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CNN NEWSROOM

American Citizen And His Wife On A Plane Right Now Headed For The United States; An Unannounced Second Face-To-Face Meeting Between The Leaders Of North And South Korea; More Trouble For Michael Cohen; New Explosions From The Kilauea Volcano In Hawaii Blasting A Cloud Of Ash To 11,000 Feet In The Air, All As Residents Cope With An Advancing Lava Flow; NFL Is Now Trying To Stop Its Players From Kneeling On The Field During The National Anthem; A Pioneer Of The American Space Program And A Man Who Left His Footprints On The Moon Has Died. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired May 26, 2018 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:00:00] RYAN NOBLES, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Our breaking news on CNN this hour, an American citizen and his wife on a plane right now headed for the United States. They have been in prison without a trial for nearly two years in Venezuela. This photo taken just a short time ago shows Joshua Holt and his wife, Tamara, along with Tennessee senator Bob Corker who fought for their release.

Holt is a missionary from Utah. He and his Venezuelan wife were arrested in 2016, accused of hiding weapons.

CNN's Boris Sanchez is at the White House where President Trump could make a live address on Holts' release.

Boris, what have you learned about how this man and his wife were finally freed from a jail in Venezuela?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Ryan.

Yes. Just a short while ago we got a statement from the Venezuelan government from the minister of communications who said that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro instructed his government to provide Joshua Holt and his wife with a measure of benefit. Unclear still how the negotiation process or the communication process between he and senator Bob Corker, who he met with yesterday, went and created the release of Joshua Holt back to the United States. As you know noted, he is on a plane headed to D.C. right now.

Officials have told CNN the President has asked some aides to ready the west wing for an official statement to be delivered at approximately 7:00 p.m. tonight. That's when we are expecting Holt and his wife to arrive here at the White House.

Holt's story is really fascinating. He was a missionary who met his wife in Venezuela. He originally met her online, married her in Venezuela, and then was arrested for stockpiling weapons. He pleaded for his release numerous times, most recently in May during a prison riot. He uploaded a video to Facebook in which he asked American lawmakers to help get him back home. Watch this. All right. It doesn't look like we have that sound bite, Ryan.

Despite that, it was an emotional plea. And his release is some interesting timing because just last week there was an election in Venezuela. Nicolas Maduro was elected to a sixth term, something that a number of lawmakers, including vice President Mike Pence, called a sham. There was widespread reporting about possible additional sanctions being implemented against Venezuela. That country expelled two American diplomats. Shortly thereafter, the United States expelled two Venezuelan diplomats and then suddenly you get this announcement of a release of a prisoner. We are still waiting to get more clarity on whether this implies perhaps a new approach to Venezuela or if this is simply a show of good faith from a government that's had increased tensions with the United States as of recent weeks, Ryan.

NOBLES: All right. Boris Sanchez live at the White House. And we go from one part of the world to another and to North Korea, and that's where some surprising developments have taken place on the Korean peninsula.

An unannounced second face-to-face meeting between the leaders of North and South Korea. President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, they met again today in the demilitarized zone dividing their two countries and no one knew about it before hand. It was completely unannounced.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is in Seoul.

Paula, what did they talk about and how large did the on again, off again summit with President Trump loom over their meeting today?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ryan, the information we have from the two (ph) has fairly limited at this point. We know that they did talk about that potential North Korean/U.S. summit. So clearly, you can imagine that would have been one of the main topics of conversation given that the U.S. President has only just canceled that summit and then just 24 hours later suggested that it might be back on again but it's not quite certain.

So this second summit in one month between the North and South Korean leaders really did take everybody by surprise. Significantly, this time it was at the DMZ, at the peace village of Panmunjom, but it was on the North Korean side of that village, so that's a very symbolic place to have this meeting between the two. They also spoke about the declaration that they signed at the end of last month during their first summit talking about ending hostilities between North and South Korea. But clearly the main topic of conversation was going to be the fact of this potential North Korean/U.S. summit, especially as we are hearing from senior administration officials that an advance team from the United States was going to go to Singapore in order to do site surveys has not been canceled. So potentially this summit could still be on.

Now President Moon has staked his credibility on this happening. He has really been in the driving seat of this entire diplomatic process over recent months and he has a lot to lose. We saw a national security council meeting at midnight just after the U.S. President canceled that summit to try and figure out what to do. And clearly this is the result of that.

Now, one key thing we don't know is who asked for this meeting. Was it the North Korean leader who pushed for it or was it the South Korean leader who pushed for it. Now in just a few hours' time we are going to have a press conference with Moon and we are hoping to ask him that question -- Ryan.

[16:05:08] NOBLES: All right. We will look for that, Paula, when it happens. Thank you for that report from Seoul.

All right. Let's continue this discussion on the on again, off again and possibly on again U.S./North Korea summit with my expert panel. CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott, former ambassador Joseph Yun who previously served as the U.S. point person for Korea. And also with us from Orlando, CNN military analyst retired lieutenant general Mark Hertling.

Let's start with you, Elise. I mean, it's pretty extraordinary to see North Korea give ground like this, isn't it?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, we don't know how much ground they actually gave. They gave a statement, as President Trump said. It was a very nice statement saying that they would like the summit to be on. But I think the original reasons that President Trump had to cancel this summit, and I don't think it was really about the rhetoric, about vice President Pence or anything like that. I think it was more a lack of understanding or clarity about what North Korea was really willing to discuss and put on the table in terms of this denuclearization and giving up its nuclear program. And I'm not sure that they necessarily gave them that. And until there are more full discussions, I think the same reasons apply. I'm not sure whether if the summit is going to be any more success if it happens than it would have before.

NOBLES: Ambassador, you have been at the negotiating table with the North Koreans before. I mean, what do you make of their willingness to try and salvage this meeting with President Trump? They seem to be going the extra mile to try and make it happen.

JOSEPH YUN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Oh, I think that's very true, Ryan. And as you look at the events of the past few days, it's kind of clear. South Korean President Moon was here in Washington on Tuesday. I think we all saw a very unhappy President Trump, thinking should he pull it, should be not, and then South Korean president went back to Seoul and it is clear he asked for a meeting with the North Koreans.

So on both their parts I see a real willingness, and of course President Trump is very keen to have the meeting. So on the three of them there is clear willingness. Now, the question is, do they have enough substance? You know, willingness is there, but, you know, can they see a victory considering where Pyongyang is, where Washington is? And that's what we find out over the next few days.

NOBLES: Yes, excellent point.

And General Hertling, North Korea called the max thunder drills an intentional military provocation. I mean, should the U.S. have expected this reaction from the North with the summit on the calendar? Was it not a wise decision to go forward with these drills?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it's certainly something that North Korea has said at every single exercise ever conducted by South Korea and the coalition partners. So this is just another iteration of that kind of dialogue.

And, Brian, you know, ambassador Yun is the expert in all of this, but it seems to me that, you know, no matter what the dialogue is, we are talking about the difference between politics and national security issues. And when you are talking about those kinds of things, one phrase always comes up in my mind -- if you want it bad, you are going to get it bad.

We are 18 days away from the proposed date of 12th June. During that period of time, a lot of groundwork has to go into it, and truthfully that's not a lot of time to prepare for a conference of this magnitude, a summit of this magnitude. So I'm just very concerned no matter which side of the aisle you are on that we have surrendered the initiative to North Korea. They are now making the demands of when, and President Trump did that in his tweet saying we will meet with you whenever you say so. In my view, that's a bad move. North Korea should not be the one deciding when the meetings take place or what's discussed. This has to be coordinated between the two sides as well as other players involved.

NOBLES: Now, General Hertling brings up a great point, Elise, 18 days is not a very long period of time. And the White House is at the point where there are fully drafted a letter that Kim Jong-un pulling out of the summit.

I mean, is there really going to be enough time between now and June 12th to iron out all of these issues that both countries have that they could actually pull this summit off on June 12th? Is that physically possible in any way, shape, or form?

LABOTT: Well, I mean, I think we need to lower our expectations, Ryan, as to what this meeting is going to achieve, OK. I don't see any problem, and I would say I don't think ambassador Yun would either have a problem with President Trump meeting with Kim Jong-un.

This is not going to be a nuclear negotiation. Don't forget if this was a nuclear negotiation these nuclear negotiators would have been meeting for weeks or months to get a draft together that the leaders come and hammer out the final points and they sign on the dotted line and they have their handshake.

So what is this meeting going to achieve? Can the two leaders get together and try to form a bond and relationship and come out of this meeting with a communique that says we agree to have a nuclear negotiation, we agree on some very basic points, that we want better relations? That's achievable. If anybody thinks in the next 18 days a nuclear agreement is going to be negotiated and the leaders are going to sign it, that's just not -- wasn't going to happen in the first place and it's not going to happen now.

[16:10:32] NOBLES: Yes. Ambassador, I want to play for you what South Korean President Moon said during a meeting with President Trump at the White House this week. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOON JAE-IN, SOUTH KOREAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I have every confidence that U.S. President Trump will be able to achieve a historic feat of making the upcoming U.S.-North Korea summit successful and end the Korean war that had been lasting for the past 65 years and also along the way achieve denuclearization of North Korea, establish a permanent peace regime on the peninsula, and also normalize relations between the United States and North Korea. I have every confidence he will be able to make it a historic turn around (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: Obviously the voice of his interpreter.

Ambassador, I think this is a very interesting President Moon's role in all of this. He seems to be willing to heap praise on just about everybody involve in these negotiations, Kim Jong-un, President Trump. He rarely takes any of the credit for himself. How much credit should President Moon get for the role that he is playing and trying to make this whole thing happen? Because he seems willing to take the humble road in order for this peace negotiation to take place.

YUN: This has been a very high-risk, high-reward initiative for President Moon. I mean, if you remember, he started all this putting forth the winter Olympics, and that's when you saw North Koreans, South Koreans, and United States getting together. And thereafter he had a meeting with President Kim. So there is no question he is all in. And for him, this is more than security, this is more than foreign policy. This is about his domestic political life. He has literally bet everything on it, and that's why he came here to fix it. He went back to Seoul and then now he met with Kim Jong-un to try to fix it. He should get tremendous amount of credit. If it doesn't work out, he is going to be stuck with the bag.

NOBLES: Yes. Great, great point.

One more question for you, General Hertling. Listen to what President Trump said during his commencement address at the U.S. naval academy in Annapolis on Friday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our country has regained the respect that we used to have long ago abroad. Yes, they are respecting us again. Yes, America is back.

(END VIDEO CLIP) NOBLES: So the President touting what supporters call his peace through strength doctrine, but the President didn't tell South Korea he was canceling the North Korean summit until Thursday. Is there any risk that he could isolate U.S. allies with his strength doctrine?

HERTLING: I think he already has, Brian. And that statement by the President at the Annapolis graduation was demonstrably false because there had been polls taken in many of our allied countries. And in fact, the popularity and the respect of the United States has been drastically reduced in almost every single one of our allied countries.

So, again, that's a little bit of a marketing tool by someone who spent most of his time in the business arena and it's simply not true. There is some sad commentary from the Asia rim with many of the -- at the same time the President was saying these words, many of the Asian nations were meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, demanding talks with Vladimir Putin because -- and they also commented on their lack of respect for President Trump. So I don't think we can count on those kind of statements being quite accurate when President Trump makes them in those large audiences.

NOBLES: OK. A terrific perspective from all three of you.

Elise Labott, former ambassador Joseph Yun and lieutenant general Mark Hertling, thank you all for being here.

Still to come, more trouble for Michael Cohen. New evidence showing he met with a Russian billionaire just 11 days before the inauguration. See the moment our reporter tracked down oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:19:52] NOBLES: And we have learned that yet another meeting took place at Trump tower involving a member of the Trump inner circle and a Russian. This time Michael Cohen, the President's personal attorney and fixer, met with Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg just 11 days before the inauguration. Now, after the meeting, a company tied to Vekselberg paid Cohen more than a half a million dollars. The meeting and the payment add yet another link between Russia and Trump advisers. And we know it's a link that investigators are interested in. They even stopped Vekselberg's plane in New York earlier this year to question him.

CNN's Matthew Chance caught up with Vekselberg in Russia recently. Here is what he had to say or not say.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[16:20:36] MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Vekselberg, quick question from CNN.

VIKTOR VEKSELBERG, RUSSIAN OLIGARCH: Thank you. Not now.

CHANCE: Mr. Viktor, why did your company pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to President Trump's lawyer?

VEKSELBERG: Not now.

CHANCE: He is yet another media-shy Russian billionaire linked with the Kremlin and mired in allegations of collusion with the Trump team. The FBI questioned Viktor Vekselberg about payments to Trump attorney Michael Cohen by his company's U.S. affiliate. They say it was for consulting work. We asked about the payments too.

VEKSELBERG: I really appreciate just later, OK? Really appreciate. I understand. You're so aggressive.

CHANCE: No, no.

VEKSELBERG: No, no. Please. Please. Later.

CHANCE: We now know that Vekselberg met Cohen even before President Trump was inaugurated. These recently unearthed January 2017 images from the lobby of Trump tower in New York show the Russian billionaire wearing a hat and coat, checking in at the security desk, lingering for several minutes, then entering an elevator with his business partner.

Cohen hasn't responded for comment, but a person familiar with the meeting tell CNN the two went up to Cohen's office on the 26th floor, although they did not meet the then President-elect himself. They left the building just 27 minutes later.

A person familiar with the meeting told CNN with Vekselberg and Cohen, they discussed improving U.S./Russia relations. But what exactly this now sanctioned Russian billionaire expected remains unclear.

Matthew Chance, CNN, St. Petersburg, Russia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NOBLES: All right. I want to talk about what this could mean for the Russia investigation. And joining us is CNN legal and political commentator Ken Cuccinelli, the President of the Senate conservatives fund and former attorney general of Virginia.

I do recall that part of your career vividly, ken. So thank you.

KEN CUCCINELLI, CNN LEGAL AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thank you, Ryan. Good to see you.

NOBLES: Thanks for joining me here today.

Let's talk about this firm tied to Vekselberg that paid Cohen $580 million originally and said that Vekselberg had nothing to do with that payment --

CUCCINELLI: $580,000.

NOBLES: $580,000. I'm sorry, yes. Is that still plausible considering this meeting? CUCCINELLI: Yes, if you compare it to what Cohen did with AT&T and

Novartis and so forth. This looks like one more opportunity that he thought he was creating for himself. And I think the most important thing to remember out of all this is that, while Michael Cohen was selling, selling, selling Michael Cohen, he didn't get anything in terms of access for his clients, which undoubtedly is what he was saying he could get and implying that his proximity to Trump would get him that, but he didn't get that for AT&T and get it for any of his clients, even though they were paying him $300,000, $400,000, $500,000 to $600,000.

So this guy is Russian, obviously that's different than AT&T, but none of Michael Cohen's consulting clients got anything out of the Trump administration.

NOBLES: Is that enough legally, though? Isn't it just the attempt to get something that could be evidence of quid pro quo or do you have to deliver on what you're promising?

CUCCINELLI: Well, quid pro quo can't exist for Michael Cohen. Michael Cohen is -- his quid pro quo is, you pay me and I will try to, you know, hey, I'm friends with Trump so they will like me more and they will do what I want them to do. Well, they weren't doing what Michael Cohen's clients wanted them to do. So, so far there was no evidence that there was any quid pro quo on the part of anybody in the government or in the transition. Michael Cohen is not part of the Trump transition team.

NOBLES: Right. But he is still the deputy finance chair of the Republican national committee. Should he still be in that role considering that he is under investigation for possible financial crimes?

CUCCINELLI: I think with just what we know publicly, Michael Cohen has demonstrated himself to be a lousy lawyer and not a particularly selfless participation in roles like that. He absolutely should be gone from any connection to any political entity with self-respect.

NOBLES: How does this reflect back on the President? Because he has said repeatedly that no one in his campaign had talked to anyone from Russia. Now his team's defense seems to be that collusion isn't a crime. I mean, what do you make of this? Aren't they essentially moving the goal posts every time a new revelation surfaces?

[16:25:12] CUCCINELLI: No, no, no. Look, collusion is not a crime. That's correct. It would be hard to imagine actual collusion without other laws being violated, but there is no collusion law. And this is during the transition when we have seen Michael Cohen was trying to sign up, quite successfully, other clients with the implication that because he was also President Trump's lawyer, somehow these clients would get some favorite access or treatment, and none of them got it. None of them got it.

NOBLES: All right. Great point from Ken Cuccinelli joining us from beautiful Nokesville, Virginia.

Former attorney general, thank you so much for joining me.

CUCCINELLI: Good to see you, Ryan.

NOBLES: Have a great weekend.

Still to come, jaw-dropping video from Hawaii. People watching as lava from a volcano consumes the homes all around. We are live on the big island. Stay with me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:00:00] NOBLES: New explosions from the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii blasting a cloud of ash to 11,000 feet in the air, all as residents cope with an advancing lava flow. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is insane. This lava is advancing about, I don't know, three feet per minute, two feet per minute. And we have -- we are seeing this river move across this lawn, taking that house in a matter of minutes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: Unbelievably scary. NASA also releasing these images of Kilauea from space. Lava is now covering over 2,000 acres of land. Firefighters are going door to door to evacuate residents as the volcanic activity intensifies.

Scott McLean joins me live from Pola, Hawaii. He has been there for quite sometimes.

Scott, give us the latest on the volcano.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Ryan. So for people who live in this area it is like watching a slow-motion disaster as lava creeps across the land destroying homes and really whatever is in its path. Right now, there is fresh lava in the Leilani estates neighborhood doing exactly that. And people, they are pretty helpless to do much at all to protect their homes without risk life and limb, but this week we met a man who did almost exactly that, except he risked his life to save his friend's property.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a beautiful place. It's a place that feels very alive.

MCLEAN (voice-over): It was two decades ago that Steve Hill found his slice of Hawaiian paradise. And two weeks ago, he came to grips with losing it. You left this place fully expecting you wouldn't come home to it.

STEVE HILL, RESIDENT: Lost. Lost.

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

HILL: We left feeling heartbroken, that our homes were gone.

MCLEAN: But his contractor and close friend Daryl Clinton had other ideas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Step back on this one.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These ones are gone. They catch the ceiling on fire.

MCLEAN: The 24/7 task was difficult and even more dangerous. After almost a week, Hill told Clinton to leave and let the houses burn.

HILL: I can't do this. This is unfair. It's time to stop. Valiant effort, I'm humbled by how hard you have tried.

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

DARRYL CLINTON, INJURED BY LAVA BOMB: Just took my leg out and threw me against the walls. The most extreme force I have ever felt in my life.

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

Hill returned to Hawaii to find his homes and his friend who helped build them both badly in need of repair.

HILL: When Darryl is done rebuilding himself, we are going to rebuild the houses.

MCLEAN: He is a journeyman.

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

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

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

(END VIDEOTAPE) MCLEAN: And Steve Hill says that he will do whatever he can to get his friend Darryl back on his feet. Some of Darryl's friends have started a fund-raising campaign online that's raised some $3,700 already.

Now, Darryl has already had at least three surgeries right now, Ryan. He is in Honolulu for yet another. The good news though is that he is expected to recover.

[16:35:07] NOBLES: Incredible story, Scott. Thank you for sharing.

Now, do you have any sense at this point where the lava is going to go next?

MCLEAN: Not exactly. And let me show you what I mean. So if you look out here near the horizon, that white smoke that you see there, that's actually one of the point where the lava is meeting the ocean. And those entry points, there is a couple of them, they have actually been shifting as the lava flows change overtime.

The other problem that we are seeing is that older fissures that have gone quiet over the last couple of days and weeks, well, they seem to have been reactivated many of them. And that is what we are seeing in the Leilani Estates neighborhood, a place that has been already terrorized by lava over the past couple of weeks since Kilauea first started erupting. It is really the last thing that they need more of. And at this point, things are only getting worse there, Ryan.

NOBLES: All right. Scott McLean on the ground outside the Kilauea volcano covering that minute by minute.

Scott, thank you so much for that report. You and your team please stay safe.

Coming up, did the NFL just side with President Trump? Commissioner Roger Goodell announces a new rule requiring players to stand for the national anthem. What the penalty will be if they don't.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:40:45] NOBLES: After repeated attacks from the President, the NFL is now trying to stop its players from kneeling on the field during the national anthem. Under a new policy announced this week, the NFL says that it will fine players who do not stand and show respect for the American flag. Players, however, do have the option to stay in the locker room during the anthem.

Here's how NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell explained it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: We think that we have come up with a balanced process here, procedure and policy that will allow those players who feel that they can't stand for the anthem to stay in the locker room. And there's no penalty for that, but we are going to encourage all of them to be on the field. We would like all of them to be on the field and stand at attention.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: Plenty of opinions on this new policy. Let's talk about it right now. My next guest is a former NFL player. Ephraim Salaam played in the league for 13 seasons. Also with us, U.S. sports editor for "the Nation" magazine, Dave Zirin.

Ephraim, I will start with you. Goodell paints this new rule as a compromise. Is that how you see it?

EPHRAIM SALAAM, RETIRED NFL PLAYER: No, it's not a compromise. And how can it be a compromise when he don't even talk to the other part of the equation? You can't implement a rule yourself, you and the owner, and say it's for the best of all of us when you haven't had that conversation. They postured during the season when Donald Trump came out and then called players SOBs, the owners were galvanized and they got with the players and they fed us this whole we are together, we are in this together, we are going to lock arms and we are going to be together. And then a few months later they just turn around and really slap us in the face and actually sided with the very man that they were up in arms against early in the year.

So to me it's not a compromise because number one, you haven't addressed the issue. You haven't addressed what the actual protest was about. It had nothing to do with being unpatriotic. We know that. But they still refused to address that issue. And then you just implement a rule that's going to fine players for using their stage and their platform to bring awareness to an issue, and I think it's unfair and unjust.

NOBLES: Dave, vice President Mike Pence tweeted #winning. Is this being viewed as the NFL bending to the Trump administration?

DAVE ZIRIN, SPORTS EDITOR, THE NATION MAGAZINE: Capitulating, absolutely. And yet it didn't work because one of the things I think we all know is that you can't appease a bully, and one of the first things Donald Trump said was that he didn't think that players, maybe they shouldn't even be in this country if they are protesting during the anthem. So NFL goal number one is to get Donald Trump to stop using this issue as red meat for his base. That was a fail.

Number two, it was to get this issue off of CNN, off the front pages and so people could focus on football. That was an epic fail as well. Instead, players are up in arms. And now the number one story going into week one of the NFL season is not going to be can Aaron Rodgers make a comeback or how will the Dallas cowboys do without Dez Bryant. The number one story will be how many players are going to be staying in the locker room, who is going to defy the protest, who is going to take a knee. And I have spoken to players who now say they want to protest not because of police violence or racial inequity but just to show NFL owners that they are not going to be treated this way.

NOBLES: Ephraim, just hang on a second. President Trump, he, you know, obviously supports this new ruling, right?

SALAAM: Of course.

NOBLES: I want you to listen to what he said about players who still choose to take a knee. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think people should be staying in locker rooms, but still I think it's good. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn't be playing. You shouldn't be there. Maybe you shouldn't be in the country. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: I just want -- let me play devil's advocate on this point, Ephraim. I mean, to a certain extent, protest comes with consequence, right?

SALAAM: Absolutely.

NOBLES: Is there a possibility that your message and the message of your players who are kneeling, that their message resonates even louder when there is a consequence associated with it?

SALAAM: Well, of course because number one, protests are uncomfortable. If you have a comfortable protest -- when I hear people saying protest on your own time, protest at home, that makes no sense. It makes no sense to protest at home in your living room or protest when everything around you is comfortable. Protest is supposed to make you uncomfortable, to bring light to issues that are affecting people.

The fact that we still haven't brought any light to the issue and the NFL refuses to even acknowledge the issue when this started back in 2016 with Colin Kaepernick was about the police brutality happening in our communities, it blows my mind. They shifted the narrative, which Donald Trump is an expert at switching the narrative. He never talks about the facts. He always has something that he wants to change it to, and all of a sudden it became being unpatriotic. It was never about that. So the fact that they implemented a rule to combat it being unpatriotic, it just blows my mind.

[16:45:44] NOBLES: You know, Dave, what the NFL will say is, in addition to this policy change, they are also investing tens of millions of dollars in what they are kind of ambiguously describing as social injustice causes. I mean, do they need to really follow up with some tangible action that they have any hope of salvaging this PR play?

ZIRIN: Yes. This PR disaster, this dumpster fire? I think what they need to do is get back to the table and say, well, you know what, we need to reset this entire thing. We need to talk to the NFL players association about what the right policy is because the current policy was collectively bar bargained.

Now NFL owners say they have the right to unilaterally change it. But if they went back to the negotiating table and if Roger Goodell showed some real leadership and just said, you know what, we are going to back our players. If players want to stay in the locker room or the players want to protest, that is their right as citizens because it's not technically part of the job of being an NFL player to be out there before the national anthem. And if players want to take a knee whether it's for the troops, whether it is against police violence, whether it is for a sick kid in the hospital, that's their right to do that.

If the NFL had that, if Roger Goodell had said that, this would have been a one-day news story. Instead, we are still talking about it.

SALAAM: Absolutely.

NOBLES: And Ephraim, I want to give you the last word. We don't have that much time so if you can do it quickly. You know, Dave makes the point that the first thing that people are going to be thinking about on week one of the NFL season is how are players going to react to this. What do you think is going to happen? Will there be players kneeling on the sideline week one?

SALAAM: I think there will be. And the chairman of the New York Jets came out and said, hey, I support my players. Anyone who decided they want to kneel, I will pay the fine. And that's the type of support that you want as a player from your organization.

NOBLES: All right. Ephraim Salaam, Dave Zirin, thank you for that. I think we know this for sure. This issue not going away if that's what the NFL was hoping for.

Coming up, a pivotal year in American history and for women's rights. The new CNN series that looks at how the feminist wave of 1968 have paved the way for today's Me Too movement.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:52:11] NOBLES: A pioneer of the American space program and a man who left his footprints on the Moon has died. Alan Bean, NASA astronaut and the last surviving member of the Apollo 12 crew, passed away this morning at a hospital in Houston. In 1969 he became the fourth person ever to walk on the surface of the Moon. This is Alan Bean in one of the most iconic and unforgettable pictures of the U.S. space program. Only 12 people have walked on the Moon. Astronaut Alan Bean was 86 years old.

And it was a year marked by seismic shifts in American politics, social movements, and conflicts abroad. Fifty years have passed since the tumultuous events of 1968 that changed America forever.

And tomorrow, CNN's original series event "1968" will explore the icons and milestones of that pivotal year including the force (ph) for women's rights and it connections to today's Me Too movement.

CNN's Tom Foreman reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chanting, marching, roaring for change.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Time's up on the female condition.

FOREMAN: That is the women's movement now and then. 1968, more than any other year, found women such as singer Janis Joplin, activist Betty Trudan and congresswoman Shirley Schism challenging every stereotype of what a woman should be and could do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am the candidate of the people of America.

FOREMAN: That years sees the first conference on women's liberation and the rise of the term Womens Live, (INAUDIBLE) announces it will finally admit female undergrads.

President Johnson has ordered to government contractors to end discrimination against hiring women take full effect.

While audience such today more easily embrace female comics --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of my best friends got married this summer. She's an anthropologist, and by that, I just mean she goes to that store anthropologie a lot.

FOREMAN: In 1968 the brand-new "Laugh-In" turned some tropes about female sexuality inside-out even as it reinforced others.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the name?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lady Godiva.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know your name. The name of the horse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, a lot of the fellows have been calling him lucky.

FOREMAN: And women were just beginning to flex their modern political muscles capturing more elected offices, concentrating their votes, moves that would pave the way for the last Presidential election. We saw the first woman chosen as a national party's nominee.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can't believe we just put the biggest crack in that glass ceiling yet.

[16:55:00] FOREMAN: Many women back then might have been surprised to know it would take so long, but it might have been even longer if not for the amazing events of 1968.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LABOTT: Tom, thank you. Tune in to CNN's two-night original series event "1968" airing this Sunday and Monday at 9:00 p.m. eastern.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:59:44] NOBLES: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ryan Nobles in today for Ana Cabrera.

We are keeping a close eye on two fast developing events both happening right now and both with major international implications for the Trump White House.

One is in Venezuela. This photo was taken in Caracas a short time ago. That's the American Joshua Holt and his wife, Tamara, and Tennessee Senator Bob Corker. Holt and his wife have been in a Venezuelan prison for nearly two years. Right now, they are free and will land --