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Trump Interviews Four Supreme Court Candidates; Trump To NATO Allies: Pay More For Defense Or Else; Trump Administration Won't Say How Many Separated Kids Still In Custody; Some Democrats Call For Abolishing Or Overhauling ICE. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired July 3, 2018 - 11:00   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks to all of you for joining us today. I'm Erica Hill. "AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. President Trump on a mission and on the clock right now. He is rushing to settle on a nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Why the rush? Well, it's the self-imposed deadline.

The latest from President Trump on all of this. He tweets, "I interviewed four very impressive people yesterday. On Monday, I will be announcing my decision for justice of the United States Supreme Court. "

Here are those four interviews. The short list, if you will. All four federal appeals court justices. CNN's Abby Phillip is at the White House for us with much more on this. So, Abby, what is the latest with this search right now?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Kate. This search is really heating up, if only because the president has about six days to make a decision. We're told by our sources that the president is hoping to do this in a prime time announcement next week.

This decision is really going to hinge on some of the interviews that are going to be happening, the ones that happened yesterday. There are additional interviews slated for this week. The president is looking for someone who he believes could be a potentially historic addition to the court.

One of the things that he talked to his aides is about appointing a woman. As you can see, one of the people that he interviewed yesterday, Amy Coney Barrett, is on list near the top of the list according to the people we talked to.

She has a lot of backing both inside the White House and outside the White House. The president is intrigued by the prospect of doing that potentially because of the historic nature of it when he appointed Gina Haspel to lead the CIA making her the first woman to lead that agency. He thought that that was -- the praise that he got for that decision was something that he could replicate here. In addition, there's also lot of attention being paid to the issue of abortion.

There's some thinking inside the White House that appointing a woman could sway some of these moderate Republican women, who could be on the fence about Trump's potential pick. So, there are a lot of issues on the table here.

But the White House emphasizes that this process is ongoing. The president wants to appoint someone who he believes is the best qualified. He is looking at their pedigree, where they went to law school, their legal writings.

He is also interested in making sure that that justice is staunchly conservative. The president has a lot of outside groups looking closely at this. The White House is keeping a very tight rein on the information about this. They want it to be a little bit of a dramatic rollout next Monday just before the president heads on this big European trip -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: More interviews they say are coming still. Thank you, Abby. Really appreciate it.

Let's see where this all ends up. But let's take a closer look at the candidates as Abby was laying out, the four interviews the president did yesterday. For that I want to bring in CNN Legal Analyst, Joan Biscupik.

So, Joan, CNN is reporting, of course, that the president is at least on some level interested in choosing women. Abby laid that out perfectly. There's only one woman that he's interviewed so far. What is important to know about Amy Coney Barrett?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Thanks, Kate. I'll tell what's important to know. I don't think she will diffuse the abortion issue. I think she might ratchet it up because of some of her writings. Amy Coney Barrett was a law professor at Notre Dame where she had gotten her degree.

She's now on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit based in Chicago. She was just put there last fall by President Trump. She was confirmed by a pretty tight vote, 55-43 I believe it was, with only three Democrats voting for her.

She's written in the area of religion that could be a flashpoint in any confirmation hearing. She also is finally a former law clerk of Antonin Scalia.

BOLDUAN: What then is it about Brett Cavanaugh that you think has him on the short list?

BISKUPIC: OK. He is a former law clerk to Anthony Kennedy and it would be a little bit of passing the baton from boss to a former law clerk there. He is also very much someone who has been at the scene of so many crucial decisions in Republican Washington. He was part of Ken Starr's independent counsel investigation in the '90s of President Clinton. Then he was a top lawyer for George W. Bush. He now sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit where he has been for -- since 2006.

And for him, I just mentioned that for Judge Barrett there probably would be a lot of abortion issues coming up. For him it would questions of executive power given what he has written and his point of view to shield the executive in certain ways.

BOLDUAN: And then, Joan, of course, there's Amul Thapar and Raymond Kethledge. Both sit on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. What about them?

[11:05:01] BISKUPIC: That's right. One of them, Judge Thapar, President Trump actually appointed himself to the Sixth Circuit. Judge Thapar is a close associate of Mitch McConnell. He is from Kentucky, originally from Michigan, went to Berkeley Law School. His parents were born in India.

So, he would lend some important diversity to the Supreme Court. Then finally, Ray Kethledge is also like Brett Kavanaugh, a former law clerk to retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. He is a former general counsel of Ford Motors. Again, sits on the Sixth Circuit, he was appointed by George W. Bush there.

BOLDUAN: Who else could the president be interviewing, Joan? What's the smart money on right now?

BISKUPIC: OK, well, here is the tricky thing, Kate. He sent a couple conflicting signals. He said how much it's important to him to perhaps have somebody with ivy credentials, from Harvard or Yale. But then he also says he wants a woman.

I should tell you right off the bat that the six women who were on his original list of 25, none of them have a law degree from Harvard or Yale. So, there is going to be some conflicting signals.

He also said he wanted to talk to two women. I would say -- right now, from what we are hearing, he has not talked to a second woman. The likeliest I believe would be a woman by the name of Joan Larson, who is a former law clerk to Antonin Scalia. She now sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit where Raymond Kethledge and Judge Thapar are.

But she was a Michigan Supreme Court justice, also taught (inaudible) at the University of Michigan. So, I think she would be the likeliest, but I don't see quite right now kind of another one from the original list. Who knows? He doesn't go by a playbook that's familiar to a lot of people.

BOLDUAN: That is true. Traditionally -- traditional playbook or not, this is one of those things that has traditionally kept very close to the vest.

BISKUPIC: Can I add one more real quick, Kate? Just one more who could be interviewed today or later this week. Thomas Hardiman, who was the runner-up when President Trump chose Neil Gorsuch last time. He is on short list. He just was not interviewed yesterday. He sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit based in Philadelphia where Donald Trump's sister also sat.

BOLDUAN: That name sounds familiar if anyone was watching it last time around. All right. Joan, stay close. Thank you.

BISKUPIC: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: So, from there, let's talk about putting allies on notice. President Trump demanding that fellow members of NATO military alliance spend more on defense. According to the "New York Times," the president penned letters to at least a dozen NATO allies offering excerpts from the letter that he sent to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"The New York Times" offering the excerpts writing in part, "Continued German underspending on defense undermines the security of the alliance and provides validation for other allies that also do not plan to meet their military spending commitments because others see you as a role model." The White House not backing down, backing off of this this morning.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has publicly shared his frustration that he would like to see other countries step up and do more, particularly when they have the capability. They have made the commitment to do 2 percent. He would like to see them fulfill that commitment.


BOLDUAN: All right. CNN National Security Analyst, Samantha Vinograd, who advised President Obama's National Security Council. She's here with some more on this. Taking a brief step back, because I think it's always important when we're talking about this step. Explain how the alliance works and how it's working right now.

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, let's talk about this 2 percent problem first. The NATO alliance is based on the principle of collective defense. Every member -- there's currently 29 -- should be ready be ready to come to other members' defense if needed.

And based upon that back in 2006, the alliance set a guideline, not a requirement, but a guideline that members should spend 2 percent of their own national budgets on defense so that every member is ready if something happens. They are spending enough money such that national militaries are ready to respond in case of a crisis.

BOLDUAN: And then what happened in 2014? It became more of a guideline in 2014 after the annexation of Crimea, right?

VINOGRAD: It did. And in 2014, President Obama was gone by that time, but President Obama, just like others before him after the 2006 commitment, urged NATO allies to recommit to that 2 percent target. It was clear that NATO members were falling well behind that 2 percent threshold. It was important that everyone catch up. But in 2014, at this Whales summit, members were given a decade to really come up to that 2 percent threshold.

BOLDUAN: In 2024?

VINOGRAD: Exactly. So, they have some breathing room, but Donald Trump should push allies to meet their commitments. Of course, we should burden share.

BOLDUAN: That's kind of where the question lands, I think, for a lot of folks. Is the United States being taken advantage of by NATO when you hear President Trump say NATO is as bad as NAFTA?

[11:10:09] VINOGRAD: That's just ridiculous. NAFTA is not that bad and NATO is not that bad. We are frankly very lucky that Chancellor Merkel is not expressing the areas that she's frustrated with the United States and Donald Trump on.

Because the fact of the matter is, money doesn't buy happiness and in this case, money doesn't buy security. The United states carries about 67 percent of NATO's budget, right. We are still under live attack by Russia so it's very clear that it's not just a question of military spending at this point.

It's a question of, for example, not undercutting your own administration, not undercutting your intelligence agencies. There's more to security than just defense spending at this point.

BOLDUAN: And you mentioned, and I want to play it for our viewers. This concern from an American president is not new in terms of pushing allies to spend more on defense. Barack Obama 2014, let's listen.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: One of the things that I think medium and long-term we will have to examine is whether everybody is chipping in. This can't just be a U.S. exercise or British exercise or one country's efforts.


BOLDUAN: Style, definitely different. Substance, is it exactly the same, though?

VINOGRAD: It is. That's why this isn't about the message. It's about the messenger and the tone. Publicly humiliating or chastising our allies is not a recommended way to get them to live up to their commitment by 2024.

So, the fact of the matter is, he could do this privately or he could express disappointment that allies are not burden sharing in the way that they should. Allies are also very aware, as is Vladimir Putin, that this president has a penchant for just abandoning things, like the TPP, like the Paris climate accord or even threatening to leave NAFTA if he doesn't get what he wants. So, there's that fear as well.

BOLDUAN: All right. That sets up for yet another interesting summit to come. Great to see you, Sam. Thanks so much for coming in.

Coming up for us, despite a judge's order to reunite families separated at the border and despite days of protests across the country, the government agency in charge of reuniting children and parents say they are not going to say how many of the kids are still in government custody now. Details on that ahead.

Plus, found but not yet rescued. Navy SEALs are racing against the clock as they try to save a youth soccer team trapped more than half a mile underground in a pitch-black cave. CNN is live on the ground. We will take you there.



BOLDUAN: One week, that's how long the government has to reunite families separated at the border as a result of the president's zero- tolerance policy. So, how many kids have been reunited? How many kids are still in limbo? Where are they?

They are not saying literally and they're not going to apparently. A judge ruled last week that DHS and HHS must reunite children under five with their parents by July 10th. Children older than five have until July 26th to be reunited.

Now HHS, though, is saying they will no longer offer details on the numbers of children in their care.

CNN Correspondent, Nick Valencia is near the border trying to get some of those answers. Nick, what does this mean? They will not or cannot provide updates to the public?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are refusing to give us a breakdown in those number, Kate. It was two weeks ago that they told us that they had 2,053 separated children in their care. A week passed, that number went down by six. Now we just have no idea how many separated children are currently in the government's care, because they refuse to give us those numbers.

We are not refusing to step down. We are continuing to ask these questions and demand answers, but the government is just not giving it to us. They say they are not hiding anything, though. They say that this is simply an evaluation of the impact of the federal judge's ruling on how they operate this process of reunification.

But the Texas Civil Rights Project says it's further evidence that the Trump administration never had a plan to begin with and still doesn't on how they're going to reunite these kids with their parents -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: But Nick, the government is providing some numbers on overall arrests at the border being down, right? VALENCIA: Yes, and this reporting comes to us from Tal Kupan, who is in Washington, D.C., a source familiar with the latest arrest, saying nearly 35,000 people were arrested for crossing the southern border illegally. That's about a drop of about 6,000, 5,000 or so from the previous month.

What is unclear from this reporting, however, is just how many of them were arrested under zero tolerance, how many have been impacted by zero tolerance. It was earlier we had the former ICE acting director under the Obama administration talk about the process of how difficult these reunifications are going to be.


JOHN SANDWEG, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, U.S. IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT: It's a very good reason why we during the Obama administration never intentionally separated families. It's very hard to reunite them. Once they get caught up in the system, the children go in one direction, where it's a very slow process. The parents when they in detention, go through a very expedited process. Children get caught up in the foster care system. It's very difficult to bring them back together.


VALENCIA: Meanwhile, more bad news for the Trump administration. A federal judge out of Washington, D.C. ruling that they are wrongfully detaining asylum seekers. They need to go back to the DHS longstanding policy of making a case by case determination of asylum for those that have a strong case. They are not doing that right now.

It's more bad news for President Trump and his administration. An administration that was trying to fix what they called a broken immigration system, but it seems that they have only caused more confusion -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: More broken now. Nick, thanks so much. Still looking for answers to those questions, simple ones.

This has done nothing to quiet the calls from some Democrats now to abolish the agency in charge of enforcing immigration law in the country, ICE, as of course, as it is known. It seems the White House is more than happy to highlight that, utilizing the official White House Twitter feed now, not just the president's.

[11:20:04] And they are now tweeting directly at Democratic senators who were calling for the abolishment of ICE like Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren like this one, "why are you supporting the animals of MS-13? You must not know what ICE really does. Here is a link to help you out."

Something of a snarky public service announcement or more? Here with me right now, former Republican nominee for governor of New York, Rob Astorino, CNN Political Commentator and former Clinton White House aide, Keith Boykin. Great to see you, guys. So, Keith, this isn't all Democrats who are calling for -- to abolish ICE. But this is some 20 Democrats, I think is one notable distinction here. What do you think of this -- let's call it a theme. What do you think of the theme right now, these calls?

KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's not clear what it means to say abolish ICE because it means different things for different people. For some people, it means changing, restructuring, reorganizing. Some people it means closing it down all together.

So, it's still needs to be decided. But it is interesting that ICE agents themselves have come out recently -- almost two dozen of them -- in a recent op-ed saying that the organization needs to be changed dramatically, restructured or end it.

It is also interesting that the Trump administration using the official White House account is attacking two women senators, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, using taxpayer dollars to attack people who were paid to represent us. This is not what the government of the United States is supposed to do.

Final point is that, in response to the previous report, it's just disturbing to me that the only thing that's worse than this administration's cruelty is its incompetent. They rolled the DACA policy, Trump travel ban policy, and reunification after the family separation policies completely reflective of the incompetence in managing government.

BOLDUAN: On the point of the White House Twitter feed, do you -- what do you think of it? I know it's a social media feed, but it's an official White House account, right?

ROB ASTORINO, FORMER COUNTY EXECUTIVE, WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NEW YORK: This is all public policy that we're dealing with. One side is looking to abolish or reinvent, however, you want to say it, but the protests are very simple, abolish ICE. What does that mean? Keith, you just said too, nobody knows what that means.

BOYKIN: It means different things to different people.

ASTORINO: But I think what it would mean is you take Immigration Customs and Enforcement -- the immigration and enforcement will go away. That's what a lot of people don't want. What's bothering them is the enforcement, the "E" part of this.

So, is it going back to immigration and naturalization and it's going to be stamping passports and checking some bags at the port of entry? Because then we are going to really suffer as a country because what ICE does is public safety.

That's what they do, and arrest and deport. That's a very important function of ICE. That's what's really irritating those on the left.

BOYKIN: The problem is that the functions of ICE have been meshed up, and so they're doing too many things according to a lot -- the point of a lot of people including that ICE agents themselves. ASTORINO: And well, one second, 19 agents out of 20,000.

BOYKIN: But those are the ones who spoke out. How do you know what I'm going to say?

ASTORINO: What they were saying is part of the problem -- on the ICE agents.

BOYKIN: Tell me what I'm going to say.

ASTORINO: Part of the problem was that it has become so political that whenever there's a request to work with ICE, it goes like this and that -- they have resistance.

BOYKIN: All the more reason. We see this in terms of law enforcement at the local level as well. When the Trump administration policies are discouraging people, who are immigrants in this country from coming forward and being cooperative with law enforcement, it makes it harder for them to do their job. It's a similar issue with ICE. You can't have these institutions of government continually politicized by the president. It makes it impossible to do their job.

BOLDUAN: At its core, is it a problem that it isn't one -- abolish ICE doesn't mean one thing to all people? At its core is that -- is that a problem for Democrats? I mean -- we had David Sicilini (ph) on yesterday and he essentially said that. He says some say abolish, some say reform, and I'm like what's the difference between --

BOYKIN: At its core what that means is that people are not happy with the performance of the job that ICE is doing. It needs to be radically restructured and reformed.

BOLDUAN: I'm starting to get a sense that I don't know if all Democrats -- you can't put all Democrats in one bucket. But I definitely get the sense that Republicans and the president are happy to have this conversation. Do you think Democrats -- this is a debate to jump on right now?

BOYKIN: I think ICE came up as a response to the family separation policy. Donald Trump's cruel and immoral policy of separating children from their parents. What Trump tries to do is he takes one tiny segment of that response to the issue and tries to twist the conversation to that.

So, we forget what we originally were talking about, which is the cruel and immoral policy that the Trump administration initiated called zero tolerance of separating children from their parents.

ASTORINO: Why didn't we have --

BOLDUAN: Isn't there something wrong with that?

ASTORINO: Why didn't we have this conversation of cruel and inhuman policy when President Obama did it?

BOYKIN: It was not the same this scale. (CROSSTALK)

BOYKIN: This is intellectually dishonest of you and morally disingenuous. No. No.

[11:25:11] BOLDUAN: President Obama faced a lot of criticism in how he handled immigration. It wasn't on this scale. It wasn't on this scale.

BOYKIN: President Obama didn't try to demagogue the issue -- Donald Trump had an interview with Maria Bartiromo where he essentially said, his purpose is to serve his base, not to serve the American people. Apparently, Trump feels that he is -- he can prevent time from moving forward.

We already know that we had a black president serve. We had a woman who got more votes than he did. Latinos are the fastest growing segment of the population. We have marriage equality in 50 states. Trump is telling his supporters that can we push back the clock to the 1950s and we can pretend progress isn't happening. It's about reinforcing the --

ASTORINO: It's a radical and very dangerous situation to abolish an enforcement agency like ICE.

BOLDUAN: Again, I'm still not clear, who is for abolish? Who is for reform? I think that is at the core of this problem? Let's debate it regardless. Rob, thank you so much. Keith, thank you so much.

Coming up, the race to save a youth soccer team trapped more than a half mile underground in a pitch-black cave. Now heavy rains making the rescue effort even more dangerous. We're going live to Thailand. The elation and now the hard work ahead.