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China Blames U.S. For "Blatant Military Provocation" After Recent Encounters In The South China Sea; CNN Followed CDC Researchers In East Palestine, Ohio; New Jersey Lawyer Pleads "Not Guilty" To Boston Rapes. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired June 06, 2023 - 07:30   ET




PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: New overnight, China describing recent air and sea encounters with the U.S. in the South China Sea as a, quote, "blatant military provocation" by the United States. Now, this comes after a Chinese warship cut in front of an American vessel in the Taiwan Strait getting within about 150 yards. And days before that, a Chinese fighter jet made an unsafe maneuver close to a U.S. spy plane.

Joining us now, global affairs analyst and former director of communications and spokesperson for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations under Ambassador Nikki Haley, Jonathan Wachtel.

Jonathan, one of the things that I've been trying to figure out in my reporting in my day job at the White House has been is there a split between where kind of the Chinese Communist Party is in terms of a government entity and the PLA -- where the military is, right? Because we've seen some communication conversations between U.S. officials, including in Beijing recently, and then you see where the military is, and they seem to be in a very different place. Is that intentional or is there a divide there?



WACHTEL: I mean, there is a play that happens and I think we do see a stark difference between the two, but we should be under no false illusion. What happens -- action speaks a lot louder than words. So this confrontation that we had in the seas is quite frightening because of the prospect of a miscalculation and where that can lead. We have to be very cautious about where things are going and look at the actions. They are where you really have to keep your eye on the ball.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: When you say look at the actions, how do you look at a handshake between U.S. Defense Sec. Lloyd Austin and his Chinese counterpart at the security forum in Singapore, but not a sit- down at all? I mean, the U.S. has been saying look, that is not even close to what we need. We want this dialogue back open after the whole spy balloon incidents.

What does this tell you -- that this was all we got there?

WACHTEL: Yes. I mean, that -- these are snubs, right? So again, this is not the type of warm embrace that you want to see between two nations that could have a confrontation very easily, as I mentioned, with the miscalculations. So you really do need to try to avoid this type of tension.

And I think it's commendable that there is an attempt by the U.S. now to try to ease tensions a bit and try to meet. You have the CIA director over in China trying to maintain lines of communication. That stuff is essential. And this public posturing is really unhelpful at a time in which you really can run into a difficult slippery slope.

I mean, we had the Cold War in which our sides were not speaking to one another, which opened the way for all sorts of difficulties and dangers.

And in a very fast-paced world, in a news environment -- you know, in news organizations covering things and some news organizations taking spins, especially government-controlled news agencies, it's really an area in which you need to have that communication. You need to have that ability to diffuse tensions rapidly because things can get so out of control.

MATTINGLY: If you were trying to strategize right now from a communications and policy perspective at the White House -- the president has made clear he wants to talk to Xi Jinping again. Obviously, the Chinese have not seemed nearly as willing to make that happen. What are you trying to do to lay the groundwork for that next conversation?


WACHTEL: You continually need to be doing what you're doing. You need to play the friendly role. There's no reason to be --

MATTINGLY: So no shift? No move --

WACHTEL: Look, you have to be -- you know, you have to be strong when something happens that's quite frightening or it's a snub. You can't just take it lightly and pretend nothing happened. You have to be firm. But playing a game of going into your closed quarters and not speaking -- that's not going to lead to anything.

So there's a need for a channel of communication. You need to be open to it and you need to keep on it. And when they do something terrible to the Uyghurs or some sort of military activity, or a spy balloon, or whatever it is, these are bad things and you have to confront it and you have to speak out about it, and you can't ignore it. And the moment that you ignore it then you're going to end up with worse things going on.

So this is not the type of situation in which you take your eye off the ball at all.

HARLOW: Jonathan Wachtel, thank you very much.

WACHTEL: A pleasure.

HARLOW: We appreciate your perspective.

Happening now in France, the 14th day of nationwide protests against that very unpopular pension reform law. It is a last-ditch effort to rally support ahead of a national assembly debate that is set for Thursday. President Emmanuel Macron raised the retirement age from 62 to 64, forced that measure through, and trigged intense anger across the country.

And Melissa Bell is live in Paris with the latest. Do they actually have a chance to get this thing overturned?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not really. It looked like they might. The opposition parties were hoping that Thursday when this gets back to Parliament, there was some procedure through which they could overturn it. In fact, the government preempted and what they found is a way around any legislative attempt at blocking this bill.

So this will now become law, Poppy, by September, which is partly why this 14th day of protests is much more muted than those we've seen before. For months now, we've been seeing many weeks -- certainly, every month, these very large protests that often turn violent. Today, at this hour, with less than half an hour to go before it starts, far fewer numbers than we've seen in the past.

Still, the authorities say they fear that there will be about 1,000 radicals amongst them and they've deployed some 11,000 policemen to the streets.

The union, by the way, Poppy, have also announced that this is likely to be the last day of anger -- the main one. Certainly, even they are beginning to realize that this is now going to happen, Poppy.

HARLOW: Melissa Bell, thank you for the reporting there from the streets of Paris.

MATTINGLY: And new questions in India this morning after a bridge under construction across the Ganges collapsed for the second time in just over a year. Now, the bridge has collapsed twice since that construction began in 2017. It's unclear why the bridge collapsed the first time or if those issues had even been addressed.

Now, CNN has not been able to confirm reports of any injuries.

A separate suspension bridge collapsed in India last October killing 135 people.

HARLOW: CNN medical teams getting rare on-the-ground access in East Palestine, Ohio following the toxic train derailment there in February. What CDC investigators found about the dire health impact of that. MATTINGLY: Plus, the New Jersey attorney charged with several counts of rape and kidnapping. How prosecutors used DNA from a drinking glass to catch him.



HARLOW: All right, welcome back.

That is a live look at a hazy New York City skyline this morning as smoke from wildfires in Canada blanket cities across the Northeast. Air quality alerts remain in effect in parts of the Northeast and even the Midwest. A cold front will move south over the next few days pushing that smoke even further south and east throughout the week.

MATTINGLY: Well, today, four months after the catastrophic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, federal health specialists are expected to meet with residents. Now, the face-to-face comes as they've been working to understand the health impact from the more than a million pounds of hazardous chemicals that spilled into the soil, spilled into the water, and spilled into the air.

CNN was given rare access to accompany one of the teams doing that research. Medical correspondent Meg Tirrell is here with us now. And Meg, at this point, what have they found?

MEG TIRRELL, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So they surveyed -- they went door-to-door trying to understand the exposure that people had and the symptoms that they felt afterwards. And what they found in a survey of more than 700 residents, more than half experienced symptoms. And there are things like headaches, fatigue, coughing, skin rashes, and irritation. And a lot of people are experiencing anxiety which, of course, is no surprise.

So what they're trying to figure out is if these symptoms really jive with what they're finding in the tests there and, so far, the testing has not turned up concerning levels of these hazardous chemicals in the air or the soil, or the water.

And so they are expected to potentially share some of their updated findings tonight with the residents and people are really wanting answers.

And our reporter, Brenda Goodman, who sort of embedded with this team as they were doing this research heard one of the residents tell them this is scarier than COVID because during COVID we could at least go in our house and be safe. Now we can't even be safe in our house.


One of the things that so striking about the reporting that you and the medical team have done is that it's actually been very hard to conduct this kind of research in East Palestine. Why?

TIRRELL: Yes. There are a number of reasons why this has been so difficult. I mean, one is the sort of cocktail of the substances that they're looking for. There are six here and they could combine in different ways and trying to test for all of these can be difficult.


But also, just sort of the nature of the community. A lot of people have left their homes, particularly the ones who may have been hardest hit and --


TIRRELL: -- and affected health-wise. And also, there's not broad access to internet. So, 28 percent of the people in the county don't have broadband. Six percent nationally is the figure so it's a lot more than the rest of the country.


MATTINGLY: Can I ask you something on that point though, because I think if you want to understand what's happening on the ground, if you're one of these research teams you need access to people. You need -- you want to get the full scope of things.

Do they feel like they will ever have the understanding -- a full understanding of what happened and what the effects were on people here?

TIRRELL: It's not clear. It's very difficult to prove these things. But what we are hearing is that it's very important that the testing continues over time.


TIRRELL: And, of course, that's one of the biggest concerns is what's going to emerge down the line in terms of health problems.

HARLOW: You know, when this happened we talked to Erin Brockovich --


HARLOW: -- the real Erin Brockovich -- not Julia Roberts -- on this program. She was there. And remember the way that Erin Brockovich did her work was over time and begging to talk to residents who didn't want to talk to her -- who were skeptical of the system -- and then really proving everything out.

So it's going to take a lot of time and a lot of effort.

TIRRELL: Yes, absolutely.

And our reporter, Brenda Goodman, actually broke the story a few months ago that the CDC researchers who were there -- some of them experienced symptoms themselves.

HARLOW: Yes, I remember that.


HARLOW: Yes, that's right.

TIRRELL: -- while they were doing this work. So --

HARLOW: Thank you, Meg.

TIRRELL: Yes, thank you, guys.

MATTINGLY: Yes, it's apparent. I can't even think of the terror of not understanding and not knowing.

HARLOW: For your kids.

MATTINGLY: Get as many answers as possible.

Great reporting as always, Meg -- appreciate it.

HARLOW: So now to this. A New Jersey lawyer accused of raping multiple women 15 years ago in Boston has entered a not guilty plea. Matthew Nilo appeared in a Boston courthouse yesterday. Prosecutors, in 2008 and 2007, say that he raped three women and sexually assaulted a fourth. They say investigators used DNA and publicly available genealogy data to track him down.

Our Jean Casarez is following all of this. Good morning to you, Jean. Apparently, his lawyers say that they may challenge this DNA evidence. Is that right?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN REPORTER: Well, yes. And this is a fascinating case because it involves genetic genealogy, which is at the forefront of forensics right now.

Prosecutors say that this now-attorney practicing in a firm, back in 2007-2008 raped three women and tried -- sexually assaulted -- attempted to rape a fourth. There is a pattern, prosecutors say, in all of this -- Terminal Street in the Boston area. Remember that.

Three of the four women needed to get somewhere. One needed to get home and thought he was a taxi. Another needed to find her car. He thought -- she thought she knew him so she got in his car. But these women got in this perpetrator's car. He took them to Terminal Street and told them he was going to kill them, had a weapon. They had to get out. And according to prosecutors, he raped all three.

The fourth one was jogging -- attempted to rape her. She fought back, had gloves on, poked him in the eyes, and he ran away.

All four women got sexual assault rape kits down at the hospital -- all of them. Three of the four had unknown male DNA profiles. Couldn't find out who it was. The fourth also was introspective at that point.

In 2022 -- so just last year -- genetic genealogy -- this is where law enforcement takes unknown DNA. They go to a public database where people have signed off knowing that law enforcement may use unknown DNA in that site. They went to families, relatives -- anything they could find -- and looking at location, time, place anywhere in that area. They came up with Matthew Nilo, but now they have to get Matthew Nilo's DNA to do a comparison.

Listen to the prosecutor of how they got who they now have charged -- his DNA.


LYNN FEIGENBAUM, PROSECUTOR: FBI agents were able to obtain various utensils and drinking glasses they watched the defendant use at a corporate event.

JOSEPH CATALDO, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It seems that they obtained DNA evidence without ever obtaining a search warrant. If that turns out to be true, that's an issue that will be pursued vigorously.


CASAREZ: So obviously, this is going to be zealously defended by his attorney.

As for that fourth alleged victim they did more sophisticated testing and they found consistency with the defendant.

HARLOW: OK. Jean, thank you for tracking this story. I know you'll stay on it.

MATTINGLY: All right, and new from overnight, the Atlanta City Council just voted to approve $31 million toward construction of a controversial police and fire training facility dubbed "Cop City."

Even before the meeting that ran more than 16 long hours, hundreds had signed up for public comment -- most of them opposed to the plan. Still, more people are protesting outside. Residents, conservationists, and activists have fiercely pushed back against the proposed facility, with many protesters charged with domestic terrorism. One demonstrator, Manuel Teran, was also killed during a clearing operation at the site.


Well, coming up, a flood at a pool at Mar-a-Lago raising suspicions among prosecutors in Trump's classified documents case. We have CNN exclusive reporting ahead.

HARLOW: And a notable milestone. A record share of women are now participating in the workforce. Love this song. We'll tell you why economists say that it is. There's more to this story. That's ahead.


HARLOW: A big milestone for women in the workforce. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a record share of women are in -- that are in, quote, "prime working age" -- and that means ranging from their mid-20s to mid-50s -- are back at work following a huge disappearance from the workforce during the early days of the pandemic.

Our chief business correspondent and anchor of "EARLY START" Christine Romans is here. I love this story so much.


HARLOW: Hey. But there's more to it.

ROMANS: There's a lot going on here when you look behind these numbers and it just shows you how strong the labor market is overall. But when we dig into these numbers we can see that women 25 to 54 years old -- the largest share of that demographic are working today. There are more women in the workforce than ever before and that's really incredible.


When you look at working mothers, also the last couple of years -- 2002-2003 -- hitting record highs there in terms of the share of working mothers who are in the workforce.

So this shows you that over the course of -- you know, from our mothers' generations just how much has changed here and they're a real force in the labor market, guys.

MATTINGLY: Christine, can I ask you -- because the x an y axis are a little far away from me right now.


MATTINGLY: You remind me -- in 2020, I felt like they were in a very different place.


MATTINGLY: You had words like she-cession.

ROMANS: That's right.

MATTINGLY: I think I pronounced that correctly. What was it like back then?

ROMANS: So, the she-cession is over. When you look at what happened here in the early days of COVID, women, for a bunch of reasons, were the ones who left the labor market in droves. You had, for women over 20 years old, an unemployment rate of 15.4 percent. For men, it also spiked but less so.

A couple of things were happening there. Kids were out of school, right? They were home or doing remote learning. And women were managing the household and the job during COVID with other family members they were trying to take care of as well and it was just the breaking point for so many women.

So you saw this big disparity during those early days of COVID but it has completely reversed now.

HARLOW: You said were managing the household and everything. I feel like many of them still are doing that and work, et cetera.

So what are economists saying? What are some of the reasons why so many are back in the workforce now?

ROMANS: So there's a huge debate going on and it's really, really been fascinating to talk to economists and follow through this.

Hybrid work might actually be helping here because women are coming back into the labor force and they can manage better doctor's appointments, school things, kid's sports because they're not in the office nine hours a day, 10 hours a day every single day of the week.

High inflation is another reason that they might be coming into the labor market, and there's a lot of disagreement about this. But it might be they can't afford to be out anymore, right? They're going back in because high inflation is starting to bite the budget.

And also, the services sector is making this huge comeback. And let me just show you what that looks like. This one I think is a better one. This is how many service sector jobs have been added so far this year -- 181,000. Compare that with the year before. It was only 77,000. These are more likely to be jobs held by women. Women have a disproportionate share of these leisure and hospitality and service sector jobs. So as that part of the economy comes roaring back women are coming back to filling those jobs guys.

MATTINGLY: Christine, can I ask for all of the good news -- and this is obviously good news, at least on its face -- I -- my wife works. She carries a lot more than I do on a day-to-day basis, which again, it's just --

HARLOW: I can attest -- I can attest to this, Chelsea.

MATTINGLY: -- and it's not even close.

HARLOW: And this many kiddos.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Well, she's also like more successful, better looking -- all those things.

However, there are obviously still challenges --


MATTINGLY: -- right now going forward. What are some of them?

ROMANS: So, some of the concerns are -- with hybrid work, are women going to get the face time that they need and the right promotion, right?

HARLOW: Right.

ROMANS: So we really don't know how the hybrid work thing is going to work out in the very long-term so we're watching very carefully to make sure that there are these rates for promotion and rates for aspirational roles for women. That they're not just kind of on a dead end, right?

And so that's one really interesting thing that human resources managers have been working on, trying to make sure that if you have women coming back into the labor market that they're coming back and they're on the same track as men, or they're on the same track as people who might be working in the office four or five days a week. So that's a -- that's still kind of an experiment at this point.

HARLOW: I think that's such a good point because, like, face time, water cooler talk, whatever -- a lot of it happens when you're at the office --

ROMANS: Absolutely.

HARLOW: -- not on a Zoom.

ROMANS: And it's the same thing for young people. You know, how -- you know, when you have young people that are in -- I mean, a lot of my formative years -- I mean, I was in the office 50 or 60 hours a week -- in the office, face time.

HARLOW: I know.

ROMANS: Learning things from my managers or little things in the hallway or --


ROMANS: -- behind the scenes. Is that something that hybrid work -- has halted?


ROMANS: We don't know yet but we'll find out.

HARLOW: That was fascinating.


HARLOW: Thank you, Romans.

MATTINGLY: Thanks, buddy.

HARLOW: CNN THIS MORNING continues right now.

Good morning, everyone. We are glad you are with us. It is 8:00 a.m. Eastern. Phil Mattingly decided to stay, thank goodness, for the third hour and we're glad.

MATTINGLY: Wait, there was an option to leave?

HARLOW: No option.


HARLOW: We are glad you --

MATTINGLY: All right. Well, hang on.

HARLOW: -- are with us, especially for what is happening.

Our lead story this morning out of Ukraine. A major disaster is unfolding in Ukraine after a large dam there has been destroyed. The Kremlin is denying accusations that Russian forces blew it up. So we'll take you live to Ukraine where thousands of civilians now are in danger and evacuations are going on.

MATTINGLY: Plus, we've got exclusive CNN reporting. A Mar-a-Lago worker flooded a room that stores surveillance video and we're now learning that it's raising eyebrows in the special counsel's investigation of classified documents at Donald Trump's club.

HARLOW: The Republican race for the presidency about to get more crowded.