Return to Transcripts main page


Trump to Announce Supreme Court Pick; Cohen Sending Message to Trump, Giuliani; Only Half of Migrant Kids to Be Reunited by Court Deadline; Interview with Senator Jeff Flake (R) Arizona. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 9, 2018 - 17:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Supreme secrecy. CNN has learned that President Trump has selected his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, but he won't reveal it until his announcement tonight from the White House.

[17:00:19] Turn signal. Sources say long-time Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is sending a clear signal to the president and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, after Giuliani urged Cohen to tell the truth. Is Cohen about to turn on the president?

Gangster's paradigm. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dismisses North Korea's characterization of his, quote, "gangster-like mindset" in denuclearization talks. Did his meeting with Kim -- the Kim regime accomplish anything?

And diving for safety. Growing urgency right now to get the last four boys and their coach out of a flooded cave in Thailand before the water rises even higher. Why is the effort on pause right now?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: The breaking news this hour: sources are telling CNN that President Trump has selected his nominee for the Supreme Court and that a process is now underway to get that person and the family to the White House for the president's announcement less than four hours from now.

We'll talk about that and much more with Senator Jeff Flake of the Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees. And our correspondents, specialists and analysts, they are also standing by.

First, let's get straight to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. Jim, what are you picking up over there about the president's Supreme Court pick?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as you said, President Trump has made his decision for the Supreme Court. The president and his team want to make a big splash with the conservative base that he needs to energize for the upcoming midterm elections. That explains why the president is almost guaranteed to select a nominee who would overturn Roe v. Wade. But the Russia investigation may also be critical, Wolf, as his team appears to be looking at how a potential pick would handle the indictment of a sitting president.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Closing in on his prime-time pick for the Supreme Court, President Trump is cranking up the reality TV drama as only he can.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's still -- let's say it's the four people, but they're excellent. Every one. You can't go wrong. But I'm getting very close to making a final decision.

ACOSTA: Sources tell CNN the four finalists are Thomas Hardiman, Brett Kavanaugh, Raymond Kethledge and Amy Coney Barrett, all staunch conservatives. Much of the betting is on Hardiman, a favorite of Mr. Trump's sister, who's also a federal judge in Pennsylvania. Hardiman was a runner-up last time and was caught on video pumping gas on his way into Washington just before the president selected Neil Gorsuch for the high court.

THOMAS HARDIMAN, 3RD U.S. CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS: I think any good judge recognizes his or her place in our constitutional government, and that place is not to upset the will of the people as expressed through their elected representatives.

ACOSTA: CNN has learned the president's Supreme Court team has studied past comments from Kavanaugh on the notion of indicting a sitting president, a key question in the Russia investigation.

Kavanaugh, who worked for the independent counsel, Ken Starr, during the Clinton impeachment saga, wrote in the "University of Minnesota Law Review" "The indictment and trial of a sitting president, moreover, would cripple the federal government, rendering it unable to function with credibility in either the international or domestic arenas."

The president could also send a strong signal to Christian conservatives by choosing Barrett, who's widely seen as guaranteed to outlaw abortion if she's selected.

AMY CONEY BARRETT, 7TH U.S. CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS: I think the question is, how much freedom the court is willing to let states have in regulating abortion.

ACOSTA: Senator Dianne Feinstein grilled Barrett about her religious beliefs at her confirmation hearing last year.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that's of concern.

ACOSTA: Kethledge, a judge with ties to Michigan, would give the president some bragging rights in a key battleground state for 2020. RAYMOND KETHLEDGE, 6TH U.S. CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS: I don't really

have a label that I can put on myself. What I would say is that, obviously first and foremost, I'd follow Supreme Court precedent.

ACOSTA: Heading overseas to meet with NATO allies and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr. Trump faces other vexing issues, like the cool reception North Korea gave Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over its nuclear program.

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I'll give you one quick answer with respect to North Korea. We still have a long ways to go.

ACOSTA: Bot to mention the worries, even from fellow Republicans, that Moscow hasn't learned to stay out of U.S. elections.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: Look, the last time that the Russian government embraced western values and democracy was never. Dealing with Putin is like hand feeding a shark. You can do it but you have to do it very, very carefully.


[17:05:05] ACOSTA: As for the president's Supreme Court pick, conservative allies of the White House predict Mr. Trump will land enough Democratic votes in the Senate to confirm his selection.

That's because there are just too many conservative or competitive races, I should say in red states where Democrats could be in trouble. And with the campaign season fast approaching for these midterms, Wolf, the White House has invited, we should note, some of those endangered Democrats over here for tonight's event, but Wolf, at this point they all appear to be saying, "No thanks" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: At least right now. All right, Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

President Trump's long-time lawyer and fixer and friend, Michael Cohen, is sending a very clear signal to the president and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, according to sources. Our political correspondent, Sara Murray, has got details.

Sara, Giuliani was interviewed on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION." He said he's not concerned about Cohen potentially flipping on the president, and he urged Cohen to be truthful. When's the very latest you're hearing?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, sources are telling my colleague Gloria Borger that those around Cohen are saying, 'Look, the truth is not going to be a friend of Rudy Giuliani or of President Trump." They're trying to make it clear that Cohen is not going to be the president's punching bag. He's no longer willing to take a bullet for the president. And if he is forthcoming about what happened, for instance in that Trump Tower meeting in the summer of 2016, between Donald Trump Jr. and Russians, it could cause some headaches.

Now, as you pointed out, Rudy Giuliani says, "Put everything on the table." Here's what he told CNN over the weekend.


RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER FOR DONALD TRUMP: 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 think he's going to tell the truth, as best he can, given his recollection; and if he does that, we're home free.


MURRAY: So we might be seeing something akin to a game of chicken when it comes to Michael Cohen and those around him and Rudy Giuliani. One thing important to note, we don't know what Michael Cohen knows, and we also don't know if prosecutors would even be willing to offer him a deal -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sara, did Giuliani seem to confirm, at the same time, that Donald Trump, the president, asked the FBI director, James Comey, to drop that investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn?

MURRAY: Wolf, this is particularly interesting, because this is one of these questions that gets to whether the president tried to obstruct justice. He has insisted over and over again he didn't try to tell Comey to let the whole Flynn thing go. But it seems like Rudy Giuliani is suggesting the president said something along those lines.

Here's what Giuliani said to ABC.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: How is he a good witness for the president if he's saying that the president was asking him, directing him, in his words, to let the Michael Flynn investigation go?

RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER FOR DONALD TRUMP: He didn't direct him to do that. What he said to him was "Can you --"

STEPHANOPOULOS: Comey says he took it as direction.

GIULIANI: Well, that's OK. Taking it that way. By that time, he had been fired. And he said a lot of other things, which turned out to be untrue. The reality is, 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.


MURRAY: So you see the president's lawyer there, essentially confirming in some way President Trump suggested Comey should go easy on Flynn.

BLITZER: What are you hearing about the new demands, Sara, that the Trump legal team is making, if Mueller wants an interview with the president? MURRAY: Well, we know the president's new legal team and, obviously,

that includes Rudy Giuliani, has been much more antagonist when it comes to the Mueller investigation. Now Giuliani is telling "The New York Times" and other outlets that he wants to see proof that the president has committed some kind of crime before President Trump decides to sit for an interview.

He also wants Mueller's team to make it explicitly clear why they need testimony from the president and to show that they could not get it from anyone else involved in this. Now, these are pretty high demands. It's very unlikely that Mueller's team would acquiesce to them.

And remember, they could always pull out their own Trump card and say, "OK, we're going to move forward with a subpoena." The big question is what would happen in a situation like that? We know the president has said publicly a number of times he would like to speak to Mueller's team. So we'll see what ultimately happens, Wolf.

BLITZER: You certainly will. All right, Sara. Thank you very much. Sara Murray reporting.

Let's get some insight and political analysis from our experts right now. Jeffrey Toobin, you're an expert on the Supreme Court. Let's look at these four individuals, the apparent finalists. What do you think? Who's going to win it?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the most important thing to observe, I think, is that they're much more similar than they are different. And we can find subtle differences.

You know, Amy Barrett has just become a federal appeals court judge. Kavanaugh has been a judge for 13 years. So I mean, there's a -- there's a vast difference in terms of experience.

But in terms of politics, I think the most important thing is to remember what Donald Trump said in the campaign, which is he will appoint pro-life judges who will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. I think what he meant by that was that he will appoint pro-life justices who will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. That's what I think he's going to do, and that's what he's done with Neil Gorsuch, and elections have consequences.

BLITZER: Which raises the question, Mark Preston: Can the president count on all the Republicans, all 51 Republicans right now, to vote to confirm if Roe v. Wade is going to a sensitive issue, like Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, for example, who are in support of keeping Roe v. Wade?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And in addition, remember, we have Senator John McCain, who is -- who is ill, and he's back home. So we have to take him off the board, as well.

You know, it's interesting. Jeffrey and I were talking about Susan Collins earlier today, and he made the point that, even though we talk about Susan Collins -- and you were very much right in saying this, having a thick skin like a real steel spine, she has voted to confirm every -- every judge, Supreme Court judge that has come before her.

So you have to question would she come out and vote against Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee? I do think Murkowski is a little bit different situation, because she has gone into an election where she lost the Republican nomination back in 2010.

She went on and ran on her own name, and she owns that state of Alaska. So her, I think -- I think she is more likely to make a move that perhaps could derail this for President Trump.

BLITZER: The president clearly, Nia-Malika Henderson, would like to get some of the red-state Democrats, especially those up for re- election this time, on board and vote to confirm.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Those up for re-election and those who voted for Gorsuch before. That would be Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. That would be Joe Manchin of Indiana -- or West Virginia. And Joe Donnelly of Indiana. And he's already talked to those people. President Trump has, has talked to them.

Likely, they don't necessarily know who his final pick is going to be. There was some reporting that he wanted them at this announcement tonight. That likely won't happen.

But he needs some padding, since he doesn't have, really, any room for error when it comes to Republicans. I mean, he's -- John McCain, obviously, won't be there. And he's got, you know, some shaky, you know, kind of Republicans in terms of Susan Collins, possibly Lisa Murkowski. So those folks are certainly going to be looking at their -- at their state, states that overwhelmingly went for Donald Trump, and we'll see what they do.

We'll see Joe Manchin is worried about what happens with the Affordable Care Act. You know, not only are folks worried about that but also abortion, too, and overturning that. So we'll see what happens.

BLITZER: The president has invited several of these red-state Democrat senators to come to the White House tonight for the announcement. About 30 Republican senators have already accepted invitations. I think the red-state Democrats are saying they're busy. They can't necessarily attend the event.


PRESTON: Smart move on Donald Trump's part to invite them to the White House for this.

BLITZER: Apparently, they're not going to be showing up. You know, Bianna Golodryga, what do you think of all the theatrics surrounding tonight's dramatic announcement?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, this is the president's bread and butter. Right? This is the moment that he lives for, where he has prime-time audience. The viewership, as we know, is going to be huge. The major networks, the cables, everyone's going to be covering this announcement. And one could argue that perhaps the most successful and, quote/unquote, presidential night that he had was when he announced Gorsuch as his nominee.

So one would expect a similar sort of roll-out tonight, and the president likely sticking to prompter, though you never know with this president. There were reports last week that he may want to make an announcement sooner rather than later. And reportedly, his aides to remind him of the pomp and circumstance he would have come Monday tonight is he waited for everyone to come back from the Fourth of July holiday to have prime-time 9 p.m. viewership.

But for Republicans and for his base, the litmus test is really just to be the right -- on the right of John Roberts. So all of these candidates already qualify from that standpoint. We shall see who the president will pick, but we can expect, once again, a lot of theatrics going into tonight.

BLITZER: Certainly could. Jeffrey, the Supreme Court potentially could be at the center of a big fight, involving Robert Mueller's subpoena power if, in fact, there's a dispute between the president and Mueller on this issue of a presidential interview, for example.

Is it possible the new justice, whoever that new justice is, assuming that justice is confirmed, could be at the center of this decision?

TOOBIN: Absolutely. I mean, that is an issue that seems very likely. If you listen to Rudolph Giuliani, it certainly doesn't look like a voluntary interview is happening any time soon.

Mueller could issue a grand jury subpoena, and that case could travel up the appeals process very quickly. That was an issue in 1974 in United States v. Nixon, when there was unanimity on the court that the president had to surrender the White House tapes.

This, of course, would be a similar case, not identical, because it would involve -- it would involve testimony as opposed to tapes, but that's a case that will certainly be before -- that may well be before the court. And you have someone like Brett Kavanaugh, who was one of the prosecutors under Kenneth Starr, who in those days was a big hawk on, you know, judging the president and arguing what's an impeachment offense.

[17:15:05] As a Republican president came in, he became somewhat more sympathetic to the power of the president and has written about that issues. But those -- those issues often -- presidential power is one of the issues that's almost always before the Supreme Court.

BLITZER: And Mark, do you think the Democrats will make this an issue during the confirmation hearings?

PRESTON: No question. They're going to throw everything but the kitchen sink in the kitchen sink into this, and they'll be asking, "Were you asked specifically anything about the Mueller investigation during your interview process? Did Donald Trump talk to you?" But really, it's -- where they're going to come from is somewhere

between conjecture and speculation and an educated guess. Because we really don't know he will be or whoever this person is will be at the center of something. We just don't know what it is --

TOOBIN: He or she.

PRESTON: That's what I meant. Excuse me.

BLITZER: That's a good point. Nia, all this is taking place as Michael Cohen, the president's long-time lawyer, his fixer, is signaling he's changed his mind. He has hired Lanny Davis. Lanny Davis, a Hillary Clinton adviser and close friend, the former special counsel to Bill Clinton when he was going through the Monica Lewinski impeachment process.

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

The words "stay tuned" sounds ominous if you're the president or his supporters.

HENDERSON: It does. And it goes to, I think, the role that Lanny Davis is going to play, which will probably be similar to the role that Rudy Giuliani is playing. Basically, spinning the public narrative. Tweeting, being on television and talking about Cohen talking about this case.

Because so far Cohen isn't out there, right? He's been somewhat out there. Given some interviews so he needs someone who's out there publicly --

TOOBIN: You know --

HENDERSON: We'll see what Lanny Davis does.

TOOBIN: Can I ask a question? What is the point of that tweet? I mean, what is the point of, you know, picking these fights and getting all this publicity?

You know, the prosecutors in the Southern District, the prosecutors in Mueller's office, they don't care about Lanny Davis' tweets. And to -- you know, make like this sort of macho posturing against the president, I mean, it just doesn't matter. And it's just all this, you know, whether it's Michael Cohen's ego that needs feeding, I mean, I just don't --

BLITZER: Bianna --

TOOBIN: There's a reason why people shut up --

BLITZER: Go ahead, Bianna.

TOOBIN: -- when you have a criminal investigation.

GOLODRYGA: but is anybody really surprised that this is where we're at here? I mean, I think the day that Michael Cohen had his home and office raided and 16 phones taken, I think things changed, and I think the president understood that at the time. And I think that's why he reacted the way he did. And ultimately, we see how Michael Cohen has reacted.

And two things that stood out to me and Dana Bash's and Gloria Borger's reporting, was that they -- they noted that Michael Cohen, in disagreeing with the president, said that the FBI treated him fairly, that he had nothing but respect for the FBI and that he believes the intelligence community over the president and what the president has said.

Remember, the president, almost on a daily basis, is tweeting about witch hunts. You don't see that kind of language coming out of Michael Cohen. And if you're looking for a split between the two sides, go down that lane, because that seems to be the path that Michael Cohen really has separated himself from the president on.

Now he's talking about his patriotism for the country. And obviously, putting his family above everything else. That's not a side of Michael Cohen we saw for the two years that the president was gearing up for this election.

BLITZER: Yes, good point.

Guys, stand by. There's a lot more we're following. Will the Trump administration meet the deadline to reunite more than 100 of the very youngest kids under 5 years old? The migrant children with their parents.

Plus, the latest on the unfolding rescue drama in Thailand. Four boys and their coach are still trapped deep inside that flooded cave.


[17:23:21] BLITZER: The Trump administration is poised to miss a court-ordered deadline to reunite some 100 very young migrant children, all under the age of 5, with their parents.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is joining us from Brownsville, Texas, near the southern border.

Ed, the Trump administration said in court just a little while ago that only 54 of the children will be back with their parents by tomorrow's deadline. What's the latest you're hearing?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is the headline of the day, as this deadline imposed by a federal judge in California just a couple of weeks ago after a move by the American Civil Liberties Union. And that was the deadline imposed by this federal judge, saying that children under the age of 5 had to be reunited with their families by tomorrow. The government, in a court hearing today in California, said that of

the roughly little more than 100 of children who apply under the specific ruling that only a little more than 50 of them will be reunited by the deadline tomorrow. And the work is in place.

However, the federal judge did say that they were encouraged by the progress that federal officials have made, in combination with the ACLU attorneys, and they're encouraged by the progress that has been made here over the last few days.

But there was a group of congressmen who toured some of the facilities here in South Texas where these children are being held. We asked them what they thought of the situation and this reunification process and why it has taken so long to put these families back together.


LAVANDERA: Is it clear to you that the administration didn't have a plan to reunify these families?

[17:25:0] REP. GREG WALDEN (R), OREGON: I think -- I don't think they fully thought through the zero-tolerance policy implications on these young families, and now have realized the mistake, frankly. And the president's executive order begins to fix that, and now they've got to put people back together.


LAVANDERA: And Wolf, that's the -- significant there. That is Congressman Greg Walden of Oregon. He is the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. That is the government committee that basically oversees the Office of Refugee Resettlement that is in charge of running these shelters where these children have been kept.

So, you know, that criticism from a fellow Republican about how this entire process has played out is rather significant, Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed, how will these reunifications work? And have you seen these reports that some of these kids, all under the age of 5, some of them, their parents, or at least moms, have already been deported, the kids are still here?

LAVANDERA: That is the question that I think is still unfolding. The latest indication we have and the latest plan seems to be is that these kids will be turned back over to ICE custody, Immigration Customs Enforcement. Remember, once they're in the shelters, they're under the custodianship of the HHS department and the federal government they'll then be turned back over to ICE to be reunited with their family members.

But that is the latest indication we've received, but it's also a very complex situation, as you mentioned, Wolf, also complicated by the fact that some of these parents have already been deported. Maybe, you know, those are -- those are some of the sticking points and the confusion that is going on with all of this. But -- so but the latest indication we have is that these kids will be sent back to ICE custody and reunited with their families there.

BLITZER: Yes. If they've been deported, these parents, I don't understand why the kids weren't, at least, reunited with them, and then they can all leave together. We'll see what happens on that front.

Ed Lavandera on the scene for us, thank you very much.

There's more breaking news we're following. We'll have more on President Trump's pick for the U.S. Supreme Court. Who will be there for tonight's White House announcement?

And we'll talk about that and more with Republican Senator Jeff Flake. We'll be right back.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're following the breaking news, President Trump's selection of a U.S. Supreme Court nominee finalized and to be revealed by the president himself later tonight at the White House.

[17:32:00] Let's get some reaction to this and more. Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona is joining us. He's a member of both the Judiciary Committee. That's the committee that will oversee the Trump nominee confirmation process, as well as the Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us. You've seen the president's short list, the four finalists. Do you have a preference?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: Oh, not that I want to talk about. We've just got a couple of hours, and then we'll have the person. But I have spoken to the White House counsel and others, and I think that they're all four strong conservatives. And so we'll see what happens tonight.

BLITZER: So you would expect a vote to confirm any of the four. Is that correct?

FLAKE: Well, I've not found anything in their record so far. And one of them we actually processed through the committee, Ms. Barrett, just a few months ago. So I haven't found anything disqualifying in anything I've seen so far, and they are certainly strong conservatives.

BLITZER: Yes. Are you going over to the White House tonight for the official announcement?

FLAKE: I will. I think the entire Senate, or at least those on the Judiciary Committee are going.

BLITZER: They've been invited. We know a bunch of red-state Democrats have been invited, but they're declining the invitation, at least for now. Remember when former President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to

replace Justice Scalia? You supported McConnell's decision at that time to push that confirmation fight until after the presidential election, but by that logic, why not wait until after the midterm elections this year?

FLAKE: Well, there was certainly precedent to wait. You'd have to go back do 1888 to find a situation where the person of an opposite party nominated somebody who got through the Senate, so it wasn't without completely without precedent.

I do think it's going to be more difficult to have anything but very partisan fights now. I did meet with Merrick Garland. I likely would have supported him. I certainly found nothing disqualifying in his record, even though I might have disagreed with some of his decisions. He was certainty qualified.

BLITZER: Let's turn to immigration. You're on a border state, Arizona. The government says that it won't meet a court deadline set for tomorrow to reunite young kids, 5 -- under 5 years old, separated from their parents at the border.

Are you satisfied with the Trump administration's efforts to get these families back together?

FLAKE: No. I find it unbelievable that here we are, a couple of weeks out, and still cannot match these kids up with their parents. It just says how bad this policy was.

How in the world we could separate these families in this way and not keep records about who they belong to, these kids. It's unbelievable. But obviously, they need to keep trying, and it has to be accomplished. But the fact that it's taken two weeks is just unbelievable.

BLITZER: You know, and what's really unbelievable is that some of the parents now, the mothers, have already been deported to their home countries, whether El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras, but the kids -- and they're under 5 years old -- are still here in the United States. Why weren't they, at least, reunited with their parents as the parents were being deported?

[17:35:17] FLAKE: That's -- I can't understand it either. And we will, obviously, be holding hearings on this, and we will find out what went wrong and why this policy was pursued. But it's just inexplicable. I can't imagine how in the world we got in the business of separating families like this without the ability to put them back together.

BLITZER: But as you know, the deadline was today for the federal courts. They ruled that they had to be reunited by today, at least the little children under 5 years old. What are the consequences if the government misses this deadline?

FLAKE: You know, I don't know. We'll have that spelled out to us, I'm sure. I don't think the problem is -- the problem, I'm sure, isn't that the

Trump administration isn't trying, but they -- they simply can't do it. It was that haphazard, apparently, a couple of weeks ago, that these families were separated without the ability to put them back together. That's just what's unbelievable.

So I don't think it's a -- you know, a deliberate policy now of keeping these families apart. But it sure bolsters the argument that, man, this was a horrible policy and that the administration certainly has a lot to answer to for having pursued this policy in the first place.

BLITZER: Yes. It's hard to believe that they separate these little kids from their mothers and their fathers, and they don't keep proper records, knowing where the parents are, knowing where the kids are. And now they can't reunite some of these little kids, because they simply don't know -- they might not even know who these kids. They're very, very young.

But they also don't know where their parents are, whether they're still here in the United States or they were deported someplace else.

And what bothers so many people -- I'm sure it bothers you, and it bothers me, how is it possible that authorities had -- did not keep the proper records where the secretary of homeland security, Kirstjen Nielsen, or the president. Have you discussed this issue with any of them?

FLAKE: No. We fully expected that, within two weeks, these families could be put back together again, so many of us are surprised that we're coming to this deadline without the ability to do it.

Like I said, I don't think it's deliberate at this point, but it just speaks to how haphazard and how horrible this policy was in the first place. So believe me, there will be hearings coming up. We will get to the bottom of this, of why this policy was pursued and how we can ensure that this never happens again.

BLITZER: Senator Flake, thanks so much for joining us.

FLAKE: You bet. Thank you.

BLITZER: There's much more news we're following. Coming up, a live update on the effort to rescue the last five people who have been trapped in a flooded cave for more than two weeks. Four children, four young teenagers, and their coach.


[17:42:38] BLITZER: We're closely monitoring developments in the cave rescue effort. Divers have been resting up for their next attempt to bring out five remaining people who have been trapped in the very dangerous flooded cave for more than two weeks. Eight of the trapped boys have now been brought out alive over the past couple days.

Let's go to our senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon. She's on the scene for us near the hospital where the kids are being treated.

Arwa, first of all, when will the next rescues be attempted?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're hearing from the authorities is that they should be taking place at some point in the afternoon on Tuesday. The last of the kids were brought out at about 7 or 8 p.m. local time on Monday.

And then we heard that they would need about 20 hours. That is so that those who are part of the main core team, those divers that are teaming up two by two to actually escort the kids out, swimming right alongside them, ensuring that they are able to take this fairly treacherous journey successfully and, of course, safely. And then they need to replenish the oxygen and air supplies along the route.

This is an incredibly precarious journey for all those who are involved, as you can imagine, Wolf. These boys, many of whom don't know how to swim, are wearing these full face masks. And then these two divers are escorting them in these very difficult circumstances through murky water where you can barely even see a foot in front of you. And through some very narrow passageways, where they have to go through one by one.

The eight that have been brought out successfully are at the hospital behind us right now in isolation. There are concerns, of course, about the state of their immune systems and then the potential that they may have some sort of unforeseen disease, Wolf.

BLITZER: The eight boys who have been rescued so far, when will their parents be able to see them?

DAMON: That's a really good question. Because as far as we are aware, none of the parents have actually seen or made contact with the children who have come out, and that's for a number of reasons.

The authorities are not officially disclosing the names of the boys who were already brought out, although there have been all sorts of rumors that have been going around, because they don't want to increase the levels of anxiety for the parents whose boys are still trapped inside.

And then we also have this incredible show of solidarity among the families, who are all staying together, promising that they're going to be staying together at the entrance of the cave until everyone has been safely brought out.

The boys, once they're out, do spend about one to two days in isolation. And then if the parents are going to be and when they are allowed access to them are going to have to stay some distance away, at least six or seven feet away, wearing protective suits, again, to ensure that no diseases are spread.

But you can just imagine how anxious, Wolf, everyone is for that moment.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Let's get those four remaining boys out and their coach ASAP. That would be excellent.

Arwa, thank you very much. We'll stay in close touch with you.

Coming up, after weekend talks with the U.S. Secretary of State, North Korea calls the U.S. attitude, quote, gangster-like. So why is President Trump still tweeting that he has confidence in Kim Jong-un?


[17:50:36] BLITZER: Tonight, we're watching to see how North Korea responds to President Trump's latest tweet aimed at Kim Jong-un that expressed confidence about Kim honoring the denuclearization deal he and the President signed in Singapore.

But the tweet follows a rather angry blast of criticism from the North Koreans following Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's latest visit to Pyongyang.

Brian Todd has been checking with his sources. Brian, what are they saying?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're told tonight that U.S. officials, diplomats, and others are worried tonight about how these talks with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program are going to proceed after what is seen as a pretty rough meeting that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just had in Pyongyang.

Now, Pompeo was putting a positive face on it, saying it will be, quote, ludicrous to think a significant drawing down of Kim's nuclear weapons would happen in the course of a handful of hours. But the fallout from that meeting is significant in Pyongyang and here in Washington.


TODD (voice-over): Tonight, there's growing concern that Kim Jong-un holds all the cards with President Trump.

U.S. officials and diplomatic sources tell CNN they're worried the President and his team are struggling to put together a coherent plan to deal with the young dictator following their summit in Singapore.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has just left Pyongyang after two days of intense talks to get the North Koreans to draw down their nuclear arsenal. But the North Koreans now accuse the U.S. of a, quote, gangster-like mindset.

JOSEPH YUN, FORMER UNITED STATES SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR NORTH KOREA POLICY: I have never seen such frustration expressed by North Koreans after such a high-level meeting, so it did not go well.

TODD (voice-over): Former U.S. envoy Joseph Yun says it now appears Kim and his regime are dictating the pace and direction of negotiations.

Pompeo spins it a different way. MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I am counting on Chairman Kim to be

determined to follow through on the commitment that he made. And so if those requests were gangster, they are -- the world is a gangster.

TODD (voice-over): President Trump, today, applied his own pressure, tweeting -- I have confidence that Kim Jong-un will honor the contract we signed and even more importantly, our handshake. We agreed to the denuclearization of North Korea.

EVANS REVERE, FORMER UNITED STATES DIPLOMAT IN SOUTH KOREA: If the President thinks that he has a contract with the North Korean leader, then I think he needs to be prepared for the possibility of a bankruptcy.


TODD (voice-over): Former American diplomats say these new prices could trace back to what they believe was a promise President Trump made to Kim in Singapore that he can't deliver right away.

YUN: They want the United States to declare end of war. End of war declaration. And number two, begin peace treaty negotiations.

And remember, President Trump hinted that he could do that in the press conference in Singapore. And they are saying, you haven't done any of that, and yet you're coming here saying we need to denuclearize now?

TODD (voice-over): Unlike his last two visits, Pompeo did not meet, this time, with Kim Jong-un.

REVERE: The North Koreans were not pleased with the outcome. And one way of conveying that displeasure was to turn down a prospective meeting with Kim Jong-un.

TODD (voice-over): Instead, Pompeo met with former intelligence chief Kim Yong-chol, who apparently can be ruthless and sarcastic in negotiations.

According to North Korea Leadership Watch, Kim Yong-chol once told South Korean negotiators, quote, do you another briefcase? Surely, you have another briefcase of proposals with you.

REVERE: He is a character straight out of central casting when it comes to being the tough, hardnosed North Korean negotiator. If I were Kim Jong-un, Kim Yong-chol is precisely the guy that I would want at the table dealing with the Americans because he gives virtually nothing.


TODD: Former American diplomats we spoke to say it is worth remembering tonight that all sides in this standoff are still better off now than they were several months ago when North Korea was testing missiles and there was talk of a first strike on Pyongyang. But they say there is now, tonight, extraordinary pressure on

President Trump and Mike Pompeo, and their team, to salvage some part of this agreement made in Singapore.

One diplomat suggests they regroup here in Washington, figure out a way to move forward with small measures, like offering humanitarian assistance to North Korea, maybe a sports exchange, a cultural exchange program, anything, he says, to salvage something, Wolf. This deal is in serious trouble.

BLITZER: It certainly is. And the fact that Kim Jong-un snubbed the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is very, very significant.

Brian Todd, thank you very much.

[17:54:59] There is more breaking news we're following. President Trump has decided on a Supreme Court nominee. Will his decision be leaked before the formal announcement just over three hours from now?


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Lifetime appointment. President Trump is about to reveal a Supreme Court pick as his GOP allies launch an all-out war for confirmation. Will Mr. Trump be able to keep his decision secret until his big on-air announcement?

[17:59:50] Cohen's real truth. Sources tell CNN that Michael Cohen is sending a message to the President about what he might tell prosecutors if he flips. We're told the longtime Trump fixer is done being Mr. Trump's flunky.