Return to Transcripts main page


President Trump Calls Off Planned Retaliatory Strike against Iran; Presidential Candidates Speak at Democratic Convention in South Carolina; Plane Carrying Skydivers Crashes in Hawaii; Central African Republic Suffers Humanitarian Crisis in Wake of Militia Fighting; Democratic Presidential Candidate Washington Governor Jay Inslee Interviewed on Campaigning in South Carolina; Numerous Gray Whale Corpses Recently Beached on U.S. West Coast. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired June 22, 2019 - 14:00   ET



[14:00:16] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again, everyone, and thank you so much for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We begin this hour with the latest on growing tension between the U.S. and Iran. Right now, the president is at Camp David meeting with top diplomatic and military leaders about the next steps in this mounting crisis. This morning, the president said military action is still on the table, but for now he plans to retaliate with new sanctions on Iran after it shot down a U.S. unmanned military drone. The president also explaining more about why he called off a pending military strike.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everybody was saying I'm a warmonger, and now they say I'm a dove. And I think I'm neither, if you want to know the truth. I'm a man with common sense, and that's what we need in this country is common sense. But I didn't like the idea of them knowingly shooting down an unmanned drone and then we kill 150 people. I didn't like that.


WHITFIELD: So for more on these developments, let's bring in now CNN's Boris Sanchez at the White House. So Boris, what more is being said from the president now that he's at Camp David?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Fred. Yes, President Trump explaining that he is at Camp David holding a series of meetings with close advisers not just on Iran but on a slew of other issues. He tweeted that out a short while ago. What we've heard on Iran from sources at the White House is that, yes, a military option is still very much on the table, but that the White House has multiple avenues to put pressure on Iran, and one of them is sanctions.

The president talked about new sanctions being imposed very slowly, some of them, in his words, very rapidly. We don't know exactly what that means, but this recent escalation between Iran and the United States is not really a coincidence. The president has long promised since the days of his presidential campaign, 2015, 2016, to remove the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, the JCPOA, and to impose harsh sanctions on that country. Now the president is promising economic prosperity for Iran if they broker a new nuclear deal. Listen to what the president said before departing for Camp David.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If Iran wants to become a wealthy nation again, become a prosperous nation, we'll call it, let's make Iran great again, does that make sense? Make Iran great again, it's OK with me. But they're never going to do it if they think in five or six years they're going to have a nuclear weapon.


SANCHEZ: Now, Fred, this promise of economic prosperity in exchange for a favorable outcome to the administration on foreign policy seems to be a feature of Trump's doctrine when it comes to international relations. He's promised the same not just to Iran but also to Kim Jong-un in North Korea. And just today, the administration unveiling the economic portion of its Mideast peace plan with a promise of a $50 billion investment in the Palestinian territories, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And then, Boris, what kind of response, if at all, is coming from the White House, particular on the "New York Times" reporting, saying that the president was in influenced by the point of view of FOX television host Tucker Carlson that the idea of a military strike against Iran would be crazy, that being a message conveyed to the president, and that's why he called it off, in part.

SANCHEZ: Fred, there are indications and reports out there that this decision was made before that show aired. The president, from what I've seen, did not directly respond to that, even though he was shouted multiple questions by reporters on the south lawn of the White House before departing. It is something we'll continue to ask the White House and monitor, though, and keep you updated with, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Boris Sanchez, thank you so much for that.

Meantime, a top Iranian general warns of a, quote, heavy cost if the U.S. launches any strikes. A senior armed forces spokesperson telling Iran's news agency that any attack will draw crushing response from Tehran. CNN International Correspondent Frederik Pleitgen is one who has been reporting on it. We'll check back with him when we can.

Also straight ahead, relations between the two adversaries have taken a dangerous turn this week. So what does this mean for U.S. and Iran diplomacy?


SAM KILEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This region will be relieved that Donald Trump orders his military to stand down at the last minute rather than retaliate against Iran for the downing of the Global Hawk drone. Notwithstanding the military embarrassment that the United States may have suffered, the idea that killing human beings in retaliation for downing of effectively a flying robot would have gone over very badly in this region even among American allies.

[14:05:00] Countries like Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, were notably quiet after the White House took this decision, and I think that reflects a really genuine fear. In fact, I know it from Emirati sources here and from public statements being made by the Emirati foreign minister that they want to see wisdom prevail, not pointing the finger at any states so far from the Emirati perspective at the Iranians as being belligerents in this, simply saying that state actors have been behind the mining of six vessels here in the Gulf of Oman.

Ultimately, everything here is about signaling. What the Iranians have been able to signal to Americans is the military capability to shoot down a highly sophisticated aircraft, while the Americans have signaled back by the decision from Donald Trump is that there may be a possibility for negotiation, to allow both sides to dial back a little on their rhetoric, certainly to suggest to the Iranians that they refrain from any more pinprick attacks that have been blamed on them by the Americans that have increased the whole atmosphere of tension here, and perhaps ultimately get back to negotiating some kind of return to at least a cold war rather than accelerate, as they have been over the last few days to what many people here feared would be an open war.

Sam Kiley, CNN, Khor Fakkan.


WHITFIELD: Also coming up, Democrats descend on South Carolina facing tough questions from potential voters. The stunning moment Joe Biden was asked about his record on women's reproductive rights.


[14:10:16] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. This is the biggest weekend so far for the 2020 presidential hopefuls. Twenty-one of the 23 Democratic candidates are in South Carolina making their pitches in the crucial early primary state. We have already heard from several candidates, and here are the messages.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (D-VT) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me say a few words about how we defeat Donald Trump, the most dangerous president in American history. We defeat Trump by running a campaign of energy and enthusiasm that substantially grows voter turnout, that gets young people, minorities, and working people involved in the political process in a way we have never seen.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, (D-CA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know that we have in this White House a president who says he wants to make America great again. Well, what does that mean? Does that mean he wants to take us back before schools were integrated? Does that mean he wants to take us back before the Voting Rights Act was enacted? Does he want to take us back before the Civil Rights Act was enacted? Does he mean he wants to take us back before Roe v. Wade was enacted? Because we're not going back. We're not going back.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, (D-MA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The time for small ideas is over. So here's how I see it. It's time for big plans, and yes, I've got some big plans.

Be part of this fight. This is our chance in 2020, our chance to dream big, to fight hard, and to win. Thank you.


MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG, (D-IN) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need a new generation of leadership to step up at the highest levels in our country.


BUTTIGIEG: We are not going to win by going on the president's show. I know it is massively entertaining. I don't know what kind of show to call it. Is it a game show? Is it a reality show? It's a horror show.


WHITFIELD: Let's check in with CNN's Arlette Saenz. So tell us what we're hearing from these candidates.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Fred, we are here in Columbia, South Carolina at the South Carolina Democratic Party Convention. And you're hearing all of these candidates, nearly the entire presidential field is here delivering their pitch of why they should be the nominee to be president. But while this is going on here in this convention center, there's also another event just down the street with Planned Parenthood. And Joe Biden was over there moments ago speaking, and he was asked about his reversal on the Hyde Amendment which bans use of federal funds for abortions in most cases. This is something that Biden supported for decades, and just a few weeks ago he reversed course on that. Take a listen to his explanation just a few minutes ago.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My question for you is, as president, how would you put forward a federal budget that eliminates Hyde?

JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all, the way I do that is -- let me explain what happened. I laid out a health care plan that is going to provide federally funded health care for all women. And women who now are denied even Medicare in their home states, across the board, you'd be automatically sign up under a Obamacare like provision we have, because I provide for a Medicaid, Medicare type policy that is, in fact, going to provide all the same services.

So it became really clear to me that although the Hyde Amendment was designed to try to split the difference here to make sure that women still had access, you can't have access if in fact everyone is covered by federal policy. And so that's why at the same time I announced that policy, I announced that I can no longer continue to abide by the Hyde Amendment. That's the reason.


SAENZ: Biden also had another emotional moment over at that event when a woman revealed that she had had several abortions and also suffered sexual assault in the military. Biden said that it is outrageous that they have not been able to address the issue of sexual assault in the military, and he also wants to see increased funding to Planned Parenthood.

Back here at this convention you're going to see a few more candidates throughout the afternoon, including Cory Booker and Joe Biden, who have had a little bit of tension over the past week over Biden's comments about working with is segregationist senators in the past. Last night both of them were preaching this message of unity, saying that no matter what, Democrats need to make sure that they elect a Democrat in 2020. Fred?

WHITFIELD: Arlette Saenz, thank you so much. Lots to chew on there.

Let me bring in now Congressional Bureau Chief for "POLITICO" John Bresnahan, and White House correspondent for "Reuters" Jeff Mason. Good to see you both.

[14:15:07] So Jeff, you first. Is Biden in position now where he has to really explain his record either by justifying it or conveying he has got new thinking on his past record simply because largely the sign of the times, things have changed?

JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: Indeed. I think the answer to the question, Fred, is a little of both. Number one, the fact that he is now going to be confronted by all of his peers who are also seeking the Democratic nomination next week in a debate means that he, no doubt, from them and from others will be pressed about his record and pressed about things in his political past that perhaps don't stand up as well today.

He also has the job as all candidates do of talking about what he would do in that office if he were to be victorious and to show some vision for 2020 and beyond.

But all of that comes for Joe Biden at a time when he is in a position of strength. He's far ahead in polls, he's doing well in South Carolina, the states where all of those candidates are gathering right now. And the people around him, the other candidates, are going to want to sort of fight in and bring a dent into some of the polling strength.

WHITFIELD: So John, is this going to be a big task for Biden to either try to demonstrate that his thinking has evolved, his application has evolved, or he is in position where he has got to, perhaps, apologize for some of his record. How does he use this opportunity to his advantage?

JOHN BRESNAHAN, CONGRESSIONAL BUREAU CHIEF, "POLITICO": Well, he is clearly in the lead in the polls, Jeff Mason had said, but his lead is soft. And your point, this is a different Democratic Party even than from when Barack Obama was elected president. So Biden just can't wrap himself in the cloth, the flag of Barack Obama and say, look, I'm here and I'm your nominee. He's going to have to work. And he's got a long history of votes, he's got thousands of votes in the Senate. And his opponents are clearly going to go after him, and there's room to go after him.

But I think what we're seeing in South Carolina, what's interesting to me is that this is not a 21 person race. This is only really four or five major first tier candidates. It is harder for second tier candidates to break through. All the attention is Biden and Warren and Kamala Harris. And I think we're sitting here talking about Biden, and they're there, and the focus is on Biden, and then the other top tier candidate.

So I think again, this shows Biden is leading, he's definitely got some vulnerabilities. But really this week and I think next week or a new show, there's really only a select number of these candidates can really break through.

WHITFIELD: So Jeff, Biden in particular, he runs a risk of looking dated, but the first debate is coming up just days away. What might be his focus, what might be the focus of the other candidates who have to stand out, and they only have a matter of minutes in which to do so during a debate?

MASON: Absolutely, they definitely have to stand out. I think that there will be a combination of articulating their own visions. Elizabeth Warren in particular has been very aggressive in terms of laying out policy positions and policy plans. I'm sure that she will emphasize those, and I'm sure that the other candidates will talk about what they would do that would distinguish themselves, not only from Donald Trump but also from Joe Biden. And Biden will be forced to do the same thing.

He has successfully so far in many ways just demonstrated or contrasted himself with the current occupant of the White House, and made it in some ways look like it's a two-person race, which of course it's not. He still has to earn that nomination. So I imagine he will continue to do that a little bit, talk about how awful the Trump presidency is from his perspective, and offer up what he would do that would be different. But he'll have to do that on a stage with other Democrats who are trying to chip away at his lead and who want to bring either generational change or change of thinking to the Democratic nomination.

WHITFIELD: And John, Elizabeth Warren, Senator Warren has been policy driven from the very first moment of saying she's in this race. Do you see that she has become a real influencer of how other candidates are now behaving and introducing their ideas on the campaign trail?

BRESNAHAN: Absolutely. You could even hear it in the earlier segment that you ran in Biden's response on the Hyde Amendment. He was saying look, I have this plan, this health care plan that covers women, and that's why I don't need the Hyde Amendment. Elizabeth Warren has probably run I think the best campaign of any of the candidates. She got off to a difficult start, but since then she has really shown she can connect with voters.

[14:20:08] She has got this tag line, I've got a plan, and it's really made this a campaign of ideas, which helps her and also takes some of the steam out of Bernie Sanders who has his own plans that he developed in 2016 and he's kind of extended and pushed further. So I think she has really showed herself in terms of an intellectual alternative and political alternative -- I'm a legitimate candidate, I'm a legitimate presidential candidate, and I have ideas, big ideas, as she talked about. This is our time that I would institute if I became president.

WHITFIELD: Meantime, Jeff, Bernie Sanders seems to be in a real defensive position. He came out and used his few minutes at that Democratic convention there in South Carolina talking, trying to respond to critics who say that he's essentially a disrupter, that he really doesn't have a place in this field. Is he in trouble?

MASON: Well, I don't know that he's in trouble yet. His polling has gone down.

WHITFIELD: They call him an existential threat, his critics.

MASON: And his critics will make the point that this is somebody who is running for the Democratic nomination but isn't a Democrat. And that is a weakness for some people, at least they perceive that to be a weakness in terms of why would Democrats who are trying to oust Republican President Donald Trump put somebody in there who is, a, not actually a leader in their party, and, b, not getting some of the support that he needs from other parts of that party.

That said, Bernie Sanders obviously was a force in 2016. He is still a force going into 2020, but he has got more people in that space. Elizabeth Warren is certainly one of them. And that itself for him is a threat.

WHITFIELD: And then later on today, Biden and Booker are really the last ones slated to talk during that Democratic convention. There was some video that showed them last night looking rather amicable. There seemed to be some kind of pleasantries perhaps exchanging after the whole you apologize, no, you apologize, nobody apologize. So John, do you think the two separately will address this and essentially establish no, we're all on the same team, still trying to unseat the incumbent?

BRESNAHAN: I think that's what you've heard today, and last night at the fish fry, the Clyburn fish fry. They haven't gone after this segregationist issue directly. There's clearly tension between the two men. And I think that it's hard. They need to attack Biden, they need to show, as you pointed out, that he's got this long record and he faces questions about his positions on any number of issues. But they need to do it attacking without being tearing down Biden, because what if you hurt Biden too much and he is your nominee and that makes it easy for Trump to win a second term? So it's a question of how hard can you go after him. But I think, again, we'll see how Biden handles it. This is a big moment for Biden. The next week is a really big moment for Biden especially. He is the frontrunner, and he's got to show he can win.

WHITFIELD: First debate. John Bresnahan, Jeff Mason, good to see you both. Thank you.

Still to come, it has been called the forgotten humanitarian crisis. People enduring unimaginable heartache in the Central African Republic. Their story is next.


[14:27:25] WHITFIELD: It is one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. After six years of violent combat in the Central African Republic, a million people have been forced to leave their homes, 65,000 of them live in a single camp. CNN Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward traveled there, and she shows us how the country is trying to move forward.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fred, aid workers say that after Syria and Yemen this is the worst humanitarian crisis, and the World Food Programme has actually come out and said the Central African Republic is the worst country in terms of food insecurity.


WARD: It is the worst humanitarian crisis you have never heard of. Half the people of the Central African Republic don't know where their next meal is coming from. Nearly six years of vicious conflict involving Muslim and Christian militias have forced a million people from their homes. Some of them sought shelter here in a sprawling overcrowded camp in the town of Bria.

There are 65,000 people now living in this camp. They came to escape the bloodshed of the different warring militias in this country, but even here, even now the situation is tense. As you can see, we have armed guards with us at all times.

Escaping from the searing noon sun, we meet Lavender Clemos (ph). She tells us that her husband was beaten to death by militants. She cherishes a single photograph of him. Like many here, Clemos (ph) says the camp feels more like a prison than a refuge. "As soon as I can go home, I will," she says. "I cannot suffer here any longer."

For now, leaving is not an option. Seventy-five percent of the country is still under the control of different militias, and spasms of violence continue. Last year there were nearly 400 attacks on aid workers in the Central African Republic. Gian Carlo Cirri is country director for the World Food Programme. GIAN CARLO CIRRI, COUNTRY DIRECTOR, WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME: We rely

very much on armed escorts to bring our food.

WARD: Are there some places you can't even get to?

CIRRI: Yes, there are, because there is an additional difficulty is the terrain.

WARD: In the capital of Bangui, President Faustin-Archange Touadera hopes that a peace agreement reached in February with the various militias will staunch the bleeding.

[14:30:06] FAUSTIN-ARCHANGE TOUADERA, PRESIDENT, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (through translator): People have suffered so much because today our country, due to the crisis, is not in peace. We have to find peace and security again. We have to work on this, and this is our priority.

WARD: What is your message to the people of the Central African Republic?

TOUADERA: Our country is blessed by God. There are lots of possibilities I have already mentioned, areas like agriculture and mining. So we need to start working and get engaged and united rather than staying stuck in divisions of hatred and being vengeful.

WARD: A message of hope to a people long consumed by hatred and suffering.


WARD: The irony is that beneath the ground here, this country is a treasure trove rich in natural resources, gold, diamonds, uranium. But until the security situation improves, it is just impossible to get to that. Fred?

WHITFIELD: Clarissa Ward, thank you so much.

Coming up next, nine people preparing for a sky dive killed after their plane went down in a fiery crash in Hawaii. What investigators hope to learn, next.


WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Developing today, a deadly plane crash in Hawaii kills nine people. Officials say the plane was on a skydiving excursion when it went down, bursting into flames on impact. CNN's Natasha Chen joins me now with more on this. So what else are we learning about why this happened?

[14:35:07] NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A lot of people are really wondering that now. The National Transportation and Safety Board investigators are on their way now to Hawaii from D.C. Officials in Hawaii say this was the Oahu parachute center. There were people on board trying to go on a skydiving trip. And what we know is that this is a King Air twin engine plane that went down. Witnesses say that it crashed into a fence line away from the runway, and as firefighters arrived, it was already engulfed in flames. This is a really tough one for the emergency responders.

Here is what the fire chief had to say about this.


CHIEF MANUEL NEVES, HONOLULU FIRE DEPARTMENT: In my 40 years as a firefighter here in Hawaii, this is the most tragic aircraft incident that we had.


WHITFIELD: And we also have Congresswoman and Presidential Tulsi Gabbard quoting that statement from the fire chief. She says "My aloha and prayers are with the loved ones of those whose lives were lost in this terrible tragedy," Fred. And we are also starting to talk to some people who knew the folks on that plane.

WHITFIELD: And what are they saying about them?

CHEN: One of them is part of a professional skydiving team that travels the country performing. And he says this skydiving community is just so tightknit. And so everybody knows everyone. And this is really hitting them hard now. All of them are wondering what happened here, a significant loss, especially for some of those instructors who are veteran skydivers who were eager and passionate about sharing the sport with people who wanted to try it the first time.

WHITFIELD: And there were family members who watched a lot of this happen.

CHEN: Yes, some of the family members of people on that plane didn't go on the trip, and so potentially they were watching their relatives go on this skydiving trip. And I cannot imagine what that's like to see that plane crash in that moment.

WHITFIELD: Terrible sad. Natasha Chen, thank you so much, appreciate it.

WHITFIELD: Still ahead, presidential candidates are in South Carolina talking to voters and courting support in key primary state. We'll talk with one of them, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, next.


[14:41:09] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. So far it's the biggest weekend for 2020 presidential hopefuls. Twenty-one of the 23 Democrat candidates are in South Carolina making their pitches in this crucial early primary state. We've already heard from several candidates who have taken to the roster today. And just moments ago Washington Governor Jay Inslee delivered a speech to South Carolina voters, and Governor Inslee is with me now. Good to see you.

GOV. JAY INSLEE, (D-WA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks for having me. This is a lively meeting today. WHITFIELD: Has it been? So what has been the message that you wanted

to convey to voters there?

INSLEE: I have two messages. Number one, that if I was elected president of the United States, I would make this pledge, which is that I would make defeating the climate crisis the single number one priority of the United States. And it has to be job one so it can get done. And I am unique, a lot of talent in the field, but I am the candidate, the only candidate who will make that a top priority.

Second thing I talked about with South Carolina Democrats is that we have shown under my six years as governor, we've created the number one economy in the United States. We've put people to work and the best paid family leave, highest minimum wage, best educator compensation package, best increase, and I passed the first public option. So the message from Washington state is beat climate change, build the middle class economy. It has been received well.

WHITFIELD: So when you think of President Trump as your opponent, it seems like it might be rather easy, an easy challenge, since he has not been a huge believer in climate change on that front. But then on the economy, he has got a booming economy in his back pocket. How will you challenge him on that?

INSLEE: This is the perfect way to beat Donald Trump. Look, he believes in trickle-down economics, if you give billions of dollars to the multimillionaires, it will sprinkle down like pixie dust and all will be well. That's just totally wrong.

We've built a middle out economy, with higher minimum wage, better union rules, gender pay equity so women are paid the same as men, which should be the law of the United States. And now we have got a clean energy message of how to grow jobs by the millions. And I have a plan to put 8 million people to work, UAW members making electric cars in Michigan, IBEW members making wind turbines in Iowa, sheet metal workers building homes that are energy efficient. This is the best economic development message we have, and it isn't just rhetorical. I've proved it in Washington state. So if Donald Trump wants to know how to build an economy, he ought to come out and see what I have done in Washington state. I want to take that nationwide.

WHITFIELD: Are you considering today's rollout at the Democrat convention there in South Carolina as a dress rehearsal for the first round of the Democratic debates happening just a few days away?

INSLEE: I may have missed part of your question, but this is more than a dress rehearsal. It was a fish fry, and getting the spirits of Democrats aligned together. We're going to be unified. You can count on that.

WHITFIELD: So then how do you use this forum as a way in which to prepare yourself for the upcoming debate?

INSLEE: Well, we all are going to have messages, and the challenge is to distill them into 60 second periods of time. Look, I have actually written a book on clean energy. I started the U.S. Climate Alliance, and now I've passed the best 100 percent clean energy bill in the United States. The challenge is to boil this down in 60 seconds. We'll be primed and ready.

WHITFIELD: Frontrunner, former vice president Joe Biden, has been a hot topic all week long, and there have been many candidates that condemned his handling of recalling his record and dealing with segregationists way back in the day.

[14:45:12] There were some who said he needs to apologize, Cory Booker among them, and then it was the former vice president who said, no, he needs to apologize. And since all of that, we understand that now Joe Biden is saying no one needs to apologize. Where are you on this? Do you believe apologies are in order? Has this been a distraction? Or does the frontrunner need to address it in a different manner?

INSLEE: I think the vice president ought to recognize he used very unfortunate language, language that brought up the pain and agony that so many people in the communities of color have felt. And that language hurt people. He could have made his point in a way that did not hurt people and fuel the fire of division that, frankly, Donald Trump has been so committed to.

But I have to tell you, the bigger concern I have is I think we need a leader who recognizes that you can't just have tea with Mitch McConnell and have him give up his allegiance to the fossil fuel industry. We need a leader such as myself who will confront Mitch McConnell, take away the filibuster, and break his strangle hold of the fossil fuel industry. We've got to take away that $27 billion of subsidies going to the fossil fuel industry and put it into clean energy jobs. That's something that I believe we need in the White House. I'm up for that job.

WHITFIELD: Washington Governor Jay Inslee, thank you so much. Good luck to you. And of course, good luck in the upcoming debate as well, days away.

INSLEE: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Coming up next, a growing problem confounding scientists up and down the west coast of the U.S. Why are so many whales being beached? We'll speak with one scientist trying to find some of the answers next.

And tomorrow, CNN takes you on humankind's greatest journey in a groundbreaking CNN original film "Apollo 11." Here's a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon and do the other things, not because they are easy but because they are hard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Houston, loud and clear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was a good one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The enormity of this event is something that only history will be able to judge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good luck and God speed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Apollo 11 has been given a mission of carrying men to the moon, landing them there, and bringing them safely back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Beautiful, just beautiful. Magnificent ride.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Apollo 11," tomorrow at 9:00 on CNN.



[14:52:00] WHITFIELD: A disturbing and growing problem for scientists on beaches across the U.S. west coast. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says at least 81 gray whale corpses have been washed ashore in California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska this year. I am joined by a John Calambokidis, a biologist at the Cascadia Research Collective. John, good to see you. So I understand there's an urgent request to coastal land owners to lend out their private beaches to deal with this problem. Explain the challenges right here.

JOHN CALAMBOKIDIS, BIOLOGIST, CASCADIA RESEARCH COLLECTIVE: Well, in Washington state we're up to 29 dead gray whales just so far this year, and each of these creates quite a major challenge to deal with. Our focus is trying to do an investigation on the animal, but we have to try to address how they will be disposed of. Part of that NOAA request is aimed at helping solve a challenge when one of these animals washes up in an area where it can't just decompose naturally, which is our preferred option.

WHITFIELD: So what are the commonalities, what are you seeing in these whales that may give some kind of an inkling as to what happened? Is it disease, is it something external or internal?

CALAMBOKIDIS: Well, this is very much what's being investigated, but some preliminary findings THAT we've seen already is quite a few of these animals are very emaciated, they're malnourished and in poor body condition. And that's very similar to a phenomenon we had about 20 years ago where we had not quite this many but almost as many gray whales that were washing up dead, again, very thin. And it looks like these were whales that didn't get quite enough to feed last year because they're trying to survive this fast.

WHITFIELD: So does that have to do with overfishing, then, is that the correlation you make?

CALAMBOKIDIS: Well, there are a couple things going on. One, the gray whale population has been doing great. It's actually at record numbers, over 25,000 gray whales in the eastern north pacific population. It's one of the success stories that's come back from commercial whaling. So there are a lot more whales maybe up near the limit of what the food supply can support.

But why this big sudden uptick is what's still a mystery. Is that part of just a downturn in the food abundance, or does it have anything to do with the dramatic changes in the Arctic ecosystem that are occurring.

WHITFIELD: Is it all ages? Can you tell if it is all ages of gray whales or is it mostly undernourished and very young?

CALAMBOKIDIS: Interesting, it is a bit of a mix. In Washington state it has been about two-thirds younger and juvenile animals, and about one-third adults. So it's a mix. And some of the adults are older animals. I think these are all animals that maybe were more on the edge of health, so were more affected by this ability to get enough to feed last year during the prime feeding season.

WHITFIELD: Wow. So you would want them to naturally decompose, but you're probably up against a growing sentiment of those who would rather tow them or take them away. And in what way would that happen? How, if not naturally decomposing, how would they be removed?

[14:55:12] CALAMBOKIDIS: Right, in over the 30 plus years I have been dealing with this just about every solution has been tried or been used. And a lot of it is situation dependent. In remote areas, that decomposition option in place is the best one. If it's in a beach area, like a state park, sometimes that's buried. But these ones that wash up in Puget Sound where you have lots of shoreline residents and development, they're posing the bigger challenge. And that's where we often look to see if we can tow it to a new location where it can decompose. We had tried to sink some of them in the past. There's a whole range of options that have been tried.

And this is a bit of a new wrinkle here, actually looking for land owners that are sympathetic and interested and maybe curious to watch the decomposition process, to actually help us as occurred in this one situation recently.

WHITFIELD: Wow, so complicated on so many levels. All right, John, thank you so much. Appreciate it. And appreciate your expertise.

CALAMBOKIDIS: Great to talk to you.

WHITFIELD: And thank you so much for being with me on this day. I am Fredricka Whitfield. So much more straight ahead in the news room with Ana Cabrera right after this.


ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You're live in the CNN Newsroom. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. And a few weekends ago it was Iowa. Today South Carolina is the place to be if you're a --