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Report Emerges of Contaminated Water on Navy Ship; Canadian Wildfires Impacting U.S. Air Quality; Testimony Continues in Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting Trial; Trump Caught on Tape; Debt Ceiling Bill Moves to Senate. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired June 01, 2023 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Sunday night, live from Iowa, Jake Tapper moderates the CNN Republican presidential town hall with the former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. The evening kicks off Sunday 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.
Thanks for your time today on INSIDE POLITICS. We will see you tomorrow.
"CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts right now. Our.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Not stopping until the job is done, Chuck Schumer vowing the Senate will soon get the debt bill onto President Biden's desk, putting a pause on the debt ceiling and preventing economic calamity. But that's not all. We're going to break down some of the bill's broader impacts potentially on your bottom line.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Trump caught on tape again, a CNN exclusive. Federal prosecutors have an audio recording of the former president speaking about keeping a classified document. The report could undercut his defense in the ongoing case. The 2024 GOP front-runner is expected to speak to reporters from the campaign trail during the next hour.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And a death zone rescue at the top of the world. A Sherpa abandons his own climb with a client to drag a man to safety during the deadliest season on Mount Everest in years.
We are following these major stories and many more, all coming in right here to CNN NEWS CENTRAL.
SANCHEZ: The big question today, how fast can they move?
Right now, the Senate is taking up the debt ceiling bill just passed by the House. Remember, there are only four days to avert a catastrophic government default, so Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell are pushing their members for a quick vote. Both have said they want to finish voting by tomorrow, even potentially wrapping things up by tonight.
Here's the majority leader on the Senate floor. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): At this point, any needless delay or any last minute holdups would be an unnecessary and even dangerous risk. And any change to this bill that forces us to send it back to the House would be entirely unacceptable. It would almost guarantee default.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Let's get the latest now from Capitol Hill with CNN's Manu Raju.
Manu, what are you hearing about how swiftly this bill could wind up on President Biden's desk?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is actually the subject of intense negotiations that are happening right now on the Senate floor.
I just on my way over here talked to the number two Republican, John Thune, who is deep in these negotiations to try to get this bill passed as soon as tonight. He is having discussions with some members on that Senate floor, including Senator Lindsey Graham and others, who are demanding certain things.
One thing that Lindsey Graham wants is he wants some sort of insurance from Democratic leaders and Republican leaders that they will move on a Ukraine funding package sometime later this year. There's also some concerns about defense funding and the level of defense funding in this plan. The deal that was cut between McCarthy and the White House would essentially level out funding, provide the funding that was under the Biden proposal, the Biden administration's defense spending proposal.
That is not far enough for a number of these hawks on the Republican side of the aisle, who believe that it needs to be much further, believe it has not kept up with the pace of inflation. And all these concerns are significant, because one senator, single senator can delay matters until past the Monday default deadline.
They need to get all 100 to agree to actually schedule the vote, and, at the moment, they don't have that agreement. Now, this all comes as senators are raising concerns. Lindsey Graham told me today that this deal was a bad one that was cut, and others are also uncertain about whether they're going to back this plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): This is really dumb. The people who negotiated this, I wouldn't let them buy me a car.
RAJU: The speaker says that Democrats didn't get any wins here.
GRAHAM: Well, I tell you what. A lot of them believe they did, because more Democrats voted for it than Republicans. What does that say to you?
RAJU: I know, in divided government, it's tough, but don't tell me that this is the best we could do. The party of Ronald Reagan is in jeopardy. This is really dumb.
SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT): This is the wrong way to address the debt. It's just the wrong way.
It empowers the folks on the far right. And, quite frankly, I don't think they have the best interests of the country in mind. And I don't think -- I haven't talked to anybody that's enamored with this deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: So there are concerns on the left that believe the White House gave too much to the speaker,concerns on the right that the speaker gave too much to the White House.
But there's also no doubt about this. There is expectation that this will pass eventually, maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow. Senators are begrudgingly voting for a compromise they don't love, but they realize this is the only way to avoid a default -- Boris
SANCHEZ: Yes, bipartisan disdain for this bill, it seems that's a sign of a compromise.
Manu Raju live on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.
SANCHEZ: And, Brianna, this is more than just about raising the debt ceiling. This has implications far and wide.
KEILAR: Yes, certainly.
If passed into law, the bipartisan debt deal would prevent the Biden administration from extending the federal student loan payment pause that began in 2020 during the Trump administration. The bill reads that the pause shall cease to be effective 60 days after June 30. And that would mean that roughly 44 million people will have to resume making payments on their loans.
And there is some concern if this process is going to go smoothly, as you can imagine. There are so many people who may be confused about how much they owe, when to pay, how they're going to pay, especially when you consider this, that two million borrowers will have a different servicer handling their loans since the last time that they made a payment.
In the meantime, all eyes are going to be on the Supreme Court. Justices could rule as early as this month on a separate student loan forgiveness program. And under the Biden administration proposal, individual borrowers who made less than $125,000 in either 2020 or 2021 and also married couples or heads of households who made less than $250,000 per year, they would qualify for up to $10,000 of their federal student loan debt being forgiven. And if a borrower got a Pell Grant in college, if they got a Pell
Grant in college, that individual is eligible for up to 20 grand in debt forgiveness. If the Supreme Court allows this program to take effect, it's possible the government moves quickly to forgive the debts of 16 million borrowers who are already approved for relief.
If the justices strike down Biden's student loan forgiveness program, the administration could make some modifications. They could try again. But that, of course, could take months, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Important numbers to follow closely.
Well, another Trump tape that could have big legal ramifications for the former president. And this is a CNN exclusive. The Justice Department has audio now of the former president discussing a classified document that he kept after leaving office, the recording made during a meeting at his New Jersey golf club in 2021.
Multiple sources tell CNN the tape indicates Trump knew the document in his possession was classified, and he knew that designation limited his ability to share it, which would undercut the defense his lawyers have presented in the ongoing special counsel probe of his handling of classified documents.
Our senior legal affairs correspondent, Paula Reid, helped break this story.
So, Paula, a couple of key questions to begin with. What exactly did he say? And I'm curious how prosecutors got this tape.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Let's take the second question first.
This is not a secret recording. In the summer of 2021, the former president was in the habit of having his aides record any conversations with journalists, writers, people working on books. So we know that in this meeting were two people working on an autobiography of former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
And Meadows was not in the room. But that's one of the ways we know this was recorded. It is unclear whether that is how investigators got it, from the autobiographers or if they got it from the aides or even a warrant for the cloud. We know that these files were uploaded.
That, at this point is unclear. But we have learned from our sources, even though we haven't heard the recording, that, on this, he can be heard talking about a document in his possession. This is a classified Pentagon document discussing a possible attack on Iran.
Our sources describe how, on the tape, you can hear some laughter. You can also hear paper rustling as if he's waving something, though it's unclear if it's the document he's referencing or something else.
REID: But most significantly for prosecutors, Jim, he says that he suggests that he would like to share this document, but that there are limits in his ability to declassify.
SCIUTTO: So that presumes that he had knowledge that those limits were due to the fact that it was classified.
SCIUTTO: And why does that -- explain to folks why that undercuts his defense to date.
REID: So, so far, the public defenses that he and his of attorneys have given, they have been conflicting at times, but I will go down the list.
I mean, they have suggested that he had a standing declassification order: Anything left the Oval Office was automatically declassified. He told FOX News he could declassify things with his mind. Then his lawyers also wrote a letter to Congress saying he didn't know there were classified materials. It was the chaos at the end of the administration. Everything was packed up quickly.
But what he has heard, according to our sources, saying on this recording undercuts all of those explanations.
And it's notable because, oftentimes, he will give more than one explanation...
SCIUTTO: ... sometimes even conflicting ones, in situations like this.
Paula Reid, thanks so much. Great story -- Boris.
SANCHEZ: The former president is actually in Iowa right now campaigning for the second straight day. He's been meeting with conservatives and Christian faith leaders in the Republican primary battleground.
And, notably, on this trip, he's not holding one of those large rallies that have been typical of his last two presidential runs.
Let's take you to the trail with CNN's Jeff Zeleny, who's in Iowa for us.
Jeff, notably, a different kind of event on the schedule for Trump today. He's also going to gaggle with reporters in the next hour or so. What are we anticipating to hear?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Boris, the former president just finished meeting with a small group of conservative Iowa Republicans. He attended their weekly meeting, rather than them coming to a big Trump rally, which has been the case really for much of the last eight years. That just shows you that the former president is clearly working this and realizes that he has a large, crowded Republican primary field, but he did not talk about any of the investigations that indeed hang over his campaign that are now, in fact, part of his campaign.
But he did talk about one of his leading rivals, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who, of course, has been an eye over the last couple days. And he's been making the argument to Republicans that they need to elect him to get eight years in the White House.
Well, the former president had this to say about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If he needs eight years to turn it around -- he's saying, well, I'm going to -- I can be -- let me tell you, I will go for years, and, if I do a great job, we're going to have a great Republican, somebody is going to go another four years or eight years.
So it doesn't make any difference. But when he says eight years, every time I hear it, I wince, because I say, if it takes eight years to turn this around, then you don't want him. You don't want him as your president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: And Trump peppered his remarks here with criticism of Ron DeSantis.
So that race is clearly joined, but, of course, several other Republican candidates also heading here to the first-in-the-nation caucus state that opens this campaign early next year. But Donald Trump, for his part, right now is having a lunch with faith leaders, another example of how he is trying to sort of woo and win over some of his former supporters, trying to make sure that they remain current supporters.
But, again, Boris, so many Republicans we talk to, there's an exhaustion factor that comes through. They are potentially looking for someone beyond the former president. Of course, his core supporters remain equally committed. But there is a majority of Republicans who indeed are looking for an alternative.
Mr. Trump is trying to get them to change their mind and back to his campaign. So, you get this sense here, on the first day of June here in Iowa on this Sunday afternoon, that this race is fully engaging, Boris.
SANCHEZ: Yes, and we will look forward to that question-and-answer session with reporters soon to come. Maybe he will talk about that CNN exclusive reporting about the classified documents that he had. Jeff Zeleny in Iowa, thank you so much for that -- Brianna.
KEILAR: The raging wildfires in Canada prompting air quality alerts across the U.S. We're going to tell you which states are most impacted.
Plus, an amazing rescue from the so-called death zone of Mount Everest. How a Sherpa guide hauled down a climber from just below the summit.
Also, a new -- a disturbing new report on how a Navy ship dumped fuel and sickened its own crew, contaminating its water. Marines claimed they could even smell diesel coming from the tap.
The reporter who broke the story is going to join CNN NEWS CENTRAL ahead.
SCIUTTO: Just harrowing testimony describing carnage, fear and sorrow filled a Pittsburgh court once again today, where the man accused of gunning down 11 Jewish worshipers inside a synagogue is now on trial for murder.
Robert Bowers has pleaded not guilty to more than 60 federal counts that include hate crime charges. He could face the death penalty if convicted. On Wednesday, jurors heard several shooting survivors testify about their split-second actions and decisions during the attack. You can see some of the pictures they showed as well from inside where this took place.
CNN's Danny Freeman he is in Pittsburgh, outside the courthouse with new developments on today's testimony.
Listen, part of the trial here is explaining just how frightening, how horrific this scene was and the actions of the accused gunman. What did we learn today?
DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, we have already learned new information today on a couple of different fronts.
We have had two witnesses already take the stand. And we have also gotten a new batch of exhibits and evidence that were released in court late yesterday. I'm going to talk about those exhibits first just so you can see the chaos and see just how intense it's been watching these back for everyone in the courthouse yesterday and throughout this week.
So, most of the surviving witnesses that we have seen so far take the stand, they have not been shot or injured themselves while in the synagogue. But then we heard a testimony late yesterday afternoon from 75-year-old Dan Leger.
He told a story about how he and Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz -- Dan Leger is a nurse. Dr. Rabinowitz, he's a medical doctor. They were both in the synagogue when they first heard the gunshots went off, and they looked at each other and knew they had to run toward it because of their medical training.
Well, Dr. Rabinowitz was shot and killed. But Dan, he was also shot in the abdomen, but survived. And he described this moment where he ended up laying on a set of -- a flight of stairs and was holding his wound, trying to be as still as possible because he worried that if the gunman came back and saw that he actually was alive, he would, in his words, come and finish the job.
He gave incredible testimony saying that how he expected to die. He was starting to pray and think about his life. But take a look at this exhibit right here. This was the image that you have been looking at. He was rescued by paramedics and taken out of the building, where he received multiple surgeries and ultimately survived.
That's just one example of many surviving witness testimony that we have heard. We have heard more today, and we will continue to hear more throughout the day of just how intense, visceral and emotional it was in that synagogue back in 2018 -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: Listen, it also shows you, the margin between living and dying in shootings like this is so small. And that's the case there as well.
Danny Freeman in Pittsburgh.
We're going to learn more in the days ahead, Brianna.
KEILAR: Let's turn now to an air quality alert, as parts of Canada are battling these devastating combination of -- it's a record heat and sprawling -- sprawling wildfires.
The smoke and the haze have moved into parts of Northeastern United States. This is impacting portions of Massachusetts. New Hampshire is impacted, Connecticut and all of Delaware.
CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar is joining us live on this.
I mean, Allison, this is smoke that has been lingering for days at this point.
ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, the good news is there is light at the end of the tunnel in the form of a cold front once we get closer to the weekend.
But, in the short term, yes, in fact, a lot of the really dense smoke is hovered a little bit more over the mid-Atlantic, states like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware. That's where you're going to find more of your unhealthy and poor air quality for especially the sensitive groups, at least in the short term.
Now, when we talk about the forecast, take a look, most of that smoke, again, kind of very concentrated over the mid-Atlantic, but we're going to start to see us see a shift late Friday and into the weekend. And it's all thanks to a cold front that's going to be sliding down across Canada.
And as it does so, it's going to bring rain across Nova Scotia, bringing relief not only for Haligonians, but for really much of this region entirely, as that rain begins to push in, because it's not only going to provide rain that will hopefully put those fires out. But it's also going to bring those temperatures back down.
Right now, we're in the 90s for much of this region, finally getting those temperatures back down closer to where they should be as we head into the weekend.
KEILAR: All right, Allison, thank you for that update. We appreciate it -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: Coming up, a shocking report of U.S. Marines drinking and showering in toxic water after their ship dumped diesel fuel into the ocean and immediately sucked it back into its water supply. The reporter who broke this story will join us live next.
And, later, what the Pentagon is saying after forcing an Air Force base to cancel an already approved drag show meant to honor LGBTQ service members.
KEILAR: It was what should have been a routine night in 2016 aboard the USS Boxer.
A couple of Marines went to grab a drink from a water fountain and they were met by the overpowering smell of diesel fuel. It also permeated the ship's washing machines, the toilets, the showers. One sergeant said she kept her hair in braids so that she wouldn't smell the diesel as she slept.
Another Marine said -- quote -- "The ship is actually trying to kill us." But the crew was assured by leadership that the water was safe to drink. And it was two months before those contaminated water tanks aboard the ship would be cleaned.
Now some of those service members say they have lingering health problems, and they have been denied benefits. And the Navy is only confirming this incident now in response to part of this investigative report by Military.com.
Jim LaPorta of The Messenger -- congrats, by the way on the new gig -- he broke this story as a freelancer for Military.com. He's with us now. He's also a Marine veteran.
Jim, you worked on this story for five years. Tell us why you pursued this and what finally turned out to be the cause of this water contamination.
JIM LAPORTA, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE MESSENGER: Yes, so, your -- thank you for the new gig. I appreciate that.
So, yes, so five years ago, I had received a tip, like most new stories happen. This tip was from a former Marine who had served on the Boxer. And she said her and her friends were experiencing these health issues from fuel getting into the water supply on the USS Boxer.
But the problem that they were having was, there was a lack of documentation for this incident ever occurring. So, because there was a lack of documentation on this, they couldn't file a claim with the VA to get their ailments covered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
So, in June of 2018, I started my first interviews. I started interviewing members of the Boxer. And I filed my first Freedom of Information Act request to the Navy trying to find records. And since, 2018, the Navy has said there are no records to prove that this mishap happened.
So, because there's no records, the Navy couldn't say that this ever occurred.
KEILAR: You explain in the story that part of that is because there was some sort of software update, and there's a bunch of e-mails that just don't exist that may have shown something about this.
But there are some printed-out evidence -- there is some printed-out evidence of what happened that at least one person saved. In response to your reporting, the Navy admitted that, yes, there was fuel in the ship's water system.
They also said, in part: "USS Boxer's leadership and crew took immediate and appropriate measures to restrict access to the ship's potable water. After conducting a thorough flush and inspection of the ship's potable water system, fresh water was restored."
Is that what you're reporting found, Jim?
LAPORTA: That's correct.
So, a couple of things there. So, I still don't understand how the Navy is concluding that this event occurred. So, they're admitting that it occurred, but, since 2018, they have told me there's no records on it, so, therefore, they can't say that it occurred.
So, I'm not sure if they're just taking my word.