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How Many Children Separated From Parents at Border?; Scandal- Plagued Trump EPA Administrator Resigns; Interview With Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger; Interview With Virginia Congressman Don Beyer; Trump Admin Suggests Hundreds More Migrant Children May Be Separated from Parents Than First Thought; Pompeo Back to North Korea As U.S. Intel Doubts Kim is Denuking; Heavy Rain, Health Problems Threatening Cave Rescue Mission; Sources: Cohen Doesn't Think Trump Will Offer a Pardon. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 5, 2018 - 18:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: The president's health chief suggests that hundreds more children may be separated from their parents than first thought.

No pardon expected. As Michael Cohen faces potential criminal charges, we're told Mr. Trump's longtime lawyer is not anticipating a reprieve from the president. Is that another sign that Cohen may be in the process of flipping?

And underwater. Crews are racing to drain flooded areas of the cave where a dozen boys and their coach are trapped. Tonight, heavy rains may threaten the already dangerous rescue mission.

We want to welcome our viewers here 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: And we are following breaking news on Scott Pruitt stepping down as head of the EPA.

In his resignation letter to the president, Pruitt appears to blame his downfall on political attacks, without any apology or acknowledgement of the multiple allegations of ethical misconduct he faces.

Tonight, we're told the EPA's watchdog will continue to investigate Pruitt, despite his exit.

I will get reaction tonight from two members of Congress, Republican Adam Kinzinger and Democrat Don Beyer. Our correspondents and analysts, they are also standing by.

But first to CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins.

Kaitlan, the president spoke about Pruitt's resignation just a few minutes ago. What did he say?


We're hearing from the president on the -- for the first time on this resignation. He is making clear that Scott Pruitt resigned and was not fired by the president, despite the number of scandals made against him.

He's telling reporters on Air Force One there was no final straw for Scott Pruitt, saying that he's a terrific guy and that he came to the president and said that he has such great confidence in the administration, I don't want to be a distracted -- a distraction, Scott Pruitt told the president.

Trump says, "I think Scott felt that he was a distraction."

Now, he was asked directly, was this Scott Pruitt's choice or yours?

And, Jim, the president said it was very much up to him.


COLLINS (voice-over): Embattled EPA Chief Scott Pruitt out tonight, after months of mounting ethics scandals and questions about his behavior.

President Trump announcing on Twitter: "I have accepted the resignation of Scott Pruitt as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency," praising Pruitt's work rolling back Obama era regulations at the EPA, but making no mention of the dozens of ethics questions facing him.

Pruitt writing in a letter to the president, "Your confidence in me has blessed me personally," adding, "The unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll."

Pruitt had been under a cloud of scandals for months now, constantly facing questions about his security detail, pricey first-class travel, and cozy relationships with lobbyists.

Pruitt was back in the headlines just this week, a CNN report revealing he and his aides kept secret calendars to hide contentious meetings. An aide testifying before the House Oversight Committee that Pruitt asked her to find his wife a job with a salary over $200,000 at the Republican Governors Association.

And CNN reporting that he directly asked Trump this spring to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and let him lead the Department of Justice instead. Before that, stories about his housing situation in Washington, his wife's desire for a Chick-fil-A franchise, and even a search for a used to Trump Hotel mattress stunned White House aides.

Despite the bad optics, Trump never wavered.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not happy about certain things, but he's done a fantastic job running the EPA, which is very overriding. But I am not happy about it.

COLLINS: On Wednesday, Pruitt appeared to be in good standing with the president, smiling and shaking hands at the White House's Fourth of July picnic.

But in this administration, 24 hours can mean the difference between a job and a farewell.


COLLINS: Now, Jim, the president told reporters on Air Force One that he hopes Scott Pruitt goes on to have a great life, and he's already looking forward to who is going to take his place.

That is Andrew Wheeler, his deputy at the EPA, a former coal lobbyist. The president said that he has been with him for a long time, an early Trump supporter, and said he is a very environmental person -- Jim.

ACOSTA: OK. Kaitlan Collins, we will see how much the climate changes at the EPA. Thank you very much.

Let's bring in CNN's senior investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin.

Drew, you uncovered Pruitt's habit of using a secret calendar, is that, right to hide certain meetings. What -- tell us what you exposed over there.


And a whistle-blower came forward, Pruitt's deputy chief of staff, who came forward this week and told us about this secret calendar that was kept at the EPA, specifically designed to hide from the public and others just who Scott Pruitt was meeting with.


Chmielewski -- Chmielewski, I should say, was telling us that, actually, under Pruitt's direction, the EPA staff, his staff of very close-knit people who decide what would be on the calendar, Jim, what would be deleted, what would be scrubbed, all in an effort to protect politically the EPA administrator, that came out this week.

Just this morning, two Democratic congressman demanded yet another EPA inspector general report based on that recording. A few hours later, "The New York Times" backed up our reporting with another staffer, former staffer at EPA, who confirmed exactly what we were reporting.

That -- I think the big issue here was, in all of these ethical kind of investigations going on, Jim, this one may have been a violation of the law, the Federal Records Keeping Act. And perhaps that is the final straw.

But there have been so many straws with this guy, it's hard to tell.

ACOSTA: And, Drew, some of the other controversies surrounding Pruitt are also baffling.

We have a list on our screen right now. It's just -- it would take too long really for us to go over all of them. But, Drew, what stands out to you?

GRIFFIN: I mean, some of the highlights that I look at are what he was doing for personal gain.

First of all, he had his EPA staff on government time running around Washington, D.C., trying to buy mattresses, buy snacks for him, look for real estate. But also he was trying actively to get his wife a six-figure job, even to the point of using his office perhaps to set up a meeting with the Chick-fil-A organization to get his wife a franchise that they could put in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

So those kind of things stand out as using this office for personal gain.

And I thought Kaitlan Collins' reporting this week that Pruitt may have been angling to work with the president of the United States to try to put Scott Pruitt in Jeff Sessions' job as attorney general was also quite damning in terms of the optics of it all.

ACOSTA: OK, Drew Griffin keeping track of it all for us, thank you very much.

We will turn to Congressman Don Beyer. He has been on the case of Scott Pruitt for many months now.

Congressmen, you have been one of the loudest voices calling for Scott Pruitt's resignation through all of these investigations.

Have you seen someone in Washington cling to their job for so long with so much baggage?

REP. DON BEYER (D), VIRGINIA: It is just unbelievable.

In any other administration, Democrat or Republican, he'd been gone months and months ago. Trump says today that he didn't fire him. But a good boss would have fired him a long, long time ago.

He was megalomaniacal, unethical to the nth degree. You saw the big list up on the screen. One of the things I just read about in the last two days was that job he was going to get for his wife. He said he was going to set up -- told the staff is going to set up a secret LLC, so that it wouldn't have to be disclosed on the federal forms.

This is -- everything he did seem to reek of hiding from the public what he was doing.

ACOSTA: And so you felt it was intentional, every time one of these ethical lapses that would come up, that he was intentionally doing these things? It wasn't one of those things where he didn't know the rules or restrictions?

BEYER: This guy was the attorney general of Oklahoma. I think he was president of the National Association of Attorneys General, a lawyer in the General Assembly. He'd had lots and lots of ethics stuff.

ACOSTA: And, Congressman, we have his resignation letter right here.

In the resignation letter, he takes no personal responsibility, does not apologize for his behavior. What do you make of that?

BEYER: That it's part of the megalomania.

He seems not to understand that he has to live by the same rules that everyone else does, which, by the way, reminds me of the president, who doesn't seem like he has to live by the same rules that we all do.

And the sense that he is way more important than he really is, the notion that he should be the attorney general, for example, of the United States.

And Trump really -- the responsible thing would have -- done to get him out of that seat a lot earlier. By the way, the biggest objection are not this long list of ethical things he's done, the 13 investigations, hopefully the 14th one, but rather what he's done to the environment.

He's basically turned over our clean water rules, our clean air rules, a lot of the chemicals we monitor to the companies were actually being regulated, letting them decide.

ACOSTA: And the president, just talking to reporters on Air Force One, described Pruitt as outstanding and terrific. What does that say to you?

BEYER: That the president just doesn't get it at all, that, first of all, he's not famous for paying attention to what's going on at all.

But here you have the economy that, through the eight years of Obama and now the first year-and-a-half of Trump, is going very, very strong. No one can say that our environmental rules have held back our economic growth.

ACOSTA: And what do you make of some of this talk in Scott Pruitt's resignation letter where he talks about the president coming into office because of God's providence and so on? What is that all about?


You have looked at Scott Pruitt closely. What is with that religiosity that is woven into that resignation letter?

BEYER: I don't want to make any broad conclusions, except that it's always weird when you have someone who is so unethical, blends in all the God stuff, and is...

ACOSTA: Does it sound like he worships the president a little bit?

BEYER: Well, maybe.

But he seems not to live up to the kind of code that anybody from a -- the Jewish, Christian, Muslim faith would go to. It's a huge cognitive clash. It's -- I don't want to say his faith isn't real, but he's certainly not living up to the faith that he says he has.

ACOSTA: And let me ask you about immigration, because the number of children in HHS custody apparently is higher than previously said.

HHS said earlier today it's less than 3,000, about 1,000 more kid than what we were previously told. Do you get the sense that they have any kind of grasp on any hard numbers here or know how to get these kids back to their parents? Are they just sort of fumbling around here?


BEYER: The last two weeks, I visited parents in Baltimore, children out in Prince William County, Virginia, and visited a court.

And there's this tremendous sense that there's no coordination at all. And we go back to Scott Pruitt and unethical. You even want to know when Secretary Nielsen will stop lying about the separation policy that the administration has.

And this is -- I was trying to tell my grandchildren, age 7 and 4, about the kids the other day. And they just could not understand it at all.

ACOSTA: Little kids ask about this, yes.

BEYER: Little kids, they were...

ACOSTA: They see it on the news, and they want to ask people about it.

BEYER: My wife got mad at me for exposing the children to this idea of wrenching children from their parents. I said, well, this is the America that we live in. They need to understand it.

ACOSTA: And what is your sense -- we saw some video in our last hour of a child being reunited with her mother at Boston's Logan Airport.

And just heart-wrenching to watch these reunification. It's good that they're being reunited with their parents, but it sounds as though these families have been psychologically traumatized in all of this.

What is the government's responsibility to those families in the long run? Here's some of that video again of this child being reunited with her mother.

Does the government have a responsibility here to these families that just have been traumatized in all this?

BEYER: I think the first responsibility we have is to understand that the initial anxiety that every one of us faces is separation anxiety from our parents.

And they just made it traumatic for each of these kids. And our next responsibility to do our best to bring them back together as soon as we can.

ACOSTA: And, apparently, this person was not reunited because of this policy, but it just goes to show you what they have been going through.

And then you saw the president earlier today contradicting himself again, saying that the Congress must pass immigration reform.

I'm sure you saw over the weekend where he said, forget about it, which was contrary to what he had said earlier in the week, when he said, let's do it.

What are members of Congress to take from this red-light/green-light game that the president is playing with Congress on immigration?

BEYER: Well, I think we see, as long as Stephen Miller is driving immigration policy in the White House, we're not going to make any progress.

I think, sooner or later, the Republicans in the House and Senate need to ignore Trump, work with Democrats and pass good bipartisan legislation. It's been offered a number of times in both houses. And the House version, it's the Hurd-Aguilar, Democrats, Republicans, it could easily pass.

They won't put it on the floor because Trump says he won't sign it.

ACOSTA: All right, Congressman Don Beyer, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

We're going to have more news just ahead.

I will get Republican reaction to Scott Pruitt's resignation. Congressman Adam Kinzinger is standing by.

And we will talk more about the plight of these separated families and the mixed signals the president is sending to Congress on immigration. Does he want reform legislation or not? It's hard to tell.



ACOSTA: And we're back with the breaking news, the resignation of EPA Chief Scott Pruitt.

Democrats are saying it's about time, given the widening ethics scandal surrounding Pruitt. And some Republicans are just feeling relieved tonight.

Joining me now, Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger. He may be one of those relieved congressmen, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.


ACOSTA: Are you glad that Scott Pruitt is gone?

KINZINGER: Yes, I think it's time.

It's a distraction. There were stories every day. It's interesting. As a Republican, I liked a lot of the policies coming out of the EPA. I thought the EPA was returning to its mission of interpreting congressional laws, instead of making its own.

But then all these things that were coming out around it, some may be scandal, some may be visual issues. Bottom line, it was taking a lot of this off-message.

And there's a temptation when you're in public service, we get paid well, but you're always around people that are worth millions and billions sometimes when you're running in different circles.

And the temptation for people in public service can say, well, I want to be worth millions and billions too, and maybe there's an opportunity after public service.

But the concern is, during, you have to put those guards up and say, look, I'm here to work for the people, I'm going to do what's right by the people, even if they disagree with my policies.

And I think that's seemingly where -- where he seemed to have gone wrong.

ACOSTA: And, Congressman, Scott Pruitt's replacement is going to carry out the same policies which I guess you support. So why do you think President Trump turned a blind eye to Pruitt's unethical swamp- like behavior for so long?

He could have just gotten somebody else in there earlier to carry out these policies? Why did he stick with Pruitt for so long?

KINZINGER: Yes, I don't know. I can't answer that. I haven't talked to the president about it.


And there's some things he does that it's hard for me to determine why or where he comes from on it. Maybe he just really liked Scott. Maybe he liked the policies he was putting out. Maybe there was something else, admire personality traits.

I'm not sure what it was. But when it's all said and done, he resigned. He did the right thing. And I think it's time that we now move for to get somebody in that position. Hopefully, the acting director is good, and we get somebody in that position that'll carry out, frankly, the president's policies, but do it in a way that will maintain the trust of the people, even if they disagree with the policies he's putting out, he or she.

ACOSTA: And in his resignation letter, Pruitt says he resigned due to unrelenting personal attacks on him.

Don't you think you should take some personal responsibility for his behavior? I mean, some of this stuff is just ridiculous.

KINZINGER: Well, I'm not going to kick the guy while he's down, after he puts an announcement or a resignation letter out.

Sure, there's obviously a lot of personal responsibility he has on that. I don't know -- I didn't actually even read the resignation letter. I'm not all that interested in it.

But when it's said and done, he's gone. I think we're going to hopefully move forward with somebody better fit for that position that can carry out the president's policies, and we will go from there.

ACOSTA: And I want to ask you about President Trump's immigration policies.

HHS, as you know, has revised the number of children it says it has in custody. That number is up from what HHS previously told us. And it's still trying to figure out of which children were separated from their parents, and even doing some DNA testing to sort all of this out.

Are you comfortable with how from the Trump administration has handled this policy out? What is your reaction to the fact that they don't really seem to have any idea, any firm idea of where all these kids are, how to get them reunited with their parents, or even how many of these children they have?

KINZINGER: Yes. I think keep in mind a couple things.

A lot of children were sent up without parents in the first place. They were sent unaccompanied. It's a very dangerous journey. Those that were sent up with their parents, there is a very intense process to get them back with the right people.

And you think about it like this. If somebody shows up with a couple of kids and says, these are my kids, they don't -- nobody has identification on them. So what the government has to make sure is, is that in fact the children of the person that's claiming to be that to be, or is it a human trafficker, or is it a coyote or somebody like that?

So I think that the government is doing what it needs to do to get these back to the right people. God forbid we reunite somebody with somebody that's not their children.

I would like it to be done faster. And I think if there's resources to do it -- I have gotten briefed. The government is trying to do everything they can to get this -- to get this situation fixed.

But we have to make sure we're doing it right, because, again, if we put a kid with somebody that claims to be their father -- maybe they look like -- maybe the kid is saying it's his dad because he's scared to say otherwise -- and it's not, that's a whole 'nother story that I don't think we want to have.

ACOSTA: And you said that you think that the government is doing everything possible to get these kids back with their families.

But do you think, when they first started separating these children from their parents, that they had a plan for reuniting these children with their parents when their detentions were over? Did they -- did they seem to lack the necessary planning at the beginning of this process? Because that's what it looks like to everybody else.

KINZINGER: Yes, I'm not sure.

I can't answer to that. Yes, well, I can't answer to that, because I don't know what they were thinking necessarily at the beginning. And I pretty much early on called out and said that these kids should be reunited with their parents.

What we don't want to do, though -- the border is being flooded right now. And we have to figure out this asylum issue and how to put this in a right way, so people that legitimately deserve asylum are coming here and claiming it, and not people that are just told the script to say at the border, so that they can be put into an asylum train.

And the whole point is being an American and coming to America is not a right. It's a privilege. And if you're in a situation where you truly fear for your life, that is a courtesy that we have extended.

And so I think we need to make sure we're doing that correctly. And, unfortunately, a lot of people have found a way to circumvent and take advantage of that.

And even beyond that, we are depriving these Central American countries of the very people that they need to fix their own problems. It's the same issue I had in Syria. I'm a big advocate for fixing Syria.

But when people were leaving Syria, those are the very people we need to overthrow Assad and fix and have a better future for themselves as well.

ACOSTA: Let me ask you about North Korea.

President Trump says he had good chemistry with Kim Jong-un. And he's taking credit for the pause in missile and nuclear testing. He also said that President Obama was very close to going to war with North Korea.

What do you make of that? Do all the president's comments about North Korea and the deal he struck with Kim Jong-un, do they make sense to you? Do you have a firm grasp of what he's accomplishing with North Korea at this point?

KINZINGER: Yes, I think I have said on this we're going to know when this process is complete. There's going to be days where there's valleys, it looks like everything's falling apart, days where kind of there's hilltops and we think everything's coming together. It's really going to be judged by what comes out four or six months from now or however long this process takes. I was concerned with suspending military exercises. As a military guy, I know those are very important for wartime stuff.


But, ultimately, the right guy is there right now, Mike Pompeo. I know him well.

And my prayer, frankly, my desperate hope, is we strike a deal where North Korea is denuclearized for the -- basically for forever, and then we don't have to go to a military...


ACOSTA: But the administration says that they had already struck a deal, right? The administration claims that they have already struck a deal.

But it seems as though they're still trying to strike a deal.

KINZINGER: Yes, sure. I didn't like the idea of saying it's already denuclearized and it's already over, because there is a long journey ahead of us. And so maybe some of the words, I wasn't fully on board with, like I said with the military exercises.

But I do give the president a lot of credit, because he drove Kim Jong-un to the table with sanctions and with a ready military option.

Now, my prayer is that, when we look back and I'm on here in six months, we can say that it was successful.

ACOSTA: He still has to close the deal, though.

All right, Congressman Adam Kinzinger, thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it.

Just ahead, more on the resignation of Scott Pruitt and President Trump's defense tonight of a scandal-plagued EPA chief.

Plus, breaking news about President Trump's longtime lawyer Michael Cohen and what he's thinking about a possible presidential pardon.


ACOSTA: And we're getting more reaction to the breaking news. EPA chief Scott Pruitt stepping down after months of scandal and multiple investigations.

[18:31:00] Right now, we have another breaking story, though, on the president's longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. Let's bring in CNN's national political reporter, M.J. Lee.

M.J., you're learning more about Michael Cohen's mindset right now, including what he's recently told friends about a possible pardon from the president. What can you tell us?

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. What we're being told by Cohen's friends is that Cohen currently does not believe that Trump will offer him a presidential pardon.

One friend tells CNN that they brought up the possibility of a Trump pardon in a recent phone call with Cohen and that Cohen's response was, quote, "I don't think so. I just don't think so."

According to this friend, Cohen feels quite certain that he has been, quote, unquote, "dismissed" by the president. And a second friend who frequently speaks to Cohen also tells CNN that Cohen is operating under the assumption that he is not going to be pardoned.

Now, it's important to point out Cohen is currently under criminal investigation in New York. But he has not been charged. We don't know what he might be charged with. And we also don't know whether pardoning Cohen is something that President Trump might consider.

Still, the fact that Cohen is telling friends that he is not counting on a pardon from a man he was so loyal to for so many years gives us some interesting insight into where his head is right now.

And as you also know, we've been reporting for a while that Cohen has been feeling very isolated. He's worried about his future and his family. And when it comes to Trump, he's disappointed that his former boss hasn't been more supportive of him publicly.

And keep in mind that last weekend Cohen told ABC News that he would always put his own family and the country first, before Trump. And he really seemed to be distancing himself from the president.

So all of this could play into what Cohen eventually decides to do if and when he is indicted. But all of that will depend on what he is charged with and if prosecutors are even willing to make a deal with Cohen, which we don't know the answer to yet, Jim.

ACOSTA: This is just coming in, M.J. Michael Cohen is hiring a lawyer, Lanny Davis, a familiar name here in Washington. That seems like an unlikely hire, though.

LEE: That's very true. Just a reminder to viewers: Lanny Davis is a lawyer with very close ties to the Clintons. He worked for former president Bill Clinton, as you know, including through the impeachment proceedings. He has been a big supporter of Hillary Clinton, as well.

And we've just learned that Cohen is, in fact, hiring Davis, though it's not yet clear exactly in what capacity Davis will be working for Cohen.

Here's a statement that we received from Davis. He said, "Like most of America, I have been following the matter regarding Michael Cohen with great interest. As an attorney, I have talked to Michael many times in the last two weeks. Then I read his words published on July 2." This is presumably referring to the ABC interview. "And I recognized his sincerity. Michael Cohen deserves to tell his side of the story, subject, of course, to the advice of counsel."

Now, this new hiring is particularly interesting, Jim, given that Cohen also recently decided to hire Guy Petrillo, an experienced trial lawyer who really understands the Southern District of New York.

So all of these developments seem to suggest that Cohen wants to beef up his team, and he's preparing to fight back, all ahead of a possible indictment.

ACOSTA: Fascinating stuff. M.J. Lee, thank you very much for that.

Let's turn to our panel of experts and analysts here. David Axelrod, let me turn to you first. Lanny Davis working with Michael Cohen, I didn't see that one coming.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, it's beginning more and more to look like the barroom scene from "Star Wars" over there.

But look, you don't hire Lanny Davis as a lawyer. He is like -- he's a lawyer like Rudy Giuliani is a lawyer in this -- in this whole episode. He is there for one of two reasons. One is to appear on television and mix it up on TV on behalf of Cohen.

The other, and I think more likely, reason he hired him is he's been, for the last few days, increasingly sending smoke signals to the White House that, if they don't come to his rescue, that he is going to flip on them. That was the subtext of the George interview. He just in the last few days removed references to Trump from his social media profiles. And now this Lanny Davis hiring, which has to be viewed as provocative, as Lanny Davis has been an outspoken ally of the Clintons and an outspoken critic of President Trump.

[18:35:27] So all of this, it seems to me, is a way of rattling the cage over at the White House to say, "Hey, are you guys coming or are you not? Because if you're not, I'm going the other way."

ACOSTA: And you worked for Barack Obama, so you know that Lanny Davis is a tough advocate for whoever he's working for.

AXELROD: No doubt.

ACOSTA: Let me talk to you about this, David Swerdlick. You know, it seems that the president hasn't ruled out pardons for a whole host of folks. But it's interesting that Michael Cohen would be saying to people, "Well, I don't think I'm getting a pardon." I mean, how much of that is posturing, do you think, and how much of that -- it sounds sincere on his part, that he's -- he's not hopeful for this.

SWERDLICK: Right. And as a former henchman of President Trump in his pre-presidential days, he would be in a position to know.

I don't think President Trump is going to take anything off the table that he has the ability to do. But on the other hand, Jim, I think Michael Cohen, if he thinks that it's a possibility he won't get a pardon, then he's not going to go quietly into that good night. As M.J. reported, he's got Guy Petrillo, who practiced in the Southern District, and he's also -- I agree with Axe -- is basically saying, "Oh, you're got Mayor Rudy Giuliani? I'll get my own Rudy Giuliani." That's Lanny Davis, former Washington hand, Clinton hand. It makes sense.

ACOSTA: And what does this mean for President Trump, Rebecca? Michael Cohen working with Lanny Davis, an ally of the Clintons. What does this mean for President Trump, the potential cooperation here?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in the short-term, it could be just a public relations headache if, indeed, Lanny Davis is planning to go on TV and tell them Michael Cohen's side of the story. That might not be the best thing for Donald Trump and the White House.

But in the long-term, of course, this question of Michael Cohen cooperating and flipping on President Trump, he has a wealth of knowledge that could potentially be complicating for the president, potentially damaging. He knows about the Stormy Daniels deal. He knows about some of these meetings with Russian nationals that happened during the course of the campaign.

And of course, he has intimate knowledge of the president's business dealings over the course of many years. And that's a whole other potential web that the president could get caught in.

ACOSTA: And what do you think, Phil Mudd?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: This is really interesting. Let's move a few chess pieces. Because it's almost like Mr. Cohen is sitting here saying, "A, I'm in trouble, and B, I'm going to fight."

No. 1, he hires a former federal prosecutor. Why does he hire that prosecutor? Because he wants to say, "Hey, I'm going to turn over, and I'm going to talk about the president."

Why does he hire Lanny Davis. That's a message to the White House, saying, "While I've got my prosecutor working on the case, 'm going to get out, like your lawyer," as Axe was saying, "like the former mayor of New York, and attack you."

This is a message, a frontal message to the White House, saying, "If you think I'm going to take one for the team, I just left the team. It's over."

ACOSTA: And David Axelrod, getting back to Scott Pruitt, you were there in the early days of the Obama administration and well beyond that, obviously. Do you recall having to deal with a cabinet secretary who had that much baggage? What do you think of this -- this sudden resignation from Scott Pruitt?

AXELROD: I guess 14 probes is just too much.

You know, I don't think that -- I don't think ethics is a big concern of this administration. That's been pretty clear. And in terms of what he's been doing at EPA, he's thrilled some of the base of the Republican Party and, certainly, the donor base in the energy industry, but the fact is that these investigations are piling onto the point where he was becoming a liability to the president. And so the president cut him loose. I think it's just that clear.

I don't think it had anything to do with the president's disapprobation of Pruitt's behavior. In fact, the president had nothing to say about the subjects of these 14 probes. But I think in this White House and in this administration, if you become a liability, that is an unpardonable offense. I shouldn't use that term.

ACOSTA: And Rebecca Berg, Scott Pruitt heading out the door, no apologies. No acknowledgement that he did anything wrong. And the president praising him on his way out the door.

BERG: Right. Well, it's a very Trumpian way to exit, is it not? No -- no responsibility taken, no apology. But Scott Pruitt is undoubtedly also thinking of a second act here: "How do I recover from this, what is next"?

We know that he has thought potentially of running for office back home in Oklahoma, statewide office or federal office. And so that must be on his mind as he's crafting this exit: "How do I get out of here as unscathed as possible?"

[18:40:08] ACOSTA: All right. Thanks to all of you, appreciate that.

Just ahead, there may be more separated families than previously thought and very few, if any, reunions. We'll have a live report near the southern border and get a reality check on the confusing figures from the Trump administration.

And torrential rains could make the cave rescue operation more dangerous and add to the delays. We'll have the latest on the fate of those trapped boys.


[18:45:11] ACOSTA: Stand by for more on the breaking news on the resignation of EPA chief Scott Pruitt. The president still defending him, despite scandal. Also tonight, new concern and confusion about the number of immigrant children who have been separated from their families.

Let's go to CNN national correspondent Miguel Marquez. He is in Texas, near the southern border.

Miguel, put into context, if you can for us, the newest statements from the Trump administration and what you're seeing on the ground there.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the Trump administration, the health and human services secretary saying today that just under 3,000 children they have in their care that have been separated from their parents. What they are not saying are how many of those children were separated from their parents as part of the zero tolerance policy. There's great pressure on the administration right now and there's a

lot of movement by the administration, but we are not seeing reunifications that the administration is making on their own accord. They say they are coming.

We are seeing them in other ways, though. There was a Guatemalan mother who had a very emotional reunion with her 8-year-old daughter at Boston's Logan Airport today. She was picked up in Arizona in May.

She passed a credible fear test of her asylum claim. And then she was bonded out. She had help from the ACLU and other legal groups. It's one of these one-off reunions that we have seen in other parts of the country.

And then she was able to verify that she was, in fact, this young girl's mother. She got herself to Logan Airport. Her daughter was brought into Logan, all of this with the help of people because it takes a lot of money to do this and a lot of organization.

They had this incredible reunion today at Logan Airport. It really underscores sort of the emotion behind all of this. I stand in front of these drab government processing centers. And when you see and hear a mother like that seeing her daughter for the first time in two months, it is very, very difficult to watch and to hear.

The Trump administration says that by next Tuesday, it will have those under fives, there's about a hundred of them they say they have in their care. Those under fives will be reunited with their families, either by the families making bond like this woman did, or by the families being detained together. The administration saying that they have moved -- physically moved the parents of those under fives to Texas, and they will detain them presumably at Fort Bliss military base in a specialized facility there for those families until their legal claims are dealt with -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Just incredible to watch these families and what they're going through.

Miguel, what can you tell us about the DNA testing that the administration is talking about on these separated children and their parents to reunite them? What can you tell us?

MARQUEZ: Yes, the government saying that the secretary of health and human services saying that they have to resort to DNA testing for parents, because the timeline, because the court has ordered all of these kids to be reunited. The timeline is so short now that they have to use DNA to verify these parents of these kids and that the relationship does exist.

Typically, it could be done through documentation and other means, but because they're blaming the courts and the Congress for not fixing it, because of that, they say that they have to do it by DNA. It's causing a bit of an uproar. They say it will only be used for identification purposes -- Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. Miguel Marquez, down in the border in Texas, thank you so much.

Tonight, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is returning to North Korea on a high stakes mission to get Kim Jong-un to live up to his promises to President Trump. New U.S. intelligence reports suggest Kim may be moving forward with his nuclear program rather than dismantling it.

We're joined by CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

Barbara, Pompeo could use some proof that Kim Jong-un is serious about denuclearization, because it seems to be a situation where you have doubts right now out of North Korea.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, this is the essential problem. President Trump again today said he feels good about the meeting he had with Kim in Singapore. But getting a signature on the dotted line, getting a deal, long way to go on that one, Jim.


STARR (voice-over): Tonight, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo under tremendous pressure to get North Korea to denuclearize. North Korea did destroy entrances to underground tunnels used to test nuclear bombs, but Pompeo now has to deliver much more.

JOSEPH YUN, UNITED STATES INSTITUTE OF PEACE: He's under tremendous pressure. I think what we've seen from Singapore is rather an empty, empty joint statement. And now, he has to make something out of it.

STARR: President Trump sounding optimistic last month.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They stopped all nuclear testing.

[18:50:03] They stopped nuclear research. They stopped rocketry. They stopped everything that you'd want them to stop. And they blew up sites where they test.

STARR: But so far, no sign Kim Jong-un has given up his nuclear weapons, defense officials say. Commercial satellite imagery continues to show potential activity at the Yongbyon nuclear research facility. The U.S. is keeping sharp watch across North Korea.

GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN": There have been these reports about increased production of fissile material, the completion of construction on a facility that North Korea makes its ballistic missiles. All sorts of things.

STARR: Pompeo publicly remains hopeful, tweeting: Looking forward to continuing our work toward the final fully verified denuclearization of DPRK as agreed to by Chairman Kim. But it's an uphill climb, given White House expectations.

JOHN BOLTON NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: 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.

STARR: North Korea has to agree to timelines for dismantlement, plus verification and inspection of facilities. Kim isn't moving fast, even on the promise to transfer remains of potentially 200 American troops killed during the Korean War. Something President Trump said has already happened.

TRUMP: We got back our great fallen hero, the remains. In fact, today, already 200 have been sent back.

STARR: But so far, only temporary caskets have been moved to the DMZ, in case the North Koreans carry out the promise.


STARR: And now with Pompeo just hours away from landing in Pyongyang, the State Department pushing back against any suggestion that they are softening the U.S. position as he lands there, saying they are still going for denuclearization -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Barbara Starr, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

Just ahead, after nearly two weeks trapped in a cave, are those boys and their soccer coach healthy enough to escape?


ACOSTA: We'll have much more ahead on Scott Pruitt's resignation.

But first, new threats to the already dangerous mission to rescue boys trapped in a cave. Heavy rain and health problems making it difficult to get them out safely.

CNN's Matt Rivers is on the ground in Thailand.

Matt, what can you tell us?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, the good news is that the rain has largely held off for the past day or so. The water level inside the cave has gone down, but the bad news is that that is not going to last.


RIVERS (voice-over): Tonight, a race against time. Rescuers drilling through rock, removing stones by hand and pumping as much water out of the cave's passageways as they can, while they can.

NARONGSAK OSOTTHANAKON, CHIANG RAI GOVERNOR (through translator): We are draining out the water all the time, but no matter what, water is still coming in.

RIVERS: Torrential rains are expected to begin Sunday, threatening to wash away their efforts and their hopes of a timely rescue. More than two miles inside the cave, a supply of food and oxygen keeps the soccer team smiling, but medical experts say at least three of them, including the coach, are too malnourished to evacuate safely. Still, 13 sets of diving equipment have been prepared in case of a hasty emergency exit.

MATT FITZGERALD, AUSTRALIAN FEDERAL POLICE DIVER: We just have to assess everything at the moment. We have to see what the conditions bring, what the water levels inside the caves do, and what options are available to us.

RIVERS: After one failed attempt, communication lines are being fed again through winding stone in hopes of connecting those inside with rescuers and family above. It would be a much-needed boost, both for morale and expediency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): To deliver information from inside the cave, Navy SEALs have to dive for 11 hours. We spend six hours going in and another five hours coming out. This is our main obstacle.

RIVERS: Far from the dive teams deep below, dozens more rescuers are hoping for a way to reach the boys from the jungle above.

OSOTTHANAKOM: We are calculating the position of the children and the corresponding position on the surface. About 20 to 30 teams will converge in this area to survey for shafts or holes that may be of use to our plan.

RIVERS: The entire community here, it seems, is praying.

Here at the school where several of the trapped boys attended classes, vigils are held each morning. And others are doing their part in different ways, as water is pumped out from the cave, it floods the local crops at great cost to farmers. They say, it's all worth it.

The lives of the people are more important, this farmer says. The villagers are happy to sacrifice. It's for the kids.


RIVERS: Jim, I can tell you that the odds might be long, but not one person that we've spoken to here in Northern Thailand has given up hope. The rescue mission for these children and that coach goes on in earnest -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Matt Rivers, we can see the rescue operation underway behind you. We appreciate that report. Thank you so much for that. I'm Jim Acosta. Thank you very much for watching tonight.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.