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CNN NEWSROOM

Giuliani Walks Back Comments on AT&T/Time Warner Merger Deal; Kelly Clarifying Statement Russia Probe Embarrassing to Trump; Mulvaney: "Sadler Made McCain Comments in Private"; North Korea Outlines Steps for Destroying Missile Sites, Missile Tunnels; Special Counsel Probes Cohen Pitch to Ford Motor Company; Special Counsel Probes Cohen Pitch to Ford Motor Company; Grassley's Message to Supreme Court Justices: "Retire Yesterday"; Families Speak Out After Loss of Embryos Amid Legal Cases; Behind the Scenes of Next Weekend's Royal Wedding. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired May 12, 2018 - 13:00   ET

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


[13:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Giuliani originally saying on Friday Trump personally denied the deal. The White House jumping into damage-control mode this morning, saying not the case. Then one hour later, Giuliani scrambling to clarify his original comments.

CNN's Boris Sanchez live for us at the White House.

Boris, what's going on?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, that is a question that some here at the White House have begun asking themselves after Rudy Giuliani, yet again, weighs into territory he should not be getting involved in. Giuliani was brought in to help defend the president in the special counsel probe and, yet again, he's forced to clarify remarks about something off topic.

This all started when Giuliani spoke with the "Huffington Post" about a payment made to Michael Cohen by AT&T to help sort of grease the wheels with the attempted merger with Time Warner, the parent company of CNN. Giuliani was trying to defend the president, saying that sort of corporate money wouldn't influence him. In fact, he said, and I quote, "The president denied that merger. They did not get the result that they wanted."

Of course, the problem with that statement is that it contradicts everything that we've heard from the White House previously on this. Over and over again, we've been told that the president has had no role in the decision by the Department of Justice to challenge this merger. In fact, this morning, we heard from Sarah Sanders, who told CNN that the president did not deny that deal, it was the Department of Justice who did. About an hour later, we heard from Rudy Giuliani. He spoke with my colleague, Dana Bash, trying to clarify his remark, saying that the president told him directly that he did not interfere in that decision.

Despite these comments coming from the White House, we should point out that the president has been very vocal about his opposition to this merger, and it's led to questions about his involvement in the Department of Justice and decisions made by a separate branch of the government.

Here's some of what President Trump has said publicly about this proposed deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: AT&T is buying Time Warner and, thus, CNN, a deal we will not approve in my administration.

Personally, I've always felt that's a deal not good for the country. I think your pricing's going to go up. I don't think it's a good deal for the country. I'm not going to get involved. It's litigation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: As I noted, this isn't the first time Rudy Giuliani has had this sort of unforced error. You'll recall days after coming on as the president's personal attorney, he had this interview on FOX News, which he contradicted much of what the president had previously said about the Stormy Daniels saga and his awareness of payments made to her by Michael Cohen. Of course, the president said shortly after that that Giuliani didn't have all his facts straight. He sort of chided him publicly. Unclear how the president feels about this latest clarification from his personal attorney. He is on the golf course. Our cameras caught him swinging away this afternoon.

WHITFIELD: All right, Boris Sanchez, thank you so much.

Another day, another denial. So how does all of this play out?

Let's bring in reporter and co-author of "Politico's" "Playbook," Daniel Lippman, and CNN political analyst and Princeton University professor, Julian Zelizer.

Good to see you both.

DANIEL LIPPMAN, REPORTER, POLITICO & CO-AUTHOR, POLITICO'S PLAYBOOK: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Daniel, you first.

Giuliani walking back on another statement, this time Trump's role in the AT&T and Time Warner merger. So who's being damaged with this? Is it the president? Is it Giuliani? I it both? Because there's also a sense that Giuliani is speaking on behalf of the president. He pronounced to be his megaphone.

LIPPMAN: I think both of them are getting damaged in terms of credibility. Rudy Giuliani, as we at "Politico," we spotted him at the Broward County courthouse yesterday. He was intervening in a separate minor legal matter of a friend of his, even though he said he's going to focus completely on the Trump case. And so clearly, he's distracted. But he's also someone who just says what he thinks, and obviously he said the president stopped this merger or else he would not have said that. Obviously, too candid in some situations. WHITFIELD: Julian, as we saw on the tape, there's some precedent.

The president has expressed that he's not for this merger. So even if the president didn't have a hand, the White House says it was DOJ, is it damage already done by kind of planting the seed of thought that perhaps the president has expressed that he wanted to, you know, deny this merger?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. Giuliani has been able to keep opening the line of questions, rather than closing them down. He did that with all the issues related to Michael Cohen. And now he's doing it with this question that has been on the forefront of the minds of people following this, did the president intervene in an area that really should be handled by justice and should be handled as a question about mergers rather than politics. By making this statement, he's now opened up the story, he's opened up the speculation. And that's not what the president needs on the week he's been making all these foreign policy pronouncements. Now there are questions about what's going on in the administration.

[13:05:16] WHITFIELD: We also learned President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, was paid $600,000 by AT&T last year for consulting services, you know, trying to learn about the president. So if it's not illegal, you know, Daniel, how does it look for the president and for the potential merger?

LIPPMAN: Yes, it's just not a good look for any company to hire someone like Michael Cohen who had this reputation for being Trump's personal fixer. And he -- you know, he said he would basically give up his life for the president. And he is not known as a person who has clean legal hands always. So AT&T's head of policy in Washington had to leave the company. But this news yesterday from Rudy, that helps this merger go through, because their attorneys can go to court and say, look, President Trump's lawyer said he blocked the merger, and that is not legal. You can't have the president acting like it's a banana republic and just denying company's transactions willy-nilly.

WHITFIELD: I want to get your comments on the Russia investigation. On Thursday, Chief of Staff John Kelly telling NPR that the probe was an embarrassment, quoting him, "embarrassment for the president." He later attempted to clarify that statement at the White House Rose Garden to CNN's Jeff Zeleny.

And let me apologize in advance for, you know, there is some background music, so it may be a little distracting. But just listen closely.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: In the NPR interview, you said the president is somewhat embarrassed by that.

(CROSSTALK)

JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I actually corrected it and said --

(CROSSTALK)

KELLY: OK.

ZELENY: Distracted?

KELLY: It's not true. It's a distraction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right so, Julian, which statement do you believe?

ZELIZER: I think it's a little of both. I'm sure there is a sense of embarrassment when he's meeting with leaders from overseas and he's being asked about these kinds of questions and the story of the potential corruption of an election comes up. But it is a distraction. That's empirically true. And this is a story that keeps coming back. It doesn't go away. It consumes a lot of attention. Even if those moments of the month when President Trump has policy decisions and policy progress to talk about his supporters, he can't get away from this. So I think both are at work and this explains some of the anger and animosity you can see and hear from the office toward this investigation.

WHITFIELD: I want to get your thoughts on the comments made by the White House aide about Senator John McCain.

Daniel, first, here's the White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney speaking out on the subject a short time ago. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: Let's look at this in context. That was said in a private meeting inside the White House. It's not like you might say something really nasty about me off the air and that doesn't have that much impact. You come on air and say it, now that's a problem. This is a private meeting inside the White House. It was a joke. It was a badly considered joke, an awful joke, that she said fell flat. I get all that.

(CROSSTALK)

MULVANEY: But I think she's handled it appropriately.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So, Daniel, why is that the distinction that matters? It was said in private versus whether she said that publicly.

LIPPMAN: Clearly, in any other White House, this aide, Kelly Sadler, would get fired. Imagine if this happened in the Obama administration when someone who worked for the president criticized a Republican Senator in these types of terms. But in this White House, Kelly is a valued member of the staff. She was at work yesterday. And when she apologized to Meghan McCain, you know, two days ago, that call did not go well according to our sources. And so clearly, they have this, you know, someone in the White House and the two dozen people who were in that communications meeting, they thought that this was out of line but, clearly, the White House hasn't even apologized for it.

WHITFIELD: So, Julian, is this a case in which it's important for the White House, the president, to take a stand to apologize, or is this really a matter of just, you know, the aide? She apologized to the family and that's enough?

ZELIZER: It's bigger than that. I mean, the president has lowered the bar in terms of what kind of rhetoric is acceptable. He's done it both as a candidate, as a president. He's used insults equally as bad, if not worse, including when he spoke about John McCain back during the campaign. He set a tone for his own Oval Office. He set a tone for the country. I think that's part of what you're hearing. People are replicating the president. And the president's job is to try to push back on some of this. You can be political, you can be tough, but there have to be some limits to what's going to be said about both opponents and allies. I don't think the president is doing much to set any kind of boundaries.

[13:10:18] WHITFIELD: Well, remember on the campaign trail, maybe even before that, it was Donald Trump who said that whole P.C. thing, you know, it's kind of an annoyance, and perhaps this is in that camp.

(CROSSTALK)

LIPPMAN: But most Americans -- most Americans would say maybe P.C. culture has gone too far, but they think on McCain is a war hero and you shouldn't criticize him as he lays very ill. So I think most Trump supporters, as well, they don't like this remark either.

WHITFIELD: So far, still no word, no apology, nothing of that kind coming from the White House.

ZELIZER: We're waiting.

WHITFIELD: All right, Daniel Lippman, Julian Zelizer, thank you so much.

Still ahead, North Korea says it is willing to stop all unannounced missile tests. What if any impact will this concession play in the president's summit with the North Korean leader next month?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:15:27] WHITFIELD: One day after pledging to end their unannounced missile tests, North Korea today outlining steps they say will lead to the destruction of their nuclear testing sites. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also inviting journalists, including those from the U.S. and U.K., to witness the missile tunnels being destroyed. These developments ahead of the highly anticipated summit between President Trump and North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un. The two are set to meet in Singapore on June 12th, according to Trump's announcement on Twitter.

Joining me to discuss the summit and today's announcement, CNN national security analyst, Samantha Vinograd.

Good to see you.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: This announcement sounds like a pretty good, good news. But can North Korea be trusted?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, the less missiles flying, the better. So on the surface, this is definitely a positive development, at least in the short term. But, Fred, I think we have to be really aware of red herrings here and think about why North Korea has made this announcement. North Korea has agreed, supposedly, to stop missile tests for now and to shutdown nuclear test sites, not because they're doing us any favors, but because they said they don't need them anymore.

WHITFIELD: Mission accomplished.

VINOGRAD: In many ways -- mission accomplished -- this is a victory for North Korea. It looks like a concession to us, but Kim Jong-Un has been very clear through the state-owned media agency, state run, excuse me, that North Korea has achieved its nuclear mission. So I think we might have a scenario, if American and international journalists go, for example, to this nuclear test site being dismantled where North Korea is celebrating their achievements, and the fact they were able to be this successful in achieving a nuclear capability despite sanctions and international pressure.

WHITFIELD: So President Trump, you know, has said it, you know, that he's the master of, you know, the "Art of the Deal," but what does this tell you about Kim Jong-Un, how he operates? If, for him, it's mission accomplished, they got everything they need, there would no longer be a need for these tunnels or this kind of testing, what's his message?

VINOGRAD: I think this is part of his negotiating strategy. He's showing he can abide by certain international agreements. He can check all the right boxes. He can deescalate tensions on the Korean peninsula and in the region when he wants to. But we've seen this kind of show before where North Korea takes some positive steps and then they walk them back. So the question is obviously, how long will this last. And particularly on this announcement about no more unannounced tests over the coming weeks.

I also think this is a little bit of long-term business planning, too. Kim Jong-Un has said he wants to focus on North Korea's economic development and to attract foreign investment. That's pretty hard to do when you have unannounced missile tests that threaten commercial aircrafts. I think he's also trying to signal to potential investors North Korea can become a safer zone for investment.

WHITFIELD: And then would there be some real excitement from investors to take him up on this offer?

(CROSSTALK) VINOGRAD: Definitely, a long shot. Definitely, a long shot. Long way to go. But a first step is obviously signaling through this international agency, which is part of the United Nations, that there won't be unannounced missiles that could hit commercial aircraft. And it is true that North Korea let in this international agency, the ICAO, to have discussions. And my biggest hope is they let in another U.N. agency, the one that's responsible for monitoring and verifying denuclearization, the IAEA, sometime in the future.

WHITFIELD: So you mentioned investors might be able for North Korea, but that's a pipe dream. What is the real goal, you know, what's kind of that gold pot at the end of the rainbow to be part of a new deal, to be denuclearized?

VINOGRAD: I think Kim Jong-Un wants to do two things. I think the first is to show that he was able to achieve this Holy Grail of nuclear capability, that despite all the odds against him, the sanctions, the pressure, the "fire and fury" rhetoric, he was able to achieve his goal of a nuclear weapon and to be in this elite club of countries that were able to do that. So according to North Korea, he's already done that. I think he wants to be considered on par with other leaders like Donald Trump and to be treated as an equal on the world stage. So he's having a summit with the president in Singapore. That's getting closer to that goal.

And I do think that he wants North Korea's economy to revitalize. Again, there's a long way to go between where we are today and the North Korean economy showing real signs of growth. The first step of that is easing the sanctions, which have isolated North Korea for years. And trying to signal to investors or countries around the world that North Korea's a safe place to do business. We can't forget, aside from nuclear weapons, North Korea has engaged in so many other forms of malign activity that we need to see progress on all those fronts.

[13:20:38] WHITFIELD: Samantha Vinograd, we'll leave it there.

VINOGRAD: Thanks.

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much.

We're also following this breaking news. U.S. stealth fighter jets intercepting a pair of Russian bombers in international airspace. The Russian long-range bombers flew Friday into the Air Defense Identification Zone, which extends about 200 miles off Alaska's western coast. U.S. F-22s intercepted and monitored the Russian bombers until they left the air defense zone. A NORAD spokesman says the Russian planes never entered U.S. airspace.

Another day, another disclosure about President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen. We're learning Cohen tried to pitch his access to the president of yet another company. So was there any criminal activity? My legal panel weighs in.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [13:25:00] WHITFIELD: All right, we're learning new details about President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who reportedly pitched access to more top companies than originally thought. The "Wall Street Journal" reporting Michael Cohen made an overture to provide consulting services to Ford Motor Company as well. And now Special Counsel Mueller is investigating Cohen, asking Ford Motor Company for records after the company rejected Cohen's consulting services back in 2017.

I'm joined now by Avery Friedman, a civil rights attorney and law professor.

Good to see you.

AVERY FRIEDMAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY & LAW PROFESSOR: Hi, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And Richard Herman, a New York criminal attorney and law professor.

Good to see you as well.

RICHARD HERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY & LAW PROFESSOR: Hey, Fred.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: OK, gentlemen, here we go.

Avery, what could Mueller be looking for?

FRIEDMAN: At least with respect to soliciting these companies, you've got three legal issues here. You've got the lobbying question, the laundering question and the elections question.

(CROSSTALK)

FRIEDMAN: So with respect to AT&T and ford and Novartis and all the rest, one of the questions I think if I'm Bob Mueller is, how in the world would a New York real estate lawyer know to even contact? Because he is soliciting them, Fredricka. How would he know to contact AT&T? To contact these companies and solicit and offer his services? In what, health care, telecom knowledge? He's a local real estate guy. There are other people involved. And that's what Bob Mueller wants to know.

WHITFIELD: OK, so, Richard, more than $1 million from Novartis, another 600,000 from AT&T, you know, all of that potentially not really illegal, right, but what interest --

FRIEDMAN: It might be.

WHITFIELD: -- does it provoke in investigators?

HERMAN: It provokes a lot of interest, Fred. The self-proclaimed fixer looks like he needs a fixer for himself, because he's going to get fixed by the government down the road. I think there's a lot of problems for him criminally. Not necessarily in this arena though. Because the sole issue here, Fred, is influence peddling, bribery. He's a conduit in between himself, these other entities and the government. If they can prove -- and it's all conjecture, Fred, it's too early, but we're guessing here. If they can prove that Cohen and Trump were selling official acts together, getting paid to sell official acts, that's criminal exposure for both of them. But short of that, Fred, lobbying is how D.C. works. Lobbying is actually protected by the First Amendment along with free speech and religion. So he can be a lobbyist. If these companies were stupid enough to believe that this guy had the contacts with the administration, and they were stupid to believe it, then --

FRIEDMAN: Maybe, maybe not. Maybe, maybe not.

HERMAN: -- they threw their money down the drain.

Oh, please.

WHITFIELD: Avery, you mentioned lobbying, laundering, the election. On the issue of lobbying, that's common place in Washington. But are we saying in the case of a Michael Cohen, because he's not necessarily registered as a lobbyist, that's where the problem could potentially be?

HERMAN: Civil, civil.

FRIEDMAN: It's a 1965 federal law that requires specific responsibility of lobbyists. You've got to register. You've got to identify who your client is. You've got to identify how much money you're making. At least 20 percent of your time has to be involved in lobbying.

And I agree on one level, the idea of influence pedaling, standing alone, is indeed protected by the First Amendment because people have the right to petition their government. So the thought was these corporations would be engaging this guy because it was some kind of connection with the new president. The fact is, they got nothing for their money. They just walked away. So ethically, very important issues. Legally, with respect to lobbying, I think he slides out from under it.

WHITFIELD: So, Richard, it's a huge umbrella. Avery's spelled it out. You've got these three tentacles, but there could potentially be more. There need to be a lot of questions that surround the business of Michael Cohen. So when you think about -- oh, I think we lost Richard, the signal.

[13:30:04] I'm going to ask you, Avery, when we talk about $1 million from one company, $600,000 from another company, the $50,000 a month, $35,000 a month payment, you know, and Michael Cohen is on the receiving end. And then there were those other reports of his home equity lines of credit being taken out, whether it be for the Stormy Daniels payment or maybe there are other things. It just doesn't make sense when you hear about all this cash flow or promises of big money from now these big companies. What do you see?

Oh, Richard, you're back. I don't know if you got to hear any of that stuff. But --

(CROSSTALK)

RICHARD HERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY & LAW PROFESSOR: I heard you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: OK, good.

HERMAN: I heard you.

WHITFIELD: Then I'm going to ask you, Richard, so what do you see as why investigators would now be particularly interested in this flow of money. Why their lines of credit, if you've got $1 million from one company, $600,000 from another and there are other, you know, moneys coming in?

HERMAN: You know, Fred, we talk before about, oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive. That whole thing about having to refinance his home, that was all garbage, Fred. He didn't do that. The money that was raised by these foreign entities was used to pay Stormy Daniels, not any loan refinance personally. That's the issue. Did these foreign entities know they were paying off a benefit to the president of the United States, one. And, two, did they get something back in return? Because it has to go both ways in order to rise to any sort of criminal liability.

AVERY FRIEDMAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTOERNEY & LAW PROFESSOR: That's right. That's right.

HERMAN: So these are the issues, Fred. It's so early in the investigation. We just don't know everything that Mueller knows right now.

WHITFIELD: Avery, you're in agreement that these are, you know, at the roots of many investigations?

FRIEDMAN; I think there's a long way to go, but let me tell you something, I think Bob Mueller's team has a lot more information that we all know about. Again, those three elements, lobbying, laundering and election questions are all going to come together at one time and eventually we're going to find out the answer to the extent that Michael Cohen is or is not in trouble.

WHITFIELD: Boy, very --

(CROSSTALK)

HERMAN: He's in trouble --

(CROSSTALK)

HERMAN: Fred, he is -- Michael Cohen's in trouble.

FRIEDMAN: I think he is, too.

WHITFIELD: OK, just unclear, you guys -- HERMAN: He's in trouble.

WHITFIELD: -- what kind of trouble you're saying.

All right, Avery Friedman, Richard Herman --

HERMAN: Federal criminal. Federal criminal, Fred. That's what.

(CROSSTALK)

HERMAN: Federal criminal trouble.

FRIEDMAN: We'll see. We'll see.

WHITFIELD: OK, we shall.

HERMAN: And with the Bar Association.

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much, guys. Always good to see you. Thank you.

All right, coming up, if you're going to retire, do it before the midterm elections. That's the message being delivered from a Republican lawmaker to the U.S. Supreme Court justices. Why Republicans are clamoring for another conservative seat on the high court, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:37:12] WHITFIELD: Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley sending a blunt message to any U.S. Supreme Court justice thinking about retirement. The Republican Senator from Iowa urging them to step down immediately.

(BEGIN AUDIO FEED)

HUGH HEWITT, RADIO SHOW HOST: Are you prepping for a Supreme Court vacancy this summer, Chairman Grassley?

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY, (R-IA), CHAIRMAN, SENATE JUDICARY COMMITTEE: I hope it's now or within two or three weeks because we've got to get this done before the election. So my message to any one of the nine Supreme Court justices, if you're thinking about quitting this year, do it yesterday.

(END AUDIO FEED)

WHITFIELD: Wow. A lot of focus has been on the court's swing vote justice, Anthony Kennedy, and whether he'll retire when the current term expires next month. A Kennedy departure would give President Trump the opportunity to craft a more conservative Supreme Court perhaps. But with midterms six months away, the Republicans fear they could lose their majority in November, making it more difficult to confirm a conservative justice.

Joining me is Steve Vladeck, a CNN legal analyst, professor of law and constitutional law. Good to see you.

STEVE VLADECK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Good to see you.

WHITFIELD: OK, so if Justice Kennedy were to retire, what kind of battle would ensue in your view?

VLADECK: Oh, a cataclysmic one. I think everybody understands that Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has been the swing vote on the Supreme Court since 2006, replacing him would tilt the scales of the Supreme Court -- certainly if it's Trump doing the replacing -- in a very conservative direction. I think we would see a fight unlike any we've seen certainly in a generation and perhaps in modern times over any possible replacement for Justice Kennedy.

WHITFIELD: It's to be presumed, right, that Justice Kennedy is thinking about that, too? I mean, being mindful of if you were to step down and now, versus later, who would likely succeed him?

VLADECK: This is the irony of Chairman Grassley's comments. The Supreme Court justices are quite aware, not just of the timing of the confirmation process but really of their own legacies. When a justice thinks about the timing and circumstances of their departure from the court, they're thinking about personal reasons, family reasons, health reasons, but also what it's going to say about them 10, 15, 20 years on, when scholars, commentators, are assessing their legacy. What we know about Justice Kennedy is he is deeply, deeply sensitive to how he's perceived, and I think that's going to be a big part of his very personal choice with regard to when he's going to step down.

WHITFIELD: Talk to me about the awareness of the political climate a justice would have. You mentioned all those things they take into consideration, but it almost seems like all of those things come last and, you know, political climate, legacy are at the top.

[13:39:59] VLADECK: I think that's right. Obviously, every justice is different. Every case is different. Plenty of examples of justices who were, you know, forced basically to leave court because of personal or medical issues perhaps during a presidency or when there was a Senate controlled by a party that they didn't want picking their successor. So, you know, I think for Justice Kennedy, the question is, does he want to step down. Is he still enjoying his job, which, you know, frankly, he's got a lot of power. And if he does want to step down, does he really think that now's the time to do it, not just given the upcoming midterms but given the broader political division and divisiveness in our American political system now.

WHITFIELD: Hasn't it been the tradition that most of these justices, when they, you know, feel like if, you know, it's an issue of retiring, they do it on their own terms, not because everybody else is at -- you know, urging them to do so?

VLADECK: Yes. I know, the thing that struck me that's the most discordant about Chairman Grassley's remarks is he knows as well as anybody that these nine people are not about to be bullied by the Senate Judiciary Committee. They're not about to feel like the timing is up to the Senate as opposed to whatever their personal predilections and preferences are.

WHITFIELD: During the last justice opening, when Obama was president, the majority leader, Mitch McConnel, kept that position vacant. Sighting an election year, there wasn't enough time and consideration, et cetera. Might that now come back to haunt the GOP if there were an opening soon?

VLADECK: Maybe. Although I think, you know, no one will be surprised to hear that Senate Majority Leader McConnell, Chairman Grassley, have both said, hey, if it just so happens that President Trump has a vacancy to fill while we're still in charge of the Senate that, you know, rule we evoked in 2016 to deny seat to President Obama, all of a sudden, is not going to bind us. As with everything, I think it's very circumstance specific. And I think, you know, if a justice resigned in the next couple of weeks or, you know, some time before the end of the summer, I think they'll be a lot of pressure on Trump, on Senate Republicans, to get a confirmation done before the midterms, lest the midterms themselves become a referendum on the future of court and who's going to be able to fill that seat.

WHITFIELD: Back to Grassley, how unusual is it for a Senator, especially one heading up a Judiciary Committee, to talk like that?

VLADECK: I mean, you know, I think it's unusual for a random Senator. I think Chairman Grassley is not exactly someone who's, you know, shy. I think I mean, realistically, I don't think he's talking to the court when he's talking about the timing of nominations. I think in many ways he's actually talking more to the White House, basically, saying, if this going to happen, you guys are going to have to move fast.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Really, because I felt like he was talking to a justice, like, if you're going to do it, yesterday.

VLADECK: I think that's how it's perceived. But, you know, Chairman Grassley knows that, you know, Anthony Kennedy is not sitting by the phone waiting for permission from Chairman Grassley to announce his resignation. So, you know, I don't think this is about what Justice Kennedy is going to do. Only Justice Kennedy, at the end of the day, knows that and is going to be the decider of that. I think this is Grassley signaling to everybody else, if we do get a retirement announcement from Justice Kennedy, which he hopes is soon, people are going to want to move and need to move fast, lest the midterms become a referendum on the conservative balance on the Supreme Court.

WHITFIELD: All right, Steve Vladeck, thanks so much.

VLADECK: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, still ahead, the families of those who lost their frozen embryos when a freezer malfunctioned at an Ohio fertility clinic are speaking out about their heartbreak as we learn new details of how the legal cases may or may not go forward.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [13:48:14] WHITFIELD: Lawyers for University Hospitals in Ohio are reportedly asking a judge to throw out some lawsuits filed by clients who lost frozen embryos and eggs at the hospital's fertility clinic. The attorneys claiming two couples failed to file the proper legal paperwork. This, as the heartbroken families who lost their frozen embryos in a tank failure are speaking out about their losses.

CNN's Randi Kaye has their story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We spoke with a handful of families in Ohio who went through grueling fertility treatments. Some had ovarian cancer, others had health issues that prevented them from conceiving naturally, so they froze their eggs and embryos in hopes of becoming parents one day. They never imagined all their eggs and embryos would be lost.

KATE PLANTS, LOST EMBRYOS: I think who they could have been and what they would have been like. Yes, those were our future children.

KAYE (voice-over): Future children -- that are now gone.

Kate Plants and the others we spoke with stored their frozen eggs and embryos at University Hospitals in Cleveland.

(on camera): So you trusted your eggs, your embryos would be safe?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

KAYE: You never imagined this would happen?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, not at all.

KAYE (voice-over): The eggs and embryos were stored in a freezer tank at University Hospitals which was equipped with a remote alarm system that should have alerted an employee to a temperature change, but the hospital says the alarm was off, so an alert was never issued. The lab wasn't staffed Saturday night so the temperature in the tank continued to rise, causing the embryos to thaw.

DR. JAMES LIU, UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS CLEVELAND MEDICAL CENTER: We take full responsibility. We are very sorry that this happened. This is a catastrophic event for patients.

[13:49:57] KAYE: Problems filling the tank with liquid nitrogen may have thrown off the temperature.

University Hospitals says at least 4,000 eggs and embryos were lost, impacting 950 patients.

(on camera): What did you lose that day?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I lost my reason for being alive, really. Starting a family was all I had as far as a purpose.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now I'm never going to know what the babies are going to grow up to be.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I lost the hope for my future and not knowing if I'm going to be able to have a child.

JACK LANDSKRONER, ATTORNEY: To preserve the ability to have a child.

KAYE (voice-over): Attorney Jack Landskroner is suing University Hospitals on behalf of about 180 families he represents.

An investigation by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that the very same storage tank experienced a malfunction in the filling mechanism and remote alarm system in January.

The tank's manufacturer denies its equipment malfunctioned.

LANDSKRONER: The hospital, then, neglected to take the necessary steps to repair the concerns raised months before the incident occurred.

KAYE (on camera): Nor did they make your clients, their patients aware.

LANDSKRONER: They made to no disclosure to the patients who had eggs and embryos stored at this facility that they were having problems and a pattern of malfunctions.

KAYE: If the hospital has already admitted wrong doing, why the lawsuit?

LANDSKRONER: Well, I think our clients want answers. And they haven't gotten them yet.

We're suing for what the law allows which is for compensation for our clients for what they lost and ideally to have changes made to allow the services to be safer.

KAYE: University Hospitals denied our request for an interview citing pending litigation. But in an e-mail, they told us that patients are their first priority and they're working to improve operations at the fertility clinic.

(voice-over): Still, that won't help these families. They lost all their eggs and embryos and can hardly think about the painful process of going through IVF again. For some, that's not even an option.

PLANTS: That was our only chance to have biological kids, because both my cancers were estrogen based so to pump me with more hormones to get embryos is out of the question.

KAYE (on camera): The family's attorney told me other facilities do have people on staff 24/7 to make sure the eggs and embryos are safe in those storage tanks.

University Hospitals is offering medical services and seven years of embryo storage to the families hurt by this. But those we met say it is all too little, too late. Back you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Randi Kaye, thank you so much.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:56:57] WHITFIELD: Great Britain is preparing for a real-world fairy tale wedding one week from today. Prince Harry and American actress, Meghan Markle, are set to walk down the aisle next Saturday. And we just learned the head of the Episcopal Church, a bishop from Chicago, will give the address.

CNN's Max Foster takes us behind the scenes at St. George's Chapel where the couple will be wed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MAX FOSTER, CNN LONDON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Windsor Castle, home to kings and queens for nearly a thousand years, and within its grounds, St. George's Chapel where many members of the family have been baptized, married and, yes, buried.

When Meghan Markle is driven into these hallowed grounds, packed with special guests, she'll mark a new chapter in this most famous of family histories.

(on camera): The car will come into what will be a quite eerily quiet cloister. It will stop here. The first thing that will confront the bride is some 20 steps leading up to the chapel.

(MUSIC)

As Meghan Markle enters the church, the guests will turn around and see her at the west door beneath that spectacular stained-glass window. The area will be filled with seats, 600 people in total. And while it looks vast and spacious, it's actually quite intimate at this level. And quite a narrow aisle as we move up from the nave into the choir. And a few more steps.

As she enters the choir, wherever she looks, she'll see a nod to the Knights of the Garter. It's the highest order of chivalry in the land, the oldest in the world.

High up on the ceiling, a boss of Henry VIII, who completed this church 500 years ago. Flags represent the current Knights of the Garter, including the best man there, Prince William, his flag. And below him the seat where he would normally sit. All these plaques represent a Knight of the Garter.

(voice-over): A gray marble slab sunken into the aisle, another reminder of Henry VIII. Meghan Markle with literally walk over his grave towards her fiance. (on camera): The royal family will be on this side. The bride's

family on the other side. And she'll eventually settle up there by the step where she'll meet Harry.

FOSTER (voice-over): And with the words, "I will," an American celebrity becomes British royalty.

(MUSIC)

FOSTER: Max Foster, CNN, Windsor, England.

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And tonight, CNN's Alisyn Camerota shares the untold stories of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. And CNN special reporter, "A ROYAL MATCH: HARRY AND MEGHAN," airs tonight at 8:00 Eastern and Pacific, followed by another special, "DIANA, CHASING A FAIRY TALE." That's at 9:00.

We have so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM. And it all starts right now.

All right. Hello, again. Thank you for being with me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We start with breaking news of another growing drama inside the White House. More leaks giving us a behind-the-scenes look as Press Secretary Sarah Sanders berates her communications team --