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Youth Soccer Team Found Alive in Cave, Not Yet Rescued; Report: Scott Pruitt Pushed Aides to Find Wife a Six-Figure Job; Poll: Democrats Have Enthusiasm Advantage for Midterms; GOP Senator Warns Russia to Stay Out of Elections. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired July 3, 2018 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:40] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Imagine your kid's soccer team goes to explore in the woods. They end up missing. You wait and wait and wait. You hope and pray for the best, fearing the worst as pouring rains have flooded area. Ten days later, this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Elation. This is exactly what a Thai youth soccer team and their families have lived through for more than a week. The boys found alive just yesterday. Officials trying to figure out how to get them out safe and sound.

Joining me now, correspondent, Jonathan Miller, who is on the ground there. He has been watching this play out.

What are the options right now for the kids and their coach?

JONATHAN MILLER, ASIA CORRESPONDENT: Kate, 10 days in, the options are difficult, I would say. Quite a challenge. You have the search challenge, not knowing where they were. Then the euphoria of finding them. Now it's turned to the new level of anxiety, which is about how to extract them. It's really, really hard. You can probably see the diver's tanks behind me. They have been filling them up with compressed air. There are teams going into the cave. There are seven Navy SEAL divers down there. One of them a doctor, another a nurse with the boys. There are 12 of them. They are in reasonable shape. Physically OK. There's the assistant coach as well. They have been fed. They have been watered. They have been checked over. Now, how to get them out. If you try to bring them out through these flooded passageways -- this is a series of connected chambers. The boys are three miles into this cave complex. You could drill in from above. That's going to take a lot of work. You could try to pull them out and extract them with the divers through the flooded subterranean passageways. That's really hard. Or perhaps the most-scary option is the fact that they could sit out the monsoon season by moving onto a slightly higher platform deep inside the cavern until the waters subside. The monsoon season here in Thailand has only started. It's torrential. They could be stuck in there for four months. The challenge is on.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Four months sounds like an impossible feat for them to say there that long. The challenges is mounting.

Jonathan, thank you so much.

An amazing thing we are watching play out. Jonathan talked about the complex cave system and the heavy rains that have been pouring in, are what made finding the team so tough, and it's what is standing mostly in the way of getting them out quickly.

Joining me for perspective on this is ocean explorer, expert diver, Tim Taylor.

It's great to see you.

Amazing. Three miles in in this complex cave network. More than half a mile down. What are the challenges that the dive teams and the kids and their coach, that they are up against? Why is it so hard to get them out?

TIM TAYLOR, OCEAN EXPLORER AND EXPERT DIVER: Cave diving, by its nature, is something they take up when they are experienced. You can teach the kids to dive. But you can't teach them experience. It's not like they're going 100 yards and -- it's so deep and so far in. The longer that line stretches, the higher the risks go. Something can go wrong with one of the kids trying to get them out.

BOLDUAN: Can you describe what it is like to dive through a cave system? I saw it described -- they're in the middle of monsoon season. This is fast moving and really muddy water that they're dealing with.

TAYLOR: It's cold, dark, scary. Especially with kids that don't understand. When you are a trained diver, you have an awareness of what's around you. You know what you are doing, because you are trained. You don't have that fear. You are trained that if something goes wrong, how to think your way out of it and use your skills and experience to deal with that, whether it's not seeing or losing a mask or finding your way. There's hand signals. You can't talk. You grab each other's hands and giving code.

BOLDUAN: What can that -- I'm not an expert diver at all. I do love diving. What that fear can do is --

TAYLOR: There's no place to go. If you have a fear, if you have some kind of anxiety issue, it has to be dealt with. There's no up. OK?

[11:35:07] BOLDUAN: Right.

TAYLOR: It's an overhead environment.

BOLDUAN: There's no pause.

TAYLOR: It's like being in a wreck down deep underwater in the ocean. Anybody that's not a cave diver that has dove in wrecks, but you have to find your way out.

BOLDUAN: What do you do? If they get to a place where they need to train -- somehow train these kids, practice with the kids to get them to dive out, what -- they need the minimum. They need to know something. What do they need to teach them? Some don't know how to swim.

TAYLOR: You don't have to know how to swim to scuba dive. You have to be comfortable with that. It's a life support system. It's like you don't have to be -- you can't -- you don't fly if you are in a plane. It's technology that gets you there. What I -- if it was me in the situation, I would explore all possibilities. I would get them healthy. I would start training them, start showing them the stuff. You have time. Plan on doing the long haul and see how each evolves. If the kids get good, if the weather gets good, or if something happens in the monsoon season and the water starts rising, I'm not sure how the water is going to be affecting the caves, if that starts to be an issue, then they have at least progressed down both paths.

BOLDUAN: Have as many --

(CROSSTALK)

TAYLOR: -- and drilling at the same time.

BOLDUAN: Many options in a limited option. It gives me anxiety just talking about what they're up against. But thank you --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: There are lots.

TAYLOR: But this is a good story.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

TAYLOR: This is not like where we have been discussing looking for bodies for families so they can have closure. This is, take a deep breath and go slow. As long as they're not in super jeopardy of flooding out the cave more, then go slow.

BOLDUAN: Thank god for experts like you.

Great to see you. Thank you.

TAYLOR: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Still ahead, another day, another controversy for EPA Director Scott Pruitt. A new report says he asked an aide to help land a lucrative job for his wife. Those former aides now speaking out. Details next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:41:30] BOLDUAN: How many scandals does it take to fire a cabinet member? When it comes to Scott Pruitt, keep on counting. Several new reports now say Pruitt pushed aides to help his wife land a six-figure job with a politically connected group. This is on top of the mounting other ethics investigations he's still facing, including first-class air travel and accommodation, unprecedented security expenses, and then there's the condo connected to an industry lobbyist.

CNN correspondent, Sara Ganim is here with details on the newest allegations.

Sara, the information is coming straight from Pruitt's staff. What are they saying?

SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kate. The Congressional House Oversight Committee is interviewing Pruitt's closest aides as they look into his alleged unethical behavior. One former senior staffer told investigators that Pruitt instructed her to find a job for his wife with a salary topping $200,000 with the Republican Governors Association where she used to work. When this aide pushed back and said that this would need to be disclosed, Pruitt allegedly told her he would get around it by forming an LLC. This is according to the "New York Times." The staffer decided not to help Pruitt's wife get that particular job but did find her something with a salary at a much lower rate than they wanted.

BOLDUAN: There's that. But also, Drew Griffin is reporting on a whistle-blower on the record who says Pruitt kept secret calendars, scrubbed other calendars with regard to meetings, and keeping it from the public. What's this all about?

GANIM: This information comes to CNN at a time where the main focus of the investigation is whether Pruitt used his position as an administrator for personal gain. Looking at the meetings he was holding is particularly important. This whistleblower is saying Pruitt kept a secret calendar and instructing staff to scrub certain meetings that the public could see. CNN was able to verify more than two dozen undisclosed meetings by searching through thousands of e- mails made public by the Sierra Club through open-records laws. Those meetings include a meeting with a coal producer at the Trump international hotel. A guy who donated millions to Republican candidates. Another meeting was with a top Vatican official who, at the time, was under investigation for sexual assault.

I'm told this congressional investigation is in its first phase and they plan to continue the interviews, continue gathering documents and evidence through the summer as they look into the many, many different allegations of misconduct by Scott Pruitt.

[11:45:08] BOLDUAN: Smart money would be, this is not going to be the end of allegations.

Sara, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, do Republicans have a passion problem? A new poll shows a dramatic divide between the Republicans and Democrats on a key question heading into the midterms. We will break the numbers down. That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: The midterm elections are four months out now, and could it all come down to passion and enthusiasm? Doesn't it always? According to a new Quinnipiac poll, Democrats have the enthusiasm advantage right now. Let's take a look. And 58 percent of Democrats asked, compared to past elections for the House, how motivated are you no turn out this year? And 58 percent said they're more motivated. As usual, 38 percent. Let's take a look what that means then for Republicans on the flip side. When it comes to Republicans, only 41 percent said that they were more motivated this time around. As usual, 58 percent. So what does that mean? That's a 17-point advantage on the enthusiasm front for Democrats. What does this mean four months out? I don't know.

So let's bring in smarter people than me. Joining me now to discuss, CNN politics reporter, editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza, and Kristen Soltis Anderson, Republican pollster and strategist, and a "Washington Examiner" columnist.

Great to see you guys.

Kristen, the enthusiasm gap. Ds are looking at plus 17. As a pollster, what does that say to you at this moment?

[11:49:57] KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER & STRATEGIST & COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: A key part of the question that you read was compared to past elections for the U.S. House. So in that sense, you would expect for Republicans to mostly say, yes, it's about the same because Republicans have built their coalition around older voters who tend to be the types of folks who turn out in these midterm elections. Democrats have struggled when it comes to enthusiasm, especially getting younger voters to the polls in 2016, not loving Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. What they're banking on is this time around you've got a lot of voters who don't tend to participate in House elections. They're not usually that excited. And they are fired up to send a message to Trump. That's where I think Republicans should be a little worried, that our coalition on the right tends to participate in these elections. They don't have to be that excited. But if Democrats are matching it and overcoming it with a lot of enthusiasm, Republicans need to run like they're 10 points down.

BOLDUAN: What are you thinking, Chris? Do you see Republicans running like they're 10 points down right now? If you're a Republican Congressman, how much are you sweating?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: I do think that the signs have been there for a while, Kate. Both historically and sort of in the present day, that this is an election that's likely to be tough for Republicans. The issue is, and Kristen knows this well, the issue is there's only so much you can do. I remember in 2006, 2010, 2014, these are all wave elections for Democrats or Republicans. There are a lot of prepared members who did everything they could and still lost. That's the nature of representing a House district. You are much more prone to be hurt by the waves of one party really dominating. I think that's the danger there. Even if you're a Republican who sees a wave coming, you may not be able to get out of the way of it.

BOLDUAN: Kristen, let me lean on your expertise when it comes to Millennial voters and younger voters. How does gender and the youth vote fit into all of this? The Q poll has, in terms of younger voters, has them going for Dems by 26 points. You've highlighted a Pew poll that has Millennial women going for Dems plus 44. What are Republicans doing about this, just crossing their fingers or what?

SOLTIS ANDERSON: There certainly is a huge gender gap when it comes to the Millennial generation. In part, Millennial men, I think, are feeling a bit turned off from the left. Even if they don't love the president, I think they're wondering if the Democratic Party is hostile to them. On the other hand, I think Millennial women have decided the Republican Party is hostile to them. And I think Republicans have struggled to have a strong message to this generation. Whether it's talking about things like tax reform, you know, they stay sort of high level, let's talk about economic growth. Young women like economic growth, too. But I think when you look at the GOP, they haven't had as much of a concerted strategy to reach young women as the Democratic Party has. And that's why that gap has just widened and widened and widened in terms of what party young women affiliate with. Starting even before Donald Trump became the Republican nominee. This is a thing Republicans have been facing for a long time. And it may come back to bite them in this midterm election.

BOLDUAN: Fascinating, I heard you say Republicans assume that they might start off as Democrats, as they get older, they'll become Republicans. That might be a risk they're taking these days.

Great to see you, Kristen.

Great to see you, Chris.

Thank you.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

SOLTIS ANDERSON: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Still ahead, don't interfere, speaking of midterms, with the midterms. That's the stark warning one Republican lawmaker had for Russia while meeting with Russians in Moscow today. Details on that ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:57:43] BOLDUAN: This just in. A warning shot from one Republican lawmaker to Russia, stay out of the midterm elections. Several Republican Senators are currently visiting with counterparts in Moscow today. The meeting apparently took a turn.

Listen to Louisiana Republican Senator John Kennedy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN KENNEDY, (R), LOUISIANA: Our discussions have been brutally frank, no holds barred. As candid as I have ever been. Speaking only for me, I asked our friends in Russia not to interfere in our election this year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Joining me right now, CNN senior international correspondent, Fredrik Pleitgen, in Moscow.

Fred, it's amazing that he said that. For my part, I asked them not to interfere in our elections this year. It's just an amazing thing that that was the topic. Regardless, what are the Russians saying about this?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there were some pretty high-level meetings here today with this congressional delegation, Kate. Not just here at the Federation Council but also with the foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov. The Russians continue to say this, look, this election meddling, they have nothing to do with it and had nothing to do with it. They also say they think it's the American side that's responsible for the poor relations between Russia and the United States.

Now, they're also saying they believe that under the Trump administration and also just in the current atmosphere right now in Washington that things could potentially improve. Certainly, the visit of this congressional delegation is one thing that they say they hope can improve all of this.

It was interesting because actually the head of the congressional delegation, Senator Shelby, he came out with the head of Russia's Federation Council just a few minutes ago, and they gave a short press statement. They were saying -- or I asked Senator Shelby whether or not election meddling was discussed. He said yes, but it's still very early days. I also asked him whether or not he was keeping President Trump informed about the discussions that were going on. It seemed as though he hasn't so far, but he said he will, and he says President Trump knew that this delegation was here. So certainly for them, they believe this is the beginning of something, but certainly both sides are saying it's still a long way to go -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: To say the very least.

All right, Fred. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

No holds barred, brutally frank. Let's see.

Thanks so much for joining me. I really appreciate it.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.

[12:00:11] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Thank you, Kate.

And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your -