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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Trump To Announce Supreme Court Pick; Trump Claims He Has Respect For The Press; Prank Call To President; Keeping Them Honest; Remembering The Victims; President Trump Again Blames President Obama for Crimea Annexation; President Trump on Putin Summit: We Will Talk About Ukraine, Syria and Election Tampering; Comedian Pretends To Be U.S. Senator; Connects With Pres. Trump on Air Force One. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired June 29, 2018 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:15]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Good evening. Thanks for joining us. I'm John Berman, in for Anderson. We do have breaking news. The decision that will almost definitely change America for generations. It's coming very, very soon. A short time ago, President Trump said he will announce his pick to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on Monday, July 9th. That is just a week from this Monday. And there is more news.

The president told reporters aboard Air Force One that he has narrowed his list down to about five candidates, including two women. He will interview some of those candidates this weekend at his New Jersey golf course. And when he does, he claims he will not ask about abortion, a key subject where Anthony Kennedy was the decisive vote.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): Are you looking for somebody who would overturn Roe v. Wade?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (voice over): Well, you know, it's a -- it's a great group of intellectual talent, but we really, you know, they are generally conservative. I'm not going to ask him that question by the way. That's not a question I'll be asking. But it is a group of very highly talented, very brilliant, mostly conservative judges.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): What about LBGT rights? Justice Kennedy was pretty strong on that.

TRUMP (voice over): I have to tell you. I really got to know him in a fairly short period of time. I've known him over the years. He's a terrific man. And I thought the way he approached what he just did, what he did yesterday, it was very elegant and very beautiful. And I was very honored that he decided to do it during my term.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): And LGBT rights?

TRUMP (voice over): Again, I won't be discussing that because I think it's inappropriate to discuss. So, I won't be discussing that. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: Our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, joins us now. Jim, I understand we have some new reporting here. And when the president says he has narrowed the list down to five people, he may not really have narrowed the list down to five people.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. I mean, he did say on Air Force One that he has narrowed it down to five people, but that he might talk to six or seven people and that a couple of those people might be coming up to New Jersey this weekend where he is spending the weekend with his family.

We do know that -- these are sources talking to my colleague, Kaitlin Collins, there are a couple of people on this list who are being strongly considered at this point. Two of them being Brett Kavanaugh, who is a judge, federal jugde, Amy Conet Barrett, also a judge.

One thing we want to also point out, Senator Mike Lee, the president talked about Senator Mike Lee. He was rather effusive about the Utah Republican senator on Air Force One earlier today. He is known as a very strict constitutional conservative and also opposed to abortion rights.

And one thing that we should note about all of these candidates, John, is that they are in their late 40s or early 50s, and so they are checking boxes for this White House, checking boxes for this president who has said during the campaign, he said on Air Force One he doesn't want to ask these candidates about this.

The White House is going to get a list of contenders who are opposed to Roe v. Wade, you could take that off the bank. But keep in mind, they are very mindful of the fact that they want a justice. And the president said during the campaign, he wants justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade.

And this selection process which barely will end on July 9th may bring the country closer than it has been in a generation to overturning that key Supreme Court decision.

BERMAN: I think it's every reason to believe it will bring the country closer if not overturn that decision within a couple years. Jim, this is a pretty wide ranging press availability, what else did the president talk about?

ACOSTA: Yeah, he talked about the fate of John Kelly, the White House chief of staff. There has been some conversation, renewed conversation this week that John Kelly may be on his way out soon. He is coming up on one year since joining the White House. It was always thought among age (ph) that the chief of staff would only stay for a year.

Here is what the president had to say. He was not very conclusive on this question when he was asked about it earlier today. Here is what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): Are you looking for a new chief of staff, Mr. President?

TRUMP (voice over): No, no. We're getting along very well. We have -- look, at some points, things happen. But I will tell you we have a very good -- you see that -- we have a very good relationship. He's a wonderful man. John Kelly, four-star, wonderful man. And don't forget this is a big change for him. This is, you know, this isn't that easy a change for him. We have a very, very good relationship.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): How long do you think he'll stick around?

TRUMP (voice over): That I don't know. I mean, I can't tell you that. But I can say that we've had a very good relationship, and we've achieved a lot together. So, I like John a lot. I like him and I respect him.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: He was also asked about Hope Hicks. Remember Hope Hicks, John, the staffer for President Trump from the campaign and here at the White House, who left a few months ago during the Rob Porter scandal. There is a report on The Vanity Fair magazine that Hope Hicks may be coming back to the White House in some regard.

The president was asked about that on Air Force One. He said, I'm hearing little things about that. He used the term "little things." He did specify where those little things are coming from. One other final note, John, he was asked about referring to the press as the enemy of the people.

[20:05:01] He did say, and this is obviously in the aftermath of what happened in Annapolis yesterday, that he has a lot of respect for reporters who are out there, some reporters who are out there, but he did not close the door on using those slurs for reporters, enemy of the people and fake news. He seemed to keep open the possibility that he may go back to that name calling once this aftermath of what happened in Annapolis dies down.

BERMAN: All right, Jim Acosta in the White House, we will be talking much more about that in a little bit. In the meantime, much more to talk about on the Supreme Court.

Joining us now is CNN political director David Chalian. So David, the news tonight is the president wants to do this quickly. The list down to five. Two of them women. How do you think that will affect the Senate, where obviously this will all sink or swim?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right. You know, there is no room for error for the president if he is going to do it entirely on a party line. No, John, they can't afford to lose a single Republican if no Democrat were to join them.

Now, we know some Democrats joined on Gorsuch and some of those Democrats may join the vote for the president's nominee here as well. But if it's strictly party line, he needs every single Republican because of John McCain's absence due to his health that currently serves in the Senate.

BERMAN: And Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski are the two Republicans that many people are looking at and say hey, we know they both have come out and said the Roe v. Wade should not be overturned. They are in theory pro-choice. Where are they tonight?

CHALIAN: Right. So those would be the first two that you go to right away. And they are with open minds tonight. They're going to see who the president puts forward. They are clearly going to have one-on-one meetings. As you know, the nominee is going to do sort of courtesy calls with many of the key senators, watch Collins and Murkowski, as you said.

And I would add two other Republicans that we should watch really closely. Retiring Republicans such as Jeff Flake of Arizona, Bob Corker of Tennessee. They have shown some ability to buck the president at times of their own party right now since they have announced their retirement. But they both are committed conservatives, especially on judges, so I'm not sure there will be some big surprise from them, but I think they are worth watching.

BERMAN: It's interesting because again, this list has been narrowed down to five. We don't know who is exactly on it. But we do know at least one of the names has been mentioned a lot.

It is Amy Coney Barrett, who was approve by the Senate for a federal judgeship already, and she did receive some Democratic votes. It would be hard for a Democrat who voted for her a few months ago to turn around and not vote yes this time.

CHALIAN: Correct, though not unprecedented when you heard senators in the past that have voted for a lower court judgeship say, well, the Supreme Court, I take different things into consideration here. It is the highest court in the land. So you can imagine some of that. But I agree with you. And one of the judges I believe that voted for her to the seventh circuit was Tim Kane.

BERMAN: Tim Kane.

CHALIAN: And he was the vice presidential nominee last time around. He is on the ballot in Virginia this year. He wants a revved-up Democratic base to help him this November. I'm not sure in that kind of bluish state now, Virginia is, that he would be willing to vote yes on the president's nominee. But you're right, that kind of nomination would put him in a bind.

BERMAN: Tim Kane is not even among the names that had been listed --

CHALIAN: Exactly.

BERMAN: -- as among those Democrats that President Trump has been wooing (ph). And we know he is doing that. Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Donnelly, Joe Manchin. Watch them very, very closely over the next week or so. David Chalian, thanks so much for being with us. CHALIAN: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Here now to dissect this Friday nigh disclosure even more, Maggie Haberman, White House correspondent for The New York Times, and CNN's chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey, the president says he is down to a list of five. He claims there are two women on the list. We don't know for sure who they are. But if you look at the list of 25, you get some ideas and the most commonly mentioned two names that I see are Amy Coney Barrett and Joan Larsen. Does that sound right to you and what do you know about them?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: It does sound right to me. And they have a lot in common. They are both in their late 40s, very young for Supreme Court nominees. Both of them clerked for Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.

Joan Larsen served on the Michigan Supreme Court for a couple of years. Amy Coney Barrett has not served for basically any time at all. She was just confirmed to the seventh circuit court of appeals so she has basically no judicial experience, no judicial record. She had a somewhat contentious confirmation process where she was challenged by Senator Feinstein of California for her involvement with Catholic legal organizations.

Senator Feinstein wind up having the wrong -- the worse of that exchange. A lot of people perceived her remarks as somewhat anti- Catholic although of course she denied it. They have very little public record but both are known to be very conservative. Both members of the federal society which is the conservative legal organization.

[20:10:02] But beyond that, just down the line conservative nominees if they are nominees.

BERMAN: So Maggie, you never stop reporting. I mean, you've been doing reporting even as you're sitting here, waiting to come on T.V. with me. And you are hearing that the president wants a judge or a justice who went to Harvard or Yale which, you know, eight out of nine judges in the court right now went to Harvard or Yale. But it's interesting because neither Coney Barrett nor Larsen went to Harvard or Yale.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: Correct. In fact, that would apply most to Brett Kavanaugh who was an option -- it sort of splits in two different ways. He was George W. Bush's desk secretary and you and I spoke about this very early this morning, about the fact that I -- Trump is sort of paranoid when it comes to the Bush family and that seems like that is not a selling point.

However, he is not on the question of Roe v. Wade, he has not seen in GOP circle as among the most conservative. He is seen as something of a choice that could be more appealing to people like Markowski and Collins, that he could be a little easier to get through.

It was interesting to me too what the president said on the plane. Remember, he likes misdirecting. He likes suggesting he is going to go in a certain direction and then not doing that. And he loves these moments when he has a pick in hand. To be clear, every president likes having a Supreme Court pick. This president is just very public about it.

When he said that -- I think he said, it was one or two women who we're looking out, was the quote, that did not indicate to me that he is actually looking at those people. But, as he would say, we will see what happens.

BERMAN: Again, you say this because you have been following him very closely for a long time.

HABERMAN: Right.

BERMAN: It is interesting when you heard him say that, to you, that sounded like a head fake.

HABERMAN: It was a bit of a flag, but you know, or at least it could a head fake. It is not something that I completely take at face value.

BERMAN: All right. Jeffrey Toobin, the president also said he is not going to ask his potential nominees. He could have a couple interviews this weekend, he says. He says he is not going to ask about Roe v. Wade, he says, because it is inappropriate.

But to me, this feels like a moot point, because the list he has been drawing from has been drafted by the federal society and others with a list of people who they know want to overturn Roe v. Wade, correct?

TOOBIN: Absolutely correct. Leonard Leo who is the executive vice president of Federalist Society who -- you know, I profiled for The New Yorker during the Gorsuch nomination. This is at the core of his beliefs and of the beliefs of the leadership of the Federalist Society that Roe v. Wade is a blot on American law, that the issue of abortion should be returned to the states, so states should be allowed to ban it.

I mean, you know, at this point in the process, it is in the interest of the president or his allies to be somewhat vague about the question of Roe v. Wade and say people have open minds. But don't kid yourself.

The whole point of this nomination process is to pick someone who will not be Anthony Kennedy, who will not vote to uphold Roe v. Wade. And I don't have the slightest doubt that any of the people on the list of 25 will vote ultimately to overturn Roe v. Wade.

He don't have to ask. If you chart his evolution on abortion, it is notable. At one point he said he is very pro-choice. But crystal clear that he is fully committed at least in picking a judge who he knows will overturn roe v wade.

BERMAN: And again, he doesn't have to ask because the point of that list is so he doesn't have to ask. Maggie, if you charge (ph) his evolution on abortion, it is notable. I mean, he at one point said he was very pro-choice. But it is crystal clear now, that he is fully committed to overturning or at least to picking a judge who he knows will overturn --

HABERMAN: Certainly seems that way. Again, look, to your point, he has had an evolution, as you put it. And it is a little hard to know exactly where he lands when that has happened. It is not the only issue it has. I think that he might say one thing to get the nomination through and then expect that a judge, as Jeffrey said, a justice of the court is going to vote to abolish Roe v. Wade.

BERMAN: There is no reason to think that his commitment when he said during the campaign -- he said just after that he wants to overturn. There is no reason to think he has shaken on that.

HABERMAN: No. There is nothing -- he has taken no actions to suggest otherwise.

BERMAN: All right. Maggie Haberman, Jeffrey Toobin, thank you very much.

TOOBIN: And if you look --

BERMAN: Quickly, Jeffrey. Very quickly.

TOOBIN: If you look at his evangelical support throughout his presidency, it is largely because of judges --

HABERMAN: That's correct.

TOOBIN: -- and the fact that his judges have skewed (ph) the conservative line.

BERMAN: Right. That's why this issue is so important to him going forward. Maggie, Jeff, thank you so much. As Jim Acosta mentioned earlier, the president was also asked on Air Force One if he is reevaluating, calling the press the enemy of the people, and why did the shooting left five people dead in Maryland? His response, he says he has a lot of respect for the press. We're keeping him on, next.

And later, a comedian making a prank call says he managed to get through to the president of the United States on Air Force One. Lots of questions about the story tonight. We are looking into it ahead.

[20:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Right now in Annapolis, Maryland, people are gathered for a vigil to remember and honor the five people who were killed in a shooting at that newsroom of the capital, Gazette newspaper. For the first time today, the president spoke about the shooting on camera and on Air Force One. Yesterday, he tweeted his thoughts and prayers. Today he said this at an event at the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Journalists like all Americans should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job. To the families of the victims, there are no words to express our sorrow for your loss. Horrible, horrible event. Horrible thing happened. And you're suffering. We pledge our eternal support.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Eternal support. I think the whole country shares in that sentiment. But if you notice the president said journalists should be free from the fear of being, quote, violently attacked while doing their job.

Violently attacked being the key phrase there because keep in mind, the president clearly has no problem at all verbally attacking journalists. He has been doing it since he started campaigning. He has been doing it since he became president. And he did it just this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Now, you know we have a lot of fake news back there. Look at all those fake news back there, these fakers.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Look at all those fake news back there. They interviewed ten women on one of the opposing -- in other words, you know, the enemy, the enemy of the people, I call them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: That was Monday. We we are not suggesting that the president isn't sincere when he says journalists shouldn't be violently attacked while doing their job, but his repeated comments about journalists make it hard to believe what he said on Air Force One today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[20:20:01] TRUMP (voice over): I have a lot of respect for the press. Tremendous -- some of the greatest people I know are reporters and people in the media.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: I have a lot of respect for the press. Keeping them honest, the president has been disrespecting journalists for years. Now, he fairly well may think the T.V. host who endlessly praise him had a certain network or some of the greatest people he knows. But what about reporters doing actual reporting? Over and over, he has attacked the free press.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Those people right up there with all the cameras, they are the worst.

Those very dishonest people back there.

Absolute dishonest, absolute scam.

We have a very crooked media. It is time to expose the crooked media deception.

It's frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write.

I've never seen more dishonest media.

They are bad people. And I really think they don't like our country.

The media deserves a very, very big fat failing grade.

They are the enemy of the people.

I would never tell them but I do hate them. And I -- some of them are such lying, disgusting people, it's true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Joining me now, Scott Jennings and Bakari Sellers. Scott, you know, I actually have been reading your tweets on this over the last 24 hours, and I thank you for your sentiments and your support for the media. Do you understand where the president is exactly on this? He has called the press the enemy of the people. Are you comfortable with that?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I don't like that phrase. I wish the president wouldn't use it. I think it is over the line. I do think it is fine for the president and other politicians to joust with the media.

BERMAN: Yeah.

JENNINGS: I certainly been around politics for almost 20 years and we fuss and fight and joust and jostle. It is possible to do that. And it is even possible to position the media, you know, in a political campaign for your own purposes which the president does without going over the line.

So, my hope is that we all understand these journalists are people too. They have lives. They have kids. They have jobs to do. Most are hardworking. Some do make mistakes and some have themselves gone over the line in criticizing the president.

But I think calling them enemy of the people is not right. Nobody inside of our own country is enemies with each other. The enemy is out there. We are all in this together. Press, politicians, people like us, Bakari and me, we are all in this together and we should remember that in the midst of this tragedies.

BERMAN: Bakari, do you feel as if the president went far enough today in his statement?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first and foremost, I think we need to be clear. I cannot blame the president of the United States --

BERMAN: No.

SELLERS: -- and his tenor and his rhetoric no matter how ignorant it may be, no matter how tactless it may be for the incident that occurred in Annapolis. I just don't want any viewer to think that we are doing that. But I will say that those clips that you played, it is not just the enemy of the state, but it's his tenor, it's his rhetoric, it's the never ending drumbeat that will perpetuate negative thoughts about the press and sometimes leads to people doing bad things.

Avery Wilks is a reporter at the State newspaper and Columbia, South Carolina State House reporter. He shared on Twitter today a very sentimental text message from his mother. And what you realize then is the humanity, the dignity. Just the fact that reporters like yourself, John, you are a husband, your sons, your brothers, and many people forget that because of the president's caricature of who you are. So my hat goes out to reporters all over the world tonight who are just doing what they do best so that we can have a free just society.

BERMAN: Do you think it puts the profession and the people who work in that profession, Scott, in danger?

JENNINGS: Well, I don't know. I mean, look, I think the president's rhetoric in some cases has been fairly in line with what other politicians do and in some cases has gone over the line. I think one thing we have to remember, the journalists are often as exposed as anybody even though they are being viewed in the same way that we view politicians.

You know, we have started to look at journalists through our partisan prisms. We picked out the journalists that we hate. We picked out the journalists that we like. And we start to think of them and treat them the same way we treat our politicians. We protect the politicians in many cases, not in all cases, but in some cases.

But like in Maryland, these journalists are not protected. They are exposed and they are susceptible to some evil person like what happened in Maryland, walking an office street and attacking them.

BERMAN: Yeah.

JENNINGS: So, I would just say that if ever you are trying to decide how far to go, dial it back one or two notches because you can always go under the line. But when you go over the line, it is hard to take it back.

BERMAN: I think there is truth in what you are both saying. Bakari, in the first part, I just want to be clear, I do not think the president has contributed in any way to what happened in Annapolis (ph). Scott, I think what you are saying is absolutely true also. Dialing back. No one gets hurt by dialing it back a little bit here at all.

But Bakari, you are a politician, you know how this stuff works. The president thinks this has worked for him. Is there any reason to believe he would change his approach here? SELLERS: No, because it has worked for him. I mean, the president judges this in wins and loses. That's the prism that he looks through most things including his -- I think that -- I don't know if that is Ivanka or Jared or whomever or Melania, need to tell him that his rhetoric, many times the violent rhetoric punch him in the face, drag him out, is just beyond the pale for the president of the United States.

[20:25:07] It is something that should not happen. Scott and I receive more death threats than you can possibly imagine. I just -- two months ago, I had to send something to CNN security because there was somebody who wanted to bring me and my family harm.

And so when you think about all of these things that are going on, you know, but by the grace of God, what happened yesterday in Annapolis could happen to any of us. And that's the tragedy. So the president who has the largest bulletproof here in the country I hope recognizes it but I doubt he will.

BERMAN: Again, a lot of journalists choose to put their lives on the line all over the world and in different places. But in Annapolis, Maryland, in a newsroom on common street (ph), that isn't sitting in a studio where you guys are on Charlotte or Las Vegas. I do appreciate you being with us tonight. Thanks so much for this discussion. I appreciate it.

SELLERS: Thank you.

JENNINGS: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Coming up, as vigil honors the victims of the shooting in Annapolis, Maryland, I am going to speak with the widow of the assistant editor, Robert Hiaasen, one of the Capital Gazette staffers who was killed. Just days ago, he and his wife celebrated their 33rd wedding anniversary. Now, his wife is planning his funeral.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Another look at the vigil happening in Annapolis, Maryland tonight. Remembering the five lives cut short in a newsroom at the Capital Gazette newspaper. Tonight, we know their names.

Gerald Fischman was the editorial page editor. He had been in the paper for more than 25 years. Robert Hiaasen was an assistant editor and Sunday columnist affectionately known as "Big Rob." John McNamara, loved covering sports. The former editor says he can do it all, writing, editing, designing pages.

[20:29:59] Rebecca Smith was a sales assistant, 34 years old, engaged to be married.

Wendi Winters was an editor, reporter, columnist, and active volunteer in the community. The editorial page is the capital got today is in a word, striking, it reads in part, "Today, we are speechless. This page is intentionally left blank to commemorate victims of Thursday's shootings at our office," and then list their names. And among those names again, Rob Hiaasen, whose wife Maria Hiaasen joins me right now.

And Maria I am so sorry for your lost. I cannot imagine how hard it must be for you right now. All I can tell you is that since last night I've been reading about your husband and he seems like he would be the best guy in the world to be friends with. Tell me about him.

MARIA HIAASEN, HUSBAND WAS KILLED IN SHOOTING: Without a doubt. Rob Hiaasen was my best friend and he was that for a handful of others. He and I liked to say, you don't need a million friends, you just need really good ones. And he was always there for people, and a confidant when folks needed it, and someone ready with the wry little joke at just the right time. Typically, and ironically at a time like this when people were together hurting over something and he understood the need that eventually you did need that break. And he liked to say, it's a fine line between drama and comedy -- tragedy and comedy, excuse me. And he knew when to give that line that actually wound up breaking the eyes and making people feel more comfortable. He was a great best friend, if I can say that.

BERMAN: You can absolutely say that. Big Rob I heard his brother calling him that this morning and we can see that by these pictures, he was big Rob.

HIAASEN: Yes, yes he was big -- he was 6'5" and it's a nickname that actually came about when our children were in high school. They are in their 20s now and a good friend named Zoe [ph] was over with the crew and she dubbed him big Rob and it stuck. And it worked in his family too because his statue was much taller than that famous brother you mentioned, Carl, in that respect. He was always immensely proud of his brother which is an interesting thing to address because -- you know, he would encounter the occasion, oh it must be tough to be Carl Hiaasen's younger brother. And it wasn't really. He loves his brother in respect his family.

BERMAN: Well, let me tell you, Carl was proud of Rob because in everything Rob had accomplished and I think the husband and brother that Rob was and also, the mentor to so many young people who wanted to be part of journalism. Tell me about that.

HIAASEN: Yes, yes. And that's -- you know, Rob was a natural observer and a natural human in that he got humanity, he realized this big world is fouled up and it's full of all kinds of mayhem and pressure. And you can't be a journalist and not see that.

They understood that the key to success as a human being and certainly the key to success as a journalist is to remember your humanity, to remember people's feelings, to look for the human being behind the story. He -- I'm sorry I laugh, there was a time he and I both worked for the "Palm Beach Post" in West Palm Beach and I was in the south county bureau, he was in the main bureau, and he was covering the country commission, it was not a natural fix, Rich Goldon (ph) his editor at that time would definitely back me off on that, and he call, Rob, what about the numbers, what about the tax rate. It's a great interview, you had with the guy after, you know?

BERMAN: He would be caring about the humanity. HIAASEN: Where is the number?

BERMAN: -- into that, once the number of on.

HIAASEN: This is humanity. Yeah. And that is when we began -- or he began, sorry, the journey to feature writing.

BERMAN: Right.

HIAASEN: And the great love of narrative writing.

BERMAN: Talk to me, I understand I read today and I need to hear from your lips that he was a big James Taylor fan.

HIAASEN: Sure.

BERMAN: He's a big six five guy, love to switch on the James Taylor and he got a chance to interview him?

HIAASEN: I could go on.

BERMAN: And he was rendered nearly speechless.

HIAASEN: OK. Yes, yes and I was not there then. I -- I believe that he had moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, and was working at a station that was my competitor, so he was an (inaudible) maybe I've seen. But within a year's time we were engaged and got married that was very quick. So I do know the lure of this, the story of how he in a great friend, Bob Phillips went to cover James Taylor. This was during the time when James Taylor was campaigning for Jim Hunt for the Senate suggesting how I'm selling at the time. And Rob loves him.

I can't tell you how many times he saw him. I know it is approaching 20. We were there the last summer in Philadelphia the same, let me interjected that, with Bunny Reed (ph) it was fantastic show and I'm more of a punk rock fan show, this is interesting, this marriage in that respect. But as Bob Phillips tells it and Rob did as well, yes, I got up there, I just didn't know what to say. I couldn't -- I was speechless.

[20:35:05] And -- there was that humility, and again a human being. We -- I heard guess earlier talking about, you know, some journalists make mistake, let me be clear that all journalist do, all human beings do. It is those of us who are adults in the world, whether we are in elected office and sitting in the White House or elsewhere, those of us who are adults, who admit mistakes and try to correct them, who are the adults in the room. And my husband was an adult and he was not a bad person and he was a professional.

BERMAN: God, he was not a bad person at all.

HIAASEN: And my life is -- he was not -- this is a loss to me, to my children, to my family extended and to this community. This is huge.

BERMAN: It is a loss I think for all of us. Maria Hiaasen. Thank you for joining us. Thank you for helping us remember -- HIAASEN: My pressure.

BERMAN: -- the humanity, as you say, your husband Rob, would want us all to do.

HIAASEN: Thank you.

BERMAN: Maria Hiaasen. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: More breaking news tonight along with the disclosure about his next Supreme Court pick, President Trump also talked about his upcoming summit with Russia's Vladimir Putin. The President said he will address Ukraine, Syria, and yes Russian meddling in a presidential election campaign but could not resist another shot at President Obama. President Trump blamed President Obama not Vladimir Putin for Russia's annexation of Crimea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Don't forget, President Obama gave up Crimea. That was totally given up by President Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Putin did that, not President Obama.

TRUMP: No, no. President Obama gave it up. See if you would have said that about me, you would have said I gave it up. No, he lost -- President Obama allowed that to happen which is very unfortunate.

[20:40:03] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you hope to achieve with President Putin?

TRUMP: We are going to talk about Ukraine. We're going to be talking about Syria. We'll be talking about elections.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which elections?

TRUMP: And we don't anybody tampering with elections. Maybe we talk about saving billions of dollars on weapons and maybe we don't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you mean, what does that mean?

TRUMP: Where we are building a force the likes of which nobody has seen before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The U.S. military?

TRUMP: Where I got it approved 700 billion, plus 760, thank you. And perhaps, the world could deescalate between China, Russia and ourselves being the three primaries.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Joining me to discuss CNN Global Affair Analyst Max Boot and CNN National Security Analyst Steve Hall.

So Max, Vladimir Putin took Crimea, occupied Crimea. It happened during the Obama administration. But President Trump's formulation is now that President Obama gave up Crimea. That's an interesting view of history?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It's a way for President Trump to essentially wash his friend Vladimir Putin. He never ever blames Putin for anything, for committing war crimes of aggression in Ukrain, for committing war crime in Syria, he never blames Putin for that instead he actually blames Obama, which is OK, it happened under Obama but it's perverse to put the blame on Obama instead of the actual perpetrator of this war crime Vladimir Putin.

BERMAN: It was interesting if you listen to the reporters go back and forth with the President on Air Force One today. They kept on asking yes, but Vladimir Putin did this, he did this, he did this. And President Trump refused to say it. He just kept on blaming President Obama.

And Steve, to you, what do you think Vladimir Putin thinks when he hears that?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, he must be very please. Because when you listen to all the things that they talked about -- I mean, the President is now willing to say, OK, we are going to talk about Crimea. In the past of course, he said, oh, Crimea wanted to be part of Russia anyway, so Putin shook out of his win because now that is a negotiable point.

The same with a lot of the other issues that came up with sanctions, with security, to all of these things, you got to go -- if you want to be the leader of the free world, and frankly that's all we're asking at the President, is you don't go back and say what went wrong with your predecessors. You go in and try to do your job and in this particular case, I would say, look, before we can go any further and talk about any of the things that you want to talk about Vlad, we need to talk about and resolve or did a path to resolution on Crimea, on eastern Ukrain, on all those outstanding issues that Russia has perpetrated upon, you know, the world.

BERMAN: As far as election meddling, Max, President Trump did say he does believe election meddling should come up in this discussion. However, just this week he also said that Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with meddling in our election. So is it clear at all what that discussion about election meddling would look like?

BOOT: I find it hard to believe that Trump is going to press Putin on election meddling when as you noted he hasn't even acknowledged that Putin meddled in our election in 2016. Overall I would say, what we are seeing in the last few days is evidence that Vladimir Putin's operations to influence the 2016 U.S. election was the best money he has ever spent, quite possibly the best money that any head of state is ever spent because Donald Trump is basically delivering a dream list agenda for Vladimir Putin. BERMAN: And along those lines the "Washington Post" is reporting today that the President is surprise, was surprise when he found out so many U.S. troops were stationed in Germany, some 35,000 troops and now the Pentagon is doing some studies to see if perhaps that is it. That is exactly what Vladimir Putin wants. He would love those troops gone.

BOOT: This would be an amazing Christmas in July present for Putin if this were to come to pass to remove U.S. troops and -- but of course U.S. allies have good cause to be very worried about this because we are already saw that Donald Trump made a huge concession to Kim Jong- un without getting any return, stopping U.S. joint military exercise with South Korea.

BERMAN: Steve, President Trump did say one of the things he wants to talk about -- talk to Vladimir Putin about, is about peace. Now you were stationed in Russia for a long time, does Vladimir Putin care about peace?

HALL: Not in and of itself, no. Because the idea that peace is a great thing and all of that stuff is something that is a solidly western idea. Look, I couldn't agree with Max more on bringing up the allies thing. If you really want to have peace, vis-a-vis Russia, you really need to talk -- you need to start to talk about containing Russia.

It is not the time to talk about engaging Russia which is what apparently the President is interested in doing. What we need to be doing and what the President I think should be spending a lot more time on rather than giving Putin Christmas presents in July, is he needs to be talking to our NATO allies and other allies and saying look, we all need to be on the same sheet of music on this. We all need to push back against, you know, this illegal annexations of foreign countries for example. All of the things that Russia is doing that are completely unacceptable on the international realm and yet the President is going to talk to him about that. I would much rather see the President going and talking to our allies and saying how are we going to control this? How are we going to maintain peace on our terms, not on Russia's term.

[20:45:11] BERMAN: Max Boot, Steve Hall, thanks so much for being with us. Again, the language the President used today, it is notable, it is specific and it is exactly what Vladimir Putin would like to here. Thanks very much, gentlemen.

HALL: Thank you.

BERMAN: So it sounds like a sketch from an old money python show of comedian pretending to be a United States get a call back from the President on board Air Force One in a conversation ensues. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: So stop me if you've heard this one. A New York City comedian gets a call back from the President of the United States Onboard Air Force One after pretending to be a Democratic Senator from New Jersey and has a conversation. This actually happened.

[40:50:00] Now you decide if it makes you laugh or makes you feel safe. This is New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez no real pal of the President out from under the umbrella of a federal corruption case because of a mistrial. This is a comedian, who calls himself stuttering John, John Melendez. Obviously, pretty similar surnames, somehow as the President was on his way back from Washington from a rally in North Dakota earlier this week, the comedian convinced the White House switch board he was the real New Jersey Senator and he got a call from the President. They talked about the Senator's recent encounter over the federal justice system, about politics. Here part of that exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You know, I have a good relationship with the party, you have a good relationship with the party. And I think we can do a real immigration bill. We have to have security at the border, we have to have it. I mean, look, you got 60% of the country, saying you got to have security at the border. And that's a good issue for the Democrats too, Bob. It's not like it's good for you or good for me. It's good for both of us.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: You know, of the problems.

JOHN MELENDEZ, COMEDIAN: No, I understand that. No, but I am Hispanic, so I have to, you know, I have to -- I'm sure you understand.

TRUMP: Oh I understand.

MELENDEZ: You know, I have to look into my people as well. You understand.

TRUMP: I agree, I agree.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So the comedian says he could barely believe it worked.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELENDEZ: I got on the phone with Trump and Trump is like Bob I want to congratulate you. I didn't even know that Senator Menendez was in any really legal problems. And really if they would just screen me and asked what party affiliation Senator Menendez had or what state he represented, I would have been -- I would have been stumped because I had no idea anything about Senator Menendez.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So no comment yet from the President himself. But think about the security implications of someone being able to prank call the President essentially on Air Force One. It's not now to check in with Chris Cuomo to see what he is working on at Cuomo PrimeTime. It's started at the tope of the hour. Chris I claim to be Joe Calico whenever I call you.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "COUMO PRIME TIME: He was a great chief (ph). Thank you for that notice. I of course would be Tom Brady because of this action.

We are going to be talking a lot about the phone call tonight, because it's so bizarre for the President of the United States to be congratulating Senator Bob Melendez for beating his case in court, his corruption case. So we'll going to look at that. But we're going to take on what is become a fascination within the Democratic Party, John, these calls to end ICE. And in the second hour tonight we're filling for Don, and we're to do an entire hour special on the implication of judges in the Trump administration.

BERMAN: Two hours of Cuomo Prime Time. Chris, thanks so much. We can't wait for that.

Up next Anderson and Van Jones discuss the most urgency issues facing American criminal justice system. It's the folks of CNN film American jail airing this weekend on CNN, their conversation in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:56:21] BERMAN: This Sunday night on CNN don't miss the CNN film American jail which examines the staggers rate of incarcerations across the country. According to our recent federal report nearly 2.2 million adults are behind bars in the U.S., that's more than the population of Philadelphia or Dallas.

Anderson recently spoke about this within CNN political Commentator Van Jones who is the founder of #cut50, a national initiative to reduce the present population while making our community safer. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: What's the most urgent problem facing the criminal justice system right now?

VAN JONES, PRESIDENT, CO-FOUNDER, #CUT50: Well, I mean, I think everybody knows that it's better honestly to be poor -- no it's better honestly to be rich and guilty than poor, Anderson. In other words, who winds up in prison has a lot more to do with how much money you have, what neighborhood you are from, color of your skin, stuff that has nothing to do with the justice system. And that's the big, big cancer at the heart of this whole thing.

COOPER: And that's just a fact.

JONES: That's a fact. Listen, I went to Yale for law I saw way more drugs being done on the campus of an Ivy League school and I ever thought a housing project but the cause ability drive past Yale going to the housing project who are responsible for doing much fewer drugs than students were doing. And so that's the big problem. The section big problem is you have these incredibly long sentences for non- violent drug offenses.

If you just were to deal with the drug problem as a health issue like most countries do. If you are addicted to drugs that shouldn't be a criminal offense, if your kid is on drugs you don't say, I know, I'm going to give you 27 years in prison. That will make your life a lot better. But we do that to poor folk's kids, and almost only to poor folk's kids. And so when you combine the fact that you have to have a lot of money, if you get in trouble to get out of trouble no matter the underlying facts are, and the fact that the penalties for drug offenses are so long that's why you have so many people behind bars.

COOPER: I mean, you've been working with Republicans on this and there is a lot of bipartisan support. And yet it doesn't seem like much progress has been made?

JONES: Well, you know, we had momentum for a good little while, until the most recent election, because Republicans and Democrats actually agree on this stuff. If -- you know, Newt Gingrich and I worked on this. And Newt said to me, if you want to talk about a big failed government bureaucracy, don't talk about the welfare system, talk about he prison system. We spend tons of money and you know people and leave and they aren't necessarily any better than when he went in.

COOPER: One of the people in the film an inmate turned activists said that if most Americans knew what happening in prison with their tax dollars people would demand change.

JONES: Absolutely. In fact, you know, I sometimes take people into prisons. Nobody comes out saying, hey, this is a great idea, what's happening here is wonderful. I could go in here and come out a better person. No. In fact, we created almost an incarceration industry, Anderson, where private companies make a ton of money giving people very bad food, where private companies actually trade on the stock exchange, the more prisons they build and fill, the more money this they get.

You have a profit motive now infecting the criminal justice to me. That's not in the constitution. That's not in anybody's laws. But it's a fact.

COOPER: American Jail, I look forward to it.

JONES: Yes.

COOPER: Thanks.

JONES: Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Join Van this Sunday night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern for the Van Jones show. He will speak with South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott about President Trump's immigration policy and that will be followed by the CNN film American Jail at 8:00 p.m.

Thanks so much for watching 360 tonight. Have a great weekend. Time now to hand it over to Chris Cuomo, Cuomo Prime Time starts now.