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President Trump Got The News That His Bromance With North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un May Be On The Brink Of A Breakup; The Death Toll Is Rising In Gaza Amid Escalating Attacks Between Palestinian Militants And Israeli Forces; AB Specialty Silicone Burst Into Flames Overnight After An Explosion So Intense It Could Be Felt Miles Away; A Pro-Sports Gambler Racks Up The Winnings On Jeopardy Using A Vegas Strategy; Trebek on Cancer Fight: "I Just Take It as It Comes"; America's Mayors Caught Up in Bizarre Scandals; Olympian Caster Semenya Loses Appeal over Testosterone Levels; "Chewie" Remembrances Dominate "Star Wars" Day Observances. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired May 4, 2019 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[16:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- and certain what is fair is. But I do know this. The reality is crash happened and now it's time to talk about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: "The Redemption Project" with Van Jones airs tomorrow night at 9:00.
Thanks for staying with me. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.
And after two high-profile summits and apparently some love letters, President Trump got the news that his bromance with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may be on the brink of a breakup.
Overnight, we learned the North Koreans fired several short range projectiles. We don't know if they are missiles per se from its east coast. And while we wait to learn exactly what was launched, President Trump is still giving Kim the benefit of the doubt. He is also playing up his connection with another leader, Russia's Vladimir Putin. The President revealing he had a good phone call with Putin. In fact, he says they talked about North Korea and Venezuela, but they did not talk about Russia's election meddling, something that's still happening according to the President's intel chief.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Did you tell him not to meddle, Mr. President? Did you tell him not to meddle in the next election?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Excuse me. I'm talking. I'm answering this question. You are very rude. So we had a good conversation about many different things, OK?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you ask him not to meddle in the next election?
TRUMP: Well didn't discuss it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: CNN's Boris Sanchez is live at the White House.
Now Boris, on this issue of North Korea, the President is publicly voicing confidence in Kim Jong-un, even in the face of this news that they fired several projectiles overnight.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Ana, a really fascinating response from President Trump, especially when you consider his previous responses to provocations from North Korea. Remember, that famous line about fire and fury the likes of which the world has never seen, this really is a subdued response from the White House.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders putting out a statement saying that the administration was monitoring the events there. And President Trump really giving a personal appeal to Kim Jong-un. He wrote in a tweet this morning quote "anything in this very interesting world is possible, but I believe that Kim Jong-un fully realizes is the great economic potential of North Korea and will do nothing to interfere or end it."
And listen to this portion specifically, the President writing, he also knows that I am with him and does not want to break his promise to me, a deal will happen. President Trump here banking on the idea that Kim Jong-un will abandon the promise of a nuclear buildup by North Korea, something that generations of leadership in that country have been working toward for some economic prospects.
The President also banking on the idea that is personal relationship with Kim Jong-un will be fruitful and remaining optimistic in the face of North Korean aggression. It's hard, though, to read that portion of the tweet that Kim Jong-un knows that Trump is with him. And think about the response from some of our allies, notably Japan and South Korea. Not to mention also the parents of Otto Warmbrier, Ana.
CABRERA: All right. Boris Sanchez, a good reminder there. Thanks.
Joining us now Ron Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst and senior editor for "the Atlantic," Gene Rossi, former assistant U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Virginia.
Ron, North Korea firing projectiles after two summits with Trump. President Trump has touted progress that North Korea hadn't launched anything in quite some time, not anymore. What kind of political position does this put him in now?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look. I mean, I think North Korea continuing to send signals that they will make things tough if they don't get an agreement that they want. And you know, there is a reason why this problem has not been solved by successive administrations. It's not because they were all kind of weak or they didn't have the will. It's because there are fundamental intractable differences in terms of what we view as security in the peninsula and what they view as security in the peninsula. It's not to say that the President still cannot wrangle a deal here in the end, but reality keeps asserting itself in the sense of these underlying conflicts and contrast, which he has not been able to will away simply by lavishing the dictator with praise.
CABRERA: Meantime, President Trump talks to Russian President Putin. He doesn't confront Putin about ongoing election interference. He says Putin made light of the Russia investigation, which the President keeps bashing as a hoax that found no conspiracy.
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TRUMP: I was totally transparent because I knew I did nothing wrong. It turned out I did nothing wrong. No collusion with Russia. Think of it, $35 million they spent, they wasted over a period of two years. No collusion, no obstruction. Thank you all very much. I appreciate it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Gene, the President keeps talking about just how transparent he has been. From your legal perspective, how would you describe his cooperation?
GENE ROSSI, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY FOR EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA: His cooperation was horrible in this sense, Ana. He gave 37 "I do not recalls" in his answers to the essential interrogatories that the Mueller office send to him. And I got to tell you, as a 30- year prosecutor when somebody says "I don't recall" 37 times, that's not a good signal.
The other thing is he never sat down in front of a grand jury or under oath where agents or the prosecutors could follow up with questions. And the third reason he hasn't been transparent is the ten instances of obstruction in volume II of the Mueller report and there are three or four that have met all the elements for prosecution of obstruction by a U.S. attorney if he were Donald Smith instead of Donald Trump.
[16:05:51] CABRERA: And he has Bill Barr, who for him ruled no obstruction, even though that was not what Mueller's conclusion was.
And now, Ron, there is growing pressure on Robert Mueller to testify before Congress. We know senate judiciary chairman Lindsey Graham is offering him a chance to refute attorney general William Barr's characterization of their phone call about the summary conclusions Barr released ahead of the redacted report. What do you think Graham is doing here? Is this about the truth or is this political policy pasturing in some way?
BROWNSTEIN: Well first, I think you know the past few months have really revealed or made Robert Mueller appear to be a figure operating from a different set of rules and a different era. I mean, he is someone who we have lauded as above politics, but he may have underestimated the extent to which the hyper partisanship of the modern era would affect the way his report was handled and released and, you know, complaining in private about the way William Barr spun the report, but allowing it for continue to in public for weeks. And now, of course, uncertainty about when he would testify and what he will testify, I think, you know, he has allowed this narrative of his own investigation to get away from him. So you would think he would want to testify.
And you know, I don't know, Lindsey Graham has already said he is done. He doesn't need anything else. So I don't think he is looking for further elucidation. But certainly, you know, Democrats in the House are going to want to hear a great deal more about a great many questions that Mueller put into the political system. I mean, that was very clearly what he was doing, relying on the office of legal counsel, a judgments that he could not indict a sitting President. He basically made a decision to move this into the political system. And now we have to see whether he is willing to take the next step in terms of explaining some of his thinking in public.
CABRERA: But Ron, with Lindsey Graham initially saying it's over, it's done, I don't need to hear from Robert Mueller, now putting out this letter say, well, if you want to refute Barr, let us know if you want to testify. What is that all about? Is he being pressured into calling on Mueller?
BROWNSTEIN: Yes, look, I think that, you know, Lindsey Graham at this point, as I say, is looking to make this go away. I mean, he has made that very clear. So I think he is hoping that if Mueller is pressured to testify directly on that question, that he will, you know, support Barr's account of the phone call. But the letter, you know, as I'm sure, you know, our other guests can explain. The letter, you know, can speak for itself. I mean, in the letter, they are very clear, the letter that Mr. Barr dismissed as snitty (ph), that they believed that their work was being mischaracterized by the attorney general and what he released the public.
CABRERA: And the attorney general was asked a lot about that letter and his phone call with Robert Mueller after his initial summary conclusions. I want you all to take a look at how attorney general Barr struggled with some of the questions during his testimony on Capitol Hill this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You couldn't recall that when Congressman Chris asked you that question a few days later.
WILLIAM BARR. ATTORNEY GENERAL: No. I'm saying that this was the --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you don't recall for sure?
BARR: I just --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me move on.
BARR: I can say --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has the President or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone?
BARR: Um, I wouldn't --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes or no.
BARR: Could you repeat that question?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Gene, I'm wondering what you make of that.
RUSSI: I have a 110 trials in federal court. I don't know any federal prosecutor had more. And I saw witnesses just like Bill Barr do just what he did. And I can say this categorically. He was less than candid and I'm being very kind.
CABRERA: And what do you make, then, of the fact that you have Democrats running for 2020 calling on Bill Barr to be impeached.
RUSSI: My view is, I think the impeachment against Bill Barr a bridge too far. I think the best the Democrats can do against Bill Barr is to ask him to recuse himself from any further involvement in these investigations and here's why.
Kamala Harris' examination of Bill Barr should be used in every trial advocacy course in every law school in the United States. Because the way bill Barr answered those questions by Kamala Harris was priceless. He was evading. He was being deceptive. And it raises this question, is he having conversations with the President of the United States, who's still a subject and possible target in the southern district of New York on the Stormy Daniel's case, and who could be the subject of impeachment? That's incredibly improper for the attorney general to have a bromance with the President of the United States in the oval office or any old executive office building. It's really disgusting when I think about it.
[16:11:07] CABRERA: And Ron, now you have House judiciary chairman democrat Jerry Nadler giving Barr an ultimatum. In short, give us the un-redacted Mueller report and some of the underlying evidence or else we are going to hold you in contempt. Do you think that is smart strategy for Democrats?
BROWNSTEIN: Yes. I think they have - look. They have to press this. Because, I mean, the administration is pushing it from the other direction to a kind of a maximalist opposition and resistance to any kind of congressional oversight. I mean, it's not only that we are talking about the Mueller report and it's the testimony of Dan McGahn and others. And it is a testimony of officials on completely unrelated matters. I mean, they are essentially challenging the historic ability of Congress to exert oversight.
And what is striking to me about all of this is that congressional Republicans in both chambers essentially are allowing and vetting this historic moment, where they are not standing up for the institutional prerogatives of Congress, in a way that kind of to me, goes back to my first point about Bob Mueller. Is it possible to have any transcendent standards of law within this hyper partisan moment? Or is it simply one party using any tool available against the other, no matter what it means to the rule of law or even kind of the customs of the way we have run our government for over 200 years.
CABRERA: All right Rob Brownstein, Gene Rossi, great conversation gentlemen. Thank you.
RUSSI: Thank you.
CABRERA: We will get to some breaking news now. A 1-year-old baby the latest victim in a series of airstrikes near the Israel-Gaza border. We will go live to the region.
Plus, the NTSB is on the scene after a plane skidded off the runway and ride into a Florida river. The frightening moments that forced passengers up onto the wings of this plane.
And he is a sports gambler by trade. And right now James Holzhauer is money. What is behind his historic run on jeopardy? We asks a former jeopardy champion to weigh in.
[16:16:29] CABRERA: The rising toll - the death toll, I should say, is rising in Gaza amid escalating attacks between Palestinian militants and Israeli forces. Hospital officials in Gaza say Israeli airstrikes have killed at least three people including a baby and her pregnant mother. The Israeli war planes are still targeting militants who have been firing hundreds of rockets toward Israel.
CNN's Oren Liebermann is near the Gaza border.
Oren, fill us in. What's happening there now?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, the hostilities we have seen throughout the day have escalated. We are seeing more power rockets fired, it seems from Gaza into Israel because we are seeing red alerts, warning of incoming rocket fires as far ways (INAUDIBLE), the largest city in southern Israel and as far north as (INAUDIBLE). These are larger cities. These are farther away from Gaza indicating that it takes not just the short-range rockets with a hallmark of earlier today, but more powerful, medium union-range rockets. And that is a major escalation on the part of Hamas and militant groups inside of Gaza.
Meanwhile, Israel has also stepped up its response, targeting they say an eight-storey building inside of Gaza that was used as infrastructure, not only by Hamas but also Palestinian-Islamic Jihad, the other major militant faction inside of Gaza.
To this point, Israel says there had been more than 250 rockets fired from Gaza into Israel starting some 13 hours ago. Some Israeli civilians have been injured by shrapnel. Meanwhile, Israel has carried out strikes against more than 130
targets inside of Gaza, including the one I just mentioned right now. As you point out, there had been people killed inside of Gaza. The Palestinian ministry of health now say that n umber stands at four, including a 1-year-old baby girl and her pregnant mother.
Where does this go from here? Well, the U.N. and Egypt are trying to moderate or mediate some sort of cease-fire, but as can be heard, as can be seen behind me, those efforts have so far not led to a cease- fire as the fighting here continues well into the evening hours - Ana.
CABRERA: OK. Oren Liebermann for us, thank you very much.
A catastrophic explosion in Illinois leaves one death, others still missing after a silicone plant blows up. The investigation is now under way, next.
[16:22:11] CABRERA: Right now in Illinois, investigators are looking for what caused a silicone planned in Waukegan to burst into flames overnight after an explosion so intense it could be felt miles away. At least one person is dead, two others missing. By morning light, the fire was out, but this is what remains, shredded insulation, entangled metal litter the area around what was once a manufacturing plant.
CNN national correspondent Brynn Gingras is following this for us.
Brynn, and a cruise at one point has suspended the search and rescue operation because they thought it was just too dangerous. What is the situation?
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. They had to. I mean, if you look at just even the wreckage that you are seeing, I mean, it is not even better this morning. These are actually live pictures which we are looking at of AB Specialty Silicone. It is a manufacturing plant that make special silicone chemicals. It is located about 40 miles north of Chicago. And this happened 9:30 last night.
We are told by authorities that nine people were inside the plant when the explosion happened. And now we know four went to the hospital. And we know about the one person whose body was recovered this morning but we are missing two people.
So you can imagine that there, you know, families are just heartbroken right now because people can't do anything. They can't go in to that building until they can't get structurally sound. We are learning from officials that they have to bring in specialized equipment and try to sort of peel away some of the pieces just to get into the wreckage. And that's first priority.
Second priority, of course, is going to be what caused this. As you said, I mean, it's a disaster area. You know, the mayor of that town said he has never been in a war zone, but that's what it felt like to him and what it looked like.
GINGRAS: A million-dollar damages. It really impacted buildings, 15 different buildings around that area. It's a manufacturing area in that town. And it could be heard and felt really 15 to 20-mile radius around that area. So incredible, incredible explosion. And we just, you know, obviously, our hearts go out to the people.
GINGRAS: We are waiting to hear word about those two people that --.
CABRERA: And we look at those live pictures that we showed earlier where it's just a shell that's left. And you can see how hot it burn. Some of those other pictures where you saw the fire and the explosion, the lights, how bright it was. But look, I mean, just nothing is left. This was a silicone plant, so a lot of chemicals. What about water equality? Air quality? What do we know about that?
GINGRAS: That was a big thing that they wanted to check out. It sounds like there's no evacuations in that area. At first they were telling people who live in the area to not, you know, ventilate their homes, turn off ACC (ph), whatever you might be using. They think everything is OK. So that's good news because then, of course, people couldn't go in for that reason. But that seems to be OK. It is just priority against finding these two people.
CABRERA: All right. Brynn Gingras, thank you.
To Florida now, where NTSB investigators have recovered the flight data recorder of a charter plane that skidded off the runway and into the river in Jacksonville, Florida. The Boeing 737 was carrying more than 100 military and government workers and their families. It was trying to land last night in a naval air station when the pilot overshot the runway during stormy weather. The aircraft is still in the water. Everyone onboard had to escape under the plane wings until rescue teams arrived. No fatalities, but several people were injured. They are all expected to be OK. The NTSB is expected to give a briefing at the top of the hour. We will bring that to you live just as soon as it happens.
The streak continues. A pro-sports gambler racks up the winnings on jeopardy using a Vegas strategy, can he keep it up and become an all- time record breaker? We will ask a former "Jeopardy" champ, next.
[16:29:11] CABRERA: "Jeopardy" is suddenly must-see TV, all thanks to James Holzhauer, a professional sports gambler and titan of trivia just won't stop winning. So far he has raked in nearly $1.7 million in a winning streak of 22 games. Have you been watching? To use a "Jeopardy" let's recap with Stephanie Elam.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is man and superman?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is super base?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is Bedford (INAUDIBLE)?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): James Holzhauer may be redefining what it means to be a "Jeopardy" champ.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Answer the daily double.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of the chips, please.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of it? All right.
ELAM: One massive wager at a time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I look at James and I say, oh, my God, look what he is doing?
ELAM: A profession at sports gambler from Las Vegas, Holzhauer's bets would make most sick to their stomach. Here he is on ESPN.
[16:30:00] JAMES HOLZHAUER, "JEOPARDY" WINNER: I'm comfortable risking a lot if I know I have a big edge. On "Jeopardy," I'm going to get the Daily Double a lot more than I'm not going to, so I just want to maximize that.
ELAM: He also attacks the board differently, going after the big- value clues on the bottom.
DR. BENJAMIN SOLTOFF, COMPUTATONAL SOCIAL SCIENTIST, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO: He's doing it with a specific goal of earning a lot of money before finding the Daily Double.
ALEX TREBEK, HOST, "JEOPARDY": The Daily Double.
ELAM: Data scientist, Benjamin Soltoff, has analyzed the stats of "Jeopardy" winners.
SOLTOFF: He's buys the Daily Double. He has a lot of money already and he's able to bet a large amount on them. More often than not, it proves correct. It's a variation on techniques we've seen champions from the past use.
CHURCK FORREST, FORMER "JEOPARDY" CONTESTANT; I was on "Jeopardy" for the first time in 1985. I won five games, which was the limit back them.
ANNOUNCER: From Lake Michigan, Chuck Forrest.
ELAM: Chuck Forrest originated the strategy.
FORREST: This idea of bouncing around the board, instead of going straight down, you go someplace completely at random. That way, you remain in control of the board.
ELAM: No doubt Holzhauer's variation on the bounce is working for him. During a record 74 consecutive games, Ken Jennings raked in more than $2.5 million, the most ever during the show's regular season play. But at the rate he's going, Holzhauer could out-win Jennings in a lot less time.
TREBEK: You have just set a one-day record again.
TREBEK: Again, $131,127.
SOLTOFF: He's average Daily Double winnings is like twice as large, at least, as much Ken Jennings was doing. He was there for a long number of games, but his average earnings didn't come close to what James have been accruing.
FORREST: The guy is a steamroller. He has this incredible focus and determination.
ELAM: Not to mention his best trivia knowledge and skills with the buzzer.
TREBEK: Impressive as all get-out.
ELAM: Just how far will James Holzhauer go? America will be watching to find out.
Stephanie Elam, CNN, Los Angeles.
CABRERA: So James Holzhauer is clearly qualified to join the pantheon of game show gods.
But my next guest is also a member of this exclusive club thanks to his appearances on "Jeopardy." Brad Rutter holds the record as the highest-earning contestant on "Jeopardy," winning more than $4 million. He's also never been beaten by a human opponent. Just the supercomputer, Watson.
Brad, thank you very much for being with us.
So many fans have been mesmerized by Holzhauer's performance. What's your reaction? BRAD RUTTER, HIGHEST-EARNING "JEOPARDY" CONTESTANT: He's really good.
What he's getting attention for, the betting, is probably the least important of the qualities he has in terms of winning for a long time and making a lot of money. Although, the big bets, like the piece said, that's why he's ahead of Ken in terms of rate of money won per show.
CABRERA: I bet you would love a shot to go up against him.
RUTTER: Sure. I like my chances against anybody.
CABRERA: Do you think you could beat him?
RUTTER: Yes. Like I said, I like my chances against anybody. You're not going to get me to talk trash, Ana.
CABRERA: I know. That seems like such a politically correct answer.
Do talk to me about what it takes to win. Yes, it helps to be a whiz at trivia. You have to know when to buzz in, how to play the board. What are the components to victory?
RUTTER: Exactly. You have to take a test to get on "Jeopardy." Everybody on the show is good at trivia. That means that usually all three people are trying to use the signaling device at the same time. So that's usually the biggest part of success on "Jeopardy" is the timing that signaling device and sort of getting into a mind meld with the person backstage who is opening up the system for you to bring in. And James says he's worked on that. I find that, for me, it was just a natural talent and I could just do that, which is probably the biggest reason I have done well.
CABRERA: Not everybody loves a winner. There's been a bit of a backlash building against Holzhauer. Some people are seriously irked he's won so much. He's using his sports gambling strategy as well. I know you have some hate, too, right?
RUTTER: Well, anytime you're on Tv and especially with an institution like "Jeopardy" and essentially since it's been played for the same way for a long time, the analogy I like to make is the NBA between the '80s and now. At some point, someone figure out that, hey, shooting a lot of three pointers is really efficient and it's probably the best way to score a lot of points. But there's still a lot of people who liked it better in the '80s when there was a lot of banging in the posts.
CABRERA: I want to ask you about the host, Alex Trebek, and his courageous battle he's waging against state four pancreatic cancer. He's been very open about the challenges he's faces all along the way. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TREBEK: I'm used to dealing with pain. What I'm not used to dealing with is the surges that come on suddenly of deep, deep sadness, and it brings tears to my eyes. I've discovered in this whole episode, ladies and gentlemen, that I'm a bit of a wuss.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[16:35:03] CABRERA: Why do you think the news of his cancer battle has resonated with so many people?
RUTTER: Well, I think Alex is like America's smart uncle, who you see coming to dinner every night and coming to your house. I saw Alex this morning at the walk for pancreatic cancer. He looks great. He's in great spirits. The sadness that he talked about at least wasn't apparent today. I'm sure he knows that everybody is pulling for him, millions and millions of people across the country. And it means a lot to him.
CABRERA: I'm glad to hear he had brighter spirits today. Your fellow "Jeopardy" champion, Ken Jennings, has called Trebek our generation's Cronkite. You talked about him being like everybody's smart uncle. What does Trebek mean to you?
RUTTER: When I found out, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I always joke, hey, I'm living on Uncle Alex's money. But when I found out, it was like wow. This guy has been present at the most important moments in my life, and he does feel like family. I've been watching "Jeopardy" when I was 6 years old, when it first came on with Alex. So I feel like I know him definitely better than he knows me. But, like, I don't really know him that well. But, yes, he's a big part of all of our lives, and we're all wishing him the best.
Real quick, before I let you go, is there any talk, have you heard any rumbling or been in conversations about returning any time soon to maybe take on the champ?
RUTTER: You never know. It's usually once every five years or so. We wrapped up the all-star games in March so you would think it would be another five years. But, hey, when Ken was done with his run, they made an exception. So we'll see.
CABRERA: We'll see what happens with James Holzhauer.
Brad Rutter, great having you one. Thanks you so much.
RUTTER: Thanks, Ana.
CABRERA: Coming up, mayors behaving badly. How a scandal that took down the top official in Baltimore is just the latest in a string of bizarre cases involving top city officials in America.
Be right back.
[16:41:00] CABRERA: Baltimore got a new mayor this week after their last one resigned in a corruption scandal over children's books she offered, just one in a string of bizarre cases involving American mayors facing controversy.
CNN's John Avlon has our "Reality Check."
JOHN AVLON, CNN & ANCHOR: Well, the swamp is still well stocked. Concerns about corruption have been rising in the USA, with one city showing it's only getting worse. But the problem is a lot bigger than just Washington.
On Thursday, we got a reminder. Baltimore had its second mayor resign in a decade. Former Democratic Mayor Catherine Pugh was considered a reformer, but nobody saw the children's book kickback scandal coming. In fairness, it was a pretty novel scam. The mayor decided to self- publish a series of children's books called "Healthy Holly." Nothing wrong there. Granted, there were quality control issues, like having one of the main character's name misspelled along with the word "vegetable." But, hey, this wasn't a crime against grammar. Mayor Pugh's problems arose when it was revealed that her books sold to the tune of $800,000. That's a huge success. The only problem is they sold to massive organization like the University of Maryland Medical System where Mayor Pugh was on the board, and health care provider, Kaiser Permanente, which was awarded a city contract, worth tens of millions of dollars. In that kind of situation, it didn't seem to matter that many of the books were reportedly never delivered or sat unopened in warehouses or, in one instance, weren't even prettied at all. Mayor Pugh resigned after being absent from city hall for a month, allegedly because of pneumonia. She was contrite in her resignation statement. But back in March, she spent a big part of her first apology doing this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CATHERINE PUGH, (D), FORMER BALTIMORE MAYOR: It's about teaching children to walk, run, crawl, skate, dance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AVLON: That's right. She held a press conference about her sketchy children's book series to sell her sketchy children's clothing line.
But while Pugh is the latest casualty at city hall, there have been a depressing number of mayors who resigned, due to everything from criminal behavior to criminally bad judgment over the last few years.
For example, the mayor of Nashville, Megan Barry, resigned after making sweet music with her bodyguard and pleading guilty to bilking the city of thousands of dollars.
Six months before that, the mayor of Seattle, Ed Murray, stepped aside after at least five people accused him of sexual abuse, including a younger cousin. He denied the allegations and has not been charged.
Who could forget San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, who allegedly asked his press secretary to, quote, "get naked?" He was later sentenced to three months home confinement and three years' probation. Dan McQueen resigned as mayor of Corpus Christi, Texas, after local
media discovered that his chief of staff was also his live-in girlfriend, a violation of common sense and, more importantly, city policy.
But that was Mayberry style skullduggery compared to the mayor of Fairfax, Virginia, who resigned after being busted after trying to trade sex for meth.
Or the Marionville, Missouri, mayor who stepped down after defending a friend, who was a murderous KKK leader, with anti-Semitic slurs.
And finally, the mayor of San Marino, California, who resigned after tossing his dog's business onto his neighbor's lawn. Now, to his credit, he voluntarily stepped down, reportedly disgusted with himself.
But after hearing about this rogue's gallery, we should all feel a little disgusted. Maybe some of this is just some foolish corruption. Others just bore by bad judgement by people who should never come near city hall. Still others bear the hallmarks of low standards in one- party towns. But Washington is a restocked swamp. But local politics? It seems to need a serious spring cleaning.
And that's your "Reality Check."
CABRERA: It is a landmark case in the world of sports. An Olympic track and field star remaining defiant despite new rules requiring her to lower the testosterone she was born with. Her message to fans.
[16:44:36] Plus, Dr. Sanjay Gupta journeys through one of the darkest and coldest countries, Norway, and finds some of the happiest people on earth. What's their secret? "CHASING LIFE" with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, tonight, at 9:00 Eastern.
CABRERA: It's a contested issue in sports with this question at its heart: When is it not OK for a woman to compete against other women? That's the debate right now around 28-year-old Caster Semenya, of South Africa, an Olympic gold medalist and a dominant force in women's middle-distance running. If you don't know her story, she was born hyper-androgynous. Meaning she naturally has excessive levels of testosterone, much higher than in an average woman. So why is that important? Studies have shown an excess of testosterone can increase muscle mass, strength and stamina in woman and some argue that gives her an unfair advantage. Then came this week's landmark ruling that Semenya will have to take medication to reduce her testosterone if she wants to continue competing against other women internationally in her preferred racing events.
Joining us now is CNN sports analyst and "USA Today" sports columnist, Christine Brennan.
Christine, Caster Semenya lost an appeal against these new rules, but she remains defiant. Here she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CASTER SEMENYA, OLYMPC GOLD MEDAL RUNNER: It's not about sports. It's about human dignity, human life. So what you do is you keep on doing it, no matter what. It doesn't matter if you're track or other sports. If people look up to you, always make sure you do what's best for them. That's what I do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Christine, she's coming off just winning another race just yesterday. But what's her next move? Will she keep competing?
CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: That's a great question. She said she wants, Ana, to keep running. But the question is, how does she do this. She can appeal the Court of Arbitration for Sport Ruling to the Swizz Supreme Court. That's the only place to do that. And then either decide to take the drugs that would suppress her testosterone level or potentially move to other events. But she is 28 years old. She is an amazing runner. And she's been through an extraordinary ordeal over 10 years that anyone would look at and say, how unfair to treat this woman this way. Where were the leaders leading and making decisions earlier on? She's had to twist in the wind. And it's just an awful set of circumstances for someone, anyone, especially an athlete who is so good and who has dealt with so much coming out of South Africa. Throw all of that into the mix. And yet the question now, moving forward, does she take the hormone- suppressing drugs or not? Does she retire? It doesn't sound like she wants to do that. But it is a bind and it is a story that defies Twitter or headlines that is so multifaceted in this sense.
[16:50:51] CABRERA: So multifaceted. We seem to have this intersection between natural-born abilities verses what constitutes an unfair advantage. Legally, you're prevented from taking performance- enhancing drugs in sports. But a person who is seven feet talk, like Shaq, will have a natural advantage as a basketball player. A person who has the wingspan of Michael Phelps has a natural advantage as a swimmer. Is there any precedent for denying someone's natural birth advantage?
BRENNAN: This is a conversation, Ana, that's been brought up the last few days. How tall is too tall, right? Michael Phelps' feet are like flippers. His wingspan, his torso. The difference here in this conversation -- and I think good people can disagree as they want to move forward to figure out what's best, especially for women and girls sports. This is what we care about at the end of the day, the classification that we care so much about, women's and girl's sports and how do we look at it moving forward into the next few decades? We do not have a classification for a swimmer's foot size or wing span. If there was a clamoring saying, that's s unfair, maybe we would -- this sounds very ridiculous but it's a very serious topic. I don't mean to be making light of it all. Maybe there would be classifications 50 years from now about the wingspan of a swimmer. And Michael Phelps would be put into a different category in that scenario because his wingspan would have been more than someone else's. But up until this point, our society, our culture has decided not to make that a category, to not make that something we deal with. Another example, wrestling and boxing. We have weight categories for that.
BRENNAN: Of course we do. That's where, when you talk about testosterone levels, which is the essence of this conversation, once you get past the incredible harm that has been done to Caster Semenya over these 10 years. The testosterone level, what do we want to see in women's and girl's sports moving forward? Do we want to protect girl's and women's sports in terms of testosterone levels? And how do we do that as a culture?
CABRERA: I'm curious, how is Caster Semenya received among the women she competes against? After all, they, too, train their entire lives for big competitions?
BRENNAN: It's been a mixed bag. Certainly, throughout the sport, Ana, it's been that over really the last 10 years, since she's been on the scene. Some very angry that she's coming in and competing against them with elevated testosterone levels. We must say it over and over again, Caster Semenya was born this way. This is not about a transgender athlete. She was born this way. And that's a huge point to make. But others have accepted her. Others who competed against her have found her to be gracious, kind, and feel sorry her and feel sorry that she's gone through all of this, and they support her even as she beats them by a mile.
CABRERA: So interesting. This is not the end of the story.
Christine Brennan, we'll have you back. Thank you as always.
BRENNAN: Thank you, Ana.
CABRERA: May the fourth be with you on this "Star Wars" day. Fans remember the actor behind the beloved Wookie.
[16:57:37] CABRERA: The 145th running of the Kentucky Derby is about to get under way a short time from now. This year's race is expected to be wide open after the favorite was scratched due to a respiratory disease. And weather could play a role in the Derby as rain moves through the Louisville area today. The first leg of the Triple Crown of horse racing is affectionately called the most exciting two minutes in sports. Stay tuned. We'll keep you posted.
Finally, this hour, May the fourth be with you. It's "Star Wars" day. This year's anniversary is bittersweet for fans of the ethic space saga. Peter Mayhew, who played the Wookie warrior, Chewbacca, died this week at the age of 74. Standing over seven feet tall and covered in yak hair as Chewbacca, Mayhew may have looked terrifying, but he said he always thought of Hans Solo's sidekick, Chewie, as a teddy bear or a security blanket, despite this year's early encounter with C-3PO. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Screaming about it can't help.
HARRISON FORD, ACTOR: That's not wise.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: But, sir, nobody worries about upsetting a droid.
FORD: That's because a droid doesn't pull people's arms out of their sockets when they lose. Wookies are known to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Of course, that wasn't this year. That was the early, early interaction. Mayhew acted in five films in the "Star Wars" series, starting with the original trilogy, episodes four, five and six, and he then acted in episode three and seven. Poor health forced him to pull out of "The Last Jedi," episode 8. But he still got a film credit as a Chewbacca consultant.
This weekend, social media is full of tributes for Peter Mayhew, including this tweet from the "Star Wars" co-star, Mark Hamill: "He was the gentlest of giants, a big man with an even bigger heart. He never failed to make me smile. A loyal friend who I loved dearly. I am grateful for the memories we shared. I am a better man for just having known him. Thanks, Pete."
Agreed. Thanks, Mr. Mayhew.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORD: Chewie, we're home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[17:00:04] CABRERA: Breaking news out of the Middle East where escalations turn deadly. CNN has learned a 1-year-old baby is now the latest victim in a series of airstrikes.