Return to Transcripts main page


President Trump's Announcement of Supreme Court Pick; Interview with Bernie Sanders (I) Vermont. Aired 7-8pm ET

Aired July 9, 2018 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:00] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, the President's Supreme Court pick. He has made his decision and the nominee is about to be revealed Trump style. Senator Bernie Sanders is OUTFRONT.

Plus, Trump reportedly tells Putin that his aides are, quote, "stupid people." Trump said that to Putin about Trump's people. And Michael Cohen vowing to speak the, quote, "real truth", how worry should President Trump be? Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, President Trump about to announce his pick for the Supreme Court live on national television in prime time. The person close to the process telling CNN, the President has made his decision and the nominee and the nominee's family are readying for the cameras as we speak there at the White House.

This is one of the most significant announcements of President Trump's presidency, one that, frankly, will cement his legacy and define the Supreme Court for more than a generation. That's a monumental moment and the president, of course, has turned it into a reality show.

There's the big reveal coming up on live prime time, 9:00 Eastern, and the tease. Trump has been playing this up to get people to watch. Even people who may not care anything about the Supreme Court, they want to watch this whole pomp and circumstance. He's been doing this for ten days.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: I'll be announcing it the Monday after July 4th. What is the Monday after July 4th?


TRUMP: The 9th? I'll be announcing on the 9th.

We're going to give you a great one. We're going to announce it on Monday.

If you tune in Monday at 9:00, I think you're going to be extremely happy with the selection.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: Even a little tune in announcement. And here's the thing, he hasn't linked, he's played it very close to the vest. Trump said to have made his decision by 3:00 p.m. today. You have to, you know, either have them all there or fly them in. I mean, you know, it's a pretty incredible feat to pull off.

We're told the finalists include three men and one woman. The final four include Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Judge Thomas Hardiman, who, of course, was the runner-up to replace Antonin Scalia last year, Judge Brett Kavanaugh and Judge Raymond Kethledge. The big reveal will have the lights, the camera, all of the drama.

I mean, do you remember when Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch last year? I mean, this was sort of channeling of Trump's inter apprentice. He walked alone to the mike. He said a few words, then built up to the great reveal.


TRUMP: I would like to ask Judge Gorsuch and his wonderful wife Louise to please step forward. Here they come. Here they come.


BURNETT: And no one knew until that minute. So tonight, Donald Trump, the man who made a name for himself by saying "you're fired" knows that when it comes to tonight and to leaving his mark on American history, it is not the fired part that counts. But the actual final few words that he used to say in all of his "Apprentice" finales.


TRUMP: Randall, you're hired.


BURNETT: And Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT live at the White House. I don't know if we'll get the screams and the applause that came in "The Apprentice" finales, but that is certainly the mood and the pomp the President is building towards. What are you learning right now, Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Erin, good evening. If it was only that easy to put someone on the Supreme Court saying you're hired, the President I think would be in much better shape.

The reality here is, this is the beginning of a summer-long intense confirmation fight. All ready battles playing out. It's coinciding with a midterm election year, which in some ways helps fire up his base. In other ways it complicates it because the Democrats are fired up as well.

But, Erin, the finalists as you were just laying out there. I am told that the President throughout the day today taking phone calls from people essentially soliciting pros and cons from Brett Kavanaugh and Thomas Hardiman. Those are believed to be the two top contenders of those four but no one is making any bets on that.

The President, I'm told, still intrigued with the idea of having a woman on the Supreme Court, a conservative woman in his view. The reality is we're going to have to wait. And, Erin, I can tell you, top officials here do not know.

They're planning for three possibilities. They've been briefing conservative activists. They are getting their team ready for a confirmation fight for three of them. Of course, in two hours we will know.

But, Erin, interestingly tonight in the room there will be a lot of Senate Republicans. Senate Democrats were invited, particularly those red state Democrats whose votes they're looking for. They've all declined. That does not mean they will not vote for the confirmation at the end of the day, but those red state Democrats will not be there tonight.

As of now, the White House believes that secret will hold, two more hours to go, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. In a White House that leaks like a sieve, the best thing to do is not tell around you who you picked. And then, it can't leak.

[19:05:00] OUTFRONT now, Independent Senator Bernie Sanders. Senator Sanders, I appreciate your time. But we understand the President made his choice. When you talk about just the logistics of getting someone there and informing them, making it at 3:00 Eastern is pretty darn late for a 9:00 p.m. announcement that's what we understand.

Senator, Is there anyone this President could realistically pick that would be acceptable to you?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Well, there are many people he could realistically pick, people who respected the rights of workers, people who respected women's rights, people who are concerned about the environment and climate change, people who believed in justice. If President Trump were to nominate somebody who held those beliefs, of course, I could support that person.

Do I realistically think that that is going to be the nominee? No, I don't. As you know, Trump has indicated that he is working off a list of 25 right-wing legal people. And that during the campaign he said, pretty publicly, that his nominee would be somebody to overturn Roe versus Wade. If that's one of his nominees, no, I certainly will not support him or her.

BURNETT: All right. So, on the list of 25 that you're not amenable to, one of the judges that we understand, I don't know if you just heard our Jeff Zeleny, but he's saying it could obviously be anyone on that list of 25. But we believe at this point, he had whittled it down possibly to Judge Thomas Hardiman and Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

I want to ask you about Thomas Hardiman. Obviously, he's on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals right now. And part of the reason he's there is because of you, you voted to confirm him as a Circuit court judge. So --

SANDERS: Well, wait a minute. Let's -- who else voted for him on that one? In fact, everybody voted for him, right?

BURNETT: Right. Well, Democrats did.

SANDERS: Yes, that was unanimous.

BURNETT: My point is, you're saying -- you're now putting him as a conservative you couldn't support. But obviously a decade ago you didn't feel the same way.

SANDERS: Well, yes, but there is a difference between voting for somebody in a lower court and voting for somebody in the highest court of the land. There is a fundamental difference. And if he is the nominee --

BURNETT: Which is what? I mean, that principles would matter in either case, right?

SANDERS: Well, the principle is that the Supreme Court makes the law of the land, and determines what happens in our country in virtually every area. So, yes, there is a fundamental difference.

Look, what we are talking about here is in a moment in American history where we have right-wing extremists controlling the House, the Senate and the White House. If we appoint another right-wing extremist to the Supreme Court, I have very serious concerns about justice in this country and what will happen to the men, women and children and the future of our nation. So --

BURNETT: Just to be clear, would Thomas Hardiman be a right-wing extremist now as you define it?

SANDERS: Yes, if he is on a list of the 25 that were presented to the President, yes, he would be somebody that I would feel impossible to support.

BURNETT: Your colleague, the Democratic Senator Bob Casey from Pennsylvania, he said he would oppose anybody on the list, which I believe is similar to what you're saying to me now, right?

SANDERS: Yes, yes.

BURNETT: OK. The White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah responded, and his response was unfortunate though not surprising even before his or her qualifications can be evaluated, Senator Casey is refusing to consider the President's SCOTUS nominee. Doesn't he have a point? I mean, that it would be --

SANDERS: Not really, it depends. I think what Bob said is that, if it were part of that list of 25. And that list of 25 is not just an arbitrary list. These are people who have been assembled by right- wing jurists and they have views on Roe versus Wade, they have views on workers' rights, they have views on the environment which in many cases are well known. So this is not just any old person. I would not say that, you know, any person should be summarily rejected. But if they're a member of that list, they should look. This is --

BURNETT: Do you regret then voting for Thomas Hardiman on that lower court? Because I know you're saying it's different, but the reality is he wouldn't be up for this if he hadn't gotten that.

SANDERS: Look I voted -- look, when you vote for lower court judges, sometimes we get blue slips and there's a process that goes by. I think that vote was 95 to nothing, is that correct?


SANDERS: 95-nothing. And there are a number of votes like that. But let's be clear, voting for a Supreme Court justice is very different than voting for anybody in a lower court.

Look, what we're talking about is a right-wing agenda which not only wants to end Roe versus Wade, despite the fact that 70 percent of the American people support the maintenance of Roe versus Wade. Not only wants to overturn decisions regarding gay marriage and gay rights despite strong support from the American people.

[19:10:00] The right-wing agenda goes so far as to really side time and time again with large corporations who are attacking workers' rights. Even the concept of the minimum wage, which now is a starvation wage of $7.25 an hour. There are people, right-wing people saying, no, no, that's unconstitutional.

We're talking about healthcare. We're talking about --


SANDERS: -- issues of women's health in general.

BURNETT: Senator.


BURNETT: I want to ask you before we go, but while I have your time about the deadline tomorrow which you know, of course, is the government's deadline to reunite children under 5 who were separated at the border from their parents. Half of the children are going to be reunited by that deadline.

And the Trump administration isn't sure about the rest. The federal judge though who set this deadline for reunification said he's, quote, "very encouraged thus far." Again, I've said half of those children will be reunited by the deadline, half will not. Are you encouraged?

SANDERS: Am I encouraged by a President who ripped children out of the arms of their mother? In a situation in which the authorities did not even know where these kids were, am I encouraged? No, I am outraged by what Trump and his administration have done. Obviously, I would hope and expect that every person in this country, every person in the world believes and expects that these children should be united with their parents. We will see what happens. But I have -- if you want to know what I've been impressed by, it's the incompetence of the Trump administration, even the simplest things in this area.

BURNETT: ICE has become a lightning rod in this. The Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was followed out of a restaurant this weekend. Protesters were yelling personal insults at him, chanting "abolish ICE" and vote him out. I want to play a clip for you, Senator Sanders.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are the children?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Vote you out. Vote you out. Vote you out. Vote you out. Vote you out.


UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison): Abolish ICE.



BURNETT: Senator, among the protesters were members of a local chapter of the Democrat Socialists of America. Do you think their behavior was acceptable?

SANDERS: Look, getting back to this very issue of immigration, there are people all over this country that are outraged that little kids have been separated from their parents, which no doubt will cause, I guess, permanent psychological damage when you separate a kid from his or her parents. So people are outraged and I understand that.

I happen to believe that if we want to deal with real immigration reform, if we want to deal with real criminal justice reform, if we want to deal with the environment, the area that we should be focussing on energy on is ending Republican control over the House and over the Senate.

And I am going to do everything I can and millions of people are going to do everything they can, putting together a grassroots movement which demands that we have a government that represents all of us and not just wealthy campaign contributors. So I think our focus of energy should be on bringing change to the House and the Senate and supporting a progressive agenda.

BURNETT: Senator Sanders, thank you for your time tonight.

SANDERS: Thank you.

BURNETT: Next, breaking news on one of the President's Supreme Court finalists. We now know where that judge is right now and it could tell us something pretty huge about this announcement. Plus, the President's fixer, Michael Cohen, sending a signal to his former boss.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have any comments on you trying to distance yourself from the President?


BURNETT: An exclusive new details tonight from one of the divers who risked his life to save some of the young boys trapped in the cave.


[19:17:27] BURNETT: Breaking News. One of President Trump's four finalists to replace Justice Kennedy on the Supreme Court is not in Washington, D.C. as the President prepares to unveil his pick on live television in about an hour.

Amy Coney Barrett was seen moments ago at her home in South Bend, Indiana. Now, OK, I mean, private jets can do a lot, but that was less than two hours. You still have to change and, you know, everything else.

So that's how that looks. She will not confirm or deny, though, if she is the President's selection. Keep in mind, she was one of Trump's final four along with Thomas Hardiman, Brett Kavanaugh and Ray Kethledge, all of whom, again, he had a list of 25, these are the four that all extensive reporting has honed in on.

OUTFRONT now, former adviser of four presidents including Reagan and Clinton, David Gergen. He's been through this before, although not in this way. No one else, no one has, Supreme Court Analyst Joan Biskupic and CNN Senior Political Analyst John Avlon. Thanks to all.

So, David, let's -- we got this, you know, Amy Coney Barrett, maybe not, from what we see now at her home. Thomas Hardiman, though, certainly has to be at the top of the list, right? I mean, he was the runner-up after Neil Gorsuch. So, theoretically it should be his to take.

First in his family to graduate from college, drove a taxi to pay for his tuition. You have people like Bernie Sanders you heard saying anybody on this list is right-wing extremists.


BURNETT: Thomas Hardiman therefore included. But are Democrats going to have a hard time voting against someone whose personal story is so compelling?

GERGEN: He's first got to get there. It appears from all indications we're down to two, Kavanaugh and Hardiman.

BURNETT: Yes. GERGEN: And if you start to think about the logic of that point, I think the logic would say that the president would put Hardiman in there. He's going to be in a hard fight and he's gotten assurances from McConnell that Hardiman, not Kavanaugh, will have an easier time getting through.

And Hardiman's also, you know, has been friends with Trump's sister, he's got a lot of support --

BURNETT: Right, that's right. She had recommended him. Yes.

GERGEN: He's from Pennsylvania. You know, of the final four, three are from key states in 2020. So, you know, thinking about Pennsylvania.

BURNETT: Interesting.

GERGEN: But it's unclear whether Trump is moved by logic or whether he might even like a fight. We don't know that. And so, there's a lot of chatter right until the end of the day today about Kavanaugh. So, you know, if this is all gossip and chatter, wait until 9:00. We can wait two more hours.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, getting inside Trump's head is --

BURNETT: Kavanaugh, of course, has a long and storied history with the Bush family, right? And this has been something that I think it is hard to underplay when it comes to the importance of it to Trump.

[19:20:00] AVLON: Right. This is loyalty as the prime virtue and here is someone who was the staff secretary to President George W. Bush. And is someone who's very well-regarded by that administration. This president doesn't have a lot of respect for that administration.

He's an establishment figure and is somebody who apparently, though, his White House counsel has been really pushing. But there is that question, if he feels he is going to be loyal to the Bushes, is that a disqualifier? That said, one of his longest law review articles, Minnesota Law Review, is a breath taking statement in favor of presidential power and prerogative. And that might appeal to Trump, or being used to appeal to Trump to say, look, down the line.

If you get in a fight about president power, you want this guy on your side.

BURNETT: I mean, Joan, it's interesting when you look at something Kavanaugh wrote for Minnesota Law Review. I think this is what you're referring to.


BURNETT: In 2009, he writes in part, "Congress might consider a law exempting a president while in office from criminal prosecution and investigation, including of questioning" -- I'm thinking of the Mueller interview, "continues to say criminal investigations targeted at a president are inevitability politicized and a president concern about an ongoing criminal investigation is inevitability going to do a worse job as president."

I mean, that sound like it was written for Trump. I want to say, Joan, I'll put the time stamp on it, 2009, but that's something that has to really strike at the president's heart.

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: You know, that's right, Erin. And he wrote that after serving with George W. Bush. And he says in that article that he saw up close the demands of the presidency and how hard it would be to have to defend oneself in civil or criminal litigation with the weight of the White House on you.

But, you know, it's interesting you bring that up for another reason. If I take two of the nominees that we're down to that David referred to, Judge Hardiman and Judge Kavanaugh. Judge Kavanaugh is the kind of jurist who wrote a piece like that on the D.C. Circuit is handling a lot of big questions having to do with presidential power, separation of powers, big regulatory questions, where as Thomas Hardiman is sort of in the trenches on the Third Circuit based in Philadelphia.

He's doing more, you know, his case load almost matches that kind of bootstrap family history he has.


BISKUPIC: He's looking at things like school dress code policies. He's looking at, you know, death penalty cases. He's looking at job discrimination. So there is a real clear cut difference in those two possibilities, for certain.

BURNETT: You Know, David, when we look at three of the four finalists, one thing we talk about -- I think this is an interesting commentary on our country. There certain religions that you can talk about and there are certain ones you can't. Catholicism is now one we're allowed to talk about. Is that going to make you vote a certain way on Roe versus Wade and that we are allowed to have this conversation.

GERGEN: Right.

BURNETT: Three of the four justices to replace Kennedy are Catholic and very openly so and ardently so in the case of some of them. Obviously in Kennedy's case, that didn't stop him from upholding Roe versus Wade. How important is this issue of religion?

GERGEN: Well, it's very, very important if you're a strong -- a person of strong faith and a particular religious community. And therefore, you have very strong views. The question is, are you going to impose those views on others? And we've had a number of, you know, public servants.

Mayor Cuomo was a famous example, for example. He was opposed in his own life to abortion, but he said as governor of the state of New York -- BURNETT: Separation of church and state, right?


BURNETT: (Inaudible) as a judge, you would hope they would.

GERGEN: I think that's right. But I don't think this is entering in very much to the conversation we're having right now. I mean, she got a lot of -- Judge Barrett had a lot of support from evangelicals. Those are religious use --

BURNETT: Amy Coney Barrett who, of course, is very catholic. Yes.

GERGEN: Yes, that's right. But I think she's sort of not -- we know she's in Indiana. She's not making the cut.

AVLON: That video seems to be pretty positive.

GERGEN: It certainly does. I mean, you know, I feel like you have to always put a caveat in things because I can't tell you for sure. But I would agree with you.

AVLON: May have invented time travel --

GERGEN: The interesting thing in the chatter that's been going on in the last 24 hours has been Kavanaugh seemed to be slipping because McConnell said it's harder to get him confirmed. But people have been taking a close look at the White House, especially the general counsel for a long time, who is in favor of Kavanaugh, about his shifting views on the presidency.

Because when he worked for Ken Starr way back when he was for -- he stood for the indictment of a president. He has now changed his mind and believes sitting president should not be indicted. And that has some resonance, of course, in this White House.

BURNETT: Well, I mean, this President's obsession with what he calls the witch hunt. And I mean --

AVLON: But what's ironic is when Kavanaugh was with Starr, he was one of the guys running the legal opinion that said, a president absolutely has to respond to subpoena.

GERGEN: Right.

AVLON: So -- but his views certainly evolved basically experience work in the White House.

BURNETT: No, which I guess raises questions on how much of a hardliner he is on the constitution.

Joan, before we go, the President obviously in Bedminster was listening to Giuliani, Sean Hannity, Chris Ruddy, his longtime friend, the CEO of Newsmax among them. And then, we know today making phone calls up until 3:00 this afternoon when we understand he made his final decision. [19:25:07] When you put all that together, what advice do you think he was getting?

BISKUPIC: Probably a lot of varied advice from many people, and including what we heard Senator McConnell say, you know, maybe make it an easier lift. I have a feeling when it comes right down to it, he's going to listen to his own gut. He's going to want to do something splashy. He's going to want to come out. And he's liked all the suspense, Erin, certainly. And I think -- I actually think he's not going to take the safer path.

BURNETT: So what do you think that means?

BISKUPIC: I actually -- you know, look, do I really want to predict within, like, two hours?

BURNETT: No. What I mean, I'm saying that Kavanaugh and Hardiman to me are about as boring as it gets. I don't mean that negatively. I'm just saying that they are very safe, stayed picked. So you're saying it's not --

BISKUPIC: No, they're not. No, no. Judge Kavanaugh is not the safest pick for sure because of his record. So just know, I actually think that's the tougher choice. I think Judge Hardiman would be a much easier individual to move through the Senate.


BISKUPIC: But I think he's spoiling for a fight a little bit, and I think that he likes the fact that if he can get over the Bush thing, and I don't know if he's gotten over the Bush administration element of Brett Kavanaugh, but if he can get over that, I think he would like the elite YALE educated Brett Kavanaugh --

BURNETT: He's probably want to have the Ivy League Education.


BURNETT: David, quickly.

GERGEN: It's really interesting how much times have changed. The President spent his time talking to the conservatives today. In times past, you talk to the American Bar Association. They've been completely right out of this. But this is in the process. It's now going to the Federalist Society supposedly.

BURNETT: And the Federalist Society speaking out. The person in charge of it, whispering in his ear on this, the most top person, Leonard Leo is going to be our guest, coming up.

More on a breaking news. Considered to play a crucial role in three Supreme Court picks already including Gorsuch, and that man is going to be my guest next.

Plus, Trump reportedly tells Putin that Trump's team, some of his officials, are stupid people, specifically the people who told Trump not to congratulate Putin on his election. So Trump did it and told Putin about the fact he was told not to do it and that they were stupid. All of it on a call. That reporting coming up.


[19:30:38] ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Breaking news. Democrats vowing to fight whomever Trump picks to replace Justice Kennedy on the Supreme Court.

Manu Raju is OUTFRONT on Capitol Hill.

And, Manu, this is going to be a battle. The question is, how big of a battle?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's going to be intense, Erin. Republicans have no margin for error if John McCain continues to be absent. That means they can't lose even a single Republican vote if all Democrats ultimately vote against this nominee.

And all eyes right now are on Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, two moderate senators who have raised concerns about any nominee who may gut Roe versus Wade. Susan Collins was invited to the White House tonight as part of the Supreme Court event. She declined the invitation and she would not comment about the four finalists when I asked her about that earlier tonight.

Now at the same time, Erin, the Senate majority whip, the number two Republican John Cornyn expressed optimism that ultimately Republicans will side with the president and confirm this nominee.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX), MAJORITY WHIP: I'm confident no matter which of the four the president nominates, they're high-quality individuals and I'm confident they'll be confirmed. The timing could not be better from my perspective. And people will now see that electing a Republican president has very definite results.


RAJU: And undoubtedly, this will energize people on both sides of the aisle and put a lot of pressure on those red state Democrats, particularly ones up for re-election who will need support of their core supporters who will undoubtedly will urge them to fight President Trump's nominee but also try to appeal to those moderate Republican- leaning voters in those conservative states, putting them in a very, very difficult position.

But, Erin, wait for Democrats to raise concerns about any nominee who might try to gut the Affordable Care Act and pre-existing conditions that come with it. That's going to be a big argument going forward by both Democrats who from the leadership on down to ones in difficult re-election races, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Manu, thank you.

I want to go to now, as promised, to the outside adviser to the president for judicial selection, Leonard Leo.

"The Wall Street Journal", Mr. Leo, calls you, quote, the conservative activist who plays a critical role in Supreme Court picks. "The L.A. Times" says you're the man to see if you aspire to the Supreme Court. It's the fourth pick you've played a role key in, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch.

And Gorsuch actually told the Senate Judiciary Committee that his whole journey started, Leonard, when, quote, I was contacted with Leonard Leo who was working with the president-elect's transition team regarding the Supreme Court vacancy.

Here we are then, Leonard, the final countdown. Final two, maybe four contenders. Obviously, you know things you're not going to be able to share right now, but what was the hardest part -- the hardest part of choosing here in these final hours?

LEONARD LEO, OUTSIDE ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT FOR JUDICIAL SELECTION: Well, I think the president was extraordinarily engaged and very transparent. I think he really worked hard to make the right decision. He had extensive meetings with all of the finalists. He talked at length with his senior administration staff, particularly White House counsel Don McGahn.

I think this has been, frankly, the most transparent and intense president we've seen in terms of Supreme Court selection, at least in my professional life. And that must be very time consuming and very hard for the president, but I think he's done what he needs to do because it's an awesome responsibility.

BURNETT: You have played a crucial role here. And I just wanted to play for you -- Senator Bernie Sanders was just on. By the way, he says he's going to oppose any of the picks if they come off the list of 25. He called them right-wing extremists.

And he said that part of the reason they're there is you, people like you. And here's what he said.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: That list of 25 is not just an arbitrary list. These are people who have been assembled by right- wing jurists and they have views on Roe versus Wade, they have views on workers' rights, they have views on the environment which in many cases are well known. So, this is not just any old person. I would not say that, you know, any person should be summarily rejected, but if they're a member of that list, they should.


BURNETT: What do you say to that, Leonard? He called them right-wing jurists, referring to people like you as recommending them, and he called all 25 of them right-wing extremists.

[19:35:06] LEO: Well, first of all, these are some of the most extraordinarily well-qualified people on the bench, period. They're the best of the best.

And, secondly, what you can say about all of these people on the list is that they know that what makes a judge most fair is the idea that you're going to interpret the Constitution and the laws according to their words and their text. And that's really what these people are all about. They understand that it's the duty of the court to enforce limits on government power. They understand that it's important not to be outcome based in the way they do their jobs as judges.

BURNETT: So, when we talked last week, Leonard, you told me you had not discussed abortion or Roe versus Wade specifically with the president and, in fact, you said the candidates were not asked about it either.

Of course, you received the distinguished leader award from the Susan B. Anthony List last year. Its mission is explicitly to end abortion. Ed Whelan, a former clerk for Justice Scalia, wrote, quote, about you: No one has been more dedicated to the enterprise of building a Supreme Court that will overturn Roe versus Wade than the Federalist Society's Leonard Leo.

Given all that, did abortion never really come up with these candidates? Maybe because you already knew they would vote to overturn it, or do you truly not know how they would vote?

LEO: Those of us who are in the conservative legal movement, what drives us is the idea that if you really want to protect freedom and dignity and prosperity in this country, you need to have judges who are going to respect and enforce the limits on government power contained in the Constitution. And the fact of the matter is part of the judicial role is to struggle and grapple with important precedents of the court. And I think all of the people that the president has considered in this process are people that have that in their records, people who are really struggling and gapping with the role of major precedent.

BURNETT: Is the translation to that, people who are willing to overturn precedent and have the courage to do so?

LEO: No, I think if you look at the writings of all four of these finalists, what you find is people who really work hard to figure out whether precedent should be upheld or not. They keep an open mind and they're fair about it and they don't predetermine results before they hear a case.

BURNETT: I just want to make sure I understand because so many people care deeply about this issue and it matters when it comes to getting the Republican votes that are going to be necessary to get this person through. It is going to come down to Roe v. Wade.

It's an issue you do feel passionately about. You wrote -- or, I'm sorry, you were voted in a "New Yorker" article last year saying, quote: It's an act of force. This is about abortion. It's a threat to human life. It's just that simple.

LEO: There is a big difference -- (CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Clearly --

LEO: Sorry.

BURNETT: That's how you feel personally. But, professionally, would you still keep the precedent yourself and support someone else who would keep that precedent?

LEO: A judge has no business inserting their personal preferences. None. That's been my view and the view of the conservative legal movement for decades.

So, what we think personally about abortion or any other issue is not something that we ought to consider in terms of judicial selection or in terms of decision-making from the bench.

I think we talked, Erin, once before about how -- you know, a judge wears a black robe. And the reason that judge wears a black robe is because they shed their personal preferences and their prejudices and their predispositions and they just interpret the law as written. And that's what we believe and that's what the Framers wanted in the judiciary and that's what the American people want.

That's what fairness means and that's what we believe in.

BURNETT: So, you've been open about those personal preferences. When you shed them, when you advise the president, do you think Roe versus Wade should be overturned?

LEO: I'm not the president. I'm not the one making these decisions. And to me that's not --

BURNETT: But he listens to you. You're important to him.

LEO: Yes, but that's -- I've never discussed it with him and the reason because I don't think that's a relevant consideration. I think the most important thing is to have candidates for judicial selection who understand their limited role. And that includes not only interpreting the law as it's written but understanding that precedent is a part of what judges have to deal with every day.

And I think, look -- and this is going to be a great -- these confirmation hearings that are going to happen are going to be a great opportunity for the American people to see how judges think and how important precedent is and how important the words of the Constitution are, and people are going to have an opportunity firsthand to figure out where the nominee ultimately stands on those issues.

BURNETT: Look, you're saying a lot of very thoughtful things, but I do -- I do just want to say, Leonard, this is an somehow you know a lot about, you've thought a lot about, right? So, it doesn't seem that hard for you to answer the question of, do you think Roe versus Wade should be overturned or not?

LEO: Again, it's not relevant. I'm not the president --

BURNETT: But it is relevant. It's relevant to the two Republican senators' votes that are going to be required to get this confirmation through, Collins and Murkowski, right? So, if it matters to them, it matters to the president.

LEO: It's relevant in terms of who the nominee is going to be before the court, and that's it. And they have to ask -- senators are going to ask have that nominee where they stand on precedent. That's a question that's been asked in every major confirmation hearing going all the way back to Sandra O'Connor.

[19:40:00] And all these nominees that are considered, these perspective nominees, Erin, they have very deep and wide records about how they believe precedent ought to function in a court. And they can be asked about that. People can read their writings.

Again -- and the only other thing I would say here is, I really hope that these confirmation hearings and this process doesn't become -- doesn't become a circus about particularly outcomes and particular cases, because that's really not what the American people want. The court and the constitution are about a lot of issues.


LEO: Substantive --


BURNETT: All of that is true. So, we're about an hour away, Leonard. Who is your -- who is your pick? Who is your final recommendation?

LEO: Oh, as you know I've said before with regard to these finalists, you know, you can throw a dart at them and you'd find someone who adheres to the law and the Constitution and the way the president's described.

All of them are extraordinarily well-qualified. They're leaders in their field. And all of them are fair people. They're people who have demonstrated that they keep an open mind, that they demonstrate courage and independence.

I think it's a great group of people and I am so heartened by the fact that we've had a president who's been transparent about the process and who has fought very hard to introduce the American people to the concept of blind justice, really -- people who care about the Constitution as it's written.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. I appreciate your time, Leonard.

LEO: Thank you.

BURNETT: OUTFRONT next, Rudy Giuliani saying Trump could be in the clear if Michael Cohen flips. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I think he's going to tell the truth. If he does that, we're home free.


BURNETT: Does Cohen, though, have a different view?

And President Trump reportedly dissing his own staff during that phone call with President Putin, called him to congratulate him against their recommendation and told Putin about it and called his own staff stupid.


[19:45:31] BURNETT: Tonight, sources tell CNN the president's former fixer Michael Cohen is committed to speaking, quote, the real truth. They warn that Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani is wading into dangerous territory when he says the president will be, quote, home free if Cohen is honest with prosecutors. They say, in fact, Cohen is trying to send a message to Trump and Giuliani that the truth is not you or your client's friends.

OUTFRONT now, Marc Lotter, former press secretary to Vice President Pence and a member of the president's 2020 re-elect advisory panel, and Joan Walsh, national affairs correspondent at "The Nation".

Great to have both of you here in person.

Mark, let me start with you. The truth is not Giuliani or Trump's friend. Those are fighting words. Do they happen to be true?

MARC LOTTER, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think it's always best when people tell the truth. So, if Rudy Giuliani is encouraging someone to tell the truth, that is a good thing. He clearly said yesterday on multiple occasions he's got nothing to worry about.

BURNETT: How does he know? How does Rudy Giuliani actually know what Donald Trump did in all those years?

LOTTER: Well, if the president is saying he has nothing to worry about and Rudy Giuliani is going to parrot that.

But here is the key, that remember, the issues that Michael Cohen is facing are not with Robert Mueller, they're with the southern district of New York. So, they're right now, I would say, more Michael Cohen potential problems. He's not been charged with a crime.

So, right now, all he's got is whatever his potential business dealings or interactions may cause.

BURNETT: Right, which is what's under investigation.

JOAN WALSH, NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, THE NATION: Right. BURNETT: He could give something up on the president if he were to have it.

WALSH: Right and here's why I don't think that Rudy Giuliani is really telling the truth. Let's go back to the day of I think was April 10th, April 11th when the raid occurred on Michael Cohen's home, office and his hotel room.

Donald Trump lost it. He had assembled his top military folks. They were talking about what to do about Syria and he opened the meeting. He kind -- we heard that some of them were kind of humiliated --

BURNETT: Went off about --

WALSH: He went off about this was a harm to the United States. The United States had been attacked by this raid on Michael Cohen's office. These were not the calm words of a man who thinks, oh, he's got nothing on me. It's all fine.

He's not that concerned about Michael Cohen's civil rights to go lose his stuff.

BURNETT: Which is an interesting point you raise because he was upset at that time, right?

WALSH: Very upset.

BURNETT: He tweeted he was upset. But now, team Trump says they've got nothing. They're not afraid, had time to think about it. I mean, here is how Rudy put it just in the past day.


GIULIANI: There is 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. 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.


BURNETT: He's doing two things there. One, he's sort of kissing the derriere of Michael Cohen.

WALSH: Right.

BURNETT: I trust you. believe you you're going to tell the truth. Unlike Jay Goldberg, a former lawyer of the president who said Cohen would lie to say whatever the people wanted to hear, the prosecutors wanted to hear. But home free?

WALSH: No, he's not home free. I think this is very effective. Rudy Giuliani looks cool and calm. Sometimes he doesn't look that way. We've got nothing to worry about. God bless you, Michael Cohen.

I think this is strategy. I don't think they can believe that he's home free, I really don't. Not giving the president --

BURNETT: And Cohen now, Marc, has a new lawyer, right, Lanny Davis. Lanny Davis is not afraid of a fight, OK? It's one of the things I love about Lanny Davis. You got a well-matched team here in Giuliani and Lanny Davis.

He tweeted today, did Rudy Giuliani really say 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.


LOTTER: I'm really kind of shocked that we're surprised that lawyers would sit there and say tell the truth. Of course they are. And so, Rudy Giuliani is confident that he'll tell the truth. Lanny Davis, and he's not just a great lawyer, he's also very good at communications and media strategy, generating headlines, which is why we're talking about things today.

WALSH: Exactly. He did his job.

LOTTER: He's sending a tweet saying tell the truth. So, at the end, tell the truth, which is what everyone should do.

WALSH: I hope so.

BURNETT: We can agree to that. I think there are plenty of people in the world of Washington and lawyers. Joan, we agree that but, you know --

WALSH: But again, it's good strategy.

BURNETT: So, Giuliani also said he wants to see all the texts between the members of Bob Mueller's team, saying, you know, pretty explicitly, he said something I'll bet a dinner that there is going to be bias like we saw with Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, right, where they're anti-Trump personal views were extremely clear in text.

Is that fair or is that moving the goal post to ask for those texts?

LOTTER: I think we have -- every time you go into public service at every level, local, state and federal, you have to assume that every text message, every e-mail is going to come out.

[19:50:01] And you have to be guarded in those kinds of things, especially if it could indicate a bias in your official actions. And that's the key that we're talking about is, did these affect official actions, when you have the power of the government, the power of police behind you, we can never let personal bias interfere in that.

WALSH: I absolutely agree, but so far --

BURNETT: So those texts are on the table? WALSH: I think they are on the table. But Peter struck also wants to

be able -- he wants his testimony to be released. He wants to be able to testify publicly. He is asking to tell his story and nothing that's come out so far shows anything but personal two friends sharing their personal biased. He was very tough on Clinton.

So, again, I think this is a distraction. This is what Rudy is paid to do, which is throw more mud at the Mueller investigation and see what sticks.

BURNETT: Well, Rudy is successfully -- I mean, you know, you both seem to agree, they are on the table but Rudy put them there.

WALSH: Right, absolutely.

BURNETT: I mean, they weren't there. I mean, Rudy is trying to change the conversation and pretty successful at doing it, frankly, Marc.

LOTTER: I would say they are there as soon as they started sending those messages, they had to know that would come up.

WALSH: The House Republicans have been going after them. I mean --

LOTTER: They've been looking at this for a very long time. And we do need to know, this is not the first time, we talk about how the FBI is supposedly above reproach, but we have to remember that back in the '60s and '70s had to intervene when you had the former director, J. Edgar Hoover creating list of un-American people and following political opponents and Congress and the American people said that's not acceptable.

WALSH: Agreed, but then --

LOTTER: And then he starts to even hint that that could be coming back, we've got to make sure that we push back.

WALSH: Agreed. But then if this is under consideration, I also think we need much more information on how Rudy Giuliani knew from New York FBI agents and retired agents that the Comey was about to pull a big October surprise that would hurt Hillary Clinton. He knew. He said it on Fox News. We need to know that, too.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both.

And next, Trump reportedly tells Putin that his own aides are, quote, stupid people. Why would he say that to Vladimir Putin.

And divers now expected to head back into the cave to rescue the remaining boys as we speak. Tonight, we're hearing from one of the divers about exactly what it's like inside.


[19:55:11] BURNETT: Breaking news, "The New York Times" reporting tonight that President Trump during that infamous call where he was told to not congratulate Vladimir Putin for, quote-unquote, winning another term in office, told the Russian president when he went ahead and congratulated him that he had, quote, stupid people advising him.

This news comes as the president prepares to leave tomorrow for a contentious NATO summit to which this will only add Jim Sciutto is OUTFRONT.

Jim, the headline of "The Washington Post" reads, ahead of NATO summit, allies wonder will NATO survive Trump? Well, you know, you put all this together with his, you know, very friendly relationship with Putin, is all this talk or is Trump truly risk of blowing up what we all recognize as the world order?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: There are genuine concerns. I've spoken to European diplomats. I spoke to the leader of a European country in the last week, a NATO ally, who expressed the following fear. They say that they hear one thing from a Secretary Mattis, who is on the NATO party line in terms of the Russia threat and the president will make a public comment to the contrary, but substantively, too, for instance, raising the idea of recognizing Russia's annexation of Crimea, which is something NATO vehemently opposes.

And now you have this "New York Times" story with the president in effect throwing his own advisers under the bus, calling them stupid people for recommending against his congratulating Putin on what was not an entirely fixed election, certainly not a democratic election. It is that contrast that truly concerns U.S. NATO allies.

BURNETT: I mean, it is pretty stunning when you hear about that. I mean, in the NATO meeting, obviously, it comes in the context of the Putin summit, but also the president today saying he's confident talks with Korea, Kim Jong-un are on track, even though Korea said over the weekend the U.S. is increasing the risk of war, really saying the exact opposite. I mean, are the talks with Kim Jong-un really on the rocks?

SCIUTTO: Well, they're nowhere near where the president said they were, right, when he announced a couple weeks ago that the nuclear threat is over because since then, one, North Korea's return to his belligerent rhetoric. Two, Secretary Pompeo travels all the way to Pyongyang and Kim does not meet him as expected.

But more importantly, North Korea made no substantive steps to pull back its nuclear program which is something the president said they did and in fact they did not. And today in the tweet, he was also blaming China for it all, which is really frankly a riff that North Korea wants. It would like to see China and the U.S. divided in terms of this.

So, the position is not where the president advertised it, whether the talks can be resurrected, we don't know.

BURNETT: Right. And, of course, this is a president who feels comfortable fighting a war on many, many fronts at once. Question is, when will it be one too many? Thank you very much, Jim Sciutto. SCIUTTO: Thank you.

BURNETT: And more breaking news: teams of international divers right now gearing up to go back into the cave as you see here -- the entry way. I mean, it's incredible to see, to try to get out the remaining boys and the coach. They're still in there, it's now been 17 nights.

Arwa Damon is out live near the hospital where the boys have been rescued, eight of them are being treated.

And, Arwa, you've been able to speak to one of the divers who went in that rescued these young men. What did he tell you?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Erin, we spoke to a diver who is a member of the team that is tasked with replenishing the oxygen and air supply along this incredibly treacherous route. Here is how he described the very risky conditions inside the cave.


NARONGSUK KEASUBM, DRIVER WHO HELPED TO RESCUE BOYS FROM CAVE (through translator): Our duty is transporting the air tanks for the SEAL team. We could see only out hands with short distance. Secondly, the stones are razor sharp, which is dangerous for our diving. Thirdly, the passage is very narrow. This is the hardest mission we've ever done.


DAMON: And, Erin, even though they have had two so far successful days getting these eight boys out, they were emphasizing just how dangerous the remaining trip is for those four and their coach, who are still inside. And the boys are all coming out with full face masks on. They're being escorted by two divers.

But the visibility, especially when they're going under water, they can really only see a foot in front of them. When they are eventually brought here to the hospital, they're being put on a floor that's been transformed into something of an isolation ward, because of course there are great concerns that their immune systems might be compromised, that there could be some unforeseen diseases.

Everyone here, Erin, is so desperately hoping that today will also be a success and that it will be the last day. And you can just imagine how desperate the boys, their family, their parents are to be able to hug each other, finally once again and begin to put this all behind them.

BURNETT: Just absolutely incredible. Of course as they get ready to try to continue this miraculous rescues again this morning.

Thank you so very much, Arwa.

And thanks to all of you for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.