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Cave Rescue Efforts Continue; President Trump Set to Announce Supreme Court Pick; Sources: Cohen's Message to Trump "Truth is Not Your Friend". Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired July 9, 2018 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: If you live in D.C. or work in politics, your summer vacation is going to end at about 9:00 Eastern tonight.

THE LEAD starts right now.

He's decided. President Trump has made his choice on whom should replace Justice Kennedy on the Supreme Court. But with battle lines already being drawn, will the nominee survive what may be the most bruising fight of the Trump presidency?

Just four boys and the coach remain trapped deep inside that Thai cave after two days of what's been described as near miraculous rescues. With divers exhausted and weather worsening, however, will they be able to bring those last group of boys home?

If Michael Cohen tells the truth, we are home-free. That's how Rudy Giuliani urged the president's former fixer and lawyer to cooperate with government investigators. Cohen's team system they intend to do just that, they warn team Trump -- quote -- "The truth is not your friend."

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

A monumental day in our politics lead. Two sources telling CNN that President Trump has indeed now made his choice for the U.S. Supreme Court, and in just hours the president will reveal who it is in perhaps one of the most consequential decisions of his presidency, one which will almost certainly tip the high court in a more conservative direction for decades to come.

This nominee if confirmed will replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has been at times a pivotal swing vote on the high court. A more conservative justice in that seat could result in rulings against same-sex marriage, against affirmative action, against abortion rights, changing our laws and our lives, Conservatives believe for the better, Liberals believe for the worse.

This pending announcement has already ignited what one Republican operative tells CNN is -- quote -- "all-out war." Tens of millions of dollars will likely be spent. Individual senators will experience pressure as they have never before experienced it. It's going to be a long, hot summer.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is at the White House for us.

And, Jeff, the White House is already blasting Democratic Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania for saying that he's going to oppose the nominee, even though he or she has yet to be named.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, that is a preview of things to come, but perhaps it would have been more surprising if a Senate Democrat who is up for reelection like Bob Casey would have said he's keeping an open mind or supporting it.

The reality is, the battle lines are drawn specifically between the Democrats and Republicans. It is the handful of Democrats largely from red states who will be very influential to this course, as a couple blue state Republicans as well.

The reality, Jake, going into this evening, the president we're told has made up his mind. He is going to have the nominee in the East Room of the White House with their family at 9:00 p.m. But virtually no one else I'm told in the White House knows who it is.


ZELENY (voice-over): Like a prime-time season finale, President Trump is touting, teasing and tweeting about tonight's introduction of his Supreme Court justice pick, calling it the most important decision a president can make.

The White House is going to great lengths to keep the choice under wraps, a directive straight from the president, who believes the announcement of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch was one of his finest moments of his first year in office.


ZELENY: CNN has learned the president has been fielding phone calls soliciting last-minute input about the pros and cons of his finalists, including Brett Kavanaugh, who sits on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and is a former clerk to retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

BRETT KAVANAUGH, FEDERAL APPEALS COURT JUDGE: He conveyed to his clerks and certainly conveyed to me, to use one of his favorite phrases, the essential neutrality of the law.

ZELENY: But it's his work in the Bush administration and as a staffer for independent counsel Kenneth Starr, when he argued President Clinton could be impeached for lying, that creates a long paper trail that could complicate his confirmation.

Thomas Hardiman, who was the runner-up for the Gorsuch seat, sits on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. Senate Republican leaders believe he could be easier to confirm.

THOMAS HARDIMAN, THIRD CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS JUDGE: I have no hesitation in applying a law regardless of what I might think about it.

ZELENY: But CNN has learned the president is skeptical that either of those two would fire up the base like Amy Coney Barrett might. She's been on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago for only eight months, but she is the favorite of many social conservatives, in part for her assumed opposition to abortion.

During the presidential campaign, before named to the federal bench, she acknowledged uncertainty of the makeup of a Trump court.

AMY CONEY BARRETT, SEVENTH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS JUDGE: What would we have in a Trump court? Who knows?

ZELENY: But since then, Trump allayed those ideological concerns by choosing his finalists from a list compiled by the conservative Federalist Society.

Rounding out the top four is believed to be Raymond Kethledge, who sits on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati and also clerked for Justice Kennedy.


Tonight's announcement comes only 12 days after Justice Kennedy stunned Washington with his retirement, a decision that handed the president a historic opportunity.

TRUMP: And I'm very honored that he chose to do it during my term in office because he felt confident in me to make the right choice and carry on his great legacy. That's why he did it.


ZELENY: Now, Jake, one thing is certain. The nominee tonight will be from age 46 to 54. That is the age range here, underscoring that this person will serve on the court if confirmed for decades to come.

Jake, we are also getting word that some red state Democrats who are key to this will be on hand tonight in the East Room invited by the White House -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny at the White House for us, thanks so much.

My political panel joins me now.

David Urban, let me start with you.

You have expressed support for both Hardiman and Kavanaugh, who you know. Let's just talk about Kavanaugh for a second. He's clerked for Anthony Kennedy. He was a lawyer for the Ken Starr investigation, served in the George W. Bush administration.

Some of that experience, according to people close to Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, is seen as baggage. He argued that Clinton could be impeached for lying, et cetera. Is it possible that Kavanaugh's experience could hurt him and hurt the chances of his being nominated?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think his experience on the bench. I think his experience, his political experience.

Right. You're part of the Ken Starr team and impeachment, that's bound to raise some hackles amongst Democratic senators. It gives you more to poke at. Thomas Hardiman, a great guy as well, has been on the court, but didn't participate in the impeachment.

I think people on the Democratic side of the aisle would poke more at that those kind of things than his actual jurisprudence.

TAPPER: I want to ask you about the red Democrats that have been invited. There are five vulnerable Democrats in Trump states up for reelection, including Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin, Joe Donnelly, Claire McCaskill, and Jon Tester.

If you were advising them, would you say vote with your caucus? Vote against the nominee whoever it is? Or vote the way your constituents in the red-leaning state would like you to do? What would you tell them to do?


TAPPER: Opposes no matter what?

BEGALA: Period. Here's why. No, here's why.

Just on the politics of it. We will set aside the Constitution.


TAPPER: That's what I'm asking.

BEGALA: As a political adviser, this is actually an easy vote. There are some votes really hard for red state Democrats. Gun control, for example.

This is easy. Here's why. No Republican paid a price at all at the polls for opposing Merrick Garland, who was President Obama's moderate choice. So, this is a moderate nominee from a popular president. They opposed him in lockstep and nobody suffered.

This will be a conservative choice from an unpopular president. So you're not going to gain a single vote by supporting this nominee if you're a Democrat in a red state. But if you do support it, you are going to lose your Democrats. So I think it's actually an easy vote. It's not a difficult one.

I'm glad they're going. They should hear him out. I think that's terrific. That's the American way. But the politics of this are actually not very hard for those red state Democrats.

TAPPER: I want to ask you about the pressure being faced by two women members, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine. Both of them generally conservative voters, but both of them support abortion rights.

In the past, they have voted to confirm three of these four and the fourth was approved for the circuit court on voice vote, meaning they approved of all four. Is there an argument to make, yes, I voted for them for circuit court, but I'm opposing them on this judge for the Supreme Court? Can they make that argument?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: My hope is that their support will be there for the choice of the president, whomever that is, but certainly especially the issue of Roe v. Wade is one that weighs heavily on the mind of Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins.

It would surprise me very, very much if whoever of these four people is chosen gets up in front of a confirmation hearing and exclusively says, yes, my intention is to overturn Roe vs. Wade. And 100 percent chance that whoever it is will say I respect precedent, it would be inappropriate for me to weigh in on a case that's not in front of me.

I believe they will dodge the question enough that any pro-choice Republican able to say yes to almost any of the four nominees.

TAPPER: Why do we do this Kabuki, David? This is a fundamental issue for a lot of people on the both sides of Roe vs. Wade. Why not just have the nominee say how they feel about it?

URBAN: Well, listen, Paul and I were talking about this in the green room a little bit before this. Right? There used to be this institution of called United States Senate. Right?

TAPPER: I remember reading about it.

URBAN: Yes. You wrote a book about it. It's a great book. Go buy it. It's available on Amazon now.

But, you know, you needed 60 votes. Right? That's how it was designed, right, so we could really have this notion of a hot teapot and the tea pouring over into the saucer, which is the Senate, allowing it to cool. Right? This ancient analogy.

And that was a good thing. Right? It drove more bipartisanship, more thoughtfulness in the Senate. And you didn't have as much of a Kabuki dance because you had advice and consent before it got to this point, right?


You wouldn't have -- look, I know politics -- but I think when Harry Reid moved the rules to -- moves them to 61 down to 51 for district court judges, that enabled the dike to break.


URBAN: There we are today.

BEGALA: Wait. The notion that somehow Harry Reid gave permission to Mitch McConnell to break the Senate is poppycock. Right? Mitch McConnell didn't even allow a hearing on Merrick Garland, who

should be on the Supreme Court today. But this notion of advice and consent I think is interesting. I think it's good that the senators from the Democratic Party are going.

But he should have -- our president should called them beforehand. Right? When President Clinton put Steve Breyer on the Supreme Court, he did it with prior consultation.

URBAN: Because you needed 60 votes then.



BEGALA: But this thing, I think -- Kristen, you mentioned abortion a moment ago -- 73 percent of independents, independents, support Roe vs. Wade; 43 percent of Republicans want to keep Roe vs. Wade.

This is where the Democrats will take the fight.


SOLTIS ANDERSON: But I do think -- on this question of -- when you talk about Roe vs. Wade, there's the question of precedent. Right?

This is something that has been a decision that's been around for decades. But let's take something that's even more unpopular than overturning Roe vs. Wade, preserving Citizens United, a decision that in every poll I have seen you have 90 percent of Americans say they don't like that decision.

Nonetheless, if you're someone who says, I want to respect precedent and you walk into a hearing say, you know what, put me on the Supreme Court because I want to overturn Citizens United, that would be an inappropriate thing to do.

And so I think we talk about Kabuki theater. I don't think that it is necessarily is. I think it's prudent to say I will decide cases as they come to me. Here are my qualifications for the job.


TAPPER: My only point is that conservative jurists have saying for decades that Roe vs. Wade was decided wrongly, that the argument was fallacious and faulty, and it's not a secret that the federalists want to have a court that will overturn Roe vs. Wade. So why...


BEGALA: They lie. That's what they do. They all lie.

URBAN: So there's this notion -- my former boss Senator Specter, Arlen Specter, who was kind of a stalwart on the Judiciary, and was a veteran of many of these nominations, he put forth this notion of like super stare decisis, right, cases that had been decided over and over and over again, which get a little bit more weight.

So, unlike Citizens United, Roe has been around for so many years and been upheld in so many circumstances that it almost becomes some sort of right, as opposed to -- that's going to be slashed and hashed, but it becomes almost a part of the Constitution, such as an amendment vs. Citizens United, which is a decision more recent.

Right? So, the more it's upheld, the more time goes by, the more deference should be given to the case.

BEGALA: That's not what President Trump said. It's not what the Federalist Society said.

Federalist Society, of course a right-wing pressure group that compiled this list, you saw Chuck Schumer about an hour ago on the Senate floor quoting The Federalist Society, quoting Donald Trump.

Right? I talked to senior folks on Capitol Hill, the Democrats, over and over again. They're not going to say, I think they will overturn Roe. They are going to say, the president promised and this right- wing pressure group promised that they're going to overturn Roe.


TAPPER: The president told me in an interview in 2015 overturning Roe vs. Wade was a litmus test for him. Since then, he changed, you know, I think once he was briefed on what the correct answer was.

But I guess the question is, like if it is a wrong decision, why don't jurists come out and just say it was a wrong decision and I don't support it?

SOLTIS ANDERSON: Well, because the way the Supreme Court works isn't you just decide you want to go revisit something. A case has to be brought to you. It has to have standing.

In an individual case, you may find certain facts that do or do not open up let's go revisit that precedent. That's why you just Korematsu v. the United States finally get formally overturned. We want to talk about something that had not been overturned for decades.

TAPPER: Right, legally creating the detention camps for Japanese Americans.


SOLTIS ANDERSON: It's good that Justice, I believe, Roberts -- Chief Justice Roberts wrote this was wrong. Let's get rid of it. No one disagreed with this.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. We have a lot more to talk about.

The very direct message of Trump's former fixer to the president and his lawyers next.

Plus, they are the very last boys still trapped in that cave in Thailand -- why their rescues may be the riskiest ones yet.

Stay with us.



[16:18:36] REPORTER: Mr. Cohen, how are you?


REPORTER: Good morning.

Do you have any comments on you're trying to distance yourself from the president?



Michael Cohen not willing to chat with us today on camera, but according to two sources familiar with Mr. Cohen's thinking, he and his team are sending a message to President Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani loud and clear, and that message is, quote: the truth is not you or your client's friend.

My panel's back with me.

So, that comment in response to Rudy Giuliani saying that the president and his team have nothing to fear about anything Michael Cohen might say coming to the feds investigating him. Take a listen.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDEN TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I don't know what he has to flip over. What I do know there's no evidence of wrongdoing with President Trump. So we're very comfortable. If he believes it's in his best interest to cooperate, God bless him. He should cooperate.

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.


TAPPER: So, sources close to Cohen tell me that when the Cohen team hears Rudy Giuliani say I think he's going to tell the truth, they think that he is suggesting, Giuliani suggesting the truth as the president sees it, which may or may not be true, obviously.

URBAN: The notion that Michael Cohen to distance himself from the president is -- I don't know -- I don't understand that concept, right?

[16:20:03] Here's a guy made his career, worked, locked at the hip with the president. So, distancing himself is somewhat farcical. And the second part of that, like every -- what's in the black box?

Nobody knows what's in this black box that Michael Cohen has that's so devastating. I hope he tells the truth.


URBAN: Otherwise, he's going to go to jail for perjury.

TAPPER: But, Kristen, one source telling CNN Cohen saying he is, quote, no longer taking a bullet for Trump, that he's, quote, no longer a flunkie, and this is, quote, his July Fourth moment. Things have changed, obviously trying to get a message out to President Trump.

ANDERSON: Well, there's a very different role you play when you're someone who goes on TV, to defend the president, versus someone asked in a legal setting what were you dealings with the president. There's a different standard for what people in politics will do in those two situations.

And so, what I think you're seeing is Michael Cohen sort of signaling to the president, hey, you know, the president had nice things to say about folks like Flynn, you know, other folks that have gotten into kind of legal trouble here. I think he's sort of saying, Mr. President, I'd like for you to have my back and if you don't, I know where the body's buried.

URBAN: You know what's changed here? He hired Lanny Davis. That's what's changed, right?

TAPPER: Right.

URBAN: Run for the camera. That's what happened.

TAPPER: And, in fact, speaking of that, I want your reaction to this. Lanny Davis, who obviously, he was a special counsel for then President Bill Clinton during the '90s, impeachment coming up a lot today. Today, Lanny Davis tweeted, quote, did Rudy Giuliani say on the 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. #thetruthmatters.

You know what Lanny Davis pretty. What's he saying?

BEGALA: You don't hire Lanny if you want a low profile.

URBAN: There you go.

TAPPER: Right.

BEGALA: You don't hire Lanny for someone who's pro-Trump, right? There's no more blatant message. Like a tattoo across his head.

TAPPER: But what he's saying, I want a pardon? I want you to say something nice to signal that you're going to have my back? What exactly is he asking for here?

BEGALA: I think both. Either I want a pardon or to signal to Mueller, too, or he could do that in private with a proffer. That he's ready to flip and to roll. And it could -- it's not that nobody knows David. Nobody knows when's in the documents?

TAPPER: A couple people know.

BEGALA: The president of the United States knows what's in a lot of them and Michael Cohen knows what's in all of them.

URBAN: Well, the FBI knows, as well.

BEGALA: That's the thing.

URBAN: Take it back in the shredder.

TAPPER: You know this. You're the attorney at the table. That --

URBAN: On the show. I play one.

TAPPER: But in order to get that search warrant of Michael Cohen's office, his home and the hotel room, they had to --

URBAN: Hey, and that was very controversial.

TAPPER: Right. But a judge had to like, say, you have the goods here. You just don't get to do that when it comes to a lawyer.

URBAN: Right, no. It was very controversial decision obviously, at the time. You have to show you can't get it any other way. No other source.

TAPPER: And that's a reasonable presumption to find something.

URBAN: Notably wasn't from Mueller. It was from the local --

TAPER: Yes, with the southern district of New York, yes.

URBAN: And who -- you know how it's done. Friendly judge, a search warrant. A lot easier with someone you know.

TAPPER: You talked about --

BEGALA: It's harder when it's lawyer.

TAPPER: You talked about Michael Flynn a second ago and Rudy Giuliani raised eyebrows when he suggested that the president told former FBI Director James Comey to go easy on Michael Flynn.

Here is Giuliani acknowledging that.


GIULIANI: What he said to him was, can you give --

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Comey said he took it as direction.

GIULIANI: Well, that's OK. You've taken that way. I mean, by that time, he had been fired. As a prosecutor, I was told that many times. Can you give the man a break? Either by his lawyers, by his relatives, by friends, you take that into consideration. But, you know, that doesn't determine that not going forward with it.


TAPPER: Just for the record, days after firing Comey, President Trump flat out denied that he made any such request. Take a listen.


REPORTER: Did you at any time urge former FBI Director James Comey in any way, shape or form to close or back down the investigation into Michael Flynn? And also, as you look back --



TAPPER: Not the first time we've heard Giuliani contradict something that President Trump said on camera to the nation.

ANDERSON: No, which is why I continue to be perplexed why the president's legal team or I suppose I should say the president continues to think it is a good idea to have Rudy Giuliani in this role. I think that's something that is extremely perplexing to me and I'd also say that when Rudy Giuliani says, look, when I was a prosecutor, there were family members, other people -- very different than the president of the United States. It is not the same thing.

TAPPER: Quick --

BEGALA: Rudy worked for Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan never called Rudy and said, go easy on this guy you're prosecuting because he is close to me. That would be obstruction of justice if Reagan had done that, just like it was when Trump did that.

TAPPER: Everyone stick around.

Eight of the boys are out. What about the four remaining and their soccer coach still stuck in that cave? Tom Foreman is exploring why this might be the divers' most dangerous rescue mission yet.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If they can keep the water out, it looks like they can get the boys out but that is a gargantuan task. We'll take a look.


[16:29:10] TAPPER: In our world lead today, it's not over yet. We have seen the miraculous rescue of eight boys from that flooded cave system in Thailand but divers are still racing against the clock, heavy rains are rolling in and exhausted rescue teams are entering day 16 with four boys and their coach still trapped deep inside that cave.

CNN's David McKenzie's on the ground for us in Thailand.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Eight of these young boys are now free. Which ones? Not even their families have been told even. The prime minister of Thailand arrived to comfort parents near the cave site. They have agreed to wait here in solidarity until everyone's child is saved.

Each child pulled alive from these tight and wet passages survived more than two weeks inside the cave and an hour's long odyssey out. Expert divers lead them to safety. Then, each child is rushed by ambulance and helicopter to this isolation unit at the Chiang Rai hospital, some wheeled in behind shields of white umbrellas.