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CNN NEWSROOM

Biden Dramatically Ramps Up Public Pressure on Netanyahu as Israeli-Gaza Violence Rages; Secretary of State Blinken to Meet with Russian Foreign Minister; 11-Year-Old Girl Fights Off Her Would-Be Kidnapper; Escambia County Sheriff Chip Simmons Discusses Man's Attempt to Kidnap Girl; E.U. Ready to Welcome Vaccinated Travelers; Ted Cruz's Cancun "Tweet" Triggers More Backlash. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired May 19, 2021 - 14:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[14:31:54]

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: President Biden publicly pressuring the Israeli prime minister. The White House says the president pushed Netanyahu in a phone call for a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: There was also a call on Monday where sources tell CNN that the president pushed Netanyahu to find a way to end the violence and do it soon.

But so far, in the tenth day of fighting, there's no sign on the ground that that will happen. And senior Israeli officials say they expect more conflict in the days ahead.

CNN's Nic Robertson is in Ashdod, Israel, with the latest.

Again, no clear definition of what a significant de-escalation means. But you say that tonight will be critical in judges whether there's a waning of hostilities.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes. We're hearing some heavy explosions from the direction of Gaza. There have been releases from Hamas saying that they fired rockets, in the last hour or so, fired rockets at a couple of locations in the south of Israel.

The Israeli air force has also announced that they targeted -- again this is an announcement a few minutes ago -- saying they targeted at least three Hamas rocket launchers in Gaza.

So the conflict definitely goes on.

The measure will be, does the Israeli air force scale back its targeting of Hamas leadership, of rocket launching sites, of the tunnel networks it's been going for, or does it potential push for one big last effort.

What we heard from the Israeli prime minister earlier was that he will not stop the operation, he won't call for an end of it until the objectives, as he says, are achieved, and that is stability and peace for the Israeli population.

So at a political level, the statements seem to be quite clear, the objectives of the prime minister will call on the military to continue to do them.

The statements from the military are quite clear, they are proceeding with objectives.

I think it's the scale of what we see tonight, is it indicative of a ramping down or is it a last big push? It's going to be hard to tell.

But there are variables in this. If Hamas was to launch rocket sites on Jerusalem tonight -- remembering Jerusalem was the target the first day of strikes 10 days ago.

If there were to do that and if they were to be significant casualties that could be a game changer.

If the Israeli air force was able to get a very significant Hamas target, that can be a game changer by both sides.

This is not done until it's done. But tonight will be a measure of whether we're moving in that direction of de-escalation or not.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And if there will be any consequences if the president doesn't see what he expects to see. We'll find that out.

Nic Robertson, thanks so much.

Later tonight, Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to speak with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in Iceland. This is the first in-person meeting and actually the first for any Biden cabinet member and a top Russia official.

There's a long list of substantial issues to tackle, including the SolarWinds hack, the ongoing occupation of Crimea, and the allegations of election interference.

[14:35:00]

CAMEROTA: Sources tell CNN there would be no topic off-limits and no time limit.

CNN's Matthew Chance joins us from Moscow.

What are the expectations for this meeting in that case, Matthew?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's going to set the tone for how the relationship is going to go with this Biden administration, which is relatively new, and this incumbent Russian regime with Sergey Lavrov as the foreign minister, and of course Vladimir Putin as the president.

It's a good job they haven't set a time limit, because there's a list as long as your arm, when it comes to issues between the two countries.

The United States says it wants to discuss, including the annexation of territory of Ukraine, the imprisonment of Alexei Navalny, the main opposition leader here in Russia, the jailing of a couple Americans citizens, which is high on the U.S. agenda as well, and a hacking.

The list goes on. There's a host of issues.

What the United States says it wants to achieve is to find a way of having stability, to paraphrase them, in the relationship with Moscow.

They're being very careful not to use the word "reset." I'm old enough to remember 2009 when an administration with Joe Biden in it, when he was the vice president, Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, attempted a reset back in 2009 with Sergey Lavrov.

Again, he was the foreign minister back then, as he is now.

Hillary Clinton even produced a prop, a reset button for them both to symbolically press. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, (D), FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We worked hard to get the right Russian word. Do you think we got it?

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: You got it wrong.

CLINTON: I got it wrong.

(LAUGHTER)

LAVROV: It would be -- (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) -- and this says -- (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) -- which means overcharged.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHANCE: Yes, it was funny at the time that they used the world "overcharged" instead of "reset" in Russian.

We all know what happened since then. The relationship between Russia and the United States just got worse and worse and worse.

Of course, that's why this meeting tonight in Iceland on the sidelines of the Arctic Council meeting is so important because they have all these issues to discuss.

It also will set the scene and sets the tone for the forthcoming meeting, which is being planned, hasn't been announced yet, between President Biden and President Putin.

We're expecting that to take place at some point, perhaps in the middle of next month.

Alisyn and Victor, back to you.

CAMEROTA: Matthew, thank you for reminding us about that button moment. It seems a State Department translator could have avoided that faux pas. But there we were. Thank you for reminding us of what happened then.

We will talk to you again soon.

OK, meanwhile, you have got to get this video, Victor, that you and I have been talking about. An 11-year-old girl narrowly avoids being abducted from a bus stop with a man with a knife. It's all caught on video.

We're going to talk to the sheriff about this girl and the suspect's long rap sheet.

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[14:42:13]

CAMEROTA: You have to see this next story. A Florida man was caught on video trying to kidnap an 11-year-old girl at knifepoint in broad daylight.

The girl was waiting at her school bus stop Tuesday morning in Pensacola, when the man jumped out of this white van, and he ran towards the girl. He grabbed the girl.

He tried to drag her back to his van, but the girl fought back. She was kicking, punching. The man tripped and fell, she ran off and he drove away.

After a search involving at least 50 deputies and law enforcement personnel, the suspect was arrested and charged with attempted kidnapping and aggravated assault and battery. Police say he has a history of child sexual offenses.

Sheriff Chip Simmons, of Escambia County, joins us.

Sheriff, thank you for being here.

This video is incredible. I want to play it again in slow motion for people to watch what happened.

Let me see if we can slow this down a bit.

The suspect gets out -- this is just a parent's worst nightmare, of course, getting out of a white SUV or van, and he tries to get her into his car. She puts up a fight.

As you'll see right here. She kicks. She elbows him. She trips him ultimately. I mean, her legs trip him and he falls down, I guess gets spooked and runs away.

Sheriff, what did you think when you saw this? And what have you learned about this suspect? CHIP SIMMONS, SHERIFF, ESCAMBIA COUNTY, FLORIDA, SHERIFF'S OFFICE: I

think when you look at the video - we were looking at it together. You never know exactly what details a suspect is missing or a witness is missing.

There's actually two videos. The hair on the back of our necks stood up. We immediately mobilized. I myself took off over there.

This is not something you see very often. This is something you see on TV, but not something that happens here.

We immediately got all available manpower over there to find out where this guy was, to make sure there was no relationship at all. That this 11-year-old girl didn't know who this was.

It was a complete stranger. Although, a couple weeks prior, he had approached her and, according to her, spoke a different language to her, made her feel uncomfortable.

So for two weeks her mother was walking her to the bus stop until this very morning. Unfortunately, that was the morning, as you can see in the video, the white van drives around, waits for an opportunity, jumps out.

But, man, she's a hero. She saw him coming. She started the fight. He picked her up, grabbed her. She continues to fight. She ultimately fights so well that they both trip. She gets up and runs away.

In my opinion, she saved her own life.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, Sheriff. As you say, it's so rare to have video of that whole thing.

[14:45:01]

What have you learned about the suspect? Is he a convicted child molester?

SIMMONS: I don't know if he's convicted child molester. He has an extensive history, well over 10 felony convictions, a couple of misdemeanor conviction.

He does have an arrest a couple years ago, a sex offense with a child. But I can't determine -- because it's not our jurisdiction, I can't determine the outcome of that case.

What we did was we mobilized our 50 deputies or so and we went to every business that we thought had a video camera. We ultimately were able to find a viewpoint that gave us a tag. That tag led us to a number of different places.

For hours, we were on surveillance. Once we noticed that he was pulling up in the same white van to a house, we were already surveying the house.

And we got on the phone with him. He talks about he just got home. And the investigator says, just come outside to the car. We're already here. And we took him to the sheriff's office where we were going to.

CAMEROTA: Now, Sheriff, where is -- the camera that we are watching, this vantage point, is that just a camera on a streetlight? What is that camera that we're able to see all of this.

SIMMONS: I'm not going to tell you who has what camera, but there are businesses right near the bus stop. And there are homes near it. So we have a collection of the video cameras.

The two that you see, one I believe is from a residence and the other is from a business.

CAMEROTA: Sheriff, is it true that one of the other surveillance cameras caught this guy going into a grocery store with blue slime still on his arm, because the girl right there was playing with blue slime waiting for her bus. That seems incriminating.

SIMMONS: When you look at this investigation, it continues to unfold, you notice that she was playing with this blue slime. He didn't realize that.

He gets out, grabs her and whenever she fights -- again, she fights for her life -- she leaves, and then he leaves and goes to a couple grocery stores -- not grocery stores, but convenience stores.

We have surveillance where he's wearing the exact same clothing. When we picked him up, we noticed not only did he have some of that blue slime still on his arm, he also had attempted to spray paint the white van.

I made a point at the first press conference to be on the lookout for this van. One of the unique characteristics was that it had a silver bumper. You could tell he recently painted the bumper because the paint was still wet.

CAMEROTA: What's the lesson here for parents and kids? Is the lesson to teach your kids to always fight back?

SIMMONS: I think there's two lessons. One is to pay attention to your surroundings. The second one is fight and fight and fight.

Because your life -- in this situation --, why else was he trying to get her in the van? He clearly had a terrible motive.

And her life was probably saved just because of her willingness to fight.

CAMEROTA: Sheriff Chip Simmons, thank you so much.

Great work. Great, obviously. police work on the part of you and your deputies.

Thank you for sharing it with us.

SIMMONS: Thank you. Good to be here.

CAMEROTA: Victor?

BLACKWELL: The European Union is relaxing travel restrictions for vaccinated tourists. We'll talk about which countries are allowing visitors in, next.

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[14:52:57]

BLACKWELL: Two to four things --

(CROSSTALK)

CAMEROTA: What's our topic today?

BLACKWELL: Travel. How about that?

Overseas travel, one of many things that a lot of people, including myself, that we missed during the pandemic.

Almost a year since it closed its borders, the European Union says it is now ready to allow vaccinated travelers to return.

Some caveats, though. Not only will you have to prove vaccination, you will have to be from a country with low infection rates.

CAMEROTA: As I understand it, Victor, we're not sure who makes the cut. The E.U. says they will put out a list of safe destinations later this week.

Up until now, that list only included Australia, Israel, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand. No U.S. That might change.

As you say, that could be a great incentive for more Americans to get vaccinated.

BLACKWELL: It certainly is something that people have missed, the ability to travel.

I was just looking at some airfare for something. Check your calendar coming in July.

But, yes, to get back into the air, to get back overseas, I think that might be the incentive some people need.

CAMEROTA: Where are you taking me?

BLACKWELL: I'll take you to lunch on my way to the airport. And then I'll see you when I get back.

CAMEROTA: I'll take it.

BLACKWELL: Yes.

CAMEROTA: And then a second story, travel related that people will be talking about. Remember that huge ice storm in Texas last February. It devastated

Texas. It killed dozens of people. Some froze to death because they didn't have heat. Some died from carbon monoxide poisoning trying to heat their homes.

You'll remember that that's when Texas Senator Ted Cruz thought it would be a great time to take his family to Cancun on a trip. And then he blamed his daughters for the trip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): I was trying to be a dad. And all of us have made decisions.

When you have two girls who have been cold for two days and they don't have heat or power and they're saying, we don't have school, why don't we get out of here, a lot of parents would be like, if I can do this, great. That's what I wanted to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[14:55:05]

BLACKWELL: OK. So, now, there's this other cringe-worthy moment for Ted Cruz. He tweeted, "Awesome," when a Houston TV station announced cheap airfare deals to Cancun.

Now, the response had been what you'd expect. One person replied, "The people of your state were in dire straits when you willfully abandoned them. The fact you're joking about it confirms you have no regrets. You are, what you are, sir."

CAMEROTA: Yes, I think generally, when people die in your state, best not to make jokes about it. I would say that's the lesson there.

BLACKWELL: Why would he want to remind people about this? I mean, this was a low point among, you know, several lows that happened over the last couple of years with the Trump administration.

Why would he bring this back up? I don't know what he gets out of it. But he got it.

CAMEROTA: Let us know what you think. You can find Victor and me on Twitter, Instagram, et cetera.

Meanwhile, we do have some breaking news coverage. And it continues as the House is set to vote on a bill to create a January 6th commission. Right now, all eyes on how many Republicans will support this bill.

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