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Hardline Republicans Lay Out New Demands & Strategy On Debt; U.S. Intel: Ukrainian Group May Have Launched Kremlin Drone Attack; Surge In Air, Car Travel As Holiday Rush Begins; Outrage In New Zealand Prompts Miami Zoo To Cancel Kiwi Petting. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired May 25, 2023 - 14:30   ET



CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think you might start to see, if not more jitters in markets, more outright panic. Because, again, the precedence of the past do not necessarily apply to the present.

And it's really hard to wrap your head around all of the things that need to happen between now and a bill passing to prevent that terrible potential outcome, which would be defaulting on our debt.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And what are the cascading effects of not just defaulting on the debt, but if you do not have Social Security payments going out, if you do not have the government making payroll for members of the armed services and contractors, civilian contractors, what are the cascading effects of that?

RAMPELL: Well, first of all, if the government can prioritize its debt payments, and that's a big if. You know, back in 2011, there was a plan to do it in place.

There are some machinations behind the scenes to try to do it now, to say, OK, let's make sure the bond holders get paid first, let's make sure Social Security recipients, military personnel, et cetera, get paid first.

First of all, I don't know that they have the technical capacity to do it based on my own conversations with treasury personnel, that they would like to be able to do it but the system isn't set up for it and they have old, obsolete I.T., frankly.

So even if they could do it, there are still going to be some bills unpaid, there are going to be some government workers, some potential people expecting to receive benefits, doctors who are receiving Medicare or Medicaid payments, whoever gets deprioritized, they are going to suffer. There's going to be lots of uncertainty there.

My bigger concern beyond that sort of immediate tangible effect of people just not getting the cash flow that they're expecting, is that you could see, again, major disruptions in financial markets.

Even if we pay off the bond holders, even if we succeed at doing this thing that may be technically very difficult of saying let's prioritize the payments, market participants may still view this as a default and may view treasuries no longer a safe asset or not as safe as it used to be.

And treasuries are sort of the building block of the global financial system. You have these domino effects that could go through not just treasury markets, but stock markets and lots of other financial markets throughout the world.

KEILAR: It's scary, when you outline it like that, Catherine. We start to see how it will impact and there will be this butterfly effect.

Catherine Rampell, thank you so much.


RAMPELL: Thank you.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Still to come, why U.S. intelligence sources tell CNN they think Ukrainians may have been behind this drone attack launched at the Kremlin. We'll take you live to Kyiv when CNN NEWS CENTRAL returns.



SANCHEZ: Sources tell CNN the U.S. has new intelligence that a Ukrainian group could be responsible for this drone strike that hit the Kremlin earlier this month.

But officials believe it's unlikely this attack was ordered by any high-ranking official within the Ukrainian government. Despite that uncertainty, Russia is still placing the blame squarely on Kyiv.

Let's take you to Ukraine's capital city with CNN's Fred Pleitgen, who joins us live.

Fred, what do we know about this intelligence assessment?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This appears to come from intercepted communications, communications the U.S. intercepted not just from the Ukrainian side but from the Russian side as well.

From the Ukrainian side, there were apparently communications both from the military apparatus and intelligence as well, where apparently there were several groups within Ukraine that were blaming each other for this drone attack on the Kremlin and speculating that Ukraine must have been behind this attack.

At the same time, there were also communications, intercepts coming from Russia with Russian agencies also speculating that the Ukrainians must be behind this attack.

And that led to a preliminary assessment that Ukrainian groups may have been behind that attack.

But you're absolutely correct to say that the U.S. also says they don't believe that the highest levels of the Ukrainian government were actually involved in this.

And certainly, one of the other things that's important to point out is that this is not a definitive assessment.

However, for the Kremlin, it is all very definitive. They came out once again today and said they were absolutely certain that the Ukrainians were behind it.

And of course, one of the things the Kremlin has been doing after the attack took place is they've used it to justify their ongoing war in Ukraine -- Boris?

SANCHEZ: It's difficult to get a sure answer, not only because of the fog of war, but we've seen Russia deliberately put out misinformation before.

Fred Pleitgen, from Kyiv, thank you so much.



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Well, the travel rush for Memorial Day weekend is kicking off. We're going to dig into how busy the roads and the skies are expected to be and the best time for you to get moving. Coming up next on CNN NEWS CENTRAL.


SCIUTTO: All right, the holiday travel rush is already under way. And whether you're hitting the road, the runway or both, you've got to brace for big crowds.

On the ground, AAA estimates 37.1 million people will hit the road and travel 50 miles or more from home this weekend. That is a 6 percent jump from last year.

And 3.39 million Americans are expected to fly. That is an 11 percent jump.

The FAA says today is the busiest day for air travel ahead of Memorial Day. That means lots of folks are already out there.

CNN's Pete Muntean is here to guide us through.

First question, because you and I talk a lot about airline and airport delays, are the airlines ready for this weekend?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: That's the big question. The FAA says today will be the busiest in terms of the number of flights scheduled. That's 52,000 flights scheduled in total. But the totality is the big number. Yesterday to Tuesday, after

Memorial Day, 312,000 flights scheduled in total. The real big numbers are already happening. We're seeing numbers bigger than the pandemic. So --


SCIUTTO: It started on Monday.

MUNTEAN: Monday was bigger than the pandemic. Yesterday was bigger than pre-pandemic, back in 2019. So that is really key here.

But of course, you put it beautifully. The real question is whether or not airlines are ready. And now there's a lot of concern about whether or not the air traffic control system is ready as well.

SCIUTTO: Yes, with the staffing shortages.

MUNTEAN: They have 3,000 positions they're trying to fill. That's an urgent need.

The airlines this time around -- remember, last summer, this really kicked off the summer of meltdowns and cancellations on Memorial Day last year. So this time, the airlines say they're right staffed, they're right sized, they're flying fewer routes with larger airplanes.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said this will be a really big test of the system. He said this in one of his first press conferences as transportation secretary at DOT headquarters the other day.



PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: The bottom line, we want everybody to have great travels this coming weekend and this summer. We're doing everything we can to press airlines to deliver that good service. If there's an issue, we have your back.


MUNTEAN: So the big thing now is the air traffic controller shortage and that is what the airlines are pointing to. They're saying the delays could be on the federal government this time around, rather than them.

There's been a blame game back and forth going on for about a year now.

We've done some new reporting and we found, at a key facility at the FAA, that it handles pretty much every flight going in and out of Florida. In a seven-week period last summer they were short 200 shifts, led to 4,600 delays.

These can have a cascading effect. And there have already been delays because of staffing issues in Denver on Sunday and Monday. So we'll see how this weekend goes.

Thankfully, so far, the weather looks good and that is the number one cause of cancellations.

SCIUTTO: I've heard enough. I'm not flying or driving this week.


SCIUTTO: Pete Muntean, thanks.


KEILAR: An international incident over a kiwi. The bird not the fruit, by the way. And a zoo is apologizing for an animal encounter that ended up offending an entire nation. We'll have that next on CNN NEWS CENTRAL.



SANCHEZ: Zoo Miami is apologizing after it infuriated people in New Zealand. This began after a video surfaced on social media showing visitors handling a kiwi. This is New Zealand's national bird.

It was being kept awake under artificial light, despite the fact it is nocturnal. It only comes out at night.

Following the backlash, Zoo Miami released an apology saying the concerns have been, quote, "taken very seriously, and as a result, effective immediately, the kiwi encounter will no longer be offered."

Joining us now is the zoo's communications director, Ron Magill.

Ron, thank you for sharing part of your afternoon with us.

What's being done now to improve this situation with the kiwi?

RON MAGILL, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, ZOO MIAMI: Well, we're immediately planning a brand-new habitat -- it's already been in planning and design -- to ensure that this kiwi has everything it needs to accommodate its natural behaviors.

There are no more contacts with the bird. The bird is maintained in an area that's off exhibit. There's no public access.

It has a habitat presently where it has a hutch, a nest box it can go into, that it stays in, that it's dark. The room that had lights in it now has the lights turned off.

The animal has the ability to come out of that nest box at night where they put out foraging things that it can forage for and display its natural behavior.

And it's only handled for a medical procedure or to switch it from area to another while one habitat gets cleaned. The bottom line is, we made a mistake. We apologized profusely to the people of New Zealand because of that mistake. And we're going to do better.

And that's what we're going to do. We're going to show them that this bird gets all the respect, the care that it deserves.

SANCHEZ: Ron, for the sake of transparency, I have to be honest, I've been a fan of yours since I was a kid. I grew up in Miami. I went to the zoo a bunch of times.

I know that you care about these animals. You have a substantive endowment where you collect money and spend it on preservation and conservation.

So my question is, what went wrong? What was the idea behind having people handle these animals? And why did the zoo -- how did this mistake happen?

MAGILL: Our goal is to connect people to wildlife. Our goal is to conserve wildlife and get people to care about it.

The old saying is, protect what you love, you love what you understand, and we understand what we're taught. Our goal was to try to connect people.

Our mistake was poor oversight. We didn't have the oversight to ensure that this bird was being managed in a proper way.

We didn't take into consideration -- it hatched here. We thought, as it grew, it was thriving and seemed to be adapting very well. Perhaps it could be adapted to this reverse life cycle. We were wrong.

Though the bird is thriving and doing very well, in excellent health. What we did offended people, and we did so in a way that really it didn't have the forethought we should have had.

We made a mistake. I make no excuses for it. We made a mistake. The only thing we can do now is make good on that mistake and express a heartfelt apology to the people of New Zealand.

Of course, the bird, we're taking excellent care of the bird.

The silver lining is this bird will be the best cared for kiwi in the United States, and hopefully, raise awareness in New Zealand about caring for kiwi.


SANCHEZ: Yes. We hope the people of New Zealand are receptive to that message.

Ron Magill, of Zoo Miami, thanks so much.

And if you could, for me, send my regards to Stu Goss, if you can find him. MAGILL: I will do so. Thanks, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Thanks so much, Ron.


KEILAR: Today, in our "HOMEFRONT" segment, a look this morning at veterans, volunteers and lawmakers gathering on the National Mall to wash the Vietnam Memorial ahead of Memorial Day.

This is an annual event that Congressman Mike Waltz, first Green Beret elected to Congress, started four years ago.

He and Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton, a Marine veteran, spoke with Jake Tapper this morning.


REP. MIKE WALTZ (R-FL): It's good for us. It's good for us as members of Congress to come down here to see these 58,000 names. This is good for Americans to see. This is good for Americans to see us coming together, setting our differences aside, and appreciating that freedom isn't free.


KEILAR: Also underway today, over a thousand servicemembers placing small American flags in approximately 260,000 headstones at Arlington National Cemetery. This is done every year ahead of Memorial Day.

We'll be right back.