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Man Charged With Threatening To Kill U.S. Senator; GOP 2024 Presidential Hopefuls Gather In Iowa; Biden Signs Debt Limit Bill, Averts U.S. Default; Christie, Pence Joining GOP Primary Competition; Horse Euthanized After Race Injury In Belmont Park; Van Der Sloot U.S. Transfer Process Begins. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired June 03, 2023 - 19:00   ET




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

New tonight, a New Hampshire man is charged with threatening to kill a United States senator. Let's go quickly to CNN's Polo Sandoval. He is working on story right now. It is developing for us new here at 7:00 on the East Coast. Polo, what are you learning?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, Jim, federal officials have not publicly disclosed who the target was of the threat but they are certainly expanding on the nature of it. They're saying Brian Landry of New Hampshire, a 66-year-old man, claims that he's a veteran, that he called the office, the field district office of a sitting U.S. senator, and that he left a threatening voicemail.

Now, it is important so that you get a full sense of the allegations that I was able to actually read over in the criminal complaint. It is important that I share what that voicemail allegedly said. According to federal investigators, he said, I'm a veteran sniper, and unless you change your ways, I got my scope pointed in your direction and I'm coming to get you. You're a dead man walking, you piece of expletive.

This voicemail was initially obtained by Capitol Police. It was then shared by the FBI, who sent federal investigators to the house of the 66-year-old man on May 24th. They had a conversation with him. And according to that criminal complaint, he told federal investigators, said he was extremely angry with certain politicians over their handling of entitlement programs for vets and then went on to say that, in particular, he was-up set with a senator who was allegedly blocking military promotions.

But he also went on to deny any intentions to actually go through with any sort of violence and he also did not recall exactly what he left on that voicemail. So, that's important. We have reached out to his defense and still waiting to hear back. Nonetheless, federal officials did charge him with threatening to assault, kidnap or murder a U.S. official in connection with their performance of official duties. The judge ordered him released pending a future hearing that is scheduled to happen in a couple weeks. And we have reached out to his attorney.

But, really, this is just a reminder of this increase of threats, of political violence that we have seen and heard in the past against state and federal officials. And it is certainly not necessarily just those folks who raise these red flags, it is concerning for the intelligence committee but certainly those who do not leave voicemails, those who do not post on social media. So, really, this is just a dark reminder of the potential political violence that we've seen in the past.

ACOSTA: No, it's a reminder of the danger that this country is living with right now, Polo. And just to recap one more time. It does sound at this point, though, that authorities are not identifying the U.S. senator who is targeted in this. Is there potential for that to change or we just don't know, it's a little too early in the investigation maybe?

SANDOVAL: It is still too early in this investigation, Jim. We should note that this defendant was in court just yesterday. So, this is a very swift-moving investigation. The call was initially made back on May 17th. They now continued to speak to him just last week and then arrested him and then, obviously, he faced those charges. So, it will be interesting to see how this investigation really begins to move forward and most importantly, this U.S. senator comes forward with details on that call that was placed last month. But at this point, again, federal authorities are not including that in the federal documents that I looked over.

ACOSTA: All right. Polo Sandoval, if there is any new development on this, let us know. We'll get back to you, Polo. Thanks very much. We appreciate it.

Turning the corner now to the 2024 presidential campaign, this is the annual roast and ride gathering weekend hosted by the Republican Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa. Her state is the first in the nation for the Republicans nominating process. And nearly all the party's presidential candidates, likely candidates, spent the day campaigning at this event. One face you did not see there, though, was Donald Trump. He skipped the get-together. But our CNN's Jeff Zeleny is with us. He joins us now from Des Moines.

Jeff, was there much buzz about Trump not being there or were the other candidates generating their own buzz where maybe you didn't notice it as much?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Jim, I think a bit of both. I mean, there is no doubt that former President Trump looms large over this race. He hangs over this race in every way. But it was striking, the degree to which he was not mentioned at all and really did not come up in conversations with Republican voters.

This is a crowd largely Republican establishment, I guess, if you will, or certainly party regulars who are eager to survey this field of candidates.

[19:05:02] They're eager to size up the contenders who are running to be an alternative to Donald Trump and trying to convince the party to turn the page and move forward.

So, clearly, the former president does not want to be in the same room as a lot of his rivals. Senator Joni Ernst told me that she invited him personally and he chose not to attend this. But there certainly was a flavor of the argument that Republicans will hear. Here's a sample.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: And I don't have anything to announce today, but I can tell you when I got time to announce come this Wednesday, I'm announcing in Iowa.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (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: So, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was among the candidates who was here and several others as well. Jim, this field is rapidly growing. By next week, there will be some ten candidates in the race. Of course, it's dividing all that up. It does indeed potentially benefit Donald Trump. But voters, I can tell you, seem to have very much open minds at this point.

ACOSTA: Yes. Jeff, I was going to ask you, what are you hearing from the voters? Because of the polls being where they are right now, we know Donald Trump was way out in front of this increasingly crowded field. But are voters saying and Iowans are notoriously fickle when it comes to choosing their candidate eventually, might some of these voters switch away from the former president and go to a Ron DeSantis or a Chris Christie or Mike Pence or Nikki Haley?

ZELENY: There is no doubt that Republicans have an open mind. They certainly are hoping to achieve the objective of winning back the White House. And there's some evidence, of course, that Donald Trump would struggle to do that.

So, we talked to a variety of voters here today and really throughout the week here in Iowa, and there is an appetite for an alternative. The question is who that may be. We had a long conversation with John Flannery. He's a retiree from West Des Moines. He had this to say about the former president.


ZELENY: Do you expect Trump starts with a pretty good head start?

JOHN FLANNERY, IOWA REPUBLICAN VOTER: There's no doubt about it. He's got a lot of support in Iowa, yes. But we'll see what happens as time goes on. I personally kind of just wish he'd calm down a little. I like his ideas, some of his ideas, some I don't. We'll see by the end of it.


ZELENY: So, clearly, there is an appetite there. There certainly is an opening there for one candidate, or perhaps several candidates to make the case. That's exactly what they are doing here. But, Jim, you always feel the sense of exhaustion at the former president. Of course, his core supporters, most of whom were not in the room today, there were a few Trump hats and shirts and things that they are with him, but against broader Republicans, even those who voted for him twice before and like his policies, they do openly question his re- election potential and his personality.

This has really changed over the last year or two. Republicans used to be very skeptical of saying anything against him. Jim, that has changed dramatically since we covered the Trump White House, of course. So, this is something that you really do feel. There may be a change in the party, but the question is who that alternative is, or is the map just too big that Trump ends up winning a primary because so many candidates are in the race. We'll see how the campaign unfolds.

ACOSTA: Yes. Jeff, that voter's comment that he wishes Trump would tone things down a little bit, that is a familiar refrain that we've heard from other Republicans before. All right, Jeff Zeleny in Iowa for us, thanks very much. We appreciate it.

Coming up GOP Presidential Candidate Asa Hutchinson will join us live from Iowa. Stay tuned for that conversation.

In the meantime, though, here in the nation's capital, a crisis has been averted. This afternoon, President Biden signed into law the bipartisan bill that raises the nation's debt limit. That rescues the federal government from running out of money to pay its bills. Many experts predicted a default, the first in American history. That would have been catastrophic for the US. economy and beyond.

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez joins us live from the White House. Priscilla, the president emphasized how close to the clip this country came, but he also talked about bipartisan cooperation. And it sounded as though there was some praise for the House speaker, Kevin McCarthy.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: He did. He commended House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in his address yesterday, saying that he engaged in what he called good faith negotiations. But, look, this was an address that served as almost a victory lap for President Biden after weeks of this threat of default looming over the White House. But what was also clear in this address was how significant a moment this was delivering it from the Oval Office. It was his first evening address from the Oval Office, but also making clear that the stakes were high here. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: 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 into default on our national debt.


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 that was key here, Jim, President Biden acknowledging that there were concessions on everyone got what they wanted, but this was the outcome of painstaking negotiations between White House negotiators and Republican negotiators.

Now, of course, this all kind of happening over the course of the last week. Last Saturday, we were talking about President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reaching that tentative agreement, then came one of the hard parts, which was getting it through Congress. And that's where we saw frustration from some of Biden's allies on the left who were not pleased about the concessions or that there were negotiations to begin with.

But that all coming to an end today, just hours ago, when President Biden signed this debt ceiling deal into law. So, President Biden taking that victory lap Friday evening, signing the bill today, and really stressing in the course of all of it the importance of bipartisanship and unity. Jim?

ACOSTA: All right. Priscilla Alvarez, thanks very much.

In Texas, the end of a manhunt may have just solved numerous cold cases and stopped a serial killer. Austin Police and federal marshals arrested 62-year-old Raul Meza Jr. this past week. They say, while he was on the run, Meza called investigators confessing to two murders. Now, they think he could be held responsible for eight to ten other killings dating back more than 25 years.

CNN's Camila Bernal has the latest on this story. Camila, just a wild story. Tell us more about this phone call.

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, the phone call started with him telling an Austin Police Department detective, my name is Raul Meza and you are looking for me. In this phone call, he told the detective how he killed his 80-year-old roommate. He detailed the manner in which he killed him, talked about the relationship and also gave them details that had not been made public.

He also confessed to a second killing, this one in 2019, of a 66-year- old woman. And so after he talks about these two killings, police begin to look at other cases. They say between eight and ten cases that they believe could be connected to Raul Meza. So, now, they're looking into all of these cases and his possible connection.

Authorities also saying that they believed he was dangerous. There was a five-day manhunt. And when he was arrested, he was found with a bag that contained zip ties, duct tape, a gun and additional rounds. And after he was arrested, he actually told police that he was ready, prepared and looking forward to his next killing.

So, of course, officials just very concerned about what was happening here and also say that what's even more chilling is the fact that he was actually convicted in 1982 of killing an eight-year-old girl. He served an 11-year or so or served about 11-years of a 30-year sentence. And officials in Austin, Texas, saying this was not justice for this eight-year-old girl. And there are many questions of whether many of the other crimes could have been prevented.

Authorities saying that they're going to continue to investigate the latest killings, but also the cold cases, and he is due in court on July 5th. Jim?

ACOSTA: All right, Camila Bernal, thanks very much for that update on a very troubling case. We appreciate it.

Most of the Republican presidential candidates are in Iowa tonight, including former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson. He joins us live next.

Plus, after a dozen horse deaths in a month, the track that hosts the Kentucky Derby is about to suspend races. What's behind the deaths and how they can be prevented?

You're live in the CNN Newsroom.



ACOSTA: The 2024 Republican primary is revving up. Candidates vying to be the party's nominee for president are making a critical stop today at a fundraiser in Iowa. Some, like former Vice President Mike Pence, who you see on your screen right now, even hopped on a Harley Davidson for part of the festivities. The event's eight attendees are there wooing voters before the state hosts the first contest for Republicans next year.

And joining us now is one of the contenders who on hand for the gathering. That is Asa Hutchinson, the former governor of Arkansas. Governor, thanks so much for being with us today. How did it go today? What was the message you were trying to get across to Iowa voters? And do you think there is an openness to a candidate not named Donald Trump?

FMR. GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): Without any question, there's that openness to a non-Trump candidate and this was an exciting day at the Iowa state fair for this really kickoff of the fall campaign. You had thousands of people there interested in listening to the candidates, and they're wide open as to who they're going to choose. So, non- committal at this point, it's exciting for a candidate like myself that, for the first time, is really introducing myself to a large audience in Iowa. And so it was a great occasion to talk about farm background that I have, my background as a federal prosecutor, as head of the DEA, a key person in Homeland Security, addressing the issue of terrorism in our country. These are things they didn't really know about me, and then, of course, my record as governor. So, this was a good day for the candidates that want to make their pitch to Iowans. And they're interested, they're engaged and they want to know more.

ACOSTA: And moments ago, Governor, you criticized former President Trump for congratulating North Korea's Kim Jong-un after his country was admitted to the World Health Organization's executive board. I mean, we're showing the tweet on screen right now. Should more people in your party be speaking out against Trump and this warmth he has shown for the North Korean dictator?


He's done this before. He's talked about his love letters with Kim Jong-un and so on.

HUTCHINSON: Well, we should speak out as needed. And on this occasion, it was needed. The United States of America can't be in a position, whether it's a former president or not, of praising a tyrant dictator of North Korea that oppresses his people and is not a good example of leadership across the globe. So, we should be suppressing them and not elevating them. And that's what Donald Trump did on his praise of Kim Jong-un.

And so it's important to speak out. We don't do this every day because we want to come together when the primary is over, but on key issues, we have to speak out, be clear as to what really the Republican Party stands for. I'm a Ronald Reagan conservative and I don't believe that reflects the best principles of the Republican Party.

And, Governor, this week, the RNC released new qualifications for the Republican presidential primary debates. One of those requires all candidates to back the eventual nominee. Will you support Donald Trump if he ends up being the nominee?

HUTCHINSON: Well, I expect that, one, we need to be on the debate stage and I've always supported the nominee of the party. I hope to I will do that this year. I certainly expect it to be somebody other than Donald Trump and that's why we're running. That's why I'm running. And it looks like three more candidates getting in next week, all of whom are saying they're a better choice than Donald Trump. So, the field is wide open. I expect to be able to support the nominee of the party.

And that would include Donald Trump as well, if he is the nominee?

HUTCHINSON: If I sign that oath, it includes whoever will be the nominee of the party. As I said, I expect it to be somebody different.

ACOSTA: Yes, but isn't that one of the questions that a lot of folks have been raising about this process is that, as you add more candidates to the race, that makes it easier for Donald Trump to become the nominee. Are you concerned about that?

HUTCHINSON: Well, not at this stage. Because at this stage, it means that there's more voices in there that say, we want new leadership in the party, we want different alternatives, and the party is open to it, and they see that opening. And so that's evidence of the fact that the party wants to move a different direction.

And so time will tell, and I think the field will narrow as time goes on, but we can't do it artificially, first of all, by denying people that are legitimate candidates to the debate stage. Let's get them out there. Let's expose it. And as time goes on, the people of Iowa, the people of New Hampshire and South Carolina, they're going to narrow that field. And that's what really the tradition of the voters is across the country.

And one of your opponents, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, had this to say in Iowa today about what he calls the woke. Let's listen to that one and ask you about this on the other side.


DESANTIS: As president, I recognize that the woke mind virus represents a war on the truth. So, we will wage a war on the woke. We will fight the woke in education. We will fight the woke in the corporations. We will fight the woke in the halls of Congress.


ACOSTA: Governor, do you agree that Republicans need to have a war, wage a war on wokism? And how do you define wokism?

HUTCHINSON: Well, I would phrase it this way, that the fight for our culture is important, but that fight is waged in our families, in our communities, in our school boards, and that's where we impact the culture and it should not be designed by federal law that, as a conservative, is telling business what to do and how to speak out.

We shouldn't use the tools of the left, which is to use the power of government to tell businesses what they can and cannot do but we shouldn't use that power as conservatives either. Let's have free speech. Let's have the conscience dictate what our people do and not have government telling them exactly what they have to do.

ACOSTA: And so you would have gone after Disney?

HUTCHINSON: And so let's (INAUDIBLE) this in our communities. Let's work to protect it.

ACOSTA: I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt there but -- yes, go ahead.

HUTCHINSON: No. Well, I disagree with Disney. But, no, I disagree with Disney. But, no, let's don't use the power of government to punish a business that we disagree with on a social issue. That, to me, is a conservative position. And I don't think we should be going after and punishing businesses. ACOSTA: And just very quickly, one final question. If you were president today, would you have signed that debt deal legislation that President Biden signed?

HUTCHINSON: Well, of course, I would negotiate a better deal. And, of course, if I was president, we would make sure we protected our military.


But this is an area that we had to have some constraints on spending. I applaud Speaker McCarthy. I think they did a good job. You always want more, but that's why we have a 2024 election to get this back on track. And so this is a start to a long process to get us there.

ACOSTA: But you would have signed it to avoid of default, I guess, is my question?

HUTCHINSON: Sure, we shouldn't default. And, certainly, if that would have been presented to me, I would have signed that because it had some constraints on spending, which we have to get under control, and it is more than Biden would ever give previously. So, I think Speaker McCarthy did a good job in pushing President Biden, getting more controls on spending. And it's not perfect. That's what a compromise is about. But we can't default on our debt. That's not an option for the United States.

ACOSTA: All right. Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, thanks very much for your time. We really appreciate it.

HUTCHINSON: Thank you, Jim. Good to be with you.

ACOSTA: All right. Thanks so much. And live from Iowa, Dana Bash moderates a CNN Republican presidential town hall with former Vice President Mike Pence. Don't miss it on Wednesday night live at 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN.



ACOSTA: Next week the GOP will add at least two more podiums to his presidential debate stage. Former New Jersey governor, Chris Christie plans to announce his candidacy on Tuesday and former Vice President Mike Pence says he will do the same on Wednesday.

But at this point, polling isn't all that encouraging for either one of them especially for Chris Christie. In a CNN poll conducted in mid- May, Christie was the top GOP name voters said they would not support, 60 percent said he wouldn't get their primary vote.

Joining us to talk about this, Dustin Racioppi, the New Jersey editor for Politico and Charlie Stile, the political columnist for "The Record of Bergen County."

Gentlemen, thanks so much. Your Christie expertise is appreciated on this Saturday evening.

Dustin, as Trump's former friend turned harsh critic, maybe he is still friends, who knows, but Christie told Axios he would never support Trump again. Maybe you heard my interview with Asa Hutchinson.

The Republican Party sounds like they're going to require these candidates that they're going to be on debate stages to support the eventual nominee. How does this work? How does Christie square this circle winning points will never Trumpers and Independents, but at the same time getting enough support to win the nomination?

DUSTIN RACIOPPI, NEW JERSEY EDITOR, POLITICO: That's going to be his biggest challenge, I think because he's had this long established relationship. He was out from really early in 2016, endorsing President Trump, then candidate Trump, and he was one of his most vocal defenders and an adviser to him up until the 2020 election, and then everything changed from there.

So in the course of that, he has managed to upset, as you mentioned, the Never Trumpers, plus the base. So he has got to try to thread the needle so to speak and present a case that is compelling and convincing to voters as to why he defected from Trump camp, so to speak.

ACOSTA: Yes. Charlie, you call Christie road-tested, but unpopular. What strengths does he have? And what can translate beyond New Jersey? And can he get over this duality, I guess, if you want to call it to be diplomatic about it, and that he was a very strong Trump supporter. He helped him prepare for debates in the 2020 presidential cycle.

I mean, it hasn't been that long ago that he was right there helping Trump get re-elected or try to get re-elected, and now he says he's going to be this harsh critic who is going to take the former president head on.

CHARLIE STILE, POLITICAL COLUMNIST, "THE RECORD OF BERGEN COUNTY": Well, Chris Christie is one of the most deft and colorful political performers I've ever seen. He thrives in these townhall forums. He has a capacity to come up with some of the best zingers and colorful lines. I think he is probably rehearsing a bunch of them right now getting ready for Tuesday's event.

You know, I think that the real problem is, I'm not so sure that the problem that his past enabling or empowering of Trump is a real problem. I just think what's in front of them is the current problem and that is an ardent base that will cheer as they did in your CNN townhall a couple of weeks ago, just about anything or everything he says crude or inaccurate or false. And so I think and that is really the problem for Chris Christie.

He rose to sort of national attention by being the guy who said these bombastic, colorful things and he was eventually pushed aside by this asymmetric warrior, Trump who said a lot of even more crude, bombastic things, and so that's Trump strength. So it's going to be a tough fall for him. ACOSTA: Yes, and Dustin, Steve Schmidt, one of the founders of The Lincoln Project and an avowed never Trumper offered this take on Twitter: "Somebody needs to walk up to the bully, Donald Trump and do what must be done to bullies proverbially, which is to knock them on their ass. Chris Christie alone, among them of the weaklings, is in a position to do it." Do you think we're going to see that from Chris Christie, Dustin?

RACIOPPI: I think there's no doubt about it. This is kind of what Christie was built for, is this moment. It feels almost cinematic thinking about it. His whole career has been built on this persona as Charlie said, bombastic, saying things, dispensing sort of the hard truths that nobody else will do.


He is the guy who is really built for that sort of combat, if you will, and he is the only one who has the guts, I think, who has shown to this point at least, to have the guts to take on Donald Trump. Everybody else who is in this race right now has kind of skirted around and say, well, I don't -- I don't really want to pay attention to Trump here. I'm thinking about the future, this and that.

And I think Steve Schmidt has a point there, and if there's anybody who is going to have the capacity to take on Donald Trump head on, it's going to be Chris Christie, that is his sort of master skill.

ACOSTA: Charlie, you agree with that?

STILE: Totally. He is agile, quick on his feet, and he can be -- he can put together a coherent and vicious argument on the fly, better than anybody in the field, and probably better than most Republicans in the country.

He is a political performer that is rarely seen, and you know, Trump -- the question is whether he goes toe-to-toe with Trump and that's the most exciting bout on the horizon if it does happen, if Trump doesn't slink away from the debate stage, but no question about it.

ACOSTA: Yes, and if Christie doesn't deliver at this point, he has been foreshadowing this for so long. I mean, that certainly will go over all of that while he has been predicting this. I suppose he is going to have to deliver.

Dustin and Charlie, thanks so much for your time. We really appreciate it.

All right, the home of the Kentucky Derby is about to suspend races after a dozen horses there died in a month, a look at what could be wrong, next.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[19:40:58] ACOSTA: Just a week before the finale of horse racing's Triple Crown, a horse has died at Belmont Park, the site of next week's race. The six-year-old suffered an injury during a race and was euthanized on the track. Since last Saturday, two other horses have been euthanized following training sessions at the home of the Belmont Stakes.

Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby is suspending all horse racing after 12 horses died in the past month. The track operators say they found no single factor behind the deaths. They also say there have been an unusual number of horse injuries over the past month. Some of those were leg injuries leading to the horses being euthanized.

Professor Mick Peterson is Director of the Race Track Safety Program at the University of Kentucky. Professor, the company that runs the track says: "Despite our best efforts to identify a cause for the recent horse injuries, no issues have been linked to our racing surfaces or environment at Churchill Downs."

Professor, thanks for joining us and lending us your expertise. Do you buy that? If it's not the track, what would be the cause?

MICHAEL PETERSON, DIRECTOR OF THE RACE TRACK SAFETY PROGRAM, UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY: Well, the risk is always multifactorial, and I'm an engineer and a veterinarian. So my role in this whole work has been to provide information about the track and get that into the larger picture of all the other risk factors that the horse is experiencing.

It can have to do with previous training, shoeing. There are so many factors that go into this and it is like any other accident or tragedy, whether it's a train derailment in Pennsylvania or the Boeing 737 Max, you don't fix just one thing, you fix everything you can find in order to avoid having the risk going forward.

ACOSTA: And professor, I mean, with all of these deaths, I mean, should we be entertaining the question of whether or not this sport needs to be shut down?

PETERSON: We've made huge progress in the last number of years and what is exciting to me is the federal legislation, the Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act and Authority is just starting, and so we're at this cusp of an opportunity to understand what goes into safety and to have this -- all of these injuries in one time is just -- it is just the worst possible opportunity. It's just a worst possible situation for us.

ACOSTA: And so what is your explanation for this rash of or your thoughts on this rash of horse deaths that we've seen in the sport? I mean, does the public just have to accept this as part of horse racing? Because it seems as though there have been a large number in recent weeks and months, it just -- it has reached an unacceptable level.

PETERSON: I couldn't agree with you more. It is an unacceptable level and we need to get to the bottom of this. And what you saw was Churchill saying, let's stop racing at Churchill Downs, and let's investigate what's going on. And so they're taking the approach that everything that's happening at Churchill Downs, they're going to investigate and move racing.

And we need to do that on a much larger scale because we don't also want the problems to just go somewhere else. If there's issues with the horses, we have to understand what the problems are with the horses.

ACOSTA: But what do you say to folks who think this is just an inhumane sport. That it has just gotten to a point where, you know, it's just out-of-control, the sport is out-of-control.

PETERSON: The sport needs to get better. I can't disagree with the need for improved safety and let me put another piece on that, too. On the back of every one of those horses is a rider and in the morning, it is an exercise rider, in the afternoon it's a jockey.


So what we do know from the literature, the epidemiological literature is the best way to protect the rider is to keep the horse upright. So this is a huge challenge that we're facing, and I think we need to reassess everything about horse racing.

ACOSTA: Right, Professor Michael Peterson, thank you very much for your time. I suspect, we will be talking to you again in the months to come. Thanks again. Appreciate it.

PETERSON: Thank you.

ACOSTA: It's been 18 years since Alabama teenager, Natalee Holloway, disappeared in Aruba. And now, the prime suspect in the case is being brought to the United States. We will about that a few moments.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



ACOSTA: To recap one of our top stories this evening, a crisis averted here in Washington. President Biden signed the legislation date to raise the nation's debt limit and keep the US from defaulting on its loans and its other programs it has to pay for.

Here is how the deal ended up in exchange for raising the debt limits through 2025. The law caps domestic non-Defense spending at current levels. It also expands the work requirement for some food stamp recipients, and it claws back billions in COVID relief and IRS funding.

In other news, the transfer process is underway for the prime suspect in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway in Aruba. The suspect, Joran van der Sloot faces charges involving an alleged extortion plot.

CNN's Isabel Rosales has the latest.


The exact timing of this temporary transfer is not yet known, but we do have a new statement from Peru's penitentiary system, saying that in the coming days, Joran van der Sloot will be given over to Interpol Peru and then from there, will eventually be handed over to the FBI.

Natalee Holloway was last seen alive with van der Sloot and two other men 18 years ago in Aruba. These three men, they were arrested numerous times, but then release because of insufficient evidence.

Holloway's remains have never been found, and back in 2012, an Alabama judge legally declared her dead. Now van der Sloot has been indicted here in the US on charges of extortion and wire fraud in connection to an alleged plot to extort the Holloway family for money, specifically, there was a reward of $250,000.00 for information at the time to where Holloway was.

Van der Sloot is alleged to have gotten $25,000.00 from the family to point out the remains of Holloway, but that information turned out to be false.

Now the Dutch national has been in a Peruvian prison for a separate murder of a Peruvian student. His sentence there was 28 years in prison. Whatever he has done, with the legal proceedings here in the US, he must return to Peru to finish out his sentence -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Isabel Rosales, thank you very much.

Three Chinese astronauts are back on Earth after six months in space. They've been aboard China's space station since November. When they launched into orbit, China says they performed four spacewalks while on the station, that's a record for a Chinese crew.

New incoming Chinese astronauts arrived at the space station on Monday.

A bear and a burglar pull off cupcake capers caught on camera and it gets weirder after that. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



ACOSTA: Two criminals breaking into bakeries to steal cupcakes. CNN's Jeanne Moos has more on these cupcake capers.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): What does this Connecticut bear have in common with a half-baked burglar at a bakery in Vancouver? A sweet tooth for cupcakes.

The guy was caught on surveillance cam kicking in the door of a bakery called Sweet Something. EMMA IRVIN, BAKERY OWNER, VANCOUVER, CANADA: You know it is a very Canadian break-in. He was really respectful.

MOOS (voice over): He toured the store, used the restroom, sat down for a rest and then got a mop and a bucket and tried to clean up the mess he made breaking the glass.

MOOS (on camera): How was he as a mopper?

IRVIN: You know, he didn't do the best job. You can give him like an A for effort.

MOOS (voice over): This bear in Avon, Connecticut likewise gets an A for effort. She entered the garage at a bakery called Taste By Spellbound while a van inside was being loaded with goodies.

How were you first alerted to the bear?

MIRIAM STEPHENS, BAKERY OWNER, CONNECTICUT: By one of my employees making noises that I've never heard her make before.

MOOS (voice over): Owner, Miriam Stephens and one of her employees did an end-run around the building to see if the bear was gone, then turned tail at the sight of her. The bear dragged a container outside loaded with 60 cupcakes.

STEPHENS: I honestly think she ate the paper along with the cupcake and she is just slurping it down.

MOOS (voice over): Sixty cupcakes for the bear, six chocolate champagne cupcakes were taken by the guy in Vancouver. He also used the store's cellphone to take several selfies wearing orange sunglasses.

MOOS (on camera): Are you going to press charges against the guy?

IRVIN: We've asked the police not to. Do they really care about the six cupcake thief, like we're not upset about it.

MOOS (voice over): And nothing upset the bear until an employee drove towards her honking the horn. The bear was later caught in a barrel trap then released a distance away.

Both bakeries capitalized on the capers by selling cupcakes, decorated with orange sunglasses and bears. Just think of the advertising potential, we dreamed up this ad.

ANNOUNCER; Can't bear to be without cupcakes? Forget Yelp, you'll yelp when you see who loves our cupcakes enough to eat 60 of them.

MOOS (voice over): The bear left her mess behind, but the guy cleaning up with a mop takes the cake, not to mention the six cupcakes.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ACOSTA: Smarter than the average bear. All right, that's part of our world this evening.

Thanks for joining me tonight. I'm Jim Acosta. See you again tomorrow starting at a different time tomorrow, 4:00 PM Eastern.

A live look at the Capitol right now as we close out the show. We leave you tonight with that live shot of the Capitol on this overcast evening here in Washington. "The Nineties" is up next.

Have a good night, everybody. We'll see you here tomorrow. Thanks so much. Bye-bye.