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Photo Disproves White House's Claim For Trump Skipping Climate Meeting; Joe Walsh Launches Primacy Challenge To Trump; The Uphill Challenge Of A Primary Challenge Against Trump; GOP's Duffy To Exit, Becomes 12th Republican Leaving House; Trump Says First Lady Has Gotten To Know Kim Jong-un But White House Says First Lady Never Met Him; 3,500 Donated Kidneys Thrown Away Each Year As 5,000 Die While Waiting; CNN Gets Aerial View Of Scorched Amazon Rainforest. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired August 26, 2019 - 14:30   ET



[14:30:29] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Welcome back.

So far, President Trump himself has given no reason for skipping that climate change summit, the meeting at the G7, a gathering of some of the world's top economies. Note the empty chair there?

Now, here's the excuse the White House press secretary gave for President Trump's absence. She says, "The president had scheduled meetings and bilaterals with Germany and India, so a senior member of the administration attended in his stead."

Brian Stelter is CNN's chief media correspondent and anchor of "RELIABLE SOURCES."

Brian, the White House says one thing, but the pictures tell a different story.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Yes, one of these cases where you can't believe your own lying eyes. Where the White House even contradicts what's in the photograph.

There's a photo that we can see of the Indian leader and the German leader there at the climate meeting. There they are, Modi and Merkel sitting next to each other, in that room where there was an empty chair where President Trump was supposed to be.

So we know they were at the climate session. That means that the White House's explanation is incorrect. Could be that they had bad information or they were actively trying to mislead people yet again.

But the bottom line is the same, President Trump is the only leader absent at this key meeting. And the title was "Biodiversity, Oceans and Climate," a pretty important topic.

CABRERA: And this is one of these that is so easily fact-checkable.


CABRERA: Do they just not care?

STELTER: This is one of those up-versus-down type of things. It is very clear.

It could be contempt for the press and public. It could be just incompetence, poor communication. Yes, the schedule was moving around all throughout the day. It could be an attitude. We've made up lots of things and keep making it up, it doesn't matter anymore. It could be they believe that Trump's fans won't care anyway. Lots of possibilities but none of them good.

The bottom line is this goes on that list that grows longer every day, examples of the administration misleading the public. In this case, a new press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, who put out the statement that was false.

CABRERA: And Stephanie Grisham, what is she doing? Because she hasn't held a press conference --


CABRERA: -- since she took over.

STELTER: She's taken over early in the summer, has not held one of those on-camera briefings. She says it's going to be up to the president whether they want a briefing or not. And it seems the president likes those press conference settings where his own messenger, he's his own person.

Of course, Jim Acosta, at the end of the presser, tried to ask about climate change and Trump walked away without answering the question. I think that sums up Trump's view of climate change perfectly.

CABRERA: Brian Stelter, as always, good to have you with us.

STELTER: Thanks.

CABRERA: thank you.

New today, a poll showing Bernie Sanders, Elizabet h Warren and Joe Biden in a three-way tie for first place as the frontrunner drops. Is this poll an outlier or the start of a trend?

And a new Republican candidate is launching a challenge. We'll ask a former Republican congresswoman about the significance.


[14:37:42] CABRERA: President Trump is now facing two challengers for the GOP nomination. Conservative radio host and former conservative congressman, Joe Walsh, is the latest to announce he will run against Trump, despite the president's high approval rating among Republicans, 88 percent. He has 88 percent support with GOP voters, according to this recent Gallup poll. Walsh says many in the party know the president is unfit and are, in

his words, dying to say so publicly.


JOE WALSH (R), CONSERVATIVE RADIO HOST & FORMER CONGRESSMAN & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm doing this to win. I mean, who in their right mind, Alisyn, would take this on if they didn't?

Look, I have been waiting every single day this year for somebody to step up, for a Republican to step up to make the moral case against him, that he is unfit.

I wrote that op-ed in the "New York Times" two, three weeks ago. The guy is unfit. Come on, somebody should challenge him. And I apologize for my role in helping to elect him. Nobody stepped up, Alisyn, and if we don't, I realized this past week, the Republican Party is going to regret it.


CABRERA: Walsh was a one-term congressman from Illinois. He made a name for himself in conservative circles by touting the birther conspiracy that President Obama was not born in the United States.

Let me turn to Mia Love, former Republican congresswoman from Utah and CNN political commentator.

Congresswoman, when you compare President Trump's approval rating with his war chest of over $100 million right now, do his challengers even have a fighting chance?

MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes and no. Of course, if you look back at when President Trump started with a field of about 12 Republicans, no one thought that President Trump would be able to win the White House. As a matter of fact, he wasn't raising nearly as much money as any of the other candidates.

But with that being said, both Republicans and Democrats have to win Independents. And I would say, even center right Republicans are up for grabs.

And 88 percent is a big number, but that -- you have to create a movement in order to be able to capture those. And just the -- just the message of, "I am not Trump," is not going to do it.

I think he has to come up with solutions that are contrary to what's being offered by Democrat candidates. And he has to find some way to preserve and say, I'm going to be the warrior for the Republican Party, because these are the principles that we believe in, not the rhetoric that the president -- that the president is putting out.

CABRERA: As we mentioned, Walsh becomes the second GOP primary challenger behind Bill Weld. We may see a third. Former South Carolina congressman, Mark Sanford, has said he's mulling a bid.

[14:40:13] I wonder, we went from one to almost three. Is this the beginning of a snowball perhaps?

LOVE: Well, I think it's good to actually have these people jump in. Most of the time, when you get other members that are jumping in or other candidates that are jumping in, it tends to normalize the incumbent.

I don't think that there's anything normal about the current president, because I think that the rhetoric is probably going to be a little bit more. He's going to double down on some of those things.

Most of the time, it kinds of brings people to a place that is reasonable, where the majority of Americans can get behind a candidate.

I always think it's a good option to have as many people as possible. I think as many options as Americans and Republicans have is a good thing. And I think that the debate between the Republican Party is good for America.

CABRERA: Would any of these other Republican challengers get your vote?

LOVE: You know, they might! They might! I think that's the starting point, right. I'm one of those people that believe that, you know, you follow the principles and the platforms, not behind one person, because people tend to let you down.

And there are people like me that can't make excuses any longer, where you've got -- where you say, the policies are good, but I can't stand the rhetoric.

Look, you're either going to be a president that is going to stand for all Americans and going to do what's right for all Americans and realize that you are the leader of all of America, not just a certain group of people.

So, I think that, yes, they have a chance of gaining my vote. And I think that they have a chance of gaining the rest of America, but their message has to be more than, I am not Donald Trump. It has to be, this is what I'm going to do, these are the solutions I'm going to provide that is going to get this country moving.

CABRERA: Congressman Sean Duffy just became the tenth Republican deciding not to run for re-election.

LOVE: Yes.

CABRERA: Duffy clearly cited family members for his departure, the health of his child, he mentioned.

But that now brings the total number of Republicans leaving Congress to 12. Does this make the party more vulnerable in 2020? Does this change the playing field?

LOVE: I have to tell you, when Will Hurd announced that he was retiring, it really solidified what I've been saying about the Republicans that are out there, that are actually fighting for people and that are fighting for those principles, that platform. And I think that that is bad for Congress. I think it's bad for the country.

Sean Duffy is a great human being. If he decided to run for president, he would definitely have my vote. He is just a great member of Congress, who I could always count on, who loves people for who they are.

You know, it's really sad to see him go, because I think he was absolutely formidable. We served on Financial Services together. And he was a great member of Congress.

So that's really sad for me. He is one of my dearest friends and I hope that he stays involved, but it's really a sad to see him go. Like, breaks my heart.

CABRERA: Congressman Mia Love, thank you so much for being here with us.

LOVE: Thank you.

CABRERA: A disturbing new report spells trouble for potential organ transplant patients. Why so many much-needed kidneys are being thrown away.

Plus, why the president reportedly floated the idea of nuking a hurricane and the reaction he got from advisers.


[14:48:05] CABRERA: It's no secret that it's oftentimes hard to believe some of the president's claims. And today, the White House is confirming that. During his news conference at the G7 summit, the president once again praised North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un. But what's new is that he says so has his wife, the first lady.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Kim Jong-un, who I've gotten to know extremely well, the first lady has gotten to know Kim Jong-un, and I think she'd agree with me, he is a man with a country that has tremendous potential.


CABRERA: Melania Trump and Kim Jong-un have never met. But it's not us fact-checking this one, it's the White House itself!

In a statement, it reads, quote, "President Trump confides in his wife on many issues, including the detailed elements of his strong relationship with Chairman Kim. And while the first lady hasn't met him, the president feels like she's gotten to know him, too."

I'm just going to leave that one there. OK. Now listen to this. Every year, roughly 5,000 Americans die

waiting for a kidney donation. Now comes a troubling new report that shows more than 3,000 donated kidneys are thrown away each year. This new study was just published in a journal of the American Medical Association.

And CNN's Senior Medical Correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is with us now with more on this alarming new report.

Elizabeth, why, why are these donated kidneys being thrown away?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, basically, they are concerned about the quality of these kidneys.

Let's take a look at these numbers and compare them with numbers in France. So in the United States, between 2004 and 2014, 128,000 kidneys were transplanted and almost 28,000 were discarded. That discard rate is about half of what it is in France.

[14:50:07] And the reason, in the United States, to put it simply, doctors are pickier. They are more likely to say, oh, this person who died whose kidney we can take, that person was too old, we don't want to use his or her kidney. Or that person had certain illnesses and we don't want to use his or her kidney.

In France, they are less picky. And in the rest of Europe, they're less picky. And the authors of this study are saying that Americans should be more like Europeans. We would save lives -- Ana?

CABRERA: Just think about that. How many people die waiting for transplants? To hear that there are donated kidneys being thrown out, it's just hard to believe. Is there anything being done to re- evaluate or to change this?

COHEN: You know, one of the thoughts that the study's authors had has to do with the pressures that hospitals are under. Transplant success rates are very closely tracked. Anyone can look them up online. That's not true of a lot of things in medicine, but you can for transplant rates.

And no hospital wants to be seen as having a poor success rate. So the thought is that they're more likely to say "no" to a kidney that may be subpar.

Some of the thinking is that hospitals need to be encouraged. You know, you should be -- be less risk averse. Try that kidney. It very well could work for this person. And if it doesn't, will your statistics suffer as a hospital? Yes, but you should learn to accept that.

CABRERA: It's a matter of life or death.

Elizabeth Cohen, thank you --

COHEN: Sure.

CABRERA: -- for opening our eyes to that information.

COHEN: Thank you.

CABRERA: Tropical Storm Dorian threatens the Caribbean as there are new reports about an idea President Trump had to stop hurricanes. The reaction in the room when he suggested dropping a nuclear bomb.


[14:56:09] CABRERA: Experts save the massive fires ravaging the Amazon Rainforest have reached a critical point. Now the G7 and Actor Leonardo DiCaprio's environmental group have pledged a total of $25 million to help protect it.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced a $20 million emergency fund to aid the Amazon countries affected by the wildfires.


EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translation): The Amazon is the lung of the planet and the consequences are extremely dire for the planet. That is why we undertook an in-depth discussion on the subject as of Saturday night.

The fires are affecting nine countries in total, including France. Many countries, indeed, have been affected. And the surface area is about two times the surface area of France.


CABRERA: CNN is now getting its first aerial view of the devastation there. Brazilian officials say every minute these fires destroy an area equal to roughly the size of 1.5 soccer fields.

Brazil's president has deployed its military. And several other nations, including the U.S. have offered to send help as well.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN's senior international correspondent, is on the ground in Porto Velho, Brazil, with the latest on the firefighting effort.

Nick, I know you flew above the devastation. Just how bad is it?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's extraordinary. A lot of times you can't see how bad it is because of how bad it is. The smoke is that dense at times. We turned off the air vents inside the plane as we flew over just to make the air inside more conducive to breathing.

Even here in Porto Velho, where we are hundreds of miles away from those fires, you can feel it in your eyes and in the air.

You'll notice as I stand here, drops of rain have been falling.

Despite the shocking natures of the fires, and as we flew over them, it's incredibly hard to understand what it looks like, to look down on vast areas that humankind have managed to damage and deforest quite so quickly and have, in turn, been ravaged by fires.

You raise the term wildfire. There's a lot of debate about that because a lot of these fires clearly, as we heard from police as well as from activists here, are started by people deliberately seeking to clear forest for agricultural purposes.

In fact, there's a lot of misinformation being passed around inside Brazil now, as this becomes such an intense political firefight, frankly, between different sides. Those advocates of Jair Bolsonaro saying on Twitter that the rain is coming in to save the Amazon. Well, it's sporadic where we are in Porto Velho. And these fires have been raging for weeks.

But the question is, how fast can aid get in to deal with these fires properly and can the Brazilian army, the 43,000 troops that Mr. Bolsonaro said he's sending, can they handle the task -- Ana?

CABRERA: I also wonder, because the G7 has now offered $20 million in aid, will the embattled Brazilian president, who has been criticized for his response to these fires, accept it? And will he also accept aid offered from other countries?

WALSH: You know, it's baffling to work out exactly where he's going with this. He's something of a Trumpian figure to be honest.

He just posted on his Twitter account, 33 minutes ago, him giving a lengthy tirade against the media in front of him. He said he didn't want to talk and give a press conference. He criticized journalists for making stuff up, for making his life an awful lot harder.

But he also talked about how he couldn't really accept the text of what Emmanuel Macron, the French president, was talking about. That sounded like he wasn't going to take the $20 million.

To be honest, that's a pitiful sum for the seven richest nations in the world to be offering for a crisis of this global dimensions. The question is, if the floodgates open for that, will Brazil bring further assistance in.

President Trump has offered American assistance. Israel's assistance has been accepted already.

But we're talking about an enormous operation here, despite possibly -- maybe the weather might change, maybe some other natural phenomenon might slow the burn.

[15:00:05] This is 85 percent up on last year. It's taking out vast swaths of the Amazon here, of an area twice the size of France.