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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump to Honor the Fallen at Memorial Day Service; Trump Says Kushner a Good Guy; Opioid Epidemic Creates Generation of American Orphans; FBI Joins Investigation into Portland Train Stabbing Suspect; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired May 29, 2017 - 10:30   ET

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


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[10:32:21] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Any minute we are expecting to hear from President Trump. He will arrive shortly at Arlington National Cemetery where he will mark this Memorial Day by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Our Barbara Starr is there live in Arlington this morning for us.

And Barbara, you are in Section 60. That is a very significant portion of Arlington. Tell us about it.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: It is, Poppy. 890 souls at their final resting place here, who were killed in action on the battlefield of Iraq, Afghanistan, and all of the wars since 9/11. 890 souls are here.

We want to show you how many people have come out, and they come every year, parents, spouses, children, grandparents, battle buddies, all coming here to pay their respects to their loved ones. We see the flowers, we see the flags, there are teddy bears, there are photos, there are remembrances from those they served with. There are beer cans from their friends.

This is a place where people come and pay their respects, and of course, it's happening all across the country today on memorial day. But Arlington National Cemetery here in Washington, a place really of national significance in the history of the country. It's back up in those hills there are those who fell in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, all of America's conflicts.

Worth remembering, 400,000 laid to rest here, active duty, veterans, and their families. Here on Memorial Day, 2017, at Section 60 in Arlington -- Poppy.

HARLOW: We owe them all everything.

Barbara Starr, thank you.

Well, President Trump returns to the White House from his trip overseas and he certainly has hit the ground running. A staff shake- up could be in the works. Have you heard that before? Well, it's getting headlines again. The president is considering some overhaul options we're hearing. He also sat down and had a long working day yesterday meeting with senior advisers talking about the game plan ahead.

Let's go to David Chalian, CNN's political director, for more on all of this.

So he comes back, he hits the ground running, working all day yesterday, and he issued a statement on Jared Kushner and essentially says Jared is a good guy. Was that full-throated support of Jared Kushner in the midst of all of this?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Before we even assess whether or not it's tepid or full throated, how about the fact that the president of the United States felt the need to give a statement to "The New York Times" about his adviser, about a staff member-slash- son-in-law?

[10:35:05] That in and of itself is pretty astonishing. This is not -- usually as you know, Poppy, it's staff members who are giving statements to the paper to prop up the president.

HARLOW: About the president. Yes.

CHALIAN: It's not usually the other way around. So that in and of itself is pretty astonishing. And then yes, it -- it certainly was not the most full throated. But again I just thought it was so bizarre that this is what the president felt was important to do with his time to try to buck up Jared.

HARLOW: You know, he didn't hold, David, one press availability, one press conference, nothing on Air Force One these entire nine days, and then you look at his tweets from the moment he landed and has returned, five of them are about what he deems to be the fake media. If he is so incensed, why not tell his story? Talk to them. Hold a press conference, while he's on this big trip. And the media will carry it live.

CHALIAN: You know, we've seen a pattern. We've seen this a little bit during the campaign, and then we've seen it recently as he's been serving as president, which is he tends to let stuff build up so much that he believes then that he's the one that can go to the press and fix it and hold a big long press conference. Maybe that will come at some point. But you're right, it certainly seems that as soon as he hit the ground, Poppy, there was all this pent-up --

HARLOW: Yes.

CHALIAN: -- Twitter activity that he decided to sort of unleash and make sure to start putting his spin on things out there. He was not doing that during the trip he clearly was trying a more restrained approach.

HARLOW: Right. So let's talk about this reported possibly big shake- up in the West Wing. I mean, I can't name how many times we've heard this these reports so I don't know how much merit to give it, but Barry Bennett who serves as a political adviser to the president during the general election campaign, he said this about the White House. He said, "The bottom line is they need fresh legs. They need more legs. They're in full scale war and they're very thinly staffed."

So you've seen former campaign manager Cory Lewandowski, former a CNN contributor as well, going in and out of the White House. You've got former campaign official, David Bossie, spotted at the White House in recent weeks. Significant?

CHALIAN: Yes, I mean I think that it is clear that the president is grappling with how to structure his White House now in light of the new reality in which it's existing which is under this cloud of the Russia investigation. And there are reports of looking at sort of the Clinton era model of trying to wall off, build a team of people who do nothing but the Russia investigation, to allow everyone else, including the president, the flexibility and mobility to focus on the agenda.

And that is what I think we are seeing behind the scenes right now, the conversation about how to build that and how to execute on that, and, you know, the names you've mentioned certainly are folks that can get in to sort of the political trenches, this is political warfare for them right now. And those are exactly the kind of folks that can sort of run that kind of war room operation.

HARLOW: David Chalian, thank you for working the holiday with me.

CHALIAN: Thanks, Poppy.

HARLOW: Nice to have you here.

Today, Memorial Day, a holiday indeed, but not one about the barbecues or even likely your day off work. It is about service members who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we could all be free. In moments the president will honor them as he arrives at Arlington National Cemetery and you will hear from him live. Stay with us.

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[10:42:43] HARLOW: You are looking at a beautiful and somber, solemn moment at Arlington National Cemetery. The Presenting of the Colors as we wait for President Trump to speak and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers to mark this Memorial Day. We'll bring that to you in just a moment.

Meantime last year alone more than 30,000 people died in this country from opioid and heroin overdoses. One of the states hardest hit is Ohio. A brand new report shows opioid use in Ohio rose 36 percent from 2015 to 2016. Coroners in that state now say this year's numbers are outpacing even last year. That is leaving some without room for the dead in their morgues. As parents have died from these overdoses, there remain the children left orphaned by them.

Our Deb Feyerick found those children.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Welcome to the zoo.

SANDRA FLYNN, GRANDMOTHER: It's impossible to be quiet in the zoo.

FEYERICK: Meet the Flynn Family. Grandma Sandra is 64 years old. Her husband, Michael, who everybody calls Poppy is 73.

(On camera): You are now raising 5-year-old twins?

MICHAEL FLYNN, GRANDFATHER: Yes, ma'am.

FEYERICK: OK. And --

M. FLYNN: And the other three.

FEYERICK (voice-over): They are raising five grandkids in a cramped, colorful Kentucky home that's equal parts chaos and love. Willa, now 16, is the oldest.

(On camera): When was the last time you saw your mom, Willa?

WILLA, GRANDDAUGHTER: Five years ago when I was 10.

S. FLYNN: She kind of disappeared. No one knew where she was.

FEYERICK (voice-over): The "she" Sandy is referring to is her own daughter whose youngest children were all born addicted to drugs.

S. FLYNN: The state came in and said she could not care for them anymore. And they called and asked us if we would take all five and said of course.

FEYERICK: An estimated three million kids in America are being raised by someone other than their mom and dad. The opioid and heroin epidemic has hit Kentucky especially hard. More than 68,000 children there are now being taken care of by grandparents, relatives or foster parents.

MARY JO DENDY, RESOURCE CENTER COORDINATOR: They've been abandoned. They've been forgotten in a lot of ways in preference for the drugs.

FEYERICK (on camera): When you look at the generation of kids that's being raised, how do you think it's going to turn out?

S. FLYNN: It has impact them. There is always going to be a want, a need that something they didn't get from mom.

[10:45:07] FEYERICK: Do you feel on some level that you've been abandoned in some way by your mom?

WILLA: I know she cared about me. She used to be a really sweet person. But now I don't know. I learned to accept it where I am right now.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Not far away in another part of Lexington, Kentucky, grandmother Kathy Allen drops by the high school to pick up grandkids Kayla and Madison.

KATHY ALLEN, RAISING HER GRANDCHILDREN: Did you have a nice day at school?

FEYERICK: Now 14 and 16, the sisters were small when they were initially placed in foster care.

(On camera): How does your childhood compare? How do you describe it?

KAYLA ALLEN, RAISED BY GRANDMOTHER: It was terrible.

FEYERICK: It was terrible.

KAYLA ALLEN: Yes. When you think about childhood, you think about, like, happy things. But there wasn't really any.

FEYERICK (voice-over): According to Generations United, nearly 40 percent of grandparents caring for grandchildren are over age 60. One in five lives below the poverty line.

K. ALLEN: Foster parents can earn as much as $600 to $1200 per month per child, whereas grandparents aren't even receiving the first food stamp.

FEYERICK: Kayla and Madison are in touch with their father who is currently in prison. They say they have little to no contact with their mom. Her choice, not theirs, they say.

MADISON ALLEN, RAISED BY GRANDMOTHER: I forgive my mom so many times. But, like, like she just keeps going back. I can't -- it's hard to forgive every single time.

FEYERICK: A generation of children who feel abandoned by parents who they believe chose drugs over them.

Deborah Feyerick, CNN, Lexington, Kentucky.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARLOW: Deborah Feyerick, thank you for that.

You'll remember as a candidate President Trump promised to fight the opioid crisis. Here is exactly what he promised.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've outlined today a detailed plan to stop the opioid crisis. My plan begins with a strong border, it includes the prosecution of drug dealers, and dramatically expands access to life saving treatments that will help people unchain themselves from this terrible, terrible and very hard to get rid of addiction.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HARLOW: So the Trump administration has made a push for tougher prosecution of drug dealers. But the 2018 White House budget would reportedly cut funding for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. That's the office that battles opioid addiction.

Next for us, a Portland, Oregon, teenager tearfully remembers the Good Samaritans who defended her and her friend during an anti-Muslim attack. Two of those were killed trying to protect her. The latest on the case that is now getting national attention.

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[10:51:49] HARLOW: You're looking at live pictures of Arlington National Cemetery this Memorial Day where we honor those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom. We are being told that the president has just arrived at Arlington. We will hear from him in moments. He will take that wreath you see right there and he will, as so many past presidents have done, lay it on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and then he will make remarks. We will carry them to you live right here.

As we wait for the president, the stunning story out of Portland, Oregon. A stream of tears as Destinee Mangum thanks three incredibly brave men who protected her after she says she was the target of a hate filled attack on a Portland light rail train.

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DESTINEE MANGUM, VICTIM OF ANTI-MUSLIM SLURS: Thank you to the people who put their life on the line for me. Because they didn't even know me. And they lost their lives because -- and the way we were. To say thank you to them and their family that I appreciate them because I probably would be dead right now.

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HARLOW: Well, police say the attack on her and her friend was carried out by this man, Jeremy Christian. The three men stood up to him, 23- year-old recent college graduate Taliesin Namkai-Meche, veteran Ricky Best, both stabbed to death, and 21-year-old Micah Fletcher who was injured and does remain still in the hospital.

The FBI has joined this investigation and Polo Sandoval has the details.

What can you tell us?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, before we bring you up to speed on the suspect we do want to tell you more about those three incredibly brave men and the stories and the families that they leave behind.

Mr. Fletcher, the 21-year-old lone survivor, still in the hospital right now recovering from his injuries after he helped step up to this individual aboard the train and then the other two who sadly passed away. You mentioned Mr. Taliesin Namkai-Meche, he was just starting his

career in economics, and just even bought a house and planned to get married and then have children. And then there was Ricky John Best, the 53-year-old by most accounts model public servant, an army veteran that worked as a technician for the city of Portland, he was headed home in Happy Valley to his family, to his wife and four children. When he and those two other men bravely stepped up to defend two women aboard that train.

Here's what we know about the suspect, Jeremy Joseph Christian, a 35- year-old man who remains behind bars at this hour. We do understand that the FBI has joined in on the investigation as they try to answer a key question here, does this rise to the level of domestic terrorism or a federal hate crime? As he remains behind bars, as you can imagine, plenty of condolences that have been coming on social media but also some criticism coming from several individuals including the organization the Council on Islamic Relations calling on President Trump to denounce this attack and also what they call, quote, "rising bigotry" as well we're going to try to bring you more on that and see if President Trump does address this as he gets ready to make those public remarks at Arlington National Cemetery -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Polo Sandoval, thank you for the reporting especially on those incredibly brave souls who jumped in to help and gave their life.

[10:55:05] You're looking at live pictures of Arlington National Cemetery. There you have the Vice President Mike Pence. We are waiting for President Trump. We have learned that he is on site. He will take the wreath and lay it on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. There you have the Defense Secretary James Mattis as well as other members of the president's Cabinet, Kellyanne Conway, Reince Priebus right there, H.R. McMaster, the National Security adviser, and we're waiting for the president.

Athena Jones, our White House correspondent, is with us.

Athena, do you have a sense of what the president will include in his remarks this morning?

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Poppy. No. No preview of those remarks. But we expect him to recognize those who have given their lives for America. He's been tweeting this morning, sending out several tweets honoring the brave men and women who have given their lives for America's values. So we expect to hear that sort of language.

He's only scheduled to speak for about 10 minutes. That will be taking place in about half an hour. His remarks following those of the Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. But this, of course, is, is, one of the presidential traditions, to deliver this address on Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery, and so we'll have to wait and see if he strays beyond the usual remarks honoring those who've given their lives for America -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Again a very solemn and somber moment there at Arlington. Our Barbara Starr, Athena, was standing in Section 60 this morning

reporting live for us, a place where I believe it is 880 individuals, men and women who served in the military and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in the aftermath of 9/11 are buried.

You know, incredible to see the families, the children, laying roses, flowers, at the gravesites this morning. Again, this is an important moment to honor all of those who have given more than most of us can even imagine -- Athena.

JONES: Absolutely. And the president saying earlier that he's looking forward to paying his respects to the brave men and women on this Memorial Day. We should see him any minute during the wreath laying that sort of kicks off this ceremony. Later on they'll be an invocation. The National Anthem. But he as I mentioned tweeted several hours ago about the importance of remembering the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in serving, he tweeted, "Thank you. God bless your families. God bless the USA."

So I would expect his remarks to echo what he tweeted earlier this morning. And again there's going to be relatively brief remarks the president speaking after his defense secretary and that will be followed by a benediction, and then the departure. But this, of course, something that happens every single Memorial Day. The solemn occasion to honor the lives of those who -- the lives lost on behalf of this country -- Poppy.

HARLOW: And again you're looking at live pictures out of Arlington National Cemetery. To the left of your screen, we'll see if they pan a bit, you're seeing that beautiful wreath that the president will lay on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers before his remarks. And we see President Trump walking in. He will take the wreath, he will lay it. He will make these brief remarks. Let's listen in to the president for a moment.

(NATIONAL ANTHEM)