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Negotiations Continue Between Congressional Leaders And White House On Raising U.S. Debt Ceiling; Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton Facing Potential Impeachment By Texas House Of Representatives; U.S. Experiencing Record Numbers Of Travelers For Memorial Day Holiday Weekend; New York City Officials Look For Clarification Of Right-To- Shelter Law As Migrant Surge Straining City's Finances; Letter Written By Mother Of Brian Laundrie Surfaces In Civil Case; Grand Jury Investigating Possible Crimes By Bryan Kohberger In Monroe County, Pennsylvania; Drugs To Treat Diabetes Becoming Popular For Weight Loss; Bipartisan Group Of Congressmembers Clean Memorial To Vietnam War Dead. Aired 2-3p ET.

Aired May 27, 2023 - 14:00   ET



NANCY ANCRUM, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, THE MIAMI HERALD: This is the DeSantis that we in Florida know, and this is the DeSantis that I can only imagine will present himself across the nation.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: I think it was earlier this week when someone said he's being Trump more than Trump. Interesting. All right, Nancy Ancrum, thank you so much.

ANCRUM: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Round-the-clock negotiations are on in Washington as America faces the very real chance of a potentially catastrophic debt default. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy saying today he sees progress, but there are still major sticking points that need to be ironed out on everything from spending caps to work requirements. One top Republican negotiator warning a deal could be reached as soon as today or they could collapse completely.

Meanwhile, the national deficit is growing every second, and with no deal in place the U.S. could run out of money to pay its bills, which could have a disastrous impact on the economy. The treasury secretary now saying that could happen in just eight days.

CNN's Alayna Treene and Priscilla Alvarez are covering all of the angles for us. Alayna, you first. What are the obstacles keeping lawmakers from reaching a deal with the White House?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Good afternoon, Fred. Negotiators were here in the Capitol until 2:30 a.m. this morning, and now they're back in House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's office meeting virtually with the White House as they continue to try and hash out the remaining sticking points of a potential deal.

Now, we do have some new reporting on what those outstanding issues are. We are told that they did make some progress last night on new work requirements for some social safety net programs, and that has been a huge issue that they've tried to resolve over the past several days, and we're told progress has been made.

Another remaining sticking point is on energy permitting reforms. This is something that Republican negotiator Garret Graves really sees as a top priority and so he's pushing that in talks today.

And then another remaining issue as ell is on spending cuts for domestic programs. I that know they talked about that last night and are continuing to talk about that today. But we'll see how they're able to settle that dispute.

Now, we have heard from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy a couple of times today. We caught up with him this morning. He said that he's more confident than he's been on reaching a deal, and that he remains very optimistic. I also asked him whether he thinks he could get the majority of his House Republican members behind him on this deal. Let's listen to what he had to say.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R-CA) HOUSE SPEAKER: I feel closer to an agreement now that I did a long time before, because I see progress. But listen, this is not easy in any shape or form. And that doesn't back us away from it. We never agreed to anything until everything is agreed to.

TREENE: Are you confident you can get your full conference behind this deal?

MCCARTHY: Do you ever think you're going to get every single member to vote for it? I didn't get every single member to vote for the first one. I didn't get every single member to vote for me for speaker. So I think you're raising the bar.

TREENE: What about the majority?

MCCARTHY: I don't think that will be a problem.


TREENE: Fred, we are told that the goal for today is to try and announce a deal by the end of the day. We'll see if they can get there. I think they are still behind closed doors. They're still negotiating. And, remember, even after they come to a compromise, they still need to sell this bill to both the house and the Senate and try to pass it through Congress by the June 5th deadline that the Treasury Department has set. So we're going to continue to watch and see how the talks play out over the next few hours.

WHITFIELD: All right, Alayna. All right, Priscilla at the White House, how is the situation being handled from there? PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN REPORTER: As you heard there from Alayna, they

are meeting virtually, White House negotiators that is, and over the phone with those Hill negotiators as they try to hash out this deal. But certainly, yesterday there was optimism about where these talks were headed, with President Biden himself saying that they were, quote, very close to a deal and hoping to have another update around midnight.

And of course, this all went into the early morning hours of today. So clearly the urgency is being felt and has been felt over the course of the last several days, but especially as we heard from Treasury Secretary Yellen, that firm June 5th date when they would run out of cash to pay the nation's obligations.

Now, one of the sticking points, and a critical one that has gained some frustration from House Democrats is those work requirements for social safety net programs. And on that President Biden was asked whether he should bow to that. And take a listen to what he had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, what do you tell Democrats who say that they don't want you to bow on the work requirements? What's your position?




ALVAREZ: In a statement, a White House spokesperson elaborated on that, saying that the White House is standing against this cruel and senseless trade-off. So you can imagine that that is one of the points that is being discussed now as they try to reach a deal. And it's important that they do, and sooner rather than later. We've heard that from both sides, because, again, it's not only reaching a deal. It's the bill text that comes after that. It's introducing it to the members of Congress, to a House floor vote, to a Senate vote.

So as you can see there, it's still a long road ahead for a short amount of time. And as we've heard from negotiators, nothing is agreed upon until everything is agreed upon. That is what they're working tirelessly around the clock to reach.

WHITFIELD: Priscilla Alvarez and Alayna Treene, thanks so much.

And this hour, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is facing a potential impeachment by the Texas House of Representatives. On Thursday, a Republican-led House investigative committee unanimously adopted 20 articles of impeachment against Paxton, including bribery and abuse of power.

Paxton is calling the impeachment recommendation illegal, and just a simple majority vote is required for the House to refer the articles of impeachment to the Senate for trial.

CNN's Rosa Flores is joining us now from Houston, Texas. So, Rosa, the countdown is on, right, before a first potential vote?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they just gaveled in at the Texas House of Representatives, Fred, and we're going to be monitoring to see if, indeed, House Resolution 2377, because that's what the 20 articles of impeachment is officially called, so we'll keep an eye.

But we're already seeing prominent Republicans coming to the rescue of Ken Paxton. In the last hour U.S. congressman Ted Cruz and also former President Donald Trump took to social media to defend Ken Paxton, saying that all of this is a travesty.

Here is the quote from President Donald Trump. He said, quote, "Hopefully Republicans in the Texas House will agree that this is a very unfair process that should not be allowed to happen or proceed. I will fight you if it does."

So why are we even here? So here is the backstory. Earlier this week there was astounding testimony before the Texas House General Investigating Committee. Now, this is a committee with three Republicans and two Democrats. And what they heard were hours of testimony that was very damning testimony from attorneys that investigated Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for the past few months.

And these were allegations of misconduct that benefited a donor in relation to a whistleblower lawsuit that Ken Paxton settled back in February for $3.3 million, obligating the Texas taxpayer to pay for those $3.3 million.

Now, here's where things get a little ugly between the different factions of the Republican Party in the state of Texas. The Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, who is also a Republican, has maintained throughout that the taxpayer should not be paying these $3.3 million without a proper investigation.

Now, those individuals, those Republicans that are a part of this general investigating committee, they issued a memo yesterday, and here is what it says in part. It says, "Paxton and his office were not forthcoming about his conduct regarding the whistleblower's good faith reports of his violations and his constitutional and statutory duties."

So what is the result of this investigation. The result is those articles are a result of the impeachment and that's why we're here right now covering this. Paxton says that all of this is illegal, and this is just a punch on behalf of the liberals of the Republican Party in the state of Texas. Take a listen.

And I believe we don't have that, Fred. But in a nutshell, Attorney General Ken Paxton is saying that these impeachment proceedings are illegal, that they should not even be here, that he can disprove all of the allegations that have been presented against him. So what's going to happen right now, Fred, what we're waiting for, the

Texas House of Representatives just gaveled in, and we're going to see if House Resolution 2377 is brought to the floor, and we're expecting that to happen because the House committee that is running all of this sent out a memo yesterday, we obtained a copy, that what it says, that at 1:00 local time that's what we're expecting to do, and that they're asking for four hours of debate about this.


We're going to monitor. We'll let you know what happens.

WHITFIELD: I know you'll keep us abreast. Thank you so much, Rosa Flores, appreciate that, in Houston.

The Memorial holiday weekend is here, and a record number of travelers going out of town to celebrate. AAA is expecting more than 42 million Americans to travel at least 50 miles from home. TSA expecting to screen a record 10 million passengers between Thursday and Monday. Plus, more than 37 million people are expected to hit the roads this weekend according to AAA.

And we're keeping an eye on all of this with CNN's Isabel Rosales at Atlanta in the Airport there, and CNN's Mike Valerio in Los Angeles in one of the busy highways. Isabel, you first. How is it looking? This is so unpredictable. Last time we talked to you there were lines going through your body, and now it seems like it's empty, but I know it's not. What's happening?

ISABEL ROSALES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fred, it is incredible. Let's just say it's great news for you, if you still haven't made your way out for Memorial Day, the holiday travel weekend. This is probably the lightest I've seen it all day. Look at that. Look at all of this open space, not a torture getting through security. That will probably take under 10 minutes right there.

But we do have numbers from the TSA about yesterday, the day that they were expecting it to be the busiest. And TSA says that this airport, Hartsfield-Jackson, they processed 98,000 passengers through security checkpoints, making it the third busiest in terms of passenger volume that this airport has ever experienced, Thursday it was 95,000 passengers, so very similar there.

I do want to show you an overview of what we're experiencing in the skies right now with FlightAware's misery map, and you can see a lot of green there. Although, total cancellations for today, over 500, delays just over 1,400. That sounds like a lot, but we know with thousands of flights out there by the day, that is a drop in the bucket.

But there's another problem that a lot of people have not been anticipating, Fred, and that's the parking situation. We're in the world's busiest airport, and look at this, 11 lots, all of them full, full, full, full, all the way down. I spoke with a passenger who missed her flight because of this. Here is the experience she had.


MEGAN HALLISSEY, COLUMBUS, GEORGIA, RESIDENT: Just super hectic, even on the shuttle to come here, it was even super, super hectic. We waited probably a good 20 minutes just to go, I don't know, not even a mile. So my advice would be to plan, plan, plan, leave early.


ROSALES: Yes, so despite, Fred, what we're seeing right behind me, you can't let your guard down with this. That passenger said give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport so that you can make sure you don't miss your flight. Fred?

WHITFIELD: That is the worst. You're right there, but then you can't even get in line to try to board a plane. That's a big drag. Thank you, Isabel.

Mike, to you. OK, it's looking a little bit more hectic out there behind you on the 405. Where are people going?

MIKE VALERIO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, people are going to the beach, Fred. We are waking up, everybody in L.A., it's kind of cloudy, but still people want to go to the beach. And as we zoom in, this is the 405, which is the busiest interstate in the nation.

Conceivably, Fred, you could wake up from across the street where we are right now, get on the freeway, you go past this turn when you make it and then you hit the 10, I-10. And you can go from the 10 which ends in Santa Monica right by the beach all the way out to Jacksonville, Florida, the great American road trip. And there are people in this town who love to do it and are doing it today.

But that brings us to the story, the great American road trip, according to AAA, is back this year. We are expecting more than 37 million people to hit the roadways across the United States. But that is not a record yet in terms of the roads.

That has not exceeded pre-pandemic travel levels. We're just barely below, not quite there yet. But when we talked to AAA about what these trend lines still mean about coming back with a vengeance, here is what they told us.


DOUG SHUPE, AAA SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: If this weekend is a sign of anything that's to come, it's going to be so busy. These airline seats are going to go fast, the hotel rooms are going to go fast, so you want to book your vacation plans this summer as early as you possibly can.


VALERIO: Amen to that.

So gas prices, shall we, let's talk about them. The national average right now is sitting around $3.60. About a year ago, Fred, the national average was above $4.00, it hit a record of $5.00 in June.


So good news certainly is that gas prices are still, in relative terms historically high, but they are coming down, especially in the pacific coast, Alaska, California, Florida, New Jersey, New York. That's where some of the biggest declines are being felt.

And GasBuddy, our analyst colleagues there tell us that it seems unlikely that the national average is going to be above $4 for gas this summer. In January when there were a lot of uncertainties about inflation and the oil market, it seemed very certain that the average, Fred, was going to go above $4.00. Now they're saying day by day, it seems as though prices are looking better and better for American drivers who are not driving electric.

So everybody is on their way. We're going to keep watching. We'll be back with Jim Acosta in the hours to come. But for now, Fred, let's send it back to you.

WHITFIELD: The folks keep driving and keep traveling. It's all good. Thank you so much, Mike Valerio and Isabel Rosales.

Coming up, New York City is pleading for federal help as an influx of migrants is putting a major strain on the city's economy. What officials are asking for next.

Plus, music icon Celine Dion canceling her world tour through next year due to her health. And now one source close to her says her touring days may be over for good.



WHITFIELD: New York City officials say the migrant surge is putting a major strain on the city's finances. They estimate the city will spend more than $4 billion on asylum seeker care by July 2024. And right now, more than 44,000 migrants are in the city's care, about 77,000 have passed through intake facilities. CNN's Polo Sandoval is live for us in New York. Polo, officials have asked the State Supreme Court to suspend parts of the city's right-to-shelter law. Explain.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And that's after they cited those fresh figures you just shared with our viewers a short while ago, Fred. What we heard from New York City Mayor Eric Adams this week say that he believes that the city's shelter system, it's buckling under its own pressure with the sheer number of asylum seekers that continue to arrive here, regardless of what might be happening thousands of miles south of here.

So what we're seeing right now is really a couple of things. New York City officials are basically expanding their efforts to try to locate either long-term or temporary shelter for some folks who may still be headed to New York City. And of course, we should mention, they are going to other American cities, but New York City continues to be the north star for so many.

But also city officials taking an unusual legal step, petitioning a judge to suspend portions of New York City's right-to-shelter law. For those unfamiliar with it, this is a decades old policy that's been in place basically requiring New York City to provide homeless assistance, specifically shelter, to anybody that needs it.

What the city is saying is that it would like some clarity and most importantly perhaps, some flexibility as these buses continue to arrive. And we should point out many of them also, many of these asylum seekers also arriving here on their own. And so what the city wants is for basically the courts to support this kind of flexibility.

This is subject to some criticism by many migrant advocates, saying by doing this, this could potentially provide some sort of skirting around the law, and many afraid that this might allow the city to potentially close the door on so many homeless people that could potentially be looking for resources.

But again, the city maintains that what they want to do is think two steps ahead, that if they find themselves in a situation where they have asylum seekers, mainly single adults and those traveling without children, where they don't have a place to put them that might adhere to the right-to-shelter policy, then they would like that legal flexibility.

So it really is sort of quite the controversy here for New York City officials, as we heard from a top administration official say just this week, Fred, that they say there's no end in sight to the city's migrant crisis.

WHITFIELD: Pretty complex situation. Polo Sandoval, thanks so much in New York.

SANDOVAL: Thanks Fred.

WHITFIELD: Burn after reading. CNN obtains a copy of a letter written by the mother of Brian Laundrie. More on the stunning references inside and how it could affect Gabby Petito's parents' lawsuit straight ahead.



WHITFIELD: The parents of the man indited for the killings of four University of Idaho students have been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury. Not in Idaho, but in Monroe County, Pennsylvania. By law, a Monroe County grand jury can only review potential crimes that occurred within that county. Bryan Kohberger is charged with murdering four University of Idaho students last November. He's from Pennsylvania where he was arrested late last year.

Joining me right now is defense attorney Misty Marris. Misty, great to see you. So what could the grand jury in Pennsylvania be looking for in him, or family members? MISTY MARRIS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, this is a great question, Fred,

because his parents have now been subpoenaed. They tried to get the subpoenas quashed, which means thrown out. They were not able to. So they actually moved forward with their testimony. And it can only be about a crime that occurred in Pennsylvania.

The question is, what could that possibly be? So there were reports originally that this is related to a cold case and that they were going to be testifying in connection with that. However, news reports have said now that there is no connection, so that's a bit confusing. So it could be a slew of crimes that may have occurred on Pennsylvania soil, perhaps related to the Idaho case, but not something that occurred in Idaho.

So could it be something about the traverse back from Idaho to Pennsylvania? We just don't know. It is a secret proceeding. And again, the one important thing to realize, it's not the grand jury proceeding where you're looking to indict an individual. It's investigatory in nature. So it's looking to see whether crimes were committed. So a lot of unanswered questions.

WHITFIELD: Oh, interesting. So this is an opening to discovery. It's looking for information. And you mentioned that traverse. So Bryan Kohberger and his father drove across country from Idaho to Pennsylvania in December, and that came after the stabbings took place. So this is different, right? So a grand jury -- I guess the grand jury being used as an investigative arm potentially?


MARRIS: Correct. So it's a big distinction. Usually, you hear about a grand jury proceeding where we're looking to indict an individual, and the grand jury is going to make a determination about whether or not there's probable cause to indict that person. This is an entirely different proceeding that's taking place. As you said, it's factfinding, it's searching, it's talking about what potential crimes could be out there, and it's being used as an investigatory process.

Now, an interesting component, though, since his parents did testify, under Pennsylvania law, those transcripts can be shared with other law enforcement agencies if it's relevant to something else. So I would imagine Idaho law enforcement investigators are going to be looking at those transcripts.

WHITFIELD: Let's switch gears. Another very fascinating, confusing case, and now we're talking about the parents of Brian Laundrie that are kind of being looked at. Laundrie is believed to have killed Gabby Petito back in 2021 while the pair was on that cross-country road trip. His mother left what one legal analyst called a proverbial smoking gun, and it said burn after reading. It was undated, this note, a letter to her son, essentially professing, I would do anything for you. So does Laundrie's mom risk criminal charges just by virtue of this note which can be construed as a lot of different things?

MARRIS: Yes, really interesting. And of course, that line in the note that says, if you killed someone, I would bring a shovel and garbage bags. So of course, the Petitos are going to want this note. That's what this proceeding was about. This is about a civil case the Petitos are bringing against the Laundries for intentional infliction of emotional distress. And the judge determined that this note is relevant and it should be turned over to the Petitos.

To your question, Fred, there is the potential that the Laundries could face criminal charges, and it all depends on whether or not they could be an accessory after the fact. Were they part of this crime in any way? So it would be a conspiracy type theory. It's whether or not they were part of the planning, the commission, or the cover-up, and many have opined they actually were helping Laundrie get away, try and leave the country. So whether or not this could be criminal, but this is in the context of a civil case.

WHITFIELD: Yes, it's fascinating. And of course, it says it's undated, but I know people are going to start researching something about that stationary, which will also help them determine when it may have been penned or purchased, and a lot of digging is still going to take place.

Misty Marris, thank you so much. Good to see you.

MARRIS: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: We'll be right back.



WHITFIELD: Diabetes medications like Ozempic and Wegovy have become popular among patients looking to lose weight. But now some companies are testing and developing new versions of those meds that could come in pill form rather than injections. CNN medical correspondent Meg Tirrell has details.

MEG TIRRELL, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy which are approved for type two diabetes and for weight loss have to be administered with a shot that a patient gives themself once a week. But there are pill versions that companies are working on, and in data we saw just this past week, it looks like the efficacy is about similar to what we see with the injectable versions of the drugs.

Novo Nordisk, which makes both Ozempic and Wegovy, has a tablet version of the drug where it showed in a trial it could lead to 15 percent weight loss. There are also some drugs in development from Pfizer and Eli Lilly. We saw some Pfizer data this week.

These are all in clinical trials right now. They'll have to go through more study. And for the Novo Nordisk, they say they'll potentially file for FDA approval this year. So these could be coming within the next year or two if they are successful.

However, we do see that they have a similar side effect profile as the injectable drugs, things like nausea and vomiting. We've heard from doctors that this can be intolerable for about five percent to 10 percent of patients.

There is some hope that with pill versions you could change the way that you take the drug. You start at lower doses and you gradually move up over time. If you had a pill, maybe you could modulate that in a way where you could cut back on some of those side effects. So that is a hope.

There's also a huge number of drugs in development that aim to improve on the amount of weight loss that we are seeing with the current medicines. Right now there's a drug called Mounjaro that's already on the market for type two diabetes. It's expected to get approval for weight loss by the end of this year or early next year. What is called tirzepatide is the chemical name. It leads to weight loss of about 22 percent that we saw in clinical trials.

But there are drugs that are coming along even behind that, one known as triple G because it goes after three different targets that doctors say could lead to 25 percent to 30 percent weight loss. The question, of course, is going to be safety, are these drugs tolerable. And then, of course, can they be paid for? These drugs are quite expensive, more than $1,000 a month. And insurance is still getting worked out in many cases.

WHITFIELD: Meg Tirrell, thank you so much.

With us now is primary care physician and public health specialist, Dr. Saju Matthew. All right, Doctor, good to see you. I mean, $1,000 a month, that's pretty hefty. Ozempic and Wegovy, they have become very popular among patients trying to lose weight. So help us understand, how does it work? What is it helping your body do?


DR. SAJU MATHEW, PUBLIC HEALTH SPECIALIST: Yes, Fred, listen, in the space of obesity medicine and diabetes, we are making a lot of advances. These medications like Ozempic, as you mentioned, just basically work by mimicking a gut hormone which then talks to the brain and tells you that you are full. But if you have breakfast, by the time lunch rolls around, you still have food in the stomach and you just don't feel angry.

It's more like an appetite suppressant. That's how it works because a lot of people consume a lot of calories, and that's the problem. But when you start losing weight and dropping the mass, a lot of good things happen to your health.

WHITFIELD: Late stage study results released this week found that a daily tablet from the makers of Ozempic and Wegovy helped people lose 15 percent of their body weight over 68 weeks, just over a year. A different drug helped people lose 22 percent. I mean, those are pretty significant results.

MATHEW: Pretty significant, Fred. Listen, we've never had drugs like this to cause that much weight loss. We're talking on average with these obesity medications, between 15 percent to 20 percent. A patient of mine over six months lost 60 pounds. And listen, Fred, at the end of the day, these medications are really

giving hope to people who are morbidly obese. I've got patients that weigh over 350 pounds that can't get out of bed that are looking at bariatric surgery. So the hope is that if we can get them to drop enough weight, then they might be even better candidates for other medications. So exciting times. We just have to get the insurance company to buy into this.

WHITFIELD: Yes, because to afford $1,000 a month, that is really significant.

Let me now shift gears and talk to you about Celine Dion. She announced this week that she's canceling her world tour due to health reasons. The singer was recently diagnosed with stiff person syndrome. Help people understand what that is.

MATHEW: Yes, stiff person syndrome is a very rare condition, it's a neurological disease that affects the spinal cord and the brain. And listen to this, it could take up to seven years to actually make the diagnosis. I'm not Celine Dion's personal physician, but it looks like she went through a very long period where she was so upset with why she was falling, why she couldn't sing. A lot of patients have muscle spasms.

You could be walking on the street and all of a sudden get a spasm attack and fall to the floor. It can also mimic conditions like Parkinson's condition. So that is why a lot of patients are diagnosed later in life. It is way for common in women, and probably only 1,000 people are diagnosed in the U.S. It's a devastating diagnosis, but there is hope for patients who have a comprehensive group of physicians and physical therapists taking care of you.

WHITFIELD: So some of the stuff I read implies it's not a hereditary- based kind of condition, but one that might be brought on by stress or even loud noises. Is there truth to that?

MATHEW: There is truth. So what we're talking about there are things that actually make the muscle spasms and the symptoms worse. But if you look at the signs behind stiff person syndrome, it's really an autoimmune position. So your body is actually attacking healthy cells in yourself. It's devastating.

So in this case what happens is it's attacking the nerves, and patients get into this hyperactive, where the nerves almost go into a spasm. It also is associated with conditions like diabetes, and autoimmune conditions are generally way more common in women. In fact, this disease, ironically enough, was called stiff man syndrome, but it's way more common in women.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh. So alarming. We're wishing for the best for her and for her family. It must be so frightening. Dr. Saju Mathew, great to see you. Thank you.

The debt ceiling talks may be underscoring the division in Washington. But this Memorial Day weekend, a moment of unity. Next, Jake Tapper shows us a rare moment of bipartisanship. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


WHITFIELD: In the 107-year history of the Indy 500, only nine female drivers have ever raced at the brickyard. This year British driver Katherine Legge has qualified for her third time, ahead of her three male full time teammates. And not only that, she became the fastest ever woman to qualify for the 500. When she spoke with CNN World Sports Don Riddell earlier this week, the trailblazer said she would prefer to be known simply as the fastest driver.


KATHERINE LEGGE, COMPETING IN THE INDY 500 ON SUNDAY: I don't necessarily want to be the fastest woman driver. I want to be the fastest overall driver. And what's really awesome is in the 10 years since I've raced here before, I've noticed that there's so many more women fans and so many more women in the paddock.

It was mostly men, I would say, 10 years ago, and now I think it's close to 50/50. And the women have come up to me and they've said you know you're racing for every woman out there. And the little girls have been really supportive.

And so it's been really, really neat to see that aspect of it. But at the end of the day, when I'm in the car and I've got my helmet on, the car doesn't know the difference and I'm just another racecar driver.


So rather than being the fastest woman, I just want to be the fastest driver. And hopefully I'll get there.


WHITFIELD: All right, you go. The annual race takes place tomorrow in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Academy Award winning actor Tom Hanks received a degree from Harvard. Hanks gave the commencement speech to graduates of Harvard's class of 2023, and the school then gave him an honorary doctorate of arts. The crowd erupted in laughter when he talked about how he got that honor.


TOM HANKS, ACTOR: Without having done a lick of work, without having spent any time in class, without once walking into that library --


HANKS: -- in order to have anything to do with the graduating class of Harvard, its faculty, or its distinguished alumni, I make a damn good living playing someone who did.

(LAUGHTER) HANKS: It's the way of the world, kids.



WHITFIELD: Well, you can still call him doctor, though. Dr. Tom hanks also received a Harvard branded volleyball in reference to his 2000 movie "Castaway".

And now meet this week's CNN Hero, Adam Pearce.


ADAM PEARCE, CNN HERO: I think people feel isolated after brain injury because they don't feel able.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard. I've lost my identity.

PEARCE: And when we allow people to be vulnerable and who they are, there is a deep connection formed because there is so much common understanding of the challenges that go on with brain injury. The changes I see most after people with TBI practice yoga are probably a deeper connection to self. Helping them cultivate greater awareness and self-compassion allows them to meet the constant changes so much more.


WHITFIELD: To get an inside look, go to, and while you're there, nominate your hero.


WHITFIELD: while Capitol Hill is in turmoil this holiday weekend over the debt ceiling, some lawmakers are actually coming together for an important cause. Here is CNN's Jake Tapper.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Etched into these enormous pieces of black granite which emerged from the National Mall like a wound, are the names of 58,318 service men and service women who lost their lives fighting in one of America's longest wars, the Vietnam War.

In a town so often divided, members of Congress from both parties were united and came together to wash this wall by hand ahead of Memorial Day. Republican Congressman Mike Waltz from Florida is a Green Beret who did combat tours in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and Africa. He organized this bipartisan event several years ago with fellow lawmakers who have also served.

REP. MIKE WALTZ, (R-FL): It's a reminder to us the sacrifices that have been made for this country, and it's a reminder as members of Congress, both sides of the aisle, that at the end of the day we're all American. We're all veterans who were willing to die together just a few years ago, then we can come together, roll up our sleeves and move the country forward.

TAPPER: Retired Lieutenant General and Michigan Republican Congressman Jack Bergman is one of only three Vietnam veterans left serving in the House.

REP. JACK BERGMAN, (R-MI) VIETNAM WAR VETERAN: I normally come here alone. Once I get here, I'm never alone because I know who I'm visiting.

TAPPER: A wall full of the names of friends and Americans who did not come home.

REP. MIKE THOMPSON, (D-CA), VIETNAM WAR VETERAN: I have friends whose names are on that wall, kids that I grew up with, and people that I served with. And from that perspective, it was powerful.

REP. JIM BAIRD, (R-IN) VIETNAM WAR VETERAN: The opportunity for he and I to be here is just, I think, very important. And it really pays tribute to what we're here for.

TAPPER: Republican Congressman Jim Baird from Indiana and Democratic Congressman Mike Thompson from California both served in Vietnam, but only just realized all they have in common.

THOMPSON: We were both at Fort Benning, Georgia, we're both married to nurses, and we were both wounded in Vietnam. And as Jim pointed out, we're here to work together for the American people, and maybe that will help us get there.

TAPPER: For Republican Congressman John James of Michigan and Democratic Congressman Pat Rhine of New York, Congress is a college reunion.

So you guys were in the same class at West Point?


REP. PAT RYAN, (D-NY) IRAQ WAR VETERAN: We lived across the hall from each other.

JAMES: Our class, 2004, was the first class to take our oath of affirmation after the Twin Towers fell. That means we are all committed to our service after we knew we would be going to war. We've suffered the most casualties of any West Point class since the Vietnam war.

RYAN: I wear this bracelet that has our West Point classmates' names on it, etched on it. And the interconnection between our generation and Iraq and Afghanistan and the Vietnam generation.

TAPPER: And maybe, just maybe the camaraderie will thaw some of the partisanship division we see just down the road.

JAMES: The long gray line is neither blue nor red. It's more red, white, and blue.