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Endorsing Putin; Interview With Pennsylvania Congressman Lou Barletta; Interview With California Congressman Ted Lieu; Pruitt Says Goodbye to EPA Staffers as Ex-Coal Lobbyist, DC Insider Takes Over His Job & Agenda; Cave Rescuers Drill 100 Holes as Trapped Boys Losing Oxygen; Trump Administration May Miss First Deadline to Reunited Families; Trump Mocks #MeToo Movement, George H.W. Bush at Rally. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 6, 2018 - 18:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: Stand by for details.

Endorsing Putin. President Trump offers new praise of the Kremlin's strongman, while he launches new verbal attacks on Americans, including fellow Republicans. How far will he go to dismiss concerns about the Russian leader as their summit nears?

And losing oxygen. There's even more urgency for cave rescuers, as the boys trapped underground are losing their air supply. The evacuation mission turning deadly, as time is running out.

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States around the world. Wolf Blitzer 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 the Trump administration in court, acknowledging problems with its efforts to reunite immigrant families.

Justice Department lawyers telling a judge it may not meet a deadline on Tuesday which to return the youngest children to their parents, this as the president and vice president tried to deflect harsh criticism of their policy by lashing out at Democrats.

I will get reaction from two members of Congress, Republican Lou Barletta and Democrats Ted Lieu. And our correspondence analyst, they are also standing by.

First to CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins.

Kaitlan, the administration still can't solve this problem of separated families that the president created in the first place.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, they are certainly still struggling to get this crisis under control. That much is clear about what the White House is and isn't saying about these thousands of kids who are still separated from their parents even tonight.

Now, the president and the vice president, Mike Pence, are trying to put the focus back on Democrats here.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Under President Donald Trump, we will never abolish ICE.

COLLINS (voice-over): Vice President Mike Pence defending the administration's immigration policies and going after Democrats who have called for abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.

PENCE: We will always stand proudly with the brave heroes of ICE and our Border Patrol.

COLLINS: President Trump seizing on the new language during his rally in Montana last night.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The new platform of the Democrat Party is to abolish ICE. In other words, they want to abolish immigration enforcement entirely. That's what they want to do. They want -- they want everybody coming in.


COLLINS: The administration racing to meet a deadline to reunite separated families, telling a judge today it may need more time.

Officials are now relying on DNA tests to reunite children with their parents. The president making no mention of separated children Thursday night, but daring Senator Elizabeth Warren to take a DNA test of her own to prove her Native American heritage.

TRUMP: I'm going to get one of those little kits. And in the middle of the debate, when he proclaims that she is of Indian heritage, because her mother said she has high cheekbones.

COLLINS: Trump publicly mocking the MeToo movement for the first time.

TRUMP: because we are in the MeToo generation. So, we have to be very gentle. And we will very gently take that kit and we will slowly toss it, hoping it doesn't hit her and injure her arm.

COLLINS: Sources tell CNN he has privately doubted the MeToo movement, complaining that mere allegations can ruin the lives of the accused.

Earlier in the day, Trump defending Congressman Jim Jordan, who faces accusations that he knew about the sexual abuse of athletes by the team doctor of the Ohio State wrestling team two decades ago. Jordan, at the time the assistant coach, maintains he had no knowledge.

Trump telling reporters, "I believe Jim Jordan 100 percent. He's an outstanding man."

The president traveling with his newest White House employee Bill Shine, the former co-president of FOX News, who stepped down last year after he was accused of covering up for Roger Ailes, the network's longtime chairman accused of sexual harassment.

Shine has denied all wrongdoing, all this as Trump is nearing another deadline, zeroing in on his pick for the Supreme Court.

TRUMP: You turn in Mondays at 9:00, I think you're going to be extremely happy.


TRUMP: Right?


COLLINS: Now, President Trump and first lady Melania Trump are going to have dinner tonight at the president's golf club in New Jersey with Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence.

Sources say they will likely discuss that pivotal Supreme Court decision, but whether or not they discuss that deadline to reunite children with their parents on the southern border is still up for debate -- Jim.


ACOSTA: Sounds like they better get on that topic as well.

Kaitlan Collins, thank you very much now.

Now let's get more on the first court-ordered deadline for immigrant children to be reunited with their parents.

CNN's Nick Watt was at today's hearing in San Diego.

Nick, what's the latest there?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, it is now very clear that the federal government is going to miss a key deadline.

And that deadline was set for Tuesday by a judge here in San Diego. He said that, by Tuesday, the government had to reunite all children under 5 with their parents. That is now not going to happen, because 40 -- so what we have heard is that there are now 101 children in the custody who are under the age of 5.

The math is all a little bit fuzzy, but that is the latest figure. We are told, of those 101 kids, 46 parents have been matched to them who are currently in ICE detention. So, that, they say, there's no problem. We can reunite them.

But 19 people have been deported, 19 parents, and also 19 have been released within this country, and that is going to be harder to do so. What the judge said is by 5:00 p.m. tomorrow, 5:00 p.m. Saturday Pacific time, he wants a list of those 101 kids. He wants a status report. Are they going to be reunited with their parents? If not, why not? And then they're going to take it from there and have another hearing on Monday morning.

Now, there was another deadline which was today, which was for all kids and parents to speak to each other on the phone. Apparently, those 46 adult parents in custody have now spoken with their kids.

There's another deadline, which is July 26, when all kids over 5 have to be reunited with their parents. Today in court, they barely even discussed that. They're trying to deal with what they call these tender-age kids, these kids under 5. That, Jim, is what they're trying to deal with first.

ACOSTA: And, Nick, why is this taking so long?

WATT: Well, because the government is taking DNA samples from every single child before they will reunite them with a parent.

They're also going through -- there is a very rigorous process the government has to go through before it reunites a kid with a parent. But that is really designed for kids who come across the border unaccompanied.

So, what the ACLU -- that is the organization that brought this case in the first place -- they're saying, listen, forget the DNA test, if you have got a child clinging to a mother shouting, mama, mama. Also, forget the DNA test if there is a birth certificate in hand. Just forget it.

Also, maybe relax some of those other conditions, so these kids can get to their parents quicker. But there's another thing here. This judge when he gave his preliminary injunction on the 26th, he said this is a crisis of the government's own making. They began the separations without a plan for reunification.

And that, according to the judge, is one of the key reasons as to why, Jim, this is taking so long.

ACOSTA: It certainly is.

All right, Nick Watt, thank you very much.

And joining me now, Representative Lou Barletta. He's a Republican on the Homeland Security Committee. He is also running for the U.S. Senate against Democratic incumbent Bob Casey in Pennsylvania.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

Last week, the HHS secretary, Alex Azar, said he could use a government portal to find any child separated from their parent, he said, within seconds. So, why can't the administration meet these court-ordered deadlines to reunite families?

And doesn't it say to you that they just don't have a plan to begin with to reunite these families?


No, I think it's more important that we make sure, that the government make sure that these kids are safe and that they're put in the right hands of their real parents, if they are.

Since January, in the first five months of 2018, there's been a 315 percent, 315 percent increase in fake families that have come to the border. And we know in the Obama administration there have been cases where children have been released to parents or guardians, and actually they were either traffickers or drug cartel.

So I think it's more important to make sure that these kids are put in the safe hands and that the parents are who they say they are.

ACOSTA: Well, we don't want to overstate this issue of fake families, as you said there.

"The Washington Post" look the Department of Homeland Security data, and it found less than 1 percent of family units apprehended at the border turned out to be fraudulently posing as families.

So you don't want to overstate that, right? I mean, if it's a tiny fraction of 1 percent that are showing up there aren't perhaps authentic, aren't you overstating things a little bit there?

BARLETTA: Well, according to the White House, there has been a 315 percent increase in the fake families that have that have come to the border.

And, Jim, we don't want to see one child -- I don't think we want to see one child get into the hands of a drug cartel or a trafficker. So I think you want to err on the side of safety of the children.


If we really care about these children...


ACOSTA: But 99 percent of the cases are actual families; 99 percent of the cases, according to this -- "The Washington Post" looked at Department of Homeland Security data; 99 percent of the families are real.


ACOSTA: And I guess I just want to ask you, should the government, should the Trump administration be separating kids from their parents if they don't have a process in place to put them back together, where they have to use DNA kits and so on? Does that make any sense to you?


BARLETTA: Well, I think it makes sense to make sure that we have a 100 percent of children, especially under the ages of 5, are actually returned to their parents or true guardian.

And I don't want to see 1 percent. Maybe it's OK for some people, but I wouldn't want to see 1 percent given to a drug trafficker or a cartel.

But it really goes back to the whole point of what the problem is here, is, let's stop illegal immigration. We wouldn't even be talking about this if we secure the border and have enforcement on the interior.

And we wouldn't be dealing with this. Jim, do you know how many children and minors come to the border? They're dehydrated. They're starving. They have been sexually abused. There is nothing good about illegal immigration. And it creates the problem that we have.

ACOSTA: But what about these families that are showing up at the border all in one piece, parents with their children?

You supported that policy under the Trump administration when it was under way, when these families were being pulled apart. You supported that policy. Do you have any regrets for supporting that policy of pulling children away from their parents when they showed up at the border? Any regrets on that?


BARLETTA: Well, I think -- I think that was the law. And the president was following the law.


ACOSTA: Well, it wasn't the law. It was not the law. That was the way the Trump administration was interpreting the law.

They were saying, OK, instead of catch and release, instead of keeping these families together, they were taking the children away from the parents as a deterrent.

Do you regret supporting that policy when it was first implemented by the Trump administration?


BARLETTA: Here's what I would say to you, Jim, is that I regret that the Obama administration was using catch and release, basically encouraging the problem that we have today, because all you needed to do is have a child and use that child as a visa to get into the United States.

So, it actually created the problem. So we can't ignore that catch and release makes the problem worse.


ACOSTA: So, you would rather -- rather than release these families in whole, you would rather separate the children from the parents, is what you're saying?

BARLETTA: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. I'm not saying that. You're saying that.

I'm saying that let's not even have this problem at all. I don't want to see any child separated from their parent. But I don't want to see any child also given to the drug cartel or a trafficker that was -- and that is what was happening in cases under the Obama administration.

That's not right either.

ACOSTA: Is this policy designed to inflict suffering on people to deter them from coming into the country, do you think, this policy of separating children from their parents?


I think, when you have an open border policy, you're encouraging people to come to the United States.


ACOSTA: What open border policy are you talking about, if you don't mind me asking, Congressman, because that -- it's strange, because we don't have an open border down on the border with Mexico.

We have enforcement that goes on. We have people who are picked up. There's fencing. There are portions that almost look like you have a wall on the border.

What does that mean, when you have an open border policy? We don't have that.

BARLETTA: Well, it means that, if we had a secure border, we would not have an illegal immigration problem.

So, if we have an illegal immigration problem, then obviously we have some open borders, or we wouldn't have the problem that we have that's getting worse.

And, Jim, it's not good. It's not fair to these kids. Many of these girls are sexually abused along the way. How can -- how can we be OK with that and children who are starving?

And the cartel, we know for a fact...


ACOSTA: But why would you compound the problem?

If you have some children who are showing up in that condition, why would you compound the problem, when you have families showing up, they're trying to appeal for asylum and so on, and you're ripping apart families that come in all one piece, mother with child, and so on? Why would you compound that problem, compound that suffering? (CROSSTALK)

BARLETTA: How do you know they're one family? How can you say that, without knowing for sure? How can you say that? Because there's a woman, a man, and a child, that you're saying that is a family in whole?

ACOSTA: What evidence do you have that they're not...


ACOSTA: Do you have any evidence that these families are showing up, and the parents and the kids are not a part of the same family?

Again, the Department of Homeland Security...

BARLETTA: Well, we do know.

ACOSTA: ... data that came in, it was analyzed by "The Washington Post," said only 0.1 percent in 2017 were fraudulently posing as a family.



ACOSTA: We have video from Boston showing a mother and a daughter. They were reunited after 55 days. I'm sure you have seen this video, Congressman, this mother and this child sobbing as they're reunited.


These are some of the families that are being ripped apart. That is not a fraudulent family. That is a real family.

BARLETTA: And how can you ignore when a child is given to a trafficker and abused in the United States? Why aren't we showing those pictures?

ACOSTA: Well, Congressman, I'm asking you about this video right here that we're showing right now.

What about these families that are being ripped apart? What do you -- what do we say to these families? What do you say to them? You supported this policy, Congressman. What do you say to families like this who have been ripped apart?

BARLETTA: No, I want to see families kept together.

So, the best way to do that is to come into the country legally and not to have a problem that we're having here. What I don't want to be part of is having a child given to somebody who claims they're their parent and then will abuse that child because they're not.

I don't want to see one child harmed. I think we should make sure that all the kids are safe, unite the children with their parents. I don't want to see them separated. I have four daughters and eight grandchildren. I wouldn't want to be separated from them.

But I also don't want to see children given to somebody who is not really their parent. So, I think...


ACOSTA: But I'm trying to figure out, Congressman, when we have data -- and facts matter and data, they obviously matter -- and when "The Washington Post" says they look at the Department of Homeland Security data, and it says that 0.01 percent in 2017, that those were fraudulent families, families posing as people that were all part of one family when they weren't, that is a tiny, tiny fraction of the overall influx of people coming in.


BARLETTA: Jim, so "The Washington Post" is saying that. And I'm telling you the White House is saying that, in the first five months, there's been a 315 percent in fake families.

ACOSTA: But a 315 percent increase of 0.01 percent, that's still a tiny fraction, isn't it?

BARLETTA: Pretty sad for that tiny fraction, if it's your child.


I guess my question is, so, you're going to punish all of these families, you're going to use all these families as a deterrent to try to crack down on a tiny, tiny fraction of the people coming across the border.

BARLETTA: No, I don't want to punish anyone.


ACOSTA: The other question I want to ask you, Congressman, was, you were saying earlier that the administration was following the law.

So, when the president signed that executive order to reverse this policy of family separation and zero tolerance, was -- how could he do that through executive order? You can't reverse a law through executive order.

BARLETTA: Well, the president also, as you said, reunited the children as well. And this is -- it's just the...


ACOSTA: But he hasn't reunited them yet, right? They haven't been reunited, just to be clear.

BARLETTA: Well, I think what they want to do is make sure that -- they're not doing it to punish them. They're doing it to make sure that they're taking DNA to make sure that the person who is using that child or claims that child is theirs really is. I don't think the president should be condemned for wanting to make

sure that, when we know there are people who are using children just to get into the United States -- we know that's happening. And maybe "The Washington Post" says it's a small amount.

I disagree with that. But I'm not going to argue about the numbers.

ACOSTA: How can you disagree with data? How can you disagree with facts? That's DHS data.

BARLETTA: I don't believe everything I read in the newspaper. I'm sorry. I just don't believe everything I read in the newspaper.

ACOSTA: It's from the Department of Homeland Security. So the data is from the Department of Homeland Security, run by the Trump administration, by people in the administration, by the way, who are very hard line on the issue of immigration, like yourself.

BARLETTA: Well, I think -- I guess it comes down to the fact whether or not we are OK -- I am not -- whether we're OK just releasing with someone who claims to be their parent because there's a 20-day rule...


ACOSTA: And are you OK with locking up these families all together?

There is also this issue of having to detain these families all together. Are you in favor of that, putting them on military bases, putting the armed forces in charge of acting as guards as these detention camps and so on?

BARLETTA: I am. I am.

ACOSTA: Is that what you want to see in this country?

BARLETTA: What's -- what's the option, Jim? What's your option?

ACOSTA: The option, obviously, is to release them, and perhaps supply them with ankle bracelets, so they show up.

Are you -- you would rather put them in detention than keep these families whole and in a situation where they're not being detained?

BARLETTA: So -- so -- so, do you believe that they can't take the ankle bracelets off, and that would not encourage more people to come into the United States?

That is why we have this problem, is because we're not enforcing our laws, we haven't enforced our laws, and we want people to come to America for an opportunity and to be safe and to have families together.

But crossing the border illegally is not the way to do it. And it's not good for anybody. It's not good for the children. It's not good for the parents. It's not good for the American people.

ACOSTA: All right, Congressman Lou Barletta, thank you for coming on and explaining your position on this issue.

BARLETTA: Thank you. Thank you.

ACOSTA: Thank you very much for your time.

BARLETTA: Thank you.

ACOSTA: Just ahead, a Democrat weighs in Trump administration's failures in reuniting families. Congressman Ted Lieu is standing by.


And we're getting breaking news on the case against Paul Manafort and how it may tie in with the Trump campaign.

Stay with us.


ACOSTA: And we have breaking news right now in the criminal case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The special counsel's team explaining how it plans to connect the dots between the charges against Manafort and the Trump campaign.

Let's bring in our CNN justice correspondent, Evan Perez.

Evan, what are you learning?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, this is the first time we're hearing from special counsel Robert Mueller that, at least in the trial that Paul Manafort has kept coming up in -- later this month in Alexandria, Virginia, that they're planning to present evidence that connects some of the bank fraud charges that he's facing to some of the work that Paul Manafort was doing on the Trump campaign.


And, specifically, they're talking about more than $6 million in loans that Manafort was able to get from a bank called the Federal Savings Bank.

According to prosecutors, they intend to present evidence, they say, specifically showing that a bank executive -- if we can show a little bit of the filing here, it says: "The bank exactly executive expressed interest in working on the Trump campaign and told Manafort about his interest. And he eventually secured a position advising the Trump campaign."

Now, it appears this executive of this bank ended up not getting a full-time position in the administration. But at least what the prosecutors are saying that in court, they're going to show -- they're going to present evidence or they're thinking of presenting evidence that shows that there is a connection to some of the work that Paul Manafort was doing during the Trump campaign. ACOSTA: And Paul Manafort is asking to have his trial moved. Is that

-- could that happen?

PEREZ: That is something that he -- they have now officially filed papers this afternoon saying that they would like this trial to be moved to Roanoke, Virginia, that one of the reasons they cite is that Hillary Clinton won the Alexandria, Virginia, area.

ACOSTA: Roanoke is Trump country.

PEREZ: Roanoke is Trump country. They say, Alexandria, Virginia, is obviously inside the Beltway. There's a tremendous amount of media interest.

And one of the things that's happening now is that Manafort is saying that he doesn't want to come to court, because it's a two-hour drive for him to come from the jail that he's being held where he is, by the way, held in solitary confinement for 23 hours, because that's the only way they can guarantee his safety.

ACOSTA: You can't hold trials in jurisdictions based on what the voting breakdown of an individual area is. That's...

PEREZ: They do cite that in court, in the court filings.

ACOSTA: Interesting.

PEREZ: Evan Perez, thank you very much.

Joining me now, Representative Ted Lieu, a Democrat who serves on the Foreign Affairs and Judiciary Committees.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

Can President Trump claim that Manafort's potential crimes have nothing to do with this campaign? What do you make of this new information?

REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you, Jim, for your question.

This new information continues to show us that there's a lot about the special counsel investigation that we don't know. And it's very clear to me that the special counsel didn't invest all this time and resources in going after Paul Manafort if there was not a link to other people who are higher up or the Trump campaign

And what this is telling us is that there is in fact such a link.

ACOSTA: And let's turn to immigration.

What do you make of what Congressman Lou Barletta was just saying there a few moments ago here on THE SITUATION ROOM? He was trying to make the case where you have to be careful in reuniting these families. And yet he's making the case you have to be careful with these families across the border, saying that there are fraudulent families coming across the border, when, in fact, a very tiny fraction of those families are not what they make themselves out to be.

What do you -- any response to what the congressman was just saying a few moments ago?

LIEU: He is misleading the American people.

Their own statistics from the Department of Homeland Security say that it's about 0.01 percent that could be fraudulent families. Everybody else are real families that got ripped apart by the Trump administration.

And this is a problem created by the Trump administration. They did not have to do this. And as we sit here today, there's still over 2,000 babies and kids who were ripped away from the parents, who have not been reunited.

ACOSTA: And what do you make of the government saying today that they need more time? It doesn't sound as if they had a process in place to eventually reunite these families. What do you make of what the government was saying this afternoon, the administration, what they were saying in court out in California?

LIEU: It's not surprising.

As CNN has reported, the government had no real plan at the beginning, when they were ripping away babies and kids from their parents. Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen needs to resign.

Not only do we have an evil policy. We also had gross incompetence. And now we're seeing now only kids and babies that have not been reunited, but the ones that have been are in bad shape. Public reporting talked about a 14-month-old infant that was recently reunited who was covered in lice, and the infant had not been bathed.

That is cruel.

ACOSTA: And I want to get your reaction to Vice President Mike Pence.

He said today that Democratic calls to abolish ICE are -- quote -- "irresponsible and unacceptable."

As you know, there are a few of your colleagues who want to see ICE abolished. How do you respond to the vice president today?

LIEU: Democrats are not -- who have said this are not saying abolish ICE and do nothing.

What they're saying is, we should have a new agency that has principles and values more consistent with what the American people believe. That means not terrorizing communities, not ripping kids and babies away from their parents.

And ICE was a new agency created after 9/11 essentially to help go after terrorists. They have gone far away from that mission. And we need to make sure that the new ICE director curbs ICE's sort of culture, so that they are more in line with their original mission and what Americans expect ICE to do.

[18:30:12] ACOSTA: And let's turn to foreign policy. Very interesting, as you know. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, he's in North Korea. If he doesn't get some concrete commitments from Pyongyang on denuclearization, what's the next step?

LIEU: I served active duty on the U.S. Pacific Command, and it's clear that the U.S. has no good military options against North Korea, so I support diplomacy.

But for that to work, the other side has to take you seriously, and it's pretty clear that North Korea did not take Donald Trump seriously at that Singapore summit.

After that summit, North Korea continued to increase nuclear fuel output. They have increased other facilities in terms of ballistic missiles. They have done a single thing to eliminate a single nuclear weapon or a single missile. And so if we're faced with this, then I think we need Congress to step in and say, "Look, wait a minute. We need to have U.S. military exercises back. We can't be giving up all these concessions if North Korea is not going to cooperate."

ACOSTA: OK. Congressman Ted Lieu, thank you very much for coming on. We appreciate it. Have a good weekend, sir.

LIEU: Thank you, Jim. You, too.

ACOSTA: Thank you. And just ahead, the president adds insult to injury at another raucous campaign rally. We'll break down his most eye-popping lines.

And the situation is getting more dire for a dozen boys trapped in a cave. Can they survive the rising water and falling oxygen levels?


[18:36:10] ACOSTA: And we're following breaking stories -- multiple breaking stories at this hour, including the Trump administration telling a judge it may miss its first court-ordered deadline to reunite immigrant families. The crisis at the border playing out as the president faces major foreign policy challenges.

Let's bring in our analyst to talk about this. Phil Mudd, let's watch a mash-up of this rally last night, which sort of crystallizes where we are right now as a country.

Let's look at this.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They said he's too tough. He's going to cause a war. It's too tough. Now they say, he's too nice, he's too nice.

I got along very well with Chairman Kim. I got along very well. That's a good thing that I got along well. But we signed a wonderful paper saying they're going to denuclearize their whole thing. It's going to all happen.

Now they're saying it with Putin. "Well, Putin is highly prepared, and Trump, will he be prepared for the meeting?" Trust me, we'll do just fine.

"Will President Trump be prepared? You know, President Putin is KGB and this and that?" You know what, Putin's fine. He's fine. We're all fine, we're people.

Will I be prepared? Totally prepared. I've been preparing for this stuff my whole life. They don't say that. They don't say that.

Fake news. The fake news media. "A source within the Trump Organization said." A source? They don't have a source. They never use names anymore.

"Fifteen anonymous sources." I don't have 15 people in the White House. I mean, forget it. "Fifteen anonymous sources have said all sorts of stuff." These are really bad people.

When I announce, they are going to endorse me, because if I lose, should I lose, or if I don't run, they're out of business. Who's going to cover -- are they going to cover Bernie? Hey! They're going to cover, like, Sleepy Joe Biden? They're going to cover Pocahontas?

Let's say I'm debating Pocahontas, right? I promise you I'll do this. I will take -- you know those little kits they sell on television for $2? "Learn your heritage." We will take that little kit and say -- but we have to do it gently, because we're in the #MeToo generation. So we have to be very gentle. And we will very gently take that kit, and we will slowly toss it, hoping it doesn't hit her and injure her arm, even though it only weighs probably 2 ounces.

Our allies in many cases were worse than our enemies. They kill us with NATO. They kill us.

It means a lot more to you than protecting us, because I don't know how much protection we get by protecting you, and we're the schmucks that are paying for the whole thing.


ACOSTA: OK, Phil Mudd, your take on all of that? A lot to digest.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I would love to be a fly -- a fly on the wall with Theresa May. You can talk to your supporters like that. Let's take you into the room with Theresa May. This is going to be like Hannibal Lecter on a date. It's going to not go well. Let's be clear here.

Let's -- let's focus on a few facts. Theresa May turns around and says in 2006, the man you're praising on -- in a rally a few days ago murdered a citizen. That's Alexander Litvinenko. I know his widow. That was real. In 2006, murdered in the U.K.

Fast forward, the man you praise, Vladimir Putin, attempts to murder two more people in April of this year. And now, we find out this week he was so reckless that other citizens are at risk.

If the U.K. doesn't make enough sense, let's go back to the Russians in 2013, certifying that they will help eliminate chemical weapons in Syria. Just within the past 48 hours, there's another certification that the Syrians used this spring, chlorine against their own citizens.

The U.K., meanwhile, has lost hundreds of citizens in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So cut to the chase. What the heck is Theresa May supposed to say? "You represent us, as allies who have been with us for 100 years, or we represent us, and you can go home and talk to friends at campaign rallies." I think it's the latter, Jim.

[18:40:12] ACOSTA: And not only was there a foreign policy discussion to be had after that mashup, but I mean, just the comments on #MeToo, Jackie Kucinich, I mean, it sounds as if the president doesn't take the #MeToo movie seriously. And I guess that shouldn't come as a surprise to us.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It seems really in character to me. I mean, after -- it's hard to recover from, A, the "Access Hollywood" tape. That's our kind of baseline, right? He endorsed Roy Moore, who is an accused pedophile. He believes -- there have been several men. He kept Rob Porter in the White House, who had several allegations of abuse with his ex-wives. There are just -- and those are just off the top of my head.

He does not -- of course he wouldn't take this movement seriously. And it's something I'm sure his advisers were cringing that he mentioned, because he is part of the #MeToo movement, and not the good side.

ACOSTA: And Joey Jackson, he again went after Maxine Waters and talked about her I.Q. I'm sure you saw those comments. He again referred to Elizabeth Warren as Pocahontas.

And I go to these rallies a lot. Much of what he says at these rallies is steeped in this sort of racial animosity, racially-tinged rhetoric. What's your take on what you heard from the president?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: My take, Jim, is quite simple. I mean, it's abhorrent. Where have we gone? Tone matters. Temperament matters. Respect matters, civility matters. It starts at the top. It starts with creating and delivering a culture.

And you know, the fact is there's no profession, you know, more than mine in terms of a lawyer. What you battle, you fight. You do your level best to, certainly, minimize your opponent and maximize yourself. But there's a certain decorum that goes with that.

And you hear attacks on Maxine Waters, "Low I.Q." What's the code in that? We all know what the code is in that.

You hear about Pocahontas. You hear about, you know, pushing back regarding #MeToo. You hear about even attacking George Bush and, you know, McCain. They're on the same team. And so the fact is, it's just demoralizing.

But also, Jim, there has to be a consequence, and when there is no consequence and when you're at 90 percent with your base and when everything seems to be going fine, and when the crowd is cheering, why not just do it?

But I think that we are in a new era of civility or lack thereof, and something's got to change.

ACOSTA: And Rebecca Berg, I mean, it's always shocking to me when you go to these rallies and hear the president attack fellow Republicans. He seems to delight in attacking John McCain. And now George H.W. Bush. He's gone after the Bush family so much over the years, but to mock the thousand points of light comments of George H.W. Bush, the Points of Light Foundation still in existence to this day that supports volunteerism. It's sort of baffling, isn't it, to hear him go after the Republican Party like this?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's baffling on the one hand, Jim, and then it's not, because we know President Trump and we know how he thinks and operates. And for him this is all about me. It's all about how do people view me relative to other presidents? How do people view President Trump and his accomplishments?

And this goes back also to his rivalry with the Bush family, stemming from the Republican primary and Jeb Bush. Stemming from his criticism of the Iraq War under President George W. Bush. And so for him, this is all politics. It's all a game. He doesn't think of it in terms of relationships, the party, of just decency, the way you treat a former president who's, as we know, ailing, as well. And so it's all about President Trump. It's all personal for him.

ACOSTA: And Jackie Kucinich, he nurses these grudges like he does with the Bush family, but also Elizabeth Warren. For whatever reason, he seems to want to come back to Elizabeth Warren. Has she gotten under his skin, do you think?

KUCINICH: I think he likes the reaction that he gets when he talks about Elizabeth Warren from the crowd. He sees her as a potential contender against him in 2020. As you said, it is about him.

But I thought her response to him on Twitter was quite interesting, because she brought it back to the children that were separated from their parents at the border and who the administration still can't get their act together to reunite. So she brought them back to that, I think, transcends party. And, you know, I think a lot of people want to see those families get back together.

BERG: And isn't it amazing that President Trump is already campaigning for reelection? It is always about the campaign for him, so he's thinking of Bernie, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren. His potential 2020 rivals.

ACOSTA: And we're still two years off from 2020. All right. We'll stand by. Tonight, EPA chief Scott Pruitt

officially has left the building, saying his goodbyes to staffers a day after his resignation. His replacement is taking the helm, unburdened by the kind of scandal that finally forced Pruitt to call it quits, but Andrew Wheeler does share Pruitt's controversial agenda and some of his baggage as a D.C. insider.

Let's turn to CNN senior investigative correspondent Andrew Griffin. He's with us now.

Drew, you've been digging into Wheeler's record. What did you find?

[18:45:01] DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Jim, Andrew Wheeler, he is basically the epitome of a Washington insider, Senate staff turned lobbyist. His last job representing the biggest coal company in the U.S. Now, he's at the seat of the agency regulating his former clients.


GRIFFIN (voice-over): If environmentalists think getting rid of Scott Pruitt at the EPA will reverse the policies he implemented, Jeremy Symons with the Environmental Defense Fund says they should think again.

JEREMY SYMONS, ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE FUND: President Trump was very clear. He came in with trying to take a wrecking ball to the EPA and Scott Pruitt was his man for the job. I think round two, they're looking for someone to do the same thing but to do it smarter, do it quieter and stay out of the news and that's Andrew Wheeler.

GRIFFIN: Andrew Wheeler, who up until today was Pruitt's number two, is the new acting administrator at EPA. And his resume is a prime example of what critics is the swamp, or at least the revolving door in Washington.

Wheeler started his career at the EPA in the early '90s and then went to Capitol Hill, then became a lobbyist for big energy companies, coal, gas, and nuclear, lobbying for the types of companies that often fight EPA pollution laws. Now, he's back in government in a position to regulate the very businesses that up until last year paid him.

CHRIS SAEGER, WESTERN VALUES PROJECT: The fundamental conflict of interest that's at stake here is that Andrew Wheeler could use his position at the EPA to benefit a former client.

GRIFFIN: One of Wheeler's former clients, Energy Fuels Incorporated, is trying to get contracts from the EPA right now, lobbying, according to its Website, to become involved in the EPA directed clean up of abandoned uranium mines.

Here's the firm's CEO.

MARK CHALMERS, CEO, ENERGY FUELS INC.: We're lobbying very heavily with the EPA to use our facility, because we have all the licenses and all -- and the ability to take that material, recycle it and produce nuclear fuel for power generation.

GRIFFIN: Wheeler's former lobbying firm is helping with the pitch. A meeting with the EPA is outlined in this internal email.

Energy Fuels told CNN in a statement: Our understanding is that Mr. Wheeler will not be involved in any decision on this Energy Fuels proposal.

Wheeler declined an interview with CNN for this report but sent a statement: Under my ethics agreement with the agency, he tells CNN, I will have no involvement with Energy Fuels Incorporated for two years.

Supporters say that despite his industry ties, Wheeler was already confirmed by the Senate for his role as deputy administrator. And many conservatives, including Senator Jim Inhofe, Wheeler's former boss, have suggested they would support him getting the job full time.

But tonight, environmentalists who hailed the news that Scott Pruitt resigned are not hailing the news Pruitt's temporary successor could become his permanent replacement.

SYMONS: The danger with Wheeler as head of the EPA is that the public losses interests because it doesn't have all the scandals publicly that Scott Pruitt had. It would be harder when the media spotlights turn away and that's going to be an advantage for Wheeler.


GRIFFIN: And, Jim, based on his tweets, it doesn't appear Donald Trump thinks his administration's policy relating to the EPA is going to change much, either. In his tweet announcing Andrew Wheeler taking over, Trump says, I have no doubt that Andy will continue on with our great and lasting EPA agenda -- Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. Drew Griffin, thank you very much with that.

Tonight, rescue teams have drilled more than 100 holes in that cave where a dozen boys are trapped in search for a way out. It's growing even more desperate as oxygen levels inside the cave are dropping.

CNN international correspondent Matt Rivers is in Thailand covering the rescue mission.

Matt, it sounds like time may be running out.

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. There is a sense of urgency because of those dropping levels of oxygen inside the cave, and also because it is going to start raining here in the next couple of days and it's going to start raining very heavily. And so, the rescue operation is ongoing today. They're looking at all options to try to get these boys out of the cave.


RIVERS (voice-over): Urgent rescue efforts through narrow passages and murky waters are now even more dire as experts warned the oxygen needed to survive inside this cave is running out.

Here in the small cabin, where 12 boys and their coach are trapped, the air is so precious, half of the rescuers were forced to leave to conserve it.

One rescuer, former Thai navy SEAL, Saman Gunan, died after delivering more oxygen to the boys on Thursday. Gunan drowned when he ran out of his own air supply on the way back.

MIKKO PAASI, FINNISH DIVER: Everybody is a professional, so we're trying to put it away and avoid it ever happening again.

RIVERS: Rescuer says the boys, as young as 11, may have to dive in the same perilous passageways to escape. The plane is unsettling for the families waiting aboveground.

He has never dived, this man says of his loved one, but he can swim a little.

[18:50:00] The next 48 hours are critical. Monsoons are due to deluge the area starting Sunday, possibly flooding the cave exits that teams have been draining for days.

Still, sources tell CNN they are unlikely to move the group for at least 24 hours. Evacuating them now is too treacherous and they don't have the right size wet suits to keep their small bodies warm on the journey out.

Local children are rallying around the trapped soccer team, posting notes of love, encouragement, "don't give up", one poster reads. Likewise, the local community is throwing all its resources, support and prayers behind the hundreds of responders gathered here. They're relying on them to bring out their children alive and soon.


RIVERS: And, Jim, one of the things that has been a priority from the beginning is trying to get a communication line into that cave so the boys and the coaches can talk to their loved ones outside, not only for morale but also so that they can get real-time updates in terms of what's going on in that cave. That hasn't been established as of yet, but we do know the divers were able to take letters that the parents of these boys wrote to their children.

We're not sure if they read them yet. We assume they probably have, but hopefully that will keep the boys spirits up, while here aboveground, everyone is trying to do everything they can to get them out as soon as possible -- Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. Matt Rivers, we are pulling for them. Thank you very much.

More breaking news coming up ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:57:07] ACOSTA: As we follow the twist and turns of the Trump presidency, CNN is looking back at the era that turned the future commander of chief into a reality TV star. The original series "The 2000s" debuts this weekend with a look at the television shows and trends of the decade including "The Apprentice."

Joining CNN media analyst Bill Carter.

Bill, let's talk a little bit about "The Apprentice." This is an area that is rich with material, I guess, to mine for this sort of documentary. The success of that first season, we all remember that show, the money theme playing at the beginning of the show and so on. Donald Trump in the board room saying you're fired really put him on the map.

BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: You know, it really did, nationally. I think, you know, those of us in New York knew of this guy as a figure in the news for a long time. And then you put him on this television show and, all of the sudden, he has this national image and, you know, it's a creation in a lot of ways because that was not a real thing that was going on for the most part.

But, you know, he was elevated as a star in some sense. I mean, really the success of the show at the time, NBC was really falling apart. A lot of their shows were failing badly and then this show comes along. He was really the biggest star on NBC at the time which is kind of remarkable to think about that, and it gave him this national profile that obviously was crucial in launching a political career.

ACOSTA: And to some extent, we see some of those trends now. The president runs his White House almost like a reality TV show. You see Scott Pruitt, you know, voted off the island yesterday and so on. We are sort of watching a reality TV presidency, this in a way prepared the public, I guess, for what we're seeing now.

CARTER: I think it's absolutely genuinely legitimate to make that comparison. I mean, one thing you saw with Trump was a performer. I mean, you know, he was able to perform on that television show.

It was very interesting to me. I interviewed him before the show went on, right before the show went on and he was sort of careful about it. He didn't know it was going to work and he came on and he said, you know, I'm a very busy businessman and this took up all my time and I don't know if I'll do this again. It was too much for me.

Well, of course, once it was a success, he was off and running with them. And he loved the attention and adulation it gave him and I think it gave him confidence to go further with this. And his skill at being a performer and a self-promoter, they were honed during those years in "The Apprentice". No doubt about it.

ACOSTA: And who would have thought that Omarosa would be on "The Apprentice" and then show up working at the White House?

CARTER: Well, yes. ACOSTA: I mean, it just goes to the nature of what we're watching right now.

CARTER: It does. I mean, you do see that for Trump, the idea of doing things dramatically and timing them, and giving people sort of a build-up, you know, like the Supreme Court thing, he's going to set a time. You know, name -- he has a sense of what works on television.

ACOSTA: And we'll see how that cliffhanger unfolds on money.

Bill Carter, thank you very much.

CNN's Original series "The 2000s" begins Sunday night at 9:00 Eastern. We can't wait to watch that.

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

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.