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Democrats Accused Republicans of Using Migrants; Trump's Legal Team Approved of Special Master; Mourners Don't Mind Waiting in Line for Hours; Wales Don't Want King of Prince to Rule Them; Mass Graves Found in Liberated Izium; U.N. Watch Dog Want Russians Out of Zaporizhzhia; Pomp and Circumstance Not New to Royal Family; Rail Workers Agreed to a Temporary Deal; Tropical Storm Fiona May Cause Flooding. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired September 16, 2022 - 03:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to all of you watching us around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber in Atlanta.

A massive humanitarian effort is underway at this hour. Two planes full of migrants land in a Massachusetts vacation spot with no warning as locals and officials struggle to cope. Some are calling it a political stunt.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR: Hi. I'm Becky Anderson in London for you where thousands of people are patiently waiting their turn queuing up for hours just to get a glimpse of the queen's casket.

BRUNHUBER: The Republican governors of several U.S. states appear to believe that the way to deal with immigration is to send those migrants somewhere else, far away. Florida's governor is taking credit for sending two charter planes of Venezuelan migrants to Martha's Vineyard, the wealthy enclave off Massachusetts.

Authorities there say they had no warning and are scrambling to get the migrants sheltered and fed. Critics are denouncing the move as a cruel political stunt. It's a near identical situation in Washington, D.C., the governor of Texas and buses of migrants to the nation's capital, dropping them off outside Vice President Kamala Harris's official residence. Here's what the mayor had to say.


MAYOR MURIEL BOWSER (D-WA): We're not a border town. We don't have a infrastructure to handle this type of in a level of immigration to our city.


BRUNHUBER: Now since the start of the year, Texas has sent more than 8,000 people to Washington, 2,500 to New York, and about 600 to Chicago. Arizona's governor has bused some 1,800 migrants to Washington.

Federal, state, and local authorities are coordinating to arrange longer term support and resources for the migrants who arrived in Massachusetts Wednesday.

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez has more.


PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN REPORTER: Dozens of migrants are set to spend the night on Martha's Vineyard, sent there by Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis as part of his promise to send migrants to Democratic cities.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Our message to them is we are not a sanctuary state and it's better to be able to go to a sanctuary jurisdiction. And yes, we will help facilitate that transport for you to be able to go to greener pastures.

ALVAREZ: On Wednesday, the Republican governor sent 50 migrants all from Venezuela on two privately chartered airplanes to Martha's Vineyard, a small island off the coast of Massachusetts.

DESANTIS: Every community in America should be sharing in the burdens.

ALVAREZ: But municipal officials and lawmakers said they received no advanced notice of the migrants' arrival, and scrambled to respond.

REP. BILL KEATING (D-MA): They would take in totally off guard. Private chartered plane evidently there were two, not cheap.

ALVAREZ: The flights are in a front to the Biden administration over its handling of the U.S.- Mexico border. Over the last several weeks, Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey have sent thousands of migrants out of state, an effort that's cost them millions of dollars.

Just this morning, a hundred more migrants arrived by bus from Texas and were dropped off in front of Vice President Kamala Harris's home at the Naval observatory. In a tweet, Abbott criticized Harris' claim that the border is secure. Democrats though, were calling the actions of political stunt.

KEATING: Two Republican governors, one who was using taxpayer money for chartered jets and reportedly his own video photographer to capture this for his own political benefit, taking advantage of women and children, men who didn't know where they were going.

ALVAREZ: Immigrant advocates in Florida are also condemning DeSantis's actions.

MARIA CORINA VEGA, COMMUNITY COORDINATOR, AMERICAN BUSINESS IMMIGRATION COALITION: This shameless action hoisted upon our defenseless people, fleeing persecution, and violence is a mere political ploy in his quest for power. And won't go unnoticed. ALVAREZ: And the people at the center of this all are seeking asylum

in the United States sharing stories about the treacherous journey to the border.

UNKNOWN (through translator): Only the bus left us here, and now they didn't tell us where we were, but they left us here. It's very difficult to bring the child here. It's eight days of jungle, through the Darien jungle, something extremely difficult.


ALVAREZ: There were three options he says, Washington, Utah, here, Massachusetts, whatever was available. The plane left and brought us here. While DeSantis sees the flights as a solution.

DESANTIS: We've worked on innovative ways to be able to protect the state of Florida from the impact of Biden's border policies.

ALVAREZ: Others do not.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The fact that the -- that Fox News and not the Department of Homeland Security, the city or local NGOs were alerted about a plan to leave migrants, including children on the side of a busy D.C. Street makes clear that this is just a cool premeditated political stunt.


ALVAREZ (on camera): We've also learned that the flights that arrived in Martha's Vineyard originated in Texas, and it's unclear whether anyone boarded in Florida. The Biden administration is condemning the Florida governor's actions.

And in a statement, the Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said, quote, "failure to coordinate is irresponsible and creates unsafe conditions for vulnerable migrants, as well as receiving jurisdictions."

Republican governors, however are not standing down.

Priscilla Alvarez, CNN, Miami.


BRUNHUBER: Now, despite those unannounced arrivals, the Democratic state lawmaker who represents Martha's Vineyard says the community is working together to provide food, water, and shelter for the migrants. He also had some harsh words for the Florida governor. Listen to this.


STATE REP. DYLAN FERNANDES (D-MA): Think about the governor of Florida. So, one of the largest states in the nation spending his time hatching a secret plot to ship up 50 immigrant -- immigrants here, families, children as young as four, and use them as political pawns, just so he could get on Tucker Carlson and beat his chest about his tough -- about how he is tough on immigration.

He is a coward. And the real story here is about the island community that has rallied to come together to support these people. They represent the best of what America has to offer.


BRUNHUBER: The state's emergency management agency is helping coordinate volunteer efforts.

All right. Now, to the FBI search of Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate. A federal judge has appointed a special master to review all the material seized from the former president's home. But part of her ruling is sure to draw an appeal from the Justice Department.

CNN's Sara Murray has details.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: A special master chosen to sift through the thousands of documents the FBI sees from their search in Mar-a-Lago in August. Judge Raymond Dearie, he's a senior judge from the Eastern District of Brooklyn was chosen for this task. He was a name that was put forward by the Trump team, but one that the Justice Department also agreed to.

Now this comes as Judge Aileen Cannon said she is not going to allow the Justice Department to resume their criminal review of the classified documents that were seized from Mar-a-Lago. She basically says in her ruling, she's not just going to take the government at their word that these documents were classified.

Obviously, we've seen the Trump team argue that the former president has the ability to declassify documents. She also said she didn't believe that there would be irreparable harm caused by pressing pause on this investigation or this part of the investigation. Saying first, there has been no actual suggestion by the government of any identifiable emergency or imminent disclosure of classified information arising from plaintiffs, allegedly unlawful retention of the seized property instead. And unfortunately, the unwarranted disclosures that float in the background have been leaks to the media after the underlying seizure.

Now the special master has until November 30th to complete his work. But of course, we are also waiting to see if the Justice Department appeals this ruling.

Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.

BRUNHUBER: And I'll have much more from the CNN center in just a few minutes, but first let's go to Becky Anderson in London. Becky?

ANDERSON: Thank you. And the long-awaited details of Queen Elizabeth's funeral have now been made public and it promises to be one of the most elaborate events ever held in British history.

On Friday, King Charles will be joined by his younger sister and two brothers at a silent vigil at the queen's coffin in Westminster Hall, which is in the palace of Westminster behind me here, where mourners have been streaming through by the thousands since late on Wednesday.

Now senior royals have also been traveling across the country during this time. Prince and Princess of Wales visited with well wishes at the royal residents of Sandringham in Norfolk.

And Princess Anne received a royal welcome in Glasgow in Scotland, where she greeted members of the public and viewed a floral tribute to her late mother.


Well, on Sunday, King Charles will host a royal reception at Buckingham Palace for the many foreign dignitaries who are invited to Monday's funeral. King Charles and the queen consort to visit Wales today for the first time as sovereign.

CNN's Nina dos Santos standing by in Cardiff. First, let's get to Nada Bashir who's been meeting with people waiting to get into Westminster Hall to view the queen's coffin.

And as I understand it, the queue some four miles long or six kilometers long snaking along the river Thames. You are close to the end or the beginning of that queue as it were, but what are people there telling you?

NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Becky. The queue is actually nearing five miles now. So, it has actually gone up since we arrived here a little earlier this morning. And the wait time right now is about 11 and a half hours. So, this certainly isn't for the faint hearted, it is quite cold and you're not actually allowed to bring very big bags with you.

So, people don't have many suppliers with them to keep them going overnight. But the message we've been hearing from so many people up and down this queue is that this is the moment that they did not want to miss a moment of history. And of course, it is a huge security operation, a huge organizational operation for the authorities here in London.

You can see behind me we've got stewards police, a first-aid center right here. There are security searches along the way too. According to authorities more than a thousand volunteers, stewards and metropolitan police officers have been deployed across this part of central London in order to aid this process of a long queue, a long wait to go and pay their respects to the queen who's currently lying in state just across the river in the palace of Westminster.

And we've been speaking to people up and down the queue, many of themselves they've been waiting for hours. How long have you been waiting for this morning?

UNKNOWN: About right now, nine hours.

UNKNOWN: Nine hours so far. Yes. We entered the queue around 11 p.m. and, yes, we were expecting about nine hours total, but I guess going to be like a couple more, but we made friends. It's been great. Like the whole experience was --


UNKNOWN: We are from Brazil, actually.


UNKNOWN: Yes, so we came all the way from there just, you know, to pay our respect.

BASHIR: So, you came specifically to pay your respect to the queen from Brazil?

UNKNOWN: Yes. That's what we did. Yes. Yes.

BASHIR: This is a moment you didn't want to miss.

UNKNOWN: No, no. It's like, you know, living a part of history. I want to tell the story to my grandkids for sure.

BASHIR: And how important is it, do you think to pay your respects to the queen? I mean, was she important figure to you?

UNKNOWN: Yes, I'm crazy about history specifically. I like the riches history a lot. And for me, she's an icon. You know, and we are never going to see in our lifetime a lady like her. So, it -- for me, it's really important to be here and be a part of the story.

BASHIR: And I mean, a lot of people have told us, they like, yes, like yourselves you've made friends, but it is quite cold and you're not allowed to bring a lot of things with you, as I understand it. Have you been coping through the night.

UNKNOWN: Yes, it was -- it was too bad. You know, we came -- she came actually prepared, globes and everything.


UNKNOWN: But you know, the whole thing is important to say that, you know, the trail was nice. We got to see a lot of the city and then yes, we made really nice group of friends over there. So, it definitely made it easier. And yes.

BASHIR: Well, thank you so much. Good luck with the rest when you get in.

UNKNOWN: Thank you.

BASHIR: And this really is what we've been hearing from people up and down this queue, Becky, a lot of them have made friends along the way that you are keeping upbeat. Many of them, of course not wanting to miss this moment of history. Becky?

ANDERSON: Absolutely. Nada Bashir, who is in amongst people in that queue. Some of those who get to the front in what five, nine, 10, 11 hours' time may get a chance to see the queen's children holding vigil over that coffin in the hours to come later on today. That will include King Charles III, who ahead of that will be in Wales today.

And that is where our Nina dos Santos is standing by. Nina?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, thanks so much, Becky. Well, this is the final stop on that tour of all four corners of the United Kingdom by the new king, Charles. He's already been in Scotland and also Northern Ireland. These are the devolved nations inside the broader country and nation of the United Kingdom.

But Wales is a very sensitive part of the U.K., particularly for British royals because of its crucial role here in the line of succession.


DOS SANTOS (voice-over): Tributes for Queen Elizabeth are everywhere to be seen across Wales as one of the countries that makes up the United Kingdom, Wales has played a special role in the royal succession. And yet it's part in the monarchy's future remains an open question.


By tradition, the heir to the British throne is formally titled the Prince of Wales. It's a relic of the medieval game of thrones between England and Wales as the English crown looked to control its Welsh rivals throughout the Middle Ages.

This heritage still resonates in Wales, a country with its own language, its own national identity and its history of resistance to English rule.


DOS SANTOS: So, in 1969, when Prince Charles was to be officially crowned the prince of Wales, there were fears he could face embarrassment. Just 20 years old and with a flimsy knowledge of Wales's culture, Charles was sent to University College Aberystwyth for a crash course in the Welsh language.

EMYR LEWIS, PROFESSOR OF LAW & CRIMINOLOGY, ABERYSTWYTH UNIVERSITY: There was a desire to use the unifying appeal to the royal family as a way of diverting attention and support away from people who saw the future for Wales as lying outside the United Kingdom.

DOS SANTOS: At the service with Queen Elizabeth at his side, Charles spoke first in Welsh.


DOS SANTOS: Then in English, pledging his service to the people.

KING CHARLES: I am more than grateful to the people of this principality for making my brief stay so immensely worthwhile,

DOS SANTOS: It was a warmly received speech and a pivotal moment in the young Prince's life.

Back then, Welch nationalists were mainly activists and academics, but today they're in government, in Wales's own parliament, the Senate. After the death of the queen, the leader of Plaid Cymru, the nationalist party said that the monarchy's future in an independent Wales should be decided by the people. His predecessor put it more bluntly saying Wales has no need for a prince.

The Welsh public, however, are less scathing. A survey in March from Cardiff University said 55 percent of Welsh people believe Britain should continue to have a monarchy.

JAMES GRIFFITHS, RESEARCH ASSOCIATE, WALES ELECTION STUDY: There is a lot of tacit consent for the monarchy in Wales. They might not like what's happening. They might not like some of the money that the money that they get, but they are willing to continue to accept the status quo.

DOS SANTOS: As the line of succession moves along the title of prince of Wales now falls to the new heir, Prince William, who says he's honored to serve the Welsh people. William already has a long association with Wales. As a royal air force pilot, he was stationed on the Welsh island of Anglesey. And it was there that he made his first family home with Kate Middleton after the birth of their son, Prince George.

For now, the Welsh people will pause in this moment of grief and ponder the future ahead.


DOS SANTOS (on camera): Well, later today in about three hours' time, we're expecting the king and his queen consort to arrive in Cardiff. First, they'll take part in a ceremony of reflection and prayer in honor of his late mother at Llandaff Cathedral here in Cardiff before moving on the Senate, the Welsh Parliament. And eventually the day will culminate in the early afternoon for them in Wales here at Cardiff -- Cardiff Castle where as you can see people have already started to line up.

This may also, Becky, be the site of a silent protest after 25,000 people across Wales already in the last week have signed a petition saying that it's time there should no longer be a prince of Wales from the monarchy. Back to you.

ANDERSON: Nina dos Santos is in Wales.

And the new prince and princess of Wales took a look at the floral tributes outside. The Norwich Gate at Sandringham estate. That's one of the royal estates loved in the past by Queen Elizabeth II. He will have first spent many holidays there.

Back of this paper simply says, don't cry now, you'll start me. One of the -- one of the things, --one of the exchanges that Prince William had with one of the well wishes, he also talked about how walking behind the queen's coffin had reminded him of his late mother's funeral.

Well, I'll be back later in the program. First, an update on other news for you with Kim Brunhuber, including the claim of a horrific discovery in Ukraine following a Russian retreat in the northeast. That is ahead here on CNN. Do stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: We're seeing our first images of an alleged new mass burial site discovered in northeastern Ukraine. The country's defense ministry says it's located in the city of Izium which was liberated from Russia last weekend. The ministry says it contains at least 440 unmarked graves. Now CNN doesn't know who was buried there or how they died.

But President Zelenskyy says Ukraine will provide more information on Friday when the media will be allowed to go to the city. And he was quick to point the finger at Russia.

Meanwhile, Russian officials are accusing Ukraine of striking a city across the border. They say one civilian was killed and two others or wounded overnight in the city near Belgorod. The strike reportedly also disrupted the power supply.

In Washington, the U.S. says it's sending another $600 million worth of weapons and ammunition to Ukraine. But the package doesn't include longer range tactical missiles for the HIMARS systems Ukraine has already received.


And while in Vienna, the board of the U.N. nuclear watchdog has voted to request that Russian troops leave the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. That's according to Polish officials at the International Atomic Energy Agency, which didn't publish the results of the vote yet.

Ukraine has been demanding a demilitarization of the plant and says the vote proved it was right.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): In an important IAEA resolution was adopted today, a resolution demanding that Russia sees all actions against the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant at the plant itself. At any other nuclear facility in Ukraine, although international organizations are often limited in their ability to react, we can see that the IAEA clearly identifies the source of radiation danger, namely the Russian military presence at the Zaporizhzhia plant.


BRUNHUBER: So, for more on all this we're joined by journalist and author Nataliya Guyemyuk. She works with a number of Ukrainian media outlets and is the founder of a Public Interest Journalism Lab. And she's speaking to us from Berlin.

Thanks so much for being here with us.

I want to start with those horrific images. We're just getting now the mass grave in Izium. I want to get your reaction to what's becoming a scenario that's all too familiar for Ukraine, is retaking towns from Russian troops and finding evidence of possible war crimes.

NATALIYA GUMENYUK, UKRAINIAN JOURNALIST: So, that's unfortunately isn't neither shock nor surprise to us. I, myself, within the reckoning project I worked document the war crimes in Ukraine and for the last half a year, you know, looking at the cases like this in the liberated villages.

If we're speaking about these new liberated territories, for instance, there is a town nearby the first, which was liberated Balakliya, you know, I received the records from the people fleeing Balakliya in March. So for me, I've been waiting for months to see what's happening and what we found out, for instance, from the -- from the photos that there was a torture chamber and Lord Prayers carved on the walls of this torture chamber.

If you speak about this mass grave in Izium, we know also that at least a few dozens of them out of the Ukrainian military. I'm for months is following the Facebook group, where people are searching the people who are, you know, who died in Izium, including the soldiers where the wife was writing like, my soldier in the battle is lost somewhere there.

So, it's not at all anything new for us. But, for me, it's also the sign why it's so critical. There is momentum and it's true that the Russians are surprised. The west is surprised by how fast is Ukrainian advance. And honestly, even I think Ukrainian army didn't expect that already within the 10 days they can regain the territory of 8,000 kilometers, square kilometers, whether around 300 tanks.

So, this momentum is important because any day there is a chance to free and liberate another 10 towns, another 10 towns. And that's of course, very much depends on, you know, what resources Ukraine has.


GUMENYUK: We understand it's not a final victory.

BRUNHUBER: Let me --


GUMENYUK: But every moment matters.

BRUNHUBER: Let me just jump in. Let me just jump in, if I could, because I wanted to ask you, you know, beyond sort of, what we're seeing in terms of what you've talked about the Russians taking possibly civilian lives. they're also, trying to destroy civilian infrastructure in the wake of their retreats. Power and water.

Is that one of the biggest dangers now, especially given the weather will be getting a lot colder in a month or two.

GUMENYUK: Absolutely. Just at the moment of the, you know, success of the country offense. I was talking to one of the Ukrainian senior military, they are very cautious about talking to journalists, so I won't tell the name. But I was asking exactly these questions. What the concerns and they said -- and he said the attacks on the civilian infrastructure which Ukraine, waited -- waited for the end of winter.

So far, Russia, you know, did it partially. But we look -- we think that there was a hope of the Russians to still overtake some of the towns so they would need this infrastructure. And especially now it feels like they don't need it.

So, the day after the, you know, the first major success on the September 11th, there was attack on the Kharkiv electric power -- power grid. So, it left the city for a couple of days without the electricity, which means without water.

It was all restored but we treated as a test. Later in February, a town I've been which a major town in the south, there was attack on the dam. So, there was some flood but the authorities managed to deal with that. So, it's really the Russian response, the attacks on the civilian infrastructure.

BRUNHUBER: Yes. So, with that, I mean, you know, the loss of lives that we talked about, but despite all of this. With the -- the speed and success of the counteroffensive. It must be leading to a greater sense of hope these days.


I mean, you yourself have written about the joy of liberation that you're seeing now. What is the mood now in Ukraine?

GUMENYUK: So indeed, it's not about Kharkiv, it's national, you know. It's about everybody. There was, you know, confidence that Ukraine is able to defend its towns, but it felt like the Ukrainian states duty to liberate this villages and towns from this horror of the occupation.

And, you know, we knew that the toll would be high, in terms of the soldiers, who might die during these attacks. So now the fact, it's not still easy and the price had been paid, but still, it's a bit more than Ukrainians expected.

But what's also important, I, in the interviews like this, I was asked so much for the last month as about, you know, this attrition war and the Ukraine's fatigue and that it would be very long and it's impossible. So, I think for the west, it was critical to see that.

Just here now I'm in Berlin. I had a chance yesterday to listen to at the event to the Chancellor Scholz and, you know, the Germany is the country Ukrainians also rely a lot on. And you know, it was important also that this moment also made Germans, you know, feel like, OK, something good is happening. It's -- some, maybe the support should be provided because there is a reason why it should provide it because there are other results. It's not just theoretical.


GUMENYUK: So, I do think it's a major change.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, absolutely. Well, listen, we'll have to leave it there, but thank you so much for your perspective, Nataliya Gumenyuk. I really appreciate it.


BRUNHUBER: Well, after the break, our Becky Anderson picks up our coverage from London. She'll speak with a historian about the history, the pomp and the pageantry of the queen's funeral. Please do stay with us.



BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR: Well, thousands upon thousands of people are currently moving slowly in a line snaking nearly five miles along the river Thames to Westminster Hall, which is in the Palace of Westminster behind me here in London, for a chance to view the queen's coffin before her funeral.

And this is the scene right now where the late monarch is lying in state inside that hall until Monday morning. Well, this evening, the king and his younger siblings, his brothers and sisters will hold a silent vigil by their mother's coffin.

Up to 2,000 foreign dignitaries are expected to attend the queen's funeral and will be hosted by King Charles at a reception on Sunday.

Well, a live tracker of that queue to get inside showing it's currently what, 4.9 miles long, that's over six kilometers with an estimated wait time of more than 11 hours.

Well, joining me now from Colchester in England is Dr. Estelle Paranque, historian in queenship, royal, and diplomatic studies. What a title that is, and the author of "Blood, Fire, and Gold: The Story of Elizabeth I and Catherine de' Medici."

Thank you for joining us. Let's talk about the pageantry that we've been seeing here. My colleague, Stephen Collinson writes, and I quote him here, "to outsiders, the pomp of Queen Elizabeth's death rites might seem like the puffy of a long-lost empire." He goes on to say, it serves the purpose of showing the strength of the state though, as quote, "the continuity represented by Elizabeth is passed onto a successor in an unbroken chain that lasted for 1,000 years."

You couldn't be better placed to talk about the importance of the optics that we are seeing here. Just explain.

ESTELLE PARANQUE, HISTORIAN IN QUEENSHIP, ROYAL, AND DIPLOMATIC STUDIES: Thank you so very much for having me. And indeed, the part of funeral, the ceremony in all of this is so important for the monarchy as an institution. For example, Elizabeth I, who obviously really know her reign well, had a magni -- magnificent procession for her own funeral.

And what's very interesting for me is to see that even in modern times and in, you know, early modern times, we have very strong similarities. For example, like Elizabeth I, the Chronicler John (Inaudible), remember that the crowd, the people gathered around wanted to see the procession of her last journey to Westminster Abbey.

She was taken from Whitehall to Westminster Abbey, and there was like the crowd weeping, crying. You could see that the whole country was in grief. And he actually recalled that it was the first time that it was done that way and that no other man had ever known such a crowd for themself for their own death.

And I think from Elizabeth I, when you look at history and how the funerals of other monarchs, Queen Victoria, Edward VII. So Elizabeth II's grandfather, we have also very strong similarities of the way things were done. But as you said, it's the last procession for monarch is the way to kind of like, you know, pass the baton to the next monarch, the continuity of monarchy.

But what we're seeing here is also a country in grief, a country that's just lost an important part of their national identity.



PARANQUE: From Elizabeth II was so important for that.

ANDERSON: You are an historian of the royal family. And clearly, as you are explaining here, what we are seeing harkens back across the 1,000 years of this monarchy, there may be people watching us this morning who say, we understand that this happened in the past and over the years, but maybe quite surprised to see this continuity of effort.

And in fact, as we've been explaining, the events of Monday, the funeral will be one of the biggest events ever to happen in this country as it were, not by in terms of people, but just in terms of its significance. Does what we are seeing today surprise you, surprise you that this, that we are seeing this continuity.

PARANQUE: Actually, it doesn't surprise me at all. The British people, I mean, we do have into royalist in this country and there is some legitimate questions about the monarchy itself, but I think that it's not surprising in terms that the monarchy is one important component of the British national identity that we like it or not.

And I think that Elizabeth II, especially when you look at so many people rallying around her shows that, you know, she was extremely popular despite all controversies around her reign she remained a very popular character, a very popular personality.

And I think that's why this event, you're right to mention that is the biggest one. You have so many people. It's also because we are in the modern world. It's also because we are social media and people can, you know, express their own feelings much better than they could back in the day of Elizabeth I, for example, or even Victoria. We're in a different era.

But I think here it's so interesting to see that in many ways, it looks as if the monarchy has never been that strong. And what interests me --


PARANQUE: It might it be as well because like, you know, the world we live in. We, you know, there's the war in Ukraine. There was Brexit, there were so many things that were tearing people apart. And in some ways, Elizabeth II, the continuity with Charles III is a way of gathering around something again all together despite our differences. And I think that's why it's such a big event in, you know, in it today and in British society.

ANDERSON: Indeed. And the planning for this of course has been in the offing for years and years and years. Estelle, it's good to have you. Thank you.

PARANQUE: Thank you.

ANDERSON: for your perspective for hugely important. Estelle Paranque there.

PARANQUE: Thank you so much.

ANDERSON: I'll be back next hour.

Coming up though, before that my colleague Kim Brunhuber will have an update on two Americans locked up in a -- in Russian prisons as their families get new assurances from the Biden administration about efforts to secure their freedom. That's after this.



BRUNHUBER: Welcome back. In the coming hours U.S. President Joe Biden is set to meet for the first time with family members of two Americans imprisoned in Russia. The U.S. has been working on a deal to swap a convicted Russian arms dealer for women's basketball star Brittney Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan.

CNN's Kylie Atwood has the latest.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, senior administration official is giving sort of a status update on these ongoing Biden administration negotiations with Russia to try and secure the release of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan saying that there has been movement but not a breakthrough, indicating there has been back and forth, but also saying that the Biden administration has encouraged Russia to put a serious counter offer on the table, but they haven't done that.

Instead, what they have done is repeatedly demanded for something that the Biden administration is not capable of delivering on. That's how a senior administration official described it.

Now, of course, this comes as President Biden is meeting on Friday with the wife of Brittney Griner, Cherelle Griner, and the sister of Paul Whelan, Elizabeth Whelan. These two families have both been pressing the White House for this meeting for -- with President Biden for quite some time.

And so, it is significant that he is meeting with them, but the White House is not indicating that there is any major breakthrough that he will present to these families.

Kylie Atwood, CNN, the State Department.

BRUNHUBER: Well, a sigh of relief for U.S. consumers, a rail strike that would've been disastrous for the U.S. economy has been avoided. The tentative last-minute deal between labor unions and railroad management was reached Thursday.

Just hours before the strike was set to begin U.S. President Joe Biden, whose administration played a major role in the talks praise this deal. Here he is.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This agreement allows us to continue to rebuild a better America with an economy that truly works for working people and their families. Today is a win. I mean it sincerely, a win for America. So, I want to thank you all for getting this done.


BRUNHUBER: The agreement is tentative and has to get the green light from union rank and file. But union leaders say that shouldn't be a problem.


Well, in Northern California wildfires continue to burn mostly uncontained, laying waste to homes and infrastructure. We get the details next. Stay with us.


BRUNHUBER: Tropical storm warnings are now up for some of the Leeward Islands as a watch has been issued for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as tropical storm Fiona gains strength in the Atlantic. The storm has sustained winds of 60 miles an hour and is expected to strengthen. Flash flooding and mudslides are possible with some areas expected to receive up to 10 inches of rain.

[03:55:03] And wildfires continue to burn across parts of California. The Mosquito fire has now burned more than 67,000 acres, and it's only 20 percent contained. Firefighters say they're making good progress, but the eastern side of the blaze is still expanding. Cooler temperatures and some rain are expected over the weekend leaving officials hopeful the wet weather will help slow the fire.

All right. That wraps this hour of CNN Newsroom. I'm Kim Brunhuber. I'll be back in just a moment with more news along with Becky Anderson, live in London. Please do stay with us.