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Twelve Boys All Under 16 And Their Coach Began Their Nightmare Two Weeks Ago When They Got Stuck In A Cave; California Extreme Heat Wave, Wildfires Across The State; Violent Protests In Haiti; U.S./North Korea Nuclear Talks Maybe Hitting A Snag; Donald Trump's Next Week Could Be The Most Important Of His Presidency; Trump Administration Tells A Federal Judge In San Diego It May Need More Time To Reunite Migrant Families; Trump Defends Putin Ahead Of One-On- One Meeting; Firefighters Battle Hot Temperatures & Strong Winds In California; Pruitt Out, Ex-Coal Lobbyist Takes Over EPA; Former Republican: I Hope Dems Win In November; Trapped Boys Running Out Of Air: Rescue Many Happen "Soon". Aired 8-9p ET

Aired July 7, 2018 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[20:00:16] RYAN NOBLES, CNN HOST: To learn more about this story or to nominate someone you think should be a CNN here, log on to CNNheroes.com.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

NOBLES: It is 8:00 eastern, 5:00 in the evening out west. I'm Ryan Nobles in New York, in today for Ana Cabrera. And you are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Breaking right now on CNN, a rescue mission dangerous and desperate to reach a group of young boys and their soccer coach who are trapped in a cave. The dangerous and potentially deadly part is how these boys have to be extracted from underground.

The plan, swim them out more than two miles and they have got to do it soon.

CNN's Matt Rivers is near the entrance to the cave in northern Thailand.

Matt, the air in the cave, the weather. There's lot of things happening to create a real sense of urgency to this rescue. Any movement there? Do we see any signs of perhaps this rescue is underway?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Things are changing here on scene while authorities have not officially said that the rescue mission is underway. There is a noticeable difference here on scene. They have blocked the additional media from coming up here to the scene. We have been here all night long. So apparently we were kind of grandfathered in. But now we are hearing from Thai authorities that all media in the staging area that we have been for the better part of a week now were apparently going to have to get move down the hill. Why that is happening, they haven't said. But when you couple that

with the fact that they put up this green netting that you can see behind me that apparently blocks the view of the cave entrance, you can see a shift in the personnel here. There's actually less personally than there were before, signaling that they could be moved somewhere else.

So all of this taken in context here. We don't know official, Ryan, but you know, when you put the pieces of the puzzle together, it is pretty apparent that if this rescue mission has not started, it is certainly very imminent at this point.

NOBLES: All right, Matt Rivers with the new development there in Thailand.

Matt, keep an eye on that and we will check back with you as we learn more in the next few minutes.

As a rescue mission is being mapped out, Thai Navy SEALs helped the trapped teams and their families communicate. The boys and their soccer coach sent several individual handwritten notes in one joint letter. In it, they told their parents not to worry and listed the things they wanted like food and to go home. And they even asked their teachers to not give them a lot of homework.

Waiting parents reached out to their boys' coach as well in one letter telling him not to blame himself. The wrote, we, as your soccer team members parents believe in your in your spirit that you have been taking good care of our kids. We just want you to know that this is not your fault. We all here don't blame you. We just want you to not blame yourself.

This from parents to a son. Quote "we just want you to know we're waiting to have a birthday party with you, my son, so please take care of yourself and we will celebrate together. Don't be so worried now. We are all here together with your grandparents and your cousins waiting for you. We love you."

And these words from a parent. Quote "I'm waiting for you here at the cave entrance my brave son. I miss you as you are a strong and patient son. I believe that you will make it. We miss you. Love you. You are the only one for me."

Heart breaking.

The U.S./North Korea nuclear talks may be on the brink of falling apart or not. I guess that depends on who you ask. Secretary of stet Mike Pompeo citing optimistic after two days of negotiations citing progress and productive conversation.

Just hours later, North Korea accused the U.S. of making a quote "unilateral and gangster-like demand for today denuclearization."

I do want to point out the Kim Jong-un dud not meet with secretary Pompeo even once during the secretary of state's four-day visit. Let's talk this over with Douglas Brinkley, he is a CNN Presidential

historian and Gordon Chang, author of "Nuclear Showdown. North Korea takes on the world." He is also a columnist for "the Daily Beast."

David, let's start with you. I mean, how is it that we are giving two drastically different accounts of the same exact meeting.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, look. You know, the whole spirit of Singapore has blown up now. That was June 12th. There is a lot of optimism and things are going sideways. I mean, North Korea could have said would agree with Pompeo that there is some kind of common ground or meeting. Instead, they used words like gangster-like, like mindset cancerous issues, worrisome talks, pouring a bucket of cold water on the fires of diplomacy.

So it is not looking good for the Trump administration. I think that it always was a long-shot chance to do business with chairman Kim. People applauded it because it is a kind of thing usually we call track to diplomacy where people like Bill Richardson or Jimmy Carter. Dennis Rodman had come in try to make the Korean peninsula a safer place. But alas, we may be back just to where we were in the Obama years right now with a kind of nuclearization still happening in North Korea.

[20:05:38] NOBLES: And Gordon, to David's point, North Korea said that President Trump's historic summit would Kim Jong-un could become meaning less. I mean, what is your take on this? What is North Korea attempting to accomplish by saying something really that inflammatory?

GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, NUCLEAR SHUTDOWN: Well, North Korea always does this and what they are trying to do is raise the stakes and to make the other side more amenable to a deal. The problem here is that Trump administration policy is based on a premise. That premise is that Kim Jong-un made a strategic decision to give up his nukes. If that is indeed the case, then certainly American policy makes sense. But if it is not, you know, our policy is misguided because we have given the North Koreans a lot of incentives to stall. This was President Trump giving the North Koreans one-shot opportunity, as he called it, in order to give up their weapons and become part of the world. They don't want to do it.

NOBLES: And I do want to read part of President Trump's June 13th tweet.

He wrote quote "everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There's no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea."

David, this was a pretty bold claim by the President after the summit. I mean, how does this impact his legacy, especially as the North Korea/U.S. talks fall through?

BRINKLEY: Well, it's Doug, by had it way, not David. Just to correct flat a moment.

NOBLES: Sorry, Doug. BRINKLEY: That's OK. Look, this is -- the bluster of Donald Trump

here is being, you know, called out for the world to see. That was a ridiculous tweet when he said that we don't have to worry anymore. He was doing a victory lap before there was anything worth celebrating. We have satellite images right now of North Korean showing, you know, that the North Korean governments making infrastructure improvements to a nuclear facility, that they are finalizing a ballistic missile manufacturing site. And so, why did he claim that early victory? Because that's what he does. And it's the reason why - and he said that he trusts his gut, Donald Trump. That's what I do. I do deals. Well, his gut seems to be off kilter and it's been off kilter on the U.S./Mexican border, separation of families. It seems to be off kilter in Europe where he is highly disliked.

This was the big enchilada (ph) for Donald Trump, the big fall presentation that my bullying, my fire and fury, you know, rhetoric is reaping big, harvested results around the globe and North Korea our tortious problem. And alas, it's very, very premature to say anything positive's really happening right now except there are talks which are a good thing.

NOBLES: And those talks will continue.

And Gordon, I do want to say that, you know, secretary Pompeo's version of events seemed a lot more optimistic than North Korean report. He said that there was significant progress being made. I mean, is there anything that he can do at this point to turn this thing around?

CHANG: There's a lot that the Trump administration can do. You know, we have overwhelming leverage over North Korea. But more importantly, we have overwhelming leverage over North Korea's big power sponsors, Russia and China. And if these talks break down, which they could very well happen, the U.S. could go back to sanctions and maximum pressure.

Sanctions and talk of fire and fury brought the North Koreans to the bargaining table in the first place. And through the end of May, President Trump was winning all the concessions, making none of his own and pushing the North Koreans around. It was brilliant tactical diplomacy.

But in June, he decided that he would allow, you know, take the pressure off and then the North Koreans became North Koreans again. So you know, we can go back to what we did to make us successful through May. And I'm confident the administration will do that. But right now, of course, this is not going in the right direction. And it is because of a failure of President Trump to continue what he did earlier this year.

NOBLES: And Gordon, to that point, President Trump's summit, I mean, that happened only two months ago. Was he right to take that chance of a one on one meeting with the ruthless dictator Kim Jong-un? Or should there have been these meetings with secretary Pompeo and his counterpart in North Korea before to kind of set the stage so that some sort of concrete deliverables could have been issued from this. CHANG: Yes. And what President Trump should have done is realize

that meeting was going to give legitimization to Kim Jong-un, And that legitimization by itself would reduce his incentive to come to a deal. So what should have happened is that as a condition of that meeting that we receive written commitments from the North Korea. A full agreement to give up nukes, give up missiles, have a timeline, dismantle infrastructure, commit inspections.

If we had all of that and then had the meeting, I think that we would be in a much better place right now and we could have done that. And really, the tragedy here is that President Trump just squandered a huge advantage that he had built up.

[20:10:34] NOBLES: And Doug, when you look at, historically, presidents in this position, are there other examples of Presidents that took on meetings like this without the kind of a preparation by their staffs ahead of time to try and take what essentially was a bold move, to strike a big peace deal before everything was put in place?

BRINKLEY: Well, of course, in times of war things happen. You know, when FDR met Stalin Yelto (ph). One of the problems was what was a free election? They had some kind of agreements on free election and poling for example. Well, it came - it fizzled away because everybody's idea of what was a free election. It was different in a communist country or democracy. In this case the catch word is denuclearization. What the United States is saying, the Trump administration of what they called CVID, complete verifiable, irreversible denuclearization. That may not be what chairman Kim is thinking denuclearization means. Hence, we probably need to bring China to the table. This needs to be three-way talk, not a bilateral conversation.

NOBLES: All right. We are going to have to leave it there.

Gordon Chang, Douglas Brinkley, thank you so much for joining us tonight. We appreciate your perspectives.

Moving on now. Breaking news, violent protest in Haiti. U.S. citizens there are being told to shelter in place, including more than a hundreds staying in a hotel that demonstrators tried to set on fire. The violence erupted over rising fuel prices which authorities have now put on hold.

This video taken in the capital shows the mayhem. Reports say at least three people have died in the protests since yesterday. Some U.S. airlines have canceled all flights into Haiti. Others are expected to follow.

Now earlier today, I talked with an American staying at the hotel in the Port-au-Prince that protesters have tried to burn down. Stacy Librandi Bourn told me the violence escalated quickly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STACY LIBRANDI BOURNE, AMERICAN STAYING AT OASIS HOTEL IN HAITI: Things escalated pretty quickly, I mean. You know, and I think that it is understandable sometimes when people have a difficult time (INAUDIBLE) in a place like that. But it sounds like the government is doing everything they could to compromise to try to get things back to restore calm and we're seeing more calm right now. There is still a lot of rioting going on. But I think it is possible that right now some peace might be restored by the prime minister that he would delay things on the gas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: The U.S. state department released a statement warning Americans in Haiti to stay away from protests and avoid large gatherings.

Coming up, triple digit temperatures are scorching the southwest creating the perfect conditions for wildfires. Next, live to southern California where two new fires starting just last hour.

You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:17:27] NOBLES: Breaking news out of California where high winds and extreme temperatures are fanning the flames of wild fires across the state. These are pictures out of Granada Hills, California. You can firefighters dousing the small but fast moving brush fire just as it began to spark.

Elsewhere in southern California, a helicopter attacks in wildfire in Burbank, trying to keep the flames away from nearby homes.

Meanwhile in northern California, a wild fire is being blamed for one death, thousands more have been driven from their homes. Triple digit temperatures have made it difficult for a firefighters to control the flames. You can see them here working to keep each other safe. We will take you live there in just minutes.

Our Sara Sidner will join us there in just a few minutes. We are going to take a quick break though and we will come back and hear from Sara in a moments.

Stay here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:22:56] NOBLES: The Trump administration has until the end of the day today to provide a list of all immigrant children under the age of five who were separated from their parents at the border. It is the first of several major deadlines.

There is also a Tuesday deadline for the administration to reunite children under five years old with their parents. And then has until July 26th to reunite older children in their care. But the administration says it may not meet any of these deadlines and that it could need more time. So why did health and human services secretary Alex Azar make it sound like reunification would be so simple les than two weeks ago. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEXANDER AZAR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: There is no reason why any parent would not know where their child is located. I could at the stroke of -- at key strokes, I have sat on the ORR portal with just basic key strokes within seconds could find any child in our care for any parent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: Obviously it hasn't been that simple. That doesn't appear to be the case. So let's bring in our panel to talk about this.

Joining us CNN political commentators Scott Jennings and Robby Mook. Scott, a former special assistant to President George W. Bush. Robby, the former campaign manager for Hillary Clinton. And of course I remember him as a campaign manager for terry McAuliffe not too long ago.

Scott, let's start with you. You worked in the White House before. I mean, does this seem like the administration had a plan on how to reunite these families when they began separating them?

SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, certainly, at a minimum seems like it's a lot harder than they thought it was going to be. And it is very regrettable. This entire decision was regrettable. I'm sure they wish they hadn't done it. They need to get these families put back together. And then they need to pay attention I think to what the American people want them to do which is put all these folks back in their country of origin.

I have seen a lot of polling on the last week, Ryan. And I think that folks want to see the families not separated. They want to see the ones that are separated reunified as quick as possible and they want to see quick movement to get folks back home.

So I hope that's where the administration is taking us. And nobody wants to see these stories of these parents and their children separated. So hopefully, they get it done soon or rather later.

NOBLES: So Robby, on the other side of this in some cases Democrats answer to this a problem has been to outright abolish ICE. However, Jeh Johnson, the former homeland security secretary under President Obama is slamming that idea today. This is what he wrote in a "Washington Post" op-ed. He said quote "the reality is abolishing ICE is not a serious policy proposal. It's about as serious as the claim that Mexico is going to pay for the wall."

So Robby, why is it that there are Democrats that are taking this stand of saying that ICE should be abolished?

[20:25:31] ROBBY MOOK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Well, I think the priority right now is actually something I think Scott and I would agree on, the priority right now has to be to get these families back together. It wasn't only regrettable. It was evil what the Trump administration was doing, was doing what Donald Trump himself did by separating these families.

And look there are clearly some issues with ICE. There are clearly reforms that need to be looked at closely. But in my view right now that's a process. We need to focus on people. And there are people who have been separated, families that have been ripped apart. We need to get them back together. And then at some point, you know, once that is done, we should think about, you know, how to reform agencies. But I don't think it is the right discussion right now.

NOBLES: Robby, doesn't that cloud the discussion with Democrats are saying that? I mean, is it get in the way of this process, of getting families back together if you are taking what can be considered in some cases is a radical stance to completely abolish a federal agency.

MOOK: Well, yes. Look. People are very angry right now. Tension are very high and some people are going out and saying that this is what needs to happen. I think the first reality we need to face is this President isn't go doing that. And I think if fact we have seen the President try to use that debate to deflect attention from these children and families.

And again, as far as I'm concern, it's the human beings that matter right now. So what we need to focus on both from a messaging standpoint, but also in terms of just getting these families back together is on those human being. Let's stay focus on them. Let's get that resolved and then we can have bigger discussions about process and bureaucracy and so on. But I'm just more concerned about the families, to be honest with you.

NOBLES: All right. Let's switch gears now. Let's look at the president's next two weeks.

This could be the most important two weeks of his presidency. Does seem like we are saying that a lot. But when you look at this calendar, does seem to bare that out. He has a NATO summit, a meeting with the queen one-on-one with Russian president Vladimir Putin. And the "Washington Post" is reporting that his aids are worried that he may not be prepared.

The Post writing, the President rarely reads his nightly briefing book which focuses on issues likely to come up in meetings. And second senior U.S. official said to slim down Trump's workloads aides have sometime put the most critical information in a red folder.

Scott, are you concern and how concerned would you be if your former boss, President Bush wasn't reading his briefing materials ahead of consequential meetings like this?

JENNINGS: Well, I don't know whether these reports are true or not. I don't work in the Trump White House. And it seems to me that President Trump is typically prepared for most of the things he is doing. I don't know how they know these reports unless someone who had in input for Donald Trump was leaking from deep inside the White House, which I think is pretty abhorrent, frankly, behavior. If your are White House staffer and you are trying to create a story like this. I think he is going to be fine. It is a consequential two weeks. Of

course, you could say that about every two weeks. There's a lot of news happening in and around this White House every two weeks. I think we are going to be fine.

Look. The Trump administration has a lot of positive momentum on a lot of fronts. And they have got some problems to deal with on few fronts. But overall, optimism is up in the country. People are happy with the economy. Folks are generally I think happy with the possibility that exists in their lives. There's a lot to be excited about if you are Donald Trump. So I don't really have a fear that the next two weeks are going to drag down that kind of optimism I think that he has been able to create for a lot of American families.

NOBLES: But Scott, the Post is reporting aside, we have no reason to believe it is not true. But you know, the President himself has bragged about the fact that he doesn't need to prepare for big events like this. I mean, would that have worried you if President Bush bragged like that when you were working for him?

JENNINGS: Yes. It's better to read the briefing materials than not. I mean, that's absolutely true. I mean, the briefing materials are put together by absolute professionals who know what they are going to give you different angles. I'm sure he's well briefed in person by the staff that he has put together there. So yes, it's better to pay attention to your briefers and to read the materials and not do that into go on to these meeting, eyes wide open and know everything that could be put upon the table. So I hope he does that.

And again, I really think sometimes we get reports like this out of this White House. And I have no doubt that people are telling reporters this. And I'm not saying reporters are making things up. But I do think sometimes it does appear to me that some of these leaks are on purpose to damage Donald Trump. And I hope the White House, you know, we are 18 plus months into this administration. I really wish they get a handle on it leaking against the President like this is pretty awful.

NOBLES: I mean, there has been a lot of turnover in staff but the leaking continues.

Robby, speaking of that and talking about the President's preparation, The Post report also says that aids are worried that the President might actually get played by Vladimir Putin. I mean, what would you considerer to be a win coming out of that meeting with Vladimir Putin?

[20:30:03] ROBBY MOOK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, for I think this whole trip, Ryan, is a waste of money. Nothing good will come out of it. Nothing good, so far, has come out of any international engagement with this president. And it's interesting you said -- you put the president being played by Russia in the future tense. I think we also have to put it in the past tense. This president has been played by Russia for some time now and I absolutely think at best, he will go in and play Kate. Vladimir Putin, he will shower him with praise. That's the best we can hope for and that's terrible. Nobles: But, Robby, we just -- what if he actually went in there and confronted Vladimir Putin about election meddling? Isn't it something you'd like to see happen? Is this an opportunity for that?

MOOK: Yes, of course. But there's unicorns. People have said the Loch Ness monster is real. Like that's not going to happen. I'm sorry. It's just not going to happen. And every engagement we've seen with the president and Vladimir Putin is one in which the president, again, showers him with praise. I'm sure he will again try to reinforce the idea that the Russians did not meddle in the election which they absolutely did. And look, my biggest concern was he went to the G7 meeting and told those leaders, Russia needed to be put back in that group, because it wasn't a big deal that he invaded part of the Ukraine. Sometimes we forget here that the United States has completely given up any voice of moral authority when it comes to human rights and international order whatsoever. So, I don't see anything good coming out of this. But the best we can hope for is just that says some nice things about Putin. But I do worry he is absolutely going to be manipulated. Let's not forget the last time they met, he said that the Russians should jointly form a commission with the Americans to investigate what the Russians did in the American election. So I expect something just as absurd, unfortunately this time.

NOBLES: OK. Robby Mook, Scott Jennings, thank you so much for your time, guys. We appreciate you being on.

MOOK: Thanks.

NOBLES: Coming up, the White House revolving door spinning again. As Scott Pruitt resigns from his role leading the EPA. My next guest says that Pruitt simply wasn't corrupt enough for Donald Trump. He joins me next. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:35:38] NOBLES: Let's go back now to California. Our Sara Sidner joins me now from the city of Goleta in Santa Barbara County where some 20 structures have already been destroyed in the holiday fire. Sara, the government there declaring a state of emergency. Are people heeding the warnings?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. People have evacuated. They have been through this before, unfortunately in December, one of the worst fires ever to hit this area. This time and this neighborhood, unfortunately, it has burned several homes. We've seen five in just about a block area. This was one of them. One house a lovely place here in Goleta that burned to the ground. There's a House just next to it, a house behind it. All of them destroyed.

I should mention this that the only good news for those whose houses are still standing is that this has been drop down about 80 percent of this fire has been taken care of by firefighters. They have worked extremely hard in extreme conditions. It's been really, really record heat here in this area. And across California to be fair. I do want to share a quick story with you. We talked to a home owner who is just now about to go down to start digging things out, hoping to find a few of his mementos that he was unable to get last night. He said he has been in three major fires but this is the first time that it had destroyed his property.

NOBLES: Sara, thank you so much for that report. We appreciate it.

And as of today, Scott Pruitt is no longer at the EPA. The controversial Trump cabinet member announced his resignation earlier this week. Yesterday was his last day at the agency. Now, it's time to take a closer look at the Andrew Wheeler. This is the ex-coal lobbyist who's taking charge of the Environmental Protection Agency. Here's CNN's Drew Griffin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If environmentalists think getting rid of Scott Pruitt at the EPA will reverse the policies he implemented, Jeremy Symons with the Environmental Defense Fund says, they should think again.

JEREMY SYMONS, ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE FUND: President Trump was very clear. He came in with trying to take a wrecking ball to the EPA and Scott Pruitt was his man for the job. I think round two, they're looking for someone to do the same thing, but to do it smarter, do it quieter, and stay out of the news and that's Andrew Wheeler.

GRIFFIN: Andrew Wheeler who up until today was Pruitt's number two is the new acting administrator at EPA and his resume is a prime example of what critic say is the swamp or at least the revolving door in Washington. Wheeler started his career at the EPA in the early '90s. Then went to Capitol Hill, then became a lobbyist for big energy companies. Coal, gas and nuclear. Lobbying for the types of companies that often fight EPA pollution laws. Now he's back in government in a position to regulate the very businesses that up until last year paid him.

CHRIS SAEGER, WESTERN VALUES PROJECT: The fundamental conflict of interest that state here is that Andrew Wheeler could use his position at the EPA to benefit a former client.

GRIFFIN: One of Wheeler's former clients, Energy Fuels Incorporated is trying to get contracts from the EPA right now, lobbying, according to its website, to become involved in the EPA directed cleanup of abandoned uranium mines. Here's the firm's CEO.

MARK CHALMERS, CEO, ENERGY FUELS INC.: We're lobbying very heavily with the EPA to use our facility. Because we have all the licenses and the ability to take that material and recycle it and produce nuclear fuel for power generation.

[20:40:09] GRIFFIN: Wheeler's former lobbying firm is helping with the pitch. A meeting with the EPA is outlined in this internal e- mail. Energy Fuels told CNN in a statement "Our understanding is that Mr. Wheeler will not be involved in any decision on this Energy Fuels proposal." Wheeler declined an interview with CNN for this report, but sent a statement. "Under my ethics agreement with the agency," he tells CNN, "I will have no involvement with Energy Fuels Incorporated for two years." Supporters say that despite his industry ties, Wheeler was already confirmed by the Senate for his role as deputy administrator. And many conservatives including Senator Jim Inhofe, Wheeler's former boss had suggested they would support him getting the job full time. But tonight, environmentalists who hailed the news that Scott Pruitt resigned, are not hailing the news to Pruitt's temporary successor could become his permanent replacement.

SYMONS: The danger with Wheeler as head of EPA is that the public loses interest because it does have all the scandals publicly that Scott Pruitt had. It will be harder when the media spotlights turned away and that's going to be an advantage for Wheeler.

GRIFFIN: And Donald Trump seems that they get out much will be changing in EPA, a tweet announcing Andrew Wheeler taking over. The president says, I have no doubt that Andy will continue on with our great and lasting EPA agenda.

Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NOBLES: Drew, thank you.

Our next guest says that Scott Pruitt's out because he wasn't corrupt enough for the Trump administration. Rick Wilson is a Republican strategist. He worked on Rudy Giuliani's Senate campaign.

Rick, first, I want to read the first line from your piece. It says, quote, "The Scott Pruitt fiasco could only have ended one way, not with a bang but a whimper -- a simper, I'm sorry. I thought that was a typo, but that's what you wanted to say. A wet fart of a resignation that exposed three big lies of the Trump world." I think that's somewhat appropriate that I thought that was a typo.

Rick, what are you trying to say here?

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, I think Scott Pruitt is a representative of a lot of the problems of this administration because Donald Trump does not hire people based on anything -- any criteria that prior presidents have used, Republican or a Democrat, and he picked Scott Pruitt because he thought Scott would execute on the big picture things of taking care of the people that had given Donald Trump, the coal guy guys who had given his inauguration millions of dollars and who had been supporter of his, he thought Scott Pruitt take care of them. But Pruitt ended up sort of to take care of himself with all these like nickel and dime small ball things, hand lotions and Chick-fil-A and expensive pens and the code of silence. And so he just became a sort of absurd clownish figure. And Trump let it go on and on for a very long time because he wanted some of these policy outcomes. But it's really emblematic at some of the problems that are eating up this administration. We've had 61 percent turnover at the senior levels in this White House.

NOBLES: And I think your perspective on this is so important, because you are a Republican, so perhaps some of these policy positions are something you could support. So I wonder what your impression is of Andrew Wheeler and your definition of swampy. Because this is a guy now running the EPA who's made millions of dollars as a coal lobbyist. So his appointment -- is that a repudiation of lobbyist dictating policy? I mean, isn't this still of the swamp, maybe it doesn't have the controversies associated with him.

WILSON: No, it's -- Ryan, it's a full case of the swamp. And as a Republican, but more importantly as a conservative, I didn't like it when Barack Obama's administration picked winners and losers in the market where they said, we're going to only do this kind of thing because we love this green energy company like Solyndra and we're not going to do these other things because we don't like nuclear power, what have you. I don't like the government picking winners and losers. I like markets to make those decisions as a conservative.

I also don't think as a conservative, you have to embrace, just because the coal industry wants to cut the tops off of mountains and not be held accountable for polluting rivers and streams all over West Virginia and Ohio, that they should get a free ride. The free market doesn't mean you get a free ride from the government and that's clearly what's going to happen here with Pruitt's replacement, with Wheeler. He's the guy who is an actual lobbyist for the major donor for whom the EPA's been directing an awful lot of Murray, the coal magnate for which the EPA's has been basically barking like a trained seal for this guy, for the last year and a half.

NOBLES: Yes. But last hour I talked to global affairs analyst, Max Boot, long-time Republican, told me he's leaving the Republican Party. Now, he's actively rooting for Democrats to win in Congress. Listen to his reason.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: The Republican Party have been his enablers. And that's why I think it's essential, even if I disagree with Democrats in some issues. I think it's essential for Democrats to win in November, because I've checked and balanced on Donald Trump which the Republicans are unwilling to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[20:45:14] NOBLES: Now, before we started, Rick, I checked your Twitter handle, you still call yourself a GOP media guy. But you have also accused Republicans of Congress of enabling Donald Trump. Do you ever see a situation where you would leave the party or at the very least want Democrats to win in November?

WILSON: They use the famous construction. I didn't leave the party, the party left me. There are a lot of these folks how now do not consider themselves conservatives or Republicans, they consider themselves Trumpian nationalists which is neither Republican nor conservative. And there's a very large gap now between the good traditions and the great traditions of conservatism and Republicanism. And this personality cope that a lot of these folks in Congress and in Washington have signed on to. And so it is -- look, that old communal campfire of the Republican Party that I worked in for 30 years and helped elect Republicans from the presidency down to dog catchers over the years, these days is the party only of Donald Trump and of policies that have deviated very wildly from traditional conservatism. And then you've got a president now, a supposedly Republican president who spends a lot more of his time attacking other Republican presidents like George H.W. Bush than he does holding people like Vladimir Putin to account. We've entered an era where the Trump Republican Party has hide themselves off from the conservative movement and the conservative principles that I believe in.

NOBLES: so, I have to ask you this very quick because we're up against the break. Do you want to see Republicans hold on to the Congress in the fall?

WILSON: I would like it to be a very narrow Democratic victory right now for a simple reason. The Congress is broken. The intelligence committee system and turns it into a protection racket for Donald Trump and they put our nation at severe and consistent and constant risk and they've sold themselves out to Vladimir Putin. I'm looking at you Devin Nunes. I'm looking at you with your -- with the clock of guys around him who have turned that organization into something part of Trump's legal defense team and citizenly defending this country's interest and security.

NOBLES: All right (INAUDIBLE) there. Rick Wilson calling for Democrats to take over the Congress in the fall. Rick, thank you for being here on a Saturday night. We really appreciate it.

WILSON: Thanks.

NOBLES: And we are going to show you live pictures now of the situation in Thailand. This is where the scene has changed dramatically. We see divers making their way into the area where they would need to begin the process of rescuing these young people. They're moving many of the journalists out of that region. You see Matt Rivers there who's on the scene getting set up. We're going to have a report on this when we come back. Big developments here. Stay here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:50:25] NOBLES: Breaking news. A big development on the situation in Thailand. A rescue mission dangerous and desperate to reach a group of boys and their soccer coach who are trapped deep in a cave could be underway. CNN's Matt Rivers is near the entrance to the cave in northern Thailand. Matt, more than ever you're seeing a real sense of urgency there. Show us what's happening.

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ryan. We wanted to give you some live pictures before the show ended here, because this could be the last couple of images that we get near the scene, journalists are being forced out and their significant activity. We've seen a lot of divers come in, go behind this green fence behind me. Back there is where the entrance to the cave is and we believe that this rescue attempt is going to be extremely imminent. We've also seen under water medical personnel go up this road. This is a restricted area right there. In this area, we believe is where the kids when they are brought out -- hopefully successfully will be brought out somewhere up in that restricted area. We know there's a medical tent up there where they will hopefully be treated right way.

And then I want to walk you over this way, over here. This parking lot right here, again, a restricted area, this is where the ambulances have parked. So we've seen -- Brad, you could show them there. We've seen 11 additional ambulances show up. Keep in mind, there are 13 people underground. There's always been two ambulances here and so these are the clearest signs yet that this rescue attempt is imminent. The closest hospital somewhere around half an hour away. So we're going to keep on this. This is a developing situation, Ryan. But again, the trend on right now pointing to this rescue attempt being extremely imminent here on Sunday in northern Thailand. Ryan.

NOBLES: All right. Matt Rivers. Excellent reporting there in Thailand. Thank you so much for getting us that last minute update. We'll continue to monitor this situation and have all the latest updates as they become available.

I'm Ryan nobles in New York. We so appreciate you being with us tonight. I'll be back tomorrow at 5:00 Eastern. As for now, a marathon of CNN's hit documentary series "The Nineties" starts now. Good night.