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Sen. Kennedy Talks Supreme Court Pick, Russia Meddling, Trump Meeting Putin; Sources: Michael Cohen Sending Clear Signal to Trump; Justice Department Asks for More Time to Reunite Separated Families; U.S. Threatens to Pull Military Aid from Ecuador over Breastfeeding. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired July 9, 2018 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] SEN. JOHN NEELY KENNEDY, (R) LOUISIANA: I'm going to delve into how they interpret a statute, and therefore, how they would interpret the Constitution, when it's not clear. I want to understand how they think the judiciary fits in, in the Madisonian balance of separation of powers. I want to know what they see as the purpose of the Bill of Rights. I think the Bill of Rights is not for the high school quarterback or a prom queen. I think the Bill of Rights is for someone who sees things a little bit differently and has the right to do that. I'm going to use my time wisely, I hope.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we will be watching.

I've got to ask you, though. You just returned from a trip with a handful of other Senators to Russia. How exactly did you put it, Senator, to your counterparts in the meeting, when you say you were asking them to not to interfere in the election and what was the response in the room?

KENNEDY: Well, I can't speak for my colleagues. I went for two reasons. Number one, to deliver a message. I delivered that to the foreign minister, to the speaker of the House, and to a number of their Senators. And this is what I said. Number one, stop screwing with American elections. Number two, get out of Eastern Ukraine and let them self-determine. Number three, get out of Crimea and let Crimea self-determine. Number four, stop crewing around in Syria and help us settle the mess. And number five, do not allow Iran to get a foothold in southern Syria. Because if you do that, there's going to be another war. Israel is not going to stand for it.


BOLDUAN: Did you really --


KENNEDY: Look, they were -- the foreign minister meeting was probably the toughest. We exchanged words. He's a bully. He impressed me as the sort of guy who started out in the world as a smartass and worked his way up. And it was a pretty tough meeting. But I think our message was delivered. And my colleagues did the same thing.

I also was able to draw some conclusions about Russia. People say, well, what kind of political system do they have? They don't have -- it's all about Putin. They don't have a political philosophy. I mean, what's the political philosophy of a Mafia? You know? There's none. It's all about money and power. And there's no free press.

BOLDUAN: So, did you leave that meeting anymore confident that the upcoming election will happen free of Russian interference?

KENNEDY: I don't know. I really don't know. But I told them, and my colleagues did as well, look, if you screw with the elections this fall, the sanctions -- the Congress is going to double down on sanctions. And you're not going to like it.

BOLDUAN: What did he say to you?


BOLDUAN: I assume the reaction was, we didn't do it, because that's when we've heard publicly.

KENNEDY: Oh, Absolutely.


BOLDUAN: But what did they say to you?

KENNEDY: Well, it got testy at times. They, of course, deny everything. But -- and I expected them to. Look, the last time that the Russian government embraced Western values and democracy was never. We're not going to convert their political leadership. We're going to have to contain them. And the only way to contain them, you don't have to be ugly about it, but you've got to be very, very firm. Dealing with Putin is like hand-feeding a shark. You can do it, but you have to do it very, very carefully.

BOLDUAN: Senator, did you really say, "Stop screwing with our elections?" You really said that to the foreign minister?

KENNEDY: Yes. Yes. And --


BOLDUAN: I want to make sure I got the quote?

KENNEDY: We didn't hit it off very well at all, the foreign minister and I (sic).

BOLDUAN: It sounds like it.

KENNEDY: The foreign minister --


BOLDUAN: As someone who wasn't there, your recall of it sounds like you guys aren't getting a beer anytime soon.

KENNEDY: We're not. He's a bully. And I didn't much appreciate it. And I told him. And --

BOLDUAN: What was the bullying tactic? Now I'm fascinated. Take me in there.

KENNEDY: He's just always trying to get you off balance. For example, I called him Mr. Ambassador and he made a big play about the fact that he wasn't an ambassador, he was a foreign minister. He tried -- if you ask him a question, he tries to turn the question back on you. He's belligerent. Like I say, I mean, I don't mean disrespect, but he has started out as a wiseass and worked his way up. I didn't much appreciate it. We didn't yell at each other or call each other names, but we were both pretty firm.

BOLDUAN: Real quick, this -- I have now got a million more questions.


BOLDUAN: But this is all ahead of the president meeting with Putin next week. He was asked -- you've brought up Crimea when you were over there. He was asked by reporters on Air Force One a couple of weeks ago if recognizing the annexation of Crimea would be up for discussion, and his response to reporters was, "We're going to have to see." Do you think that's a real possibility coming out of a face-to- face with Putin?

[11:35:03] KENNEDY: I don't know what the president is going to talk about with President Putin. But I know this. The Crimea should be allowed to self-determine. So should Eastern Ukraine. Now, the Russian government -- I want to distinguish the Russian government from the Russian people, who deserve better -- their position is, we didn't do anything. Well, they're not telling the truth. We know they did. We know they meddled in our election.

The most immediate of threat, the most immediate threat, though, to world peace, is frankly in Syria. If Russia keeps playing footsie with the Iranians and lets them establish a foothold in southern Syria, the Israelis are going to knock the hell out of them. And that's just a fact.

BOLDUAN: Are you -- just, finally, are you nervous about President Trump meeting face to face with Putin?

KENNEDY: No. I'm curious.


KENNEDY: I don't -- my expectations are low.


KENNEDY: Like I say, you're not going to convert Putin. You'll have to contain him.

BOLDUAN: Senator John Kennedy, thanks for coming in. Always a pleasure.

KENNEDY: You bet.

BOLDUAN: And always leaves me with a hundred more questions. We'll have to have him on again.

Yesterday, Rudy Giuliani asked Michael Cohen to, quote, "Tell the truth" about Donald Trump Jr's fateful Trump Tower meeting. But today, Cohen's lawyer seems to be warning Trump's team to be careful what they wish for. What's going on? That's next.


[11:40:32] BOLDUAN: The truth shall set you free, but whose truth are we talking about? President Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, is now signaling that he's ready to play hardball as he's under criminal investigation. Who's he sending signals to? It appears the president himself and his new attorney, Rudy Giuliani, after Giuliani had this to say after the weekend.


RUDY GIULIANI, PERSONAL ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: If he believes it's in his best interests to cooperate, god bless him. He should cooperate. I think the man has been horribly treated by the people he's going to cooperate with. But, you know, sometimes you have no other choice. I do not expect that Michael Cohen is going to lie. I think he's going to tell the truth, as best he can, given his recollection. And if he does that, we're home free.


BOLDUAN: This morning, Cohen's new lawyer, Lanny Davis, tweeted this cryptic response: "Did Rudy Giuliani really say on Sunday shows that Michael Cohen should cooperate with prosecutors and tell the truth? Seriously? Is that Trump and Giuliani definition of truth? Trump and Giuliani next to the word "truth" equals oxymoron. Stay tuned."

Here with me now, CNN's chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

So, Gloria, you've within talking to your sources about this. What is this all about?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICIAL ANLAYST: Look, I think that Michael Cohen has decided to fight back against Rudy Giuliani and his client, Donald Trump. And my sources are telling me that he said that, "The truth is not you or your client's friend."

Now, these sources say what Cohen has decided to do is effectively hit the reset button here and that he is continuing his commitment to tell the truth. Now, a source familiar with Cohen's thinking tells me that he feels that he's getting a strong signal from the president and from Rudy Giuliani that if his version of the truth doesn't coincide with their version of the truth, then they will continue their attacks on him. So, you know, you see this as a game going back and forth.

I should also say that my sources will not reveal what it is exactly that Cohen knows, for example. And refer us to his attorney, who is not speaking publicly at all.

BOLDUAN: But is there signal then, Gloria, that Cohen is cooperating with prosecutors at this point?

BORGER: Well, we do not know that he is. We do not -- his -- my sources will not comment on whether there have been any conversations with prosecutors. It seems to me that Cohen, at some point, will have conversations with prosecutors. But we just -- you know, we just don't know. And we don't know why Cohen is doing right now other than that I can tell you he is frustrated, he is infuriated by Rudy Giuliani and feels kind of shunted aside by the person that he was the ultimate loyalist for, who's, of course, the president of the United States.

BOLDUAN: One source telling you this is his Fourth of July moment, fighting fire with fire.


BOLDUAN: This is really amazing how it's playing out.

BORGER: Well, it is. And I think what Michael Cohen wants us to think, and it's probably the truth, is that there's a lot that he has not said. He's testified, as you know, before congressional committees for dozens of hours, so he's talked to them. But on certain topics, which were raised on Sunday shows, for example, about the Trump Tower meeting with Don Jr, et cetera, we don't know what he knows about any of that. Nor will we, for a while. But I think this is a shot across the bow that says, wait a minute here, you're daring me to tell the truth, well, that's great, I'll continue to do that.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Gloria. Thank you.

BORGER: Good to see you.

[11:44:24] BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, up against a deadline. Young children separated from their families at the border weeks ago were supposed to be reunited with their parents, the youngest by tomorrow. But the government says, they may not be able to do that. Why?


BOLDUAN: A court-order deadline told the Trump administration to get the immigrant children reunited with their parents. The youngest by tomorrow. Sounds simple enough, right? Apparently not. Just a few hours from now, government lawyers are going to be back in court to try to argue that they need more time to do this. But why?

CNN's Miguel Marquez is live in Brownsville, Texas.

So, Miguel, what are you hearing from families there who have been waiting -- who are waiting still to see their kids?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that there was no plan at all for them to reunite with their kids. And it's not just those under 5, it is all parents across the board that were swept up in this zero- tolerance policy. They're going to have problems.



MARQUEZ (voice-over): A mother's anguish, separated from her son.

"Only god knows what we've been through," she says.

Brenda Alvarado separated from her 6-year-old son, Jordy, for over a month.

Brenda and four other parents who spoke to CNN now facing what the Trump administration promised was a process for reuniting with their kids. More parents like them getting out of detention every day. All of them now desperate to hold their children again.


MARQUEZ: "It's not right for them to detain my son," she says. "He hasn't committed any crime. I don't know what to tell him."


MARQUEZ: Lesbia visited her 10-year-old son, Yudon (ph), being detained here in Brownsville. They've been separated more than a month. Despite having documents proving their relationship, officials here won't turn him over to his mother.


MARQUEZ: "I already gave them information and documents," she says, "but they said they need fingerprints from all the people where I'm going to stay, and that alone will take 15 days."

After forcefully separating these parents from their kids, the Trump administration is now telling them, they must fill out a 32-page application and background check to prove they are who they say they are.

JODI GOODWIN, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: In any normal case, we usually expect about a month before there can be reunification.

[11:50:04] MARQUEZ: The Trump administration, under a judge's order, has until July 26th to reunite all families separated by the president's zero tolerance policy.


MARQUEZ: Increasingly clear from talking to these families that, at the start of this process, when their children were ripped from their arms, there was no process to figure out who the parents were, who the kids were, and track them through the process. That's something that the administration has said they had all along. Now that they are getting out, now that they are being deported, now that some of the kids are being deported, it doesn't seem to be the case -- Kate? BOLDUAN: Miquel, they said they could find them in a couple clicks,

couple seconds. Seems like it's much more difficult than that.

Thank you, Miguel.

Coming up, what does the Trump administration have against breastfeeding? A new report says the administration threatened to pull military aid from a Latin American country over just that. Are you scratching your head yet? That's next.


BOLDUAN: Did the United States threaten to pull military aid from a Latin American country over breastfeeding? That's exactly what the "New York Times" is reporting, threatening Ecuador with retribution if the country backs a World Health resolution laying out the importance of breastfeeding.

Joining me right now, Jason Carroll, CNN national correspondent, Jason Carroll.

I'm sorry, I -- what, please, details.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I know this is very important to you, you just had a baby. But very important to a number of women. Definitely something that has a number of folks scratching their heads about this one.

First, the benefits of breastfeeding have been well documented for decades. Yet, according to the "New York Times," U.S. officials attempted to weaken a resolution to encourage breastfeeding. "The Times" says the resolution promoting breastfeeding was introduced this past spring at Geneva at the World Health Assembly. Many countries expected it to pass without any issue. Those who attended the meeting tell the "The Times" some of those in the United States delegation upended the deliberations and pushed for language to weaken that resolution and, in doing so, sided with the interests of infant formula manufacturers. The U.S. wanted to remove language that called on governments to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding. A resolution did ultimately pass with the help of Russia, that reportedly stepped in to stop the U.S. from pressuring other countries to see their way.

[11:55:12] The Department of Health and Human Services says "The Times'" take is simply not accurate. A spokesman tells CNN, "The United States was fighting to protect women's abilities to make the best choices for the nutrition of their babies. Many women are not able to breastfeed for a variety of reasons. These women should not be stigmatized. They should be equally supported with information and access to alternatives for health of themselves and their babies."

Still waiting for a response from the State Department on this.

But the big question is, how are you then helping women who can't breastfeed by weakening language, you know, promoting women, you know, for breastfeeding? That seems to be really the key issue here. BOLDUAN: I'm just going to leave it at yes. That's exactly right. I

don't know why one would be against said resolution or language.

Jason, it's great to see you.

Coming up after the break, is Michael Cohen sending a message to the president?