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Mexico Slammed with New Tariffs; Missing Tourists Still Not Found; Children Paying the Price of War; North Korea Getting Sour on Trump Administration; Arab Leaders Points Fingers to Iran. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired May 31, 2019 - 02:00   ET



GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: President ramps up his border dispute with Mexico now threatening tariffs on all Mexican goods if that country doesn't step up enforcement on the border.

Also ahead, tragedy on the Danube. Twenty-one people still missing after two boats collided in Hungary. Plus, this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And from there it just felt like the next five or six hours is just sort of not to be dramatic but were like a race for my life to get back down the mountain safely.


HOWELL: A climber shockingly close call, how he survived the journey on Everest with barely enough oxygen.

Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm George Howell. The CNN Newsroom starts right now.

Around the world, good day to you. Frustrated by illegal immigration, President Donald Trump is threatening to use tariffs as a weapon against Mexico. He made that clear in this tweet that says as follows.

"On June 10th, the United States will impose a 5 percent tariff on all goods coming into our country from Mexico, until such a time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico and into our country stop. The tariffs will gradually increase until the illegal immigration problem is remedied. At which time the tariffs will be removed. Details from the White House to follow."

Behind the scenes though, it turns out that the president's own team that they were scrambling to narrow down those details after President Trump told reporters a very dramatic announcement was coming. Some in the White House are even concern the new tariffs could face legal challenges before they even start.

Mexico's president is pushing back. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador ANLO as he's called, said problems aren't solved through coercive measures. Stressing that, quote, "human beings don't abandon their towns for fun but for necessity."

All this comes as the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol announced it apprehended the largest single group of migrants it has ever encountered. More than a thousand migrants crossed the Rio Grande near El Paso, Texas on the predawn hours on Wednesday. More than 900 were families.

Now whether you call it venting or whether you call it a tirade the president had a lot to say on Thursday. A lot of it filled with falsehoods.

Our Kaitlan Collins has that.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: One day after the special counsel refused to publicly exonerate him President Trump went on the attack.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think Mueller is a true never Trumper.


COLLINS: But most of the claims he made in front of the cameras today didn't add up. The president falsely insisting Robert Mueller a lifelong Republican, had conflicts of interest.


TRUMP: As you know, he wanted to be the FBI director and I said no. As you know I had a business dispute with him.


COLLINS: That claim stems from an old dispute over golf club fees and Mueller's interview to replace James Comey. But even the president's own aides have admitted they don't count as conflicts.

Steve Bannon told the special counsel's office Mueller didn't come in looking for the job. Until Trump his golf club claim was ridiculous and petty. Today, Trump also claimed that Mueller cleared him.


TRUMP: So, he said essentially, you're innocent. I'm innocent of all charges.


COLLINS: But Mueller didn't say that.


ROBERT MUELLER, SPECIAL COUNSEL: If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.


COLLINS: Trump said, if there was evidence he broke the law, Mueller would've charged him.


TRUMP: There is no crime, there is no charge because he had no information.


COLLINS: But Mueller said he couldn't have charge Trump if he wanted to due to a Justice Department guideline prohibiting a sitting president from being indicted.


MUELLER: Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider.


COLLINS: And after retracting his statement that Russia get him elected?


TRUMP: No, Russia did not help me get elected.


COLLINS: Trump wrongly said Russia wanted Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office.


TRUMP: I believe that Russia would rather have Hillary Clinton as president of the United States than Donald Trump.


COLLINS: Even though Vladimir Putin said publicly he wanted Trump to win.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Yes, I did. Yes, I did, because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.


COLLINS: And the president claimed today the attention has shifted away from Russian collusion. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If you look, this is all about Russia, Russia, Russia. They don't talk about Russia anymore because it turned out to be a hoax.

MUELLER: Russian interference --


[03:04:59] COLLINS: But Mueller made clear interference is still a major concern.


MUELLER: Russian intelligence officers who are part of the Russian military plus they concerted attack on our political system.


COLLINS: Now what you saw the president say today about the special counsel was a complete wavering from what we've seen him say before which is that he said that the special counsel acted honorably and that Robert Mueller's report was beautiful, until today's attacks many of which are false.

Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.

HOWELL: All right, now let's sift through it all with Natasha Lindstaedt. Natasha a professor of government at the University of Essex joining this hour from Copenhagen, Denmark. Good to have you.


HOWELL: Let's start with the president's new threat on Mexico. This use of tariffs starting June 10th and to increase each month if Mexico doesn't, as he said in a tweet, stop immigrants from crossing the U.S. border with Mexico illegally.

As far as pressure on either nation's economies, what does it mean for Mexico? What does it mean for the U.S.?

LINDSTAEDT: Well, I mean, this would be really, really terrible factually or both countries. Mexico is the U.S.'s third largest trading partner. The two countries did over 600 million in trade since 2018. Three hundred forty-six billion of Mexico's exports go to the U.S.,90 billion of which are auto parts and vehicles. Twenty-six billion of which are agricultural products.

Mexico is the largest exporter of agricultural products to the U.S. And so, we can already see the knock-on effects to the global economy in that Asian automaker shares fell because a lot of Asian automakers that are production base is in Mexico.

But I think what Trump hasn't really thought through is what the effects could be if implemented to the U.S. public. When you implement tariffs that doesn't just affect Mexico but that's going to affect U.S. consumers.

And if you think of all the different type of goods that are coming in, that's going to make everything a lot more expensive to the U.S. consumers and it's going to be much, much more difficult to make ends meet, particularly for people which I think Trump thinks he's trying to impress his base but this will affect his base very directly if these tariffs are actually implemented.

HOWELL: Keeping in mind, Natasha, this comes on the heels of the U.S. and Mexico and Canada the new trade agreement replacing NAFTA. The North American Free Trade Agreement. What impact would you say this could have on the USMCA, the new deal that, you know, it could be ratified. Would it be ratified given the new threats?

LINDSTAEDT: Look, if these threats are actually implemented and that's a big if because I think this plan is so poorly thought out, I don't know if they actually think they are going to be able to go through with it. There may be legal issues with going through it. And I think he is just hoping that the Mexican government is going to come back and respond a little bit stronger with the issue of immigration coming in and out.

But I mean, the Republicans in the Senate, namely Chuck Grassley who is the chair of the finance committee have already said this is going to put the USMCA in complete jeopardy. And that is going to be one of the big issues because that was supposed to be a huge agreement, a key piece of legislation that the Trump campaign could say that they were able to bring. And that will, you know, affect the way people feel about Trump coming through on some of these policies that he says he's going to deliver on.

HOWELL: So, you know when it comes to the economy there are questions with the MCA -- the USMCA there are questions but also privately we understand that officials have conceded it's not clear the president has the legal authority to improve tariffs on this scale.

We know that the White House, the lawyers there spent time talking with Republican lawmakers to try to get them comfortable and on board with this approach. Do you see this as something that could get tied up in court? Even before June 10th?

LINDSTAEDT: It will definitely get tied up in courts and in legal battles. That's the whole thing with this plan. It's not really something that I think he thinks could be implemented. It's not very well thought out. It doesn't really take into account all of the U.S. and Mexico trade that takes place in all the agreements already in place.

It's just going to get drawn out. But it's really more about trying to show to his base that he's tough on immigration that he's willing to do whatever it takes to appeal to those that want to be tough on immigration. And I also think it's kind of a distraction from what's going on with the Mueller investigation.

HOWELL: But for all of this, we saw President Trump do something that he's never done before. President Trump admitting on Twitter that Russia helped him get elected. Then he attempted to walk it back it back.

Again, the first time he's ever done that, but also, he falsely claimed that Russia wanted Hillary Clinton elected which even the Russian president said is not the case. Vladimir Putin wanted Trump elected. He said that in a news conference.

[02:09:55] LINDSTAEDT: Right. That was one of the crazier things that Trump has said. Because Clinton -- Hillary Clinton has always been known to be very tough on Russia. She has been incredibly critical of Putin.

And this is one reason I think that the Russians decided to exact sort of revenge on her by hacking into her committee. Because -- or her campaign, because they knew that if she was elected, she would be incredibly tough on the Russians and want to continue with the sanctions.

The Russians knew that Trump might be more amenable to alleviate some of these sanctions that they may have more coinciding interests, that they may have more coinciding financial interests. So, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever that Putin would want Hillary Clinton to win.

HOWELL: And finally here, we also saw Mr. Trump stepping up his attacks on Robert Mueller. Let's listen.


TRUMP: I think he's totally conflicted. He loves Comey. If you look at the relationship of those two. So, whether it's love or deep like, but he should -- he was conflicted. Robert Mueller should have never have chosen. You know, I think he is total conflicted person. I think Mueller is a true never Trumper.


HOWELL: All right. So, President Trump speaking there. You'll remember there was a time, Natasha, where President Trump where his staff, his surrogates they all seemed to praise Robert Mueller. To praise that report but now Mr. Trump suggesting that Mueller was conflicted in his work.

How does that stand in your view? Does it seem that Mueller was conflicted? Or could this president be conflicted on Mueller?

LINDSTAEDT: I have to admit I've never heard him make this argument before. That Mueller was conflicted or that Mueller love Comey. Initially, he was accusing the entire Mueller team of just being hard- line Democrats. Then the report came out he thought he was exonerated and then he said it was a beautiful report. And now, he sort of, changed his mind and said well, maybe Mueller is a never Trumper.

So, he does acknowledge that Mueller was known to be a registered Republican but would never I guess vote for Trump. And that he had some sort of strong relationship with Comey. All of it really doesn't make much sense to me. I think he's just sort

of reacting from one day to the next based on new information that comes in and it seems to change depending on even his mood swings.

HOWELL: Natasha Lindstaedt, thank you again for the time and the perspective.

LINDSTAEDT: Thanks for having me.

HOWELL: Now moving on to Hungary and a major search that is underway on the Danube River but hopes are fading that more survivors will be found there. Teams are looking for 21 people. Those people missing after the small boat, the tour boat collided with a river cruise ship. You see it there.

At least seven South Koreas tourists were killed. Hungarian police have detained the ship's captain as they continue to investigate what caused that crash. Water levels on the Danube have gone up only a few meters in the past week alone because of heavy rain.

That stretch of the Danube follow -- flowing through Budapest it is at its highest level this year with very strong currents.

Our Atika Shubert has more now on the deadly collision that happened in the river.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This was the moment the tour boat was rammed by a larger ship capitalizing the small vessel and the 35 people aboard. According to Hungarian police it sank within seven seconds.


ADRIAN PAL, BUDAPEST POLICE SPOKESMAN (through translator): What we can see on the footage is that the small boat, the Mermaid, is sailing up north. Both boats are, the bigger ship, the Viking 2. When they reach the pillars of the Margaret Bridge then the Mermaid boat turns into the Viking for some reason.

And as the Viking touch the Mermaid it got turn to the side and within about seven seconds after it sank. It is visible how it turns when it got under the pillar.


SHUBERT: Low visibility hampered rescue operations and heavy rain created a strong and dangerous current on the Danube. Some passengers were plucked miles downstream, none were wearing life jackets.

The vast majority on board were South Korean tourists. There were nine families including a six-year-old child. Prompting a swift response from the South Korean government.


KO MIN-JUNG, SOUTH KOREAN PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE SPOKESWOMAN (through translator): Regarding the accident of the cruise ship carrying South Korean tourists, President Moon Jae-in immediately puts orders to put every possible means into the rescue operation in cooperation with the Hungarian government.


SHUBERT: By morning, rescue teams were still searching the waters. But investigators had found the wreckage of the ship and are now looking for clues to piece together what happened.

Atika Shubert, CNN, Berlin.

HOWELL: Atika, thank you.

Nine years later and the Syrian war rages on with children paying the highest price. We'll show you some of the war's most vulnerable victims.

Plus, there's no telling when we see another scene like this as President Trump tries to court North Korea's leader. Pyongyang is accusing the U.S. of having, quote, "evil ambitions."

[02:15:06] We'll explain. Stay with us.


HOWELL: Security forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are on edge after the deadly terror attacks that took place on Thursday. Iraq's military says at least six explosions rocked the oil rich city of Kirkuk.

The explosions killing three people and wounding more than two -- more than a dozen. The military says security forces diffuse two other improvised explosive devices.

And ISIS says is it behind suicide attacks outside the University of -- a university in Afghanistan's capital city. Security forces there stop the bomber before he was able to enter the school. That blast that triggered it killed at least six people.

Now to Syria where the war has dragged into its ninth year now. And as the world has grown weary of the ever-increasing death toll and the massive destruction it continues.

The Syrian government backed by Russia and Iran it is now attacking the last rebel stronghold Idlib province. An area under the control of the former Al Qaeda affiliate.

CNN has obtained disturbing video from that region. It was shot by a freelance cameraman and it shows some of the war's youngest and some of the most vulnerable victims. We warn you the images you are about to see in this report by our Ben Wedeman these images are graphic, the scenes may be very difficult to watch.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Rescue workers pull a small boy, 12-year-old Nur Faham (Ph) from the ruins of his home struck by a Syrian air force bomb Monday morning in the northeast town of Arihah. He's alive.

Moments later, comes another boy, his nine-year-old brother Zain (Ph). He isn't moving. Workers rushed the boys to a waiting ambulance. Struggling to resuscitate Zain (Ph). These boys perhaps too young to make sense of the war raging around them.

This is not a tale of factions and fighters, it's the simple story of innocence caught up and destroyed by forces far beyond their control and comprehension.

"His body is warm" insist this man as they arrive at the hospital.

[02:20:04] "He's alive. He's alive." Someone says. Medics tries to cope signs of life out of Zain (Ph) but he doesn't respond. His twin four-year- old sisters Sham and Wazim (Ph) and his grandmother Sarmirha (Ph) were also killed.

The medics lower Zain (Ph) into a black body bag. Four more statistics with names in a family lives cut short added to Syria's grim and growing toll. More than half a million dead in this madness.

In an adjacent room Noor (Ph) lies in shock. "Do you remember what happened?" he's asked. "I thought I was dreaming," he whispers. "It wasn't a dream, it's a nightmare."

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Beirut.

HOWELL: The relationship between the United States and North Korea has been showing signs of strain lately. Even though President Trump has publicly sided with Kim Jong-un one on several issues North Korea says the U.S. is acting in bad faith.

Our Brian Todd has this report.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Despite more than a year of de- escalation and declarations of love by President Trump.


TRUMP: And then we fell in love. OK?


TODD: North Korea is once again attacking the president's administration. In a new statement, Kim Jong-un's foreign ministry saying, quote, "There is no change at all in the American evil ambition to conquer North Korea by force."


EVANS REVERE, FORMER U.S. DIPLOMAT IN SOUTH KOREA: There really ought to be a Korean word for chutzpah. Unfortunately, there isn't one.


TODD: The new broil side is specially surprising given how conciliatory President Trump has been toward Kim Jong-un. In Japan in recent days the president sided with the brutal North Korean dictator over his own national security adviser and acting defense secretary who both said Kim's recent missile test violated U.N. resolution.


TRUMP: My people think it could have been a violation as you know. I view it differently.


TODD: And Trump even supported North Korea's insult of a prominent American. Democratic presidential front runner Joe Biden who Kim's regime called an imbecile and a fool of low I.Q.


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


DAVID MAXWELL, SENIOR FELLOW, THE FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: What it really shows is that our good words towards Kim Jong-un, the president's good words towards Kim Jong-un will not change his behavior. This is more of an illustration of the true nature of the Kim family regime. And we will get nothing in return by being nice to Kim Jong-un.


TODD: In its new statement, Kim's regime voice, quote, "great concern that the U.S. had conducted a so-called sub-critical nuclear test in February. Even though Kim said last year, he had conducted his own such test.

A sub-critical nuclear test ensures all the components that make the bomb work like the trigger are functional without letting the bomb actually explode.

North Korea also slams Trump's national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the new statement. Saying they, quote, "have insulted the dignity of our supreme leadership and spit it out abusive language to North Korea."


MAXWELL: I think that is an effort to separate President Trump from his advisors. What Kim may be doing one is mirror imaging. He got bad advice from his own advisers. You know, he thinks that President Trump was getting bad advice from his. But I think that he would really like to purge Bolton and Pompeo from Trump's circle there.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TODD: Veteran diplomats say they worry President Trump is so invested

in good relations with the dictator that he now can't get tough with Kim.


REVERE: That's my fear, that the president is every day going out of his way to keep things on a positive plane, when the actual thing that he could do right now that would advance denuclearization is to squeeze the North Koreans and to take advantage of the fact that the North Koreans are in a much weaker position now.


TODD: We press the White House and the State Department for a response to this latest verbal attack from North Korea even after President Trump conciliatory words towards Kim Jong-un. They didn't respond to those attacks.

But in recent days, a State Department spokesperson told CNN that President Trump is committed to building a lasting peace with Kim's regime and that he believes Kim Jong-un is going to stick to his promise to denuclearize.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

HOWELL: Brian, thank you.

Arab leaders are turning up the heat on Iran to emergency summits in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi king was blunt in his remarks calling Iran a, quote, "threat to security and stability in the region."

[02:25:02] CNN's international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson has this.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, the first of it is getting underway around midnight the GCC emergency summit. Six nations the leaders all around a small circular table, King Salman being very clear on what he believes that the threat in the region is Iran.

And he said it's a failure to take a firm position with Iran's sabotage in the region of in the past this led to this escalation today, these were his words, and he called on the international community now to shoulder its responsibility.


SALMAN BIN ABDULAZIZ AL-SAUD, KING OF SAUDI ARABIA (through translator): We call upon the international community to assume its responsibility in the face of the threat posed by Iranian practices to international peace, security, and international law, and to use all means to stop the Iranian regime from interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.

Its sponsorship of terrorist activities in the region and the world and the succession of the threat of freedom of navigation in the international straits.


ROBERTSON: Well, fast forward. About an hour from that summit and King Salman hosting the Arab League Emergency Summit. Twenty-one different nations gathered around a much larger forum and a much larger room. He was very clear. He said look, the first cause for the Arab nations here is always going to be the Palestinian cause. That Palestinians need to have their own state, its capitals need to be is Jerusalem.

But he said the biggest threat that run to right now is from Iran. And he said that the attacks on the ships off the coast of the Emirates and what he called the Iranian-backed militia attack on the Saudi east west pipeline were an indication of the Iranian threat at this time echoing what it said again of the GCC summit.

And the answer that came back from the secretary general of the Arab league was very clear. That these nations gathered here around the table support Saudi Arabia. That Saudi Arabia's defense is in their interest that they support it, that the threat against Saudi Arabia is a threat to the region and a threat to the Arab nations.

So, the king putting out his message and getting the answer back that he wanted to hear.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

HOWELL: Nic, thanks.

And now to Israel where there are deepening political problems with that nation's prime minister. The Trump administration's long-awaited Middle East peace plan could just be one casualty.

President Trump's Middle East envoy, son-in-law Jared Kushner he is in the region to drum up support. He met with Benjamin Netanyahu. But the prime minister now faces an election in September after failing to form the government there.

Kushner presented the prime minister with a gift signed by President Trump. It's a map of Israel that includes the Israeli occupied Golan Heights. Mr. Netanyahu beamed as he showed it off pointing out the president had highlighted the annex territory with the word, quote, "nice."

But he was -- but he has reason, rather, to worry about his political future.

To new polls show former Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman gaining ground there. His right-wing party wants a reliable ally. It is in a feud with the prime minister and refuses to join the coalition.

The unexpected collapse led Israel to call a new election, something that it's never done before. President Trump threatens Mexico with tariffs over immigration. And

the ripple effects they are already being felt far beyond the border. In the world stock markets.

Also, Boeing pushes ahead to get its 737 MAX fleet back in the air and it doesn't think a simulator training is necessary.

Stay with us.


[02:31:17] HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour. The search and rescue operation is underway in Budapest, Hungry. This for 21 people missing after a river cruise ship collided with the sightseeing boat on the Danube.

At least seven South Korean tourist were killed I that accident. Police have obtain the crew ship captain as they continued to investigate what happened. President Trump had a lot to say and a lot of falsehoods on Thursday among other things impacts Special Counsel Robert Mueller stating that Mueller declared him innocent and said Russia wanted Hillary Clinton to win the presidency which the Russian president said in the news conference he wanted Trump to win the election.

President Trump is also threatening Mexico with tariffs unless it stops the flow of illegal immigrants coming into the United States. Mr. Trump says five percent tariffs would kick off in June, June 10th. And they would keep going up until 20 -- 25 percent tariffs rather go into effect by October.

And one immediate reaction to the President's announcement on tariffs, it came from U.S. stock futures. They dropped 200 points. CNN's Sherisse Pham is following it all with us this hour in Hong Kong. And Sherisse, the economic shockwaves don't seem to stop there.

SHERISSE PHAM, CNN INTERNATIONAL REPORTER: They did not stop there, the most immediate reaction we saw was for first from the U.S. stock futures. The first one was the Dow Index which dropped 200 points. And if we can pull a look now, we'll take a look at the U.S. stocks, futures still pointing down, all of them down across the board about eight-tenths of a percent.

So we're looking for a gloomy day ahead on Wall Street and that had -- that had ripple effects over here in Asia because of course it is a global supply chain these days. Mexico is a major regional manufacturer hub for carmakers. So we saw the Nikkei dropped down 1.6 percent at the moment and the KOSPI, it's flat but it dropped about one percent on the open. And why specifically the Nikkei and the KOPSI, that's because that's Japan and South Korea.

A major Japanese and South Korean carmakers use Mexico as a regional hub to assemble and build their cars and then ship them to the United States. Of course that was under NAFTA when they could do that tariffs free. So we saw some huge drops and major automakers including -- let's take a look at that, Mazda was down. That might be the 80 yards that are trending in New York.

Mazda at the moment is down about seven percent in Japan, Toyota was also down about four percent in Japan and Honda as well. I think was down about two percent last time that I saw trading in Japan. So those carmakers are going to feel the effects right away. Usually when you have a tariff like this, five percent, it's not a lot. Usually the manufacturers will absorb that, and that's why you're seeing those companies' stocks drop.

Ford and Wal-Mart are also relying on Mexico for major parts of their supply chain. So you will see ripple effects also on U.S. companies. Companies can absorb these first tariffs but if they spike all the way up to 25 present by October you can bet that these companies will start passing those costs on down to consumers and that will hurt George, American buyers at the end of the day.

HOWELL: All right. Sherisse Pham giving us the lowdown on what's happening here with the threat of tariffs. Sherisse, thank you.

PHAM: Thank you.

HOWELL: China is accusing the Trump administration of committing economic terrorism as a trade war continues to escalate. On Thursday, a spokesperson for China's foreign affairs ministry describes U.S. trade policy as "Typical economic terrorism, economic hegemonism and economic unilateralism.

[02:35:11] He also said the White House had brought huge damage to the economy of other countries and the U.S. itself. The latest war of words between Washington and Beijing comes one day after China suggested it could hit the U.S. where it hurts by curbing exports of what called rare-earth minerals. Our Matt Rivers has this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the Chinese economy is dynamic.

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Don't say we didn't warn you. That's the new threat in Chinese-state media as a new front opens up in the U.S.-China trade war. This time, it's about rare- earth minerals. There are group of important elements that are found in all kinds of high-tech, smartphones, electric cars, wind turbines, superconductors, and China is the world's biggest supplier.

WANG CHANGLIN, VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND REFORM COMMISSION (through translator): China's rare earth is superior in quality but large in quality and has a low costs. Therefore a lot of countries, especially developed countries depend heavily on Chinese rare-earth imports.

RIVERS: China mines more than five times the amount of rare earth as the next largest producer. So it's no surprise that from 2014 to 2017, 80 percent of U.S. rare-earth imports came from China. And in the trade war Beijing could use that to its advantage. It was just last week that Xi Jinping very publicly toward a rare earth's processing facility seen by some as Xi offering a reminder that China could cut off its rare-earth exports and hurt U.S. industries.

On Wednesday, a commentary in state-run newspaper, the People's Daily took it a step further. But an explicit threat about rare-earth exports. "At present the United States completely overestimated its ability to control the global supply chain and is due to slap itself in the face when it sobers up from its happy, ignorant self- indulgence. Don't say we didn't warn you." To be sure, China cutting off these exports would hurt certain U.S. industries but it might not be the ace in the hand the paper claims.

The U.S. s already increasing domestic production and could import more materials from other countries. Because rare earths have been deemed critical to national defense, U.S. has already stockpiled some material. And not shipping to the U.S. could ultimately hurt China's rare-earth's industry overall by hurting the bottom lines. Still those losses could be something Beijing is willing to take in order to hurt the U.S.

To date, this is all just speculation. China hasn't taken any formal steps to restrict exports but really it's just a reminder that beyond just putting tariffs on U.S. imports here, China does have other ways to keep firing in this trade war in a battle that doesn't look like it's going to anytime soon. Matt Rivers, CNN Beijing.


HOWELL: All right, Matt, thanks. One might assume simulator training would be mandatory first sophisticated plane like the Boeing 737 Max. Especially after two fatal crashes, it seems that's not the case. Boeing is proposing putting the planes back into service without giving pilots any additional experience in simulators. We spoke to our Drew Griffin about it earlier.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (through telephone): Boeing and the FAA have yet to announce its final package or proposal on both software and training, retraining packages in order to bring the 737 Max back online in the United States. But what we are learning is that Boeing has proposed the various U.S.-based pilot groups that when the 737 Max is returned to service. It will not include any kind of recommendation for hands-on similar training -- simulator training for 737 Max pilot.

It would just include what they would call a computer-based training or retraining program on the MCAS system. That means that airlines would not have to take the expense and the time to put their 737 Max through fleet pilots back through a simulator training. So it would be a economic win but the airlines -- the question though is would it be a safety win for both the pilots and the flying public.

The pilots we've talked to seem to be somewhat split on this, believing that simulator training does not necessarily have to be required although some things may be out of the abundance of caution the FAA should require it. We're still waiting for that final proposal. But this would be a big step in skidding along the 737 Max back into the air if retraining on a simulator was not required.


HOWELL: Again, that was inside from our own Drew Griffin.

[02:40:00] The U.S. President is pushing back on reports the White House tried to keep the warship, the USS John McCain out of sight while he was in Japan. But he did call the effort quote well-meeting. Our Alexander Marquardt has this story for you.


ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Even in death, the late Arizona Senator John McCain has been attacked repeatedly by President Donald Trump.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was not a big pan fan of John McCain in any way shape or form.

MARQUARDT: But he denies going so far as to demand that the USS John S. McCain be moved so that he couldn't see it during his trip to Japan.

TRUMP: But I would never do a thing like that. Now, somebody did it because they thought didn't like him, OK? And they were well meaning. I will say, it's tough --

MARQUARDT: Well, meaning appearing to want to please the boss. Officials from the Navy say that the White House military office e- mailed back and forth with some Navy officials planning for the President's trip. Including one e-mail obtained by CNBC stipulating USS John McCain needs to be out of sight. Naval officials confirmed to CNN that the White House asked the ship to be moved or obscured.

Upon hearing about it, one official said maybe leadership told him to "knock it off." Instead of moving it for the President, the Wall Street Journal which broke the story, reported that a tarp was hung to cover the name. But officials say it was there for repairs and taken down before the President arrived. The Journal also reporting that the acting secretary of defense approved measures so that the ship didn't interfere with the visit. Which he flatly denied.

PATRICK SHANAHAN, ACTING SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I never authorized, I never approved any action around the movement or activity regarding that ship. Furthermore, I would never dishonor the memory of a great American patriot like Senator McCain.

MARQUARDT: The President has never share that feeling. Candidate Trump deny that the former Navy pilot that was shot down in Vietnam imprisoned for five years and tortured was a hero.

TRUMP: He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured. OK? MARQUARDT: And speeches as President even as McCain was dying and

then well after, the President has gone after McCain for blocking him from repealing Obamacare. As the President refused to let go, McCain's grieving daughter says that Trump is making the process unbearable.

MEGHAN MCCAIN, JOHN MCCAIN'S DAUGHTER: But it's impossible to go to through the grief process when my father who's been dead 10 months is constantly in the new cycle because the President is obsessed with the fact that he's never going to be a great man like he was.

MARQUARDT: Alex Marquardt, CNN Washington.


HOWELL: The governor of Arkansas says that the flooding in his state is almost unbelievable. Pictures show those scenes of devastation and officials say it could get even worse. We'll have that story next. Plus, a climber caught in the low oxygen death zone, it's what it's called of Mount Everest speaks out ahead. You will hear him describe the race for his life on that mountain.


[02:45:39] HOWELL: These images from the state of Arkansas, you can see that, that state has been hit hard by deadly flooding. And here is the thing, there are fears that it could get much worse.

The state Department of Emergency Management warns that several levees are leaking water threatening thousands of homes along the Arkansas River. Our meteorologist Derek Van Dam is following it all in the international weather center. Derek?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN INTERNATIONAL WEATHER ANCHOR: You know, George, we could see flooding ongoing for the next several weeks as it takes that amount of time for the runoff to make its way across the Mississippi Delta and eventually into the Gulf of Mexico. We have seen near historic levels, near record levels that many of the rivers including the Arkansas River as well as the Mississippi River.

Here is one example. This is the Mississippi River in an area called St. Mary. You can see completely inundated vehicles. This slow- motion disaster is unfolding across our nation's heartland because of weeks of heavy rainfall that is allowing for the cresting of these rivers as they eventually filter downstream into the Mississippi River all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

At the moment, you can actually trace the warnings from the National Weather Service for flash flooding warning across -- warnings across Mississippi and the Arkansas River indicated with that shading of green.

We have over 80 river gauges indicating some sort of major flooding at the moment. 102 moderate gate or gauges reporting -- moderate flooding, and that's all thanks to this 20 inch plus rainfall that we've experienced in the month of May. Incredible amounts of rain from Kansas and to Oklahoma, Missouri, and Arkansas. Remember the Mississippi River basically bisects the continental United States.

Now, take a look at this river gauge, for example. This is called the Van Buren river gauge on the Arkansas River. Their current level is just over 40 feet. Flood stage is at 22 feet. So, we're 18 feet above where we should be, and we've already had major flooding in that particular area, and it's expected to continue as it crests.

Now, there has been a break in the precipitation. However, we do expect more rainfall by the end of the weekend and into the early parts of next week, you can see on our rainfall accumulation map.

And not to mention, we've not only had our flooding concerns but we've also had a round of severe weather. We had another additional tornado that brings us to 15 consecutive days in the continental United States with a reported tornado at the very least one tornado.

This is coming out of Elliott City, Maryland. And you can see the report here, two tornados actually updating that for my producer, and over 50 wind reports at damage. That tops us over 400 tornadoes in the past 15 days. Incredible amounts of activity taking place over the central U.S. Thanks to our collision of air mass.

Now, what's next today? Well, we have another round of severe weather expected across Virginia and to North Carolina, Michigan, Northern Wisconsin, and Southwestern Texas. Keep an eye to the sky, large hail, damaging winds, and the potential for an isolated tornado exist. And guess what, as we head into the weekend, look out Chicago all the way to Central Missouri and into Kansas, another round of severe weather as a cold front settles in.

So, we continue to see our severe weather threat unfolding. But the precipitation also continues across the central U.S. as well. George.

HOWELL: All right, Derek, we'll keep our eyes on it. Thank you so much.

VAN DAM: All right.

HOWELL: So now, to Mount Everest. 11 people have died on the world's highest peak, so far, this climbing season. The most dangerous part of that climb, the so-called, death zone. There have been actual human traffic jams going up and coming down the mountain. That's where climbers race against the clock before their oxygen tanks run out.

See the map here, you see where that death is right up toward the top. CNN's Arwa Damon spoke with climber Ian Stewart who barely made it out alive.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ian Stewart was pushing for the summit. On the same day, this viral photograph was taken. At what point were you out, when you realized and said to yourself, "I think I'm going to die?"

IAN STEWART, CAUGHT IN TRAFFIC ON EVEREST: So, the first point that panic really hit me was, was at the summit.

DAMON: Weeks earlier, he had said goodbye to his wife, Katie at base camp, the day before their first anniversary. She went back home to the U.S., he was about to tackle Everest, a summit he had been training for, for a decade.

What was the last thing you said to Katie before she said goodbye to her at base camp?

[02:50:10] STEWART: That I'll be safe, and that it's just a hill, and that I won't prioritize the summit over coming home safely to you. I feel like I left my wife right in the eyes and told her that, and then, almost didn't follow through.

DAMON: For the next weeks during the acclimatization period. Ian and other climbers put themselves to the test. Moving in between the camps at different altitudes, to get their minds and bodies adjusted.

STEWART: Sadly, there were abundant examples of the experience all across the mountain.

DAMON: When the weather window opened on the 23rd, Ian waited a bit hoping the crowds would clear and then went for it.

STEWART: It's difficult to move up because there's always people coming down and they're trying to unclip around you.

DAMON: He had planned for an eight-hour trek to the summit, it took him 12.

STEWART: So, I was up there with our guide, and he looked at me and was like, hey, we're both really low on oxygen, we got to go. And immediately, got back and the queue to get down. As I mentioned, very quickly got stuck at the -- at the top of the Hillary Step. And from there, it just felt like the next five or six hours was just sort of not to be dramatic, but like a race for my life to get back down the mountain safely.

And as I mentioned, I was -- I was very lucky that one of our Sherpas in our group decided to make the decision to bring an extra bottle of oxygen up from the balcony.

DAMON: When you have that moment of I might die because I just decided to pursue my dream, what's the top process that keeps you going?

STEWART: For this mantra that I kind of read, reiterated in my head over and over again was promised Katie I come back to her safely. When I finally got to the very end of the descent, when I was about a half an hour away from camp four, I just started breaking down crying, just out of anger at myself for coming that close to not fulfilling that promise coming back.

DAMON: Ian later found out that another member of the group he had started out with, didn't make it. Robin Haynes Fisher, who posted this video to Instagram concerned about the crowds, writing, "I am hopeful my decision to go for the 25th will mean fewer people."

Ian is still processing, coping with the entire experience. Summiting Everest changed him just not in the way he had always dreamed it would. Arwa Damon, CNN, Kathmandu.


HOWELL: Arwa, thank you. Still ahead, we're off to Spain. Next, the Saturday sees the showpiece European football event of the season in sunny Madrid. It's the first all English Champions League final in 11 years, and the hunt is on for a ticket to the game.


HOWELL: We are closer to Saturday's big kick-off in Madrid. Where an all Premier League battle will see Tottenham and Liverpool going head to head for the biggest club prize in European football.

But getting a ticket could be tougher than the battle for the trophy. Our Amanda Davies caught up with supporters traveled to the Spanish capital but may not end up at the match.


[02:54:57] AMANDA DAVIES, CNN INTERNATIONAL SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Whether it's your first Champions League final or ninth appearance in the European Cup decider, for football fans, this is the holy grail.

But before we talk about when whether or not Harry Kane should be starting for Spurs, or if this is the moment Jurgen Klopp finally wins his first piece of major silverware for Liverpool. The big question among supporters here in Madrid is whether or not there's any tickets going spare?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Awful that we'd have the opportunity to try and get to the game, but it's 10,000 pounds a ticket.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't have a ticket, it's too expensive for us. The hotels are dramatically expensive. We were here two weeks ago, the prices were like 30 times lower, but we are having fun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're struggling. We go yesterday, we might move to a hotel tonight. We've got no hotel tomorrow or Saturday, we've got no tickets, we've got no return flight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have no ticket yet. So we're on to locate.

DAVIES: How confident are you of getting a ticket?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not confident at all.

DAVIES: Have you got nice tickets?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we're just going to get in here, so cut the atmosphere, watch the game with a bar, once in a lifetime experience, really.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Journey was very easy. Flew direct from London to Madrid. I've got a ticket, and we put tonight being straight off the semi-final, and no problem.

DAVIES: How come -- how come you've done so much better than so many others?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can go football years and years, you prepare yourself, you know what to do, and you're getting quick.

DAVIES: It's only going to get tougher as kickoff gets ever closer for the thousands of fans here hoping to get their hands on a ticket to see their team lift the trophy on Saturday. Amanda Davies, CNN, Madrid.


HOWELL: And for the first time in the history of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, a group of kids have conquered everything the dictionary could throw at them, literally. The popular spelling contest, so competitive, it's broadcast in the U.S. on a sports network. Eight winners were named after an unprecedented 3-1/2 hour final.

Officials said they were running out of challenging words. 17 rounds in, and anyone left after the 20th round would be champion.

These were the winning words. All eight kids ranging from 12 to 14 years old, each are getting a Scripps cup, and $50,000 cash prize. Even the dictionary knew when it lost, Merriam-Webster tweeting that it concedes and is "so proud." Congratulations to them.

Thank you for being with us for CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN center in Atlanta. More news right after the break. Stay with us.