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Scandal-Plagued Pruitt Resigns As EPA Administrator; Pres. Trump Mocks Me Too, Sen. Warren's Heritage At Rally; Pres. Trump: I have It Down To About Two Or Three; Frantic Efforts Underway To Help Team Trapped In Cave. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 5, 2018 - 21:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: On top of all of that, that the scandals, that is not mattress, he mentioned none of that in his resignation letter, and President Trump called him a terrific guy. More on this guy, terrific or not, from CNN's Kaitlan Collins.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Embattled EPA Chief Scott Pruitt out tonight after months of melting ethics scandals and questions about his behavior. President Trump announcing on Twitter, "I have accepted the resignation of Scott Pruitt as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency," praising Pruitt's work rolling back Obama-era regulations at the EPA, but making no mention of the dozens of ethics questions facing him.

Pruitt writing in a letter to the president, "Your confidence in me has blessed me personally." Adding, "The unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have take a sizable toll."

Pruitt had been under a cloud of scandals for months now, constantly facing questions about his security detail, pricey first-class travel and cozy relationships with lobbyist.

Pruitt was back in the headlines just this week. A CNN report revealing he and his aides kept secret calendars to hide contentious meetings. An aide testifying before the House Oversight Committee that Pruitt asked her to find his wife a job with the salary over $200,000 at the Republican Governors Association.

And CNN reporting that he directly asked Trump this spring to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions and let him lead the Department of Justice instead. Before that, stories about his housing situation in Washington, his wife desire for a Chick-fil-A franchise and even a search for a used Trump Hotel mattress stun White House aides. Despite the bad optics, Trump never wavered.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not happy about certain things, but he's done a fantastic job running the EPA, which is very overwriting. But I am not happy with that. COLLINS: On Wednesday, Pruitt appeared to be in good standing with the president, smiling and shaking hands at the White House's 4th of July picnic.

TRUMP: Administrator Scott Pruitt --

COLLINS: But in this administration, 24 hours can mean the difference between a job and a farewell.


BERMAN: So, Kaitlan, the president spoke about Pruitt's report tonight. What are you have to say?

COLLINS: Well, he spoke to reporters, John. He made quite clear that Scott Pruitt was not fired from his position as the head of the EPA, but he had resigned to the president, which the president said on Twitter, he announced his resignation. But he made clear that it wasn't any kind of a forced resignation. He called him a great guy, that he did a terrific job, outstanding at the EPA, making quite clear that he had no problem with the ethics scandals against Scott Pruitt which had melted in recent days, dozens of scandals, but that it was simply because Scott Pruitt himself wanted to step down after being in the headlines once again this week.

BERMAN: All right, Kaitlan Collins, stick around.

In addition of praising Scott Pruitt, the president also weighed in tonight on the -- in Montana on Elizabeth Warren, who he often refers to as Pocahontas. And as he did, he also took a shot for the first time as best we can tell at the Me Too movement. Listen to this.


TRUMP: Pocahontas, they always want me to apologize for saying it. Let's say I'm debating Pocahontas, right? I promise you I'll do this. I will take -- you know those little kits they sell on television for $2? Learn your heritage. We will take that little kit and say -- but we have to do it gently because we're in the Me Too generation so we have to be very gentle. And we will very gently take that kit and we will slowly toss it, hoping it doesn't hit her and injure her arm.


BERMAN: For context, this comes the same day that Bill Shine started as overseeing communications inside the White House. Shine left Fox News after being criticized for turning a blind eye to sexual harassment claims that the network during his tenure there.

And Senator Warren has just weighed in tweeting, "Hey, Donald Trump, while you obsess over my genes, your administration is conducting DNA tests on little kits because you ripped them from their mamas and you are too incompetent to reunite them in time to meet a court order. Maybe you should focus on fixing the lives you're destroying." She's referring to the kids taken from their parents at the Mexican border. There is new reporting on that and it's pretty shocking, first those Scott Pruitt center of war and Me Too and the president. Kaitlan Collins is back with us. Also joining us, former Obama ethics advisor and ambassador to the Czech Republic, Norman Eisen, also Republican strategist, Rick Wilson, author of the upcoming book, "Everything Trump Touches Dies," and Trump supporter, Steve Cortes, who is here with us and very healthy as far as we can tell, and I think he has touch the president in some way literally and figuratively.

[21:05:05] Rick, I want to start with you here because you're a Republican strategist, you helped run campaigns, you know how women are energized in this election season a joke about the Me Too movement. How will that play this election to you?

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, Republican women have been fleeing Donald Trump, particularly college educator Republican women, suburban women because he is a guy who spent a long time playing the role of this playboy figure and, you know, basically making a public spectacle of himself, having relationships with porn stars and adult film stars and, you know, dry humping beauty pageant contestants.

This is a guy who is not somebody that you would want to leave your daughter alone with. And so a lot of women are hearing this and now they're hearing him joke about it. He is not a guy -- you know, president grab him by you know what, he's not a guy that's gotten a latitude to be out there making jokes like that.

And look, women are energized in this campaign season. Women are -- a record number of women are running, a record number of women turned out in the various races in Virginia, in New Jersey, in Alabama, et cetera, in Pennsylvania, et cetera.

And so, you know, this is Donald Trump playing with fire as he usually does. And I think it's a risk that, you know, obviously, he's going to take because he's not, you know, terribly cognizant of the fact that he is a natural laughing stock when it comes to being, you know, the first predator in chief.

BERMAN: Kaitlan, I have not heard the president make any jokes about the Me Too movement yet, at least I don't think I have. You cover him day in and day out. Is this a first, is this the type of thing do you think that White House insiders would like to see him do more of or is there concern tonight?

COLLINS: So, John, this is definitely the first time we've heard the president talk about this publicly like this but we know that back behind the scenes is all of this has emboldened the Me Too movement when it really started to get a lot of momentum.

The president talked about it and said that it's unfair at times that people who lies could be destroyed by allegations. If you'll recall, he said a lot about that former staff secretary who worked here, Rob Porter, who is accused of domestic abuse of his -- two of his ex- wives. The president has long said that -- undoubted a lot of the accusers of Me Too, that doesn't come as a surprise of course because it is a president accused of sexual assault himself, something he has publicly denied.

So, certainly, that it gives you the context. He said it privately but not publicly. This is the first time we're hearing it. But it does come on the day as you noted, earlier that this is the day that Bill Shine, that former co-president of Fox News has started at the White House.

Today was the first time we saw him on camera and it is a visual capacity as the new deputy chief of staff who was in charge of communications. He is here -- he is someone who is Roger Ailes -- one of his top aides at Fox News, he stepped down from Fox News last year because he was accused not of sexual harassment as Roger Ailes was, but accused of covering up for Roger Ailes.

Now, he has denied any wrongdoing but he was named in several lawsuits from people who said that he helped cover up some of the things that Roger Ailes did when he was at Fox News. So keep this in mind, Bill Shine was on Air Force One with the president as was Donald Trump Jr., the president son, also on the way to Montana tonight.

Now, I tweeted earlier remarking that Bill Shine was acting in his official capacity here at the White House. We saw him getting into the motorcade with the president as they are ready to depart earlier. And Donald Trump Jr. made a remark about my tweet saying, get ready, there's a media and the liberal side are going to start taking shots of Bill Shine. And you could only assume that is part of what that conversation that led to the president saying that tonight.

BERMAN: Interesting. All right, Steve Cortes, Trump supporter. Do you think that mentioning Me Too like this is a smart strategy?

STEVE CORTES, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I don't. I'm not sure why he did. I love him. Castigating Elizabeth Warren and her ridiculous claims to be an American-Indian because it's absurd and she should take a DNA test and the fact that she engages in whataboutism, right? She immediately answered his challenge. She immediately starts talking about the border which has nothing to do with that. I'd rather we just focus there.

I'd also like to say -- by the way, Bill Shine, who's already been a couple of times in this segment disparaged, is a friend of mine. He's an American patriot. He's an incredible master of media and messaging. I'm incredibly glad he's in the White House. He was never accused of any wrongdoing of any sexual harassment himself.

The fact that he was named in lawsuits -- by the way, some of those lawsuits named every person, you know, of any importance in Fox News. The fact that he was named in lawsuits, I think is hardly a conviction of him or his character and he's going to, I think, lead to a far better messaging White House from here forward.

BERMAN: Well, look, Kaitlan didn't rundown Bill Shine at all. She merely noted that he was on the plane. It is a statement of fact that he has been named in lawsuits there and it is a statement of fact that he was very much a big part of Fox News with a lot of those things were going on and people have lost their jobs and there has been, you know, mountains and mountains written about that. So be that as of may.

[21:10:11] Ambassador Eisen, to you here, look, we're talking about the midterm elections. We have seen the energy among women heading into the midterm elections. Do you think that that will carry the Democrats or are they going to need more than that?

NORMAN EISEN, BOARD CHAIR, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: Well, there's no question, John, that the power of women candidates, women winning these primaries, women turning out and voting, it has been a part of the mix. It's not by itself enough. An equal part of the story, as Rick noted is, the flight of college educated women from Donald Trump.

John, I think the revulsion of people across the American public for comments like the president made tonight are also going to play a role. What does Me Too, what does sexual harassment have to do with throwing a DNA kit across the stage? Nothing.

Clearly, the president was envisioning in that same twisted mind that gave us the "Access Hollywood" tape something entirely different and disgusting. That's a repellant. People of no gender like that even my friend Steve thinks he made a mistake and he did.

And, John, I'll tell you one other bizarre thing about the president's speech tonight, every word out of his mouth hit on one of his vulnerabilities because he also talked about DNA as Senator Warren pointed out. DNA has to be use because of this administration's unconstitutional and botched separation of parents from children to reunite them.

He talked about a million dollar gift to charity. He's been sued by the New York AG for fraudulent charitable activity that's going to trouble for the election. So I heard it as more of a confession than a campaign speech.

BERMAN: Rick Wilson, I want to ask you quickly about Scott Pruitt who will be soon no longer with this administration. I was speaking to Maggie Habberman last hour, she actually said it was Kaitlan Collins, who's sitting right above you right now, Kaitlan's reporting that Pruitt was pushing the president to fire Jeff Sessions to replace him with Scott Pruitt alongside CNN's Drew Griffin's reporting about changing some calendars that that was the straw, not the 14 previous investigations.

But this new reporting this week was enough to get the president and those people closest to him just tired of dealing with Scott Pruitt.

WILSON: Well, I think Kaitlan's reporting on that was very incisive and probably had an impact on this question. And I do think also that, you know, Scott Pruitt was sort of the clown prince of corruption in this administration. This was a guy who -- he act like he was in some third world kleptocracy and was trying to, you know, cash out as much as he possibly could the entire time but he finally cross the president's, you know, unspeakable line were causing more hassles than it was worth. And I find that, you know, look, the defenses of Scott Pruitt in this town, in D.C. that lasted for months and months, oh, he's doing all this great work, he's doing all these great things, you know. Those things -- all those people that were making those defenses had a chance over and over again to take a step away from Trump and didn't. So the fact that they're all sort of standing there with egg on their face is just hilarious to me.

And I do think that, you know, this idea that when you're in this much ethical trouble, you try to double down, and so make me the attorney general, the chief law enforcement officer of the United States, it's ludicrous. It was an absurd to me and Pruitt, you know, rip the whirlwind from it.

BERMAN: And, Steve Cortes, just to be clear, you think it was time for Scott Pruitt to grow here. You're not really crying any tears over this?

CORTES: Oh gosh, quite the opposite. No, I'm very happy. I said so yesterday on CNN and I've advised the president both publicly and privately that I thought Scott Pruitt was becoming an unnecessary distraction. I thought he had -- here's the shame of it from my perspective. I thought he did a great job at EPA. He did a wonderful job of deconstructing the administrative state, the weapon of the EPA had become against American business, particularly American small business, he did a great job there. But somehow, he was just so ethically challenged. He was so swamped that he couldn't get over himself.

And quite frankly, when we ran against the swamp, as we did in 2016, we have to be clear and clean, and he wasn't. And because of that, he needs to go. He did important work, but he -- it's good that he's gone.

BERMAN: Steve Cortes, Norman Eisen, Rick Wilson, Kaitlan Collins, thanks for sticking around. Kaitlan, thank you very much for your reporting.

Perspective next from David Axelrod. And ahead, as we touch on briefly already, the kids taken at the border, the man in charge of reuniting with her families is that how much progress he has made and the answer he gives is stunning. And later, the president is narrowing down the Supreme Court picks. We'll talk about the likely candidates.


[21:18:29] BERMAN: So Scott Pruitt is out at EPA. He is far from the first that apart this White House nor is he the first to leave under an ethical cloud, nor for that matter, is this the first departure to bring memories of one of candidate Trump's favorite campaign promises.


TRUMP: We're going to make America great again. We're going to use our best people. I'm going to get the best people.

We're going to deliver. We're going to get the best people in the world.

We don't want people that are B level, C level, D level. We have to get our absolute best.

We're going to use our smartest and our best. We're not using political hacks anymore.

It's a sophisticated gentleman (ph)

But I have the best people lined up.

You need people that are truly, truly capable. We have to get the best people.


BERMAN: Joining us now, one of our own best people, former Obama senior adviser, David Axelrod, host of "The Axe Files" here on CNN.

David, what is it say about this administration and this president that it took this long, these many scandals, 14 investigations before Pruitt resigned?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it says that ethics aren't a real big deal here and that should not be a surprise because everything flows from the top and when you have a president who is basically given the back of his hand to people who have asked to see his tax returns when you have his children on the White House staff making $78 million on the side.

And so I mean the message is very, which is take what you can get however you can get it, but don't become a political liability. And what Scott Pruitt did was he became a political liability because the -- his offenses were so legion and garnering so much coverage that it overshadowed everything else, including the things that he's done.

[21:20:12] I mean I have deep objections to what he's done at the EPA but a lot of people in the Republican base do not. They like it. Certainly, the donor base and the energy -- in the old energy community, they really like it, in the oil industry and so on -- in the coal industry.

But, you know, these stories became so, so pronounced and so outrageous that -- and maybe bordering on things that will lead him into a criminal situation that they just decided we have to cut the cord here.

BERMAN: Given all the things you just said, does this surprise you at all of president said it was all Pruitt's choice, in other words, no final straw here?

AXELROD: It may be one of those times when the president isn't being entirely candid with us about how the process came down. There is no doubt -- I mean he's been defending Pruitt and there's no doubt that a decision was made, either on the basis of knowledge about what may be coming down the pipe or on the basis of what we've already seen that this guy isn't worth the trouble anymore.

And, you know, Pruitt's made very clear that he likes the job and why wouldn't he like the job, this guy has security detail. He flies first-class. He sends his security guys around to find his favorite lotion at Posh Hotels and all that. But -- so I don't think that he just woke up and said, you know what, I don't think this is good for me. I think that he was told he had to go.

BERMAN: I haven't told by the way of his terrific lotion, by the way at the Ritz. So Pruitt may have been onto something when he was asking his security detail to drive him around so he could pick it up --

AXELROD: You hang around the more --

BERMAN: I haven't use this, I was -- I was actually told --


BERMAN: -- that it is something special, whether or not you should have your security detail drive you around to get it.


BERMAN: We're hearing tonight, David, that --

AXELROD: It is indeed.

BERMAN: -- White House officials are relieved. This is over. EPA insiders, they are relieved. This is over. Trump supporters. Those are even the ones who are part of our family here at CNN. Steve Cortes, I just spoke with, he's relieved.

AXELROD: Steve, yes.

BERMAN: He is relieved. This is over.



BERMAN: -- all the more surprising to me that it got at this point.

AXELROD: Yes. But I think there's only one -- you know, there's someone -- only one person who has 100% of the voting shares in that administration and that's the president. And I'm sure that he's watched on the channels that he watches and on sites that he sees. He sees a lot of praise for Pruitt or has. I mean some of them have flaked away recently.

And I think Pruitt -- my sense is that Pruitt had mastered the art of buttering up the boss, which gets you a long way in this administration. And I think that probably added some days to his tenure.

But if I were advising the president, if I were one of his political aides, his campaign people, people looking at the midterms and so on, I would be very happy that he's on his way back to Oklahoma.

BERMAN: And just lastly, David, if I can get you on one other subject we've been talking about just over the last hour, the president making a joke about the Me Too movement and Elizabeth Warren. We haven't heard it before. I don't know that we'll hear it again. The president has said a lot of controversial things before. Will this be potent going forward?

AXELROD: Well, I think -- I don't know that this will have that kind of endurance. But it reflects a mindset. I mean his basic mindset is let's party like it's the 1950s and that includes in terms of his attitudes toward women.

You haven't heard -- have you heard a full-throated statement of support from the president on the Me Too movement? When a lot of these stories broke particularly about his allies, he defended them against these charges.

So it's not that I think he was -- that was -- I said before I joked about he's not being candid, this was a place where I think he was very revealing. I don't think he thinks much of the Me Too movement and I think his general attitude toward women is going to be a problem for him particularly in some of these suburban districts that are going to be key to who controls the House after November.

BERMAN: David Axelrod, always great to have you with us. Thanks so much.

The secretary of Health and Human Services held a conference call with reporters today, the question is, did it do anything to clear up the confusion of just how many immigrant children are still separated from their parents and what the plan is to reunite them? The answer is next.


[21:27:58] BERMAN: Talk today from the Trump administration but not so much transparency about the thousands of migrant children taken from their parents under the president's zero tolerance border policy. HHS Secretary Alex Azar briefed reporters, when he was done talking, the parents, the public, still in the dark. He could not provide a precise number of children who have been separated from their parents as a result of zero tolerance by the U.S. government.

The administration has until next Tuesday to reunite the kids younger than 5 with their parents and until to 26 for the rest. But Secretary Azar had little to offer in the way of any details on how that is being implemented. However, he did give the total number of family reunifications that have taken place so far, the number is pretty stunning.

Miguel Marquez joins us now from the Federal Processing Center on the border in McAllen, Texas.

Miguel, exactly how many reunions have taken place?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, since the judge ordered the government to make those reunions, zero have taken place. They say that they are trying to scrub down the numbers and figure out where everybody is.

They do say that they know where these children are that under 3000 number today, the frustrating parties, they will not say how many of that 3000 were due to zero tolerance. How many were separated to zero tolerance.

The one thing they are saying is that those under 5s, they expect to make the judges order -- by the way, they blame the judge on all of these. They blame the courts for making this more complicated that needs to be. They're saying that those under 5s, they're moving, physically moving the parents to Texas to be close to their children. And then if they can't make fall and if they don't get out, they are going to be housed together in a location TBD, we believe it is a military base. El Paso, Texas, Fort Bliss where they will be house.

So that is the rough plan going forward. But as we've seen with at least these on off reunifications of individuals who have lawyers, who were able to make bond and get out, it is very, very complicated process. Every single one this is going to be difficult. John?

BERMAN: Miguel, what more are we learning from that call with Secretary Azar?

[21:30:03] 0MARQUEZ: Another thing he said is that they're going to use DNA testing. DNA testing because they need to speed the process up because of the judge's order. Typically, they would use documentation that the parents have to make those reunifications and ensure that the parents and the child have that relationship. But in this case, in some cases, they've gone to the parent for DNA and to the child for DNA so they can ensure that they are -- the parents are just correct. They say it will only be use for identification but clearly advocacy groups, lawyers and the immigrants themselves are quite concern about this. But these individuals they will do anything to speed that reunification with their children. John?

BERMAN: Miguel Marquez in McAllen, Texas. Miguel, great to see you, thanks so much.

Again, zero families unified so far based on last week's court order, zero. But as Miguel mentioned, there have been a handful of reunion's court order or those assisted by attorneys. In fact, there was one today in Boston between an 8-year-old and her mother reunion 55 days in the making. Our Polo Sandoval reports.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's been nearly two months since this little girl has seen her mother, Angelica Gonzalez- Garcia. The Guatemalan family was separated after illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border into Arizona. Today, were reunited in a Boston airport.

The mother and daughter were separated May 11th and taken to shelters in different states. She says "There was a moment when I thought I would never see her again because of what they told me when they took her. I would get on my knees every morning and pray to God while I too was detained. And I would pray with all of my heart.

Gonzalez-Garcia filed an asylum claim and was released on bond on June 19 but still hadn't seen her daughter in weeks. The ACLU helped her file a lawsuit that describes, "Unmitigated cruelty," saying an officer told her, "Happy Mother's Day" after saying her daughter would be taken away and she would never see her again.

Later on the phone, she says, her daughter described being hurt by another child and getting sick while still in the custody of the U.S. government.

"I would spend time thinking about long you would be," she says. "I wanted to go where she was. Even just to see her from a distance."

Amid tears of joy, a belated birthday gift from mom. The little girl turned 8 while in a Texas shelter.

"She is the reason I'm here" Gonzalez-Garcia says, "looking for a better life for her and myself." Gonzalez- Garcia lives in Massachusetts where she says she has built a support system for her and her little girl.

Belated birthday parties planned for tomorrow, a chance for mother and daughter to get their minds off the long and uncertain road to securing asylum.


BERMAN: So Polo Sandoval joins us now. Polo, do we know why this reunification took so long? Why did it take almost two months for this mother to get her daughter back?

SANDOVAL: A couple of reasons for that, John. There's the complicated paperwork that took a very long time. If it come together there's also of course the red tape, miles of it. And then of course the lack of clarity coming from the U.S. government, on how exactly these kinds of reunifications are supposed to happen. That being said, this woman also had a lot of support behind her. She had her attorney, she had the ACLU, she had some lawmakers as well to make this happen. Next step for her will be to try to secure that asylum status to so that you can stay here in the United States.

John, she knows that it's not going to be easy especially under new guidelines issued by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. But you know what, she says that's OK as long as she has her little girl by her side. John, as she put it to me today, is that she got her life back.

BERMAN: It's a lovely picture to see the two of them back together. Polo Sandoval, thanks so much.

A lot more to get to tonight, including who may be on the very short list for the next nomination of the Supreme Court. That's next.


[21:37:51] BERMAN: As we reported last hour, President Trump is telling reporters he has narrowed down his choices for the soon-to-be vacant Supreme Court sit down to two or three. The only thing that seems safe to say at this point is whoever he select will delight Republicans and anger Democrats. Here to discuss, Joan Biskupic and A. B. Stoddard.

So, Joan explain the front matters. At this point there appear to be three.

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT: OK, sure, John. Good to be with you. First we have Brett Kavanaugh who's 53 years old, he sits right here in Washington D.C and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He's somebody who's been part of the Washington establishment since the George H. W. Bush administration. And then he was a top lawyer with George W. Bush, who also put him on the D.C. Circuit. I think he's the man to beat right now, but as I've said, there's also woman to beat right and that would Amy Coney Barrett.

But let me -- before I get to her, let me tell you who I think might be second, man by the name of Raymond Kethledge, who sits on the Sixth Circuit base in Michigan. Like Brett Kavanaugh, he was a law clerk to retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, so there would be a bit of passing the baton here.

And he was also put on the Appeals Court by George W. Bush. He's got the advantage of being out beyond the beltway. His law degree is from the University of Michigan. And as we've talked, the president likes to say he's naming someone with a leak credentials and that certainly is Brett Kavanaugh who went to Yale.

And then finally, just to close the loop on the three, it's Judge Amy Coney Barrett who president Trump put on the six -- pardon me, the Seventh Circuit base in Chicago last fall. And she was -- she's a former Notre Dame Law professor who's very interesting story. She'd only be the fifth woman on the court. She has seven children. She's someone who would bring more diversity to the bench but who knows what --

BERMAN: Right.

BISKUPIC: -- Donald Trump will settle on.

BERMAN: So, A.B., the politics of this right now and we're talking really just the politics inside the Republican Party seems to be Brett Kavanaugh and not Brett Kavanaugh.

[21:40:08] There is some pushback in some circles because Kavanaugh was close to the Bushes here. But do you really think that that any Republican would vote against him if he did end up the nominee?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, REACLEARPOLITICS: No, John. That would -- you're right. I mean the timing is get all the pressure as soon as you can before he actually settles on a choice. And then they're all going to support the nominee of course.

But there's a lot of joking still up through into this weekend, heavy push by senators and the Heritage Foundation for Senator Mike Lee. And also a little bit of a (INAUDIBLE) conservative circles about whether or not Kethledge would be better on immigration than Kavanaugh.

This is really an interesting thing breaking into camps. Everyone trying to be the last person obviously in the president's ear about who would be a better choice and who's a secret liberal. But I imagine that everyone is going to come around to the ultimate choice no matter what.

BERMAN: Joan, very quickly the president had a chance to meet with these people. How important are these meetings typically?

BISKUPIC: Very important, John. I have known president to stay on the spot because of the chemistry with an individual. It can be a make or break situation because it's the opportunity for the nominee to sell himself or sell herself. And if the chemistry is not there the nomination won't be there either.

BERMAN: And, A.B., we talk about these choices but I think one thing is pretty clear for them to be on this list to begin with that was put together by the federal society. It's pretty clear that at the state that they would vote for instance to overturn Roe versus Wade if it does come to that down the road.

STODDARD: You know, John, you're right. I think this whole debate about what's going to happen to Roe and how, you know, someone like Susan Collins, a pro-choice Republican senator, he said she's not going to pick someone who's been, you know, disdainful of Roe. I don't think a lot of these people have had to made comments specifically about that case during their career to be a justice likely to vote with the majority to overturn it.

So that whole debate is sort of interesting about what kind of guarantees you get before a choice is made. There are none. I mean this is going to be a conservative choice chosen by the federal society, a long list that pleased evangelical and social conservatives and they knew this going in. It was a promise to be delivered by President Trump but I think most of them are all going to end up voting pretty much the same way.

BERMAN: All right, A.B. Stoddard and Joan Biskupic. Announcement Monday night, primetime 9:00 p.m. between now and then, nothing but loving. Appreciate it.

All right, coming up for us, I'm going to speak with the conservative who says he has had it with President Trump and wants Democrats to control Congress in November. Also Republican who would seem, safe to say, will never do that.


[21:46:59] BERMAN: A one time Republican is now going one step beyond leaving the party over his direction and the election of President Trump. Is Max Boot, who has just written about it in the "Washington Post". I spoke with Max as well as Paris Dennard, a Republican who was definitely not abandoning ship just before the broadcast.


BERMAN: So, Max, you wrote that the Republican Party used to be "A conservative party with a white nationalist fringe, now it's a white nationalist party with a conservative fringe." Can you explain what you meant by that?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I think that Donald Trump has really transformed the Republican Party. And this is certainly not the party that I grew up within the 1980s, under Ronald Reagan. It's not the party of Mitt Romney or John McCain or some of the other Republicans, including some that I worked for. Donald Trump has really made this into European style, nationalist party, sort of a like the national front in France.

He has made deaminization of immigrants a key part of his agenda, and he began his campaign in 2015 by calling Mexican immigrants rapists and murders and more recently he's been referring to Latin American immigrants as animals who breed and using all these other dehumanizing terminology. He's been, you know, for a while he was trying to separate families, and lock children of newly arrived immigrants in cages.

You know, he has catered to racism, for example vilifying African- American, NFL players who kneel during the anthem, to protest, police brutality, praising life supremacist, protesters in Charlottesville, and on and on and on. We all know the examples and I think it's really just transform the Republican Party, because the Republican Party has never said, no we refute what Donald Trump is doing.

In fact the Republican Party is following in line behind him and to me the most dismay statistic I've seen recently is the fact that while two-thirds of Americans denounce the barbaric and inhumane family separation policy, the majority of Republicans supported it. This is not the Republican Party I grew up with. This is not the Republican Party I want to belong to.

BERMAN: Paris, what's your response when you hear people like Max? And he's not alone, there were other (INAUDIBLE) who have now left the party.

PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think that, you know, Max is actually just spouts out a lot of falsehoods in his mischaracterization of President Trump and his positions. But, I will say, that for every establishment --

BOOT: Can you name one falsehood from what I've just said? Can you name one falsehood in what I just said? You accuse me of falsehood.


BOOT: Can you please list those falsehoods toward me? DENNARD: I sure will, Max --

BOOT: Yes.

DENNARD: -- the first one --

BOOT: He's not catering to racism and xenophobia, is that a falsehood?

DENNARD: So, Max, the first falsehood that you said was that the president referred to Hispanics as animals. I think that what he was talking about and was specifically talking about was these MS13 gang members. I don't care where they come from --

BOOT: No, that's his cover story, was far from -- it was far from clear that he was referring MS13. He uses dehumanizing terminology to refer to immigrants. It's not just --

DENNARD: But I -- I think -- I think --

BOOT: -- animals. He also says they are fast and breed. That is -- that is the kind of language that ethnic cleansers have used in the past. That is a fact. That is not a falsehood.

[21:50:08] BERMAN: Paris?

DENNARD: So, I can go on, but I'm going to use my time to talk about things that I think are --

BOOT: No, we're having --


BOOT: I want to hear a falsehood, give me a falsehood.


BOOT: You accuse me of falsehood, give me a falsehood.

DENNARD: The president did not -- did not talk about all Hispanics are -- people coming across the border --

BOOT: Yes, he did just --

DENNARD: He did not call all them racist.

BOOT: Yes, he said. He said they are stunning as a rapists and murders on a few good people. That's what he said in announcing his presidential campaign.

DENNARD: Right, I think --

BOOT: You can't change the record. You can look it up.

DENNARD: First of all, Max, I watched it live. I understand exactly what the president said. But -- BOOT: You're not characterizing it then, because I characterize it

completely accurate.

DENNAR: Max, let me say something, this isn't your show. So you --

BOOT: No, you accuse me of falsehood and you have not listed a single falsehood that I committed.

DENNARD: I did Max, I listed two, but --

BOOT: No, you did -- you did not.

DENNARD: I did -- I did, Max. But here's the point, for every leaders and establishment type under Massachusetts --

BOOT: You did not list a single falsehood.

DENNARD: -- that chooses to leave the party, there are more and more people that look like me unless that Max who are actually joining the party and that actually like what President Trump stands for and likes the leadership that RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel are doing with their -- with her lead right initiative. They've had since September over 800 some add African-Americans join in on the events that they have.

And they had a specific event -- things that they're doing in Florida, with respect to Puerto Ricans with over 3,000 people who have signed up and have been engage, you know, direct engagement with what's going on. People come up to me all the time.

BOOT: Come on get serious.


BOOT: That will be low approval ratings among Latinos and African- Americans. Get this.

DENNARD: Well, actually when you -- when Max, when you talk --

BOOT: His approval rating among the entire population is only about 40%.

DENNARD: Max, if you let me speak so that American people can hear what I have to say, it'd be greatly appreciated. So, when you look at what the president has done when he was running this campaign, Max mentioned it is not the party of McCain or Romey, well in actuality, he did better amongst African-Americans, getting 8% of the vote than McCain and Romney.

And so this is the party that I have been a part of since I was 17 years old. This is the party that I know, this is the party that has embrace me, and this is the party that continues to stand for things that are positive, that are building this country and making America great again and people are responding to it.

So, Max, you can leave and that's fine, but more people that look like me and people that look like you, people that have been forgotten are signing on to his message. That's why thousands are standing in line right now since six in the morning to see him at a rally in Montana, because they are responding to his positive message. They are people who have jobs. They are people who have been forgotten that are no longer forgotten. And they appreciate his message.

And -- so, Max, I appreciate your time in the party. I wish that you would stay and fight like my grandfather's dad. He told me before he passed, he said, Paris, I don't like your party and I don't agree with a lot of your party does. But I love you and I think you should stay and you should fight for what you believe in inside of the Republican Party, because the party will be better with you in it, fighting for things that we care about than you outside of it.

So, Max, when you want to come on back, the door is always open.

BERMAN: All right, Max, Paris, thanks so much for being with us. I do appreciate your time.

DENNARD: Thank you.

BOOT: Thank you.


BERMAN: Coming up next, rescuers in Thailand facing growing challenges to free those 12 boys and their coach trap deep inside a flooded cave. There are health and weather complications setting back the effort. We're live on the scene with the latest for you in just a moment.


[21:57:26] BERMAN: Thirteen days, that's how long 13 members of a Thai soccer team who have been trapped in a cave, their story being followed around the world. Rescuers have not decided on a plan yet on how to get the 12 boys and their coach out. Time of course, so crucial as weather as suppose to be taking a turn for the worst.

Let's get an update now from CNN's Matt Rivers on the state. Matt, what's the latest?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. Yes, last hour we were talking to you a little bit about the preferred plan for authorities here, which would involve reducing the water level in the cave so that kids could actually walk out.

And this is kind of what that looks like. So these pipes right here, that's the end of the system of pumps that they've been installed. If you follow those pipes all the way down there you can see where they drilled down into the well for days now, nonstop, 24 hour a day, water has been pulled out of this cave and this is where it's coming out to.

So the hope here is that they can pull enough water out of the cave so that the kids can walk out, because the kids are tired, they're exhausted, some of them don't know how swim, none of them have any scuba driving experience and the other options here is that they can't walk out. They might have to swim out, use scuba equipment in what could be a dive, even for an experienced driver could be incredibly treacherous. Let alone for exhausted teenagers, some are even younger than that, who had never scuba dived in their life.

So this is what rescuers are doing here but they're really facing this very short window as you mentioned right off the top there, John, the weather is expected to get worst. And so all this work here, pumping out all that water. It could all be for not if the skies open up here and flood that cave again.

BERMAN: You know, sun shining right now, we can see it but rain expected by Monday. Matt, quickly, we've also seen trying to lay some wires to establish communications with the children inside the cave, what's the latest on that?

RIVERS: Yes, no luck yet in terms of establishing a communication line for the people in the cave. Of course, they want the kids to be able to their parents from a wire (ph) but they also want real time updates from the kids who are exhausted and they want to be able to know exactly what's going on there.

It's hard to get back there to see where they are. It takes the experienced divers sometimes hours just to reach the kids. So there's a two-fold reason for getting those communication lines in there. We know that's a priority for rescuers today as they really now have to make a very crucial decision, how are they going to move forward here. Do they get enough water out in time for the kids to walk out, or are they face with a much more treacherous risky option, John.

BERMAN: We see the pumps working, we also see the weather forecast, but again is rain for Monday, that will force a decision. Some time in the next couple of days, will they try to get them out via the water, whether they can walk or swim remains to be seen.

[22:00:01] Matt Rivers, thanks so much for being with us.

And thank you all for watching "AC360". The CNN Original Series, The Seventies starts right now.