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WORLD RIGHT NOW WITH HALA GORANI

Report: Putin Directly Involved In Disrupting Election; E.U. Leaders Balk At May's Offer For Europeans In U.K.; Arab Nations Accuse Qatar Of Terrorism Ties; North Korea Denies Otto Warmbier Torture Claims; Major Developments in Russia Investigation; E.U. Citizens in U.K. Struggle with Uncertainty; Grenfell Tower Fire Leaves Lasting Scars on City. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired June 23, 2017 - 15:00   ET

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


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[15:00:37]

(HEADLINES)

CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everybody. Thank you for joining us. I'm Cyril Vanier filling in for Hala Gorani today, and this is THE WORLD RIGHT

NOW.

So a blockbuster "Washington Post" story details the CIA's discovery last year that Russian President Vladimir Putin himself was orchestrating a

cybercampaign to defeat Hillary Clinton in the U.S. presidential election and helped Donald Trump win.

It takes us behind the scenes of the Obama administration as the then president weighed how to respond. Barack Obama pretty much failed to stop

the Russian leader for trying to influence the election outcome.

Drawing on conversations with dozens of high-level officials, this report says that Barack Obama at the time approved only modest measures to censor

President Putin and did so after the election was over.

The Trump campaign meanwhile was once again quick to dismiss the idea that Russia influenced the outcome of the 2016 election. Here's Kellyanne

Conway speaking earlier to CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The president has said previously and we got confirmation out from Jeh Johnson, Adam

Schiff, Dan Coats, Jim Comey, Mike Rogers, that there is no evidence of collusion, number one.

And number two, that this didn't have an impact on the electoral result. I think it's very important to show no nexus has been proven between what

Russia or any other foreign government tried to do in the actual election result.

Really the only person making that case prominently is Hillary Clinton. And you've got everyone saying that there is no nexus that not a single

vote was changed, and we're going to stand by that.

We know that Donald Trump won fairly and squarely, 306 electoral votes. It had nothing to do with interference.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: One of the journalists who wrote "The Washington Post" article joins me now. Greg Miller, he is the "Post's" national security

correspondent. Greg, it's great to have you with us today. Fantastic story you wrote.

One of the quotes that really leapt out at me was from an Obama administration official who tells -- who says I feel this is -- from all my

time in government, this is one of the hardest things to defend. I feel we choked. In your assessment, do you think the Obama administration choked

on this?

GREG MILLER, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, "WASHINGTON POST": Nice try. That's not my job to answer that question, but I can tell you that that's a

sentiment that we found was shared by many former senior Obama administration officials.

That it took them too long to grasp the scoop and scale and enormity of this attack by Russia to appreciate the magnitude and the ambition, and

that they were too resistant or reluctant to take measures out of a real focus on risks that turned out to be largely unfounded.

VANIER: It feels reading your story that Barack Obama felt he had his hands tied, partly because he didn't want to appear to be making any sort

of political decisions during what was the final stretch at the time of the presidential campaign.

MILLER: Yes, and I think that's a legitimate thing. I think his critics would say, well, he's the one who did some of that tying of his own hands.

He got tied up in knots even to some extent. He was really -- before the election worried that taking strong action against Russia might provoke an

escalation from Putin.

That Russia might then mount an even greater attack trying to undermine Election Day voting or something like that. But the Obama team was also

preoccupied with politics. They were really worried about being accused of political interference during this volatile race. And so they let that

consideration also dictate how they responded.

VANIER: Ultimately, did they feel -- because they thought of a number of ways that they could retaliate and a lot more forcefully than what they

ended up doing against Vladimir Putin. One of them was taking decisions that would, in the words of your article, crater the Russian economy. They

chose not to. Why? Were they afraid of consequences?

[15:05:05]MILLER: Well, clearly before the election, they ruled all of that out. Not willing to take any punitive measures, and then afterward, I

think the outcome of the election was a real shock to the system. I think that there was an assumption throughout this whole period that Hillary

would win.

That was a well-grounded assumption in the polls throughout the campaign, and that there would be time to deal with this Russian interference. If

the Obama team couldn't finish that job that the incoming Clinton administration certainly could.

So instead, they suddenly find themselves handing over power to a Trump administration that doesn't take any of this seriously. That dismisses all

the intelligence or even the idea that there is a Russian role in this interference.

I would not one thing, though, that you know, one of the things we really learned and uncovered in our reporting of this is that the measures that

Obama announced in late December were not the end of the story.

There was a secret component to those measures that we reveal for the first time in our piece today. Obama ordered his spy agencies to start seeding

or planting cyberweapons in Russia's infrastructure or networks as a way of giving the United States some way to detonate those devices if it comes to

an escalating cyberexchange with Moscow down the road.

VANIER: I don't know if it's possible to answer this next question, but how big a threat is that? I mean, how much leverage do you think that

gives them depending on what it is they actually planted in there?

MILLER: I know and honestly, that's a huge question. It would be very hard to know. It wasn't designed to give them leverage. I think that this

was -- this was a part of the package that the Obama team absolutely did not announce and was intended to keep secret.

But it was there to preserve -- to enable or create a capability so that the United States if it needed to at some point, would have some devices

that it could detonate to cause serious damage.

VANIER: One more thing from your story, you reveal, as I read it, another red line that Obama failed to enforce really after the Syria one is that he

spoke one on one with Vladimir Putin and he said to him -- again this is from your story -- we know what you're doing. This was before the U.S.

election, we know what you're doing, stop it or else. But then he didn't enforce that or not very much.

MILLER: I think that the Obama team would say, that warning actually worked because by that time, all of the e-mails that Russia had stolen from

Democratic computer networks that had already been turned over to Wikileaks, that damage was done.

The worry at that point was, is Russia going to mount a real attempt to disrupt Election Day? And that didn't happen. So many Obama officials

think, well, that's because they were warned. Obama does take that step to put Putin aside.

But I don't think anybody really believes that overall, the punishment came close to fitting the crime or served as any kind of serious deterrent to

Russian aggression in the future.

VANIER: All right, Greg Miller from "The Washington Post," thank you very much. Congratulations on your hard work and I certainly recommend that our

viewers read that story. It fills in a lot of the details of what was the Obama administration's thinking at the time when it was making those

decisions.

Let's bring in CNN contributor, Jill Dougherty in Moscow. She's going to give us a bit of the Russian perspective. Also with us is White House

reporter, Stephen Collinson. He joins me from our Washington bureau.

Jill, first of all, I'd like perhaps to get to the reaction of the Russians with you. I think you may have seen this. CNN tried to get in touch with

the Russian Foreign Ministry to find out how they were reacting to this and they answered in a text message, the show must go on. Did you see that?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, correct. In fact, that is not, let's say, unexpected because in essence, that's kind of a dismissal, funny

dismissal, perhaps, of all of this. And that's pretty much in line with what the kremlin, the Foreign Ministry, and other Russian officials have

been doing for the past few months.

After these investigations and constant stories about the allegations as they would put it of hacking and interfering, essentially they've stopped

trying to debate any specific points. What they say is this is, as President Putin himself said, political hysteria.

It's gone -- America has gone crazy, and so what they do is basically dismiss it. So the show must go on, I interpret as being just kind of --

it's a big show. It's a big farce, and we're not even going to pay attention.

I can tell you, though, Cyril, that Russian media have been picking up quite a bit on this, what you were just talking about the weapons

implanted, the cyberweapons implanted into the Russian system.

[15:10:02]The Russian media have been going to town on that because, course, it's very attractive and interesting to say that perhaps, you know,

the United States could eventually cause real havoc in the Russian infrastructure or something like that.

So they are going into those details. They're not going in very much, interestingly, to the really important point about the information about

President Putin coming from deep within the kremlin itself according to "The Washington Post."

VANIER: The fact said American intelligence has sources on Putin apparently.

DOUGHERTY: Right. And I think that -- you know, it could be embarrassing, certainly very disturbing and that's not being accented. It's out there.

It's mentioned but then the really, you know, thing that's getting a lot of attention are those implants. The cyberimplants, as they were called.

VANIER: Stephen Collinson over to you, our White House reporter for CNN. I have to ask you a question I asked Greg Miller. In your assessment did

the White House choke on this?

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: I think there are, as Greg said, people who were in the Obama administration who would agree with that

assessment. I think there are several mitigating factors not just the fact that the President Obama at that time was under intense political pressure

not to be seen to be throwing the election toward Hillary Clinton.

There was a real thought inside the White House that this wasn't perhaps serious as it might be because Hillary Clinton was such a hot favorite to

win reelection. And I think that issue of the alleged source, possibly inside the kremlin, someone close to Putin, is also very important.

I think there was thinking at the time that to reveal too much could put that source in jeopardy. It's often been said that the United States

government has difficulty getting real insight into exactly what Putin thinks sort of deep in the kremlin. So I'm sure that was a consideration,

too.

But in retrospect and having seen how this unfolded, and having seen how Donald Trump, the current president, has not taken this issue that

seriously, there were certainly Obama administration officials who think, man, we should have done a lot more about this.

VANIER: Because the irony of this is that if the Obama administration didn't want to interfere because -- for fear of letting people think it was

interfering politically, then it let a foreign country do that, which does not have good intentions towards the U.S.?

COLLINSON: That's a good point and I think there is increasing concern in Washington on Capitol Hill, even among Republicans in the sort of community

of officials and the intelligence community that Russia, because of politics, is going to get away completely scot-free.

The Obama administration, because of politics, was reluctant to intervene, do more to stop this hacking of the election. The Trump administration,

because of its own political reasons, we've got this inquiry into alleged links and collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

We have this fact that President Trump seems to see any question about Russian interference in the election as a political attempt to deny him

legitimacy in the White House itself.

So for these political reasons, it seems very unlikely that serious efforts is going to be made not just to punish Russia for what it supposedly did in

2016, but to take -- or to make efforts to make sure that it cannot do it in the future election.

There are already Republicans on Capitol Hill saying in two or three years, Putin might see it in his interest to pull down a Republican Party

candidate, and if we don't say something about it and do something about it now, we'll have no right to complain when that happens.

VANIER: Jill, last one to you, is Moscow rubbing its hands thinking, well, we got away with this?

DOUGHERTY: I don't think so necessarily. I think the question would be, what did they learn that maybe we don't understand? Maybe there was

something in this with the hacking that they found that was extremely valuable and could be used in the future. So that's, to me, on the side,

is a possibility.

But overall, what it engendered is a much worse relationship with Russia and the United States. A series of investigations that don't show any sign

of ending soon. Certainly sanctions continuing, and a lot of different things that probably the kremlin never maybe expected or certainly wanted

from Candidate Donald Trump.

So in a sense it backfired, but I do think that there is a possibility that they certainly knew a lot about the system, learned a lot about the

American system and that might be very useful to them in the future.

[15:15:01]VANIER: All right, thanks to both of you, Jill Dougherty in Moscow and Stephen Collinson in Washington. And I should add this that we

found out today from the White House that Donald Trump may have a face-to- face meeting with the Russian President Vladimir Putin as early as next month on the sidelines of the G20 Summit.

Brexit negotiations officially started five days ago and perhaps unsurprisingly, they have hit a sticking point on one of the most important

issues, how to protect the rights of European citizens living in the U.K.

British Prime Minister Theresa May laid out her proposal, allow E.U. citizens to stay in Britain and enjoy benefits, but there is a cut-off date

for when they can get that status.

And another controversial point, will a European court or British courts enforce the rights of E.U. citizens? European leaders are calling the

proposal insufficient. Angela Merkel said we have a long way to go, and Donald Tusk, he gave this pretty icy response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TUSK, PRESIDENT OF THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL: My first impression is that the U.K.'s offer is below our expectations and is worsens the

situation of citizens. But it will be for our negotiating team to analyze the offer line by line once we receive it on paper.

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: This is a fair and serious offer. Let's be clear about what we're saying. What we're saying is that those

citizens from the E.U. countries, who have come to the United Kingdom, who've made their lives and homes in the United Kingdom, will be able to

stay and we will guarantee their rights in the United Kingdom.

I think that's a very serious offer. There are some differences between that and the proposal of the European Commission put out, and the matter

will now go into negotiations. I've said all along that I wanted this issue of citizens' rights to be one of the first issues addressed in the

formal negotiations and indeed it will be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: Our Erin McLaughlin has been following the talks in Brussels. She has this report.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Below expectations, those are the words used to describe the U.K.'s offer on citizens. This is the top

priority for the E.U. in the Brexit negotiations. What happens to the 4.5 million citizens living both in the U.K. and the E.U., the status of which

is now (inaudible) because of Brexit?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called this initial proposal, quote, "a good start." The president of the European Commission, Jean Claude

Juncker, said it's not sufficient. It's echoed by what we heard from the Belgian prime minister who said, quote, "We will not buy a cat in a sack."

The E.U. citizens' right will have to be guaranteed on a long term basis. Sentiments echoed again by (inaudible), the chief Brexit negotiator for the

E.U. Parliament saying on Twitter, quote, "Hopefully the U.K. position paper expected on Monday will deliver what we are looking for."

Members of the European Parliament's perceptions in all of this extremely important. The parliament has veto power over any final Brexit deal.

Theresa May, for her part, insisting repeatedly on Friday that this is both a fair and serious offer.

The full paper from the U.K. on citizens is expected to be released on -- out of Downing Street on Monday. Erin McLaughlin, CNN, Brussels.

VANIER: While politicians talk, fight, and negotiate, real people are struggling with the painful uncertainty of Brexit. Later this hour, we'll

hear from E.U. citizens living in the U.K. We'll hear about their concerns and the activists fighting for their rights.

But first, we'll take a short break. A countdown for Qatar when we come back. The Gulf nation is reportedly given a list of demands from its not-

so-friendly neighbors. We'll break it down with CNN's Fareed Zakaria.

Also coming up, North Korea weighs in on the death of an American student, who died just days after being released by Pyongyang. We'll have the

details when THE WORLD RIGHT NOW continues.

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[15:21:05]

VANIER: The clock is ticking for Qatar after four Arab states have reportedly handed over an ultimatum. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and

Egypt are demanding 13 concessions from their neighbor. Those countries severed diplomatic relations with Qatar earlier this month.

Reuters news agency says the demands include shutting down the Al Jazeera News Channel and all affiliated channels, cutting ties to extremist

organizations, reducing diplomatic ties with Iran crucially, and halting military cooperation with Turkey. This list says Qatar has ten days to

comply.

We are joined by Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN's "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS." Fareed, it's very difficult to imagine. I don't see how you can contrive a

scenario where Qatar is going to comply with this list of demands.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": The way that the Saudis look at this, they have regarded Qatar as an annoyance forever. They

regard Qatar as the small, meaningless satellite country that existed for most of its time in Saudi Arabia's shadow.

And then things changed about ten years ago, partly a result of the rising price and import of natural gas, Qatar became a player in its own right.

The Saudis have never really accepted this.

So they are going to try as hard as they can to put Qatar back in a box. But you're right, it's difficult to imagine that Qatar will simply, quietly

do that.

VANIER: Yes, out of the box. And Al Jazeera, for instance, one of the list of demands is shutting down Al Jazeera. It is such a big part of

Qatar's identity.

ZAKARIA: You know, what happened over the last 10, 12 years is Qatar decided who is going to play a more active rule on the world stage fueled

in part by rising natural gas revenues. And Al Jazeera was perhaps at the center of that and they became known for it.

The work-up became another piece of that. The way in which they've engaged in a whole bunch of charitable -- it is their soft power partly because

they can't have any hard power.

They are wealthy, but they are -- they do exist militarily, entirely in the shadow of Saudi Arabia. And to complicate matters further, they share

their biggest and most important gas field with Iran.

So they've always had to play a game of being, you know, not too hostile to Iran. And that, of course, is the key to understanding why Saudi Arabia is

so upset with Qatar.

VANIER: The Saudis are adamant that Qatar has ties to extremism. How true is that? Is it true at all?

ZAKARIA: It's entirely true. It is also however true that Saudi Arabia has ties to terrorism. Here's how it works. When the Syrian civil war

began, when Assad's regime started -- not crumble perhaps, but started to face these pressures, a number of Sunni jihadi groups or Sunni militant

groups started to enter Syria to try to topple the Assad regime.

Saudi Arabia funded a bunch of them. Turkey funded a bunch of them. Qatar funded a bunch of them. Usually different ones because they each have

their favorite Islamic militant groups. By our standards they'd all be Islamic militant, quasi terrorist organizations in the sense that they are

brutal.

They are mostly fanatically Sunni. They engage in what we would regard as terror tactics. I have not seen any evidence to suggest that the ones

Qatar funds in any way more militant of more jihadi than the ones Saudi Arabia funds.

VANIER: One last night, coming back to Al Jazeera, last week, Hala Gorani interviewed the Saudi foreign minister and asked him whether their whole

beef with Qatar was about Al Jazeera. This is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Did it also have to do with the support for the Muslim Brotherhood or Al Jazeera, the television news

network that some would say perhaps has some sympathies or some sort of editorial bias towards some of the groups that you don't agree with?

ADEL AL-JUBIER, SAUDI FOREIGN MINISTER: I don't believe that's true. Kuwait has an independent policy. Oman has an independent policy and they

are free to pursue those, but the issue with Qatar has to do with support for violent extremist groups.

[15:25:08]Some of the groups they support in Syria. The Muslim Brotherhood that they support is violent and is classified and has committed atrocities

in Egypt. Their support for, or their payment to ransom to militias in Iraq is not acceptable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: I supposed the opting is just a few days ago that Saudi Arabia was telling CNN that this has nothing to do with Al Jazeera and now it features

on one of their handful of demands that are made to Qatar.

ZAKARIA: Well, you can tell that they are in a sense inventing reasons, but at the core of this, it's geopolitical. Saudi Arabia wants a compliant

Qatar. It wants to be able to dominate the Gulf and it wants a unified anti-Iranian policy. Qatar is the outlier. They are trying to do it now.

The interesting question is, why now? I think there are two things. One, Saudi Arabia looks at natural gas prices, which are falling, and it thinks

this is a good time to squeeze Qatar. Qatar may not be able to withstand this pressure because their revenues have been collapsing as price of

natural gas has gone down.

The second is Donald Trump. Donald Trump went to Riyadh and essentially endorsed the Saudi world view, Saudi regional policy. It was

extraordinary. No president had ever done that. The United States always played the equal -- you know, trying to maintain equal ties with all groups

in the oil countries in the Middle East.

By so endorsing the Saudi mindset and world view, I think it emboldened Saudi Arabia and it emboldened those in Saudi Arabia, who thought, this is

our moment. The Americans have given us a card flash. Natural gas prices are low. Let's squeeze Qatar. The question is, will it work?

VANIER: CNN's Fareed Zakaria, thank you so much for coming on the show. Thanks.

ZAKARIA: A pleasure.

VANIER: And Al Jazeera has responded now, it says the call to shut it down is an attempt to silence freedom of expression. Here's the statement from

the network, "We assert our right to practice our journalism professionally without bowing to pressure from any government or authority. And we demand

that the government respect the freedom of media to allow journalists to continue to do their jobs free of intimidation, threats and fear-

mongering."

The White House is also weighing in saying the Gulf dispute with Qatar is what it call, quote, "A family issue."

Let's turn to North Korea now, Pyongyang denies that it tortured American student, Otto Warmbier, while they had him detention. Warmbier died

earlier this week, just a few day after he was returned to the U.S. in a coma. His family is blaming Pyongyang. Paula Hancocks has the latest from

Seoul.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: North Korea is hitting back at widespread condemnation over the death of American student, Otto

Warmbier, saying in state run media that his death is, quote, "a mystery to us as well."

Warmbier was detained and imprisoned in North Korea for 17 months. He's believed to have been in a coma for at least 14 of those months before

being flown back to the United States just last week passing away just days ago.

Now the Warmbier family has said that they blame North Korea for his state. They say that the torturous mistreatment of their son while in detention

was the reason for his death.

What we're hearing from Pyongyang this Friday is that they say they deny all allegations of torture. They say that these accusations are

groundless. They also claim that they treated Warmbier in accordance with domestic law.

Now this comes just one day after Warmbier's funeral and it also comes while there are increasing questions as to exactly what happened. How did

Otto Warmbier slip into a coma while he was in detention in North Korea?

Pyongyang says he contracted botulism. He took a sleeping tablet and then slipped into a coma. But doctors in the U.S. say they found no evidence of

botulism.

They say that when he arrived, he had incurred significant brain damage and was in a state of unresponsive wakefulness. They say at this point it is

not clear how he came to be in that state. Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.

VANIER: Still to come this hour, much more in the investigation into Russia's interference in the U.S. election and whether the Trump campaign

played a role. A look back in a week of big developments with CNN's Michael Smerconish. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:31:47] VANIER: I'm back to our top story today, and that would be, as often, the Russia investigation that's casting a cloud over the White

House.

We're keeping track of all the developments. Here is what's happened just since the beginning of the week, in fact.

It started with confusion over whether President Donald Trump is personally under investigation for obstruction of justice. One of his new attorneys

hit the talk shows to clear things up, but he actually may have confused things even more.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: First of all, you've now said that he is being investigated after saying that you didn't --

JAY SEKULOW, PRIVATE ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No.

WALLACE: You just said, sir --

SEKULOW: No, I'm not saying he is being investigated.

WALLACE: You just said that he is being investigated.

SEKULOW: No, Chris. I said that the -- let me be crystal clear, so you completely understand. We have not received nor are we aware of any

investigation of the President of the United States.

WALLACE: Sir, you just said --

SEKULOW: Period. I'm --

WALLACE: -- two times that he's being investigated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: So we're not getting, actually, more information from the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, who's doing the investigating because he is not

commenting on the details of his investigation. But on Tuesday, a Senate Committee said it does expect to look at the President's actions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Political interference with an ongoing investigation, regardless of what the President's lawyer may say,

could make the President a target, a subject, a person of interest. And so our hearing will very much involve potential obstruction of justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: Also on Tuesday, a press briefing blackout was over, and a White House spokesman talked to reporters on camera for the first time in days.

But he ended up giving a series of non-answers. This one, in particular, raised some eyebrows.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just, very plainly, a yes or no answer. Does President Trump believe that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 elections?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I have not sat down and talked to him about that specific thing. Obviously, we've been dealing with a lot

of other issues today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: And the next day, a former top security official wanted to leave no doubt at all about Russia's interference when he testified on Capitol

Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEH JOHNSON, FORMER SECRETARY, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: In 2016, the Russian government, at the direction of Vladimir

Putin himself, orchestrated cyber attacks on our nation for the purpose of influencing our election. That is a fact, plain and simple.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: And then, of course, on Thursday, President Trump came clean about the tapes, admitting that he has no recordings of his conversations with

fired FBI Director James Comey.

So why did he float that idea in the first place? Well, here's what a White House spokeswoman told reporters, and by that time, the ban on

cameras was back on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I certainly think that the President would hope the former director would tell the

truth, but I think that it was more about, you know, raising the question of doubt in general.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: OK. A second ago, we showed you White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer unable to answer a question on whether Donald Trump, what he thinks

about Russian interference in the U.S. elections.

Now, Sean Spicer, it seems, has had a chance to talk to the President about it. Just a short time ago, he said the President stands by an earlier

comment that he does indeed believe Russia was involved in election-related hacking.

Add to all these today's story from "The Washington Post" about Barack Obama's handling of that election hacking, and you've got a lot to discuss

with CNN's Michael Smerconish.

[15:35:06] Michael, let's get to that story first. One other thing that surprises me most, if you take a step back and you look at the big picture,

is that the United States is the global hegemon. The most powerful country in the world, able to deploy lethal force across the country, you know, in

a matter of weeks, if it wants to go to Afghanistan, for instance.

And this time, its democratic system is hacked and it does this, which is expel 35 Russian diplomats, shut down two Russian compounds. I mean, it

doesn't seem like a lot.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: It doesn't, Cyril. And this "Washington Post" story is really a blockbuster and, as you point out, it just dropped

today. And the focus is the response by the Obama administration for the last several months of the election, at a time when they believed,

conclusively, that these Russian attempts at meddling were underway.

And what I took away from it -- it's a very lengthy story -- is that they were so preoccupied with the concern that any effort they would make to

respond would be perceived as partisan and might impact the election that they didn't pursue it perhaps the way that it should've been, which was as

a national security measure, as a national security action that here was President Vladimir Putin going after the most integral part of our

democratic society.

And so the response, as you point out, seems to have been pretty soft, when, in fact, they should have just handled it as the security threat that

it was.

VANIER: And, you know, I've also heard you talk about the toxic nature of politics and how partisan things are in the U.S. If you look into the

details of the story, you come upon this explanation, that the Barack Obama White House reached out to states ahead of the national presidential

election and said, look, let us help you secure your voting system. And a lot of the states didn't want to just because they didn't like the

administration.

SMERCONISH: There's a comment in the piece in "The Washington Post" from Congressman Adam Schiff that addresses that. And he said the fault on the

part of the Republicans is that they didn't want to accept this. Probably for partisan reasons, they pushed back against the information they were

being provided. And the fault on the part of the Democrats is that they didn't convince the country that this was serious, that this was a real

threat.

And as I read it, I couldn't help but wonder. If this had occurred 30 years ago, there used to be this mindset that we had our partisan

differences, that, in the United States, we were Republicans and we were Democrats, but that we were united against a common enemy.

But no longer, it seems, does our partisanship only extend to our nation's borders, in this particular case, the theoretical common enemy, Russia.

Instead, that wasn't a factor. That was trumped by our partisan divide, which I think is a very sad revelation.

VANIER: And it seems that the current President has little to no interest in following this up or taking any kind of action.

SMERCONISH: What's really interesting is that, at the tail end of the piece, it says that one of the actions taken is that implants ordered by

the NSA, a type of cyber warfare, was initiated by President Obama that could have long-standing impact, but that it can be undone by President

Trump.

And I think you're right in identifying the real question remains, what will President Trump now do armed with this information? And thus far, his

response has been to disregard it.

VANIER: Well, look, we got an insight into the President speaking recently. He gave one of his first interviews in quite a while. It was

with Fox News Channel.

And he was asked in particular about the Special Counsel who may or may not -- there's a question mark over it -- be investigating him right now. This

is what he had to say about Robert Mueller.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, he's very, very good friends with Comey, which is very bothersome, but he's also -- we're going

to have to see. I mean, we're going to see in terms -- look, there has been no obstruction. There has been no collusion.

There has been leaking by Comey, but there's been no collusion, no obstruction, and virtually everybody agrees to that. So we'll have to see.

I can say that the people that have been hired are all Hillary Clinton supporters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: So a few weeks ago, the President was attacking the then FBI Director James Comey. Now, he's attacking the man leading the special

investigation into the Russia meddling, Robert Mueller. What do you read into this?

SMERCONISH: Mueller has impeccable credentials. He's the former head of the FBI, like Jim Comey. I'm sure that they do have a professional

relationship.

But I think what the President is doing is planting seeds of doubt. So that if six months, if nine months from now, there's a report forthcoming

from Mueller that's critical of anyone associated with Trump, the President will turn around and say, well, I already addressed this. I told you I was

worried about their cozy relationship, and this is all part of a Democratic cabal.

[15:40:09] That's been part and parcel of the way that he has responded to all of these thus far, to portray it in partisan terms.

VANIER: Michael, just before I let you go, I want to get your word on this. Your take on a controversy involving celebrity Johnny Depp and the

White House. First, take a listen to what Johnny Depp said that has caused a lot of backlash.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNNY DEPP, ACTOR: When was the last time an actor assassinated a president?

(APPLAUSE)

DEPP: I want to clarify, I'm not an actor.

(LAUGHTER)

DEPP: I lie for a living.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: In his off camera briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer called this troubling. And he went on to point out a lack of outrage, saying

there's really a double standard when the threats are actually intended or directed at President Trump. Your view?

SMERCONISH: I think that what Johnny Depp said is appalling. I think that words have consequences. I think it's part of our coarsening dialogue here

in the United States.

And I do agree with Sean Spicer that people tend to look at these instances -- and there have been so many on Obama's watch and now on Trump's watch --

and they tend to look at them through partisan lenses. And if they like the criticism, they tend to remain silent. And if it's the other party

that's being targeted, they tend to speak out.

I think we should be unified in objecting to all of that type of conduct, especially when, as you know, we just had this horrific shooting incident

in the United States where Republican members of a baseball team were out at practice and a guy shows up and opens fire and, apparently, he was a

partisan. I think we all need to condemn violence and words that incite violence, regardless of where they come from.

VANIER: Michael, thank you so much for coming on the show. And you've got to catch Michael's show. "SMERCONISH," that's the name of it. It's

playing tomorrow, Saturday, 2:00 p.m. British Standard Time.

Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Thank you.

VANIER: This is THE WORLD RIGHT NOW. Coming up next, while Theresa May and the E.U. leaders bicker over the rights of Europeans living in Britain,

real people are suffering the consequences of Brexit. We'll hear from an activist fighting to protect them.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VANIER: As European leaders are balking at Theresa May's offer to protect the rights of E.U. citizens living in the U.K., 3 1/2 million people's

lives depend on these talks. We spoke to people from across Europe now living in Britain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLAUDIO ORIGONI, BANKER: So I was planning to probably think of buying a house, just put on hold. I mean, it's too risky right now to commit to

something so big, and maybe in six months from now, we'll have to move, or in one year. And, again, we work in a bank so our, basically, job depends

on what's going to happen.

[15:45:03] MARIA CANDIDA, SHOP OWNER: I'm here 23 years, you know. I've got my shop and I bought my house. And sometimes, I ask myself, what

happened?

DARIUS GATELIS, DECORATOR: Fifteen years. It was like, like, you know, we've been working here and building our lives here, so it formed us as the

persons that we are. And, you know, we're kind of -- we are, in a way, British, but now we feel kind of, you know, alienated somehow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: "We feel alienated somehow." More than 3 million E.U. citizens live in the U.K. and the largest contingent is from Poland. Citizens from

Ireland, Romania, and Portugal also lead the pack, according to the Office of National Statistics.

Let's talk more about this with Samia Badani. She's a board member with the group, New Europeans, which is also fighting to protect the rights of

E.U. citizens in the U.K.

You are a French national yourself?

SAMIA BADANI, BOARD MEMBER, NEW EUROPEANS: Yes, I am.

VANIER: Do you agree with what some of the groups, the representatives, have been saying that Theresa May's offer is pathetic?

BADANI: Not in so many words but very, very disappointed. I think the delivery was very poor. We've been under the impression that we would have

a generous offer, so it's nothing like a generous offer at all.

VANIER: But why? Because she says that anybody who's in this country now or who comes in this country relatively soon will be able to accrue rights

and ultimately have the same rights as British nationals.

BADANI: Well, with the exception that we already have that right to settle in the U.K., so it's nothing new. And I think what she missed is the fact

that our rights are not divisible. And the sort of agreement that we wanted is for our rights, all our E.U. citizenship rights, to be guaranteed

and that's not the case.

VANIER: But what are you afraid of for yourself, for instance? What would change?

BADANI: I'm settled here in the U.K., so, I mean, I never feared that I would be expelled from the country. But as a new citizen, I've got rights

to a family reunion.

VANIER: Yes.

BADANI: And as a new citizen, I'm treated differently from third country national.

VANIER: But Theresa May has said that she doesn't want any families to be separated, and she doesn't want any families that were planning to be

reunited not to be reunited, so --

BADANI: I'm a bit skeptical because the immigration system here is unfair. Theresa May, herself, when she was the Home Secretary, said that her

intentions were to create a hostile environment. And as a matter of fact, since 2010, the detention of E.U. nationals has increased by 252 percent.

So you may understand that would be --

VANIER: The detention of E.U. nationals?

BADANI: Detention, yes.

VANIER: On what grounds?

BADANI: That they are not economically active. But also, we have issues that some of them are just picked up for no reason at all. And I think

recent figures have shown that the number of removals have been doubled or tripled.

VANIER: Is this impacting how you think about Britain? Are you reconsidering perhaps your presence here? Would you move back to France on

account of this?

BADANI: Not particularly. I think I'm very integrated. And because I'm involved in shaping policies and helping the communities, I've got thick

skin. But I think our research shows that 44 percent of E.U. nationals no longer feel welcome, so I wouldn't be surprised that E.U. nationals would

need to leave the country.

VANIER: All right. Samia Badani, thank you so much for joining us here on THE WORLD RIGHT NOW. Thank you.

BADANI: You're welcome. Thank you.

VANIER: And coming up, it has sparked anger, grief and a deep sense of injustice. Now, as more details emerge of what happened at Grenfell Tower,

we look back at the events since that horrific night. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:50:15] VANIER: And we're finding out the cause of the Grenfell Tower fire that killed at least 79 people. According to authorities, it started

because of fridge freezer. We also learned that some materials used in the building failed safety tests.

Police are now considering manslaughter charges in relation to the fire, and lawmakers are being pressed to explain why this was allowed to happen.

Many Londoners say the skeleton of the building is a reminder of a society's failure to protect the have-nots.

CNN Nick Glass shows us exactly what's it like to be constantly reminded of the tragedy. And just a word of warning, you may find some of the images

you are about to see disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK GLASS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The image is utterly indelible, a blackened monolith among the tower blocks. A desolate burnt

out shell, a stump, an accusing finger.

How and why did this terrible fire happen? Why, oh, why are so many lives lost?

JOE DELANEY, EYEWITNESS: I mean the speed of it and the ferocity of it was damn real. I've seen places in war zones, you know, that green (ph) light

hit with napalm or white phosphorus and things like that, and I've never seen anything go up like that. Within about three hours, there was nothing

left of that building. Nothing at all.

GLASS (voice-over): Joe Delaney lives just a few yards from the tower, witnessing the tragedy unfold that clearly traumatized him. The residents

have long complained to the Council about the likelihood of a catastrophic fire.

DELANEY: There's nothing around here now, this building. It doesn't even have sprinklers or at least an alarm that worked. All you could that night

was people screaming. That was it.

There were people at windows up there. They were just screaming the whole time, above, you know, for people to help them.

GLASS (voice-over): As the flames spread, Delaney started filming on his mobile phone, with disbelief and then growing horror.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Mum (ph)! Mum (ph)!

DELANEY: I honestly don't --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Help! Help!

DELANEY: It looks to me like it's only the outside.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Help!

DELANEY: Oh my God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Help!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Help!

(SCREAMING)

DELANEY: Oh, Jesus! That's where the stairs are.

(SCREAMING)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No!

DELANEY: Oh my God!

(SCREAMING)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my God!

GLASS (voice-over): On the streets around the tower, we detected the palpable rawness of emotion, the sense of shared anguish. The place has

become a memorial.

In their desperation in the first few hours and days, relatives of the missing pin photos wherever they could.

Jessica Urbano, aged 12, was home alone on the 20th floor. She rang her mother, who just begun her shift as a night cleaner. She apparently

screamed, "Mummy, mummy, come and get me!" then the line went dead.

A week after the fire, new photos were still going up but with all hope long gone. This man was remembering his father.

One woman fears that she's lost six relatives, including her mother and sister and three nieces. They all lived on the 22nd floor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you want your family to be remembered?

SAWSAN CHOUCAIR, RELATIVE OF MISSING PERSON: Love, memory, pictures, and everything.

GLASS (voice-over): Some 40 fire engines were called out on the night, some driven on this very same road. Like Joe Delaney, one fireman filmed

on his mobile phone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a tower inferno.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How was that possible?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's jumped up all the way along the flats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Look.

GLASS (voice-over): Firemen struggled for over 24 hours to put out the blaze. The tower was built in 1974 but refurbished by the Council just

recently.

[15:54:59] There was new installation and cladding on the outside. And the government inquiry will examine whether this was the reason the fire spread

so quickly. The new exterior materials are thought to have effectively turned the tower into a chimney.

Grenfell Tower is about half a mile from Notting Hill in West London but a world away in terms of affluence. Some of the victims were among London's

poorest, multiracial, of many faiths, families among others of Iranian, Lebanese, Somali, Moroccan, and Ethiopian decent.

There was a community. There still is. But it's now numb with grief and clustered around a mausoleum.

The charred shell is being painstakingly searched, flat by flat, floor by floor. There are many questions. The police are treating this as a crime

scene.

Nick Glass, CNN, by Grenfell Tower in West London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: And minutes ago, we learned that 800 households are being evacuated tonight on the advice of the London fire brigade. This is

happening in Camden in North London.

Remember, just yesterday, it became apparent that other buildings across the U.K. present a fire risk because they are equipped with the same

cladding as Grenfell Tower. Fire safety checks are ongoing at other estates across the U.K.

And also, earlier in the show, we told you about the Johnny Depp controversy. The actor had made a comment, asked a question about when was

the last time an actor killed a President, and this had sparked, well, concern from the White House, saying there were double standards over, not

accusations, but threats leveled at a president.

Well, the actor has since apologized for remarks that he made. Depp said, "I apologize for the bad joke I attempted last night in poor taste about

President Trump. It did not come out as intended and I intended no malice. I was only trying to amuse, not to harm anyone." He said this in statement

made exclusively to "People Magazine."

All right. Thank you being with us. This is has been THE WORLD RIGHT NOW. Thanks for watching. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

END