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CNN RIGHT NOW
Vice President Pence Honors Fallen Service Members; GOP Lawmaker Rips Trump for Hitting Biden, Praising Dictator; Everest Climber Warned of Overcrowding before Dying; Shark Kills Swimmer off Maui Coast; Hiker Found Alive after 17 Days. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired May 27, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in for Brianna Keilar.
He's a murderous dictator with a nuclear arsenal. Yet North Korea's Kim Jong-un is getting praise from President Trump for insulting Joe Biden.
Chaos at top of the world's tallest mountain. More climbers dying on Everest as crowds build up with nowhere to go.
Plus the official search for her ended but, 17 days later, a missing hiker is found alive. You will hear from her about how she survived.
And he escaped prison before, more than once. Now officials are worried El Chapo may do it again if his new request is granted.
Up first, honoring the service and sacrifice of America's fallen. People across the country are pausing on this Memorial Day to pay tribute to those who paid the ultimate price. On the hallowed ground of Arlington National Cemetery, family members are leaving messages and mementos on the graves of their loved ones.
In the solemn stillness, tears, hugs and moments of reflection, vice president Mike Pence placed a wreath at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In his remarks, he shared the stories of three service members who died fighting for this country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can never repay the debt of gratitude that we owe to the men and women who have given their all to preserve our freedom. But we can honor them, remember them and cherish their families.
And this we will do, not just this day but every day. And so long as our nation continues to produce men and women of such selfless courage and patriotism, I know that that freedom will ring for ourselves and our posterity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Now the vice president also mentioned the effort by President Trump to bring back the remains of Americans killed during the Korean War.
From somber reflections here in the United States to stunning comments by President Trump overseas, this is all on his state visit to Japan, the president downplaying completely recent missile tests by North Korea; that puts him at odds with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe (sic).
The president also sided with North Korea's dictator Kim Jong-un after he criticized former vice president Biden as, quote, "a low IQ individual." White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins is traveling with the president in Tokyo.
Good to have you. It's 2:00 am there and the president was tweeting just a little while ago. And let's start with his reaction on the ground to the North Korean missile tests.
What does the president say and how does it compare with the assessment of his own national security adviser, not to mention his host, Shinzo Abe (sic)?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, Poppy. The president says he does not think that the latest weapons tests from North Korea were ballistic missiles nor does he think that they violated the U.N. resolutions.
That directly contradicts what the president's national security adviser John Bolton told reporters here in Tokyo days ago when he said that no doubts that the missiles testing in North Korea violated the U.N. resolutions.
Not the only person the president was at odds with. Prime minister Shinzo Abe (sic) was just feet away when he said that, and Abe thinks it's a sheer violation of the U.N. resolutions.
Despite the days of pageantry, sumo wrestling, rounds of golf, the red carpet rolled out for President Trump, this press conference revealed there's still a sharp divide between these two leaders and their assessment North Korea.
HARLOW: There really is a critical divide on that. Kaitlan Collins, thank you very much.
The Republican response to President Trump's trip to Japan has been pretty much muted with one notable exception though. Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger, a veteran and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, tweeted, quote, "It's Memorial Day weekend and you're taking a shot at Biden while praising a dictator. This is just plain wrong."
Joining me now is CNN political commentator Charlie Dent, a former Republican congressman of Pennsylvania, and Anita Kumar, White House correspondent and associate editor for "Politico." Good morning to you both. Thanks for being here.
Congressman, let me begin with this. Adam Kinzinger said on Memorial Day weekend, you're doing this, et cetera.
What do you think is at the heart of the president's praise of Kim Jong-un there and even aligning with him on Joe Biden?
CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Congressman Kinzinger is absolutely right that President Trump is shattering norms, traditions --
DENT: -- and conventions. It's simply reprehensible that the president would side with Kim Jong-un in condemning, you know, the former vice President of the United States. We used to always have that statement about, you know, the politics ends at the water's edge.
This has been shattered. It's inexplicable why President Trump would side with this dictator. At times he engages in this moral equivalence and looks at Kim Jong-un and Justin Trudeau on the same moral plain, Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin on the same moral plain.
I guess it speaks to the very transactional nature of this president and his completely unconventional and disruptive take on foreign policy. It's simply wrong-headed and there's no excuse for it.
HARLOW: It's confounding, as you mentioned, to do on an overseas trip like this. But I guess I just wonder, to what end. Like what is his goal here in saying, oh, yes, basically, by the way, Kim Jong-un is right about the IQ level of the former vice president, who might be my opponent in a general election.
ANITA KUMAR, "POLITICO": Well, I mean, obviously the president hasn't shied away from singling out Joe Biden since he got into the race. It's not terribly surprising that he did it on foreign soil.
On North Korea, remember, President Trump has a lot investigated in his negotiations with Kim Jong-un, two summits, hinted at a third. He's running for reelection on his record and he likes to say at his rallies and to various crowds that he's helped denuclearize North Korea and so he's very invested in that happening, so I think he wants to just, you know, keep on that and can convince people that that's the case.
Now we know --
HARLOW: Except he hasn't done it. The fact that they don't support that.
KUMAR: And recently the talks have broken down in recent months but if you go to a Trump rally or hear him talk on the campaign trail, he still talks about this as one of his talking points. HARLOW: Congressman, Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he's supportive of the troop increase in the Middle East and he's also calling for the U.S. to increase the threat of military force against North Korea. Let's listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I don't think it's remotely possible that Chairman Kim will give up his nuclear weapons until he feels the threat to do so. I'm glad the president is engaging him. All those before Trump failed on their watch and President Trump has finally got Kim Jong-un's attention.
But I'm not naive about this. I think they are trying to run out the clock on President Trump. The only way Kim will give up his nuclear weapons, if he believes he's better off without them and you have to make the threat of military force if he continues to develop missiles and bombs directed at America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: It's not just that. He made waves this weekend, saying if the Venezuela military, backed by Cuba, continues to back the president, Nicolas Maduro, the U.S. should invade Venezuela. He equated it to President Reagan and Grenada.
Just saber rattling or someone who really has the ear of the president on this stuff?
DENT: I suspect Senator Graham does have the ear of the president. But I would caution very much against any type of conventional action on the Korean Peninsula, given the tens of thousands of artillery aimed at South Korea. We would win the war but it would be a horrible price to pay.
So I would totally oppose any conventional action in the Korean Peninsula.
On Venezuela, I can't imagine there would be a good reason for us to send troops into Venezuela. I think most of our friends and allies in the region would also discourage us from doing anything likes.
Of course, we all want to see the Maduro regime gone but this will have to be done diplomatically, and if there is military force to be used, I would suspect it would have to be done by those countries in the region, perhaps with our support. But I don't think it would be a smart idea for us to send in ground troops in to Venezuela under any circumstance.
HARLOW: Another headline that caught our attention over the weekend, Senator Amy Klobuchar, senator from Minnesota, invoking her friend, the late senator John McCain. She's running for the Democratic nomination. Listen to what she said. This was during a campaign stop in Iowa and it's about what she says Senator McCain said to her quietly during the president's inauguration. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: John McCain kept reciting to me names of dictators during that speech because he knew more than many 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Why do you think she told --
HARLOW: -- that story and told them in Iowa?
Is it to remind people, I worked across the aisle, you know. I was close to Senator McCain?
KUMAR: I do think it's part of that and I think Senator Klobuchar has mentioned Senator McCain and her friendship with him on the campaign trail. But it's also, as President Trump is in Japan, he hadn't probably uttered the words that we were talking about today.
But he had sent a tweet that was very similar and, you know, he's talked about North Korea a lot. I mean, it's not -- it is not new this weekend that Democrats and some Republicans, including Senator McCain, have been very concerned about President Trump being too close to the leaders in Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, has talked about Iran.
So I think she's just trying to remind people of that and that he can't be trusted to deal with these foreign issues.
HARLOW: Thank you both for being here, especially on the holiday, Anita Kumar, former congressman Charlie Dent, good to have you both.
So if you've not seen these pix yet, that is a literal human traffic jam in what's called the death zone, part of Mt. Everest. What a climber warned just before his own death at the summit.
Plus, mocks (ph), berries and waterfalls, the amazing survival story of a missing hiker that officials stopped looking for and then found.
And a judge is punished for his criticism of President Trump. What he said that ended in suspension.
HARLOW: Another climber has died on Mt. Everest, bringing the death toll so far this year to 10. The flood of climbers creates gridlock on a crucial mountain pass.
The family of an Austrian climber just confirmed that he died on Thursday. The latest death happened over the weekend. A British climber there lost his life in the so-called death zone, where low oxygen and fatigue can pose a serious threat.
One mountain guide says difficult weather conditions, a lack of experience is all contributing to this traffic jam in that zone.
Our senior international correspondent Arwa Damon is on the ground in Kathmandu, Nepal.
And what can you tell us about what you're hearing there?
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, when you look at those images, it's really quite striking, that massive line of people, this backlog as climbers are trying to reach the summit of Mt. Everest.
And what is really striking about it is that that mass of people is in what's known as the death zone and it's called that because the oxygen levels there are just a third of what you find at sea level.
And it does seem as if some climbers were anxious about this wait that was about 2-3 hours -- in fact, one British climber, Robin Haynes Fisher, who died as he was coming down, had posted to his Instagram account, saying, with a single route to the summit, delays caused by overcrowding could prove fatal.
So he had decided to wait a few days, hoping that there would be fewer people. But still he succumbed to what is believed to be altitude sickness. And that is actually what caused most of the fatalities this year.
The Nepalese government is saying that to say that this was because of the backlog is baseless. But mountaineering experts that we've been talking to are saying it could be one of the key factors and that the Nepalese government needs to do more.
This year they issued a record number of permits and there's also concerns about the experience level of climbers that are going up and about how commercial this entire expedition has become.
And one mountaineer, Poppy, we were talking to, who is very experienced, was saying, unless something is done, that every year is going to prove to be even deadlier for those attempting to reach the world's highest summit.
HARLOW: With me now from Everest base camp is Adrian Ballinger, he has done eight Everest summits and this is his 12th season on the mountain. He also runs his own expedition company.
Adrian, thanks for being with me. I wish it were under better circumstances but let's just talk about the why here. Those images, they are so striking. Why is this happening? ADRIAN BALLINGER, MOUNTAINEER: You know, I really think it's, of course, because of increased popularity in Mt. Everest, this ultimate challenge where people push themselves against the mountain.
It's really exciting and more and more people want to do it every year. The problem that I see is a lower and lower level of experience, of the climbers trying to come here and also of the companies that are trying to offer services on the mountain.
And that lack of experience with both the commercial operators and the climbers themselves is causing these images that we see, where people make bad decisions and get themselves in trouble up high and we end up having unnecessary fatalities.
HARLOW: The area where this -- what is a human traffic jam is located is called the death zone.
Can you talk about conditions there because you're already dealing with one-third of the --
HARLOW: -- oxygen that you would get at sea level.
BALLINGER: That's right. We call any part of the mountain above 26,000 feet, we call the death zone. And that's because humans aren't meant to exist there. So even when using bottled oxygen and supplemental oxygen, there's only a certain number of hours that we can actually survive up there before our bodies start to shut down.
And so that means if you get caught in a traffic jam above 26,000 feet and you can't get to more oxygen or can't get down to thicker air, the consequences can be really severe, obviously, ultimately, death.
HARLOW: Adrian, how did this happen, because there is communication from that so-called death zone down to base camp, et cetera?
HARLOW: I don't understand how we got to a point where so many more people were allowed to go up or the green light was given that, you can climb now, knowing there's a traffic jam.
Or is there no kind of authority that says you can or can't go now?
BALLINGER: That is one of the big problems. The two governments that run the mountain, Nepal and China, they really aren't regulating the industry at all and it just keeps on growing.
This year, the reason why such a spotlight was shined on the problem was this year there were only three or four days when the wind was low enough to allow people to climb. So all the teams rushed and everyone went at the same time. And no one was willing to give up their summit on the 23rd of May.
So even common sense told you, you couldn't summit, the crowds were too great, people tried anyway.
HARLOW: So you say not only do you believe these deaths were preventable but you believe that they will continue.
What is the one thing that could be done to make sure that they don't continue?
BALLINGER: You know, we desperately need -- and this is funny to say as an operator myself -- but we desperately need government regulation of commercial operators on the mountain.
We need to require certain levels of experience and safety measures, things like communication and oxygen supplies. And if a company can't provide those things, they can't operate on the mountain.
HARLOW: Adrian Ballinger, thank you so much. You have a view on this like almost no one else because you're there and we appreciate it. I'm so sorry again that we've had to see these deaths. Thank you, Adrian.
BALLINGER: Absolutely. Thank you so much.
HARLOW: Pretty remarkable to hear from him right there at the base camp.
Ahead for us, a hiker lost for 17 days. She is found after officials call off the search. Her amazing story of survival is next.
Plus, get this: drug kingpin El Chapo says he is suffering cruel and unusual punishment I prison. Why feds say he could be trying to plot another escape.
HARLOW: All right. So for the first time in almost four years, a shark has attacked and killed a swimmer off the coast of Maui. That swimmer is a 65-year-old tourist from California. Our Paul Vercammen is covering the story there.
First shark death there in four years.
PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just absolutely stunning because this happened only 60 yards right off a very popular beach. Witnesses saw the whole thing unfurl right in front of their eyes, just a horrifying scene there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALLISON KELLER, WITNESS: They pulled the man up. He looked unconscious when they transferred him to the other gurney and -- and we could see that they were trying to do CPR on him.
But as we got closer I saw some blood on his stomach and then I got looking a little bit more and his wrist, it looked like the skin on his wrist was just torn off. And then I got looking closer and his entire left leg from his knee down was just missing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VERCAMMEN: And according to that witness, unfortunately, the man's wife was also in the area. He has been identified by a close friend as Tom Smiley, an optometrist from Northern California. The friend also telling me that the wife had relayed to him that he was just taking one last swim in those Maui waters before returning to California -- Poppy.
HARLOW: What a horrible story. Paul, thanks for the update.
Also from Hawaii, an amazing story, this one of survival. Amanda Eller is now out of the hospital this morning after she got lost for 17 days when she was hiking in the forest there.
Eller said she picked berries and guava to eat. She only drank water that she saw in a stream that she thought was clear enough that it wouldn't make her sick. She suffered a fractured leg and severe sunburn.
A search crew in a rented helicopter funded from a GoFundMe page spotted Eller and rescued her. She said she almost gave up multiple times and she thanked those who helped in the search.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANDA ELLER, HIKER: Seeing that the way that the community of Maui came together, 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, it just warms my heart.