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Lava Spewing from Cracks in Hawaiian Streets; More Conflicting Stories about Trump Porn Star Payoff; Credibility Crisis in White House; Trump Reverses Immigration Protection; Lebanon Prepares for Parliamentary Elections; Korean Diplomacy; Black Rhinos Being Reintroduced into Chad. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired May 5, 2018 - 03:00   ET




LYNDA KINKADE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hundreds are forced to abandon their homes as earthquakes and aftershocks trigger eruptions of one of the world's most active volcanoes in Hawaii.

More revelations in a hush money saga. "The New York Times" reporting President Trump knew about the payment his lawyer made to keep a porn star silent months before he denied knowing about it.

And gearing up for parliamentary elections in Lebanon. But this time there are some fresh faces in the running and that could shake things up.

Live from the CNN Center, I'm Lynda Kinkade and this is CNN NEWSROOM.


KINKADE: Well, one community in Hawaii is literally being ripped apart as volcanic cracks are appearing along the eastern edge of the big island.


KINKADE (voice-over): Some fissures are shooting lava several feet into the air like fountains. The power has been cuts and residents say they can smell sulfur dioxide, a toxic gas. The government has declare a state of emergency and ordered nearly 2,000 people to leave their homes.

Hawaii's governor is urging people and planes to stay away from the area.


DAVID IGE, GOVERNOR OF HAWAII: We have issued an FAA order, closing the airspace around the eruption site so they won't be able to come to look at the eruption.

We would encourage visitors to stay away from the Puna area. The rest of the island is open for visitors. And clearly on the west side and Hilo Banyan Drive is still continuing to operate with no impact.


KINKADE: Well, on top of all of this, hundreds of earthquakes shook the island this week, including a strong 6.9 tremor, the strongest to hit Hawaii in decades.



KINKADE: Visitors to the area are also being brought to safety. More than 2,500 are being taken away from the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. That is now closed. As our Stephanie Elam reports, that park is home to a volcanic crater that set off this geological tumult.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Volcanic eruptions spewing molten rock, ash and toxic gases onto Hawaii's big island, the eruption stemming from a series of cracks in Pu'u O'o's rift zone miles from the Kilauea volcano.

Video from earlier this week shows walls of smoke billowing as the vent on Pu'u O'o collapses, leaving behind a red, rocky surface similar to that of Mars, with gaping holes giving us a glimpse of the orange liquid magna smoldering below.

And this time-lapse shot last week shows gushing rivers of lava flowing as night turns to day. Residents are fleeing from their homes as forests burn and roads break open.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can feel the heat coming from the ground. Yes, there's heat coming up out of this.

ELAM (voice-over): Officials warn that the sulfur dioxide levels are extremely dangerous. More than 700 structures and 1,700 people are within the mandatory evacuation area.

RANSON YONEDA, COMMUNITY SHELTER SUPERINTENDENT: Now we have about 100 people up here at the facility, at the shelters. We just got another wave of them that got evacuated because the volcano and of the erupting more up on the street.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lava is coming out in Leilani. So this is real.

ELAM (voice-over): At the center of the activity lies the community of Leilani Estates. A resident there captured this lava fountain, shooting over 100 feet into the air.

We came down the road, all we heard was a boom.

What is that?

And then all of a sudden, you smell the sulfur dioxide. We knew something was happening. Within minutes, we see smoke and now we see all this lava coming across the street and it's pumping right now. So this fissure is opening up and this is our next eruption.

ELAM (voice-over): The eruptions are part of a massive geological event set off by the collapse of the Pu'u O'o crater floor. That collapse led to hundreds of earthquakes this week, which continue to jolt the big island.

IGE: The tough part about this eruption is that it's unpredictable. We don't know which way the lava is going to flow. And we are planning actively for every contingency that we can think of.


KINKADE: Our thanks to Stephanie Elam for that report.

I want to get more now from Janet Snyder in Hilo, Hawaii. She's a public information officer for the Hawaii County mayor's office and she joins us on the line.

Janet, good to have you with us.


KINKADE: I'm guessing most people in Hawaii are pretty used to volcanoes, especially since this one's has been erupting since 1983. Just describe how people are feeling now that we've got these fissures opening up, cracking roads, lava in the middle of streets and this sulfur dioxide gas.

SNYDER: Well, this is different from what you -- if you recall in 2014, there was the town of Pahoa, also in the general area that had some encroaching lava and there was quite a lot of media attention and people in the area were quite nervous about it.

And thankfully the lava did not reach people's homes. One person's orchard burned down. This time it's going down the road in a pretty concentrated subdivision where people live. And about 1,800 people were evacuated yesterday because the lava could pop up anyplace in this rift zone.

It's like a highway of lava underground. And it's proven to pop up in the middle of the street basically.

KINKADE: A highway of lava.

Is that causing a lot of anxiety?


SNYDER: -- you can't see it. That's the thing.

KINKADE: Are people feeling anxious there?


KINKADE: -- those -- there are number of people that are refusing those mandatory evacuations. Do you know how many people have refused to leave?

SNYDER: No, we don't have an estimate of that. We can only sort of judge by how many people live in these subdivisions. As I say, it was approximately 1,800 in the two subdivisions. At its peak, we had about 300 people each in the two shelters we opened yesterday.

But a lot of people, this is kind of an old-fashioned --


SNYDER: -- community where family and friends take you in. So it's kind of hard to judge but we know there are people who haven't reached out to first responders and are in their homes still.

KINKADE: We know so far at least two homes have been destroyed and six fissures have opened up, tearing apart roads.

How much of the main island is actually affected in terms of -- I know you said there's two communities, two subdivisions.



SNYDER: It's kind of hard to describe without showing a map but it is -- if you -- jeez, I really -- I cannot tell you how much of a stretch it is. The rift zone itself runs from Pu'u 'O'o Crater, which is the middle of the national park, all the way to Kapoho, which is at the ocean. And it's a long, wide swath of territory.

But the places where the lava actually appears is relatively concentrated at the moment. So it's kind of -- I'm sorry but I can't really describe it adequately without a visual.

KINKADE: We're actually showing a map right now you as describe it, so that was actually very helpful.

Can you talk to us about the concerns of the toxic gas, that sulfur dioxide, and how you're dealing with that?

SNYDER: Yes and that is a good question. It is of considerable concern. That was the main reason why Leilani Estates and Lanipuna, Puna Gardens, where we mandatorily evacuated people because that kind of sulfur dioxide gas will make you sick; if you have respiratory problems, it could kill you.

So our first responders, in fact, at this moment are saying, if you get in trouble, we will not be able to your aid with these conditions, the present conditions of the sulfur dioxide.


KINKADE: And that message is to those people refusing to leave, right? SNYDER: Oh, yes. It's been put out everyplace -- social media, television, radio. Radio is a big media here, by the way. Everybody listens to the radio.

KINKADE: OK. Janet Snyder, we wish you all the best and all the people there in Hawaii on the main island. Thanks so much for your time.

SNYDER: Right. Keep us in your prayers.

KINKADE: We will. Thanks very much.

We've got more details and more conflicting stories now about the hush money paid by the U.S. president's lawyer to silence porn star Stormy Daniels. "The New York Times" report that Donald Trump actually knew about the payment several months before telling reporters aboard Air Force One that he knew nothing about it.

And it comes as the White House spent a good part of Friday doing damage control. senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny reports.



How's Rudy doing, Mr. President?

ZELENY (voice-over): President Trump shrugging his shoulders before throwing his long-time friend and new lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, under the bus.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So Rudy knows it is a witch hunt. He started yesterday. He will get his facts straight.

ZELENY (voice-over): Damning words from the president, after Giuliani created a firestorm this week by saying the president knew about and repaid hush money to Stormy Daniels.

TRUMP: It's actually very simple. But there has been a lot of misinformation really, people wanting to say -- and I say you know what, learn before you speak. It's a lot easier.

ZELENY (voice-over): Yet he never said what Giuliani got wrong, sparking even more confusion.

TRUMP: Rudy is great. But Rudy had just started and he wasn't totally familiar with every -- you know, with everything.

ZELENY (voice-over): Traveling to Dallas to address the NRA convention today, the president fueling the White House credibility crisis. He insisted he hadn't changed his story on Stormy Daniels, even though he had.

TRUMP: We're not changing any stories. All I'm telling you is that this country is right now running so smooth. And to be bringing up that kind of crap and to be bringing up witch hunts all the time, that is all you want to talk about, you're going to see --


TRUMP: -- excuse me, excuse me. No, but you have to -- excuse me, you take a look at what I said. You go back and take a look. You'll see what I said.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said no when I asked you --

TRUMP: Excuse me, excuse me. You go take a look at what we said.

ZELENY (voice-over): Here is exactly what he said a month ago aboard Air Force One.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?

TRUMP: No. No. What else?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then why did Michael -- do you know where he got the money to make that payment?

TRUMP: No, I don't know.

ZELENY (voice-over): In a statement, Giuliani sought to clean up the confusion, saying his comments about the payment "were not describing my understanding of the president's knowledge but instead my understanding of these matters."

Meanwhile today, the president all but closing the door to an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller, saying he wouldn't be treated fairly.

TRUMP: Nobody wants to speak more than me. In fact, against my lawyers, because most lawyers say --


TRUMP: -- never speak on anything. I would love to speak because we've done nothing wrong. If I thought it was fair, I would override my lawyers.

ZELENY (voice-over): The president also offering a rare public embrace of embattled White House chief of staff John Kelly.

TRUMP: General Kelly is doing a fantastic job. There has been such false reporting about our relationship. We have a great relationship.

JOHN F. KELLY, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I would just say it is an absolute privilege to work for the president that has gotten the economy going. We're about to have a breakthrough, I believe, on North Korea.

ZELENY (voice-over): As for North Korea, the president saying today that details for his historic meeting with Kim Jong-un had been set.

TRUMP: We now have a date and we have a location. We'll be announcing it soon.

ZELENY: So at the end of all that, after a confusing week here at the White House, not much clarity on whether the president did or didn't know about those payments to Stormy Daniels or what his relationship is with Rudy Giuliani.

One thing is clear; there is still a credibility crisis here in the Oval Office -- Jeff Zeleny, CNN, the White House.


KINKADE: There's possibly more legal trouble for Mr. Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen. "The Wall Street Journal" reports that as the 2016 residential campaign was heating up, Cohen took out three lines of credit, totaling some $774,000.

One was on his Manhattan apartment, another on a Trump Tower condo owned by his wife's parents. Cohen is under criminal investigation because of his business dealings, potentially including his role in the Stormy Daniels' payoff, which he said he got -- he paid out of a home equity line.

Still to come, Lebanon gets ready to vote for members of parliament. How new voters and a new law could challenge the old guard -- next.

Also ahead, helping black rhinos avoid extinction by returning them to the places where they once thrived.




KINKADE: Welcome back.

Some 90,000 Hondurans in the U.S. are now facing deportation. It comes after the Trump administration decide to end the protected status of immigrants who came to U.S. after the 1998 hurricane in Hondurans.

They'll have 18 months to make other arrangements to stay in the U.S. or leave the country. The Trump administration has already ended the protected status of nearly 60,000 Haitians, more than a quarter million Salvadorians and 5,000 people from Nicaragua, nearly 15,000 from Nepal.

Meanwhile, most of the asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexican border have been allowed to crossed into the U.S. They were part of a caravan from Central America, hoping to be allowed to stay in the U.S.

At last check, only 10 migrants were left on the Mexican side of the border. All this as U.S. President Trump is sending National Guard troops to secure the border. So far about 1,000 troops have been deployed.

Friday turned into another day of violence along the Israeli-Gaza --


KINKADE: -- border. Israel says Palestinian protesters set fire to parts of a border crossing in that pipe carrying fuel to Gaza were damaged. Israeli authorities say around 10,000 people rioted at several locations.

Israel reportedly responded with live rounds and tear gas. Palestinian officials say at least 400 people were wounded but no one was killed. Friday marked six weeks since Palestinians began their so-called March of Return protests.

Lebanon's parliamentary election is drawing global attention as candidates wrap up their campaign. The E.U. says it's sending around 130 election observers. It's Lebanon's first vote in nine years and it will likely shape regional politics.

Iranian-backed Hezbollah looks to gain seats while its main rival is part of the prime minister, Saad Hariri, who has been supported by Saudi Arabia. But all power struggles will also facing some fresh challenges. New voters and a new election law could change up the status quo. For more, here's CNN's Ben Wedeman.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Showered with rice, prime minister Saad Hariri takes to the stage on the last day of campaigning. This is his stronghold, Sunni West Beirut, where he is received more like a rock star than a politician.

Since becoming prime minister for a second time in 2016, he has managed to bring relative stability to an often deeply divided country.

SAAD HARIRI, FORMER LEBANESE PRIME MINISTER: What I did two years ago is reunited the country around the political consensus.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): His consensus involved forming a government that included ministers from Iranian-backed Hezbollah. It was a marriage of convenience that didn't please everyone, particularly his Saudi backers.

But Lebanon has been spared a significant spillover of the violence from neighboring Syria. And for a country with vivid memories of its own 15-year civil war, that is no small achievement.

WEDEMAN: This is Lebanon's first election in nine years.

The question is, will all the new voters go for the old politicians or try something new?

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Nohad Machnouk is Lebanon's interior minister and a close political ally of Hariri. He recognizes the times, they are a-changing.

NOHAD MACHNOUK, LEBANESE INTERIOR MINISTER: When you have 800,000 new voters, it means that you have to change all your attitude. You cannot do the same like before, because they will not accept.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): A new election law has opened the door to more independent candidates, many eager to shake off Lebanon's legacy of sectarian politics.

Gilbert Doumit lacks the resources to run a flashy campaign. He just has plenty of energy and a group of dedicated supporters.

"Don't we want new people?" he asked a possible voter.

Impatient, like the drivers in Beirut's congested streets, he wants to rip power from the old elite.

GILBERT DOUMIT, LEBANESE PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATE: Because we want to take our country back. We lost it for the last 50 years within the hands of people who don't want to improve it.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Lebanese voters are faced with a mind-boggling array of choices. Politics here is a confusing kaleidoscope of religions, clans, parties and personalities, ranging from the likes of Hezbollah, whose dedicated supporters carried on their rally in a downpour of rain and hail...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

WEDEMAN (voice-over): -- to the likes of Rania Masri, a civil society candidate running in the mountains of Beirut. She is one of 86 women running for parliament this year, seven times more than in 2009.

RANIA MASRI, LEBANESE PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATE: More women are educated, more women are employed, more women are being financially independent, more women are single. There is a shift demographically.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Just one shift in a country where change may come one leaflet at a time -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, Beirut.


KINKADE: Indian forecasters warn five more days of isolated thunderstorms, dust storms and high winds are on the way. Wild weather earlier this week killed more than 114 people in northern states. It knocked out infrastructure and trapped people in debris.

Officials say Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal, was the worst-hit city. Dozens there were killed.

North Korea is proposing a new airline route to connect Pyongyang to the South Korean capital, Seoul. The flight would link the North Korean capital with the Incheon region that serves Seoul. The U.N.'s International Civilian Aviation Organization is sending a team to North Korea next week to discuss the request.


KINKADE: Well, black rhinos are teetering on the edge of extinction, mostly due to the relentless poaching of the unique double horns. Only about 5,000 of the endangered animals still exist in the African wild. Now an ambitious project is returning black rhinos to places where they haven't been seen in years. CNN's Robyn Kriel has our report.


ROBYN KRIEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Relocating a rhino is no easy feat but conservationists with the international group African Parks are taking on the challenge.

Nearly 50 years after the species was wiped out in the Central African country of Chad, six critically endangered black rhinos are being transported to the Zakouma National Park from South Africa. It's an effort to bring the large mammals back to their former ranges on the continent.

SAM FERRIERA, SOUTH AFRICAN NATIONAL PARKS: The key element of when you have got relatively large populations, like South Africa's got, so they can serve as good sources for other places where rhinos used to live, that they now locally extinct, they actually reintroduce rhinos to those areas and allow rhinos to start living in the range that they formerly had in Africa.

And this is a very good thing. But it is always a small start. You have got to see big picture but you have got to start small and you've got to act now.

KRIEL (voice-over): The rhinos were sedated and put into specially designed crates for the 4,800-kilometer flight. The group's goal is to restore biodiversity in Chad. They are also hoping the animals will breed to increase the population of rhinos there.

Rhinos are one of the most threatened species on the planet. According to African parks, there are fewer than 25,000 rhinos in the African wild. Of those, only 5,000 are black rhinos. The rest are white rhinos.

The species has been hit hard by poachers, who supply their horns to a booming Asian market, where they are used for medicinal purposes.

Once they arrive in Chad, the rhinos will be placed into holding pens before being released into a temporary sanctuary to familiarize them with their new surroundings. Zakouma National Park staff have undertaken years of research, planning and preparation and received training in rhino tracking and monitoring to make a park a new safe home for the rhinos -- Robyn Kriel, CNN.


KINKADE: That does it for this edition of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Lynda Kinkade. I'll be back with the headlines in just a moment.