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Trump Threatens to 'Get Involved' Unless FBI, Justice Department 'Start Doing Their Job'; Bobi Wine Arrested Again While Trying to Leave Uganda; The remains of John McCain; Syria's long- running civil war; Donald Trump called the Russia probe illegal. Aired 2-3a ET
Aired August 31, 2018 - 02:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[02:00:07] GEORGE HOWELL, NEWSROOM ANCHOR, CNN: The battle looming for Syria's last rebel stronghold. Russia says it has warships off the Syrian coast, plus this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It wasn't about politics with John. He could disagree on substance. But it was the underlying values that animated everything John did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NATALIE ALLEN, NEWSROOM ANCHOR, CNN: Senator John McCain's body is now in Washington after powerful eulogies from friends and colleagues in Arizona.
HOWELL: And the Catholic Church in Australia says it will not make priests report child abuse when it's revealed during confession. It's a story we'll, of course, follow for you.
ALLEN: We'll go live to Australia this hour for reaction to that decision. Hello, thanks so much for joining us, a lot of news to get to this hour. I am Natalie Allen.
HOWELL: And I am George Howell from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. Newsroom starts right now.
ALLEN: It could be the beginning of the end. It's hard to believe this. In Syria's long-running, vicious civil war, Syrian and Russian troops appear ready to attack Idlib, the last major rebel stronghold. Syria's top diplomat was in Moscow Thursday. He vowed to destroy terrorists. That's what they have always called rebels.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The decision of Syrian authorities is to exterminate Al Nusra and Idlib, and we will go all the way.
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HOWELL: And here's thing the. Al Qaeda-linked militants and rebels are in Idlib, and they are mixed in now with around three million people who live in the province. The U.S. is warning civilian casualties could be very high, and there could be more chemical attacks by the Syrian government. Russia says actually it is U.S.- backed groups who are planning to use those chemicals. CNN's Fred Pleitgen has that story live from Moscow or reporting from Moscow.
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FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, it certainly seems as though tensions are ratcheting up around the whole Syrian conflict, not just with an offensive possibly looming in and around the Idlib area, the last place in Syria still held by opposition forces, but then also between the two major military players in the Syrian conflict, the United States and Russia.
Now, the Russians on Thursday announced that they plan to hold large scale naval and air force exercises off the Syrian coast. They say some 25 warships will be involved in those exercises, and also strategic bombers from the Russian air force. Now, of course, all of this, as some people believe, that an offensive on Idlib could be imminent.
The Russians will have a lot of military hardware in that area if in case such an offensive does kick off. Now, we've also been hearing that Syrian government forces have been amassing troops on the border with Idlib. There has been some cross-border firing. Of course, organizations like the United Nations, but then also countries like the U.S. rear that there could be a massacre in Idlib if indeed an offensive kick off.
Now, on Thursday, Syrian's Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem, was here in Moscow. He had talks with the Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and he said that the Syrian civil war appears to be in its final stages. At the same time, ahead of the possible offensive in Idlib, both the United States and Russia are trading accusations about possible looming chemical attacks.
The Russians say they believe that rebels are planning to stage what they call false flag attacks, to try and draw the U.S. into the conflict and make it attack the Syrian military. There was a staunch warning from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Here's what he said.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Another such provocation is being prepared in order to hinder the anti-terroristic cooperation in Idlib. And we, having our facts on the table through our defense ministry and foreign ministry, clearly and firmly warned our western partners. Don't play with fire.
PLEITGEN: Now, of course, the U.S. has a very different opinion and take on what is going on, on the ground in Syria. They say that while they don't have concrete information, they fear that the Assad government could possibly be getting ready to conduct chemical weapons attacks on areas in Idlib province, and has already warned that there certainly would be a strong reaction if that is the case.
The U.S. has also warned Russia that if indeed there was some sort of offensive that the Russians certainly need to take care or at least try to shield the civilian population that's on the ground there. Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Moscow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: Fred, thank you for the reporting. Let's talk now with CNN Military Analyst, Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, joining from the U.S. state of Oregon. Colonel Francona is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a former U.S. Military attache in Syria. Thank you for your time at always, Sir. Look. The Syrian army backed by Russia, preparing for the final fight.
[02:05:03] It's clear what is coming in the days to come, the weeks to come, still unclear when. But their focus, they say, are terrorists and rebels, but millions of innocent people live there in that province. Could we see another Aleppo or worse?
RICK FRANCONA, MILITARY ANALYST, CNN: I think it's probably going to be worse. If you watch what's been going on over the last two years, every time the Syrians attack a different area, they surround it, and then they offer the fighters the opportunity to either surrender or to relocate. Most of them choose to relocate. Where have they relocated them? They've all relocated to Idlib.
So now, you've got all of these people -- have been brought into Idlib and this is the last bastion. There is nowhere else for them to go. They are surrounded. So when the Syrians mount this offensive, there will be no relocation offered, because there's nowhere left to go. So they are going to have to either surrender or they are going to have to fight and die.
I believe that the Al Nusra, which is the Al Qaeda derivative, will probably die in place. But, you know, the Syrians may try and surrender. I don't know what's going to happen. The problem is, and I think you laid this out is that you've got all these civilians who had no part in this. They happen to just live in Idlib, and all these fighters were brought into the area.
The Syrians are going to go after them with a vengeance. And unfortunately, there will be a lot of civilian casualties.
HOWELL: Well, to the point, Colonel Francona. Let's talk about that. The U.N. Special Envoy for Syria is trying to avert what could ultimately lead to widespread massacre of these civilians in Idlib, hoping to provide safe passage for people to escape before an offensive were to start. The greater question though, we're talking about millions of people. Where would they go, how would they be treated, and how could we ensure -- how the people know that they're safe?
FRANCONA: Well, I think it's a logistics problem. Where are they going to go? And if you set up these corridors, who are you going to allow to leave, and how are you going to vet the people that are leaving, because the Syrians are not going to countenance, letting anyone that's affiliated with Al Qaeda or any of the rebels to leave. They have their opportunity to relocate. They're where the Syrians want them now.
And they are going to destroy them in place. I think this is probably the end game for the fighting. Now this is not the end of the problems for Syria. There's a whole political situation that has to deal with the rest country. You know you have got the Kurds in the north. You've got the Turks in the northwest. So there's a lot more problems coming down the road, but I think we're ending the end stage of the fighting on the ground.
HOWELL: And Turkey has expressed that this is a red line for them. We know where Turkey stands with regards to, you know, an attack on Idlib. We also know that there's concern about the use of chemical weapons, both Russia and the United States expressing concern around that possibility. But should chemical weapons come into play, is there another red line for the west here that would draw countries like the United States into it.
FRANCONA: I think that's right, George. And we've already seen the French make the threats that if there are chemical weapons they will react. We know the United States will react. I think it would be foolish on the part of the Syrians to use chemical weapons. They know it would trigger a response from the west. And we've heard the warnings from the Russians. The Syrians don't need to use chemical weapons.
They have got the firepower between themselves and the Russians to effectively end the battle in Idlib. They don't need to use the chemicals. Why trigger a response from the west? It would be absolutely insane to do that. But the Syrians have done it in the past, and they have triggered that response. So we'll see what happens.
HOWELL: Colonel Rick Francona live for us in Oregon. Thank you for your time.
FRANCONA: Good to be with you, George.
ALLEN: And we'll of course, be following what happens there in Syria in the next few days. The U.S. President Donald Trump going after his own Justice Department on Thursday.
HOWELL: At a campaign rally in the U.S. state of Indiana, President Trump said what's happening at the Department and at the FBI is a disgrace, and if it doesn't get straightened out, he says that he will get involved.
ALLEN: In an interview with Bloomberg earlier in the day, the President called the Russia probe illegal and blasted his Attorney General for not investigating Hillary Clinton.
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PRES. DONALD TRUMP (R), UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: I just would like to have Jeff Sessions do his job, and if he did I would be very happy. But the job entails two sides, not one side.
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HOWELL: But that wasn't the only thing gnawing at the President who started the day with a Twitter tirade. Our Jeff Zeleny reports.
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JEFF ZELENY, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: President Trump airing a long list of grievances today, agitating about the departure of the top White House lawyer a day after praising White House Counsel Don McGahn.
TRUMP: He's a good man, very good man. Don, an excellent guy, yeah, Don McGahn is a really good guy, been with me for a long time.
ZELENY: The President suddenly turning defensive over why another top aide is heading for the exits. I like Don but he was not responsible for me not firing Bob Mueller or Jeff Sessions, the President saying on Twitter, referring to the Special Counsel leading the Russia investigation and the embattled Attorney General who recused himself from it.
[02:10:11] After acknowledging he didn't know exactly what McGahn had told Mueller's team during a combined 30 hours of testimony.
TRUMP: No, I don't have to be aware. We knew everything straight. We do everything by the book. And Don is an excellent guy.
ZELENY: He tweeted this today. The rigged Russia witch hunt did not come into play, even a little bit, with respect to my decision on Don McGahn. The President making clear through his own rapid fire tweets what was weighing on his mind today. Responding to reports that his daughter and son-in-law wanted McGahn out, the President saying Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner had nothing to do with the so-called pushing out of Don McGahn, and blasting his favorite target, the media, he added.
They love to portray chaos in the White House when they know that chaos doesn't exist, just a smooth running machine with changing parts. But that smooth running machine is under the microscope. CNN has learned Republican senators are privately pleading with the President to wait until after the mid-term elections to fire Sessions, fearful of the political fallout.
The President is still fuming about Sessions recusing himself from the Russia investigation, but that's not all. He's now openly dismissive of his Attorney General's personality and accent, with Politico reporting the President is complaining Sessions talks like he has marbles in his mouth.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make America great again.
ZELENY: Harsh words for the first Republican senator to endorse Trump's Presidential bid. For now at least, Sessions is standing his ground.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President ordered me to focus on dismantling transnational criminal organizations. And every day at the Department of Justice, we've been faithful to that order.
ZELENY: Not answering questions about his future.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any idea why you're still on the job?
ZELENY: But Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, making his view clear.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have total confidence in the Attorney General. I think he ought to stay exactly where he is.
ZELENY: All this as the President seemed to have the firing of the FBI Director James Comey on his mind once again today, trying to backpedal on comments last year where he tied Comey's dismissal to the Russia probe.
TRUMP: This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It's an excuse.
ZELENY: The President offering no evidence but accusing NBC News of fudging my tape on Russia. It comes as the Mueller probe escalates, and now includes potential obstruction of justice. And later at his rally here in Indiana, the President said what's happening at the Justice Department is a disgrace.
But he told Bloomberg news earlier, Jeff Sessions would stay on until at least November, Jeff Zeleny, CNN, Evansville, Indiana.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: Let's talk more about the goings on in a White House that is not chaotic, according to the President. Peter Matthews is a political analyst and professor of political science at Cypress College. He joins from us Long Beach, California. Peter, always good to have you with us.
PETER MATTHEWS, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, CYPRESS COLLEGE: Good to be here.
ALLEN: Not sure where you want to start here. There are many areas. Why don't we start with Sessions? What is the saga around Sessions? First, you had the Republicans saying he can't go. Leave him alone. Now, we're starting to hear rumblings from Republicans maybe he can go. Is Sessions some sort of pawn in all of this?
MATTHEWS: Well, Sessions and Trump have an interesting relationship, because Sessions was the first Senator to actually endorse candidate Trump, and Trump didn't forget it by rewarding him with the Justice Department portfolio. However, he didn't -- Trump didn't know that Sessions would recuse himself from the investigation about the Russia collusion case with Trump.
And Trump has been furious with Sessions for recusing himself, and yet I think Sessions was correct, because he was involved. He had met with the Russian ambassador twice, and he didn't want to (Inaudible) investigation. So Trump is going to forgive him for that. And he has been wanting to fire him for a long time. And yet, the members of the Congress who are Republicans don't want that to happen before the midterm elections.
Because the midterm elections can have major repercussions if he does fire Sessions, and they don't want that to backfire and to, you know, hurt them in the polls. That's what is real going on.
ALLEN: Midterms, midterms, midterms. Everyone is looking towards that, because it will be telling or could be telling. Let's talk about the President's latest threat to get involved in the investigation. What if he did that at this point, try to interfere somehow, could he do that even?
MATTHEWS: Pretty unbelievable, because now you're looking at complete interference with an independent body, the FBI, and the Justice Department which, of course, is the administrative branch of government to carry out the law and to show that civil rights is practiced. The President can hire and fire the Attorney General, but Presidents don't interfere with ongoing investigations, especially if it's of themselves.
[02:15:01] And one wonders why President Trump, if he's not guilty of anything, and saying he's not guilty of collusion or any kind of corrupt collaboration with Russia, then he should let the investigation proceed unhampered by him, and allow Mr. Mueller to come to the conclusions that he will and write a report on it. And yet, President Trump has been constantly trying to interfere.
And it looks so much like obstruction of justice, because he's tried in many ways to hamper and impede the investigation. And he's even made statements about that, that why he did that, why did he fire James Comey. He said to Lester Holt I did it because of that Russian thing. If that's not an admission of obstruction, I don't know what it really is. So this is a very serious situation for the President, and the election coming up doesn't help much either.
ALLEN: Yes. And he's spent his career controlling the message. We even have learned that he allegedly -- had kind of swayed over the gossip newspaper, the National Enquirer. He pretended to be his own spokesperson at one point in his career. He just can't seem to play by rules that are guided around government and not him getting his way. And it seems to be eating him up from what we've seen in the past 24 hours.
MATTHEWS: It really does. And he still hasn't learned. And I am not even sure he's even capable of learning because of his own personality, his own experience as a businessman who got his way a lot of the time and recovered from disasters like bankruptcies, and yet he's in politics. This is very different, Natalie. This is about the public interests, not his own private interests.
And that's the problem. Donald Trump has lots of private interests, 500 businesses around the world making profits, including profits off of foreign leaders who come to his hotels. That could be a violation of the emoluments clause. He's in a lot of hot water here. I think he could be above his head in some ways. So we'll have to see how things go Mr. Mueller's serious investigation.
ALLEN: Peter Matthews for us as always. We appreciate your insights. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: My pleasure. Thank you.
HOWELL: Still ahead, the question of whether priests report child abuse if they learn about it in confessional. Investigators in Australia say they should. The Australian Catholic Church digs in and says no. We have details on that ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Joe Biden. I am a Democrat, and I loved John McCain.
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ALLEN: Also ahead, hear friends and rivals alike celebrating the man who stepped across political boundaries to serve the United States. That would be John McCain, more about him.
[02:20:00] HOWELL: A somber arrival. The body of the Republican Senator, John McCain, is in Washington after an emotional memorial service in his home state of Arizona.
ALLEN: There will be three more days of ceremonies in Washington before he is buried on Sunday. The two time Presidential candidate and war hero died last week of brain cancer. On Thursday, Arizona said farewell to its longtime Senator.
HOWELL: John McCain's family, his friends, all sides of the political spectrum, they came together to share their memories. Our Dana Bash has details for us.
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DANA BASH, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Signs and flags planted on the motorcade route, an organic show of appreciation for the man who represented them for decades. But the man they call Senator, McCain's family calls husband and dad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amazing Grace.
BASH: The emotion, palpable.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To everything, there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.
BASH: Also, lots of levity. John McCain's friends came with classic stories of a man with an unparalleled sense of humor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said with a big smile on his face, watch out when you start your car.
BASH: Grant Woods talking about his first day as McCain's Chief of Staff back in the House.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of the staff came out and they were all waving and things. And they said they seem to be very nice. He said you're going to have to fire half of them. I said what, what are you talking about. And he just sped off and the staff was waving, and about one minute later, we went right back by because he had gone the wrong way, of course.
BASH: The people he chose to speak showed the depth and diversity of his friendships.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am black. He was white. I am young. He wasn't so young. He ran for President. I run out of bounds.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Joe Biden. I am a Democrat.
BASH: And of course, reminders of his willingness always to reach across party lines to get things done.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We both went into our caucus and coincidentally and we were approached by our caucus leaders with the same thing. It was a raised discussion. Joe, it doesn't look good. You're sitting next to John all the time. Swear to God. Same thing was said to John in your caucus. That's when things began to change for the worst in America, in the Senate.
BASH: Longtime Senate colleague, former Vice President Joe Biden who lost his oldest son, Beau to the same rare of brain cancer that took McCain's life delivering a moving tribute to his friend of half a century.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I always thought of John as a brother. We had a hell of a lot of family fights. All politics is personal. It's all about trust. And I trusted John with my life.
BASH: Biden making this promise to McCain's family as they mourn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you're going to ride by that field or smell that fragrance or see that flashing image. And you're going to feel like you did the day you got the news, but you know you're going to make it. I give you my word. I promise you. This I know. That day will come.
BASH: Dana Bash, CNN, Phoenix, Arizona.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: There are three days of services for John McCain in Washington, D.C. On Friday, McCain's body will lie in state at the U.S. capitol. And the public will be allowed to pay their respects. Then on Saturday, service at the National Cathedral, former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama scheduled to speak there. And then Sunday, a private ceremony will be held at the U.S. Naval Academy. That is where Senator John McCain will be laid to rest.
ALLEN: The Catholic Church in Australia refuses to require priests to report child abuse when they learn about it in the confessional. The country's top catholic body says it accepts 98 percent of the recommendations made by a government investigation, but the seal of the confession is non-negotiable. Brendan Smith is a reporter with Sky News Australia. He joins us now from Brisbane.
They accepted 98 percent, but that 2 percent is a powerful part of what they didn't accept, Brendan. What was the reason that the Catholic Church gave about its decision?
[02:25:04] BRENDAN SMITH, REPORTER, SKY NEWS AUSTRALIA: Well, Natalie, the Catholic Church said that removing the Seal of Confession wouldn't be appropriate, as it could discourage victims and perpetrators from reporting it. And they did say while this isn't appropriate to lift the Seal of Confession, they did say that bishops and catholic leaders do have the utmost respect for the law.
This, of course, has caused major controversy in the public realm, a number of very passionate people online sprucing their ideas about this and really calling for rapid change within the Catholic Church.
ALLEN: Right. It lit up on Twitter, didn't it? Here's one tweet that I saw. When should religious liberties come before legal or moral obligations? So is there any recourse here? Is there any move perhaps that would get the Catholic Church there to reverse this?
SMITH: It doesn't seem like it. It really came as no surprise that the Catholic Church would reject this recommendation. But as I said on social media, it really has blown up. We have people calling the church shameful, disrespectful, even one person likening the Catholic Church to a criminal cartel. But as I said, it really didn't come as much of a surprise.
It was known that the church would likely reject this. But it definitely is a good and a positive step forward for the church and for victims who have been waiting years and decades for some sort of closure.
ALLEN: Well, this was a recommendation from the Child Abuse Royal Commission. The church has accepted 98 percent of those recommendations. What stands out as far as what they did accept?
SMITH: Well, some of the key recommendations that the church did accept were, of course, acknowledging these sexual abuse crimes that were committed in Australia across decades. It really was an extremely dark history for the Catholic Church. One of the recommendations also they accepted was voluntary celibacy, also creating a national register or office for child abuse, and also making the selection criteria for bishops public.
Now, today really does mark a significant step forward for victims. The Royal Commission really was a landmark decision to be handed down. So today really is a one step closer, closure rather, to closure for thousands of victims across the country. ALLEN: All right. We appreciate your reporting for us, Brendan Smith
with Sky News, Australia. Thank you, Brendan.
HOWELL: Still ahead this hour, unflattering stories, rumors about affairs, and details of marital problems. The unsavory side of the U.S. President he reportedly tried to buy off, trying to keep secret.
ALLEN: Also ahead here, a new report that some American citizens are being denied passports, and must now proves their nationality, what's behind that.
[02:30:33] NATALIE ALLEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome back. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta, G.A. I'm Natalie Allen.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: And I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour. The U.S. President Donald Trump attacked his own Justice Department during a campaign rally Thursday night apparently referring to the Russia probe. He said, what's happening in the department and the FBI is a disgrace and if it doesn't get straightened out he said that he will get involved.
ALLEN: Russian military drills off the Syrian coast could indicate an offensive is about to get underway against the City of Idlib. Russia and the U.S. are warning each other and their proxy against chemical attacks in the rebel stronghold and Russia's foreign minister seen right here says the west should not play with fire.
HOWELL: In Australia, top Catholic leaders say they accept 98 percent of the recommendations of the government inquiry into child sexual abuse, but the church refuses to require priests to report child abuse when they learn about it in the confessional.
ALLEN: We are learning more about the U.S. president's apparent effort to keep unflattering stories about him secret.
HOWELL: Right. Those stories reportedly about marital woes, lawsuits, and alleged affairs. Our Brynn Gingras has details for us on that.
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, the New York Times reporting that Donald Trump and his former personal attorney Michael Cohen once discussed a plan to buy all stories the National Enquirer had collected on Trump going back to the 1980s. That discussion was strongly hinted at in a secret audio recording made by Cohen and released exclusively to CNN by his lawyers in July.
MICHAEL COHEN, AMERICAN LAWYER: It's all the stuff, all the stuff.
GINGRAS: On that tape, Trump and Cohen heard discussing setting is up a payment system to American Media Inc., the National Enquirer's parent company.
COHEN: I need to open up a company for the transfer of (INAUDIBLE) info regarding our friend David.
GINGRAS: David is David Pecker, the head of AMI. Pecker had a cozy relationship with Trump and to protect him, Pecker would dig up the dirt on often paying for the stories and then bury them in a practice called catch and kill. The associated press reports unsavory stories were kept in a safe at AMI and according to the New York Times that safe contained decades of material on Trump like his marital woes and lawsuits, lists of sensitive sources, and tips about alleged affairs.
Cohen and Trump even discussed a backup plan just in case Pecker, the holder of the secrets was no longer around.
COHEN: It's all the stuff and all the stuff because you never know where that company, you never know where he's going to be --
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If he gets hit by a truck --
GINGRAS: Trump and Cohen also mentioned Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg in their plans to pay for the information.
COHEN: I have spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with --
TRUMP: So when are we going to pay --
GINGRAS: The Times reports that Trump never did buy all the stories from AMI, but in his guilty plea last week, Cohen admitted to working to buy the silence of Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, two women who alleged affairs with Trump. Cohen also said the payments were directed by then candidate Donald Trump. Trump denies those affairs. Both Pecker and Weisselberg helped the government with its case against Cohen in exchange for immunity.
With the immunity deals, it's unclear what other secrets they may now be sharing with federal prosecutors.
(END VIDEOTAPE) HOWELL: Brynn Gingras is there reporting for us. The U.S.
president's immigration policy tore children and from parents at the U.S. border with Mexico.
ALLEN: And now a new court filing reveals that hundreds of children remain separated. That includes nearly 500 in government custody. Almost 2,000 children have been reunified with parents since the court ordered it, but the process has slowed in recent weeks. Outrage is growing over a shocking new report. Some people born in America are unable to get passports. They have to prove their citizenship.
HOWELL: That's right. But it's not a new policy but enforcement appears to have stepped up in recent months. Our Nick Valencia explains.
NICK VALENCIA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Along the border in South Texas, American citizens are being denied U.S. passports and their nationality is being questioned. The Washington Post reports those denied are often Latino living here along the border.
[02:35:04] In some cases, the legal limbo caused by a denied passport has left American stranded outside of the U.S. or facing deportation proceedings. According to The Post, the Trump administration is accusing hundreds and possibly thousands of Hispanics along the border of using fraudulent birth certificates since they were babies and it is undertaking a widespread crackdown. Scrutiny and passport denials for those born near the border began during the George W. Bush administration and continued through the early days of Barack Obama's presidency.
The State Department is not providing current data of the denials, so CNN cannot independently verify they have surged under President Trump. But several immigration attorneys in South Texas paint the picture that it has. One attorney told us that he has dozens of such cases in court now. Carlos Garcia, another attorney, says he has noticed a particular pattern under the Trump administration.
CARLOS GARCIA, ATTORNEY: There's no doubt that the Latino community is under attack and these tactics that the government is using throughout their different agencies are a direct attack on members of our community.
VALENCIA: The government says that their suspicion stems from people born with the help of midwives, some of whom in years past allegedly provided U.S. birth certificates to babies who are actually born in Mexico outside of paperwork heavy hospitals. Midwives are a common option in South Texas for families unable to afford the labor ward.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really difficult and to try to prove that you were born. I'm American. I have my papers. I have my -- I have voted.
VALENCIA: Arthur, who requested anonymity because he fears retribution from immigration officials told CNN he's had his passport renewal request denied twice, once during the Obama administration and again this year. He said he was asked more specific questions this time around.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't trust that you're a U.S. citizen.
VALENCIA: The State Department tells CNN there has been no change in policy adding the border region is, "An area of the country where there has been a significant incidence of the citizenship fraud. Midwives and other birth attendants in addition to legitimately registering births born in the United States have accepted money and filed U.S. birth certificates for babies actually born in Mexico. The department provided no concrete evidence to support this claim.
GARCIA: I've had people walk into my office wearing a military uniform come in and basically in tears telling me that a superior has said to them that perhaps they aren't a United States citizens. It's definitely present (INAUDIBLE)
VALENCIA: Now, many who bear the burden of proving their birthplace are in limbo.
HOWELL: Nick Valencia reporting for us. And now let's talk more about this with CNN Legal Analyst Areva Martin, also an attorney via Skype with us. Thanks you for being with us, Areva. Look, as stated in this report, this process of increased scrutiny started since the former President George W. Bush and under the former President Barack Obama, immigration attorneys along the border suggested has recently increased. What do you make of it?
AREVA MARTIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL LEGAL ANALYST: You know, one thing to note, George, was -- there was a lawsuit filed in and around 2009 by immigration attorneys challenging the way that the government was, you know, forcing individuals born in South Texas to, you know, provide additional information to prove their citizenship. And after that lawsuit, immigration lawyers say that the Obama administration, you know, backed off and stopped this policy for all intents and purposes.
And now, we're hearing from these similar immigration attorneys that this policy has surged and some of these stories are heart wrenching, an individual who was in the military and served his country in the military went to apply for a passport only to be told that he wasn't eligible and that his birth certificate was questionable, and he was forced to submit all kinds of documents, you know, proof of the apartment or the house where he lived when he was born and other documents that are nearly impossible for individuals to produce.
HOWELL: Well, per The Washington Post again the government apparently cracking down on what's seen as a loophole for babies born to midwives. The concern here about citizenship fraud and it is affecting hundreds of people whose passports are being revoked. Is there more to it? Obviously, this is an issue that resonates along the border. Is that it or do you think there could be more behind this? MARTIN: Well, I think you raise a good point, George, about, you
know, where this is all taking place and this is taking place along the southern border of Texas where Donald Trump has talked repeatedly about building his wall, and I think we should look at this in the larger context of Donald Trump's, you know, crackdown on immigration.
[02:40:10] He's not only going after individuals that he believes are in this country illegally, but also individuals who are in this country legally. It's not just midwives. There's also a report out today of a particular doctor, a doctor in Southern Texas who according to this report delivered over 15,000 babies. The government apparently is locking at those births and is also questioning whether those individuals were legitimately, you know, born in the State of Texas in the United States or if they were born in Mexico and also have this fraudulent or alleged to be fraudulent birth certificates.
HOWELL: Areva, also, for those people who are affected, those who are American who have paperwork to prove it, aside from getting attorneys, what legal recourse do they have?
MARTIN: Well, at this point that appears to be the only recourse that they have. The individual that was -- the person who had served in the military, he took efforts on his own to try to prove his U.S. citizenship, and he said that he wasn't able to do so, that every time he submitted documentation he was rejected by the government. And, unfortunately, this can be a very complicated process for an individual that doesn't have legal training to try to overcome these lawsuits as we know can be very expensive.
Individuals, you know, should seek out immigration attorneys, should seek out some of the organizations like ACLU that have taken it upon themselves as an organization to challenge these policies. But this can be a really difficult situation for an individual particularly someone who has been in this country for 30, 40, 50 years and had never had their birth certificate or their citizenship questioned.
Now, you know, in an effort to get a passport to learn that there is some doubt being cast on their citizenship is really quite disturbing, George.
HOWELL: The attorney inn Nick Valencia's report described it as an attack on the Hispanic community beyond the legal ramifications around it, your thoughts there to that attorney's assessment of it.
MARTIN: I think that's a very legitimate statement on his part. I think when you look at the individuals who are being targeted, obviously, there are people of Hispanic descent. There are people who have been born along the southern border, the border that borders Mexico. We don't see Donald Trump and his administration going after immigrants or individuals that were born in countries other than Mexico. So I don't think there's any other conclusion other than this is a targeted practice.
It's a discriminatory practice as it relates to Latin-born what we believe to be our Americans and these individuals are saying, look, we were born in the United States. We have birth certificates that were issued to us by the State of Texas. So, again, it's quite appalling that the U.S. government would cause someone who has a birth certificate issued by the State of Texas to produce other information to prove their U.S. citizenship.
HOWELL: It is interesting the contiguous 48 states, you know, there are two borders, right, and it seems that the issue of border control really resonates on the southern border with Mexico, not that with Canada. Areva Martin, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.
MARTIN: Thanks, George.
ALLEN: Ahead here, a teacher finds a unique way to fight modern day slavery. Yes. He's wearing a neon tutu as he makes his way across the U.S. We'll tell you what that's all about coming up here.
HOWELL: And thousands of people say goodbye to the woman whose powerful voice demanded respect. That's right. Remembering Aretha Franklin. Stay with us.
[02:46:36] HOWELL: Welcome back serious charges have been made against the French actor Gerard Depardieu.
ALLEN: A 22-year-old woman accuses the movie star of rape and sexual assault. The Paris Public Prosecutor's Office is conducting a preliminary investigation. Depardieu's lawyer says the actor is shocked by the accusations.
Although, he knows the woman in question he totally denies any criminal act.
HOWELL: And you may remember, Depardieu from such movies as Green Card for which he won a Golden Globe for Best Actor. As well as The Man in the Iron Mask, and the life --
ALLEN: We turn now to Germany, where people in the eastern city of Chemnitz are hoping things return to normal after days of violent anti-immigrant protests.
HOWELL: On Thursday, right-wing protesters were back on the streets but compared to earlier in the week, the situation remained fairly calm. Our Atika Shubert has details for us.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is still a simmering frustration here on the streets of Chemnitz. But that anger has now been pretty controlled and contained and that's in part to the overwhelming police presence on the streets today.
Earlier today, we saw hundreds of people attending a right-wing protest just outside the football stadium. And they were there to protest the local mayor of Chemnitz, as well as the regional head of the government who are holding a town hall.
Dozens of people queue to try and get in to speak with the mayor. She was booed as she took the stage and heckled. But despite all that, and despite the angry chants outside, protesters went home peacefully.
And so, that is there is some sense of relief that perhaps things are returning to normal here in Chemnitz, even though more protests are still scheduled for the weekend. Atika Shubert, CNN, Chemnitz, Germany.
HOWELL: Germany has taken in more refugees than any other European country. More than 1 million just over the past few years most of them coming from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Germany is home to 82 million people, more than 12 million or almost 15 percent of the population are immigrants.
ALLEN: Ugandan pop star and opposition politician Bobi Wine has been arrested. He was freed on bail on Monday and is facing treason charges. But wine supporters say that's just politically motivated.
HOWELL: One's lawyers say that he was violently taken back into custody as he tried to leave for the U.S. to get medical treatment. His initial arrest on August 15th sparked widespread protests in Uganda.
A British teacher is raising money to fight modern-day slavery by dancing his way across the United States. Actually, it's less than dancing its kind of like prancing.
ALLEN: Whatever you call it. Ben Hammond is committed to his cause. Our friend, Cyril Vanier, got to know him in this CNN Freedom Project report.
CYRIL VANIER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Blaring an eclectic mix of music, sporting a neon yellow headband and tutu. Ben Hammond, is a sight to behold boogying along one of America's biggest roadways.
With each hop and twist, the self-proclaimed Planet Prancer is raising funds for Anti-Slavery International. An organization fighting human trafficking around the globe.
[02:50:22] BEN HAMMOND, RAISING FUNDS FOR ANTI-SLAVERY INTERNATIONAL: The dancing I felt was a really good symbol of the freedom I have. Like, well I'm dancing and I'm dancing free. You know, I feel free. So, why not take that and take that this message out for the world? Why not take this message of freedom to the land of the free, so, America it is.
VANIER: The teacher and lecturer from London began his journey in April. Starting in Santa Monica, California, he plans to dance all the way to New York. But working full-time, Hammond can only progress during summer holidays, making this a long-term endurance dancing feet.
HAMMOND: In all honesty, probably going to take me about four years to get from beginning to end. But I'm committed to this. And -- you know, going to give it a go all I've got.
VANIER: So, far he's moved through California, Arizona, and parts of New Mexico. Self-tracking his progress on his web site. He logs anywhere from 14 to 60 kilometers a day, depending on terrain. All while battling the heat.
HAMMOND: I'm absolutely exhausted.
VANIER: But for Hammond, the strenuous challenge is part of a much larger message.
HAMMOND: Kind of realize in life how much freedom I had, and I just wanted to help folks who had less freedom and whose lives were much more caged. I could go out and do whatever I wanted. I could dream big, and I can realize those dreams.
And so, in a sense what I'm doing is trying to shine a light on those people that still in the 21st century, don't have the freedoms that you or I might have.
VANIER: As he prances along Route 66, pulling along supplies in a buggy he nicknamed Barbara, the enthusiastic Brit says his message has been surprisingly well-received.
HAMMOND: I would not blame anyone if they cross the roads, turn their car around, fled in the opposite direction if they saw a guy. And I do wear a tutu as I'm doing it to symbolize freedom and fun.
It is a bit weird, so what makes it amazing is when people kind of process what I'm doing and come and say, hello, and wave, and sometimes give a jig, as well. I think it's amazing.
VANIER: Hammond finished the first leg of his challenge this week after covering more than 1,200 kilometers.
HAMMOND: Thank you, for supporting me on this journey.
VANIER: But rest assured, you can see the Planet Prancer moving and grooving again soon when he returns to Route 66 next summer.
HAMMOND: Everyone has been so friendly and so warm, and be a so supportive that I'm really excited to come back and take my next dancing steps to America.
VANIER: Cyril Vanier, CNN.
ALLEN: Yes, George and I like that guy. That's not a lie, it's just fun. Ben has raised around $7,800 for the benefit of Anti-Slavery International.
HOWELL: A spokesperson for the organization has this to say about his mission, "With an estimated 40 million people in slavery across the world, we urgently need to build a modern abolition movement that will end it for good. With supporters like Ben, we are confident that we will succeed sooner rather than later.
ALLEN: Next here, Aretha's hometown is saying goodbye. How Detroit is celebrating the late Queen of Soul? That's next.
[02:55:12] ARETHA FRANKLIN, SINGER AND SONGWRITER: You're the key to my peace of mind because you make me feel, you make me feel, you make me feel like a natural woman
ALLEN: Belting it out for the Queen of Soul, dozens of performers and thousands of fans saying a farewell for Aretha Franklin, Thursday, at a tribute concert in Detroit, Michigan.
HOWELL: Just beautiful here. A legendary performer died earlier this month after battling cancer. Her body was now living the laying and reposed the church where her father once preached, where she started the unforgettable career six years ago.
It's been a very busy week of public memorials outpourings grief. So, many people remembering Aretha Franklin.
ALLEN: Thursday was the last chance for the public to pay tribute to her before she will be buried in a private ceremony Friday. CNN's Ryan young was in Detroit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, for the third day in a row, thousands of people showed up to see Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul. Someone they loved here in Detroit because of how much she meant to this city. It was here at the church where thousands of people showed up, they stood in line.
A lot of people couldn't even walk but they wanted to get inside and pay their respects to a woman they said never left Detroit. She always stayed here despite everything else.
In fact, the power of her being here led so many people to sing and show joy for the moment they were here together.
And Jesse Jackson who also be at the funeral talked about how much he was happy for his friend to finally be able to get away from this disease that's ravaged her life for quite some time. He talked about the hope that she provided so many people across the country and the world. Ryan Young, CNN, Detroit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: The CNN is bringing you live coverage of Aretha Franklin's funeral. We'll say farewell to the legend Friday at 3:00 in the afternoon in London, at 10:00 p.m. in Hong Kong.
Thank you for joining us this hour, we have more ahead, I'm Natalie Allen.
HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. Let's do it again, another hour of news right after the break. Stay with us.