Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono; Vladimir Putin to Meet With Trump; Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy Retiring;. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 27, 2018 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:02]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Some historic decisions like Roe vs. Wade may be at risk of being overturned. We will talk about the legal and the political impact of Kennedy's exit.

Meeting with Moscow. National Security Adviser John Bolton seals the deal with Vladimir Putin for the first summit between President Trump and the Kremlin leader. Will they delve into the sensitive subject of Russia's election meddling?

And only six children. Stunning new statistics on the small number of young immigrants reunited with their detained parents, this as a federal judge sets a new timeline for the Trump administration to bring hundreds of separated families together.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: There is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following major breaking news.

President Trump getting another opportunity to put his stamp on the United States Supreme Court for decades to come. Justice Anthony Kennedy announcing his retirement a few hours ago.

As the president begins his search for a replacement, Senate Republicans are promising a confirmation vote this fall before the midterm elections. And Democrats are weighing their limited options to slow or stop what could be a very dramatic reshaping of the high court.

This hour, I will speak with a Democrat, a key member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Mazie Hirono. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny. He is joining us from Fargo, North Dakota, right now.

Jeff, the president heading there to a rally. You're already on the scene, but certainly his Supreme Court nominee potentially very much on his mind.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, no question about it.

The Supreme Court fight now is front and center in this midterm election battle, already here in North Dakota, of course, one of the key states to watch. Why? Because it's represented Senator Heidi Heitkamp. She is Democrat in deep red Republican North Dakota.

But this rally here tonight, Wolf, at this loud arena that's already filling with supporters, is going to be the first opportunity for the president to talk about the vacancy on the Supreme Court. And there is nothing that fires up conservatives more than that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He is a man who is displaying great vision. He's displayed tremendous vision and tremendous heart.

ZELENY (voice-over): President Trump facing a historic opportunity tonight to not only fill the seat of retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, but to fundamentally reshape the direction of the high court with a firm conservative majority.

TRUMP: We will begin our search for a new justice of the United States Supreme Court. That will begin immediately. And, hopefully, we're going to pick somebody who will be as outstanding.

ZELENY: His retirement, kept secret until the end, hands another monumental victory to the president in this pivotal midterm election year. Perhaps nothing fires up conservatives more than a Supreme Court vacancy.

Justice Kennedy delivered the bombshell news himself, carrying his retirement letter with him as he visited the White House, only hours after the court finished its business for the term.

TRUMP: I got his ideas on things, including I asked him if he had certain people that he had great respect for that potentially could take his seat, which is a very hard seat to fill.

ZELENY: That's an understatement.

Conservatives will demand a far more reliable vote than Kennedy, a Reagan nominee and libertarian, who sided with liberals on abortion, affirmative action and gay rights. It's a chance for Trump to give the court its fifth full-throated conservative.

TRUMP: We have an excellent list of great, talented, highly educated, highly intelligent, hopefully tremendous people. I think the list is very outstanding.

ZELENY: The president pledged to make his selection from a public list of 25 well-established conservative jurists. He said he would move swiftly, a sentiment echoed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY, HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: We will vote to confirm Justice Kennedy's successor this fall. It's imperative that the president's nominee be considered fairly.

ZELENY: McConnell infuriated Democrats by refusing to seat President Obama's Supreme Court nominee during the final year of his presidency. Democrats tried retaliating by mounting a filibuster of Trump's first nominee to the court, Justice Neil Gorsuch.

But it backfired and prompted McConnell to change the rules of the Senate, which means the next nominee needs only 51 votes to be confirmed.

Trump often says putting Gorsuch on the court is his biggest achievement since taking office.

TRUMP: I have felt after the defense of our nation, the most important decision a president of the United States can make is the appointment of a Supreme Court justice.

[18:05:02]

Depending on their age, a justice can be active for 50 years, and his or her decisions can last a century or more and can often be permanent.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: Now, this is something that took the White House by surprise, Wolf.

I am told that President Trump did not know that Anthony Kennedy was coming to see him until he was already in the building at the White House. But, of course, the White House has been preparing for the possibility of a retirement. They do have a list of some 25 well- established conservative judges.

And President Trump said he would pick from someone on that list that is a well-respected, well-reviewed of conservative jurists. So, from the Republican point of view, they want to act very quickly, Wolf.

Senator Majority leader Mitch McConnell wants to do this as soon as possible. I am told by a White House official a nominee could be announced in the coming weeks.

Of course, it is up to Republicans and Democrats in the Senate to proceed from there. But, Wolf, we will hear from the president tonight here in Fargo about why the Supreme Court vacancy is so important for his party -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A big crowd already gathering over there.

Jeff Zeleny in Fargo for us, thank you.

Let's bring in CNN Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue.

Ariane, take us through this, the president's list of potential replacements for Justice Kennedy.

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Right.

Well, it's so unusual for a presidential candidate when he was to have the list. And it's really worth looking at some of the issues, right, because abortion is one thing that the progressives are going to look hard at. If Roe vs. Wade isn't overturned, it could be restricted.

So, think about Brett Kavanaugh. He is at the top of the list. And he's on the court here in D.C. Just recently, he dissented when his court cleared the way for an undocumented teen to get an abortion. That's going to be controversial during a confirmation hearing.

Another one, Amy Coney Barrett, she was at Notre Dame. And during her confirmation hearing, you could see that the Democrats were really trying to get at her views of abortion. And she even got into a little bit of a spat with Senator Dianne Feinstein on religion.

Now, some people said that Feinstein was looking for a litmus test there. Another issue, the Second Amendment. Tom Hardiman is on this list. He's not one of the favorites of the Federalist Society, but Donald Trump really liked meeting him when he was a runner-up for the Gorsuch seat. He has these opinions on Second Amendment, so that could come up in his hearings.

Another former Kennedy clerk is Ray Kethledge. He wrote a digit privacy case that just recently got over turned when the chief voted with the liberals. So, they will be looking at that.

And then the last two, one is Amul Thapar. And he's interesting because he's very close to Mitch McConnell. So, that might get him over.

And if indeed things get really heated in the Senate during this contentious time, the president could turn to a senator, Mike Lee. It's always easier to get senators through, although Mike Lee is solidly conservative.

And one more thing, Wolf. All these people have already been vetted. Usually, when we get a nomination, it takes a while to get them vetted. These have been vetted, and vetted by like the Federalist Society. They're all solid conservatives.

BLITZER: Yes. The president wants to move quickly. He wants this done by the midterm elections. And Mitch McConnell, the Senate leader, he wants it done as well.

Thank you very much, Ariane, for that report.

Let's go to Capitol Hill right now, where Republicans and Democrats already are clashing over Justice Kennedy's replacement even before the president has named a nominee.

Congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly is joining us right now.

Phil, Democrats say Republicans will be hypocrites if they hold a confirmation vote before the midterm election, right?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf.

One name, Merrick Garland, still ringing in the ears of Democrats from 2016. That individual, the Supreme Court nominee of President Obama, was not even granted a hearing, because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, citing what he called the Biden rule, said in an election year he couldn't have that.

Well, Democrats are now saying, if that's fair play, then neither should President Trump's nominee in an election year. Take a listen to Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK, SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Our Republican colleagues in the Senate should follow the rule they set in 2016, not to consider a Supreme Court justice in an election year.

Senator McConnell would tell anyone who listened that the Senate had the right to advise and consent. And that was every bit as important as the president's right to nominate.

Millions of people are just months away from determining the senators who should vote to confirm or reject the president's nominee, and their voices deserve to be heard now, as Leader McConnell thought they should deserve to be heard then. Anything but that would be the absolute height of hypocrisy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[18:10:01]

MATTINGLY: Now, Wolf, Republicans wasted little time firing back, saying this is a midterm election year, not a presidential election year.

President Obama in 2010, a midterm year, got his nominee, Elena Kagan, through the Senate. That's the apples-to-apples comparison, not the presidential.

The reason why you have seen Democrats, beyond just their general outrage for what happened in 2016 on the Supreme Court, take this current position, Wolf, is, there is a clear understanding that based on the rule change that Jeff mentioned in his piece in the United States Senate, Democrats have no recourse if all Republicans decide to support President Trump's nominee.

It simply takes 51 votes to be able to get that confirmation. That's why there's a couple of other things you're seeing start to percolate.

One, Democratic senators calling on the grassroots to really try and rise up and put a lot of pressure on senators, not just Republicans, but also red state Democrats, three of whom voted for Neil Gorsuch in 2017.

The other issue -- and you heard Ariane talk about it -- and that is abortion. You have two Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, who are pro-choice and are considered on the fence if Roe v. Wade is considered on the table, which a lot of people think it will be.

Those will be the two senators you see a lot of pressure directed at. That, at this point in time, at least, is the best chance Democrats have to even throw a single hurdle up. If they can't, if al Republicans stick together, Mitch McConnell has made very clear there will be hearings, there will be a vote, and he wants somebody confirmed, Wolf, by the fall.

BLITZER: Yes, he does.

Phil Mattingly, thank you very much.

We're joined now by a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democrat Mazie Hirono.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D), HAWAII: Good evening.

BLITZER: Is there anyone that President Trump could nominate between now and a vote let's say the midterm elections that you would vote to confirm?

HIRONO: You never know.

The president might decide to do the right thing and not pick somebody who's been hand-picked by the Federalist Society and/or the Heritage Foundation.

I kind of think that that is not in play. But Mitch McConnell should follow his own rule and let the people of America have a voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court justice.

This is what he says. But, of course, he never sticks to his own rules.

BLITZER: He says there's a difference between a midterm congressional election and a presidential election, that you can't compare the two, to which you say?

HIRONO: Of course you can compare the two, because guess what? The Senate has its own constitutional responsibility to advise and consent on the president's nominations.

The president nominates. We do advise and consent. So, we have our own constitutional role to play. And, therefore, the people should be able to decide who will be engaging in the advise and consent rule.

BLITZER: But don't you want to see who the president nominates first before deciding flatly there should be no confirmation vote between now and the midterm elections?

HIRONO: No, it doesn't matter who he is putting forward. I'm saying that, from a procedural standpoint, I'm perfectly happy to follow the McConnell rule and enable the American people to have a voice in deciding who the next nominee should be -- or the Supreme Court justice should be. That's what I'm focused on.

BLITZER: The Republicans are pointing out that when President Obama was in office before a midterm election, he got Elena Kagan confirmed through the U.S. Senate. They're pointing to that example. Let me get your reaction to that.

HIRONO: Well, apparently, they decided that they would do the right thing at that point.

But Mitch McConnell has made it very clear, and in changing the number of votes that it would take, that he has every intention of putting on the Supreme Court as well as the circuit and district courts the most conservative, ideologically driven nominees possible for lifetime appointments.

And so that's how they're proceeding. And it's more than unfortunate for the American people, because any of us who cares about women's rights or minority rights or workers' rights should care about who sits on our courts for lifetime appointments.

Therefore, I am calling on everybody in this country who care about those, as well as other issues, to make sure that the next person who sits on the Supreme Court is somebody who is not a Republican, because also, remember, Donald Trump said the Supreme Court should always be Republican, as though the court should be filled with people who are Democrats and Republicans.

You know what? The court should be made up of people who can base their decisions on the law, the facts, precedent and uphold our Constitution and the American values that we all share. That's the kind of a justice I'm looking for. I'm not looking for a Republican justice.

BLITZER: Compared to how the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, blocked the nomination of Merrick Garland during the final year of the Obama administration, what sort of opposition do you think Democratic voters want to see from you and your party?

[18:15:03]

HIRONO: It's not just Democratic voters. It's independents, as I said, anybody who cares about women's rights and minority rights, workers' rights.

There's a whole array of cases that will come before this court. They should all care about who the next person would be. And I would think that they would rise up and say, hey, we want to have a voice in who sits in the United States Senate to make these determinations on our behalf.

BLITZER: Assuming you don't like the nominee, what specifically do you plan on doing? What are the options within your power to block this?

Because, as you know, the Republicans, not the Democrats, have the majority.

HIRONO: Let me put it this way.

The Republicans have for decades set the stage for the most conservative, Federalist Society-backed people to sit on the Supreme Court, so, you know what, and all of our other courts.

So, this is not an effort that we can just undo overnight. I think that all of us who care about these issues and these priorities should be just as determined to rise up.

And I will be there with them fighting alongside them to make sure that our courts are filled with people who can provide the kind of justice that is objective, that is not a rubber stamp for a president who is ideologically extreme.

BLITZER: As you know, Senator Hirono, some of your Democratic colleagues, Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Donnelly, they're up for reelection this year. They all voted to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch.

What's your message to those vulnerable Democrats coming forward with a vote let's say before the midterm?

HIRONO: I think that we can all be together wanting the people of America to be able to have their voices heard on who the next nominee should be.

BLITZER: But could they potentially lose their seats, lose their reelection battles if they vote against the president's nominee?

HIRONO: Well, we're not there yet.

I'm talking about a procedural effort to say, Mitch McConnell, why don't you follow your own rule and enable the American people's voices to be heard as to the selection of the next Supreme Court justice?

So, that's where I am.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: He's clearly not to going to follow that rule, Senator, as you know.

What about some moderate Republicans? Can you count on any of them to join the Democrats and try to block the nominee?

HIRONO: There's very little question in my mind that overturning of Roe v. Wade will be coming before the Supreme Court, because Trump has said that's what he would like.

And, therefore, there are at least two Senate Republican women who care very much about a woman's right to choose. And that would be Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski.

BLITZER: Yes, let's see what happens on that front.

HIRONO: Yes.

BLITZER: As you know, Senator, before Justice Kennedy even announced his retirement, Democratic Congressman Adam Smith in the House of Representatives said -- and I'm quoting him now -- "The Supreme Court is no longer a judicial body. It is an arm of the Republican Party."

What's your reaction to that?

HIRONO: Well, that's certainly comports with what President Trump said. He said the Supreme Court should always remain Republican.

And he has every intention of nominating somebody who will follow through and be a -- basically a rubber stamp for the Republicans, or, I should say, you know what, the Trumps, the Trump party. It is not a Republican Party. It's the Trump party.

BLITZER: Jeff Toobin, our chief legal analyst, says this retirement -- and it's very significant -- could eventually lead to Roe v. Wade being overturned. Do you agree?

HIRONO: Yes, I think it will come to that circumstance, because President Trump has said that he wants to nominate people to the Supreme Court who will overturn Roe v. Wade. So he's going to look for somebody like that.

And I would say that that is a real possibility. And that is why I'm looking to people like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, with only a 51-vote requirement to confirm the next Supreme Court justice, for them to really look into their hearts and souls and do the right thing.

I'm also looking to Mitch McConnell to do the right thing and for once to follow his own rule. It's so hypocritical. But this is something that doesn't bother the Republicans at all and the Trump party at all.

BLITZER: Will the Supreme Court decision yesterday to uphold the president's travel ban, at least the third version of that travel ban, do you think it will embolden him on the broader issue of immigration, which is so, so tough right now?

HIRONO: Trump is very much anti-immigration, especially black, brown and yellow people.

So I have very little doubt that he's not even right now conferring and/or thinking on his own how he can use his pretty much unbridled executive power to issue further executive orders that would relate to immigration.

[18:20:02]

I have little doubt that the Supreme Court handed him extraordinary powers, which the Supreme Court didn't have to do, but it was a 5-4 decision.

And we can thank Neil Gorsuch for his fifth vote on that issue, as well, on that case, as well as the case that was decided today that goes against public employee unions and overturning Abood, which is a 40-year case that the Supreme Court decided that upheld the union's right to collect fees to enable them to bargain for wages and appropriate work conditions. So, that's out the window.

BLITZER: Yes, that was a 5-4 decision as well. Lots of 5-4 decisions, as you well know.

HIRONO: Yes, exactly. And Neil Gorsuch is that fifth vote.

BLITZER: Senator Hirono, yes, thank you so much for joining us.

HIRONO: Thank you.

BLITZER: Always good having you here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

BLITZER: Just ahead, more on Justice Kennedy's retirement and what it means for the U.S. Supreme Court, for President Trump and for the nation.

And the Trump-Putin summit gets the green light. Will the president draw any red lines when he meets with Vladimir Putin?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:25:38]

BLITZER: We're back with breaking news on Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement.

Tonight, the vice president, Mike Pence, is promising that Mr. Trump will nominate what he calls a strong conservative to be replace Kennedy on the Supreme Court in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Our analysts are here to talk about what is ahead.

Laura Coates, you're our legal analyst.

Right now, what does this mean for the Supreme Court?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, we knew when we had Neil Gorsuch first appointed, that we were going to have pretty much the ideological balance the same.

But now we know it will shift dramatically. We know that it's probably going to be 6 vs. 3, as opposed to the 5 vs. 4. That's important on a number of issues.

On straight conservative issues, you have Anthony Kennedy as a conservative, on campaign finance, on gun laws, on religious beliefs, et cetera. But on issues that required the swing vote, things like LGBT rights and affirmative action in some parts, criminal justice reform, death penalty cases, he was a key member of the actual Supreme Court.

Now that's all going to change. So, having a strong conservative replacement like Antonin Scalia is more like having somebody who is not like Anthony Kennedy, who's a swing vote, somebody who actually would be a conservative and a stronghold and a consistent one, not a swing vote.

BLITZER: And, Jeffrey, give us the big picture, how influential Justice Kennedy was on some of those critical decisions.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: No justice in modern American history has been on the winning side of more 5-4 cases than Anthony Kennedy.

And he controlled the outcome in so many cases, whether it was abortion rights going back to the Casey decision in 1992, preserving Roe v. Wade, whether it was Bush v. Gore, where he essentially delivered the presidency to George W. Bush, affirmative action, saving it last year, and, of course, all of the gay rights decisions, including Obergefell, which he wrote, which was a 5-4 decision directing that all 50 states have to have same-sex marriage.

And earlier this -- last week -- or I guess it was this week -- with the travel ban case, when he -- the court followed Kennedy's vote and that vote is now going to be a solid conservative vote.

BLITZER: Citizens United as well.

TOOBIN: Citizens United, which is -- the thing is, liberals want to talk about his gay rights decisions, but there was Citizens United, there was Bush v. Gore, there was the travel ban case. He's mostly been conservative.

BLITZER: He was -- though he was the decisive vote on same-sex marriage, on abortion rights for women, on affirmative action. He was the decisive vote on that.

TOOBIN: And it was interesting to see what Mike Pence said today. Once they get a nominee, you're going to start to hear the fairy tale, oh, he's really a moderate. He's really open to all different views.

Let's remember what Mike Pence said today. They're not going to pick a moderate. They're not going to pick Anthony Kennedy. You look at the 25 name there, there's not a moderate on this list. This is a list designed to pick a justice who will overturn Roe vs. Wade. And they are one vote away from doing it.

BLITZER: So, how are the Democrats approaching this, Gloria?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, the truth of the matter is, the Democrats don't have any real leverage.

You had Dick Durbin on before. It was written all over his face that they don't have any real leverage. But they have to fight. They know they have to fight. They have to fight for their base. They have to fight for what they believe in.

And they to hope a couple of things. One is that the person the president chooses is somebody that would be offensive to pro-choice Republicans like Susan Collins or Lisa Murkowski.

The other thing they have to worry about and think about is that they have got these 10 red state Democrats, some of whom may decide that it's no sweat off their back to go vote for this Republican nominee. Three Democrats did it last time for Gorsuch in these red states.

And so that could occur again. But they have lost the filibuster. So, this can pass with 51 votes. So they will fight because they have to, but they really know the truth of the matter is that they just don't have the leverage they wish they had.

TOOBIN: And some of them will fight because they actually believe it's important.

BORGER: Well, exactly. No, no, exactly.

TOOBIN: It's not just a political posturing.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: No, exactly.

But they go into it knowing that they're -- the odds are that they're not going to win.

BLITZER: They're going to need 50 votes, because, if it's a tie, then the vice president, the president of the Senate, Mike Pence, breaks the tie in favor of the Republican nominee.

And this could create, as we've noted, some serious problems, Rebecca, for those vulnerable Democrats up for reelections -- reelection in states that Trump won.

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And Gloria, of course, alluded to this just a minute ago. But this is why, Wolf, we had so many Republicans today who were outright giddy about this vacancy, because they see this as, potentially, their saving grace in this very challenging election cycle.

For one, it gives these Democrats in these red Trump states an incredibly difficult vote right before election day. So this is going to be fresh in voters' minds, whatever these senators decide. You're looking at, Claire McCaskill. You're looking at John Tester, Donnelly, Manchin. They potentially are going to have a very tough decision to make, and voters will remember it.

But Republicans also feel, potentially, this is an issue that could juice turnout for their voters. We've seen the enthusiasm among Democrats. Republicans are hoping to close that gap with this issue at the forefront of voters' minds.

BLITZER: We've got some other breaking news we're getting in from our White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, Gloria. The -- she has now learned that the former FOX News president, Bill Shine, has accepted a position as deputy White House chief of staff in charge of communications. This has -- this has been in the works, I take it, for some time.

BORGER: It has. It's kind of the FOX-ification, if that's a word, of the White House. I mean, we know that Bill Shine is very close to Sean Hannity, who is very close to Donald Trump. And that -- that he's been talking to Bill Shine about a job for quite some time.

I think they're probably aware that it will be controversial, given the fact that Shine worked for Roger Ailes. But they've clearly made a decision that that's something that they can weather and that the president wants Shine there.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Donald Trump is in charge of communications at FOX News, so I guess it's only fair that a FOX News executive is director of communications at the White House. Right?

BLITZER: A former FOX News executive, who left under circumstances --

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: -- that he wasn't being forceful enough, dealing with the allegations of sexual harassment or whatever.

TOOBIN: Yes, I guess Donald Trump was really concerned about that. That's why he hired him.

I mean, you know, it used to -- I mean, anyway. Someone else talk. I can't even bear it.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Wasn't that the context, though, of right now a Supreme Court justice. Remember, there are -- this was an issue that so many people were willing to vote for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton on, because of the prospect of one, let alone two, and maybe with the aging population of the Supreme Court, maybe even three under this administration. And so you think about this in the context of why issues like Mr. Shine would no longer be at the forefront of people's minds. They think that lesser of two evils. Well, now you have the promise of a Supreme Court pick.

BLITZER: And we're not sure what the exact title of his new position in the White House. We know he's going to have a senior position in the White House, Rebecca, but not exactly sure it's going to be deputy White House chief of staff or whatever.

BERG: But as we've seen, if he's going to have any sort of communications role in this White House, Wolf, managing communications for this president is always going to be a challenge, because the president is his own communications director. He manages the messaging in this White House. And he, as we know, he only listens to his advisors as it suits him. And so it's a tough job to sign up for.

BLITZER: There hasn't been a communications director since Hope Hicks left.

BORGER: That's right. And you know, the president wants people around him he's comfortable with. That's sort of the Donald Trump we've seen over the last, I'd say, three or four months. And he's sort of unbound, and he wants to bring his friends into the White House. And I think Bill Shine is somebody he is comfortable with. And Sean Hannity is comfortable with Bill Shine, so it all works out out.

TOOBIN: Oh, it's beautiful. It's just beautiful.

BLITZER: All right, guys. Thank you very much.

Just ahead, there's more news we're following. What will be the agenda when President Trump and Vladimir Putin hold their first summit? CNN is live in Moscow. We have new details.

And did Kim Jong-un make false promises to President Trump during their summit? New satellite images are raising some fresh doubts about claims of denuclearization.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:39:02] BLITZER: We're following breaking news on Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement from the Supreme Court.

Also tonight, President Trump's first summit with Russia's Vladimir Putin is on. Mr. Trump's national security advisor, John Bolton, he's been hammering out details with Putin in Moscow. Bolton says he expects the president to talk to the Kremlin leader about a subject Mr. Trump often avoids: Russia's election meddling.

Let's go to our senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen. He's joining us. He's in Red Square in Moscow for us tonight.

Fred, the two leaders, I take it they're on track to meet in just a few weeks?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. About three weeks from now, Wolf. It seems in the middle of July. That's certainly what President Trump was saying earlier today.

And it was very interesting to see what happened here when the national security advisor, John Bolton, came to town here in Moscow. Because originally, what we'd heard is that he was just going to meet with the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, but then, it turned out he met with Vladimir Putin, and both of them hammered out the agenda for the summit very, very quickly, the Russians clearly showing that they are in the driver's seat on this. Here's what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN (voice-over): National security advisor John Bolton face to face with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his top ministers. A quick agreement, President Trump and Vladimir Putin will hold a summit next month.

Still, Putin taking a swipe at the U.S.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I regret to have to point out that Russian-U.S. relations are not at their best. I have mentioned this publicly more than once, and I want to say it again at this meeting, as well.

PLEITGEN: Sources tell CNN the most likely venue for the summit will be Helsinki, the exact date and location due to be announced on Thursday. The national security advisor previously suggested that Russia and Putin can't be trusted.

BOLTON: After bringing up the Russian meddling at the beginning of the meeting, which was exactly the right thing to do, saying it was something that all Americans were concerned with, Trump got to experience Vladimir Putin looking him in the eye and lying to him directly.

PLEITGEN: Today at a press conference right after his meeting with Russia's president, brushing off the perceived change of course.

BOLTON: I don't really address what I've written in the past or what I've said on television. It's all out there. Right now, I'm an advisor to President Trump. It's his agenda that we're pursuing. And that's the agenda that I intend to advance.

PLEITGEN: On the agenda will be major issues like the conflict in Ukraine and Syria, U.S. sanctions against Russia, and Bolton says, Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

BOLTON: I think a lot of people have said or implied over time that a meeting between President Trump and President Putin would somehow prove some nexus between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin which is complete nonsense.

PLEITGEN: But Russian state TV gloating about Bolton's visit to Moscow, joking about Russia's perceived reach into America's political process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Cyber security is a topic for the summit, because what are the main accusations that we hear in the past years from the American side, that our great and terrible Russian hackers invaded the American space? Which many see as aggression against the country and that we caused some trouble there. What trouble did we cause? We just elected Trump, that's all.

PLEITGEN: Russian state TV also trashing CNN and THE SITUATION ROOM in their show.

As America's national security advisor was busy hammering out a summit meant to improve relations between Moscow and the Trump white house.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN: And Wolf, ultimately, the Russians are saying that their goal is a normalization, as they say, of the relations between the United States and Russia.

Of course, President Trump came out earlier today, and he said in general, he thinks it's a good idea to speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin, not just for the U.S. but also for the world. But of course, we do know, Wolf, that some of America's closest allies have some serious reservations about this summit, thinking that it might be coming too fast -- Wolf.

BLITZER: They certainly do. Fred Pleitgen, good report. Thank you very much. Fred's in Moscow.

Just ahead, we're learning just how few immigrant children have been returned to their parents as a federal judge now sets a new deadline for the Trump administration to reunite separated families.

And what do new satellite images reveal about North Korea's nuclear program and whether Kim Jong-un is really planning to shut it all down?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:48:05] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Tonight, the Trump administration is under orders by a federal judge to speed up its slow and chaotic efforts to reunite separated immigrant families, setting a new 30-day deadline. Government figures show, and this is shocking, only six of the children have rejoined their families over the past six days since the president signed that executive order reversing the separation policy.

Let's go to our national correspondent Miguel Marquez. He's joining us from Texas, near the Mexican border.

Miguel, the judge was very, very critical of the Trump administration.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Boy, it was very critical. It's worth keeping in mind that this was a judge that was appointed by a Republican. And activists and lawyers who now work in the field trying to get immigrants legal help, they are pushing the government to implement this ruling immediately.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Reunite families within 30 days, ordered a federal judge, a reversal for President Trump and his so-called zero tolerance policy. In a sharp rebuke, U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw, appointed by George W. Bush, called the confusion created by the zero tolerance policy, quote, a chaotic circumstance of the government's own making, saying that, quote, migrant children are not accounted for with the same efficiency and accuracy as property.

The Justice Department responded by asking Congress for legislation, but that seems unlikely.

EFREN OLIVARES, TEXAS CIVIL RIGHTS PROJECT: The president called immigrants animals. It's a dehumanizing impact of these people fleeing their countries for a safe haven.

MARQUEZ: The Texas Civil Rights Project represents nearly 400 separated families and hopes to begin reuniting them soon.

The zero tolerance policy generating protests across the country, in Washington, D.C., two protests, one at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters.

[18:50:05] Protests also at a detention facility near El Paso and ICE offices in Portland, Oregon.

Angelica Rebeca Gonzalez-Garcia was separated from her 8-year-old daughter nearly two months ago.

I'm desperate, she says, I just want my daughter back.

Maggy Krell represents a mother from Honduras whose 6-year-old son born with brain damage was taken from her three weeks ago. They've spoken once. The little boy asked his mother to come and get him.

MAGGY KRELL, VOLUNTEER ATTORNEY, TEXAS CIVIL RIGHTS PROJECT: She is very, very concerned. She's very fearful. She wants to be able to see him herself, to hug him herself, to make sure that he has the medication that he needs.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Now, the Office of Refugee Resettlement that is responsible for these minors says that it is providing quality care and its number one priority the reunification, but we have not seen that. By the government's accounting, 2,047 kids remain separated from their parents tonight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's pretty shocking. Thanks so much. Miguel Marquez reporting for us from Texas.

Now to the threat from North Korea, we're watching this very, very closely. There are new satellite images tonight that appear to contradict President Trump's claim that Kim Jong-un has started the process of total denuclearization.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. Barbara, what are you learning?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Wolf.

These are images from commercial satellites flying over North Korea of the Yongbyon research facility. It's a massive site with buildings, industrial facilities and in fact a plutonium production facility. The images appear to capture continuing activity at this complex and what it all means is that analysts are tell us Kim Jong-un certainly has not issued any orders to stop working on this site and probably on other sites as well. The Pentagon does believe any denuclearization in North Korea has taken place yet.

The images show the potential that plutonium production may be continuing inside North Korea right now. And that of course would be a major concern, because it gives the Koreans the ability to construct, manufacture nuclear fuel that they could then hide away in the future. All of this, analysts say, underscores the fundamental need to get a very detailed negotiation with the North Koreans to get inspection, verification and to make sure that everybody knows exactly what is going on at these sites and right now, that is not the case -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, absolutely. Barbara Starr reporting for us from the Pentagon -- thank you.

Just ahead, how Justice Kennedy's retirement may consume Washington and eventually change the country. We'll talk about the breaking news with our Chris Cuomo. There you see him, he's getting ready for tonight's edition of "CUOMO PRIME TIME".

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:57:46]B LITZER: The breaking news we're covering tonight will have an impact for months and years and years to come. Let's talk about Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Joining us right now, CNN's Chris Cuomo, the anchor of "CUOMO PRIME TIME".

So, what are your thoughts on this decision by Justice Kennedy to retire? What sort of fight lies ahead?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, CUOMO PRIME TIME: Well, first, in reading the justice's letter, it seems that this is just an act of volition, that he's fine. It's not like he's sick or anything. I've had the good fortune to spend a fair amount of time with the justice. He's a smart man, thoughtful man, a committed man.

And so hopefully, this is him just turning a chapter in his life. Everything is good and we wish him well and thank him for his service.

Now, what did he mean on the court? He gave the left a chance on the court. You know, if you look at his record, Wolf, he was not a real swing vote. You know, obviously, on LGBT rights and religious freedom, we saw him have a very similar role as a swing vote, but more often than not, certainly on the cases recently, he was a conservative vote.

But what he means now stepping away is that President Trump went from someone who was a question mark in the history books to someone who is going to have lasting impact because he will be able to cement a solid 5-4 majority on that court, with somebody who is more reliable even than Kennedy and then lots of things can change.

BLITZER: So, where do the Democrats go from here?

CUOMO: You know, I've been watching your show and others today and I don't see what their option is. McConnell on the Republicans seem very content to play the context game with the Biden rule, which is that only counts in presidential election years. This is a midterm election year. We're having a vote.

They don't have majority, the Democrats. I don't know how they stop it. Do you?

BLITZER: I keep saying and I know you believe it as well, look, elections have consequences. The Democrats are in the minority. Not only the White House, but the House, the Senate, the Supreme Court for that matter as well. Elections have consequences.

Chris Cuomo, thank you very, very much. And to our viewers, tune in later tonight. "CUOMO PRIME TIME", 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

That's it for me. Thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.