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Trump Administration Not Meeting Today's Deadline to Reunite All Kids Under Five Who Were Separated from Their Parents; Source: Feeling at White House is that Pompeo's North Korea Trip Went Badly; Interview with Rep. Adam Schiff (D) California. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired July 10, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:14] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

A hundred and two of the youngest migrant children who've been taken at the border were supposed to be reunited with their parents by tonight. However, that's what a federal judge ordered two weeks ago. It's what the man responsible for holding those kids once suggested could be accomplished with just a few computer keystrokes.

And tonight, even as his agency is saying it will fail to meet that court-imposed deadline, that same official, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said the government did many of these kids a favor by taking them and tonight by keeping them from what he described as rapists, murderers and people who aren't really their parents.


ALEX AZAR, HHS SECRETARY: I could release all of the kids by 10:55 p.m., but I don't think you want that. I know the court doesn't want that. And I don't think even our political opponents want that to happen.


COOPER: That's Secretary Azar in "THE SITUATION ROOM" tonight.

Now, remember, this is someone talking about children his agency took in the first place and has held for weeks now. As for the thousands more who crossed the border unaccompanied, Secretary Azar suggested his agency was practically doing God's work.


AZAR: It is one of the great acts of American generosity and charity what we are doing for these unaccompanied kids who are smuggled into our country or come across illegally.


COOPER: Well, what Secretary Azar did in that interview is what the administration really has been doing throughout this episode. He repeatedly conflated the unaccompanied minors with kids, some 2,800 to 2,900 who've been taken from parents under the president's zero tolerance policy. And perhaps that's understandable. Perhaps, perhaps, caring for unaccompanied minors is indeed something to be admired. It's nothing controversial really about it, which may be why the secretary prefers to talk about that or blur the distinction because keeping him honest, when it actually comes to those thousands of separated kids or the 102 children younger than 5 years old that the administration created the crisis and is not taking responsibility for it.

And whatever you might think of the administration's zero tolerance border policy, officials enacted it under false pretenses. They have lied about many aspects of it, not planned for the human consequences, and now, after all that are trying to talk their way out of it.

Let's just start with the false pretenses.


KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, DHS SECRETARY: First, this administration did not create a policy of separating families at the border. We have a statutory responsibility that we take seriously to protect alien children from human smuggling, trafficking, and over criminal actions while enforcing our immigration laws.


COOPER: Well, keeping them honest, that's barely half true. It is, however, totally disingenuous. The administration, they chose to enforce the law, but in a way that two prior presidents, Republican and Democratic, declined to precisely because it would lead to mass family separations, which of course it did.

But the Trump administration viewed zero tolerance, as they called it, as a potential deterrent to illegal border crossing. And that's a legitimate, albeit harsh way to look at things -- as long as you accept responsibility for it, which frankly, this administration did not.


JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: It hasn't been good. And the American people don't like the idea that we're separating families. We never really intended to do that.


COOPER: Well, actually, they did. They really did intend that. Just ask them back when the policy was announced and before the world was greeted with images of kids locked in chain link cells.


SESSIONS: If you cross the border unlawfully, even a first offense, then we're going to prosecute you. If you smuggle an illegal alien across the border, then we'll prosecute you for smuggling. If you're smuggling a child, then we're going to prosecute you. And that child will be separated from you probably as required by law.


COOPER: Again, not required by law, done by choice, touted as a deterrent, something the administration proudly owned until the consequences came and the stories changed. Then all kinds of things suddenly seemed to get awfully fuzzy with the administration.

Listen to what HHS Secretary Alex Azar said during congressional testimony about how easy he said it would be to reunite parents and their separated children.


AZAR: 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 sat on the ORR portal with just basic key strokes within seconds could find any child in our care for any parent.


COOPER: Well, he said that late last month just hours before a judge gave the government 30 days to reunify all families divided under the so-called zero tolerance policy, and two weeks for the youngest kids.

By late last week, though, Secretary Azar was saying HHS did not even have an exact count of how many children it had in custody.

[20:05:03] Somewhere below 3,000, he said, an estimate about children we're talking about.

Now, by the way, the administration had been releasing exact numbers daily. That is until the judge issued his order, then all of the sudden, the numbers stopped. No more magical key strokes, I guess. And let's just listen to this, just to remind you.


AZAR: There is no reason why any parent would not know where their child is located.


COOPER: Well, that, of course, wasn't true either. The parents did not know. Apparently, he didn't know.

Still, he did say that HHS would meet all the deadlines where there is now unspecified number of children was concerned, and that wasn't true either. But he said it anyway. And the way he said it suggested that the real problem lay with the court order, not the administration failing to have a plan for living up to it.


AZAR: We will comply with the artificial deadlines created by the court. We will comply, even if those deadlines prevent us from conducting our standard or even a truncated vetting process.


COOPER: So at the end of the day, that process cannot seem to even reunify all 102 children younger than five years old with their families.

And again, late today, Secretary Azar painted a postcard picture of the lives that these kids now lead.


AZAR: Wolf, what we do is provide as caring an environment. They get education. They're getting athletics. They're getting entertainment. They get medical care, dental care, mental health care, vision care. They're getting snacks. We then -- of course, the care manager, the case management to try to place them with relatives, if it's not about this reunification process.

We place them in a safe environment with other relatives who are here in this country, even if they're here illegally. It's what we do as part of this program regularly, but it's always about child welfare. It's about compassion and love towards these kids and protecting them.

I know that's what you want. Anyone else wants us to do that.


COOPER: So, for him, he says it's all about the kids. As for the president, what are his thoughts on untangling the human mess that his policy created? Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I have a solution. Tell people not to come to our country illegally. That's the solution. Don't come to our country illegally. Come like other people do, come legally.

REPORTER: Mr. President, Mr. President --

REPORTER: Is that what you're saying, you're punishing the children?

TRUMP: I'm saying this very simply. We have laws. We have borders. Don't come to our country illegally. It's not a good thing.


COOPER: One of the other many remarkable moments in that interview with Secretary Azar was his insisting that his agency has been nothing but transparent throughout the process, transparent about the numbers, the facilities, everything, really.

So while you consider that, we're going to play some tape from a conference call on the 26th of last month that shows that this claim of transparency -- well, it certainly wasn't the case in this case.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) REPORTER: I'm wondering first, are you still receiving children who are coming into your care because of parental detention? We know there is an implementation phase on the executive order.

JUDY STECKER, ASSISTANT SECRETARY, PUBLIC AFFAIRS, HHS: As mentioned earlier, we can get you that information as soon as possible, and we appreciate your patience.

REPORTER: Wait, wait, wait, no, actually, actually, it's really important. Are you guys still -- excuse me, are you still receiving children who are there because of the parental separation policy?

STECKER: I believe we've answered your -- you've had -- you gave us three questions. We responded to your question and I ask that you send that to

REPORTER: I'm sorry, I didn't hear an answer.

STECKER: Your final question.


COOPER: That was a mighty long pause before not answering that question.

Sunlen Serfaty was on that call trying to get answers. She joins us now.

So, Sunlen, you've been following this for weeks. What's your reaction I'm wondering to what Secretary Azar said tonight about being transparent?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that claim, Anderson, that Secretary Azar made was significant, saying that he believes they've been transparent. But I can tell you, after reporting on this story for a few weeks now, that really flies in the face of what our team here has observed. Myself and my other colleagues here at CNN, we've been reaching out daily to HHS, really trying to get answers to the specific questions that we have since this executive order by President Trump was signed.

Simple questions like what are the ages of the kids that you're holding. Simple questions like how many kids are you holding? And then the larger questions, when did you stop separating the kids, how are these reunifications going to take place? How is this playing out? What is the process here?

And really at every avenue, it seems that they either cannot or will not give us those answers. At times when we've reached out to HHS, they have ignored our questions. At other times, they've simply acknowledged receipt of the questions, but not given an answer. Sometimes they have given answers, but it's usually been incomplete or really not answering the direct questions that we've had, and we've been pushing on a daily basis, getting very basic answers or trying to get very basic answers questioned -- questions answered. [20:10:05] One good example that of is as you set up very nicely in

the introduction there is about something as simple as a head count, trying to get our arms around how many kids were separated from their families and who have not been reunified.

At first, they broke down that number. They said these are the number of kids who were separated from their families. These were the numbers of kids who showed up unaccompanied without an adult. Then they went back and did a lump sum, putting all of those kids together. That essentially gave us even less information than we had before.

So, certainly a lot more questions here tonight. And I think this claim by Secretary Azar really is in conflict with what we observed as we've stayed on reporting this story.

COOPER: It is noticeable that the secretary made the claim on a day that was a deadline, a deadline that the government is not going to make. I mean, what do we know about the next deadline that they're facing?

SERFATY: That's right. He made this claim, and I should say and make sure to say that in the last week, in the last few days, in fact, it seems like the HHS secretary has made a concerted effort to try to push some numbers out there. Of course, as you mentioned, they are really running up against these deadlines.

One of those deadlines today that they likely would not make, and they did not make. They're now only have reunified under half of the 100 kids under five years old that they have separated from their families.

They have another major deadline coming up on July 26. That's the date they have to reunify all the kids that have been separated from their family. So, significant today, not only are they still not giving us much of the answers that we have, but they're in the midst of potentially missing another deadline.

And again, should it be noted these are not deadlines and facts and figures, these are of course lives that we're talking about, and in many cases, little babies, little kids.

COOPER: Yes, and the secretary kept calling it arbitrary deadline set by the court.

Sunlen, thanks.

Joining us is Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director of the National Immigrant Justice Center.

Mary Meg, thanks for joining us.

I wonder first of all what goes through your mind when you hear Secretary Azar say that the administration is not only protecting these kids, but they're actually saving these children's lives?

MARY MEG MCCARTHY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL IMMIGRANT JUSTICE CENTER: Anderson, I'm very, very concerned about the rhetoric that we are hearing from this administration. Number one, there is absolutely no transparency, and in fact, what I heard today is really demonizing these parents who were ripped from their children by this administration. This administration is taking absolutely no responsibility for the human rights violations that have occurred as a result of their actions and their practices.

And they're changing their stories.

COOPER: Is it really --

MCCARTHY: The reason these children --

COOPER: Right. I mean, he did seem in this interview a lot -- in the interview, he seemed to be saying that a lot of the people weren't really their parents, they were murderers, they were rapists, and, you know, there must be these cases amongst these, but it did sound like he was making it sound as if that this was the majority of the reason why these kids were not being reunited or had not yet been reunited.

MCCARTHY: I would argue there is no evidence to support that. In fact, at the National Immigrant Justice Center, where we have been representing parents and children, we have found totally legitimate family relationships. There is no evidence to show that these parents are fraudulently bringing in children.

And furthermore, the evidence that these parents are criminals, that has been the rhetoric of this administration towards all immigrants since day one. And yet there is no evidence. All of the sudden now, we're talking about these terrible individuals, these parents who were ripped from their children not because of their criminal behavior but because of our criminal behavior in this country when we decided to prosecute asylum seekers. That is the illegal act.

COOPER: Mary Meg, stick around, because I want to bring in some additional perspective tonight.

John Sandweg is former acting director of ICE. He joins us now.

John, you heard what the secretary was saying, that the administration has a lot to be proud off. You've certainly seen this family reunification process unfold or not unfold in the last several weeks.

I'm wondering, do you think they have a lot to be proud of the way this has been handled?

JOHN SANDWEG, FORMER ICE ACTING DIRECTOR: No, of course not. I mean, this is -- look, the notion that somehow the three and a half week delays because they're protecting the children is really misleading, Anderson. It doesn't take three and a half weeks to vet the parents' backgrounds, to identify criminal histories. It doesn't take three and a half weeks to confirm parentage.

This is really about the administration's reluctance despite the president saying three weeks ago he was going to reunite the families. Clearly, there is reluctance here to actually do it because there are simple ways of doing it, which is like they did today for the 60 parents they release -- release the parents, put them on an ankle bracelet, let them reunify with their children.

[20:15:07] I don't know what's really going on here, but there is clearly -- obviously lack of planning plays a part, but also just a general reluctance to actually reunite these families.

COOPER: Well, when you say there's reluctance, do you mean a willful reluctance, they don't want to do it, therefore they're not doing it, or that they can't do it. They don't have -- despite the secretary saying it could be -- you know, the locations could be found with a key stroke a while back in front of Congress, that they actually can't do it?

SANDWEG: Well, certainly -- clearly, there is a lack of planning that is playing a role. You know, you have the children going to HHS custody. The parents staying in DHS custody. Clearly, they didn't do a very good job of keeping records so it was easy to reunite the families that should be a couple of key strokes. I think it's pretty apparent that it's not.

I do think something more is at play here, though, and that is that the administration is trying very hard to figure out a way to continue the detention of the families together. They're saying OK, we'll reunite, be we're going to do it in a detention setting that violates Flores court, which reaffirmed last night, that ICE doesn't have the capacity to hold families in this situation.

And so, I think that's also driving this a bit. I think there is a general reluctance because they're trying to find way despite the -- you know, what's impossible, frankly, to figure out a way to detain these families further.

COOPER: Mary Meg, I wonder what you think when you hear Secretary Azar essentially saying that they're doing these children favors, giving them education, entertainment, snacks. I mean, I've talked to some people who have visited these facilities who say the children aren't allowed to be touched, which is obviously for reasons. They don't want them to be abused in any way.

But obviously, you have kids under 5 years old. The idea of not having human contact or much human contact, I'm not sure enough snacks are going to fill that void.

MCCARTHY: Those children need to be with their parents, Anderson. That is the simple solution. There is no reason these children have been separated from their parents.

I would argue that the care and custody for these children generally has been appropriate, but when you separate children, you rip them away from their parents, the trauma. The American Academy of Pediatrics has verified that the trauma is life-long for many of these children and for the parents, and now we as a country have a responsibility to ensure that those children receive the proper care as well as their parents. We may get these families reunited, but then we now have to fight for

them to secure asylum and protection. People do not leave their home countries, especially with children, unless their lives are in danger, and that's what we're seeing in this country today. It's just a disrespect for the rule of law.

And, John, I would just add, I know you talked about the alternatives to detention. We don't need to put people, parents on ankle monitors. We need to look at case management systems, alternatives to detention.

Today, we had a father, a 23-year-old father released and reunited with his 3-year-old child. He is now on an ankle bracelet. He is not going anywhere. He needs support. They've been separated for two months. They need a lawyer and they need support for the trauma that they have suffered for the past two months.

COOPER: John, I want you to be able to answer that.

SANDWEG: Well, listen, I don't disagree with Mary Meg at all, but the bottom line is the administration wants to take a position where they're considered by catch and release. My simple point is this, you didn't need to separate families to enforce border security or be tough on the border.

There are alternative ways of doing this. And I agree with Mary Meg. Case management programs are very effective in ensuring compliance. But there are other ways of doing that this family separation was never necessary from the beginning. Not to protect the children, not to protect the border, and now, we're seeing the consequences three weeks later. Only 50 kids have been reunited.

COOPER: John Sandweg, thank you. Mary Meg McCarthy, appreciate it. A good discussion.

Coming up, a new discussion on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's visit to Korea and the chilly reception he got there. We'll have details on that.

And later, is Michael Cohen the new John Dean? What sources are saying his team is saying about comparison with Richard Nixon's former White House counsel, the one who flipped. And John Dean will join us to tell us what he thinks about Michael Cohen being compared to him.

We'll be right back.


[20:21:31] COOPER: Welcome back.

There is breaking news tonight on the fallout from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's trip to North Korea. Now, you'll recall the last week, Pompeo characterized his talks with North Korean leaders as productive. Now, we're learning that may not have actually been the case.

CNN's Michelle Kosinski tonight joins us with details. So, what are you learning, Michelle?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Well, the source familiar with this discussion says there is a sense even among some within the White House that this trip -- and he has sat down with Kim Jong-un's right-hand man before -- went as badly as it could have gone, that there just wasn't the rapport there. In fact, the source said that the North Koreans didn't seem really all that serious about wanting to move things forward. They described the North Korean side as, quote, just messing around in these long-hours of meetings.

So immediately after the talks, we hear the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo say that progress was made on all the big issues, but at the same time, you see the North Koreans calling the U.S. stance gangster- like, regrettable, saying the U.S. was bringing up cancerous issues that only led to an increased risk of war in the past.

So, you see there was a big gap there, and that was evidenced further by the fact that we are told Pompeo fully expected to be sitting down with Kim Jong-un himself. He was promised a meeting with Kim Jong-un. That didn't happen, and that sent a big message to the Americans that this was not going to be quite as expected.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, .it's a pretty stunning turn of events if you believed the administration's line about how well the initial meeting went and what the president has said publicly recently.

KOSINSKI: Yes, I think they're just trying to emphasize the positive. I mean, maybe some progress was made on the big issues, if only in the sense that we'll talk about these in the future. I mean, it could have been something like that, but when you saw that North Korean statement with all the bluster, I mean, the kind of rhetoric and name- calling that you saw before the Trump/Kim summit, you knew something went wrong in there.

And when you read the North Korean statement, you see that the North Koreans expected more on certain issues. They want to see progress towards an official end to the Korean War. They want to see them get something at every step. Clearly, this didn't lend clarity or the closing of the gap between how the Americans and the North Koreans view what denuclearization is and how it's going to happen.

COOPER: Michelle Kosinski, I appreciate the update. Thanks.

So, clearly, a very unsettled situation with North Korea. The NATO summit begins tomorrow in Brussels. Now, normally these things are long on ceremony and short on controversy. Normal? Well, this one ain't.

President Trump, who arrived in the Belgian capital earlier today is already upending all of that as he left the White House. The president once again complained about NATO and also had a forecast about his upcoming meeting with Russia's Vladimir Putin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: NATO has not treated us fairly, but I think we'll work something out. We pay far too much and they pay far too little. But we will work it out, and all countries will be happy. The U.K., that's a situation that's been going on for a long time.

So, I have NATO, I have the U.K., which is in somewhat turmoil, and I have Putin. Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all.


COOPER: Well, joining us now, CNN global affairs analyst and "Washington Post" columnist Max Boot, and Matthew Rojansky, the director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

Max, I mean, how do you explain the president criticizing NATO on the eve of the summit in Brussels, and less than a week before he meets with Putin, because instability within NATO is something I assume Putin would welcome.

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It's inexplicable, Anderson, if you're talking about any other U.S. president, but it's entirely par for the course for Donald Trump who since the 1980s has been inveighing against our allies, claiming that they are ripping us off. He does not appreciate the value of our alliances, and at the same time, he has had nothing but kind words to say about Vladimir Putin.

So, this kind of upside down world that he inhabits where our allies are our enemies and vice versa. And so, that's how you have to understand what he is doing with this summit. But it's hugely destructive, and he does not understand the extent to which we actually benefit from our alliance system and the extent to which we will miss it once it's gone, which is a real possibility given the way that he is trying to destabilize our oldest relationships.

COOPER: Matthew, it is interesting, to say the least, to hear the president saying the Putin meeting might be the easiest on his itinerary, easier than meeting with some of our closest allies, easier than meeting with the British Prime Minister Theresa May. It's going to be easier to meet with a former KGB intelligence operative who is certainly well-versed in a lot of issues that this president may not be as well read in on.

MATTHEW ROJANSKY, DIRECTOR, KENNAN INSTITUTE AT THE WOODROW WILSON CENTER: I think, Anderson, you know, easy might be the right word if the way you define a successful meeting is nothing particularly terrible but nothing particularly important happens. I suspect this is not going to be a meeting that is long on substance. This is going to be a meeting that's important largely because it happens, because the president of the United States and the president of the Russian federation, the world's two biggest nuclear powers who are severely at odds, who are not going to come to agreement under any circumstances over issues like Ukraine or Syria or election hacking, there is a long list of really serious disagreements between these two countries.

They're going to shake hands. They're going to talk. There are going to be photo-ops and they're going to send a signal to the two governments, OK, the mutual isolation policy part at least is over for a while. Now it's OK to talk to each other.

I don't suspect there are going to be a lot of substantive deliverables from this meeting. So, in that sense, it will be easy because it will be likely relatively short on content.

COOPER: Well, Max, to that notion, if it does at least signal to our allies, signal to others that the freezing between the two countries is reduced, that I assume would be a positive development because then there could be further -- further meetings, no?

BOOT: In theory, of course, you always have to say that it's better to have good relations rather than bad relations. But in this case, I think what's happening is actually very dangerous because if you think about the timeline, last month, Donald Trump had a very acrimonious meeting with our allies at the G-7. Now imagine what happens if this week, he has an equally acrimonious meeting which I think is very likely, because, you know, going into it, he is already flinging Twitter insults left and right against our closest allies.

So, imagine if he has this acrimonious meeting with NATO, then he goes to Britain and probably undermines Theresa May with her government on the brink of collapse and then goes and meets with Putin and glad hands him and has a wonderful meeting, and perhaps they don't reach a deal, perhaps they do because it's clear that Donald Trump would love to deal perhaps on Syria, perhaps on Ukraine. Anyway, the symbolism I think is very destructive.

I mean, these -- it really feels like these are hugely important days for U.S. diplomacy in the 21st century. It really feels like a lot of things we've taken for granted, the nature of the alliance system that we've depended on since the 1940s is very much in balance because fundamentally, Donald Trump is not an Atlanticist. He is not in sympathy with the E.U. or NATO. He castigates them all the time and he seems to have boundless sympathy for Russia. So, that is a very dangerous confluence of circumstances.

COOPER: Matthew, I mean, the president's argument all along has been that it's better to get along with Russia than have a bad relationship. For Putin, I mean, is it a zero sum game? I mean, is he looking to make concessions?

ROJANSKY: I think it's much less black and white than that, Anderson. I don't think there is a state of the world which is hunky-dory, we get along, everything is great between Putin and Trump, between Russia and America. In another state of the world, which is the current state of the world where we are really dangerously on the brink of war, and that can have serious nuclear implications for two countries that have the capability to basically end life on this planet as we know it in under an hour should they choose to do so.

There is a middle ground, and I suspect that in reality, this meeting is a move towards that middle ground where the two governments at a minimum can functionally talk to each other. That can be at a working level among military professionals, et cetera. And the two presidents meeting opens that door. That is important. BOOT: I think that's an overly optimistic view of what's happening

here because I think that Donald Trump needs to stand up to Vladimir Putin. He needs to send him a message that it's unacceptable to murder a mother of three on British soil. It's unacceptable to invade Ukraine and occupy Crimea. It's unacceptable to commit war crimes in Syria. It's unacceptable to meddle in U.S. elections.

And my concern is that Donald Trump is not going to deliver any of those messages, and instead what he's going to do is he's going to tell Putin how wonderful he is. Putin will tell Trump that he thinks he's wonderful too, and in fact this will undermine our deterrence and encourage Russia aggression and undermine the western alliance.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, a lot -- certainly a lot to watch for, Max Boot, Matthew Rojansky, I appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Supreme Court Nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh was on Capitol Hill today, the first of a set schedule of visits to senators ahead of his confirmation hearing.

Coming up, we'll going to take a look at the reaction, thus far. We'll be right back.


COOPER: President Trump's second Supreme Court nominee made his Senate debut today. Brett Kavanaugh is of course, but as familiar with the process as any court pick could possibly be. He's a Washington insider, a long-time political player as well.

He does, however, face a Senate as divided as it's perhaps has ever been with midterm elections just around the corner. So the tension and the stakes really could not be any higher. Our Phil Mattingly joins us now with just the very latest.

So Phil, in terms of the people you're talking to, where does the Senate stand tonight when it comes to Kavanaugh, especially the red state Democrats and the moderate Republicans?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there are really six or seven senators that everybody is focused on right now, really will determine the fate of this pick. And while we are going to know officially where they stand for a number of weeks, according to aides, pretty much all of their offices, you did get a hint today that is probably pretty good news for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

[20:35:10] Two Republicans, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, the two that Democrats are targeting, hoping to peel off to their side, both simply saying they believe at least at first glance Brett Kavanaugh is very well qualified for the position, both noting that they voted for past Democratic nominees even if they disagreed with them politically because they felt they were qualified.

Obviously, there is a lot of work to come and obviously Democrats both outside the capitol and inside the capitol will be putting a lot of pressure on both senators, most notably on abortion rights. Also the Affordable Care Act, but when you listen to those words, at least at first glance, keep in mind the key for McConnell, the key for the White House, if they roll up all of the Republicans in support of Kavanaugh, they don't need Democrats at all. That's their focus right now, and at least in terms of early returns, there is a pretty good day on that front, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, in terms of the timeline for the confirmation hearings, do we have an idea of what that looks like?

MATTINGLY: It's up in the air right now. Look, I've talked to Republican aides who have made clear they want to move on a confirmation hearing as soon as August. We were hearing September for the weeks leading up to now. They're trying to accelerate that. But keep an eye on kind of a smaller battle inside the broader war that's going on with this pick, and that's on documents, that's on everything that Brett Kavanaugh was involved in, not just the 300 opinions he issued as an appellate court justice, but also his time in the Bush administration.

Democrats want everything he was involved in. Republicans already saying they don't need that to know where he stands from a judicial philosophy perspective that will be a fight to watch, and that will be a fight that only could dictate when the hear willing happen, but also if it could be delayed even longer, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Phil, that's very much. It's going to be a busy couple of weeks for you.

As we've been talking about Democratic objections to the nomination are coalescing, not just on abortion or the Affordable Care Act. Also judge Kavanaugh's writing with respect to sitting presidents and criminal case.

Joining us now for more on that is Congressman Adam Schiff of California, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman Schiff, Kavanaugh's past opinions about sitting presidents and criminal prosecution, you've expressed your concern about that. But opinions a judge may have expressed previously on lower court whether on the bench or not. Why does that necessarily translate into how they'll rule on the Supreme Court? I mean Kavanaugh wrote this in the Minnesota Law Review, it wasn't even a ruling of his.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, of course someone's writings or past decisions are at best guidance about what they may do in the future. They're never a perfect road map. But here there are very legitimate concerns. This is someone who was on the Ken Starr investigative team that was dogging a sitting president who then has an epiphany and says really, sitting presidents shouldn't be the subject of an investigation or prosecution. And what accounts for the transformation? Well, he worked in the Bush White House and discovered that presidents are very busy.

I don't think anyone is quite that naive to think that presidents are not busy, but nonetheless, here is now a strongly articulated policy view that presidents shouldn't be subject to investigation or prosecution.

And where that's of concern is if you have a question of first impression, can the president pardon himself? Can the president pardon his own family? Can the president be held liable for obstruction of justice or is he essentially, as Giuliani and the others argue, above the law because he is the law and he can't be held to be obstructing the law? If these cases go to the court and Kavanaugh is sitting on the court and rules in the President's favor, that opinion will have no respect in the public because it will be tainted by the suspicion that he was chosen expressly for that purpose.

I think it will do more to discredit the court than Bush v. Gore ever did. And so the senators are going to need to ask very difficult, deep, probing questions about this. And if he fails to answer them, I think he either ought to be refused on that basis alone or that a recusal be committed to an advance.

COOPER: Well, I mean, do you personally believe that that's why he was selected, to give cover for the president? On this particular issue?

SCHIFF: I do believe that there is only one guiding ideology philosophy, rule of law or rule of thumb for this President, and that is self. He changes his policy positions five times a day. He has no devotion to anything that conservative view would espouse or the Republican Party for that matter. The only guiding principle, the North Star for this President is self-interest.

And so, yes, among these 25 candidates approved by the federalist society, he picks the one that says a sitting president shouldn't be the subject of an investigation or prosecution. I think it's hard to imagine that was not a very decisive factor in Kavanaugh's favor.

It's also hard to imagine that given that history that any opinion he would participate in would have the kind of respect of the public that it would need to have credibility. So this is I think a key factor and --

[20:40:09] COOPER: I mean it does --

SCHIFF: I just think you would --

COOPER: I mean that's a pretty damning statement about the motivation of the president for picking a Supreme Court justice, that basically, he's sort of trying to get himself a get out of jail card, a potential get out of jail or stay out of jail card?

SCHIFF: Well, look, it would be naive to think otherwise with this President. He reminds us on a daily basis on Twitter that it's all about him, that the problems that he has with NATO and Europe are about him, the affinity that he has with Putin is about him, that even controversies that would ostensibly have nothing to do with him are in reality about him. So why should we imagine that this Supreme Court pick would be anything different? I think it would be quite naive to think otherwise. And so in light of that, I think we have to game this out. These questions are likely to go to the court. Some of these questions are likely to go to the court. And what kind of a crisis of confidence will there be if a Supreme Court in which Kavanaugh sits makes a decision impacting the direction, the future of this presidency? I think that is something that every senator needs to think about during any confirmation process.

COOPER: Congressman Schiff, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

SCHIFF: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up, a really amazing end to the story of the kids stuck in that cave in Thailand. It's a happy story in these dark days. Some sources telling us also that Michael Cohen's team feels there is a strong parallel to John Dean, the former White House Counsel who eventually told all to a Senate committee during Watergate. Just ahead, I'll talk with the man himself, John Dean, not Michael Cohen. But how does John Dean feel about being compared by some of Michael Cohen's people to him? We'll be right back.


[20:45:10] COOPER: So a question. Is Michael Cohen the new John Dean? Sources are telling CNN that his legal team feels there is a strong parallel between his case and the White House Counsel during Watergate, who ultimately told all about Richard Nixon.

I'm joined now by John Dean, Jeffrey Toobin, CNN chief Legal Analyst as well. John, A, how do you feel about Michael Cohen's team comparing his circumstances to what you went through during Watergate? Do you see any similarities?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I'm reaching a little bit, Anderson. First of all he is not in the White House. He obviously was with the Trump organization for a long time. I was not with the Nixon organization until the White House. But if he's determined to step up and tell the truth, that's something I did do while I was at the White House.

COOPER: So your advice to Cohen is basically, if he is going to cooperate, he better be prepared to go the whole way and pull no punches?

DEAN: Exactly. He cannot shade this. He cannot try to be self- serving in any way. He's got to be prepared to take the heat. When I actually broke rank, I told my colleagues I was doing so. I hired a lawyer. I was going to plead. My lawyer said -- he was a very sophisticated lawyer with trial experience in the southern district, and he said I don't do pleas, but I'll look at your case, and if you've got options, we'll go forward. And he thought I had a lot of options. So we did go forward. He was a very savvy lawyer in his representation of me. But he also said, John, remember when you kick the king, it better take care of the job.

COOPER: Jeff, do you buy this idea that Michael Cohen is the second coming of John Dean? Because I seem to recall I think maybe it was Michael Wolff's book that there was an anecdote about the President watching CNN, watching when John Dean was on and sort of being fascinated by that or concerned about it or at least obsessed with John Dean's comments about Watergate and any comparisons. Is this Lanny Davis sending a message to the President referring to Michael Cohen as John Dean?

JEFF TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: What I love about this segment, it reminds me of that great scene in "Annie Hall" in Marshall McLuhan where it's like --


TOOBIN: It's like you think you're John Dean? We happen to have John Dean right here, which we do.

COOPER: Marshall McLuhan, you know nothing but --


COOPER: And then Marshall McLuhan was like, you know, you know nothing about my work. How you got to be a professor of Columbia amazes me or something like that.

TOOBIN: Exactly, right.

COOPER: Like any whole knowledge.

TOOBIN: Anyway, there is a huge difference between Michael Cohen at this stage and John Dean when he became famous. John Dean told his story and told how he told the President there was a cancer on the presidency. He admitted that he was part of the Watergate cover-up.

Michael Cohen hasn't admitted anything. Michael Cohen hasn't said what he knows. So we can't really draw a comparison if Michael Cohen is merely speculating, or his representatives are merely speculating that he may say something damaging until he actually says it. We don't know what Michael Cohen himself is accused of doing wrong, if anything, and we don't know if he knows anything bad about Donald Trump. So I think the comparison sort of falls apart right at the very beginning.

COOPER: So, John, what is this? Is this just some sort of public campaign to either influence the President to a potential pardon? Is it a message to prosecutors? How do you see this?

DEAN: Well, one of my reactions was it was a message to Trump. As you said, the Michael Wolff book, "Fire and Fury" did have Trump talking to his television whenever I appeared on CNN to make a comparison, which he obviously would send a message to the President if he said he was going to try to take my role. Trump I don't think has much real insight into Watergate. I don't think he has any real understanding of what my role was. He doesn't know history well at all. We'll see if the lawyers that represent Michael do.

COOPER: Jeff, how long could any potential negotiations between Cohen and the southern district of New York go on for? And the longer the process goes, does that tell you anything? I mean, we don't even know if there are negotiations.

TOOBIN: We don't. And one reason I think things have been sort of at a stand still is this process has been going on of reviewing the documents and the phone records that were seized in the search to see if there is anything covered by the attorney/client privilege. That slowed everything down. We don't know -- the prosecutors I think only recently got the full tranche of the material.

You know, the legal system always works a little slower than we in journalism would prefer, but I do think the southern district is going to have to make a decision relatively soon about whether they want to give Michael Cohen immunity, whether they want to prosecute him, whether they'll negotiate a guilty plea, all of that will be decided I think in the next few months.

[20:50:18] COOPER: Yes, all right. Jeff, thank you very much, John Dean as well. Great to have you on.

Let's check in with Chris to see what's coming up on "Cuomo Prime Time" starting at the top of the hour. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "COUMO PRIME TIME: All right, thank you my friend. Here on the white board you can see where the show is headed. We're going to be taking on immigration. We're going to talk about the deadline today. And we're going to do it as a theory of the case.

What was the motive in missing the deadline today? Why did it happen? What is the proof we have of the same? We'll make the case for you tonight.

We're also going to talk about the play that the President is approaching on NATO. What are the pluses? What are the minuses? Secretary Chertoff is here, who was the second head of Homeland Security to talk about immigration. He was the developer of operations streamline. What did they do with kids and families, what did they not do? How does he see the threat to NATO that has been imposed? You heard about the vote, right Anderson? 97-2 in the Senate --


CUOMO: Almost as rare as a unicorn, that kind of bipartisan show on any vote. What does it mean? We'll take you through it. Also a pardon that the President made that is a sign of the times. What is it and why? You'll see at 9:00.

COOPER: All right. Chris, thanks very much. I look forward to the unicorn.

When we come back, the latest from Thailand where rescuers have done what once was thought almost impossible. They've saved all those kids and their soccer coach, incredible, trapped in that underground cave.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Well, for more than two weeks we've been watching the case of those kids trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand. The boys are doing well. They're out. So is their coach. We're told they're in a good mood although getting hungry a lot, which is certainly understandable.

Our Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins me now.

So Sanjay, I mean first just an incredible miracle that they were able to coordinate this, get them out. Just in terms of what's ahead for these kids and their condition now, what are the important things to look for and know about?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, the big thing immediately after they've been rescued was to take care of the basics. You know, there was hypothermia. There was dehydration, malnutrition, and they made some decisions right at the entrance to the cave, Anderson, as you might know, how quickly do they need to get these boys to the hospital based on that level of concern. We hear that part of it, sort of stabilizing those things is going pretty well.

[20:55:04] You can't do that fast, Anderson. If someone has been hydrated you going to give fluid slowly, you may not be able to give solid food right away, all of that sort of stuff.

There's also the concern about infection. They've been in this cave for, you know, over two weeks. You get exposed to all sorts of different elements when in the cave. They have to check for those things, see if there's an infection that has taken hold. There is a concern about lung infection in a couple of the boys, but they don't know exactly what that infection is yet is my understanding.

And also this is interesting, Anderson, you appreciate when you don't have any exposure to natural light for over two weeks like these boys again and the coach have had, your body changes. Your physiology changes to some extent. Some things in your body ramp up, some things sort of ramp down. One of the concerns is that your immune system starts to not work as well. So that is why they're in quarantine now as you've heard. It's because they don't want other people, family members or other people, bringing what would otherwise be harmless bacteria and infecting the boys because they may not be able to fight it as well right now, but that should all resolve in the next couple of days.

COOPER: From what I understand, I was interested to learn that the kids were using meditation to help stay calm. As someone who practices mindfulness meditation, I find that particularly interesting in a stressful situation like that, that that is effective or, you know, could be effective for them?

GUPTA: Yes. I had heard the same thing. I didn't know you practiced mindfulness meditation. I do too. And I think it can be really helpful obviously decreasing anxiety, decreasing levels of fear in a situation like this.

My understanding, what I've heard is the coach actually is someone who had practiced meditation for quite some time and really had learned it well and was teaching the boys, the soccer players this as well.

There's a more pragmatic thing as well when you're in a situation where oxygen levels may be dropping, you have limited resources. Sort of mindfulness meditation can help lower your heart rate, lower your breathing, lower your metabolism so you may not have as much of a demand for those things. So it could have a psychological as well as direct physical impact.

And keep in mind again, you know, with this rescue, a very unique sort of situation, you want to obviously do things and decrease anxiety in the long run, but also during the rescue itself, they have full face masks on. They're going through water. If there's a situation of panic, that could be a life-threatening situation not only for the boy in this case but also for the rescue divers themselves.

I had heard as well, Anderson, that they gave the boys a little bit of a light dose of a sedative before the rescue actually took place to make sure that they stayed calm during that whole process.

COOPER: Yes. I mean I've actually dived in underwater caves in Okavango Delta in Botswana on a story about Nile crocodiles. And I got to tell you, I mean, with hardly any visibility, which is the case in this cave in Thailand, in some regions, parts of it, I mean it was terrifying for me, and I'm an experienced diver. I could not imagine some of those kids who had never dived before, you know, and obviously they're being helped, but even those -- wearing those full face masks, which are really great because they're less claustrophobic than the smaller face masks, but just in a cave is a freaky thing to be diving in.

GUPTA: You can't see. And you're right. The full face mask is, I think, easier to sort of get used to than the respirator. But, still, for someone who has hardly done any swimming let alone diving like this, it's got to be a very frightening experience. And getting them through that psychologically with the help of the meditation, maybe with the slight dose of the sedative, not enough too make them too sleepy, look, it seemed to have worked, Anderson. It seemed to have done the trick.

COOPER: I also heard about something called cave disease that these boys may have been exposed too. It sounds kind of drastic. What exactly is that?

GUPTA: Well, you know, it's interesting. In caves, you have lots of different potential pathogens. One of the ones that people worry about in particular really is due to the bird and bat droppings that can then become aerosolized in a form of a fungus and the spores of a fungus. So it's not something you would necessarily notice but you could be breathing those spores into your lung. And that's -- people call it cave disease colloquially. It's known as histoplasmosis specifically, and that's something they're testing for as well in addition to other potential infections.

But that's one that, you know, they would want to diagnose early. That can be treated. Luckily it's not contagious, so this wouldn't be something that would put the health care workers at risk or other family members at risk. But it's something they'd obviously want to treat. People who cave dive or spelunk as it's called are most at risk.

COOPER: Yes. Well, it's a nice way to end the program for tonight.


COOPER: Certainly a happy story that they're all out and doing well.

[21:00:07] Let's hand it over to Chris. Cuomo Prime Time starts right now. Chris?