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41 Dead After Russian Plane Catches Fire; Harris Campaigns in Detroit as Part of Two-Day Michigan Swing; Buttigieg Drops in for Sunday School with Jimmy Carter; Trump Reversal: Mueller Should Not Testify Before Congress. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired May 5, 2019 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: They're just a week or two away from smashing the all-time record held by the movie, "Avatar." "Endgame" is also one of only five movies to ever top the magical $2 billion mark. The last one was -- yes, you guessed it -- last year's "Avengers: Infinity War."
Top of the hour. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
Let's get right to the breaking news out of Russia where 41 people lost their lives after this passenger jet burst into flames, forcing an emergency landing in Moscow. A passenger on board took video as the flames spread. And I have to warn you, these pictures are difficult to watch.
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CABRERA: Seventy-eight passengers and crew were on this plane. Thirty-seven people survived. At least two children are among the dead. Russia is now launching a criminal investigation.
CNN's senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen is following developments for us. Fred, what's the latest?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Some horrifying images coming out of Moscow as the video seems to show that plane, the Sukhoi Superjet from Aeroflot airlines, as it's screeching down the runway after making an extremely hard emergency landing in the afternoon hours of Sunday.
It then seems to come to a stop and actually seems to go off the runway at the end as it's further engulfed by those flames.
Now, there is also a video from inside the plane that just shows those horrible moments as the plane seems to be screeching down that runway with flames outside the window very much there, seeming to engulf that plane from those shots as well. The people there, obviously, very much in horror as the pilot tries to keep control of the aircraft. Now, the information that we're getting from Russian authorities is
that this plane, this Sukhoi Superjet 100, took off from Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport in the afternoon hours of Sunday and, shortly after takeoff, declared an emergency.
The pilots then decided to return back to that airport. And upon trying to land at the airport, apparently made a very hard landing, the plane bouncing into the air and then coming down extremely hard.
The investigators, so far, are saying that they believe that the plane caught on fire after hitting the ground. And then, obviously, you see that billowing smoke and the flames coming from that aircraft as it's screeching down the runway.
Now, with a number of fatalities already confirmed in this incident, the Russian authorities have launched a criminal investigation into what exactly happened there with this plane.
Vladimir Putin has been informed about the incident. He has offered his condolences, and he also said that the investigation will be as thorough as is possible.
Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Rovaniemi, Finland.
CABRERA: Thanks, Fred. Now, I want to bring in CNN's Richard Quest who covers aviation issues for us extensively.
And, Richard, I know you've been looking very closely at all the different videos coming in, and we have some new video just in.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Right. Watch.
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QUEST: There. Now, if we go to the beginning of that -- can we take it a bit slower? The plane is not on fire when it comes to land. Oh, here we go. Let's -- here we go. If I --
CABRERA: Yes, take the pen.
QUEST: If I'm done, I'll put it back.
CABRERA: Your pointer.
QUEST: Right. Yes, start again. The plane is not on fire when it lands. Very hand land, bounces back into the air.
CABRERA: And then flies back into the air.
QUEST: And this is the moment. When the plane hits the ground, the landing gear collapses, the fuel in the tank erupts, and that's what causes the fire.
QUEST: Now --
CABRERA: That changed the story completely.
QUEST: Completely. Completely. This plane was not on fire when it landed. So now we need to look at what was happening that caused this landing in this way.
Well, we know the plane takes off from Moscow. It goes -- it goes up around. It requests -- it says it's been hit by lightning, requests immediately to return to Moscow, comes around, does one loop, and then comes in to land and does that. And that's what you're seeing there. It lands, bounces up again, crashes down. Now, so --
CABRERA: That is so chilling when you think 41 people have died.
QUEST: Absolutely. The issue now becomes, what happened when it was hit by lightning? How much control did the pilots have?
I was just texting with Les Abend who, of course, is one of our experts that we speak to often.
QUEST: And he was saying, look, I've been hit by lightning before when I was on the plane. It's a loud bang and nothing happens. But here, apparently -- it's what we're hearing out of Moscow, and it's not -- this is not confirmed, but the -- what -- the rumor is that they were hit by lightning and they lost all automation and they lost control of the aircraft.
[19:04:51] But they still managed to fly it for a further 20-odd minutes to get back into a holding pattern, which then begs the question, how difficult was that plane to land that there was such a bounce?
I mean, you don't see planes bounce like that. That was -- that was an out-of-control. That -- he hits the ground -- the plane hits the ground, bounces up again, and comes straight back in. And it is that.
So we could be ending -- we could -- could be heading to a situation where the question becomes, was this completely survivable? If the plane was on fire when it lands, that's more dodgy. But if this plane was landing without fire, like you see here, if that would be -- then we need to know what happened then. That's going to be the key moment.
CABRERA: I mean, I imagine, though, it would be difficult for people to evacuate through all the doors because now you can't --
QUEST: Well, by this -- here we go. Slow it down. There we go. That's the --
CABRERA: -- you can't get close to the backdoor so you got to go up front.
QUEST: Yes. That fire now becomes very explainable. I mean, it's still horrific --
QUEST: -- but it is explainable into what happened. If you take that -- this video and add to it the next one of the plane going down the runway, you get the full story. What we don't know is what caused the pilot to want to return to the airport.
We're told it was because there was a -- the plane had been hit by lightning. But as any pilot will tell you, as Les -- you know, planes get hit by lightning every day. Lightning hits are not supposed to cause -- they have special lightning detectors, lightning rods, lightning diffusers.
CABRERA: But when you look at that video, clearly, the plane did not land -- it was not a normal landing. It hit hard, it came up -- back up, it bounced, and then hit down again.
QUEST: Right, but why?
CABRERA: So that --
QUEST: That -- that's the big hit. I mean, it looks like --
CABRERA: That, obviously, would be included too, right.
QUEST: Absolutely. It looked -- well, it looks like it just lands and went back (ph). That -- this is going to be a really serious issue. You see, it's landing on its nose almost, but it just does that bounce, goes back up again.
CABRERA: And that's when it burst into flames.
QUEST: Was it -- for example, was it coming in too fast because he'd lost control? Because he didn't have as much control over his -- things like the flaps? Did he have --
QUEST: Was he able to deploy the flaps -- I can't see from these pictures until we look closer -- so that he was able to slow the -- the pilot, was he able to -- was the pilot able to slow the aircraft down?
CABRERA: This was an Aeroflot airplane.
CABRERA: What is the safety record of Aeroflot?
CABRERA: Good? QUEST: I mean, it didn't use to be. You know, if you go back to the
old Soviet Union days, it had a terrible safety record. But if you look back over the last 20 years, it's flying a predominantly western fleet. This particular aircraft -- I was just looking it up -- 1.9 years old, two years old. Modern avionics. It may not be the nicest aircraft in the world, but it's certainly not -- you know, there are no safety issues for it.
CABRERA: You've talked about how fire on board an aircraft is among the most serious incidents in aviation.
QUEST: Oh, but -- yes.
CABRERA: I mean, how unusual, how uncommonly and extremely rare is this kind of a fire?
QUEST: Oh, well, it's a good -- very good question. A plane crash landing will be expected to go on fire. And what I think we will be looking at in the days ahead -- let's go back to that last piece of video of the plane on fire on the ground. This one -- there we go.
Now, look at that. So this is, obviously, from somebody who is nearby, a passenger maybe even. The plane has -- the plane has stopped. The fire is underway. The slides are out and there's no fire brigade nearby.
Now, there are very fixed rules for how long the fire brigade and the fire department is allowed from it's -- to depart from its station to the runway, and they practice it. Here, you're only seeing the first one. You're still not even seeing any there.
CABRERA: There's still no --
QUEST: So there's going to be --
CABRERA: And the people are already getting off on this.
QUEST: Yes. Well, not with that.
CABRERA: Off the flight.
QUEST: So there are going to be some very deep questions asked about this one, particularly -- the fire brigade should be there by now.
QUEST: This plane was known to be coming in, in an emergency, so why wasn't the fire brigade closer? How long did it take to get to the burning aircraft? What happened to cause this thing in the first place? These are the big issues. There will be a major investigation.
CABRERA: Absolutely. I have another question for you on some other breaking news back here in the U.S. involving Boeing.
QUEST: Yes. Yes. CABRERA: We are now learning that the company is admitting it knew
about problems with the 737 Max a whole year before the Lion Air crash.
QUEST: Right, it knew about an issue concerning the angle of attack sensors and the disagree. If the two angle of attack sensors disagreed, then it didn't work properly. But what Boeing says is that it had no safety implications.
And the reason I point that out is, even after Lion Air, they went back and looked at this issue. Do we need to change it, or can we wait for a regular update to the software? And they decided, again, that this angle of attack disagree issue was not pertinent, was not a critical safety issue. And the judge and jury will be out on that.
So far, I think -- so far, I think it speaks to Boeing's activities, state of mind, the way the company may have been behaving.
[19:10:00] CABRERA: Do you think they were too confident, overly confident?
QUEST: No, no, I -- but because, after Lion Air, the safety committee actually looked at this issue again. I think it's a red herring, this one.
CABRERA: All right.
QUEST: I think it's -- I think it's a red herring about whether or not it would have changed anything, but I think it shows an -- perhaps the people will say it shows that Boeing was being slapdash on safety on this issue. I'm not sure they're right.
CABRERA: Richard Quest, always good to have you with us. Thank you so much for walking us through these two very important stories.
Also following new developments, when it comes to Robert Mueller, to testify or not to testify? Two different answers when it comes to whether Mueller should appear before the House Judiciary Committee. Hear what the President is saying and whether Mueller might accept the invitation. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
CABRERA: Senator Kamala Harris is in Detroit tonight to make her case to voters. It's been a big week for the California Democrat, including her much talked about questioning of Attorney General William Barr.
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SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Has the President or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone? Yes or no, please, sir.
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: The President or anybody else. HARRIS: It seems you'd remember something like that and be able to
BARR: Yes, but I'm trying to grapple with the word, "suggest." I mean, there have been discussions of matters out there that they have not asked me to open an investigation, but --
[19:15:02] HARRIS: Perhaps they've suggested?
BARR: I don't know. I wouldn't say suggest, like --
BARR: I don't know.
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CABRERA: Nia-Malika Henderson is in Detroit with Harris' campaign, and Vanessa Yurkevich is in North Charleston, South Carolina where Mayor Pete Buttigieg is campaigning this weekend.
Nia-Malika, let me start with you because we just played that clip with Kamala Harris. Is she feeling a sense of momentum? We know she did some fundraising off those exchanges with Barr.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, she certainly is. That was a real viral moment for Kamala Harris, that testy exchange, contentious exchange, she had there with the Attorney General Bill Barr.
And this is what she is known for. You talk to people on this stump, to the extent that they are familiar with Kamala Harris, it's because of moments like that, high profile moments in a hearing.
She, of course, has that prosecutor background, and people feel like she is a fighter and people feel like she is strong. So that was very much on display in that clip you just heard. They were able to raise a lot of money off of that exchange, and they want to continue some of that momentum, which brings them here tonight in Detroit, Michigan.
CABRERA: Let's talk what she's saying there tonight. You're expecting her to take the stage any moment now.
HENDERSON: That's right.
CABRERA: Who is she hoping to reach out to?
HENDERSON: Well, we got 5,000 folks here in Detroit, Michigan. It's the NAACP dinner here, their annual dinner here, in this overwhelmingly Black city in the Midwest. She wants to talk about electability.
Who has the momentum in terms of electability? In many ways, it's Joe Biden. It's Bernie Sanders. Maybe it's Pete Buttigieg, in many ways. And it's all about those Midwestern voters. And a lot of times, when people talk about Midwestern voters, what
they really mean is White working-class voters. Well, tonight, Kamala Harris really wants to press these voters here, African-American voters, to expand their idea of what electability looks like. It's not just reserved for White men. It's not just about White voters, she is expected to say in front of this crowd.
Listen, if you talk to African-American voters as I have, not only here but across the country, a lot of them are skeptical of a Black woman's chances to not only make it through the Democratic primary but also go toe-to-toe with Donald Trump on a debate stage and, ultimately, win the White House.
So she is going to be talking to these folks tonight again in this Midwestern city. Remember that Donald Trump, of course, won the White House because of his ability to turn that blue wall red in states like this. He won by about 10,000 votes.
And we'll hear from Kamala Harris in just a little bit, trying to tell these Black voters that she indeed cannot only win a Democratic primary but is electable and can beat Donald Trump.
CABRERA: Another important state, South Carolina. That's where we have Vanessa. And Pete Buttigieg is starting his day actually in Plains, Georgia, dropping in to attend former President Jimmy Carter's Sunday school class.
Vanessa, talk to me about the strategic value of that?
VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS REPORTER: Well, the strategy there, Ana, is if someone who is currently running for president gets to meet with a former president, you take that meeting.
We know that Pete Buttigieg made an unannounced stop in Plains, Georgia. He went to church with the former President Carter, and we know that they had lunch together. And we asked them after this event here today what they talked about, and it was really interesting.
Pete Buttigieg said that they bonded over being candidates who came out of nowhere. They also talked about foreign policy. They talked about the economy, and they talked about life on the campaign trail.
But this is sort of the end of a really big week for Pete Buttigieg where he met with a lot of heavy hitters. We know he met with Oprah. He met with Reverend Al Sharpton, and he met with Hillary Clinton.
And we know that, in the next couple of weeks, Ana, he is going to be heading to Hollywood. He is looking to raise some money there from some more big Hollywood hitters -- Ana.
CABRERA: And the significance of being in South Carolina. Why is that state so important for a candidate like Mayor Pete?
YURKEVICH: Well, it's a big state for any candidate running right now. This is an early voting state, and this state has a large population of African-American voters. We know that Mayor Pete Buttigieg came to this state to try to engage
with African-American voters. West Charleston, where we are right now, has about 47 percent African-Americans in this area.
But as we were looking out into the crowd today, there wasn't that large base of the electorate, those African-American voters that maybe he was trying to attract. And I asked him about that earlier.
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MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think, you know, what this tells us is we've got a lot of work cut out for us. We're building a campaign staff team that is going to reflect the diversity of our party and our generation, but, clearly, we've got a long way to go before we can say the same about our support base.
We're going to be continuing to engage and reach out through phase communities, through activist leadership, anywhere we can, in order to continue connecting with Black voters and every voter that we can get to in this state and every state in order to win and in order to deserve to win.
[19:20:07] My campaign needs to go above and beyond in reaching out to Black voters, and that's going to continue to be a priority for us.
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YURKEVICH: And from here, he is making two more stops in the state. He is heading to Orangeburg, South Carolina and then up to Columbia, both areas of the state that have very high percentages of African- American voters. And he is hoping to connect with them as he finishes up his trip here in South Carolina -- Ana.
CABRERA: All right, Vanessa Yurkevich, Nia-Malika Henderson. Thank you both.
Tonight on CNN, years after a family's life was destroyed by a drunk driver, see what happens when they come face-to-face with the woman who was behind the wheel. "THE REDEMPTION PROJECT WITH VAN JONES" airs tonight at 9:00 p.m.
And then W. Kamau Bell heads to Tacoma with the Redneck Revolt on an all-new episode of "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA." That's at 10:00 p.m. right here on CNN.
CABRERA: The push to have Special Counsel Robert Mueller testify on Capitol Hill is intensifying. According to one congressman, it's already on the House Judiciary Committee's calendar.
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REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D), RHODE ISLAND: A tentative date has been set of May 15th, and we hope the Special Counsel will appear. We think the American people have a right to hear directly from him. (END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:24:58] CABRERA: He later clarified that while a date for Mueller's testimony hasn't been solidified, May 15th has been formally proposed to the Special Counsel. No comment right now from Mueller's spokesman, however.
Meanwhile, the President is weighing in, again, tweeting Bob Mueller should not testify. Keep in mind just last Friday, the President said it was up to the Attorney General whether Mueller should testify.
And joining us now is Jeh Johnson. He served as Homeland Security Secretary under President Obama.
Secretary, good to see you. Thanks for being here.
JEH JOHNSON, FORMER SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Thanks for having me, Ana.
CABRERA: Do you think it's important for Mueller to testify?
JOHNSON: I believe that there is a public interest in Congress calling Robert Mueller to testify.
You recall the Watergate hearings, for example. There were extensive hearings, extensive public testimony about things that went on during the Nixon administration, particularly as an election approaches. And this president appears to be standing for re-election. There is a public interest in knowing exactly what happened and how it happened.
CABRERA: And when with talk about what happened and how it happened, the Mueller report, obviously, really dived into and dissected how Russia interfered in the election.
CABRERA: You were at the head of DHS during that time, 2016, as we were learning that they were interfering. Did you learn anything from the Mueller report that you weren't aware of during that time?
JOHNSON: The indictments of the Russian government officials for hacking into the DNC for the misinformation campaign were quite extensive. They are what we refer to -- I used to be a prosecutor myself -- speaking indictments that, in extraordinary detail, laid out exactly what the Russians did to get into the e-mails and exactly what they did to spread misinformation, extremist views, during the campaign.
I thought that that information was very useful, and I definitely learned a lot. We knew a fair amount in 2016 as things were unfolding, but now, two years later, three years later, we know a lot more. We're in a position to know a lot more. And I think the American people need to understand the extent to which the Russian government interfered in our democracy in 2016.
CABRERA: Knowing now what you didn't know then, would you have done anything differently, do you think, at the time if you had had the knowledge that you have now?
JOHNSON: Hindsight is brilliant. And we were facing an unprecedented situation, an unfolding situation. I'm quite sure that had we had the benefit three years ago of everything we know now, we probably would have done things differently.
CABRERA: You're a lawyer. Your thoughts on impeachment as -- because we know Democrats are continuing to investigate. Some of these investigations spawned from what they learned in the Mueller report.
JOHNSON: Right. Well, I'll give you an interesting legal fact that I don't hear too often. Even if the President were impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate, there is nothing in the Constitution that says he couldn't stand for reelection in 2020 and be on the ballot all through the period of time the impeachment is working its way through the Congress.
So as we get closer and closer to this election cycle -- we're actually in the election cycle now -- I kind of agree with Nancy Pelosi that this is something that should be left to the voters now that we're in this election season again.
We are a democracy. And ultimately, it should it be up to the voters, this close to an election, to decide whether or not President Trump deserves re-election, or it's time for someone else.
CABRERA: Let's talk about the upcoming election in 2020 because the last time we spoke, a few things have happened since then. We know -- we've learned that former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tried to talk about election security and Russian interference with the President and was warned, don't go there -- don't go there with the President, from his now-Acting Chief of Staff.
We, also, have learned recently that the President had this phone call this week with Vladimir Putin which he did not bring up election meddling, even though his intel chiefs are saying Russia is still interfering. Should the President have confronted Putin head-on about this election interference?
JOHNSON: Yes. The President's -- the number one obligation of a president of the United States is the safety and security of the American people. The number two obligation of a president of the United States, in my judgment, is the safety and security of our democracy. And that overrides -- that obligation to the American people overrides any political interest, any personal desires, any personal preferences.
And so whoever the president of the United States is, if we know and we do know that a foreign government has attempted to interfere in our democracy, is attempting, will attempt to interfere in our democracy, it is the obligation of a president to confront his Russian counterpart with that information, absolutely.
CABRERA: Well, I wonder what that would accomplish. And I ask that because we all remember President Obama did confront President Putin then, told him to cut it out. And yet, you have the Mueller report and we see now how extensive their interference was and continue to be.
[19:29:55] JOHNSON: Well, the -- I'll give the Trump administration some credit for the sanctions that they have imposed. But ultimately, Vladimir Putin is probably taking his signals from the very top.
If the Russian government gets the sense from this President that he doesn't take it seriously, and that he won't take it seriously, but happens again, that offers little deterrent in the world of cybersecurity, cyberwarfare, so to speak, nation states respond to sufficient deterrence, and you have to make the behavior cost prohibitive for a nation state before they'll stop and actually be deterred.
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Secretary Johnson, thank you. Good to have you with us.
JOHNSON: Thanks a lot.
CABRERA: The explosion at an industrial plant in Illinois has now claimed the lives of three people. The latest on the investigation into what happened straight ahead. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
CABRERA: Welcome back. Has the completion of the Mueller investigation affected the relationship between the U.S. and Russia? Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this morning, he hopes the two countries are heading into a new phase.
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JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The President seems to be suggesting that he is ready for a new kind of phase of his relationship with Putin now that the Mueller report is done. Are we going to see -- there's been talk of a Summit. Is there going to be a Trump-Putin Summit on the horizon? And are we entering basically a new phase?
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I hope we are. I hope we can find places where we can have overlapping interest. I think it makes perfect sense that any place we can find where we have overlapping interest, we work along with the Russians.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: That brings us to your weekend presidential brief and with us now is CNN national security analyst, Sam Vinograd.
[19:35:10] CABRERA: She spent several years and helped prepare the presidential daily brief under President Obama. So Pompeo's strategy for the U.S.-Russia relationship, what you glean from that and is it smart?
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, we do have overlapping interests with Russia right now. Trump and Putin have a lot in common already, it includes sowing divisions in the United States, undermining our institutions, and doing everything possible to keep President Trump in power.
Because of all that, President Putin knows that Trump's priority is himself even if that means violating U.S. sovereignty, because of that any credibility that we have on the world stage is really diminished and Ana, when I hear Secretary Pompeo say that we're ready to enter a new phase in our relations with Russia, I really wonder how can we enter a new phase relations with Russia when they're still attacking us?
That didn't stop once the Mueller report was published. And to be clear, I was at the White House when we worked with the Russians on areas of mutual interest like Iran, but there was a key ingredient there -- U.S. credibility. The reason that Russia sat down with us as part of the so called P5+1 negotiations was because they viewed us as an equal, and because they thought we were serious when we said that we would explore other options if Iran didn't peacefully denuclearize.
The circumstances are very different today, and until we get our domestic house in order and stop Russia's interference in our democracy here at home, it will be impossible to work with them on interest overseas.
CABRERA: Although, we know Russia has influence in other countries -- take North Korea for example, Kim and Putin recently met and now we have North Korea launching some new projectiles, thought to be short range ballistic missiles. Is North Korea and area where Russia and the U.S. could potentially work together?
VINOGRAD: Well, Russia can help us if we won't help ourselves. Russia has been helpful on North Korea in the past. They voted for three UN Security Council resolutions under President Trump after previous rounds of North Korean test and Russia and Kim, as you mentioned are close. They met days before these latest test, but it's really unclear how much control Putin has over Kim Jong-un at this juncture.
And while the U.S. policy team is ostensibly trying to figure out what to ask for from Russia right now, they also have to play catch up with POTUS. Again, he issued an official response to North Korea's latest test, while his team was in the Situation Room trying to figure out what actually happened, what the Intel looked like and what the policy response should be.
I was at the White House during previous North Korean nuclear tests. Typically, you figure out what happened before the President goes out and absolves North Korea of guilt. The President is putting the cart before the horse in the sense and the team is having to play catch up with him rather than figuring out how to leverage the Russians.
CABRERA: Now Venezuela, obviously, another area maybe on the agenda for Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo to discuss with his Russian counterpart. Are there any signs that Russia is maybe backing down from its support of the Maduro government?
VINOGRAD: Well, why mess with the good thing. At this point, it really looks like momentum is in Maduro's favor. Any Intelligence that we had about the rate of defections or potential defections going over to the opposition seems to have been flawed, and President Trump is right to talk to his Intelligence team about why we thought more security professionals would join the opposition in this case.
And it is very unlikely to me that Russia is going to be helpful on Venezuela right now, even though President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo seem to have this good cop bad cop scenario going on. Pompeo criticizes the Russians, President Trump placates them, and then they ostensibly are going to go and ask Putin for help.
But at this point, internal support for Guaido is pretty low. Maduro seems to be holding onto power, and let's remember Russia benefits the longer Maduro is in power and U.S. sanctions remain on Venezuelan oil that drives global energy prices up. The Russian economy is very dependent on oil and Putin wins.
In my assessment, Ana, Venezuela is going to remain a Russian playground for the foreseeable future.
CABRERA: Oh boy. Samantha Vinograd, thank you so much.
VINOGRAD: Thanks, Ana.
CABRERA: We have so much international news this weekend and I'm really glad we're able to get coverage on all of that. Coming up, the Church of Scientology thrust into the spotlight after a measles quarantine involving their cruise ship. Why it is putting a spotlight on what really happens on board.
[19:43:25] CABRERA: That cruise ship with a measles case on board is now at home port on the Caribbean Island of Curacao. Now all 300 passengers and crew must prove they have been vaccinated or have had measles previously before they'll be allowed to disembark.
The ship, Freewinds belongs to the Church of Scientology, and we're learning that their voyage is less of a vacation and more of a floating religious retreat. My next guest, Tony Ortega has spent nearly 25 years covering the Church of Scientology and was featured in the well-known documentary, "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief." He now runs a daily blog about Scientology called, "The Underground Bunker." Tony, thank you so much for being here.
So for people who hear Scientology cruise ship and they think, you know, Tom Cruise playing shuffleboard and people sipping strawberry daiquiris. What do you say to that? What would a typical day really be like on board?
TONY ORTEGA, EDITOR, THE UNDERGROUND BUNKER: Well, you know, Tom Cruise has been there. They celebrated his 42nd birthday back in 2004 there. One of the reasons that they have that ship is to have a fantastic place for the celebrities to go. But the reason why they have a ship, the real reason is that they want there to be this culminating experience for scientologists who have spent 20 years working their way up and maybe a million dollars. This is that ultimate experience.
It goes by the name OT-8, what that stands for is not important. But the point is, it's this ultimate level of auditing they do. Only there, you have to be on the ship to get that. That's what it was designed for. But there's not really enough money in just delivering OT-8. So in the last 10 years, what I've noticed is they've opened it up to other scientologists who aren't so experienced and give them -- I mean, ironically one of the things they deliver there is a public relations seminar. They always do that, I think it Cartagena, Colombia and they offer things like low level courses.
[19:45:10] ORTEGA: As long as you've got the money, you can go out there, but everybody on board is a highly committed scientologist, you can't go near that ship, unless you've been vetted and they call it security checked.
CABRERA: Wow. So this ship, the Freewinds touted by the church is the pinnacle of a deeply spiritual journey.
ORTEGA: Well, that's what OT-8 is supposed to be and that's what is sold to the members that they've worked so many years to get to this ultimate level that here it is. They're so excited.
Leah Remini on her show revealed that it is one big practical joke. Once you finally get to OT-8, and you've spent -- it's about $50,000.00 to $70,000.00 just for this one step. They reveal that all of the things you've been learning for 20 years means nothing and you have to start over again from the beginning.
CABRERA: In fact, hold that thought because we actually have a tweet from Leah Remini. I want to put up here. She writes this, "The Scientology ship, the Freewinds is where they reach one of the highest levels of Scientology and are supposed to be impervious to "wog illness." A wog is a derogatory term used to describe all of you who are all just average humans compared to the superior scientologist." What is that about?
ORTEGA; Well, scientologists believe that they are superior human beings to the rest of us, they actually have a name for it called homo novi. And they -- as scientologists, they look down their nose at our laws, our ethics, and they have a word for us non-scientologist, they call us wogs.
This is a British derogatory and racist term that Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard adopted to use to mean non-scientologists. So what Leah is saying is that scientologists feel not only are they smarter and onto something more important than the rest of us, but by the time they get to this level, OT-8, they should be impervious to disease.
So this is incredibly an embarrassing thing for them that they have become the symbol of the sort of anti-vax panic in the United States.
CABRERA: There's a lot of mystery surrounding Scientology in general, but especially when it comes to this cruise ship, there's a lot of secrecy about what happens on board. Health inspectors, they had to go on this ship, obviously, because of this measles case. They would be conducting interviews. Given the secrecy and people keeping things close to the vest, how did you expect those interactions may have gone?
ORTEGA: I think it's no accident that they decided to leave St. Lucia and go back to their home port in Curacao. They have spent so much money in Curacao over the last 30 years. I just -- I knew that Curacao was not going to be tough on them. And what is the first thing Curacao said? Instead of keeping them on board for three weeks, they said, "Well, if you can prove you've been vaccinated, you can leave the ship." That's why they went back. They knew they'd be given this preferential treatment.
And I expect that some of the top level people who are there are off of that ship by now. In fact, tonight, they're sailing on to Aruba. They're just not going to stick around.
So the other thing I was hoping that the officials would pay attention to is when you go on the ship, there's a very big mix of people, not just these wealthy scientologists I was talking about getting OT-8, but the crew members are all Sea Org members. These are the most dedicated scientologists. They've signed billion-year contracts, planning to come back lifetime after lifetime to work with Scientology. They work 365 days a year for pennies an hour.
And a number of them have left that ship and come to us and told us they were prisoners on that ship. So this is what -- we put out a story today trying to explain to authorities when you go on that ship you should really be open to the idea that some of those people are desperate to leave.
CABRERA: Wow. So interesting. Tony Ortega, thank you so much for being here.
ORTEGA: Thanks for having me.
CABRERA: For shedding some light. He died a hero confronting the gunman during the UNC Charlotte shooting this week. The special honor Riley Howell well received at a service just moments ago. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[19:52:27] CABRERA: In North Carolina, friends and family of Riley Howell have been saying their goodbyes. The royal services to place today in Howell's hometown in North Carolina. The 21-year-old University of North Carolina Charlotte senior died Tuesday, putting the safety of others before his own.
The ROTC cadet is credited with stopping a campus gunman who opened fire in a classroom. Howell and another student were killed; four others were injured. Howell's body was brought home to Waynesville earlier in the week with a police escort. His obituary read, "Riley died the way he lived, putting others first." One of Howell's best friends spoke at his memorial just a short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the beginning, I could see his love for
others do the little things like offering to carry the heaviest bag, or fighting for the right to cook us all dinner up at camp, which I was fine with because as some of you know, he made some damn good food, especially his fried chicken.
Through our long days at the farm is where I met the real Riley, a person not many were fortunate enough to know. During the summers, we were always outside renegaded to spots deep in the woods, where we could explore and wander leaving our serious personas behind.
He taught me so much about life, and consequently myself on these walks through the woods, and I will remember these moments for the rest of my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: For his bravery, Howell was being given full military honors and I want to share that part of the ceremony with you as well.
[19:58:03] CABRERA: In a city where crime has been a major problem and tension has been high between citizens and police officers, one cop is trying to make a difference with music.
As CNN's Victor Blackwell tells us, this officer is turning to rap music to help fight crime and go beyond the call of duty in his community.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (voice over): Destruction and violence in Baltimore.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice over): The state said he planted evidence.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice over): Marches for justice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): In recent years crime has dominated the news in Baltimore.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice over): Detectives put down more than 50 bullet markers.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Each of the last four years has ended with more than 300 victims of homicide and local rapper, Saint, knows the names of more than a few.
JOSHUA JACKSON, "SAINT THE RAPPING COP": I've seen a lot of people die and I'm tired of it.
BLACKWELL (voice over): So Saint is writing positive rap, hoping to change minds and save lives.
Saying his lyrics are borne out of tragedies that he has seen up close as Officer Joshua Jackson with the Baltimore Police Department.
JACKSON: I want to be able to affect the youth so they know that you don't necessarily have to turn to a gun.
BLACKWELL (voice over): Rapping came first as a teenager. He joined the BPD in 2017.
JACKSON: After I became a police officer, I said, "Well, I can combine the two."
BLACKWELL (voice over): When the higher ups in the department heard his track about being a BPD officer, Baltimore's finest, they teamed up to make a music video.
Michael Harrison is Baltimore's Police Commissioner.
MICHAEL HARRISON, COMMISSIONER, BALTIMORE POLICE DEPARTMENT: It talks about us, but it really is talking about people. You see kids, you see officers, you see community, and the officer is telling his story in a very different way than police generally in our culture tell stories about the work we do.
BLACKWELL (voice over): Officer Jackson knows that Baltimore's challenges will require more than music to overcome. But he says it's helping to open dialogue and that's a start.
JACKSON: It means my message is reaching people. It is powerful.
BLACKWELL (voice over): Victor Blackwell, CNN, Baltimore.