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U.S. Government Faces Deadline To Reunite Children Under Five By Tomorrow; Sixth and Seventh Boys Rescued From Thai Cave; Report Connects Trump To Russia As Far Back As 1987; Puerto Rico Braces For Flooding From Tropical System. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired July 9, 2018 - 07:30   ET



[07:30:11] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The Trump administration has until tomorrow to reunite children under five separated from their families at the border, but the U.S. government is arguing it needs more time to find dozens of parents perhaps no longer in U.S. government custody.

Now, our next guest tried last week to visit a facility that houses separated immigrant children but was denied entry by its employees.

Joining us now, Republican Congressman Jeff Denham of California. Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.

Let's start with approximate news. The government has until tomorrow to reunite the children younger than five with their parents.

Do you think the government will meet that deadline?


HHS has said, even under the previous administration, that they've had these lists of unaccompanied minors. These kids have been treated the same way as unaccompanied minors so there's no reason, no excuse why they wouldn't know exactly where they are all the time.

BERMAN: Well look, this same administration -- Sec. Azar of HHS, last week, gave us an estimate for the number of kids overall. He said fewer than 3,000. He doesn't know the full number here so it's clear that they don't have an exact accounting of where all these children, isn't it?

DENHAM: There's no reason they shouldn't have an exact -- I would say not only exact but to the moment, know exactly where each of these individual kids are.

BERMAN: So when --

DENHAM: They should, they should, but I think that's part of the problem and I think tomorrow's going to be self-evident on whether they know how many, where they're at, and what the process is. And those are the questions I had for the facility that I went to visit. Just show us the conditions these kids are under right now and let us know.

First of all, you ought to be able to tell their family, their relatives, their parents exactly the treatment that these kids have. But secondly, you ought to know immediately -- if you know when the court process is you ought to know immediately when the reunification process is.

BERMAN: So they have -- that facility hasn't given you those answers -- the one that turned you away -- not yet, correct?

DENHAM: Zero. I couldn't even get the director of the facility to come outside and tell me how old is this facility, what are your hours of operation, how many kids. I mean, even the basics. I could hear behind the door but never opened it.

BERMAN: Has the administration give you any answers?

DENHAM: No, but we had pre-cleared this. I mean, this administration knew -- the White House knew as well as HHS knew that I was going to this facility.

Ultimately, a lot of what we're dealing with now is a law that needs to be changed and both parties should be working together to craft and to pass and to do --

BERMAN: I understand.

DENHAM: -- it immediately. But if you can't even get these questions answered from the current administration how does Congress do its job to actually fix the problem?

BERMAN: In long-term, there do need to be laws passed to address this situation. But there's no question -- there's no argument at this point that these children -- the estimate of fewer than 3,000 as HHS now says it -- they were separated by a decision made by the Trump administration. Separated and then not accounted for.

And what I can't figure out is -- you know, we can't get answers. We've been asking these questions. But you, a Republican member of Congress -- if you can't get the answers to these questions what does that tell you?

DENHAM: It's certainly frustrating. Any member of Congress, it doesn't matter party, you should be able to know those that are being sent to your district, those that are going to impact your district, those that are really going to impact our country. We ought to know exactly how many kids there are and what the process is for unifying them with their parents.

BERMAN: Is this an issue of competence or is it an issue of decency? Is the government just not up to the task of actually counting or do they not want to? DENHAM: I don't know. It would surprise me if they don't want to but certainly, they should be able to. Whether they release all of those numbers to the public, certainly members of Congress should know exactly what those numbers are. We ought to be able to do it in a moment's notice.

BERMAN: You don't seem to be ruling out the possibility though that there is a question of will here.

DENHAM: Sure. This is -- I think it's horrible optics.

BERMAN: But it's more -- but you agree, and I'm pressing you because you've been knocking on doors here. You've been trying to get answers. It's more than optics.

I mean, there are -- there are 3,000 kids here. We're talking about kids that were separated from their parents by a decision made by the U.S. government. It's just not a bad look.

DENHAM: I would agree. But I also believe that we should know these family detention units -- these resident facilities that are along the border, we're moving to expand those. We have those in my bill that failed two weeks ago.

We should know how many more we need and what the extent of those are, not only to make sure that this process stops so that we make sure that kids are with their parents but secondly, we've got to know exactly what this reunification process is and the time line, and I think tomorrow is going to be pretty telling.

[07:35:02] BERMAN: Congressman Jeff Denham of California, thank you for your efforts to get answers here. Keep on pushing because we need --

DENHAM: Thank you.

BERMAN: -- to know the answers to these questions. Appreciate it.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news out of Thailand. Another huge development in terms of rescue operations. Two more boys, we've just learned, have been rescued from that flooded cave.

We want to get straight to CNN's Ivan Watson who has the very latest there. He is live in Northern Thailand.

Three in just the last few hours.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's remarkable as the sun is setting here over Mae Sai in Northern Thailand, very close to where this incredible rescue operation is underway in that mountain in the cave complex behind me.

We have learned from a member of the rescue operation who's stationed at the mouth of the cave complex that two more boys have emerged. Rescuers have brought two more boys out. There was an earlier one about two hours ago.

And that brings the total of rescues today up to three, in addition to four boys who were brought successfully out of the cave complex on Sunday evening. So that would leave now five boys from the soccer team still inside the cave complex, as well as their 25-year-old coach.

Now the first of the boys who came out today, Monday, has already been taken by ambulance and then by military helicopter to a hospital in the Provincial capital where he has been effectively quarantined. He is not allowed to come in contact with his family, for example.

Members of the families of the missing boys say that all the parents are remaining basically up at the base camp up on the mountain because they've decided that they'll all leave when all the children have been rescued.

Now, the two most recent rescues Erica -- we're told by this member of the rescue operation that they're currently being reviewed at the field hospital that has been erected there at what you could describe as base camp, and that seems to be the pattern that we've seen for the previous rescues as well. But again, another potentially positive development.

We don't have details on the medical condition of these two most recent rescues but clearly, this multinational team that is engaging in this very dangerous work that claimed the life -- the life of one former Thai SEAL Navy diver just last week, are hard at work. They've been at work for some seven hours now and they are bringing people from inside the cave complex -- Erica and John.

BERMAN: That makes three today, Ivan, on top of four yesterday.

Are there limitations? Yesterday, we understand, they had to stop after four to restock the oxygen tanks along the path there. Are those -- are there still those limitations today?

WATSON: Not entirely clear but the narrative that the Thai officials gave yesterday was after extracting four of the boys who are said to be in good condition now and have been requesting one of their favorite Thai dishes actually today from the hospital, that they had run out of their oxygen supplies for the procedure and they had to basically rest and restock for the next day.

So, you know, the question is will they have more supplies for the operation this time? And recall that the roundtrip for divers to and from the cave where these kids have been hiding, which is about 2.5 miles into the mountain, is roughly an 11-hour roundtrip journey so that burns oxygen for the divers going in and then coming out.

We also have heard that the children that have been extracted have been brought out with kind of full-air face masks because, of course, these kids are not trained scuba divers. This is, as I mentioned before, very dangerous for even trained professionals and some of these kids, frankly, just can't swim. So again, a perilous and dangerous journey but one that seems to be

bearing fruit as the sun is setting here. Of course, deep beneath the mountain it doesn't matter whether it is night or day. It's dark and some of these passages are flooded with water.

And fortunately, there's been one very positive development. The forecast of downpours --


WATSON: -- of rain have not materialized thus far. So that means there has not been an inundation of additional water into the cave complex and presumably, that makes the rescue operation much easier.

HILL: All right, we'll --

WATSON: John and Erica.

HILL: -- continue to follow those developments. But again, a sixth and seventh --


HILL: Sixth and seventh boys out.

[07:40:00] It is really remarkable, Ivan. Thank you. And we'll continue to check in with Ivan and Matt Rivers at the hospital, as well.

Just ahead, a new report tying Donald Trump to Russia back in 1987. How did that shape his worldview?


HILL: The minister in charge of negotiating Britain's exit from the European Union has resigned. David Davis says he couldn't support Prime Minister Theresa May's negotiating approach.

Meantime, a new article in "New York Magazine" makes some startling and some familiar accusations about just how involved Russia may have been in the Brexit campaign.

We're joined by the writer of that story, Jonathan Chait.

It is a fascinating read, to put it mildly. But the case you lay out here for the similarities in terms of what we saw for the campaigning of Brexit and what we saw during the 2016 election campaign here in the United States is fascinating.

What do you see as the similarities? Why do you believe that these two are so closely parallel?

JONATHAN CHAIT, WRITER, "NEW YORK MAGAZINE": Well, it actually parallels the way Russia has operated in a wide array of Western countries in the last several years. Russia courts right-wing allies and tries to gain their support for foreign policy and aids them with a combination of overt and covert actions to try to help them gain power through elections.

[07:45:13] What they did in Britain is especially close to what they did to the United States. It happened at about the same time and months apart in 2016.

In Britain, what they did was to meet with the backer of the Brexit campaign. The Brexit campaign, you have to understand, served Russia's interests because Russia, for decades, has tried to split Western allies apart from each other to try to weaken that united front against Russia.

And so, they wanted Brexit to succeed. They wanted Britain to leave the European Union to split the Western allies apart.

So, Brexit was supported in a referendum in the United Kingdom by a British businessman named Arron Banks who supported it with the largest political expenditure in the history of the United Kingdom.

Now, he initially admitted to meeting with the Russians once and then "The Guardian" found out that there were more meetings so he said OK, just two or three times.

Then, "The New York Times" found another meeting in secret documents and he said OK, it turns out there were four times.

And now, "The Guardian" has gone back and found more and he says all right, it turns out there were 11 times he met with the Russians.

The Russians were dangling this very lucrative mining deal to him wherein it basically appears that they were passing through the money to him by giving him a no-lose business deal which would then compensate him for the money he was spending on Brexit.

He says he has no involvement -- he turned down the business deal. But his business partner, it turns out, did take the money, did do the deal. So all his lies keep collapsing one after another.

But the pattern, again, is quite similar in the sense of finding local backers to go around the prohibition of Russia directly intervening in the election --

HILL: Yes.

CHAIT: -- in giving these people money and in support. And also using the overt techniques of social media bots -- media infiltration to try to get Russia's way in the election that they want to win.

HILL: Well, what's fascinating is you lay out the parallels there but what's also fascinating is as you lay out what you have found to be the way that Russia and the Soviets before them would go after certain people who they saw could be helpful to them and who may be vulnerable.

And you're talking about contact with Donald Trump being made as early as -- or as long ago, sorry, as more than 30 years ago. And you write this. "Russian intelligence gains influence in foreign countries by operating suddenly and patiently. It exerts different gradations" -- as you point out -- "of leverage over different kinds of people but using a basic tool kit of blackmail that involves the exploitation of greed, stupidity, ego, and sexual appetite. All of which" -- you write -- "are traits Trump has in abundance."

Why would he have been so attractive to them in 1986 and 1987?

CHAIT: That's a great question.

Russian intelligence tries to find people who they think that have potential, not just current leaders because current leaders sometimes can be the hardest people to get to. The people who are on the rise, people who have a future in their country.

Trump, they thought, was someone who had a future and Trump saw himself as having a future in politics right after that trip, and I'm not the first person to make this observation. Luke Harding, a "Guardian" reporter, got to that first.

But it was only after his trip to Moscow in 1987 that Donald Trump came back and within a couple of months started talking about running for president for the first time and started talking -- and started bashing America's allies for the first time. You can't -- you can't find, before 1997, Trump talking about how all these countries who are our allies are ripping us off and we should cut them loose.

And he started spending his own money in these full-page newspaper ads, saying why are we spending our money to defend these countries -- Japan and the Gulf States and Western Europe? Why are we defending them? What he didn't mention in these ads is who are we defending them from, and the answer was Russia and the Soviet Union.

So again, possibly a coincidence but here was Trump, for the first time, laying out a doctrine that aligned very closely with what the Soviets wanted Western politicians to say.

HILL: Yes. Jonathan, we're pretty tight.

I know you make the case that this next meeting between the president and Vladimir Putin could be "less a negotiation between two heads of state than a meeting between a Russian intelligence asset and his handler."

Those are strong words. This reads like a Hollywood thriller. There's no getting around that.

But you could also look at it and say --


HILL: -- this could be sort of a conspiracy in and of itself. You're trying to paint this picture of a president who's influenced by Russia. Is this just an attempt to set up a different narrative?

How do you respond to that?

CHAIT: Well look, we don't have all the facts and we don't know exactly where this is going to lead. And I try to be very cautious and very sober in this piece being clear about what we know and what we don't know. But there's a massive amount of information I try to lay out in this piece that does point to the strong possibility of some very, very dark conclusions and we just have to take it seriously.

[07:50:05] HILL: It is a fascinating read, as I point out. I encourage our viewers to check it out as well.

Jonathan, appreciate your time. Thank you.

CHAIT: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right.

With storms brewing in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico bracing for a new round of flooding. Are they prepared for a new tropical storm system?


BERMAN: It's time for "CNN Money Now."

The Trump administration is freezing payments in a program that helps pay for high-risk patients, the latest move by the administration to weaken Obamacare.

CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans in the Money Center with more -- Romans.


The Trump administration just chipping away here at Obamacare and insurers say it will send premiums higher.

Over the weekend, the administration froze a $10 billion payment for its risk adjustment program. That program helps insurers cover sicker individuals. But the administration halted the payment citing a federal court ruling that said the government formula for calculating these payments was flawed.

[07:55:05] The insurance industry said this freeze will harm consumers by creating market uncertainty and increasing premiums next year.

The Trump administration failed to repeal Obamacare outright last year, but since then it has repeatedly undermined this law.

In June, the Justice Department refused to defend Obamacare in court. It scaled back Obamacare's advertising budget. Last year, it ended cost-sharing payments to help pay for those lower-income enrollees -- Erica.

HILL: All right, Christine, thank you.

Puerto Rico, meantime, bracing for flooding from the remnants of a tropical system. The island, of course, still continuing its slow recovery from last year's devastating Hurricane Maria.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is live now in San Juan this morning with more. Leyla, it does not look like a very good morning where you are.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via Skype): No, the rain is starting to come down. That said, there's been a bit of a sigh of relief over the weekend given that Beryl has sort of weakened. But I want to show you where the concern still is given that we are starting to see rain and expect more throughout the day.

You see this right here behind me. This is Conado. It is a neighborhood in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

And you can see sort of the cluster of blue tarps still on top of the homes of neighbors in this area. That is just one small portion of San Juan.

The governor of Puerto Rico says there are still 60,000 homes on this island with blue tarps as the rain comes down.

The other major concern beyond the rain, and the flooding, and tarps is, of course, that vulnerable power grid that is more vulnerable today than it was before Hurricane Irma, before Hurricane Maria given that last year's hurricane season. Still today, there are 1,500 customers without power.

And again, while there is a bit of a sigh of relief given that this is not as bad as it was a few days ago, there was still very much that concern that any bit of a rain and one inch, two inches could have a big impact on the folks that are still very vulnerable from last hurricane season -- John.

BERMAN: Leyla Santiago in San Juan. Leyla, thank you so much for being there.

This next story is one that had a lot of people wondering can this really be true?

So, the U.S. threatened other nations in an effort to weaken a World Health Organization measure that encouraged breastfeeding. This is according to a "The New York Times" report.

You would think this would not be controversial but more than a dozen participants from various countries told the "Times" that U.S. delegates threatened retribution on trade and military aid to Ecuador, the measure's original sponsor, but the resolution passed largely unchanged after Russia stepped in as a sponsor.

Again, to explain really what happened here, they wanted to pass an innocuous measure. The WHO saying hey, breastfeeding is good -- what science says is.

HILL: Is, yes.

BERMAN: And the U.S. stepped in and said no, don't do this because the formula companies said no.

HILL: Right. And part of it, too, is that there was apparently language that they wanted to limit either inaccurate or misleading marketing information on substitutes -- on formula, and that was one of the things that the U.S. objected to.


HILL: Inaccurate information. No, no, no, that's OK. Put it out there because it will sell more formula. I mean, it's maddening.

AVLON: It is -- it is so absurd that the United States -- this is a resolution encouraging breastfeeding, right, in which we have the scientific evidence the point is good. And the United States, on behalf of the industry, goes out and threatens to withdraw military aid and trade sanctions on smaller countries that are putting this forward. But once Russia steps up, no criticism, no pushback.

HILL: Yes.

AVLON: But the fact that this is -- this is utterly uncontroversial. The fact they pulled out the howitzers to talk about simply the encouraged breastfeeding on behalf of the industry making formula is just morally bad.

BERMAN: And it's very interesting. I encourage everyone to read this article. Like we said, you shake your head and you wonder can it really be true --

AVLON: And it is.

BERMAN: -- and a whole lot of people saying so.

HILL: Yes.

All right, we do have breaking news on those trapped kids in Thailand. We want to get straight to it.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BERMAN: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Monday, July ninth, 8:00 here in New York.

Erica Hill in for Alisyn Camerota.

The breaking news is out of Thailand. Three boys have been rescued from that flooded cave in just the last two hours. One of those boys is at the hospital already.

HILL: At this hour here's what we know.

Rescuers frantically trying, of course, to save those remaining five boys in the cave, as well as their soccer coach. They have now been underground for 17 days. We know the oxygen levels are falling, the water levels threatening to rise.

We begin our breaking news coverage with CNN's Ivan Watson who is live in Northern Thailand -- Ivan.

WATSON: Good morning, Erica and John.

Here, the sun is setting over Mae Sai in Northern Thailand and the mountain behind me where this remarkable rescue operation is underway in the deep cave system where these boys have been trapped.

According to Thai authorities, this has been underway for about eight hours. But probably in the last three to four hours now, according to a member of the rescue team at the mouth of the cave, we've now seen three boys come out from depths of about 2.5 miles -- around four kilometers.