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Migrant Family Reunification Deadline; Cave Rescue Efforts Continue; New EPA Chief. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired July 6, 2018 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:04]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, and the little girl patting her mom's back.

As we wait for more of these reunions, the Trump administration now says it needs more times to reunite these families as a court-imposed deadline looms. More on that in just a second.

But, first, we continue on, top of the hour. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Let's get right into this massive effort to save those 12 boys trapped inside a Thailand cave. This effort just got more urgent and increasingly dire. The monsoon season is here. You know that. The threat of heavy rainfall this weekend, though, hangs over these rescue efforts.

And the air inside the cave, this is quite a concern after a former Thai Navy seal who volunteer to help has died. His oxygen ran out while he was navigating those underwater tunnels.

But the governor there says the air in the cave where the boys are is still safe and that they can run around and play. Rescue teams have also drilled more than 100 holes in the cave looking for an opening, but thus far to no avail.

Asia correspondent Jonathan Miller is there on the scene.

And, Jonathan, can you talk to us with a little bit more about the holes, of the 100, 18 potential? I mean, what -- are they just trying anything?

JONATHAN MILLER, ITN REPORTER: I think they all, Brooke, yes.

I mean, look, the situation is so desperate, and getting out of the caves through these dangerous semi-submerged and often completely submerged tunnels so incredibly dangerous for these 12-year-old boys, that the death of that Navy SEAL has really focused minds here on just how difficult and dangerous that is.

So, any alternative means of escape from that chamber is being looked at very seriously. But they have been scouring the hillside -- or the mountainside, as it is, up above the chamber for possible ways in, these potholes, chimneys, shafts, sinkholes. Whatever you call them, they go deep down inside.

But so far, they have only managed to get down 400 meters. That is quite a long way, but not far enough. It's about halfway down towards the chamber in which the boys are trapped. Now, they will continue search efforts for another sinkhole, but right now diving out is still considered the best option.

And my reading of the situation now is that they're going to push it as long as they possibly can until the rain starts falling, because once that happens, the tunnels will flood. But they have still got the option of looking for singles until the rain starts.

BALDWIN: But just quickly, in terms of the rain starting, is that days? Can you give a quick timeline on, Jonathan?

MILLER: Well, I just heard a detailed weather report about this. And it's very hard to gauge a monsoon in monsoon season. There are scattered showers all the time. There has been a bit of rain here today.

But I think the really heavy rain, while we thought it was going to be sort of later this weekend, may hit early next week. And that could provide enough of a window to drain the cave more and to allow the children to come out through the cave passages without having to use scuba gear. That would be ideal.

BALDWIN: That was Jonathan Miller. Thank you so much for being there for us in Thailand.

Let's talk more about this. Butch Hendrick is with us, seasoned rescue diver.

Butch, let's just start with -- thank you so much for coming on.

I want to start with you on these 100 holes that rescuers have drilled trying to find a route to save these boys. But they say there's only 18 potential. Your take on that?

BUTCH HENDRICK, RESCUE DIVER: I think it is an incredible chance.

If they hit something and worked, it would be great. As you pointed out already, they're still looking as their main option as bringing them out through the water, possibly underwater.

BALDWIN: And given the fact that a former Thai Navy SEAL died, his oxygen ran out, which I understand is -- can happen, right, when you're navigating these sorts of caves and tunnels, how do you feel about these boys, some of whom can't swim, attempting this?

HENDRICK: Originally, we said that the option, you mentally had to except the fact that none of them could swim, so we would be looking at a total group of nonswimmers.

One of the difficulties for the divers, other than the actual trained cave divers, is they're not wearing redundant breathing systems. They're going in with a single scuba tank with compressed air. And they're not able to have a secondary alternate air source. So when emergency is occurring, they don't have a backup system. And they don't have a backup plan at the moment for a lot of the would-be rescuers, including their Navy SEALs.

BALDWIN: So, last question.

If they do attempt this with the boys underwater to get out of the caves, and some places are quite dark, are the boys attached to these SEALs? How do they navigate the waters alongside these rescuers?

HENDRICK: The boys would actually be, as I have pointed out once before, kind of like in a pouch of a mother kangaroo.

[15:05:05]

Basically, they would be encapsulated in a full face mask or some sort of a mask that allows them to breathe, certainly some protective equipment, clothing, wet suits, because we don't want them getting caught and banging against the sides of the walls and rocks on the way out.

Lines have been run by the professional cable operators. They have almost like a conveyor system in and out. So, our boys would basically be coddled, trained, talked to, trained how to deal with the concept they're going to be just still and the rescuer are basically going to carry them out, again, like the mother of a kangaroo.

BALDWIN: Wow. Wow.

Bruce Hendrick, thank you so much. I'm sure we will talk again as we get more information.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: No, I hear you. And it just sounds -- it sounds risky.

(CROSSTALK)

HENDRICK: Extremely, intensely difficult. Intensely difficult.

BALDWIN: Yes.

Thank you very much.

I want to move on to these families. Officials now have 20 days to reunite all families who were torn apart at the nation's southern border. But, already, Health and Human Services officials say they may need more time.

Today, officials have to make sure that all parents are connected with their kids by phone. Then, by Tuesday, the government is supposed to reunite parents with their kids if they're under the age of 5, and then, looking on the calendar at the 26th of this month, a judge says all children should be back with their parents. And, of course, this comes as we still have no actual answers about

how many children are still detained, how many are still alone, in a country foreign to them.

But we did just hear from Vice President Mike Pence, who was at an event with ICE agents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, have all already called for ICE's abolition.

A leading candidate for governor of New York actually even, appallingly, called this agency a terrorist organization.

Now, let me be clear on this point. The American people have a right to their opinions, but these spurious attacks on ICE by our political leaders must stop.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Later, when the vice president was asked by one of the pool reporters if -- quote -- "Child separation was a Christian thing to do," he didn't answer that question.

To a tale of two economies now, U.S. jobs booming, businesses adding more than 213,000 jobs in June, a sign of a strong, healthy economy. But this positive jobs report comes as President Trump officially launches a massive trade war with China after months of escalating tensions.

China, meantime, calling it the biggest trade war -- their quote -- in history, striking back with retaliatory tariffs.

CNN correspondent Alison Kosik joins us live from the floor of that New York Stock Exchange to talk to us about the impact.

Who is most impacted here?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, a trade war is bad for business, period.

And both sides are being impacted. For one, the U.S. can be impacted, a real economic impact from these retaliatory tariffs from China, because they're on these high-value American exports, like cars, crude oil, cash crops like soybeans and poultry, because if demand drops for these American products that are being sold in China, that means that that's going to affect the American company that is here in the U.S.

It's going to affect their profit. It's going to affect whether or not they hire more. It's going to affect whether or not they spend or expand their business.

For China, tariffs placed on their goods, they're on these high-tech industries that China is trying to excel in, like aerospace, robotics, manufacturing and cars. So, each side is getting dinged in this trade war.

But if you look at what's happening here on Wall Street, investors are really just shrugging it off, because they saw this coming. For months, fears of a trade war have been simmering below the surface. We have watched investor sell off and reprice company that have direct exposure to China.

And now that repricing has been done, you're seeing investors kind of wait and see what happens. Many are thinking that there could be a compromise reached between China and the U.S. Many calling this really a game of chicken. Who is going to blink first, Brooke?

BALDWIN: Alison, thank you.

Meantime, as President Trump spent the weekend in Bedminster, New Jersey, back in Washington, D.C. more negative headlines coming out of the Environmental Protection Agency.

[15:10:01]

So, let's go straight to our White House reporter, Sarah Westwood.

And, Sarah, talk to me about this report. It's coming out of Politico on this study that they're saying the EPA buried. It's a cancer study. It is a study they're saying that they have purposely blocked from the public.

Tell me more.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Brooke.

The EPA may be free of its most controversial leader, but it's not free from controversy. Today, current and former EPA official tell Politico that the agency is suppressing a report about the dangers of inhaling formaldehyde vapor.

Now, this study, a draft of which was completed at the tail end of the Obama administration, links formaldehyde to serious illnesses, like leukemia. And the officials say that this report is being kept from the public as part of an ongoing effort to undermine the scientific research that the EPA performs.

Now, an EPA spokesperson denied that the report's release is being delayed intentionally, telling CNN in a statement: "Assessments of this type are often the results of need for particular rule-making and undergo an extensive intra-agency and interagency process."

But outgoing EPA head Scott Pruitt testified before Congress all the way back in January that the formaldehyde study was nearing completion. And months later, lawmakers were asking the EPA when they were going to get to see a copy of this key study.

And, obviously, Brooke, this is coming at a very chaotic time for the EPA already, with Pruitt's resignation yesterday and uncertainty about his acting replacement, Andrew Wheeler -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: That's the EPA.

Let's talk about the U.K. We know that the president next week is heading to United Kingdom. He will meet with the queen. Protesters are expected in London. And now the British government is saying that Trump will largely how to avoid London altogether, but the U.S. ambassador, Sarah, to the U.K. is actually saying that's not the case.

Can you tell me what the plan is?

WESTWOOD: That's right.

Ambassador Woody Johnson is saying that the fact that Trump's 24-hour trip in the U.K. will not take him through London, one of its most populous cities, is not intentional, even though there are expected to be mass protests against Trump taking place in London.

President Trump will visit Oxfordshire, the birthplace of Winston Churchill, for a black-tie dinner. He will visit Buckinghamshire to Prime Minister May's country estate. And, of course, for that highly anticipated photo-op with Queen Elizabeth II, he will be at Windsor Castle.

None of those events will take place in London, but Ambassador Woody Johnson, as you mentioned, is downplaying this fact, saying that President Trump is not trying to avoid confronting those protests -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Sarah Westwood, thank you.

President Trump, meantime, takes a not-so-veiled swipe at not just one, but two Republican icons, slamming former President George H.W. Bush and Senator John McCain, and in the same event praising Vladimir Putin.

Also, hear from the mother who walked right up to the former EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, and demanded he resign for the sake of her son. Well, he has resigned this week. Let's get her reaction -- coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:17:14]

BALDWIN: We're back. you're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

As President Trump prepares for his upcoming summit with Vladimir Putin, I just want to take a moment to remind you of this.

Russia attacked and is still attacking the But.S. elections. It seized Crimea from Ukraine using illegal military force, shot down a commercial airline in Ukraine, killing almost 300 people. It is accused of poisoning an ex-spy and his daughter in the U.K. And, of course, it supports a murderous dictator in Syria.

All right? So just this week, a group of Republican lawmakers had a cozy meeting in Moscow on America's Independence Day, no less. just as bipartisan Senate investigators concluded that, yes, Russia did indeed meddle in the 2016 election, and Russia state TV reportedly mocking those lawmakers for being weak.

But despite it all, the president of the United States is praising Putin yet again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're going, will President Trump be prepared? You know, President Putin is KGB and this and that.

You know what? Putin is fine. He's fine. We're all fine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: With me now, CNN global affairs analyst Max Boot.

Max, let's take -- listen to the president, let's take his argument at face value. He wants to make inroads with Russia, right? Fine.

But if you're taking a page from his deal-making mantra, toughness being one of the top rules, where is the toughness, and why isn't it there?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It's hard to find, Brooke.

And ,in fact, if you look at his negotiating strategy with North Korea, which has been a total failure so far, he's been praising Kim Jong-un to the skies in terms that are completely unbecoming for an American president, much as he is now praising Putin. And we have got nothing but empty promises from North Korea.

We're not going to get anything substantial from Russia. I mean, these are -- I don't think these are negotiating strategies, per se. I think this just evidence of Trump's -- the fact that he likes these dictators. He feels an affinity for people like Putin and Kim Jong- un, who are tough and strong and -- as he puts it.

BALDWIN: Well, on your empty promises note, I mean, going into this meeting with Putin, there have to be concerns about what Trump might promise Putin.

What do you think are the biggest talking points? What should maybe one be worried about?

BOOT: There's a lot to be worried about given that in the run-up to the summit with Putin, Trump has been trashing our allies, even just at the Montana rally on Thursday. He was saying were schmucks for paying for NATO.

He's launching trade wars against our trade partners. And so the question is, what, if anything, is he going to give away to Vladimir Putin, somebody that he greatly admires?

My concern is that there is talk of some kind of deal whereby the U.S. would recognize the Russia -- illegal Russian annexation of Crimea, and, in, return, Putin would make some kind of promises about how the Iranians will back off the Israeli border in Syria, promises that I think are very unlikely to be kept.

[15:20:15]

But that's the kind of deal that everybody's worried about. People are also looking at the fact that Trump out of nowhere agreed in his talks with Kim Jong-un to end or suspend U.S.-South Korea...

BALDWIN: Military exercises.

BOOT: ... joint military exercises.

And so you don't really know what Trump is going to come out with after having a private audience with Putin.

BALDWIN: Right. Right, if one will ever know, right, if it's just the two of them.

BOOT: Right.

BALDWIN: Let me ask you, as a conservative, Max, what do you make of -- as part of this whole Montana speech last night, when he was on the one hand praising Putin and then attacking John McCain and Bush 41?

In case people missed it, roll it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: And even though we got a little surprise vote that evening, you all remember that evening, somebody came in with a thumbs down after campaigning for years that he was going to repeal and replace.

A thousand points of light, I never quite got that one. What the hell is that? Has anyone ever figured that one out? And it was put up by a Republican, wasn't it?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: A thousand points of light, let me just remind everyone, this Bush 41 nearly 30 years ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can find meaning and reward by serving some higher purpose than ourselves, a shining purpose, the illumination of 1,000 points of light.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So, Max, the president is attacking not only two American icons, but two Republican icons.

BOOT: This is disgusting, Brooke. And not just two Republican icons, but two American war heroes, both of whom are in very poor health at the moment.

But this is just a sign of how deplorable Donald Trump truly is. The fact that he spent this rally -- and it was a totally typical rally, but he spent it praising vicious dictators like Putin and his negotiations with Kim Jong-un, mocking Elizabeth Warren in racist terms, mocking Maxine Waters, I would say, in racist terms, attacking the free press, attacking his own Justice Department, attacking these American war heroes.

The only thing that's more discussing all of this is the fact that all these people in the audience were applauding.

BALDWIN: They were laughing.

BOOT: And the fact that 90 percent of Republican -- they were laughing. They thought it was a hoot. They thought it was wonderful.

And the fact that 90 percent of Republicans approve of this presidency, of this kind of behavior, that's why I'm not a Republican anymore, after a lifetime in the GOP. I just -- I can't take it. It's -- to me, it's just reprehensible.

BALDWIN: OK. So that's stunning, right? So, what you just said is stunning about you and your own personal political history.

And you wrote this opinion piece in "The Washington Post" which we talked about on TV yesterday and we have got today. So you, Max Boot, pronounced that you are leaving the Republican Party, you are rooting for Democrats to take over. Explain more of that to me.

BOOT: Well, Donald -- the point that I made in the article is that Donald Trump is not a conservative president. He is a white nationalist president and he has transformed the Republican Party into his image.

He's somebody who refers to Latino immigrants as animals who are breeding and infesting. He says that African countries are shitholes. He praises white supremacists as being very fine people.

I mean, this not the Republican Party I joined in the 1980s under Ronald Reagan. It stands for everything that I find out terrible and deplorable. And so I can't support that party. And, therefore, I can't support Republicans who back Donald Trump, as almost all of them do.

And that's why I'm rooting for a Democratic victory in November.

BALDWIN: Wow.

I was talking about your article yesterday. I had two Republicans on, two anti-Trump Republicans on, who talk about how emotional one's political party is. It's emotional, it's personal for them.

BOOT: Of course.

BALDWIN: But they couldn't quite go as far as you did, as saying, all right, I'm rooting for the Democrats, right, as a lifelong Republican.

I'm curious, to you, how many of your fellow conservatives have agreed with you, and how many have said that you're nuts?

BOOT: I mean, some have certainly agreed with me. I mean, I have heard from a lot of former Republican sources, right on.

I'm also hearing from a lot who are outraged, even those, as you suggested, who may be critical of Trump, would not go as far as I do.

But, to me, it's a pretty clear equation. Either you are voting for Democrats or you are de facto supporting Donald Trump. That is the choice in November. You cannot tell me that there are Republicans who will hold Donald Trump to account, because we have seen in the last year-and-a-half that that is just not the case, that Republicans are too scared of him or too supportive of him.

In any case, they are not going to act as a check and balance on Donald Trump, which is what this country desperately needs. And that's why you don't have to agree with Democrats on every position they take. I certainly don't. But I think it's imperative for the health of our democracy that the opposition party take control of Congress to act as a check on Donald Trump's attempts to undermine our democracy and divide our country.

BALDWIN: Wow. That is powerful.

Max Boot, thank you.

[15:25:00]

BOOT: Thanks, Brooke.

Still to come, days before his resignation a mother confronted them EPA Chief Scott Pruitt, demanded he quit his job. And now he has done that. We will get her reaction to his resignation. She joins me live next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Environmental groups are praising EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's resignation after months of controversies, some saying it's about time.

But when it comes to the EPA's agenda and policies, the man stepping into Pruitt's place as acting EPA head won't be much different.

The president announced Deputy Andrew Wheeler will assume Pruitt's duties. He is a former coal lobbyist with close ties to the industry.

And unlike Pruitt, he is not a D.C. outsider. He worked as a staff member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. And we know he knows the ins and outs of how Washington works. He was also a top aide to Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe, a vocal denier of climate Change.

When Wheeler was asked about --