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Biden's First Oval Office Address; "Crisis Averted" Debt Limit Bill Reaches Biden's Desk; Fitch Ratings Warns of Potential Downgrade to U.S. Credit; Russian Border Region Under Fire. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired June 03, 2023 - 02:00   ET




LAILA HARRAK, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Welcome to our viewers watching here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Laila Harrak.

Ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, crisis averted. Biden set to sign off on a deal to raise the federal borrowing limit.

Heartbreak in India. Search efforts now underway after one of the deadliest train crashes in the country's history.

Plus, new video shows the moments before an Iowa apartment building came crashing down.


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

HARRAK: The debt limit crisis in Washington is over for now and perhaps no one is more relieved than U.S. President Joe Biden.

In his words, "Crisis averted."

The stakes were enormous; the threat of failure hung over the country for weeks as the White House and Republican leaders seemed locked in stalemate. But the hard work finally paid off late Thursday when the U.S. Senate voted to suspend the debt ceiling and avoid catastrophic default.

In his first ever Oval Office address on Friday night, the president summed up his view of the make or break moment in U.S. history.


JOE BIDEN (D), 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 into default on our national debt.

Nothing, nothing would have been more irresponsible. Nothing would have been more catastrophic.


HARRAK: The White House is framing this as a bipartisan win for the country, a theme that President Biden is sure to amplify during his re-election campaign. CNN's Phil Mattingly is at the White House with more.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Biden, his top officials spent several weeks not really talking much at all about the high stakes, high intensity negotiations they were engaged in with House Republicans, trying to find some way to thread the needle, reach a compromise agreement to avoid potential catastrophe.

The debt ceiling debate, the debt ceiling negotiations and the eventual debt ceiling outcome, certainly when you talk to White House officials, were never exactly a sure thing.

Republicans, however, made clear throughout the process what they were working on, what their priorities were. The president and his team a little bit less so until the bill actually passed.

The bill's on its way to the White House. It's expected to be signed on Saturday. And President Biden made clear in his first Oval Office address, that he would be providing the last word, detailing what was in the negotiation, was in the final compromise agreement, why that compromise agreement was so critical.

And also starting to frame things for a moment ahead, where the threat of crisis, which had been hanging over this White House, Washington, the country, the economy for the better part of the last six months, is no longer really there.

And that an agreement, much like many of his legislative wins over the course of his first two years, underscores that his campaign promises, related to bipartisanship, to compromise, have actually come to fruition.

Take a listen.


BIDEN: I know bipartisanship is hard and unity is hard, but we can never stop trying because, in moments like this one, the one we just faced, where the American economy and the world economy is at risk of collapsing, there is no other way.

No matter how tough our politics gets, we need to see each other not as adversaries but as fellow Americans.


MATTINGLY: The president, throughout the course of his remarks, detailing, again, the elements of the proposal but also where the White House was not willing to negotiate, the things White House officials negotiated to keep out of the proposal, despite the fact that they were Republican priorities.

Very much tracking with the president's long-held view that willing to compromise on policy, much less so on principles. I think this all underscores to some degree, when you talk to White House officials, the throughline over the course of the last several years, that the president believes he's actually delivered on.

And the same exact throughline that he's certainly going to focus on over the course of the next 15 months in a presidential campaign.

Obviously, he has announced his campaign for re-election and, to some degree, this moment of getting the last word was also a moment of framing the debate, framing the politics, framing his theory of the case for his re-election, one where bipartisanship and compromise was both important --


MATTINGLY: -- and, to some degree, delivered on; one where the U.S. economy, as evidenced by the Friday jobs numbers, which came in much higher than expected, once again, showing a durable economy, show that there has been production, that there have been results.

But also, one where there's now a clear path forward without a looming crisis to focus on that message and getting it out, something White House officials haven't successfully done over the course of his first 2.5 years -- Phil Mattingly, CNN, the White House.



HARRAK: Joining me now is Thomas Gift. He's the founding director of the Centre on U.S. Politics at University College London.

Thomas, great to have you with us.

What stood out for you from Biden's speech?

THOMAS GIFT, UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON: First of all, thank you so much for having me.

A crisis averted was essentially Biden's theme. I think the line that most resonated was something to the effect that no one got everything they wanted but the American people got what they needed, which I think really attests to the fact this was a fundamentally modern bill.

I think this was vintage Biden and a preview of his 2024 reelection message, trying to carve out the political center and claiming credit both for the debt ceiling bill and his other big accomplishments, which, unlike this bill, have mostly come through down the line party votes or executive orders.

He did take veiled shots at Republicans, but this wasn't the doom and gloom, attacking the ultra MAGA or Freedom Caucus. I think it was notable that he went out of his way to commend the House Speaker by name. I'm not sure that helps McCarthy with his own party. But for this venue, it was a rare degree of magnanimity that we don't often get in these amped-up partisan battles. So that really stuck out to me also.

HARRAK: They took it to the 11th hour.

So was this a case of better deal than no deal?

And do you think there might be a political price to pay down the line?

GIFT: Well, that's a great question. I think definitely better deal than no deal. And really, I think the debt ceiling bill belies two narratives at once. The first is that Biden is too ineffectual and too beholden to the political left to forge legislative compromises across the aisle.

And two, McCarthy trying to secure the Speaker's gavel left him with no ability to govern. Obviously, I think there will be backlash down the line. Progressives will hold a grudge against Biden. And some Freedom Caucus members might even try to call a snap vote against McCarthy, coming for his job.

But I think both of them may emerge stronger, not weaker, from the fight because they can both claim a win. That might -- might being the operative term -- give them more to push back on the ideological extremes going forward.

A lot of power of the partisan fringes comes from the perception that they can singlehandedly torpedo these bills. The fact they didn't I think proves to Biden and McCarthy essentially that they don't always have to be strong-armed by the poles of their party.

HARRAK: Do you foresee lawmakers having a serious debate about reforming or eliminating the debt ceiling all together?

GIFT: That's a really great question. The debt ceiling has been around since 1917, so more than 100 years. When the debt ceiling came into place, it was set so high it was almost implausible that the federal government could reach it.

Now it's essentially used as a tool by Republicans to try to rein in spending. For that reason alone, I don't think you'll get bipartisan consensus is to abolish it completely. I think the Republicans view it as an imperfect tool but I think actually getting the political will to get rid of it isn't there.

But maybe it should be because it seems like all this fiscal cliff and brinkmanship seems to do is inject even more precarity into American politics and ramp up uncertainty and erode America's economic reputation abroad.

HARRAK: That's a perfect segue into my next question.

In terms of reputational damage, on the global stage, especially, has that been contained by the passage of the bill?

Because Fitch, one of the three major ratings companies, are taking a wait and see approach. They're still warning they could downgrade America's credit rating.

GIFT: Yes, and we saw about 10 years ago, the S&P downgraded America's AAA credit rating. I think it's still possible. Certainly, all the dysfunction that existed in the leadup to this debt ceiling debacle essentially still exists. I think that alone, looking ahead to 2025, we'll go through this again.


GIFT: You know, may not be enough to kind of stave off that downgrade. And it can be really costly, just injecting all this uncertainty into the economic and financial markets. That's not entirely costless. So it's a good thing we got this done before the X date but we'll do it all over again in 2025. So I think America needs to be prepared.

HARRAK: Thomas Gift, thank you so much.

GIFT: Thank you.


HARRAK: A desperate search for survivors is underway in eastern India right now after one of the deadliest train crashes in recent history. At least 288 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured when three trains collided Friday evening.

Images from the scene show mangled passenger cars piled up and scattered across the tracks. The Indian army has been deployed to the scene of the crash to help evacuate and treat the injured.

Officials say right now their main concern is the ongoing rescue operation.

The prime minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences, writing, "Distressed by the train accident in Odisha. In this hour of grief, my thoughts are with the bereaved families. May the injured recover soon."

CNN's Marc Stewart is following the story for you from Tokyo.

Marc, very harrowing scenes from the crash site.

Are rescuers still trying to find survivors?

MARC STEWART, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are. In fact, there's a very real concern, unfortunately, that the death toll could possibly rise. It's a concern that was brought up by a government official earlier in this tragedy.

This occurred at 7:00 at night. It's now well into Saturday morning in India. As daylight arrived, the scope of this really, the magnitude really began to sink in. Rescue teams have been able to get into the individual rail cars.

But it's what's under the cars, they're concerned people are trapped below. More doctors, buses and ambulances are coming in. We're hearing of a lot of people donating blood as well. The need is intense right now.

Despite these added resources, though, it doesn't mitigate the fear and terror that people felt. We have one account of someone caught up in the middle of the chaos. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Ten to 15 people followed me when the accident happened and everything was haywire. I was at the bottom of the pile. I got hurt in my hand and also the back of my neck.

When I came out of the train buggy (ph), I saw someone had lost a hand, someone had lost a leg, while someone's face was distorted. And I got out of there and, since then, I have been sitting here.


STEWART: The sequence of events is still very much to be determined but we know it involves two passenger trains and a freight train.

It also brings up the bigger issue in India of railway safety. Last year, 13 million people used the train system in India every single day. But 16,000 people also died last year. A majority were people either at train crossings or who fell, not necessarily in a crash like this. But the whole issue of rail safety in India will be a big topic of conversation.

HARRAK: Marc Stewart, thank you so much.

Ukraine says four so-called Kremlin collaborators were killed when their car blew up on Friday. It happened in the occupied city of Mykhailivka, where Russian appointed officials confirmed the explosion. But they say only one person was killed and two others wounded.

Russia appointed officials say Ukraine also carried out a missile strike against another occupied city, Berdyansk. Nine were reportedly injured, which Ukraine says forced Russia cargo ships to leave the port city.

Across the border, Russia says the Belgorod region took heavy artillery fire again. At least two were killed and six others wounded on Friday. A Russian military group opposed to the Kremlin claims it's behind the attack, not Ukraine. But whoever it is, the Russian president is taking it seriously.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Today, we will deal with the same issues in relation to ensuring security of Russia, in this case, domestic political security. Taking into account, the efforts that our ill-wishers are still making and intensifying in order to stir up the situation inside Russia.



HARRAK: And now we'll introduce you to what some Ukrainians consider the big equalizer in the war, military drones, which Ukraine is increasingly producing at home. Russia has been using them in strikes across Ukraine, including recent strikes on Kyiv. Fred Pleitgen got exclusive access.




PLEITGEN (voice-over): Valeriy Borovyk's company makes combat drones for Ukrainian front-line troops and they allowed us to film test flights at a secret location. And he says, reaching Moscow is not a problem.

BOROVYK: We have a bigger drone for 700 kilometer with warhead 20 kilograms.

PLEITGEN: That could fly almost all the way to Moscow.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): While Ukraine denies direct involvement in the recent Moscow drone attack, Kyiv has drastically expanded its use of drones for everything from surveillance to directly bombing Russian ground troops. Cheap, easy to use and lethal, UAVs, once considered toys, are now vital to Kyiv's war efforts.

PLEITGEN: Ukrainians say for them, drones are the big equalizer in this war. They say the Russians have more tanks, more artillery and more planes. But the Ukrainians have the creativity of their population.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): This is a drone competition organized by Ukraine's government with simulated attacks on ground targets, chasing fixed wing drones and even drone dogfights.

We were granted exclusive access on the condition we don't reveal the location. It's like a startup fare for FPV or first-person view drones. Small UAVs that can drop mortars and grenades flown by pilots wearing VR goggles from a makeshift trench to simulate the battlefield.

DENIS SEGA, DRONE OPERATOR (through translator): Our drones are very easy to use, especially if the pilot has flown similar drones. I think they will intuitively understand how they work. PLEITGEN (voice-over): The stakes are immense. A general involved in drone procurement for Ukraine's military tells me --

BRIGADIER GEN. YURIY SHCHYHOL, HEAD OF UKRAINE STATE SERVICE OF SPECIAL COMMUNICATION (through translator): About 30 companies in Ukraine are already mass producing these drones and our goal is to purchase up to 200,000 by the end of the year. Their backs up against the wall when Russia's massive army invaded last year, the Ukrainians quickly realized cheap air power could help keep them in the fight.

First using modified consumer drones, now with more sophisticated UAVs developed in Ukraine what the government here calls the Army of Drones Project, spearheaded by the Minister of Digital Transformation.

MYKHAILO FEDOROV, UKRAINIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER & MINISTER OF DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION (through translator): This is a technological war and it's very important to understand how technology is developing and what we as a state can do to increase the number of drones. A certain revolution is also taking place regarding production scaling.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): And while the Ukrainians still won't admit direct involvement, the Russians do admit they are concerned they might soon see more armed drones flying toward Moscow -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Kyiv.


HARRAK: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has ordered inspections of bomb shelters across the country after a heartbreaking death of three people in Kyiv. They were killed by falling missile debris while trying to get inside. But the shelter was closed at the time.

The incident infuriated Kyiv's residents and officials launched an investigation. But after all that, President Zelenskyy says there are reports that some shelters are still not working the way that they should.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Unfortunately, even today, after all this, Kyiv residents are still publishing information about the inaccessibility of shelters, not just about closed shelters but about welded entrances to shelters, about the absence of shelters in some parts of the city.

This level of negligence in the city cannot be justified by any excuses.


HARRAK: Details come to light about a secret trip to China. Ahead, why the CIA director visited the country last month and what he talked about with his counterparts.

Plus, surveillance video shows what happened in the moments leading up to the partial collapse of an apartment building in Iowa. We'll break it down for you.





HARRAK: CNN has learned the director of the CIA made an unannounced trip to China last month. William Burns was there to maintain open the lines of communication with Beijing, disrupted by recent political tensions. Kylie Atwood reports his visit is part of a larger effort to mend relations with China.


KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: U.S. officials described it as an intelligence-to-intelligence engagement that the CIA director, Bill Burns, had in Beijing, not as a diplomatic engagement.

We don't know exactly which issues in terms of intelligence they dug into. But another U.S. official said that the CIA director, Bill Burns, made the case for the need to maintain open channels of communication in the intelligence space.

Of course, the backdrop is that, across a broad spectrum, the U.S. and China had not been engaging in normal diplomatic relations. That dates back to earlier this year as a result of the Chinese spy balloon that crossed over the United States and really put new tension on the relationship.

Now just this week, the Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, reached out to his Chinese counterparts for a meeting in Singapore. That outreach was rebuffed by China. He did end up meeting his Chinese counterpart briefly on the sidelines of a dinner and shaking hands. But a Pentagon spokesperson said it wasn't a substantive engagement.


ATWOOD: And U.S. officials are looking for more substantive engagements with China. The national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, met with his Chinese counterpart in Vienna just in recent weeks.

And the U.S. -- the White House did describe that as a candid and substantive meeting. And they're hoping that that could potentially pave the way for more of those types of meetings between the U.S. and China down the road -- Kylie Atwood, CNN, Washington.


HARRAK: The U.S. Defense Secretary has expressed concern over the lack of communication with China. At a conference with other security leaders in Singapore, Lloyd Austin acknowledged that he spoke briefly with his Chinese counterpart but said the short exchange wasn't enough.

He called for greater dialogue with China, urging the country to be more engaged when it comes to crisis management. CNN's Ivan Watson has more from Singapore, on the tensions between Washington and Beijing.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had a number of messages for Beijing at this annual defense conference.

He insists the U.S. does not want a new cold war. And Beijing had turned down an American invitation to a face to face meeting between Austin and his Chinese counterpart here in Singapore at the opening of the conference.

Austin actually went up and shook hands with him. It was all smiles. But one pointed message was that the handshake is simply not enough. Austin says the time to talk is now.


GEN. LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: A cordial handshake over dinner is no substitute for a substantive engagement. The more that we talk, the more we can avoid the misunderstandings and miscalculations that could lead to crisis or conflict.

You know, I am deeply concerned that the PRC has been unwilling to engage more seriously on better mechanisms for crisis management.


WATSON: But Austin did have some open criticism of China. He accused Chinese warplanes of an alarming number of intercepts of U.S. and allied aircraft in international airspace, citing what he described as "unprofessional flying."

He insisted the U.S. wants to stand up for smaller countries and not allow coercive behavior to rein in international airspace and in waterways. And he cited the progress the U.S. has made with multilateral and bilateral relationships across the region here, between the U.S. and the Philippines, between South Korea and Japan and the U.S.

Some of this has worried Beijing, which has warned about the development of what it describes as clubs or cliques or a new cold war mentality. We'll wait to see how China's defense minister will respond when he gives his own speech to the crowd on Sunday.

And recall he's still under sanctions from the U.S. government since 2018, long before he assumed this current post. That's one of the arguments the Chinese government has used to reject face to face talks with Lloyd Austin at this meeting -- Ivan Watson, CNN, Singapore.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HARRAK: There's much more to come on CNN, including a look at the multiple investigations swirling around former president Trump. Stay with us.





HARRAK: Welcome back to all of our viewers around the world. I'm Laila Harrak. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Sources tell CNN that U.S. prosecutors subpoenaed Donald Trump for records related to a classified document on Iran. The document was discussed in an audio recording of the former president.

Although sources also say that Trump's attorneys have been unable to produce the document itself. While the recording first reported by CNN is now in the hands of the special counsel Jack Smith, who's leading the Justice Department investigation. Our senior legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid has more.


QUESTION: Mr. President, why did you take classified documents concerning General Milley?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): CNN exclusively reporting former president Donald Trump served with a subpoena in mid-March, seeking any records related to the same U.S. military document he talks about on tape just six months after leaving the White House.


REID: Special counsel Jack Smith, Attorney General Merrick Garland's pick to oversee investigations into Trump, trying to track down any additional classified materials still in Trump's possession.

The former president's attorneys turned over some material, in response to the Justice Department's request but not the document in question, the one Trump was recorded discussing in July 2021, at his Bedminster New Jersey golf club.

On the tape, he acknowledges he held on to a classified Pentagon document about a possible attack on Iran.

TRUMP: There is no crime. You know, there is no crime.

REID: That tape, now in the hands of prosecutors, prompting them to subpoena all documents and materials related to Iran and Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. JIM TRUSTY, TRUMP LAWYER: I am not going to try the case that's being set up by leaks that I don't believe are accurate.

REID: Trump's attorney declining to address where the document is.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Has the document been returned to the National Archives?

TRUSTY: Same answer.

REID: Throughout the investigation, prosecutors have expressed skepticism about whether they have gotten everything back from Trump over the last year. Trump's attorneys turned over 15 boxes to the National Archives, the FBI recovered more than 100 classified documents from their search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate.


REID (voice-over): And Trump's team found additional materials in subsequent searches of other Trump properties.

TRUMP: They become automatically declassified when I took them.

REID: Trump denying any wrongdoing. And when asked if he ever shared classified information with anyone --

TRUMP: Not really. I would have the right to. By the way, they were classified after --

COLLINS: What do you mean not really?

TRUMP: Not that I can think of. Let me just tell you, I have the absolute right to do whatever I want with them.

REID: In contrast, his former vice president striking a different tone after retaining classified materials.

MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Those classified documents should not have been at my personal residence. Mistakes were made.

REID: The Justice Department informing Mike Pence Thursday he will not face criminal charges for his handling of classified materials.

PENCE: And I take full responsibility.

REID (voice-over): After a small number of classified documents were found at his Indiana home.

REID: A special counsel also looking into the possible mishandling of classified documents at two locations connected to President Biden.

But our reporting this week on CNN has really underscored how the legal jeopardy for former president Trump and his special counsel investigation is so much greater, especially after we've learned about this audio recording and the fact that it's unclear if the government even has the document that Trump refers to on that tape -- Paula Reid, CNN, Washington.


HARRAK: Meantime, in Georgia, the Fulton County district attorney wants information from two firms hired by the Trump campaign to investigate claims of voter fraud. Both firms found the allegations to be false or offered information that refuted Trump's election fraud claims.

Georgia authorities have been investigating Trump's efforts to overthrow the 2020 election results in the state. Fulton County's DA has been considering bringing racketeering charges against some of those involved. Any potential charges are expected in August.

Former president Trump wants the judge overseeing his criminal hush money case to recuse himself. In a filing Friday, Trump's attorneys argued that the New York judge should withdraw from the case because his daughter did political consulting work for top Democrats, including Joe Biden's campaign.

They also cited the judge's role in an earlier case against the Trump Organization. It's seen as the latest attempt by the former president to undercut the case, which is set for trial next year. In it, Trump has pled not guilty to falsifying business records related to hush money payments made during the 2016 presidential campaign.

At least eight construction workers were injured Friday when a building they were working on partially collapsed in New Haven, Connecticut. A portion of the second floor gave way while they were pouring concrete. Two of the victims have critical injuries. A total of 36 people were working at the site when the accident happened.

And in Iowa, three people are still missing in the partial collapse of an apartment building there. CNN obtained surveillance video in the moments before the site of the building gave away. Adrienne Broaddus shows us what happened.


ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This video shows the moments leading up to the collapse. The actual collapse is captured on camera. But it's only a few short seconds because the power was knocked out, according to the person that owns this surveillance video camera and shared that video with us.

BROADDUS (voice-over): You'll see there are five support braces. One closest to the camera gradually bends in the minutes leading up to the collapse. You can see chunks of bricks falling from under a second floor window.

That's not all. A lower portion of the wall also collapsed.

BROADDUS: We heard from the fire chief and other officials on Friday, who say the next phase will be recovery. But that is a delicate process.


CHIEF JOHN ALSTON, NEW HAVEN FIRE DEPARTMENT: And we need to be concerned for those that are in the site working as well as anyone else that could be inside. Some of it is, much as we want to, we can't because the building's not letting us. It's just too unsafe to do it without waiting to and still assure us (ph).


BROADDUS: Investigators say three people are still missing, including Branden Colvin Sr., the father of the 18-year old who bears his same name. His son was supposed to graduate on Saturday but wasn't sure if he would be able to show up to his high school graduation -- Adrienne Broaddus, CNN, Chicago.



HARRAK (voice-over): The leader of a Christian cult in eastern Kenya appeared in court Friday --


HARRAK (voice-over): -- accused of leading his followers to starve themselves to death. That and what he told CNN after the break.



HARRAK: A gruesome discovery in Mexico; 45 bags of body parts have been found in a ravine in a suburb of Guadalajara. Jalisco prosecutors say they've launched an investigation into how those remains came to be there. Take a listen.


LUIS JOAQUIN MENDEZ RUIZ, PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE, JALISCO STATE (through translator): All the bags that we found are closed and obviously, taped, packed. We found some segments on the precipice, ravine, that we believe that, when they were placed or thrown there, some bags must have torn.


And that's how we found some segments. In a preliminary manner, we can say that there are female and male bodies. But we need to wait for the institute to confirm.


HARRAK: According to state prosecutors, the body parts found match the characteristics of seven missing call center staffers, reported missing in late May. Forensic experts have yet to determine the number of victims found and are working to determine identification. And police are investigating a possible serial killer in Austin,

Texas, who's now in custody. They say Raul Meza Jr. turned himself in last week and confessed to killing his 80-year-old roommate.

He also implicated himself in the killing of a 66-year-old woman. Investigators are looking into whether he was involved in at least eight other murder cases. He contacted police after a five-day manhunt. Officials say he told them he was ready to kill again and had a gun, duct tape and zipties in his possession. He's being held on capital murder and other charges.

In eastern Kenya, more than 200 bodies have been found in at least 10 mass graves on land belonging to a Christian cult. The group's leader appeared in court on Friday and spoke with CNN's David McKenzie.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kenyans are trying to understand the true nature and scale of the tragedy that seems to be getting worse by the day.

Already more than 200 bodies and remains have been recovered from the Shakahohla Forest close to where I am, where people were part of this cult, which alleged that the pastor persuaded them to starve themselves to death.

It appears they started with the children. More than 70 children have been recovered, deceased. And the fear is there are potentially many more to be exhumed from the forest in the coming weeks.

The pastor had a court hearing in Mombasa. We were there. I managed to have brief words with him and I put the accusations to him that he led this cult that caused all these people to die.


PAUL NTHENGE MCKENZIE, LEADER, GOOD NEWS INTERNATIONAL CHURCH: It's just a matter of intimidations and wasting of others' time for nothing, yes.

D. MCKENZIE: What happened in the forest with your followers?

P. MCKENZIE: I can tell nothing about that because I've been in custody for two months. So I don't know what is going outside there.

Have you been there?

D. MCKENZIE: The people before you were in custody, people were starving and there are allegations that people were killing their children.

P. MCKENZIE: I've never seen anybody starving, even killing our children.

(END VIDEO CLIP) D. MCKENZIE: The pastor and his closest followers will remain in detention for at least a few more days. He's being held under terror laws here in Kenya. And the shock at these details coming out from what happened in the forest are still reverberating around the country.

We spoke to a grandfather, who managed to rescue one of his grandchildren from the cult. He said two others died, possibly killed by their own parents. It's hard to grasp the story and the scale of it continues to get more shocking with every day -- David McKenzie, CNN, Malindi, Kenya.


HARRAK: The prime suspect in the 2005 disappearance of U.S. teenager Natalee Holloway is in the process of being temporarily transferred from Peru to the United States.

Joran van der Sloot faces charges of extortion and fraud related to an alleged plot to get money from Holloway's family after her disappearance. Holloway was with van der Sloot and two other men the last time she was seen alive. Witnesses report seeing the group leaving a night club in Aruba. Her body was never found.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. We'll be right back.





HARRAK: Yellowstone National Park is asking visitors to drive carefully and not approach the wildlife. The request comes after multiple incidents in which animals have been endangered.

On Sunday, two black bears were struck and killed by cars. Another incident led to the death of a bison calf. Park staff are urging visitors to observe speed limits, drive carefully after dark and stay a safe distance away from all wildlife.

It's anticipated that a cold front in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia this weekend will help firefighters tame out of control wildfires. They're in the midst of a catastrophic spring wildfire season.

More than 200 fires are burning across Canada, 93 out of them out of control. Tens of thousands of people have already been displaced and thousands more got evacuation orders on Friday. Prime minister Justin Trudeau tried to reassure fellow Canadians.


JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: Communities are being displaced. This is a scary time for a lot of people from coast to coast to coast. Minister Blair is working with provinces, territories and municipalities. Our number one priority is keeping Canadians safe --


TRUDEAU: -- and making sure that they have the support they need.


HARRAK: NASA will soon launch a spacecraft to Jupiter that will include a touching poem about one of the planet's moons. The ode called, "In Praise of Mystery," is part of NASA's Message in a Bottle campaign.

It was written by U.S. poet laureate Ada Limon and will be engraved on a plaque on aboard the spacecraft.



ADA LIMON, U.S. POET LAUREATE (voice-over): Oh, second moon. We, too, are made of water and vast and beckoning seas. We, too, are made of wonders, of great and ordinary loves, of small, invisible worlds, of a need to call out through the dark.


HARRAK: And that wraps up this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. Stay with us, I'll be back with more news in just a moment.