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Rescue of Trapped Boys Unlikely in the Next 24 Hours; Diving Experts Explain Dangers of Trying to Lead Boys to Safety; Secretary Mike Pompeo Arrives in North Korea for Talks on Denuclearization; Former Coal Lobbyist to be Acting Head of EPA. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired July 6, 2018 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: -- hours. We'll take you live to the scene to tell you why.


HILL: Breaking news for you. CNN learning the rescue of those 12 boys and their coach trapped in a cave in Thailand unlikely to happen in the next 24 hours. I guess it is simply too dangerous. This after a former Thai Navy SEAL died trying to get supplies to those boys overnight.

CNN international correspondent David McKenzie is outside that cave site in northern Thailand where we can only imagine tensions must be even higher at this point.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Erica. And the pressure is rising on these teams to find a solution to get these 12 boys out and their coach who have been stuck there for more than two weeks.

[10:34:05] Now that news coming from a Thai Navy source saying it's too dangerous right now to try and get those boys out. Particularly sourcing that they need to find a few more wet suits thick enough for those boys and to fit them. It sounds trite, but it's an important factor to protect them as they bring them through those cold waters, potentially, for hours. They say it's unlikely to happen. That could be overruled by the group commanding this search and rescue in the coming hours. We don't know.

Another important factor, the oxygen levels in that dark cave where these boys are sitting, they have had to reduce the number of Thai rescue workers sitting, helping, making sure those boys are safe and relatively healthy because those oxygen levels have dipped to dangerous levels in the past few days.

All punctuated by the death, Erica, of this former Navy SEAL diver who was taking ironically oxygen to the boys and died on the way back out of that cave. But the clock is ticking. They say the window for this rescue will be closing in the coming days. So we expect that if they move, they could move still pretty soon -- Erica.

HILL: All right. We'll continue to watch for more on that. David, appreciate it. Thank you. Pressure is understandably mounting as we just heard from David in

terms of an evacuation plan. Gary Tuchman actually went along with a team of cave divers for a preview of those treacherous conditions that the divers are facing in Thailand.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): I walk in 40- degree water with two of the preeminent cave divers in the United States. Sgt. Wendell Nope is the trainer of the Utah Department of Public Safety Dive Team. Richard Lam is a civilian who is part of the team.

We're in northern Utah's Logan Canyon at a cave system geographically similar to the cave in Thailand where the young boys and coach are trapped, and it's similar to other ways, too.

SGT. WENDELL NOPE, TRAINER, UTAH DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY DIVE TEAM: This cave is flooded with snowmelt water. The cave in Thailand is flooded with monsoon water.

TUCHMAN: Both men begin their scuba voyage into the cave with our cameras to give us a look at the dangers and show us why you absolutely never do anything like this without diving certification. Just getting into this nearly half-mile long cave system requires squeezing through a narrow tunnel. And this is not the narrowest tunnel they will face. Waters that go as deep as 90 feet.

(On camera): Are you scared sometimes when you go in a cave like this?

NOPE: I have at times been afraid when something unexpected happens.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Something unexpected includes equipment failure, changes in water depth, and falling rocks and boulders that could leave you trapped.

RICHARD LAM, CIVILIAN MEMBER, UTAH DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY DIVE TEAM: My greatest fear is running out of air before I make it out of the cave. The truth is, I have been stuck in this cave.

TUCHMAN: Stuck for about six minutes, Richard Lam says. It crossed his mind that he was in serious trouble. He was rescued by Sergeant Nope.

To become cave diver certified, one of the requirements is that must be at least 18 years old due to the difficulty in skill needed, which raises yet another concern for those boys in Thailand, some as young as 11, and several who can't swim.

NOPE: In my perception it's a last resort. But it is a viable means of providing them an escape route.

TUCHMAN (on camera): If it's the only resort.

NOPE: If it's the only resort. TUCHMAN (voice-over): Officials in Thailand are pumping water out of

the caves around the clock. A much better option, says this master diver.

NOPE: I believe if the rain were to subside enough that the pumps could draw enough water out of the cave, that would be an optimal scenario.

TUCHMAN (on camera): This frigid watery cave is so inherently dangerous that we've been told that more people have walked on the moon than have navigated through this. Our two experts tell us, in addition to themselves, they know of only five other people who have gone through here.

(Voice-over): The circumstances for the boys and their soccer coach in Thailand remain life-threatening and extremely challenging. But these Utah experts have faith in their diving colleagues on the scene.

NOPE: When a human being is faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, we seem to rise to that challenge.

TUCHMAN: Gary Tuchman, CNN, Logan Canyon, Utah.


HILL: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in North Korea for a third time looking for assurances that Kim Jong-un will take steps to dismantle his nuclear stockpile. Even Secretary Pompeo, though, now dialing back expectations of what will come out of these latest meetings.


[10:44:00] HILL: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in North Korea right now, there to get Leader Kim Jong-un to hopefully agree to some concrete steps toward denuclearization. There's no word on exactly when the meeting with Kim will happen. It is likely to be, though, tomorrow, we're told.

This morning, Pompeo spent nearly three hours huddling with several North Korean officials. CNN's Asia-Pacific editor Andrew Stevens joins us now live from Seoul.

So this is Pompeo's third trip to North Korea, Andrew. How confident is the Trump administration at this point that he'll actually be able to get Kim Jong-un to commit to some specifics here in terms of dismantling that arsenal?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN ASIA-PACIFIC EDITOR: If you listen to Donald Trump, Erica, he remains supremely confident that Kim Jong-un is serious about his intent to denuclearize on the Korean peninsula. But others are less confident.

As you say, Mike Pompeo had a meeting this morning or this afternoon, actually, with Kim Jong-un's number two. That meeting went for two and three-quarter hours. We don't know what came out of that meeting. But Pompeo has been dialing back a bit as he's suggested on expectations.

[10:45:05] He's already said that he is not expecting a time line from North Korea on denuclearization. And indeed, we're not even sure what sort of concrete steps the U.S. are asking for and what is on the table as far as North Korea is concerned. But Pompeo has been referring back to that meeting, that summit back on June 12th, between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, where they both signed off on their full commitment to denuclearization.

Now Mike Pompeo says, I am here to basically -- his line was seeking to fill in some of the details of that commitment. And he says, the North Koreans -- he is expecting the North Koreans to do the same. So that's fairly woolly language as far as what they're actually expecting. Certainly there's a lot of skepticism in the U.S. intelligence community as to the commitment that North Korea is showing and is likely to show to a full, verifiable denuclearization.

HILL: We will be watching to see what more we learn. Andrew Stevens, appreciate it. Thank you.

Embattled EPA chief Scott Pruitt is out. His deputy, Andrew Wheeler, will lead the agency for now. And while Wheeler may be scandal free, critics say he is no friend to the environment.


[10:50:42] HILL: Following a string of ethics scandals, the EPA chief Scott Pruitt has resigned. His troubles, though, are not over. The House Oversight Committee says it will continue to investigate Pruitt. Meantime, his deputy, Andrew Wheeler, will be taking over as acting administrator on Monday. Critics, however, say when it comes to protecting the environment, Wheeler is no better than Scott Pruitt.

CNN Politics senior writer, Juana Summers, joins us now.

So, Juana, what is it that has environmentalists so unhappy with Wheeler taking over temporarily?

JUANA SUMMERS, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER: Erica, environmental groups say that they're concerned that Andrew Wheeler will follow in the same track record that Scott Pruitt has when it comes to deregulation. And they're looking at his resume to make that point. Two things in particular, one is before he was nominated by the president to serve as deputy EPA administrator, he served as a lobbyist. And his client roster included one of the nation's largest coal companies.

One other thing stands out before that he used to work for Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, a former chairman of the Senate Environment Committee. If you'll recall, Jim Inhofe is someone who has denied some of the mainstream science regarding climate change, even threw a snowball on the Senate floor to make the point. Those two footnotes have environmental groups worried that he would be no friend to the environment and in fact would continue to push further into that deregulatory agenda that Scott Pruitt won the president's praise for.

HILL: So that's exactly what they're looking at. And as we pointed out, the investigations continue, correct, for Scott Pruitt?

SUMMERS: That is true. The House Oversight Committee still looking into a number of allegations. All told, there were more than a dozen different reviews into Scott Pruitt's conduct while serving as EPA administrator. Two groups said -- the Government Accountability Oversight groups are still looking into those. They're trying to decide whether or not those investigations will continue. So we're still learning more about just how many will. But there's still a lot of scrutiny on his tenure there.

HILL: Fascinating to see all of that play out. One more quickly on Wheeler. Is there a sense of how long he could be in this job?

SUMMERS: I think it could be as much of a year. It's not clear yet whether the president will nominate him to take that job on a permanent capacity. So far the president just signaling in that tweet that, you know, he would take over in lieu of Pruitt on Monday in a temporary capacity. So seeing whether or not he will nominate Wheeler for that job we just don't know quite yet.

HILL: Juana Summers, good to see you. Thank you.

SUMMERS: Thank you.

HILL: Michael Cohen bringing on new legal representation at a critical time. President Trump's longtime attorney hiring Lanny Davis, former special counsel to President Clinton. In recent weeks Cohen has hinted he would be willing to cooperate with prosecutors and recently told friends he doesn't believe President Trump will offer him a pardon.

Minutes from now the vice president speaking following a briefing from ICE agents. This as the White House defends the agency from calls for it to be disbanded. We've got that for you live.


[10:57:55] HILL: Quite a headline and story out of Texas. A mother stops an alleged car thief by shooting him in the head. All of this while her two toddlers are in the backseat.

Now here's how it unfolded. The mother was leaving a convenience store when she saw the suspect starting to drive away. That's when police say she jumped into the car, pulled out a gun and shot him. The car then crashed. Right now the suspected car thief is in serious but stable condition and facing charges. As for the mother no charges filed at this point. We're told the children were not hurt.

New meaning to the phrase wedding crasher. A couple in Wisconsin barely escapes disaster when a tree branch fell as they were recording their wedding video. Take a look.





HILL: Luckily, they thought quick and moved even quicker. The newlywed, (INAUDIBLE), were not hurt. Only a few scrapes. And, you know, they just kept right on going. You roll with the punches in marriage and life, right? They kept shooting the video. The downed branch right there next to them as you see on the picnic table. The bride says their love is forever going to be stronger than that tree.

We have live pictures for you at this hour from Immigration, Custom and Enforcement Agency, ICE. So much talk about ICE of course over the last couple of weeks. The Vice President Pence and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen getting a briefing at ICE this morning. This just as we're hearing the administration say that it may need extra time to reunite kids with their parents. And we still don't know just how many children have actually been separated from their parents.

So many questions. The vice president's remarks coming up in just a moment. We know they're also meeting with employees there as they get that briefing. We're watching all of it for you and we will be bringing more of that to you in the coming moments.

Thanks so much for joining us today. I'm Erica Hill. "AT THIS HOUR" with Dana Bash starts now.

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Dana Bash in for Kate Bolduan.

While you were sleeping, the world's two largest economies went from taunting one another to actually throwing punches. And you may be the one who gets bruised.

Beginning at midnight, the U.S. and China slapped new tariffs on each other's products. Beijing says --