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CNN International: Ron DeSantis Preparing to Launch Presidential Campaign; Teacher Under Fire for Showing Film with Gay Character; Trump's Influence Tested in Kentucky Republican Governor's Race. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired May 16, 2023 - 04:30   ET



JAMES OLSON, FORMER CHIEF OF COUNTERINTELLIGENCE, CIA: You have an opportunity now to do it safely.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): CIA officials told CNN they hope the video will resonate beyond intelligence and security officials with people who may not realize that they have sensitive information to share working, for example, in cyber, tech, finance and other fields. They may think contacting the CIA is too difficult or too dangerous. The CIA telling CNN they want to demystify that.

OLSON: We need people through the Russian economy to cooperate with us. We need to know what's going on in this adversary country.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): There is no direct mention of Putin or Ukraine, nor CIA officials insist is it meant to fuel unrest in Russia. Rather, they tell CNN, these are timeless themes that they hope will drive Russians into the arms of the CIA.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): This will always be my Russia. I will endure. My family will endure, we will live with dignity, thanks to my actions.

MARQUARDT: In terms of what the CIA has already seen in their efforts to recruit new Russian spies during this war, they do say that they have been successful. One CIA official told me in his words there's contact coming in.

Now, CIA won't give any numbers or say where these Russians work, but the CIA said they wouldn't be rolling out this new video if they hadn't already had some success.

We should also note that the FBI has tried to recruiting Russian spies right here in Washington with ads specifically targeted at people coming and going from the Russian embassy, an effort that the embassy called ridiculous.

Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, just ahead, it appears the 2024 Republican presidential field is about to get bigger and the candidate might be Donald Trump's biggest challenger yet as well.

Plus, Florida's culture clash reaches a fifth-grade classroom after a parent complained a teacher showed an animated Disney film with a gay character.


FOSTER: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Max Foster. If you're just joining us, let me bring you up to date with the top stories this hour.

In a few hours, the U.S. president will host another round of debt ceiling negotiations at the White House with top Congressional leaders. But House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says he's pessimistic is deal can be reached before the June 1st deadline.

And a special counsel appointed during the Trump administration has released his findings about the FBI's Trump/Russia probe. He concluded the FBI did not have enough evidence to launch a full-blown investigation and connections between Trump's 2016 campaign and Russia.

Two sources tell CNN that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is preparing to launch his 2024 presidential campaign before the end of the month. He has been widely expected to enter the Republican primary. On Monday he criticized his party's recent track record at winning elections.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): The party has developed a culture of losing. I think that there is no accountability and I think in Florida we really showed what it takes to not just win, win big, and then deliver big. What results are you producing for people? That is really what matters. You can sit there and talk about cable news, social media, all these other things that people are fixated on. How are you going to be able to actually bring about big change to make people's lives better?


FOSTER: DeSantis has been seen as former president Trump's biggest challenger. Inside the party he would enter the race with as much money if not more than anyone in the field who isn't Trump. But concerns remain amongst DeSantis donors and supporters over his willingness to take on the former president.

Meanwhile, Governor DeSantis has signed a bill defunding diversity, equity and inclusion programs at all state universities in Florida. The new law also bars public universities from spending state or federal funds on programs that promote social or political activism and demand that courses not include a curriculum that teaches identity politics. DeSantis signed the bill at New College of Florida, where he placed conservative political allies on the school's board of trustees earlier this year.

And the Florida governor's cultural crusade against issues of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools is having ripple effects. A fifth-grade teacher in the state says she's under investigation for showing her class an animated Disney movie featuring a character who is biracial and gay. The parent who reported her also happens to be on the local school board. CNN's Isabel Rosales has more.


ISABEL ROSALES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): First year Florida teacher Jenna Barbee is under fire for showing her fifth-grade class a Disney movie, "Strange World."


ROSALES (voice-over): Her intent, she says, was to teach the class about the environment. The film features a family of explorers banding together to navigate the world.

JENNA BARBEE, TEACHER UNDER INVESTIGATION BY FLORIDA DEPT. OF EDUCATION: So, I thought that that was such a beautiful message to send to my kids along with working together, chasing your dreams, compassion.

ROSALES (voice-over): Instead, it led to the ire of a school board member, Shannon Rodriguez, also a parent of one of Barbie's students.

SHANNON RODRIGUEZ, REPORTED TEACHER TO FLORIDA DEPT. OF EDUCATION: I'm not going to stand by and allow this minority to infiltrate our schools. God did put me here.

ROSALES (voice-over): And Barbee says that triggered an investigation from the Florida Department of Education. Barbee showed CNN this letter, she says is from the state, saying, this office has determined an investigation is warranted into allegations that you engaged in inappropriate conduct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE DISNEY CHARACTER, "STRANGE WORLD": You must be Diazo. He talks about you all the time.


ROSALES (voice-over): Strange World features a gay character, and may violate Florida's Parental Rights and Education Act, signed into law last year by Governor Ron DeSantis. The controversial bill bans certain instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms.

Fernando County Schools sent this announcement home to parents. While not the main plot of the movie, parts of the story involves a male character having and expressing feelings for another male character. In the future, this movie will not be shown.

The school district confirmed to CNN the state is investigating Barbee. Rodriguez claimed Barbie broke school policy because she did not get the specific movie approved by school administration.

RODRIGUEZ: It is not a teacher's job to impose their beliefs upon a child. Religious, sexual orientation, gender identity, any of the above. But allowing movies such as this assist teachers in opening a door -- and please hear me. They assist teachers in opening a door for conversations that have no place in our classrooms.


ROSALES (voice-over): Barbee insists she did follow the rules, telling CNN every child had a previously signed permission slip from their parent, approving for PG movies to be shown in the classroom.

BARBEE: Nobody had a process in place where individual movies got approved. Now that I have this situation happen, there's a whole process in place where you have to get every single movie approved with a letter to admins to the parents back.

ROSALES (voice-over): Teachers who violate the Florida parental rights bill can be suspended or have their teaching licenses revoked.

BARBEE: I don't want them to terminate me right now.

ROSALES (voice-over): Isabel Rosales, CNN, Atlanta.


FOSTER: Sheriff deputies say this woman was trying to look pregnant so she could hide illegal drugs in a fake pregnancy belly. Their first clue was when the couple disagreed over the due date during a traffic stop in South Carolina. The woman took off running. Police say cocaine started falling out of her fake belly -- 1,500 grams to be exact. Both suspects are being held without bond on drug charges.

Now we've all head kids say the dog ate my homework, but police say a driver in Colorado took things to another level blaming his dog for a DUI. Apparently when the guy was stopped for speeding, cops say he tried to switch places with his dog who was in the passenger seat. Then he got out of the car, claimed he wasn't driving, tried to run and of course didn't make it far. Police say the man was clearly intoxicated. He faces several charges. The dog meanwhile was given to the man's friend with just a warning.

Still ahead, Republican voters to the polls in -- go to the polls in Kentucky today to choose their candidate for governor. And Donald Trump's endorsement could tip the scales there.


FOSTER: The polls open in just a few hours of primary elections in Kentucky and Donald Trump's name is not on the ballot but his power is being put to the test in a contentious Republican governor's race. CNN's Eva McCann reports.



EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER (voice-over): Republicans in the blue glass state heading to the polls Tuesday to pick a nominee to take on the Democratic Governor Andy Beshear in a race that's testing former President Donald Trump's influence with GOP voters.


MCKEND: State Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a former staffer for Senator Mitch McConnell and a rising star in the party after his 2020 Republican Convention speech.

CAMERON: That's why I am voting for Donald Trump for president.

MCKEND (voice-over): Cameron is considered a top contender along with Kelly Craft who served who served as Trump's ambassador to Canada and later the United Nations.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much, Daniel, you're doing fantastically well.

MCKEND (voice-over): But Trump has endorsed Cameron. Joining him in a tele rally Sunday night

TRUMP: I have no doubt that he will be a fantastic governor.

MCKEND (voice-over): The endorsement resulting in bitter barbs traded between the two candidates.

CAMERON: I got the endorsement and your team has been scrambling ever since.

MCKEND (voice-over): And in TV ads.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Only one candidate for governor has been endorsed by President Trump.

MCKEND (voice-over): While Craft is focusing in on Cameron's ties to McConnell.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My opponent, a career politician who would rather follow than lead.

MCKEND (voice-over): And his handling over the Breonna Taylor case. Allowing the Justice Department to investigate Louisville's police department.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They failed Kentucky's law enforcement.

MCKEND (voice-over): Craft who is the wife of a billionaire coal magnet has loaned her campaign more than $9 million. While Cameron has raised a total of nearly $1.5 million.

PENNY GERTING, KENTUCKY VOTER: They are both cutting each other's throat. That's what I think. MCKEND: And you don't like that.

GERTING: No. No, they're slandering each other.

MCKEND (voice-over): Cameron has focused on a law-and-order message and would make history as the first Black Republican governor elected in the U.S.

MCKEND: Why do you think that you are best suited to take on Governor Beshear?

CAMERON: We've seen a governor who has sat idly by as the far left has tried to move into our state. We need to have a governor that says enough and will stand up for the values of Kentucky.

MCKEND (voice-over): Craft has centered her campaign on cultural war clashes.

KELLY CRAFT, KENTUCKY REPUBLICAN GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: We have to take woke not only out of our education but out of our government, a lot of our family, out of our businesses.

MCKEND (voice-over): Agricultural Commissioner, Ryan Quarles, has focused his campaign on rural areas of Kentucky.

RYAN QUARLES, KENTUCKY REPUBLICAN GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Let me be the candidate that unites our state.

MCKEND (voice-over): Hoping to win over voters who may be turned off by Craft and Cameron's Trump fueled fight.

TRES WATSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Our politics is local. That's kind of a test here. Can you still run a campaign in the state talking about local issues, running a very localized campaign and win? Or have we entered an era in politics where if you are running for local office you have to have a position on the Ukraine.

MCKEND: And the challenge for all of these candidates is really getting Kentuckians to vote. Typically, in this state gubernatorial primaries are low turnout affairs. The Secretary of State's officer telling us that they only anticipate about 10 percent to 15 percent of registered voters. So, approximately 3.4 million registered voters to actually participate in this primary.

Eva McKend, CNN, Lexington, Kentucky.


FOSTER: Scientists say they've been able to collect and analyze human genetic data from human DNA found in the environment. Everywhere from footprints in the sand to ocean water. Researchers from the University of Florida made a discovery whilst capturing environmental DNA study in endangered sea turtles. The study noted human DNA that has seeped into the environment could be used to help find missing people or to aid in criminal investigations. But the discovery also raises questions about privacy and consent when it comes to biological information.

Now the World Health Organization says using sugar substitutes isn't effective in weight loss. Why? Because there are no long-term benefits for most people based on the latest research at least. The W.H.O. says this doesn't mean it's unsafe. But people should look for natural alternatives to replacing sugar in their diets like consuming fruits. The review also indicates long term use of sugar substitutes mildly increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

Now just ahead, lifestyle expert, media mogul and now swimsuit model. How Martha Stewart is making history with a brand new "Sports Illustrated" cover.



FOSTER: The conference finals are all set in the race for the Stanley Cup. The Dallas Stars are the last team to -- the last team to make their cut after a 2-1 victory over Seattle Kraken on Monday. Roope Hintz got things started with this goal in the second period. Wyatt Johnston added the game-winner in the third. Dallas advances to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2020. They will take on the Vegas Golden Knights. The Carolina Hurricanes face the Florida Panthers in the East.

Now New York Yankee superstar Aaron Judge hit two home runs to help his team defeat the Toronto Blue Jays 7-4 on Monday. The Yankees were leading seven to nothing at the top of the eighth inning After Judge's second homer. But Toronto would not give up. Scoring four runs in the bottom of the eighth before the Yankees closed things out for the Blue Jays. The loss marked the end of their three-game winning streak.

Finally, stories in the spotlight. And it looks like the Weeknd is coming to an end.


WEEKND, HIT SONG SAVE YOUR TEARS: I saw you dancing in a crowded room You look so happy when I'm not with you But then you saw me, caught you by surprise A single teardrop falling from your eye


FOSTER: That is a bit of "Save Your Tears." The hit song by the Weeknd. But the singer says he's ready to kill the Weeknd and has changed the name on all his social media accounts to his birth name, which Abel Tesfaye. The Canadian artist told W magazine his next album may be the last he issues under his former name. He says he wants to be reborn as someone new even though he is the most popular musician on earth -- according to the Guinness World Records.

American businesswoman and lifestyle expert Martha Stewart now has another title, "Sports Illustrated" swimsuit model.


At 81, she is the oldest such model in the magazine's history. Martha Stewart surpassed Maye Musk who posed for the magazine last year at the age of 74. Now the photo shoot took place in the Dominican Republic on Monday. Stewart discussed what she did to get ready for it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Martha, what do you think?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I would think so.

STEWART: To be on the cover at my age was a challenge. And I think I met the challenge.


STEWART: Well, I didn't starve myself, but I didn't eat any bread or pasta for a couple months. I went to Pilates every other day.


FOSTER: Well, Stewart's career actually began as a model when she was a teenager in the 1950s. The print issue of the magazine comes out on Thursday.

And NASA's James Webb telescope has made another significant discovery. It detected water in a comet located in a main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The finding suggests that water ice can be preserved in a warmer part of the solar system. It could also help us understand how water became a plentiful resource on earth during its early days. The discovery comes after 15 years of attempts by astronomers -- would you believe?

Thank you for joining me here on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Max Foster in London. "EARLY START" with Christine Romans is next here on CNN.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: Right now, on "EARLY START," time and money both running out as direct talks on the debt limit resume in person today.

Plus, Russia launches drones and missiles at Ukraine's capital as intelligence suggests Moscow may not have the fire power.