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Four Boys Rescued from Thai Cave; Reporters Demand Info on Migrant Children. Aired 11a-12n ET

Aired July 8, 2018 - 11:00   ET

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


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: I'm Brian Stelter. RELIABLE SOURCES begins in a moment.

But, first, the latest on a story that has transfixed people all around the world, people desperate for some good news and now we have some.

[11:00:07] It was back on Saturday, June 23rd, that a boys soccer team went inside a cave in northern Thailand. Rescue efforts began right away but by this time last week some presumed the boys were dead. On Monday, thankfully, as you here, they were found alive and last night, the rescue mission began inside that cave.

Despite that treacherous conditions, four of the 12 boys have now been evacuated out of the cave. We don't have many pictures yet of the boys. We don't know their exact condition. But we know four of the 12 have been rescued.

The remaining boys may be freed tomorrow. It is now nightfall in Thailand, there's talk about how the rescue effort will continue in the morning, but first, let's check in with CNN's Matt Rivers who is live near the hospital in Thailand where four of the 12 boys are now located.

Matt, what do we know from where you are?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brian, in the last hour or so, we have seen four ambulances, each carrying one of the four boys that have been rescued so far, three of them came up this road behind me and the other came from the north side of the road behind me. That is the hospital where all four boys will now be treated.

The hospital here had been preparing. CNN earlier in the day before this road was closed to media, saw gurneys being prepared outside, some dozen or so gurneys in case more boys were able to be rescued. As of now, only four were able to make it out.

The reason that only four boys have made it out so far, according to authorities is because of oxygen supplies inside that cave. Over the last couple of days, Brian, what's happened is on a guideline all through the cave that these four boys actually followed, about five kilometers long in order to get out, they stationed oxygen tanks all along that route to make sure as these boys were going out using diving equipment don't forget they had oxygen on their way out. Those supplies were apparently depleted to the point that they cannot continue the rescue operation tonight.

And so, what's happening is professional divers and international effort including Thai, American, Australian, British divers are going into that cave, refueling those oxygen tanks and the hope is to get this rescue operation started again, to get the nine remaining nine members of that soccer team and their coach out of that cave as soon as possible because, Brian, it's July in Thailand, it is the rainy season, it is going to start raining very hard, very soon and when those water levels rise, that could mean it's too late to get the nine remaining people trapped in that cave out safely.

STELTER: Yes, good reminder about the coach as well as the eight boys who are still inside. And already there has been one death associated with this rescue mission. One of the workers, one of the rescuers who was trying to prepare the cave. What do we know about him? What do we know about the man who died?

RIVERS: Yes, this was a former Thai Navy SEAL, a Thai diver, a 38- year-old triathlete who actually lost his life bringing in some of those oxygen containers that I was talking about, he apparently ran out of air and died himself. And that's why when we're talking about how unbelievably dangerous this rescue attempt is, that is the most heartbreaking example that we can share with our viewers, that this professional diver, someone who was in the Thai navy, he was a Navy SEAL, actually lost his life in the same passage ways that these four boys just circumnavigated. I mean, that is unbelievable.

And so, when we are talking about this rescue mission at least so far being a success, Brian, 15 hours ago, I was standing outside that cave entrance saying that that was far from guaranteed. This is miraculous that four boys are now safely inside that hospital especially when you consider that a 38-year-old triathlete, former professional diver, lost his life doing what he could to save these boys.

And just real quick, I mean, the fact that that man volunteered to give his time and his expertise shows you that this country and its armed forces and its citizens have gotten behind this rescue effort in a truly emblematic way. I can't give enough credit to the volunteers that we have seen come out from all over this country to do what they can as this country remains transfixed on trying to get some of its youngest citizens and their coach out of that cave.

STELTER: And on national networks there, local TV channels there, there has been wall to wall coverage of this ongoing rescue mission. What can you tell us, Matt, about access both to the cave site where you were before and now around the hospital? Are you able to get updated information from officials there?

RIVERS: Yes, you know, there was a marked change this morning. You know, I've been working overnights here over the last couple days and so I would show up to the cave entrance usually around 11:00 p.m. And, yes, it was a controlled setting in the sense that there was a lot of authorities there, but generally speaking, you were free to go just about everywhere but the cave itself.

And when I arrived there this morning local time, that would have been around 3:00 a.m. local time, they had put up green netting all along the area, they had roped off the media section and they were much more intense in terms of allowing access.

[11:05:09] And it was around 6:30, 7:00 a.m. local time that we were actually led out of that media area. They kicked all media out and that was really our first indication that something is happening. So, generally, speaking the Thai authorities have been very accommodating to the press and have been very forthcoming with information and it's a testament to their ability to communicate.

But today, what you saw was clamping down on the information that was coming out, on the access that media had. I mean, just a couple hours ago, you could have walked down that street where the hospital is, where we were this morning actually being able to see the gurneys outside. And now, that same green netting they put up over the cave entrance which is about an hour north of here, they've got that over the ER entrance, too.

So, clearly, authorities concerned about the privacy of these individuals, rightly so, trying to protect prying eyes from seeing these boys in a -- you know, the worst time of their lives.

STELTER: They deserve that privacy, yes.

Matt Rivers, thank you so much.

Let's also then go to the cave site where CNN's David McKenzie is standing by.

This has captured the world's attention partly because it is a race against time. So, David, what can you tell us about how long it will take before the rescue mission will resume?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they say according to U.S. officials earlier and now the Thai governor of this region, Brian, that they will wait overnight here local time, but, do you know what, that window they talked about that may be closing. It might not be soon, but it's certainly a factor.

As you can just see from your screens, it's raining heavily down on top of me. The mountains and the cave system which is in that direction the parents will be hunkered down, those of them who haven't yet been reunited with their kids, really agonizing about the weather. They believe, Brian, that they had this limited window to get this done and they got all the specialists, the equipment and the expertise in place rapidly as rapidly as they could. Got as much water as this he could out of that cave system with those pumps, Brian, so that they could have the best chance they could to do this hazardous journey out.

But the weather is a factor and they will hunker down for the night, recharge their batteries both literally and physically and go at it again tomorrow. STELTER: It is worth noting that this rescue of the first four kids

seemed to take a little less time than was expected, right? You weren't expecting them to come out so fast.

MCKENZIE: Well, that's right.

STELTER: It's a hopeful time.

MCKENZIE: It was much faster than we believed or we had anticipated. Yes, it is hopeful. The problem, though, is it was still an arduous journey as we've been reporting.

It's possible that the strongest kids came out first, the weaker kids will come out later. And it sounds horrible to even discuss it in those terms, but we are dealing in life and death terms. So, you know, if they got the method right today, there is hopefulness they can get it right again tomorrow, but this is no cake walk. This is an extremely hazardous technical dive in very difficult zero visibility circumstances, getting these inexperienced kids out that are hungry and tired.

It's not a done deal. They have to go through this again tomorrow and if one believes or understands the system again the following day, all in the hope that the rain doesn't inundate those caves to make it impossible to continue.

STELTER: David McKenzie at the site of the cave, thank you very much.

We'll continue to stay on top of this story on CNN updates every hour from Thailand on the fate of those children.

Up next here on RELIABLE SOURCES, we are on the eve of a historic Supreme Court nomination. Nina Totenberg will join me with a preview.

Plus, from Fox News to the White House, how Bill Shine's appointment is helping complete the Fox Trump merger.

But, first, right after a break, a simple question, a complicated answer, where are the kids that were separated from their parents when entering the United States illegally? We're going to go live to the U.S./Mexico border right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:13:0] STELTER: Hey. Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.

There are so many stories we could lead with right now, like President Trump's odd relationship with Vladimir Putin, calling him fine at a recent rally. Or Trump's legal team stalling for time, becoming even more combative with special counsel Robert Mueller.

Or how about the end of Scott Pruitt's time at the EPA? All the cablers had to create scrolls to show all of Pruitt's scandals. Whistleblowers and reporters ended up exposing Pruitt's abuses of power, showing the true power of the fourth estate, to hold officials accountable.

And that's also what the press has been doing when it comes to the border and Trump's border separation policy. Right now, roughly 3,000 children, we don't know exactly how many, but we know 100 of them are under the age of five, are still being held separately from their parents at facilities both in the southwest and in Texas and in other parts of the U.S.

When will they be reunited with their parents? These are simple questions that are still not being answered. In fact, the Trump administration is asking for more time to fulfill court-imposed deadlines.

Right now, all children under five are supposed to be back with their parents by Tuesday, all the rest from ages 5 to 18 should be reunited by July 26th. Of course, every day is painful for these children and their parents, and these deadlines are helping keep this story in the center of the national news spotlight. There have been moments where I thought it was fading away, where people were forgetting about the consequences of this policy, but then it continues to come back and get back in the news headlines.

I'd like to explore how that's working and how local reporters, reporters at the border, are continuing to lead the way, demanding answers, because after all that is how this story first broke through, was reporting from places like the "Houston Chronicle". You see here from last November that uncovered the administration beginning to try out a policy involving separating kids and parents at the border.

So, let's get into it with three reporters who are at the proverbial front lines covering this story as it develops. Lomi Kriel is an immigration reporter with "The Houston Chronicle" whose story I just mentioned. Rafael Carranza is a border reporter for "The Arizona Republic" and "La Voz". And joining me via Skype is Neena Satija, an investigative reporter who works for both "Reveal" from the Center of Investigative Reporting and for "The Texas Tribune".

I appreciate you all being here.

Lomi, let me start with you because your stories about what was going on last year were you a preview, they were a foreshadowing of what was to come. Tell us about how you first knew the Trump administration was separating more families last year.

LOMI KRIEL, IMMIGRATION REPORTER, HOUSTON CHRONICLE: Right. So the attorney general last spring ordered federal prosecutors to ramp up the prosecution of immigration crimes including illegal entry, which is a misdemeanor punishable by a few days in prison, but that crime already makes up more than half of the southern -- of the federal dockets in the southern and western district of Texas. So I knew that this could have a big impact and started asking federal public defenders what they were seeing and they reported suddenly having dozens of parents as clients asking them for help to find their children.

This was unusual because typically parents traveling with children weren't prosecuted for the misdemeanor, but they were kept together while they pursued their civil immigration cases.

STELTER: Right, right. And now, we fast forward more than six months.

Neena, what information are we getting from the government about the status of these children?

NEENA SATIJA, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, TEXAS TRIBUNE: Well, we are not getting a ton of information. You know, as has been reported, a federal judge in San Diego has ordered that all children separated from their parents who are under the age of five be reunited with them by Tuesday. Of course, the government has expressed some skepticism as to whether that can happen and I think certainly we in the media feel the same way. It's hard to imagine that all of these toddlers are going to be reunited with their parents by Tuesday.

And in those over the age of five, there is a couple more weeks, I believe, for them to make -- for the government to make that deadline of reunification. But we don't have a lot of information. We don't know if the government has been able to match up all of the parents with all of the children that have been separated from them.

We know there's DNA testing going on. We are tracking one family where, you know, the grandmother has been living in the U.S. for a long time, has been trying to get custody of the kids, has sent documents after documents after documents to the shelter where they are at in Arizona. No response.

Now, the mother who is actually separated from the kids at the border is being asked to send the same documents in order to prove that she is, in fact, their mom. So, it's just -- it's really chaos.

STELTER: And you are there near the border. How frustrating is it for you personally as you're trying to cover this story?

SATIJA: It's very frustrating. You know, in fact, a couple weeks ago, you know -- I think it's been two weeks or so since the department of homeland security has put out an official news release on its site that really digs into this question of how parent are going to be reunified with their children. And at the time, they had said that the Port Isabel Detention Center in Port Isabel, Texas, is going to be the site for reunification.

Well, it's hard to imagine that that's the case because this is the detention center for adults, in fact, mostly for men. Women can be held there but it's primarily detention center for men. So, everyone started to wonder, how could this be the site for reunification of children with their families when it's not even a place to hold children? And then, you know, the Department of Homeland Security altered its statement and said this is just going to be the main site where parents of these children are going to be held or potentially deported.

So, we've really just gotten no answers about how this reunification is going to take place, where it might take place. Now, we've heard I think on -- during Friday's court hearing that parents are going to be transported to where the children are, but again, no specifics as to the logistics of how this is going to happen.

STELTER: And, Rafael, what about you? You are in Phoenix, you are on the Arizona side of this story. I feel like we've heard less about that than we have in Texas where there's been a lot of news coverage. What stories are you hearing there from Arizona?

RAFAEL CARRANZA, BORDER REPORTER, ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Yes, and I think Arizona plays a critical role in this part because I think now that the separations have kind of, you know, moved away from the border in a way at least from what the government says they have stopped them for now but these kids are now being held in facilities all around the country but Arizona in particular is one of the states where, you know, many of these facilities are located.

So, many of the high profile cases that we've seen in the past few weeks, you've had a lot of the parents who were held in immigration detention centers here in Arizona and a lot of kids who were held in facilities over here as well. So, it's been a challenge for us to try to track where these facilities are located, how many kids are there because a lot of these facilities hold not just the kids who were separated from their parents as well, but also unaccompanied minors who arrived to the border on their own.

And so, it's been a challenge to try to get a number of how many of those kids are here.

[11:20:02] And then --

STELTER: So just to be clear, Rafael --

CARRANZA: Yes?

STELTER: -- it's not just that we don't have access to the facilities, and I get it, there are real privacy concerns, but we're not seeing inside. In some cases, we don't even know how many detention centers there are or where these rid are being held. We don't even know where to go to stand outside?

CARRANZA: Yes, that's right. I think, you know, whenever some of these facilities are, you know -- are discovered or, you know, we find out the location of them, with he talk to some of the neighbors who live nearby and they have no idea that that was even a facility where the kids are being held. But, yes, there is very little information on, you know, where these facilities are located and since its contracted to private companies they don't have, you know -- they are -- they are under no obligation to disclose where the facilities are.

STELTER: And I get it, this is a complicated story, there are government officials trying to do their best in a very bad situation. But, you know, it's the kind of thing that makes people so angry.

I wonder, Lomi, how do you keep your emotions out of this since you've been covering this for months?

KRIEL: Well, I mean, I -- you know, I think that that's our job as reporters. We do that every day in any kind of context. And I mean, I think in this particular situation, though, it's just trying to speak to the parents and try to tell their stories. I spoke with -- or one of the stories I most recently worked from Brownsville was a mom who had come here to ask for asylum after being raped by two police officers and her four children were taken from her, including one she was breast-feeding.

And I covered her court hearing in Port Isabel last week where she was asking for asylum and she told the judge that she was unable to accurately ask for asylum because she was so worried about her children. So, I mean, there's certainly a lot at stake here.

STELTER: And, Rafael, what about local coverage versus national? You know, I've been seeing a lot of the national coverage, but are local outlets emphasizing parts of this that maybe the national media is missing?

CARRANZA: Yes, I think that there is definitely a lot of moving parts to this story, but one of the -- one of the angles that I do think has received maybe a little less attention nationally is the fact that this zero tolerance policy that created some of these separation has had other effects on the border as well, namely for asylum seekers who are heading to the ports of entry, as a result of this zero tolerance policy, which prosecuted, you know, entries illegally in between the ports, it essentially funneled people to go through the ports to be able to file their claims there.

But we have been seeing and we've been reporting very, very long lines at a lot of these ports from California all the way to south Texas and even instances of people being turned away from the ports of entry.

STELTER: Right.

CARRANZA: And so, there's really no clear explanation at this point of why this is taking place, if the administration has, you know, publicly said that the people who do have claims should go to the ports of entry, but we've seen waits of maybe up to even a month at times, two or three weeks for some of these asylum seekers to talk to an immigration officers.

STELTER: You know, thinking about what pictures people are seeing, there's been some pictures recently of some reunions. There was some video from Logan Airport in Boston of a reunion, maybe we can show that. But I want to show it to make the point that that's the exception not the rule. When we see pictures of reunions, this is not what's happening in most cases, right, Neena, this is -- this is rare right now. Most kids have not been united.

SATIJA: As far as we know, yes, that's correct. And I think a lot of these, you know, these reunifications are certainly going to happen behind closed doors and some will be at the request of the families themselves for privacy, but I think also that it's been -- you know, the separations have happened behind closed doors as well.

You know, as someone -- all of us, you knew, on this panel have been to the border and I think we've had the frustration of not really being able to see much on the ground because the operation separations are happening inside these iceboxes where folks are held right after crossing the border to be processed or they're happening as people are going into detention centers or as children are going into shelters. They're happening behind closed doors. It's very hard for us to see how this is playing out.

STELTER: Yes, the pictures can actually be deceiving. The big story is that the U.S. government won't even tell us how many kids are being detained. They won't even tell us a number. And I think we have to keep the pressure on until we get an answer.

Thank you to the three of you for being here. Thank you for all the work you're doing.

Quick break here on RELIABLE SOURCES.

And then President Trump's new communication chief, he's bringing a lot of baggage to the White House, cover up accusations and a spouse's racist Twitter feed. I want to show you the unprecedented relationship between Trump and his favorite news network right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:29:12] STELTER: Fox and Trump, Trump and Fox, you know they're close. But do you realize just how close?

This kind of relationship has never existed between a U.S. president and a TV network. It is unprecedented. It's sort of a love story, so let me count the ways.

First of all, the president loves Fox. He loves what he hears on Fox. He promotes the network and trashes its rivals, telling people when and where to tune in.

A president has never endorsed a network like this before. Trump watches Fox and tweets about it and watches some more. Sometimes he hears valuable information but other times, he hears terrible misinformation. Sometimes he then spreads it in interviews on Fox and around and around we go.

Since becoming president, Trump has been interviewed on Fox every 20 days on average. Now, some of these are not really interviews at all, they are more like chats, designed to promote his presidency.

In this chat last week, Maria Bartiromo sounded like she was the president handing Trump taking points. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARIA BARTIROMO, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Well, you made -- you made a bold decision on Iran. I mean this was incredible.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And look what's happening in Iran.

BARTIROMO: And look at what's happening now, the strikes, and the protests, the people wanted economic freedom.

TRUMP: And run from different place -- and run from different place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: So let's take a closer look at this relationship. You can see how this back-scratching benefits both sides. Trump benefits from Fox's friendly segments and softball questions, and then Fox benefits from Trump's preferential treatment and constant promos. If you plug Trump, he might plug your book or your show or he might attack your competitors or he might do both.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You have been so great and I'm very proud of you. And you know I'm a ratings person. You notice I always have. OK, has anyone seen his ratings? What you are doing to your competition is incredible number one and I'm very proud of you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Yes, Sean Hannity. He defends Trump, bashes the media, turns a blind eye to Trump world scandals and gives his guests free rein to call for the jailing of Trump's opponents. And that's just on the air. When Hannity is off the air, he gossips with Trump and gives advice about who to hire. So let's just underscore how weird this is. No T.V. host has ever had this kind of relationship with a U.S. President before. And to take it a step further, no network has ever propped up a president quite like this before. Sure, Obama had big fans on MSNBC but there wasn't this kind of constant coordination. No one ever thought Keith Olbermann was Obama's shadow chief of staff but that's how some Trump advisors described Hannity. This is new and it's weird and we shouldn't get used to it. There's been almost a merger between a culture war T.V. station and a culture war president. Now it started as a mere acquaintance. Look at this. Fox and Friends gave Trump a weekly spot way back in 2011.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald now makes his voice loud and clear every Monday on Fox.

TRUMP: My message is a better message than anybody else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Trump got to know Fox's priorities, he got to know his base, and Fox got to know him. Now, fast forward seven years. He's tweeted or retweeted about Fox more than a thousand times and he's become close to Fox Uber boss Rupert Murdoch who was once harshly critical of Trump. The two men now talk weekly, sometimes daily according to the Washington Post. Now Rupert reportedly opposed AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner, CNN's parent company, of course Trump opposed it to. The DOJ even tried to kill the deal in court but lost. So what happened when Rupert chuck his own deal, a deal with Disney, oh a very different reaction. Trump called -- tell him congrats and the same DOJ lawyers decided to give it a thumbs up. The New York Times editorial board raised its eyebrows last week saying hey this Disney Fox deal sailed through a bit too easily. Now the DOJ says every deal is different but let's get back to Fox. What really makes this relationship unique and unprecedented is the feedback loop.

Trump constantly gets ideas and talking points from Fox and then when he holds rallies he repeats those talking points and Fox carries those rallies live from start to finish. It makes you wonder what would Trump do without Fox? The President has never preferred talk shows over his own Intel briefings before. A case in point from CNN's Oliver Darcy this week, a dubious Fox News story appeared to spark a new Trump attack on Obama. The Fox story was sourced to a hardline Iranian cleric, not a reliable source. And that was the network's news side doing it not, the opinion side. Fox does have reporters who try their best but the network is defined by its cheerleaders like Jesse Watters who dined with Trump at the White House earlier this year and got an autograph or his co-host on The Five Kimberly Guilfoyle who is dating the newly divorced Donald Trump Jr. Look, they seem to be a cute couple and I love a good love story. Doesn't this radically affect her day job? How can any of her colleagues criticize Trump when the President's son's girlfriend is sitting right there at the table? Doesn't this complicate the entire networks coverage of the Trump family? I've got to ask.

And speaking of quandaries, Lou Dobbs is called in to Oval Office meeting so he could offer his two cents. Jeanine Pirro has talked to Trump about possible jobs. Pete Hegseth was rumored to be up for the VA Secretary job, and Laura Ingraham was talked about as a possible press secretary. Now, there are -- they're arguably more valuable to Trump right where they are but Trump has poached several others from Fox, Heather Nauert, Mercedes Schlapp, John Bolton, and more. And that brings us to Bill Shine. For 20 years Shine was a super successful Fox News producer and a lieutenant of Roger Ailes. When Ailes was ousted amid sexual harassment scandals, Shine was promoted to co-president of Fox News but he was credibly accused of covering up Ailes' misdeeds. He was named in multiple lawsuits. Shine denied all wrongdoing but he left Fox under the cloud of scandal last year.

[11:35:18] That's when his friend Sean Hannity started lobbying to get him hired at the White House. And now more than a year later it's official. Shine is the Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications. I think we should ask, would any other White House have ever hired Shine? Now I noticed the reporter started looking at Shine and his wife zooming in on the Twitter feed belonging to Shines' wife Darla doing some of the vettings that maybe the White House didn't do. What the reporters found was shocking. As HuffPost described, Darla shine has a long history of promoting at anti-vaccination conspiracy theories. And has media reported, she posted years' worth of racist tweets, ugly prejudicial stuff. I don't really want to read all of it but you can see for yourself on Mediaite.com. Now Darla deleted her Twitter account as soon as her husband was promoted. And now the man in charge of White House comms has gone silent. CNN has asked the White House for comment but there hasn't been any. Now surely they're not just going to lay low and wait for this to blow over, are they? Surely Fox News reporters will press the White House for comment right? If they don't do that, if Fox ignores this story, it'll be another sign of the Fox-Trump merger.

Now a quick break here in RELIABLE SOURCES. Coming up, how not to cover Trump's rallies. Vox's Ezra Klein has some strong words for cable news execs. But first, there's no shortage about verbally when it comes to coverage or Trump and the possible Supreme Court pick. We're going to try to sort through all of it with the legendary Nina Totenberg in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:40:00] STELTER: The Supreme Court is always shrouded in mystery. Justices rarely give interviews and cameras are not allowed in the courtroom. All we get is delayed audio of oral arguments. And yet for the last 10 days, the High Court has been front and center in the news because of what's about to happen. With Anthony Kennedy retiring President Trump is set to announce his pick for a replacement, possibly one of these faces. Now as of Saturday afternoon Trump was still undecided according to the New York Times but he has decided to reveal a nominee Monday 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time. It sounds like something out of The Apprentice. The White House took the rare step of formally requesting airtime from the major networks so we know what's going to happen. In fact, it's going to interrupt the Bachelorette on ABC. So let's talk about what happens next. Nina Totenberg is joining me. She's the Legal Affairs Correspondent for NPR. Nina, you've been through more than a few of these. I was thinking back to last year President Trump also made this a primetime event. He had a big reveal just a couple of weeks into his presidency. Does this feel like a repeat of that or is Trump making it an even bigger event this time?

NINA TOTENBERG, LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, NPR: Well, the difference I think this time is that last time he pretty much outsourced it entirely to the Federalist Society. He was a brand new president when he had this pick. And he understood to some extent that he didn't really know this much about it. He wanted to satisfy his base and he was allowing himself to some extent to be led. That's not happening this time and as far as I can tell he really hasn't made up his mind. They're hoping he's going to make up his mind tonight. They've got more rollouts ready and they -- you know I've talked to our sources, I can't tell you they're Sean Hannity sources but I do have sources who haven't -- who haven't slept in days and because they can't tell what he's going to do that's why they have four rollouts.

STELTER: It makes me wonder if he shouldn't have said it's definitely going to happen Monday. Maybe he needs more time, that's OK.

TOTENBERG: It would be OK but one has the sense that it wouldn't make a difference. We'd still be up against a deadline and that -- and that he like most of us, me too, you too, we all operate on deadlines. We all operate --

STELTER: The greatest inspiration is the deadline, right?

TOTENBERG: Right, that's exactly right.

STELTER: I saw you posted on Twitter when Kennedy announced his retirement to quote REM, it's the end of the world as we know it. Now, I can't sing it, I won't even try but there's been a lot of -- there's been a lot of hyperbole even hysteria on the left. How is it that this is the end of the world as we know it and how do you try to not contribute to the sense of panic that liberals are expressing while the same trying to explain this as a big moment in America?

TOTENBERG: Well, it's very difficult because it gives conservatives and a brand of conservative that was unknown probably pretty much 25, 30 years ago. It gives them a lock on the court. And I'm not saying that every case will turn out. We will have surprises. There will be some cases that turn out not as one expects and I don't think the justices themselves are partisans but they do have -- they do have legal ideologies. And the people who are being seriously looked at here have the legal ideology of Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. Scalia being slightly considerably actually to the left of Justice Thomas and that means that the John Roberts the Chief Justice a firm conservative vote who I think is voted with all the Liberals and been the swing vote maybe four times, five times in his tenure on the court since 2005. He will now be the quote swingman. Well, that's a pretty conservative swingman.

[11:45:25] STELTER: Yes. And your job, how will how -- will it change at all in the next few months? What will you be most focused on?

TOTENBERG: Whether I get my vacation.

STELTER: We're on it. I love that.

TOTENBERG: No, what I'll be most focused on is the legal record and what we can tell from that legal record of the nominee because lower court judges are bound to follow Supreme Court precedent. And while they can veer considerably to the right or the left and you can tell a lot from that, it still is your look -- you're still reading tea leaves. The tea leaves amount to lot though and you, you know, Republican White House is starting with Reagan, have taught us all that you can really pick somebody who will not provide a huge surprise on the occasions when there have been a couple -- been surprises the principal one being David Souter who was George H.W. Bush's pick. He was a surprise but they also had a confirmation problem so it was probably a wise choice for them at the time and they were assuring the right it'll be fine. Well, he was far more centrist or liberal if you want and they were furious.

STELTER: So the tea leaf reading begins in earnest tomorrow.

TOTENBERG: Yes, the Tea Leaf reading begins -- it's already begun at White House so they think they've got four people who will be just fine who will reflect their views on everything from guns, to abortion, to civil rights, to discrimination, to regulation, they think they've got that locked and they probably do most of the time.

STELTER: The battle for the soul of America plays out through this process. Nina, thanks so much for being here, we'll see you on the radio.

TOTENBERG: Thank you so much. I'll see you on the T.V.

STELTER: Up next, here on reliable sources, Trump rallies I bet you have an opinion about this. Are they eating up too much airtime? We'll talk with Vox's Ezra Klein in just a moment

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[11:50:00] STELTER: President Trump has been holding more rallies lately and Fox News has been airing them live. Usually, CNN and MSNBC have not been but his comments at rallies typically become big news afterwards. Criticizing John McCain and George H.W. Bush, mocking the #MeToo Movement, insulting Senator Warren's heritage, it's all newsworthy, right? Wrong, according to Vox Editor at Large Ezra Klein. He says we are giving these rallies way too much attention. I spoke with him earlier and here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

EZRA KLEIN, EDITOR AT LARGE, VOX: Yes, it is all shocking and childish and immature and petulant and cruel. I mean, John McCain is dying. But he's been doing this for years. There's nothing new here. There's nothing new in him calling Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas. There's nothing new in him attacking John McCain, nothing new in him attacking the Bushes. And yet whenever Donald Trump wants to change a subject, he just sets up a rally and then goes and says a bunch of crazy stuff. And I do wonder at this point what information is being of encoded in that.

STELTER: Well, his mockery of the #MeToo Movement, that was new at the rally on Thursday night.

KLEIN: Donald Trump's existence is a mockery of the #MeToo Movement. The fact that he's given rise to a joke, I don't -- I don't really agree. Like I don't agree this is new. I'm not --

STELTER: You're talking about CNN.

KLEIN: Vox covers this too. I cover it, I tweet about it. I want to be super clear here. I am not outside the machine looking in and criticizing.

STELTER: Yes, I understand.

KLEIN: I am inside the machine looking out and wondering what the hell we're all doing. So I do want to ask the question. One, what are we crowding out when we give these -- when we let him decide what we cover every time he does a rally, right? What are we crowding out? What would have happened in another administration? How long of a story would Scott Pruitt have been?

STELTER: Right.

KLEIN: How long of a story with Bill Shine have been?

STELTER: And I'm part of the problem I think because I wrote a story titled "Trump calls journalists bad people at a rally a week after newsroom shooting."

KLEIN: I think you can be more sympathetic to that specific story --

STELTER: So I think the argument there is that we need to point out when he's using dangerous rhetoric in the wake of a tragedy. But you know, through his sheer force of talking, right, through the volume of what he says at rallies, it's true, he generates dozens of stories that do crowd out other important issues.

KLEIN: No. I want to be super careful there because this is a thing I think we do in the media. We put the verbs on him and not on us through his sheer force of talking. Like, Donald Trump is blackballed in Marvel Comics and every time he opens his mouth, buildings shatter. That isn't how this works. Through our decisions of what to cover, through our outrage of what he is saying, through our belief of what our audience is going to click on, we make these decisions. Look, I am -- I am a week and a half back from buck leaf. I was on the -- I was in Oceanside in California and I was pretty far away from all of this for a little while while I was trying to think about other things than politics. And it's a pretty amazing experience. I mean, I'm not stepped out of the news cycle for more than two weeks in 15 years. The experience of not having it swirling around me was I found a pretty profound one and the experience of coming back -- I've been trying to think about how to explain it to people. The experience of coming back is having somebody shouting in your ear all of the time.

Like, having Donald Trump follow you around on Twitter and on the news and everywhere, it's like look at this thing I did! Look at it! And I think oh that that's terrible. Like why did you do that? I was trying to work on this thing about the economy but yes, that -- look at this other one. And it's up to us to decide whether to look. But it is our choice, right? We chose not to cover these things when other presidents did then these kinds of speeches and rallies in the same way because we found them boring. We don't find Trump thing boring. He activates something visceral and human in us right? He -- it's not boring. I always say that the way Trump, Donald Trump behaves would make you worried if it was behavior that you saw on your spouse or your employee or your friend or your neighbor. It speaks to something very --

STELTER: But that fire must be covered, Ezra.

KLEIN: That I don't agree. Not after it keeps giving -- not after it stops giving us valuable information.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STELTER: Listen to the rest of my debate with Ezra on our RELIABLE SOURCES podcast. You can find it through Stitcher, TuneIn or Apple and we'll see you right back here this time next week for more RELIABLE SOURCES

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