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Whistleblower Says Scott Pruitt Kept Secret Calendar to Home; Rescue Workers Race to Save Soccer Team in Thai Cage; Suspect in "Capital Gazette" Shooting Sent Letters Before Rampage; Deadly Bacterial Disease Possibly an Epidemic; Aired 10:30-11a ET
Aired July 3, 2018 - 10:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:30:08] ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: New allegations of wrongdoing against the embattled head of the Environmental Protection Agency. In an interview with "The Washington Post," a former aide to Scott Pruitt says he directed her to help his wife land a six-figure job at a politically connected group. All of this as an EPA whistleblower tells CNN Pruitt directed staff to scrub his official calendar to hide meetings.
Here is Drew Griffin with an exclusive report.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This EPA whistleblower says Scott Pruitt and his staff kept secret calendars or schedules detailing many meetings with industry representatives that have never been made public.
According to Kevin Chmielewski, Pruitt's former deputy chief of staff, a secret calendar containing the actual events was printed out, then staff would gather around the table, determine which events would be kept on, which would be kept off, and which would be altered. He says it was often done in Pruitt's office and under Pruitt's direction.
GRIFFIN (on camera): Scrubbed?
KEVIN CHMIELEWSKI, FORMER EPA OFFICIAL: Scrubbed, yes, sir.
GRIFFIN: Of the official EPA administrator's schedule?
CHMIELEWSKI: Which happened -- absolutely, which happens quite a bit.
GRIFFIN (voice over): CNN found more than two dozen meetings, events or calls left off Pruitt's publicly-released calendar, which is only released weeks after the events occur. What's missing? Meetings with energy industry officials, lawyers, Washington insiders who could potentially benefit from a friendlier EPA.
GRIFFIN (on camera): So he would meet with industry lobbyists, somebody from industry itself and decide later that that was not going to look good so let's scrub it off the calendar?
CHMIELEWSKI: Sometimes later, even before we would always put on the schedule "meeting with staff." That was the default button was "meeting with staff."
GRIFFIN (voice over): Want some examples? Internal e-mails show that in April 2017, Pruitt has a briefing and attends a dinner at Trump International Hotel with coal company executive Joseph Pratt. It is not listed on the public EPA calendar.
September 2017, the official schedule shows Pruitt met with former senator turned energy industry lobbyist Trent Lott, but left off that the meeting included the CEO of a shipping company and discussion of ships and their fuel source.
In October 2017, a staff briefing appeared on Pruitt's official calendar. E-mails show the actual meeting was with private attorneys representing a water district over a superfund site.
CHMIELEWSKI: We had at one point three different schedules, one of them was one that no one else saw besides three or four of us.
GRIFFIN: Two government experts tell CNN, altering, sanitizing official government records to protect the boss could lead to legal trouble.
LARRY NOBLE, FORMER GENERAL COUNSEL FEC: If somebody changed, deleted, scrubbed a federal record with the intent of deceiving the public or intent of deceiving anybody, it could very well be a violation of federal law.
GRIFFIN: The most controversial deletion of all, according to Chmielewski, came after Pruitt's $120,000 taxpayer-funded trip to Rome in June 2017. That trip included extensive interaction with Catholic Cardinal George Pell, who was charged with multiple historical charges of sexual offenses a few weeks later to which Pell pleaded not guilty. But this itinerary shows a tour with Cardinal Pell. It's not on Pruitt's official calendar. Also missing, a lunch with Cardinal Pell.
CHMIELEWSKI: All of our time at the Vatican was spent with Cardinal Pell. Cardinal Pell was basically our host.
GRIFFIN: Yet none of those tours, dinners and lunches appeared later when Scott Pruitt released his official calendar. Chmielewski says that was intentional.
CHMIELEWSKI: Once we came back and the cardinal was actually charged with these offenses, I'd alerted them and that's when they -- it was basically taken off the schedule that we met with Cardinal Pell.
GRIFFIN: Chmielewski says he was fired from the EPA after raising questions about Scott Pruitt's extravagant spending. He supports Donald Trump and Donald Trump's pledge to drain the D.C. swamp. He says keeping Pruitt at EPA makes no sense.
CHMIELEWSKI: And if there's something wrong, I don't care if it's Republican or Democrat, right's right and wrong's wrong. And what he's doing right now is completely wrong.
GRIFFIN (on camera): CNN, of course, reached out to EPA multiple times seeking comment for this report. Scott Pruitt and his staff have chosen not to respond.
Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.
HILL: Rescue teams racing to save 12 children and their coach who are trapped inside a cave in Thailand. How do you get some of these children, though, some of whom do not know how to swim, out of a cave filling with water?
HILL: Rescue workers are racing against the clock in Thailand. British scuba divers found 12 young soccer players and their coach alive in a flooded cave nearly 10 days after the team went missing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many of you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thirteen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 13? Brilliant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: More heavy rains, though, are on the way. Fears are growing that the children and their coach could actually be stuck a half mile below ground for months. This is the beginning of the rainy season there. Here is the vice-chairman of the rescue team that found those children talking about what it could take to get them all out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
If they can -- if they can package them into a sort of a streamlined way and then propel them through the narrow bits, you know, tow them through, push and pull them through underwater -- it's a big ask for divers doing that. It's a big ask psychologically for the children. But one has to ask oneself, what are the other options?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[10:40:08] HILL: Jonathan Miller is on the ground there in Thailand and joins us now with more.
So what's the latest we're hearing about rescue options?
JONATHAN MILLER, ASIA CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, as you can probably hear -- I can hardly hear you. But as you can probably hear, these generators, banks of them, powering the compressed air for the divers' tanks which are all lined up there. And the divers are in and out of this cave all the time. You might see some emerge over my shoulder while I'm on here. Now the cave is about 200 yards up and behind me. The children are
deep inside. Nearly three miles inside and about a kilometer down, about half a mile down under the top of this jungled mountain. They're in a chamber. It's fantastic that they're safe. But the euphoria of yesterday's discovery of these kids has -- well, not evaporated exactly but it's turned to another layer of anxiety about how on earth to get them out.
And I would say that many of the rescuers are as much in the dark about that as the boys are down in the cavern itself. There are several options. The one you just heard delineated there was if they somehow trim these narrow passageways -- look, this is a cave system with several chambers in a row connected by these weaving and jagged narrow corridors. Sharp corners to turn. Well, they need to blast these corners off in order to get these children out.
It's partially submerged. So they'd have to allow the children to train how to use oxygen and scuba masks to get them out partially underwater. There's another option, which is keeping them down there for four months because as you suggested it is the monsoon season here. And the rain that we've had so far is just a taste of things to come. There will be a deluge lasting until October. And that cave system in there will flood.
You can move them to a slightly higher platform inside one of these chambers. But goodness, what would it be like to actually have to live down there for four months?
There's another option, which is being explored as well. I don't know if you remember back to 2010 when those 33 miners in Chile were stuck in a copper mine which collapsed? And they drilled in from above and it took them weeks to do so. But that's how they got them out. And they took them out in a little capsule. So it's possible that they could do this. The rock here is softer.
But there is a real sense of urgency now in trying to figure out how to extract these children because it very -- going to be very, very difficult. The things they've got in their favor is that the children appear to be in moderately good physical shape. They've been checked over by doctors. There's a Navy SEAL doctor among seven Navy SEAL divers down in the chamber with them keeping them company right now.
They are in reasonable physical condition. They have been fed. They've had grilled pork and sticky rice, one of the favorite Thai staples. So they seem to be in reasonable shape. The question is, what on earth to do next? And nobody has the answer yet.
HILL: That is a big question. Jonathan Miller, appreciate it. Thank you.
The nightmare continuing for the "Capital Gazette." CNN learning the man police say killed five journalists wrote several letters to staff, even a former attorney just before that attack. We will speak with the former editor who received a copy of that letter. He joins us next.
[10:47:49] HILL: Disturbing new details involving the deadly shooting at the "Capital Gazette." CNN has now obtained one of three letters the suspected killed allegedly sent before opening fire inside the paper's newsroom. In one letter sent to a Maryland judge, the suspected gunman wrote he had gone to "Capital Gazette" with the, quote, "objective of killing every person present."
Five people were killed in the attack. As for those letters, they were dated June 28th, the day of the shooting. They arrived, though, just yesterday.
Joining me now is Thomas Marquardt. He is the former editor of the "Capital Gazette" who also received a copy of one of those letters. Thanks for taking the time to be with us. So you've actually learned about these letters, as I understand it, when you were on your way to a memorial service for Rob Hiaasen.
THOMAS MARQUARDT, FORMER EDITOR, CAPITAL GAZETTE: Correct. Our attorney sent a message to me that I didn't receive until actually I had landed to call me immediately. And his concern was that I might receive a letter that would contain a copy of the same attachments but perhaps with a dangerous substance inside. So when I heard that, of course, very alarmed and called my wife immediately and told her not to open up any suspicious packages.
HILL: But you did in fact end up getting a letter yourself?
MARQUARDT: No, I didn't. That was --
MARQUARDT: Nothing came directly from the mail but I did get a copy from the attorney.
HILL: And when you read that letter, even just getting that message, when you landed, what went through your mind?
MARQUARDT: It was very chilling. I mean, it's an extension of basically his rants that he had when he filed this defamation lawsuit against us. But it's very chilling, particularly when you read the last line of what his intentions were once he finished that letter. You know, this is just a tragedy that has no end to it. It just keeps going every day. And of course, who knows that there aren't any other booby traps out there waiting for us. So yes, I'm very concerned still.
HILL: So you're concerned for your own safety, for those -- for former and current staffers. Has there been any guidance given to any of you? He said, you know, who knows, what else he want to be out there?
MARQUARDT: Right. I mean, the police are fairly confident that he acted alone. There is never any assurance of that and there's no reassurance that somebody else might pick up where he left off. [10:50:02] So I mean, the advice from the police was to be very
careful, be aware of your surroundings. You know, just think twice about what you do and how you protect yourself. So, I mean, yes, I mean there were precautions given by police just to be careful. But they don't believe anybody else is involved.
HILL: How much interaction did you have with him, if at all, as all of this was unfolding in this defamation suits?
MARQUARDT: Well, that's sort of the pattern. I mean he doesn't speak to anybody. He never called us. Has never to our knowledge that he appeared in front of any of us. But, I mean, he preferred to communicate via his tweets. So, I mean, what we know of him, what I know of him is only the dozen or so times that he tweeted about me and a couple of occasions at least threatened me.
HILL: But were you ever concerned that those threats would come to fruition? That he would actually follow through on something like what happened.
MARQUARDT: Well, especially now, looking back, yes. I mean slept with a baseball bat alongside me for many months. Was I concerned? I think that demonstrates that. Were we concerned enough to review our security, talk to the police about what our options were? To beef up security, to make sure everybody in the building was aware, yes. Absolutely. I mean myself and the person who followed me in the job, who inherited basically those security reasons, all were confident that we did everything we could to make sure something like this didn't happen. But, alas, it did.
HILL: It hasn't even been a week since it happened. Five lives lost. You were there for the first memorial service. How is everyone holding up, especially in light of news of these letters?
MARQUARDT: You know, last night was a big group hug. It was a lot of journalists who gathered to remember Rob, to enjoy the stories that were told about him, that were uplifting, funny, very personal from family, from friends. It was touching to all of us. But I think the bottom line is that it achieved the cathartic opportunity for a lot of former journalists who hadn't seen each other for years to gather. I mean, a lot of hugging going on, a lot of crying going on. But all that big family was there last night.
HILL: So important that you can count on one another and especially to be able to do it in person.
Thomas Marquardt, we appreciate you taking time for us today. Thank you.
MARQUARDT: You're welcome.
HILL: Just ahead, experts say CNN has uncovered evidence of an epidemic in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Mario. Get this story officials actually refuse to even call it what it was.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [13:57:10] HILL: A new report shows that after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, 26 people died from the soil and water-borne bacteria disease. This is according to records uncovered by CNN and from reporting partner, Center for Investigative Journalism. This is more than twice the number of deaths from that bacteria over the year before. And enough cases that officials actually should have declared an epidemic or an outbreak. So what happened?
Here's CNN correspondent is Leyla Santiago with more for us.
So, Leyla, what are we looking at here?
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, when we finally got ahold of that database, and we actually had to sue with, as you mentioned, the Center of Investigative Journalism in Puerto Rico, we found a lot of cases of a bacteria illness called infection leptospirosis. And that is something that is quite common after a natural disaster, especially when there is flooding. But that bacteria illness is very rarely deadly. And that's not what we saw when we looked at that database that we had to sue for.
As you mentioned, we found 26 cases of deaths where they were listed in the government's own database as related -- excuse me, as being caused by leptospirosis and yet when you look at the official Hurricane Maria death toll, there are only four leptospirosis cases that are actually listed. And when we talk to medical experts and officials about this they say that that number, 26, should have been enough to declare an epidemic or an outbreak.
And that could have triggered a different response to what many felt was a medical crisis. So once again, pointing to something else as we dig through those records that we obtained through that lawsuit, pointing at a reason to sort of question this controversial death toll after Hurricane Maria.
HILL: Well, and it also brings to question, we're also now in another hurricane season. So as we look at the information that we have or maybe even don't have from last year, it's increasingly important.
SANTIAGO: Right. And other studies have pointed at this, too. The Harvard Studies believes that the death toll should closer to 4600. When we investigated last year we found that it was about nine times what is being reported after speaking to funeral home directors. So certainly, what can be taken away from this is a way to prevent this in the future. It's so important to get to the bottom of this death toll. Because if you don't understand how people died, when and where, especially as you are going into a new hurricane season, there's no way to prevent this in the future. And more than that, for so many of these families, this is personal. They need this closure. They want to be acknowledged that hurricane Maria sort of took someone away from them. This is about an emotional toll as well as a death toll.
HILL: It certainly is. Leyla Santiago, thank you for staying on this, as always.
Thanks to all of you for joining us today, I'm Erica Hill.
"AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN" starts right now.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. President Trump on a mission and on the clock.