Return to Transcripts main page


President Trump to Slap Mexico with New Tariffs; Women Are Outrage on New Abortion Laws; Saudi King Calls on Iran's Behavior; Seven Dead, 21 Missing After River Boats Collide; Trump Threatens Mexico With Tariffs Over Immigration; Trump Goes On Falsehood-Filled Tirade; Russia Investigations; Imprisoned Leaker Barred From Speaking To Media; Boeing Proposes No Additional Simulator Training; Dangerous Weather, Arkansas Flooding; Trump's Unspeakable Problem; Scripps National Spelling Bee Winners. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired May 31, 2019 - 03:00   ET



GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. President ramps up his border dispute with Mexico, threatening now to impose tariffs if Mexico doesn't stop the flow of illegal immigration on the border.

Plus, search operations resume after a boat sinking in Budapest, Hungary. Twenty-one people there still missing.

Also ahead, the last abortion clinic in Missouri. We'll know in the next 24 hours if it will be allowed to continue operations or if it will be shut down for good. A potential casualty in America's long- running battle on abortion.

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

Three-o-one on the U.S. East Coast. President Trump's anger over illegal immigration is taking a form of a new threat, tariffs, used as a weapon against Mexico.

In a series of tweets on Thursday evening, President Trump said he would even impose a 5 percent tariff starting June 10th, unless Mexico stops illegal immigrants from entering the United States. And those tariffs will gradually increase until the problem he says is solved.

But Mexico's president is telling President Trump, I don't want confrontation. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, AMLO as he's called says he is sending some government representatives to Washington Friday, hoping to reach an agreement that both countries will be happy with.

All this comes as U.S. Customs and Border Patrol 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 in the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday. More than 900 were families.

Now whether you call it venting, whether you call it a tirade, President Trump had a lot to say Thursday. A lot of it, filled with falsehoods. Our Jim Acosta has this.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: One day after Special Counsel Robert Mueller left the door open to the possibility that the president has engaged in criminal behavior, Mr. Trump fired back.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think Mueller is a true never-Trumper. He is somebody that dislikes Donald Trump. He is somebody that didn't get a job that he requested that he wanted very badly. And then he was appointed.

And despite that, and despite $40 million, 18 Trump haters, including people that work for Hillary Clinton and some of the worst human beings on earth, they got nothing. It's pretty amazing.


ACOSTA: But much of what the president said wasn't true. For starters, the latest estimated cost of the Mueller report and Russia investigation is $25 million, not $40 million. And as for the president's claim, that Mueller was conflicted, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon told investigators that assertion was ridiculous.

The president also said that Mueller wanted the position of FBI director. But that's not true, either, according to White House aide who said Mueller did not come in looking for the position, a job he had during the Bush and Obama administration.

Still earlier in the day, the president appeared to make a startling admission. Tweeting, "Russia, Russia, Russia. That's all you heard at the beginning of this witch hunt hoax. And now Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected."

But the president later tried to clean up that part about Russia helping him get elected.


TRUMP: Russia did not get me elected. You know who got me elected? You know who got me elected? I got me elected. Russia didn't help me at all. Russia, if anything, I think, helped the other side.


ACOSTA: Here's the reality. A 2017 U.S. intelligence community report stated, "We further assessed Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump." And then there is the president's personal call for Russian assistance during the campaign.


TRUMP: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.


ACOSTA: The president also appeared sickened by the idea of being impeached.


TRUMP: To me, it's a dirty word, the word impeach. It's a dirty, filthy, disgusting word and it had nothing to do with me.


[03:05:00] ACOSTA: Even as Democrats are using that "i" word more and more.


REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D-PA): I think we should open up an impeachment inquiry. That is just a more robust version, a more robust name and direct name to the oversight that we were already involved in.


ACOSTA: The president claim he had nothing to do with the efforts made by the White House military office to hide the USS John McCain from Mr. Trump during his recent to Japan. But Mr. Trump said he appreciated the move, aimed at sparing the president the sight of the ship.


TRUMP: I don't know what happened. I wasn't involved. I would not have done that. I was very angry with John McCain because he killed health care. I was not a big fan of John McCain in any way, shape or form.


ACOSTA: Former Vice President Joe Biden said McCain's legacy should be honored.


FMR. VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: John McCain was a war hero anything less than that is beneath anyone who doesn't treat him that way. He is a hero.


HOWELL: A lot to talk about. And let's now bring in CNN senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein. Ron joining this hour from Los Angeles. Good to have you with us.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, George. HOWELL: Ron, let's talk with the president's new threat to Mexico of

tariffs starting June 10th and to increase each month if that nation doesn't, as he said in his tweet, stop immigrants from crossing the U.S. border with Mexico illegally.

As far as pressure is concern for both nation's economies, what would it mean for the United States? What would it mean for Mexico?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, first, I mean, we have seen the Mexican government, to a striking extent, really, try to avoid conflict with Trump, even though it is a leftist, a left-leaning government. And so it will be interesting to see how they react to this.

Look, Mexico and -- you know, Mexico and the U.S. are important trading partners of each other. I believe Mexico is the second-largest source of cars manufactured in the U.S., after the U.S. itself. The largest foreign source.

It is obviously the extremely, become an extremely important destination for U.S. exports. So, I think this will be a lot of pressure on both countries. And what's fascinating to me, is that all of this comes at a time when 2018 signaled that the southwestern states in the U.S., Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and even to some extent Texas, really are the emerging frontier of the competition between the parties.

And Republicans are at risk of losing their traditional advantage in many of those states. Particularly Arizona. And it is -- this is something that is going to put a lot more pressure on the Republican elected officials from those states because it's already unpopular.

You saw, for example, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce issue a critical statement today. What will Martha McSally, the Republican senator who is going to be up for reelection next year say about it. What will John Cornyn say about it? What will Cory Gardner in Colorado say about it?

HOWELL: Ron, those are fair questions with an election right around the corner. But another question is, is it legal?


HOWELL: Privately officials have conceded that it is not clear that the president has the legal authority to impose tariffs on this scale. We also know that White House lawyers have spent time talking with Republican lawmakers to try to get them comfortable with this approach.

So, the question here, do you see this as this something that could get tied up in legal challenges even before that June 10th date arrives?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I saw Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate finance committee, question the legality of it almost immediately. We'll see. I mean, this is an area where Congress can act and to make a clear statement against this. But that would require Republicans to do something that they have almost never done, which is to vote against the president.

I suspect if he does go ahead with this, as on almost everything else, we would likely see it go to court. And I don't know -- you know, I'm not enough of an expert in the trade laws to tell you whether this will be able to be sustained in court.

But I think it was striking that Grassley tonight was out there right away questioning whether the president really had the authority to do this.

HOWELL: Well, this announcement comes on the heels of the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.


HOWELL: Their new trade agreement replacing NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. What impact would you say this has on the USMCA, whether it eventually gets ratified?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, that's what so striking about all of this. I mean, literally on the same day the president submitted a language to Congress that is designed to set the clock in motion to force the House to vote on his revised, updated NAFTA, after the Speaker Nancy Pelosi had signaled very clearly that Democrats want more time to consider it.

I mean, this really does kind of make a mockery of the whole idea of a free trade agreement between the three countries. When you say that you are going to use tariffs as a way of putting pressure on Mexico, for really, you know, an issue that is exogenous, unrelated to trade, you know, the obvious question is, how committed are you to anything you put on paper.

[03:09:59] I think -- I think this is going to cause a lot of questions, a lot of anxiety among supporters of free trade and really tough questions for the Mexican government, which as I say has gone out of its way to avoid conflict with Trump.

This is something that maybe harder for them to turn the other cheek on.

HOWELL: Before this news about tariffs, Ron, we saw the president do something today that he's not done before. President Trump admitting on Twitter that Russia helped him get elected, then attempting to walk it back not even an hour after that. Again, this is the first time we've ever seen him do so.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. It was remarkable. And you know, it certainly gave the suggestion that it was a tweet sent, you know, more in rage than in consideration along with all of this, you know, reprising this bizarre attacks on Robert Mueller, who, you know, if anything, he has signaled that he wants to be a noncombatant from here on out.

So, it is of a piece, you know, whenever the president feels that he is under threat, he attacks the -- you know, whatever source. He attacks the legitimacy or whoever he perceives to be the threat. And today, I think he probably just tweeted before he thought and

acknowledged what the Mueller report made abundantly clear and what Mueller repeated in his very brief statement yesterday. That Russia's interference was not only designed to sow a discord in the U.S., it was to benefit one candidate, Donald Trump, and to hurt another, Hillary Clinton.

HOWELL: And when the president was speaking, he also stepped up his attacks on Robert Mueller. Listen.



TRUMP: I think he's totally conflicted. And he loves Comey. You look at the relationship that those two -- so whether it's love or a deep like. But he should -- he was conflicted. Robert Mueller should have never been chosen. I think he is a total, conflicted person. I think Mueller is a true never-Trumper.


HOWELL: Ron, but you'll remember, there was a time where President Trump, his staff, his surrogates, all praised Robert Mueller and his team and his report. But now, Mr. Trump suggesting that Mueller was conflicted in his work. How does that stand in your view? Or does it come across as this president as if he is somehow conflicted on Mueller?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I mean, it is -- I think this is kind of the preemptive attempt to discrediting Mueller before what, I think he now -- the president now anticipates will be public testimony at some point, however reluctant from the former special counsel.

And you know, what can you say about this? After a certain point where the president, you know, reverses himself and runs back over his tracks. There is a reason why his approval rating among the public is running roughly 35 points below the share of people who say the economy is good or excellent.

That's almost an unimaginable number for anyone who has been around American politics overtime. Usually the standing of the president and the standing of the economy move together in tandem.

But it is this sense among a significant portion of voters who simply question his fitness for the job, in temperament, in demeanor, in the language that he uses and the sentiments that he expresses.

And every time he does something like this, which is aimed at kind of providing talking points for Sean Hannity and the Fox and you know, all the talk radio hosts, he is sacrificing that kind of sentiment among people who are otherwise satisfied with the economy for the goal of trying to stir up and consolidate his base.

It is the core political trade of his presidency. He does it every day almost in a different way. And this is just another example of that. HOWELL: All right. Ron Brownstein, we appreciate your time and

perspective today. Thank you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

HOWELL: All right. Now to the issue of abortion here in the United States. It is legal in this country. But several conservative states are adopting bills that seriously restrict women's access to safe abortion.

Louisiana, the latest to pass a near total ban. On Thursday, that state's governor signed a bill outlawing abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy, before many women would even know that they are pregnant.

The State of Georgia also facing blowback from some of the world's biggest production companies. Disney, Netflix, and CNN parent company Warner Media. They all say they may stop making movies and TV shows in this state if its abortion law takes effect.

And a court battle also underway now in Missouri to keep the last functioning abortion clinic in that state from closing later on Friday. They need a license from the state but the clinic operator tells CNN, they are being held hostage by political regulators.


DAVID EISENBERG, PHYSICIAN, OBSTETRICS & GYNECOLOGY: In the State of Missouri, we've had these targeted regulations of abortion providers and these rules put in place for decades that have continually regulated abortion to the point that, while the law of the land, as you pointed out in your intro, shows that abortion is legal in the country.

It is totally different from state-to-state and region-to-region. And in the State of Missouri, abortion has been legal but not accessible for so many women. And that's true for too many parts of the United States.

[03:15:01] And so, I've spent the day talking to women about the things that they talk to me about when they seek an abortion. The things that I'm forced to talk with them about because the state health department requires it.

In addition to invasive pelvic exams that are not necessary and ultrasounds and tell them, you know, I'm sorry that you have to go through all these things. And in addition, I'm sorry to say but I don't know if we will be able to take care of you next week.


HOWELL: The Missouri court will make its ruling on Friday. We'll continue to follow the story.

A major search is underway in Hungary on the Danube River. Teams are looking for 21 people. People who are missing after the small tour boat collided with a river cruise ship.

At least seven South Korean tourists were killed in that incident. Hungarian police have detained the ship's captain as they continue to investigate the cause of the crash.


ADRIAN PAL, BUDAPEST POLICE SPOKESMAN (through translator): On the recordings you can see the small ship, Mermaid, and the big ship, Viking, both of them heading north.

As they reach in between the two pillars of the Margaret Bridge, Mermaid turns in front of the Viking for some unknown reason. Viking as she touches it flips it. And in about seven seconds, the Mermaid falls on its side and sinks.


HOWELL: CNN's Paula Hancocks has the latest on the search efforts there.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's still being treated as a search and rescue operation. But clearly, as more time goes by, hopes are starting to dim of finding anymore survivors from that boat sinking on the Danube River.

Now we've heard from Hungarian authorities that the search and rescue teams have actually extended the area that they are searching. Thirty kilometers downstream they're searching, as well. We know that strong currents and the intense rainfall recently has made the rescue operation very difficult.

Now, we also know that more than 40 family members from here, from South Korea, are heading to Budapest to see what they can do to find their family members. Now we also know that there's a rapid response team that's going to be in the area and also the foreign minister Kang Kyung-hwa will be heading over to head this up.

Of the 35 people onboard this ship, the Mermaid, 33 of them were South Korean. Now we know also that the South Korean President, Moon Jae-in, had spoken to the Hungarian prime minister. He had been assured that there were 200 divers and medical professionals who rushed to the scene straight away to try and find any survivors.

But what we heard from Hungarian police, is that after this collision between the Mermaid and a much larger cruise ship, the Mermaid sank within seven seconds. So, giving passengers on board very little time to try and get off of the ship.

Now we understand also that the authorities that authorities will be salvaging the ship. They believe it could take days to actually bring it from the bottom of the Danube. But at this point, it is still being treated as a search and rescue operation. Authorities doing -- say that they're doing everything they can to try and find more of the passengers.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.

HOWELL: Paula, thank you.

Still ahead, President Trump gives Israel's prime minister a map of Israel that includes the Golan Heights. We'll tell you what the prime minister wrote on it, ahead.

Plus, Arab leaders hold emergency summits to call out Iran for alleged hostilities against the oil industry. The latest from Saudi Arabia, as CNN Newsroom pushes ahead.


HOWELL: In Israel, there are deepening political problems for that nation's prime minister and the U.S. Middle East peace plan could be a casualty.

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

Kushner presented the prime minister with a gift, a gift signed by President Trump. It was a map of Israel that includes the Israeli occupied Golan Heights.

Mr. Netanyahu beamed as he showed it off, pointing out that the president had highlighted the annex territory with the word, quote, "nice."

Arab leaders are turning up the heat on Iran at emergency summits in Saudi Arabia. The meetings follow a series of recent attacks on oil tankers and oil facilities. Iran denies any involvement in these hostilities.

But in addressing the Arab leaders, the Saudi king was adamant, saying Iran's actions threaten regional security and stability.

CNN's senior international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson, live in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia following the story. And Nic, it seems the Saudi king making his point and his message quite clear on Iran, along with a show of force that he has regional support.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: That certainly, to seemed to be how things unfolded in the two summits that were concluded overnight here. The GCC, the Gulf Cooperation Council Arab League summit, both of those meetings, the king getting what he wanted.

He had a very clear message. And that is the reason that we're in this situation today with Iran, is because we haven't been firm enough in the past. And he called for international solidarity and support in tackling with it, tackling this issue. This is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SALMAN BIN ABDULAZIZ AL-SAUD, KING OF SAUDI ARABIA (through translator): We call upon the international community to assume its responsibilities 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: Now the king got the answer back from both of those summits that he wanted. There was a message coming back, the GCC saying in their conclusions that they support Saudi Arabia in the face of the situation. They support the Emirates in the face of those ships being attacked off of the Emirati port of Fujairah a few weeks ago.

[03:25:05] So, the king heard what he wanted. But it was interesting. The language that was used in the joint communiques didn't -- wasn't strongly against Iran, didn't mention Iran by name. And I think it's significant, as well that there were no -- there were no new red lines drawn here if Iran does this, then x and y will happen.

The language wasn't bellicosing (Ph), indeed. The king said that he wanted peace and stability and security in the region, including for the Iranian people. The Iranian foreign ministry spokesman however has criticized the Saudi king. Has said that Saudi Arabia is really following a western and Zionist agenda and is dividing the region over this issue.

HOWELL: Nic Robertson, thank you for the reporting and we'll keep in touch with you there. Nic, thank you.

Moving on from the Russia investigation. That's what the U.S. president wants to do. And it appears the Kremlin feels the same way.

Also, she was one of the first people to blow the whistle on Russian hacking from the U.S. election system. Now she is behind bars and forbidden from speaking with news media. CNN's exclusive interview with her mother is ahead.


HOWELL: Welcome back to viewers here in the United States and around the world. You're watching CNN Newsroom live from the ATL. I'm George Howell, with the headlines we're following for you.

This hour, a search and rescue operation is underway in Budapest, Hungary. This for 21 people missing after a river cruise ship collided with a sightseeing boat in the Danube.

[03:30:01] At least seven South Korean tourists were killed on that boat. Police have detained the cruise ship captain as they continue to investigate. The U.S. President is threatening Mexico with tariffs unless it stops

the flow of illegal immigrants from coming into the United States. Mr. Trump says, 5 percent tariffs will kick-off in June, or June 10th and would keep going up until 25 percent tariffs go into effect by October.

The U.S. President also went on a falsehood-filled tirade Thursday. Among other things, he attacked special counsel Robert Mueller, he falsely stated that Mueller declared him innocent and called him a, quote, never-Trumper. Mr. Trump also said that Russia wanted Hillary Clinton to win the presidency which is not true. The Russian president himself said that he wanted Trump to win the presidency. It is clear that President Trump is tired of dealing with the Russia investigation. He attacks at every chance he gets and just wants to move on. And he has company, in Moscow. Our Fred Pleitgen explains.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Kremlin trying to downplay Special Counsel Robert Mueller's emphatic statement that Russia systematically meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

ROBERT MUELLER, SPECIAL COUNSEL: And that allegation deserves the attention of every American.

PLEITGEN: Despite the Mueller report's clear findings and associated indictments, Moscow continues to deny attacking America's democracy. With Russian politician are blasting and even mocking the special counsel. A senior member of Russia Senate saying quote, Mueller failed to put the blame on Russia, as well as to prove Russia's connections to Trump. Now, he is trying to justify himself in front of those who have placed serious hopes in him.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We all have a lot of questions.

PLEITGEN: Moscow claims it was mostly anti-Trump Democrats who pushed the Mueller probe. Echoing Trump's own messaging that he repeated just morning.

TRUMP: Eighteen Trump haters, including people who worked for Hillary Clinton and some of the worst human beings on earth, they got nothing. It's pretty amazing.

PLEITGEN: Despite the kremlin today submitting documents to suspend a key nuclear arms treaty with the U.S., both the Kremlin and the Trump White House seem eager to move on and improve U.S./Russian relations. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, traveled to Russia this month to meet both with Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, to try and map out areas where Russia and the U.S. can cooperate. Responding to CNN, Vladimir Putin's spokesman refused to even talk about Robert Mueller's statement.

DMITRY PESKOV, PUTIN'S DEPUTY (through translator): No. I can't comment on that. We spent enough time talking about Mr. Mueller and the results of his work.

PLEITGEN: Russia has long said it wants to get relations with the U.S. back on track, claiming continued talk about election interference would only get in the way. Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Moscow.


HOWELL: Special Counsel Robert Mueller has broken his silence on the Russia investigation, but we have yet to hear from the woman who was among the first to sound the alarm over Moscow's election interference. Her name is Reality Winner. She was a U.S. Intelligence Specialist who leaked the classified report on Russian cyber-attack against the U.S. voting system. For that, she is serving more than five years in prison and has prohibited from speaking with news media. Our Nima Elbagir spoke with Winner's mother as she traveled to visit her daughter in prison.


BILLIE WINNER-DAVIS, MOTHER OF REALITY WINNER: This is a soldier who protected us.

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Reality Lee Winner. A decorated airman. A veteran of America's drone program.

WINNER-DAVIS: When you see somebody go poof on your screen, you've got to have it right.

ELBAGIR: A Russia whistle-blower, the first to be arrested in the Trump era and CNN has learned, currently blocked by U.S. prison authorities from speaking to the media for any publication purposes. In May 2017, Reality Winner leaked a classified NSA document to a media organization, describing a Russian cyber-attack on a U.S. voting machine company. It was the first time the extent of Russia's war on the U.S.'s electoral machinery was revealed to the public.

Winner did little to cover her tracks and was arrested even before the document was published online. She pleaded guilty and is currently serving a sentence of over five years. The prosecutor said Winner had leaked top secret information that revealed intelligence sources and methods. Reality's mother, Billie, invited us along as she went to visit her in jail.

Today, we are traveling up to Fort Worth, which, it's probably about a 7, 7.5 hour road trip.

What are you thinking about?

[03:35:00] WINNER-DAVIS: The anticipation of seeing her, being able to hug her.

ELBAGIR: So, this is as far as we are allowed to go, even though we've been seeking permission for months now, to interview reality in prison, but we've been stonewalled by authorities. As we wait for Billie, prison officers come by.

Good morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you all doing?

ELBAGIR: We're with CNN.


ELBAGIR: Trying to block our line of sight. Eventually, we just leave. The United States Federal Bureau of Prison tells CNN, the warden's decision with regards to interview request is respected and final. The U.S. government has labeled Winner a quintessential inside a threat, because we've been blocked from interviewing Reality, her mother, Billie, agrees to give us her first major TV interview since Reality began serving her sentence.

How was Reality?

WINNER-DAVIS: That is a hard question to answer. You know, I can see the sadness in her when we show up. I feel like she is really embarrassed to be where she is at.

ELBAGIR: The prosecution argued that the release of those documents endangered American national interests.

WINNER-DAVIS: I think that we, as Americans, deserved to that proof. And so how is it that she put us in danger by giving us that proof? I wouldn't change what she's done, because I (inaudible) that wish. She did was noble. And I think what she did was patriotic.

ELBAGIR: We have been blocked from accessing Reality. Has Reality, as far as you know, come under any pressure to stop her from speaking to the press?

WINNER-DAVIS: She has been warned. She has been frightened, you know, as far as the restrictions on her communications. She knows, you know, with her plea agreement, what she can and cannot discuss, but the Bureau of Prisons has made it even harder for her, because they're telling her she cannot even have any contact with any kind of journalists or media in any way, shape or form.

ELBAGIR: Why do you think the authorities are trying so hard to block Reality's access with regards to the outside world hearing her voice?

WINNER-DAVIS: The prosecution painted her to be a very evil person. And I honestly believe that they are afraid, that if America gets to know who Reality Lee Winner really is, they're going to see that wasn't the case at all.

ELBAGIR: If you could say anything to the president, what would you say to him? I would say please release her. She deserves it above anyone else. She has served her country. She deserves this.

Back at home, Billie says she is going to keep campaigning for her daughter to be released. Keep trying to show the world that her daughter is not the traitor she was portrayed as. This is my Christmas card when she was in jail in Lincoln, that first

year. You deserve so much more than this little card, because you are my mom and my home. That is who Reality is, you know?

ELBAGIR: Nima Elbagir, CNN, Kingsville, Texas.


HOWELL: Now, to the aircraft maker Boeing. One might assume simulated training would be mandatory for a sophisticated plane like the 737 Max, especially after two crashes, but it turns out that is not the case. Boeing is proposing putting the planes back into service without giving pilots any additional experience in simulators. Our Drew Griffin, explained his thoughts on that just a bit earlier.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Boeing and the FAA have yet to announce the final package or proposal of both software package and training or 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 simulator training for 737 Max pilots. 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 fleet pilots back through a simulator training. So, it would be an economic win for the airlines. The question, though, is would it be a safety win for both the pilots and the flying public?

[03:40:04] 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 think that maybe out of the abundance of caution, the FAA should require it.

We're waiting for that final proposal, but this would be a big step in speeding along the 737 Max back into the air, if retraining on a simulator was not required.


HOWELL: Again, that is the voice of our senior investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin, following that story.

Now, to singer R. Kelly facing new and more serious charges in his sexual abuse case. He's been indicted in Chicago on 11 new counts on sexual abuse and assault. Four are felonies which have maximum penalties of 30 years in prison. It's the latest legal headache for Kelly, who has faced accusations of abuse, manipulation and inappropriate encounters with young women for more than two decades. R. Kelly has consistently maintained that he is innocent.

The governor of Arkansas says flooding in his state is almost unbelievable. And the pictures you see here, the devastation, it is incredible. Officials say it could even get worse. That story is next.


HOWELL: Take a hard look here at these images in the state of Arkansas. That state has been hit hard by deadly flooding. And there are fears it could get worse. The state's department of emergency management warns that several levees are leaking water and threatening thousands of homes along the Arkansas River.

Let's bring in our meteorologist Derek Van Dam in the International Weather Center. And Derek, again, that state has been really hit hard by these storms. The flooding and certainly a strong storms.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, without a doubt. We're talking about weeks of incessant rainfall. What you're looking at behind me is the flood warning page from the National Weather Service. Anywhere you see that shade of green indicates, flood warnings that are in place across the central United States.

[03:45:13] And you can basically track the entire Mississippi River Delta from the north to the south, as it exits into the Gulf of Mexico. And I trace that out because it's important. The Arkansas River is also part of that same waterway system that eventually flows downstream and exits towards the Gulf of Mexico, which takes several weeks, by the way, after incessant rainfall just like we've seen so far this season.

Now if you tally up all the river gauges that are reporting flooding, we're talking over 400 locations reporting flooding at the moment, in fact, 80 of those river gauges, 81, reporting major flooding. So, that includes states of Arkansas, and to Missouri, as well, and no wonder, considering that we have seen well over 20 inches of rainfall just in the past 30 days, right where you see that shading of white and purple, you look at river gauges specifically. This is the Van Buren River gauge on the Arkansas River. The flood level at the moment is just over 40 feet. You're flood stages at 22 feet, so we're talking about an 18 feet difference from what demarcates major flooding. And that is in going and of course, as the river continues to crest as the water moves downstream towards the Missouri River, ultimately and into the Gulf of Mexico.

We're in a brief lull in our precipitation, but the computer models are starting to pick-up on the potential more shower and thunderstorm activity in the areas that are hardest hit across the central parts of the U.S. Now, in terms of severe weather, we are talking tornadoes now, we have two confirmed tornadoes on Thursday alone, that brings our total over the past 15 days topping 400. Unbelievable.

This is unprecedented for the central U.S. An incredible amounts of active severe storms creating tornadic thunderstorms. Now, in terms of severe weather today, Southwest Texas, central Michigan, northern Wisconsin, Virginia into the Carolinas. Large hail, damaging winds. That's the main threat. Maybe, perhaps, an isolated tornado can't rule out that out. Now, there is some silver lining for this weather forecast. We're

starting to see if the weather pattern is slowly beginning to change. We are going to becoming more zonal. That is just a fancy meteorological term for weather patterns moving from west-to-east across the U.S., instead of having that big dip in the jet stream. So, this is going to ultimately change our severe weather setup. It could start to diminish it over the coming days. And it's also going to give us a bit of a relief from the heat wave we've experience across the southeast. Temperatures are going to finally cool down across many locations. George, that's the good news out of this.

HOWELL: All right. That is the good news. Derek, thank you.

Still ahead, it's a despised word for the U.S. President. That word, impeachment. Something the American leader can hardly bring himself to say. We'll explain ahead.


HOWELL: The U.S. President famously tells us he knows the best words, but there is one word this president wouldn't want to say. Our Jeanne Moos explains.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It used to be just another word in President Trump's vocabulary.

TRUMP: The impeach word. Impeach Trump. Maxine Waters, we will impeach him. Has he done anything wrong? No, but let's impeach him anyway.

MOOS: But as impeachment loomed larger.

TRUMP: What a job he's done, by the way, we're impeaching him.

MOOS: The president's preferred word got shorter.

TRUMP: To talk about the "I" word. The "I" word.

MOOS: And finally he blew up.

TRUMP: To me it's a dirty word. The word impeach. It's a dirty, filthy, disgusting word.

MOOS: Apparently it wasn't quite so dirty, filthy and disgusting five years ago, when citizen Trump tweeted about President Obama. Are you allowed to impeach a president for gross incompetence? Now, it's impeachment that he is calling gross. Legal scholar Lawrence Tribe responded tongue and cheek, those obscene founding fathers, a bunch of dirty, old men apparently. And someone else used Trump's old excuse.

TRUMP: This was locker room talk.

MOOS: To explain how filthy impeachment got into the locker room constitution. But many consider impeachment to be a peach of a word and they rush to defend it. It is second in beauty only to the word resignation. Comedians were already eyeing the president's use of the "I" word.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The big "I" word.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are the words that begin with "I" that lead to the president neatly, ill tempered, immoral and ignorant.

MOOS: From Colbert's late show.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- inappropriate, insufferable and imminently impeachy.

MOOS: To Randy Rainbow.

TRUMP: To talk about the "I" word.


TRUMP: The "I" word.


TRUMP: The "I" word.


MOOS: Considering how President Trump now considers impeach to be --

TRUMP: A dirty, filthy, disgusting word.

MOOS: He sure used to enjoy employing it with (inaudible).

TRUMP: But he didn't do anything wrong. It doesn't matter, we will impeach him.

MOOS: Is that an impeachable offense? Jeanne Moos, CNN --

TRUMP: We will impeach him.

MOOS: -- New York.


HOWELL: For the first time in the history of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, a group of kids have conquered everything the dictionary can throw at them. The populous spelling contest is so competitive, it is broadcast on a U.S. sports network. And just eight hours -- just hours ago rather, eight winners, they were crowned after an unprecedented 3.5 hour final. Officials said they were running out of challenging words 17 rounds in. And anyone left after the 20th round would be a champion.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are correct.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are correct.

[03:55:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: L-l-e-t-t-e.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- p-e-n-d-e-l-o-q-u-e. Pendeloque.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are correct.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is unbelievable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: N-u-o-u-s. Cernuous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are correct.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are correct.


HOWELL: That would stunt me, for sure. All eight kids ranging from 12 to 14 year old, each are getting a Scripps Cup and $50,000 cash prize. Eula dictionary (inaudible), Miriam Webster tweeting, concedes and is quote, so proud.

Thanks for being with us for this hour of "CNN Newsroom." I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. For our viewers in the United States, "Early Start" is next. For viewers around the world, more news with my colleague, Bianca Nobilo in London.