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Trump on NATO Summit and Putin; Democrats Battle Kavanaugh Nomination. Aired Leahy on Russia; Leahy on Brett Kavanaugh; Reunions of Migrant Kids. 1-1:30p ET

Aired July 10, 2018 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:12] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Jim Sciutto, in today for Wolf Blitzer. It is 1:00 p.m. here in Washington. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thank you for joining us.

Really an extraordinary day of news. First, as the president gets ready to arrive at the NATO summit, he calls Russia's Vladimir Putin not an adversary but just a competitor and says that their summit could be easier than the one with U.S. allies.

The fight begins over the president's Supreme Court nominee. Why Democrats are sounding the alarm that Brett Kavanaugh and the Russia investigation are on a collision course.

And, triumph in the darkest of places. Crews safely pulling all of the boys and their coach from a cave just before heavy rains move in. Hear about how they're doing now.

But we begin with battle lines both here in the U.S. and on the world stage.

Here in Washington, Senate Democrats are gearing up to fight President Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court. Brett Kavanaugh started making the rounds on Capitol Hill today.

And President Trump arrives in Brussels soon for what is expected to be a contentious NATO summit. The president accusing the alliance of failing to pay its fair share when it comes to defense spending. He sounded off on that and more before leaving for Brussels.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: NATO has not treated us fairly, but I think we'll work something out.

We have a long, beautiful week. 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. Who would think?

Boris Johnson's a friend of mine. He's been very, very nice to me, very supportive. I get along with him very well. Have a very good relationship. That's certainly up to the people, not up to me.

Yes, we're being taken advantage of by the European Union. Brett Kavanaugh has gotten rave reviews.

And I think it's going to be a beautiful thing to watch over the next month.

I actually do have a little gift for him, but you'll find out what that gift is when I give it.

Well, I have a solution, tell people not to come to our country illegally.

The people that are fighting ICE, it's a disgrace.

There is nobody under greater danger than the people from ICE.

Democrats want open borders, and they don't mind crime.


SCIUTTO: There you go. A long list there.

CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins, she is at the site of the NATO summit in Brussels.

Kaitlan, the president says, of the many things he said this morning, that Vladimir Putin could be the easiest meeting that he will have this week. A remarkable thing to say when the president is about to meet with America's closest allies for decades.

What exactly is he saying about Putin compared to what he's saying about U.S. allies?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a stunning contrast there, Jim. You see the president talking so friendly about Vladimir Putin while saying -- like foreshadowing that NATO could be a very testy summit, which is exactly what these European leaders who are awaiting the president when he gets -- when he arrives in Brussels have feared, that the president is going to come here, have a very testy summit with them, and then, at the end of the week, wrap up with this very friendly one-on-one with the Russian President Vladimir Putin. You can hear it in the president's language when he talks about what the week is going to look like.

Listen to what he said as he headed for Brussels just this morning.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's going to be an interesting time in the U.K. and it's certainly going to be an interesting time with NATO. 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.


COLLINS: So, once again, you can see there, Jim, the president being very combative when discussing NATO. He seems like he is ready to come here and get into a fight about defense spending.

And we heard the E.U. chief, Donald Tusk, actually fire back, telling the president he needed to appreciate his allies because, according to Donald Tusk, he doesn't have that many.

SCIUTTO: Well, and it's worth reminding people that the U.S. and its NATO allies, they're fighting and dying in places like Afghanistan, together on the battlefield.

The president was asked about Vladimir Putin, of course, and whether he considers Putin a friend or a foe. Here's how he responded to that question.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As far as I'm concerned, a competitor. He's a competitor. I think that getting along with Russia, getting along with China, getting along with others is a good thing, not a bad thing.


SCIUTTO: You know, particularly, Kaitlan, at a time when it is believed it's Russia behind possibly another murder on U.K. soil with a nerve agent, how is a statement like that, a position like that from the U.S. president likely to go over with NATO allies?

[13:04:59] COLLINS: Well, Jim, it likely won't go over well. These are European leaders who are ready to call Vladimir Putin a foe for what he's done. If you even look -- consider with the United States. Meddling in the United States election, invading Crimea, that alleged poisoning of the former Russian spy who was living in the United Kingdom, of course. There are so many things that they could easily rule out that Vladimir Putin is not a friend, that he is a foe, but the president wouldn't even go as far as that there.

Once again, we are seeing how the president is praising his adversaries while battling his allies here. And we're expecting more of that in the coming days when the president does finally arrive here in Brussels tonight.

SCIUTTO: Yes, we're not seeing many Republicans call him out for that either.

Kaitlan Collins in Brussels for that NATO summit. Thanks very much.

For Democrats back in the states, the battle is on. As Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh made the rounds on Capitol Hill, Democrats on the Judiciary Committee were making their case against him. Outside the Supreme Court, they took aim at Kavanaugh's views on presidential power, on abortion, and more. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer issuing a rallying cry.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: For every American who cares about women's health, about protections for people with pre-existing conditions, about civil rights, labor rights, LGBTQ rights, environmental rights, now is the time to fight. Now. Now is the time for American people to make their voices heard loudly, clearly, from one end of this country to the other.


SCIUTTO: CNN congressional reporter Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill now.

So, Lauren, do Democrats -- well, they don't have the numbers, of course. Minorities have to get at least one Republican to come over to their side. What does the math look for them like right now?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, part of the issue for Democrats is the fact that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell does not need a single Democrat to vote for this nominee in order to push him forward. So this is an issue that mobilizes the Democratic base. But the issue for red-state Democrats, those are lawmakers who are facing re-election in a couple of months in states that President Trump won easily in 2016, those folks are going to have a hard road ahead. That's senators like Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana, or Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Watch closely as those members move forward over the next few weeks. They all said that they want to look over Kavanaugh's record. They want to meet with him. And they want to see where he stands on the issue of health care and what he would do about people with pre-existing conditions. That is a clear issue for red-state Democrats. But all eyes are on them in the next few weeks and months ahead as they move forward with this nomination.

SCIUTTO: OK, so that's the Democrats. How about on the Republican side? Who are the Republicans to watch there?

FOX: Well, there are a few moderate Republicans we have our eye on. One of them, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. She has voted with Democrats on issues like the Affordable Care Act and abortion rights in the past. I spoke with her earlier today and she told me that she has some questions about Kavanaugh's history and experience.

Here's what she said specifically about the issue of Roe v. Wade and whether she's confident that Kavanaugh would uphold that decision.


SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: I don't have an impression on Judge Kavanaugh as to where he may fall on the issue of abortion, as well as the many other issues that I will weigh as we move forward with this process. So, again, that's why I think all of us need to be doing our due diligence.


FOX: Senators on both sides of the aisle here clearly have their work cut out for them as they try to hold their caucuses together. A lot to watch for over the next couple of weeks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Lauren Fox on The Hill, thanks very much.

We are joined now by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy. He's a Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.

Senator Leahy, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

You've been around the block on Supreme Court nominations before. You've been involved in, I believe, every one for a number of years.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: I believe -- yes.

SCIUTTO: Tell us what Brett Kavanaugh's -- well, what Brett Kavanaugh's --


SCIUTTO: Go ahead. Sorry, senator.

LEAHY: No, no, I was going to say, I've been involved with 17 of them. And I'll answer your question in just a second.

But I was listening to the earlier part about the president and what he's saying about NATO. I wish he would read even one or two history books and realize that NATO has been a bulwark from us going in to another world war. It's been a bulwark against his friends, the Russians. He praises Putin and criticized, for example, the prime minister of Canada, one of the closest allies we have. That's not good diplomacy.

[13:10:04] SCIUTTO: Let me -- because I was going to ask you about that. But since you brought up Russia, let me ask you this.

As you know, some of your Senate colleagues went to Russia last week. In fact, they were in Moscow on July 4th, of all times. And some came back with conciliatory words about Russia, particularly surprising, particularly in light of the number of the ways that Russia has tried to undermine the U.S. and NATO. Were you disappointed by their visit and their statements on their return?

LEAHY: Well, they have a right to go anywhere they want. I was in Vermont meeting with constituents on the Fourth of July. And I heard a lot of people, Republicans and Democrats alike, expressing grave concerns about Russia, grave concerns about what Russia has done to try to influence our elections.

SCIUTTO: OK. So that's Russia. Set that aside for a moment, if we can, and just go back to the Supreme Court nominee.

LEAHY: Sure.

SCIUTTO: As you said, you've been involved with 17 nominees before. Tell us what Brett Kavanaugh on this court would mean, particularly for the issues that people back home care about, whether it's a woman's right to choose or on gun control. Where do you see him on the ideological spectrum and how he would move this court? LEAHY: Well, he's obviously the most political nominee we've seen sent

up for the Supreme Court in decades. And what bothers me is the Supreme Court is supposed to be an independent branch of government. It's not supposed to be there for liberals or conservatives, Republicans or Democrats, but for all Americans. And the White House is trying to make it an arm of the White House for a minority of Americans. And that's wrong.

It's supposed to be an independent branch of government. Certainly he's going to have to answer to a lot of the things he wrote when he was with the Republican administration, things he said about the president being exempt from our criminal laws, things he said about Guantanamo, torture, and so forth.

I think it's unfortunate to politicize the Supreme Court. I voted for both Republican and Democratic nominees in the past and voted against some in the past. I voted for those who I thought would keep the Supreme Court out of politics.

SCIUTTO: Will you vote against Brett Kavanaugh?

LEAHY: I'm going to go through all his -- I'm going to go through all his writings and then I will decide. But if his writings and if his statements indicate he's going to continue the same very narrow political view and that the White House thinks he's going to carry out a White House agenda, I don't know how anybody could vote for him.

SCIUTTO: You have -- Democrats have two head winds, right? One, if the Republicans can keep their caucus together, they get the 50 votes, he's through, it's done. Plus, you have some red-state Democrats, as my colleague was explaining, who might feel some political pressure at home to also vote for this nomination. How -- in light of that, do Democrats have the numbers to hold this up?

LEAHY: Well, let's have the hearings. You know, I was a prosecutor. I always believed in having the trial and then see what the jury does, rather than the other way around. And so let's see what he does.

I know the Republicans have rubber stamped some judges that they never would have allowed through under other administrations. And that's disappointing. I also see Republicans that say that we should have -- the president should have nominated Merrick Garland back when Democrats were in the majority. Well, when President Obama did nominate Merrick Garland, they said, oh, wait a minute, we -- we can't -- we can't vote for somebody nominated by Barack Obama. And they, for the first time in the history of this country, refused to have a vote.

SCIUTTO: Final question, just quickly. If you can't reject his nomination, do Democrats -- will Democrats attempt to delay the vote until after the midterm elections?

LEAHY: I have no idea. Let's have -- let's -- we need to have time for a thorough hearing as they always required of Democrats. We want to have -- he's got thousands of pages of memos he wrote when he was in a Republican White House. He certainly has his other writings. We should review that. I mean, obviously, the lobbying group that's for him has reviewed it

because they basically told President Trump, you've got to nominate this person because, among other things, he'll repeal Roe versus Wade.

SCIUTTO: Senator Patrick Leahy, thanks very much for taking the time.

LEAHY: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, underway right now, some of the immigrant children separated from their parents at the border are being reunited, but the Trump administration likely will miss a key deadline, which is just hours away.

[13:15:11] Plus, new pardons from the president. Why he's giving passes to the Oregon ranchers at the center of a stand-off between the U.S. government and a sometimes violent militia.

And, take a look at the heroes. These divers here. They were among those who just pulled out all of those trapped boys and their soccer coach from that cave in Thailand. Hear what happened in the very final moments of that rescue.


SCIUTTO: Happening right now, the reunions of some of the youngest migrant children separated from their parents at the U.S. border. A Justice Department attorney said that just about half of the nearly 100 children under five will rejoin their parents today.

[13:20:12] These are pictures of some of those kids being transferred from government care, a last-ditch attempt by the Trump administration to extend today's deadline, which it looks like it will fail to meet, failed in federal court.

CNN correspondent Scott McLean is following this story in Phoenix, Arizona, where reunifications are happening.

Scott, what can you tell us about the reunions happening there and how many do you expect to see today?


So we are outside one of those children's shelters here in the Phoenix area, where some of those kids separated from their parents have been living for the last couple of weeks or maybe even months. According to a source with knowledge of this situation, these white vans that you see behind me here, they are being prepped to move some of these kids to be reunited with their parents. Now, we haven't seen any kids just yet, but we have seen an infant child car seat being loaded into one of those vans.

We were here a couple of hours ago as well early this morning where about five kids we saw being loaded into those vans. And my colleague, Paul Vercammen, he saw a similar scene at a separate shelter where about half a dozen kids were loaded into a van, along with their backpacks and at least one teddy bear. Now, there may be some older kids involved as well, who are going to

be reunited with their parents today. And those kids are ones that have younger siblings, so that the family can be together as one unit.

Now, Southwest Key, they are the operator of these children's shelters. They put out a statement today saying that their staff -- they were in early this morning to get these kids prepped and ready to go, to pack their backpacks, to give them a hug. And they said that they -- all of the staff got a hug back from these kids. They said that they -- the kids were excited to be reunited with their families. And, of course, the staff, they were excited to see them go as well.

Now, two of the vans from this morning, from those two separate shelters that I mentioned, Jim, they ended up at an ICE facility not far from here, just north of downtown Phoenix. It is an ICE Enforcement and Removal Operation Center. The big question mark in all of this, of course, is, how many kids will be reunited with their parents and still be detained with their families? How many might be deported out of the country, and how might -- many might be released somewhere into the United States while they await their court day? That is still very much an open question at this point, Jim.

SCIUTTO: And do they know where all those kids are?

Scott McLean, thanks very much for following that in Phoenix.

I want to bring in John Sandweg. He was the acting director of the Immigrations Customs Enforcement, better known as ICE, during the Obama administration.

Scott, first, thanks for taking the time -- or, John, to join us today.

As you've heard from our reporting there, the government is failing to meet a deadline that's been imposed by a court to reunite these youngest children celebrated, those -- separated, rather, those under the age of five. Does the government know where all these children are?

JOHN SANDWEG, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, U.S. IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT (ICE): Well, I think the government knows where all the children are. What I think the government -- what it looks like the government failed to do was adequately keep records about whose children -- and, you know, matching the children and the parents. So they're doing things like DNA testing to try to validate parentage.

SCIUTTO: So they lost -- this is the thing -- one of those details that has been lost in the conversation. The parents did not keep track of which children belonged to which parents?

SANDWEG: Yes, the government didn't, right. So and, you know, and, look, this is part of the problem, I think, when you execute a very big policy change like this without adequate planning. Remember, the children go into the custody of HHS. The parents stay in the custody of DHS. And I think that's where the problem was created. There was a failure to kind of capture the, you know, which children belonged to which parents. So that's part of the scramble here.

Frankly, the other part of the scramble is this administration seems really intent on finding a way to continue to detain these parents and then bring the children back into detention facilities, something that the courts have made clear that they're not allowed to do.

SCIUTTO: So they don't want to -- this is what has been -- I always feel this is a kind of insensitive phrase for it, but they don't want this catch and release policy in effect that after they've been detained at the border, to then release them pending a court hearing, is that right?

SANDWEG: Yes, that's exactly right. But I think the problem with the catch and release term is that it implies that the people get a free pass into the United States and that's not true. They remain in deportation proceedings. More importantly is that the administration itself controls the pace of those deportation proceedings. So the administration could accelerate this.

Frankly, I mean, we're three weeks out now since the president ordered the families be reunited. We're two weeks out since the court in San Diego, you know, followed up with its own order that they be reunited. And this all could have been done very quickly had we released the parents. And it could have been done in a way that does not constitute amnesty, where you still see the deportation of those parents who are not eligible for asylum.

SCIUTTO: You know, you heard the president, you might have earlier there before he left this morning for NATO, he said, listen, the solution to the problem is don't come into the country illegally.

Do you -- are you concerned that this president and that this administration is not really feeling any urgency to reunite these families?

[13:25:04] SANDWEG: Well, I think that's clear in the fact that it's been three weeks since the president did order that the families be reunited. There's a very simple solution. Instead, the administration is going out of its way to try to find a way to detain -- detain these families together.

Look, it's not just the courts, though, that are blocking them from doing that. The fact is, ICE doesn't have the beds available. ICE has 3,000 beds nationwide that are suitable to detain families. Those beds have long since been filled. This idea of, you know, building very quickly facilities on Department of Defense bases, that's not going to work because there's no funding and they're going to -- not going to get any funding from Congress.

I just don't know why they're delaying the inevitable here. And just -- let's go ahead and get this over with, release the parents, put them on an ankle bracelet. Let's make sure that their deportation hearings move quickly, we enforce the law, we do it a lot cheaper and a lot more humanely.

SCIUTTO: John Sandweg, former acting director of ICE, thanks very much.

SANDWEG: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Well, in the good news category, all 12 boys, those 12 boys who were trapped nearly three miles into that cave in Thailand for 18 days, all of those boys have now been rescued. Their coach as well. We have new details about how it happened and how those boys are doing.

Plus, their case inspired a militia stand-off. A violent stand-off with the government. Now two Oregon ranchers who set fire to federal land just received pardons from President Trump. We'll discuss.