Return to Transcripts main page


Women Score Big Political Wins; China Trade Negotiations; State Department Warning U.S. Citizens in China; Journalists in North Korea; Lava Flows Near Power Plant. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired May 23, 2018 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Here's a Democrat -- and I would just say this all about last night, guys. This -- the information we got last night told us a little bit more, I think, about where the Democratic Party is right now, where that Democratic electorate is more than it necessarily tells us about what's going to happen in November. And in this race, Stacey Abrams, as you know, place a huge bet about the way to run an election is to expand and actually change the makeup of the electorate, bring more Democrats into the electorate, rather than concentrate, even in a red state like Georgia, to appeal to moderate Republican white voters who can be brought over to the Democratic side. And that bet paid off huge. I mean it was -- it was really part of both Stacey Evans who lost and Stacey Abrams' campaign as this notion of how Democrats should be campaigning and appealing to the electorate. And Stacey Abrams got a huge vote of confidence in her pursuit last night.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, and to that end, our friends Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin wrote in "The New York Times" in their wrap- up about this, that Stacey Abrams signaled that she is unlikely to spend much time pleading with rural whites to return to a Democratic Party and they've largely abandoned.

And, you know, Harry, and if you expand that out nationally, you know, Conor Lamb ran the other way. I mean Conor Lamb ran toward the right or toward the center.


BERMAN: Now Stacey Abrams is running toward the left.


BERMAN: Is this, you know, an interesting or perilous strategy for Democrats?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER AND ANALYST: Well, I think nationally it's a perilous strategy, right, because we know that the way that political power is divided in this country is not only in geographic centers where people actually live, but across rural areas. And that's why you saw Conor Lamb's strategy. And, in fact, you see throughout all of these races nationally, Democrats need to outperform significantly nationally in order to take back the House because of how political power is divided. HARLOW: Looking at the other states overnight, David, I mean you had

Amy McGrath in Kentucky, you had Lupe Valdez in Texas in the gubernatorial run-up who becomes the first Hispanic female, the first openly gay candidate to win a major party's gubernatorial nomination in Texas. You're the woman, you're the outsider, or both?

CHALIAN: Yes, it doesn't look like Bill Clinton's Democratic Party much anymore, right, in terms of these nominees coming through.


CHALIAN: Certainly women have -- female candidates have just been having tremendous success in Democratic primaries this cycle, Poppy. And that's part of the face that Democratic primary voters are eager to put out. Obviously in the aftermath of the Me Too movement, the resistant movement against President Trump, this has been part of the fuel that has been firing Democratic Party politics. And you're seeing it play out with some of these nominations.

Now, in some cases, like Stacey Abrams let's say, or even a better case might be the gubernatorial candidate in Texas, these are uphill battles that these women, Democratic nominees, have to fight in November. But Democratic voters are clearly putting a different face on the party.

BERMAN: So, Harry, President Trump, last night, was at a Susan B. Anthony dinner. This is largely about abortion. But he was talking about the midterm elections and he said something out loud and you could almost collectively feel every Republican strategist in the country cringe. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You're vote in 2018 is every bit as important as your vote in 2016. Although I'm not sure I really believe that. But, you know. I don't know who the hell wrote that line. I'm not sure. But it's still important, remember that.


BERMAN: Look, it's funny because he obviously feels that way, but, you know, in midterm elections the key for anyone running a campaign is to make voters feel that it's just important and it just never is as important. He said it out loud.

ENTEN: Right. I mean turnout in midterm elections is far lower than it is in presidential year elections. And, more than that, when your party doesn't control the White House, you see a boost in turnout versus when it does. So Trump, Republicans in the White House, they need that boost. And he's just saying, ah, forget about it.

BERMAN: Ah, forget about it.

All right, Harry --

HARLOW: For the moment, hey, he was honest. CHALIAN: That's going down as one of the best Trump lines in my book. I loved it.


BERMAN: It was really good.

HARLOW: Yes. I think you're right.

BERMAN: All right, David and Harry, great to have you with us. Thanks so much.

HARLOW: Tonight, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi answers your questions in a live CNN town hall hosted by our very own Chris Cuomo. It is 9:00 p.m. Eastern only right here.

BERMAN: All right, as we speak, CNN's Will Ripley is one of only a handful of journalists inside North Korea. He's about to get a first- hand look at this nuclear test site that North Korea says it is destroying. We'll have much more right after the break.


[09:38:34] BERMAN: All right, new this morning, mixed messages on just how these trade negotiations with China are really going.


BERMAN: The president, in a somewhat confused tweet, says that things are moving along quite nicely, but he also says a new agreement will likely have a different structure because the original one will be too hard to get done.

HARLOW: Let's bring in our chief business correspondent Christine Romans.

And, look, this after -- is after the president has gotten a lot of heat, even from members of his own party, about looking like he's going soft on China.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Look, it turns out winning trade wars is not easy, right?


ROMANS: And trade deals aren't easy. The president dashing hope of an imminent trade deal with China here, guys. It's in conflict with what we've heard from members of his team. They touted a potential agreement. Now the president says he's not satisfied with trade talks so far.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no deal. We will see what happens. But that deal -- I will say, that deal could be much different from the deal that finally emerges. And it may be a much better deal for the United States.


ROMANS: There's a lot of moving parts here. Trump also denied the U.S. struck a deal with ZTE in exchange for concessions from Beijing. The fate of that Chinese tech firm has been tangled up in all of this. Last month the U.S. banned ZTE from buying vital U.S. parts. Basically putting it out of business. That was punishment for violating U.S. sanctions and lying about it.

But then a lifeline from Trump, who said he prefers instead a big fine for ZTE or management changes. Guys, enter Congress. The powerful Senate Banking Committee moving to block the president's lifeline to ZTE, saying it puts an economic bargaining chip over national security. Intelligence agencies, as you know, they warned ZTE technology could be used for spying.

[09:40:07] This was unanimous. And Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen, who crafted the amendment, said this, he congratulated the bipartisan victory. He tweeted he was glad the Senate is putting America's national security first, not jobs, in China. This heads to the Senate pretty quickly here, I think. But this was everybody on the Senate Banking Committee said, nope.


ROMANS: Nope, we're not going to allow --

HARLOW: Across party lines.

ROMANS: The ZTE to sell stuff to U.S. companies without perfection verification that they're not cheating (ph).

BERMAN: Yes. And, meanwhile, to be clear, we do not know the status of these trade negotiations.


BERMAN: It's not clear in any way.


BERMAN: All right, Christine Romans, thank you very much.

HARLOW: Thank you.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: And be sure to watch "Markets Now" streaming live at

This morning a serious health warning from the State Department after a government employee suffered a traumatic brain injury while working in China.

HARLOW: Let's go straight to our Matt Rivers. He's live for us in Beijing.

This is a warning that came out early this morning from the U.S. government. They're investigating how this happened, right?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they are. You know, we don't usually get health warnings from the U.S. embassy here, but a lot of Americans who sign up for that e-mail chain, like myself, got e-mails mid-afternoon warning of what happened to one government employee. So this message said in part that this employee reported abnormal sensations of sound and pressure as they wrote. It happened from late 2017 through April 2018. We know that employee went back to the United States. And when he got back there, he was diagnosed with a mild traumatic brain injury, although no similar symptoms had been reported among other employees.

And if that sounds sort of similar to you, it sort of sounded similar to us too. And that's because of what happened in Cuba last year. You'll remember there was about two dozen State Department employees, employees of the U.S. government and their families, that reported concussion like symptoms. Some of them were diagnosed with mild brain injuries, like the ones that happened in China. That happened in 2016, November, and the president did at one point say that the Cubans were, quote, responsible for diplomats falling ill.

Now, the State Department then walked that back saying Cuba was just responsible for diplomatic well-being. And really what this is, is just a whole bunch of confusion. It doesn't seem like the State Department really has an idea of what happened in Cuba. There's no real idea what happened in China yet. But the fact that they're happening on the other side of the world from each other, similar symptoms, similar diagnoses, this is very strange and the State Department says they are looking in to it.

BERMAN: All right, Matt Rivers for us. Matt, thanks very much.

All right, happening now, witnessing history, maybe. Right now a group of foreign journalists headed to the North Korea nuclear test site that is due to be destroyed. This is a goodwill gesture to South Korea and the United States prior to these negotiations and meeting that might happen. Among those journalists, as we speak, CNN's Will Ripley.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After more than 24 hours of waiting at this luxury resort for senior North Korean military officials, where our movements have essentially been restricted to these well-manicured gardens, we're now being told that our trip to the North Korean nuclear site at (INAUDIBLE) is likely a go.

A plane carrying South Korean journalists arrived here in Wonson (ph). They're a last minute addition to this trip. They initially had been denied visas amid rising tensions between South Korea and the United States. There's also that rhetoric out of Washington. Words from John Bolton comparing North Korea to Libya that really angered the North Koreans. Joint military drills in South Korea also escalating tensions here on the peninsula. And even President Trump saying there's a chance that the summit with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, may not happen on June 12th, but the North Koreans appear to be moving forward with this trip for a small group of foreign journalists to travel to the nuclear site at (INAUDIBLE).

It's a very long journey deep into the mountains of North Korea. We're expecting an 11 hour train ride, at least four hours by bus and then another hour long hike to get to this site. We might be out of communication for a while but when we come back we should have some extraordinary images to show you from a place that no foreign journalist had ever been allowed to visit before.

I'm Will Ripley, CNN, Wonson (ph), North Korea.


HARLOW: Remarkable that he's able to take that trip. And we'll see those images as soon as possible.

Will, thank you.

Meantime, new volcanic eruptions, ash, toxic gas, causing a nightmare for residents on the big island of Hawaii. We'll hear from one man that was hit by a bowling ball size lava bomb outside his home. A live report ahead.

BERMAN: Doesn't sound like the kind of thing you want to be hit by.



[09:48:51] HARLOW: A volcanic nightmare for the residents on the big island of Hawaii because this lava/ash/toxic gas are continuing to threaten the communities around the Kilauea volcano. You're looking at a live picture of a new eruption. It began late last night. Authorities are concerned about this lava flowing right up to a geothermal plant.

BERMAN: Officials will hand out masks today to protect residents from the large amounts of volcanic ash in the air.

Let's get right to Scott McLean, who is right there in the middle of it.

Scott, give us the latest.


So the big concern at this hour is that geothermal power plant and what authorities are doing to mitigate any risk there. So there are 11 of these geothermal wells that have essentially been poured cold water down, except they had an issue with one of them. Officials now believe that they have managed to plug it and so they think that the risk has been neutralized for now.

The governor even attended a public meeting last night to try to calm whatever fears this community has. He also said that the lava that is encroaching very slowly on to that property is currently more than a mile out. So at least for now there is no immediate threat caused by that plant.

[09:50:06] Now you mentioned those fissures and obviously we're looking at that live picture of that absolute gusher that continues to spew lava that eventually will make its way toward the ocean. Some of those fissures continue to bubble up. Old ones are reactivating. Others are dying down, including the fissure that injured Darryl Clinton, the only injury from the Kilauea eruption so far. Clinton was injured over the weekend by a lava bomb that hit him while he was standing on his porch. It actually hit him with so much force that it knocked him off balance, he dropped his phone, which melted. And it was so hot that it actually caught his porch on fire.

Now, I spoke to him before this happened, when he was trying to protect two homes. And I also caught up with him in the hospital yesterday where he is in surprisingly good spirits despite the fact thee he has a metal rod in his leg, he will be off his feet for six weeks. He will likely have more surgeries in addition to the two he's had already. But the bottom line is, he knows that he got lucky here. Listen.


DARRYL CLINTON, INJURED BY LAVA BOMB: It was the most forceful impact I've ever had in my body in my life. And I've been hit by big waves and various things. That was just incredibly powerful and hot. It burned.


MCLEAN: So, John and Poppy, there are obviously earthquakes continuing in this area, as well, but they seem to be decreasing in frequency. At least they have as of late. And then also the summit of Kilauea, which is about 20 miles from where I am right now, the big issue there is these ash clouds that are coming out of the main crater. But the explosions that we've been seeing have been a lot smaller lately.

HARLOW: And how long -- I don't know if we can tell, the geological experts can tell, how long these are expected to last?

MCLEAN: Sure, Poppy. So geologists have essentially been using past eruptions to try to gauge how long this could happen. But all they'll say is it could be weeks, it could be months. And yesterday, at this public meeting, they said, look, the bottom line is, they don't know. Things don't seem to be slowing down at any sort of pace. And so right now geologists are just saying, hey, this is going to go on indefinitely. We will just take it day by day.

HARLOW: Scott, thank you. Day after day, the same image becomes no less stunning.

BERMAN: It really is.

HARLOW: Meantime, Santa Fe High School teachers and staff returning to the school today to pick up their belongings after that student murdered eight of his fellow students and two teachers on Friday morning at that high school. Students will resume class next week.

Meantime, it's day two of a three-day roundtable discussion on school safety there in Texas. Governor Greg Abbott meeting with gun rights and gun control advocacy groups talking about potential further regulations, mental health and causes of gun violence.

BERMAN: America has lost one of its truly greatest writers. Philip Roth, just think of "Goodbye Columbus," "Portnoy's Complaint," "Human Stain," "American Pastoral." This was 2011 when he was award the National Humanities Medal by President Obama. He also won just about every other imaginable literary award except the Nobel Prize for literature, which he deserves. His career spans decades. He was putting out a book a year until just a few years ago. A remarkable, meaningful career. Philip Roth was 85 years old.

HARLOW: Meantime, Misty Copeland has already made history around the world, becoming the first African-American principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. But today her fight is far beyond the stage. She talks openly about racism, something she experienced herself as a young dancer. She says it is still pervasive in the ballet world and she is determined to change that. I sat down with her for our series "Boss Files." Here's a clip.


MISTY COPELAND, PRINCIPAL DANCER, AMERICAN BALLET THEATRE: The ballet world doesn't really celebrate or have women of color. I was the only black female dancer in the American Ballet Theatre for over a decade. And, you know, that's when I -- you know, I slowly started to realize that I -- my purpose was bigger than just being a dancer. And I felt like what I stood for and my voice and what I represented was more than me. It was an opportunity for these little brown girls and boys to be able to look at me and see themselves and see a future for themselves in a space where they're not really celebrated or accepted.

HARLOW: How do you think about your purpose today? I mean is it to help heal the wounds that racism has caused in this country? Is it to help close that gap and that understanding?

COPELAND: It's not just the little girls that I meet that experience insane things, you know, at seven years old being a black girl in their school and they're being told by their teachers, you know, you don't belong here. Your skin is the wrong color. Your feet are too flat. Your hair is not -- you know, we can't work with your hair and put it in the styles that it needs to be done, you know, for a classical ballet.

And then I meet this other generation of women that say, had I had someone like you, I would have pursued ballet.

HARLOW: Right.

[09:55:07] COPELAND: And it's like, how many amazing artists have we missed out on because they weren't given support and an opportunity? HARLOW: What will have told you, I succeeded?

COPELAND: I already feel that.


COPELAND: I feel like the impact that I see on communities like I grew up in, the diversity I see in the audience at the ballet, that's what I'm here for. I think that's my purpose, to bring people in, to make them feel that they belong, to give a future to young minority dancers that never saw this as a possibility for them.


HARLOW: She is remarkable. You can hear our entire conversation on my latest podcast "Boss Files" on, iTunes Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcast.

BERMAN: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says Russia is already interfering in the upcoming midterm elections. You'll remember, the secretary of Homeland Security said she's seen no evidence that Russia meddled in the last election to help Donald Trump. The secretary of state is speaking right now. We are following it. Stay with us.