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Russia Investigation; Tariff Trouble; U.S.-North Korea Summit; El Salvador's Controversial Gang Crackdown; Plastic Pollution; Presidential Fitness? Aired 5-6a ET
Aired June 3, 2018 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): In a letter from Donald Trump's lawyers to the special counsel, they say it is not possible for the U.S. president to obstruct justice.
Also ahead here this hour, how U.S. tariffs may be taking a toll on trade talks between the U.S. and China.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Many here had a matter of hours' notice, no chance even to call ahead as they're forced back to a country some have not seen for years, maybe even decades.
ALLEN: Immigrants forced from their homes in the U.S. and made to retaliation to a dangerous country they fled years ago. Our Nick Paton Walsh has that story this hour.
Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. I'm Natalie Allen. This is CNN NEWSROOM.
ALLEN: We begin with the Russia investigation. We have some new insight into how President Trump's legal team plans to keep him from being forced to testify. They are trying to persuade the special counsel it is legally impossible for Mr. Trump to obstruct justice because he is a sitting president.
These details are emerging after "The New York Times" obtained a confidential letter written by the president's lawyers and sent to special counsel Robert Mueller.
The fact that the document was published sent Mr. Trump on a Twitter tirade. He again said there was no collusion with Russia and asked whether the Justice Department leaked the letter to the media.
There's much legal maneuvering in the letter. CNN's Shimon Prokupecz unpacks it for us.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: The 20-page letter argues why the president doesn't have to be in interviewed by the special counsel. The president's legal team in their letter was also responding to some of the questions that the special counsel, the FBI and Mueller and his team is seeking to ask Trump.
In the letter they say because Trump is the chief law enforcement officer, that, quote, "that the president's actions could neither constitutionally nor legally constitute obstruction because that would amount to him obstructing himself and that he could, if he wished, he could terminate the inquiry or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired."
And then some of the other issues that the special counsel has been looking at is Michael Flynn and whether or not the president tried to interfere in that investigation when he fired the former FBI director, James Comey.
And here in an interesting argument from the president's lawyers, they claim that the FBI never told the White House that Flynn was under investigation and, therefore, how could Trump obstruct justice when he didn't know that Flynn was officially under investigation?
They also said the White House had every impression based on what Flynn told them, that he was going to be cleared after the FBI interviewed him.
And they write this in the letter, "There could not possibly have been intent to obstruct an investigation that had been neither confirmed nor denied to White House counsel and that they had every reason, based on General Flynn's statement and his continued security clearance, to assume that that investigation was not ongoing," they say.
Now the letter addresses some important aspects of the special counsel investigation and that has to do with the crafting of a statement by the president regarding the Donald Trump Jr. meeting at Trump Tower.
You'll remember that was with a Russian lawyer. And for the first time, really, the lawyers here, the president's lawyers here write in this letter, basically admitting an admission from those lawyers that he, the president, helped craft a statement.
And the response here from the lawyers to the special counsel, who's looking into that meeting and also the crafting of these statements when it was revealed that this meeting took place, they say essentially that this is private matter.
And the letter goes onto say that the special counsel has received all of the notes, communications and testimony indicating that the president dictated a short but accurate response to "The New York Times" article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump Jr.
Now the significance of this meeting, as you'll recall, was that Don Jr. thought he was meeting with someone who was going to provide dirt on Hillary Clinton. But it really turned out to be that it was a Russian lawyer who wanted to talk about adoptions.
And finally what's really important here is that, since at least January, the president's lawyers have been making these arguments to the special counsel and now some of them publicly why the president should not be subjected to an interview.
And it seems at least, as far as everything we know, that that's not working because basically we are now in June and there's still this ongoing battle with the special --
PROKUPECZ: -- counsel about the interview -- Shimon Prokupecz, CNN, Washington.
ALLEN: Let's take a closer look at this development with CNN legal analyst Paul Callan, senior political analyst and senior editor of "The Atlantic," Ron Brownstein, and editor of the "Weekly Standard," Bill Kristol.
They spoke with CNN's Ana Cabrera on Saturday.
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I have had an opportunity to look at the letter. Of course, a lot of this material has been coming up in bits and pieces over the last few months. This issue of whether a president can be compelled to testify before a grand jury, the courts have never been crystal clear about it.
For instance, going all the way back to Thomas Jefferson, he was subpoenaed to testify in the trial of Aaron Burr. Burr was on trial for treason.
You know, you think we have problems today. That was what was going on then and of course, Burr had killed secretary of state Alexander Hamilton and Jefferson refused to appear to testify. He did ultimately submit some personal papers for the court to consider.
So, he resisted it. Under the Nixon administration, Nixon finally agreed and was compelled by the court to produce the Nixon tapes, but Nixon never personally testified. And the only examples we have of personal testimony are situations where presidents have voluntarily agreed to testify.
Bill Clinton did that, for instance. So, it's still an open question whether a resistant president could be compelled to appear in front of a grand jury.
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Ron, the president is accusing the Mueller team of leaking this letter.
Who do you think is helped more by having it out there?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's a really good question. There has not been a lot of leaking that you could trace back to the Mueller team. I think, you know, this -- usually, when you get this kind of leak, there is some level of dissent within a team and I would assume within the defense team.
I mean, the real question -- to me, there's kind of a contradiction at the heart of this, which is the argument from the lawyers seems to be that the president cannot obstruct justice, cannot obstruct an investigation because his power over federal investigations is virtually unlimited.
Well, that would be news to the House of Representatives in 1974 whose Articles 1 and 2 of Impeachment against Richard Nixon referenced obstruction of justice, acting to impede and obstruct an investigation.
And certainly, the Republican majority in the House in 1998, Article 3 of their impeachment against Bill Clinton, referenced obstruction of justice and it, you know, the question of whether that ultimately would hold in a court of law may be somewhat secondary.
Unless you believe Robert Mueller's going to challenge the Justice Department rulings in the '70s and the '90s that you cannot indict a sitting president. Ultimately, these questions will go before Congress and they have twice now, in recent memory, said that they believe obstruction of justice is an impeachable offense.
CABRERA: I want to touch on just a detail in this letter, Bill. The president's attorneys acknowledge he did dictate his son's misleading statement about that Trump Tower meeting with the Russians that was in the summer of 2016.
That's not what the president's attorney, Jay Sekulow, or press secretary Sarah Sanders told the American people. They denied Trump had any involvement.
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, "WEEKLY STANDARD": Yes, that is a striking concession. When you read through the letter, I've done it quickly, it's not a letter designed to persuade Robert Mueller or any serious lawyers of anything.
It's designed, ultimately, for public consumption, to be released publicly, to try to make their case to their own supporters, primarily, to justify not testifying and to justify pardons and to justify a generally hostile stance, I would say, towards the investigation.
So, I think, A, this is not an internal legal document, really. It's a public relations document if you just read through it. If any serious lawyer reads it, there's not detailed legal arguments in there. They're broad, extremely broad assertions and a lot of rhetoric. And getting some things on the record, as you just said, Ana, which maybe they need to kind of correct a little bit for ultimately where their defense going to be.
But then the question is, why did they leak it now?
I assume they leaked it. Mueller's team has been airtight and I think Rudy Giuliani gave us a clue to that a few weeks ago. Remember, on the Stormy Daniels thing, I can't remember which detail it was, he said something.
And they said, why'd you say this.
And he said, you got to get this stuff out ahead of time, so you can make your case. And I think this is a case of there must be either, I would suspect, either they think a subpoena is coming soon or indictments are coming soon on obstruction.
For some reason, they want to get their argument out there so their people can get used to making this very broad and, I think, difficult- to-sustain argument but, nonetheless, an argument that's got at least the pretense of legal backing, 20-page memo, you know.
Trump's supporters can start making this argument now. For me, the question of why leaking it now is very interesting.
ALLEN: We'll continue to follow that story.
But the meeting of G7 --
ALLEN: -- finance ministers in Canada ended Saturday in a way rarely seen before, six of them ganging up on the U.S. for sticking key allies with punishing new tariffs on steel and aluminum. This kind of friction is very unusual among friendly nations.
Senior officials from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.K. all gave U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin an earful behind closed doors. Their frustration with Washington was palpable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we're trying to communicate that is the six countries, not including the United States, are expressing our concern over the tariffs that the United States has put forward.
And that concern was communicated. And obviously Secretary Mnuchin talked about the administration's point of view. And we are hoping that, with that approach, that we will have clearly communicated our views to the U.S. administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: Steven Mnuchin, however, downplayed the dispute.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: I don't think in any way the U.S. is abandoning its leadership in the global economy; quite the contrary. What the group was very focused on was obviously the steel and aluminum tariffs, which, again, we're doing to protect in particular our steel and aluminum industries.
So this is -- there was general concern that this could be create and become larger trade issues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: The U.S. president was defiant as usual, he tweeted, "When you're almost $800 billion a year down in trade, you can't lose a trade war."
But members of his own party are not in agreement. Republican senator Bob Corker tweeted on Saturday he and other Republicans would push back against the tariffs, calling them "a misuse of the president's authority."
All of this while U.S. trade negotiators are in Beijing for crucial trade talks there. Chinese state media says both sides are making progress but also carried an ominous warning from the Chinese government that said, "Any agreement reached in the bilateral talks will be voided if Washington imposes fresh tariffs on Chinese imports."
Much to talk about with this story. Let's bring in Gina Reinhardt. She's a senior lecturer in the Department of Government at the University of Essex in England.
Gina, thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.
GINA REINHARDT, UNIVERSITY OF ESSEX: Thanks for having me.
ALLEN: U.S. allies, as you just saw, are clearly fuming over the president's tariffs.
Just how unprecedented is it to see what's now become the G6+1?
REINHARDT: It is incredibly unprecedented. It has never exactly happened before like this. What the U.S. is done has definitely started a trade war. The basic reaction to this is exactly what we would expect, which is that the remaining members are issuing their own sanctions against the U.S.
The response of the U.S. is then likely to be, given Trump's previous history, to raise greater tariffs and to raise tariffs on new things in retaliation. If this goes on with a continuous tit-for-that retaliation, we could see ourselves degenerating into a similar situation to what we had during the Great Depression, which is basically everybody abandoning their agreements and trying to get whatever they can for themselves. The only thing that's keeping things afloat right now in the global
economy is the fact that the other six are not retaliating against each other and are staying unified against the United States.
ALLEN: Right. And it's been said that Mr. Trump did this as part of his America first protectionism.
But could it backfire on him?
The economy in the U.S. is excellent. The jobs report was stunning. Unemployment is so very low. But this is in, perhaps, an economic gamble for him, isn't it?
REINHARDT: Yes. It absolutely is. Especially in light of the fact that the economy is doing so well. But his approval ratings, although doing better than they have been in the past, are not as high as those of presidents when the economy has been doing similarly well.
So for example, Reagan and Clinton had much higher approval ratings when the economy was doing about as well as it is right now. So President Trump, most likely because of his attitudes, the things he says, his tweets, et cetera, has not gained the type of approval that this sort of economy would warrant.
And now what he is going to do is make things really difficult for small businesses and for some of the people who use the things that are now being taxed.
REINHARDT: That's going to damage him in that way. It is also going to damage the economy because the small businesses are not going to be able to -- many of them are going to have to close. Any business that uses steel as an input to their own good is going to have problems.
ALLEN: Well, the question is, will Mr. Trump back down?
He has come up against things and then once he realizes what the consequences might be, he kind of wobbles or changes course.
REINHARDT: That's true. I don't see it happening. Now let me be the first to say that I think predictability is not the strongest suit of President Trump. So it is possible that he will back down.
But I don't see that happening because backing down is not what he likes to do. In this case, this is such a bold and strong statement. And the retaliation is coming very quickly. I think it's unlikely he is going to change tack on this.
ALLEN: It will certainly be something to watch. We haven't really seen what's going to happen yet. But we appreciate your comments. Gina Reinhardt for us, thank you.
REINHARDT: Thank you, Natalie. ALLEN: With the historic Trump-Kim summit quickly approaching, here is the burning question of the day: does North Korea want someone else to pay its hotel bill in Singapore?
We'll look at that.
Plus a striking memorial in Puerto Rico, how islanders still recovering from Hurricane Maria are facing down a new storm season. We'll have a report coming up.
ALLEN: The clock is ticking toward the historic U.S.-North Korean summit. It is now just nine days away in Singapore. There are all kinds of pesky details to be worked out, from what denuclearization really means to, believe it or not, this issue: who will pay North Korea's hotel bill?
Our Alexandra Field is keeping tabs on all of this from Seoul.
The question about that hotel bill is apparently Kim Jong-un doesn't just want to stay in any old hotel.
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is not your average hotel room perhaps. What "The Washington Post" is that Kim Jong-un would like to stay at the five-star Fullerton Hotel in Singapore, the presidential suite.
FIELD: This costs about $6,000 a night. "The Post" is quoting two sources who are familiar with the conversations. But they also report that the State Department spokesperson has said that the United States isn't going to pick up the bill here and there and going to ask other countries to do it.
But the U.S. could be asking for a waiver of sanctions from the U.N. for costs associated with the travel of Kim Jong-un. There have been some other offers to pay for travel expenses. One of them coming the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.
While the hotel bill isn't quite settled yet, a lot of other issues aren't settled yet either, like what exactly this summit in just nine days can accomplish?
The Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, has been out here in the region this weekend, He spoke about what's going to happen in the run-up to that summit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We can anticipate at best a bumpy road to the negotiations. Especially now we must remain vigilant. And we will continue to implement all U.N. Security Council resolutions on North Korea.
North Korea will receive relief only when it demonstrates verifiable and irreversible steps to denuclearization.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FIELD: No details from the administration on how they hope to accomplish that. We heard from the secretary of state earlier this week, who said they wouldn't be talking about the specific elements of an agreement.
But certainly President Trump has tempered expectations, saying it could be the start of conversations, a get-to-know-you meeting, lowering expectations from what many believe could potentially happen a few weeks or months ago.
Secretary of Defense taking a tougher tone against North Korea than what we have heard from the president in recent days.
ALLEN: We are also hearing an interesting development that the leader of Syria, Mr. Assad, may now also meet with North Korea.
What's that about?
FIELD: Kim Jong-un is getting ready to sit down with President Trump, something that he seems eager to do. But in advance of that, he has been making serious efforts to tighten up his closest relationships.
We had two meetings with the Chinese president Xi Jinping. There is a summit that's being scheduled before the end of the year with the Russian President Vladimir Putin. And now North Korean state news is reporting that the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will travel to Pyongyang to meet with Kim Jong-un.
This is what KCNA says that Assad says. They quote him as saying, "The world welcomes the remarkable events in the Korean Peninsula brought about by the outstanding political caliber and wise leadership of Kim Jong-un. I'm sure he will achieve the final victory and realize the reunification of Korea without fail."
Again, no date set for that meeting yet. But certainly North Korea and Syria have had warm relations for many decades, stretching back to the 1960s. It was Kim Jong-un's grandfather who met with Assad's father in the '70s. Kim Jong-un and Assad have exchanged friendly, congratulatory and supportive messages in the past.
This will be the first historic face-to-face meeting between the two.
ALLEN: Much to watch. All right. Alexandra Field for us, keep us posted on that hotel issue, too. Thanks.
All right. More people are being forced to leave their homes as massive wildfires spread across parts of the Western U.S. In New Mexico, the Ute Park Fire has grown to 121 square kilometers. That's about 46 square miles. Hundreds of firefighters battling this one. It is still uncontained.
And in California, firefighters are making progress fighting a brush fire that has already scorched 100 hectares, that's about 250 acres.
ALLEN: All right. We'll look at another issue and another area that has had massive problems. Puerto Rico is bracing for a new hurricane season. Families across the U.S. territory are feeling renewed grief for the loved ones lost to Hurricane Maria last year.
Reports this week raise questions about how many people died in that storm. CNN's Leyla Santiago takes a look at how people are coping.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thousands of shoes have been placed at the capital building in San Juan, Puerto Ricans coming here and raising awareness of specific people who died, they believe, because of Hurricane Maria.
I spoke to this family; I'll come down here so you can see. This is Doroteo Diaz y Rodriguez. And his family told me that he had medical conditions that worsened significantly after Hurricane Maria, given the lack of access to medical care as well as lack of power.
His son wrote here, "We will love you always." And he is number 1,580. There are more than 2,000 shoes that have been placed right here at the capital building. A lot of hugs, a lot of tears.
The organizer told me, this is a funeral and they consider this the cemetery. I spoke to one woman who came here and was just caught up with all the emotion, crying.
When I asked her why, she said she had two pairs of shoes to put down.
And then she said, "I smell death. This is death."
Of course, all of this comes after Harvard put out a new study that indicates they believe that at least 4, 600 people died as a result of Maria. The Puerto Rican government says the death toll remains at 64, even though they have commissioned a study with George Washington University that was supposed to part of it be complete in May but there have been delays.
And the timing of this is also creating anxiety. We are now in the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season. And as we have spent the week traveling across this island, many people say that they are not prepared for another hurricane to come because this island is just too vulnerable and it's still recovering -- Leyla Santiago, CNN, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
ALLEN: We certainly hope Puerto Rico gets spared this hurricane season.
Next here: deported from the U.S., separated from their families and now homeless.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Welcome home here. It's about name tags, humiliating roll calls, loosening your shoes again and realizing, as a grown man, you have to start from zero again.
ALLEN (voice-over): CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has exclusive coverage from El Salvador on this problem -- just ahead here.
Also, more companies and countries are banning plastic utensils and straws.
How will that help clean up our already polluted oceans filled with plastic?
I'll ask an expert just ahead.
ALLEN: Welcome back everyone. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Here are our top stories.
ALLEN: Pressure is growing for the U.S. Congress to vote on immigration before the midterm elections in November. House Speaker Paul Ryan has said he wants to vote only on an immigration bill that has the potential to become law but critics say he is stalling.
And now ailing senator John McCain is the latest Republican to support a bipartisan effort in the House of Representatives to force a vote on immigration. McCain has introduced a bill in the Senate to save the DACA program, which protects nearly 700,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
And now to a CNN exclusive. A terrifying new reality for deportees kicked out of the United States and sent back to El Salvador. They fear they may never see their families again and brutal gangs, including MS-13, see an opportunity to recruit them. In an exclusive report on the gangs in El Salvador, our senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh met some of these young men and is telling their stories.
WALSH (voice-over): Someone is murdered here --
WALSH (voice-over): -- every two hours, one in 10 people ensnared by gangs. Streets plagued by machete killings, rape and police abuses.
Welcome to El Salvador, the cruelest of homelands. And the toughest of places to be forced back to. These are the first moments of men deported from the United States back to a land they can't really call home anymore.
Blinking, sleepless and now homeless, they're some of the 200,000 Salvadorans deported from their long-term homes in the United States under President Trump's immigration crackdown.
TRUMP: We cannot let people enter our country. We have no idea who they are, what they do, where they came from. We don't know if they're murders, if they're killers, if they're MS-13. We're throwing them out by the hundreds.
WALSH: Many here had a matter of hours' notice, no chance even to call ahead as they're forced back to a country some have not seen for years, maybe even decades.
Welcome home here is about name tags, isolating roll calls, lacing your shoes again and realizing, as a grown man, that you have to start from zero again, empty handed.
Christian Lara lived in the USA for 20 years and was deported coming out to his Florida, construction job. He had only committed immigration offenses. The best choice now is a $5 a day farm job.
He doesn't know when or if he'll see his family again.
What are your daughters' names?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jennifer.
WALSH: How old?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twelve, another one of 3 years.
WALSH: Three years.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She is my little baby, Angela.
WALSH: I'm sorry, my friend.
Oscar is more complicated, he is 20, went to America at age 10 and served four months for assault and bodily harm in Houston. Yet back here, he trembles.
Are you scared of the gangs here now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
WALSH: Are you scared you may end up involve and caught up in that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I was in the USA, I see news, I see people killed every day. It is scaring me man.
WALSH: He is already counting the money in his account to see if he has enough for the $8,000 smuggling fee back to the U.S. Christian meets his mother after four years and recently deported brother Hosway (ph).
Only two weeks later, Hosway messages me on his way to Guatemala to pay to be smuggled back to the United States; 48 hours pass since we meet Christian and Oscar, in which there are two beheadings, over 20 murders and a policeman is killed.
It's no accident that the elite police come here in large number heavily armed. This is a gang-controlled area and literally streets away from where Oscar is beginning his new life back in El Salvador. Oscar agrees to meet us again. He's had two nights in his new home, but it took just four hours for the gang to approach him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: MS-13, they take my shirt down.
And I tell them, what you doing, man?
I want to check if you got tattoos on your body.
OK. I don't have any tattoo on my body.
WALSH: He is looking to see if you're Barrio 18 or the other gang?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
WALSH: This is your first few hours back home? Right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
WALSH: What are you thinking?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Man, don't want to be living here.
WALSH: His dad didn't want to know him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He looked like I'm a (INAUDIBLE) man.
Why you come to my house, man?
WALSH: And this is what falling down here looks like. In the crammed prisons for the gang playgrounds where Oscar, his family and the U.S. frankly, hope he doesn't end up. Where gang culture brews and hardens and tattoos --
[05:40:00] WALSH (voice-over): -- and no opportunities unavoidably lead. Petty theft in California led to deportation for Edwin and now jail.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're in this country just because you have tattoos, the gang automatically think that you are a member of some gang or you have been part of a gang. So here it's different. I mean, a little kid could take your life away. If you don't talk to them, you're their enemy. And then if you talk to them, then they want you to be part of them.
WALSH: Some deportees from the United States have committed crimes, others none by being in the U.S. illegally. Come back to a world where their desperation and vulnerability and the risk for gangs have on their new world deepens further still. El Salvador is chaos -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN.
ALLEN: And our deep appreciation to Nick for that very powerful story.
The world is being flooded with plastic garbage. It is choking our oceans, wreaking havoc on both humans and animals. Next, I'll ask an expert how we might reverse our plastic consumption.
ALLEN: Dozens of containers have fallen off this ship and now cargo, including diapers, surgical masks and sanitary products are washing up on Australian beaches. The ship was sailing from Taiwan to Sydney on Thursday when it got tossed in 5-meter or 16-foot swells in the Tasman Sea; 83 containers dropped off the vessel and 30 more were --
ALLEN: -- damaged. Officials say the cargo is not hazardous but some fear it could threaten maritime traffic and migrating whales, just more to worry about for our oceans.
Just this week, we have seen how disposable manmade trash is affecting animals and whales. A pilot whale died in Thailand after swallowing more than 80 plastic bags. That's about 8 kilograms or 17 pounds of plastic built up in the mammal's stomach, making it impossible for the animal to eat.
A veterinary team found the whale barely alive Monday and tried to stabilize it but it died Friday, joining the hundreds of marine animals that die in Thai waters each year because of plastic.
Let's talk about the dangers of plastic with Will McCallum. He's the head of Oceans at Greenpeace and the author of "How to Give Up Plastic." Will, thank you so much for talking with us because this story, this problem is just immense. Finally, the world is taking action against single-use plastic and it's taken graphic photos of animals who suffered and died because of our flippant use of items that we don't really have to use and then toss them away.
There is a ban on some of these items, plastic utensils and straws.
Is that a start that is in any way going to make a dent in this problem?
WILL MCCALLUM, OCEANS AT GREENPEACE: Absolutely, it's going to make a dent. The scale of this problem is huge. There are up to 13 million tons of plastic going into the ocean every year. That's almost a rubbish truck and in it.
And these single-use items, things like bags, straws, plastic cutlery, they are among the most found things on our beaches. So banning them will have a huge impact. We saw that whale in Thailand with bags in its stomach, that was ordinary consumer products.
So getting rid of those is an amazing first step. But we do have to go further and (INAUDIBLE) we need to realize that we are just producing too much plastic overall. So what we are looking to companies and governments to do is anything that reduces the amount of plastic they're using overall.
ALLEN: Who are you looking for to step up?
Who hasn't stepped up that is generating so much plastic?
MCCALLUM: I think lots of companies are starting and are at the start of their journey. (INAUDIBLE). I wouldn't want to single out anyone just at the moment. But any company that is relying on single-use packaging, particularly things like sachets, which are unrecyclable, they're things that you get condiments in or sauces that you just you rip the top off and throw away, they are causing a huge problem.
I think any company producing product that is totally unrecyclable like that needs to reconsider their business model and needs to start looking at alternative delivery options or looking at alternative product because we have no place for a product that just cannot be recycled anymore.
ALLEN: Absolutely. There was one picture that apparently went viral, of a turtle with a plastic straw lodged all the way up its nostril into its brain. That kind of woke a lot of people up to the situation.
It's not just animals that are in jeopardy, it's choking our oceans as well, correct?
MCCALLUM: Correct. That picture of the turtle, you're right, it absolutely went viral. But I have seen plastic everywhere. I have seen it in some of the remote waters on the planet, down in Antarctica. I have seen it on uninhabited islands off the west coast of Scotland. It really is a problem that's going absolutely everywhere.
We know it's in the frozen arctic tundra, we know that it's in the deepest trenches in the ocean and it's really getting to the point where it is choking our oceans.
ALLEN: We were just seeing pictures of straws there. Most people don't think about the fact that you get a cup. You get a straw. When I go to restaurants, they will put straws down on the table. I'll say, no straws, thank you.
But it is public awareness and citizens thinking about this, isn't it?
Now is the time. Just looking at this video, it's just enormous, such pollution and such a detriment to these poor animals that are getting -- even a lot of whales get stuck in fishing traps and plastic.
MCCALLUM: Completely and on any environmental issue, I have never been asked a question so often, what can I do to help?
My book is filled with the kind of tips that anyone can do, both in their own home but also in their own community. Talked to the owner of your local cafe and ask them, do they really need those plastic coffee stirrers?
Do they need plastic cutlery?
Can they not swap for metal reusables?
Before we leave the house, it's worth having a little list, things like to you have your reusable --
MCCALLUM: -- bottle on you? Do you have your reusable coffee cup? Do you have your metal straw?
Do you really want this straw?
There are so many ways that individuals can be having a really big difference on the problem.
ALLEN: Your book is, "How To Give Up Plastic." And Will McCallum, I'm going to read it for sure. I'm going to leave it everywhere I go so people will pick it up. Thanks so much for the work that you do and keep on keeping on. Thanks so much.
MCCALLUM: Thank you.
ALLEN: Next here, the U.S. president reveals his secrets for staying fit. It's a very short list.
(MUSIC PLAYING) ALLEN: President Trump loves fast food, has some bizarre theories
about exercise and is hardly svelte. So it's more than ironic this week when he told Americans they need to stay healthy. Here's Jeanne Moos with that.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The only thing on the president that got a real workout, his hands. The event was organized by the president's Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition. Three things not instantly associated with --
MOOS (voice-over): -- the president.
Though he did start a race and swing a golf club as he mingled with sport stars like pitcher Mariano Rivera.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Does winning get boring to you, Mariano?
MOOS: But the president may think his diet has gotten boring. Five months ago, Dr. Ronny Jackson proclaimed --
DR. RONNY JACKSON, WHITE HOUSE DOCTOR: I think a reasonable goal over the next year or so is to lose 10 to 15 pounds.
MOOS: Now we're hearing the president is occasionally trading in a steak --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Super golden --
MOOS: For Dover sole and leaving off the top bun when he eats a burger. Chefs in the White House kitchen have been told to reduce calories and fat.
MOOS (on camera): Keep in mind that this is a guy who has expressed the view that exercise is bad for you.
MOOS (voice over): Some call it the Energizer Bunny theory.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Still going.
MOOS: Trump's apparent belief cited in "Trump Revealed." "The human body was like a battery, with a finite amount of energy which exercise only depleted. He once suggested to Dr. Oz that rallies are a workout.
TRUMP: I'm up there using a lot of motion and I guess that's a form of exercise.
MOOS: From the kiddie lift, to the fist pump, to the half toss. We've seen no indication President Trump is hitting the White House gym. As he once told Reuters, I get exercise, I mean I walk, I this, I that. Not to mention --
JACKSON: He has incredible genes.
MOOS: To keep him running like the Energizer Bunny.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep going and going and going.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And going and going and going.
ALLEN: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. For U.S. viewers, "NEW DAY" is next. For everyone else I'll be right back with our top stories.