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U.S. and Iran Both Don't Like to Start Any War; Taiwan Approved Same Sex Marriage; Tariffs Affects Both U.S. and Chinese Consumers; World Headlines; Financial Disclosure Form Reveals Insights into Trump's Business Interests Last Year; Trump Veils Merit-Based Immigration Proposal; Deadly Drought; Bob Hawke Dies; I.M. Pei Dies; Marathon Bombing Survivor Helps Others Heal; Natural Wonder. Aired 3- 4a ET
Aired May 17, 2019 - 03:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[03:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: The conflict inside the White House. President Donald Trump appears to be at odds with his own national security adviser.
The reaction after a landmark decision in Taiwan. Lawmakers there approved a bill legalizing same sex marriage.
Also ahead this hour, a woman who had part of her leg amputated after the Boston marathon bombing overcame around struggles and now is making it her life's goal to help other amputees get life prosthetics.
Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm George Howell. CNN Newsroom starts now.
The United States says that Iran poses an imminent threat in the Middle East but the real battle may be brewing inside the White House. Sources telling CNN President Trump is irritated with the growing impression that his advisers are pushing him towards war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, are we going to war with Iran?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hope not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: And then just a few minutes later Mr. Trump met with the president of Switzerland which represents U.S. interest in Iran. Sources say that he is trying to get open a diplomatic channel between the Swiss. He said publicly he wants Iranian leaders to call him.
The Trump administration has briefed top congressional leaders on what they call evidence of Iranian threats.
CNN's Barbara Starr has the details from the Pentagon. BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: U.S. officials say that
there are multiple images now showing Iranian freighters with their decks cut out and gaping areas underneath the decks that are being use they believe, to carry Iranian missiles and other ammunitions.
And that these freighters have moved in and out of Iranian ports in recent days, leading the U.S. to conclude that this is part of the Iranian potential planning for a possible attack against U.S. forces in the region.
But this is very different than Iran's traditional weapon snuggling up and down the gulf. There are also smaller Iranian boats known as dhows that are moving through these waters also with weapons on board.
So, what the U.S. worries about is that Iran is essentially weaponizing shipping, commercial shipping in critical Gulf waters that rely on very much free unrestricted travel by commercial shipping which carries billions of dollars of goods in and out of the area every year.
The U.S. very clear it says that it is not looking for war with Iran but the U.S. aircraft carrier strike group the B-52 bombers are in the region as a deterrent measure to show Iran that they would be a very heavy U.S. military price to pay if they were to an act any plan to attack U.S. troops, U.S. interest in the region.
They U.S. also watching very carefully because it believes there has been a buildup of Iranian maritime forces around that critical choke point the Strait of Hormuz.
Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.
HOWELL: Barbara, thanks. And it's important to point out, CNN has not reviewed those images mentioned in Barbara's report and the U.S. government has not made public any actual evidence the ships are carrying munitions.
CNN of course has correspondents covering this around the world. Our Fred Pleitgen is live in the Iranian capital of Tehran, and our international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson following the story in Abu Dhabi.
Fred, first to you. There is this new CNN reporting that the U.S. claiming to have multiple images of Iranian commercial vessels that it believes are carrying missiles. Keeping in mind, CNN, again, has not reviewed those images.
But this suggestion of weaponizing commercial vessels. Is there any new reaction there on this? And what's the mood there in Iran given these heightened tensions.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, George. Well, there's very little in the reaction to that specific piece of allege U.S. intelligence of these vessels. What I think Barbara was saying that the decks are cut out, not necessarily that the U.S. actually has images of missiles on those ships. Of course, we know that the U.S. has long been accusing the Iranians
of using merchant vessels to try and transport missiles to various places in and around this region. Not just around the Gulf region but of course, also to places like Yemen as well. So far, it's unclear whether or not any of that is true. So, so far, we're not seeing very much in the form of reaction to that.
[03:05:01] As far as those dhows are concerned that Barbara was mentioning as well, I actually traveled to the Strait of Hormuz a couple of years back on the Abraham Lincoln, the last time I went there to the Persian Gulf. And we saw a lot of those little dhows sort of going around the aircraft carrier near the aircraft barrier.
That's a pretty normal thing to see in the Persian Gulf. Those ships are very small, a lot of them have wooden holes. So unclear how large missiles they would be able to transport or whether they would be able to fire those.
So, it would be interesting to see what that intelligence actually is. Now, one interesting nugget that we sort of picked up came from Iran's ambassador to the United Nations. He gave an interview yesterday that's quoted today on Iranian state media where he said that "Iran is not looking to prepare for any sort of conflict."
But they are saying that they are preparing to defend themselves if there is a conflict or if a conflict breaks out. So that could possibly indicate that yes, maybe the Iranians are moving things around. Maybe the Iranians are moving missiles around, are moving their military around.
One of the things that was key, I think in Barbara's report also is the fact that she mentioned that the U.S. thinks that the Iranians have been beefing up their military. That's actually beefing their navy in the Persian Gulf. That's something that we've actually been hearing ourselves as well.
In fact, the Iranians, I think about two weeks back invited a few media crews, local Iranian media crews to the Persian Gulf region to actually show that buildup, to show their forces that they have there. A lot of small attack boats that they have there, a sort of larger destroyers that they seem to have there as well.
Some of them also carrying rockets and missiles. So, certainly, as far as a naval buildup there is concerned, that does seem to be something that the Iranians while not publicly confirming but you seem to be wanting to show as well.
And at the same time the Iranians also saying that yes, they are preparing to defend themselves as they put it, which is something that could explain some of those military movements.
It's very interesting to see how that intelligence is being debated in Washington, and of course, around the world as well, George.
HOWELL: All right, Fred. And now, Nic, to you. What is the greater concern right now? Is it the threat of a plan invasion or is it the possibility of some sort of an accidental engagement that could then escalate into full on war?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes. I mean, it's a difficult calculation. The United States is perhaps in a very strong position to do that. Its allies in the region might be able to help out with their intelligence as well. Not having seen the intelligence that they've been able to make an independent assessment of what it is the United States believes that it's seeing. It's hard to draw concrete conclusions.
But as Fred said the Iranians say that this essentially defensive posturing out of concern that the United States could be coming on offensive towards them.
So, you know, the calculations has to be, are the Iranians on the defensive but preparing to -- preparing for a possible attack or are they in fact on the offensive and their narrative is bogus.
So, you know, in that context, you have President Trump saying that he hopes there isn't a war. You have the Iranian leadership saying as well that they're not looking for a war.
So, in the midst of that, in the midst that the heightened tensions of the United States bringing greater naval resources into the region of the Iranians having greater naval resources in that -- in that same space as well. The chance for miscalculation is greater. The waited stop miscalculation of course is back channel conversations.
But the Iranians are not responding positive or publicly to President Trump's public offerings of a phone conversation with him. You know, is there actually some real back channel conversations going on. If there is, it's not clear. But that's the major back channel conversation.
So, unless there are some kind of conversations perhaps to intermediator is that have a level of trust in them. That possibility of somebody making a mistake, making a miscalculation or someone else making a provocative action such as a sabotage of the coast of the -- that the United Arab Emirates last weekend. The possibility of a miscalculated a misstep into conflict does seem to be greater than that the moment of an intentional head to head.
HOWELL: All right. And Fred, to you there in Tehran, Mr. Trump has taken a more conciliatory tone meeting with this Swiss president to discuss the situation. Keeping in mind there are some mixed messages coming from the White House.
But the question to you, are there also mixed messages from Iran as well between those who press for a restraint and others who may be ready for a fight?
PLEITGEN: Well, I don't think that there's mixed messages. I think that there's varying messages coming out of Iran. One of the things that we need to understand about Iran is that, essentially when the supreme leader of Iran says something then you can pretty bet that that's going to be the strategy of this country. [03:09:56] So on the one hand, George, what they are saying is that,
or what the supreme leader has said, is that there is not going to be a war with the United States but that the Iranians are going to continue to resist, as he put it, not exactly clear to what extent that means or whether that could mean something more hostile, as well.
But certainly, he says that the Iranians are going to steadfast. Now, the key that he also said was that there's not going to be any negotiations with the Trump administration. And that's something that you since then heard various other Iranian officials say as well.
The last time was Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister who said that on a visit to Japan where he was yesterday. I think today he's moving on to China. He said at this point in time there's not going to be any negotiations with the United States.
He said what the Iranians want the U.S. to do is to stop some of these major sanctions that of course are in Iran's economy. They want to be able to sell their oil on international markets again.
They want companies to be able to be invest in Iran, again, in an ideal world they say, they would want the U.S. to go back to the nuclear agreement and then negotiate from there.
Now, of course, the chances of that happening in the Trump administration seemed to be extremely slim but that seems to be Iran's precondition which obviously make any sort of, even beginning negotiations are quite difficult.
At the same time, though, you're talking about mixed messages here from Iran. They are saying they don't want escalation in this conflict. But if you talk to military commanders and the supreme leader, actually yesterday just named two new deputies of the Revolutionary Guard.
Then they do say that if there is an escalation that there could be a crushing response from Iran, as they put it. And two of the things that they keep mentioning that they would use if something like that did happen is their ballistic missiles, and then he's of course, those militias that they control in this entire region as well, George.
HOWELL: All right. Fred Pleitgen, live for us in Tehran, and Nic Robertson following the story in Abu Dhabi. Gentlemen, thank you for the reporting. We'll stay in touch.
Let's bring in Scott Lucas. Scott is the professor of international politics at the University of Birmingham in England joining this hour with us to get some perspective on this.
And, Scott, let's start with CNN's newest reporting here that the U.S. is claiming to have multiple images of Iranian commercial vessels that it believes are carrying missiles. Scott, doesn't this play into that debate in Washington? And the debate quite frankly, around the world especially among European ministers as to whether this is Iran preparing to attack or if it's just acting defensively? SCOTT LUCAS, POLITICS PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM: Yes, it's
part of the debate, George. But the key debate is within the administration. What happened in the last 48 to 72 hours, is that those who really want to push further against Iran, possibly with military as well as economic measures have been talking to you all and say, they've got these missiles. You know, they could fire on our air, naval, and air forces in the area.
Now you haven't seen the missiles, no one has, in fact. And we know that for two weeks, John Bolton, the national security adviser, the leading proponent of regime change in Iran. He's been pushing supposed intelligence reports and those opinions are not shared by European and U.K. partners.
More importantly, though, George, those opinions are not shared by others within the administration who think the U.S. is going too far in trying to provoke the Iranians.
And that's why as you've just been reporting, you've gotten the pushback within the administration against Bolton's group. In the last 48 hours saying leaking to the media that Donald Trump does not want war with Iran, and more importantly, that he slaps down Bolton.
HOWELL: Well, what does it say, Scott, simply that Mr. Trump seems open to Iran giving him a call? This conciliatory tone that he's taking.
LUCAS: Look, George, that's just a bit of Trump's P.R. in the sense of as in every case if I can just get a photo opportunity as he has done with Kim Jong-un over in North Korea it's all going to be OK.
The Iranians have the phone numbers in Washington. Before the 2015 nuclear deal there were back channel talks in Oman, in which set up those of public discussions that finally took the nuclear issue off the table until last year.
The Iranians are not going to give Trump the photo opportunity. More importantly, Iran's supreme leader has said look, we will negotiate with the Americans on the nuclear issue but we will not negotiate under pressure on any other issue over regional matters.
So right now, Trump is blowing smoke and the more important question is, what's happening behind the scenes.
HOWELL: So, election just around the corner, Scott. Keeping in mind this is a president who made it part of his campaign promise to his base to keep the United States out of foreign wars. So, how much pressure is on President Trump given the pressures that we're seeing mount in the Middle East?
LUCAS: I don't think, George, there's really that much pressure on Trump in the sense of Iran alone. I think if there is any tilt it's against putting American forces into danger. So, I think that weighs against any type of military confrontation.
But I think more widely, the Trump administration has failed to make an advance on North Korea despite the high-profile summits. It's failed to remove the government in Venezuela.
[03:15:02] And I think those who are hawks within the administration are trying to put the election message to say, if you look weak on Iran the voters are going to come against you. Not because they know that that's what was happening in Tehran but the idea that it's not necessarily America first in getting its way around the world.
LEMON: All right, Scott. And look, the great question here is whether there is a plan for a war. Or is it the possibility, the mere possibility that something could happen by accident. Which do you think is more concerning given the current situation we're seeing play out?
LUCAS: Now this is not 2003 and stepping into war with Iraq. In part, because of the disaster that followed there. But you nailed it, George. The worry is, is that if you try to provoke and pushed the Iranians into a reaction through tightening the sanctions or through putting your military forces just off their coast.
Let's say one of those speedboats does fire on an American ship, or let's say the Iranians do fire or Iranian-backed militias fire on American troops in Iraq, then Washington feels compelled to respond. Then you got that type of escalation and we don't know where it ends up.
HOWELL: And aren't there a mixed message, as well in Iran those who are pushing, you know, for a restraint and others who are ready for a fight.
LUCAS: I think, George, I can put that together. I think that you are always going to have the Revolutionary Guards in Iran of the elite military unit. They are going to thump their chest and say you can't defeat us; we can defend the country.
But I think, by and large, the Iranian message is going to be we are not going to seek military confrontation. The supreme leader said that two days ago, President Rouhani said it yesterday.
Because Iran knows if it takes the Americans on in a military confrontation it loses. And more importantly, the Iranians believe that the political message is we are the good guys, we are the ones who are not trying to provoke trouble, blame the Americans.
So, they are going to play that -- they are going play this politically. And try to make the Americans make any military move or make any military threat so they can look like the innocent victim.
HOWELL: Scott Lucas with perspective today, thank you, Scott.
LUCAS: Thank you, George.
HOWELL: A landmark vote in Taiwan. Taiwan becoming the first place in Asia to legalize same sex marriage. The details ahead.
Also, businesses starting to feel the consequences of the U.S. trade war with China. Ahead, we're in Shanghai to see how companies on both sides of the Pacific are reacting.
[03:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
HOWELL: Lawmakers in Taiwan have just approved the measure to legalize same sex marriage. The self-ruled island is now the first place in Asia to pass such a law. It goes into effect next Friday.
CNN's Steven Jiang is following the story from Beijing. And Steven, talk to us about the significance of this new law.
STEVEN JIANG, CNN PRODUCER: George, a historic moment not only celebrated now across Taiwan but also across Asia including here in mainland China. Now this moment really is years in the making.
Remember, Taiwan's constitutional court almost two years ago rule that the island's marriage law that define marriage between a man and a woman was unconstitutional. Giving the government two years to enact new laws to readdress the situation.
But a lot of ups and downs since then with this issue really sharply dividing Taiwanese society and also galvanize opponents of the marriage equality. Some of them actually successfully organize that referendum votes last November that saw majority voters reject marriage equality.
But that vote turned out not to be legally binding which led to where we are today. Now, what lawmakers from both parties the ruling party and the opposition party join hands to pass this historic bill.
And you know, Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen earlier today before the vote tweeted that lawmakers should show the world that love wins. And now with a victory in hand she tweeted love one.
And we also understand thousands of people actually took the streets in Taiwan earlier today to urge lawmakers to pass this bill. And now, of course, the mood has turn to jubilation and celebration.
And this victory, George, is very, very important. Given the context that like -- given the context that in many other parts of Asia LGBT rights are suffering. We have seen the country Brunei in the news lately because they passed a Draconian law that made gay sex punishable by death and by stoning.
And here in mainland China the, you know, homosexuality is not illegal here but persistent prejudice discrimination persists with the periodical government crackdown. That's why I talk to, you know, LGBT rights activists here. They're so excited. They say they see a lot of hope with the news from Taiwan.
One leading activist told me, look, the Chinese government's argument has been Chinese culture tradition means marriage equality is not suitable for China. But Taiwan and China share the same cultural heritage. Now, today's decision in Taiwan really shows Chinese culture can be open, diverse, and progressive. George?
HOWELL: And Steven, as you point out in Brunei, the decision there certainly an about-face given all the pressure that came about from it.
Steven Jiang, following the story for us in Beijing. Steven, thank you.
The U.S. trade war with China poise to hit d consumers where it hurts. In their wallets. Retail giant Walmart says it will raise prices on some products because of tariffs.
America's largest retailer it reportedly imports about 26 percent of its merchandise from China.
CNN's Matt Rivers went to a trade fair in Shanghai to see how businesses on both sides of the Pacific are reacting to the trade war.
Here is the report that he filed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you want to talk international trade this is a good spot. A giant conference in Shanghai packed with people who import and export food. As the U.S.-China trade war heats up they are feeling it because most products here are now facing steep tariffs, either from Beijing or Washington.
ANDY HOROWITZ, RESTAURANT OWNER: I'm hoping that it does, the report that it doesn't get more expensive than it is.
RIVERS: Andy Horowitz runs a restaurant in Beijing. China put a 25 percent tariff on the American pork he sells so his profits took a hit.
Why then keep buying American pork?
HOROWITZ: We have to support American farmers and what they're trying to do as well.
RIVERS: Most Americans we spoke to here are just trying to ride out the storm until a deal is struck whenever that might be.
ANDY ANDERSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WESTERN U.S. AGRIGULTURAL TRADE ASSOCIATION: Everybody is going to have a group hug and we are going to move forward. And then, no, sorry, false alarm.
RIVERS: Just two weeks ago, it did look like a deal was in the works. But the White House says China reneged on commitment which China denied. But a pair of tweets from President Trump sparks a sudden escalation. And within eight days both sides announce new tariffs. But no matter who is to blame the uncertainty is a problem for Americans.
ANDERSON: Chinese buyers are saying well, you know, I like your product, I would like to buy your product but tomorrow it might be an additional 25 percent.
RIVERS: Buyers like Liu Yanming who wants to buy U.S. blueberries but just can't. LIU YANMING, BUYER (through translator): The tariff has gone from 10
percent to 25 percent so of course we can't buy from the U.S. We'd lose money. It's irrational.
[03:25:01] RIVERS: A set of new tariffs kicks in around June 1st but a deal is unlikely before that. So, more pain is likely which some are OK with if it's temporary.
ROLF HAUGEN, WASHINGTON STATE RASPBERRY FARMER: I voted for him, I guess, and I believe in what he's doing.
RIVERS: Washington State raspberry farmer Rolf Haugen says even if the trade war hurts a bit now, in a long run it's for the best.
HAUGEN: If we have to sacrifice a little bit today so that our kids and grandkids have a better life going forward, I'm willing to put up a little bit today.
RIVERS: Matt Rivers, CNN, Shanghai.
HOWELL: The former British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says that he will run to replace Theresa May as prime minister. The one-time mayor of London who campaign feverishly for Britain to leave the E.U. announced he will run for leadership of the conservative party when Ms. May resigns.
Johnson has been a big critic of the prime minister's Brexit approach. He made the announcement Thursday speaking with the BBC.
(BEGIN VOICE CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: I'm going to go for it. Of course, I'm going to go for it.
JOHNSON: I don't think -- yes, I don't think that is any particular secret to anybody. But you know there is no -- there is no vacancy at present.
(END VOICE CLIP)
HOWELL: The prime minister says that she will confirm details of her departure in early June regardless of whether she gets her Brexit deal over the line.
The mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio is now the 23rd Democrat to join a crowded race running for the White House. Adding to that crowded race of candidates he announced his White House bid in a video posted online on Thursday.
In it, the two-term mayor took a direct aim at U.S. President Trump calling him a bully and saying every New Yorker knows he is a con artist. De Blasio also outlined his policies for 2020 in the presidential campaign.
Australians are gearing up to vote on parliamentary elections on Saturday. The current Prime Minister Scott Morrison with the center- right liberal party says that he'll keep the country's economy strong, he'll slash public debt and reduce taxes. His main opponent is labor -- is opposition Labor Party candidate Bill Shorten.
He's campaigning to increase taxes on the wealthy and to take strong action on climate change. But polls show that voters aren't excited about either of these two main candidates and many people are dissatisfied with the state of Australia's democracy as a whole.
Rugby Australia has fired Wallabies star Israel Folau over an anti-gay social media post. The 30-year-old player was found guilty last week of breaching the league's code of conduct. He posted a list including drunks, liars, atheists, and homosexuals saying, quote, "hell waits you." Folau has 72 hours to appeal the decision.
The U.S. president outlines his plan to overhaul immigration in the United States but he even concedes that probably won't get any traction in the current Congress. Details ahead on that.
Plus, this property just blocks from the White House has made a lot of money for President Trump. We'll tell you what else is in his latest financial disclosure.
[03:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers around the world. You're watching "CNN Newsroom." I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.
An American official tells CNN the U.S. believes Iran is using commercial freighters to move hidden missiles or other weapons around in Persian Gulf. The assessment comes from multiple images of Iranian ships with large areas of their decks removed. The U.S. hasn't provided though any evidence that the ships are carrying munitions.
In Taiwan, lawmakers just approved the measure to legalize same-sex marriage. The self-ruled island is now the first place in Asia to pass such a law. It comes two years after Taiwan's top court ruled that same sex couples have the right to marry. It will go into effect next Friday.
Boeing says that it has finished developing software, software fixed for its grounded 737 Max fleet. The airplane manufacturer says that it tested the update on more than 200 flights for more than 360 hours. The jets have been grounded since March after two deadly crashes that killed 346 people.
Huawei says that it has not ruled out legal action. This after the Trump administration effectively banned U.S. companies from buying equipment from the Chinese tech giant. Huawei says this will hurt thousands of American businesses and consumers.
President trump has now unveiled his vision for immigration, a central theme of his reelection bid, but even members of his own party don't seem that interested in this. The president's proposal would dramatically shift the focus away from family ties and humanitarian needs, instead giving preference to English speakers with good job skills.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: If adopted, our plan will transform America's immigration system into the pride of our nation and the envy of the modern world.
HOWELL (voice-over): Critics point out what is not in that plan. There is no mention of the so-called "dreamers" who came to the U.S. illegally as children, nor does the Trump plan address the current situation playing out on the border.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We've always said that it gets to be more of a humanitarian crisis the more that Republicans -- the administration -- I won't paint all the Republicans with this -- the more the administration acts in the shameful way.
HOWELL: President Trump's tax returns are still a closed book at least for now. But a financial disclosure form is revealing some insights into Mr. Trump's business interests last year. Our Cristina Alesci has this report.
CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN POLITICS AND BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: This form doesn't provide a complete picture of the president's finances, but let's go through what you can glean from the documents and what you can't. The biggest piece of information, whether the president's income has gone up or down. Now, based on this filing, his income declined slightly at least $434 million dollars in 2018, down $60 million from 2017.
These documents also give us an idea of how some of his individual properties are performing. For example, he reported income of $40.8 million from his controversial hotel in Washington D.C., that's about the same as 2017. And Mar-a-Lago, well, that generated income of $22.7 million on this report versus $25 million on the last report.
But we can't tell why there was a dip in the income there. I've asked the Trump Organization and have not heard back yet. We also spotted a new loan on this report, a mortgage for a property in Florida. And we still don't know exactly how much money Trump is drawing from his businesses.
The government on these forms only ask for ranges, not exact numbers. And those ranges can be pretty big. For example, there are a number of assets listed as generating between $1 and $5 million dollars. It also doesn't tell us how much the president pays in taxes and it doesn't provide any insight into any tax strategy he might be using, which is why the Democrats are pressing for his tax returns. (END VIDEOTAPE)
HOWELL: With us now is Natasha Lindstaedt. Natasha is a professor of government at the University of Essex in England. It is good to have you with us.
NATASHA LINDSTAEDT, PROFESSOR OF GOVERNMENT, UNIVERSITY OF ESSEX: Thanks for having me.
HOWELL: So, Natasha, a merit-based strategy, the fast-tracking of people who speak English.
[03:35:00] This would be a major change in the philosophy, the very DNA of what it means for people around the world who want to seek citizenship in the United States. What do you make of it?
LINDSTAEDT: Well, what's interesting about this plan is it does appear to be influenced by immigration policy in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It is not very well thought out. It seems to be focused on this idea that wants to bring in people that have skills, can bring in jobs, that are well educated, that speak English.
They are trying to dampen the amount of what they refer to a chain migration, extended families coming in. And Trump has said in his speech that the number of green cards that go out every year, 12 percent go out to some skill-based people, where about two-thirds go out to sorted (ph) families in a form of a family approach.
But that really goes against the U.S. identity of bringing in anyone who brings in any type of skill set, whether you are super well educated, whether you speak English or not, you can come to this country and make something of yourself. So Democrats are critical of that just because it goes against these core values that the U.S. has held for a long time.
But they're also critical of the fact that, as it already mentioned in the report, it doesn't do anything to talk about the "dreamers," it doesn't talk about the 11 million people that are here in the U.S. illegally, and it doesn't really deal with the issues with family separation.
Republicans are going to have some issues with it as well because it has nothing to deal with the number of immigrants coming in, but is trying to affect the composition of immigration. So on both sides, there's a lot of criticism of this not very well thought out plan.
HOWELL: Keeping in mind the glaring hypocrisy here, both the president's mother and father-in-law, now citizens of the U.S., came in as a result of what he disparages, Mr. Trump disparages as chain migration, not through a merit-based system.
LINDSTAEDT: Yeah, that's another interesting aspect of the plan. He seems to be attacking the type of immigration policy that enabled his own wife's family to come in and is trying to prevent that type of immigration from coming in. He's also really trying to target immigration from the south by saying that people need to speak English, by need to have certain level of education and certain skill level.
Of course, many immigrants from Latin America do have the skill levels, do speak English, and do bring in special -- or able to take on special types of jobs. But a lot of people coming in from Central American countries are coming in because they are escaping really, really high levels of insecurity, violence and poverty.
He seems to really be targeting these people. About 52 percent of immigration to the U.S. comes from the south, and he thinks that he wants to attract immigrants possibly from English-speaking countries by doing this and, you know, you already illustrated some of the hypocrisy of this. This is not really the way the U.S. system works. It's really about really bringing anyone who wants to come in, work hard and try to make a place for themselves in the U.S.
HOWELL: I want to also get your thoughts on two key people in this proposal, the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and advisor Stephen Miller, both known as hard-liners when it comes to immigration.
LINDSTAEDT: So this doesn't appear to have the fingerprints of Stephen Miller on it. It's supposedly is a plan where Jared Kushner took a strong need (ph) in this. And instead of being a plan that maybe appealed more to the hard-liners of the Republican Party, the plan was supposed to attract a broad base of Republicans that they would be able to get behind it.
It was more of a broad approach rather than an approach that was quite aggressive in terms of family separation or highlighting a very intense approach towards preventing immigration or deterring immigration from coming in.
But the issue was that this plan wasn't really spoken about much by every single Republican. I think they were trying to talk to some key Republicans about the plan. It hasn't really garnered unity from the entire Republican Party, and they haven't really even talked to the Democrats at all about it.
And so I think they are trying to pivot a little bit away from this hard-line approach that Stephen Miller was proposing and more towards this broad based approach. But without getting the entire Republican Party behind it and some key Democrats, it's never really going to go very far because even if it gets through the Senate, it is not really going to go anywhere in the House.
HOWELL: Natasha Lindstaedt, thank you so much.
LINDSTAEDT: Thanks for having me.
[03:39:59] HOWELL: Major crisis in North Korea, (INAUDIBLE) crops in the fields and millions going hungry. And now analysts say the country's leader might be trying to use this to get a leg up in negotiations with Donald Trump.
Plus, one of the world's most acclaimed architects has died. Ahead, we remember I.M. Pei, the man behind the modernist twist to one of the most famous landmarks in Paris.
HOWELL: More than 10 million North Koreans, 10 million are reportedly facing severe food shortages with the country in its worst drought in nearly four decades. And now there is concern that North Korea's leader may be using the crisis to get the U.S. president's attention. Here's our Brian Todd.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On state T.V., North Korea's dictator, Kim Jong-un, often celebrates the bounty of his country's harvest. He is seeing visiting fields producing potatoes by the truckload and fisheries brimming with fresh catch, all part of a propaganda campaign designed to sell North Korea as vibrant and equal to America.
But now, Kim's regime is being forced to make admission: North Korea is suffering its worst drought in 37 years. Only about two inches of rain have fallen on the country this year, the regime says. United Nations officials on the ground recently observed dried out fields and farmers struggling to plant rice crops.
BILL BROWN, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Likely there is some major problem coming. Otherwise, they wouldn't have been ousted (ph).
TODD (voice-over): The admission of the drought comes on the heels of U.N. reports, saying about 10 million North Koreas, almost half of the country's population are facing severe food shortages and urgently need help, even as Kim build skyscrapers, amusement parks and ski resorts, and parades his army through the streets of Pyongyang.
It's not the first time this has happened. During the 1990s under the rule of Kim's father and grandfather, a crippling famine brought on partially by drought killed hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of North Koreans.
BROWN: During the famine, it gets another level down, where they actually have to eat plants, tree bark, grass, that kind of thing, and not surviving.
TODD (voice-over): Economic and human rights experts tell CNN they don't expect this food crisis to approach those levels. But they are concerned over how Kim Jong-un is managing this crisis.
ROBERT KING, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY TO NORTH KOREA FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: They're willing to import parts for missiles, they're willing to put funds into the military, but they don't put funds into taking care of their population.
[03:45:03] They put more into imports of cognac and high-end cars than they do in food imports.
TODD (voice-over): And the timing of North Korea's announcement of the drought is raising questions. It comes just a few days after Kim's regime tested short-range missiles, which could threaten U.S. forces in South Korea and their allies. And it comes as President Trump's diplomatic outreach to Kim over the dictator's nuclear weapons has stalled.
(on camera): Is Kim playing up these problems as a means of leverage against Donald Trump?
KING: I don't think there's any question. When there is an opportunity, Kim will use what's available. I think Kim Jong-un has shown that he's quite willing to take advantage of any opportunity to get what he wants. And I think using the famine and playing the famine out, giving it attention, calling the United Nations attention to the issue is one of the ways of doing that.
TODD (on camera): A key question now, how should President Trump responds? The president said recently he would support the South Koreans, sending food aid to North Korea, but it's a delicate balance. Analysts say the president has to show humanitarian concern while not buckling to Kim's play for leverage.
Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.
HOWELL: One of Australia's longest serving and perhaps most admired prime ministers had died. Bob Hawke, "Hawkie," known to his friends and admirers, passed away Thursday, just days before Australia's federal election on Saturday.
Hawke served as prime minister from 1983 to 1991. He is remembered for reforming the nation's economy, championing the trade union movement and women's rights, as well as his colorful personality and sense of humor. Bob Hawke "Hawkie" was 89 years old.
In the meantime, the world has also lost another famous innovator. I.M. Pei, the acclaimed architect, died Thursday. He was 102 years old. He is perhaps best remembered for designing the large glass pyramid outside the Louvre Museum in Paris. But as CNN's Will Ripley reports, his work also had an impact to the nation.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): I.M. Pei was a Chinese-American architect whose legacy is some of the world's most recognized buildings. Perhaps his most famous is the redevelopment of the Louvre in Paris.
I.M. PEI, AMERICAN-CHINESE ARCHITECT: For me, coming here is like coming home.
RIPLEY (voice-over): In the 1980s, he gave us this masterpiece of glass and metal, a pyramid outside the main museum entrance and the underground galleries below. His modernized vision was fiercely opposed by many at the time. PEI: I remember an old lady spitting on the sidewalk.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Really?
PEI: That is venomous. They were so unhappy with what I did.
RIPLEY (voice-over): That Paris icon eventually went over the most fickle (ph) French critics and now is just as timeless as the treasures inside the world's most visited museum.
In 1935, Pei got on a boat to San Francisco and despite not speaking English he went on to study at both MIT and Harvard. As America change rapidly in the 1960s, Pei's groundbreaking work changed the skyline of his new home. In the dark days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Pei was chosen for a commission that propelled him into the limelight, the design of the JFK presidential library in Boston.
His work continued to shape a modernizing America, designing icons like the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and the east building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington.
SHIRLEY SURYA, ARCHITECTURE CURATOR, M+ MUSEUM: To some degree, geometry is not used in a random arbitrary way. It is used as a universal language because it does speak very viscerally (ph) across cultures.
RIPLEY (on camera): Pei made his mark in the United States and gained global fame in Paris, but he won't be forgotten here in the city where he lived as a boy. Pei's Bank of China building feels as if it could not be anywhere else but in the heart of Hong Kong.
(Voice-over): A jewel in city's glimmering skyline, a testament to the legend behind it.
HOWELL: That was CNN's Will Ripley reporting from Hong Kong. I.M. Pei is also remembered for his good humor, his charm, and his modesty. I.M. Pei was 102 years old.
Still ahead, triumph after tragedy. A resilient survivor of the Boston marathon bombing is now helping other amputees to heal. Her remarkable story is next.
[03:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
HOWELL: It was six years ago that Heather Abbott lost her leg in the horrific Boston marathon bombing. And the weeks after that attack, it seemed her passion for dance, for fitness and high heels was over. But as part of our "Champions for Change" series, CNN's Poppy Harlow reports that Heather has since found her inspiration, the inspiration she needed to make herself and others like her to feel whole again.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) HEATHER ABBOTT, BOSTON MARATHON BOMBING SURVIVOR, FOUNDER OF HEATHER ABBOTT FOUNDATION (voice-over): I accepted what happened pretty early on when I recognized that I couldn't change it. To be able to feel like my old self and not have to change something that I love to do because I lost my leg.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Just moments ago near the finish line of the Boston marathon --
ABBOTT (voice-over): I remember hearing about it and thinking how could this happen and just racing there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A hundred and 44 injured, three fatalities, 17 critical conditions at this hour.
ABBOTT (voice-over): Quickly the thought comes to your mind about the victims and who are these people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of them who has really stood out, that we spent a lot of time with is Heather Abbott. She lost part of her left leg in the bombing and not only is she walking again, she is running again.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): She wanted to feel like herself again so much. She wanted to walk again in high four-inch stiletto heels. So, she got a prosthetic that has allowed her to do that.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): She said, "This is my new life and I'm damn sure going to make the most of it."
(on camera): Just getting through the horror of what happened to you and become your full self again, I think most people would stop. You have taken it so much further, challenging the status quo, battling the insurance companies.
ABBOTT: Most insurance companies don't cover it because it looks real. It was an opportunity for me to bring attention to this issue, how to make insurance companies understand why coverage is needed for devices that aren't just for walking.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): I am a very proud recipient of the first prosthetic leg from the Heather Abbott Foundation.
SAVANNAH BOOTH, PROSTHETIC RECIPIENT: I'm excited to finally look down to see 10 toes and not feel like something is missing.
HARLOW (voice-over): This is like one of the things that make our job so great. Often we have to report the stories of death and horror, but we also get to report the stories of true resilience and strength, and that's what Heather's story has been for me all along.
So we are in Chicago and I have been looking forward to this day for a really long time.
(on camera): We are heading to surprise an incredibly sweet little 8- year-old boy named Jude.
(voice-over): When Jude was just three years old, there was a tragic accident while he was at home, and he lost both of his legs.
(on camera): It just hits you right in the gut and it is because of Heather and the Heather Abbott Foundation that we are going to see Jude like he is today.
(voice-over): He and his family have no idea what is about to happen. The Chicago Fire which is the professional soccer team here in Chicago, they are going above and beyond for Jude and his family. They're going to surprise the kids with their own jerseys, stuffed animals for the little ones, their names on the jumbotron, and Heather actually flew in to surprise Jude and his family. She hasn't seen them in three years.
ABBOTT: You look great! How do you like your new legs?
(voice-over): Oh, my gosh!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jude, you are an inspiration.
[03:55:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is for you.
HARLOW (voice-over): They're even going to sign Jude and his siblings to a one-day contract with the team to make it official.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I also want to recognize a very special person, Heather Abbott, who is unbelievable.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are a champion for change.
HARLOW (voice-over): This is totally Heather. This is who she is.
GREG HILL, JUDE'S FATHER (voice-over): That wouldn't be possible without her help.
HILL: He is a double amputee that does not have feet but that doesn't identify him. It doesn't detract from his character.
HARLOW (on camera): You are few of the lucky ones who because of Heather and her foundation could have this.
JENNIFER HILL, JUDE'S MOTHER: Getting the right feet (ph) that keep him keeping him running and active changed not just his life but all of us.
HARLOW (voice-over): The legs brought back not just the ability to run but his heart, his joy, his spirit.
(on camera): OK, world of high heels.
HARLOW (voice-over): You can rock foreign shields (ph).
ABBOTT (voice-over): I can.
HARLOW (voice-over): I'm very impressed. Feel like some of these?
(on camera): It's not just about functionality but it's about feeling like your full self, right?
ABBOTT: Yeah, it makes a big difference. People don't typically see an amputee walking around in high heels.
HARLOW (on camera): I will never forget the first day that I met her years ago after the Boston bombing. Someone who has fought persistently is now a champion for others. She's just as ultimate woman. I don't know how else to say it other than Heather Abbott's sparkles.
HOWELL: We will keep sharing these inspiring stories all week long. Tune in on Sunday morning at 8:00 in Hong Kong for an hour-long "Champions for Change" special.
We will leave you this hour with some amazing pictures from Australia. Take a look here. You will see this moment of calm there. An amazing set of drone footage that shows us pool of cownose rays that are swimming in clear waters off Bondi Beach in Sydney. You can see how much they form these amazing patterns there as they swim right there along the coastline. It's pretty cool there.
Thank you so much for being with us. I'm George Howell. The news continues right after the break.