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Trump to Meet Putin at G-20; Tillerson Frustrated over Filling Staff Vacancies; GOP Senators Ask McConnell to Shorten or Cancel August Recess; Trump: GOP Can Repeal Obamacare Now, Replace Later; Chicago Police & ATF Form New Strike Force Aimed at Spread of Illegal Guns; African Elephants Getting New Home. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired July 1, 2017 - 15:00   ET


[15:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: -- "Our Nixon," an intimate portrait of the 37th president's time in office, told only through archive footage and tapes of the former president himself. Be sure to watch.

Thanks for being with me today. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Stay with us. NEWSROOM continues with Boris Sanchez, next.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: It is 3:00 p.m. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Boris Sanchez, in New York, in for Ana Cabrera, who has the day off. Thank you so much for joining us.

We start with what's shaping up to be a monumental week for Trump's agenda, both here at home and around the globe. In a matter of just days, he will come face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the man who tried to overrule the Democratic process and sway the outcome of last year's election. Something that the president has publicly acknowledged only last week. Their meeting will happen on the sidelines of the G-20 summit, another major test for the president on both foreign policy and his negotiating skills.

Meantime, back at home, the fight over health care rages on. Lawmakers are headed home for a week-long recess, meaning many Republicans will have to defend a hugely unpopular bill directly before their own constituents. Forget phone calls and e-mails. Face- to-face showdowns at town halls across the country.

So what's President Trump doing to prepare for this momentous week?

CNN's Ryan Nobles is live outside the White House right now.

Ryan, I imagine it involves some tweeting.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Boris, you laid it out there very well, all of the challenges confronting the president of the United States and this government in general. And yet this morning the president was up and tweeting. And his focus was this feud that he continues to perpetuate with Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough at MSNBC. This is what the president tweeted this morning. He said, quote, "Crazy Joe Scarborough and dumb-as-a-rock Mika are not bad people but their low-rated show is dominated by their NBC bosses. Too bad."

Yet another distraction for this White House, as you mentioned, Boris, right on the heels -- or right ahead of this important trip the president is going to take to Europe to meet with G-20 leaders. Including expected to have a one-on-one pull aside with Russian President Vladimir Putin. And at the height of this health care battle where Republicans are struggling to come up with the 50 votes they need to pass some sort of replacement and reform of Obamacare. And this is making it very difficult for Republicans who, across the board, have said that they wish that the president wouldn't have launched this attack against Brzezinski and Scarborough. And that they also wish that he would refocus his agenda on the big issues at hand.

In terms of White House aides, they never want to talk about the president's tweets. They push that off and try and change the subject, saying simply that the president's tweets speak for themselves. They don't provide any context or even talk about whether or not that impacts his agenda. But here it is. We're talking about it, Boris, ahead of a very important week for the president. This feud, still not going away.

SANCHEZ: All right. Ryan Nobles, thank you.

Let's get straight to our panel of CNN political commentators. Joining me now, Democratic strategist, Maria Cardona, Republican strategist, Alice Stewart, and conservative columnist, Kayleigh McEnany.

Alice, let's start with you.

You are a Republican strategist. How does this attack help the president?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It doesn't. And it doesn't help the Republicans' agenda here in Washington. Look, I'm not the first to say, as a Republican, that these are a huge distraction and the president needs to get back on message and focus. Look, we elected him to go in there and fight for the American people, and not use the Oval Office as a bully pulpit to sucker-punch a female journalist. And for the White House to come out and say people elected him because he is tough and smart and a fighter, I would love to see him be tough with Vladimir Putin, be smart with Congress, and pass repeal and replace of Obamacare, and fight against ISIS. That's what the American people voted for him for. That's what they would like to see. And all of these tweets are a meaningless distraction. And truly he needs to get back on message.

SANCHEZ: Ladies, I want to play you some sound from Kellyanne Conway defending the president's tweets. Here it is.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, SENIOR TRUMPA ADVISOR: It's incredible to watch people play armchair psychologist, out really ridiculing the president's physicalities, his mental state, calling him names that you wouldn't your children to call people on a playground. You would punish them for doing that. And then, all of a sudden, feigning shock when he wants to fight back and defend himself and, hopefully, change the conversation.


SANCHEZ: Calling him names that you don't want your children to call people on a playground.

Kayleigh, to you, just a quick review. You know where I'm going with this. Lyin' Ted, Crooked Hillary, Little Marco, Low-Energy Jeb, mocking Carly Fiorina's appearance. Now it's Psycho Joe and Low I.Q. Mika. The president is great at calling people names. He uses that effectively, that kind of branding. How can we take the White House seriously when they portray him as a victim?

[15:05:10] KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, the president does fight back. And Kellyanne does make a very good point. Let's review some of the things the liberal MSNBC journalists have said about President Trump. They have called him a liar, a shmuck, goon, mentally unfit, unbalanced. This was before he ever started tweeting. You had another host on -- that was all in one show, by the way. Another host called him Hitlerian. And another host, yesterday, Chris Matthews, insinuated that Jared Kushner should be assassinated and compared Ivanka and Jared to Saddam Hussein's children. So I would not advise the president to tweet the way he is tweeting, specifically the things he says. But I would advise him to fight back. Because, otherwise, he's just lying down. And I guess that's what the media expects, for him to lie down, tie his hands behind his back, not fight back. But he's not going to do that because we have a fighter in the White House.

SANCHEZ: It's interesting you say that, Kayleigh. I'm going to stay with because the White House acts as though he's the first president to be attacked. We're talking about the guy that popularized the Birther movement. If President Obama, at the time, had taken to Twitter and criticized Donald Trump's appearance or his I.Q. or anything of that sort, what would the response be from Republicans about Obama? Would they say he's just defending himself?

MCENANY: Look, President Obama would be criticized. He'd be criticized the same way President Trump is being criticized. I said I wouldn't advise him to, you know, level the name calling that he's leveling.

That being said, President Obama would never be called Hitlerian by anyone in the media. There would never be an insinuation that his family should be assassinated from a mainstream television anchor, Chris Matthews. He was treated with respect. President Trump is not treated with respect. He's treated like a piece of dirt, less than the commander-in-chief. And I think the media should step back and let him do his job because that's what the American people want.

SANCHEZ: It's debatable as to whether or not a lot of conservative media treated President Obama with respect.

But let's move on from that.

Maria, I want to turn the tables with you. If you're Sarah Huckabee Sanders or Kellyanne Conway, and your job is to defend the president's actions, specifically those tweets, how would you go about doing that?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I wouldn't. If I were either one of those women, I would quit. Because really there's no other way that you can go home at night and look at yourself in the mirror and look at your children and say that you are doing the right thing for them or doing the right thing for the country or even doing the right thing for your boss. I don't know if these women have actually tried to tell him to cut it out because it's the wrong thing to do. It is making the country look bad. It is making him look bad. It is making us look awful on the international stage. I don't know if they're doing that. I kind of doubt it. And even if they are, clearly, the president isn't listening to them. And so whatever they do, it's completely ineffective. I would say I feel bad for them, but I really don't, because no one is holding a gun to their head and making them stay in their jobs. That is a decision that they have made themselves. And the fact that they continue to defend this president with the kind of actions that are indefensible. Using the bully pulpit to be the bully-in-chief is not what he was elected for.

You know, forgive me, Kayleigh. He was elected to fight for America, not to fight in the sand --

MCENANCY: Maria --

CARDONA: -- not to fight in the sand when he's on the playground -


CARDONA: Hang on, hang on, Kayleigh. I didn't interrupt you.

He was also --

SANCHEZ: I'll give you a second to respond, Kayleigh.

Maria, go ahead and finish.

CARDONA: He was also elected to take the heat when the heat comes, when the press -- bad press coverage comes. Maybe he should figure out how to not be so crazy in the Oval Office and actually govern like a normal president.


SANCHEZ: Kayleigh, go ahead.

MCENANY: It's so interesting to hear you talk about being crazy in the Oval Office. Because a lot of women were looking around in the '90s, asking where the women were in the Clinton administration stepping down when he did horrific acts in the Oval Office with a young girl, a young intern, and ruined her life. Where were the women quitting then? Now you're upset about Donald Trump's words? Where were you so upset about Bill Clinton's actions in the Oval Office?

CARDONA: Oh, I -- I was one of the ones who criticized Bill Clinton. And many Democratic women criticized Bill Clinton.

MCENANY: But many did not. Many did not.

CARDONA: So maybe you should go back and look at history if you think that didn't happen, or even if you think the conservative media did not criticize Bill Clinton -- or, I'm sorry, Barack Obama -- or did not even -- ask the Secret Service to see if he was not, and his family and his wife and his children were not given death threats. Just ask Secret Service.

You know, history --


CARDONA: History is so -- you know, people seem to forget it so quickly when it's their own guy in the White House.

MCENANY: Boris --

SANCHEZ: Alice, I'm going to give you a chance to talk here.

[15:09:53] STEWART: Sure. From the Republican standpoint -- and I would like to think Kelly would agree with me on this -- this has been a relatively good week for the administration with regard to the travel ban. That's a victory in some ways for this administration. They had a strong focus on energy and energy dominance, which is critical and a very strong issue for this presidency. And we're coming into the final negotiations for repealing and replacing Obamacare. And I think we can certainly get there.

And it would just be helpful if the president would focus his efforts and attention on those issues and tweet about those issues. Because tweeting is not just a social thing that people do. It is an official statement from the president of the United States. That's the way it's viewed. That's what got him into office, by using Twitter, communicating directly with the people, and bypassing the media.

But at the same time, it's a double edge sword. When you use it in this fashion, it becomes a distraction. And that's what we're talking about when we could be talking about things that the American people are really concerned with, which is creating jobs, which is making our nation strong, and certainly getting a handle on health care.

SANCHEZ: Kayleigh, I want to ask you about the president's tweets. They're kind of indicative of what's on his mind, right? They're a window to what he's preoccupied by. So if he wants the press to focus on jobs, on health care, on helping veterans, shouldn't he tweet about those things and worry less about what a cable news host is saying about him?

MCENANY: And he does. Look, if you look, the vast majority of his tweets in June were about the issues. But President Trump looks at the history, looks at the past, and realizes something. When there's a Republican president in office, the media will never focus on energy and jobs and the issues. If it's not focusing on the president's tweets, it's going to be focusing on some bogus Russian conspiracy theory where even Dianne Feinstein says her evidence is rumors and newspapers. That will always be the focus. The salacious will always be the focus.

We are misleading ourselves, Alice, if we think, as Republicans, we can sit here and talk about the issues and have a fair academic debate. That's never going to happen. And President Trump is going to fight the media. I agree with you, stop the name calling. But fighting back against the media that's calling him Hitler, calling for the assassination of his son-in-law? Fight back until the death. Because that's the only way we're ever going to get past this and talk about the issues.


CARDONA: If you can't take the heat, get out of the Oval.

SANCHEZ: An impassioned argument. We will continue it soon.

Kayleigh McEnany, Alice Stewart, Maria Cardona, thank you so much for the time.

MCENANY: Thanks, Boris.

STEWART: Thanks, Boris.

SANCHEZ: We will see you soon.

Ahead this hour, in a bind. Ahead of a crucial overseas trip for President Trump, reports of major disagreements between the State Department and the White House.

Plus, out of money. The state of Illinois fails to make a midnight deadline to fund government services. What this means for lottery winners in the state.

And later, the big move. A remarkable undertaking to relocate 500 elephants away from the threat of poaching. And CNN was the only news crew there.

Stay with us. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[15:17:08] SANCHEZ: There is major tension brewing right now between the White House and the State Department. And it's all about jobs. I'm talking about the many, many senior positions still empty at the State Department more than five months into the Trump presidency.

CNN's Elise Labott reports that the man in charge of the State Department is no longer keeping his frustrations to himself.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, Rex Tillerson's frustration with the White House out in the open. The secretary of state coming to blows with President Trump's aides over the process of filling dozens of key vacancies at the State Department.


LABOTT: In a meeting, first reported by "Politico," Tillerson made clear to Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Johnny DeStefano, the head of presidential personnel, and Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior advisor, he wants to pick his own staff.

White House aides described the discussion as intense and uncomfortable, blaming Tillerson for the gridlock.

A Tillerson aide told CNN, quote, "The secretary is working on a process of evaluating people on merit. He wants to put forward the best candidate for the job. The desire for political patronage does not overcome a lack of confidence."

JAMES CARAFANO, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: We have this tradition in Washington of, let's just bring in our tribe, and our tribe will run things. First of all, almost none of these guys have a tribe. Tillerson certainly doesn't have a State Department tribe. So he, in a sense, is building his tribe. And like a lot of really good professionals, I think there's an effort to, let's make sure that we get the right people in here.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You really have had a tremendous life, heading up one of the great companies of the world and doing it magnificently.

LABOTT: The president hired the former ExxonMobil CEO for his global deal-making skills. But America's top diplomat doesn't enjoy the same autonomy. Case in point, while Tillerson tries to mediate a dispute between Qatar and other gulf countries, President Trump has openly sided with Saudi Arabia.

TRUMP: The nation of Qatar, unfortunately, has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level.

LABOTT: Trump has also taken much of Mideast peace process, including the peace process, off Tillerson plate, giving it to Kushner instead.

TRUMP: If you can't produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can.


LABOTT: And as Tillerson seeks to re-organize his State Department, the White House has pushed him to make major cuts, slashing a whopping 30 percent in his budget, shocking lawmakers who called the proposal a waste of time.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), ARIZONA: My reaction is, it's probably dead on arrival. LABOTT: Former Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken, now a CNN

global affairs analyst, said the end result is a weakened State Department unable to shape and execute foreign policy.

TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: If you look at two things, one, the budget, and show me the money, and I'll tell you what your priorities are. Clearly, the State Department is not their priority. Second, personnel. You've got to have the people to run the place. In the absence of both, the State Department plays a diminished role.


[15:20:06] SANCHEZ: Elise Labott joins us now from Washington.

Elise, thank you so much for taking time with us.

It seems like Rex Tillerson is in a bind here. Is this degree of tension normal between the White House and the State Department?

LABOTT: Look, I think there's always tension, Boris, and natural tension between cabinet secretaries who want more autonomy over their picks and the White House who, you know, had a lot of people from the campaign and donors that they want to put in these political positions. I think for Secretary Tillerson it's a little bit of a culture shock. If you see that graphic over there, this guy has been in charge, the top dog at ExxonMobil, one of the top companies in the world, not used to really taking orders. And now he's kind of essentially the staffer to the president. So I think it's a little bit of a culture shock. But he's trying to make his way through it. But also has ideas on how he wants to run the department.

SANCHEZ: Well, now, we have to talk about the G-20 summit, right? It's just a few days away. We know President Trump and Vladimir Putin are going to meet. We don't really know the details yet, what the format of the meeting is going to be like. But what do you expect? Do you think the president will bring up Russian meddling in the election?

LABOTT: I don't think he's going to bring it up in a sense of Vladimir, you know, stop the meddling, and you better not do it again or we'll, you know, take some action. I think there might be some recognition of the, you know, accusations and investigation swirling around. But I think the president wants to move forward for a better relationship with Vladimir Putin. They have a lot to work on. Russia has been, you know, very active obviously in Syria. They need to work on North Korea, Ukraine, other issues. I don't think that's really going to dominate the meeting. Although, it's certainly the elephant in the room.

SANCHEZ: To be a fly on the wall for that.

Elise Labott, thank you so much for the time.

Coming up, health care on hold as Congress returns home for the holiday recess. And now several Republican Senators are suggesting their time off in August should be canceled. More on the push to move their agenda forward.

Stay with us live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[15:26:19] SANCHEZ: Well, the nation enjoys a holiday weekend, some worried Republicans in Congress want to skip their summer vacations so they can get more done, especially on health care. Ten GOP Senators signed a letter asking Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, to shorten or cancel their month-long August recess. Congress has about 33 works days left before the fiscal year ends in September.

Let's discuss with CNN political commentator, Scott Jennings, a former special assistant to President George W. Bush, and former deputy Labor secretary, Chris Lu, who ran President Obama's transition team.

Scott, first to you.

Republicans control both Houses of Congress. Is canceling the August recess really going to be necessary to get their agenda moving forward?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's too early to tell. And I don't think the health care process is totally dead right now. I think there's movement going on this weekend. I know the data nerds and the spreadsheet junkies are sitting in the capitol building working. And I know Senator McConnell and other leadership Senators are working the phones. So we'll have to see what happens. Of course, it would be a devastating blow, I think, to the Republican agenda if something doesn't happen by August. There's an old saying that time kills all deals. I think the more time that passes, the less likely it is we get a deal on this.

SANCHEZ: That's probably part of the reason McConnell wanted to get a vote done as early as possible, too.

JENNINGS: No question. The put-up-or-shut-up strategy I like because, for seven years, the Republicans have run on this. And it was time to put up or shut up on writing a bill. I think Republican voters are going to be upset if the party can't come together and get something done.

SANCHEZ: Chris, to you.

If these 10 GOP Senators, ultimately, get their way and the August recess is canceled or shortened, how would Democrats respond?

CHRIS LU, FORMER LABOR DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SECRETARY: Well, look, I think, like Scott, it's a little too early to be canceling recesses. I worked on Capitol Hill for 12 years, and this is a pretty common theme when you are addressing a difficult problem.

I think the challenge that Senator McConnell has is that there are serious policy differences between the conservatives and moderates. And he has a very small needle that he is trying to thread. How do you provide coverage for as many people as possible? How do you keep premiums and deductibles low? What do you do about the Medicaid cuts that will devastate nursing home residents and people with disabilities and rural hospitals? I'm not sure more time is going to solve that problem. I think Senator McConnell just needs to forage a path and try to go down there and try to get a vote.

SANCHEZ: Scott, it's not necessarily separation of ideological within the Republican Party. Some of it has to do with, frankly, messaging. The president tweeted out yesterday that if this version of repeal and replace doesn't work out, let's work on repeal first. McConnell is not so attached to that idea. He wants a replacement. What do you think?

JENNINGS: Well, Senator McConnell actually floated that idea in January. And it was some of the House Freedom Caucus and more conservative members who shot that down. Now they seem to be going back to that. It's water under the bridge now.

They need to replace this. Simply repealing it and then waiting to see what happens for months and months, I don't think is viable. I think they're closer to a deal on replacement than people think. And so in my view, politically, it would be smarter to clear the decks, totally, so that you can get to other things, like tax reform, infrastructure spending. This president and this Congress, they are a couple of bills away from having a really successful set of accomplishments to run on for the midterm. This really needs to be one of them.

SANCHEZ: I do want to play some sound from President Trump because it seems like he's maybe changing his mind about this a little bit. Let's go ahead and play that sound.


LESLIE STAHL, CO-ANCHOR, 60 MINUTES: There's going to be a period if you repeal it and before you replace it when millions of people could lose --


[15:30:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to do it simultaneously. It will be just fine.

That's what I do. I do a good job. I know how to do this stuff. We're going to repeal it and replace it. We're not going to have like a two-day period, and we're not going to have a two-year period where there's nothing. It will be repealed and replaced. And we'll know. And it will be great health care for much less.


SANCHEZ: Is this a recognition from the president that health care is a lot more difficult than he thought it was? And isn't this a little bit riskier for Republicans if they kind of put themselves under the gun to then have to come up with a replacement later?

JENNINGS: Well, right now, I don't think the disagreement is on repeal. Everybody wants to repeal it. All the disagreement is on the replacement side. So I don't see how waiting a week, two weeks, a month, six months to come up with a replacement plan is going to make it any better. I think they need to work hard during July and find a replacement plan that can pass.

I mean, Senator McConnell went home this weekend and made a speech about health care on Friday night. And he woke up this morning to a clip in Kentucky. The one insurer, Anthem, that covers half the state, decided to stay in the exchange, but they asked for a 34 percent premium increase to do it. And so every day, they go home, the news is getting worse and worse and worse. To me, that kind of pressure really should tell them we've got to find a replacement now. Waiting is not an option.

SANCHEZ: Chris, I want to talk to you about the relationship between Trump and McConnell. Specifically, because Senator McConnell kind of threw some cold water on this recent idea to repeal now, replace later. Something that has been floated before, as Scott noted. The president likes loyalty. You've written about loyalty being a two-way street recently. What does this say about the president's relationship with the leader of the Senate?

LU: Well, it's not only his relationship with Senator McConnell. You've seen this play out in pretty stark terms over the past week. The president taking shots at Jeff Bezos, of Amazon, of going after the "Morning Joe" hosts. This is a president who ran, essentially, a small family business where he prized loyalty above all else. And maybe you can run a family business doing that, but that's not the way Washington works. And he will quickly find out, not only with people in his administration but also with his allies on Capitol Hill, loyalty in Washington is fickle, it's ephemeral, it's transactional. And Senator McConnell wants a bill done but doesn't need President Trump giving him ideas on how to do that. Mitch McConnell knows better than anyone how to get a bill done.

And the challenge right now is that they've gotten themselves into a very, very difficult situation where you've got a CBO score that is devastating. 22 million people would lose coverage. You would have premiums that would increase for older Americans. You would have $800 billion in Medicaid cuts. It's hard to get yourself out of that box right now.

And health care is hard. This is what we, in the Obama administration, learned in 2009 and 2010. And it's one of the reasons why we took nine months to get this bill across the finish line.

SANCHEZ: Gentlemen, we are out of time.

But, Scott, I want to give you just a couple seconds because you had a physical response to something you heard Chris say.

JENNINGS: Well, I do know, talking to some people on Capitol Hill, that the president is engaged in the health care battle. He is making calls. I know Senator McConnell is making calls this weekend. And some people have tried to, I think, position the president as not helpful or unhelpful in this. I think he's extremely helpful. If they are to get a deal done, I think he has to be part of it, because this has to go back to the House and, ultimately, to his desk. So I think he's going to be helpful pulling a few Senators over the line. If they get to 50-plus-one, I think we'll find out in the tick-tock afterwards that President Trump made a couple of calls to help get it done.

SANCHEZ: I do have to note, some of the harshest criticism over these recent tweets have been from Senators that you'd think he'd be trying to court, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski for example.

Chris Lu and Scott Jennings, we're out of time. But, gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us this Saturday.

JENNINGS: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Time for a look at some other stories you might have missed.

Tennis Star Venus Williams says she is heartbroken and devastated after the car crash she was involved in led to the death of an elderly man. The 78-year-old Jerome Borson (ph) died two weeks after the June 9th accident in Florida. Police say Williams pulled in front of the victim's car, though she was not issued a citation. The 37-year-old tennis star told officers she was stuck in an intersection because of traffic and didn't see the other car coming. She's now being sued for wrongful death.

A pair of Tennessee teenagers, accused of starting the state's deadliest wildfire in a century, are no longer facing arson charges. Their defense attorney says the state simply cannot prove that just by tossing lit matches onto the ground the boys intended to start a fire that wound up killing 14 people. Officials in Great Smoky Mountains National Park initially let the fire burn. But five days later, strong winds sent the flames into Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forage where it burned more than 2,400 buildings. The teens could still face charges for setting a fire inside a national park.

And some welcome news for diehards who can't take the transition from vinyl records to digital music. Citing increased demand, Sony Records says it will soon begin pressing vinyl again nearly three decades after it stopped. The company says that interest is coming from older fans and younger customers who have never spun L.P.s before.

I'm still waiting for the return of cassette tapes. I got some Credence tapes that I've been looking for, for a long time, I haven't been able to find.

[15:35:09] Coming up, an evening at a nightclub turns violent in Arkansas. 25 people shot. What we know about the victims and what set off the shooting, when the CNN NEWSROOM continues.


SANCHEZ: A shooting at a nightclub in Little Rock, Arkansas, early this morning injured at least 28 people. And the moment it happened was captured on video by a club goer. Watch this.






[15:39:49] SANCHEZ: A tweet from the Little Rock Police Department says no one died. But 25 people were shot while three others suffered unrelated injuries. Now, the shooting victims, who range in age from 16 to their mid-20s, were treated at five separate area hospitals. Police say the shooting happened after some club goers got into an argument. So far, no arrests have been made. Officials say the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms will be assisting the Little Rock Police Department with that investigation.

Meantime, the Illinois general assembly lost its race against the clock to pass a state budget before a midnight deadline. The state entered its third straight fiscal year without a budget. CNN affiliate, WBBM, reporting that the speaker of the House sent a letter to three New York bond houses asking them not to downgrade the state's credit rating to junk. Earlier this week, state officials made the unprecedented move of cutting off lottery ticket sales. Illinois lottery officials say they won't be able to make payments on time to those who win more than $25,000.

Meantime, in Chicago, the police department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has announced a new local, state and federal strike force aimed at decreasing the spread of illegal guns in the Windy City.

Our Ryan Young joins us now from Chicago with the details.

Ryan, ATF agents are going to play a large role in the strike force, but how exactly is it going to work?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good afternoon, Boris. We're told the 20 agents will be moving here permanently. They'll be combining with 20 police officers and state troopers to have a strike force that will be separate than the police department. We've known for quite some time there's an issue when it comes to guns in Chicago. They're going to be going after illegal gun sales and repeat gun offenders. They'll also have prosecutors tagged with them, sort of trying to change the conversation here.

In fact, we've listened to the crime boss talk about how they want to go after these crimes. Listen to what he had to say yesterday.


ANTHONY RICCIO, CHIEF, BUREAU OF ORGANIZED CRIME, CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT: This strike force, along with other resources provided by the ATF, like the mobile processing van, will significantly help our efforts to trace and stop the flow of illegal guns. The team will work in conjunction with the Chicago Police Department's Bureau of Organized Crime in the field office of the Chicago ATF.

What makes this partnership unique is it will also have prosecutors from the U.S. attorney and the Cook County state's attorney office working alongside the police officers and the federal agents.


YOUNG: Boris, when you think about this, this city had over 700 murders last year. So they definitely want help here with the police department. Crime is down about 14 percent this year. 200 less shootings so far.

But when you talk to police officers, especially detectives who are working the streets, they would love to have the idea of having this advanced technology that, when a gun is shot and they get shell casings or they find a gun, that it can be processed quickly to give them the information they can go to, to try to clear some of these places very quickly. Because, as you know, there's a backlog here.

But when you talk to police officers, they definitely say they need social programs as well to help make sure the community members are safe and have other things to do, instead of getting involved in some of this criminal activity.

SANCHEZ: It absolutely has to be an all-out effort.

Ryan Young, reporting from Chicago, thank you.

Coming up, it's being called the big move. The remarkable relocation of 500 elephants. CNN was the only news outlet allowed to come along for this ride. A must-see CNN exclusive.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[15:47:22] SANCHEZ: Here's an unusual question. How do you move 500 elephants? The answer, of course, is very, very carefully. But the real question is why you would need to move 500 elephants. The answer isn't very funny. To save them from extinction. Elephant populations are quickly plummeting across Africa.

And in a CNN exclusive, David McKenzie explores a bold and high-risk idea to help save hundreds and hundreds of elephants in Malawi.





MCKENZIE: Capture teams at the ready.

This is conversation on its absolute largest scale, the record translocation.


MCKENZIE: Not just a single elephant, entire herds darting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to take the group right from the oldest matriarch down to the smallest baby.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here she comes. Hold on.

MCKENZIE: For the continent's most iconic species, the stakes couldn't be higher.

UNIDENTIFIED PILOT: Look here on the left, a large herd of elephants. This is how they should be. They're in their natural habitat.

MCKENZIE: Tens of thousands lost each year.

(on camera): There are maybe 20 elephants in a herd over there. They've been so successful in this park in protecting the elephants, that there's too many here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Humans and elephants are competing for space. Humans are poaching elephants for the ivory. The idealistic view of Africa as this vast, open landscape where animals can move freely from point A to point B, that doesn't exist anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll take it straight down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can now link effectively managed protected areas across Africa, moving elephants from areas where management has been successful, into areas where elephants have been depleted. And what we're doing here now demonstrates that scale is not a limitation.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): But the operation isn't without risk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Send the vehicle.

MCKENZIE: An adolescent stops breathing.

Every time an elephant goes down, its massive weight becomes a danger to itself.

This is just one of 500 elephants they hope to move. But with the very survival of the species at stake, each one is precious.

(on camera): You were doing everything you can to try and revive that animal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We tried to resuscitate the animal for 10 or 15 minutes. After 10 or 15 minutes, it was just too late.

[15:50:07] MCKENZIE (voice-over): They're pioneering new methods to lessen the danger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're trying to keep the stress on the animals as low as possible. Wake them up as quickly as possible. It reduces the time, reduces the risk.

MCKENZIE: The epic journey north starts the same day, too. It will be repeated several times over the next six weeks for each new herd.

(on camera): What do you see over there?

SAMUEL KAMADO, PARK MANAGER: There's an elephant in there. We brought in six elephants in here last night.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): There used to be 1,500 elephants. Poachers slaughtered all but 70.

But as the gate opens for the new arrivals, Sam Kamado is confident.

(on camera): Is the future bright for elephants in Malawi?

KAMADO: The future looks bright. And these animals have traveled a long distance and finally they are going out into, sort of, freedom. There's hope now we can save the species.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): His team has secured the park for this very moment, its rebirth.

David McKenzie, CNN, Malawi.


SANCHEZ: Straight ahead, a solemn honor, four years in the making. How the state of Arizona is remembering the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots and their brave sacrifice.

But first, speaking of heroes, after losing her 8-yera-old son to leukemia, this week's "CNN Hero," Leslie Morris, has transformed her heartbreak into action.


LESLIE MORRIS, CNN HERO: It's really difficult for kids to spend a lot of time in of hospital. They get so disconnected from family and friends and schools. When we bring them this technology, they're able to dial in and be right in the classroom.



MORRIS: You can see their face light right up. It brings them such joy.


SANCHEZ: To watch Leslie's full story, go to While there, if you know someone who deserves to be a "CNN Hero," please nominate them.

Stay with us. We'll be back in just a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:56:28] SANCHEZ: A Nashville woman, who survived a heart transplant seven years ago, welcomed her newborn daughter on Tuesday. But their time together was short lived. Megan Moss Johnson (ph), 31, the wife of Christian music artist, Nathan Johnson, got to hold her baby, feed and burp her. But eight hours later, the new mother experienced complications and died of unspecified causes. A family friend, Christian singer, Josh Wilson, set up a GoFundMe page for the now-widowed father and his daughter. Wilson had initially hoped to raise $40,000 for Team Johnson. But three days later, supporters have raised nearly $380,000. Wilson tells CNN that Megan (ph) was a strong believer in organ donations and that her organs are going to save 50 lives.

Wildfires fueled by gusty winds and high temperatures are raging in five states. The Goodwin Fire burning in the Prescott National Forest has reached more than 25,000 acres and at only 44 percent containment. And it is expected to grow today because of high winds.

This fire is a haunting reminder of the 19 firefighters who fought and lost their lives in the same part of Arizona protecting the city from one of the deadliest fires in U.S. history. Four years later, Arizona is honoring these heroes where they fell.

Here is CNN's Martin Savidge on how the Granite Mountain Hotshots went "Beyond the Call."


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are the last images of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, preparing to fight the fire that will kill them.

UNIDENTIFIED GRANITE MOUNTAIN HOTSHOT: Granite Mountain Hotshots, we are in front of the flaming front.

SAVIDGE: A wind shift later sends flames racing toward the team, trapping them in a box canyon.

UNIDENTIFIED GRANITE MOUNTAIN HOTSHOT: Our escape route has been cut off.

SAVIDGE: All 19 men died.

In the aftermath, friends, family and officials worked to preserve the now-hallowed ground and the memories of those lost.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had to get it right. You had to get it right.

SAVIDGE: The result is a memorial like no other that will test your heart as well as break it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a good example of the whole way.

SAVIDGE: A rugged seven-mile trail climbing more than 1,000 feet up the side of a mountain.

(on camera): Is it hard to come here?

DEBORAH KINGSTON, MOTHER OF ANDREW ASHCRAFT: Yes and no. No, because I know Andrew is in heaven.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): 29-year-old Andrew Ashcraft was one of the Hotshots killed. His mom remembers him returning from other fires covered in soot, a smile on his face, smelling of smoke as he hugged her.

KINGSTON: After we lost him, I would say to my husband, can you just a fire in the fire pit. I just need to smell Andrew for a minute.

SAVIDGE: On the trail, there are carefully placed plaques every 600 feet.

(on camera): Which means every so often, you meet a new member of the crew.

This is Andrew, Deborah's son.

The last part of the trail is the hardest of all, a 600-foot descent following the same path that the Granite Mountain crew did that day. It's tough physically. But it's very tough emotionally.

(voice-over): Because you end up here, the place where the men made their last stand. Iron crosses marking where each firefighter was found, tightly clustered. The men were as close to each other in death as they were in life.

Among them, Karen and Jim Norris' 28-year-old son.

KAREN NORRIS, MOTHER OF SCOTT NORRIS: Scott was fun-loving and adventurous and he really enjoyed making people laugh. This is a very emotional and very sacred place to me.

SAVIDGE: It's sacred to another family as well. Firefighters can often be found here, like this Montana crew hiking up during our interview.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got to hug you. Moms got to hug. OK?

SAVIDGE: Four years after the deaths of 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots, their memorial is a trail for remembering, and a path toward healing.

Martin Savidge, CNN, Yarnell, Arizona.