined those tweets too closely. But if it's more of a campaign shot, then it clearly should be done, you know, from his re-elect account, not from an official account. So I really -- that's -- that's really the issue. If you're talking campaign, you simply cannot use your official resources to do that. But it's not clear from that tweet whether that was a campaign statement.

[09:55:08] HILL: OK, let me get your take on this real quick before we let you go. We've got about 30 seconds. But these letters, according to "The New York Times," that the president sent to various NATO allies talking about it being time to pay up. All of this, of course, ahead of that upcoming meeting. What does that do to U.S. standing?

DENT: Well, first, burden sharing is a fair issue. I've raised this with our European allies for years, that they need to do more. But they think the president needs to treat this alliance as a marriage. It's a very good marriage. There are some challenges in a marriage. No one is seeking a divorce. And the way the president is conducting himself, it seems at times that he's talking about actually divorcing ourselves from NATO. And that would be the most counterproductive short-sighted thing that we could ever do. NATO is the foundation of American national security policy. And we must do all we can to nurture it and protect it and strengthen it.

HILL: Former Congressman Charlie Dent. Always appreciate your insight. Thank you.

DENT: Thank you.

HILL: They have been located but now the big question is, how do you actually rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach trapped inside a cave?