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Search for Survivors in Greece; White House Ends Readouts; Deadline to Reunite Families. Aired 6:30-7:00a ET

Aired July 25, 2018 - 06:30   ET



[06:33:15] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, we are following breaking news for you.

Rescue crews in Greece are frantically searching for survivors this hour as the worst wildfires in more than a decade there have killed at least 79 people.

CNN's Melissa Bell is live in Greece. She's reporting from the hard- hit seaside resort of Mati.

What's the situation, Melissa?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, that death toll has now risen to 80 in the last few minutes. And it will, as you say quite rightly, continue to rise because there are so many people missing and because the nature of the fire here in Mati and then to the west of Athens as well was so devastatingly fast and intense.

I'm standing near the scene of one of the worst tragedies of the wildfires so far. That house just behind me has a field around it in which 26 bodies were found. They sought refuge in the gardens of the house. They tried to get to the sea. And they died, Alisyn, clinging on to one another, holding on to each other in one final, desperate embrace.

And just a few moments ago, it was the owner of the house, Christiano (ph), one of the survivors came back to inspect the damage.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm completely devastated. This is my mom's house. I thought at the beginning that she was dead because she managed to go to another (INAUDIBLE) beach with our dog. We saved one dog. We lost three.


BELL: Now, Christiano only survived because she managed to take refuge on this cliff face for several hours until the blazes could be contained. Those 26, sadly, never found their way to the door that would lead them to the beach and the only way out of Mati on Monday night. JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Melissa Bell for us in Greece. Those pictures horrible to see. Thanks so much for being there for us.

[06:35:05] The president of the United States says don't believe what you read, don't believe what you see. And now CNN has learned the White House will no longer release a readout. They will no longer tell us what the president discussing on the phone with foreign leaders. Why? What do they have to hide? That's next.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening.


CAMEROTA: Yes, it is what's happening. It actually is what's happening, what you're seeing with your own eyes and what you're hearing with your own ears. That was President Trump yesterday turning into George Orwell in 1984.

CNN has learned exclusively that the White House will no longer tell the public when the president speaks to foreign leaders. They are suspending this longstanding practice of releasing summaries of those phone calls to the public.

What has happened to transparency?

Joining us now is David Gregory and CNN global affairs analyst Max Boot.

[06:40:00] Max, tell me if you agree with this. I feel as though something shifted in Helsinki. Something happened in Helsinki where it was really sort of the most crystal clear first time where the public didn't have to take the press' word for what happened. The press -- the public got to see with their own eyes the president blame America, and Vladimir Putin say that yes he did want Donald Trump to win. And since that moment, the White House, and the public again can see this with their own eyes, has been saying that didn't happen. You can't believe any of that stuff.

Here is exhibit a. Let me show you and the viewing public what happened. There is a -- OK, so we all remember that Reuters reported asked Vladimir Putin who he wanted to win. Here's this moment. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?

VLADIMIR PUTIN (through translator): Yes, I did. Yes, I did, because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: OK, Max, now, in the official transcript from the White House it has put out to the public, they have changed reality. They have changed what happened. They deleted from the transcript, President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the election? They don't want the public to see that anymore. So they have taken that out of the official record of what happened.

Max, explain what people are seeing with their own eyes.

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I mean, you've been talking about how Orwellian this is. And I think that is the right word. I mean remember that big brother strategy was he who controls the past controls the future. And that seems to be what Donald Trump is doing here is rewriting the past.

Now, of course, he's doing it in such a ham-handed and ridiculous way. I really don't know who they think they're going to fool unless it's Fox News viewers who seem to be endlessly gullible and willing to accept whatever the president says.

Yesterday there was another example of this, Alisyn. I don't know if you're going to get to this. But the president's tweet about, I'm very concerned that Russia will be fighting hard to have an impact on the upcoming election based on the fact that no president has been tougher on Russia than me. They will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don't want Trump.


BOOT: You know, that's exact -- the exact opposite of reality. That's the very reality that they're trying to --


BOOT: Air brush out of the transcript, which is that Putin favored Trump. And, you know, as I write in "The Washington Post" today, he didn't just favor Trump, he helped to elect Trump. The Russian campaign, I believe, had an impact on the outcome and actually helped elect Trump. And Trump is now trying to say the opposite, that it was -- you know, pretend that it was -- that the -- that the Russians were in favor of the Democrats and are still in favor of the Democrats. I mean I --

CAMEROTA: Right. For someone who believes Putin --

BOOT: Yes.

CAMEROTA: The -- President Trump should believe when Putin said -- what Putin said publicly at the press conference.

BOOT: Right. I mean the frightening thing, Alisyn, is that, you know, we can sit here and laugh about it, but the reality is, most Republican voters are actually believing this nonsense. They are actually swallowing it. I mean even if you look at the Quinnipiac poll that came out just a day ago, some -- only 27 percent of all voters think that the summit in Helsinki was a success. But 60 percent of Republicans do. And overwhelmingly Republicans are now seeing Vladimir Putin as a potential ally. They're seeing NATO as is bad thing. They think that the Mueller investigation is a rigged witch hunt. So I mean this stuff is ridiculous.


BOOT: But Donald Trump is actually a master of propaganda and he realizes that by saying this over and over and over again, he's pounding it into the brains of his base, no matter how false it is.

BERMAN: I want to make clear, this is literally Orwellian. Literally Orwellian. I want to bring people back to ninth grade English. One of the things that happened in 1984 is people went back and rewrote history, just like they rewrote the transcript, Alisyn, that you just read out loud there. This is literally Orwellian.

And then also, just to read another quote from 1984, war is peace, freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

David Gregory, that is what we saw with the statement that Max just read out loud. The president flat out saying that Vladimir Putin wants to elect the Democrats when Vladimir Putin told us that he was trying to help Donald Trump.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and for the president to say, don't believe what you read, don't believe what you hear, he is -- he is producing much of this content that people should ignore. So, in that sense, we should take him at his word because when he tweets things like this, they're so utterly ridiculous on their face. They are not backed up with any evidence whatsoever.

It goes to Max's point, which it is propaganda. It's just repeated to pound this after -- time after time after time getting enough people to believe it. And there, of course, are enough grains of truth in things like a lot of people believed, including prior administrations, it was a good idea to normalize and have a better relationship with Vladimir Putin and Russia until things went sour on their watch. So those things are real. It's just the execution of them.

And going back to the very first point about now reporting out calls, you know, it's -- we are now, unfortunately, sort of newer to the -- to the reality of Donald Trump and his authoritarian instincts that he acting as his own press spokesman in a sense, his own chief of staff. But it is a breakdown of those people around him, you know, that he'll have a meeting with President Putin and we still don't know the content of that private meeting. Who is standing up for this or are they really standing up to him and saying, no, we're not going to go along with this because the thing that protects the public from these impulses from the president is a staff that leaks to a free press, number one, or that will just say, no, we're not going to go along with it.

[06:45:36] CAMEROTA: David Gregory and Max Boot, we have so much more to talk about with this. All of the many conventions that the White House is changing in terms of transparency. And we will get to all of that. Thank you both very much.

John Berman is here at work today, which means he, I think, is either tricking me or did not win the Mega Millions.

BERMAN: I don't buy lottery tickets.

CAMEROTA: OK, that's your mistake.

BERMAN: They're a rip-off.

CAMEROTA: That's a big mistake.

BERMAN: They're a rip-off.

CAMEROTA: OK, well, I forgot to, which is what we're both doing here. So somebody, though did win the Mega Millions ticket. We'll tell you how much they won, and where it was, and how they're life is going to change.

BERMAN: And it's just the beginning of a whole bunch of problems. It is.


[06:50:05] BERMAN: There is a single winning ticket from last night's Mega Millions drawing worth $522 million --

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh.

BERMAN: Before taxes.


BERMAN: The golden ticket was sold at a liquor store in San Jose, California. This is the eleventh largest U.S. lottery prize. The fifth biggest Mega Millions jackpot. The winning numbers, 1, 2, 4, 19, 29, and the mega ball 29.

CAMEROTA: Those are the ones I was going to choose.

BERMAN: Totally.

CAMEROTA: I forgot to buy it, though.

BERMAN: What was it, it was like your locker room code or Social Security Number, birthday?

CAMEROTA: Yes, no, I just knew that -- I just -- yes, yes, it is, Write it down.

Meanwhile, another win for a Trump backed candidate. Georgia's secretary of State Brian Kemp winning last night's primary runoff to become the Republican nominee for governor of Georgia. Kemp will face Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams in the general election this fall. Also last night gun control activist Lucy McBath won the Democratic nomination for a House seat in Georgia's sixth district. Her son, Jordan Davis, was shot and killed during a dispute over loud music in 2012.

BERMAN: That gubernatorial primary a clear place where the president helped.

Singer Demi Lovato said to be awake and with her family at a Los Angeles hospital following an apparent overdose. Lovato, who has struggled with substance abuse, recently revealed she suffered a relapse after celebrating six years of sobriety. She opened up about the setback in a single she released last month called "Sober." Lovato's rep has issued a statement thanking fans for the love, prayers and support, but adds some of the information being reported is incorrect, and they respectfully ask for privacy.

CAMEROTA: Look, I mean, the sad truth is that addiction is a chronic disease. You don't lick it just because you are sober for however long. You fight that fight every single day and I think that her fans appreciate her transparency.

BERMAN: And they're thinking about her this morning.

All right, the deadline to reunite the families separated by the U.S. government is tomorrow. We're going to speak with a lawyer who is trying to get a mother back with her daughter.


[06:56:16] BERMAN: The Trump administration says it has reunited slightly more than 1,000 families ahead of tomorrow's court imposed deadline to reunite the families that this government separated at the border.

Joining me now is immigration attorney Eileen Blessinger. She represents a mother who has yet to be reunited with her child.

Just give us the latest status on that case in particular. Any sense of when they will be brought together?

EILEEN BLESSINGER, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: Right now my client doesn't know anything. She was told last week she was going to be reunited with her daughter, her six-year-old daughter, and she still hasn't heard anything of when they're going to be reunited. The social worker isn't answering, so she can't get any answers.

BERMAN: No information. The judge who has been overseeing this case has said that the government's efforts have been remarkable in reuniting these families, while noting that the policy itself is still deeply troubling. From what you're seeing, have the government efforts been remarkable?

BLESSINGER: I mean out of the 11 cases my firm took, ten of the people have been reunited with their children. So I will say that that's pretty good.

BERMAN: That's progress.

And -- but no information. What does this mother know? What does this mother know about the condition that her child is in. What does this mother know about when perhaps the reunification might happen?

BLESSINGER: She doesn't know anything. A lot of the people in the dorm that she was originally in have been reunited with their children, but she doesn't know any information at all.

BERMAN: What's the process of informing her?

BLESSINGER: Sure. So a lot of my clients are being told the night before they're going to be reunited. They're taken out of their dorm, either very late at night or early in the morning, and then they're in processing for a couple hours, some people have been in processing for a couple of days, and then they're reunited with their child.

BERMAN: So 11 -- ten of the 11 cases that you've been watching have been reunited. What then happens when they're back together?

BLESSINGER: They're moved. Well, one person is in a family detention center with her eight-year-old, and then the others have been released and they will have court and they'll have an immigration check-in.

BERMAN: Now, the government has reportedly deported -- tells us it has deported around 463 parents without their children. That is something that they did and now they're having, I guess, difficulties contacting these parents and figuring out what to do. What do you make of those cases?

BLESSINGER: It think it's going to be really difficult for those parents to be reunited with their children. A lot of those parents' cases -- or the children's' cases are intertwined with the parents' cases. So they're going to have difficulty even presenting an asylum claim at all.

BERMAN: And one of the contentions that the government has made is that they told the parents, they gave the parent the option of whether or not they wanted to have the children stay or not. Do you believe that these parents were fully informed of their choices and had full knowledge of the ramifications?

BLESSINGER: No, I don't. it's true a lot of the parents were given a form to choose, do you want to be deported with your child or without your child, but I don't think they fully understood what that meant. So they didn't get a chance to talk to attorneys beforehand a lot of times.

BERMAN: So, yes, that's a problem for them now because now they may not be able to get their children back.

Going forward, after tomorrow, after this deadline, what do you see? How do you see this playing out?

BLESSINGER: I mean I still think there's going to be a lot of parent that are still separated and they're going to be putting a lot of pressure on the government to get reunited. I don't know when that's going to happen, but I don't see the government meeting their deadline. BERMAN: All right. As I said, the government -- the judge in this case

has so far called the government efforts remarkable. However, saying that the overall government policy from the start has been deeply troubling.

Eileen Blessinger, thank you so much for being with us and giving us this update on your cases.

BLESSINGER: Thank you.

BERMAN: Thank you so much to our international viewers for watching. For you, CNN "TALK" is next.

For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BERMAN: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY.

So about 18 hours ago the president told a crowd, what you're seeing, what you're reading is not what's happening. But this morning, what you are hearing is happening.

[07:00:10] It's a recording, exclusively obtained by CNN. You hear President Trump, as a candidate