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CNN NEWSROOM

Iran Says It Seized British Oil Tanker after Accident; Thousands Call for Puerto Rico Governor to Resign after Leaked Chats; U.S. Heat Wave Disrupts New York Subway System; 2016 Trump Voters Weigh Their Decisions; Death Toll in Kyoto Animation Fire Rises to 34; Apollo 11 Anniversary. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired July 20, 2019 - 05:00   ET

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


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NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A showdown in the Persian Gulf. Iran seizing a British flagged tanker and the U.K. vows to respond.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Plus, President Trump flip- flopping on the "send her back" chant, his attacks on four freshmen congresswomen.

ALLEN (voice-over): Also ahead, marking 50 years since the Apollo 11 moon landing. We speak with a former journalist, who coverage the mission, the only member of the college press, approved by NASA at 19. Pretty cool.

HOWELL (voice-over): That's just amazing.

Live from CNN headquarters in Atlanta. Welcome to viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. I'm George Howell.

ALLEN (voice-over): I'm Natalie Allen, NEWSROOM starts right now.

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HOWELL: Iran is now offering a new explanation about why it seized a British flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran claims the Stena Impero was involved in an accident with an Iranian fishing boat and ignored that boat's distress call. So the Iranian Navy captured the tanker.

ALLEN: An Iranian news agency says the ship is now in port and all 23 crew are to remain on board during the investigation. The British foreign office is advising all U.K. ships to avoid the Strait of Hormuz.

HOWELL: U.S. officials say Iran also seized a second ship but Iran's military denies that. It says it did stop a second ship briefly but it was released. The ship's owner confirms it is no longer in Iranian waters. The British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted this, just a short

time ago, saying, quote, "Yesterday's action in Gulf shows worrying signs Iran may be choosing a dangerous path of illegal and destabilizing behavior after Gibraltar's legal detention of oil bound for Syria. As I said yesterday, our reaction will be considered but robust. We have been trying to find a way to resolve Grace 1 issue but will ensure the safety of our shipping."

ALLEN: All of this coming after Gibraltar said an Iranian supertanker seized by the U.K. weeks ago will be held another 30 days. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is following the events from Istanbul.

What are we learning about what's behind this?

Iran is ratcheting up these dangerous incidents.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, as you mentioned there, we had a couple of incidents taking place, yesterday, within a span of a couple of hours. You had this incident with a British operated tanker that U.S. and U.K. officials were saying have been seized by Iran. The Iranians denied that they seized it.

They said that they stopped it briefly for some sort of a maritime security briefing, then they let it go.

Then you have this very serious ongoing issue with the Stena Impero, the British flagged tanker and this is a serious major escalation that we're seeing in the Strait of Hormuz. The latest from the Iranians is it sounds like they're trying to deescalate, saying it was some sort of a collision with a fishing boat and this tanker was not responsive so, according to the law, it had to be taken to the port for an investigation, this investigation is ongoing.

And they said while this is happening for safety reasons, then they have to keep the crew on board, 23 of them, 18 Indian and others from different nationalities, including from the Philippines and Russia.

Now what could be an encouraging sign at this point is the British foreign secretary, following, you know, we've seen national security meetings, a covert meeting taking place in the United Kingdom yesterday.

They're saying right now, at this point, the military options are not on the table. They're not looking at that. They're trying to go through the diplomatic route.

Jeremy Hunt saying he tried to reach the foreign minister of Iran, Javad Zarif, who was traveling at that point, but also saying that the British ambassador to Tehran is speaking to the foreign ministry.

You know, if you look at this specific incident, while the Iranians are saying it's a fishing incident, an accident that took place, you look at several other incidents that have been taking place and, definitely, we're seeing --

[05:05:00] KARADSHEH: -- this sort of escalation that is taking place in that very narrow Strait of Hormuz. And a lot of concern about that.

And this specific incident, Natalie, may be seen as the retaliation that the Iranians promised for the Navy British Marines and the Gibraltar authorities taking into custody that Iranian oil tanker on the Fourth of July, that they say was in violation of E.U. sanctions taking oil to Syria.

So we'll have to wait and see what happens. But all indications at this point is that they're trying to resolve this diplomatically.

ALLEN: Right, because no one wants to see this continue to escalate. Jomana Karadsheh, thank you so much.

HOWELL: That evolving story from Iran and mixed messages in the Trump administration, conflicting signals about how to deal with Iran, including the president, lately sounding optimistic about diplomacy only then to change his tone.

ALLEN: On Thursday, he denied he had authorized a U.S. senator to initiate talks with Iranian officials. The next day, he reversed course and said Rand Paul had been given permission to reach out to Tehran.

HOWELL: Even so, the president is sounding doubtful it will do any good.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: This only goes to show what I'm saying about Iran, trouble, nothing but trouble.

And it goes to show you I was right about Iran. And let's see what happens.

QUESTION: Are you concerned about a broader financial situation in the Strait of Hormuz?

TRUMP: No, we have the greatest people in the world. We have the greatest equipment in the world. We have the most deadly ships -- we don't want to use them but they're the most deadly ships ever conceived. We hope for their sake they don't do anything foolish, if they do, they'll pay a price nobody has.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Let's put it into focus with Natasha Lindstaedt from the University of Essex joining us from England.

Good to have you.

NATASHA LINDSTAEDT, UNIVERSITY OF ESSEX: Thanks for having me.

HOWELL: The president giving mixed messages, taking a more hawkish tone on Iran, saying Iran better be careful. A great deal of volatility and uncertainty, neither country really wanting a full-on war.

What do you make of where things stand right now?

LINDSTAEDT: It's really interesting. But I think all of this illustrates that Trump didn't really have a plan in place for what he was going to do after he decided he was going to back out of the nuclear deal.

I'd like to say first, had he never backed out of the nuclear deal, I really wouldn't have much to criticize because Iran has really been behaving badly, sabotaging ships, seizing ships and just creating general havoc in the region.

But that's a big thing to have to look at. He stepped out of this deal and it was a deal that had been working. It was finally a time that Iran was adhering and complying to regulations.

And now, he doesn't really have a plan. We're just seeing a lot of back and forth, both on the U.S. side and the Iranian side. With the Iranians, you see the Revolutionary Guard Corps and the security apparatus taking bold risks and then stepping back and backtracking to actually say it was more of an accident.

We also see the U.S. is doing the same thing, fully unprepared with how to deal with Iran. At times, Trump is conciliatory, saying we're going to try to talk, let's try to find a diplomatic solution and, at other times, he is threatening.

I think the message that he sent to the Iranians is that he's all talk, that he's not going to back it up with any type of attack and that then makes the Iranians even bolder.

HOWELL: Natasha, I'm curious; you're saying Iran behaving badly. Certainly, Iran was involved in proxy wars, according to U.S. officials. When the U.S. president backed out of the Iran nuclear deal, do you believe, had he not done that, we would not be seeing what we're seeing now, Iran taking a more assertive approach at the Strait of Hormuz?

LINDSTAEDT: That's exactly what I believe. I think Iran had everything to gain by adhering with the deal. They desperately needed sanctions relief. They have 15 percent inflation, 13 percent unemployment rate and almost zero growth rate.

They were pretty desperate. Though they're not on their knees yet, I think that's the problem, they still have a ways to go before they're actually brought to their knees. But they were hoping this deal would work and they'd get some sanction relief and they would adhere to the deal because it was in their interest to do so.

By backing out of the deal, Iran has nothing to lose, so we see it taking more risks, amping up their proxy activities, sabotaging ships and detaining tankers, pretending --

[05:10:00]

LINDSTAEDT: -- that they didn't do it, sometimes saying they did do it. It's just Iran basically sowing chaos in the region again.

HOWELL: The U.K. also saying they will retaliate but in this case they're looking more toward diplomacy, that military force.

What does that say about the state of Iran, the nuclear deal that the U.S. backed out of?

And other nations trying to manage their relationships with a more assertive Iran?

LINDSTAEDT: I think the nuclear deal is in real trouble here. Because the European countries had already tried to offer Iran some financial incentive to stick to deal. They were trying to find creative solutions. I know that France sent an envoy over to Iran.

And thus far none of this has really worked. They said, you know, this is really not enough for us. And that puts countries like the U.K., which the U.K. is obviously close to the U.S. but desperately wants to go back to the 2015 deal, in a difficult situation. Because Iran is really pushing things and really trying to push things to the brink because they think that this will then force Europe to defy the U.S.

HOWELL: Right.

LINDSTAEDT: I don't think that's going to happen. I think the U.K. is going to do what the U.S. wants it to do.

HOWELL: Natasha Lindstaedt, thank you.

LINDSTAEDT: Thanks for having me.

ALLEN: A day after distancing himself from racist chants at a rally, President Trump is calling his audience, quote, "incredible patriots."

HOWELL: This all caps a week of criticism against four minority female House lawmakers that all started with a tweet. Abby Phillip explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REPORTER: Do you take that tweet back?

TRUMP: You know what I'm unhappy with. I'm unhappy with the fact that a congresswoman can hate our country.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just one day after distancing himself from his supporters' ""send her back"" chant, President Trump now refusing to take back the words he wrote that prompted it.

TRUMP: I'm unhappy with the fact that a congresswoman can say anti- Semitic things.

PHILLIP: The president's defiance capping a week of controversy that started on Sunday morning with the racist attack, telling four congresswomen of color to go back to the places from which they came.

REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): This is the agenda of white nationalists. PHILLIP: The president was emboldened as outrage exploded on the left

but Republican lawmakers were slow to comment. Two days after the tweets went out, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell offering tepid criticism.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Well, I think I've just said, I think everybody ought to tone down their rhetoric.

PHILLIP: By Wednesday, Trump had turned the attacks into a scripted campaign strategy.

TRUMP: And she looks down with contempt on the hard-working Americans saying that ignorance is pervasive in many parts of this country. And obviously and importantly, Omar has a history of launching vicious, anti-Semitic screeds.

PHILLIP: His supporters responding with the chant formed from his own words.

CROWD: "send her back"! "send her back"! "send her back"! "send her back"! "send her back"! "send her back"!

PHILLIP: That scene apparently crossing a line for Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill, who voiced their discomfort with the chants to Vice President Mike Pence and sources say his daughter Ivanka Trump also expressed her concerns to the president.

By Thursday, Trump disavowed the chants by falsely claiming he tried to stop it.

TRUMP: I did -- and I started speaking very quickly. But it started up rather fast.

PHILLIP: Twenty-four hours later, the president now attempting to move the debate to more comfortable territory -- crowd size.

TRUMP: Those people in North Carolina, that stadium was packed. It was a record crowd. And I could have filled it ten times as you know. Those are incredible people. Those are incredible patriots.

PHILLIP: After Congresswoman Omar did go back to her home state of Minnesota, Trump false accusing her of staging the event.

President Trump also seemed to deny that his daughter, Ivanka Trump, and first lady, Melania Trump, advised him on whether or not those chants at his rally this week were acceptable. He said they did not advise him but they did speak to him about it.

He was also asked whether or not he would be acceptable for Melania Trump to face chants of "send her back," given that Melania was not born in the United States. The president didn't answer that question but said the first lady, also like he does, despises the comments by those four Democratic congresswomen that he has been trying to raise attention to all week -- Abby Phillip, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: American voters are listening to President Trump ahead of the 2020 election. And some people who cast their ballots for him in 2016 may be reconsidering their choice. That's coming up.

HOWELL: And for those of you watching here in the United States, it is hot. It may get hotter. You want to be close to the air conditioner this weekend. We'll look at --

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HOWELL: -- the heat wave that is blanketing much of the country.

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ALLEN (voice-over): This is Puerto Rico, where around a dozen protesters in San Juan sat on buckets as if they were toilets. Each bucket was labeled with a human rights violation they accuse the island's government of committing.

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ALLEN: Those protesters joined thousands of people, calling for governor Ricardo Rossello to resign. It started last week, with hundreds of pages of leaked messages between the governor and several top aides. Many of the chats contained vulgar, sexist and homophobic comments. Some were threats against political opponents and journalists.

HOWELL: One message appeared to be a joke about people who died in Hurricane Maria. Now Puerto Rico's house of representatives formed a committee to investigate possible impeachment. Protesters say the leak woke them up from political apathy.

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LAYZNE ALVEZ, PROTESTER: This government has been left to run wild with our economy, with the money, with all of the funds of the federal government is spending here.

Now, this guy, after everything he's done, after everything he's said, after everything has been made public about how he feels about us, he makes fun of us on the chat. He made fun of the people who died.

After he lied about the quantity of people who died after the hurricane, after he lied about so much about -- I mean, it's insufferable. And still, he holds on to power. We don't want him anymore here. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Governor Rossello refuses to step down but several members of his staff, including his press secretary, have resigned.

Here in the United States, a heat wave, it is bad. But without power, it's even worse. That's what more than 280,000 people in the city of Detroit are dealing with at this very hour.

ALLEN: A storm moved through, sending trees into power lines, this in a city already under an excessive heat advisory, as is New York, which had its subway system stop running on Friday. Thousands of hot, frustrated commuters waited hours for the system to come back online.

HOWELL: Faring slightly better, the animals at the zoo in New England, in Boston, they beat the heat with a little ice there.

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ALLEN: All right. The lineups are set for the next pair of U.S. Democratic presidential debates. You can only see them on CNN. The first night features progressive senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. They'll be joined on Tuesday, July 30th, by South Bend Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar.

HOWELL: And the second night will feature a rematch between Senator Kamala Harris and the former Vice President, Joe Biden. That's on Wednesday, July 31st. Joining them Cory Booker and former Housing secretary Julian Castro.

It's been 2.5 years of the Trump presidency and the United States is in a much different place than it was in 2016.

ALLEN: So how do Trump voters feel about their choice now?

Randi Kaye speaks with two work colleagues who have surprising answers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wisconsin voter Dave Soborowicz voted for Trump in 2016. But now he regrets it.

KAYE: What are you thinking for 2020, are you planning to support President Trump again?

DAVE SOBOROWICZ, WISCONSIN VOTER: Absolutely not.

KAYE: Why not?

SOBOROWICZ: Because I don't want to have another four years of embarrassment going on.

KAYE (voice-over): And what we've seen this past week, he says, is just another example of that.

SOBOROWICZ: That tweet that everybody is talking about, I would not define it as a racist tweet. But it is a hatred tweet for sure.

KAYE (voice-over): His co-worker at this Eau Claire, Wisconsin, plumbing company, Kerri Krumenauer, also voted for Trump in 2016 and she sees it differently.

KERRI KRUMENAUER, WISCONSIN VOTER: I was at risk (ph), if you don't like this country, get out, leave. That's all he said. He didn't use any names. They stood up. And so, that's all they did. They made themselves look like idiots.

KAYE (voice-over): Unlike her co-worker, Dave, Kerri has no regrets about voting for Trump.

KRUMENAUER: He takes no crap from anybody. And that's why I love him. He has followed through on promises that he's kept, that he made to American people.

KAYE: Like what?

Give me one.

KRUMENAUER: Taxes. (INAUDIBLE) working on the border. We're back in charge again. We're not taking guff. I mean, he is -- he is working with North Korea like no other president ever has in the world before.

KAYE (voice-over): Unlike Kerri, Dave really regrets his vote.

SOBOROWICZ: I didn't know he was going to act this way. So I'm embarrassed by him.

KAYE: What don't you like about the president?

SOBOROWICZ: He doesn't act like a president should in my eyes. He, in a way, I think, spreads hatred. It's like a little kid --

[05:25:00]

SOBOROWICZ: -- having a temper tantrum. The way he talks about, blah, blah, blah or whatever, however he says it, you know, comes across, it's -- to me, it's childish.

KAYE (voice-over): He says Trump should stop taking credit for things like the economy.

KAYE: You don't think he's been good for business?

SOBOROWICZ: I can't say it's his -- he alone is the reason why everything is booming at this time. I -- it didn't happen as soon as he took office. It was already starting to improve.

KAYE (voice-over): Kerri sees it differently.

KRUMENAUER: I have thought this country needs to be run like a business. It was ran into the ground for eight years. And it's time to bring it back. And he's done it.

KAYE (voice-over): Kerri also thinks Trump is right to build a wall and limit immigration. Dave argues this country needs immigrants.

SOBOROWICZ: Dairy products would be so much more expensive. Vegetables that are grown around here or anywhere in the United States, everything would be much more expensive if it wasn't for the immigrants.

KAYE: But he ran on that pretty much when you voted for him in 2016, right?

SOBOROWICZ: Once again, I thought he was a better option than Hillary.

KAYE: So it wasn't necessarily a vote for Trump in 2016, it was against Hillary Clinton?

SOBOROWICZ: Exactly.

KAYE: Is there anything that Trump can do that would change your mind or you're dug in?

KRUMENAUER: Oh, I'm dug in. I'm behind him 100 percent.

KAYE: You're on the Trump train?

KRUMENAUER: I am on the Trump train. I'm in the front car with him, pulling the whistle.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: All right. Coming up here, the latest on the Iranian threat to commercial shipping. Why Iran now says it captured a British oil tanker.

HOWELL: Plus, marking a milestone in the exploration of space. Fifty years ago today, humankind setting foot on the moon for the very first time.

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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.

ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen with our headlines at this hour.

(HEADLINES) ALLEN: Let's bring you up to date on our top story, the seizure of a British flagged oil tanker by Iran. It now says it captured the vessel after it was involved in an accident with an Iranian fishing boat and it ignored a distress signal from it.

But this comes after Gibraltar said an Iranian supertanker seized by the U.K. weeks ago is to be held for another 30 days.

HOWELL: Just a short time ago the British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, tweeted, "Yesterday's action in Gulf shows worrying signs that Iran may be choosing a dangerous path of illegal and destabilizing behavior after Gibraltar's legal detention of oil bound for Syria. As I said yesterday, our reaction will be considered but robust. We have been trying to find a way to resolve the Grace 1 issue but will ensure the safety of our shipping."

Journalist Ramin Mostaghim is in Tehran, following the story for us.

What more are you hearing from why the ship was stopped?

RAMIN MOSTAGHIM, "L.A. TIMES": What I can hear is that the escalation of this started and they are just referring to the technical problems and damage inflicted to a fishing vessel and polluting the sea by dumping crude oil residue and also wrong pattern to enter the Hormuz Strait. That is the technical part of it.

And the escalations also has started but the problem is the de- escalation process is one step forward and two steps backward. For instance, the general director of the shipping organization, Hormuz (INAUDIBLE) province (ph), whose center is at Bandar Abbas, announced that the crew might be interrogated and interviewed if the officials deem it necessary.

So it can be contributing to the increasing in the escalations of tensions, if the interrogation happens and if crew are forced to leave their boat and be interviewed in Bandar Abbas.

So it depends what can happen in the coming hours but so far it's one step forward, de-escalating and two step backward, escalating the intentions by interrogating the crew of the British vessel.

HOWELL: And we'll see if this back and forth continues. Certainly, the volatility is there. Journalist Ramin Mostaghim, we appreciate your time and perspective on this today, thank you.

ALLEN: We'll talk more about it with Fawaz Gerges, the chair of contemporary Middle East studies at the London School of Economics joining us from London and a foremost expert on Iran.

Always glad to have you with us. First up, Britain warned Friday there would be serious consequences if Iran does not release that U.K.-flagged oil tanker.

Is Iran wanting to push things here to the brink?

FAWAZ GERGES, DIR. MIDDLE EAST CENTER, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Iran is engaged in what I call a calculated escalation. Iran is trying to increase the costs, the so-called maximum pressure policy by the Trump administration. So in this particular sense, Iran is engaged in major risks. But the context for the seizure --

[05:35:00]

GERGES: -- of the British flagged vessel is very important. This is a direct retaliation by the Iranians against what they perceived to be an illegal act by Britain on the Fourth of July, when Britain seized the Iranian supertanker Grace 1.

The Iranian leaders, including the supreme leader Khamenei, made it clear that the seizure of the ships in early July will not go unpunished. So my take on the question, to summarize my answer, is that Iran sends a clear message that it has the will and the means to retaliate.

My take on it is that Iran will use the seizure of the British flagged vessel in order to free its own supertanker, which has more than 2 million barrels of oil. And its confinement has been extended -- it was extended by 30 days yesterday. This was the last straw that broke the camel's back.

ALLEN: So, Fawaz, what could de-escalate the situation, as it seems to turn more dangerous?

GERGES: Well, the irony is that the European powers, including Britain, Germany and France, are engaged in a very desperate effort to escalate. They are squeezed between a hard rock, the Trump administration, and a hard place, that is Iran, which is engaged in a very risky escalation in order to get outside of the squeeze in which it finds itself.

The challenge here, to answer the question directly is the Trump administration is very incoherent. On one hand, the Trump administration says it does not really want a military confrontation with Iran. On the other hand, the Trump administration is waging economic warfare against Iran. The Iranian economy is bleeding. Everyday Iranians are hurting.

The price of basic food commodities -- eggs, milk, medicine -- has skyrocketed. And Iran does not have the time. And the messages that are coming from the Trump administration are extremely incoherent.

So while the president does not really want war, the hardliners, the team around President Trump, keep escalating and really pushing Iran.

So we are really stuck in this particular position. The United States is trying to basically squeeze. And the Iranian economy and the Iranians are pushing back. And it would take a -- it will take, basically, a spark to trigger a bigger fire in that particular strategic region, in particular in the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.

ALLEN: Yes, many have said this is the most dangerous they've seen this region in some while. But both sides, Iran and the U.S., have given indication they would be

willing to negotiate. But they're not, because they're not on the same page. President Trump, though, says he wants a better deal.

What chance would Iran concede to that if talks were to somehow occur through some side channel?

GERGES: Well, I mean, we do not really know what President Trump wants. He keeps saying we want Iran not to have a nuclear weapon. That's fine.

But the nuclear deal that was signed by six -- the six great powers, including president Barack Obama, had frozen the Iranian nuclear deal for 15 years. So Iran was not engaged in nuclear activities when President Trump decided to unilaterally, basically exit the nuclear deal.

There are some legitimate concerns by the European powers and the United States. In particular, Iranian activities in the neighborhood: Iran's intervention in Syria, in Iraq, in other places. And also there are legitimate activities around Iran's ballistic missile.

But why exit the deal?

Why not basically try to engage Iran and threaten Iran with consequences before you unfreeze the Iranian nuclear deal?

At the end of the day, I think the stakes are very high. And given the fact that neither side wants war, both sides now are positioning themselves for negotiation. That means compromise and concessions by both sides.

The question for me, will President Trump use the economic sanctions as a bargaining card in order to really get Iran to the negotiating table by releasing, by allowing Iran to export some of its oil --

[05:40:00]

GERGES: -- to the international community?

Just to give your viewers a glimpse of what we're talking about, last year, Iran was exporting about 3 million barrels of oil. Iran today exports less than 250 barrels a day. A huge, huge decline in oil exports.

And that's why, I mean, I think if the sanctions are reduced a bit, you're going to see Iran coming to the table. And this is how the escalation might happen. And this is what the European powers are trying to do. My fear is that Iran risks driving the European powers into Trump's embrace if it keeps taking the action it has done in the past few weeks.

ALLEN: It all seems like an unnecessary conflict that many say was created by President Trump. Fawaz Gerges, we always appreciate your insights. Thank you so much.

GERGES: Thanks.

HOWELL: We'll be right back, after this.

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HOWELL: Police say the suspect at the center of Japan's worst mass killing in almost 20 years has unspecified mental health issues.

ALLEN: Some 34 people were killed in a suspected arson Thursday at the renowned Kyoto Animation studio.

HOWELL: Journalist Kaori Enjoji has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAORI ENJOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fans, neighbors and visitors streamed into this little corner of Kyoto today to give prayer to who lost their lives. As Maya told me, she grew up with the beloved animation company. Through tears, she said the company had the artistry and sensitivity that captured the hearts of her generation.

The CEO of Kyoto Animation --

[05:45:00]

ENJOJI (voice-over): -- accompanied firefighters and police into the burnt-out shell of this studio today. Dressed in mourning clothes, he spent about 20 minutes inside, as the search continued, to find answers to how and why this tragedy unfolded.

HIDEAKI HATTA, CEO, KYOTO ANIMATION (through translator): People who had bright futures have lost their lives. To put it simply, it's indescribable. More than anger, it's something that might be described as intolerable. I don't know, I cannot contain how I feel.

ENJOJI (voice-over): The suspect, Shinji Aoba, was airlifted to the neighboring city of Osaka. The 41-year old, with a record of mental illness, an eyewitness told CNN, that his legs were badly burned after he allegedly torched the building on Thursday.

The police have yet to determine whether a death threat the company received last October was from the suspect. It's the deadliest fire Japan has seen in decades and one that is likely to sear this quiet residential street in Kyoto for months and years to come -- for CNN, I'm Kaori Enjoji in Kyoto.

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ALLEN: He was a 19-year-old journalist who got a front row seat to history. We talk with the only college journalist NASA accredited to cover the historic moon landing. (MUSIC PLAYING)

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[05:50:00]

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HOWELL: Today is the 50th anniversary of man's first steps on the moon. And people around the United States are remembering the Apollo 11 mission with tributes of different kinds. Google Maps, their team used mirrors in the Mojave Desert to create a dramatic portrait of the Apollo program's lead software engineer.

ALLEN: Very cool. And crowds at the Washington Monument were treated to this. A light show featured a projected life-size image of the launch of the Saturn 5 rocket and scenes of the lunar landing. That is really cool.

Joining me now is David Chudwin. He's the author of the book, "I Was a Teenage Space Reporter: From Apollo 11 to Our Future in Space." He joins us live from Lincolnshire, Illinois.

So glad to have you, David. Thank you.

DAVID CHUDWIN, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: Thanks for having me.

ALLEN: You were the only collegiate journalist with official NASA press credentials to cover the launch for the teenage press. You were 19.

How was that experience, just, first of all, getting selected and knowing you would be able to write the story for a big college press service?

CHUDWIN: Well, it was really a life-changing experience. I was an eyewitness to history 50 years ago. And the memories are so vivid, that it seems like it was last week instead of five decades ago.

ALLEN: That's a wonderful thing to say. We're looking at pictures from your book, I believe, and the news conferences there. And you got to sit there among all of these adult journalists. As I understand, you had access to most everything, launch pads, the rocket, including the astronauts.

Did you get to interview them?

CHUDWIN: Well, I didn't get to interview the Apollo 11 crew because they was in isolation. But I was at the site of a press conference before the launch, in which the astronauts were interviewed remotely by a group of five journalists, including CBS' Walter Cronkite at the time.

ALLEN: How about that one?

That's fascinating. And what were you thinking at this time when you were down there and

seeing this entire process?

And what was the most fascinating part of it, if you could give us some examples just being there experiencing and writing about it?

CHUDWIN: Well, it was amazing for someone who is 19 years old to see the incredible infrastructure that had been built by NASA, the vehicle assembly building to launch -- to stack and get ready the rocket, which was one of the biggest buildings in the world.

The launch control center, which had the best of 1969 technology, which was very impressive then, although it seems quite primitive now. One of the surprising things to me, in retrospect, was how we were able to get to the moon with relatively primitive technology.

ALLEN: Right. I was going to ask you about that because, looking back and you think of that achievement, no one probably in 2019 would recognize the technology and the computers that they used to do this feat.

CHUDWIN: Right. Well, one of the positive benefits of the space program has been that it spawned the whole computer industry. The smallest computers then, before Project Apollo, were the size of three or four refrigerators. And they had to develop a small computer to guide the lunar module to land on the moon.

So they developed something called the Apollo guidance computer, which was this small kind of a small shoebox size computer, which was considered ultraminiaturized then. All of our cellphones now have way more memory than that computer but it was sufficient to get them to successfully land on the moon.

ALLEN: And they did it. I was a reporter for Cape Canaveral many years ago, covering shuttle launches and the Hubble space telescope. And the vehicle assembly building that you that mentioned is so gigantic. The shuttles were relatively small in the building compared to being built for the Saturn 5 rocket.

So when the actual blastoff happened, where were you standing, in the press area with other news reporters?

CHUDWIN: Well, that's where we started out. But a friend and I, we took a special bus to what's called the VIP area. NASA had invited over 5,000 guests from all different walks of life to view the launch, ranging from former president Lyndon Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird, to entertainers like Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon and actors like Hugh O'Brien and all kinds of military men and industrialists. And there were in an area called the VIP side --

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CHUDWIN: -- which was the other side of the vehicle assembly building. And so I watched the launch from there. It was a little bit over three miles from the launchpad. Everybody had to stay at least three miles away because, if there was any problem with the rocket booster, if it exploded, if you were closer than three miles, you faced almost certain injury and/or death.

ALLEN: Yes.

One last question, when it blasted off, how loud was it even three miles away?

CHUDWIN: Well, it was the most overwhelming physical sensation. The sound waves from it literally pounded my chest. There was vibration on the ground. The ground shook. We could feel actually the heat from the rocket boosters.

And the sound was so loud and crackling, it's been compared to 100 locomotives. It's something that, 50 years later, I can just feel the sensation still.

ALLEN: What a wonderful experience for you. And thank you for sharing some of your moments with that experience. David Chudwin, the author of the book, "I Was a Teenage Space Reporter: From Apollo 11 to Our Future in Space."

I've been reading the excerpts. Everyone loves the book. I'm going to go get it. David, thank you so much.

CHUDWIN: You're quite welcome.

ALLEN: Sweet man. I love the vintage video. Can't get enough of it.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM, I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. The news continues here on CNN after the break.

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