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Trump Backs Away from Citizenship Question on Census; Immigration Enforcement to Begin Nationwide Raids Sunday; U.K.: Iranian Gunboats Tried to Impeded British Tanker; Monsoon Threatens Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh; Louisiana Governor Declares State of Emergency; Filmmaker Reveals Secrets to His Mind-bending Videos. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired July 12, 2019 - 00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Ahead this hour on CNN President Trump abandoning the fight over the census citizenship question but pushing forward on plans to round up thousands of undocumented immigrants.

[00:00:27] Deadly monsoon rains have arrived in southern Bangladesh, making life for the million Rohingya refugees in these makeshift shelters even more miserable.

Plus, bracing for Barry. Parts of Louisiana already flooded, the Mississippi River dangerously swollen and levies being put to the test. And the worst of the storm, well, it's still on the way.

Hello, everyone. Welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Natalie Allen, and this is CNN NEWSROOM.

Our top story: U.S. President Trump is dropping a controversial plan to include a question about citizenship in the 2020 census. Instead he is issuing an executive order requiring U.S. government agencies to provide the Commerce Department with documents and records of citizens and non-citizens. Mr. Trump says he will not back down on efforts to determine the citizenship status of the U.S. population.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With today's executive order, which eliminates long-standing obstacles to data sharing, we're aiming to count everyone. Ultimately, this will allow us to have an even more complete count of citizens then through asking the single question alone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: So, the question now: what does the president want to get out of all of this? And because he's never shied away from saying the normally unspoken stuff out loud, he offered something of an answer: red meat for his political base.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: As shocking as it may be, far-left Democrats in our country are determined to conceal the number of illegal aliens in our midst. They probably know the number is far greater, much higher than anyone would have ever believed before. Maybe that's why they fight so hard.

This is part of a broader left-wing effort to erode the rights of the American citizen and is very unfair to our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: All of this comes as deportation raids are planned to begin Sunday in at least ten cities targeting 2000 migrant families who already have court orders to be removed from the United States. The raids were actually planned for last month, but Mr. Trump delayed them.

Let's talk about all of these developments. Joining us from Los Angeles, Ron Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst and senior editor of "The Atlantic." And David Katz, criminal defense attorney and former assistant U.S. attorney.

Gentlemen, thank you both for joining us. Good to see you.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Natalie.

ALLEN: Hello.

DAVID KATZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Thank you.

ALLEN: Well, first to you, David. From a legal standpoint, why did President Trump change course here and choose a new tactic, seeking data now from federal records on citizenship?

KATZ: Well, President Trump lost in the United States Supreme Court, and we have a rule of law that a president has to abide by the rulings of the courts, just like anyone else. They're the third branch of government.

The Republican chief justice wrote the decision for the majority that said that the reasons that had been given throughout the litigation were contrived. And so President Trump lost. He had to lose after two weeks of maneuvering to try to evade and maybe defy the U.S. Supreme Court.

And it was a very strange thing, because I'm a student of history. It was like watching Lee surrender in the Civil War. But there was General Barr saying, "No, we actually won the war." And it was just a fig leaf to cover what was the inevitable result, once the United States Supreme Court ruled against the president.

And what he said he's going to do now is something that the Commerce Department has actually been doing. That was the position of the plaintiffs in challenging what President Trump was doing, that the Commerce Department ought to do exactly what they're doing now, which is to collect information. And if it's lawful, and if it can be disclosed, it will be sent over to the Commerce Department.

But the good thing to know is that people are going to get this form now without the citizenship question on it; and everybody who receives it should cooperate with the census. This is how the population is allocated for representation, and it's also how people get the funds back.

Everybody pays in federal taxes. Especially here in California, we want to get the funds back. That's the purpose of the census, to count the whole number of people, not to count voters. Not to count citizens, to count the whole number of people, it's right in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

[00:05:03] ALLEN: Yes. So Ron, this issue is critical to the president because why? Does it have to do with political boundaries, with elections? Explain it.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, I think there are multiple reasons why they're interested in this question. Conservatives, I think, clearly saw adding the question as a way to discourage Hispanics from responding to the census, which would have had an effect of shifting not only -- as David said, not only political representation, but also dollars away from diverse metro areas that are becoming more and more Democratic -- Hillary Clinton won 87 of the 100 largest counties in America -- toward less diverse, less urban places that are more Republican.

So by not having the question on the census, they lose that value of trying to suppress the counting of Hispanics.

But there was another reason they were doing this. There's a longer game in here, too, that the president alluded to today. And it is the goal of many conservatives to shift the way our congressional and state legislative districts are drawn from total population to, basically, the eligible voting population. And for that you need data on citizenship.

If you did that, if you shifted the -- the allocation of seats within states that way, you would again shift political power away from diverse metro areas toward more white, more Republican, non-metro areas.

And the president clearly has not given up on that goal. He is hoping, I think, that the -- the citizenship data they can acquire from other agencies would allow states to do this after 2020 -- after the reapportionment in 2020.

So Natalie, it is entirely possible that a variant on this issue is heading right back to the Supreme Court, because it has never ruled definitively on whether states can allocate their legislative and congressional seats only through eligible voters, rather than total population.

ALLEN: Yes. Oh, my goodness. A variant that would take it back to the Supreme Court. David, what do you think about that?

KATZ: Well, it may go back to the Supreme Court. I'm not sure exactly who's going to challenge it or how it's going to happen.

But you know, I think that Trump tried to sort of shield the blow of, you know, losing. I mean, he lost with a whimper, not with a bang, which is not his normal way of trying to lose. But he's trying to make the best of this terrible situation that he's got himself into.

And I'm not sure how much, as Ron says, they'll certainly try. But you know, after the Civil War, when they passed the 14th Amendment, people all said, well, the representation is going to change of all these districts. And actually, the representation didn't change that much throughout the United States, because people were very zealous to save their own congressional seat and to make sure that there really wasn't that much a reapportionment.

But certainly, the money, that's a big issue. And of course, the Senate, there's only two senators from even these very small, and they turn it to be very large white-majority states. So they always have that political power, that there's a very small number of people in these Republican states that still control the Senate, because it's two senators. Four senators for the Dakotas, and two for all of California. And that's the system that we have.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. Natalie --

ALLEN: Go ahead.

BROWNSTEIN: I was going to say real quick that the -- the data that he is talking about collecting as of today -- again, he exclusively invited states to change the way that they allocate districts, to eligible voters, which would have the effect of, again, shifting power away from urban centers toward a kind of more white, more Republican constituencies, the data that you need to do that would not be available till early 2021.

So this will be among the many things that will be on the ballot in 2020, because if a Democrat winds, you can bet that they will call off this effort to provide citizenship data that could be used in this purpose.

ALLEN: Yes. And meantime, on another front, the administration, Ron, is set to begin deportation raids in major cities this weekend. How might that play out? Who are they seeking?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, they're seeking people who have failed to respond to -- to court orders, immigration court orders, to show up for their -- you know, for their asylum removal process.

And it's something that I think is, at a time when they are dealing with enormous overcrowding, as you have been covering on the border, they can't do very much on this front. They simply don't have the capacity to house and detain a large number of people.

So to some extent, this is a symbolic gesture, symbolic both to his base, like the wall and everything else that he is doing, everything possible to combat immigration, and I believe more broadly, combat the increasing diversification of America, the growing demographic change. But also, symbolically, to the, you know, immigrant community, and in

some ways, it sends a message of intimidation, similar to what was intended, by all evidence, with it with the citizenship question on the census.

ALLEN: Right. And David, I want to ask you. How far can ICE go with these raids? Does the agency have jurisdiction, say, if they knock on a door, no one opens it, to force their way in?

[00:10:07] KATZ: Well, this is great, because Speaker Pelosi actually gave legal advice to the country. And I think it was a very germane that she did so.

This is what immigration attorneys had been advising immigrants for quite a while, that these ICE deportation warrants are not like your normal arrest warrant or search warrant.

Normally, if they have an arrest warrant, they can come to your door, and if there's reason to believe that the person is home -- you know, the car's there or they saw the person entering the house an hour before -- they can make the arrest. But under this circumstance, they can't enter a person's home.

So it's very important for your viewers and listeners to understand that, if they're in that situation, they don't need to open the door. They don't need to come out. They should not consent.

If they are rousted out anyway, they have a right under the Constitution. Even a person who's an illegal immigrant, an undocumented person within the United States, has constitutional rights, which is to not speak.

If the agent says to them, "Where were you born? How long have you been there? What's your status?" They have a right to say, "I refuse to answer" or "I want an attorney."

So the raids are not going to be that important, as Ron says. They do have collateral consequences. There may be mixed families. There may be someone who's legally here, not legally here.

And of course, if they take into detention both the husband and wife, and then there are the kid. The kids could end up, at least temporarily, in foster care. We could have more separations.

This is going to be disastrous to the people; to the people who are going to be affected. And as Ron says, it's basically symbolic. It's of a piece with the announcement today, which is to scare, you know, people who are in the country, particularly Hispanics, and to show that he's going to go down fighting, even though he lost in the Supreme Court, trying to intimidate people from answering the census.

ALLEN: Yes, Ron. Final word from you on what this may look like this weekend, too, and the reasons behind it.

BROWNSTEIN: One thing to keep in mind is -- is how this underscores the geographic separation of the parties. You know, I looked at this a couple months ago.

Ninety percent of the congressional districts that have more immigrants than the national average are now held by Democrats. Fewer than one in ten Republicans hold districts with more immigrants than the national average. They are essentially -- the same is true, same broad proportions in the Senate, as well, in terms of states.

So Republicans, by and large, are the party now of the parts of America that are least touched by immigration, least touched by demographic change. And in an entire variety of ways, from the census to immigration raids to the wall, President Trump, in essence, is offering himself as kind of a barrier against that demographic change.

I mean, these are raids that are going to be happening in Democratic cities that overwhelmingly voted against the president, aimed at a constituency that is largely untouched and unaffected and unexposed to immigration.

ALLEN: Well, this is the issue that just gets more complicated all the time as we head toward the election. We appreciate both of you and your expertise on this. Ron Brownstein, David Katz, thanks so much.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

KATZ: Thank you.

ALLEN: We turn now to the maritime standoff between Iran and the U.K. British media reporting the U.K. had raised the threat level for its tankers in the Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday just one day before Iran allegedly tried to intercept a British tanker in a region.

Iran has denied it was involved in the confrontation. Our Sam Kylie has more about it from Abu Dhabi.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAM KYLIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For the whole in the Middle East indeed. Even more widely, it's been a very tense 36 hours, as we now know that the HMS Montrose Royal Navy frigate type 23 lowered its weapons, its 30-millimeter cannon, as well as belt-fed machine guns and pointed them at Iranian sailors on board three different boats, fast-attack craft that the U.S. and U.K. have said was attempting to herd the British ship the British Heritage into Iranian waters.

Now, this was a ship owned by B.P. that was not carrying any crude oil, because it had elected earlier on to go dark after not transmit its location, after electing not to take on board over 140,000 barrels of crude oil from Basra because of the threats that were coming more and more frequently from Iran to retaliate against Britain for the seizure of the Grace I, an Iranian. The tanker those carrying Iranian oil from Iran to Syria allegedly, in breach of international sanctions against the Damascus regime.

Now, the British insist now that two officers on board that ship have been arrested pending charges for smuggling oil. But the Iranians have denied the incident occurred at all in the Gulf here, either between the British; and they insist that that Grace II, that ship was not heading into Syrian territory, but was heading, to quote them, "elsewhere."

Sam Kiley, CNN, Abu Dhabi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Next here, catastrophic flooding in Bangladesh affecting a population already with one of the world's most vulnerable. How Rohingya Muslim refugees are coping with a devastating monsoon season. A photojournalist has just returned with new pictures.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALLEN: Rohingya Muslim refugees in Bangladesh struggle to survive even in the best circumstances. But now heavy monsoon rains are making their lives even more unbearable.

Over the past few days, thousands of people have been displaced within the refugee camps in a coastal city because of floods and landslides. UNICEF says two Young boys have drowned in the floods, and there's more rain in the forecast as monsoon season stretches on.

Here's Ivan Watson with more about it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The monsoon season has arrived in Bangladesh, and it's causing chaos for people already living in crisis.

The rains flooded overcrowded refugee camps in Cox's Bazar, which are home to around a million Rohingya Muslims, most of whom fled nearby Myanmar during a military crackdown which the U.N. says could amount to genocide, claims Myanmar denies.

Hundreds of makeshift shelters collapsed in muddy landslides. Thousands of families relocated to temporary shelters. Hafiz Ullah and his family were sent to a nearby school since their house was a flood risk. But in the process, they lost nearly everything.

KAWSER, ROHINGYA REFUGEE (through translator): We were staying at another place when the rains came, and in that time, our things were stolen. I have lost everything of mine. That's why I have to live in the dark now. I lost my lights and battery.

WATSON: The couple's children were already malnourished before the rains hit. Now the floods have made their difficult Young lives even harder.

HAFIZ ULLAH, ROHINGYA REFUGEE (through translator): We can't cook anything, because I think my stove is damaged. We don't have food to eat now, so he can't give anything to our children. They can't drink the water, and they can't go outside because of the floods. [00:20:12] KAWSER (through translator): My children are suffering

from fever, but we don't have any medicine. We are living in real hardship here.

WATSON: Even before the floods, the situation in the camps was dire, a daily struggle to collect much-needed aid. Now complicated after some main pathways collapsed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is very difficult because the paths become very muddy. People have a lot of trouble, sometimes, to reach the service point so for children to go to school, because it is not the sufficient infrastructures in the camps and because of the crowdedness.

WATSON: Aid agencies say they're scrambling to help people in the camps and they're trying to prevent the spread of waterborne diseases.

The Bangladesh foreign ministry told CNN that it is well-prepared, along with the U.N. system, to face any eventualities in terms of the Rohingya refugee camps.

The priority for Hafiz Ullah: fix his makeshift shelter so that the family can come back home. His neighbors are doing the same, but basic building materials provide flimsy protection for more heavy rain.

There's another deluge forecast this week and months of monsoon season still ahead. The lives of those who had so little to begin with now even more precarious.

ULLAH (through translator): We're just living with crisis. We lost everything. But so what? At least we are alive now.

WATSON: Ivan Watson, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Photographer Thomas Nybo has spent about six months in these camps over the past year on assignment for UNICEF. He just returned from Bangladesh on Wednesday, and he joins me now.

Thomas, good to see you.

THOMAS NYBO, PHOTOGRAPHER: Thank you.

ALLEN: Seeing the resilience of these people, seeing the smiles on children's faces, that's the hopeful part there, but you've worked in more than 100 places in this world and seen some really bad things.

Where do you put this?

NYBO: I put it at the top for many reasons. I arrived three weeks ago in the camp, and at first, it appeared like things were under control that actually built drainage systems. They'd prepared as best they could for the monsoon season. But then by three, four days of rain, everything had changed. Mike

Tyson said, "Everyone's got a plan until you get punched in the face." And the Rohingya just got punched in the face.

So when you have flooding, not only do you have these flimsy houses that are flooding, but you have fresh water sources are flooding. Toilets are flooding. So all of a sudden, you have a boy, you know, crossing a stream. He might get sick.

ALLEN: Right.

NYBO: So it affects everything.

ALLEN: I can imagine. Let's look through your photos right now. I think this first one is extremely powerful. It's a woman, and what happened to her and her baby is just unconscionable.

NYBO: Aisha (ph) is now 20. Aisha (ph) is not her real name. So a year and a half ago, she was coming across with her three children and her husband. Soldiers grabbed her 7-year-old son, threw him in the air, killed him viciously with a machete. Then they beat her and gang-raped her. If you look closely, you see the scar from a rifle butt on the forehead.

When I met her, it was two months after the attacks. Her eyes were red from burst blood vessels. Her eyes were black underneath. And this was months later. She was very angry.

I caught up with her and spent a lot of time with her over the past couple weeks. And there was joy in life. She'd been attending a UNICEF counseling session and able to connect with other girls. And she said she was trying to forget what happened to her, but she still wants justice.

And she was also terribly afraid, because they live on the side of a hill, like so many Rohingya. And water was -- was seeping in on the floor, and she was afraid.

ALLEN: Well, again, you know, it's just you hope for these people so much, but they are enduring so much. Now we have a photograph you took of a father, a teenage father whose home is collapsing in that mud there.

NYBO: Nineteen-year-old Abdul (ph), he lives there with his two children, hid elderly father and his wife. And the entire hill collapsed into his house, filling it with mud. And he's been working nonstop trying to shovel it out.

And I asked him, you know, "What do you need?"

And he said, "You know what I need? I need a wall, a proper wall. Because I don't even have the money to buy the plastic to fix this. What what am I supposed to tell my children? How am I going to be safe?"

ALLEN: Right. Next, a boy is crossing the river, swollen from days of monsoon rains, and he actually goes into the river and he is swimming. Why is he in there?

NYBO: Everybody was telling me the same thing: "We don't have cash. They get rice. They get dal to eat. But if you want vegetables, if you want fish, you need to get money but any means necessary. For a lot of kids, like this boy with the umbrella, it's collecting plastic to sell to the recyclers.

[00:25:07] So when floods hit the hills, they fill the streams and rivers plastics. Even though the boys, the children don't know how to swim, they'll go out there as best they can, just to get plastics to sell to help feed their families.

ALLEN: All right. That shows you how the children, it's all in for their survival here. And our next picture mirrors that, as well. A girl taking care of her father. He's behind her in this photograph. His leg was shot off by a soldier in Myanmar?

NYBO: That's true. And his other leg, his good leg is now atrophied. And so he's stuck in their house. And they live on the edge of a dirt cliff, and he has a wheelchair. But it takes four men putting him in a bamboo sling just to get him out to a proper way, hundreds of meters away.

So she goes to a UNICEF-supported school when she can, but a lot of the times she's only one who can look after her father. And so she's -- this stereotypical story of a caregiver who might actually die before her father, because she's constantly stressed out and worrying herself sick.

ALLEN: And one mother said, "We can't cook anything, because the stove is damaged. We don't have food to eat now. We can't give anything to our children, and they can't drink the water or go outside because of the floods."

Everyone has suffered in this crisis, Thomas, children to the elderly, and 60,000 children now cannot get educated. And you have a picture, though, of one boy determined to learn English on his own.

NYBO: I love this story. I was walking through the camp through heavy mud, and I heard this boy reading basic English, a story about a picnic at the park. And -- and I was drawn to it. And I tracked him down.

And he was teaching himself English, also going to a local English tutor. And all he wanted to do was learn English. He was too old, 18, for some of the schools, so he was teaching himself.

My colleagues and I, some of us, we got together three new books for him. We got him a book called "Hunger," a classic; "The Alchemist"; and then a more advanced English textbook. And when I handed him these books, it was like I gave him the keys to the helicopter. I mean, he -- he literally leapt and went and put on his best shirt and posed for a picture with the books.

ALLEN: My goodness. "The Alchemist," that's a good one. That was a good choice, I think. Yes, and the first story he was reading was called a picnic in the park. You know, and look what they're dealing with.

How much more suffering, though, do we think these people can take? We know UNICEF is pleading for more funding, but it's not there.

NYBO: My hat's off to Bangladesh for housing over 900,000 Rohingya. The challenges, there's a lot to talk about about what's next for them? There's talk about repatriation to Myanmar.

But the question really needs to be presented to the Rohingya. I think before any decisions are made, because everyone is coming to the conclusion this is where they belong.

How do the Rohingya feel about that? When I talked to the Rohingya, they want justice. They want protection. They want citizenship. And I think, until those things are given, nobody can make plans for where they're going to live their lives. It's a basic right, and they deserve at least that much.

ALLEN: In the meantime, they are stuck. And now they're stuck in this horrible situation. The prime minister of Bangladesh said the huge number of Rohingyas is destabilizing. She wants them, of course, to go back to Myanmar because of the other issue, which is deforestation, which they're trying to carve out homes.

NYBO: It's an impossible situation, and as -- as was mentioned in the package, there are four months left in the monsoon season. And everything is affected. The schools, the water, the latrines, the houses. How can anyone have any sleep worrying about their children?

You have to remember, too, you might have as many as eight or nine people living in one of these flimsy plastic tents. And, as water is coming in, is the hill going to collapse? Are my children going to be safe? So it's a day-to-day struggle, but they still want justice.

ALLEN: And they deserve it so much. Well, your pictures help tell the story. As -- as tough as it is, it's important for the world to see, so important. Thomas Nybo, thank you so much.

NYBO: Thank you, Natalie.

ALLEN: Thanks for coming in.

Next here, more rain for New Orleans. Already saturated, now it faces the possibility of flooding as Tropical Storm Barry looms on the horizon as a potential hurricane. The forecast for you ahead here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:31:45] ALLEN: Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen with our top stories this hour.

Now, President Trump has backed down from his plan to include a question on citizenship in the 2020 census. Instead, he's issuing an executive order that requires government agencies to turn over data on citizens and non-citizens to the Commerce Department. This comes as deportation raids are planned to begin Sunday in at

least 10 U.S. cities, targeting 2,000 migrant families who already have court orders to be removed from the U.S.

Immigration advocates are telling undocumented immigrants, "Know your rights."

On Wall Street, stocks rose again to close at record highs, the Dow finishing above 27,000 for the first time ever. The S&P 500 ended just shy of 3,000. The gains followed a signal from the Fed share that an interest rate cut could come at the end of the month.

Louisiana's governor, as well as President Trump, have declared an emergency in the southern U.S. state ahead of Tropical Storm Barry, which could become a hurricane by Saturday. Whatever its strength when it makes landfall, the storm will be a dangerous rain event in New Orleans and parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The city is already waterlogged from recent rains, and the Mississippi River is much higher than normal. The governor warns it could be a rough couple of days.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D), LOUISIANA GOVERNOR: This is a very significant, severe weather event. And the National Weather Service are -- they're using terms like life-threatening floods. This was never going to be a wind event, not to say that you won't have significant winds.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: Well, for the very latest on the storm, here's CNN's Ryan Young in New Orleans.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And the big concern with this tropical storm is all the water that could be heading this way.

If you look at here, this water is already a little higher than normal. The Mississippi has dealt with a lot higher water level over the last few months. In fact, we talked to some residents who say, just in the last 24 hours, they've seen this rise some five inches.

In the distance there, you can see the city. Now, city officials are expected here in New Orleans some 12 to 15 inches of water. In fact, they've decided not to put an evacuation order out there. They're telling people to shelter in place.

But one of the things they're also saying to people is, if you feel an emergency, please call 9-1-1 early, because they don't want to send emergency crews out to get you after the water's gotten too high.

Police officers have been put on 12-hour shifts. And the downtown district has already started spreading some of the sandbags in this area, especially after they got hit earlier in the week with heavy water.

I can tell you, there's 118 pumps also on the standby to pump some of this water out. And they shut down access to the levies, because they know people are starting to come out and try to look at the water levels.

This city is on edge right now, because of course, they've dealt with water before. But they want to see how the storm will affect them over the next 48 hours or so.

Ryan Young, CNN, New Orleans.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: That river's close to the road there. Meteorologist Derek Van Dam is tracking this storm's every movement.

Derek, what are you seeing?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Natalie, this is really an unprecedented event. Never before have we had a tropical system move towards the mouth of the Mississippi River when -- when the Mississippi River is already swollen with floodwater, the water is trying to exit the Mississippi floodwater area.

[00:35:15] So this is really uncharted territory, especially for the greater New Orleans region.

Here's the latest information from the National Hurricane Center. Still a disorganized storm, but it is intensifying. Eighty-five kilometer-per-hour sustained winds. You can see the projected path. It may strengthen into a weak Category 1, making landfall late Friday night, early Saturday morning right along the southern Louisiana coastline.

Look at the where New Orleans is positioned on that eastern quadrant. That's not what we'd like to see, right? Anywhere you see that shading of red, that's a hurricane warning in effect. The shading of blue, including New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain, that is a tropical storm warning for them as we speak. And that will continue through the weekend.

Unprecedented rainfall forecast for this region. That's already seen extremely heavy, wet conditions for the past several weeks, if not all of the past spring season. We have a potential to see over 500 millimeters of rainfall for that area, especially inland communities.

And you can see the storm surge warnings in place with that shade of pink. We have a storm surge watch in place for New Orleans.

Now, when we speak specifically about New Orleans, we know that their levee system was upgraded following the disastrous effects of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. That was tested with some larger hurricanes, like Isaac back in 2012. It performed well. It performed as expected. But the Achilles heel here for New Orleans is the fact that we have a swollen and already flooded Mississippi River. So you add that with heavy rainfall and the potential for storm surge, at the same time. This could overtop some levees.

Here's why. The water comes in from the ocean. It moves its way up the Mississippi River and eventually, moves its way into the greater New Orleans region.

New Orleans sits in a bowl. Much of the city actually sits below sea level. And some of the levees across the greater New Orleans region are just before the 20-foot mark.

So we go back to my graphics, and I want to show you what a Google Earth image. Because this is important. This is the key finding that we're starting to realize. That some of these levees, anywhere you see that shading of red, the little red dust that we've highlighted right along the Mississippi River -- here's New Orleans. This is downstream. These levees are below 20 feet.

So if we have a river already at 16 feet, you add two to four feet of additional storm surge plus the potential for more heavy rainfall, you don't have to be a mathematician, Natalie. You understand those numbers exceed the 20-foot levee markers there. We could have overtopping there and disastrous effects -- disastrous effects in New Orleans.

ALLEN: A story we'll be watching closely in the next few days. Derek, thanks so much.

VAN DAM: Yes. OK.

ALLEN: Not looking too good.

Europe is also enduring severe weather. A freak storm in Greece left at least six people dead and 30 others injured. For just 15 minutes, winds of more than 100 kilometers an hour lashed a tourist area. This is what is left of a tavern. The roof collapsed, killing a woman and child from Romania.

The storm's power can also be seen in this graveyard, where headstones were overturned to check.

Two Czech tourists and two Russians were also killed.

Well, we have breaking news. The embattled U.S. singer R. Kelly has been arrested again in Chicago. A source tells CNN the 52-year-old is facing 13 fresh charges, including sex trafficking in New York; attempting to influence a pending case in Atlanta; and child pornography. The singer already faces 21 charges, including sexual assault and sexual abuse.

Kelly has denied any allegations of sexual misconduct.

We'll take a short break now. But still to come, a popular filmmaker on social media reveals the secrets behind his mind-bending videos. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:41:10] ALLEN: A filmmaker in Amsterdam is wowing Instagram viewers with his mind-bending videos. Watch how he creates this optical illusions.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROGIER VAN DER ZWAAG, FILMMAKER: I definitely do like to disorientate the viewer yes. I like to kind of create my own little universes when I make a film, where the laws of nature are -- seem to be a bit different.

I'm Rogier Van Der Zwaag. I'm a filmmaker, and I'm working from a -- my studio here in Amsterdam.

I was not into magic as a kid, but I always have been drawn to -- to perspective. In this clip there is no computer animation. This is what they call forced perspective. Perspective can be so distortive to our brains in a way.

This video is one of my favorites. The hands come in and reshape the whole composition as you thought it was.

The whole thing that sets you off in this video is the fact that you're thinking you're seeing a left and a right hand, but it's only a left hand.

I'm making a lot of experiments, and they just end up on a hard drive. At a certain point, I thought, "Let's just throw them on social media immediately."

Sometimes people do see it, really, as magic tricks that need to be solved. They give their ideas of how it's made in the comments, which I think is really cool. I love to see how things are interpreted. So yes, it's awesome.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLENA: Very cool indeed.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen. We'll be back in 15 minutes with another hour of NEWSROOM. Next here, CNN sports.

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