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Biden Arrives In Asia Facing Multiple Crises In U.S. & Abroad; 1/6 Cmte Investigating Capitol Tour Given By GOP Rep On Insurrection Eve; Oklahoma Lawmakers Pass Bill Banning Abortion After Fertilization. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired May 20, 2022 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. What we're watching at this hour, the President in Asia. Biden is in South Korea today but a threat from the north hangs in the background.
Standing down in Mariupol, Ukrainian commanders ordering fighters to stop defending the city against Russian forces. The U.S. sending over more help to the tune of $40 billion in aid.
And Oklahoma's abortion ban, the governor is set to sign the most restrictive law in the nation as the country waits for a historic decision from the Supreme Court.
And thank you for joining us, everyone. President Biden has just kicked off his first trip to Asia since taking office. And he's trying to demonstrate America's commitment to allies in the region, of course, after months of focus on Ukraine and Russia's invasion there. The President's first stop is South Korea, where he underscored the importance of this region and this moment. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So much, so much of the future of the world is going to be written here in the Indo Pacific over the next several decades. We're standing at an inflection point in history, where the decisions we make today will have far reaching impacts on the world we leave to our children tomorrow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: The issues the President is facing and tackling in Asia are serious ones, impactful ones, including a looming threat of a possible missile test coming from North Korea while Biden is overseas. But there is also no escaping problems and the very big problems elsewhere. Being flown to the President right now for his signature is the bill that Congress just approved to give $40 billion of additional aid to Ukraine. And that's just to name one of many. Let's start in Seoul, South Korea. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is there. He's joining us now. Jeremy, what happened in this first day of President Biden's visit?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, in his first remarks here in South Korea, President Biden hailing the U.S.- South Korea alliance as a lynchpin of peace, stability, and prosperity. And this comes as President Biden is here in South Korea and then next to Japan to shore up the U.S.'s alliances in the region. At a moment of increased tension with North Korea as U.S. intelligence is warning of the possibility the likelihood even of North Korea carrying out a nuclear or a missile test, or perhaps both, while President Biden is in the region.
Now, tomorrow, President Biden will sit down with this newly inaugurated South Korean president for a bilateral meeting as well as a state dinner. And while they're focusing on the national security relationship, they're also talking about economic security. And that's why President Biden today visited a Samsung semiconductor facility. We know that there has been this chip shortage worldwide, including in the United States. And the President actually drew on the war in Ukraine to emphasize his point about bolstering those supply chains, and that economic relationship.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Putin is brutal and unprovoked war in Ukraine has further spotlight the need to secure our critical supply chains, so that our economy, our economic and our national security, are not dependent on countries that don't share our values. That's why Mr. President, I came to the Republican Korea, my first trip to Asia as President of United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DIAMOND: And the President there referring to Russia, but really, he's talking about China, and the ways, the importance of the U.S. and its allies a weaning off their dependence on China for critical economic materials and other technological components. That is a point that I think you can expect President Biden to emphasize over and over again during this trip, as the National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the other day, they don't see us policy in Europe and Asia as competing but rather mutually reinforcing. Kate?
BOLDUAN: And Jeremy, there's also new reporting that Secret Service employees have been put on leave and sent home from South Korea for what's happened during this trip. What's going on?
DIAMOND: That's right. Two U.S. Secret Service employees have been sent back to the United States after apparently getting into an altercation with a cab driver and two Korean nationals. This is obviously an unwelcome distraction for the Biden administration as it looks to make this very important first trip to Asia. One special agent, one physical security specialists, according to a source familiar, were involved in this incident and sent back, a U.S. Secret Service spokesman said that they were placed on administrative leave, but insisting that there's been no impact to President Biden's security on this trip. Kate?
BOLDUAN: OK. Jeremy, thank you so much.
So U.S. intelligence is also paying close attention to North Korea while the President is overseas. The latest intel assessment is raising real concerns that the North could be on the verge of testing an intercontinental ballistic missile while the President is just miles from the border. CNN's Oren Liebermann is tracking this from the Pentagon for us at this hour. Oren, the White House has said that the way they put it is, they're preparing for all contingencies. What are you hearing about this from there?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Kate, we've seen North Korea in the past carry out provocative tests, perhaps messages from the North Korean regime to the U.S. and to the world, as the U.S. president has been in the region and perhaps they're prepping to do this once again. The U.S. has watched this missile test site near Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, as the North Korean missile test and ICBM test, intercontinental ballistic missile, has gone from possible to probable and now perhaps even imminent.
We were told that a missile test could come sometime in the next 48 to 96 hours earlier this week. And now it looks like it might come as President Joe Biden is there either in South Korea or in Japan. U.S. officials familiar with the latest intelligence say that the North Koreans may be preparing to fuel a missile. And that would mean their North Korean ICBM test could come anytime in the immediate future, the fueling of a missile one of the final steps before you carry out a test.
In the past, the U.S. says the North Koreans have tested this system but haven't launched it at the range of an ICBM. in late February, in early March, and then once again earlier this month, the North Koreans tested perhaps this system, it exploded on the launch pad earlier this month. Now the test could come with Biden there. In March the increased surveillance of the Yellow Sea near North Korea earlier this week, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan saying the U.S. is prepared to take further steps should they carry out this ICBM test, or the more dangerous, the more provocative test, an underground nuclear test not imminent, but just as urgent. Kate?
BOLDUAN: Oren, it's good to see you. Thank you for that.
Joining me now for more on this trip, this very important trip is Admiral Harry Harris, former commander of U.S. Pacific Command, as well as a former ambassador to South Korea. It's good to see you, Admiral. Thank you so much for being here. So President Biden and Jeremy Diamond noted this, President Biden said today that the alliance between the U.S. and South Korea and the way he put it is the linchpin of peace, stability, and prosperity for the region and the world. How important do you view this trip in this moment?
REAR ADMIRAL HARRY HARRIS (RET.), FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SOUTH KOREA: Yes, I think it's a very important trip. And I think at this moment, is the time at hand. I mean, this is the President's first trip to Asia. And he's making the point that he's going to visit our two key allies in East Asia, South Korea and Japan. I think he's going to be there to reinforce our alliances with these two countries. He wants to bolster South Korea's willingness to stand up to China. He's going to use this as an opportunity to present his new Indo Pacific Economic Forum PAC trade deal. And he also wants to encourage Seoul or Tokyo to mend fences and get along.
BOLDUAN: You would also like to have seen a trilateral meeting, if you will, the U.S., Japan, and South Korea, while he's making this big visit, why is this amiss in your view that he's not doing that?
HARRIS: I think that it's probably to be honest with you, too early in President Yoon's tenure as the new president of South Korea. However, it's a missed opportunity, in my view, because the President is going to be in Seoul or he's in Seoul now. He's going to be in Tokyo. He's going to meet with the quad leaders in Tokyo. And this seems to me to be a missed opportunity not to have a trilateral meeting with President Yoon and Prime Minister Kishida. That said, I'm sure he's going to, you know, reinforce the importance of the trilateral cooperation and the bilateral relationship between Seoul or Tokyo.
BOLDUAN: There's always a question of, it is a word that I think is like the strangest word ever, deliverables, or what the tangible results are that leaders can take home with them from a big trip like this. When it comes to this Asian trip, what are the possibilities, Admiral?
HARRIS: Well, I think the biggest tangible is the intangible of the meeting itself. In fact that President Biden has chosen Asia and South Korea and Japan as his first visit to Asia. So I think that's important in itself. Some of the deliverables will be if he gets a strong signal from President Yoon, that President Yoon is going to deliver on his campaign promises, which are, you know, to stand up to China to increase your relationship, security relationship within the alliance with the United States and to seek improve relations with Tokyo.
So if he gets that commitment from President Yoon, I think that's important. And that's surely deliverable. And he will also, you know, roll it out his Indo Pacific Economic Forum Trade PAC and, you know, that's important too if he did that underway.
BOLDUAN: And Oren Liebermann just talking about the possibility of this North Korean missile test that U.S. intelligence is watching very closely and kind of preparing for as it could happen during this trip. If it happens, what does it do to the trip, Admiral? I mean, how should President Biden respond well in the region?
HARRIS: Well, I've always said that Kim Jong-un, the chairman in North Korea seeks four things, right? He seeks sanctions relief, he wants to split the Alliance, he wants to keep his nukes, and he wants to dominate the peninsula. So this is really no more different than business as usual from North Korea, even though Kim Jong-un is facing a significant COVID crisis and exploding COVID crisis. His economy is in free fall. And even with all of that, he seeks power at the expense of the welfare of his own people. So I think what President Biden and President Yoon have to do is re enforce the -- our shared commitment to defend South Korea. And that's the most important thing.
BOLDUAN: So much of this trip is also about standing up to China. What President Biden has been able to do in terms of rallying allies around the world are really in the West in Europe, against Russia's invasion of Ukraine, can that be replicated with Asian allies? And what does China see in that?
HARRIS: Well, I think that, you know, what China sees with Ukraine is that our friends and allies have in fact rallied behind the U.S. call to support Ukraine. So that's important. I think that, you know, China is seeing how quickly, the U.S. was able to effectively rally the world behind Ukraine. I think they're looking at the lessons from Russia's experience so far. You know, they've got to be asked themselves, if their army is as bad as Russia's appears to be, if their generals are as bad as Russia's appears to be. And if their fleet the PLA Navy, the People's Liberation Army Navy, is as bad as the Black Sea Fleet appears to be.
So if you got that, they got to be thinking about all of that, and wondering just how good they are, when a lot of their doctrine and a lot of their military hardware comes from Russia.
BOLDUAN: That's a really interesting perspective in how you noted there. Admiral Harris, thank you for coming on. It's good to have you here.
A quick programming for all of you, Jake Tapper sits down with an exclusive interview with former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, now home after being imprisoned in Russia for nearly three years. Finally Home: The Trevor Reed Interview airs Sunday night at 8:00 only on CNN.
Still ahead for us at this hour, Oklahoma is set to impose the strictest ban on abortion in the nation, what this band does and what it means for the rest of the country. That's next.
BOLDUAN: Developing this morning, the House Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection is now requesting an interview with a Republican congressman who led a tour of the Capitol Complex a day before the riot. The Committee is asking Georgia Congressman Barry Loudermilk to voluntarily answer questions now about the tour saying that they have reviewed evidence that quote, directly contradicts previous claims by Republican lawmakers who said that there were no tours that day. CNN's Katelyn Polantz is following all of this live in Washington for us at this hour. Katelyn, why are these tours becoming critical to this investigation?
KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Kate, this has been a question that has been asked by investigators for a long time now many months, how did Trump supporters on January 6th seem to understand the layout of Capitol Hill so well? How did they navigate this labyrinth of buildings and hallways during the insurrection? The House has clearly been looking for answers to this question for a long time.
And we don't know exactly what prompted this request to Loudermilk. But what's interesting about them asking him in particular is that this is a representative who's spoken before about meeting with his constituents on Capitol Hill the day before January 6th. So he spoke on a Georgia radio station on January 6th about this meeting. Here's what he said then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BARRY LOUDERMILK (R-GA): We actually had about a dozen people up here that wanted to come by and visit, we had them in our office. They definitely were, you know, peaceful people, people that we've met at church. They were supporters of the president, and they just wanted to be up here as if it was another rally. And we've actually checked on them to make sure that they're safe. When they saw what it was turning into, they immediately turned and went back down the mall to get away from the crowd here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
POLANTZ: So Loudermilk now is filling out a little bit more detail. He's saying it was a constituent family with young children he was with. They were in the office buildings, not in the capitol itself. And he had said in a statement yesterday in response to this request from the House, there's no place that the family went on the 5th was breached on the 6th, the family did not enter the Capitol grounds on the 6th, and no one in that family has been investigated or charged in connection to January 6th. He's calling this a false narrative that the House Select Committee is now putting out publicly as they're making this request. But they do say that they have new information that's prompting them to want to ask him questions. We'll see if he answers. Kate?
BOLDUAN: Yes. Interesting. It's good to see you, Katelyn. Thank you.
We're also tracking a major move in Oklahoma. The state's governor is set to sign into law the nation's strictest abortion ban, making abortion illegal at every stage of pregnancy beginning at fertilization. Oklahoma lawmakers passed the ban just yesterday. Let's go over to CNN's Ariane de Vogue. She's joining me now and tracking this. Ariane, what does this Oklahoma ban mean for abortion in America?
ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Right, Kate, several months ago, you wouldn't think that this ban would make go very far. I mean, we've seen bans on six weeks, 12 weeks, 15 weeks, this is a near total ban on abortion. There are exceptions for rape and incest, but only if those incidents were reported to law enforcement.
So on the face of it, you might think that this new law is unconstitutional. But there are a couple things that are going in its favor. First of all, it is modeled after a Texas law. And both of them are written in a very unusual way in that state officials aren't charged with enforcing them. Instead, anyone across the country can bring a civil suit against someone they think is helping a woman get an abortion.
And if you remember, the Supreme Court allowed that Texas law to go into effect that brought abortions to Texas almost to a halt. And then Oklahoma turns around and copies it almost exactly, but makes it more strict. And on top of that, we also of course have that draft opinion that we saw coming for the Supreme Court where it looked like there were five votes in the draft to reverse Roe v. Wade.
That opinion if it pulls if it becomes final means that by early summer, the Supreme Court will reverse Roe v. Wade, and this issue will go back down back to the states and already Oklahoma. And nearly half the states have these laws in place or could pass the very quickly that would reverse Roe v. Wade. So that's the current state of play. And of course, this is a huge victory for opponents of abortion.
BOLDUAN: Yes. And speaking of the Supreme Court, there's new reporting from CNN, about tension being exposed between amongst the Supreme Court, I mean, Justice Clarence Thomas, would appears to be calling out the Chief Justice during a public appearance, Ariane. What is this about?
DE VOGUE: Well, Chief Justice John Roberts has always pushed for collegiality. He's looked at the other branches, seen them sort of erupt into division, and he's always pushed collegiality. And then you have this leak that comes across, and it is just stunning for the Supreme Court. It's a stunning breach.
And Justice Clarence Thomas gave an appearance last week, and he was talking about the leak. But he also seemed to take a jab at the chief suggesting that before the chief was on the court, because of course, Thomas is the longest serving member, that the justices trusted each other. So it was very unusual to see that tension come up in this speech.
And of course, it comes now, as we know, with the tension that's going on behind the scenes, because Robert at oral arguments really pushed for a compromise position. He did not seem to want to overturn Roe v. Wade. Maybe leave a piece of that federal right in place. But Justice Clarence Thomas, more so than any other justice has been absolutely opposed to Roe v. Wade. He's set it in opinions. He thinks it should be turned over.
So now you're seeing that tension in one of the most important cases in decades sort of spill out in the public. That's what we're seeing. And we are at the end of the Court term coming up, and we're likely to see more of that.
BOLDUAN: Yes, absolutely. So I was going to say and we were just waiting for that decision to come down. It's good to see you Ariane. Thank you so much.
Coming up for us, the last holdouts against Russia in Mariupol now declaring that they are ending their fight, a live report from Ukraine is next.
BOLDUAN: Now the war in Ukraine, the remaining forces at the Mariupol steel plant, they have been ordered to stop defending the city. The commander there saying that the order was given to quote, preserve the garrison soldiers life and health. It is one of several really ominous messages this morning from some of the last Ukrainian forces still holed up in that plant. And it comes just hours after the U.S. approved nearly $40 billion in new aid to send over there, to try to help and bolster Ukrainian forces further.
CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is tracking all this from Lviv, Ukraine. Suzanne, what more are you learning about this?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, you can only imagine really the pain of the unknown here as people are watching and waiting what happens out of that steel plant in Mariupol about 2,000 or so had been evacuated, at least according to Russian officials, a small portion of them a badly wounded, severely wounded take into a hospital, and then the rest of them in a detention center that is controlled by the Russians.
So all of those evacuated in Russian hands but the fate of hundreds of those still inside is still unknown. And we are getting some glimpses however, through social media posts that CNN is watching and verifying, one soldier in particular, Kate, who has been providing these beautiful photos, he said he wanted to give these beautiful pictures of -- from inside. It seems like his message in Instragram is almost like a goodbye.
He said that's it. Thank you for the shelter Azovstal, the place of my death and my life.