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GOP Presidential Hopefuls Gather In Iowa; Biden Signs Debt Limit Bill, Averts U.S. Default; Son And Grandson Of Former Red Sox Star George Scott Found Dead; Austin, Texas Police: Suspected Killer May Have Slain Eight To 10 Others; Trump Lawyers Can't Find Document He Discusses On Tape; Interview With Reps. Mike Waltz (R-FL) & Seth Moulton (D-MA); NASA Panel Holds Public Hearing On UFOs; Arlene Downgraded To Tropical Depression. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 03, 2023 - 17:00   ET




JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington.

We begin this hour in Iowa where a gathering of Republican presidential contenders just wrapped up. It's called "The Roast and Ride" gathering and it's hosted by Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, Republican senator in that state.

The state is the first in the nation for the Republicans' nominating process. Nearly all the party's presidential candidates and likely candidates campaigned at the event which just wrapped up. Donald Trump was a prominent no-show.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny joins us now from Des Moines.

Jeff for candidates this was a prime opportunity to mingle with a crowd of politically plugged-in caucus-goers. What was the reaction though to Trump not being there? Was that a -- an oversight on his part, do you think? Did he miss an opportunity there? What did you hear from folks?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: We'll see. I mean, certainly Republican voters here, some 900 or so, were sitting for several hours watching all the speeches at Senator Joni Ernst's "Roast and Ride" as she calls it.

In fact, we just talked to her a few moments ago. And she said she did extend an invitation to Donald Trump a few months ago. And she said it was her sense he does not like to attend multicandidate events. Translation, he does not like to be in the same room at the same time as his rivals.

That's why he decided not to come today to Iowa. He was here in the state earlier this week talking to voters and holding some small meetings. But Jim, for the candidates who were here, there really was a sense of

-- it was far more about the Biden administration and having Republicans win back the White House. Of course the question is which Republican is the strongest to do that.

There was very little mention of Donald Trump at all. A lot of support for his policies, of course, but it was Florida Governor Ron DeSantis who decided to fly back to Iowa, after being here a couple of days earlier, who met the crowd.

He, of course, is trying to turn this into a two-person race. It's not quite there just yet.


GOV. RON DESANTSI (R-FL): I think American decline is a choice. And I'm running for president because I think if we choose another path we can restore American greatness. And that is the task that's before us.


ZELENY: And there has been a lot of sniping back and forth between Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis all week long. None of that was here. This was all very much a very positive event in terms of introducing the candidates to the public.

And Jim, it's probably one of the first times we've seen the Florida governor really get out and press the flesh, if you will, and talk to a lot of voters.

His wife was with him, one of his children was, as well. So this was a chance for Republicans to make their case, begin making their case for this field is getting much larger. By next week, ten Republican candidates will be in this race.

And just doing the math on that, that certainly advantages Donald Trump because he has a base of supporters here. But Jim, when you talk to voters, several have sort of fond memories of the Trump policies, but many are looking for a different personality. So that, of course, is the central question hanging over this entire Republican race. Will enough voters move away from him, or will he sort of run away with it.

Again, Iowa, of course, is the first stop on the nominating process. That comes in the wintertime, likely in January, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. Jeff Zeleny in Iowa for us. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

With the stroke of a pen and only a couple of days to spare, Washington has averted a crisis.

Earlier this afternoon President Biden signed into law the bipartisan bill that raises the nation's debt limit. That prevents the federal government from defaulting on its debts for the first time in U.S. history. Many experts warn that would have been catastrophic for the U.S. and global economies. CNN's Priscilla Alvarez joins us live from the White House.

Priscilla, President Biden was pretty blunt in terms of how close to disaster this country came. What did he have to say?

PRISCIALL ALVAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Jim, the setting almost said it all. He said his message, delivered his message from the Oval Office. His first evening address from the Oval Office in his presidency, really underscoring just how close we were to a default, and also just how important this moment was.

So President Biden laying bare during those remarks last night that the stakes were high.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Passing this budget agreement was critical. The stakes could not have been higher. If we had failed to reach an agreement on the budget, there were extreme voices threatening to take America for the first time in our 247-year history.

And to default on our national debt, nothing -- nothing would have been more irresponsible. Nothing would have been more catastrophic. No one got everything they wanted, but the American people got what they needed.



ALVAREZ: And some of those consequences Jim, was potentially a recession. Jobs being lost, people losing their retirement. So all of this was looming over the White House for weeks if not months.

And as you heard there from President Biden, not every side got what they wanted. This was the outcome of painstaking negotiations between White House negotiators as well as Republican negotiators. And it came down to the wire.

Recall just last week we were talking about that breakthrough between President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy when they reached that tentative agreement.

Now a week later, and just moments ago this afternoon, President Biden signed the debt ceiling bill into law. And during those remarks, President Biden did give a shout out to Kevin McCarthy saying that he commended him and that these were good faith negotiations.

Now of course the White House has faced criticism from its own allies on the left who said that there shouldn't have been negotiations to begin with or concessions. But as you heard there from President Biden, the White House line here has been that not everyone was going to get what they wanted.

And the other part of this too, is we're seeing President Biden take that victory lap. For weeks we had not heard much from the White House, hearing mostly from Republicans as the negotiations were under way.

But now the president coming forward, taking his victory lap, and also stressing bipartisanship now and moving forward, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. Priscilla Alvarez, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Turning now to a heartbreaking story out of Massachusetts. The son and 8-year-old grandson of former Red sox Star George Scott have been found dead in what officials are calling a murder/suicide.

Let's get right to CNN's Polo Sandoval. Polo, what a disturbing story. What can you tell us?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. These are now two criminal investigation, Jim, that are making an absolutely horrible intersection in the town of New Bedford, Massachusetts. You'll find it about 60 miles south of the city of Boston.

That's where police early yesterday morning were called to the home of George Scott III where he lived there with his 8-year-old son, Dante Hazard, apparently a relative of his had not been able to contact him so they called police.

Well, officers made their way inside the home and found that murder/suicide scene. Per the Bristol County D.A., the preliminary evidence right now is that Scott killed his son -- again, 8 years old -- with what's being described as a sharp object before taking his own life.

Now, there's a back story on Scott here. The Bristol County D.A. had been actively investigating the March, 2019 disappearance of Dante's mother, Lisa Hazard. The 28-year-old was last seen leaving Scott's home where this murder/suicide happened on her way to a drug rehabilitation program back in 2019. That's per her missing persons report. And she was never seen or heard from since.

And then it was just two weeks ago that investigators actually served a search warrant at that home in New Bedford, Massachusetts. However, if anything came out of that or even the warrant itself, that is still under seal. So we don't know much.

But the investigation is ongoing, and we understand that Scott was, quote, a person of interest in the disappearance of that woman. So that case is still moving forward.

And meanwhile as you mentioned, Scott is the son of the late Major League Baseball player George "Boomer" Scott, per the district attorney's office. He played in the late 60s, in the 70s as well and he died in 2013.

Again, just an absolutely heartbreaking story right now that's unfolding in Massachusetts. Two criminal investigations now overlapping at this hour.

ACOSTA: All right. Polo Sandoval, thank you very much.

It's a case of a crime drama come to life. A suspect in one murder may actually be a serial killer. Investigators say he's the one who tipped them off.

This week Austin, Texas police and U.S. Marshals arrested 62-year-old Raul Meza Jr. They say just before he was caught, Mesa called police -- a police info line. Listen to the homicide detective who ultimately took the call.


DET. PATRICK REED, AUSTIN, TEXAS POLICE:L I answered the homicide main line, and the caller stated my name is Raul Meza, and you're looking for me.

Mesa then went on to detail his relationship with Jesse Fraga and detailed the manner in which he murdered Mr. Fraga including details that had not yet been released to the public.


ACOSTA: Now Austin police think Meza may have killed nearly a dozen others dating back to 1996.

CNN national correspondent Camila Bernal joins me now.

Camila, Meza calls the police himself on May 24th, take us through what happened after that.

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, two things happened, Jim. They begin to investigate a number of killings and they begin looking for him because they believe that now he's responsible for multiple killings in the Austin area.

Now not only did he detail how he killed his 80-year-old roommate in that phone call, but he also went on to tell police about another killing, that one in 2019. And he confessed to killing this 66-year- old woman.

So of course, police looking into these two cases, but they begin to also see similarities in other cases that had been cold cases for years.


BERNAL: So now many of these cases are open, and police saying there could be between eight and ten of these cases that have similarities or may have some sort of involvement by Raul Meza.

And so that's what police are committing to looking at, at the moment. But they also say that they realize that he was a dangerous person. And in fact, when they arrested him, they found him with a bag that had duct tape, zip ties, a gun, and additional rounds.

Authorities saying they were able to talk to him after his arrest. And here is what the detective is saying about that conversation --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Won't go into the details of the conversation because it's part of the investigation. But I will let you know that Mr. Meza said he was ready and prepared to kill again, and he was looking forward to it.


BERNAL: Now looking at Meza's criminal history is also extremely chilling. And that's because in 1982 he served about 11 years of a 30- year sentence for killing an 8-year-old girl.

So here comes another case which is part of the reason why people in the Austin area still have a lot of questions as to whether these latest killings could have been prevented. Officials there even saying that justice was not served in the case of the 8-year-old girl.

So again, they're looking into all of these cold cases. And we know that for now they are going to continue to investigate the latest killings, as well. We expect him -- Raul Meza to appear in court on July 5th, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. Camila Bernal, thank you.

New developments after federal prosecutors obtained a recording of former President Trump acknowledging he held onto a classified Pentagon document after leaving the White House. That's next.

Plus, June is PTSD awareness month. I will talk to two congressmen both with distinguished military careers about this silent and common disorder. Please stay tuned for that.

And later, the GOP presidential field is about to grow with high- profile candidates, Chris Christie and Mike Pence both set to join the race. We'll talk about that, as well.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



ACOSTA: Former president, Donald Trump's legal issues got even more complicated this week. His lawyers now say they can't find a classified Pentagon document the former president is heard discussing on a recording from a 2021 meeting at his New Jersey golf club.

Federal prosecutors have the tape, and they've subpoenaed Trump and his lawyers to have the classified document returned.

CNN has not heard the recording, but multiple sources describe it as an important piece of evidence in a possible case against Trump.

We're going talk about this with our legal analyst Elie Honig in just a few moments.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.



ACOSTA: We're now on Donald Trump's legal issues. His lawyers now say they can't find a classified Pentagon document the former president is heard discussing on a recording from a 2021 meeting at his New Jersey golf club.

Federal prosecutors have the tape, and they've subpoenaed Trump and his lawyers to have the classified document returned.

Let's discuss this with former federal prosecutor and CNN's legal analyst Elie Honig.

Elie, sources telling us the document Trump refers to details plans for a possible attack on Iran. I know you've been following this closely. What does this recording mean for prosecutors if they decide to bring charges against the former president?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Jim, first of all, the recording of Donald Trump actually talking about what he says is this classified document could be vital evidence for prosecutors and really a big problem for Donald Trump because it establishes some of the core aspects of the case that prosecutors will have to establish.

First of all, that Donald Trump knew he had classified documents. He's talking about it reportedly on that tape.

Second of all, we finally are getting a sense of what he might have been doing, what his intent was with those documents because we hear him in this recording trying to influence the press coverage of him by referencing a classified document.

And finally Jim, it undermines this whole defense that he's been making publicly about how he automatically declassified everything. Well, this recording happens about six months after he's left office and he says I have classified documents.

So he certainly cannot have declassified everything. All of that is really important for prosecutors.

ACOSTA: Right, and what do we make of the lawyers saying, the Trump lawyers saying, they can't find this missing document?

HONIG: This is a real mystery and a high-stakes mystery. Look, it could be several different scenarios. It could be there is no actual underlying classified document.

In that scenario Trump would have just been puffing or exaggerating, something he's done from time to time.

It could be that DOJ actually has the underlying document but wants to make sure they get any copies or any drafts back from the Trump team.

Or it could be there was such a classified document and it's gone missing, either innocently in the natural shuffle of classified documents which shouldn't be happening in the first place, or perhaps somebody got rid of it.

Those are three or four very different scenarios that prosecutors really need to dig into and figure out.

ACOSTA: And all this Trump bloviating that gets him into trouble from time to time. Once again, this is a case of Trump hurting himself legally because he can't keep quiet about certain things, and especially in this case about classified information.

But we never see this result in doing himself in. So I mean is there -- I mean maybe he hasn't learned that there's a consequence to all that bloviating. What are your thoughts on that?

HONIG: This is a perfect example of why defense lawyers want their clients to remain silent because the fact is if this case ever gets charged and goes to trial, prosecutors will absolutely use the clips of Donald Trump talking publicly, telling Kaitlan Collins, for example, that he declassified everything.

Then they're going to prove that he did not do so and then they're going to say to a jury, why is he lying about this publicly because he knows he did wrong. That goes to his consciousness of guilt. It goes to his guilty state of mind.

So every time he's out there spinning a different potential defense, that's undermined by the truth, that's going to legitimately harm Donald Trump's prospects down the line.

ACOSTA: And this week the Department of Justice let former Vice President Mike Pence know that they had finished the investigation into classified documents pertaining to him, and his Indiana home. And that no charges would be filed against the former vice president.

Do you see any reason for the timing of this, why this came out? He is apparently going to announce that he's running next week. Is that anything to do with the timing there, do you know think?

HONIG: I think this is not a coincidence. I think this is purposeful timing. As you said Mike Pence is scheduled to announce his candidacy next week on June 7th. And I think we're having a town hall with him later that night, not to plug it.


HONIG: But I think there's a reason for this. Because the precedent that Merrick Garland has set here is that the reason he appointed special counsel on the Trump case was because Trump announced his candidacy.

Just a few days after Trump made that announcement, that's when Merrick Garland appointed Jack Smith special counsel. Same thing with the special counsel who continues to investigate Joe Biden. Obviously has been a candidate for some time now.

And I think Merrick Garland's looking ahead thinking ok, if we end this case, if it's run its course which apparently it has, before Mike Pence announces, then we won't have to grapple with this difficult issue of now that he's a declared candidate do we have to appoint special counsel.

ACOSTA: And what does this tell you about the Trump and the Biden classified document investigations? I mean obviously they're both running, and they did not get any kind of a clean bill of health from the Department of Justice in those investigations. Can we make any connections there?

HONIG: I think there's a couple of really important lessons here. First of all, we've heard people say, well, Trump, Biden, Pence, they all had classified documents so they're all in the same boat, they're all either guilty of a crime or not. That is wrong. It comes down to knowledge and intent.

And in this case, it's been determined that Mike Pence did not even know or did not have criminal intent as to those documents. That's why DOJ's not charging. May come out differently as to others.

Another line that you've heard sometimes with respect to Donald Trump is, well, if he had classified documents, it's the same as if he robbed a bank and had the money or if he had drugs.

That is dead wrong, as well, because you have to prove that the person had knowledge and intent. If that was true, if it was like a drug case or a bank robbery, then automatically Biden and Pence and Trump would all be guilty of a crime, but they're not because it's all about knowledge, it's all about intent.

That's where prosecutors are focusing, and that's what's going to differentiate Mike Pence, Joe Biden, and Donald Trump.

ACOSTA: Right. And Elie, I don't think we can ever, you know, lose sight of the importance of these Oath Keeper cases that took place in the aftermath of January 6th. They're just so very important. An Oath Keeper who was part of that battering ram, that so-called battering ram that breached the U.S. Capitol on January 6th was sentenced to three years in prison this past week. What do all of these Oath Keeper convictions tell you about what happened that day?

HONIG: So a lot of judges have been sentencing these Oath Keepers to very serious terms of imprisonment. And part of the goal that judges are pursuing here is what we call deterrence. They're trying to get that persona and other people to understand this is very serious, you will be punished severely.

The highest Oath Keeper sentence we've seen so far has gone to the leader, Stewart Rhodes, who was sentenced to 18 years behind bars. This individual was sentenced to three years. Various other people have been sentenced to long prison terms.

It shows and judges to their credit have been unequivocal. This was deadly serious, this was intended to interfere with our function of government, and you will be punished severely.

ACOSTA: All right. CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig, thanks so much. Really appreciate it. Good to see you.

HONIG: Thanks, Jim. Yes, good to talk to you.

ACOSTA: All right. All right.

And there is a new bipartisan effort to help veterans. Two of the congressmen behind it join us live next to talk about the issue of post traumatic stress disorder. What can be done to bring both parties together more often on that issue and other pressing issues facing this country. We'll talk about that next.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.




ACOSTA: In a 10-second clip President Biden tweeted out, he showed the official end of the nation's debt ceiling drama. Biden is signing the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 today, the deal that averted the economic catastrophe that would have come with a U.S. debt default.

Joining me to talk about this and the important issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, two congressmen, Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton from Massachusetts, Republican Mike Waltz from Florida, both members of Congress who served in the military.

Gentlemen, thanks so much for being with us.

Let's start on the debt ceiling bill signed into law by the president today.

Congressman Waltz, let me go to you first.

You voted against it. Why weren't you part of the bipartisan effort to avoid default?

REP. MIKE WALTZ (R-FL): Look, there were good compromises in there. There were good measures. I certainly give Kevin McCarthy credit for advancing us from having zero conversation about our out-of-control spending to at least getting the measures in that we did.

But at the end of the day, in my view, the number-one job of the federal government is to keep the country safe. And with China on the march, coming like a freight train, with a massive military build-up, a war in Europe, Iran with -- racing toward a nuke, Kim Jong-Un with his finger on a nuke, I felt the defense budget that we accepted was woefully inadequate.

It's actually a cut when you incorporate inflation. This is no time to be cementing, which we would be for the next several years, a defense cut. So for that reason, I couldn't support it.

ACOSTA: And, Congressman Moulton, President Biden spoke from the Oval Office about the passing of this critical deal.

How important was it for you and other Democrats that the debt ceiling fight has been pushed back until after the next presidential election?

I suppose -- do you think the president is breathing easier about that now that this is not going to be part of the next -- next year discussion during the presidential race?

REP. SETH MOULTON (D-MA): Look, I was just at the grocery store, I think everybody in America is breathing easier because we've gotten past this crisis.

And look, there's something in this bill for everybody to hate. I also don't like cutting our defense budget. But the right thing to do is to avoid default.

There's nothing that China would have loved more this week than to see America default on its debt. It's an embarrassment. We shouldn't be having this debate in the first place. There is a time and a place to address spending.

And look, we have a massive deficit. In fact, two-thirds of the deficit comes from the Bush and the Trump tax cuts put together. I don't want to pass that onto my kids.

We should have that debate. But having it over the debt ceiling is an embarrassment to the country. And that's why so many Democrats and Republicans came together to do the right thing and get us past this crisis.


ACOSTA: Gentlemen, let's talk about this issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is PTSD Awareness Month. You're both familiar with this issue along with the group With Honor.

Congressman Waltz, let me go to you first.

You're the first Green Beret elected to Congress who served four tours in Iraq. I hope I have that right. Why is this issue still with us? And how can the country do a better job tackling it?

WALTZ: Well, I served -- I served a couple of tours in Afghanistan. And I suffered from PTSD. I was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury.

And you know, it's one of the reasons I ran for Congress was to bring those experiences from the battlefield and what so many veterans and soldiers are enduring into our legislating.

And I certainly want to commend Representative Moulton. He's taken -- he has shared his personal story. He's taken huge steps.

And we have, together, whether it was a suicide hotline or -- I have a measure now to actually share our data and our treatments with Israeli organizations who have also been dealing with this issue over the years.

But, Jim, I want to say quickly we have to be careful, though, how we message it. I have talked to parents that right now are holding their kids back from joining because all they see on television are PTSD and wounded warrior commercials.

So while we need to raise awareness, and I certainly support that, we also can't give the impression that anybody who joins is going to come out forever mentally damaged.

And so -- we have to be very balanced in how we take this on going forward.

ACOSTA: Congressman Moulton, what do you make of that?

And -- I know you've shared your personal story in all this. You've talked about how much you were struck about attitudes changing about mental health issues. You received a lot of support when you talked about your experience. You didn't think that would happen.

What are your thoughts?

MOULTON: First of all, let me just say that it's a really big deal when the first Green Beret in Congress is willing to share his story.

So, Mike, cheers to you for showing America that Special Forces, some of our elite troops, can deal with post traumatic stress and come out on the other side.

You're not only a great example of sharing your mental health story, but of showing what you can do in spite of that diagnosis, here getting elected as the first Green Beret in Congress.

And that's -- you know, that's what I tried to show, as well, Jim, when I became the first sitting member of Congress to talk about my mental health issues and talk about how I was dealing with them.

But also, hopefully, set an example for everyone in America that it's OK to talk about this, it's OK to ask for help.

And these are treatable conditions. You can move on from them, you can go on to do great things just like we did in the military.

So it's a real honor to be working with Mike on this issue and really showing the country that this is a bipartisan problem. But we can work on it together.

ACOSTA: And you know, one of the issues with PTSD just seems to be -- maybe Congressman Waltz can address this -- it has this connotation to it that it's something from a bygone era, something Vietnam veterans suffered from more than soldiers today, veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq.

How much of that perception needs to be challenged? I mean, you talked about your concern about it being talked about too much and discouraging people from going into the military.

But isn't part of the issue, part of the problem that we need to get it out there more, talk about it more, confront it?

WALTZ: Yes. No, I do. I think we need to be comfortable not only with the chain of command with the military but with relatives and others and even our employers to go get help.

I do think we've made progress. You mentioned the Vietnam generation. Heck, when they came home, they couldn't even admit they had served on job applications because of the popular blowback against our service members then.

So we've certainly progressed I think in how we deal with it. But all I'm saying is to be balanced in terms of this broader perception that everyone who joins.

Look, if you join the military, you're not guaranteed to come out without PTSD or traumatic brain injury. But those of us in serious combat, explosive situations, many of us have suffered. We have to be comfortable talking about it.

I do think there's a bevy of programs out there to deal with it. And really what Seth and I are doing is getting in the weeds and trying to measure the effectiveness of those programs, whether the resource and whether they're doing what they've been chartered to do.


ACOSTA: Can I ask you, Congressman Mouton, about a separate issue that deals with the military? And it's been in the news in the last couple of days. Several U.S. military facilities are getting name changes. Fort Bragg, for example, is now being called Fort Liberty.

Since I have two veterans with me on this program, I have to ask you about this.

Congressman Moulton, let me go to you first.

Do you welcome this? Do you think it's finally good for the country to move on from having military bases named after Confederate Civil War figures?

MOULTON: Yes, absolutely. I mean, look, I think it's long overdue. I think it's widely embraced.

When you look at how careful this bipartisan group of experts has come together to make recommendations, how careful they've been about really renaming these bases after real true heroes.

True heroes to our country, not people who fought against our country, but true heroes who have made our country better and stronger.

There's a lot of enthusiasm about the new names of these bases, even though there are, of course, some people nostalgic for the old ones. This change is long overdue. There's a lot of support from the

military itself. And so it's -- it's heartening and encouraging to see it finally come to pass.

ACOSTA: Congressman Waltz, what did you think of that?

WALTZ: You know, look, Seth and I work together on a lot of things in a bipartisan way. I just respectfully disagree on this one.

You know, I served at Fort Bragg. When I think that service -- and I think this speaks of the vast majority of servicemembers -- they weren't thinking about Fort Bragg, the man or whatever his ills were during the Civil War.

They were thinking about our camaraderie, what we had endured together, what that service at that base meant in terms of what we learned, in terms of discipline and leadership and followership and teamwork and the units that are stationed there, the 82nd Airborne, and others, and the Special Forces. I think all of those things are what comes to mind.

From the communities -- I saw a lot of pushback in the communities of saying this is unnecessary, let's focus on having our tanks, planes, and ships flying safely or operating safely, and having the best trained military to defend the nation.

Look, at the end of the day, we're going to move forward. I just thought it was a bit of an unnecessary distraction. The community often opposed it.

And it's just -- I just don't think this is what most soldiers in this modern day were worried about or thinking about as they thought about their service.

ACOSTA: But just to press you on that a little bit, is it perhaps some folks just don't want a change with the times? I mean, why should we continue to have military bases named after Confederate generals?

WALTZ: Look, I could tell you, in the fox hole, and when I was in combat, we were in a black helicopter going after al Qaeda in the middle of the night, just race, religion, socio-economic background, all of -- none of those things matter.

What matters is that your fellow Americans. You're in harm's way together. You're focused on taking care of the men and women to your left and your right and accomplishing the mission.

So we have to be careful about constantly highlighting our differences rather than what unites us.

And I think this is just going -- taking us back in time to an era that not really many people are very focused on until we kind of force it in front of them.

When I'm talking to soldiers and veterans who served at Fort Benning or Fort Bragg or Fort Gordon, many don't know who the person was. They do know their fellow soldiers that served with them. They know

the pride in their unit and service.

And you know, fine, we did it, we'll move forward. I just don't think it was top of mind to most veterans or servicemembers that I've dealt with served with or talked to now.

ACOSTA: All right. Congressmen Seth Moulton, Congressman Mike Waltz, gentlemen, thanks so much for your time.


ACOSTA: Appreciate it.

MOULTON: Did you want to get something in there, Congressman? One last word to you? Congressman Moulton?

MOULTON: Just never unnecessary to do the right thing and live up to our values as a country.

ACOSTA: All right.

Thanks, gentlemen. We'll leave it there. Appreciate both your time very much. Thanks so much.

Up next, NASA's new UFO task force goes public. A member of the group joins us to explain what happened at the group's first public hearing.


You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


ACOSTA: This week, a NASA panel studying UFOs held a first of its kind public meeting to discuss findings. The group analyzed UFOs, now called UAPs, or Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena, to give NASA a roadmap for future analysis.

Astrophysicist and chairman of the panel, David Spergel, joins us.

David, what did your group find? I guess it was a bit of a letdown for folks who were hoping you were going to tell us about UFOs.

DAVID SPERGEL, ASTROPHYSICIST & CHAIR, NASA UAP INDEPENDENT STUDY TEAM: Well, our job was to come up with a roadmap of how NASA could contribute to this. Some people wanted us to announce, you know, and identify all events and what were going on.

We looked at a number of events, we did that to inform us. Congress actually charged the Defense Department, the Anomaly Resolution Office, to be the lead agency in studying UAPs.


And when you think about UAPs, you ought to think about them as most of them are likely going to turn out to be something conventional, like commercial planes, balloons, drones.

Most things you don't understand when you look into them are understandable. The interesting cases are the ones you can't explain.

The reason the Defense Department has been charged as the lead agency, some of these are potentially national security issues.

We saw this with the Chinese balloon that drifted across the United States a couple months ago, right? So that is a matter for our Defense Department to worry about.

So our charge was, how can NASA contribute to this? And NASA has a number of advantages. It is a scientific agency. It is dealing with unclassified data.

Another thing to keep in mind in this area is, when you hear something is classified, you should think of it as things are classified often because of the way the image was taken.

So if an F-35 camera takes a picture of a bird, that's classified. You can learn from that picture of the bird about the nature of the optics in our military planes.


SPERGEL: If a spy satellite takes a picture of a balloon, it's classified.

ACOSTA: David --


ACOSTA: Our time is tight so I wanted to jump in.

Was there anything that jumped out that could not be explained and you want to spend more time on it? That might not be something you can just put in the column of, this was something that is a spot on a radar screen, that sort of thing.

SPERGEL: I think there is a number of things in the data that cannot be easily explained. But they tend not to have good quality data.

If you see something anomalous, you want to have it observed with multiple cameras on multiple angles so you can determine distance and velocity. I think our biggest conclusion was that we need better data.

If you want to understand anomalies, you need to approach this in a scientific manner and encourage NASA to collect and be the centerpiece for collecting multi-wavelength data for many instruments so we can characterize things we don't understand.

ACOSTA: Is NASA doing enough to be on the lookout for this kind of phenomena? Do we have enough technology in place? Do we have enough satellites looking for this sort of thing? And equipment on the ground here on earth looking for this sort of thing where we can get that definitive answer? SPERGEL: We do not. NASA, nor the country as a whole, lacks a

systematic way of collecting on anomalies. Lots of people see things they don't understand.

I think this is an actually good opportunity to combine citizen science with data from radar, from the FAA, data from commercial and scientific satellites that NASA operates.

One of the things that I think can work to our advantage is we have about three billion of these things floating around. These fabulous cameras, GPS positions. I think this could be an opportunity for citizen science to help us understand it.

ACOSTA: Something tells me it will be caught on a cell phone first before anything else. I think you're absolutely right about that.

David Spergel, thank you so much for your time. Love to have you come back and talk about this in the future.

But I was hoping for a little more info from what took place but we'll hold out hope for the next one.

Thank you for your time. We appreciate it.



ACOSTA: All right. And we'll be right back.



ACOSTA: Florida is bracing for some wet weather as the incoming Tropical Storm is downgraded to a tropical depression. But it could still bring as much as four inches of rain to Florida's southern coast.

Allison Chinchar is in the CNN Weather Center with more on the hurricane season, and the El Nino year.


ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Tropical Depression Arlene became the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season on Friday in the Gulf of Mexico. It is still there. It is meandering to the southeast of Cuba.

But this is just the first in a long list of names we're expecting to go through this year. The ultimate question is, how many of these names do we ultimately end up using this season?

The official forecast from NOAA calls for 12 to 17 total named storms. Five to nine of those becoming hurricanes, and one to four of them reaching major hurricane strength, which is category 3 or higher.

Colorado State University, another well-respected entity that puts out forecasts, is calling for 15, seven, and three total, respectively.

The interesting part there is those numbers have actually increased in the last month. And there's a very important reason for that. The main factor going forward this hurricane season is going to be the potential for El Nino.

We are currently under an El Nino watch. What that means is this region of the eastern Pacific is seeing very warm temperatures, warmer than they normally would be.


Now when we go into the summer months, and especially into the winter months, the odds of us getting into an El Nino are very high. An 80 percent chance by June, July and August. And then up to 90 percent by the time we get into the winter months.