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THE SITUATION ROOM

Trump, Pompeo Downplay New North Korea Tensions as Regime Accuses U.S. of "Gangster-Like" Demand; Five Still Trapped in Cave as Rains Threaten Rescue; Will Michael Cohen Flip?; Interview With Virginia Senator Mark Warner; President Trump Set to Announce Supreme Court Pick. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 9, 2018 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:03]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Fair shake? The president says he still confident that Kim Jong-un is committed to their deal on denuclearization. Is Mr. Trump overestimating their personal connection, as North Korea likens the administration to gangsters?

And racing rising waters. After eight boys were freed from a flooded cave, five more lives are on the line tonight awaiting their turn to be rescued. Divers preparing to go back in, with the threat of monsoon rains on the horizon.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news on President Trump's new Supreme Court nominee and the confirmation battle that is beginning even before the big reveal.

We know Mr. Trump has made his decision, and now he's trying to stoke the secrecy and the suspense fault with about three hours to go before his prime-time announcement. You can see it live right here on CNN.

This hour, I speak with Democratic Senator Mark Warner. He's the vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, we don't know the specific name, but we have a sense of what the president was looking for.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

The White House were telling our -- our sources are saying that the president has made his decision for the Supreme Court. The president and his team obviously 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 vs. Wade. But the Russia investigation, we're told, may also be critical in these deliberations, as his team appears to be looking at how a potential pick would handle the indictment of a sitting president.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let's say it's the four people, but they're excellent, everyone. 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, THIRD CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS JUDGE: I think any good a judge recognizes his or her a 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 is widely seen as guaranteed to outlaw abortion if she's selected.

AMY CONEY BARRETT, SEVENTH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS JUDGE: And 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, SIXTH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS JUDGE: I don't really have a label that I can put on myself. What I would say is that obviously first and foremost, I would 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 just gave Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over its nuclear program.

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

ACOSTA: Not 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 hand-feeding a shark. You can do it, but you have to do it very, very carefully.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, 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 competitive races in red states where Democrats could be in trouble in the upcoming midterms. And with the campaign season fast approaching, Wolf, the White House has invited, we should point out, a number of those endangered Democrats here for this event in the East Room of the White House later on this evening at 9:00 tonight.

[18:05:13]

They all appear to be saying no at this point. But, Wolf, of course, that's not the invitee that we're all focused on. And we should learn who that is are coming up in about three hours from now in the East Room here at the White House -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim, thank you, Jim Acosta over at the White House.

Also tonight, we're learning more about Michael Cohen's thinking, as the longtime Trump fixer, lawyer may be in the process of turning on the president.

Sources now warning that Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani is wading into very dangerous territory when he suggested Cohen should tell the truth to prosecutors.

We're joined by our justice correspondent, Evan Perez.

So, what are your sources telling you, Evan? EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, sources who talked

to Gloria Borger and Dana Bash say that Michael Cohen is sending a message to President Trump, as well as to Rudy Giuliani, saying essentially that he's no longer the man who's willing to take a bullet for the president.

Remember that previously Michael Cohen has said that about the president. Giuliani made the rounds on television this past weekend in which he addressed the question of whether -- what would happen if Michael Cohen flips on the president. Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: 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.

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PEREZ: And there you hear Giuliani saying, Wolf, thought Michael Cohen should tell the truth.

The response we're hearing from sources close to Cohen is that truth is not necessarily the president's friend in this case.

BLITZER: Interesting.

What are you hearing now about the new demands the Trump legal team is putting forward if Mueller decides he wants to sit down, wants to interview the president?

PEREZ: Right.

There seems to be another effort here to move the goalposts. The president and his legal team now seem to think that the special counsel needs to prove that they absolutely need the president's testimony.

And secondly they also have to provide some kind of evidence that they believe the president broke the law. Here's Giuliani addressing this question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: We'd like to know if there is any factual basis for the investigation originally or they have developed one, because we can't find one, nor can anyone else, nor have they, with all the leaking they have done, even leaked one.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PEREZ: And we're not sure whether or not this is something that the special counsel is going to be willing to do.

Usually, Wolf, before they -- before they do an interview, they don't necessarily provide evidence to someone who's being -- who's going to be interviewed. Obviously, this the president. It is not just any interview that they're asking.

BLITZER: Finally, Evan, Giuliani seemed to confirm that the president did suggest to the FBI Director James Comey, the fired up FBI director, to drop that investigation into the president's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

PEREZ: Right.

This seems to be a new version of the story. The president, Wolf, has addressed this question to "The New York Times" and to others in which he has flatly denied that he instructed Comey to do anything like that, to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn.

Now Giuliani seems to be saying that it's not a big deal if he did that, that if the president asked Comey to give the man a break, it's very much along the lines of what Giuliani has experienced in his years as prosecutors, as friends, people, lawyers close to a defendant would sometimes say, hey, why don't you give the guy a break?

And he's saying that the spirit in which the president might have approached this.

BLITZER: Evan Perez, thank you very much.

Joining us now, Senator Mark Warner. He's the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We got a lot of issues to get through, so let's start with Michael Cohen.

As you know, he sat for an interview with your committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, last fall. Do you believe President Trump has reason to worry now about what Cohen might reveal?

WARNER: I'm not going to go into any of the testimony that Mr. Cohen gave to our committee.

I have still got additional questions for Mr. Cohen. But I think one thing is clear. This individual has been involved with Trump for decades. I think he knows where a lot of the dirty laundry is.

And I think he would be -- I think you see the obsession coming out of the White House about the Mueller investigation, if you just look at the comments at the top of the show. You have got a White House that is looking at a Supreme Court pick. And one of the criteria, based on your reporting, may be that potential judge's views on whether a president can be indicted. You have got the president's lawyer, Mr. Giuliani, changing positions again this weekend, saying the Mueller investigation would have to show the president guilty before he was even coming in for questioning, the Mueller investigation, by the way, which has gotten four guilty pleas, 20 indictments, and an investigation that our bipartisan committee reiterated last week, the Russians intervened to help Trump and hurt Clinton.

[18:10:00]

This is not the actions of White House that doesn't have something to hide. And, frankly, I think it would be -- I hope Mr. Cohen does participate and does come forward fully with the prosecutors in New York.

BLITZER: As you well know, Senator, the question of whether or not the president must comply with a subpoena from Mueller could wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Senate will soon be asked to consider President Trump's nominee to replace the associate justice, Anthony Kennedy. Should lawmakers raise that issue with the nominee during the confirmation process?

WARNER: Well, Wolf, we already know that this choice is going to come from a pre-screened list of the so-called Federalist Society, that Mr. Trump has already put out criteria that frankly disqualifies I think, at least from those four candidates that he has laid out, somebody that would try to overturn Roe v. Wade, someone that would try to take away the rights from the Affordable Care Act, protecting people with preexisting condition.

Those in itself would be, I think, disqualifiers. But you add on top of that the potential notion that he may be choosing a justice based upon whether that justice will help protect him against any future criminal investigation.

To me, I think that's a valid question that people ought to ask.

BLITZER: Do you think that nominee should -- if confirmed should recuse himself or herself from making that kind of decision as a member of the Supreme Court?

WARNER: I think we're getting awfully close with a president that is clearly obsessed with the Mueller investigation. I don't think a day goes by that he doesn't tweet or make comments about it.

I hope -- I'm not sure where Mr. Mueller is on his deliberations. I hope he moves forward. But the idea that the president would use a pick on the Supreme Court to try to protect himself from answering legitimate questions of the Mueller investigation about possible Russian interference that may have involved the Trump campaign, that's pretty unbelievable, even in a Trump administration era.

BLITZER: So, just to be precise, Senator, you say that individual, if confirmed, should recuse himself or herself?

(CROSSTALK)

WARNER: I want to find -- we will have a chance to question this individual.

I have already pointed out I have grave concerns about the list that he is picking from, because the -- his desire, Mr. Trump's desire to overturn Roe v. Wade, his desire to try to get rid of protections for folks with preexisting conditions from the Affordable Care Act, if you now layer on additional preconditions around the president's potential need to be serviced by the Mueller investigation, to me, that would be three strikes and you're out.

BLITZER: The president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, now says the special counsel, Robert Mueller, must provide direct evidence of wrongdoing if he wants President Trump to sit down for an interview.

What do you make of that demand from the president's personal attorney?

WARNER: Well, I'm not surprised.

It feels like there seems to be a shifting legal theory about every other week coming out of the White House. I have never heard such a prerequisite. I know we're in a gray area when a president would be asked to come forward and answer questions.

But this president has said that he has got nothing to hide. If that's the case, he should sit down if Mr. Mueller asks him to.

BLITZER: Do you worry, Senator, that the constant attacks by the president and his supporters against Robert Mueller and his prosecutors are beginning to take their toll in terms of public opinion, what the attitude of the American people is toward Mueller?

WARNER: I do worry that this constant barrage -- and I give Mr. Mueller credit in the sense that, to my knowledge, there's been absolutely no leaks from that operation, but there has been constant incoming from Mr. Trump and some of his supporters that basically are not only undermining Mueller, but they're undermining folks at the Justice Department.

They've been undermining a lot of men and women who serve at the FBI, and, frankly, I think he has been attacking rule of law. And when you start to give license to people to suddenly say, well, we can pick and choose which laws we want to follow because we're suspect of our legal organizations and operations, you put the country in very, very dangerous territory.

And I think his full onslaughts both on Mueller and on FBI and the Justice Department is very dangerous.

BLITZER: A delegation of your colleagues from the U.S. Senate, all Republicans, by the way, just returned to Washington from a trip to Russia, where they met with the foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov. Some worry that these senators may have been used as props by the

Kremlin. Do you believe that trip was a mistake?

WARNER: I am not going to weigh in on the travels of my colleagues.

I am, though, going to point out that this administration seems to treat our allies as adversaries, and treats our adversaries or potential adversaries like they're friends.

I think that the president -- what I don't think he -- doesn't at least seem to reflect is that what we share in common with our NATO allies is not only a common defense alliance, but we have a shared belief in rule of law. We have a shared belief in democracy, in one man, one vote.

[18:15:13]

Mr. Putin represents none of those values, yet you see out of the president constant acclaim, and no other word I can think of that better suits how Mr. Trump treats President Putin, always on a pedestal, yet the way he regards our allies, and some of the comments he's made in recent weeks as he heads into the NATO summit this week, very, very problematic for our long-term relations of what I think has been the most successful alliance in modern history.

BLITZER: Were you, by the way, invited to make that trip by your Republican colleagues? And why not send a bipartisan delegation, Republicans and Democratic senators, on a sensitive trip like this to Russia? That's usually the case, isn't it?

WARNER: Usually the case.

Again, I don't intend to go to Russia anytime soon with the kind of investigation that we have been continuing, an investigation, again, that reconfirmed last week bipartisan full Senate Intelligence Committee saying, at Mr. Putin's direction, Russia intervened in our elections to try to help Mr. Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton.

BLITZER: You say you wouldn't go to Russia. Just elaborate a little bit. Why wouldn't you go to Russia?

WARNER: Listen, at this point in time, I feel that Russia has been acting as an adversary towards America.

I feel like they're still engaged and involved in trying to intervene. We have heard that -- comments from the Trump appointees at the FBI, the director of national intelligence, and one of the things that worries me greatly is, from election security, to pushing back on Russia's use of social media in terms of trying to disrupt our -- the way people interpret the press, I'm very worried this White House has not made that a higher priority.

And, at this point, as Russia continues to strike out against us, I think we need to be upping our defenses, particularly in the realm of social media and election security. BLITZER: The "New York Magazine" writer Jonathan Chait just published

a very lengthy article arguing that we may be closer to the beginning of the Russia investigation than to the end of the Russia investigation, and he says this.

Let me quote from the article. He says -- quote -- "The unfolding of the Russia scandal has been like walking into a dark cavern. Every step reveals that the cave runs deeper than we thought."

Do you see it that way?

WARNER: I would only say, Wolf. I am not going to comment on a journalist's article.

I'm going to say as I have said on this show before, that the number of additional avenues that the committee -- and I can't -- I have no idea what all Mueller is pursuing, but what appears Mr. Mueller is pursuing as well -- doesn't seem to be narrowing.

And we still have a lot of questions that need to be answered.

BLITZER: How much more work does your committee need to do?

WARNER: We have still got folks that we need to call in for witnesses and there are some of the prominent individuals that I still believe that the senators themselves will need to question.

Remember, we have tried to do this in as professional, bipartisan manner as possible. That's why we had most of these interviews in private, done by a bipartisan staff. There will be others that we will need to bring back. And some of this will focus on social media. Some of this will focus as well on what the FBI and Justice Department did right and did wrong in the months leading up to the 2016 election.

And, obviously, that ultimate question of did that Russian involvement, which we have said the intelligence community was right, Russian involvement to help Mr. Trump, did that involvement trying to help Mr. Trump go to the extent of actual collusion?

BLITZER: The investigation by your committee, I take it, will continue through the midterm elections?

WARNER: Listen, I'm not going to put a timeline on this.

I want to get it done as soon as possible. But what we owe the American people is the truth. And so far, we have come out with two pieces of our report, one piece around election security. And thank goodness the Congress responded, and put money into the budget that was passed so that states could upgrade their security.

Unfortunately, that took Congress acting because there was no leadership from the White House. We have also come out with a reconfirmation of the intelligence community's assessment that I mentioned we came out with again last week, the summary, saying that not only did Russia intervene, but they intervened with the goal of helping Trump, and hurting Clinton. BLITZER: Senator Warner, thanks so much for joining us.

WARNER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, will the last five people trapped in a flooded cave make it out alive? CNN is right near the scene. We're standing by for the rescue to resume with torrential rains, by the way, now in the forecast.

And the Trump administration is staring down a deadline just hours from now to reunite immigrant families. We're getting some new information from a court hearing on how many children are and are not being returned to their parents.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:24:40]

BLITZER: The breaking news: President Trump has now finalized his U.S. Supreme Court pick and now he's getting ready to introduce his nominee to the nation in less than three hours.

Also tonight, it looks as though the Trump administration won't fully comply with its first court-ordered deadline to reunite separated immigrant families. Roughly half of the children who were supposed to be returned to parents by tomorrow apparently won't be returned. These are the kids under 5.

[18:25:07]

CNN national correspondent Miguel Marquez is in Texas near the southern border.

Miguel, a federal judge says there's been progress on these reunifications, but so many problems remain.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, problems, Wolf, because the administration never really considered how they would reunite these families.

In fact, it seems they didn't really consider they were ever going to reunite these families. We expect north of 40, 54, maybe 59 of those children under 5 will be reunited tomorrow.

But it leaves thousands of parents wondering when is their turn, how will they finally get back with their children?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ (voice-over): The Trump administration set to miss its first deadline to reunite all kids under 5 with their parents by tomorrow.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: One of my biggest questions is exactly that. What's the plan to reunite these children with their parents? MARQUEZ: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand visiting a Brownsville facility

caring for 1,400 unaccompanied minors, including 150 kids separated from their parents due to the president's zero tolerance president.

Reuniting kids with their parents far more difficult than claimed, when the president reversed the policy by executive order.

REP. MARC VEASEY (D), TEXAS: They had absolutely no, you know, vision, no thought to how this was going to play out.

MARQUEZ: The administration on track to reunite just over half of parents and kids under 5 by tomorrow's deadline.

Parents of kids over 5 now getting out of detention based on their asylum claims, and seeing little more than bureaucratic roadblocks to getting their kids back.

Lesvia from Guatemala got out of detention last week near Austin. She's already visited her son being held in Brownsville. She has documents to prove their relationship. They still won't give her, her son.

"It's very hard because my son cries when he sees me," she says. "He told me he doesn't want to be here anymore. It's too long to be away from my son."

CNN has spoken to five separated parents who made bond in their asylum cases and now desperately want their kids back.

Brenda Alvarado now out on bond can barely speak about her 6-year-old son, Jordie (ph).

"He says he wants me to be with him," she says, "and prays to God to make the days shorter so we can be together."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Now, what the administration seems to be doing with these parents who have kids over 5 is treating those kids as unaccompanied minors, making the parents go through a very long, laborious process to get them back.

Keep in mind they've already been apart from them for a month, two months. The government took them apart from the parents to begin with, but they have no process to get them back, saying basically you have to prove to us that this I your child.

They are hoping it might change, that the judge in California suggested that there might be some sort of truncated, streamlined process in the days ahead, but right now it's just a hope and a prayer.

BLITZER: But some of these mothers and fathers already have been deported back to their home countries in Central America. Their kids are still here in the United States. Why weren't they reunited before the deportations went out? MARQUEZ: It is possible that those parents that were deported asked that their kids stay in custody here pending being reunited with other family members who are already in the U.S., so they can go through a separate asylum process.

But this is also part of the problem. A lot of parents were deported. Some kids were deported. It's not very clear that the administration all the way along knew exactly who was where and who was going -- who was going out of the country and who was staying -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, this is heartbreaking, to hear about these deportations, and realizing that the kids are still here in the United States.

And a lot of times, the government doesn't even know where the children are, where the parents are. And it's just awful, awful, the entire situation.

Miguel, I know you will stay top of the story for us. Thank you very much.

Just ahead, the president's secret will soon be out. We're standing by for his U.S. Supreme Court announcement. You will see it right here on CNN.

And how much trouble could Michael Cohen cause for President Trump if he flips? We will talk about the signals coming from Cohen, the signals he's sending his former boss.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're following all the breaking news on the president's Supreme Court nominee. Stay with CNN tonight as he makes his big announcement at 9 p.m. Eastern. Our analysts and experts are here. They're working their sources on the president's high-court pick.

[18:34:22] Also, the Michael Cohen investigation and the dramatic new developments. And Gloria Borger, you've been doing a lot of reporting on this. You've been reporting that Michael Cohen wants to, quote, "reset" -- reset his approach toward the president. Talk about that.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. My sources are telling me that he does not want to be a punching bag for anyone's defense strategy. That would mean the president of the United States. And that he believes that Rudy Giuliani and the president are trying to send him a message, and that message is that, if he crosses them, they will continue their attacks on his character, which he believes they've been doing quite frequently, and they will say that he is lying.

And my sources are telling me that Cohen believes that -- and here's a quote -- "the truth is not you or your client's friend." And that's directed to Rudy Giuliani.

BLITZER: Yes, that's a significant development. How much trouble, Laura Coates, do you think the president could be if

there is an unleashed Michael Cohen?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think significant trouble. Because remember, he's not the president's lawyer. He made it very clear on Air Force One and in after statements after that about how only a sliver of the work he did for him was related to the law.

So in this instance, if it's not attorney/client privilege, if it's highly private and sensitive in a lot of natures, there is nothing to prevent him from actually speaking about it. It can be very damaging if, in fact, there is that information available, and an unhinged and unleashed Michael Cohen has a whole lot of secrets. Imagine the priest being able to talk about the confessional. That's what we're talking about here.

BLITZER: Really. That's an interesting analogy. Thank you.

COATES: I wasn't there, but --

BORGER: I think we should -- we should add that we do not know what Michael Cohen knows. When we ask about that, we're referred to his attorney, Guy Petrillo, who is not speaking to us about this. We do not know whether prosecutors are interested in talking to him. So I think there's a lot of unknowns here that, you know, need to be revealed at some point.

BLITZER: What do you -- based on what you're hearing, Rebecca Berg, from the president's team, Rudy Giuliani specifically, does it sound like they have a strategy at all in place to deal with an unleashed Michael Cohen?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you've seen their strategy, Wolf, play out in public in terms of dealing with him: trying to prevent him from flipping, trying to discredit him, really trying to cast doubt on what he is saying or what he is -- the signals he's sending through his lawyer, through his allies.

But what happens if Michael Cohen flips? Well, then their options narrow dramatically, as you can imagine. They can continue to try to play the public game, try to discredit Michael Cohen and anything he might tell investigators, but in terms of the strategy behind the scenes, the legal strategy that actually matters, if he does decide to work with investigators, there's not much they can do, except you know, have the president consult with his legal team about what Michael Cohen might know so that they can be prepared to face those accusations.

BLITZER: Yes, David Swerdlick, talking about sending messages, sending signals to the president, Michael Cohen hires Lanny Davis --

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

BLITZER: -- to be his new lawyer. Lanny Davis, the special counsel for Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky matter, good friend, supporter of Hillary Clinton. All of a sudden, he's working with Michael Cohen. And he tweeted this earlier in the day: "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."

What does that tell you?

SWERDLICK: Yes, that's giving the Trump team a little taste of their own medicine. Even those words, "stay tuned" at the end of the tweet, a twist on Trump's "We'll see" that he's so fond of.

If you go back and look at where Cohen has been the last few months, think about that time when Michael Avenatti was on Anderson Cooper's show, holding up that cardboard picture of him like a mugshot or a milk carton. He probably feels like, to your reporting, it's been like he's been a patsy or a punching bag. He probably wants to fight back a little bit now. He's got Guy Petrillo on his legal team, who worked in the Southern District in New York. Now you've got Lanny Davis, a Washington insider, a Democrat, and someone who can go toe to toe with Mayor Giuliani.

BLITZER: Not just the Democrats. Somebody extremely close to Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton.

BORGER: I am sure that goes over well with Donald Trump. But you know, as one source said to me, "This is Michael Cohen's July 4th moment." In other words, a declaration of independence from the president.

BLITZER: Quickly, Gloria, what are you going to looking for at the big unveiling today?

BORGER: I don't know. Everybody is looking for everything. You know, I think all of these choices are completely conservative, as we know, and it will be interesting to see whether the president is interested in how a potential judge feels about presidential power or a life story or whether he's interested in a woman who has been very vocal about the question of abortion, or whether he's going to go with -- with somebody that's kind of more bland, a Gorsuch 2.0, as -- as one of the judges has been referred to.

So we don't -- you know, it's interesting. I mean, conservatives are saying Trump can't go wrong. I think Trump wants to find somebody he feels comfortable with. And I --

BLITZER: How do you see it, Laura?

COATES: I think he is looking to fill yet another campaign promise. I think that's really a shortcoming of what's happening right now. Just by virtue of that you can always pick out the ideology of each Supreme Court justice. This is telling us yet again, we're able to actually have a president pick and cherry pick who he'd like to have in terms of the mind of the Supreme Court.

Either way, it will be a proactive punch against Democrats who he feels have been against him and a reactive swipe against those who say he could not reverse Roe v. Wade. Either way, it will be somebody who's looking to try to fulfill that campaign promise, and that's not a good thing for an autonomous judiciary.

[18:40:05] BLITZER: If were selected and confirmed, will be on the court, maybe for 30 years, if not longer, having a great, great impact.

Guys, stand by. There's more news we're following. What's next for the U.S.-North Korea relationship after weekend talks end with the regime likening the Trump administration to a bunch of gangsters?

And CNN is near the scene of the cave rescue operation in Thailand. Four teenagers, one adult still trapped. Their lives may depend on whether or not there's a huge downpour.

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[18:45:13] BLITZER: Tonight, President Trump is downplaying concerns that his deal with North Korea may be collapsing. But while he claims he still has confidence in Kim Jong-un, the regime is accusing the U.S. of making gangster like demands.

Our senior diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski is joining us.

Michelle, this is not the outcome Secretary of State Pompeo was looking for during his most recent talks in Pyongyang.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Clearly not, Wolf. And, you know, when the Trump-Kim summit yielded this vague, so-called commitment to denuclearization, this past weekend was supposed to be about getting the clarity, hashing out what exactly commitment even means, maybe setting some kind of a time line.

But where we are right now is back to some of the same rhetoric and name-calling from before the summit. Still across the same wide chasm between how the U.S. views denuclearization and how North Korea does.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KOSINSKI (voice-over): Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Afghanistan today, hoping to dodge questions about his weekend of negotiations with North Korea to denuclearize.

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I'd really prefer to talk about Afghanistan given where we are. Do you have a question about Afghanistan?

KOSINSKI: After his meetings in Pyongyang, North Koreans called the U.S. stance gangster like, regrettable, saying the U.S. brought up cancerous issues that in the past only raised the risk of war.

Pompeo minimizing the damage.

POMPEO: Statements that were put out, Chairman Kim's statement following our discussions continued to express his desire to complete the denuclearization to which he is so committed. KOSINSKI: Same thing from President Trump, 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. China on the other hand may be exerting negative pressure on a deal because of our posture on Chinese trade. Hope not.

All quite a change from what he proclaimed at his rally just Thursday night.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We signed a wonderful paper saying they're going to denuclearize. The whole thing -- it's going to all happen.

KOSINSKI: Secretary Pompeo spent hours over two days face to face with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's right-hand man, but unlike his last two visits, no meeting with Kim Jong-un himself. He tried to sound optimistic.

POMPEO: We made progress on almost all of the central issues.

KOSINSKI: But there was some obvious tension between Pompeo and his counterpart, even before the second day. The senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol almost mocking Pompeo, asking through a translator.

KIM YONG CHOL, NORTH KOREAN VICE CHAIRMAN: We did have serious discussion on very important matters yesterday. So thinking about those discussions, you might have not slept well last night.

POMPEO: Director Kim, I slept just fine.

KOSINSKI: And as soon as talks ended, North Korea let loose with a statement blasting the U.S. demand for denuclearization.

POMPEO: If those requests were gangster like, they are -- the world is a gangster, because there was unanimous decision at the U.N. Security Council about what needs to be achieved.

KOSINSKI: Questions still unanswered, how serious North Korea really is about giving up its nuclear weapons. Is it all still wishful thinking or is the U.S. getting played?

AMB. JOE YUN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Denuclearization is a difficult topic. We can't just meet among two people, have a personal agreement -- no. Denuclearization is a state to state, government to government agreement.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOSINSKI: You know, this administration so wanted a Trump-Kim summit that they did bypass a lot of that meticulous work so that each side would know exactly what was going to be agreed to at the summit. So, it's not much of a surprise that there's still this disagreement here.

Clearly, North Korea wants a slow, paced approach to denuclearization, if they even define it the same way the U.S. does, they want to get things in return at each step. Initially, this administration said it did not want that kind of approach. But then again, this administration also initially said it needed to see some concrete historic action from North Korea before there would be a summit, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, the fact that Kim Jong Un snubbed Pompeo in this visit is very significant.

Michelle, thank you very much.

And now to the cave rescue in Thailand. The last five people trapped underground are desperately waiting for their turn to be freed as new rains, though, threaten to make their escape even more dangerous. Eight boys have been brought out so far by divers that navigated very dark, flooded tunnels for hours and hours.

CNN's David McKenzie is on the scene for us right near the cave.

So, what's the latest, what happens next?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what happens next, is those elite divers will preparing to go into the mountain behind me in the coming hours to try to get the remaining four boys and their coach out. It's raining. That's a bad sign, but so far, it's been an extraordinary success.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCKENZIE: Eight of these young boys are now free. Which ones? Not even their families have been told.

Monday, Thailand's prime minister arrived to comfort parents near the cave site. They've agreed to wait here in solidarity until everyone's child is saved. Each child pulled alive from these tight underwater passages has survived more than two weeks inside the cave and an hours' long odyssey out.

Expert divers lead them to safety. Then, each child is rushed by ambulance and helicopter to this isolation unit at the Chiang Rai hospital. Some wheeled in behind shields of white umbrellas. Officials say the most recent arrivals are in better condition than the four rescued Sunday, adding they are doing well.

They said they were hungry and asked for minced pork and fried rice, the mission commander said.

Relatives are glued to the news coverage. Watching the missions unfold in hopes that their boy is among the saved. Still, once reunited they will not be able to hug their children for days. Doctors say there is a risk of infection so loved ones will have to stay at least 6-1/2 feet away.

The last four teammates and their coach remain inside and are expected to arrive at the hospital Tuesday if all goes well. The coach's aunt tells CNN the kids are in good hands. The children's mother trust him and he can take care of their children pretty well, she says, because he loved those kids very much. Officials say the 20-hour delay between rescues will allow them to replenish their oxygen tanks and give the elite divers a much-needed break.

While the teams rest and reassess conditions for the final push, all eyes are on the weather. Forecasted monsoons threaten to raise water levels in the cave, where any lost air could mean life or death.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCKENZIE: And it's raining now here in northern Thailand. There's been sporadic dumps down of rain, Wolf, in the last few hours. If it gets into the catch men's area behind me, it could pose create a problem, increasing the water flows through those narrow tunnels, but at this point, they believe they've come up with a system. Difficult as it is, but they're confident that perhaps this ordeal as it enters its 18th day for the remaining boys and their coach could be coming to a close -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, David, thank you. Let's hope for the best, though. Let's hope all those four remaining boys inside and the coach are rescued very, very soon.

And stay with us for more news. The president revealing his Supreme Court nominee very soon. You'll see it live right here on CNN.

We'll be right back.

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[18:57:45] BLITZER: We're now just about a couple of hours away from President Trump's announcement of his U.S. Supreme Court nominee.

We're joined by Chris Cuomo, the host of "CUOMO PRIME TIME".

This is such a significant decision because it won't go on for four years or eight years, but for 30 or 40 years.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "CUOMO PRIME TIME": We had this discussion before the election, that elections have consequences and this is the big mandate that a president can bring to the table. President Trump grasped the significance of this. And he had one pick. He's now having a second tonight. And who knows? He may get a third.

BLITZER: You know, the whole notion of these four finalists that we're all talking about, what do you think? Because they've all been vetted by the Federalist, by some of the conservatives think tanks?

CUOMO: That tells you everything you need to know. And again, elections have consequences. When Senator Grassley says any on the list will be okay out of the let's say 25 or so that the Federalist organization put together, he said because I know what they would mean in terms of how they see the Constitution.

There is a little bit of a ruse that is entertained during these moments, Wolf, that somehow these are unique examinations. They aren't. There is a game afoot. We know that partisans want certain ideals captured in their justice selections and we know that there is going to be a shell game played in the nomination process and then in the confirmation process, we'll hear all the things you're supposed to hear from a judge. And then they get on the bench and they do very different things.

We've seen that with the last two choices. I expect we'll see it again.

BLITZER: What do you think of theatrics leading up to today?

CUOMO: Listen, the president has a good eye for the theatrical. You know it works for him. It baits the media. It entices the citizenry.

And he doesn't need to do it tonight. This is a big deal. Law often shapes culture. That court is the supreme law of the land, it is the final word.

And when people decide on that court to make decisions, they change how people live their lives, they change the rights that people are availed of, and it changes the things we accept in this society as good and bad.

BLITZER: Two prime time very live "CUOMO PRIME TIME" shows tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern and then you're back at midnight for another live hour.

CUOMO: Yes.

BLITZER: We will be watching. Thanks very much for coming in.

CUOMO: Thank you, sir.

BLITZER: Welcome to Washington.

CUOMO: Always a pleasure.

BLITZER: Chris Cuomo, good guy.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.