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Giuliani Walks Back Comments on AT&T/Time Warner Merger Deal; Sarah Sanders More Upset by Leaks than Sadler Comment about McCain; Escalating Tensions with Iran as Trump Announces Pull Out of Nuclear Deal; Family of Iran Hostage Robert Levinson Growing Worried; Trump's Significant Foreign Policy Moves on Iran & North Korea; Sarah Sanders More Upset by Leaks than Sadler Comment about McCain; Unprecedented Number of Officials that Left White House; More Controversy Involving EPA's Scott Pruitt. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired May 12, 2018 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: CNN special report, "A ROYAL MATCH, HARRY AND MEGHAN," airs tonight 8:00 p.m. Eastern followed by another special, "DIANA, CHASING A FAIRY TAIL," at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.
Thank you for being with me today. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
NEWSROOM with Ana Cabrera starts right now.
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: It's 3:00 eastern. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Glad to have you with us on this Saturday afternoon.
The news this hour, more words, more problems and more confusion about what the president did or did not do. Today, the president's lead lawyer outside the White House, Rudy Giuliani, tried to correct the record and undo his own mistake. In an interview last night, Rudy Giuliani tried to defend the president for suggestion companies paid off his long-time attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen in exchange for influence and assets. One of the companies in question, AT&T, paid $600,000 to Cohen's consulting firm. Rudy Giuliani said the president had no knowledge of the payments and AT&T wasted its money. He told the "Huffington Post," "Look at this for evidence no further than the drama playing out in court. He did drain the swamp." The president denied the merger, Giuliani said. They didn't get the result they wanted.
That would be a remarkable contradiction of the official White House line that the president had no role in the decision to try and block the deal between AT&T and Time Warner, CNN's corporate parents. Today, Rudy Giuliani walked back what he told the "Huffington Post," now telling Dana Bash he got a different story from his boss, the president. Quote, "He told me directly he didn't interfere."
Boris Sanchez is live at the White House.
Boris, where is the White House on this ongoing back and forth between Rudy Giuliani and Rudy Giuliani? BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Ana. Yes, the White House has
maintained their position that the president did in the interfere in this decision by the Department of Justice to try to block the merger between AT&T and Time Warner. Sarah Sanders said earlier today it was the Department of Justice's decision, not President Trump's.
This leads to a series of questions. First, just how much influence does this president have over the Department of Justice? We know he sees it as an extension of his political power, the way that he's suggested that they should carry out investigations into some of his political opponents, and he's very publicly opposed this deal between Time Warner and AT&T. The question of influence lingers.
It also beckons a question about Rudy Giuliani's role with the legal team. He was brought onto help defend the president into the Special Counsel's probe into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. He's waded into waters he certainly perhaps should not have waded into, whether it was announcing that North Korea would be releasing prisoners or, as you noted, this merger situation, or his comments on the Stormy Daniels saga, contradicting some of what the president previously said and having to walk his comments back. You'll recall the president initially said about that that Rudy Giuliani didn't have all his facts straight. No indication about what the president thinks about the latest walk-back. It's another unforced error from the president's new attorney -- Ana?
CABRERA: Meantime, Boris, new reporting on a White House meeting about the wildly inappropriate joke made by an aide at John McCain's expense. What can you tell us?
SANCHEZ: Publicly, Sarah Sanders, the press secretary, would not weigh in on that comment by a communications staffer, Kelly Sadler, when she said that McCain's opinion on Gina Haspel's nomination wouldn't matter because he would be dead soon anyway. We understand that privately during a meeting yesterday with some of her communications staff, Sanders did call it an inappropriate joke. But apparently, according to at least one source, she took exception to the fact that this was a leak that she believed was designed to hurt Sadler in public. Sanders, from the podium, refused to even apologize for the comment, seeming to focus on the idea that this was a leak, and that it should not have been something that was put out there in the press.
We should note that sources have told us that Sadler is still safe in her job. There's no indication that this controversy or her comment will affect her role within the administration -- Ana?
CABRERA: All right. Boris Sanchez, at the White House. Thank you.
Let's bring in our panel, reporter and co-author of "Politico's" "Playbook," Dan Lippman, and CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan, a former New York City prosecutor.
Dan, what do you make of Sarah Sanders being more upset about the leaks than the comments? And the White House is still not condemning what Kelly Sadler said about John McCain, quote, "dying anyway." DANIEL LIPPMAN, REPORTER, POLITICO & CO-AUTHOR, POLITICO'S PLAYBOOK:
I saw Sarah Sanders last night at a performance by Rob Lowe. Clearly, she is not letting this get to her. She's still having fun. But I think it speaks to an indication at the White House that Sanders wanted to protect Sadler from getting fired. There's been so much turnover in the communications shop at the White House. And if Sadler did this every day, then she would clearly get fired, but I think they think one error by her is not enough to get canned. But in most White Houses, this would be a firing offense.
[15:05:27] CABRERA: Paul, on the controversial Rudy Giuliani comments, the president, if he personally denied the AT&T/Time Warner merger, as Rudy Giuliani initially said was the case, what would be the legal implications of that?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, the Justice Department faced wrong arguments during the trial, the antitrust trial going on, that this was done because the president ordered it and not because there were the merits to the opposition to the merger.
CABRERA: Right, but AT&T also dropped that argument as part of its case.
CALLAN: Well, they absolutely -- well, they absolutely took the position, by the way, that on the merits they had a very, very good case, and yes, there was an issue about whether the president should be deposed. This was a big court battle going on about this. And for Rudy Giuliani to stick his nose into it and say the president was opposed to the merger and, therefore, the investment that AT&T made in Cohen was a bad investment. So, I mean, why is he sticking his nose into litigation where the lawyers have a carefully planned defense? It makes no sense. Giuliani is like a freight train that's ran off the rails.
CABRERA: And he was supposed to be focused on the Russia investigation. He keeps on talking about Cohen or Korea.
It seems, Dan, every time Giuliani speaks, he gets his client into more trouble. How much rope does Trump have when it comes to letting Rudy Giuliani be his mouthpiece?
LIPPMAN: It's remarkable for someone who worked at the Department of Justice, he was the number three official a couple decades ago, for him to make these types of statements, he knows the president should not get involved in this. And as to whether Trump will ever get rid of him, I feel like if you have a couple more weeks of this, then clearly Trump will try to get someone else on his team. But the problem is there aren't that many high-powered lawyers willing to work for this president, and so you're kind of are stuck with Rudy for now.
CABRERA: And Rudy Giuliani's biographer has called him, a, quote, "drama machine." James Comey has written about Giuliani in his book saying he always has to be the center of attention.
Paul, you worked in the same circles as him in New York. What do you know about his style as a lawyer?
CALLAN: I've been watching him as lawyer, and he was the United States attorney. He's always been a flamboyant attorney looking for a headline, but he has never been as undisciplined and off the tracks as I've seen him lately. There's something going on with Giuliani. I don't know what it is. Whether it's personal. He just filed for divorce with a wife of 15 years. That's always a high-pressure situation. And representing the president. Rudy Giuliani is being criticized for some of the things he's saying, but everything he says is something the president himself said at one time. It's just hard for a lawyer to keep up with the ever-changing positions of the president. The president was against the Time Warner merger. Then he had no comment. The president said he never knew about the Stormy Daniels' payoff. Then he apparently is now taking the position through Cohen that not only did he know about it, but he approved it. So Rudy Giuliani, it's tough to figure out which of the many positions Rudy Giuliani should adopt.
CABRERA: Rudy Giuliani's not the only one changing his story or changing his position. We saw the chief of staff, John Kelly, putting his foot in his mouth when he talked about the Russia investigation. He told NPR this. Quote, "It may not be a cloud, but certainly the president is somewhat embarrassed, frankly." He's now backtracking on that statement saying, "I actually corrected it to say distracted. It's untrue. It's a witch hunt. Right? It distracts him. Not too much, but it's unfair."
So from embarrassing to distracting.
I'm curious, Dan, you think Trump, what he thinks about this comment?
LIPPMAN: I don't think Trump actually listens to NPR. Because most liberals are big fans of that radio station. I'm sure Trump saw the comments. I think sometimes he's happy to see his aides get put into the fire instead of him when here walking about Rudy Giuliani. I think the heat is on Rudy instead of Trump, and I think Trump is willing to let John Kelly kind of wave in the winds as long as he doesn't make these types of comments more often. Because Trump does not like to be a person who is embarrassed. Kelly was a little too truthful here.
[15:10:12] CABRERA: Isn't that still embarrassing his administration? These are people who work for him and are supposed to be his right hand, left hand men.
CALLAN: If I can jump in for a second.
CABRERA: Go ahead.
CALLAN: I also think that you have a flamboyant, undisciplined president of the United States. And, of course, he got elected, maybe because he was flamboyant and undisciplined. What he needs is a careful, tempered, discipline spokesperson, and attorney representing him. Instead, he goes out and hires a former politician, Rudy Giuliani, who's crazier than he is in terms of making wild headline- grabbing statements. Doesn't strike me as a good press or defense strategy. It's going to blow up on the president. I'd be surprised if Rudy Giuliani lasts more than another three weeks.
CABRERA: You heard it here first. We'll see.
CABRERA: Thank you, Paul Callan and Dan Lippman. I appreciate it.
CABRERA: Ahead this hour, tensions rising, U.S. flags on fire, signs mocking President Trump as anti-American protests fill the streets in Iran. What this means for stability in the region.
Plus, hostage plea. He was last seen more than a decade ago, and now the family of Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent, who vanished in Iran, is growing increasingly worried. His son, Dan, joins us live.
And later, acting fast. A Florida deputy is being hailed a hero for saving a three-month old baby boy. We'll show you the remarkable dash cam video. More of this live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Don't go anywhere.
[15:15:45] CABRERA: On Monday, the U.S. will officially transfer its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It comes amid rising tensions in the Middle East. This week, President Trump officially pulling out of the Iran nuclear agreement. The broadly telegraphed move has been followed by escalating hostilities. Iran now threatening to restart its nuclear program if the broader deal collapses. Its forces in Syria also trading rocket fire with Israel in recent days.
CNN's senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, is joining us live from Tehran.
Fred, what's happening there right now?
FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. Certainly, there's a lot of concern on the ground of many Iranians, especially after President Trump pulled out of the nuclear agreement, obviously, for their economic situation. But then there's also the anger and rage at the U.S. and especially at President Trump.
We went out to Friday prayers on Friday. It's always a hardline event. Here's what we saw.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): After Friday prayers, thousands of Iranians marched through Tehran burning the American flag, stepping on the American flag, unleashing their anger.
PLEITGEN: Many of those taking part in the demonstration waving signs, ripping into President Trump.
PLEITGEN (on camera): Iran's hardliners want to send a clear message to President Trump: No matter how hard the U.S. is on Iran, they will not back down.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Protesters also lashing out at Israel after the exchange of fire between Iran and Israel in the Golan Heights and Syria, even though Tehran still has not acknowledged its forces were involved.
But most of the anger was directed at President Trump after he pulled the U.S. out of the nuclear agreement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have came here to say to all the people of the world and to Mr. Trump that we stand against Mr. Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to say to American people that we are very sorry that they have elected such a president.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): I hope we become so strong that nobody can threaten us and that my country will not fear anything or anyone.
PLEITGEN: At Friday prayers, the hardline prayer leader vowing a tough stance against the U.S. and Israel, calling them enemies of religion.
UNIDENTIFIED CLERIC (through translation): We are not interested in the atomic bomb, but we are increasing our missile capabilities in other fields so that Israel cannot sleep well. If she gets crazy, we will turn Tel Aviv and Haifa to dust.
PLEITGEN: While Iran's government and diplomats are busy trying to salvage the nuclear agreement, the hardlines appear to be gearing up for confrontations to come.
PLEITGEN: So the foreign minister of Iran, Ana, is going to start a trip to Russia, China and European countries to try to salvage the nuclear agreement. All of that taking place this upcoming week. They say if that doesn't work, then, yes, they will start that uranium enrichment again, they say, Ana, on an industrial scale without any restrictions -- Ana?
CABRERA: Fred, after that pullout announcement, Iran's supreme leader posted a photo of himself. He was reading Michael Wolff's book, "Fire and Fury," which we all know is deeply critical of Donald Trump. A bit of trolling there? PLEITGEN: Yes. Well, it certainly doesn't seem like a coincidence to
post that picture. It was interesting. The grand ayatollah was at a book fair in Tehran. Obviously looking at many books. It was that specific one that he was seen reading. Unclear whether he was trying to do research on President Trump or how he liked the book. It comes after a week where earlier after President Trump pulled out of the nuclear agreement, the ayatollah ripped into the president saying President Trump's corpse one worm fodder while the Islamic Republic of Iran would stand. It seems like he's firing verbal shots a at the U.S. president and that may be part of it.
CABRERA: Yes, fire and fury verbal at the least.
Thank you, Fred Pleitgen, for the latest report.
[15:19:58] CABRERA: "Don't forget about us." That is the desperate plea of relatives of Americans being held captive in Iran. Based on the images we just saw out of Iran, easy to see why hostage relatives are worried about their loved ones.
Among them, the family of the longest-held hostage in American history, a retired FBI agent, who vanished in Iran more than a decade ago. Video recorded at an undisclosed location in 2010 shows him in failing health.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT LEVINSON, FORMER FBI AGENT HELD HOSTAGE IN IRAN: I have been held here for three and a half years. I am not in very good health. I am running very quickly out of diabetes medicine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: That was about eight years ago. The hopes of his family have been raised and dashed many times.
Joining us now is Robert's son, Dan Levinson.
Dan, thank you for being with us.
I wish we were here celebrating your father's return. Sadly, that's not the case. Update us on the latest you know about your dad.
DAN LEVINSON, SON OF ROBERT LEVINSON: Well, we are encouraged by the fact that with the withdrawal from the nuclear agreement, it sounds like the Trump administration will be renegotiating and talking to the Iranians again, and then we just saw Secretary Pompeo returning with three North Korean hostages. We see this as a prime opportunity. It shows that the Trump administration is committed to bringing home American hostages from our countries that are not seen as friendly to the U.S., and so we are encouraged. It shows they're going to be tough, and they're going to bring back these negotiations. President Trump said before he was elected that my dad should have been a part of that original deal. So we're hoping he's going to renegotiate and make sure my dad is part of whatever new talks they have with Iran.
CABRERA: Your optimism is admirable. Did you hear from the president before he announced the U.S. was pulling out of the Iran deal?
LEVINSON: We did not. But we've been in touch of the government. We've met with Secretary Pompeo, two years ago, when he was a Kansas representative, and so we're encouraged to see people like him in a position to negotiate. Someone like John Bolton, who we've seen talk about my dad in interviews over the years. These people are in the prime position now and we're hoping they get the message that it's now or never and they really have to push hard and make sure my dad is a priority.
CABRERA: I'm curious how you see it that way. What leverage do you think the U.S. has in terms of these negotiations with Iran?
LEVINSON: Well, now that the Iranians, obviously, want to get back into this deal, and I think one of the things that President Trump had complained about was the fact that the Iranians were doing other activities outside of the deal, and with ballistic missiles, and they're taking American hostages. This is a government that took my dad hostage, has been misleading about it the whole time. They have been -- I mean, the U.N. itself had released a report saying that they knew that my dad is being held. They lied about it. We know they have them. So we're encouraged that President Trump is going to be tough. Last summer, he talked tough about it and said there will be consequences if my dad is not returned. We're going to be meeting with the Trump administration. We're hopeful. We're going to continue to be at this and not go away.
CABRERA: You see it as new opportunity for negotiating. Iran is going to be forced to come to the table because they're going to have the sanctions reimposed on itself. That's the new opening for the president. You don't worry about Iran being, for lack of a better word, pissed off at the U.S. and not wanting to give the U.S. something after it took this away?
LEVINSON: Of course, that's a consideration, but we've been worried about things that the Iranians have been doing over the last 11 years. So when we were nice to them and begging and pleading for anything from them, and when the Obama administration has friendlier relations, they didn't do anything. We've learned they only respond to pressure, and we're going to keep pressuring them. And they have to know -- for example, we were suing them now. We have four of my family members in interviews the past few days and we're not going to go away and just let it drop. They have to understand that we've not going to go away and let the Trump administration drop it. And we have to be optimistic.
CABRERA: I know a lot of people were thinking of you and your family as we witnessed these detainees from North Korea, the three men who were held there, come home, the day after the Iranian deal was scrapped by the U.S. What was going through your mind when you saw those men walk off the plane here in the U.S.?
[15:25:03] LEVINSON: As you mentioned earlier, we've had ups and downs, and days of really disappointment and days of having hope. And, of course, every time we see something about Iran where we're eager and we're jumping at any opportunity to make sure my dad is a part of whatever negotiations and relations that we have with Iran. So my family always looks for the opportunity to keep the pressure on, and we're going to -- when we see this kind of thing, of course we're missing my dad every day and eager to just be on shows like this where we can make sure the Iranians know we're not going away. Make sure the American public and that people around the world know that he's still being held, that there's a $5 million reward for anybody who provides information that leads to my dad getting home. And we want to emphasize that. I know this is being watched around the world. So --
CABRERA: That's right. We're being simulcast right now.
LEVINSON: We're always just -- yes. Yes. So we're always looking for the opportunity, and I'm always going to be optimistic and look for chances to press for both our governments and make sure they know it needs to be a priority.
CABRERA: Let's stay in touch. Certainly, I hope we have a happy ending for your dad and family.
Dan Levinson, thank you very much for joining us this afternoon.
LEVINSON: Thank you.
CABRERA: President Trump rolling the dice this week with three significant foreign policy moves. Again, he ripped up the Iran nuclear deal, welcomed home three American detainees from North Korea, and set the date for the historic talks with Kim Jong-Un.
Let's talk it over with California Congressman John Garamendi, a Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.
Congressman, lots to talk about. I know you were worried about a pullout from the Iran deal, that possibly it would destabilize the region. Do you have concerns at all about the U.S. embassies opening in Jerusalem on Monday as all of this unfolds?
REP. JOHN GARAMENDI, (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, first of all, just to comment on the previous family, it's a terrible situation they face, and perhaps, perhaps something good can come of all this. But my real concern is the president has kicked over the ant hill, and there are so many things scurrying around, and likely to cause trouble. Certainly the opening of the embassy in Jerusalem is almost -- well, is already causing concern throughout the entire regions. There are demonstrations underway. We're going to have to send more Marines in the area to protect the embassy. It's a difficult week ahead as the embassy opens and as that effect of that finds its way through the political atmosphere, the charged political atmosphere of the Middle East.
CABRERA: Right. GARAMENDI: With regard to Iran, wow, I'm not so sure that America has much leverage left here. We know that Iran is scurrying around going to China and Russia, and to the European countries, our former allies, in the effort to stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon. They are there to try to cut a separate deal. Basically, how they might be able to cause -- to have those countries not abide by the American sanctions. Now we have a situation where Iran is purposely trying to divide our previous allies on this matter. If they're at all successful, and there's some indications that they might be because we know that Germany and France are very, very concerned about the economic impacts of what President Trump has done.
CABRERA: They're concerned about the economic impacts but also concerned about the issue which was the reason for the deal in the first place, which is the nuclear development.
CABRERA: And I know there was the concern initially that pulling out the deal would result in Iran immediately firing up the nuclear program. And while they have made a lot of threats in that regard, they've also indicated they're committed to staying in the deal as long as the other countries who signed the deal remain committed. That's another way to look at it. Right?
GARAMENDI: There are many, many ways to look at it. He kicked over the ant hill, and we don't know what's going to come of this. We know that Iran is pursuing two avenues. One, the first one I described, which is to try to do a separate deal where they can continue to have their economic advantage in exchange for holding onto the nuclear deal.
The other one --
CABRERA: Can I stop you for a second?
CABRERA: I want to get some clarity. When you say a separate deal, is that your understanding, do you have additional information? The way I read it is that they're working on keeping the current deal as is with the remaining countries and that the U.S. has gone its own way.
GARAMENDI: That's exactly right. We're saying the same thing in two different ways, and perhaps --
GARAMENDI: -- you said it more clearly than I did.
[15:30:00] The other thing is the other thing you said which is that Iran has threatened, at the very highest level of their military, that if they're not able to have a separate deal or to be able to have the economic advantages that the JCPOA, the Iranian deal gave them, then they will pursue the nuclear weapons. And we have every reason to believe that they are perfectly capable of doing that once they are free of the sanctions and of the very oppressive review by the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency's constant supervision of what they're doing. They throw the watchdogs out of the country and pursue their nuclear ambitions once again.
Any way you look at it, the United States has been put into a difficult situation. We could have, and this is what I suggested for the president that he ought to do, to maintain the existing nuclear deal with Iran, and --
CABRERA: But --
GARAMENDI: -- pursue efforts to reign in the terrorism as well as the missiles. All of which could have been done with the sanctions that he has been given by Congress and to put more pressure on Iran.
CABRERA: I realize that's what you had advocated for, but that now didn't happen.
GARAMENDI: It didn't happen.
CABRERA: We'll see where it goes next.
Real quick, before I let you go, I want to ask you, looking forward now, how this pullout of the Iran deal could impact the negotiations with North Korea's Kim Jong-Un? How do you see it impacting that?
GARAMENDI: Well, I think there's two. One of two which -- two ways -- one of which is very much talked about which is that could, would North Korea trust the United States going forward, having pulled out of this Iran deal.
The second thing which I think is perhaps much more problematic is the president has actually set the height of the hurdle. He has said that the Iran nuclear deal, all that it was, and it was working, it was insufficient.
GARAMENDI: Now, what would be sufficient in North Korea? Total dismantlement of all their nuclear enterprise, all their missile systems? Everything that he said was insufficient in the Iran deal. If that's the hurdle, this is going to be a very long and very, very complex and perhaps, at the end of the day, not a successful negotiation. So I'm concerned about what it actually is that the president must accomplish since he has set such a very high hurdle for the Iran deal.
CABRERA: Well, you could argue that he has been very upfront about that being the hurdle. The fact that Kim Jong-Un is still willing to meet --
CABRERA: -- is that potentially a good thing that he has set the bar that high and Kim Jong-Un knows that going into this meeting?
Congressman John Garamendi --
GARAMENDI: We will find out.
CABRERA: There's so much more we could talk about.
GARAMENDI: Let's be hopeful.
CABRERA: I'm so glad you're on our show this afternoon.
CABRERA: We'll have you back. Thank you.
GARAMENDI: Thank you. Bye, bye.
CABRERA: Coming up, no apology. Now an explanation. What CNN is just learning about the fallout from a White House aide's insensitive comment about John McCain.
Your live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[15:37:39] CABRERA: No apology from the Trump White House as backlash erupts over what was said to be a joke when a White House aide mocked Senator John McCain's battle with brain cancer. Breaking this afternoon, sources tell CNN Sarah Sanders told staff behind closed doors the comment was inappropriate. But the sources also tell us Sanders was more concerned with the fact that the comment was leaked than with the comment itself.
CNN's Tom Foreman examines the comment and the outcry.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, this is the sort of thing you would expect any White House to address, but this White House is saying virtually nothing, even as others say a lot.
(voice-over): "Reprehensible, inexcusable, shame on you, resign." Outrage swirling around White House aide, Kelly Sadler, on Twitter after she dismissed Senator John McCain's opposition to President Trump's CIA nominee by mocking his grave illness, "He's dying anyway."
His wife, Cindy? "May I remind you my husband has a family, seven children and five grandchildren."
His daughter, Meghan?
MEGHAN MCCAIN, DAUGHTER OF SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: I don't understand what kind of environment you're working in when that's acceptable and you can come to work the next day and have a job. That's all I have to say.
FOREMAN: The White House hasn't said there's anything wrong with this although the said apologized and said, in a statement, said, "We respect Senator McCain's service to our nation. And he and his family are in our prayers."
FOREMAN: But not a word from the president, who has never hesitated to go after McCain and never apologized for taunting the decorated veteran and former prisoner of war during the campaign.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured, OK? I hate to tell you.
FOREMAN: Complicating the issue, on "FOX Business," a former Air Force lieutenant general, who endorsed Trump, repeating a debunked claim that McCain gave information to his North Vietnamese captors when they tortured him.
LT. GEN. THOMAS MCINERNEY, TRUMP SUPPORTER: The fact is, on John McCain -- it worked on John. That's why they call him Songbird John.
FOREMAN: FOX says they won't have that general on again, but the bipartisan uproar is raging.
Former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden says the Trump administration has "hit rock bottom."
Republican speaker of the House, Paul Ryan?
REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Look, John McCain is a hero, no two ways about it.
[15:39:56] FOREMAN: McCain has criticized Trump's leadership, policies and cast the deciding vote to stop the appeal of Obamacare, among his many maverick moves, his family and friends will far outlast his critics.
MCCAIN: My father's legacy is going to be talked about for hundreds and hundreds of years. These people, nothing burgers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nothing.
FOREMAN (on camera): All of that said, there's still no word on whether this staffer will face any real consequences for her comments or even what President Trump thinks about what she said -- Ana?
CABRERA: Tom Foreman, thank you. While Meghan McCain wonders how the White House staffer who joked
about her father's brain cancer still has a job, let's look at the unprecedented number of officials who have left this administration.
So far, a year and a half in, more than two dozen people have come and gone. That's roughly one person leaving every two and a half weeks.
Now people have departed for different reasons. Some were pushed out like Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Reince Priebus, only to have the person who pushed them out, Anthony Scaramucci, pushed out himself. Scaramucci last just 11 days. Others weren't really pushed out. It was more like they were dropped, like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. President Trump fired him with a tweet. Others, like former communications director, Hope Hicks, managed to leave on good terms. Hicks claims to have simply grown tired of Washington. She got a handshake from the president and a kiss on the cheek on the way out.
But regardless of why or how they left, this pace of comings and goings is record setting. According to NPR, 43 percent, nearly half of top level positions in the Trump White House, have seen turnover. You can see how that stacks up to the predecessors in their first two years in office. When you narrow it down to cabinet levels, President Trump has had more turnover than any other president in the past 100 years.
And still, more change may be to come. At least these seven officials have threatened to resign. Chief of Staff John Kelly has reportedly done so more than once. And Kirstjen Nielsen threatened to leave as recently as this week after Trump berated her during a cabinet meeting.
Despite this unprecedented retention problem, the president denies there's any chaos: "The new fake news narrative is that there's chaos in the White House. Wrong. People will always come and go. And I want strong dialogue before making a final decision. I still have some people that I want to change. Always seeking perfection. There's no chaos. Only great energy."
We're back in a moment.
[15:47:21] CABRERA: More controversy for embattled EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt. There are new questions about a dinner during a trip to Italy. Among the guest was a controversial Vatican figure under investigation and later charged with child sex abuse.
CNN's Sara Gannon has the story.
SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Documents uncovered by the "New York Times" reveal EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt dined with a controversial Vatican figure, along with over eight dozen other church leaders, at a five-star restaurant during his trip to Italy last year, even though his public schedule says he was simply having a private dinner with staff.
GEORGE PELL, CARDINAL & VATICAN TREASURER: Sometimes the very learned and clever can be brilliantly foolish.
GANIM: The guest of honor, according to the documents, was a known climate denier, Vatican treasurer, Cardinal George Pell.
PELL: Are there any long-term benefits from the schemes to combat global warming, apart from extra tax revenues for government?
GANIM: Pell is also the highest-ranking member of the Catholic Church to be charged with child sex abuse.
GANIM: Decades of allegations are now going to court in Australia where Pell was an archbishop. Pell has pleaded not guilty.
And while the dinner took place before he was formally charged, he was under investigation when he dined with Pruitt.
The EPA won't say why Pell was kept off the public schedule.
In a statement to CNN, the agency says, "On June 9th, 2017, Administrator Pruitt had dinner with over a dozen leaders from the Holy See, and on June 29th, 2017, Cardinal Pell was charged.
But the document specifically says the dinner was with Pell, even noting it would take place a day before the cardinal's birthday.
This trip is already under scrutiny for its $120,000 price tag. And reporting that it was organized by an activist friend of Pruitt's. His justification?
SCOTT PRUITT, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: The trip to Italy was a G-7 trip, occurring a week after the Paris decision.
GANIM (on camera): The EPA claims Scott Pruitt did not know that Cardinal Pell was coming to the dinner. However, that does seem to be contradicted by the documents. In addition, the EPA hasn't said who paid for the dinner but did tell us that Scott Pruitt paid for his own meal.
Sara Ganim, CNN, New York.
[15:49:44] CABRERA: Up next, a Florida deputy being hailed a hero for saving a three-month-old baby boy. We'll show you more of the stunning scene and tell you how the story ends when we come back.
CABRERA: Welcome back. A Florida sheriff's deputy is credited with saving a 3-month-old baby. His mother, Nicole Crowl (ph), said her son, Kingston, was unresponsive in her car Wednesday. Slow traffic led her to flag down Marietta County Deputy Jeremie Nix. After a quick attempt to get the baby to respond that was unsuccessful, Deputy Nix rushed the boy to a nearby hospital. Doctors were able to revive Kingston.
Deputy Nix talked to our colleague, Brianna Keilar.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[15:54:51] DEPUTY JEREMIE NIX, MARIETTA COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: The mom and I have been in pretty constant contact. I checked on him day and night. He's doing really well. She sent me a picture just before I got here earlier, of him smiling, just grinning from ear to ear. She said he's healthy, happy, eating well. The doctors are just amazed that he has had zero side effect from this. It's definitely a miracle. God put me in the right place at the right time for the right reason.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: No doubt. The baby now back home and is expected to make a full recovery.
Speaking of heroes, this week's "CNN Hero" gave up his New York home after seeing children begging in the streets of Vietnam. He went from tourist to altruist, working year-round in Vietnam now to give young people the skills to rise out of poverty. He refuses to retire, takes no salary, and has given nearly 250 Vietnamese youth a free foundation to succeed. Meet him Neal Bermas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEAL BERMAS, CNN HERO: The young people in the program come from the whole country. All kinds of very, very difficult pasts. We have kids with HIV background, kids from leprosy villages.
Some have been trafficked. Sometimes more than once.
You'll do great.
Within a couple years, no matter how difficult and how painful, how tortured their life may have been, with 100 percent assurance, I know that young person is going to be starting a career with all kinds of possibilities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: To see how Neal is changing hundreds of lives and to nominate someone you think should be a "CNN Hero," go to CNNheroes.com.