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Climber: I Saw Death, Carnage & Chaos on Mount Everest; Biden Returns to Campaign Trail Today After 10 Days; Dallas County, Iowa, Democratic Party Chair Gives Review on Biden, Democrat Race in Key State of Iowa; Supreme Court Upholds Filing Blocking Indiana Abortion Restrictions. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired May 28, 2019 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Before the break, we were telling you about the 11th death on Mount Everest in just over a week and the traffic jams that climbers are encountering up there right now.

Canadian filmmaker, Elia Saikaly, has just completed his third climb to the summit and he is joining me now from Katmandu.

Elia, you just made this trek. You posted on Instagram that you couldn't believe what you saw up there this time. What was it like?

ELIA SAIKALY, FILMMAKER, MOUNTAIN CLIMBER: You know, having been there a number of times --this is my 8th expedition, and third time standing on the summit -- I had the, you know, incredible privilege and pleasure of standing up there when there was virtually no one there.

So this time around, when we left Camp Three, and we were on our way to Camp Four, the final camp, you know, the first sign of an alarm was that there were, you know, 50 to 60 people heading up towards Camp Four.

When we left on our summit night, on the 22nd of May, there were literally over 200 climbers heading to the summit, and you know, the only question you're asking yourself is, how on earth are we all going to get up there and get back down safely.

BOLDUAN: What did you see? When you wrote, "death, carnage, chaos," up there, I mean, that sounds horrible. And you're also talking about the most, you know, horrific conditions anyway, climbing Mount Everest, what did you see?

SAIKALY: Yes, I mean, you know, you're at 8,000 meters above sea level, so as human beings, we're all transient up there. And you know, your body is already literally starting to die up there.

And you know, 20 minutes after exiting Camp Four, you know, you're climbing, you got a head lamp on your head, oxygen mask on your face, and the first thing I saw was a climber being carried down by two Sherpas. And at first, it's quite confusing, because it's dark. And I realize this person has lost their life. And you know, we're 20 minutes into the climb.

You know, 45 minutes into the climb, there was a climber being brought down that was delirious. We're caught in these cues. This person is obviously suffering from acute mountain sickness. Thank god that person had some Sherpa support that was bringing them down.

And you know, the piece that was, you know, the most alarming for me and the most devastating really was that, three hours into our climb, around midnight, you know, there was a climber who had taken a fall and had lost their life. And you know, that climber was fixed to the safety lines and so every single person that was heading to the summit had to actually, you know, step over that lifeless body.

And, I mean, who has the tools to deal with something like that. It was absolutely devastating.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And I mean, as you said, this is not your first time, your first experience heading up Everest. You're now questioning whether or not you'll ever go at it again. Why is that?

SAIKALY: For the risk. You know, there's just way too many people on the mountain. And, you know, when you're seeing a loss of life like that, and seeing so many inexperienced climbers, that, you know, they're not well trained, they don't have the right, you know, logistical support or strategic support or Sherpa support or oxygen support.

You know, you get yourself up there, and you're worried about yourself and your own life. You're worried about your team members because their lives are at risk as well, and the larger community. You're worried about everyone whose everyone who's on the mountain.

And what we saw this year is upwards of 10 people. And, unfortunately, the numbers are likely going to rise. You have to ask yourself, how bad is this going to get in the future, with so many people going up there, should a storm come in and take out dozens of climbers.

You have to ask yourself, why are we all coming up here, and is it worth it. And what can we do to fix the problem, I think, is the most important question.

BOLDUAN: I think that's a very important question. You have the senior Nepalese tourism official saying Nepal is looking at changing requirements for issuing Everest permits. Do you think that is the right move?

SAIKALY: I think definitely limiting the number of permits. You know, we're seeing this happen in China on the Tibetan side of mountain. You know, there are a certain number of permits that are issued every year. So I think that's going to help.

I think the bigger issues here, are climbers educating themselves, make sure they show up prepared, fit, and make the responsible and ethical decision to choose the right company. Because What you're seeing is a lot of people trying to save many,

going with outfitters who don't have the experience, don't have the understanding what a foreign climber may need to reach the top of the world. I think that can easily be addressed.

And I hope the public educates themselves, should they have the dream of standing on top of the world, of making the right choice.

BOLDUAN: And folks have been so struck, and it's impossible to not be so struck to see the pictures of the absolute traffic jam on that razor's edge, going up to the summit.


BOLDUAN: What is it like to be caught in a traffic jam as you're summiting to the top of Everest?

[11:35:11] SAIKALY: You know, I wish I had that answer. And the reason I don't have that answer is because, you know, we had a very strong team. And we had a number of women on that team -- pardon me -- we had a number of women on that team that were incredibly strong, incredibly fit. We were all very well trained.

And we actually all had the ability to pass climbers, so we probably passed, you know, 40 to 60 climbers that night. And we were very well prepared and very well trained,.

But when you're actually caught in that line, and it's minus, you know, 30 degrees. And you know, you're at 8,700 meters above sea level and the person in front of you is exhausted and are potentially making mistakes, it's alarming. You've got a 12,000-foot drop to your left, and nobody wants to let you pass. You know, it's definitely alarming.

And you know, you need to be prepared in order to know exactly what to do in a situation like that. And sometimes, you know, you just really need to be a little bit aggressive and place your hand in front of that person who is taking their time because, you know, your life is on the line as well.

BOLDUAN: You've been up there when people have died in some of your previous climbs, and under, you know, various conditions. After you've experienced that as a climber and what folks are experiencing up there now in seeing these deaths, what is it that keeps you pushing forward?

SAIKALY: Well, I always say that I chase the stories, not the summits. I was a filmmaker documenting for Arab women from the middle eastern African region that were attempting to stand on top of the world to be the first in their countries.

So, for me, that's my motivation. I look for the why. I look for the fulfillment. I look for the projects that are going to impact people. And hopefully, in our case, these women will inspire an entire generation of women. And at the same time, we were promoting peace and tolerance, and inclusiveness and equality. So that's what drives me to be in those environments.

Everybody is driven for different reasons, though, but that's certainly where I find my inner strength and reason to continuously go back to the mountain.

BOLDUAN: Elia, thank you so much for your time.

We're showing viewers some of the pictures with the women that you made the climb up to the summit with. And I'm really looking forward to seeing your end product of your work. It's mind boggling that you not only can climb, but batteries, equipment, and filming all the way, I can only imagine the additional X factor that adds in, it blows my mind.

Thanks so much for spending the time.


BOLDUAN: I really appreciate it, no kidding, to say the least.

SAIKALY: You're very welcome. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Coming up for us, Joe Biden has held eleven campaign events in the first month of his 2020 campaign. Some of his opponents have held that many in the first 48 hours. Can the Democratic candidate keep up the momentum if he's largely off the trail?

We'll be back.


[11:42:32] BOLDUAN: The holiday weekend is over. Sorry, guys, to break the news to you. The 2020 race is heating up once again. The Democratic candidates are crisscrossing the early primary states as the race gets into high gear.

That includes Montana Governor Steve Bullock, who joined the race two weeks ago. Just last hour, he was holding a meet-and-greet with voters in Mason City, Iowa.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is back on the trail as well, employing a very different strategy than others in the race. He has held just 11 public events since launching his campaign a month ago.

Joining me right now is CNN political reporter, Arlette Saenz.

Arlette, you're in Houston, or will be today. What are you hearing? Why is Biden holding, relatively speaking, so few events?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Kate, Joe Biden is definitely running a frontrunner-style campaign. Part of his strategy is the fact that he is well known among voters across the country, so he doesn't need to spend as much time out on the trail as other Democratic candidates who are just starting to introduce themselves to voters. So you've really seen this lighter schedule.

As you mentioned, Biden has held only 11 public events since he entered the race, and that was over a three-week period of time. And that's fewer than his other Democratic contenders who are currently in the race.

So you've seen him focus a lot on big-dollar, high money fundraisers. He's held nine of those across the country since he entered the race, three last week alone when he had no public appearances.

But really over the next month, you're going to see Biden starting to focus on mapping out some policy. This week, here in Texas, he's going to be talking about education as he participates in a town hall with a teachers union. His wife, Jill Biden, who is a community college professor, will also be here for that event.

Then, going forward, expect to hear more about policy from the former vice president. He had promised a major climate change speech by the end of the month. So far, his team hasn't offered any guidance about whether or not that's actually going to happen before the end of May. But going forward, he will be providing some policy.

Biden has also really avoided getting into these interparty debates within the Democratic Party, keeping his focus squarely on President Trump. That's something to expect to see him doing going forward, especially as he gets closer to the first debate.

BOLDUAN: Yes, absolutely.

Great to see you. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Let's get the view from the ground in the key early state of Iowa. Joining me right now is Bryce Smith, the chairman of the Dallas County, Iowa, Democratic Party.

Bryce, thanks for being here.


[11:45:06] BOLDUAN: Of course.

You're hearing from Arlette, that Biden's campaign, they're running a frontrunner-style strategy. His campaign has argued that he doesn't need to introduce or reintroduce himself like the other Democratic hopefuls do in this early stage, hence, the fewer events, fewer public events. Do you think they're right?

SMITH: I think it kind of can go both ways. I think Joe Biden has been in the spotlight essentially since being vice president but also before that, so that his name is there. But voters here in caucus goers in Iowa and particularly Dallas County are really trying to meet these candidates, one to one, meeting them in smaller settings, not just at the big rallies. So it can kind of swing both ways.

BOLDUAN: You have had the chance to meet some of the Democrats running so far. Have you had a chance to meet Biden yet? Have you heard from his campaign?

SMITH: I have heard from his campaign. I have not personally met him yet. It's still fairly early for him getting into the race. And being close to Polk County, which is Des Moines, that's usually the first stop for a lot of the candidates. And then they start to come across the state. So I would imagine it won't be long until Joe Biden comes to Dallas County.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about the issues in the race, because you told the "New York Times" something that I thought was fascinating and important. You said that "The generational divide would be the biggest division in my eyes" -- your eyes -- "leading into the caucus and primary season."

Why is that, Bryce?

SMITH: Well, you look at this primary field of candidates, and they range from 37 years old, well into 70 years old. That is three, if not almost four generations of individuals and ideas and mind sets.

So when you look at kind of how we can look at policy and there's only so many ways we can look at health care, for example, and education funding and things like that, so then we have to start looking at kind of their personal characteristics and what they bring to the table.

So I see that as being a big factor for leading into caucus primary season.

BOLDUAN: In your mind, does that mean that the Democratic candidate needs to -- I don't know, is there an age limit, do you think, in your view in the caucuses this time around, an age gap, that the candidate needs to be under 40 or under 50 or not in their 70s?

SMITH: I don't know that there's necessarily an age gap. I think age can be looked at both a physical number and also kind of that mentality and policy mind. What you plan to bring to the table as that candidate.

Some people look at maybe the established candidate, like the Joe Biden of the race, being someone who remembers everything and how it always used to be. And then you have the other side of the spectrum, like Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is relatively new to national politics, and what that means is that maybe he brings a different vision or idea to maybe get things working in a different way than maybe they always have.

BOLDUAN: Bryce, right now you've got Joe Biden in Iowa. He's in the lead. He's the frontrunner. You have Sanders and Pete Buttigieg behind him. How wide open do you see the field right now? I mean, how many people do you come across in Dallas County? How many people are you coming across who says that they have landed on their candidate of choice? SMITH: I think a lot of people, who are obviously going to be

caucusing right now, are really trying to meet and understand all of these different candidates. With over 20 in the race, there's still a lot of time to be able to meet these folks, hear from them, understand why they're running, what policies they're running on.

But most importantly, I don't think a lot of people are ready to make a decision on who they're going to support this early, especially with this many people in the race, and not all of them being able to get to Dallas County or to our area just quite yet. So that's a big impact.

BOLDUAN: It will be great to see how things change. We'll check back in with you as the time ticks on. As we always say, it is still quite early.

Good to see you, Bryce. Thank you.

SMITH: Yes, thank you.

[11:49:28] BOLDUAN: We have breaking news. The Supreme Court is making two big decisions, handing down two big decisions on abortion. We're going to tell you what they are. And also, the big question now, what does it mean for Roe v. Wade. That's next.


BOLDUAN: The Supreme Court handing down an important decision this morning. This has to do with an Indiana law that would put new restrictions on abortion.

CNN Supreme Court reporter, Ariane De Vogue, has been working on the details on this. She joins me now.

Ariane, lay out what the court said this morning.

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Right, Kate. Well, we've been waiting for weeks to see how the Supreme Court would deal with two provisions of this Indiana law. And today, we found out and got some clues for the future.

But first of all the court allowed one provision of the law to go into effect, and that says that states can mandate that fetal remains be buried or cremated.

Opponents said that that increases the psychological costs on women, and they said that there was no real reason for the law, but the Supreme Court allowed that to go into effect.

However, on the other hand, the Supreme Court left in place a lower court opinion that it blocked a more restrictive provision. And that provision said that the states can prohibit abortion based solely on race, sex or disability of the fetus. So that right now won't go into effect.

[11:55:10] This was an unsigned opinion from the court, Kate. But what was interesting about it is Justice Clarence Thomas wanted to make a couple of things clear. He said that he agreed with what the court had done today, but he thought that that more strict provision might, in fact, be a good law in the future, but it should percolate more in the lower courts.

BOLDUAN: Real quick, Ariane, with this, does the court -- is the court tipping its hand at all on how it might decide on Roe V. Wade, if that question was before them again?

DE VOGUE: Well, for sure, opponents of abortion had something to praise today and something that they weren't so happy about.

But here's what's really important. These provisions today were much less strict than some other provisions that are currently passing in courts or in states across the country. Alabama, Mississippi, those are near total bans on abortion.

And so today the Supreme Court may have taken a small step, right? It allowed one. It allowed a block to remain in place in another.

But that doesn't mean that other petitions aren't really start coming to the courts in the days and weeks ahead. And the Supreme Court is going to be asked to overturn, practically overturn Roe V. Wade. So that's the future. Today, a small step, but more cases are coming down the pike.

BOLDUAN: More to come.

Thanks for laying it out, Ariane. I really appreciate it.

Coming up still, search-and-rescue teams are on the ground digging through the aftermath after a string of tornadoes tear through Ohio. CNN is on the ground. That's next.