Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

U.S. Debt Deal Could Be Reached Today; Russia Obliterates Medical Facility in Ukraine; Super Typhoon Mawar Strongest Storm on Earth in Years; German Police Probe Pink Floyd's Roger Waters for Costume. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired May 27, 2023 - 01:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A warm welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Michael Holmes. Appreciate your company.

Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, close but no white smoke. That's how one Republican describes negotiations on the U.S. debt ceiling.

Ukraine assessing the damage after one of Russia's deadliest attacks in recent days targets a hospital.

And people flocking to a U.S. monastery, where a nun's body appears to show no signs of decay nearly four years after she died.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Michael Holmes.

HOLMES: A flurry of activity on Capitol Hill as the White House and Republicans race to finalize a deal to raise the U.S. borrowing limit, called the debt ceiling, and avert financial catastrophe. A person familiar with the negotiations tells CNN they're hoping to announce an agreement perhaps as soon as Saturday.

Jeremy Diamond is at the White House with more on where things stand.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: As the White House and Republican lawmakers continued negotiating on Friday over a potential deal to raise the debt ceiling and cap spending,

President Biden on Friday sounding downright optimistic about the possibility, the potential for reaching a deal, even as early, he said, as Friday night.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's a negotiation going on. I'm hopeful we'll know by tonight whether we are going to be able to have a deal.

DIAMOND: The president saying he thinks things are looking good in those ongoing negotiations.

Now the president's comments come just hours after the Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, has finally set an exact date for when she believes the U.S. government will run out of money to pay its bills and pay its debt obligations. And that new date is June 5th, according to the Treasury Secretary.

In a letter to congressional leadership, including the Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, Secretary Yellen writes, quote, "Based on the most recent available data, we now estimate that Treasury will have insufficient resources to satisfy the government's obligations if Congress has not raised or suspended the debt limit by June 5th."

A senior White House official telling me on Friday that this new timeline doesn't fundamentally change the negotiations, but it certainly does inject a new sense, added sense, perhaps, of urgency to those talks.

This official also said that they are now in the final stages of negotiation and that they believe they are on track to reach a deal to avoid default by June 5th. We know that one of the major sticking points in that final stage of negotiations has been this issue of work requirements for those social safety net programs.

I asked President Biden on Friday, as he was leaving for Camp David, what he says to Democrats, who tell him that they don't want him to bow to McCarthy on work requirements.

The president told me, "I bow to no one." -- Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.



HOLMES: Ron Brownstein is a CNN senior political analyst and senior editor with "The Atlantic." He joins me now.

Always good to see you. The reporting is that Joe Biden is weighing social program concessions, which actually aren't substantial in big budget terms but very significant for those who will be impacted.

If the deal goes the way it's shaping up to be, would Republicans have won this political battle?

Which I know you see as part of a bigger Republican war.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, look -- good to be with you, Michael, first of all. I think all in all, Biden would feel that he came out of this fine.

I mean, the strange thing about this episode of the debt ceiling standoff is it really just seemed to validate the old adage that history repeats itself the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

It is always somewhat irrational and insane to risk a domestic and global financial catastrophe by using the debt ceiling to try to leverage policy gains.

But at least the last time this happened, in 2011, they were, in fact, gambling for big stakes, a so-called grand bargain, that included taxes, changes in entitlements, cults in defense and discretionary spending, sufficient to change the long-term trajectory of the U.S. budget situation.

This time, the stakes are remarkably low. Republicans have ruled off the table revenue.


BROWNSTEIN: They've ruled off the table entitlements or defense spending. So we are arguing about 15 percent of the federal budget.

HOLMES: You've got the chasm between the GOP and the Democrats generally but both parties have their own divisions. You've got the progressives on the Left but particularly the hardline MAGA wing of the GOP.

And the thing is, it just takes one of them to force a vote for the Speaker's job. Kevin McCarthy knows that.

How does all of that complicate negotiations and the chances of a resolution?

And should this even be happening?

BROWNSTEIN: Clearly, this should not be happening. The idea of using the threat of global financial chaos as a means of trying to leverage relatively minor, in the cosmic scheme of things, policy gains is at the high end of reckless behavior.

And ultimately, I assume that there are enough voices in the Republican constellation, particularly the big donors, who are saying, look, you've taken this as far as you can. We don't want to go through the plate glass window and find out what's on the other side.

HOLMES: Yes, this time yesterday I was talking to Catherine Rampell about the international implications of default and how we're being seen around the world. We talked about how dysfunctional the debt ceiling system is altogether, with these semi-regular crises caused by politics, caused by posturing.

This isn't the way other countries work.

How damaging and destructive is the system itself both tangibly but also in terms of U.S. reputation?

Other countries are looking in and going, what are you doing?

BROWNSTEIN: First, it's important to understand that this kind of blackmail has not been used on both sides of the aisle. Democrats have -- we've only seen this kind of blackmail when we've had the circumstance of a Republican-controlled House and a Democratic president.

When we've had the reverse circumstance -- under Bush or under Trump, when the Democrats controlled the House -- they did not do this. It is another measure of something I've believed in American politics for the last 15 years, which is that any weapon that can be used now must be used.

There's enormous pressure from the base of each party to do so. But it is kind of a crazy process when you consider that this is raising debt to fund spending that we have already done.

You know?

It is not that we are authorizing new spending here. We're paying off bills for things that we have already appropriated or expended. When you add that dimension to it, it looks even more irrational.

Democrats had the chance in the lame duck session to avoid this by either eliminating the debt ceiling or extending it past 2024. And for whatever reason, presumably resistance from Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, they chose not to do so.

And that looks more and more like a blunder. Although as I say, the final deal is close to what is being discussed. It is a pretty minimal set of concessions by Biden to Republicans, given the fact that Republicans control the House.

And he's probably going to have to accept limits on discretionary domestic spending, with or without a debt ceiling conversation.

HOLMES: Ron Brownstein, as always, our thanks. Good to see you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks, Michael.



HOLMES: Pro-Russian officials are accusing Ukraine of striking a city it once fiercely defended. They say two long-range missiles hit Mariupol on Friday without causing casualties or major damage. Ukraine not officially claiming responsibility.

But a Ukrainian political adviser says the target was the city's Azovstal steel plant, where Russia had set up an ammunition depot. Ukrainian troops defended the plant for weeks before surrendering it to Russia last May.

Now Ukraine is accusing Russia of deliberately targeting civilians after a rocket attack obliterated a medical facility.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES (voice-over): You see it there. This is in the city of Dnipro. Ukrainian officials say at least two were killed, more than 30 wounded. This video showing a fire tearing through the building as firefighters try to put it out. Three people are still missing. Sam Kiley reports from the scene of the attack.



SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dnipro, like so many other Ukrainians cities is no stranger now to scenes like this after more than a year of Russian bombardment. Now this though, is a medical clinic, a neurological medical clinic.

It's one of dozens of hospitals and other medical structures that the Russians have attacked.


KILEY: According to the World Health Organization, close to 1,000 medical personnel and other medical facilities as well as buildings have been bombed by the Russians over the last year.

And according to the French government, that amounts to a war crime. But even if this wasn't deliberately targeted, we're in a residential area. There's an apartment building there. There's more medical facilities just down the road.

There are more apartments here and, indeed, a sports stadium under construction. Now we've seen the systematic destruction in Syria of medical facilities by the Russians and that continues. And for the last year and a bit, we've seen it here again by the Russians -- Sam Kiley, CNN, in Dnipro.


HOLMES: Polls open in Turkiye in less than 24 hours for the country's presidential runoff election. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan got the most votes in the first round two weeks ago, 49.5 percent. But that's not the 50 percent plus 1 percent he needed for the outright win.

He and his challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who got just under 45 percent of the vote, were both out on the campaign trail on Friday, hopping to drum up enthusiasm and win over any undecided voters.

A programming note for our international viewers, watch CNN's special live coverage of the elections in Turkiye, hosted by Becky Anderson. That's this Sunday at 8:00 pm in Ankara, 9:00 pm in Abu Dhabi on CNN International.

Still to come, a little girl gets desperately ill on a cruise ship. We'll show you how the U.S. Coast Guard came to her rescue. We'll be right back.




HOLMES: After lashing the U.S. territory of Guam with powerful winds and torrential rains this week, Super Typhoon Mawar is moving west- northwest over open ocean. It has been the strongest storm on the planet in years, equivalent to a strong category 5 Atlantic hurricane.


HOLMES: A little girl suffering from seizure-like symptoms was airlifted from a cruise ship off the California coast on Wednesday. The U.S. Coast Guard has just released this video of the medical evacuation.


HOLMES (voice-over): You see there the crew giving the child a teddy bear before she was hoisted onto a helicopter with her mother. The little girl was then taken to a medical center, where she is said to be in stable condition. No word yet on the cause of her illness.


HOLMES: At least a dozen people have been rescued in the U.S. state of Nebraska following heavy rains there. Up to 10 inches fell in less than 24 hours in Dundee and Hitchcock Counties. Cars could be seen floating downstream.


HOLMES (voice-over): Officials urged many people in those counties to skip work and stay off the roads. So far, no reports of any deaths, thank goodness.


HOLMES: Still ahead, is it satire or incitement?

Roger Waters, the cofounder of the band Pink Floyd, under investigation in Germany. Why police are looking into the outspoken rock star, that's next.





HOLMES: Police in Germany are investigating Roger Waters, the controversial cofounder of the rock band Pink Floyd. Authorities opened a criminal probe after Waters wore a costume which resembles and is meant to satirize a Nazi uniform during two concerts in Berlin last week. CNN's Scott McLean reports from London.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So this requires some context on both sides. First, the costume is worn as part of a performance of the 1979 album "The Wall," in which the protagonist hallucinates that he's a fascist dictator.

Obviously it looks like a Nazi uniform, has the red armband and everything. But instead of a swastika, it has two crossed hammers, which is part of the imagery of that album. It is meant to be satire. It's something that Waters has been doing for decades now. But it is the first time that it has attracted a German criminal investigation.

But the Berlin police justified it by saying, in part, that "context of the clothing worn is deemed capable of approving, glorifying or justifying the violent and arbitrary rule of the Nazi regime in a manner that violates the dignity of the victims and thereby disrupts public peace."

The performance has been controversial for a while, so much so that city officials in Frankfurt tried to get the venue to cancel it this coming Sunday.

It ended up in a German courtroom and, according to "The Guardian," the court ruled in Waters' favor, saying that, though the performance uses "symbolism manifestly based on that of the National Socialist regime, it did not glorify or relativize the crimes of the Nazis or identify with Nazi racist ideology."

After that court ruling and earlier this month, Waters went on a podcast, where he responded to the criticism.


ROGER WATERS, MUSICIAN: Well, I can be allowed to do the show because it's theater, darling. The idea that nobody can dress up in a (INAUDIBLE) Nazi uniform ever, to do anything, in a theater or a film, is ludicrous, obviously.


KATIE HALPER, PODCASTER: And also, just so people know, you don't dress up as him, in a pro-Himmler pro-Nazi way.


HALPER: It's a scathing critique.

WATERS: Quite right.

HALPER: You were playing a villainous character.

WATERS: It's a parody. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MCLEAN: That explanation is not satisfying all of the critics. The Israeli foreign ministry has been critical of his performance and Jewish groups will protest his concert in Frankfurt on Sunday.

Waters has been a very harsh critic of the Israeli government. Earlier this week, he called the state of Israel "a tyrannical racist regime" but he has consistently denied that he is anti-Semitic -- Scott McLean, CNN, London.


HOLMES: Some sad news from pop star Celine Dion.



HOLMES (voice-over): The bad news is she is canceling her "Courage" world tour and, according to a source close to the singer, will likely never perform again. Dion has what's called stiff person syndrome, a rare and incurable nervous system disease, that causes progressive body stiffness and muscle spasms. Tickets for her show will be refunded.


HOLMES: Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm talking to our international viewers. They're going to be watching "QUEST'S WORLD OF WONDER" next.

For everyone in the United States, North America, I'll be back with more news in a moment.





HOLMES: A deal appears to be coming together on Capitol Hill to raise the U.S. debt ceiling. That will allow the country to continue to pay its bills, the ones it's already accrued.

A person familiar with the negotiations tells CNN an agreement could be finalized as soon as today, Saturday. Meantime, there is a new date for when the U.S. will run out of cash if a deal isn't reached in time. Manu Raju with the latest.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The clock is now ticking. June 5th, the new date to avoid the first-ever debt default in the United States if Congress and the White House cannot agree on a deal to raise the national debt limit, which now stands at $31.4 trillion.

Default could have drastic economic ramifications in the United States and around the world. And it starts with getting a deal between speaker McCarthy, his top allies and the White House. There is no deal but they are close to one. They've been negotiating late into the night as they've horse traded on a whole wide range of issues.

And as Republicans have pushed for spending cuts to be attached to any piece of legislation to raise the national debt limit, there are indications the White House is moving closer to the Republicans' position on that.

And there are also some indications that the Republicans are getting a little bit more to the White House on how long to extend the national debt limit for. The White House wants it done through the 2024 elections. Republicans initially proposed to do it just for one year so they can get back and have this fight again next year.

The White House does not want to have this fight again. It appears Republicans would allow for a two-year debt limit increase.

The other major sticking points included over the issue of work requirements. That means actual -- for social safety net programs. Republicans want to impose on programs like food stamps new work requirements for those beneficiaries.

Democrats believe that push will hurt needy families and could be detrimental to a lot of people who rely on that for their nutrition and for their daily lives.

But all the negotiations, all the discussion going forward and as Garret Graves, one of the top negotiators, told me earlier in the day, that he will insist on work requirements to be part of any deal.


REP. GARRET GRAVES (R-LA): Democrats right now are willing to default on the debt so they can continue making welfare payments for people that are refusing to work. And I'm talking about people that are without dependents, people that are able-bodied between 18 and 55. And it's crazy to me that we're even having this debate.

RAJU: Are you willing to drop that work requirement in -- ?

GRAVES: Hell no. Hell no. Not a chance.


RAJU: Even if a deal is reached as soon as Saturday, getting this into law is a whole other question, because they're going to need to have the votes in both chambers to do that. We're already hearing pushback.

Democrats don't like the compromises the White House is making in order to raise the national debt limit, particularly on work requirements and spending cuts. Conservatives don't like the fact that they've watered down, in their view, the position the Republicans had in April when they passed their own bill to raise the debt limit out of the House and included a slew of spending cuts.

It also had things like reining in Joe Biden's policies, including on student loan forgiveness. That won't be part of this ultimate deal. So a lot of these conservatives, dozens of them, are threatening to vote against this final deal.

So the whipping will take place by the leaders to try to get their members in line and push this through in a matter of days. Then it goes over to the United States Senate, assuming they get the votes in the House. That could take several days itself.

A lot of members are concerned about what they're hearing about this. And senators have been shut out of these negotiations that have taken place between the Speaker's team and the White House. So a lot of questions still remaining.

Even though there's optimism that a deal is within reach, a long way to go to avert default -- Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.



HOLMES: The remains of a former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces killed in Bakhmut were handed over to Ukraine on Thursday, when a prisoner exchange also took place. As Clare Sebastian now reports, his death speaks volumes about the sheer brutality of the fighting in that city.


YEVGENY PRIGOZHIN, FOUNDER, WAGNER GROUP: (Speaking foreign language).

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Under cover of darkness, a Russian military blogger films Wagner's chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, heading into what he calls "the nest."


SEBASTIAN (voice-over): The Russian nickname for a group of what were once a high-rise residential building on the western edge of Bakhmut, one of the last areas to fall under Russian control.

Prigozhin is taken to see a body, we're not showing it, as it's graphic. An American citizen, identified by these documents and a friend as Nicholas Maimer, a retired U.S. Army Special Forces soldier.

PERRY BLACKBURN, MAIMER'S FRIEND: On the night of the 14th-15th, Nick was in the Bakhmut area, he was with some other fellow territory defense soldiers and they came under attack.

And unfortunately, the area that Nick was in, that particular building, took a direct hit from an artillery round and the area that he was at in that building collapsed in on him and he was unable to make it out.

SEBASTIAN: By piecing together the circumstances of Maimer's death, CNN has built up a picture of the intense battle for these final scraps of a town that has come to symbolize the destructiveness of Russia's war.

PRIGOZHIN: (Speaking foreign language).

SEBASTIAN: "This is where they pulled our American out," says Prigozhin, pointing to the building where he says Maimer was found.

That same building also identified by Maimer's friend, Perry Blackburn, based on information he got from a member of the same brigade Maimer was within Bakhmut. Here it is on a satellite image on May 13th, intact.

Then, just two days later, the day after the night, Maimer is believed to have died, this plume of smoke, evidence of that southern artillery hit. A few days after that, an obvious crater in the building's roof.

BLACKBURN: I mean, its World War II tactics using 2023 technology. And so, the idea of, you know, a constant bombardment of artillery and missile strikes is a usual thing there. But for us in the U.S., we're a lot more clinical than that.

SEBASTIAN: Over just a few days, this entire area evidence of those tactics. Satellite images revealing a battle fought from high-rise to high-rise, chunks blown out of apartment blocks, even a school. All of this damage appearing within just two days.

"The enemy has been beaten out of the nest," says this Wagner fighter in video published on May 20th by Russian state news outlet "Izvestia."

CNN has geolocated the video. It was shot from inside the building where Nicholas Maimer died. You can see this distinctive light blue building, once a day care center, and in the distance, the spire of a partially destroyed church.

Here are all three locations seen from above. After nine months of slow, brutal fighting, Nicholas Maimer had found himself in the midst of a fierce, fast onslaught.

BLACKBURN: Nick wasn't with them when they withdrew from the building. And they were trying to recover, do a recovery operation when it was a -- you know, reoccupied by the Russians. So they weren't able to do it.

SEBASTIAN: And then Wagner got there first.

BLACKBURN: Wagner got there first.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Clare Sebastian, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HOLMES: A blunt warning from the leader of Russia's Wagner mercenaries, who says the Kremlin will face major blowback if it doesn't turn things around in Ukraine.

Yevgeny Prigozhin spoke with a Russian blogger this week. That blogger, by the way, was fired after the interview. Among other things, Prigozhin said Moscow must escalate the war to avoid being bogged down in even more costly conflict. Otherwise, he said, an unsettling part of its history could be repeated.


PRIGOZHIN (through translator): All of this could end like in 1917 with a revolution, when first the soldiers rise up and, after that, their loved ones rise up.



HOLMES: Steve Hall is a CNN national security analyst and former CIA chief of Russia operations. So the perfect guest on this.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, Steve, he often says controversial things. But as we heard in that clip from the interview, he says things like predicting the possibility of a revolution, saying the elites need to start sending their kids to the front. I mean, there's stuff in that interview that's next-level.

What stood out to you?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, I think next-level is indeed the right word. Prigozhin has really, really been pushing the boundaries recently.

And this talk of revolution and specifically the Russian revolution in 1917, is something that's rarely discussed, let alone Russian politics but just even in Russian society. Now he was careful about how he did it. He was artful in a way Russians listening will understand.

For example, he didn't specifically criticize Putin. That's historically, you're not allowed to criticize the president or the czar, as the case used to be. You can say all sorts of bad things about the people that are around him.


HALL: But you cannot speak against him directly. Indeed, he said, "I serve Putin."

The other thing is, when is he was talking about rising up, he was specifically speaking of the oligarchs, who he is saying are not sending their sons to die like normal Russians are. But nevertheless, he really is in uncharted territory, I think, with this kind of interview. HOLMES: Yes, I mean, it was interesting. He said Moscow's plan to

demilitarize Ukraine had failed. He said that Russia's invasion, far from crushing Ukraine's military, turned it into one of the most powerful in the world.

That's not just a swipe at the military leaders; it's got to be at the Kremlin as well. Putin's in charge of the military and, by the way, it's illegal to criticize the military.

What are we seeing here?

How is he still alive?

HALL: Yes, well, that's the interesting question. Clearly he is being given space. So previously, I think when we were talking about this, a lot of people were looking at Prigozhin and saying, he's the oligarch. He came up being Putin's chef. He was just a rich guy like all the other oligarchs were.

Yet oligarchs were never -- they were always forbidden, never permitted to participate in politics directly. So really, I think as we rethink what Prigozhin is trying to do, he's actually, I think, beginning more to resemble and I think, on his part, trying to resemble and take a role like Ramzan Kadyrov has in Chechnya.

The deal between Kadyrov and Putin is, look, I'm going to make you basically king of Chechnya as long as you do whatever it takes to keep things quiet in that difficult part of Russia.

My question is, has there been a similar deal that Prigozhin has cut with Putin?

Putin has said, you can speak out to a certain extent on some of the things, as long as you, I don't know, take Bakhmut, using, you know, young Russian men for cannon fodder.

HOLMES: Going back to the elites, he said that -- he spoke of the anger at the lavish lifestyles of the rich and powerful. He said that it could see their homes, in his words, being stormed by people with pitchforks.

These are once-powerful people, the elites, the oligarchs; perhaps not so much anymore.

There is a point, a tipping point, where they might push back?

HALL: Well, it's really interesting because -- it's important I think people understand the difference between oligarchs and another group of elites that are called the siloviki. These are closest advisers to Putin, usually current and former members of the intelligence and security services as well as the military.

So the oligarchs themselves don't have armies; they have economic power to a limited extent. But they don't have the actual physical powers that, for example, some of these siloviki, some of the closer elites have. So the real question is, when will guys like Patrushev, guys like the

head of the FSB and the SVR, the intelligence services, begin to say, you know, he's gone too far?

Or are they saying, perhaps Putin has gone too far and Prigozhin might be the go-to guy at some later date?

There's a lot going on in the background.

HOLMES: There is. We're right out of time but I wanted to squeeze this in real quick. The pro-Kremlin journalist who did the interview, Konstantin Dolgov, he was fired after the interview, which was aired on a media outlet that is also pro-Kremlin like the blogger is.

What does that suggest?

HALL: I really think basically what that is, is Putin and the Kremlin saying, look, what's good for Prigozhin is not necessarily good for all these other lower-level military war bloggers. Not everybody is going to be given the space that Prigozhin has.

Ad I think that was a strong message that was sent to others, who might try something like that what Prigozhin is pulling off right now.

HOLMES: Great point, great point. Terrific analysis as always. Steve Hall, thanks so much.

HALL: Good to be here.


HOLMES: Three NGOs operating in the Mediterranean say a migrant boat that went missing on Wednesday with around 500 people on board appears to have been illegally pushed back to Libya.

The group Alarm Phone is calling it a criminal act, as they believe the boat was in Malta's search and rescue zone. They're demanding clarification to find out who was responsible. CNN is seeking comment from Malta, Libya and Italy, which provides resources to the Libyan Coast Guard to fight irregular migration.

All of this coming a day after Italy's own Coast Guard rescued more than 1,000 people from two migrant boats.

Hundreds of people are flocking to Missouri to see the body of a nun, who died more than four years ago. Coming up, why some people are calling it a miracle.




(MUSIC PLAYING) HOLMES: In the United States, air travel for Memorial Day weekend has

already reached the highest level in nearly 3.5 years. And airports across the country are expected to be even busier over the next few days.

Transportation security officials say they expect to screen around 10 million passengers this holiday weekend. CNN's Pete Muntean with more on the story.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A summer of tests for air travel is already off to a record-setting start. From Atlanta --


MUNTEAN (voice-over): -- to Los Angeles --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are looking at a very busy weekend here at LAX.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): -- with the Transportation Security Administration screening 2.66 million people at airports nationwide on Thursday, the highest number since before the pandemic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just tried to prepare as much as I could with what I can control.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, the airport is really busy but, otherwise, no; it has been easy, relatively easy.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): A smooth start after airlines canceled 2,700 flights last Memorial Day weekend, kicking off a summer of more than 55,000 cancelations.

PETE BUTTIGIEG, U.S. SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: This weekend will be a test of the system.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is putting pressure on airlines, which insist they are now right-sized and right-staffed, hiring 48,000 workers in the last year, according to a CNN analysis.

BUTTIGIEG: We're doing everything we can to press airlines to deliver that good service. And if there is an issue, we have your back.


MUNTEAN (voice-over): Though airlines worry delays could come from the federal government, which is short 3,000 air traffic controllers. This week, back-to-back staffing issues in Denver forced the FAA to slow flights. United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby calls air traffic control shortages his number one concern.

SCOTT KIRBY, CEO, UNITED AIRLINES: That doesn't just impact those flights; that bleeds over to the whole system for the rest of the day.

MUNTEAN: For now, the FAA has opened up 169 new, more efficient flight routes up and down the East Coast. From its command center in Virginia, the agency is monitoring storms in Florida, warning of delays in Tampa, Orlando, Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As far as the risk to the Memorial Day weekend, it's looking pretty good.

MUNTEAN: Still pretty busy at Reagan National Airport. Despite all this demand, travel site Hopper says airfare has actually gone down by 26 percent in the last year. The average domestic round-trip ticket this weekend, $273.

But get this: international airfare has jumped by 50 percent. The average international round trip this weekend, $1,300. The big tip from travel experts: try to book the first flight out if you can. That minimizes your chance of cancellations or delays -- Pete Muntean, CNN, Reagan National Airport.


HOLMES: In Missouri, the body of a nun, who died about four years ago, is showing a mysterious lack of decomposition. Her remains were exhumed as part of a plan to move her body to its final resting place inside a local Benedictine monastery. Matt Evans from CNN affiliate KNBC with more on what some are calling a miracle.


MATT EVANS, KNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The usual peaceful sounds at the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles Monastery have been replaced by the sounds of hundreds of people coming to view the body of its founder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not that old but I've never heard of that in my life.

EVANS (voice-over): These Little Brothers of the Land hitchhiked here from Kansas City.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you're religious brothers, you involve obedience. So we're sent. And as brothers, we can be sent in one of different places.

EVANS (voice-over): Others came from North Dakota --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Powerful experience. Very powerful.

EVANS (voice-over): -- and Nebraska --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's one of the most rare events in the whole United States.

EVANS (voice-over): -- as word has spread about what many consider a miracle. Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster died in 2019. Her sisters buried her on

the grounds here but exhumed her body to place it in a final resting place inside the chapel. They expected to find bones but instead found her body remarkably preserved.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: An incorrupt person is a sign of their holiness.

EVANS (voice-over): There are just around 100 cases of incorrupt saints in the entire history of the Catholic Church.

DR. DAVID FREEMAN, PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS STUDIES, UMKC: It's fairly rare. It's not -- it's not normal, even with -- even with embalmed bodies. There is a process of corruption that takes place.

EVANS (voice-over): Experts tell us the Catholic diocese would have to open an investigation and examine the body to confirm that.

FREEMAN: If it is a miracle, then they would want to first verify.

EVANS (voice-over): And scholars say just the fact that the sister's story is being elevated to this level is profound in and of itself.

DR. SHANNEN WILLIAMS, UNIVERSITY OF DAYTON: Sister Mary Wilhelmina is an example. She is part of that tradition, those who always understood that discrimination and barriers had no place within the church.

EVANS: And if Sister Wilhelmina is determined to be a saint, it will not only change this monastery but it will change this area forever.


HOLMES: And our thanks to Matt Evans for that report.

Now a small high school in rural Texas was forced to postpone its graduation ceremony after revealing that just five of its 33 seniors were actually eligible to receive diplomas.

Marlin High School rescheduled the event for June to give the students more time to meet graduation requirements; 17 are now eligible after the seniors worked this week to make up classroom hours and assignments.

You can do that in that amount of time?

Parents and students raised concerns at a school meeting on Wednesday.


BRANDOLYN JONES, MARLIN HIGH SCHOOL PARENT: I am a parent and I'm hurt. This is a catastrophic failure of leadership and accountability.

WILLIAM EALY, DEAN OF INSTRUMENTATION, MARLIN HIGH SCHOOL: But there was a meeting that happened around the same time as this. At that meeting, you received a sheet that said whether your student was on track or was not on track.

The parents that was not here, phone calls went to try to get you to get them in. We also opened up our availability all day long.

SALVADOR GUERRO, MARLIN HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: I just feel it's like a result of mismanagement, ignorance and negligence on their part.



HOLMES: Marlin seniors spent what would have been their graduation night being honored by the community for their achievements. The ceremony was held at a church on Friday. Parents said they were proud of the community for pulling together.

Now graduates at the University of Massachusetts/Boston were in for a surprise at their commencement ceremony.


HOLMES (voice-over): These lucky graduates are walking away with $1,000 each, courtesy of billionaire Robert Hale, who delivered their commencement address. Hale is the founder and CEO of Granite Telecommunications and owns a minority stake in the Boston Celtics basketball team.

He gave graduates $500 to spend on themselves and $500 to give away to teach about the gift of giving. One graduate, Wendy Humphries (ph), said she plans to donate to causes such as LGBTQ rights and abortion access.


HOLMES: Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. don't go anywhere. CNN NEWSROOM continues with Laila Harrak, coming up next.