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CNN: Trump Asked Aides About Possibility Of Invading Venezuela; FAA Refuses To Regulate Seat Size Legroom On Flights; Trapped Boys In Cave: "Practice" Wearing Diving Masks; Scarlet Johansson Slammed For New Role As Transgender Man. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired July 4, 2018 - 15:30   ET

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


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[15:32:50]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: We're back. Happy fourth of July. CNN is learning that President Trump last year asked several top foreign policy advisers about the possibility of invading Venezuela. Those aides apparently warned him that that could backfire.

But a senior administration official familiar with what the president said is chalking it up to the president merely thinking out loud. The meeting happened just one day before he said this publicly --

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We have many options for Venezuela and by the way, I'm not going to rule out a military option. We have many options for Venezuela. This is our neighbor. We're all over the world, and we have troops all over the world, in places that are very, very far away. Venezuela is not every far away, and the people are suffering, they're dying. We have options including a possible military option if necessary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: The president reportedly brought up the topic again with Latin American leaders on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly the following month. So, just for some perspective here, let's bring in CNN military analyst, Retired Lt. General Mark Hertling.

General, happy 4th. Thanks for hanging with me on this holiday. When you heard about this, that the president floated this in a meeting between you and your friends in the military, what are you thinking?

LT. GENERAL MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: This happened, Brooke, as you recall a couple of weeks ago. It was a blip on the news for a short period of time. He said something about it. With all the other things going on and the comments he's making, it sorts of disappeared.

When I first heard it, I was just flabbergasted. I talked to a couple of my old friends who are still in uniform saying is there real-live planning? Don't tell me what the planning is, I don't want to divulge any secrets, but is there anything going on?

And the folks in the Pentagon said the first time they heard about it was when the president said it. Now, as you look at the AP article, it explains that it was a comment made in the oval office.

And certainly, you know, all kind of ideas are made in those planning sessions with the national security adviser and the secretary of defense, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs when they came together.

[15:35:05] But this seems to have taken on a little bit than just something that was shot down immediately. I can only imagine what H.R. McMaster, General Dunford, and Secretary Mattis said when they brought this up, can we attack or use a military option.

They probably attempted to talk him off the ledge very quickly and thought it was over. The AP article, the thing that struck me the most was that he brought it up again, the South American government --

BALDWIN: Yes, South American leaders when he -- you know, over at the U.N. on the sidelines, and apparently, he got this resounding no.

HERTLING: Right.

BOLDUAN: But, if you're -- you know, our friends down south, what are the risks of the president floating this idea, you know, trying to gain support for that from our allies?

HERTLING: Brooke, how many times have we talked about words are important, words matter when they're said by the president, and they are read all over the world, and consumed by foreign intelligence, friendly and foe.

Yes, I'm sure there were several South American nations whose intelligence sources kind of perked up their ears saying, what, an invasion in Venezuela? Even though it may have been an off-the-cuff statement and he was feeling around which this president tends to do, having been in command of a large force on the European continent.

Whenever something like this came out of one of our elected officials, even senators' mouths, I would get calls from governmental forces from the countries in Europe. So, I'm sure the Southern Command commander, a four-star general, was probably getting quite a few inquiries about what the heck is going on.

It's never a good look when the military is caught by surprise. This just isn't a military issue. This is also a diplomacy issue. This is a government issue because, you know, when you wage war, you probably should talk to Congress and get the buy-in of the people first.

And there is an entire process it goes through to prepare forces for any kind of attack, and certainly the American military can do just about everything, and you know, no planning is completely off the table.

But truthfully, when you hear it from the words of the commander-in- chief for the first time, it certainly sets some people aback. BALDWIN: General Hertling, thank you so much.

HERTLING: Happy 4th, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Happy 4th.

Coming up next, let's get you back to what's happening in Thailand. Divers are now taking plastic-wrapped meals of pork and sticky rice inside the cave where the 12 boys are trapped. This is part of the incredibly complex effort to make sure they're fed and rescue them safely. So, we'll talk you live to the scene in moments.

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[15:41:04]

BALDWIN: Every single passing moment is critical for a team of young soccer players trapped inside that Thailand cave. Rescue teams are desperately trying to figure out a plan to safely get them out. Here's one sign of hope.

This video released by the Thai Navy SEALs showing these 12 boys alert, wrapped in thermal blankets to stay warm, some may be beginnings of -- maybe beginnings of smiles. They're also practicing how to wear full-face oxygen masks since the only escape route has been flooded by heavy rainfall.

Rescue teams are trying to find air holes, so they can access instead of making the boys swim through the water.

So, let's go straight to Chiang Rai, Thailand and our Asia correspondent there, Jonathan Miller. Jonathan, I understand now that there are ten people staying with the boys inside the cave?

JONATHAN MILLER, ASIA CORRESPONDENT: That's right. There's ten down there actually with them in the chamber they've been stuck in this past 11 days. There are another 40 or more divers down there at any one time ferrying down supplies and prepositioning oxygen tanks.

This is a compelling and nail-biting human drama playing out here. It is really touch and go because they've got a very window to get these boys out before these torrential monsoon rains start again and the chambers flood completely.

They are at the moment partially flooded. As you say, if they can get them out wearing these full-face oxygen masks, there's still a chance they can get them out the way they came in.

Otherwise, they're going to have to explore options like going in from above through fissures and chimneys and cracks in the mountain ridge above them. Other than that, the only other option out there is that they stay there throughout the monsoon. That is four months.

BALDWIN: And quickly, Jonathan, are they able to speak to their parents? Have they set up that phone line? MILLER: They've been trying so hard to get this phone line set up. There was a problem. They hit a hitch, so it hasn't been set up yet. I know it's a certain way into the cave system. The moms and dads still have not spoken directly to their children. One of them turned 14 and happy birthday wishes went down.

They're desperate to speak to them. This whole nation is on tenter hooks wanting desperately for this end happily. It really is not certain by any means.

BALDWIN: My goodness. Jonathan Miller, thank you so much in Thailand for us this afternoon.

Coming up next, Scarlett Johansson under fire for agreeing to play a transgender man in an upcoming film. Hear how she's responding.

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[15:46:41]

BALDWIN: Snug seats, cramped leg room, and the nagging fear of your knees being crushed. I know you have noticed how airline seats are shrinking more and more. Don't count on the FAA to help you out. The federal agency is refusing to regulate airline seating size.

Yes, a consumer group sued the FAA arguing that smaller airline seats combined with many passengers' expanding waistlines could slow down evacuations. The FAA's response is, not our problem. They say the issue is something that needs to be worked out between passengers and airlines.

Let's talk it over with CNN transportation analyst, Mary Schiavo, the former inspector general for the U.S. Transportation Department. And Mary, should the FAA intervene here?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN TRANSPORTATION ANALYST: Well, the FAA should intervene, but I find their answer to be extremely interesting. It has consequences I'm sure the FAA hasn't thought about because there are so many factors at work. What's really paramount is, of course, the 90-second rule.

That is that airlines and aircraft manufacturers have to prove to the FAA, they can do it by testing or computer modeling that they can get everybody off the plane in 90 seconds. The FAA standards date back to 1960 and since then, seats have shrunk, leg room has shrunk.

Passengers worldwide -- can't blame this on Americans -- passengers worldwide have gotten larger. There's more baggage on board in the cabin because of bag fees. Now there's another problem of a lot of comfort animals.

And the airplanes are 85 percent to 90 percent full, and in the '60s they were 60 percent full. So, we are a real perfect storm here. The FAA just washed its hands.

BALDWIN: So, your former employer, the Transportation Department, may actually intervene here. How so?

SCHIAVO: That's right. They're -- help might be on the horizon. Cue the Superman song because my old office is going to look at what the FAA is doing. They're going to audit the FAA's actual implementation of the 90-second rule to see if all the events, all the things I talked about, the size of the passengers and the seats and the pets and the bags and the load capacity really means you can't get people off the plane in 90 seconds or less and see if it's time to update the rule.

By the FAA washing its hands-on seat size and saying, hey, that's not our concern, it's a comfort issue, that probably has opened the door to deep vein thrombosis lawsuits, meaning you are cramped in aircraft, and you have blood clots, and people have sued in the past for that.

And it opens up suits on overweight passengers claiming that they were fat shamed or discriminated against. In past, courts have said, no, the FAA has federal preemption. Not now.

BALDWIN: Boy. Let's see what they can come up with. Mary Schiavo, I like your stars. Happy 4th of July.

Here we go. Next up here, actor, Scarlet Johansson getting backlash for an upcoming movie to play a late Pittsburgh massage owner, who took on the mob and became a legendary 70s crime kingpin. The movie title "Rub and Tug" based on a true story.

The problem as some people see it is that title character, Dante "Text" Gill was a transgender man. In addition to that, the director, she is working with, Rupert Sanders, someone she's gotten criticism for working with in the past because of a previous role of hers.

[15:50:11] So, Sara Sidner is with me to explain. Is it that so many people are coming out saying they wish it's a transgender person instead playing the role?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think the issue here really is not just optics but economics. You have transgender actors who are highly underrepresented as you well know in Hollywood film. There are rarely roles that are based on transgender people.

And here there's an opportunity for someone who is transgender to actually go for this role and here Scarlet Johansson gets it. To be fair, there's an economic part on both sides. Both on the filmmaker side and on the actor side for transgender people not being able to get roles.

Any kind of roles and then having this kind of taken away. But there's also Hollywood's business, right? It is a business. And when an A-lister is attached to a film it tends to get green lit and sell more tickets when they hear a big name in the film, people tend to want to go.

So, it is interesting to note, but one of the reasons why I think Scarlett Johansson is getting some of this backlash, as well, a sign of the times and also because there was a previous film, it was based on Japanese manga.

And there should have been someone Asian cast in the film written by someone who is Japanese, who was with a Japanese manga film and here she is, you know, playing the role of someone who is Japanese in the lead role.

And speaking of underrepresented, you know, the Asian community very underrepresented in Hollywood. So, a lot of folks looked at that and said wait a minute, we have two incidents, if you will, two roles where there could have put someone in the role who is from the community and given a chance to someone and here she is taking the role, but she has responded by the way.

She responded by a bustle and said, "Look, tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor and Jared Leto and Felicity Huffman's reps for comment." She is referring to obviously different people, who have played different roles, who have played transgender roles before.

But I think this really, Brooke, and you know this very well. It's a sign of the times. You know, when Felicity Huffman took on the role of a transgender person, people applauded it because it was a representation that people hadn't really seen in mainstream America but now things have changed.

BALDWIN: Now, they're like we need a transgender actor.

SIDNER: Right. Why should we not be cast in some of these roles? So, I think it is a change of the times and also to be fair, she is a wonderful actress and that is what actors do. They play roles. So, it's one of those difficult questions but it may force some change in Hollywood.

BALDWIN: Sara Sidner, thank you so much for taking that on for us today. It was an important story to tell. Happy Fourth.

SIDNER: You, too.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Happening now, heavy rains has swamped parts of Houston, Texas, putting some areas under a flood watch. People are being warned to stay off the roads. Many streets under water. Drivers are getting trapped. Moments ago, Houston's mayor said eight inches of rain has already fallen and some fireworks celebrations have had to have been canceled as a result.

Coming up next, a touching video of a police officer asking a little girl in a wheelchair to dance. It warmed our hearts, so we had to call up the police officer. He will be joining me live next.

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[15:56:48]

BALDWIN: We just took you to the site of the dramatic rescue attempt, these boys trapped inside this cave in Thailand and as they plan to get them out, we want you to see what they're facing. CNN's Tom Foreman explained the unique challenges that lie ahead.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Brooke. Darkness, cold, rushing water and time, rescuers have to grapple with all of those elements to get these boys back into sunshine, and right now, it's not at all clear how they are going to do that.

Let's look at the mountain and cave to see what the challenges they face. The boys went in around this area here and they traveled more than a mile into the mountains and more than a half mile down.

There's no really good mapping of the interior of this cave as far as we know, but we can look at a hypothetical cross-section of a cave to explain how they became trapped and why the rescue is so difficult.

Let's say the boys went down here and made the way into the cave going up and down as we know they did. Some areas lower than others and then the rain waters behind them and filled in the gaps making some like that area impassable.

We don't know how many areas like that. As long as a house or a football field or longer. We just know that professional divers are taking a lot of time to go from here down to there.

If they want to bring the boys back out that way, it's going to be a challenge. First, because some of the boys unable to swim. Now, yes, a diver could grab one and simply drag him through the water.

But he'd still have to have scuba gear on for considerable periods of time under water. That's a big challenge. The water is railroad murky. It is hard to see. There are heavy currents, cramped passageways and again very difficult for someone to tow someone else through.

And in that environment the potential for panic is very high and that could endanger both the diver and the person being rescued. But what are the alternatives? They could do what they did in Chile in 2010. These rescuers could also dig holes as they did for those miners.

But remember, they bore through three different holes to try to reach roughly the same depth as these boys are, and this still took more than two months until the happy reunions occurred.

They could also take supplies to the boys, move them to a higher, safer shelf and try to wait out the rains and pump out the water, but that's a risky bet to make because the monsoon season just started there, and it will go on for months -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Tom, thank you so much.

And finally, today on this Fourth of July, I wanted to end with this. A moment of kindness. A Houston police officer asking a 6-year-old girl, this is a 6-year-old girl to dance in a wheelchair. The officer twirling her in slow gentle circles.

The pair dancing for a couple of songs and then when this dance was over, goes on for a couple of minutes, when the dance was over, little girl handed this police officer her plastic flower who quickly found another flower to then give back to her. So, the kindness of strangers here.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Have a wonderful, safe, happy, healthy Fourth of July. Let's go to Washington now. "THE LEAD" with Jim Sciutto starts right now.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Brooke. New glimmers of hope after a dozen days in the darkness. THE LEAD starts right now.