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Millions Of People In The United States Are At Risk Of Deadly Tornadoes And Flooding; Kamala Harris Rolls Out Plan to Protect Abortion Rights; Eleven People Died This Climbing Season On Mount Everest. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired May 28, 2019 - 14:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, you're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Right now, millions of people in the United States are at risk of deadly tornadoes and flooding -- in Oklahoma, as many people find their homes under water. The Governor is warning, the rivers are still rising and more storms are expected tonight. CNN's Ed Lavandera is in one of those flooded neighborhoods for us in west of Tulsa -- Ed.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And these floodwaters started coming up yesterday. There are several dozen homes in this community that were in -- that are underwater. Some residents say they've taken on about two to six feet of water. And that dam right now, according to the Army Corps of Engineers, is releasing 275,000 cubic feet of water per second.

To kind of put that in terms that we might be able to understand or comprehend a little bit better, that's a little bit more than three Olympic-size swimming pools coming out of that dam every second and all of this of course flowing downstream.

So not only is there a concern for the continued flooding here in the Tulsa area, but all of this continues to move in toward Western Arkansas and the Fort Smith area.


BALDWIN: All right, so Ed is in Sand Springs in Fort Smith. The flooding has already forced schools to shut down for the rest of the year because classes were supposed to end on Thursday. Further north, in parts of Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Illinois. Really the greatest danger today is from tornadoes. Overnight in Ohio, one person was killed and several were injured when a tornado ripped through Celina, Ohio leaving entire neighborhoods flattened.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is this like seeing your neighborhood?

RACHEL HENDERSON, NEIGHBORHOOD DESTROYED BY TORNADO: Heartbreaking, heartbreaking. And it's not just here, it's out of town and I fear we've run out of road and I don't know what's the other going out -- the other side of town. Yes. Really sad.


BALDWIN: Heartbreaking for so many of these people and tornadoes also touched down in nearby Dayton. At least one was an EF3. Tens of thousands of people are still without power. CNN's Alexandra Field is out live in Dayton for us and the pictures -- look at that, it tells the whole story.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the heartbreak and heaviness that you just heard in that woman's voice, that's what we're hearing here in Dayton, where an entire neighborhood is decimated. I'll step away so you can see. This is the scene and it stretches back four blocks here in Dayton, Ohio.

You can see, where entire houses were crushed, cars crushed by the force of this tornado. I spoke to the owner, Brooke, of this house. You can see where his walls have come down. It isn't a miracle alone that saved lives when these tornadoes touched down in Dayton. It is the fact that people were attuned to the warning signals and sirens.

They got messages on their phone. They heard on TV. So, the owner of this house says -- that as soon as he got that message on his phone, he grabbed his girlfriend. They got into the basement. They stayed down there for a few minutes. They had no idea what was going on outside. They could hear horrific sounds.

He says, when he came out his chimney had gone through his house. Most of the house was destroyed and this is what was left in the rest of the neighborhood. You can see where this siding and parts of a roof are twisted up around a utility pole. There are massive power outages. There are problems with the water, there are down power lines, but mostly, we're just hearing from people who say they feel so lucky that they escaped with their lives.

There are some injuries -- a few dozen injuries as a result of the tornadoes in western Ohio. But so many people say that they sought shelter quickly and that's what saved them. Brooke, I'll tell you this, I talked to one more man who said he heard the warning. He didn't even have time to get to the basement, so he just went to the center of his house. He hunkered down with his dogs. He could hear the windows flying out around him, just ripped wide open by that wind. He says he braced he prayed for his life. He made it out alive. And that is really all that is important to the people in this community today -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: All of these tornadoes in this part of the country. Alex, thank you very much. Now, across the United States there has been a staggering number within 500 reports of tornadoes in just the last 30 days and more are expected in the coming hours. CNN meteorologist, Ivan Cabrera is with me now and 500 in 30 days. Ivan, how unusual is that?

IVAN CABRERA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Five hundred in 30 days, Brooke, it's so unusual. You can count these events in one hand. [14:05:03] CABRERA: We'll go back to 2003, 2004, 2008, and 2011 --

that's it, that's the only time we've ever had 500 tornados in a 30- day time span. And I think we're going to continue to add to that today because, just in, we now have a new -- brand new tornado watch it in effect that includes Western PA from Pittsburgh all the way to the Phillies.

So we're talking about north of 17 million people under that threat, and that could get pushed a little bit further even to the east to include New York. And then we have a severe thunderstorm watch that extends for hundreds and hundreds of miles in multiple states that goes from Western PA all the way into eastern Missouri. Quincy, seeing a severe thunderstorm warning as we speak and the threat is going to be ongoing this afternoon and into the evening on the kind of tornadoes that touched down yesterday.

The ingredients of the atmosphere, Brooke, are there again today for that to happen this afternoon and evening. We'll continue to track this for you another day on top as well for tomorrow.

BALDWIN: All right, we'll stay in touch, Ivan Cabrera on all those tornadoes. Ivan, thank you.

CABRERA: Goodbye.

BALDWIN: Now, to the 2020 campaign. Republicans and Democrats alike condemns President Trump after he took a swipe at Joe Biden's intelligence by way of Kim Jong-un.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: 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: Well, moments ago we heard from Team Biden directly. CNN's Arlette Saens is traveling with the Biden campaign. Tell us what they just said, Arlette.

ARLETTE SAENS, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER (via phone): Well, Brooke, Biden's deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield was reacting to President Trump's comments. For the first time today, she released a statement saying that the President's comments are beneath the dignity of the office. She went on to stay -- to be on foreign soil on Memorial Day and to side repeatedly with a murderous dictator against a fellow American and former Vice President speaks for itself.

And she added, and it's the pattern -- it's part of the pattern of embracing autocrat at the expense of our institutions, whether taking Putin's word at face value in Helsinki, or exchanging, quote, "love letters" with Kim Jong-un.

This is something that former Vice President Joe Biden talks about often during the campaign trail, criticizing President Trump for his approach to foreign policies, specifically when it comes to Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea's dictator Kim Jong-un. And a campaign official also says that they decided to release the statement today because Biden had previously wanted to respect the sacred purpose of Memorial Day, is what they said.

And so, they wanted to refrain from engaging directly with President Trump, who just, over the last hour landed back at the White House returning from that trip in Japan.

So now, you are seeing Biden's campaign directly take on the President over these comments where he seemed to side with North Korea on recent criticism that they made towards the former Vice President.

BALDWIN: Beneath the dignity of the office, according to Team Biden. Arlette, thank you very much for that.

A new Supreme Court decision is giving mixed signals to abortion rights advocates. The nine justices made a call on two parts of 2016 Indiana law that bans any abortions based on race, sex or disability. A lower court ruled that a block stopping the ban should remain in place and the justices, let that ruling stand -- an encouraging sign for abortion rights supporters.

But the justices also allowed for another part of the law to take effect, that provision orders fetal remains in Indiana to be buried or cremated. The fact that the High Court did not take up the abortion ban issue suggests that there is not an appetite to take on the landmark case that is Roe v. Wade.

But Justice Clarence Thomas did write this in his opinion, quote, "Although the Court declines to wade into these issues today, we cannot avoid them forever ... Having created the constitutional right to end abortion, this court is duty bound to address its scope."

One 2020 candidate is pushing the Federal ban -- Federal plan rather to try to prevent states from enacting abortion restrictions. CNN's Kyung Lah joins me with that portion of the story. And so, Kyung, this is California Senator and Presidential hopeful Kamala Harris, what is she calling for?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, essentially, she's talking about flipping the script as far as we talk about all these challenges to Roe v. Wade. Right now, if a state passes a law, it is incumbent on somebody else. Usually, the abortion provider then challenge that new state law.

What she is saying in this new policy rollout is that she wants it to change. If elected, she is saying that those states will have to prove to her Department of Justice first, that that new state law is constitutional before that state law is enacted.

She is calling it a pre-clearance requirement, states that under her Department of Justice have been determined to have a history of restricting abortion access, they would have to first check with her Department of Justice before enacting that new state law. [14:10:05] LAH: Now increasingly, Harris has been talking about

abortion rights about protecting Roe v. Wade on the campaign trail. About a week ago, she sat down with CNN to talk about how protecting Roe v. Wade is crucial for her campaign, one of the key pillars of her campaign, here's what she said.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And on the issue of abortion, everyone should have the right to make that decision for herself, with her pastor, with her Rabbi, with her God, with her family, with her healthcare provider. I will always fight for a woman's right to make whatever decision she believes is in the best interest of her and her family. And the government should not be in the business of taking those decisions away from women.


LAH: Harris lands in South Carolina, where I am right now. She lands here a little later today. This is her sixth visit to the state, Brooke, and she will continue to talk about these policy issues focusing on women and women of color -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: We will see her in South Carolina. Kyung, thank you.

There could be new rules at the top of the world after 11 people -- 11 have died this climbing season on Mount Everest. The most recent on Monday with the death of American attorney, Christopher Coolish.

His family says after summiting Everest, he had contemplated his quest of climbing the highest peak on every single continent. Now as senior tourism official says Nepal may change its requirements to summit Everest.

Right now, climbers only need to obtain a permit, regardless of experience. An expert climber say that this is playing a part in the overcrowding this year on the mountain.

This British climber tweeted out the video three days ago saying that his team had to quote, "overtake" well over a hundred climbers so that they didn't run out of oxygen while they were up there. Climbers tell our correspondent there, Arwa Damon. Another factor is the narrower window of weather to be able to summit. Here's more from Arwa, who reached Everest base camp at 19,000 feet above sea level.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A lot of debate right now as to whether or not Nepal needs to be doing more to regulate the number of permits to regulate who goes up, what level of experience they have. There's been a lot of criticism about inexperienced climbers going up.

But there's also a burden of responsibility on the individual. Yes, this is such a challenge. It is such a goal that is really going to push you mentally and physically to the limit. But all of the climbers we are talking to are saying, "You really need to know how to listen to your body." And just being here right now, one really feel the effects of the lower levels of oxygen.


BALDWIN: British mountain climber, Jake Meyer became the youngest Britain to summit Everest at the age of 21. So Jake, thank you so much for being with me. And you know, so many of these climbers who died this season were experienced. They knew what they were doing for from what I from what I understand.

I mean, do you think that the overriding issue here is that the fact that there are too many inexperienced climbers trying to go for it? Is it fewer windows to summit? What is it?

JAKE MEYER, YOUNGEST BRITAIN TO SUMMIT EVEREST AT 21: Hi, Brooke, yes. I think it's a myriad of all of those things. It becomes a bit of a perfect storm. And whilst that is a phrase is often used to describe the 1996 disaster on Everest. It is only becoming more and more apparent today, as you get this mixture of people who have significantly less experience. You have unregulated operators or very, you know, partially regulated operators, and you have very small weather windows.

You know, whilst I'm conscious of making this too simple an analogy, it's a bit like saying you've got Disney World, but it's only been open for two days of the year. And that's often it will seem like on Everest.

BALDWIN: And everyone rushes then?

MEYER: Absolutely.

BALDWIN: Everyone rushes in. Now, nearly all of the climbers who have just died, died as they were coming back down the mountain. Why do you think that is?

MEYER: It is very common with high altitude mountaineering, on your way up, of course, it's difficult. You're climbing up in the middle of the night, often, getting to the summit very early in the morning to then start descending. By that point, you might have been climbing for 10, 12,15 hours, or more. You're mentally physically exhausted, emotionally exhausted, as well. And the descents can be dangerous, to the risks of just physically just falling off the side of the mountain, as well as just making mistakes as you're coming down.

By that point, you spend a lot of time up in the in the death zone. So the effects of cerebral or pulmonary edema -- so fluid in the brain, fluid in the lungs are potentially starting to take stock especially if you're running low on oxygen. So, all of these things are conspiring to affect you in an environment which the human body is not designed to survive in.

BALDWIN: You call it the death zone for a reason. I think a lot of people maybe don't realize all of the time it takes -- the training it takes you go, depending on where you're from, half a world away, you take, you know, weeks to finally get up there. You wait for the for the window to open and then you attempt the summit.

[14:15:08] BALDWIN: Can you talk about what it's like up there and how long any one individual really has to breathe that thin, thin air before they've got to get back down?

MEYER: Absolutely. So when you are high on the mountain, if you're not really doing anything, you can take your oxygen mask off. So both on the top of Everest, but also on the top of K2. I took my oxygen mask off 40 minutes, 45 minutes or so because you're not really doing much. The minute you try and do any sort of physical exertion, it becomes absolutely exhausting.

The analogy is, if you're trying to run up and down the stairs, but only letting you breathe through a straw, so as much as you try and breathe, just trying to get enough oxygen in to sustain you is incredibly difficult. Your legs are burning from the lactic acid buildup, your lungs are screaming trying to draw in what little oxygen there is in the air, and your heart is pounding so hard you think it's about to burst out of your chest.

BALDWIN: It sounds extraordinary. It sounds absolutely extraordinary. Jake Meyer, thank you so much for being on. It's just awful -- all these deaths and perhaps something really now needs to be done -- regulations, something else. Jake, thank you very much.

Right now, House Republicans just blocked the passage of the Disaster Aid Bill for the second time in a week. We'll tell you why. Plus, a border wall is being built right now. Thanks to money from a GoFundMe campaign. We're talking about millions of dollars. But is it legit?

And a warning for Jews in Germany -- it is too dangerous to wear a yarmulke in public. And now, in a rare interview only with CNN, Angela Merkel addresses dark forces on the rise in Europe. Stay with me. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


[14:21:43] BALDWIN: We are back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. It is a law that has been around for a quarter of a century but the 1994 Federal Crime Bill is now being used as a political weapon by the President. He is using it against at least one of his Democratic rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden, saying that in part, anyone involved in bill can't be elected and says Biden has never apologized.

Now of course, the President doesn't mention his own controversial history with race including taking out full page ads in New York newspapers calling for the death penalty for the Central Park Five -- those teenagers who were exonerated ultimately and the rape of a jogger back in 1989.

So, as this issue for both of these men becomes really the center for debate, today, CNN's KFILE uncovered comments that give a little bit more context to perspective to Biden's past on race. So, Andrew Kaczynski is our CNN KFILE senior editor to explain. And so, what you guys dug up, this involves former Mississippi Senator John Stennis. ANDREW KACZYNSKI, CNN KFILE SENIOR EDITOR: Yes, that's right. So Joe

Biden, as we know, has this really long record in the Senate. And that's something that he's sort of basically campaigning on, that he can take us back to this bygone era of bipartisanship. But as we uncovered in our reporting, that also includes working with some people like former segregationist, people who oppose civil rights, and in this case, John Stennis, he was a Mississippi Senator.

Biden actually praised him a whole number of times in his career. He called him a personal hero, a legend. He went to his birthday party in Mississippi and compared him to Stonewall Jackson. And it's not quite clear to people yet how Biden's past praise with people like this is going to fair in a Democratic party that's sort of evolving on issues of race.

BALDWIN: And how many years ago was this?

KACZYNSKI: So this was -- he spoke at his birthday party in 1985. Stennis had served from the 40s until the 80s. And then Biden -- even up into the 2000s, up until recently has sort of talked about how these people who were segregationists like Stennis and Strom Thurmond who eulogized, and Jim Eastland became his friends after working with them in the Senate.

BALDWIN: What are historians saying about this?

KACZYNSKI: So, historians have said that Biden's working with these people, sort of, made sense in the context of the times. And it just gives this perspective to this era that Biden, sort of waxes nostalgically about. He didn't just work with Republicans. He also worked with some people who -- I mean, who had sort of this -- this darker history on issues like civil rights because he was in the Senate for so long.

BALDWIN: We'll read more of your reporting from the KFILE on this, on former Senators Stennis' and Biden's relationship. We'll go to later. Andrew, thank you very much for that.

The lone Republican who says, the President's behavior is impeachable is now going off on the Attorney General Bill Bar. Essentially, saying Barr is enabling this President. Plus, a private group is starting to build a border wall after a GoFundMe campaign helped raise a lot of money and involves one of the more infamous allies of President Trump's.


[14:29:26] BALDWIN: Buckle up we're just getting started. That is the message from "We Build The Wall." It's a group which hopes to help make President Trump's pledge to protect the U.S. - Mexico border a reality with a little help from a GoFundMe account.

This weekend the group, which has raised more than $20 million in that GoFundMe campaign says, it began construction on a stretch of private land near the New Mexico Texas state line. Organizers described the area as quote, "a gap that needed to be filled," and say their work will supplement what the Trump administration is doing. CNN's Nick Valencia joins me now. And so, the group started fundraising in December.