Return to Transcripts main page


Venezuelan President Blames "Right Wing" for Assassination Attempt; Zimbabwe Election; 2018 Midterms; Russia Investigation; Druze Protests against Israel; Dems Search for Winning Strategy; Bangladesh Protests; Some U.S. Communities Rocked by MS-13 Murders; TSA Considers Drastic Budget Cuts; Orca's Grief Echoes Her Species' Fight for Life. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired August 5, 2018 - 04:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Drones armed with explosives appear to target the Venezuelan president. Nicolas Maduro calls it an assassination attempt by the far right.

Plus he's lashing out in public but in private the U.S. president is said to be concerned about his children getting tangled up in the Russia investigation.

Also a mother's pain, a police commissioner pledge, an attorney's vow. A closer look at the dangerous street gang, MS-13.

It's all ahead here this hour. Welcome to our viewers here in the U.S. and all around the world. I'm Natalie Allen, live from Atlanta, and this is CNN NEWSROOM.

ALLEN: Our top story: Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro is defiant after emerging unharmed from what he calls an assassination attempt. Government officials say drones detonated explosives near him during a military ceremony.

Soldiers broke ranks and scattered after a second explosion. Bodyguards surrounded President Maduro and took him off the stage. Hours later, he addressed the nation again. He revisited a conspiracy theory he uses often, blaming Colombia and a right-wing plot for trying to oust him.

We get more now from CNN's Rafael Romo, who has been speaking with Venezuelan officials about this apparent attack.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SR. LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR: The two explosions rattled president Nicolas Maduro when he was on stage. The socialist leader was in the middle of a speech during an event to celebrate the 81st anniversary of Venezuela's National Guard when the blast happened.

The president would later say that it was an attempt against his life. He blamed far right elements of the Venezuelan opposition and Colombia's outgoing president, Juan Manuel Santos.


MADURO (through translator): This was an attempt to kill me. They have tried to kill me today. And I am not doubting that everything signals that right, ultra-right, Venezuelan ultra-right and Colombian ultra-right and the name of Juan Manuel Santos is behind this attempt.

ROMO: The Colombian government said there was no basis for the accusation and that president Juan Manuel Santos was focused on the baptism of a granddaughter and not on topping foreign governments.

Asked by CNN if the Venezuelan government had any evidence linking Colombia, the Venezuelan attorney general refused to answer.

President Maduro also said, without showing any proof, that those responsible for financing and planning the attack are in the United States, specifically in the state of Florida, where many Venezuelan immigrants live.

A senior State Department official traveling with U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo in Indonesia said they heard the reports and are following the situation closely.

Venezuela is in the middle of a deep financial crisis. The International Monetary Fund recently said inflation will reach 1 million percent this year. Blackouts and shortages of basic food items are commonplace -- Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.


ALLEN: What does this apparent attack tell us about the political and economic turmoil affecting Venezuela?

We posed that question to Jennifer McCoy, a professor of political science at Georgia State University and a co-author of the book, "International Mediation in Venezuela."


JENNIFER MCCOY, GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY: There has been a great deal of unrest in Venezuela and also a lot of dissatisfaction apparently, even among military ranks.

The government has been arresting and removing military personnel from the ranks, accusing many of conspiracy against it. So this is another in a pattern that has been going on for the last couple of years. Of course, we'll have to wait to see the evidence, to see what was really behind it.

It's very possible that it could have been an attempt. There have been a couple of others this year.

But also some people say it was, you know, something organized by the government in order to drum up support for it. The government does regularly make accusations of conspiracies from abroad. In this case, he has accused Colombia and Venezuelans living in the United States.

That would certainly show how vulnerable the government is because the situation is very untenable for most people living in Venezuela.

If the government -- if it was a made-up event, if it was something that the government constructed itself, it also shows its vulnerability for the dissatisfaction of life. They have announced a new economic plan that will supposedly save the economy.

But I think many outside economists do not have faith in that plan.


MCCOY: So we are unlikely to see a dramatic improvement in living standards in Venezuela very soon.


ALLEN: Another top story: funerals have begun in Zimbabwe in the wake of deadly post-election violence. Hundreds gathered to mourn a 52-year-old mother of two, whose family says she was shot in the back while coming home from work.

Six people were killed in clashes between security forces and protesters who said the election was rigged. Our David McKenzie is in the capital, Harare.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The election standoff continues here in Zimbabwe with the opposition refusing to concede defeat and saying they will present evidence of rigging, something they haven't done so yet.

This weekend there were funerals of those killed in the violence that broke out mid-last week after this disputed poll. Emmerson Mnangagwa, the president elect, said he welcomed the opposition taking their dispute to the courts here in Zimbabwe.

But there are growing calls in the region and in the continent for the opposition and Nelson Chamisa, its leader, to concede defeat. But so far, this dispute continues, leaving this country in a potentially difficult limbo as it tries to move beyond years of economic stagnation -- David McKenzie, CNN, Harare.


ALLEN: Sources close to the White House tell CNN that President Trump is worried his children will get called up in the Russia investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller. Mr. Trump is said to be especially concerned about his son, Don Jr., although the president's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, denied that in a statement to CNN.

Mueller has been looking into the meeting at Trump Tower that Don Jr. held with a group of Russians during the campaign. If Don Jr. was lying when he told Congress under oath that his father did not know about the meeting at the time, he could be charged with a crime.

The political clout of U.S. President Trump is about to be tested. On Tuesday, voters in Ohio go to the polls for a special election. It is the last such contest before the important November midterms and the president is using his star power to energize his supporters, hoping it will be enough to send Troy Balderson to Congress.

The district normally favors Republicans but Democratic challenger Danny O'Connor has surged in the polls and is now statistically even. If Balderson loses, it could foreshadow an electoral backlash in the midterm election which is just three months away. The president addressed that possibility with disdain and insults.


TRUMP: They're talking about this blue wave. I don't think so. I don't think so. Maxine Waters is leading the charge -- Maxine. She's a real beauty. Maxine. A seriously low IQ person. Seriously. Maxine Waters.


ALLEN: Maxine Waters, a Democrat. Well, the president also addressed election meddling but declined to single out Russia.


TRUMP: We have to stop it. We have to stop meddling. We have to stop everybody from attacking us. But there are a lot. Russia is there, China's there. We're doing well with North Korea but they're probably there. We have to stop everybody.


ALLEN: Let's talk more about it with Steven Erlanger, chief diplomatic correspondent from "The New York Times." He joins us from Brussels.

Steven, nice to see you. We appreciate you being with us. Let's begin there with the rally in the state of Ohio. This is the final special election, a congressional battle between a Republican and Democrat. The vote is Tuesday, prior to the midterms.

How critical is this outcome for Mr. Trump?

STEVEN ERLANGER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, for us, it's critical. I think momentum is what we're talking about.

If the Republicans lose this seat, which is possible, it would indicate that Mr. Trump has not only been energizing his base but has been energizing the opposition to him also, because the Democratic Party is always arguing with itself.

But the fact is there are a lot of people out there, who will campaign and will vote against Mr. Trump, as well as his base which he hear in all of his rallies as quite enthusiastically for him. He is someone who lives on division. He creates division and it could

be that, in the midterms, his party is hurt by that kind of division. But we will have to see.

ALLEN: Yes. He continued to blast the media during his rally.

Was his attacks on the news industry --


ALLEN: -- his war, if you will, on the media, do you think that could help him or hurt him in the November midterms?

ERLANGER: Some of these are like Trump's greatest hits. The way he goes after Maxine Waters and Hillary Clinton, these are buttons that he presses that he knows excites his supporters. And the media is a very good target for him. We are, you know, he likes to use us, as I keep saying, as puppets in his little show.

I do think, you know, it has certainly helped us as a newspaper. It's helped you, as a network, with more viewers. Again, the country has become so polarized that people are much more engaged in politics than they were three or four years ago.

What worries me about the attack on the press is that I don't think he actually, in his heart of hearts, means it. That's left to be said. But enemies of the people, that's a dangerous phrase and I'm worried that he's going to get somebody killed. That's what actually worries me very much.

ALLEN: He seems to -- when he does attack the media, he is having a lot of fun. He may not be thinking of the consequences.

It's interesting; when his daughter was asked this week does she think the media is the enemy of the state, she said no.

ERLANGER: That's right. And then his press secretary, you know was dodging it. I don't think she thinks the press is the enemy of the people, either, but rather than say so, which would have annoyed her boss, she simply said I speak for him and you know what his words are.

But what he actually believes inside himself, this is a man who has an outer person and an inner person, both arranged differently. But they don't always agree with one another.

ALLEN: Right. Let's talk about the investigation. Sources close to the White House tell CNN the president is growing concerned that the Russia investigation is getting close to his son, Don Jr., about that meeting at Trump Tower during the election with some Russians, and perhaps getting close to his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

And that may be what is behind his increasingly frenzied public agitation over Robert Mueller. He certainly continues to relentlessly attack the investigation.

What do you think about that report about him being concerned about his family?

ERLANGER: I think he's right to be concerned. I think he's absolutely right to be concerned. Donald Trump Jr. is on the record in an e-mail basically asking for more dirt on Hillary Clinton from this meeting with Russians. That's why he took the meeting.

And so this, you know, makes him vulnerable, particularly if he lied to Congress about it. I don't think anyone is going to get him for perjury particularly.

But he is clearly an instrument that Mueller is looking at, trying to decide whether there was real conspiracy, collusion, between the Trump campaign and Russia, because the Trump campaign was clearly looking for dirt on Hillary Clinton. And these so-called representatives of Russia seemed to be offering it.

So that's what Mueller is looking into. And I think the president is right to be concerned that this investigation will touch his son.

ALLEN: I also want to ask you, Steven, why is there such a back-and- forth about whether Mr. Trump will sit down with Mueller's team?

ERLANGER: Well, his lawyers would like him not to. That I think is probably the wise course. But President Trump, as we know, is full of self-confidence. He believes he can get into a room with anyone, whether it's Kim Jong-un or it's the president of Iran or Vladimir Putin, and win the day through his personal negotiating skill.

So partly, I think he just, you know, wants a mano a mano conversation with Robert Mueller because that's who Trump is. But I think his lawyers will probably restrain him.

Maybe he'll answer questions, written questions, that they'll be able to vet. But, you know, the president does, as we know, what he pretty much wants to do. He wanted to meet Vladimir Putin and his aides thought it would go away and it didn't.

And so he met Vladimir Putin. If he really wants to do a face-to-face interview with Mueller that's what he is going to do. But his lawyers will encourage him not to do that.

ALLEN: We always appreciate your insight. Steven Erlanger, thanks so much for giving us the time.


ERLANGER: Thanks, Natalie.

ALLEN: Well, speaking of Vladimir Putin, how about this one?

American martial arts actor Steven Seagal became a Russian citizen a couple of years ago. And now the Kremlin is rewarding him. The ministry of foreign affairs says Seagal has been named a special representative to promote U.S. and Russia relations through cultural and youth exchanges. The actor is a close friend of the Russian president. A small minority group gathers a big presence. Why the Druze are protesting a new law in Israel. We'll tell you about that.

Plus officials are warning Hawaiians to get their emergency kits ready as Hurricane Hector gains power on its way toward the island.





ALLEN: Welcome back.

In Israel, the Druze minority are taking a big stand. They led tens of thousands of people in a protest Saturday against the country's new nation state law. The law declares Israel a Jewish state but the Druze say it discriminates against them. Our Oren Liebermann joins me now from Jerusalem.


ALLEN: Oren, was this expected or somewhat of a surprise?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Druze anger has been building ever since the controversial nation state law was passed. And it's important to understand what they're angry about.

The Druze, a minority in Israel numbering less than 150,000, weren't angry about the fact that this law makes Israel the nation state of the Jewish people. The Druze support that.

What they're angry about is that the law then fails to mention equality or democracy or minority rights. That's what they would like to see added here. And it's that lack of the word "equality" that has led their leaders to say this law makes them feel like second class citizens, them and other minorities in Israel.

This protest had been planned. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been meeting with Druze leaders over the course of the last couple days to try to work out some sort of compromise. It looked like he had a proposed compromise that he called a historic outline for recognizing Druze and other minority contributions.

But that fell apart when the meetings between Netanyahu and the Druze fell apart quite angrily. That then led into this protest, where you see tens of thousands of people in Tel Aviv's central Rabin Square. There are two flags there you see. One obviously the Israeli flag; the second, that multicolored Druze flag. They led this protest but they weren't the only speakers.

In fact, the Israeli mayor of Tel Aviv spoke and he said before this law was passed, Israel was both Jewish and democratic. After this law was passed -- I'm paraphrasing here -- he said all of Israel's citizens are not treating he equally. That gets at the anger of this law.

The question now is what happens next?

Druze leaders as well as other politicians have suggested there could be a special law passed or some other fix to the nation state law. But Israel's parliament isn't in session so any solution is already on hold as anger over this law builds. We'll see if there are more protests planned. But this was certainly an enormous one -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Are the Druze getting support from other Israelis?

LIEBERMANN: They very much are. That protest was not only Druze. If so, it would have been more than half the Druze population in Israel. There were a number of others who see the law as discriminatory, saying the law is perhaps racist, treats Israelis or other Israelis as second class citizens.

And they were very much out there, supporting the Druze. I had mentioned the mayor of Tel Aviv. He's Israeli. He was supporting the Druze and he called for some kind of solution to make the Druze feel whole again, to acknowledge what they have contributed.

And not only the Druze but other Israeli citizens who are not Jewish. And there are a number of different groups there from Bedouin to Circassian to others. So they were all part of that anger over the law. And we'll see what kind of fix some of the politicians can work around.

Or does this anger continue to grow here?

ALLEN: All right. You'll be watching it for us. Oren Liebermann, as always, thank you, Oren.

More than 700 firefighters are battling a forest fire in Southern Portugal. Two villages were evacuated when flames erupted Saturday and 10 water-carrying aircraft were deployed.

The Iberian Peninsula has been experiencing near record high temperatures. An extreme heat wave has been stifling much of Europe, bringing drought and fires from Greece to Sweden. And Western Europe remains in the grip of that heat wave with more records being set.



ALLEN: Coming up here, sharp divisions within the Democrats. Factions within the party are arguing about how to best handle November's midterm elections, the differing strategies, coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM.

Plus paying tribute to a man that lost his life on a rescue mission. The way the Thai soccer team is expressing their thanks. This story ahead here. Please stay with us.




ALLEN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.


ALLEN: In the U.S., the midterm elections are just three months away. Both Democrats and Republicans are struggling to find a winning strategy. The Democrats are split.

Should their candidates push for impeachment of the president or favor a more moderate message?

CNN's Miguel Marquez reports from New Orleans, where many Democrats gathered this weekend.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT MARQUEZ (voice-over): The yearly gathering of progressives, Netroots Nation attracting the president's biggest detractors.

TOM STEYER, BILLIONAIRE: He is reckless, dangerous and lawless. I think that he is a threat to the United States to our people and our democracy.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): One star of the show.

STEYER: Why is he still president?

MARQUEZ (voice-over): California's billionaire Tom Steyer who has spent millions running ads nationwide, urging the impeachment of Donald J. Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why hasn't Congress started impeachment proceedings?

MARQUEZ (voice-over): All the immigration talk now worries mainstream establishment Democrats.

ROBBY MOOK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We're running a hypothetical campaign right now about having an impeachment vote when we could be spending that time and energy revealing to the American people how corrupt this administration is. I don't think that that's a productive way to go right now.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): The fear talking impeachment before the special counsel's investigation is complete could turn off independents and moderates ahead of the midterms and beyond.

(on camera): Is there any concern that that fissure between the far left and the center is going to hurt candidates in November and possibly that the presidential contenders in 2020?

STEYER: I don't think we should be quite so clever about pollsters. And I think that the people, the political establishment in Washington, D.C. should get back to much simpler questions, which is are we telling the truth about the most important things in America? Are we standing up for the American people?

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Potential 2020 contenders making their way to Netroots, Senators Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris.

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ, (D), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Voting for Abdul Sadi for governor is the right thing to do.

MARQUEZ: And self-professed Democratic Socialist candidates, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who upset an established Democrat in primary and is now stumping for progressives nationwide.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't believe the way forward for progressives and Democrats is to go moderate. We want to see candidates who are bold, visionary and who speak to the people.

MARQUEZ: Republicans painting that Netroots as mainstream. And in talking points sent to reporters, the Republican National Committee called Netroots a former early fringe far left progressive movement that had become a key force in moving the Democratic Party further left.

(on camera): Do you think the Democratic Party has moved left or is this a more open tent these days.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do think that it's moving more left. I don't think that progressivism or liberalism is -- is a far-out idea anymore.


ALLEN: The elections are November 6th.

North Korea is pushing back against U.S. diplomacy. U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo shared a handshake with his North Korean counterpart at the ASEAN meeting in Singapore. But Ri Yong Ho now says Washington is going back --


ALLEN: -- on its word to declare an end to the Korean War. And he criticized the U.S. for not moving to end sanctions. He said that was not what President Trump intended when he met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and pointed to goodwill measures from the North, including a moratorium on nuclear tests.

In Bangladesh, a seventh day of large student protests unfolded Saturday. Students are demanding safer roads and a crackdown on unlicensed drivers and unregistered vehicles after a deadly incident a week ago. Cyril Vanier has our story.


CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Traffic brought to a halt. Hundreds of cars set on fire and dozens of people injured. A student protest that began peacefully seven days ago in the Bangladeshi capital is spreading violently across the densely populated country, triggered by the death of two teenagers, run down by a speeding bus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We have been protesting the roads for a few days over some of our demands. We are demanding justice for those students killed by a bus. And we want safe roads.

VANIER (voice-over): It was a privately run bun that mowed down the two students on Sunday after plowing through a crowd of college students. The country's state-run news agency reported that the driver had been arrested Wednesday.

But tens of thousands of students are now demanding a crackdown on traffic safety in a country where more than 4,000 people die in road accidents each year. One of the world's highest ranks, according to the World Bank.

Blocking intersections in Bangladesh's largest city, videos show uniformed school kids sitting in a circle, chanting for justice. Some simply hold up placards; one reading, "Our transport system equals serial killer."

Others demonstrators crowd around a vehicle, demanding to see the driver's certification. Unlicensed bus drivers are reportedly a common problem in Bangladesh. Anger towards them became more heated as the protesting continues.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They continue to stop our buses running, as students attack and damage our vehicles. We cannot go on the roads. Students hit our drivers and our things, so no vehicles could move.

VANIER (voice-over): According to Bangladesh's state-run news agency, the country's education minister told protesters Saturday that their demands were accepted and the government would be working to bring discipline to the country's transportation. But the outraged students show little sign of stopping, paralyzing swaths of the congested capital, a city of more than 10 million -- Cyril Vanier, CNN.


ALLEN: Eleven of the boys rescued in Thailand from a dark flooded cave last month are honoring the men who saved them and the one who died trying. The boys, aged 11 to 16, and their soccer coach participated in a traditional Buddhist ceremony in memory of Saman Gunan, a former Thai Navy SEAL

The boys spent nine days training as Buddhist novices in honor of Gunan. The 12th rescued boy is a Christian and was not ordained.

The MS-13 gang has the attention of Donald Trump. He said they are "animals" and that they are a danger to the entire country of the United States. We'll see how far their reach really goes, coming next in a special report.





ALLEN: President Trump has made fighting the street gang MS-13 a central part of his law and order platform. Listening to the U.S. president, you could be forgiven for thinking MS-13 is everywhere, preying on every American.

Mr. Trump zeroed in on this gang, made up largely of immigrants from Central America. It is not the largest gang in the U.S. and it isn't just made up of undocumented immigrants.

That said, without a doubt, MS-13 is extremely violent and it poses a serious threat. CNN's Ana Cabrera has our story.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her life was taken, stolen from her. It's not right. She had dreams. She had goals. She had a future.

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kayla Cuevas, just 16 years old, a talented athlete, nicknamed The Bullet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They named her The Bullet because she was so quick.

CABRERA: But sadly, unable to escape the violence just outside her door. Kayla and her best friend, Nisa Mickens, savagely murdered just blocks from home September 13th, 2016.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is where it happened and Nisa was found right here.

CABRERA: Attacked with baseball bats and a machete, investigators say, victims of Mara Salvatrucha, the gang better known as MS-13.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I miss her every second of the day.

CABRERA: MS-13 is one of the most violent street gangs in the United States. Federal and local officials agree, designated a transnational criminal organization with roots in Central America, more than 30,000 members worldwide, up to 10,000 in the U.S. and as many as 1,000 on Long Island alone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have about 500 identified MS-13 members here in Nassau County. Out of the 500, we have 215 that are active.

CABRERA: How do you identify who is an active member? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Self admitted, so they'll be all tattooed up MS-13

and self admitted. They give the gang signs. When they get arrested, they ask them gang affiliate, yes, MS-13.

CABRERA: What is the gang's MO?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kill, rape, control.

CABRERA: Ruling by fear, victims of their violence and recruitment are often young. Local law enforcement says the gang first came on their radar in 2010, but they started to see an uptick in gang violence in 2013.

According to intelligence, that's when leaders of MS-13 in El Salvador made a concerted effort to grow and establish new branches of the gang, so called programs in different pockets of the U.S., including the affluent suburbs of New York City and Long Island.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why New York is the question. And the answer is that in Suffolk County at least, there is a large Salvadorian population. There is a large population from the northern triangle of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras.

There is also a record number of unaccompanied minors coming to Suffolk County during that time.

CABRERA: Since 2014, the U.S. government has placed more than 9,000 unaccompanied minors, undocumented children and teenagers who have crossed into the U.S. without parents or guardians, with sponsors in Long Island communities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many of them don't speak English. They don't have money in their pocket. Their parents typically --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- aren't with them. They are seeking a sense of belonging.

And MS-13 comes to them and says, hey, we can provide that, but if you don't join the gang, this is what's going to happen to you. And you know what we know where your family lives.

TRUMP: You wouldn't believe how bad these people are. These aren't people. These are animals.

CABRERA: Is the immigration rhetoric that we're hearing in the current administration in D.C. helping or hurting your efforts?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certainly, the administration's focus on MS-13 is helpful, both in terms of awareness, resources and driving the mission. But I think it is also very clear that we need to be sending a message to the immigrant population, the immigrant communities that we stand with them.

CABRERA: And you don't feel like your community is being used as a political pawn in any way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a police commissioner, I stay out of politics. My job is to serve and protect all the people. It doesn't matter what your political affiliation is, the color of your skin, or what your religion is. It doesn't matter to me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her life was so short.

CABRERA: Rodriguez says she's grateful for the support of the President. And New York's governor who recently allocated more than $18 million for gang violence prevention and intervention programs. And she wants to be part of the solution to a safer community, whatever it takes to prevent another family's pain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want them to stop what they're doing. They're hurting family members, loved ones. In the end result, you're hurting yourself.





ALLEN: The U.S. Transportation Security Administration, TSA, is considering some drastic changes that would get rid of security in small airports across the country. It's part of some proposed cost- cutting, worrying, though, security experts. CNN's Rene Marsh has our exclusive report.


RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION & GOVERNMENT REGUALTION CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): A new internal TSA document CNN exclusively obtained shows the proposal to eliminate screening at more than 150 small to medium-sized airports is just one of several cost-saving measures the agency is discussing.

A senior TSA employee tells CNN the agency is looking at cuts that could save more than $300 million in 2020.

One cut?

Reducing the number of air marshals, eliminating screening at small airports, staffing cuts at TSA headquarters and changes to benefits are also being discussed.

TSA did not comment.

Juliette Kayyem, a former official with Department of Homeland Security under Obama, is concerned.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Ending security at certain airports, ending or flatlining the air marshal service are actually inconsistent, because if you're going to decrease security at certain airports, what you would want to do is increase the presence of air marshals or other security features just in case.

MARSH: CNN revealed the most controversial cut, eliminating screening at small airports, like this one in Redding, California, where Bryant Garrett is the manager.

BRYANT GARRETT, MANAGER, REDDING AIRPORT: Since I, as the airport, don't want to take on that, either the liability nor the cost and I'm quite certain the airlines don't want to take that on. So, if TSA backs out, there's a void and I don't know who would fill it.

UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: Ladies and gentlemen, we are the police. Remain calm.

MARSH: Air marshals are the last line of defense, armed agents aboard planes to prevent hijackings.

Critics have questioned its effectiveness but the TSA has defended the program as a deterrent.

(on camera): Agencies discuss where they can trim all the time, but the big question that Congress and likely the American public is asking and would like explained is whether these cuts are being considered because the threat and risks to aviation has changed or is this just an indication that the agency is under extreme pressure to cut costs -- Rene Marsh, CNN, Washington.


ALLEN: An environmental story for you. The grieving process of a mother orca is taking her on an endless journey. Hannah Vaughan Jones explains how it mirrors the endangered species' fight to survive.


HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For hundreds of kilometers over more than 10 days, a mother orca just cannot let go, still carrying her lifeless calf through the waters of the Pacific Northwest, mourning her baby's death in a sad portrayal of the killer whale's struggle for survival.

TAYLOR SHEDD, MARINE BIOLOGIST: This population has seen its numbers reduced dramatically over the years and it's something that maybe they're very aware of. They're losing family members and they haven't had a successful calf in three years.

JONES (voice-over): Marine biologist Taylor Shedd (ph) spoke to CNN by phone near where he and a team have been watching the mother, known as J-35, at a distance for days now. His team keeps an eye on her health and warns other boats away from her location, trying to mitigate risk to the dwindling pod.

After 17 months of gestation, her calf was only alive for a matter of minutes before it died more than a week ago. Since then, J-35 has been arching her back, pushing her dead offspring along the surface of the water with her forehead or fins or carrying it along by clutching its tail in her mouth.

SHEDD: Whales and other animals know death as old age or a trauma- related injury or being eaten by something. Maybe they don't understand these outside pressures and effects that are causing them to die. They don't understand it because it's not their fault. It's this outside pressure, that is us, that is humans.

JONES (voice-over): Endangered in the U.S., orca killer whales often suffer from malnutrition, largely from manmade contamination and overfishing of their main food source, salmon, as well as noise --


JONES (voice-over): -- pollution from boating traffic. Sound is how they find food and communicate.

A recent recording from Washington's Whale Museum captures the grieving mother using calls and whistles to talk with her pod, likely foraging for much needed nourishment, fighting for their kind after the death of another calf.

Experts say orcas have ceremonially carried dead family members in the past. But the length of time J-35 has been pushing her lifeless calf is unprecedented, a sign she may be experiencing difficult and complex emotions not so unlike our own.

SHEDD: It's just a heartbreaking story but I think that people can relate to these whales in a multitude of ways. And they're now showing us that they have this extreme grief and strong ties to family. And I think that people connect with that. It pulls at your heartstrings.

JONES (voice-over): Hannah Vaughan Jones, CNN.


ALLEN: So very sad.

We want to update you on a story we told you about yesterday. After backlash, the Newseum in Washington has dropped that shirt right there, the fake news T-shirts it was selling in its gift shop. The organization said it was a mistake to carry the item. The Newseum is dedicated to journalism and the First Amendment.

Finally here, one man is adding some horsepower to his new ride- sharing operation. Check it out.

He calls it Amish Uber and it has four wheels, four legs and good gas mileage. For just $5, the driver will take you on horse and buggy to anywhere in Colon, Michigan. Unlike Uber, you can't use a cell phone. You'll have to flag him down to get a ride.

A little low-tech for you. I'll be right back with another hour of CNN NEWSROOM. Please stay with us.