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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Claims Progress in U.S.-Japan Trade Deal; At Least Two Dead after Possible Oklahoma Tornado; Top Iranian Diplomat Warns U.S. against Escalation; Contenders Line Up to Succeed British Prime Minister Theresa May; Overcrowding on Everest Likely Caused Deaths; Missing Woman Found in Hawaii Forest after Two Weeks. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired May 26, 2019 - 03:00   ET

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


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CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): President Trump kicks off his visit to Japan with a tweet, expresses his confidence in the North Korean leader.

A strong storm ravages a small town in Oklahoma, a state already reeling from weeks of devastating weather.

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AMANDA ELLER, HIKER: It did come down to life and death and I had to choose. And I chose life.

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VANIER (voice-over): She survived more than two weeks in this Hawaiian forest after getting lost on a hike. Now Amanda Eller tells her story from her hospital bed.

Live from the CNN Center here in Atlanta, it's great to have you with us. I'm Cyril Vanier.

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VANIER: U.S. president Donald Trump, on a state visit to Japan, said progress was made on a bilateral trade deal. He made that claim after a round of golf with prime minister Shinzo Abe (sic).

But the president also cautioned, no final agreement would come until after Japanese upper house elections in July. Earlier, he repeated his belief that recent North Korean missile tests were not a big deal.

He tweeted, "North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people and others, but not me."

This is the kind of offhand dismissal of a formidable adversary that can make Japan nervous. But if the remark upset the Japanese prime minister, he did not show it. Mr. Abe was all smiles as the two played golf. The foreign ministry said the two leaders deepened their friendship amid a cozy atmosphere on the golf course.

The next big event on Trump's itinerary is a sumo wresting championship, coming up later. Ivan Watson is covering the substance and the pageantry. We'll get to the sumo. But first, Trump and Abe were expected to talk about trade. They have unresolved issues there.

Where are we on that?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: President Trump has once again announced policy by Twitter. Whatever kind of closed door talks he's having on the golf course with the Japanese prime minister, he did send out a tweet, saying they're probably going to have to wait for the upper house of the Japanese Parliament, the council of legislators, to have elections in July. And any trade deal would have to wait until after that.

Presumably -- it's the house of counselors, rather -- presumably that is to help fit his Japanese allies' political cycle somewhat. We know the Trump administration was on record saying it wanted a bilateral trade deal with Japan, the world's third largest economy, before the visit to Tokyo but clearly that's been pushed back.

Presumably that's a bit of a gift to Shinzo Abe (sic) and his political considerations there. President Trump also saying he thinks there will be big advantages in the future for American beef and agriculture.

Of course, the U.S. would want more access for its agricultural products in Japan, which does protect its domestic markets from U.S. exports and it's all the more important that trade war is raging between China and the U.S. and lucrative export markets for the us and China have been blocked as a result of that.

Presumably if some of these markets are opened up, they could hurt some domestic interests here in Japan, which is partially why it might serve the Japanese prime minister to wait for further trade negotiations until after the elections in July.

VANIER: It is 4:00 pm where you are. Tell us about rest of the day.

WATSON: The two leaders played golf, had lunch, cheeseburgers, double cheeseburgers with U.S. beef, we're told by the Japanese government. And they will head soon to a stadium to witness the last matches in the sumo tournament underway.

We already know through a process of elimination who the champion is going to be, so that's removed some of the drama. I'll tell you that after you see this report, Cyril.

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WATSON (voice-over): It is the most iconic of Japanese sports, sumo, a contest between huge men grappling --

[03:05:00] WATSON: -- in a tiny ring. And the U.S. president is getting a front row seat for the finals of the grand sumo tournament during his visit to Tokyo.

WATSON: What would you advise President Trump to know about the sport as he's about to attend?

JOHN GUNNING, SUMO EXPERT: Rules itself -- the rules themselves are very simple, it's a down or out situation. So I think he won't have any problem understanding what is going on in the ring.

WATSON (voice-over): John Gunning is an Irish sports columnist based in Japan. He says President Trump will witness firsthand an ancient tradition.

GUNNING: The pageantry and everything is several hundreds of years, perhaps thousands of years of Japanese tradition and culture, all mixed together: religion, sports, entertainment. It's a mishmash of all of those things.

WATSON (voice-over): This Irish expatriate is an expert when it comes to sumo.

GUNNING: Joining sumo itself is like joining a monastic order.

WATSON (voice-over): He competed as amateur wrestler and has the scars to prove it.

GUNNING: Personally myself, I fractured a skull, broke teeth, fractured an eye socket, broke an arm lengthways into three pieces. And almost every single time, I did sumo training I ended up with some kind of injury.

WATSON (voice-over): President Trump is no stranger to a very different, quintessentially American style of wrestling. Before his political career, he made appearances in U.S. professional wrestling shows.

But Japan's much older version of the sport is much more spartan. Often starting at the age of 15, athletes live, eat and train in stables. Only those few who claw their way to the top become wealthy superstars.

Centuries of history and tradition give sumo a special place in Japanese society.

GUNNING: It has a special place, I think, in the heart, even people who are not sports fans are sumo fans.

WATSON (voice-over): On Sunday, the U.S. president will present a trophy to Japan's next national champion. It will be called the president's cup.

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WATSON: Cyril, I know you're desperate to see this, this is the president's cup, it's about 4.5 feet tall, weighs 60 to 70 pounds. And now I'm going to give you that spoiler. The winner of the tournament has been already announced by numbers of wins throughout this tournament, it's 25-year-old Asanoyama. He's a Japanese native. This comes as huge shock, I'm told, by experts here, a big upset.

He's never won before, he's only been in the highest division, if you can imagine this, of professional sumo wrestling for about three years and here, he's winning the imperial cup and the president's cup.

VANIER: I had no idea they were going to announce the winner before we even got to the championship round. Ivan Watson with the sumo analysis, thank you so much.

Now I spoke a short time ago with Paul Sracic. He's a professor of international relations and a visiting scholar in Tokyo. I asked about the president's tweets on North Korea.

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PAUL SRACIC, YOUNGSTOWN STATE UNIVERSITY: Those missiles do not put United States mainland in jeopardy at all. So from an American first foreign policy, they're not that important.

But, of course, Japan is in range of those missiles. So that makes them nervous about the U.S. maybe cutting a deal with North Korea that would allow North Korea to have these short-range missiles while cutting off their long-range missile testing.

So it makes the Japanese nervous and perhaps it isn't best thing for the alliance.

VANIER: Does Donald Trump value the alliance with Japan?

SRACIC: I think that he does. But I think really the game that's going on here, what's happening, is President Trump really wants an agreement with North Korea. The fact that that tweet also referenced former vice president Biden shows you that the whole North Korean negotiations are, I think, part of President Trump's re-election campaign to a certain degree.

He would like to tell the American people that, unlike former presidents, he was able to make a deal with North Korea. That's his value as negotiator. This goes to trade agreements also. It's the president wanting to have some wins before the November election.

Certainly an agreement with North Korea and something that was not offensive to our allies would be a strong message in the 2020 presidential campaign.

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VANIER: That was Paul Sracic, speaking to me earlier.

Devastation at this hour in small town in the U.S. state of Oklahoma in the wake of a possible powerful tornado. Emergency officials say at least two people were killed and multiple people are injured after severe weather ripped --

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VANIER: -- through El Reno, west of Oklahoma City, just a short time ago. A mobile home park was severely damaged. The storm was violent and very destructive. The mayor describes it as very traumatic. A nearby hotel was heavily damaged but the owner says all guests are accounted for.

Rescue crews are going door-to-door, looking for injured people. One survivor described the terror as the storm approached.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I heard it coming. I felt the trailer 80, our trailer, I know trailer 80 flipped over on top of 81, which we were in. And after everything was over with and all the shaking and jarring and everybody laying on the floor, the sirens went off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sirens off a little bit late.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After that all happened.

So you all were in one trailer --

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- you heard -- did you hear it coming?

Did you -- what did you see --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I felt it. I don't know.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It just got real dark real fast and everything started shaking violently.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I told them to hit the floor.

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VANIER: As the U.S. and Iran wage a war of words, Iraq finds itself caught in the middle. Iran's foreign minister was in Baghdad Saturday as the U.S. pledges to send even more troops to the region, citing an Iranian threat.

Javad Zarif met with Iraq's president and prime minister, officials say they addressed sanctions and avoiding the quote, "dangers of war."

The U.S. already has a carrier strike group in the region and is saying Iran and its proxies are looking to target U.S. troops. The Iranian foreign minister recently spoke to CNN's Fred Pleitgen and warned that the U.S. was playing a very dangerous game.

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FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Especially with those mixed messages that apparently have been coming from the Trump administration in the past couple of days, with President Trump one day saying that any sort of fight between Iran and the United States would lead to the official end of Iran, as he put it, and then only a day later saying that he actually wants negotiations with the Iranians.

I asked Iran's foreign minister whether or not negotiations are something that are currently in the cards. And he said in the current political climate and situation, it's absolutely not something the Iranians think is possible.

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JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: We are not willing to talk to people who have broken their promises. Because we talk to people. We did not believe that our nuclear program, our nuclear energy program required us to provide concessions or confidence building measures. But we engaged. We acted in good faith. We negotiated. We reached a deal.

What the United States is saying, if we make a deal, whatever we can get you in the negotiations through the deal is fine. Whatever we cannot get you, we'll come back to try to get you. This is not the way serious countries deal with each other. The United States may be used to doing that with clients but they cannot do that with Iraq.

PLEITGEN: How dangerous do you think the situation is currently in the Persian Gulf with the U.S. aircraft carrier on its way, B-52 bombers. At the same time, from your side, saying, look, we don't want an escalation but it will be painful if there's one.

ZARIF: There will be painful consequences for everybody if there's an escalation against Iran. That's for sure.

The United States is engaging in an economic warfare against Iran. It has to stop. Economic war means targeting Iranian people. That has to stop. The United States does not have the legal position, does not have the moral position, does not have the political position, does not have the international position, to impose economic war on Iran.

Iran is not interested in escalation. We have said very clearly that we will not be the party to begin escalation but we will defend ourselves.

Now having all these military assets in a small waterway is, in and of itself, prone to accident particularly when you have people who are interested in accidents. So extreme prudence is required and we believe that the United States is playing a very, very dangerous game.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PLEITGEN: So the Iranian foreign minister there saying that he

believes that the U.S. is playing a dangerous game, as he put it, in the Persian Gulf.

I also asked him about those recent apparent sabotage attacks on tankers in the Persian Gulf. He said that the Iranians absolutely had nothing to do with that. But still he says he believes that, right now, the situation between the U.S. and Iran in that very narrow waterway, still extremely dangerous -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Tehran.

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VANIER: Still to come, conservative heavyweights in U.K. are throwing hats in the ring to follow prime minister Theresa May.

But will the winner seal a Brexit deal she was unable to achieve?

We're in London following the developments.

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ELLER: People that know me, people that don't know me all came together just under the idea of helping one person make it out of the woods alive.

VANIER (voice-over): That moving thank you message after a hiker was rescued in Hawaii. Her remarkable story of survival when we come back.

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VANIER: In the U.K., Conservative Party candidates are lining up for a leadership contest to select the next prime minister. Theresa May announced on Friday she's stepping down as party leader on June 7th after failing to get her Brexit deal passed.

The contest is wide open, with about a dozen Conservative MPs joining or hoping to join the race, including newly declared candidates Dominic Raab and Andrea Leadsom. CNN's Salma Abdelaziz has more from London.

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SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN PRODUCER: The race to become the U.K.'s next prime minister and replace Theresa May has already begun, several candidates putting names forward for the Conservative leadership party position. The front-runner is Boris Johnson, one of the key faces of the Brexit referendum campaign. He's a very polarizing figure but has a great deal of support among the party's base.

Another contender is Jeremy Hunt, the current Foreign Secretary. He is seen as a favorite among MPs, he has a more moderate approach. But they won't be the only two. It's expected to be a crowded race with anything from 10 to 15 or even more candidates coming forward.

There's really two types of candidates emerging, the more hardline Brexiteers like Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Andrea Leadsom, those who are trying to turn their back on the E.U. and potentially pursue a no deal scenario.

The others are those who voted Remain and now carrying on with the business of Brexit, seen as more moderate like Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid and others, who may try to bridge the divide in Parliament and reach back out to Brussels.

The contest is expected to result in a new prime minister by the end of July but those factors, obstacles that caused Theresa May to fail are still very much in place and will be also challenging her successor. Parliament is still in deadlock, no consensus.

The European Union says will not spend time renegotiating what they've already been negotiating for 2.5 years. So when the new prime minister comes in, the next critical date will be October 31st, when U.K. officially leaves the E.U., meaning the prime minister has only three months to accomplish what prime minister Theresa May couldn't in three years -- Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.

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VANIER: It has been a deadly week on Mt. Everest in a deadlier than usual climbing season. Since Friday, three people have died trying to reach the summit to the world's tallest mountain. That brings the number of presumed dead to nine this year.

The latest casualty was a British mountaineer who died Saturday. On his last post to social media he warned that overcrowding at the summit could prove fatal. Those were his words.

That traffic jam earlier this week may have contributed to two deaths. Nepal's tourism director calls that claim baseless and blames altitude sickness. Alan Arnette has climbed Mt. Everest four times. He has a lot of experience with the death zone, the part of the mountain where oxygen is dangerously low.

Earlier he told CNN's Martin Savidge his thoughts on how high traffic in that death zone might relate to the recent deaths.

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ALAN ARNETTE, MOUNTAIN CLIMBER: There's a confluence of factors that have all come together this year with the perfect deadly storm on Everest. It starts with Nepal issued a record number of permits to foreigners of 381 permits, plus they require a Sherpa guide for each foreigner. That means there's 800 people just on the Nepal side.

The second thing is that normally the jet stream sits on top of the summit of Mount Everest for 50 out of the 52 weeks each year. Then it moves off amazingly in the middle of May and opens up what's called the weather windows or summit windows. Last year, there were 11 consecutive days, the longest on record.

Normally, it's around --

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ARNETTE: -- five to seven to eight days. This year, it's been only five. So you have 800 people trying to squeeze through a very small window.

On Everest, at 8,000 meters, almost 29,000 feet, your body is slowly degrading. It's called the death zone for a reason. Our bodies slowly die at those altitudes.

If you spend 10, 12, 14 hours just trying to go to the summit, typically, you don't take enough supplemental oxygen for that. And then you've got half that amount of time, maybe six or seven hours, to get back down at that pace. So you're talking about a 20-hour day above 26,000 feet and that's a recipe for disaster.

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VANIER: In Hawaii, a woman who disappeared after going hiking two weeks ago has been found alive. Amanda Eller is speaking out about her terrifying experience, thanking all the people who searched and prayed for her.

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ELLER: There were times of total fear and loss and wanting to give up and it did come down to life and death and I had to choose. And I chose life. I wasn't going to take the easy way out even though that meant more suffering and pain for myself.

But this is just like a tiny little blip of my story. Just seeing the power of prayer and the power of love, when everybody combines their efforts, is incredible. It can move mountains. And at some point, I think we all thought that was lost in the world. And it's beautiful to know that it's not only lost but it's just -- it's so prevalent.

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VANIER: We're also hearing from the man who led the rescue operation. You're going to want to hear this. He was ecstatic. He described to CNN how they managed to find Amanda.

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JAVIER CANTELLOPS, LOCAL RESCUER OF AMANDER ELLER: We were coming up one of the waterfalls, coming up (INAUDIBLE), coming up under the waterfall then looked to our right. And just like out of a movie, out of the woodwork, Amanda is coming out, (INAUDIBLE). Unbelievable.

As soon as we broke through the forest and up in the brush, and we gave each other hugs, I was like, I've been searching for you for 16 days. I said, the whole world has been watching.

And she's like, "What?"

I was like, yes, the entire world.

Something inside me, this whole trip, I was like, I'm going to find Amanda. There was definitely doubt. I had a moment of doubt early on that we were going to find her alive. And then that all just changed.

I was like, no. The only reason that we have not found her is that she's still walking, she's farther east than we think, we need to keep searching. So I had my speculation days. I just stayed (INAUDIBLE). I stayed to the facts and we just kept searching. We never gave up.

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VANIER: A great story to end on today.

Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. I'll be back with the headlines in a moment as always.

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