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Trump Sends 62 Tweets in an Hour; Donald Trump Jr. Subpoenaed to Testify; Beijing Vows to Strike Back at Latest U.S. tariffs; U.S. Continues to Increase Military Pressure on Iran; Albania's Opposition Calls for Early Elections; Some Voters Still Haunted by Hillary Clinton's 2016 Loss; Battling Plastic Pollution; Georgia's Film Industry Outraged over Heartbeat Bill. Aired 5-6a ET
Aired May 12, 2019 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): U.S. president Donald Trump lashes out on Twitter against a variety of targets, including former White House counsel, Don McGahn, for declining to clear Mr. Trump in public.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Iran's president calling for national unity. The United States ramps up its military pressure in the Gulf.
ALLEN (voice-over): Also this hour, dozens of nations agree to curb plastic waste.
But guess which country isn't on the list?
We take a look at the world's plastic crisis.
HOWELL (voice-over): Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell.
ALLEN (voice-over): I'm Natalie Allen. NEWSROOM starts right now.
ALLEN: Our top story, U.S. president Donald Trump wrapping up a busy week by lashing out at a former White House counsel, after reports that Don McGahn refused twice to say publicly that Mr. Trump did not obstruct justice. In a tweet, the president writes he was never a big fan of McGahn. He also denies he was going to fire special counsel Robert Mueller.
HOWELL: That followed a Twitter tirade on Saturday morning. Mr. Trump sent 62 retweets in the space of an hour. Among the targets were the Mueller report and the Democrats. He also retweeted his favorite talking points on China, border protection and jobs. He is also focusing on the Democratic front-runner in next year's presidential race. ALLEN: In a new interview with "Politico," the president says it would be appropriate for him to talk to his attorney general about launching a probe into former vice president Joe Biden.
HOWELL: This comes a day after President Trump's lawyer canceled the trip to Ukraine. Rudy Giuliani wanted that country to investigate Biden. But now Biden and other Democrats have responded. Our Sarah Westwood has that story from the White House.
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, reversing his decision to go to Ukraine and discuss with Ukrainian officials something that might damage a potential 2020 rival for President Trump and that's former Vice President Joe Biden.
Giuliani first defended his decision to make this trip before backtracking amid a massive backlash, with Democrats criticizing the trip overseas to work with foreign officials to gain information that might hurt someone who could run against the president in the next presidential election.
Just for some context, this is all related to events that took place in 2016, when then Vice President Joe Biden was pushing to oust the top prosecutor in Ukraine. That prosecutor was investigating an energy company in which Hunter Biden, the son of the former vice president, had financial interests.
And on Friday, Trump told "Politico" he thought he would be within his rights to ask attorney general Bill Barr to look into all this. Here's what he said.
"Certainly, it would be an appropriate thing to speak to him about but I have not done that as of yet. It could be a very big situation."
Now of course, Biden was not alone in calling for the removal of that Ukrainian official; there were a number of other Western leaders who were doing the same at the time. And there's no evidence that the actions Biden took were connected to his son's business activities.
But before Giuliani abandoned his plans to go to Ukraine, Democratic senator Chris Murphy wrote a letter to the Republican chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asking him to press for more details about this trip. So Democrats were preparing to look into all this.
It also came after Trump told "Politico" he planned to discuss the planned trip with Giuliani. And Biden's campaign responded to all of this on Saturday. A spokesman telling CNN that this was, quote, "a blatantly political smear from the Trump team." -- Sarah Westwood, CNN, the White House.
ALLEN: The past week certainly illustrates the fiery political climate in Washington and the growing chasm between the Trump administration and Congress. Things heated up on Tuesday, when the administration told former White House counsel Don McGahn to not comply with a subpoena to testify before Congress.
On Wednesday, Mr. Trump took it a step further, invoking executive privilege over the entire Mueller report. Then a House committee voted to hold U.S. attorney general William Barr in contempt for refusing to turn over the full, unredacted Mueller report.
And Wednesday is also when the Senate Intelligence Committee led by Republicans subpoenaed the president's son, Don Jr., to appear.
ALLEN: And then on Thursday, President Trump changed his mind, again, on whether special counsel, Robert Mueller should testify before Congress. He now says it is up to the attorney general to decide.
And finally, on Friday, the House issued subpoenas to the U.S. Treasury Secretary and the tax commissioner to get the last six years of Mr. Trump's taxes.
Let's break all this down with Scott Lucas, professor of international politics at the University of Birmingham and founder and editor of "EA WorldView," joining us from Birmingham, England.
Scott, thanks for being with us. All right, I want you to break down here -- good morning to you. Let's begin with Trump's comments about the former White House counsel, Don McGahn, saying he had a better chance of being fired than Robert Mueller, this after McGahn refused to say publicly that the president did not obstruct justice.
Why is the president so fixated on this, given he was cleared by the attorney general?
SCOTT LUCAS, UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM: Because Donald Trump is highly worried that Don McGahn's testimony will back up the Mueller report's conclusion that Donald Trump obstructed or attempted to obstruct justice on occasions because Don McGahn is a central figure in some of those attempts, including the 2017 effort by Donald Trump to fire the special counsel, Robert Mueller.
So it's not just Donald Trump but the entire White House, including its attorneys, that are going to try to keep McGahn and other witnesses from testifying because, amid the events you talked about, let's keep our eye on the ball. The fundamental is the revelations about the Mueller report about numerous contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials and about obstruction of justice are politically damaging, even if Robert Mueller said he could not recommend the indictment of a sitting president.
ALLEN: Meantime, a lawyer for President Trump, Rudy Giuliani, may have canceled his trip to Ukraine to have Joe Biden investigated. But the Democratic presidential candidate could still face an investigation after the president insisted it was an appropriate matter to discuss with his attorney general. Is it appropriate?
LUCAS: Remember that phrase I just gave you?
Keep your eye on the ball. Because this entire scheme by Rudy Giuliani, announcing the trip, then withdrawing, it is an attempt to diversion. It does two things, one is it's an attempt to damage Joe Biden, who Donald Trump sees as a threat in the 2020 election.
But perhaps more important than that, it's part of this smokescreen, this, let's put it, exaggerated white lie, that the real story of 2016 was that Democrats were colluding with Ukrainian officials rather than the Trump campaign's alleged collusion with the Russians.
So the more folks talk about Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine, especially because it's a very complex matter involving Ukrainian politics, a battle between the prosecutor and legislators, the more you all talk about that, the more that Donald Trump and his folks hope that you won't be talking about the ongoing fallout from the Mueller report.
ALLEN: You know, we just outlined the week in Washington; every day we saw these developments. One thing is clear, the Trump administration intends to ignore the system of checks and balances central to government in the United States. He vows to "fight all the subpoenas," his words.
In effect, as many are saying, he is putting the country in a constitutional crisis. "The Washington Post" penned a story. The headline was, "He is at war with Congress."
LUCAS: This is not new. Donald Trump, since 2017, has tried to bypass Congress, has screamed and yelled if Congress stood in his way; for example, over ObamaCare. He tried to bypass the courts. He's done it on immigration, the environment, foreign policy and over the Mueller report.
So when you are talking about a president and his advisers, who are refusing to answer subpoenas, instructing others to refuse subpoenas, not only over Trump-Russia but Jared Kushner's security clearance, over contacts with Saudi Arabia, even over the U.S. Census, either Donald Trump wins or the U.S. system wins. No in between.
ALLEN: Scott Lucas, we appreciate your insights. Thanks for being with us.
LUCAS: Thank you.
HOWELL: Now to the trade war between the United States and China with talks at a standstill. The U.S. president is putting on his salesman hat to make a hard sell to Beijing.
In a tweet, he wrote, "China should make a trade deal now. They will only get a worse deal if they wait" and if he wins re-election. So far, the hard sell does not appear to be working. China's top trade negotiator says the latest round of U.S. tariffs, a hike of 10 percent -- [05:10:00]
HOWELL: -- to 25 percent on $200 billion on Chinese imports must be rolled back before anything else can happen. Mr. Trump says big tariffs make the U.S. richer because he claims they are paid for by other countries. But that's not entirely accurate. Listen to this Republican congressman explain to my colleague John Berman what really happens.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. WILL HURD (R-TX): Ultimately, a tariff, if you think of a tariff like a sales tax.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: On who?
HURD: On American consumers. So it's going to be more expensive for Americans to buy products. So that is why this has a long-term impact on the U.S. economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: Tariffs work like this. The U.S. imposes a tax or tariff on foreign goods. In this case, merchandise from China. The U.S. company importing the product then pays that duty to the U.S. government but it doesn't stop there. Many companies then pass that extra cost to consumers in the form of higher prices.
HOWELL: So consumers pay the price. You might be surprised how many common household items are already affected. These are a few examples here. According to Oxford Economics, the new tariffs could cost the average American family an extra $800 a year.
Beijing is vowing to strike back against the U.S. Our Steven Jiang is following the story.
Steven, it seems it comes down to who will blink first. Neither side is willing to budge.
What can you tell us about how China might retaliate with counter measures to the U.S. tariffs?
STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER, BEIJING BUREAU: So far, they have not announced any specifics but they can do a number of things, impose counter tariffs on U.S. imports. But not dollar for dollar because, remember, the Chinese import less from the U.S. than the other way around. So they are literally running out of American goods.
They could also do a number of other things. They could reduce or cancel major purchases from the U.S., especially in terms of agricultural or energy products, which could hit hard the political base of Trump in the U.S.
They could favor non-U.S. companies in terms of granting market access here in China. They could also launch unofficial retaliations to make life very difficult for American companies doing business here. We are talking sending inspectors or delaying the issuance of licenses or customs clearance.
HOWELL: Is there optimism in China that the U.S. would roll back the latest round of tariffs for things to continue?
JIANG: The interesting thing is both sides are still saying they are going to continue these negotiations. That's actually one point emphasized by the Chinese vice premier and the country's top trade negotiator in these most recent interviews.
But it's hard to imagine to see how this process can move forward with both sides seemingly to have hardened their stances. Especially if you hear China, you see all the headlines are getting increasingly nationalistic, calling the U.S. a bully that's making unreasonable demands, saying China would never cave under extreme pressure or never make concessions on issues of principle.
Some stories or commentaries even invoking memories of the Korean War, when the Chinese and U.S. military clashed.
HOWELL: All right, Steven Jiang, thank you so much.
ALLEN: The United States continues to put political as well as military pressure on Iran. But Iran's president says his country won't cave in. Next, we analyze the escalating tensions between the two nations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL (voice-over): Protests, demonstrations in Albania turn violent over the weekend. What they are asking for -- ahead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: New developments to tell you about in the ongoing standoff between Iran and the United States.
ALLEN: Iran's president is calling on the nation's political factions to come together amid increased pressure from the U.S. According to Iranian state TV, President Hassan Rouhani says the country faces an all-out war of economic and political pressure from U.S. sanctions.
HOWELL: This comes as the United States has increased military presence in the Middle East in order to deter alleged threats from Iran.
Let's put it into focus with two great minds, CNN's international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson, live in Abu Dhabi, and live in our London bureau, Fawaz Gerges, professor of international relations at the London School of Economics and also the author of "Making the Arab World."
Gentlemen, good to have you with us.
Nic, let's start with you here. The first we heard of this was from the president's national security adviser, John Bolton, who has a history of being hawkish with Iran. The announcement was vague on the reasons the U.S. was making these moves.
As we are gradually learning more, what do you make of the root cause behind the latest tensions?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: The root cause seems to come from President Trump's animosity to Iran and perhaps President Obama, the root cause, at least the path that President Trump has gone down, was to pull out of the multinational Iran nuclear deal, the JCPOA, which was a signature achievement of President Obama.
He's certainly had within his administration hawks on Iran or against Iran. What we have seen, Bolton's announcement of the moving of the Abraham Lincoln carrier group, specific and credible threats have expanded out to threats possibly to maritime shipping, connected to the United States and the U.S. or partner countries that are passing in or near or around the Strait of Hormuz.
But, the read of it certainly does seem to lie in President Trump's animosity to Iran as a route to delivering on what he said to his base in his campaign trail. That's where it seems to stem from as far as we can see at the moment.
HOWELL: Fawaz, same to you; given that we are hearing the Iranians have deployed missiles on boats, is this something new or something they have been doing routinely?
FAWAZ GERGES, DIR. MIDDLE EAST CENTER, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Iran ha been basically building its military posture for many years. Of course, what we are seeing now, George, is a major escalation between the Trump administration and the Iranian government.
I think at the heart, Trump's policy toward Iran is basically what the Trump administration wants to do, is total transformation of the Iranian regime. It wants to radically alter the regime's behavior and the region.
It has made it very clear from day one. And this particular policy is extremely, is highly ambitious and very risky and will likely fail. It will likely fail, George, because there's a major disconnect between end and means.
On one hand, the goal of the administration is to bring about either regime change or radically alter the regime. Yet the means are very inadequate. Economic sanctions and aggressive military rhetoric and, as we know, one of the lessons we have learned from history is that economic sanctions -- [05:20:00]
GERGES: -- on their own almost never bring about regime change and never bring about an internal revolution from within.
HOWELL: Nic, this question to you. We have seen the steady breakdowns in relations between the U.S. and Iran during the Trump administration with the U.S. backing out of the Iran nuclear agreement and now the latest ratcheting up of rhetoric.
Do you feel these two nations, Nic, are basically on footing toward war, possible conflict or is there room here to de-escalate this?
ROBERTSON: Oh, there's lots of room to de-escalate. I mean, this is a war of words. At the moment it certainly has a lot of military hardware involved, an increasing amount. That's the opportunity for mistakes to be made, no doubt about it.
Let's look at what President Obama tried to do and what another U.S. administration might try to do in Iran, which is this is not a monolithic state. There are moderates and hardliners. And the Obama administration was engaging what they thought were the moderates, try to leverage the moderates above the hardliners and bring about a softer sort of change over time.
And Iran, you know, the goals that the administrations are trying to get to, that were similar, in a, way but the mechanisms to do it are different. So there's plenty of scope at the moment for de- escalation. But it's not quite clear how or what the off ramp will be. We're not at the off ramp yet. And neither side seems to be stepping back from the rhetoric or the buildup. But, yes, there's plenty of time.
HOWELL: Fawaz, this question to you, we have seen U.S. officials pass the Swiss a direct phone number to reach President Trump, that number intended for Iran to call them should they choose. This game of brinkmanship, as it plays out, is there real concern in the region that this could quickly get out of hand?
GERGES: Well, George, my take on it is that neither side, nor President Trump, nor the Iranians, would really like an all-out war, a major military conflict. They have a vested interest in avoiding a direct military confrontation.
But war could come by miscalculation, either on the part of the Trump administration or one of the proxies of the Iranian regime. At the end of the day, my take on it is that the Iranian regime don't trust President Trump. They believe that he is very erratic. They don't trust his word.
They are trying to run the clock on him, they're hoping the next administration, the next president, a new president will come into power. In the meantime, what they are trying to do is really basically hunker down.
Remember, even though the Iranian regime may not change, the sanctions have exacted a heavy toll on everyday Iranians. Inflation is over 40 percent. The Iranian real has lost 60 percent of its value. As you said early on, President Rouhani yesterday says this is the most severe crisis facing Iran since the Iran-Iraq War in 1980-1988. In the meantime, I think you are going to see more of the same until the next U.S. presidential elections.
HOWELL: Nic, briefly here, you have 30 seconds.
But the question, where does Israel play into these tensions, given that nation pushed the U.S. to back out of the Iran nuclear deal?
The tensions between the two have been escalating.
ROBERTSON: Look, Israel wants to see Iran's posture toward Israel and its threats around the region de-escalated. That's certainly the position in the United States. So I think from Israel's perspective, this pressure on Iran is positive at the moment.
Again, one would think -- and the indications are -- Israel also would not benefit from a major escalation here, neither the country where I'm sitting or those in the Gulf. No one in the region benefits from that. But at the moment, where things are at the moment, this is in the direction of Israel's interest.
HOWELL: The political perspective from Fawaz Gerges, thank you, again.
And from our international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson.
Gentlemen, thank you both.
ALLEN: At least one security guard is dead after a gunman tried to storm a luxury hotel in southwest Pakistan. These images show the Pearl Continental in Gwadar before the attack. The military says the assault is over; guests are safe.
HOWELL: Gwadar is in Balochistan in southwestern Pakistan near the border with Iran. It is a key port city, part of a $60 billion development project with China. The hotel, frequented by foreign guests. Among them, Chinese staff that work on the project. Several militant groups, including separatists, are known to operate in that area.
Albania's opposition party is calling on the government to dissolve and hold a snap election.
ALLEN: Things got a little heated as protesters made --
ALLEN: -- their case outside the presidential palace Saturday. Alba Prifti reporting with CNN affiliate A2 is in Tirana.
ALBA PRIFTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is a tense situation here in Tirana, where police are clashing with protesters. Protests put on by the opposition leader speaking, behind me here. There are images, being projected on the building of the prime
minister, that say leave. The democratic party and the group forming the opposition have asked the prime minister to step down. They're requesting snap elections. They're refusing to participate in the planned and organized elections coming up in June.
Protesters were tear gassed earlier and police have also seen Molotov cocktails thrown at them. At one point, there were several fires happening near the prime minister's building. Now it seems a little bit more calm. The protest has been going on for several hours now and there's still quite a few people still here in front of the prime minister's office -- reporting from Tirana, I'm Alba Prifti.
HOWELL: We'll continue to follow that story, for sure.
ALLEN: Ahead here, fears of sexism in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Some asking if the women running for office will be held to different standards in this race. We speak with voters and hear their thoughts.
HOWELL: Plus a look at the southeastern part of the United States. Look there. Storms causing major flooding. There's more rain on the way.
HOWELL: Welcome back, viewers here in the United States and around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM, I'm George Howell.
ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen with the headlines we're following for you this hour.
HOWELL: We have new poll numbers in the 2020 U.S. presidential race. They show the former Vice President of the United States Joe Biden with a 2-1 lead over Senator Bernie Sanders among New Hampshire voters. In the meantime, Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar are in the top eight in the poll but also in the single digits.
ALLEN: The race has become an historic one with more women running than before. Some voters wonder if sexism will play a role. CNN's MJ Lee spoke with voters who fear nominating a woman again will hand Donald Trump a second term.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's all anybody wanted to talk about, what I was wearing, what my haircut was.
MJ LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Six women seeking the presidential nomination for president is a historic election, four Senators, one congresswoman and a spiritual writer.
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As a young mom, I'll fight for your children as hard as I would fight for my own.
LEE: VOTERs across the country telling CNN that it is time for a woman to finally take the White House.
KELLY GREF (ph), VOTER: We make up, I think, 51 percent of the population.
DEBORAH HADEE (ph), VOTER: I don't think a man could ever handle the pressures of that office any better than a woman.
LEE: But there's another darker sentiment, frustration about sexism, fueled by flashbacks to Hillary Clinton's loss in 2016.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling. But someday, someone will.
LEE: Democratic voters describing a lingering trauma from the last election.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some have voiced concerns about you getting Hillary-ed in the election, meaning that you get held to a higher standard than your opponent for a potentially arbitrary or maybe sexist reasons.
LEE: And concern that nominating a woman again will hand Donald Trump a second term.
TERESA JONES, VOTER: I think most people didn't vote for her because she was a woman. I think that they ended up voting for Trump because he was a man.
JULIE SWYGET (ph), VOTER: I worry about the old boys' club.
LEE: Nine months out from the Iowa caucuses, some of the women who want to see a women president leaning towards one of the men.
HADEE (ph): I would love for Joe Biden because I think he has the best chance of winning the presidency.
LEE: On the campaign trail, the female candidates making a forceful case for why women are just as electable as men.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People tell me, it cannot be done. They're not ready to see you. It's not your time. And I ran. And we won.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Someone once said and I agree with part of this but not all of it, that women candidates should speak softly and carry a big statistic.
OK, so I think you know I don't always speak softly.
WARREN: It's going to be fun when I say and I won, because that's what girls do.
LEE: A recent CNN poll showing no indication that women are overwhelmingly supporting the female candidates over the male candidates.
This man telling CNN he does have a gender bias.
KEITH KUPER, VOTER: If there were equal candidates, one was male and one was female, I would support the female. It's high time we had a female president.
ALLEN: All right, well, America speaking there. Of course, that will be a theme we continue to follow as we press on toward 2020.
Parts of the southeastern U.S. are dealing with major flooding. You probably think, you were just talking about that days ago. Well, It's still happening. There's risk of more to come. Saturday, thunderstorms pounded southern Texas with heavy rain and hail the size of golf balls. Some people were stranded by more sudden flooding.
HOWELL: Look at that flooding on the streets of Houston, Texas. In Mississippi --
HOWELL: -- flash floods washed out rail lines and caused this train to derail. Luckily, no one was injured. The train compartments were mostly empty.
ALLEN: When countries work together, they can accomplish a lot, like reducing the amount of plastic waste in our environment. We finally get it. This is a huge global problem. Coming up, some countries have agreed to do that, with one notable exception.
HOWELL: A group of 187 countries has agreed to control the movement of plastic waste between their national borders.
ALLEN: The goal, to cut the amount of plastic pollution.
How many more pictures and video can we see like this?
The countries essentially added plastics to an agreement which regulates the movement of hazardous materials between nations.
HOWELL: One country, though, that is not in the group, the United States. But the agreement still applies to the United States, since practically every country it trades with follows the agreement.
Another way to cut down the plastic in the environment is to recycle. But as Ivan Watson found out, recycling plastic doesn't always have the intended result.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Did you ever wonder what happens after you put things in a recycling bin?
Some of it could end up here at the Ecology Center recycling plant in Berkeley, California. This nonprofit organization has been engaged in community recycling since 1973.
MARTIN BOURQUE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ECOLOGY CENTER: There's no magical land of recycling with rainbows and unicorns. It's much grittier than that.
WATSON (voice-over): While the center recycles metal and glass, it now sends much of its plastic to landfills in the U.S. That decision after the center used a GPS tracker to discover that some of its plastic believed to be destined for recycling was actually being shipped all the way to Malaysia.
In fact, since 2018, Malaysia has seen a surge of imported plastic scrap that's because until recently China, one of the world's biggest plastic importers banned most of the trade.
The Chinese ban led to a flood of this stuff descending on Malaysia. Last year residents in the rural town of Jenjarom began complaining about respiratory illnesses due to acrid smoke.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If feel something wrong with the air, but I didn't know where it come --
WATSON (voice-over): Residents investigated and discovered scores of unlicensed factories like this processing and burning plastic scrap. Most of it appears to be foreign.
This is Poland Spring bottled water and it says here on the label that it is manufactured in Stamford, Connecticut, my home state in the U.S.
What's your message to me?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please bring home -- bring it home. This belong to you, not us.
WATSON: You want me to take it back home with me?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Yes. Yes.
WATSON: I used to think I was doing the right thing when I put a plastic bottle in the recycling bin. It's disappointing, to say the least, to learn that some of that plastic might end up in places like this.
In an ideal world, used plastic bags from U.S. retail giants like Walmart would end up in Malaysian recycling plants like this. Machines like the Cyclone takes scrap plastic from around the world that helps clean and purify the stuff so that it can be sold for reuse. For some entrepreneurs, plastic scrap can be bought processed and resold as raw pellets for a considerable profit.
When you see that pile of plastic right there, does that look like trash to you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no, no, no. Right now, definitely no. That's the gold to me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Money.
WATSON (voice-over): The problem is many fly by night operators set up shop without following regulations, prompting the Malaysian government to take action. Recently, Malaysia's Environment Minister took us on raids of unlicensed recycling plants. Officers rounding up the operators and laborers they claim were working illegally here.
YEO BEE YIN, MALAYSIA'S ENVIRONMENT MINISTER: It's illegal. It's illegal and it's against the environment policy act.
WATSON (voice-over): The minister says she shut down at least 148 illegal plastic recycling factories in the last nine months. She's also suspended
imports of foreign plastic scrap.
YEO: I will take care of my own rubbish.
YEO: You should take care of your own, right?
WATSON: You don't want American garbage anymore.
YEO: Well, I think Malaysia has no capacity to do it.
WATSON (voice-over): The minister says it's not just about wealthy countries selling their garbage to poorer countries. Society needs to change patterns of consumption, she says, or else we'll one day drown in all this plastic -- Ivan Watson, CNN, Jenjarom, Malaysia.
(END VIDEOTAPE) ALLEN: Look at that shot, eye-opening story from Ivan.
Let's bring in an environmental activist Von Hernandez, the global coordinator for Break Free from Plastic, joining us from Manila.
Von, we appreciate your time. I want to go back to the group of 187 countries that agreed to control the movement of plastic within borders. We just saw Ivan's story, Malaysia saying, we don't want this. We know the Philippines are fighting with Canada, saying take your plastic back.
Talk to us about this issue and this new agreement we were talking about.
VON HERNANDEZ, BREAK FREE FROM PLASTIC: Hi, Natalie, thanks. The agreement that took place at the conference of the parties in (INAUDIBLE) just last week did not disappoint.
For one, it's a crucial first step toward stopping the practice of using the developing world or lower income countries as a dumping ground for (INAUDIBLE), in other words, plastic waste, especially those coming from rich countries.
ALLEN: Speaking of rich countries, why isn't the U.S. participating?
HERNANDEZ: The U.S. is not party to the (INAUDIBLE) convention. It's one of two countries not ratified (ph) by the convention. So but nevertheless, because of this agreement, the U.S. could no longer export the plastic waste to parties of the convention. And that includes the developing countries.
So it will have an impact on the U.S. trade in plastic waste.
ALLEN: Right because we are hearing now, as a result, that cities in the United States aren't able to recycle because they don't have anywhere for that to go.
HERNANDEZ: Exactly. I mean, in the past or even now, you would think the stuff that is collected and separated in the bins are going to proper recycling factories but no. Actually they are being sent, recycling is outsourced to other countries, where their environmental regulations are lax and worker safety rights are often ignored.
So this externalization of -- or export of pollution has to stop and as a convention --
ALLEN: Yes, and I want to point out the video right there. Look at all those plastic bottles.
Which companies -- of course, the problem is, we just keep putting products in plastic. You can't keep up.
Which countries are the biggest polluters as far as using plastic for their products? HERNANDEZ: Well, based on if you look at the plastic trade, the main exporters of plastic waste include the U.S., Germany, Japan, also the U.K. and Belgium. But of course, nearly every country on the planet uses plastics.
We have to question the system that delivers the way products are delivered into markets and mostly are wrapped in throwaway plastic packaging. SO that system is about to change.
And hopefully, this decision by the U.N. and parties of the plastic convention will force governments to look at the industry, to look at companies and demand a little more responsibility to actually reinvest or invest in the design of their products or alternative delivery systems, not throwaway plastic.
ALLEN: It's amazing, major corporations are still selling their sodas and their water in plastic bottles despite this unbelievable global issue. Von Hernandez, we appreciate it. I enjoy your website, Break Free from Plastic. Von, thank you for the work you do. Appreciate your time.
HERNANDEZ: Thank you.
HOWELL: It really is one of those things, people think it's out of sight, out of mind. But it's really not.
ALLEN: Not at all. Anytime you take some water in a plastic bottle, think about that.
HOWELL: Where is it going?
It's going somewhere.
Still ahead, the U.S. State of Georgia here is rolling in money from film studios that shoot here. But a controversial new law could change all that.
ALLEN: Several U.S. states are passing laws limiting, even criminalizing abortions. This week, Georgia's governor signed into law one of the country's most restrictive anti-abortion measures.
HOWELL: Unlike other states, Georgia is getting pressure over the so- called heartbeat bill from its multibillion dollar film industry. Our Natasha Chen has the report.
NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Marvel movies, "The Walking Dead," "Stranger Things," these are all shot in Georgia, the Hollywood of the South, with more than 90,000 employees in the state tied to its $9.5 billion a year business.
But many A-list actors, writers and producers are reeling from Georgia's heartbeat bill, signed last week, which outlaws abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. That's around six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.
Movie fans touring Atlanta's film locations heard about the boycott.
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IRENE BERSON, TOURIST: I agree with them. And I'm glad they are taking a stand about it. And hopefully taking that stand will make a difference.
CHIQUI VILLANUEVA, TOURIST: Just do the job and that's it. And just satisfy the political side of it.
KEVIN SAUNDERS, ACTOR AND TOUR GUIDE: We are going to see a couple places we saw in this "Hunger Games" clip.
You guys ready?
CHEN (voice-over): Tour guide Kevin Saunders is also an actor and moved to Georgia where he knew there'd be more work.
SAUNDERS: They'll all be coming actors, crews and everybody, that built --
SAUNDERS: -- a foundation in places like this. We don't have the luxury of saying, hey, let's just go to California.
CHEN (voice-over): It's not easy for established Hollywood names to leave productions they have committed to. Alyssa Milano said through her publicist she is contractually obligated to finish shooting a show in Georgia for the next month but, quote, "will do everything in my power to get as many productions as possible, including "Insatiable," to move out of the state."
J.J. Abrams and Jordan Peel also have a show to shoot in Georgia. They said they will "donate 100 percent of our respective episodic fees for this season to two organizations leading the charge against this draconian law."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are all feeling it, if not financially at the moment, it's just the negativity, it's the chatter.
CHEN (voice-over): And if the issue is not resolved, local crews may see their home abandoned, like in a zombie apocalypse -- Natasha Chen, CNN, Atlanta.
(END VIDEOTAPE) ALLEN: The American Civil Liberties Union says it will challenge Georgia's new law in court. Some similar bills in other states have either been temporarily or permanently blocked in the courts.
HOWELL: Lawmakers in Hong Kong are fighting over a controversial bill, literally fighting. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL (voice-over): On Saturday, lawmakers fought over amendments to a law that would allow Hong Kong to extradite people to countries without formal extradition agreements, including mainland China.
ALLEN (voice-over): Critics warn the law would erode freedoms for pro-democracy activists, journalists and foreign business owners. Hong Kong's government is asking lawmakers to resume rational discussions about the issue.
And that is CNN NEWSROOM. Thanks for watching. I'm Natalie Allen.
HOWELL: I'm George Howell. The news continues after this.