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Confirmation Fight Kicks Off for Trump's Supreme Court Pick; Boys and Coach Rescued, Four Rescue Workers Still Inside Cave; Trump Says Meeting with Vladimir Putin May Be Easiest of Them All; Aired 10- 10:30a ET

Aired July 10, 2018 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Between now and October, this man will be winning confirmation -- will try to win confirmation for Anthony Kennedy's soon-to-be vacant Supreme Court seat with a strategy that he previewed at the White House. Listen.


JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I will tell each senator that I revere the Constitution. I believe that an independent judiciary is the crown jewel of our constitutional republic. I will keep an open mind in every case.


HARLOW: Our Jessica Schneider is in Washington. And Jessica, for people waking up this morning and they're wondering who is this, tell us about him.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, Brett Kavanaugh has a lot of inside-the-beltway experience which Democrats are no doubt going to be seizing upon. This is going to be a rough battle on Capitol Hill. And the White House already has a very tight timeline in store. White House legislative director Marc Short, he says they expect Kavanaugh's confirmation by October 1st. That's less than three months away.

So Judge Kavanaugh, he has a lot of experience. Most of it in Washington. He's been on the D.C. Circuit Court for the past 12 years. Before that, he worked for George W. Bush at the White House. And that's where millions of pieces of paper crossed Kavanaugh's desk while he was staff secretary for the president at some very momentous times including September 11th and Hurricane Katrina. So there's really no doubt Democrats will be seizing on all of that paper, all of that paper trail, and scrutinizing every word they can find.

Now of course, President Trump, he's talked about it this morning. He is confident in his pick. But some questions were raised this morning just outside the White House with spokesman Raj Shah. The question included how Brett Kavanaugh was picked and what his role might be if he were to be confirmed at the Supreme Court if any Russia investigation related case actually landed there. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did anybody in the White House assure Justice Kennedy that he -- his replacement would be Brett Kavanaugh if he retired?


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Would he have to recuse himself if any questions related to the Mueller probe make it to the Supreme Court?

SHAH: Those are complex legal issues.


SCHNEIDER: So the White House dodging that direct question right there. But the question, it came up because Judge Kavanaugh, he has written about the possibility of indicting sitting presidents. And he suggested in a "Law Review" article that it should not be done. He wrote this in 2009. He said that the trial of a sitting president would cripple the federal government. And Kavanaugh wrote that article a few years after he left the Bush administration. He said his perspective had shifted after he served under George W. Bush, saying that he had no appreciation for the demands of the presidency.

And he did acknowledge that while the president was not above the law, he said that any investigation should wait until the president was out of office because, Poppy, he said if there was an investigation, if there was an indictment, it would just be far too disruptive. So of course that will be interesting and that will be a point that Democrats seize upon in these confirmation hearings -- Poppy.

HARLOW: An important one. Jessica Schneider, thanks for the reporting this morning.

I'm joined now by two people who know Brett Kavanaugh well. Akhil Amar, who's one of his law professors at Yale and vouches for him in a "New York Times" op-ed titled "A Liberal's Case for Brett Kavanaugh," and Rebecca Tableson clerked for Judge Kavanaugh in 2010 and 2011.

Nice to have you both here. Let's listen to Mitch McConnell, Senate majority leader, we'll get right back to you.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: The D.C. Circuit, Judge Kavanaugh possesses an impressive resume, an outstanding legal mind, and an exemplary judicial temperament. He served 12 years on the nation's most consequential circuit court. During that tenure he's proven to be one of the most thorough and thoughtful jurists in our country. And importantly, that record demonstrates an understanding of a judge's proper role in our constitutional republic.

Judge Kavanaugh understands that in the United States of America judges are not, not, unelected super legislators whom we select for their personal views or policy preferences. A judge's duty is to interpret the plain meaning of our laws and our Constitution according to how they are written.

Judges need to be unbiased. They need to treat all parties fairly. They need to approach every case with open ears and an open mind. Judges' decisions must turn on the facts of each case and be based on the text that it is their job to interpret. By all accounts, Judge Kavanaugh is precisely that kind of judge. His resume, to put it simply, is topnotch.

HARLOW: All right, quite a bit of praise there from Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell about Judge Kavanaugh, calling him one of the most thoughtful and thorough justices in our country. We'll keep an eye on this. But let me get back to my guests, Akhil and Rebecca, who both know the judge well.

[10:05:03] Thank you both for being here. And Akhil, I read your op- ed in the "Times" last night about two minutes after it was published because the headline, right, is startling, "A Liberal's Case for Judge Kavanaugh." You say right at the top, look, I was a big Hillary Clinton supporter. I was a big supporter of President Obama's nominee for the seat that Gorsuch got, Merrick Garland, but you say Kavanaugh is a superb pick for this court, why?

AKHIL AMAR, PROFESSOR OF LAW AND POLITICAL SCIENCE, YALE UNIVERSITY: For the same reasons that Judge Garland would have been excellent. He is very well respected across the spectrum by lawyers, judges, scholars, the justices themselves. You'll hear from one of his clerks in just a moment. He sends more clerks to the Supreme Court than anyone other than Garland, and he sends them to justices across the political spectrum which suggests that the justices themselves across the spectrum respect him as do scholars.

He is a scholar himself. I think he's very thoughtful and open- minded. And I say this to my friends and fellow Democrats, be careful what you wish for even if you were able to derail this. I think you get someone good, perhaps, but not as good as Brett Kavanaugh.

HARLOW: But, Akhil, what do you say to those like, you know, Steve Vladeck, one of our legal experts who was just on the air who said there's no doubt that this pick hues the court more to the conservative bent? That he clerked for Kennedy but is not a Kennedy who would necessarily be a hero of liberals on social issues.

AMAR: Well, I say to my friend Steve Vladeck who was my student, again, be careful what you wish for because you're going to get someone, if you were able to block someone open-minded, smart, scholarly fair, be careful, you may get someone who's not quite as good along those dimensions. Not quite as expert in the Constitution as is Brett Kavanaugh. So I'd say to my friend, Steve Vladeck, you haven't thought it through.

HARLOW: Rebecca, to you, you clerked for Judge Kavanaugh. And your argument on "Roe versus Wade" concerns that some have here is you say this is a red herring, why?

REBECCA TABLESON, FORMER CLERK FOR JUDGE KAVANAUGH: It is a red herring. "Roe versus Wade" is being used to distract from the impeccable credentials that Judge Kavanaugh has to be on the court. And part of those credentials is, you know, a history over a decade of wrestling with precedent as a judge on the D.C. Circuit. And he would continue to do that faithfully and with an open mind, and hearing the arguments that every party before the court on the Supreme Court.

In addition to the extent there's any question about his support for women his record belies -- and people like me are evidence of that. I am a young mother of three children under 3, and I attribute my vibrant career to Judge Kavanaugh. And there are dozens of female lawyers who can say the exact same thing. And so he has contributed to diversity and supported women in his profession more than any other similarly situated judge I can think of.

HARLOW: Akhil, on "Roe versus Wade," A, do you agree with Rebecca on that, that it is a red herring and being used to distract? Because he has talked about it. He was asked about it by Schumer in his 2006 confirmation hearing to the D.C. Circuit. And he essentially said, of course, I'd follow, you know, court precedent, but that's different when you're on a lower court than when you're answering that question, though, to the Supreme Court. And frankly, how you think he's going to answer questions about "Roe versus Wade" in his confirmation hearing?

AMAR: You're right that the role of a lower court judge is different from a Supreme Court justice. Supreme Court justices on occasion do need to modify precedent because the ultimate, the supreme law of the land, is the Constitution itself. "Brown vs. Board of Education" looked at the Constitution and said it says equal, and that means we need to rethink Plessy.

I wrote in my op-ed I think it's fair game to ask any candidate about his or her -- any nominee about his views, his or her views, and the candidates should ideally answer which, for example, Neil Gorsuch didn't, but nothing that a candidate says about his or her past writings or past cases can be understood as a pledge or a promise.

Once you're on the court, if things look different to you, new arguments, new facts, then you have to be free to change your mind. That's what judicial independence is all about. And you heard from his law clerk and from him that he is going to keep an open minds, and I believe him.

HARLOW: Is there anything, Rebecca, that you know about him as a justice and as a person that would make you think that he will actually answer these questions directly when asked during his confirmation hearing? Because as you know, the answer's changed a lot since Robert Bjork, right, and the way that they choose to answer questions in their confirmation hearings, not exactly direct.

TABLESON: Things have changed. And it's unfortunate the confirmation hearings are what they are today. I think the good thing about Judge Kavanaugh is that he has a record so he is not an unknown.

[10:10:04] He's not someone that was appointed to the Supreme Court after only being a judge for a few months. He's been on the second most important court in America for over a decade. And so even if the confirmation hearings go the way they have been going recently, he has a record that America can look to, and that record has over 300 opinions in which Judge Kavanaugh has shown himself to be independent, thoughtful, open-minded, fair, and willing to part ways with both his conservative and his liberal colleagues when that is what the law requires.

HARLOW: Thank you both. Akhil, nice to have you. I'd point everyone to your opinion piece, it's fascinating. Rebecca, glad you're here, as well.


HARLOW: All right. More breaking news this morning. All 12 of those boys and their soccer coach have been rescued from that flooded cave in Thailand after 18 days in the dark. This operation, though, is not over yet. Four rescuers are still inside the cave. The Thai Navy SEALs are asking for support as they try to work their way out.

CNN is live there and also at the hospital where these boys are recovering. Let's begin, though, with our senior international correspondent, Ivan Watson, who joins us from the cave.

A remarkable day, a miraculous day, but still more work to do.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Still more work to do, but that said, I think there were an awful lot of tears of joy across the kingdom of Thailand today. Just anecdotally what I've seen here from passersby, Thai people who have said I was so happy I cried, upon hearing news that the stranded, the trapped soccer players and their coach, had all been rescued after more than two weeks deep inside the mountain, 2.5 miles inside.

There was a Facebook post from the royal Thai Navy SEALs that came out saying, quote, "We're not sure if this is a miracle, science, or what. All 13 Wild Boars are now out of the cave." The Wild Boars, of course, that's the name of the youth soccer team here in this corner of northern Thailand. A team that's kind of become known in corners all around the world throughout this remarkable drama, this quite dangerous ordeal.

But the Thai Navy SEALs also pointed out that there are four rescuers that they still want to ensure that they get out safely. A doctor and three other Thai Navy SEALs who went into the cave, all the way in, and stayed for more than a week there alongside the trapped boys, making sure that they stayed as healthy as possible.

So as soon as we hear more, Poppy, about their condition when they have hopefully gotten out safely. Then we'll bring you that news. Recall that one Thai Navy SEAL diver, a former diver, a professional diver, died last week conducting these very dangerous operations, operations with razor-sharp rocks that required the kids to wear wet suits to keep from suffering hypothermia as they were pulled out from deep beneath the mountain here -- Poppy.

HARLOW: It's remarkable. Thank you, Ivan, for being there and for that reporting. Keep us posted on the four others as they make their way out.

These are the last ambulances, take a look, that the boys were headed to the hospital in. Crowds are lining the route. You see them right there. Look at the crowds cheering them on. These are the four final boys rescued, headed to the hospital.

That's where our international correspondent Matt Rivers is. And Matt, what can you tell us about the health, the condition of these boys right now?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I can tell you that everyone here is pulling for these boys. I mean, that moment just a couple of minutes ago when people were cheering as these ambulances came in, Poppy. That was a remarkable moment to be a part of people coming out here in this neighborhood to lend their support to people that they've never met before.

The last two ambulances as they came by carrying the final child, the last member of that soccer team and also the coach, they are now inside. And what we don't know is the conditions of boys number nine, 10, 11, and 12, and also the coach. They are all inside, they're all being treated in a special isolation ward, exactly as the eight members that were rescued before them were.

And what we're hoping here is that the conditions health-wise of the last couple of people that were rescued mirrors the conditions of the first eight because we know that they're in pretty good shape. Yes, they came in with certain complications, five of the eight, Poppy, had lower body temperatures, two of the eight had lung infections, but they were treated immediately and they responded well to that treatment.

So what we're hoping to see for rest of the boys and the coach is that they respond to treatment, as well. We're hoping to hear soon from the hospital an update on those conditions. But until we do, I can tell you there is joy here in Thailand at just the thought that these people are inside this hospital and not in that cave.

HARLOW: Joy in Thailand, indeed. It is so good to see this this morning, Matt. Please keep us posted.

Ahead for us, the president targets NATO ahead of his meeting in Brussels and says his one-on-one meeting with that man, President Vladimir Putin, might be the easiest of them all.

[10:15:05] And breaking news on reunifying these families and the deadline today. The youngest children separated from their parents supposed to be reunited today. A source tells CNN children in the care of HHS are already being transferred to ICE custody. We'll have a live report ahead.


HARLOW: We're back with more breaking news. Right now President Trump is in the air, and you see him boarding Air Force One just a little while ago. He's heading to Brussels for a likely tense NATO summit. Also waiting for him, a one-on-one with Vladimir Putin on Monday. Listen to what the president said moments before he took off.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have NATO, I have the UK which is in somewhat turmoil, and I have Putin. Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all.


HARLOW: Maybe. Kaitlan Collins is in Brussels with more. I mean, that is startling to hear from the president certainly.

[10:20:02] What awaits him there in Brussels, though?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is a stunning statement, Poppy, not surprising, though, coming from President Trump. But he does seem to be saying that he feels more comfortable going into that meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin than he does coming to a summit here where he is going to be surrounded by U.S. allies.

The president is setting the tone for that NATO summit, being incredibly combative on Twitter and this is exactly what the European leaders that he's meeting with are fearful of. That he is going to come here and have a very tense, a very divisive summit, and then he's going to go to Helsinki, Finland and have this very friendly time with Vladimir Putin, and they fear that that could lead to concessions like canceled military exercises or the scaling back of U.S. troops here in Europe. The president was asked if he thinks that Putin is a friend or a foe, and this is how he answered that question.


TRUMP: He's a competitor. I think that getting along with Russia, getting along with China, with others, is a good thing.


COLLINS: So you see there that very friendly language from the president there from someone who is the leader of a country that has meddled in the United States election, is accused of poisoning a former Russian spy who was living in the UK, invading Crimea, among other things, Poppy, of course. And you see that language there, not combative at all. Now compare that to how he discussed NATO.


TRUMP: NATO has not treated us fairly but I think we'll work something out. We're being taken advantage of by the European Union. We lost $151 billion last year on trade and on top of that we spend at least 70 percent for NATO and frankly it helps them a lot more than it helps us.


COLLINS: So there he's saying 70 percent. A few days ago he said 90 percent.

Poppy, the president doesn't always get the numbers right when he is talking about NATO. But he is being incredibly defensive about the fact that he believes that NATO is not worth its value. That they are ripping off the United States, saying this morning that NATO countries even though the United States is a NATO country, needs to pay more while the U.S. should spend less. He is essentially spoiling for a fight when he lands here in Brussels. And it could very well be a showdown -- Poppy.

HARLOW: And he never mentions that, you know, all of these key NATO members actually really stepped up their spending as a percent of their GDP after last year's tense NATO meeting.

Kaitlan Collins, let us know how it goes when he arrives.

Let's discuss all of this with Nic Robertson, our international diplomatic editor, and David Rohde, our global affairs analyst.

Nice to have you both here.

Nic, just give me a sense of the ground. You're in front of 10 Downing Street in the UK. The president also this morning praised -- when he was asked about Theresa May, here's what he said, praising Boris Johnson, the Foreign secretary, who just stepped down suddenly yesterday.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Theresa May here right now. Just a quick reference on NATO. Theresa May will be speaking today with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, who's in London. And no doubt they'll be trying to further formulate their plans on how to meet President Trump's criticism when they see him in Brussels in the coming days.

But to that point, I mean, President Trump was asked whether Theresa May really should be -- still be in power. And he said that was up to the people which was really sort of noncommittal and not really what you'd want to or expect to hear.

HARLOW: Right.

ROBERTSON: But then when asked about Boris Johnson, he said, well, Boris Johnson has been supportive of me, very nice to me. Perhaps I'll give him, you know, perhaps I'll see him, perhaps I'll give him a call when I'm in the UK. Wow. That -- that for Theresa May was not probably what she best wanted to hear.

HARLOW: And David Rohde, explain why that is because Boris Johnson has quite a history here when it comes to, as Christiane Amanpour put this to me, being backstabbing.

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes, this is about Boris Johnson wanting to become the prime minister of England, he's, you know, undermining Theresa May. And he's -- you know he sells this theory that Brexit would be easy and Britain would thrive. It's not easy. Many British companies are warning about Brexit having really negative impacts on the British economy. But he's, you know, Trump, like walking out, saying there is an easy answer. And there is not an easy answer. HARLOW: And no surprise that he praised Boris Johnson and sort of was

noncommittal on Theresa May. But still stunning to see from an American president headed to the UK. What do you make of his read on Vladimir Putin this morning? I mean, saying it's going to be easy? Because Republican Senator Orrin Hatch told me that doesn't bother me, that's President Trump saying I can take him.

ROHDE: I think it's alarming. I mean, he talks about NATO being unfair to the United States. You know, Vladimir Putin, he mentioned China, as well, is an enemy of democracy. Vladimir Putin, you know, intervened in our election to support Trump. But whether that was intentional or not, you know, they don't support independent courts in Russia. There is no free press.

[10:25:02] It's a completely different approach to society than what our NATO allies have. And then in terms of this, you know, cost --

HARLOW: But the president has said things like we don't need more judges on immigration and by the way, the press is the enemy of the American people.

ROHDE: But that's why this is also upside down. And I just -- again, I don't want to move from the basic point of these are our longest allies in Europe that support democracy, the rule of law, and our values. Russia and Putin does not and we need to counter that as a country.

HARLOW: But when and how then if this is so dangerous, does the rubber hit the road, meaning the consequences for the president? Right? So the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Senator Bob Corker, who's been critical of the president and who's not running for another term, just told our Manu Raju, quote, "I'm very uncomfortable with it, the destabilizing effect that it is having in the region is significant." Talking about the criticism of NATO. But when does it actually materialize?

ROHDE: I think it's a trade war. He's humiliating NATO leaders and European leaders. And they will come back at us with tariffs. China is coming back at us with tariffs. And President Trump is going to squander a growing economy. That's the greatest, you know, some say inherited it but he has this growing economy. This trade war could derail the entire thing.

HARLOW: And finally, very quickly, Nic Robertson, the final thing you're looking for, as the president arrives there in the UK tomorrow, what is it?

ROBERTSON: Is he going to see the protests that are here, that are being prepared? How is he going to react to them?


ROBERTSON: That's a very big concern for British officials. They want to protect him from that.

HARLOW: Right. ROBERTSON: And literally fortifications going up around the residence

where he'll be staying in London.

HARLOW: Right. I should mention Thursday, not tomorrow.

All right. Nic Robertson, thank you. David Rohde, appreciate it, as well.

Breaking news. Sources tell CNN some of the detained children separated from their parents at the border are right now being moved to be reunited with their parents. We'll have that ahead.