Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Senator: Immigration Agents Have No Info on Reuniting Families; Rescue Drama in Thailand; Interview With Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro; Interview With Stormy Daniels Attorney Michael Avenatti; North Korea Maintaining Nuclear Program?; Cohen Turning on Trump?. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 2, 2018 - 17:00   ET

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


[18:00:02]

JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: CNN is live near the scene as the rescue operation unfolds.

And thumbing his nose. Just weeks after a summit with President Trump, Kim Jong-un appears to be up -- and holding up some nuclear tricks, up to his old nuclear tricks. Tonight, U.S. intelligence officials believe the North Korean dictator has no intention of giving up all of his nukes.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Acosta. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ACOSTA: We are following breaking news on President Trump's race to find a new Supreme Court nominee in what may be record time.

Mr. Trump revealing that he interviewed four contenders today, but tonight the White House is refusing to name names or talk about the possibility that the president's pick would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

This as the White House also is dodging questions about new hints from Mr. Trump's longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, that he may be turning on the president.

Cohen also promising to eventually reveal more about Mr. Trump's role in the hush money payoff to Stormy Daniels. This hour, I will talk with Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti. Our correspondents and analysts, they are also standing by.

First to CNN senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff, the president is promising to reveal his high court pick next week. And it could very well be a woman, it sounds like, Jeff.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, that certainly is one possibility. I'm told by people close to the process that the president is increasingly intrigued at the idea of appointing what he believes would be the first truly conservative female Supreme Court justice.

He did reveal today that he had interviewed four people here at the White House in secret this morning. He plans to interview more later this week. But the idea of picking a woman, I'm told, he is intrigued by. He believes it would be a conservative answer to what liberals are calling the year of the woman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the person that is chosen will be outstanding.

ZELENY (voice-over): President Trump closing in tonight on a selection for the Supreme Court, with the big reveal one week away.

TRUMP: I interviewed and met with four potential justices of our great Supreme Court. They are outstanding people. They are really incredible people in so many different ways, academically and every other way.

ZELENY: Less than a week after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, the president is teasing when he will fill the vacancy, building suspense for the summer's most anticipated announcement.

TRUMP: We will be announcing it on Monday. I will be announcing that on Monday. Monday.

ZELENY: It's a choice that will fundamentally reshape the direction of the court, with Trump pledging to give it a firm conservative imprint.

CNN has learned the president is openly discussing the advantages of nominating a female conservative Supreme Court justice. Three people close to the search say the president likes the idea of making such a historic choice during an election season already being dubbed the year of the woman.

TRUMP: I will be meeting with two or three more, and we will make a decision on the United States Supreme Court, the new justice. That will be made over the next few days.

ZELENY: One leading contender is believed to be Amy Coney Barrett, a federal judge in Chicago, a Catholic and mother of seven. A former clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia, she's thought to be one of two women among the half-dozen finalists for the Kennedy seat.

AMY CONEY BARRETT, NOTRE DAME UNIVERSITY LAW PROFESSOR: It's never appropriate for a judge to impose that judges' person's conviction.

ZELENY: A Senate narrowly confirmed her to the federal bench last fall.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: You are controversial. Let's start with that. And it leaves me a bit puzzled because you have a long history of believing that your religious beliefs should prevail. ZELENY: CNN has learned the president has told advisers he believes a

female nominee could be more appealing to Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, two pivotal Republicans who support abortion rights.

Even though they lack enough votes in the Senate, Democrats are vowing a fight. A new liberal group called Demand Justice announced plans to build $5 million to fight for the Supreme Court seat, focusing on Alaska and Maine, home of the two senators.

On CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," Collins making clear abortion rights, which she believes is settled law, is key to her decision.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I would not support a nominee who demonstrated hostility to Roe v. Wade, because that would mean to me that their judicial philosophy did not include a respect for established decisions, established law.

ZELENY: At the White House today, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders declined to answer specific questions on Roe vs. Wade or other hot- button issues the court could rule on.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: As the president said last week, he's not going to talk to judges about specific cases. He's looking for individuals that have the right intellect, the right temperament, and that will uphold the Constitution.

ZELENY: Yet, in his bid for the White House, overturning the landmark abortion ruling was a central promise from Trump and Mike Pence.

[18:05:05]

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we appoint strict constructionists to the Supreme Court of the United States, as Donald Trump intends to do, I believe we will see Roe vs. Wade consigned to the ash heap of history.

ZELENY: Today, Sanders declined to answer repeated questions about abortion rights or how the issue would factor into the Supreme Court pick.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: The president is pro-life, but in terms of the process of selecting a Supreme Court nominee, as the president said last week, he's not going to discuss specific cases.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: So the president certainly taking a very disciplined approach to this, saying he's not going to discuss specific cases.

Of course, there's little question that any of the judges, the 25 who are on that overall list, of what their views are. Jim, the reason they're on the list in the first place is, of course, because the Federalist Society, a conservative group here in Washington, made that list and has been working with the White House for a long time.

So that's -- the president saying he's not asking them directly about individual cases, that has already been done in many respects. At this point, it seems that the president is trying to get a sense of what they would be like, what his rapport is with them.

And as we saw a year ago in his first pick for the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, he likes optics. He likes the image of this. It's one of the reasons he's building it up to next week's announcement in prime time on Monday night. Jim, the president says he will make his decision later this week, but is going to reveal it next Monday on July 9 before leaving for a foreign trip.

He's scheduled to meet with at least two more as the week goes on -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Another reality TV moment in this presidency. Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much.

Now to Michael Cohen speaking out, declaring that his loyalty to his country and his family come before President Trump. A well-connected source tells me that Cohen is trying to publicly explain and justify why he will turn against the president.

The White House is refusing to comment on Cohen's plans, saying that those questions should go to an outside attorney. They're also refusing to talk about that interview on ABC.

Let's go to CNN's national correspondent, Brynn Gingras.

Brynn, Cohen dropped multiple hints that he's ready to flip. What can you tell us?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he really has.

And, Jim, friends of Michael Cohen's really say that they have been encouraging him to speak up to get his side of the story out there. And while in this ABC interview, Cohen doesn't give details about what kind of information he has that may actually help investigators, he's pretty clear that he's willing to help, he will do it for his family, and he wants to restore his reputation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUESTION: How are you with the new lawyers? Are you happy?

GINGRAS (voice-over): Michael Cohen breaking his silence. In an interview with ABC, Trump's self-proclaimed fixer, a man who has said he'd -- quote -- "take a bullet for Donald Trump"...

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL TO DONALD TRUMP: I will do anything to protect Mr. Trump.

GINGRAS: ... is now making clear who his allegiance is to.

"To be crystal clear, my wife, my daughter and my son and this country have my first loyalty."

In a 45-minute off-camera interview, ABC says not once did Cohen praise his former boss and disagreed with Trump's criticism of the investigation as a witch-hunt. Instead, he signaled that if he faces federal criminal charges, he would cooperate, possibly offering information on the president, something Trump told reporters he wasn't worried about just weeks ago.

QUESTION: Want to know if you're worried if he is going to cooperate with federal...

(CROSSTALK)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I'm not worried, because I did nothing wrong.

GINGRAS: After an FBI raid earlier this year which seized more than four million documents from Cohen, CNN has learned that U.S. attorneys in Manhattan are interested in his $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election.

Daniels claims she had an affair with the president, which Trump denies. In the past, Cohen says he facilitated the hush money alone.

QUESTION: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?

TRUMP: No.

GINGRAS: But when asked directly in this interview about what the president knew about the payment, Cohen declined to answer -- quote -- "I want to answer. One day, I will answer. But for now, I can't comment further, on advice of my counsel."

That new counsel is Guy Petrillo, a former Criminal Division chief for the Southern District of New York. He's expected to take the reins as Cohen's lead attorney by the end of this week.

It's a shift in legal strategy that could signal Cohen's willingness to cooperate with investigators. And, according to ABC, that means a joint defense agreement between Cohen and the president which allows both sides to share information could end.

This strikingly similar to actions former National Security Adviser Flynn took shortly before he flipped. When asked if Cohen worries he may be on the brink of an adversarial relationship with the president, he firmly said -- quote -- "I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone's defense strategy. I am not a villain of this story and I will not allow others to try to depict me that way."

He also touched on the Russia investigation, telling ABC he's not been interviewed by Mueller's team yet, but would be willing and he has provided documents to their case.

[18:10:03]

Cohen disagreed with Trump's assertion that the Russia investigation is a witch-hunt, telling ABC -- quote -- "I don't like the term witch- hunt. As an American, I repudiate Russia's or any other foreign government's attempt to interfere or meddle in our democratic process, and I would call on all Americans to do the same."

And he praised the FBI, calling authorities -- quote -- "courteous and professional" when conducting the April raids. "I don't agree with those who demonize or vilify the FBI. I respect the FBI as an institution, as well as their agents."

After months of staying mostly quiet, Cohen still shied away from sharing what valuable information he may or may not have to any investigation. But he was clear on why he's speaking out now -- quote -- "I want to regain my name and my reputation and my life back," he said.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GINGRAS: And, remember, Cohen hasn't been charged with a crime, but that review of documents over privileged concerns is really nearing completion.

Just today, the special master assigned in the case handed over one million pieces of evidence taken in that April raid to the government. And, come Thursday, the Trump Organization needs to have its review finished. This all signaling, Jim, if he is going to be charged, it could happen in the near future -- Jim.

ACOSTA: All right, Brynn Gingras, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

Joining me now, Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti.

Thank you so much for joining us, Michael.

Does it look like to you that Michael Cohen is ready to turn on the president? What do you think is going on here?

MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: Well, Jim, I think I was the first one to publicly predict that ultimately he'd flip on the president.

I started making those predictions in early April, before the FBI raids. And I think that ultimately will prove to be true. But let me just say this. I think Michael Cohen is playing a game right now. And I think he's playing a game with the American people. At the same time, he's trying to send a message to the president in a last-ditch effort to get some support in the way of legal fees and otherwise.

The bottom line is as follows. There's nothing stopping Michael Cohen from publicly disclosing what he knows to the American people. You're either on the side of truth and disclosure or you're on the side of Donald Trump when it comes to this. There's no middle ground.

And yet that's exactly what he's trying to do. He's trying walk this tightrope between those two competing principles. And I think it's offensive to people. It's offensive to me and, more importantly, it's offensive to the American people.

There's nothing stopping Michael Cohen from coming clean right now and disclosing what he knows about Mr. Trump's involvement with Russia and otherwise and what he knows generally relating to Mr. Trump and potential criminal liability.

He does not have to wait for people to come knocking. He does not have to be arrested for that to happen. And, in fact, if he's waiting for that -- and I think, in fact, he said that during the interview, that he's going to wait and see what the charges are before he comes clean -- that tells you everything you need to know.

ACOSTA: Yes.

AVENATTI: So, if he's ultimately not charged, he's not going to tell the truth?

ACOSTA: And what information do you think he has? And the other thing that's interesting is, he did say this morning that he's putting his country and family ahead of the president. What do you make of that, and what information do you think he has?

You said he could talk now, he could say what he knows right now. What could he say?

AVENATTI: I think he has a considerable amount of information, not only relating to this $130,000 payment to my client and the cover-up associated with it. I think he knows a lot about the payment to Ms. Bechard and truth and circumstances relating to that payment.

And I think, generally, he's got a lot of information relating to where the bodies are buried. This was a guy that was at the right hand of the president for the better part of 12 years, that the president trusted his innermost secrets to.

And this whole idea and all of this talk of love of country, et cetera, it doesn't ring true with me, Jim, because, if it was accurate, he would be doing the right thing right now. He would not have to wait to be arrested.

ACOSTA: And reporters for BuzzFeed say they have obtained documents recovered from Michael Cohen's shredder. You had previously tweeted that those documents could be a huge problem for Cohen and the president.

Did you see any damning evidence in this BuzzFeed report and in those shredded documents?

AVENATTI: I haven't reviewed the report in detail. I saw some reference to one of the payments that we had previously reported, I think a $62,500 payment relating to the Broidy settlement. I have not had occasion to review those documents in detail.

I don't know how BuzzFeed obtained them. But, again, I would have to reserve comment until I review the documents in total.

ACOSTA: And we should note that the prosecutors may actually have some of these documents that are in that BuzzFeed report. But you have said repeatedly that President Trump won't finish his first term in office. Why are you so confident that this scandal is going to bring him down, Michael?

[18:15:05]

AVENATTI: Because I think he trusted his inner most secrets to Michael Cohen, and I have serious doubts relating to Michael Cohen's competency, as well as his ability to withstand significant pressure.

I think that was a critical error in judgment by Mr. Trump. I think he made another critical error in judgment when he did not keep this guy in the tent over the last 18 months. He's basically ostracized him and put him on an island, which, in and of itself, was very stupid from a strategic standpoint to do that.

And I think, ultimately, Jim, Michael Cohen has a lot of very damaging information about the president. And I think this has been mishandled by the president for some time, like so many other things that we have seen. And, sooner or later, this stuff catches up to you.

ACOSTA: And Michael Cohen is asking the judge to issue a gag order against you in the civil case against him in California. He referred to you as a small-town carnival magician and says your frequent media appearances are intended to taint the jury pool.

What's your response to that charge?

AVENATTI: Well, you know, I grew up in Saint Louis. I don't know that I would describe that as a small town, maybe not big city, but not a small town.

I think these allegations are baseless. I think they wreak of desperation. They want to talk about anything other than the facts and the evidence. We're going to continue to talk about the facts and the evidence, until I'm ordered otherwise.

ACOSTA: Does it sound like Michael Cohen is on the ropes to you?

AVENATTI: I think he's been on the ropes for some time, and I'm going to do everything in my power to keep him there.

ACOSTA: All right, Michael Avenatti, thank you very much. We appreciate you joining us.

AVENATTI: Thanks, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right, just ahead, more on the message from Michael Cohen and what he might reveal if he cooperates with prosecutors and flips on the president.

House Intelligence Committee member Joaquin Castro will join us.

And we're getting new information about the shredded documents seized in a raid on Cohen's home and offices after they were reconstructed by prosecutors. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:21:28]

ACOSTA: And we're back with breaking news on Michael Cohen's new interview declaring his loyalty to his family and his country, but not to President Trump.

The White House is refusing to comment. But Stormy Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, he just had plenty to say moments ago.

Joining me now, Congressman Joaquin Castro, a Democrat who serves on the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congressman, thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

Do you think Michael Cohen has valuable information to offer federal prosecutors? Is that what you're reading from what we're seeing from Michael Cohen today?

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: Yes, I'm almost certain that he does, not only as it relates to the one episode with Stormy Daniels and where exactly the money came from, whether it was campaign money, personal money, business money, charity money, wherever Donald Trump may have gotten that money from, but also, on that same front, whether there were other payments made in similar situations that could subject Donald Trump to some kind of tax fraud liability, for example, not just those issues, but also on other business issues regarding Mr. Trump's real estate deals, for example.

ACOSTA: And the special counsel's team still has not interviewed Michael Cohen. Do you think that will change if he ends up cooperating with prosecutors in the Southern District of New York?

CASTRO: Well, I would be very surprised if the special counsel's investigation finishes up and they have not thoroughly interviewed Michael Cohen to figure out exactly what he knows about all of -- about money laundering, about any kind of collusion with Russia and other matters.

ACOSTA: And do you think this is trouble for the president, Michael Cohen sending up these flares this morning that he puts country and family before President Trump? Made a number of statements that sound as if he's putting some distance between himself and the president.

CASTRO: Yes.

You know, Jim, I have tried to think back on the interview that the House Intelligence Committee had with Michael Cohen and square that with where he seems to be now. And it seems like there is this arc of kind of acceptance and resignation on his part that he may have to actually turn on the president to protect himself and his family's future.

And when we had the interview months back, he was not one of the more combative witnesses, not like Corey Lewandowski, who basically cursed out the committee, or even Erik Prince, who went in there and was very brash with the committee.

Mr. Cohen's lawyer at the time -- I think it was Stephen Ryan -- was fairly combative early on in the interview. But Michael Cohen himself was not especially forceful, I didn't think, in how he approached this.

So it didn't surprise me, I guess, is what I'm saying now that he may be accepting that he's going to have to protect himself and his family first.

ACOSTA: And let's turn to immigration and to the aftershocks of the president's controversial family separation policy down on the border.

There are so many kids that have not been reunited with their parents. Do you think the administration is taking this seriously? And are you getting the information that you want in terms of how these kids are doing, where they are, how are they getting back with their parents and so on?

CASTRO: No, we haven't.

The Congress has not gotten a clear answer on whether there was any comprehensive accounting or list kept of the children who were separated from their parents with exact names and information containing the whereabouts of each of the kids and the parents.

We still don't have a comprehensive list like that. I know that there was testimony by somebody from DHS, I believe, last week or the week before, where he said, basically, I can tell you right now where each of the kids is and each of the parents is.

[18:25:03]

If that exists, they should present that over to Congress and to the American people, because I certainly have not seen it.

ACOSTA: And some Democrats are calling for the abolition of ICE. They are saying abolish ICE. You have seen the hashtag. You have seen the T-shirts. You probably saw some of that, at least the video from the rallies over the weekend.

Where do you stand on that? Is that something that should be done? Should that agency be done away with?

CASTRO: Well, I think that you see -- what you see is a lot of frustration and a lot of anger about years of abuse and corruption and secrecy by ICE.

Now, ICE is a fairly large organization, so I basically stand with the agents who wrote in to Secretary Nielsen and asked that the Homeland Security investigations piece of ICE be separated out and left to itself.

And I think that we should extract -- in other words, we should take away any kind of enforcement and removal authority from ICE and put it somewhere else. Put it in a place where you will have folks that are doing it in a more responsible way.

But I think we should also mention, Jim, that this is not just about ICE. This is -- when we look at what's going on at the border and the way that families are being separated up and the fact that it doesn't seem like there's any plan to reunite them, it's Border Patrol, it's ICE. It's also HHS.

And also the ultimate solution to this is not just reorganizing or doing away with departments. People have to get out there and vote for people that will clean this up.

(CROSSTALK)

ACOSTA: And, Congressman, let me ask you this. Are you concerned, though, that this abolish ICE movement, this talk of abolishing ICE is going to hurt your party in the midterms, it's going to give the president an issue to run on?

He's going to say, he's for law enforcement, you guys aren't? Doesn't that concern you?

CASTRO: Of course he's going to say that, Jim.

But the president also makes things up. So, whatever you do, whether you play it straight or whether you give him some ammunition, either way, he's going to do everything he can to demonize Democrats for the midterm elections and for 2020.

ACOSTA: OK.

Congressman Joaquin Castro, thank you for coming on and joining us. We appreciate it.

CASTRO: Thank you.

ACOSTA: All right, just ahead, more on Michael Cohen's remark about loyalty. Does it spell trouble for President Trump?

Plus, breaking news -- 12 boys and their coach go missing for almost 10 days. They are found alive in a flooded cave. We will get a live update from Thailand on the desperate effort to get them out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: And we're following multiple breaking stories, including new information about the shredded documents seized in the raid on Michael Cohen. Take a look at this.

[18:32:12] Buzzfeed reporters say they've obtained 16 documents that have been reconstructed as prosecutors move forward with the Cohen investigation.

Let's bring in our analysts. I'll go to Susan Hennessey first. Looking at these documents, what are you seeing?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Right, so in general, it's not great news that the FBI is actually reconstructing the documents here. You know, it's not necessarily clear if we're seeing the entire picture.

I think what it does so is that the investigators here have hard evidence. And so whenever we think about the pressure Michael Cohen might be under to cooperate, whether or not people might be risking perjury, this is a nice reminder that there is actual documentary evidence that's backing up a lot of this stuff.

You know, in terms of the actual documents themselves, one of the things that Cohen has asserted is that his documents are protected by attorney-client privilege. You know, these are not documents that show that Cohen is acting like an attorney. And of course, that's what the prosecutors charged from the beginning. So all in all, I think it's not a great day for him.

ACOSTA: And when you look at what Michael Cohen said this morning, what do you think? Is he cooperating? Is he signaling that he's about to cooperate? Is that --

HENNESSEY: So it's interesting. I think it's interesting why he decided to do the interview in the first place. That's not something a lawyer would typically suggest that you do. So presumably, he is trying to send a message. And if you listen to the interview, unambiguously, that message is he's at least contemplating cooperating.

But at the end of the day, what's most important here is not what he says but what he does. And that's why I think the most significant revelation is that he's going to be terminating this joint defense agreement. That is actually -- that's an information-sharing agreement with Trump's lawyers. That's actually a prerequisite to cooperating, and it was sort of the final sign that Michael Cohen was about to cooperate.

ACOSTA: And Rebecca Berg, this is from a guy who once said he's ready to take a bullet for Donald Trump. Apparently not a steep indictment.

Let's listen to what Michael Cohen has said in the past.

Oh, we don't have the sound. OK. Well, obviously, we've played that sound before. And you see sound bite after sound bite of Michael Cohen heaping praise. What do you make of this change in tune in Michael Cohen?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the incentive structure, Jim, has clearly changed for Michael Cohen. He went from a place where he was an employee of the president, you could say an ally and even a friend of the president, where cozying up to the president, being on his good side helped him professionally and personally.

And now it's the exact opposite. The president is a liability for Michael Cohen legally, sort of an anchor around his neck. And so Michael Cohen is trying to swim to the surface here. And the only way he can do that is by potentially turning on the president. ACOSTA: And Ryan Lizza, I mean, is this sort of sending up a flare

that he wants a pardon? That "If you're considering giving me a pardon, you might want to start, you know, working on some documents of your own"?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, maybe, but I mean, this is like the classic prisoner's dilemma. Right? You have two prisoners. They can't communicate with each other, and they each have the ability to destroy the other. And they have to decide whether to rat the other out.

And if -- if he were actually going full-on pardon route, I believe he would do what Manafort is doing and just live through the process, find out what the indictments are going to show, go to trial, wait all of that out and then get the pardon.

[18:35:10] It seems to me that if he's -- if he is still relying on a pardon from Trump, then this move, breaking the cooperation, the defense cooperation agreement and signaling to the government that he wants to cooperate, it just seems like that is not the path you take if you're telling the president "I'm going to hold firm for you. You're going to pardon me."

ACOSTA: And David Swerdlick, turning to immigration, the president -- we've been talking about this -- tweeted two completely contradictory things over the weekend. Tweeting that, you know, earlier last week the House Republicans should pass a strong but fair immigration bill.

You can put some of these on screen.

And then over the weekend, he said, "I never pushed the Republicans in the House to vote for the immigration bill."

We don't have to read all the details from it, but one essentially contradicts the other. And then Sarah Sanders was asked about this. And she was asked whether the president was essentially lying over the weekend when he tweeted that, "No, I never did this," which, of course, that is a lie. And here's what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEW NUSSBAUM, REPORTER, POLITICO: The president last Thursday wrote on Twitter, "House Republicans should pass the strong but fair immigration bill known as Goodlatte 2 in their afternoon vote today."

Then on Sunday he wrote on Twitter, "I never pushed the Republicans in the House to vote for the immigration bill, either Goodlatte 1 or 2."

Why would the president lie about something like that?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He didn't. The president has talked all along. We've laid out the priorities and the principles that we support that we wanted to see reflected in legislation. And at the same time, the president wasn't aggressively lobbying members, because he knew that Democrats in the Senate still were unwilling to actually come to the table and focus on solutions rather than playing political games.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: David Swerdlick.

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. She put a ton of spin on that, but clearly the president his flip -flopped both on issues and on strategy throughout his presidency going all the way back to when he was running for president. The difference here, he rarely has flip-flopped so blatantly from one tweet, which is in print -- and we all can see it -- to the next tweet, just a couple of days later, Jim. And I think that's what makes this stand out.

It's also why Republicans in the House and Senate are frustrated that they can't get any momentum on bills to a certain extent, because they don't know when the president is going to pull the rug out from under them.

ACOSTA: And doesn't this get to sort of -- I mean, at the heart of some of the problems that go on inside this White House. In that they just blatantly lie to us. And this is just an example of -- I mean, you can just look at these two things, and you know that the president is just making this up over the weekend. And then Sarah Sanders is making it up that he didn't lie about it.

LIZZA: And he ruins the credibility of people who have to go out there and speak for him. Because if you have that job, you will, on a daily basis, be put in a position where you have to tell things that are not -- say things that are not true.

And first of all, kudos to the reporter from Politico who straight out just used that word "lie." I think it's important for Sarah Sanders --

ACOSTA: Matthew Nussbaum, yes.

LIZZA: -- yes -- to sort of be confronted with that, because you shouldn't beat around the bush on these things.

And it's not even just that Trump lies. It's just when he speaks, it's -- sometimes it's just coincidence if what he says conforms to actual facts. And he's just always in the moment, saying whatever he thinks he needs to get by in that second. It's almost worse than lying. It's just a constant stream of B.S.

ACOSTA: Yes.

LIZZA: And, you know, makes our job really, really hard. And when you say that, when you point it out, his supporters get really angry. I mean, you know from -- what it's like on social media. And --

ACOSTA: Well, this is the problem I have is when they call us fake news or the enemy of the people or whatever else, and then they go out and they blatantly lie like this. How is that not fake news? But anyway, we'll get more on that in just a moment. Just ahead, a new high-level trip to North Korea. This as we're

learning about urgent concerns that Kim Jong-un has no intention of giving up his nukes, despite what he told President Trump.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ACOSTA: Breaking tonight, the secretary of state is heading back to North Korea. Some U.S. intelligence officials reveal escalating concerns that Kim Jong-un made false promises to President Trump about denuclearization.

Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins us.

And Barbara, what can you tell us about Mike Pompeo's trip?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, he is set to take off and be in Pyongyang at the end of the week. This trip will be vital now to getting real commitments out of Kim Jong-un that he really is going to give up his weapons.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How long will it take? I think within the first minute, I'll know.

STARR (voice-over): Less than 60 seconds. President Trump just before the Singapore summit insisted that's all the time he needed to determine if Kim Jong-un was serious about giving up his nuclear weapons.

TRUMP: Just my touch, my feel. That's what -- that's what I do. I think that very quickly, I'll know whether or not something good is going to happen.

STARR: But the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency believes North Korea has no intention, for now, of giving up its weapons. It is going to hide missiles, warheads and nuclear fuel from any inspectors.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: This is all about regime survival. This is all about keeping the Kim dynasty in power, and they will stop at nothing in order to do that.

STARR: National security adviser John Bolton says the White House has its eyes wide open, but it's better not to give Kim time to drag it out.

JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: I'm sure that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be discussing this with the North Koreans in the near future about really how to dismantle all of their WMD and ballistic missile programs in a year.

[18:45:10] If they have the strategic decision already made to do that, and they are cooperative, we can move very quickly.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Commercial satellite imagery may already be showing North Korea's moves. Researchers believe these images show recent expanded construction at a weapons plant known for making missile parts. And these images show improvements at a massive nuclear research complex. A critical worry is whether North Korea may already be secretly making more nuclear fuel for new warheads.

If the talks don't work out --

COL. ROB MANNING: The mantra there, ready to fight tonight, does not change.

BOLTON: But there's not any starry-eyed feeling among the group doing this, that we're well, well aware of what the North Koreans have done in the past.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: And you heard the hint there earlier from John Bolton that there will be a to-do list for the North Koreans to give up their weapons. The only question now, is will Kim do any of it? Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: Important questions.

Barbara Starr, thank you very much.

Tonight, more evidence that the Trump administration has no clear plan of action to reunite hundreds of separated immigrant families. The outrage is still growing after a weekend of protests across the country.

Let's bring in CNN national correspondent Miguel Marquez in Texas near the border.

Miguel, what can you tell us?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, pressure growing on the Trump administration to reunify those families. And I want to be perfectly clear. We have seen some reunifications, but those are due to a judge's order, nothing to do with the Trump administration plan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ (voice-over): In Los Angeles, 12-year-old Josaline Velasquez Almingor (ph) separated a month from her parents.

In Miami, a similar scene, 7-year-old Yani (ph) separated from her mother for two months.

These reunifications ordered by a judge, not the Trump administration, which reversed the president's so-called zero-tolerance policy but has so far provided little direction on when and how the mass reunifications would take place.

Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey and Texas Congressman Al Green toured several facilities over the last 48 hours.

(on camera): Is there any sense of how and when these children will be reunited?

SEN. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We asked ICE last night, when are the children going to be reunited with their parents? They said they don't have any instructions yet.

REP. AL GREEN (D), TEXAS: My sense is that the president has made a colossal mistake and that he does not know how to correct his mistake because he didn't have a plan for this.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): In legal documents filed late Friday, the Justice Department indicated it would reunite families by detaining them together until their asylum claims are settled.

MARKEY: That's not a good substitute for the reunification of these families.

MARQUEZ: The senator hand delivered letters from children in his home state to immigrant children detained at a southwest key facility in Brownsville, Texas.

MARKEY: Families should be together.

MARQUEZ: The Trump administration has stopped reporting the number of families reunited. The administration last week reported 2,047 children were separated from their parents, but it's not clear if that number includes families separated as part of a near year-long test program before zero tolerance was announced along the border's El Paso sector. Protests against Trump immigration policies only growing coast to coast, protests over the weekend with some continuing today.

And in a sign of how desperate some separated families have become, the "L.A. Times" obtained messages written by detained parents. One anguished, unidentified mother wrote: There are moments when I can't go on. If they are going to deport me, let them do it but with my child. Without him, I am not going to leave here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Now, the clock is ticking for the Trump administration. The California judge ordering that those under five kids had to be reunited with their parents by next Tuesday. And all kids by the 26th of this month -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Just so heartbreaking what those kids are going through.

Miguel Marquez down near the border, thank you very much.

Breaking news, next. The rescue drama unfolding in Thailand where a group of boys has been found alive in a flooded cave. But how are they going to get them out? We'll have an update coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:54:21] ACOSTA: We have breaking news on the operation to rescue a dozen boys and their soccer coach found alive after being trapped for days in a dark, wet cave. Officials in Thailand revealing some astounding details a short while ago. We're told the boys will be taught to dive to help them get out of the cave and that they'll be supplied with four months of food.

CNN photojournalist Mark Phillips joins us from Thailand.

Mark, tell us about this rescue plan. It sounds like it could drag on for some time.

MARK PHILLIPS, CNN PHOTOJOURNALIST: Yes, the boys could be in this cave for a very long time. At the moment, what the Thai authorities would really like for the waters to subside so that they can actually carry the boys out, but we're in the middle of a monsoon season and there is heavy rain, you know, in the next couple of days coming up.

[18:55:05] Yes, one other options is teaching the boys how to dive, to bring them out that way. But they have to ascertain how their health is, how physically strong they are. They have been in that cave now for 10 days, we're moving a second day -- the following day. They had to see how fit they are.

They're bringing a diver -- a team of divers went in late last night with one doctor and one nurse. So, they'll have a look at the boys, see what condition they're in and see if they're fit to move them from there -- Jim.

ACOSTA: And what are the rescuers doing in the short term, Mark, to keep these boys safe?

PHILLIPS: In the short term, the boys stay -- they're organizing -- actually, they're not thinking about if they stay, they're thinking about how to get them out as quickly as possible. They don't want to be caught in there again if the caves flood. They don't want to be stuck there figuring out how to get the boys out. The longer they say there, it is quite dangerous.

So, the option is to try to get the boys out as quickly as possible but as safely as possible. That's what they're trying at the moment.

ACOSTA: All right. Mark Phillips, thank you very much. Hoping for the best for those kids. We appreciate it.

Now back to the breaking news on Michael Cohen's new interview. Let's bring in our Cuomo -- Chris Cuomo from "CHRIS CUOMO PRIME TIME."

Chris, what do you make of Michael Cohen breaking his silence, speaking out to ABC, suggesting his loyalty is not with President Trump but with his family and his country? That's pretty fascinating. That is a turn for Michael Cohen that we haven't seen up until this point.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "CUOMO PRIME TIME": True. Obviously, this speculation, Jim, about flipping. One, he would need a case to flip on, right? He hasn't even been charged with anything, although he has been under investigation, now it seems for about a couple of years. And he'd have to know something that is of such value to either prosecutors in the southern district and/or special counsel Mueller that it would be worth it to them to deal differently with him, given that they might have a case.

So, there is a lot of what ifs. Why did he give the interview? I think it's just a straight line political and personal calculation that he doesn't like being shut out. He doesn't like the quiet treatment. He doesn't like the implications from the Trump legal team and Trump's supporters and surrogates who seem to suggest that Michael Cohen is the dirty one in all of this. I think that was a none too subtle message that Cohen was giving in the interview.

ACOSTA: And I thought it was interesting today, Chris, that President Trump says he interviewed four possible Supreme Court contenders. It almost sounds like he's speed-dating with some of these potential Supreme Court justices. He's going to meet with a few more.

Do you think he actually picks a female Supreme Court justice?

CUOMO: Well, look, who knows better than you, Jim, about this president's tendencies. And we know he likes big wins. He likes a big show. He likes to be able to say never been done before and all other kinds of superlatives, whether warranted or not.

Certainly picking the first conservative female justice would do that. He does have several bold-face names that he's looking at. One of them in particular did well with Democrats in terms of getting 55 votes in the Senate for her Court of Appeals appointment.

Now, of course, everyone will argue that SCOTUS is different than when you vote for a judge in a lower court, but still there is a threshold of support there.

So, I think that whatever's going to get Trump the most attention and the biggest win is always going to be your most likely avenue of potential.

ACOSTA: Always programming for reality TV.

And among your guests tonight, Chris, former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci. I believe you know him well.

What issues do you want to discuss with him most tonight? I suppose it's interesting that he's been differing with the president on trade and other issues lately.

CUOMO: Yes, look, I mean, the economics -- you know, Anthony, for his personal feelings about the president, hues to what he believes politically most of the time. So, he is a good guest for the audience because he's somebody who is close to the president, who understands his thinking, who gives you a better shot than most of getting an honest answer to a lot of questions.

And we have some real hot button topics to go over with Anthony. The hope is always that he helps the audience understand why Trump does and says what he does.

ACOSTA: He is a good Trump whisperer, indeed. All right. Chris Cuomo, we'll be watching tonight. Thank you very much. Good to see you, sir.

And be sure to tune in for "CHRIS CUOMO PRIME TIME" tonight, that's at 9:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

I'm Jim Acosta. Thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.