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CNN This Morning

White House, House GOP Reach Agreement in Principle; Texas House Votes to Impeach Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton; NYC Officials: $4.3B to be Spent by July 2024 on Asylum Seekers; Lithium To Be Extracted And Used For Electric Car Batteries; Disney's Little Mermaid Live-Action Remake Opens In Theaters; Celine Dion Cancels World Tour Due To Health Reasons; Student's Service Dog Receives Diploma At Graduation Ceremony. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired May 28, 2023 - 08:00   ET



AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: I mean, maybe $5 for scratch off but --

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: The thing I ever won on a scratch is another ticket that losses. So --

WALKER: Bad luck. Maybe just don't have luck.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, I don't really have that.

WALKER: Priorities.

The next hour of CNN THIS MORNING starts now.


WALKER: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to CNN THIS MORNING on this Sunday. I'm Amara Walker.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you.

President Biden and GOP lawmakers, they have now finally agreed to a tentative debt ceiling deal. But there is still a long way to go, including selling members of their respective parties on the plan. Can they get the support they need in order to prevent default?

WALKER: An unprecedented move. The Texas House of Representatives votes to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton, after an investigation into corruption, abuse of power and obstruction of justice. The latest on the historic action.

BLACKWELL: Hollywood highway. Three hours from Los Angeles, the Salton Sea. Could it help supercharge the future of electric vehicles?

WALKER: And the new little mermaid movie is finally out. How it is inspiring a new generation of young black girls.

We begin in Washington where Congress is drafting new legislation on the debt limit. Last night, the White House and Republican negotiators reached an agreement in principle. There are still concerns, however, that the nation could potentially default.

BLACKWELL: The proposed legislation is still needs to be written and passed and get to the president by June 5th. That's a date that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says the government will run out of cash. And there are skeptics in the House and Senate who will have to be won over before the president get a chance to sign that bill.

We have team coverage this morning. CNN's Kevin Liptak is in Wilmington with the president. We're starting on Capitol Hill, though, with Lauren Fox.

All right, walk us through what we know so far about the deal?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are learning some new details about this deal in principle. And one of the things that has become very clear is that Kevin McCarthy and Democratic leadership is going to have a tough time getting the votes that they need for this legislation. Once it is actually within.

You are already hearing some of that conservative pushback with members arguing last night on a private call that the spending cuts are just not big enough for them to support the piece of legislation. Bob Good, who is a conservative, he spoke up last night on that private call. There were others as well.

Overwhelmingly, though, Kevin McCarthy said that members are starting to rally around this deal.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: They look more excited than depressed. Once people read the bill, they will be excited. Most importantly, America wins on this one.


FOX: And on the Democratic side, there's going to be pushback from progressives who have concerns about some of the new work requirements, including new requirements on food stamps programs. So, that gives you a sense of the tightrope that both members of leadership are walking as they try to rally their members around these bills. One thing that is clear tonight, Democrats are going to hear from the White House to get a better sense of what is in the deal in principle.

But like you noted, there's still work to do on actually drafting the legislation. That is happening around the clock. With operation is getting ready on both sides to start this furious effort to get the votes that they need to pass the House of Representatives.

We should note, but just the first step. Then everything has to move over to the U.S. Senate where anyone standard can delay the process, meaning time is ticking and the clock is running out.

WALKER: The deal could fall apart, but there is a deal in principle. We will stick with that. Lauren Fox, thank you very much.

Let's go now to CNN White House reporter Kevin Liptak.

Kevin, look, was this a compromise which means they were concessions? What is the reaction so far from the White House, and how optimistic are they, in regards to getting enough Democratic support?

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes. What you are hearing this morning is cautious optimism. But, of course, White House officials are very guarded in their outlook so far because, this marathon is not over. The threat of default very much remains on the table as we work to consolidate support on the Republican side and Democratic side. The work will really begin for Democrats later today when the White House gets on this video call with members of the Democratic caucus to try and sell them on this plan, we also expect President Biden to speak again later today, with the house speaker, Kevin McCarthy.

But there are some snags which could arrive. Both sides will swallows element of this plan, they don't necessarily agree with, including the length of this debt ceiling increase.


Republicans had wanted only one here increase, what is included in this pilot two years, and very critically, that puts it past the 2024 election. Some of the spending cuts are not as deep as some Republicans had wanted.

And on the Democratic side, I think you're going to hear some concerns about these new work requirements that are included for food stamps. It includes new work requirements for those under the age of 54. Ahead of time, Republican -- some Democrats had said this was a nonstarter. Even the White House said it was cool and senseless, this idea of new work requirements.

But this morning, the White House does say the president was able to protect Medicaid as part of this plan. He was also able to expand the food stamps for some veterans and homeless people, so they do say they were able to accomplish something on that front.

Late last night, the president did release a statement sort of acknowledging that this was not going to be what everyone wanted as part of the deal. He wrote it is an important step forward which reduces spending while protecting critical programs for working people, growing the economy for everyone, and the agreement protects mine and part correctional Democrats key priorities and legislative accomplishments.

And the president goes on to write that the agreement represents a compromise, which means not everybody gets what they want. That is the responsibility of governing. So now the question is whether they will be able to consolidate enough support on both sides to ensure passage. It is almost certain this will require both Democrats and Republican votes in order to make aid to the president's desk. Now, Kevin McCarthy did say last night that once this text is

released, he will allow a 72-hour period for members to review it. That means a vote will occur on Wednesday, as Lauren mentioned, this can still get held up in the Senate but that deadline of June 5th remains in place when the treasury department says that they will run out of cash to pay its bills -- guys.

BLACKWELL: Kevin Liptak there, traveling with the president in Wilmington, thank you so much.

Joining us now is Tia Mitchell, Washington correspondent for "The Atlanta Journal Constitution".

That's for being with us.

Let's pick up where Kevin left off, because I think the president and the speaker, they both knew they were going to lose some members of their respective parties even if they get this across the finish line into the president in time. Are you seeing or hearing any indicators so far in that it is more than that? More than the expected detractors?

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION: It is still so early to tell, everything broke late on a Saturday night. Members of Congress are home in their districts, having to come in person. They don't have legislative text to review. But right now, it's looking really on the far-right, those Freedom Caucus members, the ones who oppose Kevin McCarthy being speaker, so far those are the ones who have been most vocal. I think the Democrats, the progressive Democrats have been more cautious, they've been more willing to take a wait and see approach.

But I think once they get that bill text, which will happen as soon as today, we'll really start seeing where members stand, and if it is starting to become a math problem, particularly in the House.

WALKER: When it comes to the president, we have heard from so many rank and file Democrats who were voicing frustration about the communications, the way this was handled of course, as we heard from Kevin Liptak saying, some Democrats were saying this was going to be a nonstarter, we were talking about new work requirements. How pervasive is that sentiment amongst the Democrats?

MITCHELL: So, I think most Democrats would say they are not in favor of new work requirements, but it's the Progressives Caucus, which is not a small amount of the Democrats in the house, who have indicated that, they would not be willing to support legislation, that included new work requirements.

So the question is, is the way the legislation was written, the agreement, is this something they can kind of hold their nose and support? Because it is more limited than what Republicans have threatened, it is more limited than what Republicans had in their debt ceiling proposal. So I see the might be some progressive Democrats who say, we don't like it, but because the overall package is not as extreme as we had feared, I can go ahead and support it to get the debt limit raised.

BLACKWELL: And, of course, if you know you're going to get to a compromise at some point, you ask for pass much more than you actually want, so maybe you settle somewhere where you really want to be.

Let me read this to you from Republican Representative Dan Bishop. He tweeted out after the contours of the deal, which in principle came out, if speaker negotiators bring back and substance a clean debt limit increase, one so large that it even protects Biden from the issue, in the presidential, it is war.

The question here, war on whom? War on Democrats or war on the speaker? Because there's that single vote threshold to vacate the chair. They might not be able to remove Kevin McCarthy, but they could embarrass him if they are so disappointed.

MITCHELL: Yes. What I take from that tweet is they mean war on the house floor. In that case, it would be war against this negotiated agreement, with President Biden trying to whip votes against it trying to make it difficult to pass on the House floor. But I do think we are starting to hear members say that they think McCarthy negotiated a bad deal. They feel like they're going to hold his feet to the fire for that as well. What that could mean is a bit of chaos. That mean kind of what we saw with the speakers vote, with more rounds of voting to determine whether Kevin McCarthy remains speaker or not. So there could just be a lot of dissension on the House floor, both targeting President Biden, but also targeting Speaker McCarthy.

WALKER: So let's talk about this small but mighty hard right faction, when it comes to, and it could be a career challenging moment for Kevin McCarthy. Speak to this moment and how the could really derail this bill, right?

MITCHELL: Right, because, you know, the House Freedom Caucus is about 40 to 50 members. But the ultraconservatives that oppose Kevin McCarthy becoming speaker, that is about 20 members out of a 200 member Republican conference. But when you remember they only have a five vote majority, this means if those 20 members hold strong, they really can cause a lot of chaos in the Republican conference.

And that's what we are seeing is really -- it's the roughly 20 hard right members that seem to not be very happy with this agreement. They are not happy that it would raise the debt ceiling through the 2024 presidential election. And they are not happy that they think it increases the debt ceiling too much.

The question is what are they willing to do about it? Are they going to call for vote to remove Speaker McCarthy? It's too early to tell.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, and that's just in the House. Then we're going to get to the Senate if we get a signed by the president before a potential default.

Tia Mitchell, thank you for coming in.

WALKER: Thank you, Tia. Good to see you. CNN will have much more on the debt ceiling agreement, coming up on

"STATE OF THE UNION". Today, Jake Tapper will sit down with congressional Progressive Caucus chair, Pramila Jayapal, the begins at the top of the hour, right here on CNN.

BLACKWELL: Coming up, CNN goes inside the religious community center where a common space has been transformed to accommodate migrants. Up next, the leader of the organization shares her personal migrant story, and how she plans to partner with the city to help more people.

Also, three former Jackson police officers are indicted after the death of a man in custody on New Years Eve. We'll talk through the details of the charges that they face.

Also, Montana's LGBTQ community is showing its pride in the wake of several anti-LGBTQ bills. I'll speak with a pair of community leaders about what's next, and how they are responding to these new laws.



WALKER: This morning, the Texas state senate is considering whether to remove Republican attorney general, Ken Paxton, from office. In a stunning move, members from his own party in the state house voted overwhelmingly last night to impeach Paxton after an investigation into corruption, abuse of power, and obstruction of justice.

BLACKWELL: The vote against Ken Paxton was 121 to 23. All eyes will be on Paxton's wife, State Senator Angela Paxton, who may have to vote on her husband's removal.

This morning, New York City officials say the recent surge of migrants is putting a huge strain on the city's finances. They estimate the city will spend more than $4 billion to help asylum seekers by July 2024.

WALKER: And right now, more than 44,000 migrants are in the city's care more than 70,000 of past through intake facilities.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is in New York where officials have partnered with a mosque to help shelter the influx of migrants.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just below a bustling Brooklyn interstate, this brick building offers shelter in the face of New York City's ongoing migrant crisis.

SONIYA ALI, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MUSLIM COMMUNITY CENTER: We have 17 migrants staying with us. So, basically, each bed is their living space.

SANDOVAL: Soniya Ali helps run the Muslim community center which, she says, for the last nine months or so have collectively offered respite to 75 asylum seekers of all faiths as New York city struggles to keep up with the demands of housing nearly 45,000 homeless migrants. This organization does what he can to help shoulder that wait all while aiming to live up to the guiding principle that's painted outside.

ALI: As a Muslim, it is an obligation upon us to help house, you know, migrants and people who are travelers. Basically we decided to all take that step.

SANDOVAL: Ali was 5 when her family immigrated to the U.S. from Kashmir.

ALI: I can definitely understand what they're feeling when they talk about their families and the children that they left behind or their wives or whoever they left behind. I understand that because I do have family members that are back home, that are not here, and you do feel that sense of longing. So I understand that part of their journey and their situations.

SANDOVAL: Ali says their community center is among the faith-based organizations that have applied to team up with the city of New York starting the summer. A local government official familiar with the city's planning tell CNN that the city will soon announce a program that seeks to open up 50 faith-based shelters starting in July, each offering about 19 beds the goal, the official says, is the count on at least 950 additional beds for asylum seekers by the fall.

However, the institutions will have to meet building codes to house large groups, the official says.


For Ali, that means installing fire sprinklers.

ALI: This is something that might take a little longer than we expected. The -- from what I was told or what I'm aware of, is that there are two slots in June and September. We are hoping for June, but it doesn't look like it. So, we're probably going to be approved in September.

SANDOVAL: The plan to use some of New York City's houses of worship comes as city and state are forced to get creative to expand shelter space.

GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D), NEW YORK: There are some schools that have empty dorms. There are some schools that are not reopening. There are former correctional facilities, which are not ideal but, that is space if we can change the environment.

SANDOVAL: And some new and unusual options emerge, faith-based community centers are already offering sanctuary.

ALI: Spiritually, it has been humbling to hear the stories and to be able to know that we are making a difference in these -- in these individuals' lives.

SANDOVAL: Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York.


WALKER: All right, still to come. Pride organizers in Montana are pushing forward despite a recent wave of anti-LGBTQ bill signed into law. And after a 10-year hiatus, one community's first pride event was interrupted by neo-Nazis.



WALKER: Here are some of the stories we are following today.

Three former Jackson Mississippi police officers are indicted for a man's death after a confrontation on New Year's Eve. We want to warn you the body camera footage that was just released is a graphic.


POLICE OFFICER: Hands behind your back, now! Put your hands behind your back. Both of them.


WALKER: The video shows officers pinning down Keith Murriel and tasing him multiple times in a hotel parking lot. This happened on December 31st. Attorneys for Murriel's family saying independent autopsy found that Murriel died because of failure to render aid after a severe beating. Kenya McCarty and Avery Willis are charged with second degree murder. James Land seen in the middle, is charged with manslaughter. They're also facing a civil lawsuit.

BLACKWELL: At least three people are dead, five others wounded after a shooting at a motorcycle in Red River, New Mexico, yesterday. Police say several people were taken into custody and are members of biker gangs. The rally draws tens of thousands of people to the town's main street for Memorial Day weekend. The mayor says a curfew was put in place overnight. Most Main Street was closed this morning because of the ongoing investigation.

WALKER: Officials are cracking down on alcohol at one Jersey Shore beach and boardwalk while the city commissioners unanimously passed a new ordinance Wednesday banning even the presence of alcohol in those areas. It can get you 90 days in jail, soon, and up to $2,000 in fines. The new order goes into effect mid June. But for now, Memorial Day revelers in Wildwood will be spared for.

BLACKWELL: This morning, organizers behind Pride events in Montana say they are pushing ahead with this year's festival despite a recent wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation in the state. Over the past couple of weeks, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte has signed into law bills that have specifically defined sex as either male or female, legislation that would ban gender affirming medical care for transgender youth and a ban on drag performers reading to children in public libraries and public schools.

Here with me now is Keldon Joyner with the Courtship of the Imperial Supreme Court of the State of Montana. And Andy Nelson, who's an executive director of the Western Montana LGBTQ+ community center.

Welcome to you both.

Keldon, let me start with you there in Bozeman, the first pride event back in Bozeman after a ten-year hiatus, let's call them, more than ten years. Why now?

KELDON JOYNER, COURTSHIP OF THE IMPERIAL SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF MONTANA: You know, I think when we look at the current political climate, along with the fact that it's actually been 12 years since there's been a Pride festival in Bozeman, Montana. We said this year, it's more important than ever.

Our community deserves it. And our youth need to see that they have a place -- a place to be safe and people that will stand up for them.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, pride event was actually earlier this month it is not just in June, it is a whole season that these events go through. And there were some neo-Nazis who showed up. We're not going to spend too much time on it, by I do want you to tell me what happened as watch some of the video.

JOYNER: Absolutely. So, unfortunately, we did have some neo-Nazis that showed up protesting as we started very non-aggressive. Things built up to be quite verbally aggressive. From there, it continued to escalate to some physical aggression, as well. We had a child that was maced along with multiple other individuals, people that were trampled on the sidewalk.

Our board of directors took steps to inform local law enforcement, about nine times in a two-hour period. Thankfully, our community came together. We stayed extremely safe. And we did not let those protesters stop us from having an incredible day, and eventually, we got them out of there.

BLACKWELL: Andy, Missoula brought back pride events, I believe, it was last year. And I -- you know, we have talked about the legislation and from lawmakers. We've seen these neo-Nazis. But I wonder, are we seeing the public match the political trend? Are the people changing as we're watching the laws change?

ANDY NELSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WESTERN MONTANA LGBTQ COMMUNITY CENTER: No, Victor, I don't believe so. What we are seeing in the Montana legislature, and these anti-LGBTQ plus bills that we're calling the slate of hate here in Montana, it doesn't match the feelings of the people, the majority of the people here in Montana. You go knock on somebody's door and ask, do you -- do you want to see a ban on gender affirming care? Do you -- are you in favor of these anti-drag bills?


And they would say no. That is not our top priority. That's not what we want here.

BLACKWELL: You know, so you are in Missoula and Zooey Zephyr, state rep who represents the 100th district there, shew was banned from the House floor for the last session there for saying, in response to legislation banning gender affirming care for minors that those lawmakers would have blood on their hands.

Let me read this from the Trevor Project, their 2022 survey. 55 percent of LGBTQ youth in Montana seriously considered suicide in the prior year. 89 percent of LGBTQ youth in the state reported that recent politics negative impacted their well-being either sometimes or a lot.

So Andy, on that, what does this mean for young people when they come to pride events there. What you tell them?

NELSON: Yes. For young people attending pride events here in Montana it's more powerful than ever. We need to be seen, we need to be heard, and we need to be visible. We need to show the young people that we are here for them no matter what even though our state lawmakers don't seem to show that. We need to show they're valued, loved and cared for and Montana is a place for them.

BLACKWELL: Keldon, Same Question to you. Kelvin, same question to you.

JOYNER: You know, I would say we are in very, very similar boat. I speak from a great perspective of Montana-based drag performer.

This isn't the first time the community has had to fight for our rights. Unfortunately, I don't think it's going to be our last. But we will continue to stand for all of our youth, for our children and make sure that they have all of their rights and healthcare that they deserve.

BLACKWELL: Keldon, you know, this is a period which, you know, there are some clear youth who are coming -- I don't even like to term it coming out -- inviting people in, right, that are coming of age and are now living their full truth, inviting people in in this environment where these laws are changing where maybe five years ago it seemed like they were going in the opposite direction. Do you see that things are going backward as it relates to LGBTQ rights?

JOYNER: No. I think that there is a pretty large national push as well as within Montana. That is taking us back in time at the moment. Fortunately, I can speak for so many people that these bills are unconstitutional (INAUDIBLE). We will make sure that we are taking them to court and that we are challenging them eventually.

We'll make sure that the queer community in Montana will make sure that these bills do not stay the way that they are.

BLACKWELL: Keldon Joyner, Andy Nelson -- thank you for your time this morning and happy Pride.

Joyner: Happy pride.

NELSON: Thank you so much for having us.

BLACKWELL: Certainly, thanks for your time. Coming up, can a California sea power the future. Our dying Hollywood

hideaway is churning with the mineral essential for electric vehicles.



BLACKWELL: Is it a new California gold rush? This time lithium though, a critical metal set to be extracted from underneath California Salton Sea.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. So lithium is key for electric car batteries and as demand skyrockets for electric vehicles, there's hope a new lithium rush could save the dying Salton Sea and supercharge America's EV industry.

Mike Valerio takes us to the desert for a closer look.

MIKE VALERIO, CNN NEWSOURCE NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor and Amara, as we prepare for our summer road trips, the future of how we drive is electric. And a remote corner of California could help set that future in motion.


VALERIO: It looks like a shimmering sea that was once called a miracle in the desert.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Salton Riviera beside the Salton Sea is a place for you to take charge of your future.

VALERIO: A Hollywood hideaway three hours from Los Angeles where Sinatra and the Rat Pack played. But now after decades of drought and farm run off raising the water's salinity the Salton Sea today is surrounded by dust and decay.

PROF. MICHAEL MCKIBBEN, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, RIVERSIDE: The hope is that the chronic unemployment and poverty down here can be alleviated by the development of the Silicon Valley.

VALERIO: This gurgling and sputtering from underground gases potentially heralds a new beginning, a transformation from languishing vistas to lithium valley.

MCKIBBEN: These are called on mud volcanoes from (INAUDIBLE) ground.

VALERIO: Geologists Michael McKibbhen explains deep underneath us where two tectonic plates are pushing past each other, magma heats ground water. And with in that salty water called brine, minerals dissolve including the valuable metal, lithium.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the gold right here.


VALERIO: Solid lithium is essential for electric vehicle batteries. Right now most lithium battery production is in China. But experts say the Salton Sea region could provide enough lithium to move the U.S. toward lithium independence supercharging our EV transition.


ERIC SPOMER, CEO, ENERGYSOURCE MINERALS: Our intention is to be in construction this year and be in operation in 2025.

VALERIO: Eric Spomer is CEO of Energy Source Minerals, one of three companies planning to draw lithium from the underground hot brine.

This is where the separation begins.

DANIEL ALEXANDER, OWNER'S REPRESENTATIVE, HUDSON RANCH POWER: Yes. this is where the high temperature, high pressure fluids coming up into our high-pressure separator.

VALERIO: Boiling brine already fuels 11 Salton Sea geothermal power plants, among them Hudson Ranch One. The brine steam spins its turbines and that creates clean energy. The plan now is to extract dissolved lithium from that same brine.

SPOMER: We developed a technology that is incredibly efficient at extracting lithium from brine and rejecting impurities.

VALERIO: One of the hopes with lithium extraction is that it could bring vitality back to the Salton Sea and so much of what we are looking at all around us.

Fewer than 10 years ago this was underwater and people who live in and around the area hope that with more money into the economy at least a fraction of the Salton Sea can be restored to its former glory.

Simply put Ruben Hernandez owner of the nearby Buckshot Deli and Diner hopes a lithium boom leads to a boom in customers and a flood of tax revenue for a better future.

RUBEN HERNANDEZ, OWNER, BUCKSHOT DELI AND DINER: "My grandchildren will grow up here," he tells us. "I hope they will have good services and a good quality of life."

That is if lithium leads to a second miracle in the desert, one for our time and for the road ahead.

On the banks of the Salton Sea, I'm Mike Valerio reporting.


BLACKWELL: All right. Mike, thanks for the story.

The 2010s was one of the most consequential decades in recent history with political and social and technological upheaval that redefined American culture.. This week the "CNN ORIGINAL SERIES: THE 2010s" is back with an all new episode examining Donald Trump's rise to the presidency in 2016, and the polarizing legacy he left behind. Here's a look. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Several states are too close to call, so we're not going to have anymore more to say tonight.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm sitting on set, frantically texting sources and getting a text from a source who was with Donald Trump saying Hillary Clinton just called. She conceded.

CNN can report that Hillary Clinton has called Donald Trump to concede the race.

TRUMP: I just received a call from Secretary Clinton. She congratulated us. It's about us.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Donald Trump lost the popular vote but he was able to knock three bricks off the blue wall, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by a combined total of 80,000 votes. and in a nation of 330 million people, those votes were the difference between President Hillary Clinton and President Donald Trump.


BLACKWELL: All right. Watch an all new episode of the "CNN ORIGINAL SERIES: THE 2010s", airs tonight at 9:00 Eastern and Pacific only on CNN.

Still ahead, and inspiration on the big screen. We will talk about the impact of Halle Bailey's portrayal of "The Little Mermaid". Or how it's having this really important impact on young girls of color.



BLACKWELL: It's opening weekend for Disney's live-action remake of the "The Little Mermaid". According to "Variety", the film has already made $38 million at the box office. It's expected t6o gross between $120 and 130 million over the four-day Memorial Day weekend.

WALKER: Now, the film, as you may know, sparked controversy when casting Halley Bailey, a black woman as the new Ariel. But Halley's portrayal of Ariel has become an inspiration for so many black and brown girls around the world who can finally see themselves once again represented on the screen. Who could forget the heartwarming videos from when the trailer dropped showing their reactions to Bailey?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think she's brown. A brown Ariel.


WALKER: So sweet. At the premiere in London, Halley got to meet several fans on the red carpet telling "Variety", she hopes that they know they are worth and deserve to be in these spaces.

CNN's senior entertainment reporter, Lisa France joining us now here in studio, always a treat as I like to say.

Let's talk about, you know, why representation matter so much especially in this genre of Disney princesses, right. And what does it mean to you to see Halley?

LISA RESPERS FRANCE, CNN SENIOR ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: Yes. I said on social media that we talk a lot about the representation for young girls of color, but for women of color, people of color, I cried.

The movie meant so much to me especially because this country and world feels so splintered and torn apart right now. So to see us up on screen in this huge Disney production, which is -- I mean diverse in and of itself. I mean the cast, All of Ariel's sisters are different nationalities. Daveed plays the crab, you know he's Afro-Latino. So I feel like this film, Disney's really gotten behind diversity. The promotion for it -- I mean their promotion budget was huge.

So for little girls of color, little boys of color, grown women of color and grown men of color, it's just important to have representation right now in this era that we're living in when everything just feels like people are so far apart.

We could all come together and rally around this film.

BLACKWELL: Have you seen it?

FRANCE: I have.

BLACKWELL: What did you think?


FRANCE: So take it for what it is. I know a lot of people want to compare it to the animated. I feel like they did a really great job. I feel like first of all, I feel like Halle was born to play Ariel. As soon as you hear her sing --

WALKER: Her voice.

FRANCE: And "Part of Your World" I mean those final notes, there's a great video of her performing with the orchestra --

BLACKWELL: I've seen that.

FRANCE: And when she finishes, she kind of steps back as if she's a little shy about it. And all of the musicians start applauding her. And it just -- it just -- it fills your heart.

My girlfriend Tanika said something to the effect of, whenever she sings, it's like she reaches inside your chest cavity and she hugs your heart. And that's the best way I've ever heard it described.

WALKER: How close is this live action movie compared to the original? FRANCE: So they changed some things. They changed some lyrics to be

more inclusive and also to be less sexist. Because there are, you know, lots of complaints that some of our older art has not caught up with the times that we live in now.

But I feel like what's the most similar in the two is just the sheer joy that you feel from watching. I love a musical, just first of all. So you know, if I could sing, I wouldn't even speak. I'd be singing this interview right now.

So I just feel like it's just like the joy and the wonder of it. I feel like we all need it, especially right now, these last couple of years that we've had, we all need that kind of wonder.

BLACKWELL: Speaking of music and not something as joyous obviously, Celine Dion, canceling her tour through next year, suffering with stiff person syndrome. What more do we know about her and that condition?

FRANCE: My colleague, Chloe Melas and I have been working this story and sources have been telling us that she probably is not going to tour again ever. And it's devastating. She's in a lot of pain, we're being told. She's doing physical therapy every day.

It's a rare neurologic syndrome, which causes stiffness and pain and just -- she's unable to sing. And the thing about Celine Dion is if you've ever seen her in concert or just seen her sing period, she is such a perfectionist, and if she can't give it to her fans and the audience the way she wants to, she's not going to give it at all.

But in this case, it sounds like she just absolutely cannot. She said she was, you know, sorry, she apologized, they kept putting shows off and off and finally they decide to cancel it.

WALKER: It's got to be devastating for her as well. But of course, when we were just talking about this -- you know, I had the privilege of meeting her 12 years ago and interviewing her. I think you have as well and I'm sure you have. She is just the nicest, most genuine human.


BLACKWELL: And funny.

FRANCE: Funny. Just wonderful, plenty talented and one of the greatest voices of our time. So to see that we may never hear that voice again live is just excruciating.

WALKER: It is.

Good to see you, Lisa.

FRANCE: Good to see you guys.

WALKER: Thanks for coming in.

BLACKWELL: Thank you.

FRANCE: Thank you.

WALKER: Still to come, a very special college graduate. More on the 6- year-old service dog who went above and beyond to receive his diploma.



WALKER: Thunderstorms and heavy rains could wash out some Memorial Day plans from D.C. down to the Carolinas.

BLACKWELL: And a severe weather threat continues across the Rockies.

Meteorologist Britley Ritz joins us now. What do we need to know?

BRITLEY RITZ, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, you need an umbrella if you're out on the coast, and you need to stay inside either way, if you're on the coast or in the plains. It's gloomy.

And now I've seen, with that said, people walking out on the beach every once in a while. It's about 10 degrees warmer this morning than what it was yesterday morning in Myrtle Beach, even with the doom and gloom.

66 right now, the winds have died down about 10 miles per hour from yesterday morning. But still, a breezy northeast wind at 10 miles per hour.

There's the rain, a little bit of lightning there around the Cape. So we'll have to watch that closely. A few rumbles of thunder. But otherwise, scattered showers stretching all the way up into parts of the Ohio Valley, too. And that flooding threat pushes inland today.

Just north of charlotte, you'll see areas highlighted in yellow and orange, about 2 to 4 more inches of rain through Monday. And with this coastal low sitting over the last 24 hours, we've seen record cold highs. So we're about 10 to 20, almost 25 degrees below normal for some of us, like Greensboro. Yesterday, a high of 61 degrees. Typically, we should be sitting right around 80.

Now, that severe weather threat, of course, holds right across the plains, where we have that stalled boundary. Areas highlighted in yellow into the panhandle of Texas, as well as Oklahoma, watching that closely for more wind and hail threats today. But isolated tornadoes can't be ruled out either.

And of course, we have the Indy 500 going on across the Ohio Valley. We have a little bit of cloud cover. We mentioned the opportunity for a stray shower. I think most of us will stay dry.

But it's a perfect day to get out to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race starts at 12:45 Eastern time.

And there's the cloud cover with temperatures in the mid-70s. Now, let's talk about a little bit of statistics here, when it comes down to previous Indy 500s. The warmest is back in 1937 -- 92 degrees. The coldest back in 1992 at 58 degrees. And the wettest back in '92 where we picked up nearly 3 inches of rain.

Thankfully today, we won't have any of that to worry about.

Amara, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Britley Ritz, thanks so much.

A very special graduate received a well-deserved diploma from Seton Hall.


WALKER: Just so sweet. Look at his face. Justin, a 6-year-old service dog, graduating -- for graduating student Grace Mariani earned every bit of this diploma, attending every single one of Mariani's Seton Hall classes. The Labrador/Golden Retriever mix is headed back to the classroom.

Mariani earned a degree in education and plans on being a teacher with Justin at her side. What a sweet, sweet moment.

BLACKWELL: Good story.

And consider the recommendation from Ryan Mannion (ph) today. This is Memorial Day weekend. Learn the story of a serviceperson who lost their life fighting for this country. Just take a minute to think about them.

WALKER: Just take a few minutes.

BLACKWELL: Thanks so much for joining us this morning.


Have a great day, everyone.