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Earthquake Left People in Shock; Awaiting Freedom; Band Member Took His Own Life; A Rare Discovery; Investigating the Investigators; Seeking Justice. Aired 3-4a ET
Aired July 21, 2017 - 03:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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[03:00:00] GEORGE HOWELL, HOST, CNN: One day after the U.S. President suggested looking into his family's finances would cross a red line, we're learning the special counsel and the Russian investigation is doing exactly that.
Ahead this hour, CNN is live in Jerusalem where Israel is now barring men under 50 years old from entering the old city and Temple Mount for Friday prayers.
Plus, one of the most polarizing people in the United States soon to be a free man. O.J. Simpson, the football star turned murder suspect has been granted parole.
Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers around the world. I'm George Howell. CNN Newsroom starts right now.
Around the world, good day to you. We begin this hour with the very latest on the deadly earthquake that occurred in Greece and Turkey. Daylight there now giving emergency crews their first chance to assess the destruction in the aftermath of that earthquake that took place early Friday.
No fatalities in Turkey but across the Aegean Sea, Greek television reports at least two tourists died on the Greek Island of Kos. One Swedish and one Turkish. At least five other people are seriously injured there.
Take a look now at this map. It gives a sense of exactly where this happened. The 6.7 magnitude quake centered in the strait between Kos and Bodrum. It cause the many tsunami in fact which sent a small wave of waves and surge into streets and buildings there.
CNN producer Gul Tuysuz is live with the very latest in Istanbul this hour with us. It's good to have you. First of all, what more do we know about this area certainly heavily populated with tourists. This bigger earthquake that happened, what more can you tell us?
GUL TUYSUZ, PRODUCER, CNN: As you said, this is a very beautiful part of the Aegean both on the Turkish and on the Greek side. A lot of locals and foreigners go there for an ideally summer vacation. And of course, that 6.7 magnitude earthquake that took the lives of two people on the Greek side and has caused a lot of panic. It was not something that the vacationers were expecting or looking
forward to. We don't know the exact number of people who have been wounded on either side, but reports of dozens on both sides. The Turkish local officials coming out and saying that a lot of the people who were wounded were wounded while they tried to flee out of buildings, and in the case of one man, jumping out, out of a window and being injured that way.
We are still hearing from people who are down in the Turkish resort town of Bodrum that they are camping out on the streets waiting because not only did they experience this initial very, very strong earthquake of 6.7, but they have been feeling after shock after aftershock and they're too nervous to go back inside into these buildings.
Once again, this is a lot of tourism happens in this area. And a lot of the people there now are mulling over whether or not to cut their vacations short and getting back on flights to go back to loved ones in other parts of the Turkey, George.
HOWELL: What more, two questions, quite frankly. What more do you know about the extent of injuries there? Do we know anything more with people that are being rushed to hospital that are being treated? And also, what more do we know about the extent of the damage? Because many of these are older buildings. Curious to know how badly some of these buildings have been damaged in this earthquake.
TUYSUZ: Again, we don't know the exact number of people who have been wounded but we are hearing from the Greek side that five people are being rushed to hospitals on bigger islands, the island of Kos is a small one. Three of those people are in critical condition and, in fact, one of the people that is wounded has already apparently had both of his legs amputated, so a very sad story there.
In terms of the damage, on the Turkish side we heard a local official come out and say that there are structural damages to some of the older buildings, but one case stands out in particular which is the main minaret of a mosque in Bodrum took some structural damage sending stones flying out around it.
Rescue workers have cordoned that part off and are keeping people away from it to make sure that no one else gets injured, especially with all of these aftershocks taking place afterwards, George.
HOWELL: Gul Tuysuz, live for us following the story from Istanbul, Turkey. Thank you so much for the reporting. We'll stay in touch with you.
[03:04:58] Now let's bring in our meteorologist Karen Maginnis who's keeping track of the aftermath of this earthquake. And, Karen, first of all, you know, you have a big earthquake like this, and the big concern is aftershocks.
KAREN MAGINNIS, METEOROLOGIST, CNN: Yes.
HOWELL: What do you know? MAGINNIS: We've already seen eight aftershocks. There are varying
reports. The Turkish agency reports many more than that, but the USGS says eight aftershocks. This is a very tectonically active area. What does that mean? This is an area that's very prone to see earthquake activity. There is a fault line that goes right about in that vicinity.
And it's along that fault line we start to see the tectonic plates underneath the surface of the earth that just kind of move around. We'll zoom in across this region. You can see jutting out into the Aegean Sea is Bodrum. This is about 700 kilometers to the south of Istanbul.
One other view. You can see kind of high mountains. This is a beautiful ancient city. Here is a protected bay across this area with boats, this kind of moored inside that protected area. But not just there, they're all along this beautiful coast line.
Now in an area like this where you're surrounded by mountains what could happen after an earthquake is that it could loosen some of the foundations of areas or little villages that are kind of built those hill sides. So that's another concern.
These are ancient areas. Some of the older buildings, as you can imagine, would be very vulnerable to a 6.7 magnitude earthquake that took place here. And it was about 10 kilometers deep.
Now already now they have up to nine aftershocks. And this is something that, George, that they will see for weeks and months to come. There may be a stronger one, there may be many, many more weaker ones, but this is very unnerving. This took place at about 1.30 local time, lots of tourists, it's high season. And it is very unnerving. Many people sleeping outside right now.
Back to you.
HOWELL: That is the big concern, Karen. So many people travel to that part of the world for vacation, for holiday. We'll have to obviously keep in touch with you to learn the latest as many families may be concerned about their loved ones in that region. Thank you.
HOWELL: The Russia investigation. Two new reports claim the U.S. president and his legal team are trying to undermine Justice Department special counsel.
Both the New York Times and the Washington Post reports Donald Trump's lawyers are working to dig up possible conflicts of interest on Robert Mueller and his investigations.
You'll remember Mueller is investigating alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. The Post also says Mr. Trump is asking about his authority to grant pardons, including possibly pardoning himself? Just a day earlier, the president warned Mueller against looking into his family's finances. Listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that the president -- the point he's trying to make is that the clear purpose of the Russia investigation is to review Russia's meddling in the election and that that should be the focus of the investigation. Nothing beyond that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That should not be viewed as a threat, as a warning to what this special counsel should or should not be looking at as it relates to the president's family finances?
SANDERS: The president is making clear that the special counsel should not move outside of the scope of the investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: In the meantime, Bloomberg reports that Robert Mueller has widened his probe now including Mr. Trump's business dealings with Russians going back more than a decade.
Reporter Greg Farrell spoke with CNN's Anderson Cooper about it. Listen.
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN: So, Greg, based on your reporting, what is Mueller expanding his probe to include?
GREG FARRELL, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, BLOOMBERG NEWS: What we've learned is that he's taking a broad view of the investigation and not a narrow view, so the mandate he was given in mid-May is open to interpretation.
Anything related to Russia and that might have resulted in interference in the election. He's clearly going back more than a decade to any real estate transactions involving Russian nationals.
COOPER: Really, more than a decade?
FARRELL: Exactly. Well, Russians were buying Trump -- particularly in the U.N., we did a big story on this earlier. Russians were buying Trump apartments at the U.N. development I think more than a decade.
COOPER: He has a building that's based across from the U.N.?
FARRELL: Yes. Exactly. Exactly. And that's a lot of Russian -- a lot of Russians bought there. He became very popular among Russians. So, that's one thing. The time, the scope of the time is like, you know, something I think was -- is a new element of this.
COOPER: And your reporting is that Mueller has already issued subpoenas to banks to get records?
FARRELL: He's less specific than that.
FARRELL: It's that he's clearly focused on any major transaction that has taken place, like the Miss Universe, you know, 2013 pageant in Moscow.
[03:10:04] COOPER: Right.
FARRELL: The flipping of the Florida Mansion. In order to get information, yes, he'll have to issue subpoenas.
FARRELL: He has issued subpoenas to some banks and more difficult is to issue not subpoenas but requests for information from foreign banks, European banks. That takes time.
COOPER: So, is that something that President Trump would be aware of? I mean, if a bank that he had done business with would subpoena...
FARRELL: I think in general when even you and I if someone wanted our bank records and subpoenaed our banks, that we would be notified of that. So it's not something that would happen, you know, in secret.
COOPER: So do you know the exact financial interest that he's looking into? Donald Trump had bought a house in Florida...
FARRELL: Yes. In Palm mansion. Yes.
COOPER: For like $41 million.
FARRELL: Good memory, yes.
COOPER: And then sold it...
FARRELL: Four years later in 2008, March of 2008, sold it having done almost nothing with it for 95 million to a Russian oligarch. And at a time when property values were not going like this anymore. So, it could be like, you know, the Russian oligarch wanted it, he was going through a divorce. He wanted the home instead.
There were a number of reasons that I read about why this made sense for him. However, it was a staggeringly high price. So it could be totally legitimate. But things that look like that, that look unusual, why was that sum of money paid. That's the type of thing that, you know, any investigator would want to get into.
COOPER: And is any of this linked to of Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney in New York?
FARRELL: Yes, in some ways. Some elements of this grew out of an investigation that started here in New York, and of course the irony was Preet was asked to stay on by Trump in November and he did stay on and was fired in early March. So the -- an element of that which involves Paul Manafort, among others -- among other threats has been subsumed into the larger, you know, Mueller probe.
COOPER: But no evidence that the firing of Preet Bharara had anything to do -- I mean, there's no connection.
FARRELL: There's been no such sort of like reason given on Bharara. And it could be that he was just fired because Trump got, you know, was feeling the heat after the events of the first five weeks and wanted to get rid of anybody who was not on his team.
COOPER: Any reaction from the White House to your reporting?
FARRELL: No, we do have a response from Trump's lawyer, John Dowd who took issue with you know, first of all he said, we're not aware of any of this. Secondly, he raised a question that he thought that, you know, what we reported indicates that the special counsel is going beyond what his mandate was given two months ago. And, besides, some of these issues are beyond the statute of limitations.
COOPER: It's so fascinating your article, Greg Farrell from Bloomberg. Thank you so much.
FARRELL: Great. Thank you so much.
HOWELL: The U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he is staying on the job despite a harsh rebuke from his boss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF SESSIONS, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have the honor of serving as attorney general. It's something that goes beyond any thought I would have ever had for myself. We love this job. We love this department and I plan to continue to do so as long as that is appropriate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: All right. That's Jeff Sessions. But here's the background. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump told the New York Times he would have picked someone else if he knew that Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Then Thursday, the White House said the president still has the confidence in Jeff Sessions.
Next week is shaping up to be an important week for Senate investigators who are also looking into the Trump campaign's ties into Russia. On Monday, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner will meet with the intelligence committee staff.
That is being described as, quote, "the interview" that on Wednesday Mr. Trump's son and his former campaign manager Paul Manafort are scheduled to testify before the Senate judiciary committee.
We're following a developing story this hour in Jerusalem. Israeli police are barring men under the age of 50 years old from entering the old city for prayers. The news follows clashes between Palestinians and police that injured dozens of people there.
Protests broke out after Israel's decision to put metal detectors at al-Aqsa Mosque. They were placed there following a deadly shooting against Israeli police in the area last Friday, I should say.
For more on this story let's bring in CNN's Ian Lee live with us in Jerusalem this hour. Ian, first of all, help our viewers to understand how we got to this point.
IAN LEE, INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, George, it really started last Friday when there was that deadly attack against two Israeli police officers by three Arab Israeli men. We saw this area right up here this is Lions Gate and this is one of the places that leads to the Temple Mount, also known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.
[03:14:57] That area was closed off for over a day, and then when the police reopened it they had these metal detectors and that's what has angered people here. There are many people are refusing to go through it. The walk which is a Jordanian government agency which administers the Noble Sanctuary has said that they aren't going to pass through them.
And that really has been one of the issues that has sparked this recent round of violence. And just here earlier this morning there were protests. And, George, we're expecting more of those protests today.
HOWELL: To get a sense of that, tell us more. Because we're looking at the scene there, you've given us the context. But what is the feeling, the mood right now? What can be expected for the rest of the day?
LEE: So there really is rings of security around the whole city and around Jerusalem. And just to show you again, you have police right here who are checking people's I.D.'s to go up to Lion's Gate, to go to the Temple Mount, the Noble Sanctuary for prayer.
But also down here you can see there's also more police. There are more of these barricades, these barriers. And there's just all over this area they're checking people's I.D.
What we're hearing from the police is they don't want any really large gatherings of people praying which then usually turns into protests. They want to compartmentalize this day to make sure that they are able to manage it. So that's going to be the real test for police.
As for people coming to protest, we're hearing that mosques Jerusalem are shutting their doors today encouraging people to come here to pray to show their support for this ongoing situation.
HOWELL: International correspondent Ian Lee live for us in Jerusalem. Thank you for the recording there. Still ahead here on Newsroom, the juice is loose. O.J. Simpson will
soon be a free man after spending nearly nine years in prison. Hear the reason he told the parole board he deserves to be released.
HOWELL: Welcome back to newsroom. State run media in China report that at least two people have been killed after an explosion rocked the shop in the eastern city of Hangzhou. Wow. At least a dozen people there severely injured. The blast happened a short time ago and we'll have more details as they become available there.
In the United States the former football star O.J. Simpson will soon be a free man. Nicknamed the juice, he was granted parole on Thursday after serving nine years in a Nevada prison for armed robbery and kidnapping in Las Vegas. Simpson who is now 70 years old is expected to be freed as early as October.
[03:20:59] His release comes two decades after his infamous acquittal in the killing of his ex-wife and her friend.
Our Sara Sidner has this report.
O.J. SIMPSON, CONVICTED OF ARMED ROBBERY & KIDNAPPING: I basically have spent a conflict free life.
SARA SIDNER, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: O.J. Simpson praising himself and at times speaking half truths about his culpability as he tries to convince the Nevada parole board to set him free for the armed robbery and kidnapping he was convicted of in 2008.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What were you thinking?
SIMPSON: All I want is my property. I just want my property.
SIDNER: Simpson rehashed the case trying to explain he was only trying to recover his stolen memorabilia and knew nothing about the guns, but audio tapes in the trial revealed he did know. He admitted making bad decisions but blamed others for bringing guns and threatening his friend and memorabilia dealer Bruce Fromong.
SIMPSON: He knows I would never, ever direct anybody to point a gun at him or even threaten him. You mention all those gun charges. Bruce and Alfred, they made it clear during the trial that I had no weapon.
SIDNER: Some of the strongest testimony for Simpson's release came from that very same friend who had a gun pointed at his head.
BRUCE FROMONG, MEMORABILIA DEALER: This is a good man. He made a mistake. And if he called me tomorrow and said, Bruce, I'm getting out, will you pick me up, juice, I'll be here tomorrow for you.
SIDNER: Simpson had served nine years in prison after being convicted of robbery and kidnapping at this Las Vegas hotel. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't let nobody out. (muted)
SIDNER: A judge sentenced him to as many as 33 years in prison. His attorneys and some legal analysts argued the lengthy sentence was a form of pay back for his 1995 acquittal in the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman.
In 1995, O.J. Simpson's murder trial was a national obsession. 95 million Americans watched this slow speed car chase unfold live on TV. He eventually surrendered leading to what was dubbed the trial of the century.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gloves didn't fit. It doesn't fit, you must acquit.
SIDNER: And that is exactly what the jury did. After an eight-month trial the jury delivered its verdict in less than an hour. The acquittal saw celebrations in the African-American community and shock amongst many white Americans.
For the families of the victims though, it was devastating. The Browns and Goldmans later sued Simpson in civil court winning a $33.5 million wrongful death suit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If our efforts for all these years of pushing him drove him to commit armed robbery, put him where he belongs.
SIDNER: But now the 70-year-old Simpson is ready to walk free.
SIMPSON: I've done my time.
SIDNER: And with a unanimous decision, the parole board agrees.
CONNIE BISBEE, CHAIRMAN, NEVADA PAROLE BOARD: Based on all of that, Mr. Simpson, I do vote to grant parole when eligible.
SIDNER: Though O.J. Simpson has been paroled that does not mean that he will get out of prison immediately. He is scheduled for release in October.
Sara Sidner, CNN, Carson City, Nevada.
HOWELL: Let's talk more about this with CNN legal analyst Mark O'Mara. Mark is criminal defense attorney and a former prosecutor with us this hour. Mark, good to have you.
First, let's start talking about the broad strokes of who O.J. Simpson is. This is a figure who through the decades has been a lightning rod on the issues of race, on socio-economic, on mistrust of law enforcement, domestic violence, and murder for which he was acquitted.
MARK O'MARA, LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: Absolutely true. You know, you look back at this and sort of O.J. Simpson's career within the criminal justice system mirrored my career because I was a young puppy lawyer when this case first came out, you know, the murder case.
And then of course watched that like everybody else through everything that that case was from the white bronco all the way through the acquittal. And then the rest of the trouble that he got himself into after a couple of years of being out. And obviously that's going to end now in the couple of months.
HOWELL: Looking back at his patrol hearing critics point to the fact that he didn't show remorse which is not a requirement in this particular case and that in some cases he even got in his own way giving long, detailed explanations of what happened. Rather than taking ownership.
Given those points, as you were watching this take place, did you expect it to be straightforward a slam dunk or did you have questions?
O'MARA: Well, I thought that he was going to get parole. It makes sense because even though people want to throw a lot of their preconceived notions and emotions and drag up the history, including the previous event of the murder trial, really the parole commission and board looks at certain criteria.
Mainly, is he going to be a danger to the community, sort of has he served enough time for the crime? Nine years is a long time for that crime. So that element I think was met.
[03:25:01] At his age and with a perfect record in prison, he's really not a danger to the community. So, on paper, I thought it was pretty apparent that he was going to get parole.
Having said that, I've got to tell you, when I was watching that parole hearing unfold I was getting more and more concerned. I even questioned a buddy of mine and said, who prepped him or more appropriately, who failed to prep him?
Because, you're right, he did not show any remorse or the type of remorse he should have. He should have owned the crime for which he was found guilty. Evidence absolute remorse and then focus on what the board had to focus on themselves, which is that he was not going to be a danger to the community.
HOWELL: CNN legal analyst, Mark O'Mara, thank you so much for the insight.
O'MARA: Sure. Great to be here.
HOWELL: The front band for the popular rock band Linkin Park has died. Chester Bennington performing song "Numb" in his band Linkin Park. The 41-year-old musician was found dead in a home near at Los Angeles Thursday morning. Authorities suspect it may have been suicide.
Bennington is survived by his wife and six children. Just a few months ago, Soundgarden's Chris Cornell and a close friend of Bennington's took his own life. Still ahead here on Newsroom, from guns to drugs, they were used to
sell everything illegal and now police have busted two black markets and are promising to prosecute every cybercriminal.
Plus, ahead, I speak with a young boy about a rare discovery he found there in the dirt, one that is about a million years in the making.
Stay with us. This is CNN Newsroom.
HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers in the United -- in United States and around the world, you're watching CNN Newsroom. I'm George Howell. Following the headlines for you this hour.
Israel is barring men under the age of 50 from entering Jerusalem's old city for prayer. This after the violence and protests that you see that broke out over its decision to place metal detectors at the al- Aqsa Mosque. Security has been heightened in the area after last week's shooting the deaths of two Israeli police.
Strong aftershocks being felt following a deadly earthquake early Friday of the Turkish port city of Bodrum. At least two tourists, one Swedish, one Turkish, they were killed on the Greek Island of Kos which is across the Aegean Sea.
[03:30:07] Numerous injuries have also been reported there. We'll continue to follow that story of course for you.
A new Bloomberg report claims that U.S. investigators are looking into the U.S. President Donald Trump's business dealings with Russians. The report says they will include real estate transactions and the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow.
Mr. Trump warned on Wednesday that a probe of his family's finances should be off limits.
It has been six months now since Mr. Trump took office. Take a look at his tenure especially by the numbers. His approval ratings have hit historic lows. An average of several recent poll puts his job approval at just 38 percent, the lowest of any president at six months dating back 70 years.
Since he became President, Mr. Trump also has only held one solo news conference, only one solo news conferences but he has held five campaign style rallies in states where he won last years' election. Mr. Trump has signed dozens of executive actions, presidential proclamations and 42 bills into law since taking office.
But as for major legislation including healthcare, infrastructure or tax reform, that number, zero. The president has tweeted a ton though. As of Thursday he's sent 991 tweets from his personal accounts while he criticized the former president, Barack Obama for taking out time for golf. Well, so far this president has spent 40 days at Trump owned golf properties doing just that.
President Trump has left his mark on the world stage as well.
Our Phil Black has this report for us.
PHIL BLACK, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: When Donald Trump meets world leaders, you can't look away. Like any great spectator sport, there's the buildup, the tension. Often there's great physical spectacle, and there's emotion. Sometimes he's effusively warm, sometimes he's not.
Each brief unpredictable moment is watched and scrutinized in the hope it gives some insights that the Trump's evolving feelings on the world's biggest challenges. Six months into his presidency, Trump's foreign policies can be highly fluid.
Trump surprised the world in April when he ordered a cruise missile attack against the Syrian regime air base in response to its use of chemical weapons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACK: Russia condemned that strike ferociously, but since then the U.S. has pursued policies that have seemed much friendlier to Russian interests in Syria. Backing a local cease-fire in the country's southwest while trying to negotiate similar deals in other regions.
And now according to the Washington post citing unnamed U.S. officials ending the CIA program to train and arm moderate Syrian rebels fighting pro-regime forces. Officially, the administration says no peace deal is possible with President Bashar al-Assad in power. But U.S. policy increasingly recognizes the reality. He's not going anywhere.
Trump has continued Barack Obama's policies against ISIS in Iraq and Syria letting local forces handle the front line fighting with U.S. advisors, artillery and air power providing crucial support. The results, ISIS has been driven from Mosul in Iraq and the same looks said to happen in the Syrian city of Raqqa. But the human cost is devastating.
Much of Mosul is now rubble. Hundreds of thousands were forced to flee. No one knows precisely how many civilians were killed. And ISIS isn't defeated. As it loses territory it's expected to return to its roots as a deadly insurgency while still promoting terror around the world.
The North Korean problem has only grown on Trump's watch. Pyongyang pursues its nuclear ambitions, recently successfully testing an intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time. Trump has again followed his predecessor by trying to work with China.
He's focused on building personal rapport with Chinese President Xi Jinping and thank China for its efforts. And he's accused Beijing for not doing enough. Contradiction inspired by frustration.
Trump and South Korea have responded with joint military drills despite China's objections and Trump hasn't ruled out a direct military response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[03:35:03] TRUMP: One of the worst deals I've ever seen is the Iran deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACK: Donald Trump has never hidden his contempt for the Obama brokered Iran nuclear deal. But six months into his presidency he hasn't torn it up. On this his administration is conflicted. Twice officially certifying Iran's compliance while also fiercely criticizing its behavior.
Trump is trapped between European allies who want the agreement to hold and the strong feelings from Israel and Arab states which view Iran as a threat.
Trump appeared more decisive with that other international deal he hates, the Paris climate agreement. World leaders lobbied hard but Trump declared he's pulling out, or is he?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Something could happen with respect to the Paris Accord. We'll see what happens. But we will talk about that over the coming period of time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACK: Six months in analysts say sending mixed messages has become a consistent pillar of Trump's foreign policy, so has his willingness to lecture or ignore established allies while working very hard to char adversaries.
Phil Black, CNN, London.
HOWELL: Top officials at the Pentagon on Thursday briefed the president on military efforts, namely troop deployments and the fight against ISIS. Six months into President Trump's administration the administration has yet to reveal its strategy to wipe out the terror group.
Before spending two hours with defense leaders, Mr. Trump told leaders ISIS is, quote, "falling very fast."
Now to Germany where seven former Syrian prisoners are suing Bashar al-Assad's regime. They claim they were victims of torture and accused the regime of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Our Atika Shubert spoke with two of the plaintiffs about their allegations and why the German courts may be their best chance for justice. But we warn you some of the images going into the story they are disturbing and they are graphic.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: In 2011, the Syrian uprising against the government of Bashar al-Assad filled the streets of Damascus. The regime crackdown was swift and brutal and it continues to this day.
KHALED RAWAS, PLAINTIFF: They were drinking tea and they tortured people. They were laughing and they did terrible things. So it was nothing for them.
SHUBERT: Khaled Rawas says he was arrested twice by military intelligence, subjected to severe torture, including sexual violence. He is reluctant to go into detail, but he told CNN he was forced to watch inmates lashed with meat hooks.
RAWAS: I was sitting on my knees and I was forced to see another two Syrian people who were tortured and not only tortured, it was like they were getting them meat from the bodies.
SHUBERT: Now he is seeking justice in Germany where he is a refugee. He is part of a criminal complaint that identifies six high level Syrian officials accusing them of torture in secret prisons. Plaintiffs are asking the German prosecutor to issue arrest warrants.
Bashar al-Assad is not named as a perpetrator. In February, Assad denied claims of tortures in Syrian prisons telling on interview the allegations had, quote, "not a shred of evidence."
But the Syrian lawyer, Mazen Darwish also part of the case, says he speaks from personal experience describing what he calls a system of torture used to eradicate dissent in Syria.
MAZEN DARWISH, SYRIAN LAWYER: Become a tool to kill people, to destroy them totally, make people lose their mind or even die. I think it's really important to send this message that there is no peace without justice.
SHUBERT: Allegations of torture in prisons gained wide attention in 2014 when a Syrian military photographer published pictures he said he had taken and smuggled out of the country documenting the deaths of more than 6,500 prisoners over the span of three years.
He testified to the U.S. House of Representatives on the photos. German prosecutors are now analyzing them as part of the case. Many of those pictured appeared to bear signs of torture and abuse including activist Ayham Gazul (Ph). His mother petitioned the Syrian government for more than a year for news of her son's arrest without success.
She said his death was confirmed with this photo. Now she is part of the German case.
Patrick Kroker is the German lawyer bringing the case forward for the ECCHR, or the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights. He explains why the arrest warrants are so key. [03:40:02] PATRICK KROKER, ECCHR LAWYER: That would mean that he
needs to wait for the person go into any other country or maybe in a future Syria, we never know, and the person could be extradited to Germany. And right at that moment the whole indictment would be ready and we could go to court.
SHUBERT: Using testimony of more than a dozen victims and witnesses, the complaint maps out torture in three different branches of military intelligence in Damascus, but the most compelling evidence comes from the survivors themselves.
RAWAS: Maybe a lot of people think that's -- we are doing that because like bad things happen to us and we just want to revenge. I just want to state clear, we are not seeking for revenge, we are seeking for justice.
SHUBERT: There is only a slim chance of an actual arrest and indictment, but Germany's courts do give hope for justice to some.
Atika Shubert, CNN, Berlin.
HOWELL: Police say two African teens who went missing in Washington after an international robotics competition were seen entering Canada. The teens reportedly disappeared Wednesday with four other students. Police say there are four missing boys and two missing girls ranging in age from 16 to 18 years old.
They represented the small African country of Burundi in a small, and rather, a global robotics competition, alongside teens from more than 150 countries. The group's mentor says that he doesn't know where they could have gone. Police don't though suspect foul play.
In Venezuela at least two people were killed in clashes Thursday amid a 24-hour strike by protestors. They're trying to stop that nation's President, Nicolas Maduro and his efforts to rewrite the Constitution.
For more our journalist Stefano Pozzebon earlier filed this report from Caracas.
STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: Venezuelans were once again on the street today, Caracas were shot down after the opposition called for a general strike against President Nicolas Maduro's proposal to reform the Constitution. There were scenes of violence as the post office was set on fire.
In the clashes at least one person was killed and tens were detained. According to human rights NGO's, the country is well into its political and social unrest. The opposition is demanding free general elections and the opening of a humanitarian channel of food and medicines.
Venezuela is in the midst of a dramatic economic crisis. People are struggling to buy food and other everyday goods. Inflation is skyrocketing. Crime is rampant. These dramatic conditions are in the background of every political stalemate but very much of the forefront of every Venezuelans across these arms today.
For CNN, Stefano Pozzebon, Caracas.
HOWELL: Thank you, Stefano for the report.
Still ahead here on Newsroom, the body of Salvador Dali has been exhumed for one woman's claims that she is the long lost daughter. We'll tell you about the tough legal battle ahead.
Plus, pushing the boundaries of science with a proposed tunnel to connect New York City and Washington in the proverbial blink of an eye. Stay with us.
[03:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
HOWELL: Welcome back to Newsroom. In a twist almost a surreal as his paintings, the remains of Spanish artist Salvador Dali have been exhumed in Spain. It's all part of an effort by a Spanish woman to prove the eccentric painter is her biological father.
Twenty eight years after his death DNA samples from the body will be tested in a bid to settle the paternity dispute. Maria Pilar Abel Martinez claims that Dali had an affair with her mother who worked as a maid in the 1950's. She said she's not interested in the money, only that the truth be known about who she is.
The Salvador Dali Foundation called the Exhumation, which it was required to carry out, an act of violence. But official say they tried to show respect during that procedure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUAN MANUEL SEVILLANO CAMPALANS, EXECUTIVE MANAGER, SALVADOR DALI FOUNDATION: This has been done by the foundation because it had a court mandate to do it that we could not refuse to execute. It is -- it is -- in this country it is a court executed order is a very serious thing.
But I have to say that all of us in the foundation are extremely moved by what happened last night here, very, very moved and very affected by it because of our individual personal relationship with the memory of Salvador Dali. For us, treating this with tremendous respect and honor was a paramount obligation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: It will be a couple of weeks now before the final DNA results are released.
U.S. and European authorities say they've dealt a major blow to the dark web. Two major underground web sites AlphaBay and Hansa are now shut down according to officials from the U.S. Justice Department and fro Europol. They say these sites allowed users to anonymously buy and sell illegal items like drugs, guns, child porn and hacking software.
Before being shut down AlphaBay boasted more than 40,000 sellers, a quarter million listings and was ten times the size of Silk Road. The previous dark market - market -- dark web market, please, I should say, was shut down back in 2013.
Earlier, the director of Europol spoke to CNN about the crime bust. Rob Wainwright told our Richard Quest how it was a huge victory for law enforcement.
ROB WAINWRIGHT, DIRECTOR, EUROPOL: We took down and coordinated action in Europe and the United States two of the three largest criminal marketplaces that were operating the dark net. Between them they were trading in over 350,000 different listings of drugs and other illicit commodities.
So actually, we've punctured a pretty big hole in the infrastructure of a multibillion dollar digital underground criminal economy. And I think it's a good, it's a very good day for law enforcement and a worrying day for those who are engaged in criminal activity online.
RICHARD QUEST, HOST, CNN: I don't want to rain on a good day for law enforcement, however, you'll be familiar if you just squeeze it, it's look a balloon. Squeeze one bit, it will pop out somewhere else. I mean, what measures are you taking that will prevent somebody else or another entity from opening to take advantage of a market? Clearly it exists illegally on the dark web.
WAINWRIGHT: We are in a race against the criminals. They will innovate again, they will reform, but they will do so with a high degree of risk right now because the really clever part of this operation, if I say so myself, is the way we coordinated.
We took covert control of very large market in Europe, left it running, therefore, being able to identify the criminal activities of the users involved, whilst then shutting down AlphaBay here in America and watching while all of those criminal users flocked to this other marketplace instead.
So we were able to capture eight times as much intelligence about the users in doing this coordinated hit. And you know, the criminals, Richard, they're not going to know what else we're doing already out there, what we're going to be doing tomorrow, next month and so on.
And we're already seeing reaction in the criminal underworld which is saying to their people, don't do any on any marketplace right now. It's a dangerous place now.
HOWELL: The U.S. attorney general promised to pursue every cyber criminal warning that they cannot hide by going dark.
One of entrepreneur Elon Musk's boldest ideas may be mostly hype at this point, but one day the so-called hyper loop could allow travelers to zoom from New York to Washington in, get this, half an hour's time. [03:50:02] The ambitious plan would require digging a tunnel, a deep
tunnel in the earth that would carry the high speed rail between the two cities.
Musk who is the founder of Tesla cars and SpaceX rockets claimed in a tweet that the e U.S. government gave the project a green light or did it?
CNN's Rene Marsh has this.
RENE MARSH, AVIATION CORRESPONDENT, CNN: You talked about this verbal agreement that he received from the government but he didn't quite say which entity of the U.S. government gave him that verbal agreement.
I can tell you I spoke with the Department of Transportation, they said no comment. They referred us to the White House, however, we did reach out to the White House. They didn't deny this but at the same time they didn't confirm it either.
I think everyone gets excited about this prospect because it would be quite an advancement, but when you talk about a project like this, first of all, one person can't just give you the signoff. You have to have the state and local permits necessary to build this revolutionary system. And that in itself is very complex and it would take a long period of time.
HOWELL: So it is a complex endeavor but exciting nonetheless. CNN's Rene Marsh reporting for us. Thank you, Rene.
Still ahead here on Newsroom, an afternoon walk leads to an incredible discovery. After the break I speak with one young boy who accidentally made quite a rare find.
HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN Newsroom, I'm George Howell.
In the State of New Mexico, a 10-year-old boy made a quite amazing and rare discovery. Jude Sparks was walking with his family in November. This is when he tripped and fell and fell right into a one million year old fossil.
It turned out that Jude found a fossilized tusk of stegomastodon. It's a pre-historic elephantine creature. Experts say Sparks got lucky by visiting the site after strong rains exposed the fossil. A research team from New Mexico State University spent months excavating the remains.
Joining now to talk more about this is 10-year-old Jude Sparks along with his mother, Michelle, via Skype from Las Cruces, New Mexico. It's good to have you with us this hour. So, Jude, I have to start by asking you like, what was this like to discover this 1.2 million year old fossil? How did you find it?
JUDE SPARKS, FOUND A MILLION YEAR OLD FOSSIL: We had just gotten two- way radios so we went to the desert near our house to test them out and I saw a big canal. And I went to the canal to hide, and when I was running up the canal I tripped on the tusk and my face landed next to the bottom mandible, which is the bottom jaw.
And farther up I saw the tusk -- another tusk. So I told mom to come look. I told Hunter to go tell dad to come look. He came and looked and -- well, Hunter told -- sorry. Hunter told dad to look and dad said, OK, I'll come look in a little bit. And then I told mom to come look and she came and then she went and told dad to come look.
[03:54:58] HOWELL: How did you guys find out exactly what this was, Michelle?
MICHELLE PARKS, JUDE SPARKS' MOTHER: We had looked up someone who we thought might be able to help us from NMSU. We thought there a need university had a part in it and somewhere local. So we found Dr. Peter Houde and that he had discovered something like this earlier and so we called or e-mailed him and sent him some pictures of what we had found and asked, you know, is this anything special like we think it might be?
And sure enough he e-mailed us back right away and the next day we all went out there and showed him and he knew right away it was a stegomastadon.
HOWELL: Jude, so, OK, stegomastadon. Have you learned a little bit more about this particular dinosaur?
J. SPARKS: Yes.
HOWELL: What more can you tell me about it? What do you know about it?
J. SPARKS: I learned how to tell tusks from bone.
J. SPARKS: Stegomastadon from other types of its peers and elephants.
HOWELL: So what happens to it next, guys? I mean, where does it go?
M. SPARKS: Well, it's covered in plaster, that's how we were able to safely remove it from the desert, and it's at the museum at NMSU so we just need to remove that plaster and preserve it and then it should go on display there at that museum. So anyone can come and look at it there.
HOWELL: Jude, for such a special discovery, I mean, what do you hope that people learn, people your age, people my age, your mother's age, what do you hope people learn from something like this? I mean, this is a grand, big discovery that you found?
J. SPARKS: I think people should learn to honor God through this.
HOWELL: That's a very important find. We appreciate you both being with us. Jude and Michelle Sparks, thank you.
M. SPARKS: Thank you.
HOWELL: Thank you for being with us here on CNN Newsroom. I'm George Howell at the CNN center in Atlanta. The news continues here on the network with my colleague Max Foster in London. You're watching CNN.
MAX FOSTER, HOST, CNN: Two people are killed after a strong earthquake rattles Turkey and the Greek Islands. We'll get the latest on the injured and the damaged in a live report.
[04:00:04] The investigation into the U.S. President, Donald Trump's ties to Russia may now include some of the billionaire's business dealings.