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CONNECT THE WORLD

Jeff Sessions Under Fire; Interview with Tariq Ramadan; Speculation Surround's Snap in Leadup to Initial Public Offering. 10:00-11:00a ET

Aired March 2, 2017 - 10:00:00   ET

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


[10:00:15] BECKY ANDERSON, HSOT: Well, this hour, Trump and Russia, Links to Moscow took down the American president's national security adviser,

could his attorney general be on the chopping block next? We are in Washington to find out.

Plus, it's America's biggest tech share offering in years. But are investors going to snap up Snapchat? We are on the trading floor for you

to explore.

And...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I now want to today to the government, you can't do negotiations with people's futures.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDEROSN: But that's almost exactly what the British government is going to do. We hear from one of the millions caught up in the Brexit mess.

That's ahead.

Right. Hello and welcome to Connect the World. I'm Becky Anderson in London. It is just after 3:00 here. It is a busy hour. The Trump

administration's top law enforcement official is under fire over new revelations about his meetings with the Russian ambassador during the

presidential election.

Now, Jeff Sessions is facing growing calls to resign. At the very least, Democrats say he should remove himself from an investigation into what

contact the Trump campaign had with Russian officials.

At the the heart of the controversy is what Sessions told Senators under oath during his confirmation hearing.

Senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns with the details for you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Justice Department revealing Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak

twice during President Trump's campaign in 2016. Contacts Sessions did not disclose under oath at his Senate confirmation hearing.

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I did not have

communications with the Russians.

I would just say to you that I have no information about this matter.

JOHNS: Sessions denying any impropriety, releasing a new statement now saying, quote, "I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of

the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false."

But the Justice Department revealing that Sessions met with Kislyak last July on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention.

SESSIONS: Make America great again.

JOHNS: Four months after Sessions was named chairman of the Trump campaign's national security advisory committee. Sessions met again with

Ambassador Kislyak last September in a Senate office. The White House blasting allegations by leading Democrats that he misled Congress as

partisan politics, in a statement saying, quote, "Sessions met with the ambassador in an official capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services

Committee, which is entirely consistent with his testimony."

Sessions' spokeswoman says, quote, "There was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer."

The denials from Sessions and the White House are in direct conflict with what the Justice Department says happened. Senior government sources tell

CNN that the ambassador is considered by U.S. intelligence to be one of Russia's top spies in Washington.

Last December, U.S. intelligence intercepted conversation between Kislyak and President Trump's former national security advisor, Lieutenant General

Michael Flynn. Flynn was later fired for misleading the vice president about discussing sanctions with Russia.

Meanwhile, "The New York Times" is reporting Obama administration officials scrambled to preserve any information about possible contacts between

President Trump's campaign aides and Russia before Mr. Trump took office. The officials quickly spreading information about Russia's efforts "to

leave a clear trail of intelligence."

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have nothing to do with Russia.

JOHNS: The White House has repeatedly denied any such contact.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I haven't called Russia in ten years.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: At what point, how many people have to say that there's nothing there before you realize there's nothing

there?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: All right, well we go to Washington in just a moment. Sorry, we're going to go to Moscow in just a moment to see how the Russian

government is responding.

But first I want to get you to Washington and get you some reaction from Capitol Hill. Al Franken was one of the senators who questioned Jeff

Sessions during his confirmation hearings. He spoke earlier with CNN. Have a listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AL FRANKEN, (D) MINNESOTA: At the very least, this was extremely misleading. I don't - I would love for him -- I'm going to be sending him

a letter to have him explain himself, but he made a bald same that during the campaign he had not met with the Russians. That's not true. Whether

he in his head thought that he was answering whether he had talked to any Russians about the campaign, then he should have said so. He should have

said, I met with the Russian ambassador a couple of times, but we didn't discuss the campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[10:05:28] ANDERSON: Joe Johns is at the White House for you. International diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is in Moscow following

Russia's reaction to the Sessions controversy.

To you shortly, Nic. First off, though, how much trouble, Joe, is Sessions in at this point?

JOHNS: Well, Becky, there's that problem of failure to disclose when the then-senator had an opportunity to do so. That's a problem for him. But

quite frankly, while there has been some talk around Washington, especially in the media, about him making an untruthful statement under oath to a

congressional committee, the fact of the matter is, Republicans control Capitol Hill and therefore it makes it much less likely that there would

where any teeth in that.

Because technically, you could consider that a violation of law, probably something that doesn't go too far when Republicans control all of the

government in this city.

On the other hand, it does increase the likelihood that there could be some type of outside entity, perhaps a special prosecutor, to look at it simply

because the top law enforcement officer in the federal government now has his own questions about Russian contacts.

So the last thing I would say is there's an issue of recusal. Jeff Sessions said today that he might remove himself from the picture of this

case, when the time is appropriate. And that also becomes more likely for him, Becky.

ANDERSON: Whether there is panic or not in Washington, certainly this casting a cloud once again it seems over the Trump administration.

Nic, the ambassador at the center of this, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., is the same top Russian diplomat whose interaction with the former

national security adviser Mike Flynn led to Flynn's firing.

What do we know about it?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He's a seasoned diplomat. He's been in the sort worked in diplomacy in the foreign ministry for 40

years now. He studied at the engineering physics institute in Moscow, that was in '73. '77 he joins the foreign ministry. '81, he goes

to New York, representing the then Soviet Union at the mission at the UN. He was second secretary. A few years later, '85 he's promoted to first

secretary at f the Soviet Union's embassy in Washington. He's there until '89, comes back to Moscow, it at various senior positions inside the

foreign ministry. He - '98, he goes to Brussels. He's the Russia's ambassador there. He's a representative at NATO.

2003, he becomes the deputy foreign minister. 2008 goes to Washington again for a second

stint back in the United States.

So this man - and this is what we're hearing from, you know, from officials here. He's a seasoned diplomat. He meets people. That's his job.

ANDERSON: So how are the Russians responding to this latest affair, as it were?

ROBERTSON: You could categorize it in two ways, I suppose. I mean, you have the spokeswoman at the foreign minister, Maria Zarahova (ph) attacking

CNN specifically for the information that, you know, senior current and former senior government officials believe that he is the senior Russian

spy in the United States in Washington?

They're calling this media - this type information media vandalism. They're criticizing CNN. They've been saying, you know, how low can the

media go on this particular issue, comparing the western media to Big Brother. Maria Zarahova (ph) saying this is like George Orwell's 1982, we

believe she means the book 1984.

But her point being very specific criticism of journalists, of CNN and others, for providing this sort of information. And the other side, you

could characterize it here from what we have heard today from the spokesman from the president here, Dmitri Peskov, has said, look, we feel that this

is a very emotionally charged situation gong on in the United States. This is their internal affair. We don't get ourselves involved in U.S. internal

issues. We are going to have to wait until the situation there calms down before we can sort of even understand what's been going on and normalize -

try to have a better relationship.

Bottom line is, you know, if you take both of those threats, deepening frustration that there's very little relationship with the United States

because partly as well not only all that's going in Washington, but no clear position as far as the Kremlin can see that Washington, that the

Trump administration is taking towards Russia and the many issues Russia wants to discuss - Syria, Ukraine to name but a few.

[10:10:25] ANDERSON: Right. And one assumes Syria where it has been invited, of course, to get involved.

What is Moscow or the Kremlin saying about the alleged involvement with Russian strikes

in Syria that may have involved U.S. assets?

ROBERTSON: We know Russia and the United States have coordination cells and what happened here around al Bab (ph), the front lines were shifting.

The Russians are saying that they - or at least the Americans are saying Russians believe they were targeting what they thought were ISIS positions.

It wasn't. It was rebel groups that were U.S. forces. U.S. forces were several kilometers away when the strike happened. The U.S. called it into

the Russians, the Russians stopped.

You know, but have that technical military cooperation, but at the same time you have these talks going on in Geneva where there isn't really a

strong U.S. direction, the Russians themselves are actually meeting face- to-face, did so yesterday, with the opposition groups. You have Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister today meeting with the prime minister

of Libya. Again, an area of the world where United States - where Russia will look to the United States to understand it's diplomatic

position there as well.

But at the moment on all these issues, Russia is striking out by itself, the United States is notably absent.

ANDERSON: OK. Thank you, Nic.

To you, Joe, before we wind this up, then, as Nic is pointing out, as this Trump administration continues to sort of fight fires over its cabinet as

it were, we are seeing Russia developing it's strategy across the Middle East and beyond. I know that Trump has got another speech today, when do

we start learning of more substantive policy, do you think, re: foreign policy in the Middle East from this new administration?

JOHNS: There certainly is suspicion here, Becky, that this administration is distracted by all of the concern about Russia and not able to pay full

attention to all of the things it needs to, particularly on international affairs, particularly in the Middle East.

Today, the president is to some extent trying to turn the corner just a bit. He's going over to the tidewater region of Virginia to visit with

military personnel there and he wants to promote his program to rebuild the military. As you know, he has put in for a very large increase in the

budget, about 10 percent, $54 billion for the Pentagon. So there's that. But not a lot on some of the issues you raise,

Becky.

ANDERSON: All right, Joe, and Nic, to both of you, thank you.

Well, a closely related story, first on our radar right now for you, in the U.S. House intelligence committee appears to be one step closer to

launching a probe into Russia's alleged meddling in the U.S. election. The committee's top Democrat and Republicans say they have

agreed on parameters for the investigation.

Malaysian authorities say they'll release and deport a North Korean man who was detained in the Kim Jong-nam murder investigation. They say there

wasn't enough evidence to charge him.

Malaysia also says it's ending the right of North Koreans to enter the country without a visa.

And out at the Oscars, but still in their jobs, the two Pricewaterhousecooper's accountants responsible for the stunning Oscars mix

up will not be involved in future shows, we are told.

You'll remember, La La Land was incorrectly named best picture of the year. The mistake was

eventually corrected and Moonlight declared the actual winner.

Well, many of Snapchat's fans are kids, but after today's initial that may change. The parent company of the disappearing message app will open for

trading any time now. We're waiting on it. That's the state of play ahead of that open.

The initial price of $17 per share, puts the market value of the mobile app company at $24 billion making it the largest tech IPO since Facebook. All

this despite the fact that Snap has yet to make a profit. The company lost $515 million last year, and $373 million the before.

The man to ask all things business is CNN Money's editor-at-large, Richard Quest, who is

live at the stock exchange.

Richard, given those statistics that I have just read out, this sounds like a bust at the

get-go. But gone are the old days of valuing companies based on something boring like price to earnings ratios. Who is the (inaudible) investor

getting involved in this one?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think there are the investors who just have to be involved. They want to be part of the

Snapchat. They feel that this could be more a Facebook rather than a Twitter or a Go Pro.

The indicated price, Becky, is now $21 to $23 a share, which would suggest a 30 percent to 40 percent premium over the IPO price. And that is just

about where you would want it to be in terms of a launch. You don't want to leave money on the table. But at the same time, you want to have a nice

smooth and nice bump, if you'd like, that gets it on its way.

Who buys not today - look, I'm told that there are about 3 million buy orders, 3 million buy shares on the market waiting to trade. Now those are

the initial people who just want to be on the first day.

I'm also told that there are hedge funds on the other side on the other side, who are waiting to sell. Therefore, this is why it's taking more

than perhaps an hour or so to get that opening price, more than just the indicated. Longer term, again, is it Facebook or is it Twitter?

ANDERSON: Well, that's right, because one of the arguments goes that Snapchat would be a great investment, because if you're under 25, it's the

only game in town, it seems. Many will say it's more popular than Facebook. But what makes a trendy app today, yesterday's news tomorrow as

it were, as we wait for this opening?

QUEST: That's it. I mean, you summed it up in a nutshell. Facebook is a mode of communication, Facebook has now managed to, if you like, grab in

other areas, whether it be maps, whether it be reviews, whether it be news, whether it be Facebook live. If you take the Facebook

ecosystem, it has grown and grown and grown, more than just likes, thumbs up and those sort of things. But if you now ask yourself, all these others

- the Twitter's, well Twitter is doing it with sports events. Twitter is doing it with streaming of events. So, Twitter is trying to expand its

ecosystem.

And now, of course, Snapchat with it's disappearing ghosts, Snapchat is also trying to expand its ecosystem into spectacles. But fundamentally,

Snap and Snapchat is what it started out to be. And unless it can actually expand its ecosystem than what I hear here is it's a nice one for the time

being, but don't look necessarily for the ghost to last too much longer.

ANDERSON: That's fascinating. Right.

Just before we go, I just want to keep you there for just another moment. Should we then expect, given what you have explaining about where the buy

orders are and where hedgees are sitting on the sell side, should we expect this stock to go up to, as you suggest, maybe $24 and then shoot back down

relatively quickly?

QUEST: The second part I'm not sure about. There is no question there will be a stag effect today. You want a stag. They're going to have a

stag. It will stag to between 30 percent and 40 percent on the course of the first day.

Now, let's see what it looks like in two weeks time, when the reality of three facts - low earnings, no profit, limited governance, no voting shares

and questionable future stream earnings. In three to six months' time, that's the time toask whether this ghost has managed to turn into reality.

ANDERSON: Thank you for that, sir.

you're watching CNN. I'm Becky Anderson, that was Richard Quest in New York for you. From New York to Frankfurth, Shanghai to Sydney, World Markets,

they swing up and down, don't they? And there's nowhere better to keep on top of all the action than cnnmoney.com. Richard and the whole Money team

busy keeping everything up to date for you there.

Right, still to come on this show, I speak to the controversial scholar who says Islam is a western religion now and that Muslims need to reform their

interpretation. Tareq Ramadan is my guest up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:21:46] ANDERSON: You're watching CNN. This is Connect the World with me Becky Anderson in the British capital London. Welcome back. 21 minutes

past 3:00 in the afternoon here.

When U.S. President Donald Trump addressed congress for the first time this week, he said the country was united in condemning hate and evil in all its

ugly forms. For his critics, though, he shares responsibility for what they see as rising Islamophobia. An executive order in January restricting

travel from seven countries considered security threats was denounced by critics as targeting Muslims. A new version of that order is set to be

rolled out any time soon.

Well, my next guest has lived through a U.S. travel ban of its own. Scholar Tariq Ramadan was banned from entering the United States for five

years. That restriction was lifted seven years ago, but controversy, it seems, continues to follow him. He is raising his eyebrows at me.

Let's get him to respond to that, not least because of family links to the Islamist group the Muslim Brotherhood.

Well, his new book is called "Islam, the Essentials." His message: Muslims need to reform the way they interpret their religion.

More controversially, perhaps, he says Islam is now a western religion.

What do you mean by that, sir?

TARIQ RAMADAN, PROFESSOR OF CONTEMPORARY ISLAMIC STUDIES: What I mean is I'm just looking at facts and figures. We have millions now of American

citizens who are Muslims, millions of European citizens who are Muslims. They are European by culture, American by culture, believe in the country.

They speak the language as you speak. They abide by the law and more than that, they are contributing to the future of our country.

So, you have to take it as it is. It's a western religion, and there is no contradiction between our values and the values within the society. This

is the starting point of our discussion.

ANDERSON: I'm going to get to Europe, but I want to stick in the states for one sec. Islam in the age of Trump. Do you believe his administration

is anti-Muslim?

RAMADAN: Yes, I think that it's quite clear that some of the people, with some of their statements, before even they were involved in the current

administration were saying things that were Islamophobic straight away.

So, I think that what they are - you know, we have to be clear, to come to me and to say, you know, I can criticize your principles. I don't agree

with what you do, that's fine. But to target Muslims only because they are Muslims and to come to a Muslim ban, and saying, and making the American

Muslims feel that they not at home in their own country. That's not going to work.

ANDERSON: He says it isn't a Muslim ban.

RAMADAN: Sorry?

ANDERSON: He says it isn't a Muslim ban.

RAMADAN: No, he's only targeting - in fact, he's right. He's only targeting the Muslims that are weak Muslims, when it comes to the

countries, for example, some of the Gulf states, he's not going to take any measures in this, because he needs them. He's dealing with them. He's

making business with the rich Muslims. So rich Muslims is fine, Muslims that are average citizens is not fine. And he's targeting some of the

countries where in fact I would say that American policy towards these countries was not right.

In Iraq it was not right, in Libya, it was not right. So, let us be clear on this, the American administration today is playing on two different

fields,outside with something which is preventing or protecting their interests, and within targeting Muslims in the wrong way.

ANDERSON: So, you talk about this being a western religion. When, then - or how then does the Islam of Saudi Arabia, which is very different from

the Islam of Sufis in southern Russia and very different from Islam in Iran -- how do you stack them all up?

[10:25:16] RAMADAN: Because the universality of Islam it's based on the diversity of its cultures. We have many cultures.

You said I am controversial starting the discussion, and you link this to the fact that I'm the grandson of the Muslim Brotherhood. That's not why

I'm controversial. I'm controversial because from within, as a European Muslim, I am challenging many Muslim countries. I am controversial in many

Muslim majority countries, being banned by nine Muslim majority countries. Saudi Arabia, I'm banned. I cannot go there. From Egypt, from Libya.

Why? Because I'm saying that the way they are dealing with the Islamic principles is distorting the very essence of our religion.

And when it comes to us in the west, in fact, what we need to understand now it's that these interpretations that we have as Muslims today in the

west, in the United States, this is wrong interpretation.

So, yes, Muslims should deal with the scriptural sources by being faithful to the principles, but also understanding the context. So, we are - and by

the way, here in the UK, the British culture is not the same as the French culture, so we have within Europe many ways of being

Muslims. One Islam, many Muslim cultures.

ANDERSON: This is fascinating. Listen, while we're on the subject of the Muslim Brotherhood, as you brought it up yourself, President Trump has

floated the idea of banning that organization. How would you respond to that?

I mean, clearly I'm going to guess how you would respond. Why would you think that that was a bad idea?

RAMADAN: It's a bad idea - you know, I have been critical towards the Muslim Brotherhood. I was never a member from the organization. I was

critical.

But now we know the Muslim Brotherhood. And the American administration, they know them as much as the European countries know they were never

violent, and they were never violent extremists. So they were part of the democratic system. Now, the first bad idea is to listen to dictators like

el-Sisi and others who tell you who is good and who is bad.

The first who is bad is him. El-Sisi is a dictator, worse than Mubarak, and putting all the people in jail. And once again, don't reduce what is

happening in Egypt between the Muslim Brotherhood and el-Sisi, many secular activists, young people, who are in the streets, who took to the streets in

2011 are in jail now. So it's much more about democrats against dictatorship.

ANDERSON: Millions, of course, also took to the streets post Mohamed Morsy and the result was a new administration...

RAMADAN: Coup. It's a coup. It's a coup d'etat.

ANDERSON: Some will call it a coup.

RAMADAN: Yes, I know that you aren't going to say that. It's a coup d'etat. Clearly.

ANDERSON: Let's move on that. That was 2011.

Let me move you on here, because you talk about, or you say that Islam is a western religion now. I think this is absolutely fascinating, and I just

want to explore this narrative with you. You have heard the argument practices

such as a full face veil aren't compatible, for example, with European values. You hear that a lot here. Austria (inaudible) a ban. Germany's

Angela Merkel has also called for one. France has already banned it.

It's clear that many people see the niqab, for example, as completely alien to European values. What's your take on that? If you are -- if you are to

follow the conceit of your argument about Islam being a western religion.

RAMADAN: My argument is exactly what I explain in the book, it's for me, the niqab is not an Islamic prescription, it's not an Islamic obligation.

It's one interpretation, mainly coming from the Saudi, the Salafi, who by the way the allies all of these countries that are trying to ban: Germany,

the UK, the Swiss, they are with the princes and the kings over there, but they don't want the ideology, so there is a contradiction there, not with

what I'm saying. What I'm saying is that I don't think that this is Islamic now.

If you come to deal with this, and I'm staying that it's not an Islamic prescription, what am I going to do? Am I going to support people banning

the niqab, for example? I'm saying no. It's a question of education, it's a question of changing mentality, not to ban the people.

And by the way, if you have no one is going to say anything when they have the money to buy in our streets. It's not going to be banned in the Champs

Elysees in France, it's going to be banned in the suburbs. Why? Because it's a question of business.

At the end, what I'm saying is that you took the example of the niqab. It's how many women are veiled in such a way compared to the millions who

are not. So take the majority. Look at what is happening on the streets, look at all these European and american Muslims who are building the future

of our country everywhere. They are visible and they are the future.

And what I want to say here as a Muslim, is please, as a journalist, please, help us not to be put on the defensive trying to defend Islam. And

sometimes, and this is what I'm trying to do, is to show how much we have values, spirituality helping us. We're dignified human beings.

ANDERSON: You certainly don't have to convince me of that. It's been a pleasure having you on. It's been an opportunity to discuss your ideas and

I appreciate that.

"Islam, the Essentials," Tariq's new book. Thank you, sir.

RAMADAN: Thank you so much.

[10:30:12] ANDERSON: Right. What are we doing at at this point? We're going to take a very short break, right. OK, we are going to - Schumer,

let's just listen in.

(SIMULCAST CNN USA)

END