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WOLF

Hours Away from Supreme Court Pick; Trump Rips NATO Allies; Four Boys and Coach Still Trapped in Thailand; Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired July 9, 2018 - 13:00   ET

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


[13:00:00] DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much for joining us here on INSIDE POLITICS. "WOLF" starts right now

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.

One of the most consequential weeks of the Trump presidency begins just hours from now when he announces his United States Supreme Court pick. And it comes amid serious tensions with NATO allies ahead of this week's summit.

Also, a sudden war of words breaks out between Rudy Giuliani and Michael Cohen's new lawyer, Lanny Davis. Why Cohen is said to be sending a clear message to the White House.

And four boys and their coach still waiting to be rescued from that cave in Thailand after crews pull eight boys out alive. We'll take you there live as heavy rains begin to move in.

All that coming up.

But up first, the future direction of the country's highest court and the fate of relations with U.S. allies and adversaries, all part of a truly significant week for President Trump. In just a few hours, he announces his pick to replace the retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court. The president also attends the NATO summit in Brussels, meets with the British Prime Minister Theresa May, and the queen in the U.K. and visits Scotland before his big meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki one week from today.

Let's go to our senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff, update us, first of all, on the Supreme Court announcement only a few hours away.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are only hours away from that announcement, the big reveal tonight in the East Room of the White House. And I am told it is going to look exactly like the decision looked -- the announcement looked back in January of 2017 when Neil Gorsuch was the first nominee that this president made to the Supreme Court. He kept it a surprise until the moment of the reveal. I'm told the president is insisting on that same thing this evening. There are essentially four finalists. And you see them there on the

screen, Wolf. They're in alphabetical order, but not necessarily the order in which he is still considering them. There's still much reason to believe that Brett Kavanaugh is among the leading contenders, as is Tom Hardiman, as is Amy Coney Barrett. But Raymond Kethledge also in the mix there.

All of them, of course, are deeply conservative, Wolf. They come from that list of some 25 conservative judges that were put forward by the Federalist Society and other conservative groups here.

But, Wolf, the speed in which this is moving is really pretty extraordinary. We're less than -- about 12 days or so ago, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement was happening. So this announcement tonight certainly is coming fast. And they are pushing for a fast confirmation.

But, Wolf, that is anything but certain. Democrats also gearing up for a fight. This is already playing out in midterm election fights across the country, particularly in that battle for the Senate. In Missouri, for example, one important Senate race, the Republican candidate there already on the air advertising about this. So, Wolf, this is going to be front and center in the midterm elections.

But there are -- most people here at the White House do not know who the selection is going to be. In fact, all of them know it is going to be among those three or four. But the president, if he know, Wolf, he's not saying.

BLITZER: We'll know soon enough.

Jeff Zeleny at the White House, thanks very much.

ZELENY: You're right.

BLITZER: The president, meantime, heads to Brussels tomorrow for the two-day NATO summit. Today on Twitter, the president renewed his complaints over NATO spending by key U.S. allies. And he said this, and I'm quoting him now, the United States is spending far more on NATO than any other country. This is not fair, nor is it acceptable. NATO benefits Europe far more than it does the United States. By some accounts, the U.S. is paying for 90 percent of NATO with many countries nowhere close to their 2 percent commitment, close quote.

The United States, by the way, is actually paying around 22 percent of NATO's principle budget, not 90 percent, as the president says.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins. She's joining us live in Brussels right now.

Kaitlan, the president is way off on his numbers on NATO spending, but he's still going to be -- that's going to be his main message to the NATO allies, you have to increase your defense spending.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The numbers don't always matter much to President Trump, but that

language is going to be the same when he shows up here in Brussels tomorrow. He seems to be spoiling for a fight, judging by his tweets this morning, trashing NATO, singling out Germany specifically, saying that they aren't doing enough for their defense spending.

And this has long been a complaint of the president. That those countries are not living up to that 2014 agreement to spend up to 2 percent of their GDP on defense spending. Now, that has also been a complaint of presidents in the past, to be fair. This isn't just President Trump who believes the United States is shouldering the burden of NATO.

But the president is taking this criticism one step further. And European leaders already fear that this year's summit was going to be even more divisive than last year's when the president lectured these other leaders on defense spending during that famous speech where you could see their shocked faces as they stood next to the president. And he is really been -- or contributing to those fears here with those tweets we were seeing from him this morning essentially saying that this is going to be a showdown when he does get to Brussels.

[13:05:15] Now, the fears aren't just that it's going to be a tense summit, Wolf. They also have fears that the president is going to wrap up his week in Europe in that one-on-one first formal sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin. A meeting that these European leaders fear is going to be much friendlier than the one that they have with him and that could end in less military defense here in Europe by the United States. So that is certainly their concern here. But judging by the president's tweet, Wolf, he is going to use some very harsh language when he does show up in Brussels tomorrow.

BLITZER: Yes, on the eve of this summit, he not only tweeted about his complaints involving NATO spending among the allies, he also pointed out once again an top of this, he said the European Union has a trade surplus of $151 billion with the United States with big trade barriers on U.S. No. No in all caps. So there's a lot of tension right now between the U.S. and its closest NATO allies. Not just over NATO spending, but also on trade-related issues.

Kaitlan, we'll check back with you.

Kaitlan Collins joining us from Brussels.

BLITZER: Now to the very serious war of words that has developed between lawyers for President Trump and for his former attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen. Cohen's newest attorney, Lanny Davis, cautioned Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani with this tweet. Let me read it. Did Rudy Giuliani really say on Sunday shows that Michael Cohen should cooperate with prosecutors and tell the truth? Seriously? Is that Trump and Giuliani definition of truth? Trump/Giuliani next to the word truth equals oxymoron. Stay tuned.

For his part, Giuliani tells CNN, I'm quoting him now, the truth will set you free. The president did nothing wrong with Michael Cohen. Everything has been a dead end because there is nothing there. Let's discuss this and more with our chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and our chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

Gloria, what are you hearing from your sources about Michael Cohen's thinking, the addition of Lanny Davis, who all of us know going back to the Bill Clinton impeachment process, to his strong support for Hillary Clinton, that's really a significant message that Cohen is sending.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It is. And the message from my sources ism I'm no longer going to be the punching back for anyone else's defense strategy. And that they are upset at the -- what Rudy Giuliani has been saying. And that Michael Cohen believes that Giuliani and the president are trying to send him a message. And they think that message is that if he differs with them on his recollections, then they will continue their attacks on his character and will say that he is lying. So he has decided, along with Lanny Davis, who is his spokesman. I mean he has an attorney, Guy Petrillo. And they have decided to hit the reset button, as they put it.

BLITZER: Guy Petrillo, the new defense attorney for Michael Cohen, is a former criminal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York. I think he was in charge of the criminal division. So between Lanny Davis coming in, Guy Petrillo coming in, from the legal standpoint, what does it say to you?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it certainly seems they -- like they are issuing a declaration of independence a couple of days after July 4th. I mean they are not part of the Trump team. They are legally not part of the Trump world anymore. They're not being paid by Donald Trump.

I find it a little puzzling, frankly, that they were so offended by what Rudy Giuliani said yesterday. I mean all Rudy Giuliani said was, you know, tell the truth and there's no -- and there's no harm to the -- to the president. I don't know what else he could say as the president's advocate.

But it certainly does seem like Michael Cohen is in the process of separating himself from the president, but we still don't know what, if any, charges Cohen is going to face and we don't know if he is going to cooperate. So there's a lot of theater going on here, but I don't know what the actual truth is.

BORGER: Well, and we don't know whether the prosecutors are interested in him. I mean Guy Petrillo is not commenting, neither is Lanny Davis commenting on -- on that part of the case. This has nothing to do with the SDNY. We don't -- we don't know. We don't know.

TOOBIN: Well, you know, the Southern District got a search warrant for his office. That much we know. We don't know the basis --

BLITZER: And his home. And --

TOOBIN: And his home. I mean, you know, you don't get a search warrant for a lawyer's home and office without substantial evidence of probable cause that there's evidence of a crime there. We still don't know what crimes they're talking about, whether they relate to the president or then-candidate or then-private developer Trump in any way. But we do know -- we can conclude that Michael Cohen is in a world of trouble. But how much trouble he's in and what he's going to do about it, that remains still pretty serious.

[13:10:03] BORGER: And we know that both sides have looked at these -- at these documents. And maybe they're seeing different things in these documents and what they might imply or --

BLITZER: The documents that were taken from Cohen's home --

BORGER: Yes.

BLITZER: His hotel room.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: His office. His safe deposit box.

TOOBIN: His phone.

BLITZER: And including all the audio --

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: Recordings that he may have had.

BORGER: And Giuliani, in the Sunday shows, was very confident, that there is nothing -- that there is nothing in there to implicate his client in any way, shape or form.

What we don't know is what Mr. Petrillo is thinking is in those documents or what, you know, Mr. Cohen is thinking is in those -- is in those documents because they refuse to comment about that. But Giuliani says they have zero worries. And the quote from Giuliani is, I think he's going to tell the truth as best he can given his recollection, and if he does, we're home free.

TOOBIN: I guess that's the argument, that unless you line up your -- you, Michael Cohen, line up your story with the president's --

BORGER: Right.

TOOBIN: We're going to accuse you of lying.

BORGER: And that's where Michael Cohen is coming from. He's been frustrated. He's felt abandoned by somebody he once said he would take a bullet for.

TOOBIN: Yes, you know, there's actually a group of lawyers who think you shouldn't say anything when you're under investigation. And I sometimes think they're right, but that's -- you don't hire Lanny Davis if you want --

BLITZER: Rudy Giuliani is not one of those lawyers.

TOOBIN: Rudy Giuliani is not one of those lawyers, nor is Lanny Davis.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, I can only imagine, Gloria, those of us who covered Bill Clinton and the Whitewater investigation, the impeachment, the Monica Lewinsky scandal. You know, Lanny Davis, he was a special council for Bill Clinton at the White House. In more recent years, no one has been more supportive of Hillary Clinton than Lanny Davis. I can only imagine what President Trump must be thinking when he heard that Lanny Davis is now working with his former friend, his lawyer, his fixer, Michael Cohen.

BORGER: A Democrat. I think the president --

BLITZER: Not just a Democrat, but a Democrat who worked so closely with the Clintons.

BORGER: I think the president is probably thinking that Michael Cohen is no longer his ally in all of this. And that maybe Michael Cohen has made a decision that he's not looking for a pardon from the president of the United States, should one be necessary. That perhaps he feels that wouldn't be necessary for him, or maybe he'll -- we don't know what his communication eventually would be with the Southern District of New York. I mean there's -- there's a lot of stuff that we have to unspool in all of this.

TOOBIN: But the one thing that is clear is that this is a level of hostility between Michael Cohen and his former employer, Donald Trump --

BORGER: Yes, absolutely.

TOOBIN: That we have not seen before. It is a much ratcheted up level of hostility.

BORGER: Here is -- I will tell you -- I will tell you, here's a quote from a source familiar with Cohen's thinking, saying that he's no longer taking a bullet for Trump. He is no longer a flunky. It is his July 4th moment.

TOOBIN: There you go.

BORGER: As you were pointing out.

BLITZER: A really significant development. We'll see where it leads.

Guys, thank you very much.

Gloria, terrific reporting, as usual.

Are the president's talks with North Korea right now on the verge of collapse as the regime calls the U.S. gangster-like and the president puts blame on someone else? Plus, is Theresa May at risk of losing her job as prime minister? The

U.K. government in complete turmoil as two of her cabinet officials resign over Brexit. This just before her summit with President Trump.

And the breaking news out of Thailand, where eight boys have been pulled out alive from the cave, but there are more still trapped as heavy rains move in. We'll take you there live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:17:33] BLITZER: The extremely dangerous rescue mission in Thailand to save a youth soccer team and their coach trapped in the depths of a cave finally passed the halfway point today. Rescue teams have successfully evacuated now a total of eight boys, four yesterday, four more this morning, and they are being quarantined and treated at a hospital. And for the remaining team members, the four boys and their coach, will spend yet another night trapped in the cave. It's a race against time and weather. Oxygen levels are running low, and monsoon rains are moving in, threatening to flood the cave. Now rescue teams are refilling oxygen tanks and they're plotting out their next moves.

Let's check in with our international correspondent Matt Rivers. He's near the hospital.

Matt, the remaining children inside reportedly are described as the weakest. Are rescuers planning anything different to get them out?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It doesn't appear so, Wolf. It does appear that they are going to follow the protocol that has worked so successfully on these first two attempts. And don't forget, you know, that was far from guaranteed. We've spent the last couple days here talking about how potentially dangerous and fraught with peril that this kind of rescue attempt could be. And yet, over the last two days, almost miraculously, all eight boys that are in this hospital behind me at this point were managed to be successfully extricated from that cave. So I think what rescuers are going to do tomorrow is try and get all five remaining people inside that cave, four boys and the coach, out in a similar way. And hopefully it can be as successful.

We do know in terms of the conditions of the boys in the hospital behind me that they are being quarantined at this point, isolated away from the -- anyone who could come in contact with them. There's a fear that their immune systems are weaker, that they're more susceptible to infection. So they're going to try and make sure that their recovery goes as smoothly as possible.

And we did hear from officials here in Thailand who say that in terms of the rescue attempt tomorrow, divers need to rest. They need to prepare for tomorrow's dive. They need at least 20 hours in between those dives. But there is a sense of hope here in Thailand that maybe didn't exist quite so strongly a couple days ago, Wolf. These attempts have been successful so far, and everyone here is praying that the third attempt can get the rest of that team out just as safely as the first boys, the first eight boys, were able to be successfully taken out of there. [13:20:03] Wolf.

BLITZER: People are praying and hoping not only there but all over the world. They're all watching and hoping for the very best.

Matt Rivers on the scene for us. Thank you.

The path to safety is very long and very dangerous. The remaining team members are two and a half miles deep into the cave's system. Rescue teams have to take the boys through narrow pitch-black tunnels underwater, a daunting task for the boys, some of whom can't even swim.

Let's discuss all of this right now. Retired Navy diver and Captain Bobbie Scholley is joining us.

Bobbie, thanks very much for coming in.

So walk us through what these divers are doing.

BOBBIE SCHOLLEY, RETIRED NAVY DIVER: Well, Wolf, the diver team cannot let their guard down now. They've had two successful rescue attempts over the last two days. And everybody's getting tired. They're getting weary. But they have to keep vigilant.

So what they have to do is they have to follow the same plan that they've been executing the last two rescues. And they have to assemble the boys like they have been, take them one at a time. These boys have been in there even longer than the first two sets of boys. They have to take the boys one at a time, take them, and they have to, again, fit the boys with the full face masks that they've been using before and put the full face masks on each of the boys as they bring them out. Then they will have two divers assigned to each boy. That's why it's taking so long. One of the soccer players at a time with two divers attached to them.

The first part of the rescue has been the hardest. That's where they take them through that very narrow passageway that we've all heard about. And the first diver, rescue diver, will lead the soccer player through. He'll have the full face mask on. And the lead rescue diver will take the air tank that the soccer player is breathing from and take him through the water, through that narrow passageway, with another rescue diver following behind.

Now, hopefully, these boys are still -- have been through all of the training, all the practice, and are still calm with what they've been trained on. And then they will take them, one at a time, up through this first passage -- underwater passageway to what we call the tender on the other side. They're following the guidelines. They're held on with a buddy line to that lead diver. And they take them to the first dry piece of land above.

BLITZER: Of the 12 boys and the soccer coach, the stronger boys were taken out first. The weaker left for later. Walk us through why that decision would be make. You think that maybe you get the weaker ones out first because they're not in good shape. SCHOLLEY: Well, I'm not sure which protocol they went with, but I

would suspect that they would want to take some of the boys that were maybe a little bit stronger to make sure that this whole procedure was going to be successful. Whether they took the strongest boys or boys that were a little bit stronger, a little bit more confident in their skills to be able to use the diving equipment, but they wanted to, especially with those -- maybe the first set of boys, they would want to make sure that they're validating this whole procedure.

BLITZER: And they want to make sure that the whole process worked. The stronger boys probably would be ready to do it. Now they've got some experience from these separate operations and then they can come up and bring the weaker boys home. And let's hope and pray that it all works out for all of them, including the coach.

SCHOLLEY: Exactly.

BLITZER: And, Bobbie, thank you very much. Bobbie Scholley's a retired Navy diver, retired captain as well. Thanks very much for joining us.

SCHOLLEY: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: There's breaking news out of London right now. Just days before she meets with President Trump, Prime Minister Theresa May in real trouble as two of her cabinet officials resign, sending the government into turmoil.

Plus, despite North Korea's calling the United States gangster-like and dismissing American demands, the president says he's confident in Kim Jong-un. Are the nuclear talks, though, collapsing?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:28:39] BLITZER: There's breaking news coming into CNN.

Just days before President Trump is set to begin his visit to the U.K., Prime Minister Theresa May's government has been thrown into turmoil. Two key cabinet ministers stunned many by abruptly resigning. They're unhappy with May's blueprint for Britain's exit from the European Union. You'll recall, Britain pulled out -- voted to pull out of the E.U. in a 2016 referendum. At the time, Theresa May supported Britain staying in the EU.

CNN's Nina dos Santos is just outside parliament buildings in London right now.

Nina, Boris Johnson, the high-profile foreign minister, David Davis, the top Brexit negotiator, they have both now departed. Can Theresa May -- this is a question a lot of folks are asking -- survive as prime minister at this point?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN EUROPE EDITOR: Well, you can probably see the winds of change may well be blowing here in Westminster, Wolf, because that is the real concern this evening. This is, make no mistake, the most severe political crisis that Theresa May has faced since calling an ill-fated election a year or so ago, which despite the polls showing she was going to get a majority, she failed to manage to secure. And a lot of people have said since then also given her softer stance on Brexit than some hardened Euro skeptics would like to see, her card had been marked.

[13:29:57] Now, whether or not she stays in the job, Wolf, depends on a few things. One, whether other government ministers decide to resign from high-profile posts over the next 24 hours, two, whether Boris Johnson, who's been quite quiet since resigning four or five hours ago, decides to openly challenge her for the leadership.