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VP Pence Leads Tribute To War Dead on Memorial Day; President Trump In Japan; Two More Deaths On Mount Everest. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired May 27, 2019 - 14:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, there. I'm Brooke Baldwin and welcome to a special holiday edition of CNN NEWSROOM.

Today on Memorial Day, the nation pauses to remember those who gave the best of themselves during some of the most challenging times in U.S. history. The nation is paying tribute to more than 1.2 million Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice, who have died in nervous since the Civil War. And with President Trump overseas, the Vice President was the one to lay the wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier under watch by volunteer sentinels 24 hours a day, every single day.

And we will take you back to this hallowed ground that is Arlington National Cemetery in just a little bit with our correspondent Barbara Starr.

But thousands of miles away, in Japan, President Trump is once again showing praise for a dictator and once again dismissing the views of not only his top aides, but also U.S. allies. At the center of this latest controversy, Kim Jong-un.

Remember how last fall, Trump claimed the two men -- his words, "fell in love" after the North Korean leader sent him quote, "beautiful letters." Well, today the President signaled that that bond appears to be stronger than ever.

At a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump doubled down on a weekend tweet where he said that he was confident that Kim would keep his promise not to test ballistic missiles despite two launches earlier this month.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: My people think it could have been a violation, as you know. I view it differently. I view it as a man, perhaps he wants to get attention and perhaps not -- who knows. I am very happy with the way it's going. And intelligent people agree with me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're not bothered at all by the small missiles?

TRUMP: No I'm not. I am personally not.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: And the President wasn't finished. He also dug in on his

claim that Kim Jong-un insulted Joe Biden's intelligence.


TRUMP: Kim Jong-un made a statement that Joe Biden is a low IQ individual. He probably is, based on his record. I think I agree with him on that.


BALDWIN: CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins is there for us in Tokyo. And on the Biden insult, I mean, do we even know where that conversation would have taken place? I mean they were in Hanoi together but that was months before Biden even jumped in?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right, and that's something that's come out of the North Korean media recently, where -- essentially, they were echoing criticisms that the President himself has made about Joe Biden, a potential 2020 Democratic rival that we've reported at length, is someone who is certainly taking up the most of the President's headspace.

And the President was given an opportunity to back off his endorsement of that criticism from the North Korean dictator of Joe Biden, but instead he said he actually agrees with his assessment.

And Brooke, he doubled down on what he had said on Twitter just the day before. A comment that sparked controversy and rebuke, from not only Democrats and critics of the President, but also some Republicans as well, who said the President should not be criticizing a former Vice President while overseas and especially not in this situation where he is siding with the North Korean dictator over that.

But instead, when the President was asked today about that appearance of siding with this brutal dictator over someone who has been the Vice President and is potentially his 2020 rival, the President did not back off of it instead doubled down and said he did agree with what Kim Jong-un said about Joe Biden.

BALDWIN: All right, Kaitlan Collins, thank you very much. In Tokyo, Joseph Yun is a former U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy for President Obama and a CNN global affairs analyst. So Joe Yun, welcome back, sir. Nice to have you on.

So it's two days after his National Security adviser, Bolton says that there is, his words, "No doubt that North Korea violated the U.N. Security Council resolution with the missile tests."

[14:05:07] BALDWIN: President Trump tells the world that he sees it differently that perhaps Kim maybe wants attention and he talks about believing Kim will actually keep his promises. Do you think that for President Trump, this is more about this personal connection with this North Korean dictator and not policy?

JOSEPH YUN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I think President Trump regards North Korea, of course, as his signature issue. And he's not going to admit that the fundamental cause of this problem with North Korea is their nuclear weapons.

So he's not going to admit that there has been no progress towards getting rid of North Korean weapons. Brooke, we must remember that the electoral cycle is now with us in the United States. I do believe President Trump wants to keep this going, at least until November, despite the lack of progress in North Korea.

BALDWIN: Because, to your point, about politics being injected in all of this, what would happen? Do you think if President Trump acknowledged that what Chairman Kim did was wrong and in violation? What would be the follow up from that?

YUN: The follow up would be that, clearly North Korea has violated a number of U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban ballistic missile tests. And John Bolton is completely right -- these are war ballistic missile tests.

But President Trump wants to say, it really doesn't matter to him. Because what North Korea or what Kim Jong-un has promised to President Trump is that there will be no long-range ballistic missile tests.

Now, you know, this is now -- we're getting into an octane area, because what North Korea did with their missile tests -- and their ballistic missile test was a clear violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, as pointed out by our Prime Minister Abe at the same press conference that we just saw.

BALDWIN: And what do you make of that -- standing there in region?

YUN: Yes. I mean, this is devastating for Prime Minister Abe. That because even with short-range missile tests, they are very big threats to Japan. And for President Trump, to go into Tokyo, to say that he's not bothered -- when our allies, perhaps the closest ally we have in all over the world has to say about their own security. I believe is at best insensitive and it is bit tone deaf.

BALDWIN: So that's Prime Minister Abe. What about if you are Ambassador Bolton or even, you know, his foreign counterpart? How do you take him seriously when his boss is publicly undermining him?

YUN: This is tremendous problem not only for Bolton and but for the U.S. Foreign Policy Administration. Whether you are Mike Pompeo, or my successor in State Department, Steve Biegun, this is a huge problem that you have, your boss -- your big boss undermining you every step of the way.

And I think, this really speaks to the management of foreign policy issues in our own government. And we've seen this time and again ...

BALDWIN: We have.

YUN: ... the dispute between John Bolton and President Trump, whether it be Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, that whatever Bolton says -- the next day, the President weighs in, and Bolton has no choice but to back down as if nothing has happened. And therein lies credibility issues of our foreign policy.

BALDWIN: And we've seen time and time again, what happens when someone speaks up and disagrees with the President even if he is on the side of right. Joseph Yun, you are excellent on all of this. It's great to see you. Thank you very much for your perspective, of course.

President Trump's latest display of affection for a strong man isn't going over well with two Republicans who are also military veterans. Iowa's Senator Joni Ernst, who commanded the States National Guard in Iraq says, she wouldn't trust Kim Jong-un.

There was also Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger, a member of the Air National Guard who did tours both in Iraq and Afghanistan. Kinzinger tweeted the following, in response to Trump's confidence in Kim Jong-un and his jab at Joe Biden quote, "It's Memorial Day weekend, and you're taking a shot at Biden, while praising a dictator. This is just plain wrong."

CNN national politics reporter, Maeve Reston is with me now. And when you see that, "just plain wrong. I wouldn't trust Kim Jong-un."

[14:10:07] BALDWIN: You know, we hear a lot of words from Republican lawmakers but do we expect any concrete action?

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, that's always the open question, right, Brooke? But I mean, certainly, when you have someone like Joni Ernst, who President Trump considered as his V.P., let's remember calling him out on this, that that is -- should be sort of a wake-up call for him.

It's so counter to everything, every tradition in American foreign policy that you don't go overseas, first of all, and say critical things of your potential opponents. But also it gets into this whole psychology that's so confounding about President Trump that he's constantly praising these strongmen and dictators.

It brings to mind, obviously, the fact that he said that he believed Vladimir Putin about election interference. You know, over his -- over our own people here in America, our own Intelligence officials. And I think that, you know, what these Republican lawmakers are trying to say is, this is not the way that you lead and bring the world along on these issues.

And it also underscores the point that the thing that's most important to President Trump is his personal relationships with people like Chairman Kim. And the fact that that's more important to him, than the potential threats against Japan or the United States in some cases.

BALDWIN: So some Republicans are speaking out about it. On the other side of the aisle, you had Democratic 2020 hopeful and Senator Amy Klobuchar -- she's also weighing in on this, invoking words spoken by the late Senator John McCain. Listen to what she said.


reciting the names of dictators during that speech because he knew more than any of us what we were facing as a nation, he understood it. He knew, because he knew this man more than any of us did.


BALDWIN: This is what she was saying, as they were all sitting there for the Trump inauguration. And my question, when I first heard her say this, Maeve, was how did how did Senator McCain know?

RESTON: He -- I mean, obviously, I covered his campaigns and his foreign policy was so diametrically different than President Trump. You know, he had gone all over the world and met with, you know, all of these different people who were concerned about Trump's approach toward foreign policy and kind of not knowing how he was going to act.

And the fact that Amy Klobuchar is telling the story is really telling about what her campaign has promised on, which is, there is another way to lead this sort of centrist path -- that she and Joe Biden and others will take.

You know, saying that this is not appropriate behavior for a Commander-in-Chief, and that Americans have a choice in this upcoming election. And it was just so interesting that she would invoke McCain in that moment -- a kind of fascinating thing that he was doing during the inauguration. But he just had an eye for these things. He knew where this was going -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Apparently he did. Maeve Reston, thank you so much.

RESTON: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Breaking News now, we are getting word that another person has died on Everest and an American climber is getting stuck in these traffic jams on the top of the mountain as this window of weather is closing. We are going to talk to someone who has summited Everest several times about what is going on. You're watching CNN on this Memorial Day, Monday. I'm Brooke Baldwin and we will be right back.


[14:18:32] BALDWIN: Welcome back you're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Just in -- we are learning of two more deaths on Mount Everest, including another American, just this morning, bringing the total to 11 deaths this climbing season. And now, there's this renewed focus on a man-made problem, a climber say is exacerbating the danger of Everest -- overcrowding.

A climber took this photo, just five days ago, estimating 320 people were in line just to reach the summit. And one of those climbers, a British man posted this days before his death from altitude sickness, while coming down the mountain. He said quote, "With a single route to the summit, delays caused by overcrowding could prove fatal so I am hopeful my decision to go for the 25th will mean fewer people. Unless of course everyone else plays the same waiting game." Alan Arnette has climbed Mount Everest four times, the latest in 2011.

Alan, a pleasure to speak with you but -- I mean, all these deaths, why do you think this is happening? Is it is it too many people in too few windows of weather?

ALAN ARNETTE, CLIMBED MOUNT EVEREST 4 TIMES: Yes, well, good to be with you, Brooke, thanks for having me. You know, it's a complicated situation. There's really three factors going on. One, is the limited number of suitable summit days. The second, is a record number of people on the Nepal side. And the third, has to do with the experience of both the guides as well as the climbers.

BALDWIN: I mean, there's been a log jam up there for a long, long time. But what do you think -- is it the fact that it's more inexperienced people trying to have a go at it?

[14:20:06] BALDWIN: I mean, what's the overriding reason why this is happening and how can it change?

ARNETTE: So, there were -- so far this year and basically, today and tomorrow are the last days of the spring season. There's been 11 people, as you said in the introduction that have died. Of the 11, my estimation is that four of the 11 were somehow or another are impacted by the crowds.

So, this year was not unheard of, but an unusual year, and that the jet stream, you know, the high winds above 120 miles an hour in the atmosphere. They usually sit on top of Everest for all-year long, but they move away due to typhoons and low pressure systems building up around the middle of May. And last year, there was a record 11 days of consecutive summits. And that allowed for -- to date, a record number of people to summit with five deaths. And that's about the normal we've seen over the last 20 years on Everest.

BALDWIN: Can you --

ARNETTE: This year there were only five days that were available for summiting, where the winds were under 30 miles an hour. So what you had was -- Nepal issuing a record, 381 permits to foreigners, and they required each foreigner hire a Sherpa guide.

BALDWIN: A Sherpa.

ARNETTE: So you have almost 800 people going up there in a very limited amount of time.

BALDWIN: I want to ask you about what it's like up there. But I'm going to play some sound. This is from the British climber who died.


ROBIN FISHER, BRITISH MOUNTAINEER WHO DIED IN MOUNT EVEREST: Here we are, still on this lots-y phase. You see Camp 2 in the background. Moving tight to my camera. We're dropping here. I'm going to slow down. It's a long way -- as we see blue ice here.


BALDWIN: You can hear his labored breathing. He was an experienced mountaineer. I've only been to the top of Kilimanjaro, and that was just shy of 20,000 feet. And I remember you take five to six days to get up there, and you're up there for maybe two minutes. And then it's back down. I mean, can you talk about what it's like? How thin the air is and how it's also not only difficult, and the log jam getting up, but also getting back down?

ARNETTE: Yes, it's like breathing through a straw. You have a third of the available oxygen in the summit of Everest than you do a sea level. And even though you may be using supplemental oxygen, that only makes a difference of about 3,000 feet, you take one step and you stop, you take maybe 5 to 10 breaths and then another step.

It is the slow motion ballet going up and down the mountain. And if you have people in front of you, that slows you up like they did on May 23rd and that picture that you showed. Then you may be waiting two or three hours while you're doing that, you're using up your precious oxygen.

You know, it's called the death zone because your body is slowly degrading. So the longer you to stay above 8,000 meters, 26,000 feet, the more your body just gives out. And you could hear it in his voice. You can hear it in his breathing that he's just at the edge of exhaustion. And if you do this for a 20-hour day, sometimes the consequences are deadly.

BALDWIN: Quickly, Alan, because of your point of inexperienced climbers, do you think there should be a qualification? Like, people have to qualify to run the Boston Marathon, should people have to qualify that to climb Everest?

ARNETTE: A hundred percent, absolutely.


ARNETTE: I firmly believe that there should be a requirement that you should have tried to summit an 8,000 meter mountain prior, have reached 8,000 meters before you're able to be issued a permit to climb Everest.

BALDWIN: All right. Alan Arnette, thank you so much for coming on. Nice to see you.

ARNETTE: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you. Ahead here, a man who just celebrated retirement, killed by a shark in one of Hawaii's most popular beaches. Plus, moths and berries, and waterfalls -- the amazing survival story of a missing hiker who officials had actually stopped looking for. We'll be right back.


[14:28:19] BALDWIN: On this Memorial Day, President Trump and First Lady Melania will cap off their state visited in Japan by visiting troops stationed aboard the USS Wasp. Back here at home Vice President Pence later wreathed the tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. And that is where we find CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr who is there each and every year.

It is just such a poignant television to talk to you every Memorial Day, Monday and all of the families you speak with. Tell me about some of the stories you've heard.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've been here since early morning. I have to tell you that after he gave his formal remarks -- his speech, Vice President Pence was here in the blistering sun for over an hour, walking up and down, talking to families, talking to people who had come here to pay their respects, listening to their stories.

Earlier in the day, we got a chance to talk to two Gold Star mothers, women with an extraordinary bond. Lisa, lost her son Lawrence on May 8, 2005. Beth, lost her son Nicholas, May 8, 2005. Both young men laid to rest right next to each other here and their mothers forming an extraordinary relationship.


BETH BELLE, GOLD STAR MOTHER: When I see the pictures of Larry's burial, I see the flowers that were left the day before when we buried our son. So we reached out to each other and got to know each other right away.


BELLE: And we're soul sisters, that's what we've said about each other. We dearly love each other.

PHILIPPON: That is Larry's Arlington mother because we live from afar and when she comes, she always gives him a hug for me.