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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump White House; Middle East Violence; Protests in Poland; Crisis in Venezuela. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired July 23, 2017 - 02:00   ET

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


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CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hey, everyone, thanks for joining us. I'm Cyril Vanier and a warm welcome to the CNN NEWSROOM, where we begin with the prospect of new U.S. sanctions against Russia over its meddling in the U.S. election. U.S. President Trump has shown little interest in punishing Moscow.

Yet veto-proof legislation may soon hit his desk and it aims to do that. The Kremlin says it views such sanctions quite negatively. CNN's Kaitlan Collins has the latest.

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KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: House and Senate negotiators announced Saturday that they had come to an agreement on a new bill that would place sanctions on Russia, North Korea and Iran.

Now these sanctions against Russia would be in response to Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election as well as their military aggression in Ukraine and Syria.

Now according to House majority leader Kevin McCarthy's schedule, this could come to vote as soon as Tuesday. It would go to the Senate after that and then it could hit Donald Trump's desk before August.

Now a key party of this bill is a congressional mandate that would require a review if Donald Trump decided to end or ease these sanctions against Russia. This is a key part of the bill that the White House has pushed back on as it has been crafted.

But if Donald Trump decided to veto this legislation, he would almost undoubtedly face backlash from Democrats and Republicans alike, who think that the president should take a tougher stance against Russia.

Meanwhile all this is going on, Donald Trump has been very active on Twitter, blasting Hillary Clinton, James Comey and the special counsel. His most notable tweet Saturday was about pardons, though. Let's take a look.

"While all agree the U.S. president has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crimes so far is leaks against us?

"Fake news."

Now this tweet comes after a "Washington Post" report that claimed the president and his legal team were exploring his pardoning abilities and seeing just how far his authority does go.

Now a source familiar with the discussion told CNN that a curious Donald Trump was asking questions in an informational way. Donald Trump's lawyer, John Dowd, pushed back on "The Washington Post" report, calling it "nonsense," and saying that his team is cooperating fully with the special counsel's investigation.

Back to you.

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VANIER: And President Trump's tweets are raising questions about the extent of the presidential pardoning power. Earlier, I spoke about that with political analyst Ellis Henican.

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ELLIS HENICAN, METRO PAPERS: (INAUDIBLE) "all agree" part. It's not true that all agree. There is some debate among legal scholars about how far the president's pardon power goes, especially whether he has the power to pardon himself.

That has never been ruled on by a court. There is nothing about it in the Constitution and no president has tried it before.

So we don't really know whether he has the power to do that. It's a little funny to be focusing attention on that because one part of the pardon is an implicit admission of guilt.

And as you know, Cyril, Donald Trump does not admit that he is guilty of anything.

VANIER: Yes, that's what sounds strange to me.

Why would you go and emphasize that?

Because the optics of it are bad. It sounds like you're preparing for potentially being found guilty of something, either you or your inner circle.

HENICAN: Yes, but look at it from his point of view. I mean, he is very -- likes this negotiating stuff. And I think part of the message to his opponents, his enemies is, hey, if you guys really come at me as hard as I fear you might, I've got a couple of bullets left to shoot.

And let me show you what one of those bullets is. I think that's really the message there.

VANIER: Tell me now about the Russia sanctions.

Is it normal? Is it common for Congress to tie the hands of the president in the way they're doing here?

HENICAN: It is not. And, indeed, that is what they have done, if this agreement holds up until the vote this coming week. The Trump administration worked hard to water down the Congress' power to stop the president from easing those sanctions. And Congress, it seems, has been unwilling to do that.

But, no, normally Congress and the president are on the same side on these things. That's not true this time.

VANIER: Yes, I want to make sure our viewers understand this. Congress is writing into this bill a provision that would stop it from -- that would give it the power to stop Donald Trump from easing sanctions on Russia.

Is this all because of the Russia investigation that's going on?

HENICAN: Well, yes, and the fact that Trump and those around him have telegraphed their desire or at least their openness to easing some of these sanctions.

I can't imagine that Congress would have acted, had the president not suggested that he was of a mind to do that. But it's a -- it's kind of Congress saying, hold on a second, Mr. President --

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HENICAN: -- not so quick on easing those sanctions.

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VANIER: And President Trump traveled to Norfolk, Virginia, Saturday for a naval commissioning ceremony. There he called on Congress to pass the budget, which would increase defense spending. Here is what he said.

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DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now we need Congress to do its job and pass the budget that provides for higher, stable, and predictable funding levels for our military needs that our fighting men and women deserve -- and you will get, believe me.

President Trump, I will tell you -- you will get it. Don't worry about it. But I don't mind getting a little hand, so call that congressman and call that senator and make sure you get it.

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VANIER: The ceremony was for the U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford, this is the first of a new generation of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.

The U.N. Security Council is set meet on Monday over the latest wave of violence in Jerusalem and in the West Bank. This comes after another Palestinian was reportedly killed Saturday in clashes with Israeli forces. Officials say three other Palestinians were killed the day before as well as three Israelis in a West Bank stabbing attack.

And Israel now identified the victims in that attack. Three members of the Solomon family, seen here. Israel says their killer was a Palestinian. He was shot and taken into custody. The latest violence stems from restrictions Israel placed on the al-Aqsa mosque after two Israeli police officers were shot and killed there last week. Oren Liebermann has more.

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OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are in the community of Halamish, this is an Israeli settlement in the northern West Bank and it is very much a community in mourning now, as three Israelis were killed here inside their home on Friday night when police say a young Palestinian man breached a security or got through the security fence around the settlement, got into the home and killed those three Israelis.

The community now preparing for those funerals, as investigators try to figure out how the security was breached here. But that right now is only part of the story. The bigger picture here and what's going on in the area in the region is tension in and around the Old City of Jerusalem.

We saw clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers on Saturday night and that's very much an extension of the tension and the clashes we building throughout the week.

The question, where does that tension go from here, up or down?

Palestinian factions have called for a day of rage on Sunday, a day of demonstration. Largely those calls are symbolic and yet even if it doesn't bear itself out on the streets, it is indicative of where those tensions stand right now and a fear on both the Israeli and the Palestinian side that the attack here in Halamish will lead to copycat attacks and that this wave of violence perhaps is just starting.

That is the pressure on leaders, not only here but throughout the region, even perhaps pressure on the U.S. to try to find some way to ease this tension as quickly as possible before it gets worse, heading into what could be a very difficult week here in the region -- Oren Liebermann, CNN, Halamish.

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VANIER: A U.S. airstrike that killed 16 Afghan police officers Friday is under investigation. The incident happened in Helmand province in Afghanistan. Afghan forces were targeting militants at the time and the U.S. Air Force was supposed to provide air cover but instead struck friendly Afghan forces.

The U.S. says the investigation will determine the exact circumstances that led to the incident. Anger is growing in Poland over new legislation that some critics see as a power grab. Demonstrators have rallied against the government in more than 100 cities across Poland. The upper house of parliament passed the bill Saturday and the bill would enable the government to force the country's supreme court justices into retirement.

This is just one of several bills seen as limiting the judiciary's independence. It still must be signed by the president. But protestors are calling on him to veto it. Muhammad Lila reports from the Polish capital.

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MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thousands of ordinary people here in Poland continue to flood the streets to protest what they say is a move by the country's ruling party that would infringe their basic democratic rights.

If you look around, you'll see many people hold holding candles. They say those candles are a symbol of hope and they're chanting slogans, like "free court system" or "we want a veto."

And this all has to do with a controversial piece of legislation that's been proposed by the country's ruling party. If that legislation is approved by the country's president, it would give that ruling party unprecedented power to appoint and remove the country's supreme court judges.

And here is why that's important. If you think back to Democracy 101, one of the basic hallmarks of a free and stable and healthy democracy is an independent judiciary.

Well, these people here are protesting, saying that if this bill becomes law, then this country will effectively no longer have an independent judiciary because whoever is ruling the country, in this case the Law and Justice Party, would be able to appoint supreme court judges that support that country's --

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LILA: -- own mandate. Now for its part the ruling party says that this is part of the democratic process. And the ruling party should be allowed to have that control over the supreme court system.

But if this flood of protests that we've seen not just in Warsaw but in fact right across the country is any indication, there are tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people right across the country, that are demanding that the president veto this legislation.

And that's really what it comes down to, the last effort or the last hope really of the protestors who are protesting is that the president will exercise his veto power.

And all eyes now are going to be on a meeting that takes place Monday between the president and the head of the country's supreme court system. We know that this legislation will come up. And we know that the president himself has 21 days to decide if he is

going to approve it or if he will listen to the demands of the protestors and veto the legislation. Certainly, that's something that many of the opposition parties are hoping for -- Muhammad Lila, CNN, Warsaw.

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VANIER: And Former Polish president Lech Walesa is also against the bill. He said the changes could weaken Polish democracy.

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LECH WALESA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF POLAND (through translator): Our generation led Poland to freedom in an incredibly difficult situation and based it on the separation of powers.

This is the most important thing that we managed to do. If anyone wants to disturb this most important victory, you, the young people, cannot let that happen. So that there is no doubt, I will always be with you, despite my condition, even if they arrest all of you here.

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VANIER: One Warsaw resident told CNN that he remembered how his own parents protested in 1989 against Poland's then Communist regime and he called these demonstrations the same moment.

Let's turn to Venezuela now, where the opposition is increasing pressure on the president, Nicolas Maduro. On Saturday, police clashed with protestors, trying to stop the president's plans to rewrite the constitution.

Mr. Maduro is not backing down, this despite the threat of economic sanctions from the United States. Meanwhile, we want to tell you about this violinist, who has become a symbol of anti-Maduro protests.

He was wounded on Saturday. The 23-year old has become famous for playing the violin amid violent clashes. We've shown him to you before and here he is now, tweeting a video from the hospital, saying the bullets will not stop the opposition.

About 100 people have now died in around three months of protests in Venezuela.

Hollywood is mourning the loss of a beloved actor. John Heard was best known for playing the part of the father in the "Home Alone" movies. But he was also a versatile performer on stage and television. In 1999, he was nominated for a Emmy for the role of a corrupt police detective. You may remember him in "The Sopranos." And John heard was 71.

All right, thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. "MARKETPLACE AFRICA" is next. Stay with us.

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