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Thailand Cave Rescue; U.S. Trade War; U.S.-North Korean Relations; U.S. Immigration Debate; 2018 World Cup. Aired 12m-12:30a ET

Aired July 7, 2018 - 00:00   ET




PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A race against time and the weather. Monsoon rains are approaching as rescuers search for a way to free a trapped youth football team in Thailand.

Plus, the U.S. secretary of state in Pyongyang, looking for a firm commitment from North Korea on dismantling its nuclear program.

And World Cup favorite Brazil is out as Belgium advances to the semifinal for the first time in 32 years.

Hello and welcome, I'm Paula Newton. CNN NEWSROOM begins right now.


NEWTON: We start with the ongoing rescue operation in Thailand and we wish we had better news. Officials say there will be no attempt on Saturday to rescue members of a youth football team from the flooded cave, where they are still trapped. That's despite the low oxygen levels and more rain in the forecast.

A U.S. official says a so-called buddy dive is being considered. That's where an experienced diver, of course, would swim out with each of the 12 boys and the coach. But, of course, that could also be very, very risky.

This former Thai Navy SEAL, a skilled diver, died Friday taking part in those rescue efforts. The local governor says officials are exploring all options to save the team.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We're still drilling from the top. Today we drilled more than 100 holes but only 18 are capable to go in. The deepest hole we drilled is 400 meters deep but it cannot reach the boys.

Some of the parents wrote letters to the kids. I am not sure if the kids got a chance to read them yet. But we have delivered them.

(END VIDEO CLIP) NEWTON: This is just so excruciating to listen to. Our David McKenzie is on the ground there. He joins us from Northern Thailand.

Every time you listen to this, you'd think it wouldn't be that complicated. Yet, by the hour, it does seem to get so much more dynamic and complex.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Paula. It is always going to be an incredibly difficult rescue mission. It is worth remembering what these boys have gone through. Now 15 days to the day they have been in that cave chamber, where they ran and crawled to, to avoid the rising floodwaters in the mountain behind me.

Now you have this international effort. Hundreds of volunteers, specialists from all around the world, and I have talked to Finnish divers, there are Israeli divers here, American military specialists. They are all here to try and lend their expertise. The big worry now is twofold.

The oxygen levels have been going down to critical levels in that chamber, where the boys are held up, down to almost 15 percent at some point. That could result in serious health concerns.

Also the rain is coming. I know we have been speaking about this for a while. But the weather suggests that, early next week, as soon as Sunday, you could have sustained rain for several days.

Now the Thai leadership saying they don't want to pull the trigger on this difficult and dangerous rescue attempt until they know it is their only option because it will require, as we have been reporting for some days, these specialist divers to be accompanying the boys through those chambers and sometimes through very narrow passages indeed.

NEWTON: David, as you have been speaking, we have been seeing the faces of those boys, still so full of hope. As we heard the governor say, they wrote to their families.

What kinds of things did we hear in those letters?

MCKENZIE: So heartbreaking and extraordinary these messages. And here are some images of those, handwritten, of course, on notebook paper in Thai, to the parents, that the boys sent a group message, saying that people shouldn't worry, that they want to eat all kinds of food when they get out.

Some boys are saying, when they get out, please don't give us much homework, others promising they will be good and saying to their moms, don't worry. I'll be back. I've only been away two weeks, generally trying to lift spirits in this community that has been through so much.

NEWTON: So bittersweet to hear all of that. David, I know you will continue to follow this story by the minute literally. We will get back to you in the next few hours. Appreciate it. David was just talking about those monsoon rains. It is monsoon season in Thailand. It is not just complicating. It is really threatening the rescue of these boys.



NEWTON: Now the world's largest economies have moved beyond threats to, yes, a full-blown trade war. The U.S. fired first by imposing tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese goods. That was quickly matched by Beijing.

China says the U.S. initiated the largest trade war in economic history. But it could get bigger. The U.S. says it could respond with another wave of tariffs.

We want to bring in our Steven Jiang live from Beijing.

It's been interesting to see the rhetoric from state media there. I know you follow this very closely, Steven.

What is that rhetoric telling you about how China is going to continue to respond and if they are anywhere near looking for a compromise or a solution on this?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER, BEIJING BUREAU: Both sides, including both leaders, have really, if anything, hardened their stance on this issue. On the U.S. side president Donald Trump as recently as Thursday actually said if the Chinese retaliate against the U.S. tariffs, he will impose more tariffs on more Chinese imports.

Of course the Chinese have retaliated. On this side, President Xi Jinping has said China will punch back and state media has used the language that we will fight this trade war to its bitter end for weeks now.

Really that's the worry, Paula; $34 billion may seen a big figure. But it's actually a relatively minor figure in the bigger scheme of things, considering bilateral trade volume reached more $600 billion last year.

But the worry is it's not going to stop here. Both sides will retaliate further. And this will trigger this downward spiral or a devastating cycle of retaliations. That could cause erosion of business confidence and delay investment decisions around the world.

But when it comes to tariffs, China is actually at a disadvantage because the Chinese buy a lot less from the U.S. than the other way around. That's one of Mr. Trump's grievances to begin with. So the worry here is also the Chinese will have to resort to non-tariff means to punish American interests here.

What does that mean?

That could mean sending inspectors to American companies facilities here, rejecting their business license applications or employee visa applications and quarantine their products or delay reviews of their merger plans, for example.

All these things can make American companies' lives here very difficult. That could incur huge costs of doing business here. And many companies have increasingly relied on this Chinese market for their bottom lines.

So these are the worries, not just tariffs but also potentially what China could do on these non-tariff fronts. With the war now raging on, with no end in sight, really global markets are going to have some jittery times ahead.

NEWTON: Volatile today, but as you said, if you continue with the threats of escalation, we will certainly see them unnerved. Steven, thank you very much, live in Beijing for us.

Meantime, U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo is in Pyongyang for a second day of talks. He's meeting again with top North Korean officials, trying to nail down efforts to denuclearize the peninsula. That is the keyword.

Also they would like to repatriate remains of Americans killed in the Korean War. Earlier on Saturday, Pompeo made a secure phone call to update President Trump. Still up in the air, of course, whether Pompeo will meet face to face with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Our Andrew Stevens is following all of this in Seoul.


NEWTON: Andrew, the State Department is saying that, look, they're going to get down to the nitty-gritty.

Do we have a sense of how nitty-gritty it will actually be in terms of getting to that key issue of what denuclearization means?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN ASIA PACIFIC EDITOR: Well, they're simply characterizing the nitty-gritty at this stage at least, Paula, in terms of working teams, working on how they will verify what nuclear arsenal and nuclear infantry North Korea actually has.

But before they can do that, North Korea has to declare its inventory. This is an expectation that this may be a result of the meeting. But at the moment, there is not a lot of clarity from either side about exactly what is going to be achieved here.

As you say, Mike Pompeo now in his second day of meetings, meeting Kim Jong-chul, the right-hand man to Kim Jong-un. It is not clear whether Pompeo will meet Kim Jong-un himself, as his previous two visits to Pyongyang. Pompeo did indeed meet the chairman. We don't know if that will be the case this time.

Just before the second meeting got underway this morning, the two men exchanged a few words in front of the press pool, saying it is very important; matters had been discussed. But they both said that clarification was needed on the issues that had been discussed so far.

At this stage we're really no closer to finding out what the bottom line is from these talks. There is pressure on Mike Pompeo to produce something. He seems to be tamping down expectations to a degree. He's been saying basically that he's there to basically fill in some of the -- put some flesh on the bones, if you like, from the summit on June 12th in Singapore.

As we know, that summit declaration between Trump and Kim Jong-un was pretty broad. It talked about working towards full denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula. No timeline, no concrete steps, no specifics at all.

So this is what Mike Pompeo is there to do. But at this stage, he is hoping to fill in some of the gaps in the commitment to that denuclearization.

As I said, there is a lot of pressure on him that comes as we get more a little bit information coming out today from 38 North, which is a very key and credible source in looking at what's going on inside North Korea and its nuclear program.

And it is pointing to a site near the Yongbyon nuclear enrichment area, which is showing increased signs of activity, which suggests the North Koreans, far from pulling back are actually increasing their levels of uranium enrichment, of course, used for nuclear weapons.

NEWTON: Obviously likely using it to increase their leverage at the bargaining table. Our Andrew Stevens watching this all from Seoul, really appreciate it.

Now coming up, staring down a deadline with very real consequences for families. Why the Trump administration is begging for more time to bring separated migrant families back together.





NEWTON: Some new developments in the Russia investigation. According to "The New York Times," the president's lawyers say if special counsel Robert Mueller wants a sit-down interview with Mr. Trump, he's going to have to meet two very unlikely conditions.

One, that Mueller's team must have evidence of the president committing a crime and, two, they must prove the president's testimony is absolutely necessary to close out that Russia investigation. Now Trump's lawyer admitted to "The New York Times" that there is not much chance Mueller would agree to those demands.

It is the latest in months of negotiations between the president's team and the special counsel. Meanwhile, the U.S. government, at that same time, is asking a judge

to extend the first deadline for reuniting migrant children with their parents. Thousands of families were separated after entering the U.S. illegally.

A court order is giving the government until Tuesday to reunite children under the age of 5 with their parents. U.S. officials say they need more time. That's just prolonging the anguish of these separated families. CNN's Miguel Marquez has our story.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lesvia, she's 39 from Guatemala. She may be the first separated parent to get out of detention after going through a normal immigration process, after President Trump signed an executive order ending the separation of families as part of his zero tolerance policy.

"I can't stand being apart from my son," she says. "Just give me my son."

Lesvia hasn't seen her 10-year-old son, Udam (ph), since May 19th. She even wrote him a letter. She believes her son is in the same Brownsville facility visited by the DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen last week.

"The deportation officers told me I had to leave and go to Florida to be with my family," she says, "but I am not leaving without my son." Her uncertainty about how to get her son back is a sign that parents who are released even by the administration don't have a clear process for reuniting with their children.

A woman named Ada being held at Port Isobel Detention Center in South Texas says in a phone call to CNN she's not sure where her son is and the promise of two calls a week have never happened.

"No one has called," she says. "Social workers don't answer our calls. I'm desperate. I want to know how my son. I want to talk to him."

By a federal judge's order, the Trump administration has to put detained parents in regular contact with their kids. Parents and lawyers representing them say most have had at least one phone call. Some speak regularly; others not at all.

It is not clear the administration will meet other deadlines, like reuniting kids 4 and under with their parents by next Tuesday. A delegation from El Salvador visited their citizens in detention at Port Isobel yesterday. One mother had this stunning claim.

"Some parents still don't know exactly where their children are," he says. "A mother here only knows her 3-year old is somewhere in New York."

In documents filed in federal court, the government says it is trying to verify parentage through DNA tests and likely won't make deadlines to reunite all families.

MARQUEZ: So the woman at the top of that story, Lesvia, the woman from Guatemala, she is looking for her 10-year-old son. She just got out of detention in the last 48 hours. She was in a town called Taylor, Texas, about five and a half hours from where we are in Brownsville.

She believes very strongly that her son is in this facility here in Brownsville and she wants to come here. She has been trying to work with HHS. They basically said, you should go to your family in Florida and wait.

She doesn't want to do that. She wants to stay here. She's been trying to deal with HHS; can't get any satisfaction, basically. She wants to come here, knock on that door, try to see her son, hug her son and reunite with him -- Miguel Marquez, CNN, Brownsville, Texas.


NEWTON: Now to talk this over, Michael Genovese, a political analyst and author, and he joins me now from Los Angeles.

I mean, you listen to those stories and we're talking about DNA to try and identify these families and reunite them. On one level, that's a very good idea obviously for verification.

On another, how is the government itself basically dismissing court ordered deadlines?

MICHAEL GENOVESE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I don't think they're dismissing them. I think they're begging for more time. Remember, this all began as a policy change by the Trump administration. And when there was a tremendous amount of pushback by American citizens and by the media --


GENOVESE: -- they quickly retreated. And, so, thus far, it's been chaotic. It's been a disaster.

And think about it.

The pictures that you would show, children being ripped out of the hands of their mothers, on what universe does that make sense?

The optic of that is terrible. But the optic is a political question. This has really become a moral issue. It's become an issue for humanity and it's become a disgrace. It is beyond politics at this point.

And the United States, it's a dark day for the United States. If the Trump administration can't figure this one out, if they can't get it right, you will see more and more horror stories, and it's all because of the policy changes that they enacted.

NEWTON: And I think that's one thing that's definitely been missing from the discussion, even if those people who support the president's moves on immigration.

When you talk about trying to reunite these families, do you think, at this point -- we have not heard a peep out of the White House. No task force, no czar in charge of reunifications.

What will be able to motivate them?

Is it just a matter of throwing a lot of resources at it?

Or as you say, is it a matter of Americans standing up and saying this isn't right?

GENOVESE: They would rather this problem just go away. It's not going to go away. They have to make it right. And to do that they have to take concerted effort to get this right, to get the process going, to get children together with their families because, every day that it goes on, it is going to be in the news.

It ought to be in the news because these are dark times for the United States. We need to right the wrong. If we can't right the wrong, then we've morally failed ourselves and our country.

NEWTON: Michael, I am going to echo something back to you. You wrote two and a half years ago about the fact that the Trump people, like the Trump supporters, you said they want to restore and reinvigorate old national identities against the threat of a watered-down culture.

You say this is a moral question now, it is not about politics.

But at what point is it politics, that as long as these families are reunited, a lot of Americans will retrench and say, oh, well, the Trump administration did have to do something though about illegal immigration?

GENOVESE: There is a real problem we're facing. I mean, there are people crossing the border illegally. We don't have good records of who they are, where they're going. So I don't want to diminish the importance of the problem. It's real. We've had it for a long time.

What I want to say is that this crisis today was brought about because the administration changed policy and imposed a very draconian position on American policy by saying, if you come across, we will rip babies from the mother's arms and we will put them in separate places. That's just inhuman.

NEWTON: And we didn't have time to get to the Mueller investigation, Michael. We will delve into that eventually. I'm sure there will be more developments. As you know, the lawyers saying he will likely not sit down for that interview for the special counsel. We will wait to see how that plays out at the White House. Thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.

GENOVESE: Thank you.

NEWTON: Now humbled in Russia, a stunned Brazil is right out of the World Cup. But a hopeful England are aiming to reach the semifinals for the first time in 28 years. What you need to know -- coming up.


NEWTON: The first World Cup semifinal is now set after Belgium and France booked their tickets on Friday. CNN's Don Riddell breaks it all down in what was an epic day.


DON RIDDELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For the first time in 32 years, Belgium are into the semifinals of the World Cup. But it is all over for Brazil. The five-time champions, who so often kick off as tournament favorites, have been humbled in Kazan. They were beaten by two goals to one.


RIDDELL (voice-over): A lively game with chances at either end turned in Belgium's favor by Nacer Chadli's teasing corner was turned into the next as the Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho. That was in the 13th minute. Still plenty of time for an equalizer.

But when Belgium stunned them with a second, it became a different story. That was an absolutely sensational strike from Kevin de Bruyne, wasn't it?

Brazil got back into contention in the second half, thanks to a delightful chip from Philippe Coutinho and a well-taken header from Renato Augusto. And with their superstar Neymar leading the line, Brazil could have equalized. But Thibaut Courtois denied them with a brilliant save and so Brazil are out.

Meanwhile, there are echoes of 1998, as France advance to the semis with a 2-0 win against Uruguay. Uruguay were without one of their top strikers, Edinson Cavani, and they missed him. Uruguay had only conceded one goal all year but they were breached here with the deft header (ph) from Raphael Varane, the replay demonstrating just how perfect his touch was.

Uruguay could have equalized almost immediate, though, but Martin Caceres was denied by a brilliant save form Hugo Lloris, one of the saves of the tournaments. But the same could not be said for the opposite goalie when Fernando Muslera slipped and spilled Antoine Griezmann's speculative shot. The game was up.

France went through to the semifinals. The ball may have moved in the air and that will haunt him for a long, long time.

So it is going to be an all-European tournament from here on. We can look forward to an absorbing semi between France and Belgium in St. Petersburg on Tuesday. Meanwhile, on Saturday, we'll see how the other half of the draw shakes out. England and Sweden play in the early quarterfinal game before the hosts, Russia, take on Croatia -- Don Riddell, CNN.


And thank you for joining me here on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Paula Newton. I'll be right back with the headlines in just a moment.