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INSIDE POLITICS

Brett Kavanaugh Meets With Lawmakers on the Hill; Trump Admin Misses Deadline For Reuniting Youngest Migrants; GOP Looking at Charlotte, N.C. to Host 2020 Convention. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 11, 2018 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:05] DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: The Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley hasn't decided on an exact date for Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing but the nominee definitely has already one fan in the former chairman, Orrin Hatch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: He's handled himself very, very well. He's a judge with a lot of experience, and I expect his confirmation to go well. I have every confidence that he'll be confirmed as justice on the United States Supreme Court, as he well should be. I can't tell you how much I applaud the president for picking this really fine man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BENDER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: So put down Hatch as a maybe again there. The White House tells me this morning that Kavanaugh's messaging in these meetings he is -- and he shouldn't be too tense in any of these meetings today. He's going to talk about his background. It's a lot of introduction.

And what Kavanaugh wants to do is get -- really get tips from these guys who have about 1,000 years experience doing this on how to get --

BASH: Quite literally.

BENDER: Yes. In getting through this, you know, this gauntlet that -- of the confirmation process. And it looks like from the clip there that, you know, it's their first step, the first meeting went pretty well.

BASH: And if it didn't, then he'd be in big trouble.

BENDER: Yes, that's true.

BASH: Look, the dance that goes on with any nominee is how much information can and should senators get? And in this case, because we're up against the deadline of the midterms, the Republicans want to get it done before hand. Democrats not so much. What democrats are asking for is to -- the ability to see the reams of e-mails and other documents that apparently are in the Bush library from the time Brett Kavanaugh worked for George W. Bush. Listen to what Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee said about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: You mentioned the Democrats might want this information. A lot of them have said that they're going to vote no for sure against this nominee. Well, how much more do you need to know to vote no.

This person has been on the bench for 12 years. He's got a lot of paperwork. He's got a lot of stuff when he worked at the White House. I don't know how much of that we've got to go through but I got to keep an open mind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: But, meanwhile, the Democrats are saying, sorry, this is what happens when you nominate somebody with a lot of paperwork and a record. Here's what Senator Sheldon Whitehouse on -- a Democrat on the committee said. "The fact that they have chosen somebody who has a big paper trail is not our problem." He said, that's their problem and they need to be organized, excuse me, organized and get it to us.

MOLLY BALL, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, TIME: Well, look, Chuck Grassley not exactly considered a swing vote on this nomination and Senator Whitehouse, I don't think is either.

BASH: But he is controlling the pace.

BALL: However, there are several senators who are actual swing votes who I think legitimately have not made up their mind and would like this information. Now, you know, in real terms, I would think that having a long paper trail should be not a problem but a plus because it gives you additional potential insight into who this justice is and -- potential justice is and how he might rule if named to the bench.

And I think the senators who are legitimately on offense, a few Democrats and a few Republicans, they're going to want to know that there's not something in these reams of files that might change their mind one way or another.

BASH: And it's obviously not just the paperwork. It's for these undecided senators or undeclared, a big issue is Roe versus Wade. And that's a topic that I talked about in his Capitol office with Vice President Mike Pence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Do you still want Roe versus Wade to be overturned?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE United States: Well, I do but I haven't been nominated to the Supreme Court.

BASH: Right. But your party is the administration that campaigned, you and the president campaigned saying you will find nominees to overturn Roe versus Wade. Will you be disappointed if he is given that opportunity and he doesn't? Will you be disappointed?

PENCE: Well, let me say, as I said, I stand for the sanctity of life. This administration, this president are pro-life. But, you know, what the American people ought to know is that as the president said today, this is not an issue that he discussed with Judge Kavanaugh. I didn't discuss it with him either. What we really focused on was the character, the background, the credentials and the judicial philosophy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Of course he doesn't discuss it because that's part of this dance.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Right.

BASH: You don't discuss it because then you can say we didn't discuss it. But Susan Collins, somebody who's on the fence, a Republican, Lisa Murkowski also, they say they are going to discuss it with him.

HENDERSON: Yes. And we'll see what he says. I mean, part of the dance has been essentially for a nominee to say this is settled law. This is precedent and that's pretty much it. That's essentially what Gorsuch said.

[12:35:00] It will not only be questions to think about Roe v. Wade but also the Affordable Care Act. There is a court case winding its way probably through to the Supreme Court at some point about pre- existing conditions. There are some Democrats who were concerned about that. People like Joe Donnelly, people like Joe Manchin.

But these things are so, you know, practiced and presentational in terms of how they speak up there that it's unlikely that anybody is going to get up there and say, oh, I'm pro-life I'm going to overturn Roe v. Wade. It's going to be, you know, essentially, you know, a guessing game for what he would do on the bench.

BASH: And there's the -- then there's the political fight. We have to take a break, but Carl, I am going to give this to you and I want our viewers to see the headline of your story today in the Times. "Who might the court fight help in the midterms? Democrats. And Republicans?"

It's a great headline. If you want to know what it means, read his piece.

OK, up next, House Speaker Paul Ryan comes to the defense of a fellow House Republican, one who may run for his job once he leaves.

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[12:40:21] BASH: Topping our political radar today, Pfizer is putting its price hike on hold after President Trump slammed the pharmaceutical giant for raising prices on several drug. Pfizer confirmed the rollback after a tweet last night from the president the company has succumbed to pressure. Pfizer says it will roll back prices to where they were on July 1st as soon as technically possible.

Former FBI Lawyer Lisa Page is defying her congressional subpoena, and will not appear before the House Judiciary Committee today. Page's anti-Trump texts with FBI Agent Peter Strzok are under investigation. Her lawyer says she wasn't given enough time to view the materials and prepare. The House Judiciary chairman says that's no excuse for her not to appear and that Page might be held in contempt of Congress.

And House Speaker Paul Ryan is vouching for Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan's character. He is accused of turning a blind eye to alleged sexual abuse when he was a wrestling coach at Ohio State. Jordan has repeatedly denied those allegations and the House speaker shot down the idea that the House Ethics Committee would investigate Jordan. He also said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Jim Jordan is a friend of mine. We haven't always agreed with each other over the years. What I've always known Jim Jordan to me, a man of honesty and a man of integrity.

I also want to make sure that Ohio State conducts the review of this doctor and what he did. That's important so that campuses are safe. And I'm glad Jim is supporting that review.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: And up next, the wait goes on for separated migrant children and their parents after Trump officials fail to reunite them by a court-ordered deadline.

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[12:46:13] BASH: The agonizing wait continues for hundreds of families broken up by the Trump administration's zero tolerance immigration policy. This little boy was one of just 38 kids who are under five who were reunited with their parents at yesterday's court- imposed deadline. At least 60 -- there you go, there you see him. At least 64 others are still in government custody.

Officials say the reasons vary and that while they expect more reunifications in the coming days, they say 27 of these migrant children under the age of five are not eligible to be returned to their parents yet. Despite the reality that border officials apparently have no reliable system for reunification, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says the kids in custody are being well taken for, well cared for.

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ALEX AZAR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: We have nothing to hide about how we operate these facilities, our grantees. It is one of the great acts of American generosity and charity what we are doing for these unaccompanied kids who are smuggled into our country or come across illegally. We could put children back with individuals who are murderers, kidnappers, rapists or not their parents but we've worked with the court to ensure that we do our duty which is to protect child welfare and ensure that they are in fact (INAUDIBLE).

I could release all of the kids by 10:55 p.m., but I don't think you want that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: And just moments ago, the president tweeted from Brussels on this issue. A lengthy tweet. In the end he said, "Judges run the system and illegals and traffickers know how it works. They are just using children."

OK. So cutting through all of this rhetoric and the blame game and everything, we still have these children. We have the, you know, more than half a dozen or so -- excuse me, more than a dozen or so under five who don't have their parents or probably won't be because many of their had their parents deported already.

And then you have thousands who have to be reunited with their parents who are older than five. And that has to be done according to this court order by July 26th. I mean, any chance that's going to happen?

BENDER: Well, this is one of the central issues with the Trump presidency. It's very easy to blow things up. It's very easy to blow systems up and criticize NATO, criticize trade relationships, criticize trade deals criticize immigration. But it's very hard to put back -- put new systems in place. And we're seeing that with the immigration issue here.

You know, it's easy to separate families and to make that decision but once -- now faced with a task of putting -- of reunifying them, they're finding it's a little -- that it's more difficult and it's a bigger problem than they bargained for.

BASH: Exactly. And it speaks to the fundamental question of why did they go through with this new policy which included separating children from their families without having the obvious plan that you needed to have in place, regardless of what happened to their parents going through the legal system of getting them back together. That's one of the things I discussed also with the vice president in his office on Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PENCE: I believe we will have reunited 54 of those children.

BASH: But that means that over 50 children under the age of five. You have children, I have a child. They're not with their parents. Is that acceptable?

PENCE: Well, it's -- not necessarily the case. What we're doing --

BASH: But should even one child under the age of five --

PENCE: What we don't ever want to do is return a vulnerable child age five or age four to someone who may be a threat to them, who may be a human trafficker, who is not their parent. And, frankly, the number has winnowed down from 102 to somewhere in the 70s through our vetting process --

BASH: Was there a plan?

[12:50:01] PENCE: Of course there's a plan. That -- look, we've got a crisis at our southern border. And when people come into this country illegally, as was the case under the Obama administration, at times when we prosecute people for entering our country illegally, they're separated from their children for a period of time. Those children are dispatched to relatives or to foster care. And we know where they are, and there's a plan to reunite them.

But we want to do it in a way that's very careful and very thoughtful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Yes, that is a fair point. There are really bad people who are using children for lots of different -- you know, various reasons to send them illegally across the border. That doesn't change the fact that it really isn't the kids who are missing. It's finding the parents.

CARL HULSE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. They didn't have a system there. The administration has obviously spent some time coming up with a line of defense on this because you're hearing this now from several people. Well, we don't want to give them back to felons.

But, you know, there may be some cases of that. But I think when the secretary says, you know, this represents this act of charity on the part of the United States, I'm not sure that that's going to be a selling point. Sure, they're taking in some unaccompanied kids but most Americans are looking at this I think and going, that's terrible that these kids are being separated from their parents and you needed to have a system in place if you were going to do this.

You needed to have a workable system to reunite them. And they've just proven that they don't. And now they're spinning, but the problem is still there.

HENDERSON: And the charity that is going on is these pro bono lawyers and non-profit groups who are doing really hard work of trying to reunite these families because the government doesn't really have a plan.

BASH: OK, everyone, up next, the GOP nears a decision on where to host its 2020 convention. And it may not be what the president had in mind.

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[12:56:29] BASH: You're looking at live pictures from Brussels. We're waiting for the president and Mrs. Trump to arrive there for a NATO dinner. And moments ago, the president sent out a tweet about his visit and continuing to pound on NATO.

I'm actually not going to read most of the tweet because it would take too long to give fact checks for the things that he's saying that are not correct. But the last line is key. Must pay for two percent of GDP immediately not by 2025.

OK. We're going to put that aside because we had a nice discussion about it and talk briefly about in 2012, Charlotte, North Carolina. That was where the Democratic National Convention was. And listen to the president beforehand talking about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Madam chairwoman, delegates, I accept your nomination for president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: President Obama there. Now, that city may play host to another very different president in 2020. Michael Bender, who is here with us at the table, he's reporting that the Republican National Committee is nearing a deal with Charlotte to be the site of the GOP's 2020 convention, even though the president may have had a very different venue in mind for his presumed re-nomination.

Here's what the story says. "Mr. Trump has also privately expressed interest in holding the convention in Las Vegas, one of six U.S. cities with a Trump-branded hotel, people said. But the president's advisers were concerned about nominating the president who has been accused of having affairs with adult film actress and Playboy model in a town referred to as sin city."

BENDER: The sinner and sin city narrative was one that the Trump allies want to avoid if they can. And to be fair to the president, he also has a property near Charlotte. Trump National Golf Club in Charlotte, about 30 miles outside the center of the city. But Charlotte --

BASH: But it's not called sin city.

BENDER: Correct. And Charlotte is not quite Vegas in the president's mind but there were not that many options for the Republicans right now. Not a lot of cities are raising their hand trying to host the president's re-nomination. There was some -- Vegas was one of them but there were some issues there, and not just the narrative but there's not -- you know, you're not the only game in town in Vegas. Forty million people come to the city every year for good reason.

And really the only venue they thought was appropriate was one owned by MGM which has a bit of a rivalry with the Trump folks, so they're in the final stages of putting a contract together with Charlotte. We know that the Republican National Committee will rubber stamp that deal whatever it is at the meeting later this month.

The thing to watch for is in Charlotte. There is tentatively scheduled meeting on Monday. This is a liberal bastion in a Republican-leaning town. And some -- from what -- our reporting is that some Democrats there on the city council are getting some cold feet about getting primaried if they vote to bring Trump and the entourage to their city.

BASH: It's great reporting but here's the reality, is that, conventions, it might be a headache, but they bring cold, hard cash. And the Democratic mayor of Charlotte basically said the current political climate which is divisive rhetoric and harmful policy does not represent my values and the values of most of Charlotteans."

Is that right? All right.

"If Charlotte is the site of the RNC we can show our city is about inclusion and leverage." And she goes on to say that she wants to influence decisions through engagement, which is basically bring our money here.

HENDERSON: Yes, bring your money here. Yes.

BASH: All right, guys, thank you for that reporting. Thank you for the great discussion.

Thank you for watching. We are waiting for President Trump to arrive at the NATO dinner. And Wolf will bring that to you. He starts right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1 p.m. --