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Scandal-Plagued Pruitt Resigns as EPA Administrator; Feds: "Under 3,000" Children Separated from Immigrant Parents, No Reunion Despite Court Order. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired July 9, 2018 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:09] JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: So, when it comes to scandal, Scott Pruitt was a walking, talking, government salaried superfund site. Now, he's just walking.

John Berman here in for Anderson.

Until he resigned late today, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was at the center of at least ethical and potentially legal investigations, and that's not counting what seemed to be a fancy hotel fetish, that's not counting the reports that he had a security detail drive him around so he could buy a special kind of skin lotion. You know you're working it when lotion-gate is not even one of the top 14 scandals on your list. And it's not including the used luxury mattress he tried to wrangle from President Trump's hotel in Washington.

Yet having made his bed so to speak, it seemed until today that he'd never be forced to sleep in it. The questions were asked, was this the most corrupt government official ever? And if he was, how does he still have a job?

Republicans were asking, Trump supporters were asking, right-wing commentator Laura Ingraham, for goodness sake, was demanding his head.

Well, today, she got it, presumably well-moisturized.

Pruitt stepped down without mentioning word one about the lotion, the mattress, the first class travel, the purging of public records, any of it. Instead in his resignation letter to the president, he said in so many words: poor me.

It is extremely difficult, he writes, for me to cease serving you in this role first because I count it a blessing to be serving you in any capacity, but also because of the transformative work that is occurring. However, the unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us.

Somewhere perhaps, standing in a rising tide of toxic waste or maybe a slowly draining swamp depending on what you think of the administration's policies, a fiddler is tuning up the world's smallest violin and playing the world's saddest song.

Late today aboard Air Force One, President Trump praised Pruitt for doing in his words an outstanding job and said it was Pruitt's decision, his own decision, to leave. He called him, quote, a terrific guy.

Pruitt will be replaced by his deputy Andrew Wheeler.

Joining us now, the man who on this program uncovered the most recent Pruitt scandal. Drew Griffin's report sparked two congressmen citing his work to demand action from EPA's inspector general. Just hours later, Pruitt resigned.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John and Pruitt and the president insisting this is a resignation not of firing, but it does seem clear all of these investigations have become just too much for even Scott Pruitt to remain.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCOTT PRUITT, FORMER EPA ADMINISTRATOR: Sixteen months ago to lead this agency --

GRIFFIN (voice-over): It may have been the last straw an EPA-insider- turned-whistleblower alleging Scott Pruitt and his inner circle were keeping a secret calendar hiding meetings with industry insiders and others from the public, scrubbing federal records possibly in violation of the law.

(on camera): Scrubbed?

KEVIN CHMIELEWSKI, FORMER EPA ADMINISTRATOR SCOTT PRUITT'S DEPUTY CHIEF OF CHIEF: Scrubbed, yes, sir.

GRIFFIN: Of the official EPA administrator's schedule?

CHMIELEWSKI: Absolutely, which happens quite a bit.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): The exclusive report detailed over two dozen meetings calls and events with industry insiders and others missing from Pruitt's public calendar. Kevin Chmielewski says the secret calendar all done under Pruitt's direction.

This morning, two Democratic congressmen demanded a federal investigation of that report. Within hours, Pruitt resigned.

In his resignation letter, Pruitt never mentioned any of the scandals he was associated with, only this: the unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us.

What's unprecedented, the sheer volume of allegations against Scott Pruitt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's mind-boggling how long the list of potential ethics violations are.

GRIFFIN: His scandals ran the gamut. A CNN report that Pruitt proposed ousting Jeff Session so he would be appointed attorney general, leasing a D.C. condo from a lobbyist wife below-cost, spending tens of thousands of dollars on office furniture, a soundproof phone booth, spending tax dollars on first-class travel in weekend trips home, handing out jobs and pay raises to political aides, using staff to run errands, trying to get his wife a six-figure job, trying to get his wife a Chick-fil-A restaurant franchise, at least 14 separate probes underway involving Pruitt.

His former deputy chief of staff says Scott Pruitt was warned several times to stop but refused.

CHMIELEWSKI: The phone booth is one thing, the flights, the first- class flights, the Delta flights, you know the living in the lobbyists house, we all knew about this, and we expressed concerns we've expressed issues with it, going home every weekend, having the taxpayers pay for his trips back home to Oklahoma, we express this stuff, including Ryan Jackson. It just got overruled by Administrator Pruitt.

GRIFFIN: It in just the past few weeks, even Republicans began questioning through its judgment.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: I know some of them are allegations some of them are facts.

[20:05:01] He is acting like a moron and he needs to stop it.

GRIFFIN: In the end, Pruitt relied on his personal almost divine like connection to Donald Trump as revealed in his letter of resignation.

I believe you are serving as president today because of god's providence, Pruitt wrote to Trump. I believe that same providence brought me into your service.

That service under the weight of 14 federal probes came to an end today.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: All right. Drew Griffin joins us along with CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman, who also has done a ton of reporting on Pruitt for "The New York Times".

So, Drew, now that Pruitt has resigned, what happens to him? Do the investigations, 14 of them, just go away? Does he face disciplinary action?

GRIFFIN: Well, I think some of them will just fall because you know the politics involved people and the Republicans in Congress certainly will want to just walk away from them that we're hearing the EPA's inspector general is going ahead with those probes that he's been asked to look at through Congress. We'll see what the oversight committees do. Obviously, the plan here for Scott Pruitt is just go away.

BERMAN: So, Maggie, the president said today there was quote no final straw and that the decision was all up to Pruitt. Is that what your sources are telling you in the White House?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No.

BERMAN: No?

HABERMAN: No, it was not -- the decision was not up to Pruitt. There was no specific final straw per se. What essentially tipped the balance was two things. One is the embarrassment surrounding Kaitlan Collins story about how it was many months ago that this has happened but that he had -- Pruitt had pitched himself as Jeff Sessions replacement, again appealing to Trump's vanity and basically in a mold of sycophancy that you could see in that resignation was one thing.

But the main thing was the scrubbing of the records of the meetings. That tips the balance in a very different way. I was just talking to a source, a senior administration official, who said that that focused people's minds because that brought it to a different level. This all did begin, according to two of my sources, with that report about him attempting to buy a mattress from the Trump hotel, that that brought it into a different area.

BERMAN: It wasn't the lotion. It was the mattress that did.

HABERMAN: Oh my god, I swear to god, the best part about this is you will never say the word lotion to me on set again. But it was actually the mattress that was the first one, and then I think that it was just a snowball effect.

Trump is willing to put up with a lot of things and he generally likes people who praise him. He doesn't like people who get him that press.

BERMAN: But Trump pushed him out, this was the president's decision?

HABERMAN: This was I think actually frankly more the decision of staff around the president, and the president was brought along.

The president had resisted it for a long time because he likes him personally. They have a good chemistry. He thought that Pruitt was getting stuff done, and don't forget that Trump's instinctive response, a lot of the time when someone who works for him is getting attacked, is to hunker down and say defend, defend, whoever that is must be wrong.

The balance just against Pruitt became so overwhelming and again, when you get into an issue that involved potential illegality, that was a problem.

BERMAN: So, Drew, you've been speaking people within the FBI, including these whistleblowers. What's the reaction inside that agency?

GRIFFIN: Well, they're happy to see Pruitt go just because of the way he was running this office. He was very much not agreeable to meet any scientists for instance, not to read back up, not to follow kind of the procedures that were in place from other EPA administrators when making big decisions. So, they are happy that that at least Pruitt is gone. They're not quite sure about Andrew Wheeler, although Andrew Wheeler

is many things. He is also a D.C. professional who knows how operations run, so I think that they are holding out hope that at least wheeler will look at science when he is making some of these decisions that the EPA is involved with.

BERMAN: Talk to me about Andrew Wheeler, Drew, for just a second here. What do we know about him?

GRIFFIN: Well, Andrew Wheeler started at the EPA 25-some years ago. Then he went on to Capitol Hill where he worked for Senator Inhofe.

Of course, Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma is one of the climate change skeptics. So, worked there and then he left went to K Street, followed that golden path that leads to lobbying jobs and lobbied for big coal lobbied for energy companies, lobbied the energy industry, lobbied EPA, lobbied the Department of Interior.

So, the very people that now he is going to regulate, as we have pointed out in some of her reporting, were paying him just a year or so ago. So, that should be an interesting dynamic.

Andrew Wheeler did have to pledge that he wouldn't be involved in any decisions involving his former clients. So, we do have that to deal with and look forward to.

BERMAN: But likely very little change in policy at least.

Maggie, we know that people around the president think he responds to praise gratuitous praise in some cases but Pruitt's resignation letter is really at a whole new level here.

I believe you were serving as president today because of god's providence. God's providence seems to take you to a little bit of a new level.

HABERMAN: It does. It takes it to a new level. It also gives it a certain level of divinity and faith in destiny.

But it's also -- it's very hard not to read that letter and come away with the belief that Scott Pruitt thought he was serving a man as opposed to a country, and thought that he was serving a man as opposed to an administration.

[20:10:07] And we are a nation of laws not men as has been written repeatedly. So, it is really striking to hear him pledge this personal fealty to the president again and again and again, and especially when it doesn't really -- it doesn't really matter now. It only matters in terms of how the president was going to deal with Pruitt, which as you saw from what he said to reporters in Air Force One was pretty glowing. It could have been a lot worse than a lot rougher and he gave him a pretty easy shut out the door.

BERMAN: Maggie, I want to see one last question because the president was just speaking in Montana, and he was at a rally there, and he was talking about Senator Elizabeth Warren, who he often refers to as Pocahontas but there's more to it in this case. I want you to listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Pocahontas, they always want me to apologize for saying it. Let's say I'm debating Pocahontas, right? I promise you I'll do this, I will take, you know, those little kits they sell on television for $2? Learn your heritage.

We will take that little kit and say, but we have to do it gently, because we're in the Me Too Generation, so we have to be very gentle. And we will very gently take that kit and we will slowly toss it, hoping it doesn't hit her and injure her arm.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So, the Pocahontas thing is one thing, however, he just seemed to make a Me Too joke at that rally, and there's several aspects of that. Number one, let's remember what the Me Too movement is about, it's about women coming forward talking about their own stories of sexual harassment over their lives.

And number two, this comes the same day at the White House announced that Bill Shine, formerly of Fox News, who left under a cloud of scandal --

HABERMAN: No allegations against him personally.

BERMAN: No, but --

HABERMAN: Allegations that he allowed a culture of hostility toward women and looked the other way repeatedly. Those allegations have made over and -- been made over and over again. It is dismissive at best about the Me Too movement. It really does.

Senator Warren's folks I mention are quite happy tonight because it underscores how afraid he is of her and how concerned he is about facing her.

One of the biggest threats for the Republican Party in these midterms is energy and enthusiasm among women voters and so, this is an interesting talk to take if you're a president whose party is looking at a pretty rough landscape for the fall.

BERMAN: Yes, I haven't heard of make this kind of comment before.

HABERMAN: No, this is definitely new.

BERMAN: It'll be interesting to see if he does it again.

HABERMAN: Yes. It's also be interesting -- it'd be interesting to see the reaction tomorrow.

BERMAN: All right. Maggie Haberman and Drew Griffin, thank you very much. One final note, CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, had a one-word reaction to Scott Pruitt's departure. That one word: good.

Next, this is not good. The man in charge of reuniting thousands of migrant children with their families is asked how much progress he has made and the answer he gives will shock you. That is when it's not breaking your heart. We're going to keep them honest.

Later, a live report from the flooded cave site in Thailand on new complications of the race to save a dozen boys and their soccer coach, as well as an exclusive trip with divers underground, so you can see the kind of conditions and dangers they face.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:16:47] BERMAN: Keeping them honest tonight. The administration that tore thousands of migrant children from their parents went public today but did not come clean. HHS Secretary Alex Azar briefed reporters on the children who've been detained since the president's zero-tolerance border policy took effect. When he was done talking, the parents and the public were still in the dark about when families will be reunified, precisely how they will be reunified, even exactly how many kids are still in custody.

And the reason could not be simpler. We're all in the dark because the administration having created the problem in the first place does not seem to be solving it. With all due speed or even some due speed and is even concealing one key measure of that lack of progress.

Today, Secretary Azar could not provide a precise number of children who have been separated from their parents as a result of zero tolerance, which is odd because HHS was giving out that number two weeks ago when the president said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: OK, we're going to have a lot of happy people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: He's signing that executive order they're undoing the family separation policy that he himself created. He didn't actually need to sign anything to stop it.

When he did sign it, HHS said it had 2,053 kids in their care who had been taken from their families by the government. A week later, the department stopped breaking out that figure, only releasing the number of all kids in custody about 11,000, most of whom arrived here unaccompanied.

Today, Secretary Azar made the claim that the number of children who may have been separated from their parents under zero tolerance or for other reasons was lower than 3,000, of whom about a hundred are younger than five years old. The best they can do is lower than 3,000. That's the best they can do. This isn't some rounding error. These are children -- children

separated from their parents by the U.S. government. And that government did not even have a competence or maybe the decency to count.

As you know, HHS is under federal court order to reunite kids under five with their parents by Tuesday, and all kids by the twenty six, and again we can't really monitor the progress because we don't have a baseline number.

Again, the issue here is the government will not tell us exactly how many kids they have separated from their parents. Secretary Azar did the total number of family reunifications that have taken place so far. That number is stunning.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty joins us now.

Sunlen, bottom line, is there a number for how many children and parents have been reunited?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, John, there's not. This call today with HHS was clearly their attempt to try to give some more and for me but it brought us very little clarity to the questions we've been asking on a daily basis for quite some time now and it's still far short of this full accounting of what's actually going on with these kids, how many are still separated, how many have been reunified.

The numbers that they were able to give today are still incomplete. The new numbers that we learned today, and this is according to HHS, is that there are currently 3,000 children -- under 3,000 children in total who are still in custody who have been separated from their parents and that includes children under the age of 5.

But what's notable here is that this is not a precise tally.

[20:20:03] They would not give us more exact figure than that very broad under 3, 000 metric.

Here's Secretary Azar on this today.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ALEX AZAR, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: First again, I want to be really clear. A couple of you have said the word 3,000. I want to be clear, it is under 3,000. I want to give you an outer bound, under 3,000, and that is the maximum set. It will not be 3,000. It will not be close to 3,000. It will be under 3,000.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SERFATY: And one other detail that did come from this call today is that they said have been reunited with their families. That's significant and the reason why all of this back and forth about the numbers is important is the last figure that we had last Tuesday, that's days ago, HHS then said that 2,047 children were still in custody who had been separated, so this new total seems potentially much higher than that.

The HHS secretary today says that's because the court order required officials to go back further in time to comb through thousands of cases to find any separated children, so this number potentially includes children who were separated before that policy that was started by the administration back in May. And again, John, all of this just highlights that without the full numbers, we don't yet still have the full scope of what progress is being made, if any, about reuniting these kids with their parents.

BERMAN: Again, zero reunifications in the last week. The only number they give us is less than 3,000, fewer than 3,000. And remember, this is not a rounding error, we're talking about children here, and that's the best they can do.

Does it seem likely that the administration will reach the deadline -- the court-ordered deadline for reuniting families?

SERFATY: I think it's very unclear at this point. The secretary said today that they will comply with the courts deadline, but at this point, based on this latest information, how this call went today, it's actually pretty hard to see how they reach that.

And again, it's worth remembering that these court deadlines, they are very specific. By tomorrow, that's the deadline for all parents to have made some sort of telephone contact with their separated kids. By Tuesday of next week, that's the deadline for kids under five years old to be reunified, and we know based on that call today that means 100 kids currently and by July 26, all parents need to be reunited with their children.

BERMAN: All right. Sunlen Serfaty, thanks so much. I do appreciate it.

With me now, former White House ethics czar under President Obama and former ambassador to the Czech Republic, Norm Eisen. Also, former Trump campaign adviser Steve Cortes.

Steve, I do not understand this. The best that they can do now is tell us that there's somewhere fewer than 3,000 children still in custody, separated from their parents by the U.S. government. If the government is going to separate them, should they not have the decency or the competence to at least count?

STEVE CORTES, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISOR: The counting should be correct, but I disagree with your premise, John, when you say the government separated them. The government did not. The adults who are with them, some of whom were parents, some of whom are not parents, they chose to separate these children from adults.

BERMAN: Steve, I just want to stop here. No, the parents cross the border with their children. This administration put into policy, put into place a policy which caused their separation. They were separated, even if --

CORTES: No, they didn't. That's incorrect, John. (CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: They were separated.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Once they were over the border, did the parents throw their children away separating them? No. Once they were over the border, the U.S. --

CORTES: They did by their actions, John.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: I don't want even go down this road --

CORTES: Will you let me talk?

BERMAN: No.

CORTES: Are you going to give a lecture or can I answer?

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: If you're OK with the fact the administration didn't count, these are kids. You're OK with them not counting.

CORTES: OK. Now, the counting should be accurate. If I leave this studio tonight and if I take my children with me and break and enter into somebody's home, is the cop who arrests me separating me from my children or am I doing it? I'm the one who's responsible for separating me from my children. That's what happens to an American citizen.

Why would it be any different for a Honduran or a Guatemalan who breaks it enters into the United States? They are the ones responsible --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: I feel like this discussion from several weeks ago. The president signed an executive order rescinding the policy that separated the children from their parents. At this point, that's not even in dispute. What I am asking you is how the government after that executive order hasn't been again able to get its act together to even get a count for how many kids it's separated?

CORTES: Look, you have to ask HHS. I don't know the answers to that.

BERMAN: Does it bother you? Does it bother you a little? A lot? Does it bother you at all?

CORTES: John, it bothers me immensely that these children are suffering and I have nothing but empathy for them. The United States government didn't do this to them. Donald Trump didn't do this to them. Their parents or whatever adult they were with did this to them, and it's a reprehensible act that they did.

They decided in their own will by their own volition to cross a sovereign border and break and enter in the United States with children in tow and that is abusive to those children --

BERMAN: OK.

CORTES: -- and I feel terrible for that.

BERMAN: OK, the parents separated the border with the children, the U.S. government instituted a policy that separated them.

Ambassador Eisen, the Health and Human Services secretary again gives us a number under 3,000. Does it seem to you as if they have a policy at this point, because there's been zero reunifications in the last week? Does it look like there's a policy to get them back together?

NORMAN EISEN, BOARD CHARI, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY & ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: No, John, tragically, this administration -- whatever decisions parents have made I have great empathy for them, but that Donald Trump and his administration are the ones who are governed by the Constitution. They violated the due process clause of the Constitution, tearing these children out of their parents' arms. The due process clause has been held by the Supreme Court to apply to aliens who are on United States land.

And, you know what terrible, John, the reason we're in this mess today, the reason Secretary Azar couldn't even give you an exact number, because they tore those children away without ever thinking about how they might reunify them with their parents. That is a shocking violation of the Constitution. It's a violation of humanity.

Steve doesn't want to talk about Donald Trump's responsibility for this, but its massive, it's appalling and it's a failure of our government. I'm ashamed of the president and his administration.

BERMAN: Steve?

CORTES: Look, getting control of our border is not xenophobic, it's not racist, it's not small-minded, it's sensible. And by the way, a lawless border breeds all this kind of criminality.

So while I think the left appears and wants to appear to be merciful here, the opposite is actually true. What is being encouraged by the lawlessness of the border is child trafficking, is sexual exploitation.

BERMAN: I will say --

CORTES: Contraband are going to cross the border.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: You're creating a false choice, Steve, I think between lawlessness at the border and a government decision to separate children from their parents. CORTES: OK. No, but I'm not. But I'm not, John.

Here's the thing if you say that if you come in with a child, we won't separate you, what you're effectively doing is making kids almost admission tickets.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Hang on one second, Norm, I did think that the administration told me that it wasn't a deterrent. Steve seems to be saying now the original policy was a deterrent.

Norm?

EISEN: Well --

CORTES: I think it was and I and I frankly disagree with the executive order of the president, yes.

BERMAN: Norm, go ahead.

CORTESD: Again --

(CROSSTALK)

EISEN: The thing Steve doesn't want to say is that the administration has been all over the map. It is a deterrent. It is a deterrent. We're doing it intentionally. It was not on purpose. We're sorry, we mean it.

Why? Because they're violating the United States Constitution. This is not an isolated incident there has been an amount of lawlessness and constitutional violation by this administration that we've never seen.

But this is some of the most painful because it involves children. Steve, just say it. The president violated the due process clause of the Constitution, then I'll listen to your other arguments. Admit that our Constitution was violated by this cruel act.

BERMAN: Steve, very quick final.

CORTES: Listen, I -- clearly, people who come here do have due process. I agree that, even if -- even if they're here illegally.

EISEN: And that Trump violated the Constitution.

BERMAN: Hang on, Norm. And we're going to have to go. So, Steve, you have to wrap up.

CORTES: All right. What is also clear is that the American people support and, by the way, including Hispanics, including my community, Hispanics, overwhelmingly in polling support detaining the families either in part or in separation, but do not support separation because -- excuse me, do not support catch and release, because that leads to lawlessness at the border and actually more abuse. BERMAN: Well, OK, look, at some point I think the discussion about the policy is one thing. I still do not understand how they did not or cannot count how many kids are separated that needs to be explained by this U.S. government.

CORTES: I agree.

BERMAN: Steve Cortes, Norm Eisen, I do appreciate you being here. Thank you.

EISEN: Thank you.

BERMAN: President Trump says he will announce his pick for the Supreme Court seat of retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy in a few days. Just ahead, a look at the likely finalists.

And later, the president shrugged off concerns at North Korea to Kim Jong-un may have no intention of denuclearizing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:33:01] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump just wrapped up a political rally in Montana tonight. On the flight there, the President held a wide ranging talk with reporters. And among the topics, his pick for the Supreme Court. The President said, the list is down to two or three people, all of them as he says are outstanding.

Here is Randi Kaye with a look at that list, at least the names we now know.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They are outstanding people, and they are really incredible people in so many different ways, academically and every other way.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On the President short list of potential Supreme Court nominees Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who was been on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals since 2006 and has the backing of both Breitbart and Ann Coulter.

The 53-year-old Kavanaugh is a former law clerk to Justice Anthony Kennedy.

JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH, D.C. CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS: Every case is a separation of powers case. And I believe that.

KAYE: Critics of Kavanaugh suggest he is been part of the establishment for too long. He helped investigate President Bill Clinton along with Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, and then served as a close aide to President George W. Bush.

On healthcare and abortion, Kavanaugh has been criticized for being out of step with the majority of Americans. Last year, he sided with the Trump administration to block an abortion for a pregnant immigrant teenager noting the government's permissible interests in favoring fetal life.

Judge Raymond Kethledge is 51 and the only evangelical Christian of Trump's top three nominees. He also once clerked for Justice Anthony Kennedy.

The University of Michigan University Law School graduate has co- written a book on leadership called "Lead Yourself First." His co- author described him as authentic, humble, and down-to-earth.

(on camera) Kethledge is a true conservative once reportedly upholding a mandatory minimum sentence for a man who pleaded guilty to drug charges even though Congress had reduced the mandatory minimum by the time the man was sentenced.

JUDGE AMY CONEY BARRETTT, SEVENTH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS: Justice Kennedy is 80. This could be a sea change.

[20:35:03] KAYE: Amy Coney Barrett, the only female nominee Trump seems to be considering is a former Notre Dame Law Professor. She is 46 and has seven children. She was recently appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago for the Seventh district and has clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

A New York Times profile explored Barrett's membership in a group called "People of Praise," a Christian organization that the article said has life-long loyalty oaths and requires submission of advisors of the same gender and believes in prophesy.

In 2006, Barrett told Notre Dame graduates that your legal career is but a means to an end and that end is building the kingdom of god.

SENATOR 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.

KAYE: Despite Barrett's comment that she believes Roe v. Wade would not be overturned.

BARRETTT: I would have no interest in as a court of appeals judge, challenging that precedent.

KAYE: New York Senator Chuck Schumer criticized Barrett on Twitter calling her an activist judge who will be the deciding vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Three judges, three very different backgrounds, the nomination process awaits. Randi Kay, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So during that session with reporters on Board Air Force One President Trump also touched on North Korea. The President says he still has a quote very good feeling about North Korean leader Kim Jong-un even as intelligence leaks suggest North Korea may not be engaging in any source of denuclearization. Just before broadcast, I spoke with Max Boot and Paris Dennard about the state of plea, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo travels Pyongyang for another round of talks with the North Koreans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

So Max, you wrote to the Republican Party used to be a "conservative party with a white national list fringe, now it's a white nationalist party with the conservative party fringe." Can you explain what you meant by that?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I think that Donald Trump has really transformed the Republican Party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: All right, that's another part of my conversation with Max and Paris where I talk about something else. You're going to hear much more of that in a little bit.

I believe we have the part of the discussion now where we speak about North Korea. All right, we're going to do -- we will take a quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:41:11] BERMAN: So we have some technical difficulties getting our conservation with Max Boot and Paris Dennard about North Korea. I believe we sorted out the trouble, our apologies. Now, take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Max, let me ask you on area about foreign policy, which I know you write a lot about. The President spoke to reporters again Air Force One late this afternoon. He asked whether he believes North Korea is hiding its nuclear weapons program, which is a conclusion that the defense intelligence agency has raised. The President said, look, they haven't launched a missile since the summit. He's right. They haven't launched a missile since the summit. But is that the right barometer here that they haven't conducted missile tests?

BOOT: No, of course not. Donald Trump went into the summit with Kim Jong-un promising that he would achieve complete verifiable, irreversible denuclearization, which Kim Jong-un is not doing and instead of disarming he is actually arming as our own intelligence agencies have shown. And instead of holding Kim Jong-un to account, Donald Trump engages in the most disgusting praise of this evil vile dictator saying that he is smart and talented, has a great personality and at the same time that he is trashing the leaders of our alleys.

This is truly nauseating performance. And if you can imagine what Republicans like Paris would be saying if Hillary Clinton were doing this, they would be excoriating her but because the Republican Party has now become a cult of personality they will praise Trump whatever he does even if they would have attacked any Democrats for doing anything remotely similar. BERMAN: And Paris, I won't ask on North Korea isn't implausible reason why Kim Jong-un hasn't conducted anymore missile tests is because they don't have to. He'd been testing these missiles for the last several months and he proved that they could work. He doesn't have to conduct the missile anymore. He doesn't have to test the nuclear weapons anymore because he has them?

PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think at the end of the day what would President said about going into the Singapore summit was correct that this was the first step and a long process of total denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. And so the facts are, they have not been anymore testing. And whether or not he -- each two wants to -- he could still show his -- and be aggressive against the United States like he was before.

Before the summit everyone was criticizing President Trump for his tough talk against Kim Jong-un with the Rocket Man and things like that. And then after the summit they're going to criticize him for being a little bit more as the Washington D.C. like to call it more presidential war, diplomatic. So he can't win for losing. But I'll tell you, I don't care who it had been. If it had been President George Walker Bush, whom I worked for, for four years or Senator John McCain, if he had been president whom I worked for and campaigned for, to set the record straight with Max that I have been a Republican and supported our nominee since I have been able to vote, if they had kept American safe by having this summit, if they would do the things that Donald Trump has done I would have praised them.

And to your point, if it had been Barack Obama, the former President or Secretary Clinton had gotten and she had done the things that President Trump has done on an international scale she would have been deserving of praise and not the type of criticism that folks like you and others give him not giving him the credit that he deserves.

BERMAN: Max, Paris out of time. Very quickly, Max.

BOOT: I mean, just give me a break. I mean you and all these other -- Donald Trump criticized President Obama for the Iran nuclear deal being the worst deal in history and in fact, the Iran Nuclear deal is about a million times stronger than what Trump has achieved with North Korea so far.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: All right, we have much more on my conversation with Max and Paris in our next hour.

Just ahead, we take you across the globe to an international rescue operation really unlike anything we have ever seen. New complications today hampering the effort to free those boys and the soccer coach trapped in aquatic cave before more rain set in. The latest from Thailand is just ahead.

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[20:49:08] BERMAN: Friday morning now in Thailand almost two weeks since the soccer team became trapped deep inside that flooded cave, still no decision yet on how or when rescues will be able to get them out.

New video today of Thai navy SEALs are arriving with cables in an effort to set up communication with the kids below. Forecasts of monsoon rains are complicating the mission and too dangerous to move the boys just yet and some reportedly too weak to be able to attempt the dangerous journey to freedom.

CNN Matt Rivers is on the ground there. Matt, give us a sense of the latest.

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, and what we heard overnight was from the government, the governor, actually, in Chiang Rai province here in northern Thailand, he came out invisibly said, look, in terms of the rescue operation, what they're trying to do now is actually have the kids walk out. We talked a lot about them swimming out. What the goal here right now and again it's just a goal, we're not sure if it can happen, is to lower the water levels enough in the cave by continuing to pump out millions of gallons of water to actually have them walk out, take a swimming or actually having use scuba gear, but of course extremely dangerous.

[20:50:13] Right now, the weather is holding. It's not raining, but that is going to change. And so what you're seeing here is a very small window of opportunity, John, where authorities are going to have to make the decision, can they get the water levels down low enough for the boys to walk out, and if they can't, are they going to have them swim out? That would be an incredibly risky proposition.

BERMAN: So Matt, where are things with the communications lines they've been trying to set up so the boys can speak with their families?

RIVERS: Yes, as far as we can tell -- and we've been here all night long -- we have not had any confirmation that the communication lines have been set up. We do know the boys are in relatively good health, yes, some are very weak, but we're told they're in good spirits. They were actually asking about the world cup according to some reports. But those communication lines haven't been set up quite yet.

Of course, there's also the morale. They want to talk to their parents. But the other thing is it's an easier way for authorities to get in touch with not only the kids but the personnel, the rescuers that are actually in the caves with those kids. It takes a long time to go back and forth between where the kids are and the entrance to the cave. So not only does it help with morale for those kids to get those communication lines set up, but it also helps rescuers keep an eye in a realtime sort of way in terms of what's going on down there.

BERMAN: And Matt, I do understand there at least is some concern about the physical health of at least one or two of the children, including malnutrition?

RIVERS: Yes. Malnutrition is a concern. I mean you have to figure they were in there for a long time before rescuers were able to give them that kind of food and nutrition that they really need. But they do have those supplies now. The big concern, though, is how long they're going to be able to stay in there because the forecast -- yes, it's not raining right now, but the forecast is going to change. This is July in Thailand, and this is the rainy season. So it is going to start raining. Those water levels will start rising. And so when we talk about that window of opportunity, this is it. This is when the decisions have to be made because when it starts raining, as we saw when they first got trapped in the beginning, John, those waters can rise extremely quickly. So now is the time to make a decision.

BERMAN: Some of those rains in the forecast for as soon as Monday. That's why they're watching so carefully.

Matt Rivers, it's great to have you there on the ground for us. We'll going to checking back in with you again next hour.

Back here in the United States, there are divers who train over and over for rescues like this. An up close look now at some of the extreme dangers from CNN's Gary Tuchman, who just spent some time with divers in a cave out in western Utah.

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GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I walked in 40 degree water with two of the preeminent cave divers in the United States. Sergeant Wendell Nope is the trainer of the Utah Department of Public Safety dive team. Richard Lamb is a civilian who is part of the team.

We're in northern Utah's Logan Canyon and a cave system geographically similar to the cave in Thailand where the young boys and coach are trapped. And it's similar in other ways too.

SERGEANT WENDELL NOPE, UTAH DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: This cave is flooded with snow melt water. The cave in Thailand is flooded with monsoon water.

TUCHMAN: Both men begin their scuba voyage into the cave with our cameras to give us a look at the dangers and show us why you absolutely never do anything like this without cave diving certification. Just getting into this nearly half-mile-long cave system requires squeezing through a narrow tunnel, and this is not the narrowest tunnel they will face in waters that go as deep as 90 feet.

(on camera) Are you scared sometimes when you go in a cave like this?

NOPE: I have at times been afraid when something unexpected happens.

TUCHMAN: Something unexpected includes equipment failure, changes in water depth, and falling rocks and boulders that could leave you trapped.

RICHARD LAMB, DIVE TEAM MEMBER: My greatest fear is running out of air before I make it out the cave. The truth is I've been stuck in this cave.

TUCHMAN: Stuck for about six minutes, Richard Lamb says. It crossed his mind that he was in serious trouble. He was rescued by Sergeant Nope. To become cave diver certified, one of the requirements is that it must be at least 18 years old due to the difficulty and skill need, which raises yet another concern for those boys in Thailand, some as young as 11 and several who can't swim.

NOPE: In my perception, it's a last resort, but it is a viable means of providing them an escape route.

TUCHMAN (on camera): If it's the only resort?

NOPE: If it's the only resort.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Officials in Thailand are pumping water out of the cave around the clock. A much better option says this master diver.

NOPE: I believe if the rain were to subside enough that the pumps could draw enough water out of the cave. That would be an optimal scenario.

TUCHMAN (on camera): This frigid, watery cave is so inherently dangerous, and we've been told that more people have walked on the moon than have navigated through this. Our two experts tell us in addition to themselves, they know of only five other people who have gone through here.

[20:55:12] (voice-over) The circumstances for the boys and their soccer coach in Thailand remain life-threatening and extremely challenging. But these Utah experts have faith in their diving colleagues on the scene.

NOPE: When a human being is faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, we seem to rise to that challenge.

TUCHMAN: Gary Tuchman, CNN, Logan Canyon, Utah.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: Fascinating.

A lot more just ahead, including, of course, the latest details on the news of EPA administrator Scott Pruitt's resignation.

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BERMAN: We have breaking news just ahead. The President weighs in on the "Me Too" movement with some incendiary comments.

Chris Cuomo is off tonight. So is Anderson. Me, I'm John Berman. I'm working. Topping this hour of 360, Scott Pruitt, he's not off. He's out, facing 14 counts -- 14 ethical and potential legal investigations. He stepped down today as EPA administrator. That's 14 by the way not counting the reports that he his security detail drive him around so he could buy a special kind of skin lotion, and it's not including the used luxury mattress he tried to wrangle from President Trump's hotel in Washington. [21:00:06] On top of that, that the scandals that is, not the mattress, he mentioned none of that in his resignation letter. And President Trump called him a terrific guy.

More on this guy, terrific or not, from CNN's Kaitlan Collins.