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CNN NEWSROOM

North Korea Fires More Short-Range Missiles; Trump: We Need "Meaningful Background Checks"; White House Wants More Immigration Raids; Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Activists Hold Sit-in at Airport; Gun Massacres Have America on Edge; Democrats Try to Win Supporters at Iowa State Fair; Green Shirt Guy Goes Viral. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired August 10, 2019 - 00:00   ET

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


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CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Welcome to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. I'm Cyril Vanier. This is CNN NEWSROOM.

We begin on the Korean Peninsula, where, according to Seoul's military, Pyongyang has launched two more missiles into the sea. They were short range ballistic missiles similar to recent launches.

It comes ahead of planned U.S.-South Korea military exercises on Sunday, which North Korea has protested. It also comes hours after U.S. president Donald Trump said he received a friendly letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He really wrote a beautiful three-page -- right from top to bottom, in a really beautiful letter.

He gave me a great letter. I would love to give it to you. I really would.

VANIER: Saturday's launch appears to be Pyongyang's fifth round of missile tests in just over two weeks. Speaking to reporters, Mr. Trump also downplayed the missile launches.

TRUMP: There have been no ballistic missile tests, no long-range missiles.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: Robert Kelly is in South Korea. He is a professor of political science at Pusan National University.

So five missile launches in two weeks. How do you interpret that?

ROBERT KELLY, PUSAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY: The North Koreans are pretty upset. This is normally how the North Koreans express themselves. They're given to outbursts and outlashings like this. It probably is because of the U.S.-South Korean exercises.

It may also be a way to pressure Donald Trump into making more genuine concessions in the negotiations. We've been talking to the North Koreans since last summer, when Trump and Kim met in Singapore. Neither side has really come forward with anything that looks like a workable deal.

So we're sort of in this holding pattern. This might be the way of the North Koreans to needle President Trump.

VANIER: How would you assess Trump's reaction?

He is not criticizing these missile launches, basically says so long as it's not an intercontinental ballistic missile, it's not a big deal by his measure.

KELLY: Yes, my guess is that's probably a political benchmark more than anything else. The president wants to keep this thing on the road. He's got a tough reelection campaign coming up. North Korea has been a signature foreign policy issue for him.

He has sort of created the image, somewhat false I think, that there has been a lot of progress with North Korea and that's pretty important, certainly to his voters. I think he wants to keep this thing on the road.

As long as the North Koreans don't do something egregious, he is willing to sweep it under the rug, to maintain the illusion, I would argue, that this is going forward. But the short-range ballistic missile launches, they're a challenge to South Korea and Japan and the president is ducking that.

VANIER: You can also argue by downplaying the launches in public which he has done, he is depriving North Korea of some of their leverage. Essentially what they want is for the U.S. president to get all upset about them, which he's not doing.

KELLY: Yes, I suppose you could argue that.

[01:05:00]

KELLY: Ultimately, if Trump's argument is all that we really care about is ICBMs, he is going to get all kinds of alliance troubles, which is something I wish got discussed a little more. If basically saying only care about weapons that can strike the United States. But United States has other allies in the region, most obviously South Korea and Japan and Southeast Asia.

If all the president says is the ICBMs are the only thing that matters, he is going to have a decoupling problem. Those allies are going to start to think we're throwing them under the bus.

Maybe it will work if the president keeps his voice down and the North Koreans don't think they are getting under his skin. Ultimately the president has to offer North Koreans have been doing provocations for decades. But they'll keep doing this unless we offer them something. VANIER: It's interesting you mention U.S. allies in the region, even as the president refuses to criticize Kim Jong-un, he actually is piling on the criticism against South Korea, most notably in recent days, but also recently against Japan.

KELLY: Yes, this is something that the analyst community I think is really sort of worried about. The president seems to have allegiances backward on this, to be perfectly honest.

I don't know why the president has to say things like it was a three- page beautiful letter written top to bottom. We can negotiate with the North Koreans without that kind of flattery.

It's North Korea, right?

They're Orwellian gangsters. The president shouldn't be saying that. There is room to get the Japanese and South Koreans to spend a little more on basing out here. That would be nice if it could be conducted behind closed doors instead of via Twitter and harsh language. But I would agree the president has gotten this a little backwards out here.

VANIER: What about this talk of beautiful letter?

Because he does this regularly. I mean, apparently he's got several letters. He's found all of them beautiful.

KELLY: Right.

VANIER: And he seems to enjoy getting these letters.

KELLY: Yes, it's sort of hard to know what to make of that. From the outside, it looks an awful lot like flattery. Abe Shinzo, the prime minister of Japan, has been very good at flattering the president. So is the president of South Korea. So has Putin and Erdogan and the Gulf royals. There have been lots of foreign countries that realized the way to Trump's heart is to flatter him.

If North Korea was offering something really great other than flattery, saying hey, we'll give up a bunch of weapons, Trump would go public with it. What Trump really wants out of North Korea is a deal that's balanced favorable the United States. If that deal is in the paperwork Kim is sending Trump, he's almost positive to go public with it.

As long as he's not, the letters are so much flattery trying to lure Trump back to the table. Again, I think the North Koreans want to deal with Trump because Trump is willing to talk to them in a way a U.S. president has never before.

VANIER: Robert Kelly, coming to us from South Korea. Thank you very much.

KELLY: Thank you for having me.

VANIER: The alleged gunman in last weekend's murderous rampage in El Paso, Texas, apparently confessed after he was arrested and told police he was targeting "Mexicans." The new details are contained in the arrest affidavit, the sworn document by police about the facts of the case. It states the 21-year-old suspect told police, quote, "I'm the shooter."

The affidavit also reveals why he drove a thousand kilometers from his home near Dallas to carry out the attack. He allegedly told police that if he had done it near his home, his family and friends would immediately know that he did it; 22 people died in the carnage, including eight Mexican nationals, 24 others were hurt. The widow of one victim whose funeral was in Mexico on Friday had a message for the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROSA MARIA VALDES, WIDOW (through translator): I would ask Mr. Trump to not laugh again when someone says to kill us. He laughed, together with everyone else, and that's not right. We aren't animals to be hunted in the street, as if we were animals.

So what can we expect?

What respect do we have?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: In the aftermath of the mass shootings in both El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, the U.S. president offering vague assurances that something will be done to improve background checks on gun purchases. Mr. Trump has said similar things before after other mass shootings but little has happened. CNN's Pamela Brown has this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We want to take the guns out of the hands of crazy, demented, sick people.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump claiming he will do something on gun control.

TRUMP: I think we could get something really good done. I think we can have some really meaningful background checks.

BROWN: But it is not clear what.

TRUMP: I think that the Republicans are going to be great and lead the charge, along with the Democrats. I spoke yesterday to Nancy Pelosi. We had a great talk. I spoke to Chuck Schumer. We had a great talk.

BROWN: The president says he has a commitment to take up background checks from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been under pressure from Democrats to bring the Senate back from its five-week recess and even facing protesters at his Kentucky home.

TRUMP: He's totally on board. BROWN: But McConnell's spokesman today saying the senator leader hasn't endorsed anything, adding the Senate won't come back early and saying --

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BROWN (voice-over): McConnell has only promised to let the Senate discuss background check and red flag warning legislation when it returns.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Those are two items that for sure will be front and center as we see what we can come together on and pass.

BROWN: The president also talking with the National Rifle Association's Wayne LaPierre, tweeting today that: "Their very strong views can be fully represented and respected."

TRUMP: I have a great relationship with the NRA. They're really good people. They're great patriots. They love our country. They love our country so much. And, frankly, I really think they're going to get there also.

BROWN: In a statement, LaPierre warning lawmakers: "The NRA opposes any legislation that unfairly infringes upon the rights of law-abiding citizens."

And while some analysts believe a bruising leadership battle inside of the NRA weakened its influence in Washington, Trump says he will take their calls and wants their support in 2020.

TRUMP: I think in the end Wayne and the NRA will either be there or maybe will be a little bit more neutral. And that would be OK, too.

BROWN: After LaPierre warned Trump earlier this week his base wouldn't like background checks, the president today said this about his supporters:

TRUMP: I think my base relies very much on common sense and they rely on me in terms of telling them what is happening.

BROWN: The president was asked how his pledges this time around are any different from after the Parkland shooting, when he made promises and did not follow through. Well, the president said he never said then what he is saying now.

But after the Parkland shooting, he did support expanding background checks, only to back down under pressure from the NRA -- Pamela Brown, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: Daniel Strauss joins me. He is a reporter at "Politico."

Daniel, Donald Trump says he wants background checks. But listen to Donald Trump in February of 2018 in the wake of the Parkland shooting and listen to him now. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We're going to be very strong on background checks. We will be doing very strong background checks.

We want to be very powerful, very strong on background checks.

We certainly have to strengthen background checks. Everybody agrees with that.

We're not talking about anything specific. I can tell you, there's tremendous goodwill for meaningful -- I'm talking about meaningful -- add that word -- meaningful background checks so that sick and demented people don't carry around guns.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: Except that it doesn't sound very meaningful coming from this president because he has promised it before and he hasn't delivered.

So is there any reason to believe that he'll make good on his promise this time?

DANIEL STRAUSS, "POLITICO": There is -- look, there is a lot more enthusiasm across the political spectrum on Capitol Hill right now for some kind of movement, some kind of response to the most recent shootings than there were six or eight months ago.

But President Trump himself as well has been -- has shifted around on this. Moments in the past, he's said, yes, I'm for background checks. And then he's gotten pressure from the NRA and other voices on Capitol Hill, who are opposed to new gun laws and he has sort of pulled back a little here.

So it's hard to tell. We're going have to really wait and see how much this latest push sticks and what about -- what lawmakers in the Republican leadership are saying in the coming days. We're seeing --

VANIER: But what has changed?

What gives you reason to believe that what lawmakers didn't do before they would do now?

STRAUSS: Well, there is an actual discussion going on about doing something on both sides among Republicans and Democrats, where in the past, the past few months, there has sort of been a one-sided debate between Democrats saying we need background checks. We need something. And Republicans kind of not really giving an alternative in sort of legislative form.

Now they're saying they support red flag laws. So there's an interest at least among Republicans and Democrats to do something and maybe Trump will finally be able to say look, background checks are the way to go. Republicans, members of my party, you guys want to do something, this is the most feasible thing. VANIER: And the last time Donald Trump said he wanted background checks -- shortly after he said that very publicly and he had his cameras film with the meeting with both sides of the aisle and then the NRA got in his ear. And then his tune changed.

Is that something that might happen again?

STRAUSS: I mean, look, the president himself is saying right now that he wants the NRA at the table. He wants to listen to them. He wants their voice in this conversation. At the same time, though, the NRA itself has been undergoing a great deal of changes and has, it seems, lost some of its power.

VANIER: Are they as powerful as they used to be?

STRAUSS: Well, it's changing. It's starting to look like they may be losing some of their power on Capitol Hill as more of these shootings --

[01:15:00]

STRAUSS: -- happen. There is less sway they seem to have. So this particular episode might be the big test and the big indicator they're -- the NRA does not have as much sway among lawmakers as they used to.

VANIER: Also, you say the winds might be shifting in Congress. And Mitch McConnell, the Senate leader, did say, well, we're going have a debate. We're going to have a debate next month.

So he's not bringing people out of recess. He's not bringing people back to talk about this, much less vote on it now. He just says we will talk about it in a month's time or so.

STRAUSS: That's why skeptics of immediate gun legislation are given pause here, because we've heard this before. We've heard promises -- two weeks, maybe a month, maybe two -- and this will happen.

And it's just discussion. It's not the immediate response that proponents of new gun laws would like to see, which is calling Congress back right now and putting some kind of bill on the floor immediately.

That's what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats want to do. They want to see a Senate vote on the bill that their chamber passed. But the fact that that hasn't happened or doesn't seem to be happening in the coming days suggests that maybe we won't see any new gun legislation any time soon.

VANIER: All right, Daniel Strauss coming to us from "Politico," pleasure speaking to you. Thank you.

STRAUSS: Thanks.

VANIER: A senior immigration official tells CNN the White House wants more workplace raids like the ones this week in Mississippi that detained 680 workers suspected of being in the U.S. illegally. The source says immigration field offices have been told to identify

at least two locations in their regions to conduct possible raids. President Trump said he was very pleased with the Mississippi operation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I want people to know that if they come into the United States illegally, they're getting out. They're going to be brought out. And this serves as a very good deterrent. When people see what they saw yesterday and like they will see for a long time, they know that they're not staying here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: And for the people caught up in the sweep, however, it was a traumatic experience, especially for the children, who didn't understand why one or both parents were suddenly gone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARLENY LOPEZ, 14, DETAINEE'S DAUGHTER: They don't have their parents at all. They're upset, they're scared. They're like little kids. They're like elementary. Like I'm in high school maybe I can understand a little bit more but elementary kids they are like they don't know anything.

RANDY GARCIA, 12, DETAINEE'S SON: He said to my mom, take care of the kids because the immigration has now captured me. I started praying to God to let them go. I hope you come back. That God protects you.

LOPEZ: She didn't do nothing wrong. She isn't a criminal. Hispanic people, they don't come here to hurt or injure anybody. They come here to make a better future for their kids.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: At last report, of the 680 people detained in Wednesday's raids, more than half remain in custody.

A powerful typhoon continues to wreak havoc in Asia. The latest target China's eastern coast. We'll have a live update when we come back.

Plus, as more demonstrations kick off in Hong Kong, China put its foot down on a certain group of protesters. Details on that when we come back.

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VANIER: The political chaos in Hong Kong is stretching into its 10th straight weekend. More pro-democracy demonstrations, including an unauthorized march, are planned for the next few hours.

Now China is banning all staff of Hong Kong's flagship airline Cathay Pacific from working on flights to and from the mainland if they took part in pro-democracy protests. It's been nearly a week since more than 2,300 aviation workers joined a citywide strike that grounded hundreds of flights and caused general traffic disruption.

Cathay Pacific says they're taking the directive seriously. The months of unrest and growing violence between police and protesters have taken a toll on the economy, affecting both international and local businesses. Hong Kong's chief executive says it's having a worse impact than the deadly virus outbreak in 2003.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARRIE LAM, HONG KONG CHIEF EXECUTIVE (through translator): The downturn is so rapid that some people have described its arrival as a tsunami. Compared to the economic downturn that we dealt with caused by the SARS and the economic storm that came afterwards, I'm afraid the situation this time is harsher.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: Parts of China are on red alert as a powerful storm makes landfall in the country's eastern coast. Typhoon Lekima is battering the region with winds of 175 kilometers per hour. That's equivalent to a category 2 hurricane.

Some coastal areas are now at risk of heavy rainfall and flooding. Chinese officials have dispatched rescue teams and advised businesses and schools to close down as a precaution.

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VANIER: America on edge after back-to-back mass shootings in the U.S. The fear now being felt across the country. That is next on CNN.

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VANIER: Welcome back. Your headlines this hour on CNN.

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VANIER: Since last week's mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, America has been on edge. Across the country, there is anxiety at the prospect of another rampage. CNN's Ed Lavandera is in El Paso with more on the fear and fallout of the shootings that killed at least 31 people.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "Not in my hometown." The accused racist terrorist in El Paso is telling investigators he chose the border city instead of Allen, Texas, where he's from, some 10 hours away, because he believed if he pulled off his deadly attack in another city, his family and friends wouldn't know it was him.

Three sources with knowledge of the investigation tell CNN Patrick Crusius expressed shame at the idea of doing it near his home.

Throughout the country, the El Paso gunman's actions has already put people on edge. This 20-year old is now facing a terror threat charge, striking fear inside a Springfield, Missouri, Walmart after walking through the store dressed like this.

LT. MIKE LUCAS, SPRINGFIELD POLICE DEPARTMENT: There were people hiding outside behind the barriers and businesses sand it was pretty chaotic.

LAVANDERA: It's the latest example of angst and anxiety across America, from Times Square in New York, where a motorcycle backfiring sent people running, to a mall in Utah where a sign crashing to the ground had shoppers scrambling to safety.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We didn't know what was going on until somebody went in to tell us we feed to leave the place. So we just jump basically ran.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): A Costco in California was evacuated after reports of a possible gunman inside. All of these incidents and others like it just this week.

And while protesters plead with Washington to act...

-- Walmart today took the first actions since the shootings, deciding to stop playing violent movies in their TV sections and eliminating displays of violent video games but still planning to sell the games as well as guns.

LAVANDERA: Back here in El Paso, we have obtained the arrest warrant affidavit of the 21-year-old suspect here in the El Paso shooting.

According to court documents, the gunman has confessed to police of walking into this Walmart with an AK-47, shooting multiple people and specifically wanting to target, quote, "Mexicans" and that he was arrested just a few blocks away from the shooting scene when he was approached by officers.

He stepped out of his car, put his hands up in the air and said, "I am the shooter."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: Brian Claypool joins us. He is an attorney and a survivor of the Las Vegas mass shooting that killed 58 people. That was slightly under two years ago.

Brian, what has this whole week been like for you, looking at events unfold since the shooting?

BRIAN CLAYPOOL, ATTORNEY: Cyril, great to see you again. I have been beyond angry, obviously emotional for all the victims. My heart goes out to them. I'm still struggling with PTSD, having been a victim of the Las Vegas shooting.

When I was in that shooting, I wasn't hit by a bullet but I heard the bullets hitting around me. I saw people shot down and some were killed. And part of my soul was lost in that shooting.

So whenever another mass shooting happens -- and here we had two, three, in one week in the United States -- it actually retraumatizes those who have been victims of mass shootings. So I went from deep trauma, reliving the Vegas shooting to anger.

So I'm actually outraged at this point and embarrassed by our pathetic leadership in Washington, D.C., our leadership that fails to make necessary changes to safeguard people in our country.

So there has to be something done to stop this from happening. And it's got to be, in my opinion, an assault weapon ban. I know we're talking a lot about this background.

(CROSSTALK)

VANIER: So Brian, let me jump in for a second. The president has raised the possibility of some forms of gun control. He says in particular that he wants background checks. Now that is something, as you know, that he has said before, after the Parkland shooting, and it didn't happen. How did you feel about the fact that --

[01:35:00]

VANIER: -- it's being mentioned now?

CLAYPOOL: Yes, exactly. Talk is cheap. That's my response to President Trump. We heard this before after the Parkland shooting and nothing happened. And we then had the House of Representatives in the United States pass a bill in February of this year that would have enacted this background check.

And what happens?

We have a dictatorship in Washington, D.C. The head of the Senate and President Trump decide that they're not going to even let this bill be voted on in the Senate.

VANIER: Ahead of the Senate, so Mitch McConnell said he is going to have a debate about this, that, when Congress convenes again, when the Senate convenes again, they're going to have a debate and they're definitely consider background checks and red flag laws.

CLAYPOOL: But why is it taking so long, Cyril?

Didn't we hear this before?

I'm not convinced anything will be done until it's actually enacted and there is actually a vote on it. This, again, is, in my opinion, just a bunch of verbiage. And it's inaction. It's not real until people see it.

And what's it going to take, Cyril, another mass shooting before we actually see something happen?

How many mass shootings have there been since the Senate and Mitch McConnell said that they would do this?

But what angers me, Cyril, as of a couple of months ago, President Trump and Mitch McConnell said they don't support this.

So all of a sudden now OK, we do support it?

To me, this is just a bunch of window dressing to try to placate corporate conglomerates, the NRA, powerful lobbyists. I think this is a lot of talk to make sure that the people that are sending money to these campaigns are happy.

VANIER: Are you talking about the NRA here?

I know you have written about the role of the NRA and you feel that their influence on politicians is a big reason that gun control laws haven't been passed, at least at a federal level.

CLAYPOOL: Are you kidding me?

The NRA is governing the United States when it comes to gun control laws.

VANIER: They've had a good deal of internal trouble.

So my question to you would be, do you think they're as powerful now as they were a few months ago?

And if not, do you think that opens a window perhaps for some political movement on this?

CLAYPOOL: No, I don't buy it at all. The fact that our president is more concerned about calling ahead of the NRA than reaching out to people that have been impacted by these shootings, that speaks volumes.

I still believe that the NRA, they, along with some other corporate conglomerates, are controlling our government at this point.

Cyril, we don't really live in a democracy in the United States. The last few years have been more of a dictatorship and a tyranny governed by a powerful lobby and groups like the NRA and other corporate conglomerates. That's really the truth here in the United States.

VANIER: You feel like this on the gun issue specifically?

CLAYPOOL: Yes, the gun issues specifically and also other -- there are other issues in the country as well, where corporate conglomerates are padding the pocketbooks of Republican leadership.

I mean, one issue I would like to see changed as well, Cyril, that I think would maybe help with some of these problems like gun control and other issues in the U.S., is campaign finance reform, where we limit or eliminate powerful lobbying groups and big corporations from donating to candidates.

Let's get a constitutional amendment or a new law that greatly limits that so that the policies that are interacted are really on behalf of the people as opposed to just a few.

VANIER: Brian Claypool, as I said in the introduction, you've been at one of these massacres. You're a survivor of one of these. You've seen the shots fired. You feared for your life. It's important for us to get your voice on this. So thank you for coming on.

CLAYPOOL: Thanks for having me, Cyril.

VANIER: The rampant gun violence in the U.S. has prompted several countries to warn their citizens about traveling here in the United States.

Uruguay's foreign ministry says citizens should be aware of, quote, "growing indiscriminatory violence, specifically hate crimes, including racism and discrimination" when traveling to the U.S.

Venezuela issued similar advice. Japan's consulate general in Detroit warned to be aware of potential gun violence everywhere in the U.S., which they call a, quote, "gun society."

Ireland warned that while terror and extremist violence has increased worldwide, the U.S. in particular has also witnessed a number of mass shootings in recent years.

And New Zealand warns, quote, "There is a higher incidence of violent crime and firearm possession than in New Zealand."

[01:40:00]

VANIER: Several U.S. Democratic candidates are hitting back against suppression of gun control measures. Nearly all of them are campaigning in Iowa this weekend. They're talking about what they'd do to change the system.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), MAYOR OF SOUTH BEND, IND., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Between the domestic terror attacks like what we saw in El Paso and the shootings like we saw in Dayton and a daily level of gun violence than in any other developed country, would be considered an emergency. And we're dealing with it in South Bend. This is intolerable.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The American people want, are begging Congress for common sense gun safety legislation.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need a president who's brave. We need a president who will take on the battles that no one else will. We need a president who will bring Congress together to pass the Green New Deal, put a price on carbon, get health care as a right and not a privilege, take on the NRA and end gun violence in this country.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I strongly believe that Mitch McConnell should have called us back to the Senate to vote on the bill out of the House for reasonable gun safety laws.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: With more than 20 Democratic candidates running for nominee for president, it's more important than ever for them to stand out from the pack. Jeff Zeleny traveled to a key campaign stop to ask voters what it takes to lead the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Iowa State Fair, a mandatory stop on the road to the White House.

BIDEN: What do you like best?

ZELENY (voice-over): A parade of Democratic candidates, pressing the flesh and pounding the pavement.

Every four years presidential hopefuls become one of the attractions, although none likely as popular as the Butter Cow, a staple here since 1911. Six months before the Iowa caucuses, voters like Claudia Roven are sizing up the crowded field.

ZELENY: You've been watching this Democratic race.

What are the qualities though you're looking for?

CLAUDIA ROVEN, FAIR ATTENDEE: They've got to be tough. They have to be not wimpy.

ZELENY (voice-over): Roven said she has never been politically active until President Trump took office. Now she is searching for someone who stands the best chance of defeating him.

ROVEN: Kamala Harris, she looks tough. She looks like she could take him on. I like Elizabeth Warren. I like them all.

ZELENY: Have you become more politically active in the last four years?

ROVEN: I am so woke, I can't believe it. ZELENY (voice-over): She likes Joe Biden but worries that he is too nice to take on Trump.

Not Maureen Murphy, who says Biden is the best candidate for the job.

MAUREEN MURPHY, FAIR ATTENDEE: People are saying Joe's getting a little old. No. Joe is one of the wisest, smartest men and I would put all my trust in him -- and I do.

ZELENY (voice-over): At the Iowa Democratic Party booth, all candidates get equal billing. But Biden is at the center of the conversation.

ZELENY: So you're not sure that he is the front-runner?

JON NEIDERBACH, DEMOCRATIC PARTY BOOTH: Well, he is the front-runner right now. But I remember the time Howard Dean was the front-runner. He obviously didn't win the caucus. It's a long way to go yet.

ZELENY (voice-over): We learn a lot about our politicians at the fair, how they handle the heat...

QUESTION: What do you like about flipping pork chops?

JOHN DELANEY (D-MD), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it gets me to one step closer to eating a pork chop.

ZELENY (voice-over): -- how they slide...

ZELENY: Governor, do you have to do a slide like that to be president?

GOV. STEVE BULLOCK (D-MT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No. It's actually a lot of fun but it's great to have my family here, although my wife got a little bit competitive on that, Jeff.

ZELENY (voice-over): So far, no 2020 candidates have arrived in helicopters, as Donald Trump did four years ago. And there have been few bumper car sightings as Barack Obama did when he ran for president, a moment he later used as a metaphor.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To prepare for this debate, I rode in the bumper cars at the state fair.

ZELENY (voice-over): As the full Democratic field flocks to the fair this weekend, the race is on to make a good impression. Time is running short to make friends or, in this case, supporters at the Iowa caucuses.

ZELENY: And before the weekend is out, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders and all of the Democratic field will be coming here to the Iowa State Fair to make their case to Iowa voters less than six months before the Iowa caucuses -- Jeff Zeleny, CNN, Des Moines.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VANIER: Kashmir is one of the world's most dangerous flashpoints and things got even more tense this week when India exerted more control over the region.

Are tensions now beginning to ease?

That's next.

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VANIER: Authorities in Indian-controlled Kashmir relaxed a days-long curfew so people could attend Friday prayers. Tensions in the region have been high since India moved this week to assert more control over Kashmir and Pakistan has warned of a strong response to any military action by India. Nikhil Kumar has the latest from New Delhi.

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NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF: Indian authorities partially relaxed security restrictions in some areas of Indian- controlled Kashmir after an almost week-long security crackdown which prevented ordinary Kashmiris from going about their daily lives.

The trigger was the move by New Delhi on Monday to strip the region of a special status under the Indian constitution, thus taking away its power to set most of its own laws. It also downgraded Kashmir state, which includes Indian controlled Kashmir, to a union territory. This means it will effectively be run directly by New Delhi. Indian states have much more power to direct their internal affairs.

All this happened against the backdrop of a security crackdown that saw prominent Kashmiri politicians arrested, Internet and phone lines were also cut. People were warned not to congregate in large groups, as authorities feared protests against Monday's changes.

Some of those security restrictions have now been lifted. The reason authorities told us was to allow people to conduct Friday prayers at mosques around the Muslim majority region.

But things are still tense. Life is nowhere near back to normal. Meanwhile, Pakistan controls a portion of the Kashmir region and claims all of it, has been very critical of Delhi's moves. Its army has promised to oppose the changes.

We're also watching to see if there is a violent backlash within Kashmir. The biggest risk as always in this volatile region is that this spirals into something much bigger, a dangerous showdown between India and Pakistan.

Remember, both have nuclear weapons and both have already fought multiple wars over this territory -- Nikhil Kumar, CNN, New Delhi.

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VANIER: They say laughter is contagious and, thanks to one man in a green shirt, even viral. We'll explain after the break.

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VANIER: City council meetings in the U.S., anywhere, really, can be very serious, even tedious affairs. But video of a recent meeting in Tucson, Arizona, is making people across the Internet smile, thanks to one man in a green shirt, who just couldn't keep a straight face. Our Jeanne Moos caught up with him.

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JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Politics getting you down?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is Congress' job --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shut up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- to change immigration laws.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shut up.

MOOS (voice-over): With tempers as short as her shorts, maybe it's a sign of the times that one guy's laughter was so contagious, it went viral.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're in direct violation of --

MOOS (voice-over): #GreenShirtGuy was showered with green hearts.

"I can't stop laughing at you laughing."

Even comedian Patton Oswalt was smitten.

"I love you, green shirt guy. I love you. I truly, truly, truly love you."

MOOS: Will the real green shirt guy stand up?

ALEX KACK, #GREENSHIRTGUY: That's me.

MOOS (voice-over): Alex Kack.

Of course, we had to ask, what was so funny?

KACK: It was an insane disturbance.

MOOS (voice-over): Alex is a field organizer for a group that's pushing for Tucson, Arizona, to become a sanctuary city. The protester --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go home.

MOOS (voice-over): -- was against what Green Shirt Guy is for.

MOOS: Is that it you're wearing it now?

KACK: It's the same shirt. I figure give the people what they want.

MOOS (voice-over): Alex also does stand-up comedy. His green shirt wasn't the only apparel getting noticed.

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MOOS (voice-over): "Deport those Daisy Dukes."

The protester's shorts and what she did with them -- "I love the wedgie pull"-- also got plenty of comment. Some suggested Green Shirt Guy and Plaid Shirt Guy team up.

Remember him?

No fan of Trump's, making faces behind him at a rally, mouthing, "What?"

TRUMP: You practice differently.

MOOS (voice-over): Forget plaid. Green Shirt Guy loves Penguin brand shirts and bought this one secondhand.

What's he going to do with it?

KACK: Probably keep wearing it. This is my date shirt.

MOOS (voice-over): He won't forget the date this happened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're in direct violation of the United States Constitution here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're in direct violation of being a jackass.

MOOS (voice-over): No wonder he cracked up. And now he's cracking up over the idea of going viral for cracking up -- Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

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VANIER: You are watching CNN. I'm Cyril Vanier and with that, we'll wrap up this show. I'll be right back, though, with another hour of the world's top stories. Stay with CNN. [02:00:00]