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INSIDE POLITICS

Eight Boys Rescued From Thai Cave, 5 Still Trapped; Ohio State Wrestlers Said Jordan Knew About Sexual Abuse and Did Nothing; U.S. Government Faces Deadline to Reunite Kids Under 5 By Tomorrow. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 9, 2018 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:28] DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Dive teams are getting some much-needed rest after rescuing four more boys from that cave in Thailand. That means a total of eight from the soccer team have been pulled out alive since yesterday.

But the mission is still far from over. Four players and their 25- year-old coach are still trapped, forced to spend another night in darkness deep inside the mountain. Rescue teams are now racing against Mother Nature as the threat of heavy rain looms over the whole operation.

CNN's Matt Rivers is at a nearby hospital where the boys are being treated. And Matt, what can you tell us about the condition of all of the boys who have now made it out alive?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we don't have too much specifics from officials yet, Dana, in terms of exactly what their conditions look like, but an official at a press conference did say a couple of hours ago that the condition of the four boys that were pulled out today from that cave as compared to the four from yesterday were actually better, although all four boys that came here yesterday do appear to be in OK condition. So all things considered, Dana, at least what we know on the record here, they're doing OK. They're inside an isolation unit on the eighth floor of that hospital behind me there.

They're being kept away in that isolation unit because of a fear, kind of an abundance of caution, if you will, just in case their immune systems have gotten weaker while underground. They don't want to be more susceptible to more infections, so doctors are saying they'll do everything they can to make their recovery as fast as possible.

As for though the remaining people inside that cave, four boys and their coach, the rescue operation is scheduled to go off tomorrow, the third attempt to get everybody out. We were told that divers need about 20 hours at minimum in between these attempts to really rest up and make sure their oxygen supplies are refueled before going in. But the hope here, given how successful both first attempts were -- the first and the second attempt rather, the third attempt will hopefully be as successful and here in this hospital it will be much fuller by this time tomorrow.

Dana?

BASH: Matt, you and I were talking yesterday when the first boys were arriving at the hospital, and it is nice once again to talk to you about good news. And let's hope we keep getting more. Thank you so much for that report.

And my next guest is familiar with some of the challenges that the dive teams are facing. Forrest Wilson is the diving officer at the National Cave Rescue Commission and he joins me now live. Thank you so much for joining me.

Can you explain to people who have never done this, never been diving at all, never mind diving in a cave, what it is like to go in there with all the scuba gear and everything that they need to get these boys out? And as you do, I want to tell our viewers -- tell you that our viewers are going to see a photo of the anatomy of the cave as much as we know.

FORREST WILSON, DIVING OFFICER, NATIONAL CAVE RESCUE COMMISSION: Well, it's a long dive. That's the big problem. It's a 12-hour round trip just to get back to where the boys are, but -- and then you spend some time in there with them, so it's a long day by the time they get done.

BASH: It's a long day, but also the process and the -- what you need to do as a diver in order to get there, and also even to get the boys ready for the return, hours and hours of basically scuba diving for these young boys who have never even thought about doing this, much less put a mask on their face.

WILSON: Yes, they're not going to use normal regulators because they're -- it took them too long to learn. They've got a full face mask on there. The only scary thing there is if the mask leaks or if they knock it off, they could be in trouble.

BASH: OK, that's actually interesting. I hadn't heard that before. That makes more sense.

Now, I know that you know some of these rescue divers, that you haven't spoken to them during the mission, but based on what you know, obviously, the good news is that we have all of these boys out. The bad news is there are still four others.

Are the divers gaining confidence every time they do this mission, or is it so difficult that there's really no way to be comfortable?

WILSON: Well, they've got somebody's life in their hands, but they are excellent divers, and I don't doubt for a minute that they're going to do a great job. I don't think they're going to get nervous.

[12:35:00] BASH: And one last question, what do you think is the biggest challenge of all of these very difficult challenges? If you were down there, what would concern you as the biggest challenge in these rescues?

WILSON: Well, the one narrow space is the scariest part because they can't escort the boys side by side. They have to go in single file, so the boy is sort of on his own. Fortunately, it's only a little over a hundred feet.

BASH: Yes. If there's anything that we could say fortunately about, I guess maybe that is it. Thank you so much for your insight and your expertise. Appreciate you joining me.

WILSON: No problem.

BASH: And up next, the question no congressman or person for that matter wants to answer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:40:08] BASH: Welcome back. Seven former Ohio State wrestlers have said Congressman Jim Jordan knew about or witnessed sexual abuse and then did nothing while he coached at the university. Other students, though, say they don't know if Jordan knew, but if he did, there is no doubt the congressman would have intervened.

Jordan told Fox News and other outlets that he had no idea what was happening to his athlete. And today, his office is putting out a letter from former coaches that include testimonials speaking to Jordan's character and blanket denials that they or Jordan ever saw anything untoward.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is on Capitol Hill with the story. And Sunlen, what are you hearing?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, it's really interesting because this story has only grown worse for Congressman Jim Jordan in the past week, so clearly this is an attempt by his office today to really try to attempt as reframing the narrative around him and push back much more aggressively on this story, not just have those voices who are claiming that Jim Jordan knew about the abuse be the only voices heard on this. So his office putting out a series of four statements from former OSU wrestling coaches talking about his character. One saying that he's someone who's honest, who's fair, who has good judgment and wisdom. And two others saying point blank that they did not know about abuse and they have an understanding that Jim Jordan himself did not know about the abuse.

One saying that Jim Jordan never mentioned to me that they had been -- that he had been approached by a team member alleging sexual abuse. This comes at a time Jim Jordan will likely face a lot more scrutiny. Congress is back this week tomorrow, the House will reconvene after a week-long recess, so very clear Jim Jordan is going to face a lot more scrutiny up here on Capitol Hill.

Dana?

BASH: No question. Sunlen, thank you so much for bringing us that reporting.

And Manu, you spent a lot of time walking those halls and for people who might not know, Jim Jordan is -- doesn't technically have a leadership position but he is a very powerful member because he founded the Freedom Caucus which is conservative and likes to many times successfully stopped pieces of legislation that the Republican leadership has wanted to get out there. So he's a well known guy and he's also somebody that is being pushed by those conservatives to be the next speaker.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes.

BASH: And now this.

RAJU: And now this. And those same conservatives are rallying to his defense. The House Freedom Caucus in large part is supporting him, believing that his contention that he didn't know anything about this. It's interesting to hear the House speaker take a different line last week when this initially came out, said that this needs to be investigated first, these are very serious allegations, we'll see what comes up of it.

You know, this is a very serious threat to Jordan's career. I mean, becoming speaker was probably never really in the cards, he probably never had enough support within the conference to become speaker, but can he stay in his office? We'll see because this is going to be investigated. And we'll see if he did actually know anything about this. And if anything comes to light that he did, that could be ultimately --

BASH: And the fact that they are -- like Sunlen said, that the fact that they are trying to fight back as best they can when it is impossible to prove a negative, at least have testimonial character witnesses tells you that they are understandably concerned about this. He's in a tough spot.

JONATHAN MARTIN, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Politically, it's a pretty safe seat though. I mean, the seats in Ohio are really gerrymandered, so he's not in any obvious danger with the facts known right now for re-election --

BASH: But his reputation is.

MARTIN: -- this year. Reputation is the issue. And you can see a primary, you know, not two years down the road.

RAJU: Or if he's pushed to resign perhaps if it's so bad. We'll see.

BASH: All right, we're going to keep an eye on this. Everybody, stand by.

Up next, immigration advocates say the Trump administration is about to miss a key deadline to reunite young children with their families. We're going to go live to the border to learn why up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:48:07] BASH: A Trump official tells CNN the administration is working tirelessly to reunite families separated under its zero tolerance immigration policy, but the deadlines are approaching fast. Remember, a court ordered that government agencies must reunite all children under five years old with their parents by tomorrow. All other children must be reunited by July 26th.

The ACLU says the government isn't even close to meeting the deadline. The group says it was given a list of 102 names of children under the age of five, and it says it looks like fewer than half of those will be given back to their parents by tomorrow.

CNN's Miguel Marquez joins me now live from Brownsville, Texas. Miguel, the question everybody wants to know, why can't they meet a deadline to get these small children back with their parents? All of those.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The simple answer is, because there was no plan to do it. When they separated these individuals, the parents from their kids at the beginning of this process, the administration said all along we know who the parents are, we know who the kids are, we have -- we are tracking both of them. But it is very clear in talking to the parents that we are now meeting, many parents now bonding out, some parents getting deported, some kids getting deported. Lawyers talking to their clients still locked up in different detention facilities around the country.

It is very clear that there was no plan at all to reunite parents. If there were, they would have established parentage at the very beginning of this process. So in the eventuality they had to reunite those parents, they could have done that far more easily.

What we are hearing now as parent after parent gets out on their asylum claims, they're coming to places like this, this detention facility for kids here in Brownsville.

[12:50:02] They want their kids back, but they're not being given the opportunity to get them back. Even parents who have documentation, birth certificate for both themselves and their kid, and fingerprints, they are allowed to visit their children, but they are not being able to get them back because they are being treated as though they were unaccompanied minors, which is a process that could take a month, possibly more to get those kids back.

So that means all those kids, the under fives and over fives, about 3,000 altogether, there's no sign of how quickly they're going to be able to get these kids and their parents reunited.

Dana?

BASH: It's really astonishing. Miguel, thank you for staying on top of that.

And look, if what Miguel is saying is true, and it certainly seems this way, that they just weren't ready, to say it's the height of irresponsibility is an understatement. I mean, this is -- if you have a new policy, and we've been talking about this I know for more than a month, but it just hits home that we are this far into it and there are still under 3,000 children still separated, but a hundred of those are under the age of five. We all at this table know what that means to be a parent of somebody under the age of five and it's just devastating.

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG: If you lose your kid for five minutes at the Walmart --

BASH: Yes, exactly. And that this is the United States Government who made this policy without thinking of the basic question, how are you going to get them back together, when and if that's necessary?

TALEV: Well, because this was conceived as a deterrent and as a law enforcement action. It wasn't conceived under kind of the rubric of social services and kind of the next three steps down the line. And it was, you know, put in place pretty quickly. And the mass bipartisan, nonpartisan outpouring of concern that's come up in Congress and, you know, governors' races and state governments, across agencies, even inside this divided administration, it seems like when you hear that, it seems like, well, of course there's a plan. But that's not why it was conceived in the first place. And so it's hard to put the plan in place after the fact.

BASH: You said there is a bipartisan, nonpartisan outcry. No question. But there's also a partisan response. And we are seeing Republican leader after leader from the administration to Capitol Hill be the subject of some pretty loud protests as they're living and going about their daily lives. The latest was this weekend with the Senate Major Leader Mitch McConnell. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You out! Vote you out! Vote you out!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are the children?

CROWD: Vote you out! Vote you out!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go home!

CROWD: Vote you out! Vote you out! Vote you out!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are the babies, Mitch?

CROWD: Vote you out!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: So these are protesters saying vote you out. What they're protesting is ICE and what ICE is doing at the border.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, SENIOR WRITER, THE FEDERALIST: Yes. So I'm not confident the federal government's ability to do anything quickly and competently which is heartbreaking in many situation and especially on this one. Perhaps less confident in the Trump administration because they do not make plans and they overwhelmed and already clogged system which taking all the moral questions off the table is an irresponsible way to go about doing business. I do think they're good genuinely kind, wonderful public servants that were trying to make this work, but it's very hard work to do this. I also thinks I'm little skeptical of how long the outcry lasts because we have this -- and this is just a bare politics and news cycle observation.

We have a SCOTUS fight coming up. There's the midterm election. How long does this play into that? And further with the abolish ICE cries, of which there are many on the left, how does that play in the midterm elections? Because there are many people in many districts outside of New York 14 where that can work that people -- that turns people off.

RAJU: And the president himself has not been focusing on this after the initial blow-up and controversy, him signing that executive action. Since then --

BASH: Well, it's not in his interest to focus on it. Yes.

RAJU: Exactly. So he's been stepping -- sidestepping this conversation.

MARTIN: And the rule of the Trump era today is that, next week there will be something new.

BASH: Next week? How about -- what time is it?

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: Before we go to break, I should also say that McConnell -- Mitch McConnell's spokesman kind of blow -- tried to blow it off. Maybe that's too pejorative. Tried to sidestep what happened, "If the leader comment on being called a fascist and a supporter of ICE by a small handful of extremist protesters then I will let you know."

Up next, President Trump says he still has confidence in Kim Jong-un, so why is his top diplomat on the defense?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:58:38] BASH: Topping our political radar today, a big shake-up in Britain that could have Prime Minister Theresa May fighting for her job as she gets set to host President Trump later this week. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and two other top officials just quit. All three have concerns about May's plan for leaving the E.U. and their departures could lead to a no-confidence vote against her.

Mike Pompeo made an unannounced stop in Afghanistan today, his first visit there as secretary of state. It follows a high-level discussion that he had with North Korea which Pompeo described as productive, but North Koreans left accusing the U.S. of gangster-like mindsets. That controversy followed Pompeo to Afghanistan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

I saw some of the statements that came out. They were mixed. You haven't reported on the mixed statements. But maybe you will now.

The statements that were put out, Chairman Kim's statement following our discussions, continued to express his desire to complete the denuclearization to which he is so committed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: The president gave Pompeo some back-up on Twitter this morning saying, "I have confidence that Kim Jong-un will honor the contract we signed, and even importantly -- more importantly our handshake."

Thanks so much for joining us here on the INSIDE POLITICS. Wolf starts right now.

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