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Trump First U.S. President to Face Federal Charges; Smoky Conditions Blanket Parts of U.S.; British PM Rishi Sunak Speaks with CNN about Support for Ukraine; Asiana Plane Hero Speaks Up; Trump Facing Federal Charges In Classified Docs Investigation; Ukraine Accuses Russia Of Shelling Rescuers Amid Dam Evacuations; Russia Claims Ukraine's Offensive In Zaporizhzhia Repelled; Knife Attack Leaves Five Injured In Alps Town Stabbing. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired June 09, 2023 - 01:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes. Appreciate your company. Coming up here on CNN Newsroom. For the first time ever, a former U.S. President under a federal indictment as Donald Trump faces numerous criminal charges in the classified documents case.

Russian artillery fire hindering rescue efforts from that dam breach in southern Ukraine. And air quality slowly improves across parts of the U.S. as smoke from those Canadian wildfires begins to dissipate.

And we begin with that unprecedented move from the U.S. Justice Department, indicting former President Donald Trump. His attorney says Trump is facing seven counts, including Espionage Act violations, conspiracy, obstruction, and making false statements. It's all related to the former president's alleged mishandling of classified documents after he left the White House.

FBI agents seized about 100 documents marked as classified when they searched his Florida estate last August. Prosecutors previously claimed documents were likely concealed or removed from a Mar-a-Lago storage room as part of an effort to obstruct the FBI investigation.

Trump says on social media he's been summoned to appear at the federal courthouse in Miami on Tuesday at 03:00 pm. He claims that the Justice Department is being weaponized against him.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: It's called election interference. They're trying to destroy a reputation so they can win an election. That's just as bad as doing any of the other things that have been done over the last number of years.

I'm an innocent man. I did nothing wrong. I'm innocent. And we will prove that very soundly and hopefully very quickly. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Now, the White House keeping its distance from the Trump indictment, referring all questions to the Justice Department. One official did say the White House learned of the charges from news reports. CNN's Jeremy Diamond with more.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, the news that former President Trump has been indicted by the Justice Department is reverberating across the country and across Washington, except at the White House, which is remaining noticeably silent amid this huge, huge news.

The White House spokesman Ian Sam's, declining to comment on the news of the former president's indictment, referring questions instead to the Justice Department, which he did note, quote, conducts its criminal investigations independently.

And that is ultimately the main message that this White House wants to send with its silence. That is to say that amid these accusations from Republicans that this is a politicization of this Justice Department, that the White House has remained out of criminal affairs as it relates to any active criminal investigations or prosecutorial actions by the Department of Justice.

President Biden himself has repeatedly maintained the independence of the Department of Justice, and he did so even earlier on Thursday when he was asked a question before former President Trump was indicted about what he would tell Americans to convince them of the Justice Department's independence. Listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, what do you say to Americans to convince them that they should trust the independence and fairness of the Justice Department when your predecessor, Donald Trump, repeatedly attacks us?

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Because you notice I have never once, not one single time suggested the Justice Department what they should do or not do relative to bringing a charge and not bringing a charge. I'm honest.

DIAMOND: And our President Biden on Friday, he is expected to travel to North Carolina. There will be plenty of opportunities for reporters to ask him questions about this indictment, but don't expect him to break his silence.

This is a strategy that the White House has employed previously. When the former president was indicted on those charges in New York, President Biden declined to comment at that time. And you can expect a similar pattern.

And the White House is also making clear on Thursday night that they did not get a heads up from the Justice Department, just as they didn't get a heads up when the special counsel, Jack Smith was appointed back in November. I'm told that they also didn't get a heads up that this indictment was coming down the pike. Instead, the White House, I'm told, learned about this like everybody else through public news reports. Jeremy Dimond, CNN, Washington.



HOLMES: And joining me now from Washington, CNN legal analyst and former Obama White House ethics Norm Eisen. Good to see you, Mr. Ambassador.

Donald Trump says witch hunt. I did nothing wrong. Now, you helped write classified document rules in the Obama White House and oversaw how they were applied. Witch hunt.

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, Michael, quite the opposite. If anyone else had taken hundreds of classified documents out of the White House and then refused to turn them back over and lied about it, they would be prosecuted.

There are many individuals who have been prosecuted for less than this. This is a genuinely concerning case that should alarm every American. And the rule of law demands that Donald Trump be treated like anyone else. If you do this kind of stuff and then you cover it up, you are going to face seven charges from the Department of Justice.

HOLMES: He is a man, of course, who has been sued countless times. He's been deposed. He's taken the fifth, twice impeached in the eyes of many. He's gotten away with a lot legally. But are federal charges a whole new ballgame for him in a legal sense? Give us a sense of how serious federal charges are.

EISEN: Well, this is the most serious legal threat that Donald Trump has ever faced. If he's convicted on all of these charges, he could potentially spend the rest of his life in jail. And the prosecution is being led by one of our most experienced and effective prosecutors at the Department of Justice, special Counsel Jack Smith, and a very adept team.

So Donald Trump above all, because the facts are so bad for him, the evidence is so overwhelming, he has virtually no defense. He's just in tremendous trouble in this federal case, the worst he's ever seen.

HOLMES: Yes. Politically, what do you think is the potential impact of all of this? How might it impact his campaign for a return to the White House, fire up his base even more, or turn off voters?

EISEN: Well, Michael, when I worked on the impeachment, I was stunned when we brought those impeachment charges. It's the same thing as essentially as an indictment. And Donald Trump's popularity went up. He does have the rebound effect with his base, but at some point, the Republican primary voters, surely the general election voters, if he makes it to the general, are going to look at this and say, is this really the man that we want to have back in the White House? And I think every American understands classified documents. That's a

no, no. That's dangerous to our nation's secret, so to our nation's secrets and security. So I think this case may start to wear that Teflon off of Mr. Trump a little bit.

HOLMES: Yes. He's actually got two campaign events this weekend, and reports have been that Team Trump was expecting this, been preparing. How do you expect Mr. Trump's inner circle of supporters to react and do? And what might he say at those campaign rallies?

EISEN: Well, his innermost circle of advisors and aides undoubtedly experienced a chill when they learned of the indictment, and they understand the legal jeopardy. His larger circle of supporters are likely, in the short term, to rally against him, to rally against the prosecution and in favor of Donald Trump.

But whatever we may see at these rallies, I do think that we are going to start to see Republicans say, gosh, do we want to nominate a candidate who has multiple criminal cases? There's one in New York State court now. There's a federal one. It's widely expected there'll be another one in Georgia for 2020 election interference. Is that really the person we want running?

So I think medium to long term, this is going to start to have a corrosive effect.

HOLMES: Could end up spending more time in court than on the campaign trail. Norm Eisen in Washington. Appreciate you staying up. Thanks so much.

EISEN: Thanks, Michael.


HOLMES: Republican presidential candidates are reacting to Trump's indictment. The Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, claiming the prosecutors are overly zealous and that the law is being applied unevenly. And here's South Carolina senator Tim Scott.


SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC) U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our nation is the greatest nation on earth because Lady Justice has a blindfold on. That means that Republicans are not hunted and Democrats are not protected. It means that we look at every single case based on the evidence.

And in America, every single person is presumed innocent, not guilty. And what we've seen over the last several years is the weaponization of the Department Justice against the former president.


HOLMES: Now, others are not quite so supportive of the former president. The former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie tweeting, quote, no one is above the law, no matter how much they wish they were. And the former Arkansas governor, Asa Hutchinson said, quote, while Donald Trump is entitled to the presumption of innocence, the ongoing criminal proceedings will be a major distraction. This reaffirms the need for Donald Trump to respect the office and end his campaign.

All right, now the race to rescue as many people as possible from major flooding in southern Ukraine, even as artillery shells continue to rain down on the area. We'll have that when we come back.

And also, clouds of wildfire smoke have been choking much of the U.S. and Canada for days now, but there is some relief on the horizon.


HOLMES: Ukrainian officials say more than 500 people, including 28 children have been rescued so far from flooded villages along the Dnipro River. But the areas near the devastating dam collapse remain under active shelling, making every rescue attempt extremely dangerous. Have a listen to this.

President Zelenskyy surveyed the destruction for himself on Thursday and said rescue crews were working nonstop to reach as many stranded people as possible. In his nightly address, Mr. Zelenskyy had harsh words for Russia's leader this man.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Made disaster at the Nova Kakhovka hydroelectricity plant is not a natural disaster or a manifestation of the climate crisis. The disaster is Putin, what he does, what he personally orders to do.



Meanwhile, Russia's military claims its forces were engaged in a major battle early Thursday in the Zaporizhzhia region. We get more now from CNN's Fred Pleitgen.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Breaking news on Kremlin controlled TV claiming Moscow's forces are facing massive attacks in southern Ukraine.

OLGA SKABEEVA, RUSSIAN STATE TV ANCHOR (through translator): Ukrainian forces attacked with NATO tanks and light armored vehicles. Our army has fought off these attacks.

PLEITGEN: Russia's Defense Ministry releasing aerial videos like this one, allegedly showing their forces targeting advancing Ukrainian formations in the Zaporizhzhia region. Moscow also claims to have taken out a modern western antiaircraft radar system close to the front line. On a visit to an arms depot, Russia's Defense Minister urging faster weapons deliveries. The enemy tried to advance today, he says, so this equipment is needed. Let's hurry up. While the Ukrainians have not confirmed offensive operations and CNN can't independently verify the specific Russian claims, U.S. officials have told CNN the Russians are putting up stiff resistance.

Ukraine's leadership says they understand their counteroffensive will be long and tough and they'll need lots of armor to penetrate Russia's defenses. They showed us this repair and modification shop where they fix up mostly vehicles captured from the Russians, including this modern troop transporter.

PLEITGEN (on camera): Even with all the Western equipment that the Ukrainians have already received, they still have a lot less than the Russians do. That's why every tank and every armored vehicle that they can get back on the battlefield will be vital for Ukraine's war effort.

PLEITGEN (voiceover): That includes even seemingly destroyed vehicles like this blown up armored personnel carrier, the project manager tells me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All this vehicle we can restore and return to the units.

PLEITGEN: Further along the southern front line the situation in the areas flooded by the recent destruction of a major dam is deteriorating. Ukraine and Russia accusing each other of targeting operations to rescue flood victims.

Ukraine's chief rabbi dodging for cover as shells rained down.

MOSHE AZMAN, CHIEF RABBI OF UKRAINE: To bring people here from over the river and the Russians --

PLEITGEN: The Ukrainians say several people were wounded in Kherson as the authorities continue to fight to bring those stranded to safety. Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine.


HOLMES: Now, among those on the front lines, the war in Ukraine is likely taking a heavy mental toll on both sides, particularly the Russians with new wartime policies that temporarily bar active duty and mobilize soldiers from leaving service.

Joining me now from Washington to talk more about this, Dara Massicot, who is senior policy researcher with the RAND Corporation and wrote a fascinating article in The Economist about this.

And you wrote that Russia is and will be facing, in your words, a social crisis of veteran mental health disorders. You call it a ticking time bomb. Explain what you mean.

DARA MASSICOT, SENIOR POLICY RESEARCHER, RAND CORPORATION: I did. So most Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine right now, whether they're officers or active duty or mobilized, they are prohibited from leaving the military. And so they are sitting there and sustaining combat trauma with no relief.

Eventually, these restrictions will be lifted and they will return back to Russia where they are likely to face inadequate care. And we know that this population, if they have sustained combat trauma, if they do not receive appropriate care for PTSD, they are at higher risk of substance abuse, domestic problems, job problems, and they're prone to other mental disorders and physical disorders down the road.


MASSICOT: And I want to point out that Ukrainians are experiencing this as well.

HOLMES: I was just going to ask you about that, you know, of course, the Ukrainian people and military experiencing PTSD and other traumas as well. I saw it myself over there. Are there differences, though, in how the two sides deal with the issue?

MASSICOT: There is. And so my area of specialty is on the Russian military, so I wrote about that. But to describe briefly what the Ukrainians are experiencing, it's not only the Ukrainian military, it's also the Ukrainian people.

So the citizens themselves have to live in a situation where their cities are being shelled or they're under missile strikes. They've lost loved ones, or their loved ones are fighting. They've been displaced internally, or they're living abroad now.

So it's really a cumulative and stacking traumas that they need help with, not just military, but also civilian. The needs are vast.

HOLMES: Yes. And is there any indication that Russian authorities are dealing with the issue in any meaningful way treating it? And how could untreated or inadequately treated combat them play out in Russian society?


MASSICOT: Russia does not have a strong history for caring for its combat veterans. This stems back from World War II. It happened in Afghanistan, it happened in Chechnya. They do not receive adequate care for their physical wounds or their mental wounds, and essentially they fall into -- they are -- people with severe PTSD, and the rest of Russian society began to be very afraid of them and very alienated from them, which makes the problem worse.

It's a little different now. There is institutional knowledge about PTSD in Russia, and they're taking some preliminary steps to try to set up some programs for these veterans once they return home. But I think it's going to be overwhelmed by sheer numbers.

HOLMES: Yes. And we mentioned, you know, that Russian law now makes it illegal to not just leave the service, but to discredit or criticize the armed forces. Is that likely to discourage soldiers from even seeking treatment or being honest about their conditions when they have that sort of thing in front of them?

MASSICOT: It is. So, mental health wellness is not really something that's part of Russian military culture right now. So most soldiers are probably not going to even seek out that type of care. They'll tend to deal with it on their own, whether that's through alcoholism or social isolation.

But for those who do reach out, given the climate in Russia right now, there are Russian therapists who may not want to work with this population. They may object to the war morally, or they may not want to overhear a patient, say, or discuss things like war crimes or things they witnessed or did that could potentially put that therapist in some kind of legal liability.

So there's many layers to this thing where it's not a particularly neutral environment for those who even seek help.

HOLMES: That's a really important point. We're nearly out of time, but I wanted to ask you, with its control over the media and the crushing of any dissent, the Kremlin has, you know, long fought to keep the impact of the war on Russia from Russians, from the general population.

Is there any sign of cracks in that strategy? And as people with PTSD come home, is that likely to contribute to any cracks?

MASSICOT: Absolutely. I mean, in the west, it's called a stop loss policy, where people can't leave the military service at war because of numbers that aren't stable or holding. Eventually, these people will be released back to their towns and villages across Russia, and so these problems will be there whether they want to admit it now or not.

Currently, the Russians are not discussing how many casualties are out there. The numbers they have are artificially low. Even though burials are being conducted in the open, people know the numbers are not accurate. The fuse is lit. All of these chickens are going to come home to roots.

HOLMES: Yeah. Dara Massicot, always great to get you on and your analysis. Great piece in the economist. People should read it. Thank you.

MASSICOT: Thank you very much.

HOLMES: Now to a heart wrenching story out of France, where four toddlers and two adults were stabbed at a lakeside town in the Alps. This Syrian asylum seek, you see him there on your screen there, he's accused of carrying out the horrific assault.

Witnesses tell French media he entered a playground carrying a knife and then went after children in their strollers. The youngest victim just 22 months old. CNN's Melissa Bell with the details.


MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT (on camera): It was a particularly brutal and frenzied attack that was carried out on the edges of the lack at Annecy here in France, a tourist spot in the Alps. A 31-year-old we now know, according to French sources, Christian Syrian who'd sought asylum in Sweden. The prosecutor speaking to the fact later, after the man's arrest, that he'd been given asylum in Sweden in 2013, had sought it in France and had it denied on of account of the fact of his already being an asylum claimant in the European union.

Beyond that, we know not very much more about his motives. Antiterror investigators have not been seized of the case. The question as to why he went on the rampage and it is their ages, particularly young preschool children, that have really added to the concern, to the anxiety, to the shock of a country. As he's watched these images unfold and emerge from Annecy lake.

Here's what the French prime minister had to say shortly after arriving on the scene.

ELISABETH BORNE, FRENCH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I think as parents, as citizens, we can only imagine the shock. We are already very shocked. And I was able to talk to the people who intervened to save those children. I can assure you that it's very shocking. There's a lot of emotion among those who intervened to help.

BELL: The tragedy of this morning all the more shocking here in France for the fact that these are extremely rare occurrences where children are deliberately attacked.


You have to go back to 2012 and the rampage of Mohammed Merah's that had set off that that terror wave in France to find anything similar. It is, for now, a country still very much under the shock of those images that emerged from Annecy on Thursday morning. Melissa Bell, CNN in Paris.


HOLMES: The man allegedly link to the disappearance of the American teenager Natalee Holloway is set to be arraigned for extortion in a U.S. federal court in the hours ahead. Joran van der Sloot arrived in Alabama on Thursday and was taken by FBI agents to a jail in Birmingham, near Holloway's hometown.

He flew from Peru, where he's been imprisoned for murdering another woman. Van der Sloot was charged in 2010 with extortion and wire fraud in a plot to sell information about the location of Holloway's remains to her mother.

Natalee Holloway was 18 years old when she disappeared during a trip to Aruba in 2005. Her remains have never been found.

A new legal setback for Donald Trump, who's now facing federal charges, yet insists he is an innocent man. Ahead, more on the new indictment in the classified documents case.


HOLMES: Donald Trump is remaining defiant in the face of his biggest legal threat so far. A source tells CNN that he and his advisors are, quote, very jacked up and ready to fight back. That's after Trump became the first former U.S. president to ever face federal charges.

He was indicted on Thursday in the special counsel's investigation into the alleged mishandling of classified materials. Trump's attorney called the charges, quote, garbage and confirmed the former president will show up to court on Tuesday.


JIM TRUSTY, DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: Everything about this case is absolutely rotten. The misconduct that we've documented for an attorney general who hides behind Jack Smith. And so his reaction was personal, but it wasn't. You know, he thought about it and said, this is just a sad day. I can't believe I've been indicted. You know, those are kind of my summary words of what he had to say.

But at the same time, he immediately recognizes the historic nature of this. This is crossing the Rubicon. You know, when we have a weaponized DOJ serving as the Praetorian Guard for the Democratic Party, for the incumbent administration and the Attorney General, who is in charge of Jack Smith high from meetings, hides from conversations and just says, go talk to Jack. It is a crazy new world.



HOLMES: Joining me now from Washington D.C. is Michael Zeldin. He is host of "That Said With Michael Zeldin" podcast and a former federal

prosecutor and also Robert Mueller's former special assistant at the Department of Justice. Well-qualified to speak on this.

Good to see you sir.

So yes, first time a former president has faced federal charges. Apparently the counts include things like willful retention of National Defense Information, Espionage Act, conspiracy to conceal, witness tampering.

Give us some perspective on how serious these charges are and what sort of jeopardy the former president faces.

MICHAEL ZELDIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well first, we should say, that this was an unforced error by the president. So yes this is unique in American history. But it didn't have to be this way.

If he had only returned the documents when he was first asked for them, none of this would've happen. But he didn't. So now, he faces multiple charges, all of which are

very serious charges. The Espionage Act, retaining documents that impact national defense, lying to prosecutors, conspiracy to obstruct a criminal investigation -- all this stuff carries long sentences. I don't know that he would ever be sentenced to jail but the ordinary citizen convicted of all these things would spend a lot of time in jail.

HOLMES: And of course, he's already complaining about it all. But again, for background, how strong does evidence need to be for an indictment to be handed down in these sorts of circumstances, federal charges?

I mean you'd imagine an former president, an election year and so on, coming up, it wouldn't be fishing expedition. And I think last year people facing federal trials lost 99 percent of the time.

ZELDIN: Exactly. In the trial itself the prosecutors burden is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In the grand jury, it is less than that. It is sort of more likely than not that it occurred.

But when you are charging a high-profile public figure, you want to make sure that your evidence in the grand jury essentially can meet the higher burden of proof. Because you don't want to take any chances of indicting and then losing at trial.

So I expect that Jack Smith, the special prosecutor, and his team made sure that every T was crossed, every I was dotted and their evidence was solid.

HOLMES: How long could the process be? I mean do you expect this to get to trial fairly quickly? Are we talking next year, which of course, is knocking on the door of the election.

ZELDIN: It depends on the judge. Judges really control the timing of things in their courtroom. If he gets a judge who wants to move this along, this thing really could go to trial within six months or so.

If he has a judge that is slow apace and you have motions that are lingering in the judge's chamber, this thing could stretch out well into the election period which would then be a real big problem for the prosecutors because they're not supposed to try public figures in an election period 90 days before the election.

HOLMES: And of course, the other thing too, this isn't even the last of his legal issues is it? I mean he's got possible indictment coming from the state of Georgia. The special counsel might not be done with him either.

ZELDIN: That's right. Georgia said they're going to make a decision about whether to charge him with election interference under the state laws of Georgia by the summer and then we have the, if you will, the 800-pound gorilla of whether or not the special counsel, the same special counsel will charge him in some way with the insurrection on January 6.

So he's got a lot of stuff out there already and he's got a lot of stuff looming.

HOLMES: These are sorts of charges, Michael, that could be plead down or negotiated or do you get the sense that when it gets to this point they want to go to trial?

ZELDIN: Well most prosecutors will, in the right circumstances, accept the plea bargain because it is in their interest to move the cases along.

I don't think Donald Trump would ever plead guilty to anything. But if you look to analogies, there were cases recently by the national security chief, by General Petraeus us where they all pleaded down to misdemeanors. They didn't go to jail. They paid a fine. They did some community service and they were done with it.

That is not a typical in cases like this. But Donald Trump is not a typical defendant and so the expectation is that he's going to take this to trial. The big question is will he testify in that trial.

HOLMES: Yes, yes. Exactly. It is all in front of us.

We've got to leave it there. Michael Zeldin, always a pleasure. Thanks for coming on.

ZELDIN: Thanks for having me.


HOLMES: Well, as you just heard, Trump is still being investigated over the January 6th attack and efforts to overturn the U.S. presidential election result.

A source familiar with that probe says Republican Newt Gingrich testified before a federal grand jury on Thursday. The former house speaker allegedly communicated with Trump advisers about TV ads that relied on false claims of election fraud, according to the house committee that investigated January 6. That panel also said that Gingrich was involved in the effort to install fake electors in battleground state that Trump lost.

Air quality levels slowly improving across the U.S. Northeast and Midwest as smoke from Canadian wildfires begin to dissipate. Hundreds of firefighters from around the world have been arriving in Canada to help combat what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has described as the worst fire season the country has ever seen.

Smoke from more than 400 wildfires has blanketed parts of the U.S. Right now a heavy noxious haze remains over the New York skyline making it difficult for many to breath. Air quality in our Washington D.C. is currently at unhealthy levels.

CNN's Brian Todd with more from Arlington, Virginia.


BRIAN TODD: Thick haze rolling into the mid-Atlantic, causing more health warnings, and scattered cancellation (ph).

Around 75 million Americans now under air quality alerts as the smoke from Canada's wildfires continue to move south. This was Monday. And this was Thursday in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia, Baltimore and D.C. now showing readings that range from very unhealthy in purple to even hazardous in maroon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Getting off the metro I felt like I couldn't really breathe, catch my breath.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is much thicker than I was expecting. I was very surprised by how hazy it is. I'm a little worried I'm not going to lie.

TODD: The Washington Nationals baseball game postponed. Horse racing at New York's Belmont Park canceled, zoos closed in D.C. and New York. D.C. and Baltimore parks suspending outdoor recreation.

BRANDON SCOTT, MAYOR, BALTIMORE, MARYLAND: There will be no track practice, no outdoor sporting events, any of that through Friday.

TODD: Schools in D.C. and some suburbs canceling outdoor recess and sports. A few school districts in the northeast closing schools entirely.

Flight delays at Newark and Philadelphia on Thursday and even a brief ground stop at New York's LaGuardia Thursday morning. The advice from local authorities, wear a mask if you have to go out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you don't have to be outside, then don't be outside.

At greatest risk, those with respiratory problems as well as senior citizens, children and those who are pregnant. But even if you're healthy --

DR. KORIN HUDSON, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, MEDSTAR HEALTH: This is like smoking and so its cumulative exposure is going to put people at GREATEST risk even if they're healthy at baseline. The more we breathe in the, the more it's there, the more of this junk is in our lungs and the more it's going to affect us over time.

TODD: Over the next 48 hours, the smoke is forecast to continue spreading south. But compared to conditions on Wednesday, New York City on Thursday saw some signs of improvement.

ERIC ADAMS, MAYOR, NEW YORK CITY: You may see continued improvements later tonight and overnight --

TODD: But could this happen more often?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With increasing climate change and increasing warming we can expect more and more of these kind of wild fires to continue. TODD: Atmospheric chemist Mark (INAUDIBLE) of Christian University

says what's unique about the situation is that the polluted air is staying really close to the ground instead of wafting up and dispersing in the atmosphere. He says, it's practically hugging the ground and not dispersing at all.

As far as the D.C. area is concerned forecasters don't concern serious relief to come until maybe the end of the weekend or later.

Brian Todd, CNN -- Arlington, Virginia.


HOLMES: And CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has been looking at why the smoke is so dangerous and to illustrate the issue he runs a little experiment. He also tells us some relief might be on the way.


CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes so much smoke in the eastern part of the United States, eastern Canada as well from fires in Ontario, Quebec. Earlier in the week we had fires in Nova Scotia, a lot of rainfall happened there, that was some good news, and obviously, we still have the smoke from British Columbia and Alberta that the fires are burning there.

This is a PM2.5 detector. This tells us how many particles are in the air, parts per million, and right now in the studio part 5 -- 005. When they took this outside earlier, it's at 70.

So there were 70 parts in the air outside. Well it's better to be inside if you're looking at 5 compared to 70. And that's why they, say please go indoors or of course wear a mask.

But watch what happens to this. This is my own personal 2.5 detector. I'm going to light a match, I'm going to put it out, I'm going to blow -- a little bit of smoke, just a little bit from one match and watch what happens to the numbers here. From 100-300 and higher and it probably ends up somewhere in 9-99 if it pegs all the way up.

But look at some of these. This is the stuff that you're breathing in. This fine, fine particles that are in the air.


MYERS: So let's get to it. Where is the air quality bad? Well, still bad all up and down I-95 in the eastern part, the populated corridor of the United States.

Also still bad up in Toronto, even a little bit cross parts of Montreal. And that is the area where the smoke is coming from, where those fires are still, of course, burning out of control.

Here's what the computer models think the smoke is going to look like by morning. About 5:00 in the morning here, very heavy smoke here from about Windsor (ph), that's just around Saint Marie (ph) right there and then back across parts of Buffalo, Erie, into parts of Pittsburgh, that would be Sommerset County and then all the way towards Washington D.C.

Watch the orange though as I push the button and move this into the evening. The orange begins to disperse a little. There's a little bit of wind in the atmosphere (INAUDIBLE) to try to push this around and not make it so concentrated.

And by Saturday afternoon most of the northeast is cleared up. But there're still quite a bit of smoke here across parts of Ohio and into Pennsylvania.

Another thing that's going to happen to help us get rid of this is some rain. We need the rain over the fires, obviously but we also could use the rain across part of the areas that have seen so much smoke in the air.

But something else that's really going to play a big, big, big help here is the wind. The wind will push this away into the Atlantic and away from the United States and eastern Canada.

Here's how much rainfall we could get. Half inch to an inch in some spots especially over those fires. That will definitely be helpful for the firefighters.

And then the wind and the wind direction. Coming from the south, bringing in drier air, cleaner air from the Atlantic Ocean and then pushing it all the way by looks like Tuesday, this should all be a bad memory. But there're still fires burning. And there's still smoke being emitted so this may be a long term issue for the eastern part of Canada and the northeastern U.S.


HOLMES: Chad Myers there for us.

Now, the British prime minister Rishi Sunak was in Washington for a meeting with President Biden and he sat down with CNN's Kaitlan Collins for a wide-ranging interview on challenges facing the U.K. particularly, the war in Ukraine.

We'll be right back.


HOLMES: The British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, tells CNN it is too early to say who might be responsible for that collapsed dam in Ukraine. Moments after a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House, he spoke exclusively with CNN's Kaitlan Collins about support for Ukraine from the U.S., the U.K. and other allies. Have a listen.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you Mr. Prime Minister for being here. The war in Ukraine, what's happening right now that everyone is

tracking so closely is this day out and on the frontlines it has collapsed.

Does your government believe that Russia is behind that?

RISHI SUNAK, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I think it's too early to definitively say. And our military and security service are working through that, as are the U.S.


SUNAK: But if it does prove to be an intentional attack by the Russians, it would fit a pattern of behavior that we have seen throughout this war which is Russia's deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure.

COLLINS: If you determine it is Russia, will there be repercussions?

SUNAK: Well, we are already supporting efforts to hold those responsible for war crimes accountable. And the U.K. -- working together with other allies is putting resources, funding, gathering evidence and it's right that those who commit these appalling crimes are brought to justice and held accountable. We will play our part in doing that.

But also just continuing to support Ukraine in the way that we are proud to play the leadership role on, providing the military support alongside the U.S. who have obviously played a very significant role. You know, that's what we should be doing because these values are universal and it is right that we stand up to unprovoked illegal aggression. We do it together. That's what the U.S. and the U.K. do.

COLLINS: And a lot of that -- what the U.S. and the U.K. have provided, in addition to other countries, is to help with the counter offensive that is expected.

Do you believe this counter offensive is Ukraine best chance at winning this war?

SUNAK: Yes, I think I think the first thing to say is, in one sense, Ukraine has been engage in a counteroffensive for over a year. And remember, a thing about the year, people thought this would be over in days or weeks.

But I think Russia completely miscalculated and the Ukrainians have been incredible in their bravery, their resilience, they have now recaptured almost half the territory that Russia originally seized.

They have been given enormous amount of support by the U.K. the U.S. and other allies in the form of heavy tanks, long-range weapons, training of their soldiers. All of that is going to help.

COLLINS: You mentioned those long range missiles. Your country is the first one to give, them to Ukraine. How effective do you think they've been so far? And are you concerned about how Putin will respond if Ukraine uses them to strike into Russia?

SUNAK: I think what we have provided are called Storm Shadow, they're a longer range weapon. And that's because the battlefield has evolved. And it is important that Ukraine has the resources it needs to defend itself and to make sure that the counter offensive is successful.

And I think they can make a difference. They are making a difference on the battlefield. And when it comes to retaliation, we have to remember nothing that Ukraine or the West or NATO did that caused this war. The war was just an active, unprovoked, illegal aggression on Russia's part.

COLLINS: So would it be appropriate then if Ukraine use those long range missiles to strike into Russia since Russia is striking into Ukraine?

SUNAK: No. I mean what Ukraine is first and foremost interested in doing is re-capturing territory that is theirs. It is their own country that has been invaded by Russia. And it's that territory that rightfully belongs to Ukraine and they are going about trying to liberate it. I think that's entirely right and proper, and it's important that we support them in that quest.

COLLISN: You just met with President Biden, the two of you were standing side by side. President Biden was talking about how important Ukraine is in funding Ukraine. The Republican front runner here, of course, we're in the middle of an election season in the U.S., has not even said if he believes Ukraine should win this war.

Does that make you as a world leader who may be working with him potentially, uncomfortable?

SUNAK: Obviously it wouldn't be right for me to comment on domestic politics here, but I did spend a good amount of time in Congress yesterday, talking to leaders from both parties.

And I think that there is a strong support for the effort that America is putting in to support Ukraine. I think there's an acknowledgment as I said that the values that we're fighting for are universal. They're values that America has always stood up for which is democracy, freedom and the rule of law.

But I think it's entirely reasonable for people to ask is everybody doing that there? I'm proud to say the U.K. is. You know, behind the U.S. we're the next largest contributor to the effort to support Ukraine.

And more broadly, when it comes to defense spending we're one of the few countries that invest 2 percent of our GDP in defense. That is a NATO commitment that we have made, that we've adhere to. And I think it's reasonable and right that we expect other countries in the NATO alliance to increase defense spending up to those levels. And that's something that I speak to other leaders about as well.

COLLISN: One of the people that you met with on Capitol Hill while you were here was House Speaker Kevin McCarthy did he offer you assurances that Republicans will continue to back funding for Ukraine? I

SUNAK: I think we had a very constructive conversation about support for Ukraine. I think what everyone, you know, wants to know is that money that we're all spending is going to be used well. And I think that is where I'd say I'm confident that Ukraine can succeed.

COLLINS: But there's some fierce resistance from some Republicans here on funding Ukraine. Are you confident that you can still count on the U.S. To continue to do so?

SUNAK: I think the U.S. has a long track record of making a difference in matters like this. And I continue to believe that it will do so.

COLLINS: At 43, you are the youngest leader in the G7. At 80, President Biden is the oldest. Are there generational differences, I guess I should say, in the way that each of you lead?

SUNAK: You know, I'm really fortunate to enjoy a close relationship with President Biden and through circumstance -- we just happen to have seen each other quite a lot. And that's not always the case for leaders. And that actually allows us, I think, to build a close relationship, thoughts or issues.


COLLINS: But are there differences in how you lead because of your age difference?

SUNAK: You know, it's hard for me to say, commenting on the outside. But what I am -- I find that President Biden's experience is incredibly helpful, particularly on issues like China. I think there are -- you know, few leaders anywhere who have spent as much time talking to President Xi as President Biden has over the years.

So you know, at a time when China opposes a particular challenge that it does, I think we're lucky to have President Biden's perspective on President Xi. I found that particularly valuable to me as someone who is newer to this. And I said having the relationship that he and I have is delivering real benefits for our people in America and the U.K.

COLLINS: Last question, given the big picture, what you often hear from President Biden on the world stage is that he said America is back making a clear reference to his predecessor, former president, Donald Trump who as I mentioned earlier is the front runner for the Republican nomination. If he does succeed and you're working alongside him, what do you envision a Trump-Sunak relationship would look like?

SUNAK: I think the great thing about the U.K. and the U.S. is the strength of partnership between our countries has endured for decades. Regardless of almost who is sitting in these various jobs. And that is because the values between our two countries are so aligned that we see the world instinctively in the same way.

Our two countries have stood together at all the major times of crisis. We've come together, we've shed blood together. We have fought for peace together and those bonds are incredibly strong.

But look, we can't dwell on history, is my view. we have an incredible history together, our two countries but we have got to reimagine our relationship to make sure it's relevant for now that it is dealing with a particular opportunity and challenges that we face today.

And that is why the declaration that President Biden and I announced today, that closer partnership between our two countries is so important. It is a first type of agreement like that that either of us have reached. And it speaks to making sure that we are ready for the future.

And that's what I'm excited about. Our values are enduring. The strength between our two countries is evident for everyone to see. And it's delivered incredible benefits I think. Not just for our two countries, but for the world and I think that will always be the case.


HOLMES: Now, during their meeting on Thursday, Sunak and Biden also agreed on an economic partnership on artificial intelligence and clean energy.

Still to come here on the program, the passenger being hailed as the hero of the Asiana flight incident last month tells CNN, he thought he was going to die.

We'll have his story when we come back.


HOLMES: The man being hailed as the hero of the Asiana flight incident last month said he thought he was going to die. In late May, you may remember this, a passenger opened the emergency exit door on a plane just as it was about to land in South Korea. The plane's hero spoke with CNN's Paula Hancocks.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It turned into the flight from hell. An Asianic passenger, allegedly opened the emergency exit door a couple of minutes before the airplane was about to land in South Korea. The man sitting next to him, seen here in red trousers, tells CNN he thought he was going to die.

LEE YOON-JUN, ASIANA AIRLINE PASSENGER: In disaster movies, everyone always seems to die when a door opens in the air. I wondered what I have done wrong in my life. It was just a fleeting moment but I had so many thoughts.


HANCOCKS: Lee Yoon-jun says he didn't see the man opening the door and initially assumed it was a technical malfunction.

LEE: The wind was stinging my legs and hitting my face so hard, I couldn't even breathe properly.

HANCOCKS: What was the man next to you doing?

LEE: He didn't say anything. We were trembling with fear. He seemed tense. When I look down I notice his feet swaying in the wind.

HANCOCKS: Police arrested the man in his 30s at (INAUDIBLE) Airport, after the plane landed safely. Hew told them he felt suffocated and wanted to get off the plane quickly, adding he'd been under a lot of stress after losing his job, according to police.

LEE: From the moment he boarded the plane, he was pale and gave off a bad vibe. He appeared somewhat dark, constantly fidgeting, looking around at people and acting strangely.

HANCOCKS: Asiana says it has stopped selling certain emergency exit seats for safety reasons. An investigation is underway to find out how the door was able to be opened 700 feet from the ground.

As soon as the wheels touched down, Lee said the passenger appeared to try and jump from the fast moving plane.

LEE: I heard the sound of someone next to me, undoing his seatbelt. I realized, he was leaning towards the exit. The flight attendant then shouted, asking for help. So I just grabbed him.

HANCOCKS: Lee was helped by other passengers and flight attendants and is amused that he's being hailed eld as a hero.

LEE: I am actually enjoying it. I suddenly became a temporary celebrity.

HANCOCKS: Lee feels he's been given a second chance at life. And he's determined to enjoy it.

Paula Hancocks, CNN -- Seoul.


HOLMES: Now, fans of Hong Kong's giant floating rubber duck sculpture will soon be seeing double. The All Rights Reserved Studio announced it is coming back to Hong Kong on Saturday. This time with, well you see it there, two duck sculptures, dubbed, double ducks. They're going to float in Victoria Harbor for two weeks.

The sculpture was conceived back in 2001. It first appeared in France six years later before traveling to Osaka, Sydney and Sao Paulo.

Now two extremely rare precious stones were sold at auction on Thursday. A pink diamond called the eternal pink and weighing almost 11 carats was auctioned as Sotheby's for $34.8 million. It was cut from a rough diamond discovered in a mine in Botswana just four years ago.

Also, the largest ever ruby also sold at Sotheby's for $34.8 million dollars. That was on Thursday. It was discovered less than a year ago at a mine in Mozambique owned by a Canadian company.

Thanks for watching. I'm Michael Holmes.

That's no coincidence, Canadian. Canadian Kim Brunhuber bought both of those rings. He will have more CNN NEWSROOM after the break.