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Trump to Make Supreme Court Pick; DNA Testing of Immigrants; Preparations to Evacuate Trapped Boys; Pruitt Reshaping EPA. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired July 5, 2018 - 06:30   ET



[06:33:10] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Sources tell CNN President Trump is expected to make a final decision on a Supreme Court nominee today or tomorrow before unveiling his choice in prime time on Monday night. It comes as there's an aggressive lobbying campaign to influence the president's pick.

I want to bring in CNN political analyst April Ryan and Jackie Kucinich.

Jackie, there's really an intermural battle going on right now among the conservative wing of the Republican Party. It really does feel like it's Brett Kavanaugh versus Amy Coney Barrett. And, look, let's face it, it's like rooting for both the Red Sox and the Yankees. They can't lose. The conservatives can't lose here, but it does seem like it's split into two camps, Jackie.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It really does. You have the more -- let's call them the establishment folks really rallying around Brett Kavanaugh. He's a known quantity. He has a bulk of work. But, as you pointed out the last bloc, a lot of conservatives don't think he's conservative enough and prefer Amy Coney Barrett.

But to your point, the last time I can remember that conservatives really rallied around a nominee, that had been picked, though the president actually nominated was Harriet Miers, and that's because she -- back in the Bush years -- and that's because she had given money to Democrats and had some unfavorable, if you were a conservative, views on abortion. You're not going to have that issue with these picks. If they're on the Federalist Society's list, they're pretty much good to go on a lot of the things conservatives care about.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: But, John, I'm interested in all the back room dealings and the lobbying that's happening of President Trump.


CAMEROTA: So, people are very invested in this -- obviously, in this personal pick. And so there's all sorts of phone calls being made.

AVLON: Oh, there is a flurry of last-minute lobbying. And this president likes stirring that pot. He likes the conjecture. This really is a reality show framework for selecting a Supreme Court justice.

Kavanaugh really does have not only the support of Don McGahn, the White House counsel, apparently, but has the plus of being establishment along with a record of juris prudence, as Jackie K. pointed out. But also very tight with the Bush administration. Served as staff secretary.

[06:35:13] CAMEROTA: And is that a downside?

AVLON: That is a downside for Donald Trump.

However, he also has a lot of legal writings and a very expansive vision of executive privilege and power.


AVLON: So that is a very good thing for Donald Trump, potentially, if you're going to skate to where the puck's going with regard to some of these scandals if they go to the Supreme Court.

Amy Coney Barrett, central casting, social conservative. And also Tom Hardiman, who was the second -- the second choice last time around, served on the circuit court with Donald Trump's sister, has a great personal story, but seems to have been sort of snubbed this time around.

BERMAN: If he wants to create the biggest stir, April, and that's something we have seen with this president, Amy Coney Barrett does seem to check those boxes. A deeply devote Catholic. Allegedly a member -- a member of a group called People of Praise, which I think a lot of people have focused on, and she had a contentious hearing with Democrats, Dianne Feinstein, when she was getting approved for the appeals court.


BERMAN: This is something I think the president could look at and say, this would put Democrats in a jam.

RYAN: Well, yes and no. I mean when you say biggest star, you know, the top -- the top four people include a woman as well as a minority. And, right now, you never know what this president is thinking.

But when it comes to Amy Comey Barrett, she's a woman in she's in her 40s. And the president wants someone who's 40 to 45 years. I mean, she's young. She's someone that he wants. she's someone that he picked for the U.S. Appeals Court and she's been confirmed. I mean if you really want to create a stir, I would think it would be a woman or a minority versus the white men that are -- that are in the top tier.

But who knows. This president has a couple of days to mull back and forth, and he's known to change his mind. But right now it looks like Amy Comey Barrett is one of the top contenders for this position.

CAMEROTA: OK, next topic.

Jackie, as you know there are some 2,000 plus children who are still separated from their parents because of that zero tolerance policy of separating them at the border. We have been asking for weeks, what is the mechanism, what's the process for reuniting them after the president signed the order saying they should be reunited, or at least no longer separated, and we've never gotten any answers.

Today, the first hint -- OK, the first clue about what they're doing, and that is that a federal official tells -- confirms to CNN that they are DNA testing the children and the parents to try to make matches. This is what it comes to. They have to swab their cheeks to try to figure out who belongs to whom because so many of the kids are too young to be able to explain anything or they don't speak English. It's a mess. So now there's this DNA testing.

KUCINICH: And those are the parents they can find. Some of these parents have been deported. They're back in their home countries and the government can't locate them. You're right, this is a complete mess. The fact that they have to go to DNA testing. I mean at least they're doing that, right? At least they're trying to get these families bac together.

But you're absolutely right, the face that they have to go to that length just shows what a mess this is, what -- how ham-handed it was from the very beginning. And, frankly, we need to keep asking those questions to make sure that the folks that can be reunited are reunited and hold those accountable who have made it so that you can -- that some of these people cannot be reunited.

BERMAN: It seems to me a de facto admission that they have no idea where the -- you know, how to match the kids with their parents. They need to go to DNA testing there, April. A de facto admission that they had no plan when they separated these children from their parents, which, in fact, we know from admissions and reporting they didn't.

RYAN: Yes, right. And Jackie's absolutely right, to go to DNA to prove -- I mean and there are -- there are some concerns that some of the people that they walked across the border with are not necessarily their parents. It could be uncles, what have you. But, still, to go to this. And to understand when they came up with this. When this administration came up with this zero tolerance policy, they didn't care. It was about showing teeth. If you cross the border, we're going to separate you, period, end of story, and you're going to be in our system.

They had no plans to reserve it until the public outcry. But at least they are trying. The question is, will these kids be able to be reunified with their parents?


RYAN: And there will be some that may not be able to. And this is going to cause a major crisis and an outcry in this nation and globally.

AVLON: Well, and, remember, they're under a court order to reunite them. They have to make their best (INAUDIBLE) ever.

CAMEROTA: The clock is ticking.

AVLON: The clock is ticking, but the fact, you know --

RYAN: But what if you can't find any?




RYAN: But what if you can't find them?

CAMEROTA: Yes, absolutely.

AVLON: And they did not set themselves up to succeed here as a matter of policy. And I think John Berman's exactly right, you know, the fact they're going to DNA testing is an admission that they don't have a plan to --

CAMEROTA: OK, but here's how they explain it. We have a U.S. federal official unnamed who says why they're doing it. The safety and security is paramount and it is not uncommon for children to be trafficked or smuggled by those claiming to be their parents. To our knowledge this is a check swab and it's being done to expedite parental verification and ensure reunification with verified parents due to child welfare concerns.

[06:40:20] OK. So, I mean, that's the -- that's the best --

BERMAN: But that's not why they separated --

CAMEROTA: No, of course not. (INAUDIBLE). Of course not.

BERMAN: That's not why they separated them. They're now --

KUCINICH: And not all of these people crossed the border illegally as well. We should -- we should mention that.

AVLON: That's right.

KUCINICH: Some of these people were asylum seekers.

AVLON: That's right.


KUCINICH: And were still separated from their parents -- the parents and children were still separated.

CAMEROTA: Right. And they went to proper ports of entry.

RYAN: But, you know what -- yes. But you know -- but here's a big question, too. Once you have these kids who have this cheek swab, you have their DNA, and you still can't find the parents, you're going to have to start dealing with other governments. And has our relationship soured with Mexico and other countries to be able to say, let's reunify these kids with their parents who could be in those other countries? So there is a conundrum beyond just this moment. This reunification effort is going to take a long time. It's going to be painstaking. And it's not simple. And we're going to look so bad to the world community when there are kids out here who we cannot find parents of. And what are we going to do with them? This is not a good look for this country or this president.

CAMEROTA: April Ryan, Jackie Kucinich, we will stay on it every day, as we have been. Thank you both.

OK, now, another story that we're staying on, and that is the boys who are trapped in the Thai cave. What's happening with their rescue? Are they any closer to a plan to get these boys out? We have a live report from the scene.


[06:45:20] BERMAN: Rescue teams have come up with an evacuation plan to free those boys trapped in a cave in Thailand in case of a flood. The announcement comes as weather concerns continue to hamper a variety of rescue operations.

Our David McKenzie live in Thailand with the latest.

David, what's the current situation?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the situation is dire for these young boys who have been stuck there for now more than 12 days.

I want to show you the scene here, John.

Good morning.

You know, there have been people coming in and out of this control point all day. Specialist divers, an Australian dive team was in there earlier. You see the Thai police holding guard here, making sure that no one gets in there who isn't supposed to be here.

The latest plans they have, John, is they're trying to desperately pump the water out of these chambers, about an inch an hour it's receding. That's the good news.

The bad news, John, is that the rain could be coming and it could be coming soon. And when it does, they face the horrible prospect of the water flooding back into where those young boys are and creating a whole nother disaster for them. So they have that plan in place, placing face masks on and pulling them through with highly specialized divers through these tiny, zero visibility channels to get them out.

You know, giving you some perspective. In this mountain behind me, it takes 11 hours, John, to get to those boys and back out by specialist teams. Imagine the prospect of someone who cannot swim, who's been stuck there. The latest news is that a doctor's assessment, according to a source, says that today it's too dangerous to get them out. At least three of them, including the coach, in a bad way health wise, they've deteriorated, we think, since they last accessed that group and that's the other factor here.

You know, the world, the nation, is watching this rescue so closely. They want to make sure it goes off without a hitch. But the options are really not that great.

Finally, I just want to tell you one more thing. In the mountain behind me, teams are looking for chambers to get down to the boys and pull them out by another means, which would be effectively climbing them out. That would be a better option. But right now options are limited and no resolution yet for these boys who have been stuck there.


BERMAN: Yes, David McKenzie for us in Thailand. So far you get the sense that things have been calm and calculated, but if it starts to rain hard, they're going to be faced with questions and questions very, very quickly and they may have to do something they're not comfortable with.

CAMEROTA: Because the dive expert that we talked to yesterday said that right now the situation is stable, so they have time to figure out all of these different possible exit routes. But from what David McKenzie was saying, with their health deteriorating, it -- the clock is ticking. I mean it is really nerve-racking, the thought that they are getting worse while they're down there and getting weaker and they won't be able to (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: It's a five and a half hour swim for them, for the kids. An 11 hour round trip for the divers who might go in to rescue them. At least five or six hours for those kids to swim out.


CAMEROTA: That's incredible.

AVLON: It's such a visceral fear and there was such relief and when the rallying around was -- when the kids were found, but we are a long way from wellville (ph) here.

CAMEROTA: All right, so, obviously, we will check in every hour with David McKenzie to see what's happening there.

Meanwhile, this story. Despite EPA Chief Scott Pruitt's countless ethical violations, he's continuing to do a lot of work behind the scenes, furthering his agenda of dismantling environmental protections. We'll tell you what's going on.


[06:52:49] CAMEROTA: As embattled EPA Chief Scott Pruitt faces a seemingly endless list of ethical scandals, he's also reshaping the Environmental Protection Agency in a very big way.

Joining us now to talk about all of this, we have CNN political commentators Joe Lockhart and Jason Miller.

Gentlemen, thanks so much for being here.

Jason, I think that sometimes we get so stunned by the jaw-dropping, ethical scandals that Pruitt is involved in that we don't look behind the scenes at what he's doing despite all of these ethical scandals. So let's just put up -- and these are just a couple of things that have happened on his watch in just a little more than a year.

He has repealed Obama's clean power plan to limit pollution from power plants. Number two, canceled an Obama era order that energy companies must provide information on the methane emissions from their drilling operations. Number three, delayed an Obama era rule requiring those plants to release inventories of the chemicals in stock. The reason that's important is for first responders. If there's ever an accident, it would be helpful to have that information so first responders knew what they were up against. Number four, he has not enforced the Obama era rule to limit smog. Number five, refused to ban pesticides that can damage the nervous system and will now allow farm workers younger than 18 to apply those pesticides.

Jason, are you comfortable with all of that stuff happening behind the scenes?


Some of those items that you put up on the screen I can't speak directly to as I'm not an EPA insider so to speak. There are certain moves that Administrator Pruitt and the EPA have made that I am a big fan of, such as withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Accord. I also think revising the definition of the waters of the United States, which might sound like kind of an amorphous (ph) thing or kind of an odd thing to most people at home. But for farmers and ranchers and a lot of people around the country, they do think that's a big deal.


MILLER: And I do think that the EPA should get a lot of credit for their post hurricane work to make sure that we don't have follow up disasters with a number of these super fun (ph) sites and these brown field (ph) cites and things like that. And so I think some of the items you put up I can't really speak to, but I know they've done a lot of -- a lot of good work.

CAMEROTA: I know. I hear you, but I like what you're saying about what you like. That's helpful to know the stuff that you like. But since this is -- these are facts, are you -- how can anybody like the idea of moving against limiting smog? Who's a fan of smog? I mean why go to that extent?

[06:55:14] So, in other words, yes, he's looked at some regulations, but there's other things that just don't make any sense. Allowing children under 18 to be exposed to these harmful pesticides? I mean how can anybody be in favor of that?

MILLER: Well, I think one of the important things to point out here is that the EPA has an entire system that they go through when they're deregulating a number of provisions that are on the books, whether it be from previous administrations or from Capitol Hill legislation. And one of the big focuses of this administration has been to try to get government out of the way as much as possible while making sure that we have clean air, clean water, things like that. And so -- and go put up this entire list of things but -- and leave out a lot of the positive things I think the EPA is doing. But the full growth (ph) deregulation effort --

CAMEROTA: Well, you're explaining the policy things (ph). But I think that it is important to talk about the things that are really most troublesome for people who focus on the environment.

Joe, how do you see it?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think public service is not about being the chief corporate lobbyist for industries that make money off of not disclosing these things and polluting the environment. So what we've got here is we've got sort of two levels of corruption. There's personal corruption that Mr. Pruitt -- I don't think we've ever seen, you know, a swampier cabinet official. And it's striking that it's -- he's like a small-time drifter with all the things to do. Everything from making the government go out and buy his moisturizer, to making -- you know, trying to leverage his position to get his wife a job. It goes -- the list goes on and on and on.

But there's a much broader issue here. And the examples you used, I think, are telling. He's basically doing the industry's work to say, the public doesn't have a right to know what these industries are doing. The public does have a right to know. These things were long settled, you know, 50 years ago that we are committed to clean water, clean air around the country. And we're trying to roll back to a -- sort of a pre-1970s period, which is just wrong.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Hey, Jason, one of the things that I read there, he canceled the 2016 order that energy companies provide information on methane emissions from drilling operations. That's not -- that's not even rolling back a regulation. That's just information. Isn't information good? Don't you want to know this stuff?

MILLER: Well, no, information is very important. And I think also if you, again, speak with a lot of ranchers and farmers, and also, you know, a lot of businesses and industry folks around the country, they'd say, what we've seen over the past several decades is an EPA that's basically become a monster in its own. Where it's become this agency where you'll literally have inspection folks that will go around to farms and point at a puddle and say, this is now a wetland or this is now a waterway and --

CAMEROTA: Yes. I've read those -- I've read those anecdotes. But do you see this as just a correction. Do you think that Scott Pruitt is just correcting for what you thinks was over regulation or do you see some of these things as pernicious? MILLER: Well, again, if I went through every single decision, I'd

imagine there are probably some that I'm not as big of a fan of. But I know this overall effort to deregulate what they're doing at the EPA I think is a good thing. I think it's become -- it's gotten way out of control and I like this overall statistic.


MILLER: The fact that they're getting rid of 22 regulations for every new one that they're putting in. I think this is what a lot of people voted for in 2016 when they thought the government's got too big and out of control.

CAMEROTA: I do too, but details matter. I mean details matter. When you just say, oh, there was 22 regulations, maybe that was too many.

MILLER: Well, I mean, Alisyn --

CAMEROTA: That (INAUDIBLE) about smog. We don't need more smog.

MILLER: Well, right. And so, I mean, Alisyn, if we're playing the same thing, if we're going to go in and cherry pick a particular item, I mean, do you disagree with me with revising the rulemaking on waters of the United States?

CAMEROTA: Listen, this is the point, is that we need to look at the details, the facts, because if you just speak in broad terms, I don't like regulation, let's do away with regulation, that might sound satisfying on some level, but then when you find out that it's exposing kids under 18 to pesticides that have caused nerve damage, suddenly the regulation seems kind of good.

Joe, question, do you think -- do you feel like Scott Pruitt or President Trump is doing this just to roll back things that President Obama did or ideologically they really believe in these things?

LOCKHART: Well, I think the precedent has shown a penchant to be for anything that Obama was against and be for and try to roll back anything. And we're now, you know, a year and a half into his term and you would think he'd find a more ideologically based construct to make decisions.

[06:59:44] But I -- you know, I think the important thing here is that I think ideologically the president believes, whatever the industry wants, we should do. And we had that in our country. And we had that in our country 50 years ago. And we developed a bipartisan consensus in the late '60s and early '70s to protect our water, to protect our air. There were cities you couldn't breathe in. Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, that are now model cities, and it's -- and it's -- and it's a scandal -- I scandal that that's all being