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Club Pro Shoots Hole-In-One, Finishes 15th At PGA Championship; WSJ: Epstein Appeared To Threaten Bill Gates Over Past Relationship; Uvalde Parents Watch Children Flee Massacre In Graphic Video. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired May 22, 2023 - 07:30   ET




SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: A transgender student in Mississippi skipped her high school graduation after a judge sided with school officials who said she must follow the boys' dress code for the ceremony. The teenager's family filed a motion in court asking she be allowed to wear a dress and heels under her graduation robe. But on Friday, just one day before the ceremony, a judge denied the family's request.

CNN's Isabel Rosales joins us now live this morning. Isabel, how did this all play out?

ISABEL ROSALES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and Sara, good morning to you.

So I spoke with Samantha Brown -- that's the mom -- and L.B., the transgender teenager. They asked me to keep with her initials out of concerns for her privacy and safety. And they feel upset. They feel disappointed. They're confused. They feel like they missed out on a big moment in L.B.'s life. Now they are evaluating their next legal option.

So here's a picture right here of the white dress that she would have worn underneath this white robe that goes all the way down to her ankles. L.B. tells me she's been openly transgender for four years now, since her freshman year of high school, and this was something known to school members, to administrations, and to other students.

And she tells me that last year at prom, she wore a dress and heels with no problems. But then, two weeks to graduation, she was told she could not wear a dress -- listen.


L.B., TRANSGENDER TEEN WHO SKIPPED GRADUATION: It was definitely -- it was a hard, long decision. But I would rather stand up for what's right than be humiliated and feed into their thoughts and their opinionated feelings on what's right and what's wrong with gender identity. SAMANTHA BROWN, MOTHER OF L.B.: I don't -- I was -- I was very hurt. And just to see the hurt and the humiliation on her face after the ruling -- it was just -- it was very upsetting for me.



ROSALES: And we got ahold of the Harrison County school policy for the dress code for the graduation ceremony and it says in part here that for girls, they're required to wear dresses or dressy pantsuits. And for boys, dress pants, shirts, and a tie. And it says students whose attire does not meet the minimum dress requirements may not be allowed to participate in the graduation exercises.

Now, note that this policy -- we looked through it -- does not mention LGBTQ students and it doesn't specify that you should dress based on the sex that you were assigned at birth.

The school district -- looking through the court documents, they made several legal arguments in court, saying that graduation is voluntary and there's no constitutional right protecting that. And also saying that they determine whether a student is male or female based on their birth certificate -- Sara.

SIDNER: Isabel, it's just interesting that you would not even see this dress underneath the robe, but there we are. Thank you so much for reporting the story out for us.

ROSALES: Thanks.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Isabel.

All right, golf star Brooks Koepka making history, winning his third career PGA Championship. He finished nine under par yesterday at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York to secure his fifth overall major. He's the first golfer to win a major while playing in the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series.

He joins Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only players to have won the PGA Championship three or more times in the stroke play era.

The win represents a major comeback for Koepka after overcoming a series of significant injuries in recent years.


BROOKS KOEPKA, PGA CHAMPION: Honestly, don't ever quit. Don't ever give up on anything. You never know how close you are no matter how far it may feel, and I think that's one thing I would tell my son. That no matter what he's going through or what it is, you just never know what's around the corner. There's always -- if you keep giving maximum effort and always keep a good attitude.


SIDNER: He has got a great attitude because he won, but it was Michael Block who stole the show at the PGA Championship -- watch.


PGA ANNOUNCER: Michael Block hitting a hole-in-one.



SIDNER: That's the kind of cheering you hear at a basketball game, not at a golf tournament. That was a hole-in-one shot by Block, a 46- year-old club pro who teaches golf lessons at a public course in California for, like, 150 bucks for his lessons. That incredible shot capping a fairytale weekend among the tour's pros who made the cut at Oak Hill.

Block finished tied for 15th on the leaderboard, securing just under $300,000 -- not bad -- and a spot in next year's PGA Championship -- that's big. He normally earns 150 bucks, they said, for a lesson for an hour.

Now, Block was really emotional, as you might imagine, after this event.


MICHAEL BLOCK, GOLF PRO WHO GOT HOLE-IN-ONE AT PGA CHAMPIONSHIP: It's amazing. I'm living a dream. I'm making sure that I enjoy this moment. I've learned that after the -- my 46 years of life that it's not going to get better than this. There's no way. No chance in hell.

Everyone was awesome and I can't thank everybody enough for being so cool to me. And cheers to the 29,000 PGA Tour professionals in the world. This is for you, guys.


SIDNER: Oh, that was so sweet. He is the first --

HARLOW: I love that hug.

SIDNER: -- PGA pro to finish inside the top 40 at the tournament since 2005. So cute.

Michael Block, by the way -- he's going to join us live in the 8:00 a.m. -- something you definitely want to see.

And before we go to break, the Foo Fighters making a big hire. Check it out.


FOO FIGHTERS, ROCK BAND: Singing "One by One."

(END VIDEO CLIP) SIDNER: He's getting it. Josh Freese is a veteran drummer having played with bands like Nine Inch Nails, The Offspring, and Weezer. He'll be replacing longtime friend and drummer Taylor Hawkins who died suddenly last year while on tour.

The Foo Fighters will kick off their summer tour on Wednesday in New Hampshire.



HARLOW: This sad news to report this morning. At least 10 people are dead and nine injured after a shootout at a car show in Mexico. This took place in Mexico's Baja, California state on Saturday afternoon. Local authorities say an armed group jumped out of a van and began shooting at parked vehicles participating in the car race. The state prosecutor has opened an official investigation into the attack.

SIDNER: New reporting on disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein and his relationship with Bill Gates. The Wall Street Journal is reporting Epstein appeared to threaten Bill Gates over an alleged affair with a Russian bridge player. The Microsoft co-founder met the woman around 2010.

Epstein met her in 2013 and later paid for her to attend software coding school in 2017. Epstein e-mailed Gates and asked to be reimbursed for the cost of the course, according to people familiar with the matter. The e-mail came after the convicted sex offender had tried unsuccessfully to get Gates to participate in a multibillion- dollar charitable fund. That is also according to the Journal's reporting.

"The implication behind the message, according to the people who have viewed it, was that Epstein could reveal the affair if Gates didn't keep up an association between the two men."

A spokeswoman for Gates told the Journal, "Mr. Gates met with Epstein solely for philanthropic purposes. Having failed repeatedly to draw Mr. Gates beyond these matters, Epstein tried unsuccessfully to leverage a past relationship to threaten Mr. Gates."


HARLOW: Yes, and that Russian bridge player declined to comment on Gates and said she didn't know who Epstein was when they met, according to the Journal's reporting.

We should note CNN cannot independently verify the claims in the Journal's reporting. A spokesman for Gates told CNN this as well. Quote, "Mr. Gates never had any financial dealings with Epstein. As Bill has said before, it was a mistake to have ever met him."

And here's what Gates told our colleague Anderson Cooper back in 2021.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BILL GATES, FOUNDER, MICROSOFT: I had several dinners with him hoping that what he said about getting billions of philanthropy for global health through contacts that he had might emerge. When it looked like that wasn't a real thing, that relationship ended. But it was a huge mistake to spend time with him and to give him the credibility.


HARLOW: And joining us now is one of The Wall Street Journal reporters who broke this story, Khadeeja Safdar. Khadeeja, fascinating, really important reporting because there have been so many questions about what the relationship was between Bill Gates and Jeffrey Epstein, how deep did it go, and what maintained it -- if you could call it that.

So to be clear to our viewers, your reporting is that Epstein was essentially trying to blackmail Bill Gates. Is that a correct assessment?

KHADEEJA SAFDAR, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: That is how it was perceived. It was a veiled threat. And I think you have to keep in mind that this is probably like a nominal sum of money for these two people and the request for reimbursement came several years after their relationship and then after that charitable fund wasn't put together. So the timing of it led to Gates and then also others perceiving it as a threat.

SIDNER: When it comes to a case like this it's interesting that there is still so much that we don't know about a lot of the relationships between Epstein and others, and a lot of people talking about the --

HARLOW: They're powerful people.

SIDNER: -- other powerful people. A lot of people are concerned about what those relationships looked like.

How difficult was it for you to get this information? What led you down this road?

SAFDAR: So, I have been looking into the Epstein case since 2019 and it has been really difficult to find information. And I think it's a bit like an onion. Like, you keep peeling back layers to try to understand how the -- this person operated and how he was able to move through various layers of society. So it has been challenging but in the last few months we have learned more.

HARLOW: What more can you tell us about the Russian bridge player and how she met Gates and Epstein? We're not using her name. We haven't been able to reach her and independently speak to her, but you have reporting. What can you tell us about that?

SAFDAR: Our understanding is that Gates and her met at a bridge tournament and that they played bridge together around 2010, 2009. And then later on, Gates' science adviser was trying to help her find an investor for an online bridge company and that's when she met Epstein in 2013. And he reviewed her proposal to see if he could invest, which he didn't end up investing.

But then she -- and she wanted to take software coding classes to further her career and Epstein paid for a boot camp.

SIDNER: After your reporting, what have you heard? Because there's always -- there's usually fallout from something like this. What have you heard from -- we saw some of the reporting from Gates -- but what have you heard? Has this caused any other issues for those involved?

SAFDAR: So, we actually just broke this story yesterday, so we're still watching to see the reaction come in. But I think people just have a lot of questions still about Epstein. I don't think this story, like, answers everything. I personally still have a lot of questions about who he was and what his goals were.

SIDNER: Khadeeja Safdar, keep digging. There is a lot there and there's a lot of interest in him and his relationships with powerful people and whether others got hurt because of it. Thank you so much for all of your reporting so far.

HARLOW: Because of all the victims --


HARLOW: -- in this.

OK, President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will meet in just a few hours with less than 10 days until the potential U.S. default, which would be catastrophic. We'll get a look at where the negotiations stand, ahead.



SIDNER: Yes. Today, officials in Uvalde, Texas plan to hold a press conference as the city prepares to mark one year since that horrific school shooting at Robb Elementary School. Nineteen students, lest we forget, and two teachers were gunned down a year ago this Wednesday.

On the latest episode of "THE WHOLE STORY WITH ANDERSON COOPER," parents watched never-before-seen footage of their children fleeing the carnage after police breached the classroom. The video that you are about to see is graphic and disturbing but the parents say it's important for the world to see exactly what their children went through during those horrific 77 minutes.


SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (on camera): And that was her. So, that was Khloe. Did you see her? Did you recognize her?

PROKUPECZ (voice-over): She also wanted to watch video of her daughter and other children placed on a school bus and taken to the hospital. The video is disturbing. Khloe wasn't physically hurt during the attack and remember, the blood you're about to see is not hers.

CHILD: I was on the phone with the police officer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, that was you?

CHILD: Yes, ma'am.





SIDNER: That is so hard to watch.

Joining us now is CNN senior crime and justice correspondent, Shimon Prokupecz. Shimon, I was with you last night -- we watched this together -- and I saw you look away several times and get teary-eyed several times. It is impossible not to.

Tell us how difficult it was -- the moment where you're sitting with the parents and you're looking at this video of these kids covered in blood.

PROKUPECZ: Yes. So, when it pertains to Khloe's mother, Jamie, there -- Jamie Torres -- she's just an incredibly brave woman. She wanted to see this video. She knew we had it. We talked about it because I told her that we had this video. She said I want to see it.

And, for me, just sitting there and I -- was the most difficult thing to do knowing that at some point I was going to show her this video. And I didn't know when in the interview to do it but I knew it was important for her to see and potentially, for the world to see so they can get a picture into what these kids went through. I think it's -- we're at a point in this country where it's important for people to see what these guns do to these kids, and the mom agreed.

And you see there sort of this moment of when all these kids are on the school bus. There were not enough ambulances to put these kids in --

SIDNER: Right.

PROKUPECZ: -- ambulances. Two of them were shot. One of them nearly died. Had the police waited any longer she probably would have died.

HARLOW: Bled out.

PROKUPECZ: Yes, she should have bled out. She was passing out on the bus.

SIDNER: It's just -- it's too much. It's almost too much --

PROKUPECZ: Yes. SIDNER: -- for someone whose child it isn't to see it, right?

PROKUPECZ: And what's so frustrating is that we are -- we are now a year later and so many questions still remain for these families. They can't get answers. I have family members calling me last night -- can you help us? We're trying to figure out the last moments of our loved ones' lives.

There are inconsistent statements. There's information that's not accurate out there. They want closure but law enforcement is not giving it to them. So they're turning to us because they know we have all this information. So it puts us in a weird position, certainly, to have to be the ones to do this. This is difficult and painful work.

HARLOW: Because I want to show our viewers some video of another group of parents in your doc watching as their children fled the classroom. In fact, what you'll see here, when we can pull it up, is that one father got up and left the room in disgust while the mothers kept watching.

Here you have it.


Parents watching video.


HARLOW: Can you speak to why, just journalistically for you, how challenging it was to make the decision to agree to show footage to the parents that the authorities would not, and how you wrestled with all of that?

PROKUPECZ: It was hard. I would say to you when I was -- we were in the car -- Matt Friedman, who is the producer on this, and I -- we were in the car and I get a text from one of the mothers. She knew I was in town. She said can we meet with you? We want to see --


PROKUPECZ: -- this video.

And I was like no way. I can't do it. It's not something that is appropriate. It's not something I can do. But we kept talking and I said you know what, we're going to do it.

And then, of course, we had to talk to our bosses here and figure out the situation. You know, how we would go about it. And I pushed to do it.

HARLOW: But they supported you, ultimately.

PROKUPECZ: One hundred percent.


PROKUPECZ: They were the ones who said we want to do it -- show it -- and then we sat in that room.

And isn't it incredibly just brave of the mothers to sit there? The father couldn't handle it --


PROKUPECZ: -- but the mothers were like we want to see this. We want to see what our kids went through. And they sat there and they sat through it and they watched. It was the most difficult thing to do because my biggest fear, honestly, was how are they going to react to this and what if --

SIDNER: Re-traumatizing.

PROKUPECZ: Yes, and I don't want to re-traumatize them. I don't -- certainly don't want to re-traumatize any of the kids.


PROKUPECZ: And I was just so scared about how they were going to react to it, and what do you do if they react in a certain way? I'm not a trained professional.

SIDNER: Right.

PROKUPECZ: But this is what they wanted and for so long they haven't -- they have not been getting what they wanted. And to finally be able to do that for them -- for me, personally, as someone who has been so involved in this, was very meaningful.

SIDNER: For one year -- and now, we're coming -- I cannot believe it's a year coming up and that authorities still haven't come out with their determination in their investigations.

PROKUPECZ: It's absolutely ridiculous.

SIDNER: I mean, the families don't have what they need but you -- your team has been giving that to the families. It is incredible reporting and so important for the families. Thank you, Shimon.

HARLOW: And it's why you guys won a Peabody Award.


HARLOW: So rightly deserved for this. It's what it -- it's the whole game. It's what being a journalist is about.


HARLOW: It's what you and Matt and that team did, Shimon.

PROKUPECZ: Thank you.

HARLOW: Thank you.

PROKUPECZ: Thanks, Poppy. Thanks, Sara. HARLOW: We continue with CNN THIS MORNING right now.


SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA): I don't think Trump can win a general election but that's a nice way for him to diss people like Tim Scott, who is a pretty formidable candidate.


HARLOW: That was Sen. Bill Cassidy. That's where we begin on politics. Good morning, everyone.

Today, Sen. Tim Scott will officially announce he's running for president, giving Donald Trump yet another GOP challenger. We are also learning.