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13 Dead As Jet Engulfed In Fireball Makes Emergency Landing; President Trump Tweets: "Mueller Should Not Testify"; N. Korea: Kim Jong Un Ordered "Strike Drill" Of Rocket Launchers; Pompeo On N. Korea: Still A Path Forward For Denuclearization; 600 Rockets Fired From Gaza, Israel Responds With Airstrikes; Facebook, Instagram Ban "Dangerous: Voices From Its Platforms; Trump Defends Conservatives Banned From Social Media Platforms; Country House Wins Kentucky Derby After Apparent Winner DQ'd. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired May 5, 2019 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: 78 people were on board when the plane came in for a fiery landing. And as it hits the runway, you can see people running from the plane, some of them with luggage in hand. We're also learning that Russia is launching a criminal probe now of the fire.

CNN's Nathan Hodge is in Moscow for us. So, Nathan, it appears the plane did take off. There was a trap, you know, problem and then it turned around?

NATHAN HODGE, CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: Fredricka, that's right. The plane had taken off from Moscow heading to the city of Murmansk in Russia's far north and then had to turn around after the engine fire forced it to make this emergency landing at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport.

And then we've seen all of those dramatic pictures of the plane engulfed in flames and the passengers as they scrambled to run down and to slide down the emergency exit ramps that were put down to escape from the plane, which was consumed with flames. Later on, the fire, of course, was put out, but Russia's investigative committee, that's the country's top investigative body has said that they're launching a criminal probe.

This is a standard practice in any incident that involves a lot of large loss of life to look into the possibility of neglect in this incident which has claimed, as you had said, according to the investigative committee now, 13 lives. We're still getting more information.

The aircraft -- the aircraft belongs to Aeroflot, Russia's state aircraft, state carrier, and it was a super a super jet. This is an aircraft that Aeroflot operates in addition to a fleet that includes Boeings and Airbuses on many of its international flights. So we're still getting preliminary information about this incident. Obviously it's attracted a lot of high level attention already here in Russia. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has ordered the creation of a commission that will look into the causes of this incident and, of course, we're going to be, I'm sure, seeing in the coming hours more information about what possibly might have been the cause of this, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And then, Nathan, we're hearing 13 dead. Is there also an expectation that the casualty rate could go up?

HODGE: Fredricka, we haven't seen any reports at this stage that might indicate that the casualties will rise in this incident, and that's quite miraculous considering that this plane landed in flames.

We've seen the video of that with the engine fire already really in full swing when the plane landed, and certainly it's quite an arresting image to see the passengers coming off of the plane in this incident, Fredericka.

WHITFIELD: Nathan Hodge in Moscow, thank you so much.

All right, I want to now bring in Mary Schiavo, she is the former inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation and has worked on behalf of passengers, families in legal matters. Good to see you. So, you know, we know the plane in Moscow was already on fire, you know --

MARY SCHIAVO, FORMER INSPECTOR GENERAL,USDOT: Right.

WHITFIELD: -- before it made its landing. Based on the video that you're seeing, what is your instinct tell you could have been the big problem?

SCHIAVO: Right. Well, lot of important clues here. First of all, it appears to be an engine fire. Now, the engine is forced on a modern jet. It's a modern plane that first started flying in 2011, French and Russian engines.

Fire -- the engines have fire bottles, which are meant to put out the fire on the engines, and those clearly did not work. And so the fact that they could still control the plane and get it on the ground does suggest that it was an engine fire that was at least initially contained or at least somewhat contained in the engines because they were still able to control the plane.

If the flames had gone beyond the engines while they were still flying, they could have lost very important, obviously, controlled surfaces, controlled wires, et cetera, so it does look like it was an engine fire. And here we have survivability factors. They could only use the two forward exits.

Now, modern standard is that everybody gets off the plane in 90 seconds, but that assumes you can use all the emergency exits and they couldn't use the ones over the wings. So getting off those two front exits, if truly only sadly 13 people died, that's quite a feat.

WHITFIELD: Right. So 78 people on board, and when you look at this image and you see it like the, you know, past the wings to the tail is fully engulfed there. Is it your feeling that passengers -- as many passengers and crew as possible probably started making their way toward the front before the plane even landed.

[15:05:02] SCHIAVO: Probably not. The standard is that you stay in your seat and they would have probably had them embrace position because a fire suggests that you might lose some of the controllability of the aircraft. But as soon as they land, you know, the pilots and flight attendants, they open those two emergency exits.

They have to assess the fire because they can't -- they don't want to open any of the doors where the fire is outside because that would suck the fire inside, and it looks like that's what they did. They opened the doors where there were not flames and not the doors where there were flames, otherwise that fire would have come in and it would have spread much faster.

And the smoke, the color of the smoke gives me an indication that it was indeed engines and fuel burning and then, of course, eventually the plane itself will burn. But it looks like an engine and a fuel fire.

WHITFIELD: Then because of that explanation, does your instinct tell you that there may be more casualties than the 13 dead?

SCHIAVO: It does. You know, that smoke is pretty deadly. Obviously the oxygen masks on the plane don't do anything for you. In fact, oxygen masks in a fire are even worse. Those don't filter out the smoke, they just deliver oxygen to you. So usually what kills some people sadly, you know, regrettably in a plane fire, those on board, is smoke inhalation and heat.

Heat is very deadly to the head. That's why they tell you to get down and get out in a fire, but in an emergency evacuation you can't get down. You have to get up and run to the exit doors as fast as possible.

You know, it troubles me that we've heard some people stopped and took luggage. That literally could have cost someone else his or her life. I hope that's not the case, but it's the heat and the smoke that will cause some people to die in an aircraft fire as well.

WHITFIELD: So Russian sources saying that according to Russian law a criminal investigation has been launched in part because at least two people, you know, have died in this.

SCHIAVO: Right.

WHITFIELD: What's your familiarity with the way in which Russia will investigate itself on this, you know, national carrier?

SCHIAVO: Well, almost all countries except ours actually initially and always consider an air crash potentially a criminal and a civil investigation. We tend not to unless there's clear indication of criminal activity, but there is certainly not unusual for Russia to look at a crash both as potentially a criminal and civil act. It does not look like an on board explosion because of the controllability of the plane. Usually an explosion will take out some of the controllability of the aircraft and the control surfaces and control wires, et cetera, but it's not unusual for them to do a criminal as well as a civil investigation and most of the aviation nations of the world.

I'm kind of doubting that it's a criminal act because they were still able to land it, so they had controllability, but it's reasonable for them to do that.

WHITFIELD: Mary Schiavo, thank you so much.

SCHIAVO: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Still ahead, Special Counsel Robert Mueller preparing to testify on Capitol Hill? President Trump is now weighing in contradicting his own U.S. attorney general. More right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:11:48] WHITFIELD: Breaking news from Washington, President Trump saying today he does not think that Robert Mueller should testify before Congress tweeting moments ago and slamming Democrats for pushing for Mueller to testify saying, "Are they looking for a redo because they hated seeing the strong no collusion conclusion? There was no crime, except on the other side incredibly not covered in the report and no obstruction. Bob Mueller should not testify. No redos for the Dems." Well, that contradicts what the President said just days ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, should Mueller testify? Would you like to see him testify?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know. That's up to our attorney general who I think has done a fantastic job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: And we know earlier the attorney general had already said that he thought it was OK for Mueller to testify. So let's bring in Boris Sanchez at the White House where the President is now weighing in on the calls for Mueller to testify, and he's giving it a big thumbs down. What changed?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Fred. Well, now, it appears that it is possible that Robert Mueller will testify as early as May 15th, that tentative date set by the House Judiciary Committee.

Obviously, there are a lot of embarrassing details in the Mueller report that the White House would not like to see repeated in broad daylight or to have Congress people asking Robert Mueller to extrapolate on. Specifically you can look at embarrassing details about aides ignoring orders from President Trump or suggestions in the Mueller report that witnesses destroyed evidence and, of course, those 10 or so instances of the President himself trying to somehow interfere in this investigation.

Just on Friday as you heard there, President Trump left it up to his Attorney General William Barr to say whether or not it would be appropriate for the former special counsel to testify before the House Judiciary Committee. Listen to more of what William Barr said about that issue just a few days ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about Bob Mueller, should he be allowed to testify before this?

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I've already said publicly, I have no objection to him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Don McGahn, should he be allowed to testify?

BARR: Well, that's a call for the President to make.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: So far the White House has not indicated that they would try to prevent this from happening but, of course, that could change as this becomes more and more real. The White House may try to prevent the special counsel from giving his personal take on some of what he found in the report, and specifically to potentially outline some of those inconsistencies that he said were in the summary, the synopsis of the conclusions of the Mueller report that Attorney General William Barr put out shortly before its release, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Boris Sanchez, thank you so much at the White House.

Let's talk more about all of this. With me now is Molly Ball, a national political correspondent for "Time" and a CNN Political Analyst. Shan Wu is a former federal prosecutor and CNN Legal Analyst. Good to see you both.

All right, so, Molly, you first. So, what's the President now so concerned about if the Mueller report in his view exonerated him? Why wouldn't he want Mueller to elaborate?

MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think what has changed obviously is the bursting out into the open of this dispute between Mueller and Barr over what exactly the special counsel concluded or found in the course of his nearly two-year version.

[15:15:00] And so the Democrats want some answers about given that Mueller apparently felt that his conclusions were mischaracterized by the attorney general. They want him to come forward himself to explain it. And the President now -- now that that conflict I think is in the open, the President is realizing it might not look so good for him despite his claims to have been fully exonerated, despite his claims that the investigation cleared him, which it did not. He obviously does not want this hash out in the open over and over and over again because there is some stuff in there that doesn't make him look particularly good.

WHITFIELD: So, Shan, there are only a couple of days, you know, that separate the President saying, OK, you know, I think it's a good idea to now his tweet saying, no, he shouldn't testify. So, can the President -- is it up to the President to stop Bob Mueller from testifying, Bob Mueller still a Department of Justice employee, or would that be the discretion of the attorney general?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It really would be the discretion of the attorney general. I mean, there's a theoretical basis upon which the President as head of the executive branch could try to exercise that authority. I think he'd have a difficult road if the attorney general is still saying Mueller can testify.

Now, I think Mueller is not the kind of witness who is going to want to be doing an expose tell-all. He'll be pretty deferential to what justice wants to keep under wraps. But I think the problem for the President he's running up against is, you know, he has this idea that they can control everything because he's the president and he's just getting lessons all the time that he can't do that.

And even with Barr who seems, you know, very willing to help out the President, you know, Barr is not going to find a real reason for Mueller not to testify, so I think that is probably going to go forward.

WHITFIELD: And especially when he's already on record after testimony saying, you know, he doesn't see a problem with it. So if Mueller is to testify, you know, Shan, do you expect him to want to clear the air on the entire report or perhaps take up, you know, Senator Lindsey Graham's offer, which is just, you know, elaborate on the phone call, the conversations between Barr and Mueller after the summary of Barr was released?

WU: Well, I think Mueller will answer to whatever questions are put to him. I think his preference would probably be, you know, a little bit less rather than more. This is my speculation on his kind of mindset, but I don't think he wants to air out or get a lot of weight to these agreements that may have happened between him and the attorney general.

But on the other hand, he certainly doesn't want his work to be mischaracterized and I think that's why he took that really extraordinary gesture of committing to writing what his concerns were.

WHITFIELD: And, Molly, in the last hour, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, made it really clear that Democrats will continue pushing for Mueller to testify as well as investigations of the Trump administration. This is what she said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): I think Mr. Mueller is a straight shooter. I would hope that he would make that decision because the President has in the overall perspective waived his executive privilege to a certain extent. I think we should hold hearings that are primetime for the American people to see that we're not targeting anyone, Fredericka, we're just trying to find out the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So, Molly, what is the road ahead because, you know, it's not really clear to whose advantage, you know, all of this will be.

BALL: Well, the road ahead is these investigations are going to continue, and I think as Shan was saying earlier, that's exactly right, the Democrats are in charge of the House of Representatives, and in a lot of ways the President still hasn't come to terms with that, but he cannot control them.

And in fact, they have a lot of questions and issues with his conduct, his whole administration. At this point I think the attorney general himself now has become a target because the Democrats are so upset with the -- what they perceived as discrepancies or outright lies in his testimony last week.

And the executive branch for all of the stonewalling that they're trying to do for all the subpoenas that they're trying to block, they just are not in control of this process and that's a difficult thing for the President to accept because he likes to control everything and he wants this to go away.

WHITFIELD: So, Shan, you know, this all comes as the House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, you know, has also threatened, you know, to hold William Barr in contempt of Congress if the attorney general does not hand over the entire unredacted Mueller report and all the underlying evidence by 9:00 a.m., 9:00 a.m. is the deadline tomorrow. So, do you see this happening, and if so, then what?

WU: Well, I don't think he's going to hand it over at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow, and they have two choices on the contempt. They can go with a criminal contempt throughout, which ultimately means that the Justice Department has to buy in on that. The U.S. Attorney's Office in D.C., a little bit unusual situation for them since Barr is the attorney general so there are some questions there.

[15:20:06] They can go a civil litigation route which will require a judge to take care of that decision, it's a little bit slower. But I think in both instances what's important is that they give a lot of time and opportunity for Barr to comply as opposed to looking like the Russian decor.

Now, this -- I think that Molly may have input on this, I think that's why they keep giving these deadlines to make sure that it's clear, they're trying to work with Barr and give him a chance to cooperate rather than just rushing off into court, whether it's criminal or civil.

WHITFIELD: Shan Wu and Molly Ball, we'll leave it there for now, thank you so much.

All right, coming up, will North Korea's latest missile test threaten to dismantle the growing relationship with the rest of the world? We'll talk about why the White House says a nuclear deal is still possible.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Welcome back. CNN has obtained exclusive images showing the North Korean launches. You can see the smoke trail following the rocket which is now believed to be a short range ballistic missile. We're also learning that Kim Jong-un gave the order of firing for this weekend's rocket launch drill.

And this morning, state media confirmed that North Korea tested multiple rocket launchers and Kim Jong-un observed and guided the drills in person. Despite this news, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo still believes that there's a path forward between the U.S. and North Korea on nuclear negotiations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[15:25:11] MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: It's a serious situation for sure, and we've known that the path to fully verified denuclearization would be a bumpy and long one. As for the deadline, we want to get back and begin to have these conversations.

I don't know that there's anything particularly significant about his statement at the end of the year. We're watching closely the North Korean behavior as are our allies, Japan and South Korea and the region. We still believe there's a path forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Brett Bruen is the president of the Global Situation Room, which is a consulting firm, and he joins me right now. Good to see you. So your reaction, your reaction to what Pompeo is saying that there could still be a path forward.

BRETT BRUEN, PRESIDENT OF THE GLOBAL SITUATION ROOM: Well, I think they need to find in the State Department an old copy of the diplomatic handbook, dust it off and go back to a traditional diplomatic process.

We were told a year ago that Trump was going to take this matter in hand. He was going to use his unique negotiating skills to move forward this process, and almost a year later we are actually several squares back from there.

Trump has conferred legitimacy on Kim. He has brought him into the fold of the international community. He's also given him a pass on human rights and even development of nuclear and missile technology as we've seen just in the last few days. So all of these really ought to cause concern in the State Department, at the National Security Council where I served, and they ought to revisit their strategy.

WHITFIELD: So, for at least a year now the President has been touting that there hadn't been any missile testings and that that was a great achievement. Now that there has been, this confirmation of a missile test, short range, nonetheless, is this a setback or what is the signal that you see Kim Jong-un sending to the President of the United States?

BRUEN: I think it's one of a series of setbacks. Let's remember that following the first summit in Singapore we actually had -- Mike Pompeo was very disappointed by his follow-up meetings in Pyongyang. Our diplomats got pushed around.

We in fact saw other efforts at saber rattling out of Pyongyang and I think what you're seeing from Kim now is an effort to try and pressure Trump back to the negotiating table. And he will continue to escalate this until Trump concedes and returns to discuss this matter with him.

I think that would be the wrong approach. If I were advising Trump, I would say we need to get back to coalition diplomacy where we're working with our allies in a coordinated way. He clearly has not been able to deliver on his own.

WHITFIELD: Yesterday it was believed or it was described as merely projectiles. Today, short range missiles. Yesterday the President of the United States tweeted out, you know, saying that Kim Jong-un knows I'm with him and does not want to break his promise to me. What was your interpretation of that?

BRUEN: Well, this is the problem that oftentimes we see escalatory steps out of North Korea and they are met by the White House with this kind of positive rhetoric. There needs to be a much more serious approach to diplomacy.

Every time that we give Kim a pass on these issues, he interprets it as a green light to continue, to ratchet up his rhetoric, to ratchet up his tactics, and I think you've got to get to a place where we are laying out some serious conditions on the table. We're going to insist on those conditions being met before there will be another heads of state summit.

WHITFIELD: Brett Bruen, thank you so much for your time and expertise.

BRUEN: Good to be with you.

WHITFIELD: Up next, Mayor Pete Buttigieg facing key questions as he campaigns in South Carolina today. What is he looking to prove as he meets with voters? More from the campaign trail, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:32:42] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. Former Vice President Joe Biden has a new nickname for President Trump. He called Trump a "clown" during his first visit to the South Carolina since jumping into the race. Meanwhile, all eyes are on Iowa where a number of the 21 candidates are trying to stand out ahead of the caucuses which are just nine months away.

We are staying on top of the candidates on the trail. CNN Business Politics Reporter Vanessa Yurkevich is in South Carolina at an event for Mayor Pete Buttigieg. And CNN's Senior Washington Correspondent Jeff Zeleny is in Spencer, Iowa where Senator Bernie Sanders will speak in about an hour.

So let's begin there, Jeff. What's happening?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, Bernie Sanders is back in Iowa really doing a two-day swing this weekend. But he's in far Northern Iowa. We're just a little bit below the Minnesota border actually, in Clay County, Iowa. It is a deeply Republican county that President Trump, of course, carried in 2016.

But if you think back to those Iowa caucuses in 2016 which Hillary Clinton won, but just by a whisker, Bernie Sanders actually did well in many rural counties. So that's why he is holding a town hall meeting here. You can see the crowd is waiting for him behind me. But he's really reaching out to rural Iowa, rural voters trying to make the case that he's not just an urban candidate. He spoke just a short time ago in the town of Osage, Iowa. He had this to say about President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And let me go out on a limb and tell you that wind turbines do not cause cancer. I know that the stable -- I know that the stable genius in the White House has done intensive research on this subject, but I beg to disagree with him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: So Senator Sanders there giving an agriculture policy speech but taking a shot at President Trump who, of course, just last month was talking about how he says that wind turbines which really dot landscape here in Iowa and many other Midwestern states are ugly and he said they cause cancer. Of course, that isn't true. Senator Sanders took aim at that.

But, Fredricka, what Senator Sanders is really trying to do is replicate and go beyond his strategy from 2016, again, when he came just narrowly behind Hillary Clinton. Of course, this time around, so many more alternatives to his candidacy, some 21 candidates in the race.

[15:35:03] Many of them are in Iowa this weekend, but Bernie Sanders is doing a town hall event here, taking questions, going to more rural areas to try and build up that support and organization nine months before the Iowa caucuses. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: All right. Jeff, thank you. And Vanessa Yurkevich in North Charleston, South Carolina where Pete Buttigieg is kicking off a two-day swing through that state, what is the message there? VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS POLITICS REPORTER: Hi, Fred. Yes, Pete Buttigieg is here in South Carolina trying to connect with African-American voters. South Carolina is a key early voting state. And here in North Charleston the population is about almost a 50 percent African-American.

According to our latest CNN poll, Pete Buttigieg is in the top five candidates right now. He's polling at about 7 percent. But when you look at where he's polling with non-white voters, he's polling at about 3 percent, and that is something that Mayor Pete Buttigieg has admitted he needs to work on. He says he needs to better connect with a more diverse audience.

Now, just last week we saw the mayor meeting with Al Sharpton at the famed Sylvia's Restaurant in Harlem. That's a traditional stop for a lot of Democratic presidential candidates. And he asked Reverend Sharpton for advice before coming here to South Carolina. The reverend told him to just be himself.

So it will be interesting to see, Fredricka, whether tonight he's going to stick with his traditional script or he's going to switch up his message a little bit and try to cater to a more diverse audience.

And also, we're just learning that Mayor Pete this morning made an unannounced stop in Plains, Georgia. He met with the former President Carter at his home. They went to church together. They grabbed lunch afterwards, and so all of this in a busy morning for him because -- before he makes his way here to North Charleston a little later this evening. Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right. Vanessa Yurkevich and Jeff Zeleny, thanks to both of you, appreciate it. Check back with you.

All right, meantime, President Trump says the booming economy will be a top issue in his 2020 campaign and right now the President has a lot to brag about. The April jobs report shattered expectations with unemployment at 3.6 percent, the lowest since 1969. And according to a new poll released today, 51 percent approve of the President's handling of the economy.

Out on the campaign trail, however, voters are more skeptical about the President's approach. We spoke with some of the folks who were attending rallies for Democratic candidates out stumping for votes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD HART, DEMOCRATIC VOTER: I think it is our system of economic justice and income inequality that is the largest issue to address, because it factors into everything throughout our lives, including big issues like healthcare and things like that.

CONNIE DANEY, DEMOCRATIC VOTER: There may be jobs coming in, but the pay rate need to be better. The cost of living is so high. The minimum wage is so low, I mean, people are really struggling.

JIM CLARK, DEMOCRATIC VOTER I think that when you pump as much money into the economy through tax cuts for the wealthy it's bound to trickle a little bit, but I do not see this sustainable.

DAVID EDMOND, DEMOCRATIC VOTER: Always the economy most important. The tide rises when you bring everybody up. Just bring a few up, others stay behind, you don't do very well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right. Coming up, deadly rockets crisscrossing the skies over Gaza, but today Israel and the Palestinians are pointing fingers at each other over at least one deadly blast. More from the ground in a live report, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:42:51] WHITFIELD: We've got breaking news for you. Militants in Gaza have now fired as many as 600 rockets into Israel. Health officials say four Israelis were killed, and four militants have died after Israel responded with 260 air strikes on targets across Gaza.

CNN's Oren Liebermann joins me now. So, Oren, you're just north of Israel's border with Gaza. Are things any quieter at this moment?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Quite the opposite. In fact, Fredricka, the fighting that we saw started 36 hours ago, about 10:00 Local Time on Saturday morning, has continued. We've heard fighter jets over our heads here in echelon just north of Gaza, as well as what sound like some pretty massive air strikes carried out inside of Gaza.

Meanwhile, red alerts all around the Gaza periphery over the last couple of hours indicating incoming rocket fire or mortar fire and that has been the escalation that we've seen over the course of the last 36 hours as the fighting heads into a second night here.

Israel says more than 600 rockets have been fired from this point from Gaza into Israel. Many of them short range rockets in the Gaza periphery, for example, where I'm standing now. But some have been more powerful medium range rockets.

More than 150 of those rockets have been intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome Aerial Defense System. Still to this point, four people have been killed in Israel as a result of those air strikes.

Meanwhile in Gaza, the Palestinian Ministry of Health says 23 people to this point have been killed by Israeli air strikes. Israel has hit to this point more than 300 targets they say belong to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad as they carry out a wide range of air strikes.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who held a security cabinet meeting today says this will continue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL (through translation): This morning, I instructed the IDF to continue with massive attacks against terrorist elements in the Gaza Strip. And I also instructed that forces around the Gaza Strip be stepped up with tank artillery and infantry forces. Hamas bears responsibility for not only its own attacks and actions, but also for the actions of Islamic jihad, and it is paying a very high price for this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[15:45:01] LIEBERMANN: It's important to note that this fighting here has shattered what was relative calm over the course of the last month or so. Short, it heated up at times but there was still a sort of truce or an agreement in place over the course of the last month that had prevented this sort of flare-ups, all of that have fell apart starting Friday and especially in the Saturday morning.

This has developed in stages from shorter range rockets in Gaza to more medium range rockets, and then to an anti-tank missile fired from Gaza. On the Israeli side, it was smaller military posts and then larger buildings that house what Israel said was terror infrastructure, and then a targeted killing against a Gaza official the first in years and beyond.

Because it has developed in stages, Fredricka, it's impossible to see where this goes. Israel and Gaza know each other intimately well and they both understand the rules of how these conflicts develop, and that is an opportunity perhaps those slight at this point for some sort of de-escalation.

Egypt and the United Nations who have moderated between Israel and Gaza in the past are once again working to try to do that, to bring about a sort of crease fire. But as we look at the situation right now, Fredricka, that doesn't seem all that likely in the immediate future.

WHITFIELD: Oren Liebermann near the Israeli/Gaza border, thank you so much.

Still ahead, Facebook facing criticism from the White House after banning what the company calls dangerous individuals and organizations, but will the move really help the social media platform stop the spread of misinformation?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: This week, Facebook banned several high-profile users the company deemed dangerous, among them, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and InfoWars' Alex Jones.

[15:50:08] The decision sparked a fire response from President Trump on Twitter re-tweeting several angry reactions from his followers and tweeting himself, "I am continuing to monitor the censorship of American citizens on social media platforms. This is the United States of America and we have what's known as freedom of speech. We are monitoring and watching closely."

Let's bring in WIRED Senior Writer Issie Lapowsky. So, Issie, good to see you. Facebook says this is about safety. President Trump says this is about censorship, this from, you know, the very critic of the freedom of the press now saying he really wants to defend the freedom of speech.

ISSIE LAPOWSKY, SENIOR WRITER, WIRED: Yeah. We see President Trump staking out sort of both sides of this issue a lot. He sees his critics criticizing him on Twitter and he wants the right to block them. In fact, he is fighting for that right in court and has been.

But at the same time, when it's his supporters who are getting suspended from these privately-owned platforms, Facebook and Instagram, he says it's a violation of freedom of speech. But what you have to remember is that the First Amendment really defends the right of people to speak and to have the government not impede on that right, not a company like Facebook.

WHITFIELD: So Science Advances also released a study this week about sharing misinformation during the 2016 election. And according to the study, people over 65 were almost three times as likely to share fake news stories than any other age bracket. So what do you attribute to that gap?

LAPOWSKY: Well, it's just a lack of understanding and awareness. They didn't grow up with these platforms. And they grew up in a world where, you know, you read something in the newspaper and it had been vetted and hopefully fact checked and reported. And now they expect sort of the same standards when they see information come up on social media platforms and what we know very well is that that information has not been vetted to the same degree.

And so, what Facebook has been trying to do since the 2016 election faced with all of that misinformation is really crack down on the people who are spreading it. And among them are these folks that they shut down just this week.

WHITFIELD: So will this ban, you know, of these dangerous, you know, people or sites really make a difference or an impact?

LAPOWSKY: Well, it possibly could. It could limit the spread of content from, for instance, InfoWars, which is a site that's well- known for, you know, harassing the parents of Sandy Hook victims and saying that Sandy Hook was a hoax.

Facebook is a huge platform for InfoWars. And, in fact, Facebook took action against Alex Jones who is, you know, the main voice of InfoWars. They took action against Alex Jones earlier, but they did it under a different premise. They said that he had violated certain policies that they have in place.

Now what they're putting in place is more of a blanket ban. It says that he is a dangerous individual. And Facebook has a policy regarding dangerous individuals that include human traffickers and terrorist groups, and also people who propagate hate speech. And so they're saying now not only is Alex Jones the person banned, but any conversation that is really glorifying the type of content that he and that InfoWars spread, that's going to be taken down too. And so, this is more of a blanket ban that makes it a lot harder for people to spread his message further, even if he, himself, is not on the platform.

WHITFIELD: So it's interesting, Issie, because, you know, Facebook got a lot of criticism for having the door wide open, not doing enough, and now it's also facing criticism for trying to partially close, you know, the door, or do what it feels is something.

LAPOWSKY: Right. In a lot of ways this is a crisis that Facebook created. For so long Facebook said we are not going to be the arbiters of truth. We are not going to be the ones who decide what you can and cannot say. We are a platform for free speech. And, in fact, prior to 2013, they didn't really have any policies in place dictating what you could or couldn't say.

Apparently it's been reported that their policy was generally no naked people, no Hitler. Well, it's evolved a lot since then. They have a pretty robust set of policies. It's hard sometimes for people from the outside to understand them because they are really, really granular and they have thousands of content moderators around the world trying to make sense of what people are sharing and trying to assess whether or not they do, in fact, violate those policies.

And obviously everybody is coming from a different cultural background. Everybody has different perspectives on what does and doesn't constitute hate speech. So now that Facebook has written these rules, it's going to get into a lot of debates about how they're being moderated.

WHITFIELD: Issie Lapowsky, thank you so much.

LAPOWSKY: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: And we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:58:47] WHITFIELD: It is dubbed the most exciting two minutes in sports, but the 145th Kentucky Derby needed more time than that to determine a winner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They disqualified him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They did. So for the first time in the history of the Kentucky Derby, the horse that crossed the line first has been disqualified. After the objection, Country House wins the Kentucky Derby.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Ouch. Moments after Maximum Security crossed the finish line as the apparent winner, race stewards went into a review, which was prompted by an objection from the jockey for second place horse a Country House. After some 20 minutes it was decided that Maximum Security interfered with other horses, marking the first time a derby winner was disqualified for an on-track foul.

The DQ put the 65 to 1 long shot Country House into the winner's circle. President Trump chiming in this morning on Twitter saying the decision was a bad one that only in these days of political correctness could such an overturn occur.

And catch a double dose of two all new CNN Original Series tonight, see what happens when parents meet the person imprisoned for the life- changing injuries to their daughter on "The Redemption Project" with Van Jones tonight at 9:00.