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CNN This Morning

Biden And Trump To Face Off In CNN Debate On June 27; Biden To Pore Over Binder Of Questions, Hold Mock Debates; Trump Hits Campaign Trail Ahead Of CNN Presidential Debate; Trump Says He's Made V.P. Pick, Hasn't Told Anyone Yet; Biden Campaign Hosting 50 Events To Mark Two Years Since Roe V. Wade Was Overturned; Trump Courts Christian Conservatives Ahead Of CNN Debate; Trump Floats "Migrant League Of Fighters" In Latest Dehumanizing Rhetoric Against Migrants; Warning Signs For Biden's Jewish Support As War In Gaza Drags On And Antisemitism Rises; Catastrophic Flooding Forces Evacuations In Iowa; Minnesota's National Guard Authorized To Help With Flood Evacuations; Washington D.C. Hits 100 Degrees For The First Time In Eight Years; Tornado Warnings Issued For Parts Of Wisconsin; More Than 100 Million Under Heat Alert; State Department: Multiple U.S. Citizens Among Heat- Related Deaths On Hajj Pilgrimage. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired June 23, 2024 - 06:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. Welcome to CNN THIS MORNING. It's Sunday, June 23rd. I'm Victor Blackwell.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Amara Walker. Thank you so much for being with us.

Here is what we're watching for you this morning. The one-on-one showdown between President Biden and former President Trump is just four days away. Trump is out on the trail taking shots at his opponent while the president hunkers down with the staff at Camp David.

BLACKWELL: Plus, catastrophic flooding is prompting evacuations and rescues in states across the Midwest, and heat alerts persist for more than 100 million people through the weekend. D.C. hit 100 degrees for the first time in eight years.

WALKER: Also, stunning accusations against a Texas woman accused of trying to drown a three-year-old at a pool. Why those in the community are calling the incident a potential hate-crime.

BLACKWELL: Boeing and NASA officials are again delaying the Boeing Starliner capsule's return to Earth. We'll speak with a former astronaut on what it will take to get the Starliner's crew home?

We are, as Amara just said, four days away now from the CNN presidential debate. President Biden is in intense preparations with advisers. Former President Trump, he's on the campaign trail.

The president and his team have spent the weekend at Camp David in intense preps. Now, the Biden campaign says he and advisers are going over briefings. They're focusing on Trump's prior comments and holding mock debate sessions.

That approaches a sharp contrast to Trump's back-to-back public appearances. Trump addressed Christian conservatives in Washington and he touched on familiar campaign messages against migrants. He also stressed his efforts to undo the federal right to an abortion by nominating the justices who helped overturn Roe v. Wade.

WALKER: In Philadelphia, he honed in on crime, claiming the city was being ravaged by bloodshed. The Trump campaign is already looking past the debate toward next month's Republican National Convention.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Steve Contorno was with the former president in Philadelphia where he announced he had made a decision about a running mate.

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: Victor and Amara, we have been hearing for weeks that President Donald Trump's choices are down to three main contenders, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Senator J.D. Vance of Ohio, and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum. Well, Donald Trump now says that he has made his choice, although he's not going to let anyone know it yet.




TRUMP: No, nobody knows.


CONTORNO: Trump elected not to spend the day behind closed doors to study for upcoming debate with Joe Biden nor is he holding mock debate sessions this weekend. Instead, he hit the campaign trail, appearing at a Christian conservative conference in Washington, D.C., stopping for Philly cheesesteaks, and attending a rally with supporters in Philadelphia on Saturday night. There he did tease his upcoming debate with Joe Biden.


TRUMP: As you know, it's been reported that right now crooked Joe has gone to a log cabin to study, prepare. No, he didn't. He's sleeping now, because they want to get them good and strong. So, a little before debate time, he gets a shot in the (EXPLETIVE DELETED). They want to strengthen him up.

So, he comes out. He'll come out. OK. I say he'll come out all jacked up, right? All jacked up.


CONTORNO: We do know Trump has been holding informal debate prep sessions with some of his advisers and even some of the potential V.P. contenders. And he has a lighter scheduled now heading into that critical debate with Joe Biden. Victor and Amara.

WALKER: All right. Steve Contorno, thank you for that. And CNN's Camila DeChalus joining us now. Camila, so the Biden campaign wants to paint a strong contrast between the president and Trump. Tell us more.

CAMILA DECHALUS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: President Biden is really using this weekend to strategize more ways to show how Trump when he's on a debate stage, to show how Trump is unfit for office, and really show the American people why Biden should be reelected to a second term.

I mean, this is -- Biden knows that there's a lot at stake in this debate. And he sees it as a direct opportunity to talk to the American people, remind them of what he has done while he's been in office for the last four years, and what he's set out to do in the next four years if he is reelected. But a lot of that strategy, in part, is also talking to his opponent and really showcasing what Trump has done when he was in office and really proving the case of why he's unfit in office.


So that is going to be a really big goal for Biden. And part of that is drawing that stark contrast between himself and Trump.

BLACKWELL: So, the Biden campaign also focusing on reproductive rights, planning events to mark two years since Roe versus Wade was overturned. Tell us about it.

DECHALUS: That's right, Victor. Biden is preparing to hold more than 50 events with his campaign surrogates across the country. And this is very significant because his campaign has focused a lot about abortion rights and really making it a top priority for his campaign to talk about how he wants to preserve those rights and what they will do to enshrine going forward if he's reelected to a second term.

I think what's really notable here to just point out is that a lot of these events are happening in key battleground states. And that's really pivotal because he's trying to use this as to mark this two- year anniversary as a way to really have voters come out and really make the strong case to voters about why he should be reelected.

BLACKWELL: Camila DeChalus for us in Washington, thank you so much. Let's bring in now White House reporter for "Politico" Daniel Lippman. Daniel, good to see you.


BLACKWELL: So, let's start with former President Trump. He says that he knows only in his mind, he's not told anyone that he has made his V.P. choice. The short list, top tier, Rubio, Vance, Burgum. What boxes is he looking to check, MAGA reinforcement, MAGA adjacent? What are they trying to do with this V.P. pick?

LIPPMAN: Well, he's looking for someone who can, you know, raise lots of money, who can be kind of a forceful advocate for him, who is not going to be what they consider disloyal. They're not going to pull another Mike Pence and subvert the U.S. constitution.

And so, he doesn't want someone to outshine him. He's not going to pick a Nikki Haley because he wouldn't trust her but he had -- months ago, he said he had made up his mind or have decided on a V.P. And so, it seems like he's going back and forth. He's trying to amp up the kind "Apprentice" like atmosphere leading to this pick.

BLACKWELL: Yes, which is what he did with that first Supreme Court pick that he had people both coming to Washington at the same time before he picked Neil Gorsuch. Let me ask you about some of the things that the former president said at Faith and Freedom forum yesterday. He's backing this new Louisiana law that requires the 10 commandments to be posted in every public school classroom. Here's what he said.


TRUMP: I said, has anyone read the thou shalt not steal? I mean, has anybody read this incredible stuff? It's just incredible. They don't want it to go up.

It's a crazy world. You know, a crazy world.


BLACKWELL: That room doesn't really care whether he has read the Bible, has signed the Bible and sold it, or marches to a church and holds the Bible upside down. But are they requiring a commitment on the issue of abortion? Are they requiring him to say yes or no if he would sign an abortion ban federally, if it reached his desk?

LIPPMAN: Well, that's what strong Christian conservatives want. Who are -- view this as kind of the next avenue of a policy victory they can get. But Trump knows that this is a toxic political issue in terms of abortion.

And so, he doesn't -- he doesn't want to claim credit too much for Roe v. Wade being overturned. He will say he put a conservative court and that what they did is up to them, but he knew who he was getting. And so -- but he also knows how -- remember in 2022, there was going to be a red wave, a red tsunami. And because of abortion that did not happen.

Democrats want to repeat that again this year, but it has been a few years. And so, they need to really remind Americans of the stakes and also, you know, kind of this is one of the issues that Democrats are good at.

BLACKWELL: Yes, as we heard from Camila there, they're holding these 50 events across the country to remind voters of the stake two years after the Dobbs decision. This from the former president on migrants and the Ultimate Fighting Championship he says that he shared with the president of the UFC, Dana White. Listen to this.


TRUMP: I said, Dana, I have an idea. Why don't you set up a migrant league of fighters and have your regular league of fighters. And then you have the champion of your league, these are the greatest fighters in the world, fight the champion of the migrants.

I think the migrant guy might win. That's how tough they are. He didn't like that idea too much. But actually, it's not the worst idea I've ever had.


BLACKWELL: It's kind of reminiscent of that time that he was talking about a Black versus White season of "The Apprentice."


This far into the cycle, though, as extreme and outrageous as a comment or proposal like that is, does that really move votes? I mean, you're either with Donald Trump on his immigration plan and views or you are not.

LIPPMAN: I agree with you that if people wanted to get off -- Republicans wanted to get off the Trump train they had many stops along the way. They could have stopped after John McCain was not a war hero, after he criticized the Gold Star family, after you know many -- after Charlottesville.

And so, I don't think that this is going to move the needle. But what the Biden campaign is going to try to do is say to the Hispanics that they have lost some votes for, is that, hey, this is not a guy who represents you and that he -- you know, Biden -- if Biden said this, you know, that Fox News and the conservative media would throw a conniption fit.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Let me talk to you about some new reporting CNN now has about President Biden's camp. They're a bit concerned about his support within the Jewish community. It appears at some of that is waning or weakening.

We know that the campaign will name a director of faith engagement. It's interesting that some of his Jewish support is weakening, but it's because of his strong support of Israel during this war with Hamas that some of his Arab American support is eroding as well.

What's the urgency of this Jewish -- reported Jewish community erosion for the Biden campaign?

LIPPMAN: While Republicans try every four years, every two years to make inroads with Jewish American voters and they usually fail. This is a reliably Democratic group and there's a lot of gratitude in the community for how strong Biden has stood behind Israel, even though he has paid a steep political cost. And they know that future presidents in 30 years, if this issue is not solved, may not be as supportive.

And so, they're trying to shore up this support and remind people that, you know, Trump is not good on this issue in their view, that he would be too extreme, that Biden represents kind of a middle ground and is trying to -- you know, he has the back of Israel but is not -- he doesn't really like Netanyahu.

BLACKWELL: But if the -- if the support for Israel is the barometer and I'm not suggesting that for every American Jew that it is, but if that is part of the equation how do the Abraham Accords and moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, as Trump did, Trump's support for Netanyahu, how does that factor into this?

LIPPMAN: Well, I think what they have to do is basically say that, you know, Trump has made comments that people have taken as -- some people are taken as antisemitic, and that Biden has this longstanding relationship with Israel going back all the way to Golda Meir that he loves the country and that as part -- you kind of have to make a nuanced argument that you have to have a two-state solution. Ultimately, that will best protect Israel's security, not just ignore the Palestinians altogether as Trump seems to indicate sometimes.

BLACKWELL: Daniel Lippman, always good to have you. Thank you so much. And be sure to join CNN as President Biden and former President Trump meet for their first debate of the cycle. Jake Tapper, Dana Bash will moderate the CNN presidential debate live from Atlanta, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN. And you can stream it on Max.

WALKER: All right. Still to come, as millions of people across the U.S. swelter in the record-breaking heatwave, others in the upper Midwest are contending with catastrophic flash floods.

Plus, a woman is charged with attempted capital murder after allegedly trying to drown a three-year-old child in a pool. Why police are being asked to investigate this as a hate crime.

And, NASA officials are again pushing back the Boeing Starliner capsule's return to Earth from the International Space Station. Why there's been a string of delays.



WALKER: This morning, millions of Americans are waking up to dangerous weather from flooding and wildfires in the Midwest, to triple digit heat in the East. Those are tornado sirens signaling evacuations in Northwest Iowa ahead of what the governor called catastrophic flooding on Saturday.


CHIEF MONTE WARBURTON, ROCK VALLEY POLICE: The river rose to historic levels that we've never seen here before. And it's hard to deal with that much water. It's a monumental undertaking.


BLACKWELL: There were at least 20 water rescues. And some nursing home people -- residents had to be moved to safety still in their wheelchairs.


Now, in Minnesota, the National Guard has been authorized to help with evacuations because some of the lakes are reaching uncontrollable levels.

More than 100 million Americans are under heat alerts this weekend. A lot of them are on the East Coast. Yesterday, Washington, D.C., hit 100 degrees for the first time in eight years.

WALKER: CNN's Polo Sandoval is in New York with more on the heat wave.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Victor and Amara. I hope you're staying cool as well this weekend bringing another wave of those extremely hot temperatures. It's not just those high temperatures, but also the combination, the heat with that high humidity and making it extremely unbearable especially for those folks in the northeast, people who may not be used to this kind of weather, which is why all weekend long we have seen these heat advisories be issued affecting nearly 100 million Americans, especially along that highly populated I-95 corridor.

And ahead of those warnings or hearing those advisories or recommendations from authorities so not only stay hydrated, stay cool in any way that you can, but also checking on the most vulnerable especially elderly. Perhaps those who do not have access to air conditioning.

In Washington, D.C., over this weekend, those temperatures in -- very close to triple digits. And that was one of the reasons why the mayor of that -- of Washington basically extended that heat advisory past Sunday as so many Americans continued to deal with this unbearable heat, Victor and Amara.

WALKER: All right. Polo Sandoval, thank you. In addition to the dangerous flooding and heat, we are getting reports of possible tornadoes overnight. Allison Chinchar is here with more. Good morning, Allison.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: And good morning. Yes, it's one of over 100 total storm reports in just the last 24 hours. You can see a lot of them here focused into the Northeast, but also out into the Midwest. This system as a whole, making its way off towards the East, even as we speak.

Now, one thing to note with this particular storm is, as its coming through, it also dropped a tremendous amount of rain. Look at this, widespread totals here across portions of Northern Iowa, Southern Minnesota, and over towards Southeastern Dakotas. You're talking widespread four to six inches, but there was a lot -- several places that picked up more than 10 inches of rain in just the last few days.

You look at a lot of those rivers, creeks, and streams just in that same area. We've got 26 river gauges at major flood stage, another 28 at moderate, and almost 50 of them at minor flood stage. Now, that system as a whole is going to continue to make its way off towards the East, bringing with it the chance for very heavy rain and also some severe storms.

You can see, by this afternoon, we start to see more of storms develop belong that cold front before the system finally starts to take the bulk of that moisture out to sea by Monday. In the short term, however, still looking at the potential for more severe weather for today, that includes the potential for some hail, damaging wind gusts, and yes, even a few tornadoes are possible, especially across portions of New England here where you've got that enhanced risk. That's where you're really going to see the best chance for some of those really strong storms to develop.

Now, one perk of those storms coming through, it's going to drop some of the temperatures back. So, take a look. We go from 98 today in Philadelphia, down to 84 by tomorrow. New York, D.C., Pittsburgh all looking at those temperatures dropping back to pretty much normal once that front finally moved through. But it is short-lived because those temperatures will jump right back up.

So, you still have a lot of these areas looking at the heat advisories and excessive heat watches and warnings for the day. And yes, that does include Washington, D.C., for another day after yesterday, breaking that triple-digit mark for the first time since 2016.

But the East Coast isn't the only ones. Notice a lot more of these heat advisories now starting to pop up into the Central U.S. because that's where we're going to see our next way of heat. You really start to see a lot of that purple color fill in across the central U.S. as we go Monday and Tuesday into the upcoming week. And those temperatures really start to jump back up again.

BLACKWELL: All right. We'll take the brief respite just a little break. Anyone we get. Allison Chinchar, thanks so much.

The State Department is confirming that U.S. citizens are among the nearly 500 people who have died on their Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca because of -- it's so hot there. And officials fear that that number will climb much higher.

WALKER: Witnesses have told CNN that there are not enough medics to handle the number of people falling ill due to the dangerously high temperatures. CNN's Fredricka Whitfield spoke to one woman who lost both of her parents in Saudi Arabia as they journey to Mecca for the pilgrimage.


SADIE WURIE, PARENTS DIED DURING HAJJ: All we know is that it was of natural causes. And someone from the U.S. embassy did advise that natural causes could have been due to a heat stroke which -- based on the temperature people were saying it was over 110 degrees.

There are millions of people. They have to walk long hours. So, it was more than likely a heat stroke for both of my parents.

Honestly, I don't think that they were properly prepared for this trip. There was a group of them maybe up to 100 people that were traveling under a certain agency.


And, you know, they've saved their life savings. I think it was about 11,500 per person that they've saved their entire lives to -- they've saved their entire lives to embark on this journey. And they weren't -- they didn't receive the proper preparation, the proper documents. It was just a nightmare overall experience of a trip.


WALKER: What a tragedy. Governments are having a difficult time determining how many deaths there are, because they are only aware of those who are registered pilgrims. There are many unregistered pilgrims who make the journey.

BLACKWELL: Still ahead, police in Arkansas are still trying to figure out why a man started shooting outside a grocery store. Four people are now dead. What more we know about the lives lost, that's next.



WALKER: In your headlines this morning, a Texas woman has been charged with attempted capital murder for allegedly trying to drown a 3-year- old child at a potential hate crime incident. Police arrested 42-year- old Elizabeth Wolf last month after a reported disturbance between two women.

Initially arrested for public intoxication, Wolf also allegedly made racist comments and tried to grab the other woman's 6-year-old son. That mother intervened, but Wolf then grabbed her 3-year-old daughter and forced her underwater according to police. The mother managed to rescue her.

The Texas chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations identified the family as Muslim and Palestinian and is now calling for a state and federal investigation.


MUSTAFAA CARROLL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CAIR-DFW: Emotionally they are torn apart. We've tried to speak with them. I actually tried to see if they could come today. And they afraid to even be seen in public. They -- they're really struggling a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hate against one community is ha against all of us.


WALKER: Wolf's bail is set for $25,000.

BLACKWELL: A fourth victim in the mass shooting at an Arkansas grocery store on Friday has now died. The suspect in the shooting is scheduled to appear in court tomorrow police say that Travis Eugene Posey started shooting Friday morning. This was at the Mad Butcher grocery store in Fordyce. The victims range in age from 23 to 81. Nine were hurt, four are still in the hospital, one woman is in critical condition.

WALKER: This morning the FBI has joined the investigation into the cause of deadly wildfires in New Mexico. They are now offering up to $10,000 for tips leading to the arrest and conviction of those who started those fires. This is the aftermath of the 23,000 acres that are burned. Thousands had to leave, two people died. Residents of Ruidoso will be allowed back to their homes starting tomorrow.

And a CNN exclusive in a new call directly from his remote Russian prison camp, Russian detainee Paul Whelan had a warning for the White House, do whatever it takes to bring him home or Russia will continue arresting more Americans.

BLACKWELL: Whelan is the former U.S. Marine who's now been detained in Russia for 2,000 days. He was arrested in Moscow in December 2018 and imprisoned on charges of espionage that he is consistently denied. CNN's Jennifer Hansler has this exclusive interview from his remote camp in Mordovia.

JENNIFER HANSLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor and Amara, Paul Whelan seemed incredibly disheartened and in disbelief that he has spent this much time in Russian detention. It has been 5 and a half years. He called that an incredible amount of time. Noting that you go to high school for example, you go to college, that's four years. Five and a half years far surpasses those major life events.

Now, he is calling on the U.S. government to take decisive action to bring him home. He wants them to pull out all of the stops in order to bring home both himself and detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich. This is what he described as some of those decisive actions that they could take.

PAUL WHELAN, AMERICAN IMPRISONED IN RUSSIA: The U.S. needs to go out and do something. You know, fill up Guantanamo Bay with Russian officials. Arrest Russian spies. Do something that makes the Kremlin sit up and take notice and say OK, yes, right, now it's time that we're going to get Evan and Paul back and then we want back what you've, you know, got of ours and we'll call it a day.


HANSLER: Now, Whelan told me that he thinks the U.S. government is taking his case seriously but he wants them to take it more seriously. We know the U.S. State Department put forward what they described as a substantial offer to the Russians to secure both Paul and Evan's release, but to this point the Russians have not said yes to that proposal. And we don't even know if they are actually seriously considering it at this point.

Now, Paul has spent much of his time in Russian detention in a very remote penal colony about a day drive from Moscow in a remote part of Russia called Mordovia. And when we spoke on Friday, Whelan described the situation there as very grim. He said conditions are very poor. This is what he told me about it.


WHELAN: Everything is dusty and dirty and nasty. And you know, you do everything you can just to stay cool and just to stay clean. The food we're served is horrible. You know, we really do rely on personal purchases to stay healthy. You know, medical care is nil. There is no dental care at all. It's -- you know, it's the worst environment you can imagine. I mean, it's unbelievable that anyone could even consider this human rights. It's nothing that you can get used to.



HANSLER: Now, Whelan wants the U.S. government to press as hard as they can to finally end this ordeal and to bring him home. Victor, Amara?

BLACKWELL: All right, the strained relations between the White House and Israeli Prime Minister we're getting some insight into this fight. Benjamin Netanyahu says that he went public about delays in the supply of weapons from the U.S. because months of private discussions had not yielded any results. Netanyahu had told a cabinet meeting that there had been a dramatic drop in the supply of armament arriving from the U.S. to Israel four months ago.

WLAKER: Now, this comes as rescue crews report casualties after the Israel Defense Forces struck dozens of targets in southern and central Gaza overnight. We will have a live report with details next hour.

All right, still to come, stuck in space. The return to Earth for Boeing's Starliner crew has been delayed for a third time. What will it take to get them home? We'll ask a former astronaut next.



WALKER: NASA has for the third time scrubbed the planned return trip for the two astronauts on board Boeing's Starliner aircraft -- spacecraft I should say. NASA made the announcement Friday night in a blog post further adding that there's no new date scheduled and also saying it won't happen until July.

You might recall, the Starliner launched back on June 5th for its mission to the International Space Station. The entire trip was only expected to last about a week but helium leaks and issues with the thrusters have delayed the space craft's return.

Let's discuss now with former NASA astronaut Mike Massimino. Mike, thank you so much for joining us this morning. Tell us more about, you know, this latest delay. NASA is saying that it will give them a chance to "review propulsion system data." What do you make of that and the fact that they haven't planned for a new date for undocking? MIKE MASSIMINO, FORMER ASTRONAUT, NASA: Well, Amara, it kind of makes sense to me. And I don't think it's necessarily bad. They did have some issues with the spacecraft. They had a helium leak. They had helium leaks which they have I think solved now, so they're not leaking any longer so that's good. They also had a couple thrusters not work for them. But they've checked them out and now they're down only one thruster. So, 27 out of 28 work and that's pretty good too.

So, the spacecraft has been cleared for an emergency re-entry. If they needed to get out of there in a hurry, they could. What's also contributing to this is just scheduling logistics. There's a couple of spacewalks planned. They don't want to have too many big events kind of backing up against each other. So, with a few spacewalks coming up and with the opportunity to study these issues a little bit longer, they're going to give them some extra time on orbit which is not a bad thing.

You know, nine days was the initial plan but that really was a minimum. You can -- I think we should look at it is that that spacecraft could stay on board or the plan was between nine and 45. That's the max. And getting some extra time is good. It gives the two astronauts Suni and Butch some extra time on orbit. They can help out the crew that's already there. And the team on the ground can take a longer look at the spacecraft.

The service module where they had some issues doesn't return to Earth. That's used for re-entry but doesn't come back to Earth. The only thing that comes back is the crew module. So, they'll be able to study the crew module when it gets back but they want to get as much data on that service module as possible.

WALKER: Got it. You said in case they needed to get out in a hurry, they would be -- they wouldn't be able to. Under what cases would they have to get out in a hurry?

MASSIMINO: Well, that would be really bad. You know, those are bad things like you have a -- you know, a depress -- depressurization of the ISS or you have a fire or something really bad, an emergency situation. And there's no indication that that hasn't happened in over the 20 years that we've had people on board the space station.

So, what -- the reason that I bring that up is because if they really had a come home, they could. The spacecraft has been cleared to come home. It's just now they have some extra time to check it out. And part of that is because they could -- they' like the extra time but also with the logistics of the spacewalks and other things going on, it makes sense for them to stay on orbit longer.

WALKER: Yes, and these are professionals, right? I mean, the astronauts, you know, prepare for these kinds of situations obviously. And they're also the ones who are helping with the repairs. Is that right?

MASSIMINO: Yes. So, they're both test pilots. And you have to remember, Amara, this is a -- this is a test flight. So, they have Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, two of my good friends, veteran astronauts with multiple flights and both test pilots. And they were picked for that reason of their test flight experience that they can check out a spacecraft. And so, they've been trained to do that. That's what their mission is really all about. And so, they're on board helping with that. And most of that work though really is going on the ground to analyze the data and make decisions and come up with a plan that the crew can execute.

So, it really is working -- it's a team effort with both the crew and the ground team working together to make sure the spacecraft is checked out properly because again, this is the test flight. But the next time it goes up it's going to stay on orbit longer, it's going to be taking the crew to work on the space station for perhaps six months. So, they really want to make sure that this thing's ready to go for that phase.


WALKER: This is a separate program obviously but as you know we all know Boeing has had to deal with some pretty bad headlines, you know, over the past few months, you know, regarding its commercial jets. In terms of the pressure that Boeing must be feeling to successfully complete this Mission uh without, you know, compromising anything especially the safety of the astronauts, I mean, there must be a lot of pressure there.

MASSIMINO: You know, maybe, maybe not. You know, we -- when I was there, I think it's the same as it is -- it is now. Safety is really most important. And things get delayed. It takes a little longer. That's a lot better than having an accident or having something catastrophic happen.


MASSIMINO: So, I think yes, you know, maybe on the outside we see it like that, but I really think the operational people that are in control of this, the program director on NASA -- you heard Steve -- Steve Stitch was -- is the program director. He had a press conference last week with his team. They're not going to fool around with this. They -- it's not -- it's the astronauts lives but it's also the future of their program.

And if it gets delayed a few more days if -- to take extra time, even if they come back and they say, well, we've got to wait a little while until we can launch again, that's all OK. When you have an accident, that's really bad, so I don't think -- they're not going to play around here. They're going to make sure they make the right decisions to protect the crew and protect the program.

WALKER: Well, we can't wait to see them when they get back home back to Earth. Mike Massimino, great to see you. Thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: Coming up, President Biden, former President Trump scheduled four days from now to face off in CNN's Presidential Debate. We're talking preparations and messaging ahead.


BLACKWELL: World leaders were dealing with tensions in front of the camera. Spies were working behind the scenes. The paranoia of the Cold War brought the world to the brink of a nuclear war.

WALKER: And now, decades later, as the desire for deescalation remains prominent, the lessons learned from the Cold War are playing a role in the current state geopolitics. CNN's Bianna Golodryga takes a closer look.


BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): The fall of 1983 was a particularly tense moment in U.S.-Soviet relations. Hardliner and former KGB Chief Yuri Andropov was wrapping up his first year in office while Ronald Reagan delivered his famous speech describing the USSR as an evil empire just months prior.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.

GOLODRYGA (voiceover): In September, the Kremlin would face global condemnation after shooting down a South Korean civilian airliner. And by November, the West was preparing to deploy cruise missiles in Europe. All of this culminating in an annual NATO nuclear exercise known as Able Archer. The exercise fed into Andropov's paranoia that the Reagan Administration was actively preparing for war, potentially even using nuclear weapons in a first strike scenario.


GOLODRYGA (voiceover): That paranoia disclosed to the West by Oleg Gordievsky, a KGB officer who was an agent for British intelligence.

KHRUSHCHEVA: Both sides were very, very afraid that the nuclear war they've been warning about for decades now is almost there coming to fruition.

GOLODRYGA (voiceover): Now, more than three decades after the Cold War ended, another former KGB agent driven in part by that same paranoia over Western intentions and perceived threats, launched an unprovoked and devastating hot war in Ukraine. And once again, like his Soviet predecessors, Vladimir Putin has amped up his nuclear threats against the West.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Putin has made over nuclear threats against Europe.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT, RUSSIA (text): This is not a bluff.

GOLODRYGA (voiceover): The Able Archer exercises would go forward that November but were quickly followed by a ratcheting down of any perceived provocations and threats from the U.S. thanks in part to Gordievsky's valuable warnings and Intel.

KHRUSHCHEVA: They maybe Gordievsky's existing or maybe not.

GOLODRYGA (voiceover): The appointment in 1985 of Mikhail Gorbachev as the new Secretary of the Soviet Union would later lead to continued deescalation in tensions between the USSR and the U.S.

KHRUSHCHEVA: The nuclear confrontation is a very, very real threat because if both sides think that the other side is willing and ready to do anything, and that's one step away from a disaster.

GOLODRYGA (voiceover): Nuclear war was ultimately averted in 1983. The hope is that the same can happen in 2024.

Bianna Golodryga, CNN, New York.


BLACKWELL: And watch the finale of the CNN original series "SECRETS AND SPIES: A NUCLEAR GAME" tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

WALKER: A Royal selfie. Prince William met Taylor Swift backstage after attending a London show for his birthday. Look at those big smiles. We'll show you how he danced the night away next.



WALKER: Oh, to be Prince George and Princess Charlotte as they watch not Taylor Swift but their father Prince William attempting to shake it off at a Taylor Swift concert.



BLACKWELL: Go ahead, Prince of Wales. Celebrate his 42nd birthday with two of his children at Taylor's Eras Tour in London. And she met the Royals backstage. Look at this. Snapped a selfie with her boyfriend, NFL player Travis Kelce. I say go for it.

WALKER: That -- can we see that video again? For a second I thought that the video was sped up because his moves were pretty rapid.

BLACKWELL: Yes, I'm good with it. I know people are making fun of him for dancing and the way he's dancing, but --

WALKER: He's into it.

BLACKWELL: Yes. I mean, let the man have a good time. It's his birthday. He has his kids. He's into the music. I'm all for it.

WALKER: And he doesn't care. You know, he knows people -- someone might be recording him. I mean, he's got some fast moves, I got to say though.


WALKER: But hey, he's having a good time.

BLACKWELL: He's in a stadium. He's a future king. He knows somebody's recording him.

WALKER: For sure.

BLACKWELL: Let it loose.

The next hour of CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.