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Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello Is Not Resigning; The President Of The United States Launching A Fresh Attack On Four Progressive Congresswomen; Woman In Michigan Who Was Hoping To Represent The United States In A Worldwide Beauty Pageant Is Now Without Her Title. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 21, 2019 - 18:00   ET


[18:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Now, this announcement comes amid uproar over leaked private chat messages that was criticize as homophobic, disparaging toward women and insensitive to the victims of hurricane Maria.

Let's get to CNN's senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh who is joining us by phone right now from Puerto Rico.

Nick, what happened?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on the phone): Well, it's kind of extraordinary. I have to tell you. We have been in anticipation thinking something was going on inside the governor's mansion here and anticipation he might be about to resign immediately.

But what he has essentially done is that he is not going to run again this an election in which everyone thinks he is going to lose any way because he wont finish out his term and that he is going to stop being president of the party that he had there. Essentially saying he's going to step back from what he become mainstream political life. But the notion that he is not going to step down immediately, which is what they have been seeking and to make that point clear r again was kind of a minor concession.

Ahead of the protests we are expecting tomorrow, Monday, which could be a million people on the streets blocking the main expressway heading into the capital city here. Well, it's just going to throw frankly fuel on so much of the crowds here. They say it is a minor concession. And that it essentially said that the elections we will expect to happen in November of next year will not be involving him.

Now as you can see pretty much from the universal discontent, people are expressing around the city here, granted mostly in protest, but it's hard to find a pro-Rossello voice here. He is governor Ricardo Rossello. As extraordinary that you would take to the Facebook message and make such a defined statement digging his heels and saying he wants to continue serving the people. Now there's no polling here, but I say incredibly hard to find a voice in his support to keep it here. And possibly you might see an argument that as some have suggested, it's not clear what would come next if he did step down immediately. Now the crowds here that we are seeing are furious generally at the

political leader at decades (INAUDIBLE) corruption, mismanagement and how they have been looked up the hurricane Maria in 2017 but also years before that as well. And the chat groups, which emerged in the past weeks or so in which he asked in a circle were being derogatory of the LGBTQ community, women and virtually anybody you can think about frankly and sort of (INAUDIBLE). And that sparked the fuel really and sparked the sort of dry forest fire if you like of discontent amongst ordinary Puerto Ricans. That's why the fire is raging and (INAUDIBLE). So this would essentially involve this most likely given the fact that (INAUDIBLE) Mr. Rossello is actually in position. It might have involved in the treasury. But we are still talking about people in the same political elite. That clearly is beginning to turn on the governor. It's been sort of focused on various calls for an impeachment inquiry that's now underway. I should point out that governor Rossello welcomes that process that he calls it, but not necessary referring to the impeachment inquiry but certainly referring to the ongoing parliament investigative part of what he's been up to.

But I have to say a remarkable define statement. Many people I think thought this might have been the final moment he stood down from this position, but instead we are seeing him saying he'll stay with the sort of bizarre concessions that he won't stick around for an election he will most certainly going to lose if he is on (INAUDIBLE) then.

I have to tell you, for the million people essentially out on the streets tomorrow, with the gridlock and standstill, businesses being warned that they will have traffic disrupted, (INAUDIBLE) is closing and local justice department telling its employees it should still come into work. It's a normal working day. But it's going to be chaos for the next 72 hours certainly. Whether he decides to stick through that is an open question -- Ana.

CABRERA: We will see reaction from protesters and those who have been (INAUDIBLE) in their demands for him to resign. Again, if you are just joining us, Nick Paton Walsh, thank you for that report.

To our viewers, if you are just joining us, the governor of Puerto Rico making an announcement via Facebook saying he will not run for reelection. He is about two-and-a-half years into a four-year term currently. And according to Nick Paton Walsh, he is there in Puerto Rico talking with protesters this weekend and is not likely to quell their concerns. We will continue to stay on top of this story and follow any fallout from the announcement.

In the meantime in Washington, the feud continues. The President of the United States launching a fresh attack on four progressive congresswomen he has been feuding with a straight week now.

Here is his latest tweet. I don't believe the four congresswomen are capable of loving our country. They should apologize to America and Israel for the horrible, hateful things they have said. They are destroying the Democratic Party, but are weak and insecure people who can never destroy our nation. Sarah Westwood has been traveling with the President. She join us in

Berkeley Heights, New Jersey where the President just left after spending the weekend.

Sarah, after initially expressing disapproval of those send her back chants at his rally last week, he is clearly not letting go of this grievance he has against these women. And he is getting some backup now from people in his own administration.

[18:05:17] SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Ana. Today two top members of the administration hitting the airwaves in defense of the President's decision to continue those attacks on the four Democratic House freshmen members known as the squad.

He got some backup from Stephen Miller, a top aid, who has immigration as one of his top areas of focus and from vice president Mike Pence, both of whom emphasized the fact that President Trump has worked to distance himself from those racist chants of send her back that broke out at his rally Wednesday night in North Carolina. And both of them making the case that the President's criticisms are not racist. Take a listen to what Pence and Miller had to say this morning.




PENCE: He wasn't happy about it. If it happened again, he would make an effort to speak out about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He will make an effort?

PENCE: That's what he's already said.



WESTWOOD: President Trump has said that next time if the chant breaks out, he might try to interrupt it, try to discourage it. But if you watch that footage from the rally on Wednesday, you will see that he did wait 13 seconds before speaking once the chat broke out.

Stephen Miller who also spoke out this morning on FOX News Sunday said that the President's chants, the President's attacks on the four congresswomen weren't racist just because he happened to be attacking members of Congress who are of color.

Now sources tell CNN that President Trump faced pressure from aids and allies and lawmakers to distance himself from the chants and made a backlash from Democrats. And as Republicans, Ana, were struggling to defend the indulgence of those chants.

CABRERA: OK. Sarah Westwood reporting for us in Berkley Heights, New Jersey, thank you.

Let's bring in our CNN political analyst, White House correspondent for "the Guardian US" Sabrina Siddiqui and "New York Times" politics editor Patrick Healy.

Guys, it wasn't just the vice president who is out today trying to defend President Trump, but also top White House adviser Stephen Miller who made this accusation.


STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: I think the term racist, Chris, has become a label that is too often deployed by left Democrats in this country simply to try to punish and suppress people they disagree with, speech that they don't want to hear.


CABRERA: Patrick, did anything help quell this storm? I mean, it's been going on for over a week now.

PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I don't think it helped quell the storm at all. I mean, what they have tried to do now is sort of distract to what they would like the story line to be which is whether or not four Democratic congresswomen love the country or not. And from the point of view of President Trump, they don't or it is hard for him to believe.

But that's just, you know, that's just his attempt and the administration's attempt to change the subject. What's going on and what we are now going to see for weeks and months to come at every rally that President Trump holds is whether send her back or send them back become the rallying cry that "lock her up" or "build a wall" became in 2016. And whether President Trump, whose, you know, frankly his sort of moral stand on this is going to be on the line, encourages that laughs, smiles, says no, come on.

You know, every rally now it's an introduced into the bloodstream by this president. This sort of racist notion that people of color who don't agree with him should go back to a country when their country is actually the United States. He is now put this in the bloodstream of his base. And our reporters who were at that rally down in North Carolina could feel that intensity coming from the audience when they were chanting "send her back."

So there's a rally in Cincinnati on August 1st. The President is going to be head lining. We will see what the crowd is saying and what he says.

CABRERA: Sabrina, on one hand, the President is saying he's not happy with this chant. But on the other hand, he is saying they are just patriotic Americans who love the USA who are saying "send her back." Is he trying to have it both ways here?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there's no question that even after he distanced himself from the chants, when given the opportunity to really criticize what was at the core of that sentiment, he defended the people who were behind those chants. And in fact, when he was addressing reporters at the White House on Friday and asked about his being unhappy, he kind of turned it back around on those four congresswomen of color and said, no, what I'm unhappy about is that these women are unpatriotic. That they are un-American.

And so, there's still these racial undertones to the way he is going after these women. And you know, might not be as explicit as him tweeting they should go become to where they came from even though they are all US citizen. But it's still an uttering (ph) of four women of color.

And I think what that really tells you is that the President for maybe a moment was asking to some of the pressure from Republican lawmakers in the aftermath of that chant, but he is still happy to animate his base and he's very much willing to continue and weaponize race and identity in order to do so.

Now whether or not it's going to work is a separate question. I do think that, you know, when you look at the midterms and the way that the President tried to, again, gin up fear around immigration and go back to some of the tactics he used in 2016, it didn't work in some of those competitive congressional districts in the House. But we shouldn't sugar-coat it. It's certainly the case that the President still sees an opportunity to target these four women. And it's very much rooted in the fact that they are four women of color.

[18:10:51] CABRERA: Senator Cory Booker says Trump isn't is just a racist, he is worse. Listen.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The reality is this is a guy who is worse than a racist. He is actually using racist tropes and racial language for political gain. He is trying to use this as a weapon it divide our nation against itself. And this is somebody who is very similar to George Wallace to racist. He is using the exact same language.


CABRERA: Patrick, are we seeing an escalation in rhetoric now from these presidential candidates and how they are describing President Trump?

HEALY: I think we are in terms of, you know, high profile politicians, but black Americans have dealt with racism, you know, right up to their face for years, for decades. I mean, we are seeing certainly in a greater way in the political sphere, but in terms of, you know, day-to-day life this has been escalated for a long time.

I think what you're now seeing is presidential candidates like Cory Booker, like Kamala Harris, saying Democrats, we can't just simply turn every conversation back to healthcare and jobs, which is the usual Democratic playbook. We have to confront racism head on. We have a story on "The New York Times" Web site now about how for an

increasing number of Democrats, racism is a kitchen table issue just like jobs, just like income inequality. That it's something they want to see confronted.

And I just -- to echo Sabrina's good point, the reality is that none of these four Democratic congresswomen are running against President Trump in 2020. He has a number of candidates that he could be calling out for any number of policy differences. But we are now one week into him choosing four women of color who he is deciding every which way to sort of go after.

CABRERA: He is trying to make them the face of the Democratic party.

HEALY: Trying to make them of the face of the Democratic Party. For years, it was Nancy Pelosi, it was Hillary Clinton and now he is elevating these four women and you have to ask why.

CABRERA: We have some fund raising numbers that are in this weekend for the RNC and DNC and take a look at this disparity here. Last month the RNC took in almost $21 million. The DNC took in $8.5 million.

Sabrina, why such an edge for Republicans?

SIDDIQUI: Well, it's certainly problematic for the DNC that they have really struggled in terms of matching the fundraising numbers when it comes to Republicans. Obviously for the RNC, there is the advantage of having an incumbent president who is going to be your most prolific fundraiser. But at the same time, the DNC has been struggling for years. And you know, some of them point to the Obama years because he chose to kind of have his own spin off operation as oppose to putting all those resources behind the party apparatus. And this hurts the party in terms of building those voter file, understanding going into an election what the top priorities of voters are and then in turn being able to turn out likely Democratic voters.

But I also think that they have had some reputation damage when you look at 2016 and the perceived bias towards Hillary Clinton. Of course, they were hacked by the Russians so emails were laid bare for public consumption. And they will hear some progressive who actually hit back and say, look, you know, there are a lot of other groups now at the state level and in these campaign and so they would rather allocate their resources. A lot of people rather put their money behind issue-based groups or behind specific candidates and not toward the national party infrastructure.

So I think it will be an impediment to the eventual nominee. And certainly I think that, you know, one of the challenges for Democrats will be to figure out especially in a very crowded field how they are going to really bridge this gap when the field narrows down. When they have someone that they have to put all their resources behind against the president in 2020.

CABRERA: All right. Sabrina Siddiqui and Patrick Healy, thank you both for being here. Coming up, a beauty pageant gets political when a contestant is

stripped of her crown and title. The social media post at the center of the drama, next.


[18:18:34] CABRERA: A woman in Michigan who was hoping to represent the United States in a worldwide beauty pageant is now without her title. Kathy Zhu who won the 2019 Ms. Michigan World America pageant was told to hand in her crown and sash this week after some of her old tweets came to the attention of pageant officials.

CNN's Natasha Chen is following this.

Natasha, so what did this beauty queen put out there on twitter that was apparently determined to be so problematic for pageant organizers?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we haven't heard directly from the pageant yet about specific content that resulted in the stripping of her title. But we did see her post on social media a screen shot of an alleged email she got from pageant staff saying that Zhu social media posts r were offensive, insensitive and inappropriate. That email apparently also said she may have violated pageant rules, which include being of good character and good background, not bringing disrepute to the Ms. World America organization.

Now in the exchanges we saw that Zhu posted, it didn't seem to indicate about political views, but Zhu appeared on a local TV in Detroit, Michigan this morning and she said she felt targeted because of her conservatism. She on that show defended two specific tweets that were considered controversial. They since have been deleted and they are from 2017 and 2018. I'm going to read a couple of them here.

So in 2017 she posted about black on black crime saying did you know the majority of black deaths are caused by other blacks. Fix problems within your own community before blaming others. She explained this morning that that was in response to someone else talking about black lives matter and police shooting.

Then in 2018 she posted about something that happened on the campus of the University of Central Florida where she was attending on world hijab day. Apparently, some students asked if she wanted to try on the hijab. She declined and then tweeted this.

There is a try hijab on booth at my college campus. So you are telling me it's now a fashion accessory and not a religious thing? Or are you just trying to get women used to being oppressed under Islam.

After that incident, she transferred to the University of Michigan, but she told the people on that show this morning that she was not expelled from the Florida school. We have reached out to both universities to ask about any dis disciplinary action against Zhu, neither have come up with information for us just yet.

Now the tweets we just mentioned along with several other tweets over the last couple years seemingly disappeared from her twitter account, but she did tweet this afternoon in support of President Trump, which she has done since the 2016 campaign. You saw her there wearing some Trump shirts and hats. We have asked her for more context and explanation about some of these tweets in question, she has not gotten back to us, Ana. What we do know is that she said on Friday she doesn't plan on legal action against the organization because she says she feels they have come under enough negative publicity.

[18:21:43] CABRERA: OK, Natacha Chen, thank you.

Coming up, after days of protest, Puerto Rico's governor announces he won't run for reelection. But he is not stepping down as governor. We go life to San Juan, next.

But first CNN's Alison Kosik has your Before The Bell Report -- Alison.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. A flood of corporate earnings will hit Wall Street this week. Google parent Alphabet, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter are among the company's reporting. Boeing and McDonald's delivered their quarterly report cards as well.

Big tech companies have been under fire lately. Last week executives from Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple testified been Capitol Hill. One hearing focused on antitrust concerns. Two other hearings centered on Facebook's plans to launch a crypto currency.

Despite the scrutiny, tech stocks have been on fire this year. Shares of Facebook have surged more than 50 percent. Amazon and Apple are up both around 30 percent.

Investors are also listening for any progress on trade. Last week President Trump suggested he could impose more r tariffs on Chinese imports. Overall, trade fears have been muted by the expectation of an interest rate cut. The federal reserve is widely expected to do that at the end of the month.

In New York, I'm Alison Kosik.


[18:26:55] CABRERA: More on our breaking news. The governor of Puerto Rico announcing he will not run for reelection next year after a series of offensive chants between the governor ad his inner circle were made public.

CNN senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh live again in San Juan where protesters, we can see, are gathering behind you, Nick. How are the protesters reacting to the governor's announcement?

WALSH: I have to say they are pretty angry. And about half an hour ago they were quieter. I think possibly actually a little in shock trying to digest what they just heard which was governor Ricardo Rossello the governor saying that, OK, I'm not going to fight the next election while he is going to lose it anyway. He is going to step down from president of his party. Well, if he was not going to fight the election, he wouldn't stay in the role any way. But he was not going to resign right now as everyone is demanding.

Now protesters in the ground have said well, they thought he was going to go in Facebook and make an announcement of his resignation to avoid the embarrassment of tomorrow, Monday, likely having a million people bringing the city into gridlock because of main route into San Juan, the expressway there, (INAUDIBLE), was going to be filled with protesters closing around it.

Now we are hearing people basically saying they are going to stay out all night and gathering in larger numbers tomorrow. And a sense of fury I think that they calls for his immediate resignation and the calls of Democratic candidates and the calls of much of (INAUDIBLE) have simply not been heard.

Now governor Rossello's defense has been listen, I was elected. I'm going to finish my term. I don't accept the allegations of corruption or misconduct against me. And I can get the confidence of the people back. But frankly, in the protest crowds we are that simply not going to happen.

So there are also routed to the question why is he sticking around it a little unclear. I think some may be in the political elite would say that there would be no succession would be if he suddenly step aside. But still, it's all about tomorrow and the numbers on the streets, Ana.

CABRERA: OK. Nick Paton Walsh in Puerto Rico, please keep us posed on what's happening there. Thank you.

You are also working to speak with the representative from Puerto Rico. We have representative Jennifer Gonzalez Colon joining us now by phone.

Congresswoman, thank you for spending time with us. Your reaction to the governor's announcement that he will not run for reelection. Is it enough?

REP. JENNIFER GONZALEZ COLON, PUERTO RICO (on the phone): No, it's not enough. I do think it's the first step toward getting him to step down the governorship of the island. I think the recent events from the last week and a half have worsened, this voice in Puerto Rico regarding (INAUDIBLE) but also the stability of the island.

Restoring the credibility of Puerto Rico not just in the financial market, economy but at the U.S. Congress and the whole administration in order to get the money that was assigned for the reconstruction of the island is vital. So right now, the position of the governor is difficult. Not just for the people in the island to give him credibility, but actually to govern under the circumstances.

And last week, I had not just the chat, the two -- arrests of two major cabinet members of the Health and Education, which are the two largest agencies on the island receiving part of the money has put the (INAUDIBLE).

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Congresswoman, if you can still hear me -- I know we have a little bit of a connection issue potentially -- I'm curious what your thoughts are about the protests. Are you worried about the reaction this might have on the streets tomorrow?

GONZALEZ-COLON (via telephone): I think - I think the reaction is fierce from the whole island. And everybody, even - this is - this is not just about one political party because I am the vice-chair of the party that the Governor was leading until this afternoon. And I think everybody -

CABRERA: And we just - I am told we just her. OK, thank you. That was, again, Congresswoman Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon, a representative from Puerto Rico responding to Governor Rossello now saying he will not run for re-election but still staying in power, not resigning as protesters have been calling for him to do. As well as Gonzales- Colon.

Coming up, the President promising to vouch for bail for an American rapper detained overseas, but Sweden's response? He's not getting special treatment. I'll talk to one congressman at the center of the fight to bring the rapper home.


[18:35:00] CABRERA: No special treatment. That's the word from Sweden after President Trump offered to personally vouch for bail for ASAP Rocky as the American rapper sits behind bars in that country.


ASAP ROCKY, SINGER: Look, just for the cameras, we don't want no problems with these boys. They keep following me. Look at them. They keep following.


CABRERA: The Grammy-nominated artist has been in custody since early July on suspicion of assault. The rapper telling his 10 million fans on Instagram in this video that men kept following him and harassing him and his entourage. On Friday, the Stockholm District Court decided he should stay in custody until July 25th, pending the completion of this investigation, claiming he is a flight risk. Now, ASAP's lawyer responding that he, quote, believes he was assaulted and only acted in self-defense.

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Adriano Espaillat who represents the Harlem neighborhood where ASAP Rocky was born.

Congressman, have you been in contact with the rapper or his attorneys?

REP. ADRIANO ESPAILLAT (D), NEW YORK: I had spoken to the attorney, I had spoken to the parents of all three young men. It's not just about ASAP Rocky. It's about Vladimir Cornell, about D.J. -- or ASAP's cousin. All three of them have been in jail now going on three weeks.

Twenty-three hours behind bars -- they only let them out for 15, 20 minutes -- in solitary confinement. Unheard of for people that have not been charged of a crime. That, clearly, when you see the video, you know that they were really the victims rather than the perpetrator. So, I'm very concerned that we don't want any special treatment, but do we want fairness and justice.

CABRERA: You talked about the one video that we saw. There's another video out there from TMZ that appears to show ASAP Rocky throwing a man to the ground. Let's watch that.




CABRERA: When you watch that, does that give you pause at all? Why not let the investigation run its course?

ESPAILLAT: Because if you see the full video, the full body of evidence, you will see that he was accosted. He was harassed. They threw a head of set phones -- headphones at one of his security folks.

So, really, these young men were cornered in a foreign country in Sweden. They were harassed, they were pushed to the precipice, and they reacted. Not only they reacted, but they reacted after they were harassed, accosted. In fact, assaulted.

And so, yes, you know, we want fairness. We don't want any special treatment. We want all three young men -- I believe they're innocent, and they should be back home.

CABRERA: So, you vouched to keep fighting until he's brought back home.

ESPAILLAT: We will continue to fight --

CABRERA: What specifically are you doing?

ESPAILLAT: Well, we have spoken to the Swedish authorities, the Ambassador in Washington. The congressional-backed caucus, the congressional Hispanic caucus, other members of Congress are concerned about this. We have spoken to the State Department. Actually, the State Department sent a high state official to his last court appearance before he was given another week in jail.

So, we're saying bring them back home. He's no flight risk. Everybody knows who he is. He is -- he's able to make bail, and so why are they keeping them for three weeks? Haven't been charged -- haven't been officially charged of any crime. And if you go to the videotape, you will see then, perhaps, they were the victims.

CABRERA: Well, you know the President has also vouched for bail, but Sweden's system is not set up so they don't have bail. The President also, you know, spoke out about this on Friday. Let's listen.


the African-American community have called me, friends of mine, and said, could you help? So, I personally don't know ASAP Rocky, but I can tell you that he has tremendous support from the African-American community in this country.


CABRERA: The President of the United States has reached out to the leader of Sweden. Do you think his involvement could help?

ESPAILLAT: Well, look, everybody that wants to help, we welcome them. Tomorrow, we're having a rally with the mothers and the family members at Reverend Sharpton's House of Justice. Members of Congress have come forward, the music industry has come forward, folks from all walks of life.

There's over -- close to a million signatures already on the petition on And so, the whole country has really gravitated in support of this young man who happens to have a very good record. He is someone that has been straight-laced, gone on the right path, wants to do the right thing, and then he encounters this horrible situation in Sweden. In jail for three weeks, 23 hours behind bars.

The Swedish government seems to be turned off. They don't want to hear anything. And so, this is highly, highly controversial and concerning that, a country like Sweden which touts itself to be a very liberal country, a haven of democracy, of niceties, is behaving in this way.

[18:40:02] CABRERA: They are saying they're letting their judicial system run its course. Before I let you go, I want to ask you about this news we just had, breaking news from Puerto Rico. The Governor now saying he will not run for re-election amid the calls for him to resign. I know you're among those who believe he should resign. What's your reaction to what he's chosen?

ESPAILLAT: Well, that's the first step, but I think the people of Puerto Rico, the vast majority of them, want him to step down. It would be kind of unfair for him to drag the island territory for another year-and-a-half, two years, when, in fact, he has abdicated, really, all standing in making sure that money is spent transparently and honestly.

CABRERA: Do you think he can effectively lead for the next year-and- a-half?

ESPAILLAT: I don't think he can. I think there's a major revolt right in front of his doorstep. He does the rise -- the right thing by stepping down.

CABRERA: All right. Congressman Espaillat --

ESPAILLAT: Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: -- thank you very much for being here with us. ESPAILLAT: Thank you so much.

CABRERA: Coming up, pimp my ride, Kim Jong-un style. New reports about how the North Korean dictator gets his luxury cars into the country.


[18:44:57] CABRERA: Riding in style through a rogue nation. New reports indicate Kim Jong-un is going to great lengths to smuggle limousines and luxury goods into North Korea, even as he demands money to keep the bodies of his father and grandfather preserved and as much of his country struggles to make ends meet. CNN's Brian Todd has the story.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They're a flamboyant symbol of Kim Jong-un's power and, critics say, his unbridled greed -- bulletproof stretch limos made by Mercedes and Rolls-Royce worth about $500,000 each. The North Korean dictator has tooled around Pyongyang in them, famously had flanks of security agents run alongside them and even waived to the masses alongside China's President from the open top of one.

The problem is, under U.N. sanctions, Kim's not supposed to have these luxury cars. He smuggles them in with an elaborate secret bootleg operation, only to turn around and flaunt his apparent fleet of limos.

JASON ARTERBURN, LEAD ANALYST, CENTER FOR ADVANCED DEFENSE STUDIES: North Korea's commercial facilitators overseas have a global reach that stretches not only in Northeast Asia but also to places like Europe as well.

TODD (voice-over): The Center for Advanced Defense Studies and "The New York Times" tracked a secretive shipment of just two of these armored Mercedes limos to Pyongyang. They say the cars' journey started in the Rotterdam in the Netherlands in June of last year, sent in containers on a major shipping line.

After a 41-day journey, the cars arrived in the port of Dalian, China. Then they went to Japan. Then to Busan, South Korea. But there, a mysterious ghost ship, which the "Times" says was tied to a Russian businessman, picked up the limos.

Once out to sea, according to the "Times" and think tank, the ship vanished, probably turning off its required transponder. Based on their tracking of shipping records and satellite pictures, they believe the ghost ship took the limos to Vladivostok, Russia where they say North Korean cargo planes likely picked them up and flew them to Pyongyang.

ARTERBURN: They use sort of shady companies whose operations are not clear. They don't necessarily always report all of their commercial activities. They obfuscate the ownership of things like their vessels. What this means for law enforcement is it becomes exceedingly difficult to track some of these shipments.

TODD (voice-over): North Korea has been banned from importing luxury goods since 2006, but that hasn't stopped the regime from smuggling in items like high-end watches, yachts, cognac, and other expensive liquor. Even ski lifts for the resort which only North Korean elites can use. At least $191 million worth from 2015 to 2017, according to the new study. But while that's going on, Kim apparently still says he needs donations from average North Koreans to pay for keeping his dead father's and grandfather's bodies frozen.

Radio Free Asia, a news agency funded by the U.S. government, reports Kim has recently forced factory workers and others to donate money to pay for the expensive preservation of the bodies of Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung at the Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang where they are displayed through glass for the North Korean people to worship and venerate them. Analysts say Kim may not be doing this because he lacks the cash, but because he wants his people to feel connected to his dynasty.

CHRIS STEINITZ, DIRECTS THE NORTH KOREA PROGRAM, CNA: It's a way of crowdfunding. By reaching out to party members, by reaching out to the people, it makes them invested in maintaining this location which is an important symbol for the Kim family. It makes them invested in maintaining this location, which is an important symbol for the Kim family. It makes them part and parcel of the story of the Kim family. It gives them a stake.

TODD (on camera): But despite the Kim worship in North Korea, there could be some grumbling among North Koreans about the preservation of the leaders' bodies. Radio Free Asia, citing a source with knowledge of a ceremony where people were rewarded for donating to that cause, says some North Koreans are upset, saying it's ridiculous that authorities are seemingly ignoring their livelihoods, often letting some people starve to death while trying to raise money to keep dead bodies from rotting.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


CABRERA: Nothing like coming face to face with one of nature's most frightening predators. That's what happened to a group of boys and their dads. They were out on a Saturday fishing trip in Cape Cod Bay. And watch this, one of the boys caught a fish. He was reeling it in when a great white shark -- you see that -- leaps out of the water right near the boat, bites the fish off the line, and then dives back under the waves. Apparently, the shark preferred what the boys had caught rather than finding his own food. Wow!

Coming up, a silver screen flashback when superheroes and wizards ruled supreme.


CABRERA: King of the jungle and now king of the box office. Disney's "The Lion King" blew past industry expectations to earn $185 million in its opening weekend in the U.S., the biggest opening ever for the month of July. It also set a new record for the domestic launch of a P.G.-rated film. Now, globally, the live-action remake of the 1994 animated classic roared to a $531 million. It's a much-needed boost for the struggling U.S. box office which was down about nine percent from this time last year.

It was the decade that brought us epic series like "Harry Potter," "Mission Impossible," and "Fast and the Furious." On tonight's brand- new episode of "THE MOVIES," we're taking you back to the early 2000s with the rise of Hollywood blockbusters. Here is Tom Foreman.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The new millennium started with an explosion of stars. Big names writing big box office returns.

NEAL GABLER, FILM HISTORIAN: Stars become, for a while, the most dependable element in movies, which is why their salaries go up. And it also changes the whole context of movies because the power balance in movies changes. And by changing the balance, it changes the kind of movies we get, ones that ultimately centralize the star.

FOREMAN (voice-over): The superstars made potentially mediocre scripts into hits and forgettable ones --

DENZEL WASHINGTON, ACTOR: Today's your training day, Officer Hoyt.

FOREMAN (voice-over): -- much more memorable.

WASHINGTON: Show you around, give you a taste of the business.


[18:54:57] FOREMAN (voice-over): And all that made the studios happy, especially as they started building on that. Film series was soon everywhere. From "The Fast and the Furious" to "Transformers" to the "Bourne" movies to --

JENNIFER LAWRENCE, ACTRESS: I volunteer. I volunteer as tribute.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The C-suite executives start seeing that's the direction that we want to go. They're not looking for a single project.

JOHNNY DEPP, ACTOR: Welcome to the Caribbean.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They want the next franchise.

SIR IAN MCKELLEN, ACTOR: You shall not pass!

FOREMAN (voice-over): Some franchises were, themselves, the star attractions. "The Lord of the Rings," for example, and the story a magical boy. JOHN HURT, ACTOR: You're a wizard, Mr. Potter.

DANA STEVENS, FILM CRITIC: The "Harry Potter" film franchise, like the Harry Potter book franchise, was just something that really defined a generation.

FOREMAN (voice-over): But nothing rivaled the success of the Marvel films.

GABLER: Marvel's arguably the biggest star in the history of movies.

FOREMAN (voice-over): With one hit after another, they brought in young and old fans alike.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My uncle and my aunt, who I don't think have been to the movie theater in 20 years, were like, we're going.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Simply put, the new century began with the stars aligned.

SAMUEL L. JACKSON, ACTOR: Django! You uppity son of a --

FOREMAN (voice-over): And for many movie fans, it's been a blast.


CABRERA: Our thanks to Tom Foreman. And catch the brand-new episode of "THE MOVIES" tonight at 9:00 p.m. right here on CNN. We'll be right back.


[19:00:07] CABRERA: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.