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Flood Threat Continues; Lava Forces Evacuations; Former Spy Heads to U.S.; Trump Travels to Nashville; Teacher Corrects Trump's Grammar. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired May 29, 2018 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Residents of Ellicott City, Maryland, begin another daunting cleaning effort after a different storm system caused historic flash flooding for the second time in two years. Police releasing this new drone video showing the level of destruction across the city. Roads washed out, cars scattered among mud and debris.

ALLAN H. KITTLEMAN, HOWARD COUNTY EXECUTIVE: They're devastated, as you can expect. They have gone through hell to get where they are today before this flood, and now they're facing it all again.

VALENCIA: Emergency responders continuing to search for Edison Herman, a Maryland National Guardsman who was helping a woman rescue a cat when he was pulled underneath the raging floodwaters and never surfaced.

JOSEPH LOPEZ, FRIEND OF MISSING FLOOD VICTIM: We're all still keeping up hope. I mean a lot of us. He's got a ton of friends. He's an amazing guy. It is tough to just sit here and wait knowing we can't do anything about it.


VALENCIA: And we are starting to get drizzled on again here at Panama City Beach. The winds is still a factor. And this storm has moved its way inland. So if you're in the south, keep your eye on the skies. There is a potential for more heavy rain later today.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Nick Valencia, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

New concerns with the erupting volcanos in Hawaii. You're looking at live pictures right now of the lava. More residents being told to evacuate to avoid being trapped.

Our Scott McLean is in Hilo, Hawaii, with the very latest.

Scott, what are you seeing?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. Well, first off, we're in Hilo because we're about to head out to sea to give you a different angle, and different look on this lava. But the big story right now is in Leilani Estates where authorities, they were going door to door yesterday pleading with residents to get out. That's because an older fissure had reactivated, sending lava down parts of streets that hadn't seen any before. That fissure at times was shooting some 200 feet into the air.

Here's the other problems that we're seeing, and that's that some of that lava has crept on to a geothermal plant that's covered at least one well head we know of, though authorities say that there has not been a release of hydrogen sulfide. At least for now there's nothing to worry about in that department.

Authorities are also monitoring the possibility that this lava could reach a main highway in the area, which would give people one less escape route if things were to get any worse.

And then, of course, there's also the summit of Kilauea. We actually just got word about 30 minutes ago, John, that there had been yet another explosion there, sending an ash cloud some 13,000 feet into the sky. Over the past couple of days, explosions, smaller explosions and earthquakes have been fairly constant, though we have not seen the big explosion, nothing even on scale with the explosion that we saw a couple of weeks ago that sent an ash cloud some 30,000 feet into the sky.

John and Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Scott, thank you very much. We'll look forward to seeing what you find when you head out in the water there.

Meanwhile, President Trump is heading to Tennessee today to campaign for a high stakes midterm race with the balance of the Senate on the line. How much pull does the president have? We have "The Bottom Line," next.


[08:36:55] CAMEROTA: President Trump confirming this morning that North Korea's former top spy is heading to the United States for meetings. So, will the President Trump/Kim Jong-un summit happen in two weeks and what will happen at this summit?

Let's get "The Bottom Line" with CNN's political director David Chalian.

David, the developments in North Korea are just coming in, you know, every hour, if not sooner than that. So many different diplomatic teams are all over the world from Singapore to the DMZ to now this top spy, former top spy, coming here to the U.S. So it sure seems like the president's letter fast tracked this somehow.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right, all those developments you're describing, Alisyn, remember, are after the fact that he canceled the meeting.


CHALIAN: And that he pulled out of the meeting and all those developments are happening, which I think indicates just how much Donald Trump wants and needs this meeting politically to come off successfully.

His desire for it, of course, doesn't make it any easier to pull off, but, politically, this has been one of the biggest wins for him with public support. It's one of the few places we've seen throughout the entire Trump presidency that he actually was able to bring a swath of Democrats to his belief that he's moving in the right direction on North Korea. He hasn't been able to bring Democrats on board to anything.

So this is a really key moment for him and he knows it, I think, by looking at all the behavior.

BERMAN: No one has said this more loudly and clearly than you, David, which I'm glad you're reiterating right now because I do think that this North Korea moment means more than just what's going on, on the peninsula there. It has very much to do with domestic politics. It has very much to do with how the president views himself in this president who very much wants to sell himself as the dealmaker, doesn't have a whole heck of a lot of deals up until this point to, you know, to say, hey, I got one. He's ended a lot.

CAMEROTA: He's ending a lot of deals, (INAUDIBLE), Paris, to Iran.

BERMAN: But this means very much to him and I think it means a lot to him to have it happen on, you know, June 12th.

CHALIAN: Yes, no doubt. And, remember -- you remember how he was rolling out that date, John, right, and the location. He was teasing it out, much like he does with any kind of big announcements from his reality TV show days. And I think you're absolutely right, he wants it on that date. He sort of lifted the curtain on that. And he wants to commit and follow through here.

And I think you're right, it's not just that people like it, it is on brand for him as the dealmaker that he sees this so important to accomplishing it.

CAMEROTA: Hey, David, we're having a debate, an internal debate here on the show. I would love to have you weigh in. When the president tweets something that is fact-free and evidence-free and is a conspiracy theory, as he did this morning, should we read it verbatim? Does that give it oxygen, because it is our job to parse presidential statements and help analyze them for the viewers and what they mean. But when it's fact-free and it's just to peddle a conspiracy, what's your thought on that?

CHALIAN: Yes, this has been the conundrum for many journalists during the Trump era. There's no doubt about it. I do think there is value in exposing and showing a fact-free presidential statement. But I -- I share the concern. And I struggle with this day in and day out too about giving sort of life to something that doesn't necessarily deserve it. But I think, at the end of the day, our job is to take official presidential statements, which is what they are, and if they are fact-free, then we have to show that to our audience.

[08:40:09] BERMAN: And also explain, I think, the difference between what it says and what it signifies, right, because sometimes what it signifies is much more importance. And this morning we're talking about new accusations the president's making and it plays into what Rudy Giuliani said over the weekend, which is really all he's trying to do is discredit the Mueller investigation because he's trying to work the jury.


BERMAN: He admitted that what he's doing here is not -- it's not a legal defense per se, he's playing this PR campaign. He's going negative on the special counsel. And that's just what we're seeing here play out in front of us.

CHALIAN: And, John, it's working to some degree. I mean you see how Mueller's numbers, the investigations numbers have gone down among Republicans. And, by the way, Donald Trump's not going to win -- need to win 100 percent of the American people behind this to be able to move past this investigation. If indeed Trump and Giuliani are correct, that this will be won or lost in the court of public opinion, if you're able to solidify 40 percent of that court, that may be enough to politics to just muddy the waters and be able to not have your own party sort of coalesce around the notion that you've done something so wrong it requires you to be removed from office.

CAMEROTA: Well, that's the argument against reading the conspiracy theories verbatim is that it does poison the well, even if you do parse it later and explain that it's face-free.

But let's move on to tonight, Tennessee. So what do we expect with the president, you know, trying to rally around these Republican candidates?

CHALIAN: Yes. Asking me what I expect what the president will do in a rally is a tough one to answer because it will sort of be whatever his whim is at the moment we know. But I do think where he's going tonight is really important, Alisyn. The Democrats chances of taking control of the Senate, even in a very good Democratic year, are still very, very steep. But they can't do it without Tennessee, a deep red state that Donald Trump won by more than 25 points. They can't do it without putting a state like that on the board. And they have the former governor, the Democratic governor, Phil Bredesen, as there nominee. And public polls have shown he is actually putting this race on the board.

What's interesting is Marsha Blackburn, the congresswoman down there that Donald Trump will be there with, raising money for, she's really trying to pursue a strategy of being Trumpier than Trump because it is red state America. Whether or not that works, even in a place like Tennessee, in what may be a big Democratic year, we'll find out in November.

BERMAN: Another interesting -- for people following this very closely -- I think Bob Corker is going to be there for part of it. So he's sort of right in the middle, caught in between all of it. And the fact that he's going tells you something a little bit about where Republican politics are trending.

David Chalian, great to have you here with us. Thanks so much.

CHALIAN: John, thank you. And congratulations on the gig. It's a huge pleasure after being your colleague at ABC and here over 15 years now to see you in the anchor chair.

BERMAN: You're a wonderful human being, David Chalian. Thank you very much.


BERMAN: He -- independent of -- he would be wonderful even if he didn't just say that.

CAMEROTA: Are you sure? Is he really?: Should I fact check that or is he that wonderful?

BERMAN: He's a little more -- he's a little more -- he's a little more wonderful, but he was already OK.

CAMEROTA: All right, he seems wonderful to me too.

BERMAN: All right, once a teacher, always a teacher. A retired English composition teacher corrects a letter from President Trump and mails it to the White House. We will speak with her next live.

CAMEROTA: But first, inner city teenagers in Memphis are achieving their potential and transforming their lives by playing rugby. Here is this weeks "Impact Your World."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rugby just doesn't build character, it reveals character. I think it does that for our kids.

KIDS: One, two, we ready for you. Three four, (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Memphis Inner City Rugby. We are operating and serving six schools, nearly 200 kids around the city. We've got boys and girls.

And the communities we're bringing rugby too, so many of the kids are lacking outlets in life and pathways to opportunities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With Memphis Inner City Rugby, we have to have a certain GPA. There's like zero tolerance with the attitude. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Partnering with teachers allows us to fuse

mentoring for these kids, along with coaching them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) scholarships eligible. $5,000. Boom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you serious?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Living on campus now. (INAUDIBLE).


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One hundred percent of our kids have been accepted to college or university. Now a couple handfuls of our kids have earned college rugby scholarships.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I absolutely adore my coach. Sometimes you -- you don't think that you can do something until somebody pushes to you do it and then you're like, oh, OK, I just did that, what else can I do?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A fantastic job. Just like we always ask you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The need for rugby could sound cliche, because who really needs a support. (INAUDIBLE) leverage, love for a game and accountability to a mentor to go the right direction.


[08:48:51] CAMEROTA: A retired English teacher is schooling President Trump on grammar and spelling. Yvonne Mason wrote a letter to the president after the Parkland massacre to express her disappointment in how the families of victims were treated. She got a form letter in response and -- as is par for the course, but the former teacher says she was so appalled by the errors in it that she pulled out her trusty teachers' pen and marked up a response and sent it back.

Joining us now is that teacher, Yvonne Mason.

Miss Mason, thank you very much for being here.

YVONNE MASON, RETIRED AP ENGLISH TEACHER: Well, good morning. I'm glad to be here.

CAMEROTA: So you sent a letter -- you wanted to suggest that the president visit every one of the Parkland families. And you got back a form letter. And we have, again, we're going to put it up, the full screen, of you marking up what you felt were the grammatical errors.

What was it that you were so appalled by?

MASON: I think mostly I was appalled by the just random capitalization of words that typically aren't capitalized. And I think that that -- that's what set it off. But then when I really started examining it, I realized it was really self-serving for one thing and for another thing it just was almost jarring to read in terms of style and I wished it had been smoother. I wish it had been more executive perhaps.

[08:50:14] BERMAN: A lot of the capitalizations, right, he capitalized the word federal, capitalized the word nation. Apparently there's a federal style book which suggests that you can capitalize nation at some points, correct?

MASON: There is. There is a national style book. There are any number of different style books, but my philosophy as a teacher is, if we aren't teaching this in the classroom, then why are we using it in a style book. If you're going to write a biography and -- or if you're going to write a press release and you refer to Lincoln's grave and you put a capital "g" grave, then why aren't you also capitalizing tea pot in Lincoln's tea pot? This random capitalization sort of goes against the grammatical tragedy of the commons, where if you just start randomly deciding which words are proper nouns and which aren't, then how do you really expect the general public to follow that. And if you do it, then what if I'm in a classroom and I mark it wrong and then somebody shows me something. It's just a matter of clear communication.

CAMEROTA: Yes, and consistency.

MASON: Consistency.

CAMEROTA: The things that we all learned. Agreed. I understand why this drives you crazy.

I like your note at the top of where you marked it up where you say, have y'all tried grammar and style check, because there are computer programs that help you with some of these things.

MASON: Yes. Yes, they do. And my style and grammar check do actually catch random capitalizations. And they're, again, if you have a rule, an algorithm in a computer that is standardized, then why aren't you adhering to the standardization? And it all goes back to consistency and clear communication, which is my big thing as a teacher. Communicate clearly what you want and you're more likely to get it because language is the currency of power.

BERMAN: True story. One of my high school best friends was rejected by Princeton. The letter had a bunch of grammatical errors. My friend circled all the errors and sent it back to Princeton.

So I love what you do here because I think it's just -- you know, it shows gumption.

There are certain things -- I can't spell. I have typos all over the place -- but there are certain things that you should know after a period of time.


BERMAN: And you know note outside of your letter, the president can't seem to spell special counsel. He writes special counsel all the time because it matters in his life, but he writes it c-i-l? MASON: Well, and those are two different words, council and counsel,

two different words. And they sound alike. But one should actually at some point learn the two words. That's -- it's just not -- there's no issue. You know, there, they're and their. I mean just learn which one it is. It's going to be the same every single time, counsel's always going to be e-l if you're referring to Mr. Mueller.

BERMAN: Well, what grade would you --

MASON: It's not going to change.

BERMAN: If the president, you know, was writing in your class, what grade would you give him on his composition?

MASON: I've been asked that. And it depends really on the class. I hate to give a grade because this is so incredibly public at this point, which is obviously an indicator of the silly season. But I really -- if I were grading for that, which is mechanics basically, I just don't see that I could give him over a D. I really don't. I would probably give him some points for effort. And I, please, understand that I know 100 percent that he did not write this. That this was probably written by a committee. There's probably a drop down menu of, I did, I facilitated, I called, I did, whatever and they just patch them all together. I understand that. But he -- but the signature is his. And the buck stops somewhere.

CAMEROTA: And did you resend your letter with all of the markups back to the White House?

MASON: Yes, I did. Yes, I did.

CAMEROTA: And did you hear back from them?

MASON: I have not heard back from them. But I'm expecting a tweet any minute. I can't imagine that he wouldn't already know about this since it's -- I don't know, in German newspapers by now. But I can't imagine that this would make him particularly happy that someone like me was picking on someone like him. But I don't imagine I'm the only English teacher who's ever marked up his papers to tell you the truth.

BERMAN: He's got the best words. When he does sends that tweet, we'll sure you'll mark it up and send it back. Miss Mason, you've intimidated both of us. Thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

MASON: Oh, good. Thank you.

BERMAN: As every teacher should, no doubt.

MASON: Thank you so much.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. Great talking to you.

MASON: Great talking to you.

CAMEROTA: Another true story. My mom, high school English teacher. BERMAN: Wow.

Now you, of course, are a bestselling author, so words do matter to you.

[08:55:00] CAMEROTA: Thank you. Thank you very much for reminding everyone of that.

BERMAN: "The Good Stuff" is next.


BERMAN: All right, it's time now for "The Good Stuff."

A 92-year-old veterans wish finally coming true. Meet Roy Gallatin. This American hero celebrating because he just received his high school diploma. Roy never finished high school after joining the Marine Corps to fight in World War II and soon after had to work to support his family.


ROY GALLATIN: Really my (INAUDIBLE) and it meant a lot to me. And -- but this is back when things were not as easy as they are today.


BERMAN: Roy's grandson made the whole thing happen. He called the school district in Ohio and scored his grandfather a diploma. I have to say, you know, even after all the accomplishment that he's no doubt had, people, when they finally reach that achievement, there is no pride like that.

CAMEROTA: That's a beautiful story.

BERMAN: It's a wonderful scene.

CAMEROTA: And well done reading "The Good Stuff." How does it feel on your first day on NEW DAY?

BERMAN: It -- I -- it felt good. No, I loved it. It was -- no, no, I -- it's a --

CAMEROTA: Question mark?

BERMAN: No, it felt good, like James Earl Jones saying, you're not Camerota.

CAMEROTA: (INAUDIBLE) Alisyn Camerota.

BERMAN: No, it's wonderful to be here.


ANNOUNCER: Alisyn Camerota.


BERMAN: One more time.


ANNOUNCER: Alisyn Camerota.


[09:00:00] BERMAN: It felt great. Much like that. No, it's wonderful to be here. Thank you so much for treating me sort of nicely on the first day.

CAMEROTA: That ends now.

BERMAN: I know, it's over.

CAMEROTA: It is great to have you and these three hours flew. So I'm really looking forward to the rest of our lives.

BERMAN: Let's do it again tomorrow.