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Trump to Name Supreme Court Pick; Comedian Pranks U.S. President on Air Force One; U.S. Newspaper Shooting; Thailand Cave Search; Syrians Flee to Southern Border; CNN Summits Mt. Everest. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired June 30, 2018 - 02:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): New details from the White House on the upcoming summit between President Trump and the Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Also Thailand's effort to rescue 12 teens and their football coach trapped in a cave, continues.

Plus escaping violence from a fierce government offensive. Thousands of Syrians head south. We have a report from the Israeli side of the border ahead.

Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta welcome to our viewers around the world. I'm George Howell and CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


HOWELL: Around the world, good day to you. The U.S. President says he has five people in mind for the U.S. Supreme Court. Two of the five, he says, are women. Donald Trump may interview some of them this weekend and says he will announce his final choice on July 9th. Our Boris Sanchez has this report for us.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Trump making headlines on a number of topics during a short gaggle with reporters on his way to Bedminster, New Jersey, for the weekend, notably talking about a possible replacement for Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced earlier this week he's retiring from the Supreme Court.

The president saying that he has whittled down a list of 25 names to a possible five candidates, two of them including women. The president also making news saying that he plans to interview one or two of these possible candidates over the weekend here in Bedminster.

But among the topics of conversation, their stance on abortion will not be discussed. President Trump saying he'll not ask these possible candidates their stance on Roe v. Wade, a very controversial issue, one that Justice Anthony Kennedy was previously known for creating a lot of controversy over.

Here's more from President Trump on what he plans to talk to these candidates about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you looking for somebody who would overturn Roe v. Wade?

TRUMP: Well, you know, it's a great group of intellectual talent but we really, you know, they are generally conservative. I'm not going to ask them that question, by the way. That's not a question I'll be asking. But it is a group of very highly talented, very brilliant, mostly conservative judges.

SANCHEZ: President Trump also saying he does not plan to ask these possible candidates about their stance on LGBT issues.

The president also made news on several other fronts, including suggesting that he plans to talk to Vladimir Putin about election meddling, telling reporters there should not be election meddling anywhere in the world.

There has been some discussion previously, even among those in his own party, that President Trump has been weak when it comes to confronting Vladimir Putin over this. In previous meetings, the president seeming to accept Putin's version of events and denials, saying Russia had nothing to do with meddling in the 2016 election.

Just on Friday, the president tweeted that assertion before pivoting to attacks on Democrats, the FBI and his own Department of Justice. Lastly the president also made news on the topic of his chief of staff, John Kelly, and reports that Kelly was planning to leave the White House as early as the end of summer.

The president suggesting that he did not know anything about those reports and that they were fake news.

However, sources have told CNN previously that President Trump has been talking to allies and advisers, polling them on possible replacements over the course of the last few months.

So we know from those sources that this, in fact, has been something on the president's radar for some time -- Boris Sanchez, CNN, traveling with the president near Bedminster, New Jersey.


HOWELL: Boris, thank you.

And Boris touched on the issue of the Supreme Court. Again, a lot of focus has been on Mr. Trump appointing a new Supreme Court but he has also taken an aggressive approach toward filling lower courts with conservative judges. I spoke earlier with political analyst Michael Genovese about the impact there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MICHAEL GENOVESE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He has not only been aggressive, he's been successful. I think this is one of the areas where the conservatives who held their nose and voted for Trump because of the courts are very, very pleased. They've been rewarded. The president has been going gung ho on nominating and getting approved a number of federal and appellate court justices and now a second Supreme Court justice.

That means his legacy will last long beyond his term in office. He'll have an impact over the understanding of American law for 30 years, if not more.

HOWELL: OK, Michael, let's shift now and talk about Mr. Trump's upcoming meeting with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. In this case, the president says he plans to talk about election meddling when they meet in July.

The question, though, will he challenge Putin?

Or again concede to Russia's denial on it all?

GENOVESE: Well, you know, it's been a mystery --


GENOVESE: -- this bromance renewed. The president is very willing to criticize both behind the scenes and in public our allies and G7 allies but not Putin.

Somehow he just will -- it's a bromance that he will not broach in public. And so you wonder why in private he will not say anything. In effect, the president has been handing to Putin what he wants policy wise: the undermining of NATO, the undermining of our alliance, the weakening of the United States and Europe.

That's what Putin has wanted. So it's hard to imagine the president very aggressively confronting Putin when he has been such a lamb in terms of his treatment of Putin thus far.

HOWELL: Michael, let's get your thoughts on what Mr. Trump said about Crimea. Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your meeting with President Putin when you're in Europe, will you talk to him about Crimea?

TRUMP: I will talk to him about everything. Don't forget, President Obama gave up Crimea. That was totally given up by President Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Putin did that, not President Obama.

TRUMP: No, no, President Obama gave it up.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOWELL: Michael, rather than blaming Putin for invading and annexing Crimea, Mr. Trump placed the blame on his predecessor, Barack Obama, for, as he put it, "giving it up."

GENOVESE: Again, amazing. You focus on Obama and find anything to blame him for. And you let Putin off the hook.

Putin is the one who interfered with our elections. Putin is the one who, in fact, who did invade the Ukraine, stole NATO territory and has caused all these problems. So Putin is the one we should be focusing on. He is the source of our troubles, not Barack Obama.

That was then and this is now.

How do you deal right now with a president in the form of Putin, who is working against American interests?

And why isn't our president confronting him more aggressively?

HOWELL: Michael Genovese, thank you so much for your time and perspective.

GENOVESE: Thank you.


HOWELL: Now to what can only be described as a mile-high security breach. A comedian posing as a U.S. senator says he got President Trump to call him back from Air Force One.

That comedian's name, John Melendez, also known as Stuttering John on the Howard Stern radio show, he posed as Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, and he was able to get a message to the president that he wanted to chat. And chat they did.


TRUMP: Hi, Bob.

JOHN MELENDEZ, COMEDIAN: Hey, how are you?

TRUMP: How are you?

Congratulations on everything, we're proud of you. Congratulations. Great job. You went through a tough, tough situation and I don't think a very fair situation.


HOWELL: Now that's just part of the conversation that was had. An official at the White House offered some insight into how this prank call from Stuttering John happened. He had this to say.

"The president wants to be accessible to members and likes engaging with them and wants them to have the opportunity to connect. The downside of that is that sometimes the channels are open too widely and mistakes like this happen."

Moving on now to the U.S. state of Maryland, people spent Friday remembering the victims of a deadly shooting that took place at a community newspaper. There are plenty of tears, many prayers at the vigil for five people who were killed at the "Capital Gazette" in Annapolis.

Hundreds of mourners united in their grief remembered those gunned down as they did their jobs. Outside the office building where the newspaper is located a memorial was also set up there Friday. The suspect, he appeared in court and we learn more details about the shooting. Our Brian Todd picks up it from here.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jarrod Ramos stormed the Annapolis office building, authorities say, armed with a shotgun and smoke grenades and opened fire.

The 38-year-old Maryland man appearing in court today, facing five counts of first-degree murder. Prosecutors say he executed a plan in the newspaper's offices so people could not escape as he began systematically hunting and killing.

WES ADAMS, ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY STATE'S ATTORNEY: There were two entrances to the offices in which this occurred. The rear door was barricaded. Mr. Ramos then, as I told the judge, entered into the front door and worked through his way the office where he was shooting victims as he walked through the office.

TODD: Phil Davis, a crime reporter for the "Gazette," says Ramos fired through a newsroom window.

PHIL DAVIS, CRIME REPORTER, "CAPITAL GAZETTE": At some point when I was listening to him reload, it's -- it's, you know, "Are we all going to die?"

TODD: Police arrived on the scene in minutes. The suspect was found hiding under a desk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's inside the "Capital Gazette" office, the main office where all the victims are.

TODD: Ramos had a long-running feud with the paper, dating back to 2011 when the "Capital Gazette" published a story about Ramos's online harassment of a --


TODD (voice-over): -- former female high school classmate.

Ramos sent the woman messages asking for help, calling her vulgar names and telling her to kill herself, according to the "Capital Gazette" article. Her attorney tells CNN she eventually left Maryland, hoping for a safer life away from Ramos. BRENNAN MCCARTHY, ATTORNEY FOR WOMAN HARASSED BY SHOOTER: She was so scared and this was day after day after day of Twitter -- twittering, just tweets all over the place. Naming her and me and everyone else, that she finally just left. This was malevolence.

He had an issue with this woman. I don't know what it was, but he did everything he could to destroy her life. And he succeeded.

TODD: According to court records, Ramos filed a defamation complaint in 2012 against the paper that was ultimately dismissed. Tom Marquardt was the editor and publisher of the "Capital Gazette" at the time. He says that Ramos threatened him and the writer of the story.

TOM MARQUARDT, FORMER EDITOR AND PUBLISHER, "CAPITAL GAZETTE": We have gotten threats in the past, but this one was particularly alarming because it was attached to a name. And in previous complaints, oftentimes, they came across anonymously. And some of the comments he was making online were a bit off-center.

TODD: Despite those threats, the paper chose not to file a restraining order against Ramos, believing that it would only inflame him, but they still warned their staff.

MARQUARDT: We were alarmed enough to at least contact police and ask them to look into it. And alarmed enough to post his photo at our front desk in case he would come in the door. I had alerted my staff to call 9-1-1 if -- if anybody resembling him came into the room.

TODD: Tonight the victims of this local paper are being remembered. Wendi Winters was an editor and community reporter. She was a 65- year-old mother of four. The "Capital Gazette" describes her as a prolific writer who was beloved by the community she covered closely for years.

Thirty-four-year-old sales assistant Rebecca Smith was a new hire to the paper, who loved spending time with her family.

Editorial page editor Gerald Fischman was known for bringing a quirky and clever voice to the paper. He was a quiet, endearing figure in a newsroom full of characters.

John McNamara, known as Mac, was a staff writer who worked his dream job, sports reporting. He's remembered for his razor wit and being a loyal friend.

Assistant editor Rob Hiaasen, a mentor to all, who celebrated his 33rd wedding anniversary last week. His brother is the author Carl Hiaasen.

CARL HIAASEN, BROTHER OF ROB HIAASEN: He was killed while he was doing what he loved to do, which is to put out this newspaper for the people of Annapolis. He was so proud of those -- those reporters and the other editors. And what he would want me to say is everything they do is for the readers. Put news and facts in the hands of their readers. TODD: To give an idea of the trail of fear left behind by the suspect, the attorney for the woman who was harassed by Ramos says he spoke to his client since Ramos was put behind bars and they agree that even though he is in jail currently, they are still scared. Ramos is being held without bond. The judge and prosecutor saying he is a danger to the community -- Brian Todd, CNN, Annapolis, Maryland.


HOWELL: Brian, thank you.

Still ahead, prayers continue for a rescue that's taking place in Thailand. The very latest on efforts to save 12 boys and their football coach who are believed trapped in a flooded cave.





HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.

It has been 12 weeks now -- it's been one week, I should say -- since 12 boys and their football coach went missing in Thailand. The rescue effort continues. They are not giving up there. They've been scouring the jungle now looking for other ways to get into the cave system you see here. That's where it's believed the team members are still trapped.

Rescuers are trying to drill down into the that mountain and they've been able to rappel down a shaft. They've also dropped food and water, hoping the boys and their coach will find the packages there. Let's bring in CNN's New Delhi bureau chief, Nikhil Kumar, following this story.

Tell us, first of all, is there any optimism here about the new points of entry into this cave system?

NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF: Well, George, that's the hope, that using these new points of entry the teams are able to get down into the cave system and locate this group of 12 boys, aged 11 to 16, and the football coach, who is 25, who went missing a week ago.

The problem is this area of Northern Thailand has witnessed some very heavy rainfall the last few days. That's blocked off the normal entrances to this cave system. As you mentioned, yesterday the team managed to rappel down about 40 meters to try and locate the boys and the coach.

What they're hoping to do is drill in and try to enter the cave system from the top. The water has been a problem and, in fact, pumps that are normally used to help with flood water in Bangkok have been moved up to this forest area in Northern Thailand to help with the rescue efforts.

Everyone in the country has been focused on this search. The prime minister of Thailand was there earlier in the week, taking stock of the situation, and the rescue efforts continue -- George.

HOWELL: Nikhil, also tell us about the concern we're hearing from government officials simply about the media coverage around this.

KUMAR: That's right. So there has been around the clock media coverage in Thailand. People up and down the country are glued to their television screens, waiting for updates on this urgent rescue.

And that prompted concern from Thailand's department of mental health, which has, in fact, put out an advisory saying people should be careful about how much of this coverage they can view in one go so they don't become "overly obsessed," according to the advisory.

They say people shouldn't watch more than an hour of this at a time so they don't get stressed and get overly emotional. So that gives you some sense of the concern in the country about this search, which has now become really quite large.

It's been a week. Today is Saturday. The boys and the coach went missing last Saturday. And since then about 1,000 rescuers are now involved in this effort. It's mostly Thai teams but also teams from the U.S. military, also some British cave experts. They're all involved in trying to work out where these boys and their coach are in this cave system and to get to them as soon as possible.

HOWELL: Certainly that's what the families want for sure. Nikhil Kumar, live us for in Delhi, thank you. Let's talk about how weather is playing into this.



HOWELL: Still ahead this hour, a new offensive in the Syrian civil war is leaving thousands of people nowhere to go and desperate for any relief. We'll have that story ahead for you.




HOWELL: You could say it's the very definition of between a rock and a hard place. Syrians who are trying to escape a fierce government offensive are heading south to the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights and there they find a tent city and very little help. CNN has obtained video from one of the tent camps that has sprung up right next to the frontier with Israel. Our Ian Lee reports from the Israeli side of the border.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The latest wave of human suffering in Syria shove what they can, a life's work of possessions, crammed into a truck. Kilometers away, the Syrian regime bombards the Daraa region, in the country's southwest corner.

The familiar black smoke of this civil war, more buildings, more towns and villages reduced to rubble. Tens of thousands have fled, most towards Jordan. Others to the frontier separating Syria from the Israel-occupied Golan Heights.

A new life on the run, family in tow without electricity or clean running water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We fled because of the indiscriminate bombings that never stop. Every day there is a massacre in Daraa. The situation is so terrible. We've been here for a week and we have seen zero help. No water, no food. It's a catastrophic situation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We have no shelter from the sun or the cold. We can't go back and get anything because of the heavy bombing.

Where are we supposed to go?

There are no tents here. There is nothing here. And we have been like this for a year.

Where are we supposed to go?

Do we go back to the bombing and shelling?

LEE (voice-over): On the high ground, Israel watches for new arrivals, thousands so far, gathering at the fence. Thursday night an Israeli army convoy opened the wire and delivered tents, food, medical supplies and clothing.

Over several years, Israel has treated thousands of injured Syrians but the Assad regime's latest offensive creates a new crisis and Israel is adamant it's not going to open the gates and let refugees in.

Crossing on foot would be dangerous, too. Leftover mines span this frontier.

LEE: Standing here on this --


LEE: -- side of the fence we are relatively safe, although we have heard some gunshots. But just a couple of meters down the road, for those Syrians fleeing that fighting, their future is uncertain.

LEE (voice-over): Tonight the war will be in the distance. They'll get some sleep they've lacked for days. But who knows what tomorrow will bring -- Ian Lee, CNN on the Golan Heights.


HOWELL: Whether it's for the exciting experience or personal journey climbing Mt. Everest, it is a fierce and life-threatening quest. CNN followed two British adventurers on their dramatic trek across the top of the world as they negotiated the mountain's dangers while traveling a path that not everyone has survived.

Just take a look here at this preview.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Everest, at 8,848 meters, it is the tallest mountain on Earth.

It wasn't until 1953 that Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers known to have reached its summit; 65 years on, the mountain maintains its mystique. Everest is a place of heroism, determination, disaster, even death. Climbers endure weeks of suffering in the pursuit of their dream.

Despite a recent reputation for litter, cues (ph), the routes to the roof of the world remains one of humanity's greatest challenges. More than 4,500 people have followed Hillary and Norgay in standing on that snowy peak. But success comes at a cost. Almost 300 climbers never returned home.


HOWELL: Wow. And you can see "The Challenge: Everest" in three different parts exclusively on CNN, starting Saturday, 8:30 pm in Hong Kong, 1:30 this afternoon in London, only here on CNN.

And finally some great news for an endangered species. Four Amur tiger cubs were born in a zoo just outside London. They are only about 500 -- there are only left of 500 of that species also known as Siberian tigers left in the wild.

We don't know whether the cubs are male or female yet. But the zookeepers are keeping close watch on them, with the help of hidden cameras there. The Whipsnade Zoo will be sharing their first few steps on social media over the next few weeks. But visitors will have to wait until later this season to see them in person.

Thanks for being with us here on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Your world headlines right after the break.