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Russia Controversy Engulfs White House; Trump Delays Reworked Travel Ban; U.S. Steps Up Airstrikes in Yemen; Makeshift Clinic on Front Lines Near Mosul. Aired 5-6a ET
Aired March 4, 2017 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): More revelations over meetings between Donald Trump's associates and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, a man U.S. intelligence is calling one of Russia's top spies. And:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: You're saying you didn't speak to the Russian ambassador for more than 10 seconds?
CARTER PAGE, TRUMP CAMPAIGN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Never more than -- again, I don't want to talk specifics, but I can assure you, I've never spoken with Ambassador Kislyak more than 10 seconds, yes, that's a safe statement.
JONES (voice-over): Carter Page, one of those associates, sits down with CNN to explain the role he played in the campaign and his ties to Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES (voice-over): Plus, on the front line, how a team of U.S. medics is treating casualties from the battle for Mosul.
Live from London, welcome to our viewers in Europe, the United States and around the world, I'm Hannah Vaughan Jones, CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.
JONES: U.S. President Donald Trump is at his Florida resort for the weekend. But the controversy over reported contacts between his campaign aides and the Russian ambassador to the United States continues to shadow his administration.
Mr. Trump's attorney general will submit amended testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday. Democrats want to know why Jeff Sessions did not reveal during his confirmation hearing that he did, indeed, meet with the Russian ambassador twice last year. Our White House correspondent Athena Jones has more now on the ongoing fallout. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Beautiful class.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Trump discussing school choice and having a light-hearted moment with students in Orlando.
TRUMP: I tell you what, you're all business. And you will make a lot of money, right?
But don't run for politics after you do.
ATHENA JONES (voice-over): Before heading to his Mar-a lago resort for the weekend, leaving behind a firestorm brewing over his aides and their contacts with Russian officials during the presidential campaign.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALA.: should not be involved in investigating a campaign I had a role in.
ATHENA JONES (voice-over): His Attorney General Jeff Sessions admitting meeting with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and not disclosing it during his confirmation hearings. Trump is standing by him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, do you still have confidence in Jeff Sessions?
ATHENA JONES (voice-over): The president releasing a statement saying Sessions could have stated his response more accurately but it was clearly not intentional, accusing Democrats of a "total witch hunt" and tweeting photos of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer with Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, in 2003, calling Schumer "a total hypocrite" and of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi with the Russian ambassador in 2010, demanding an investigation.
Schumer responding, saying he would "happily talk about my contact with Mr. Putin and his associates. Took place in '03 in full view of press and public. Under oath, would you and your team?"
Many Democrats say Sessions' recusal isn't enough. Some are arguing he should reappear before the Judiciary Committee to testify under oath.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONN.: I want to know from him why he falsely denied that he had that meeting.
ATHENA JONES (voice-over): Meanwhile, more Trump advisers are under scrutiny for meeting with the Russian ambassador. Senior aide Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, and ousted security adviser Michael Flynn sat down with Kislyak in December at Trump Tower for a 10-minute introductory meeting, according to a senior administration official. And several Trump campaign national security advisers met with Kislyak during the Republican National Convention in July, Carter Page telling MSNBC...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are not going to deny that you talked with him in Cleveland?
PAGE: I do not deny that.
ATHENA JONES (voice-over): And J.D. Gordon telling CNN his discussion was only about building a better relationship between the U.S. and Russia, not about the campaign.
J.D. GORDON, TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I talked to Ambassador Kislyak there in Cleveland. But I talked to dozens of other ambassadors there in Cleveland as well.
ATHENA JONES (voice-over): Meanwhile, Vice President Pence is facing scrutiny for his use of a private e-mail account to conduct state business while governor of Indiana after regularly criticizing Hillary Clinton's private e-mail server on the campaign trail.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We commend the FBI for reopening the case, following the facts because, here in America, no one is above the law.
ATHENA JONES (voice-over): A comparison Pence dismissed during a visit to Wisconsin.
PENCE: There is no comparison whatsoever between Hillary Clinton's practice of having a private server, mishandling classified information, destroying e-mails when they were requested.
ATHENA JONES: So the White House is calling this an apples to oranges comparison, the comparison between Pence's private e-mail account and Clinton's private e-mail server. Meanwhile, we are --
ATHENA JONES: -- still waiting for the administration's new travel ban. It had been expected this week. But as the week drew to a close, a spokeswoman for the White House said there are no announcements about the ban as of yet and that, quote, "We'll let you know when we are ready to roll that out." -- Athena Jones, CNN, West Palm Beach, Florida.
HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES: CNN's international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson joins me now from Moscow with the latest reaction from the Kremlin.
Nic, (INAUDIBLE) about a drama playing out on Capitol Hill at the moment, it seems you struggle to find anyone, any politician in the U.S. who hasn't had (INAUDIBLE) with Sergey Kislyak.
How is this playing out as far as the Kremlin is concerned?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: I think that is precisely the Kremlin's point, that their ambassador in Washington was doing precisely what he should be doing, which was getting out and having meeting, particularly in an election year, meeting with people from the campaigns with a view to help Moscow better understand what may be coming from either campaign and for, therefore, for the Kremlin to formulate its opinions better.
What -- the perspective from Moscow is that they are caught up in intense internal political fighting within the United States. They deny, of course, any accusation that they were involved in trying to interfere and influence the outcome of the election by hacking the DNC computers.
They say that's not what they do. They don't interfere into the affairs of other countries.
But where it impacts Russia today is that, you know, they feel here in Russia that they are trying to sort of, if you will, you know, maintain some patience to wait for all this to blow over in Washington; whereby that will allow them to form a relationship with this administration in the United States. And it may be different to the relationship they had with the last one.
However, they are beginning to feel that, you know, Trump's administration is going to have policies very similar to President Obama's sort of foreign policies.
But the worry here is that there are a lot of issues that are important to Russia today, like Syria, like Ukraine, like the sanctions they're under, that they would hope to be now by having a dialogue and discussion with the United States, with a view to involvement engagement on those issues.
In fact, Dmitry Peskov, President Putin's spokesperson, yesterday said it was a little sad that the United States wasn't yet able to work within Russia in forming a policy, let's say, to fight ISIS, something that both sides have expressed an interest in doing in an area of potential common ground.
We need to go on to say Russia is moving on with its own ideas and own policies, but that's just one tiny example of where the, if you will, the frustrations and where indirectly impacts, you know, the affairs of this state. That's one of those areas -- Hannah.
HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES: Nic, Sergey Kislyak the Russian ambassador to the U.S., has been the victim if you like of some sort of the character assassination over the last couple days at least.
What do we know about him?
And is it a fair portrayal to say that he is Russia's top spy in the United States? ROBERTSON: This is something that the Kremlin vociferously you know I wouldn't say that they deny it, because they don't deny these sorts of things. But the language that they used to describe him began as that of a professional diplomat.
This is a man that graduated from the Engineering Institute of Physics here in Moscow in '73, '77 joins a foreign ministry here when it's still the Soviet Union. He has 10 years in the United States as a diplomatic representative of the Soviet Union, as a second secretary of the mission to the United Nations.
He's a first secretary later in the late '80s to the Russian embassy or the Soviet embassy in Washington. He comes back here for many years working at senior levels, you know, with inside the foreign ministry, becomes the Russian ambassador to Brussels as the Russian representative, the first Russian representative to NATO; comes back as deputy foreign minister here in 2008, goes off to Washington again.
And this is a man who is credited with being very smart in terms of sort of negotiations, particularly sort of missile reduction negotiations, missile treaties that he has been involved in in the past. This is the way that he's portrayed from here.
Regardless of that, however, he has become toxic in terms of political circles in Washington and therefore of limited value for Moscow right now because he can't engage and learn things.
HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES: All right, Nic Robertson, live for us there in the Russian capital. Great to get that perspective there from Moscow. Nic, thank you.
Despite the controversy over Russian contacts that's consuming the White House as we were just hearing, the former head of the CIA says it's in U.S. interests to find areas of --
HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES: -- cooperation with Russia wherever possible. Retired U.S. Army general David Petraeus says the most important thing is to be realistic about Russian motives and goals. Mr. (sic) Petraeus spoke exclusively to CNN's Fred Pleitgen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: It's very clear what Vladimir Putin's objectives are. In many cases, they are unacceptable to us and NATO and our allies and partners around the world.
Having said that, there could be some convergence of interest when it comes to the defeat of the Islamic State and Al Qaeda and perhaps to stopping the bloodshed in Syria, as an overall objective, as well.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And could that be a springboard towards better relations, do you think?
PETRAEUS: Again, I would go into this with my eyes very wide open, with a very, very realistic appraisal of what Russia has done and what Putin would like to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES: Well, Brian Klaas joins me now here in London. He is a fellow at the London School of Economics and author of the upcoming book, "The Despot's Accomplice: How the West Is Aiding and Abetting the Decline of Democracy."
Brian, thanks very much for joining us this morning. Let's talk about all these meetings that are taking place at the moment, particularly with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States.
Is it standard procedure?
Have these meetings always taken place?
Or are we now under the Trump administration seeing a new dynamic evolving between Russia and the U.S.?
BRIAN KLAAS, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: So it's totally normal to meet with ambassadors, especially for sitting senators, for people who work on foreign policy. That's not abnormal at all.
What's abnormal is the shifting characterizations of those meetings, the denials, the fact that many of them were in secret and the wide array of contacts within the Trump world that have been meeting with Russians.
So things like Trump's personal attorney meeting on Ukrainian foreign policy is very abnormal. So is other people, like Carter Page denying and then changing their story; Michael Flynn denying, then changing their story and now Jeff Sessions, denying and changing their story.
And a pattern emerges, where I think it's fair to ask the question, why all these shifting accounts?
It is abnormal at that point.
HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES: Is there any difference then between what Michael Flynn did and was then subsequently fired and what Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, has done?
There is very little difference. These senators that testified before a congressional hearing, as Sessions did for his job audition for attorney general, they are able amend testimony after the fact.
So he could have very easily said, I misspoke. I did meet with the Russian ambassador. And here's the true story. And in fact what happened -- and this is what happened to Flynn -- is action was only taken after the story became politically embarrassing and public knowledge.
And that raises the question of how much transparency is this White House having?
The story that the Russian ambassador came to Trump Tower during the transition and met with Jared Kushner and Michael Flynn, that only came out this week, because there was more swirling allegations about Russia.
So the question is, do we know the full picture?
And is the Trump team being absolutely straight and honest with the American people.
HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES: And when we look at Trump's policy towards Russia now, is he more hemmed in than ever?
He said always said that he would like a new era in cooperation between Russia and the United States.
Is that increasingly unlikely?
KLAAS: That's the interesting thing about Trump portraying himself as this grand dealmaker is on multiple fronts he has made it virtually impossible for deals to be made.
So with Russia, it's very difficult politically to imagine Trump pushing for sanctions relief for example right now. With Mexico, it's very difficult to imagine the Mexican government negotiating with Trump after he's pushed them to have a hardline stance, the same with Iran.
So when you think about diplomatic dealmaking, there is not a lot of room for Trump to wiggle into a new position with Russia.
HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES: Very interesting, interesting to see how this geopolitical map changes over these coming months and years. Brian, thank you very much, indeed, for coming in.
The U.S. is considering separating children and adults who enter the country illegally at the border of Mexico. A senior Homeland Security official says the proposal is meant to stop people from exploiting children.
Right now when adults come into the U.S. with children, authorities usually release them and the families can stay in the country.
Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM this hour, U.S. air raids pound an Al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen. Why the United States is defending a controversial mission there ahead.
Plus, the latest on the battle for Western Mosul, where U.S. medics are putting their lives on the line to provide lifesaving care to the wounded.
(MUSIC PLAYING) HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES: Hello, welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM.
An Al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen is being hammered by U.S. air raids. The Pentagon says it conducted more than 30 strikes there on Thursday and Friday. Drones were used and at least one high-value Al Qaeda member was targeted.
Well, these are the first known U.S. strikes against Al Qaeda in Yemen since that controversial ground raid in January. Several civilians and a U.S. Navy SEAL were killed. But officials claimed it produced a trove of key intelligence.
Well, for more now on U.S. operations in Yemen, CNN's Ian Lee joins me live from Cairo in Egypt.
Ian, good to talk to you, let's talk about these strikes to start off with. We understand that there were 30-odd strikes over the course of Thursday, Friday.
Do we know what impact they've had or, indeed whether they were successful in their targets?
IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I know what we are hearing from the Pentagon is that they were targeting a number of Al Qaeda infrastructure in Yemen, going after weapons, going after statehouses, going after militants.
Also as you said that one high-value target was also hit although we do not know who that was or if that target was killed.
These over 30 airstrikes is a strong uptick in the airstrikes that we have seen. If you compare it to 2016, there were a few dozen airstrikes taken place by the United States. So this shows a shift, if you will, of the United States' role targeting Al Qaeda in Yemen, Al Qaeda, this branch known as being one of the most capable branches of the terror organization.
HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES: Ian, is there a sense that this mission is going to finish the efforts of January?
There was that raid, some described it as a failed mission. Others said it was a great success.
Perhaps the intelligence retreat from that has led to the airstrikes we are seeing today?
LEE: Well, what we are hearing from the Pentagon telling CNN is that these strikes and these targets have been planned for before that mission in late January, where they were targeting Al Qaeda. They were targeting sort of an intelligence gathering mission.
That did have some drastic consequences, where that Navy SEAL was killed. Other Navy SEALs were injured and they lost that airplane.
But these strikes that were taking place were targeting Al Qaeda in the south central parts of the country in regions known as Bayda, Shabwah and Abyan. And Al Qaeda has taken advantage of the chaos that has taken place in Yemen during this civil war that we're seeing, between Houthi rebels and the government forces of Mansour Hadi.
And so they have been able extend -- also ISIS is there, so expect this to be the beginning of a larger military operation. At least that's what it looks --
LEE: -- like now -- Hannah.
HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES: What about the reaction from the Middle East and countries like Yemen, indeed around it?
What reaction have they had to U.S. involvement there?
LEE: Well, these airstrikes are deeply controversial in Yemen and they have been for quite some time because there are times you do get collateral damage and people if Yemen say that's this is something that is unacceptable. I'm not saying that they support Al Qaeda but the fact that these drone strikes have again killed civilians.
We haven't we heard really much reaction from other parts of the Middle East. We do know that President Mansour Hadi's government knew these airstrikes were taking place.
Although they did say after that raid last January that they were not going to allow the United States to conduct anti-terror operations on the ground in Yemen.
HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES: Ian, good to talk to you Ian Lee there, live from a very busy lunchtime traffic set up there in Cairo. Thank you very much, indeed.
Now 12 civilians are being treated for injuries from a suspected chemical attack in the Iraqi city of Mosul. The Red Cross says their symptoms are consistent with a blistering chemical agent.
Meanwhile, 46,000 people have fled Western Mosul just this past week. The offensive against ISIS drags on, up to 800,000 people remain trapped in the city. A team of U.S. medics is helping casualties from the fighting. Ben Wedeman reports. But a warning, before we show this report, you may find some of the images included in this report disturbing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got 100 of Tramadol and 75 of Ketamine.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Scorched by the flames from a suicide car bomb, an Iraqi soldier lies in shock and pain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a wet -- we'll -- I'll do a layer of wet first.
WEDEMAN (voice-over): Medics at this frontline clinic struggle to stabilize him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we're going to get him on that same helicopter?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Is that something -- it might not be too late. He's going to call me back. He might not be able to get out of here for 30 minutes.
WEDEMAN (voice-over): This volunteer group, New York City Medics, is working just a 10-minute drive from the battle for Western Mosul.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go ahead, (INAUDIBLE). Grab his arm. Make sure he's OK.
WEDEMAN (voice-over): Most have never been in a war zone. They treated only one civilian while we were there, a little girl with a toothache. Her family fled Mosul earlier that morning. The rest were soldiers, many with multiple wounds.
Jeff Evans normally works in Boulder, Colorado.
JEFF EVANS, MEDIC: So that guy had a gunshot wound right under his arm, like right below his armpit and I think he's actually escaped from it penetrating his lung. So I think it bounced down into his gut. But I mean, that's a critical patient, you know.
The first thing he said was, I don't want to die. I want to be able to go fight again.
WEDEMAN (voice-over): Some of the injured here are coming straight from the battlefield.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is shrapnel.
WEDEMAN (voice-over): Here they check their wounds...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) here too.
WEDEMAN (voice-over): -- change their bandages and send them on to the nearest hospital. The team comes from all over the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, Sorry, sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put a little bit of water on it. OK.
WEDEMAN (voice-over): The head doctor from Germany.
Jeff left behind his wife and 11-year-old son to come here.
EVANS: I think as a father and as a husband, that the onus is on me to live through example and to do things that show my son how important it is to live, in a way, a selfless life. WEDEMAN (voice-over): A selfless live, saving lives, a very long way
from home -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, south of Mosul.
HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES: A slow-moving and powerful tropical cyclone is brewing off the coast of Madagascar.
HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES: An energy executive is sparking questions on Capitol Hill and in the media.
Who is Carter Page?
The former Trump campaign adviser was grilled by CNN's Anderson Cooper. We will bring that to you just ahead.
Plus: another blow to Francois Fillon's presidential bid. Why a rally at the Eiffel Tower may be the French presidential hopeful's last stand. That's all just ahead.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. It's always good to have you with us. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.
HOWELL: We're continuing to follow this story out of London. Tear gas could have caused the evacuation of that city's airport Friday. Officials say they found that can of CS gas spray. We'll continue to follow that. If we hear more information from officials about what happened.
Moving on now, the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, appears to be walking back comments that he made about his country possibly separating from a long-time ally, the United States.
In Beijing Thursday, Mr. Duterte seemed to suggest that he would sever economic and military ties with the U.S. But at a news conference on Friday, he insisted that will not happen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RODRIGO DUTERTE, PRESIDENT, THE PHILIPPINES: It's not severance of ties. With severance of ties, you cut the diplomatic relations. I cannot do that.
Why? It's in the best interest of my country that we maintain that relationship.
Because there remain Filipinos in the United States or Americans of Filipino ancestry.
Because the people of my country is not ready to accept a separation. What I was really saying was separation of a foreign policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: CNN's Will Ripley was at that news conference with President Duterte and now joins us from his hometown in Davao City.
Will, let's first talk about the president's comments. He said one thing; he's now saying another.
What more can you tell us about what seems to be damage control and the fallout from it?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And we saw that damage control, George, happening from officials here in the Philippines, even when President Duterte was still in China, saying that the Philippines doesn't intend to walk away from any of its longstanding treaties with the United States.
But yet, the anti-American rhetoric from the president here continued. At one point, he told American officials that they could go to hell. It's language that's very troubling for some Filipinos but others are on their president's side.
RIPLEY (voice-over): A slice of Americana in the middle of Manila, serving up burgers, fries and friendship between the U.S. and the Philippines.
DUTERTE: I announce my separation from the United States.
RIPLEY: A 70-year bond the new Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte seems ready to break in exchange for billions in trade, tourism and low interest lows from China.
Vicente Sia says his new president's anti-American rhetoric doesn't sit well with him.
VICENTE SIA, BUSINESS MANAGER: I am very disappointed that he wants to cut the ties with the America and pairing to the relationship with China.
RIPLEY: He doesn't understand why Duterte is so willing to overlook China's aggressive claim to most of the South China Sea. A recent poll found most Filipinos have little trust in China and much trust in the United States.
So by pivoting towards China and away from the U.S., the Philippines populist president seems to be out of sync with many of the people who got him elected.
Near one of the Philippines largest Roman Catholic churches, a marketplace full of Duterte's key demographics, working-class Filipinos, usually more than happy to speak on camera about their president.
RIPLEY (on camera): Ask you about Duterte, President Duterte.
RIPLEY (voice-over): The silence, a sign of the divisive tone of Duterte's presidency. Locals say anyone who openly criticizes Duterte is swiftly and sometimes viciously attacked.
RIPLEY (on camera): What do you think when he said he wants to separate from America?
MARISA LAGUITAN, STREET VENDOR: I don't think so. It's better to be friends than enemies.
RIPLEY (voice-over): A street vendor, Marisa Laguitan, worries that the president's word could hurt her country, poverty, crime and lack of infrastructure continue to plague this nation of 110 million.
Ian Dulay says he's proud of his president for taking a stand against the U.S., even when Duterte used vulgar language to describe President Obama.
RIPLEY (on camera): What do you think when he uses language like son of a whore when talking about the American president?
IAN DULAY, CALL CENTER EMPLOYEE: Well, I have nothing against that. It doesn't matter what you say, it's how you say it. But he is just being real.
RIPLEY: Do you worry he can provoke other countries by being so real?
DULAY: It doesn't really matter. It's about standing up for your people.
RIPLEY (voice-over): The same people who stand to win or lose from Duterte's risky power play between the world's superpowers.
HOWELL: Will Ripley, again, joining us live.
Will, it was interesting to hear the opinions of people about the president that they elected to office. But let's also talk about his unscripted, many times derogatory comments that are made.
What can you tell us about your experience to be in that hall, in that news conference, and to ask questions of --
HOWELL: -- President Duterte?
RIPLEY: It was very interesting being in the room last night, George, and seeing and experiencing how people react to President Duterte. It was overwhelmingly the Filipino press corps. And these are people that listen to him say a lot of things. And in the course of one answer about the European Union, he used the F word, the B word and the A word, all in three different sentences.
And then he kind of gave almost a little smile and the room broke out in laughter. It's almost as if people are so accustomed to this type of coarse language from Duterte that they think he's joking.
One person gave me the analogy, he's like the crazy uncle that says something outrageous at the dinner table and everybody just awkwardly looks down at their plate.
But it's not just the coarse language. At one point, a young female reporter asked him a question and he actually turned and said, "Hold on a minute, I want to look at you."
And then all the eyes in the room turned to this young woman. And she was standing there quite uncomfortably for several seconds before he started to answer. And keep in mind, people do admire very much his popularity ratings are very high here. Above 80 percent, close to 90 percent. They admire the civic programs that he has championed. They think he's working to crack down on crime and corruption in this country.
But he has essentially given police officers here a license to shoot to kill without trial and he's even accused of having death squads in Davao City where I am right now. So certainly a controversial figure and opinions very divided here.
HOWELL: Controversial indeed. CNN's Will Ripley live for us in Davao City, Will, thank you for the reporting.
At least 70 people are dead and 300 others injured after a packed passenger train derailed in Cameroon. Rescue workers pulled dozens of people from the overturned cars.
That train was traveling between the capital city and Cameroon's economic hub. It is still unclear what caused this accident. Eight extra cars were added earlier to that train in order to accommodate extra passengers.
Venezuela's opposition leader is accusing the government of a coup d'etat. He made the claim after the country's election council halted a petition to hold a referendum to recall President Nicolas Maduro. Federal courts said many signatures on the petition were fraudulent.
The opposition coalition tweeted that the decision deepened the crisis that that country is experiencing.
It could be one of the biggest mergers of the decade. We will tell you who's in talks to buy CNN's parent company, TimeWarner. Stay with us.
HOWELL: Welcome back to NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.
There are reports that telecommunications giant AT&T is in talks to buy TimeWarner. That is the parent company of CNN.
There's speculation that a deal could come as soon as this weekend. CNN's Brian Stelter has more now on what could happen if this merger goes through.
BRIAN STELTER, CNNMONEY SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, yes, this could be one of the biggest media mergers of the decade. We're talking about AT&T. One of the biggest wireless providers in the United States potentially coming together with TimeWarner, the parent company of CNN, HBO and Warner Brothers.
Now right now neither side is commenting on these talks. But according to "The Wall Street Journal" and Bloomberg, which began to report about this possibility on Thursday, these talks are now very serious and a deal could be struck as early as Monday.
According to "The Journal," there is desire to get this done by Monday morning because AT&T is concerned about other potential bidders for TimeWarner.
So let me unpack what's going on here. You might remember a couple of years ago, Rupert Murdoch made a big for TimeWarner. He, of course, is the owner of 21st Century Fox, one of TimeWarner's biggest rivals. He made an $85-a-share bid for TimeWarner in the summer of 2014, which was rejected at the time.
Now senior sources back then indicated there would be interest in other bidders in a couple of years. And now here we are, a couple years later and TimeWarner is at least unofficially on the block, up for sale.
The TimeWarner CEO, Jeff Bewkes, is reportedly a willing seller at the right price. And what we don't know is what the right price could be. TimeWarner's stock was trading right around $80 before these reports on Thursday and is has bumped up closer to $90 as of Friday afternoon.
And presumably a bid from AT&T would be somewhere above that $90 price range. Now this is interesting because TimeWarner, as I mentioned, it owns CNN, HBO, Warner Brothers, a number of cable channels. It is a pure play video company, morning what it provides is news and entertainment through television and through the Internet. And that's something that's very valuable to companies like AT&T,
Google, Apple and others. AT&T very specifically has a huge wireless business but wants to own more of the content that people consume through their iPhones and through other devices.
So that's why AT&T is making this effort right now and companies like Apple are keeping a close eye on it. They could very well enter this fray, try to make their own play for TimeWarner in the hours and days to come -- back to you.
HOWELL: Police say that a white powder that was sent to Hillary Clinton's campaign offices in New York has tested negative for harmful substances.
An envelope filled with that powder was delivered to Clinton's campaign headquarters in Manhattan. It was then sent to her Brooklyn campaign headquarters, which was then evacuated. Four staffers were examined by doctors. All are OK. Police are also investigating this incident.
People around the world are closely following the U.S. election and some are drawing a comparison between Donald Trump and the president of Nigeria. Our David McKenzie has more on that.
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the weekend market in Abuja, Nigeria, a (INAUDIBLE) vendor, Ibrahim Mohammed, has followed every American election since George Bush Sr. He says business and politics shouldn't mix.
"Trump is a business person." he says.
"He learned how to trade. He's a trader. If he wants to be a politician, he should learn politics."
As for Trump's sexist comments, Muhammad has a unique suggestion.
"If Trump wants to say he doesn't respect woman," he said, "he should go and divorce his wife and marry a man like him."
But here in Nigeria, just like all around the world, people are focusing on the American elections. And there's also parallels. Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari said that his wife belongs in his kitchen.
MUHAMMADU BUHARI, PRESIDENT OF NIGERIA: A woman should know her place.
MCKENZIE (voice-over): Aduma Edwa (ph) says Nigeria's first lady shouldn't comment on politics.
But Hillary Clinton's place, she says, is --
MCKENZIE (voice-over): -- in the White House.
ADUMA EDWA (PH), NIGERIAN RESIDENT: For the first time in the history of America, a woman is coming out and positively to represent not only the womenfolk but probably anybody who is democratic in nature.
MCKENZIE (voice-over): We did find one Trump supporter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).
MCKENZIE: Think he's all right?
MCKENZIE (voice-over): Two supporters in fact. Austin Mohama (ph) says one President Clinton was just enough.
MCKENZIE: Who do you think is going to win the elections?
AUSTIN MOHAMA (PH), NIGERIAN RESIDENT: Oh, for me, I give it to Trump.
MCKENZIE (voice-over): Abuja sits in the middle of Nigeria's Muslim north and Christian south. Muhammad Sijir (ph) says Trump's talk of banning Muslims is just that: talk.
Still, God willing, he says, Hillary Clinton will defeat Trump.
"Some say God is exactly what America needs right now."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Must pray for them.
MCKENZIE (voice-over): David McKenzie, CNN, Abuja, Nigeria.
HOWELL: He says let's pray for us. November 8th, that will be the day that this election is decided.
Still ahead, he's got movie star looks, bright green eyes that some say are even hypnotic. And now a tea seller in Pakistan has fans around the world. We'll introduce you to him as CNN NEWSROOM continues.
HOWELL: In Pakistan, a tea seller is burning up the Internet and he's winning fans all over the world. Robin Curnow has this story for us.
ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From chaiwala to overnight Internet sensation, Arshad Khan, an 18-year-old tea vendor in Islamabad, was catapulted to fame after a photographer posted this shot of him on Instagram last Sunday along with the caption, "Hot tea."
The photo instantly went viral, not just in Pakistan but also in India and London, generating thousands of likes, shares and comments, with many admirers swooning over Khan's good looks and piercing eyes.
ARSHAD KHAN, TEA VENDOR (through translator): Just this morning, boys and girls are coming and showing me the picture and making videos of me. That's how I found out about it.
CURNOW (voice-over): Khan says he's flattered but a little baffled by all the attention.
KHAN (through translator): I was very happy but I didn't know how this happened or who took the picture or how it went so far. So I got quite worried. It was all very baffling.
CURNOW (voice-over): All the attention, though, has paid off handsomely for Khan. In less than a week, he's already landed a modeling contract and there's even talk of a possible film career.
KHAN (through translator): I haven't thought about movies because it's not been done by anyone in our family. If I can find some clean, honorable work, I will certainly do it.
CURNOW (voice-over): And thanks to social media, he may never have to serve another cup of tea again -- Robin Curnow, CNN.
HOWELL: From tea to the Internet.
We thank you for joining us. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. For our viewers in the United States, "NEW DAY" is next. And for other viewers around the world, the "BEST OF QUEST" starts in a moment. Thank you for watching CNN, the world's news leader.