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Oldest Pearl Harbor Survivor Commemorates Memorial Day; Dueling GOP Factions Battle Over Immigration Bill; Hawaii Lava Flows Destroy More Buildings As Residents Flee. Aired 12-1pm ET

Aired May 26, 2018 - 12:00   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, and welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Thanks so much for being with me this Saturday.

We start with breaking news, President Trump announcing an American prisoner, Joshua Holt, will return to Washington tonight from Venezuela and be reunited with his family. For the past two years, the former Mormon missionary from Utah has been jailed in Venezuela, making pleas for the American government to save him.

Holt traveled to Venezuela to marry his then-girlfriend, Tamara. They planned to return to the United States with her two daughters and start a life together. Days after their wedding, the Venezuelan police started conducting door to door searches and claimed to find a weapon their house.

But the couple claims they were framed. The president tweeting, "Looking forward to seeing Joshua Holt this evening in the White House. The great people of Utah are celebrating."

CNN's Sarah Westwood joins us now from the White House. So, tell us more about Holt's story. We understand that he is now at the U.S. Embassy there?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN REPORTER: That's right, Fred. President Trump celebrating the release of an American, Joshua Holt, from a Venezuelan prison where he'd been held since June 2016 without ever going to trial.

Trump confirming the news via Twitter and saying the 26-year-old Utah native would be here at the White House by later tonight. Now the Holt's family has also confirmed that Joshua has been released saying just moments ago in a statement via their lawyer, "We are grateful for the joint efforts made during this time of anguish that we have lived.

We ask that we be allowed to reunite with our son and his wife prior to any interviews or statements." Now just days ago, Fred, Joshua posted a video message to (inaudible) Media where he appeared to plead with the U.S. government for help securing his release and expressed fears for his safety. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSHUA HOLT, FREED AMERICAN PRISON IN VENEZUELA: I just wanted to ask and plead once again to my government, to my people, to my senators, and to everyone in the United States to please not leave me alone here, please come and save my wife, myself, and the people that need help here.


WESTWOOD: Now, Holt's release comes against the backdrop of a tense relationship between the Trump administration and the Maduro regime. Holt and his wife as we understand it are now at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas and are expected to depart any moment for the airport to return to the United States -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Sarah Westwood, appreciate that.

All right. Now to the diplomatic drama playing out on the world stage, the highly anticipated sit-down between President Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un still in limbo.

The president tweeting moments ago, the failing "New York Times," quote, "a senior White House official who doesn't exist, as saying even if the meeting were reinstated, holding it on June 12 would be impossible given the lack of time and the amount of planning needed. Wrong again. Use real people, not phony sources."

According to CNN reporting, this official said that this is a background briefing on Thursday and in the latest twist, the North and South Korean leaders are holding a surprise second meeting today in hopes of saving that U.S. summit.

CNN's Matt Rivers is live for us out of Seoul now. So, Matt, new overnight meeting, and those pictures showing a very chummy meeting between the South and North Korean leaders.

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, very chummy meeting, Fred, and a very unexpected one. This news came as quite a shock to most people here in South Korea, who had spent the last couple of days being extremely disappointed after what they viewed as a major setback with the United States canceling that planned summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un.

But here's what we know happened. We know it was around 3:00 p.m. local Seoul time, that would have been 2:00 a.m. Eastern, that South Korean President Moon Jae-in went to the demilitarized zone, crossed onto the North Korean side and he met with Kim Jong-un for about two hours or so.

The substantive details about what was discussed there, we are not really sure. The South Korean side just releasing a couple of details saying they've talked about implementing the details of the agreement that -- the joint agreement that both North and South Korea signed the first time these leaders met. That would be almost one month ago to the day, in fact now after midnight one month ago to the day. But the bigger point, frankly, Fred, is that they talked in frank terms about this potential North Korea/U.S. summit.

Now we are expecting to get some more details tomorrow morning here in Seoul. That would be around 9:00 p.m. tonight U.S. time on the east coast where the South Korean President Moon Jae-in is expected to brief reporters and give a little bit more detail about what was discussed.

But taken in totality here what this shows you is that the United States, the South Koreans, and the North Koreans, despite the fact that the summit isn't scheduled back on yet, there is a lot going on behind the scenes and now in public trying to make that happen.

[12:05:13] WHITFIELD: Matt Rivers, thank you so much.

All right. I want to bring in now Bill Richardson, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, governor of New Mexico, and was a special envoy to North Korea where he helped secure the release Americans there.

So, Ambassador Richardson, good to see you. I do want to get your take on all that's taking place with North Korea. But first, I want to ask you about the release of American prisoner, Josh Holt, in Venezuela where you apparently had a pretty significant role in all of this. Explain the circumstances and how you were able to help win his release.

BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Well, I think main credit has to go to the Trump administration under Secretary Tom Shannon, Senators Hatch, Durbin, Corker. They got the release. I had met with the Venezuelans several times, I met with Josh's parents.

But the good news is that, you know, he was arrested on very, very trumped-up charges, that he was a spy. We've had a terrible relationship with the Venezuelan government. But the good news is that no American hostage should feel abandoned by their government.

And the good news is that some of these hostages, three from North Korea and now this one, very significant cases, they're home. Josh Holt is going to see his parents soon. It's a good ending. But, you know, this is what happens, Fredericka, countries that are hostile to us seize Americans and try to use them as bargaining chips.

WHITFIELD: And so, to North Korea, in what way if any will you be involved in assisting in these U.S./North Korean talks, given your success rate of helping to win the release of Americans who have been held in North Korea? Do you see yourself in any way being instrumental in helping to, whether it be salvage or secure this upcoming or the planned meeting or summit?

RICHARDSON: Well, no. No. I'm not part of the negotiating team. Secretary Pompeo has reached out to me, I've given me advice. I think what needs to happen with this news, Fredricka, with this news, one, the Americans, our negotiating team, we're speaking with too many voices.

We have to let Secretary Pompeo, who has met with Kim Jong-un twice, lead the negotiations. There are some people in the White House who I think don't want these negotiations to succeed as much as the State Department and diplomats want it.

And then secondly, I think we have to find a way to notify our allies. Here we have the South Korean president bailing us out again. The Japanese didn't know, the South Koreans didn't know about the cancellation. I'm OK with there's a postponement on this summit, but I hope it takes place.

WHITFIELD: So, you say, you know, the South Koreans bailing us out on this, do you believe when you look at the pictures we're about to show again of the South Korean and North Korean leader meeting, the handshake, even kind of a bear hug there, what does that tell you about the influence now of South Korea in helping to salvage or make happen any kind of planned summit with the U.S.?

RICHARDSON: Well, South Korea has the most at stake. They have 25 million people in Seoul vulnerable to a North Korean artillery, missile, or nuclear attack. This president of South Korea has banked his political legacy on this summit happening and an easing of tensions, so that's good.

Even though we didn't notify him about the cancellation of the summit, he got back to South Korea and read the announcement, so did the Japanese, without notification. We have to get those things done correctly.

I know the president has a unique negotiating style, but to undermine your friends and allies and not tell them what's going on, that's not good. And you know, this zigzag foreign policy that we have, you know, this is the president's style, but I'm not sure it is serving our interests right now.

PAUL: Ever the consummate diplomat, we're hearing from you and your word choice, but when you say this White House is speaking with too many voices, is the difference here that we're just seeing all of this played out loud, and typically this is how diplomacy happens, something may be on or off again, but the difference here is that it is playing out on a public stage, but that this sequence of events is rather typical?

RICHARDSON: No, it's not typical. Diplomacy is carried out largely in secret. It's done discreetly. The North Koreans, the South Koreans, they're very formal.

[12:10:06] So, when things go public this, that's not good. I'm also saying the North Koreans overplayed their hand, they insulted the vice president, they made some very harsh statements. That's the way they negotiate, that's the way they are. They don't think like we do. That's unfortunate. But I think you combine that with a president who is very impulsive, who shoots very much from the hip, and you get these situations. Nonetheless, I think the president and his team deserve credit for having this summit, trying to get it reconstituted.

But we'll see what happens. For the good of the world, national security, U.S. interests, this summit should happen. But if it's postponed two weeks, three weeks, that's OK, maybe we can get our act together.

WHITFIELD: And then earlier this week, that apparent destruction, these tunnels at the nuclear research facility there in North Korea, A, do you believe that those were the real deal, were they research facilities, were these kind of dummy facilities, was it a real, you know, destruction given that there were no inspectors there? How much of what the world saw do you believe?

RICHARDSON: Well, I think it was a gesture by the North Koreans. They always slip some facilities underground, they don't tell you. You've got to watch them. You have to have inspections. Journalists aside, they were initially going to invite nuclear experts, but they didn't.

So, you know, this was done as a positive gesture. They also released three Americans. They also said that we can have our military exercises with South Korea, the United States. So, you know, think Kim Jong-un, except for those statements they made about the vice president, you know, they're trying to salvage the summit too.

Both leaders need this summit. The international community needs this summit, the Korean peninsula. So, hopefully it will work out. But doing this publicly, zigzag, roller coaster diplomacy, I'm not an advocate of that. But if it works and there is a summit and good results, we're going to be OK.

WHITFIELD: All right, Ambassador Bill Richardson, always a pleasure, thank you so much.

RICHARDSON: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Up next, he's being hailed as a hero. An Indiana teacher runs toward danger when shots ring out at a middle school. We'll tell you what he did and why his students credit him for saving their lives.



WHITFIELD: All right. We now know the name of the young victim shot in a classroom in Indiana. The family of 13-year-old Ella Whistler says she is in critical but stable condition. She was shot by a fellow student yesterday at Noblesville West Middle School. Other students described the chaotic scene.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We heard gunshots. He was in the room right next to us and it sounded like the chairs were dropping. It was really scary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like one of those things. We don't really have time to think. It's either do it now or be killed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Code red, code red, high, there's an intruder in the building, bomb threats. I ran and hid on the table as my fellow classmates did as well.


WHITFIELD: A teacher is credited with saving many lives. Police say Jason Seaman tackled the gunman but was wounded in the process. President Trump tweeting a short time ago, "Thanks to very brave teacher and hero, Jason Seaman of Noblesville, Indiana, for his heroic act in saving so many precious young lives. His quick and automatic action is being talked about all over the world."

CNN correspondent, Dianne Gallagher is here with more on this. So, you know, there was bravery on so many levels, these kids, and of course, this hero of a teacher.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fred, 29- year-old Jason Seaman being heralded really across the country as a hero for his actions. He's still in the hospital. According to a Facebook post from his mother, he was shot three times, once in the abdomen, the hip, and forearm area, but he is recovering.

He released a statement basically thanking all the first responders, thanking the people taking care of him, and telling the students, "You are wonderful, I thank you for your support, you are the reason I teach."

Fred, just looking at how young, the baby faces, this is a middle school. This happened in a seventh-grade science class. The student, the shooter that police say came in, he had asked to be excused from a test in Mr. Seaman's class. When he came back, the students tell us that he was armed with two handguns and opened fire.

Now, according to those students, Mr. Seaman grabbed a basketball and threw it at the student trying to disarm him, that way as he ran toward him, and then he used his body to disarm that child.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He walked in with the gun in his hand and started waving it around. He took four to five, maybe six shots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He started shooting at Mr. Seaman and everybody started screaming and freaking out. And Mr. Seaman ran up and tackled him and secured him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then he started screaming to call 911 and get out. He had gotten him to the ground, the gun was out of his hands. (END VIDEO CLIP)

GALLAGHER: And again, you look at those faces, Fred,, how young those kids are, seventh graders. The person charged in the shooting also a seventh grader. There is a lot of answers we do not have right now from police about the shooting, the motivate, or where the guns came from. Again, a seventh-grade kid --

WHITFIELD: All right. Thank you so much, Dianne. Appreciate it.

All right. Still ahead, Memorial Day weekend kicking off, the start of the summer, but if you're planning to hit the beach, you might want to think again. We'll have the latest on subtropical storm, Alberto, as it sets sights on the gulf coast.



WHITFIELD: Welcome back. A state of emergency has been declared in Florida. One week to go before the official start of the hurricane season, already some Tropical Storm Alberto, is brewing in the Caribbean and heading for the gulf coast. State authorities are warning of possible flooding and a large storm surge.

Joining me right now, CNN meteorologist, Gene Norman. So, Jean, walk us through this, so early before the season really even begins.

GENE NORMAN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Exactly right, Fred. It's not good news for anybody trying to get to Florida for their holiday plans. We have subtropical storm, Alberto, which formed yesterday. We have the latest information on where it's headed and the projected forecast, still has maximum winds of 40 miles an hour.

[12:25:09] You see here off the western edge of Cuba, but there is now a tropical storm warning for the extreme western part of key west as well as tropical storm watches in effect for portions of Florida, along the peninsula, just South of Tampa, and along the panhandle.

These are areas that could see the tropical storm conditions within the next 48 hours, the next couple of days. The forecast track, we get a new one every six hours, now shows the storm continuing to move into the central belt and target some part of the Florida panhandle, perhaps near the Mobile area, as we head into late Monday.

The other key thing that the forecast consistently shows is that it will likely intensify. Right now, it's what we call a subtropical storm because it's kind of lopsided in the way it appears.

But as it moves over warmer water, and that's going to happen as we get into Sunday on into Monday, it could strengthen. That's one of the reasons why, moving over warmer gulf water. You see temperatures here in the mid- to upper 80s and the wind aloft will help it to get a little bit more organized.

Right now, it's being cut in half, so to speak, and all the heavy rain is off to the right. That continues to be a big concern. This will be a big rain maker for South Florida, Central Florida, and even sections of Southern Alabama, Southern Georgia, and of course, the Florida panhandle, could see anywhere from five to seven inches of rain. So that's a flood concern.

The other concern, as it gets closer to the coast it will bring water inland. We call that storm surge. The best way to think about storm surge, imagine you're sitting in the bathtub and sloshing the water toward the edge. The harder you slosh the more water is going to go over the edge.

So, it all depends on how much water will pile up, how strong this storm gets. A 65-mile-an-hour storm could give a storm surge of two to four feet. And that will stretch all the way from eastern sections of Louisiana back to just north of Tampa. That's the storm surge we're talking about. So that's a concern.

Four feet of water, that's just about to my waist, I'm about 6 feet tall. Fred, as you mentioned, as we head into the holiday weekend, and a week before hurricane season, still the month of May, nobody told Alberto about the calendar. He decided to come early.

WHITFIELD: Right, this is bad timing. All right, very alarming nonetheless. Thank you so much, Gene Norman. Appreciate it.

And with Alberto ready to wreak havoc in the gulf coast, oil rigs in the area could should down. Gas prices are already high this time of year. CNN's Polo Sandoval is live outside a gas station in Richville, New Jersey. So, what exactly is driving this spike?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Think about it, Fred. There's about 36 million people according to AAA, who are hitting the roads this afternoon starting that summer travel season. It's expected to be one of the most expensive ones.

As you mentioned there, the price of fuel, $2.97 a gallon nationally, that's something people here in New Jersey would only hope for. The gas $3.10 when I checked a little while ago, a little higher than the average price.

A couple of reasons, to answer the question of why these kinds of prices. One is the president re-imposing sanctions on Iran. There's also much higher demand according to many experts. That has led to the highest fuel prices we've seen in about four years.

What will that mean for the average consumer? Consumer confidence could take a hit. Many people, especially families living paycheck to paycheck, have relied heavily on those financial benefits that come with this Trump tax plan. A little extra money in their pocket.

But now they may be asking themselves perhaps what good is that extra money if some of it is being left here at the pumps? You're looking at increased fuel prices that could amount to an additional tax for many of these people here.

So, this potentially could be a major pocketbook issue for many Americans here, not only as they celebrate Memorial Day weekend, but leading into midterm elections later this month, what will that mean for Republican lawmakers up for reelection.

Of course, long term for President Trump, who if you look back through Trump's tweeting history, back in 2012, when we also saw fairly high gas prices, he tweeted that gas prices were, quote, "at crazy levels," and he called for the firing of then-President Obama.

This time we have not heard a whole lot from the commander-in-chief about these fuel prices except yesterday during his most recent comments, speaking positively about the economy. When you talk to people here, Fred, mixed reactions.

We heard from one woman who was driving from Pennsylvania or rather -- Pennsylvania to Connecticut, who says the prices are what they are. But an Uber driver said, $3 gas, it's way too much, and he might even consider changing jobs.

WHITFIELD: All right. Polo Sandoval, thank you.

[12:30:02] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up, with midterms just around the corner, tensions escalate inside the Republican Party. Can the GOP get on the same page before voters head to these ballot boxes? We'll talk about that next.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the spring of '68, you have the most violent period of the entire world.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've seen the Promised Land, but I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Martin Luther King was shot and killed tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For my parents' generation, king was the dream. And then he's gone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm announcing today my candidacy of the presidency of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my god. President Kennedy has been shot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was really the death hope.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wallace knew how to get a crowd energized.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I know a lot of work you don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police have demonstrators over this busy intersection.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "The Graduate" is probably the most important movie of the '60s. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope to restore respect to the presidency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the most traumatic and consequential years in history.




[12:35:40] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you happy to be here?

RAY CHAVEZ, OLDEST PEARL HARBOR SURVIVOR: Oh yes, very much. I met the President yesterday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How was meeting the President?

CHAVEZ: Great, really. It's something that never done or happened to me in all my life.


WHITFIELD: Courage, bravery, valor. Memorial Day is a time to reflect on the men and women of the Armed Forces who have made the ultimate sacrifice defending the country. This morning, the oldest Pearl Harbor veteran made his mark in Washington, D.C. 106-year-old Ray Chavez paying tribute at the World War II memorial and becoming the first veteran to ring the freedom bell to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Memorial Day.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher spoke with Chavez about the legacy of the brave service members and on how he hopes to share their stories with younger generations.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 1941, a date which will live in infamy.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A day that still plays out in the mind of Ray Chavez.

CHAVEZ: Every day.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Seventy-six years later.

CHAVEZ: I saw all the ships on fire, and a terrible smokescreen all through the harbor and covering the ships.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): At 106 years old, Chavez is the oldest surviving Pearl Harbor veteran.

CHAVEZ: It never good in a way. All what you see (INAUDIBLE). And that's the way I am. I remember, and then I forget, and remember again. GALLAGHER (voice-over): Remembering, it's what brings Chavez to Washington, D.C. this weekend. Although he did meet President Donald Trump at the White House.

CHAVEZ: I looked forward to it because I didn't vote for him, and I enjoyed meeting him. I was pleasant enough to have me right next to him, when we were seated.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Chavez traveled cross-country from San Diego to D.C., stopping in Kansas to refuel and meet the fellow veterans, to attend the 158th Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. He and his family are the guests of Defense Secretary Mattis. But the navy veteran says more than all of the pomp and circumstance surrounding his visit, his focus is on those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. It's the act of remembering that it's most important this holiday weekend.

CHAVEZ: National Remembrance Day, because it's very important that the younger generation know and learn about the beginning of the war.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Vice President Mike Pence spent part of his Friday at the TAPS Good Grief Camp, but the younger generation that knows the consequences of war all too well. All of these children have lost their loved ones who served in the Armed Forces.


GALLAGHER (voice-over): And many will spend part of their memorial day here, in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, remembering their fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers, veterans of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and post-911 conflicts.

CHAVEZ: I would do it again if I was called to active duty. But chances there than never.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Ray Chavez hopes that he can honor the memory of those he served with.

CHAVEZ: And then we won't forget that because I met with some real fine young men.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): And the sacrifice of the men and women who came after as well. Dianne Gallagher, CNN, Atlanta.


WHITFIELD: Dianne Gallagher, thanks so much for bringing that to us. Even the top brass from the Pentagon is honoring Chavez for his service. The Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan tweeting out, "It was my honor and privilege to re-enlist World War II veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor Ray Chavez at the Pentagon earlier today."

And of course we want to thank Mr. Chavez for his service and to all our veterans for their service, including my dad and brother. All right, coming up, a battle brewing between moderate and conservative Republicans over immigration, just one of the many issue -- issues rather, voters will weigh in on in the upcoming midterms. We'll talk about all of that, next.

[12:40:08] But first, when disasters strikes, top 10 CNN hero, Stan Hays and his pit master buddies bring comfort in the form of barbecue to those in need. This week, Stan is expecting his service to honor those who serve our country all year long.


STAN HAYS, CNN HERO: We're here with the Gary Sinise Foundation at the Invincible Spirit Festival.

How are you guys doing? Do you want a pulled pork sandwich? We're cooking for 6,500 to 7,000 people. Being here where these men and women have given so much, well, protecting and serving our country aides is pretty special.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been an awesome event. The barbecue is stellar.

HAYS: Barbecue is all about bringing people together. And for us, this is the biggest thank you we can give those men and women that have served.


WHITFIELD: And to find out more about what's happening with operation barbecue relief or nominate someone you think should be a CNN hero, go to right now. And we'll be right back.


[12:45:44] WHITFIELD: A bitter battle over immigration, a farm bill that went up in flames, and rumors of a rebellion against House Speaker Paul Ryan in his remaining time in office. And now there are questions about how GOP leaders will mend deep divisions within their own party just month before the critical midterms.

Here with some insights, CNN Political Commentators Tara Setmayer and joining us over the phone, Doug Heye. All right, good to see and hopefully hear from you both. So Tara, you first, you know, those rumors swirling on Capitol Hill about a GOP uprising against House Speaker Paul Ryan. Republicans were quick to publicly downplay that understand the Speaker but what might be some of the reasons behind any kind of frustration about him?

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, this is reminiscent of what happened with Speaker Boehner a couple of years ago where certain factions within the Republican Party couldn't get along on certain issues, immigration being one of them. Fiscal policy being another and it led to Boehmer's demise. He decided to stay the hell (ph) with it and he resigned. And look like Paul Ryan is on his way out as well, how long he stays is a different story. It's never a good look for Republican leadership when the Speaker of the House and the Majority Leader have to fight off a discharge petition coming with their own members involved. We haven't seen this very often. They're very rarely successful. But this one, they only need about five more Republicans in order to bring these immigration bills to the floor for a vote, bypassing the committee, because it's been held up for so long.

You have a lot of members, particularly moderates, who are facing tough reelection. And the issue of immigration affects their districts. So either they've decided to not run for reelection anymore and retire, or they've decided for their political lives they're going to have to do something. And I think the American people are on the side of doing something finally about dreamers in this country.

We've reached a point where it's becoming untenable not to do anything anymore. And Republicans are looking at a way to try to do this in a bipartisan fashion, not only because it's the right thing to do but also for their own political survival.

WHITFIELD: And Doug, what a way to, you know, be going out potentially if all these rumors are true. I mean, not good for Paul Ryan and certainly not good for the party either.

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure. I would say first, for Paul Ryan, you know, there's a political adage that -- and sports adage that we use that's absolutely true here, which is you can't beat somebody with no one. And so all of the speculation about is Paul Ryan going to leave I think right now is meaningless because until Kevin McCarthy or someone else has 280 votes to be speaker, Paul Ryan is not resigning, Paul Ryan is not going anywhere, and we could have this conversation not just tomorrow but in six months from now.

Republicans or maybe Democrats after the election are then going to have to figure out who the next speaker is. But Paul Ryan is not going anywhere in the short term.

SETMAYER: That's true.

WHITFIELD: Right. And so Tara, you know, then short term, as the party tries to, you know, build, leading toward midterm elections, is there any consensus on what may be in their back pocket?

SETMAYER: On immigration or just in general?

WHITFIELD: On any issues that might help move the needle or try to solidify their support leading into these elections.

SETMAYER: Other than the economy and supporting tax cuts that have helped individuals and businesses, probably not. You know, these midterm elections are always dicey and the party in power usually loses seats. How many is always the metric, we're not sure.

But it's looking better for Republicans now, the generic ballot, congressional ballot has tightened. And so, it still could go either way. But the issue of immigration has always been a divisive one. When I worked on Capitol Hill, back from 2006 to 2013, we saw these immigration fights a lot often. In 2007, again in 2013, you know, it's difficult.

But I think that you'll see, the issue going on now specifically with immigration, what's made it so challenging is that whatever the House does, there's no consensus on what the Senate will do. Even if the House goes through all of these, they get a discharge petition successfully and they have a bill that comes out, there are bipartisan bills that would give legal status to dreamers and pay for border security at the levels the President wants.

[12:50:09] Representative Will Hurd, a Republican from Texas and Aguilar from -- is a Democrat from California, they have a good bill that could probably pass. But, you know, tie in the Senate. So whether it's all worth it which I think is what Paul Ryan (INAUDIBLE) has been here, is it worth going through all of this and being fractured on the issue when you're not going to get a piece of legislation the President can sign anyway because it's going to die in the Senate.

WHITFIELD: So Doug, what might be the feather in the cap that Republicans can run on? Is tax reform enough?

HEYE: Well I think the feather in the cap is the general state of the economy. Typically as Tara mentions, midterms don't go well for Republicans. We've seen so many retirements. Certainly enthusiasm on the Democratic side, we can see an special election then in primaries are on the Democratic side. But the economy is in a very good place and Republicans can and will try and take credit for it. It still could be -- and it probably will be a negative election for Republicans. The question is do they lose five seats in the House, do they lose 25 seats or more?

I can tell you, when I was at the Republican National Committee in 2010, we ultimately not just took back the House but won 63 House seats. We were not talking about winning the House or taking back the House in May of 2010. We weren't even talking about it in June or July. It wasn't until after Labor Day. And if there is a wave, it's something that's going to break late.

Legislative, there's not much that's going to be register with voters. But if the state of the economy is good, that is a cross current that is going to affect all these targeted House races where we see at-risk members who have one thing to talk about, and that's the economy.

WHITFIELD: That's right. All right, Doug, Tara, we'll leave it right there. Thank you so much.

SETMAYER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, more evacuations on the big island as lava from Kilauea continues to flow, scorching anything and everything in its past. Up next we'll take you there live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [12:56:38] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. You're looking at live pictures right now of lava from the Kilauea volcano, covering just over three square miles of the big island. You will just see just like shooting plumes of lava at any moment. A tide of molten rock destroying homes in its path as well. And the earthquakes are ramping up as well.

Yesterday alone there were 90 of them in six hours. I want to bring in Scott McLean. So Scott, tell me what's happening behind you.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Fredericka. Despite what it may look like, there are actually fresh lava tearing through subdivisions today. And people are pretty reluctant to stay behind. They are getting out of course because it is almost impossible to protect your home from incoming lava. I say almost, because we met a man who did exactly that. But he nearly died doing it.


STEVE HILL: It's a beautiful place. It's a place that feels very alive.

MCLEAN (voice-over): It was two decades ago that Steve Hill found his slice of Hawaiian paradise. And two weeks ago he came to grips with losing it.

(on camera): You left this place fully expecting you wouldn't come home to it?

HILL: Lost. Lost.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Hill and his wife packed up their furniture and left for the mainland. He even left a shot of gin on the deck for Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess, assuming both the gin and his two homes would be swallowed up.

HILL: We left feeling heartbroken. It's like our homes are gone.

MCLEAN (voice-over): But his contractor and close friend Darryl Clinton had other ideas.

DARRYL CLINTON, INJURED BY LAVA BOMB: You might want to step back on this one.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Just one week ago, CNN was with Clinton while he was defending Hill's home against flying chunks of molten lava. Windows had already been destroyed so had the water catchment tank. Some lava bombs even came crashing through the roof. Armed with little more than a garden hose, Clinton doused the flaming rocks before they torch the entire house.

CLINTON: These ones are the ones that catch the ceiling on fire.

MCLEAN (voice-over): The 24/7 task was difficult and even more dangerous. After almost a week, Hill told Clinton to leave and let the houses burn. HILL: You can't do this, this is unsafe, it's time to stop. Valiant effort, I'm humbled by how hard you've tried.

MCLEAN (voice-over): But Clinton didn't leave until the next day. And it wasn't by choice. The line drive lava bomb broke his leg, severed an artery and nearly took his foot off.

CLINTON: Just took my leg out and threw me against the walls, the most extreme force I've felt in my life.

MCLEAN (voice-over): The extreme heat burned up the deck, the wall, and almost an entire dining set. But thanks to a fast acting neighbor with a water jug, the house survived and so did Darryl.

HILL: Blessed, with neighbors like that.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Hill returned to Hawaii to find his homes and his friend who helped build them both badly in need of repair.

HILL: When Darryl's done rebuilding himself, I'm going to get on the rebuilding houses, you know.

MCLEAN (on camera): He's a journeyman.

HILL: He is a journeyman. He's a beautiful person.

MCLEAN (voice-over): In a place where lava insurance is far too costly to be common, Hill knows that saying thank you isn't saying nearly enough.

HILL: This place stands because Darryl chose not to go home. It stands because he believed that he could save it. I mean, that's it.


MCLEAN: And Darryl Clinton has had at least three surgeries already. Right now he is in Honolulu for yet another one. He has a long road ahead of him. But he is expected to fully recover, Fredericka?

WHITFIELD: Wow, that's an unbelievably close call and unbelievable friend too.

All right, Scott McLean, thank you so much. We of course wish him the --