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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Steps-up Public Attacks on Attorney General; Health Care Debate; Russia Investigation; Crisis in Venezuela; Cardinal Pell Appears in Court; Margaret Cho Launches "Fresh Off the Bloat" Tour. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired July 26, 2017 - 00:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:00:06] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can be more presidential than any president that's ever held this office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: High praise for President Trump by President Trump.

VAUSE: High stakes in Venezuela with a 48-hour nationwide strike to protest the upcoming referendum on a new constitution.

SOARES: Plus Margaret Cho will be here to talk Hollywood whitewashing and comedy in the age of Trump.

VAUSE: Hello, everybody -- great to have you with us. I'm John Vause.

SOARES: And I'm Isa Soares.

NEWSROOM L.A. begins right now.

VAUSE: Donald Trump's unprecedented public-shaming of a cabinet member is not letting up but there is growing blowback for the attack on his Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sources say top White House officials are urging Mr. Trump to stop the criticism. And Republican lawmakers are publicly defending Sessions.

SOARES: Well, the President has been furious with Sessions since March when he recused himself from the Russian investigation. When asked about Sessions' future, Mr. Trump's answer sounded rather honest. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I am disappointed in the Attorney General. He should not have recused himself almost immediately after he took office. And if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me prior to taking office. And I would have quite simply picked somebody else.

I told you before I'm very disappointed with the Attorney General but we will see what happens. Time will tell. Time will tell.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Time will tell. Joining us here right now talk radio host Ethan Bearman and California Republican National Committeeman Shawn Steel. Thank you for both coming in.

Ok. So not only are we hearing that Jeff Sessions is refusing to resign, to quit, to retire the "Daily Beast" adds this reporting. "Sessions is totally pissed off about it", an (inaudible) familiar with his thinking. "It's beyond insane. It's cruel. And it's insane and it's stupid.

Shawn -- why won't the President just fire him or at least find another way of killing off the investigation into his campaign's ties to Russia.

SHAWN STEEL, CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: There's too many things that are going on here, and it's not as obvious as it seems. You know, just a few weeks ago he announced on Twitter that he was very unhappy with Sessions, you know, two months after the fact.

That set off a chain of events which always does. And it appears that when you first hear something from Trump it's actually a misdirection. There's something else going on.

I suspect there's many theories nobody really knows. And I don't know what you just read because that wasn't sourced either.

What we do know for sure is that there is an investigation run by, I think a person that's got very bad conflict of interest, Mr. Mueller that has hired hardcore cutthroat Democrat strategist lawyers that hate Donald Trump. So they've got a bunch of hate-Trumpers that are going to have active prosecution not only against Trump himself but against his own family. So it's deep and it's personal.

So how do you handle that? There's a lot of different ways of doing it. But one is to get the Justice Department to think seriously not only about, you know, get some decent balance of at least lawyers. Or if nothing else to have the Justice Department have a different approach of controlling because Mueller is out of control.

VAUSE: Ok -- Ethan.

ETHAN BEARMAN, RADIO HOST: Yes. So let's start with this. The Attorney General is not supposed to declare his loyalty to the President. He doesn't declare fealty and bow down and kiss the ring.

STEEL: Asked by the President.

BEARMAN: That's not how that goes. It's also different because there's nepotism there. So in this case the Attorney General needed to recuse himself because he got connected to Russia. VAUSE: Because it was legally the right thing to do.

BEARMAN: That's right. You have to model the law. And if the President is not interested in the law, then we ought to begin the process of finding a replacement.

SOARES: Regardless of what the President thinks about Jeff Sessions and we've seen for the last week and a half, he seems to have the support at least from Russian lawmakers. Take a listen --

VAUSE: Republicans.

SOARES: Republicans -- not the Russians.

VAUSE: Maybe Russians as well. But definitely Republicans.

SOARES: Republican lawmakers -- let's have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I think the Attorney General's doing a fine job and I think he made the right decision to recuse himself from the Russia matter.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: He made the right decision to recuse himself. I happen to agree with him. I think Jeff Sessions did the right thing.

REP. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If there's any person on Capitol Hill that has been loyal to the President of the United States, it's Jeff Sessions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SOARES: Apologies for that slip of the tongue. I didn't mean it.

So you see, it does beg the question if he were to be fired, who would want that job if the President of the United States is going to constantly undermine the person in that post?

STEEL: Well, again we're back to the speculation -- but I love speculation.

[00:05:04] VAUSE: That's why we have you here.

STEEL: That's a big part of the news. Rudy Giuliani has been mentioned.

VAUSE: Who says he wouldn't recuse himself.

STEEL: He may have said that.

VAUSE: He did, at all the networks.

STEEL: We've got very much of a political environment. There's any number of people who would love to be Attorney General, but I don't think that's the play.

I think the play is right now Trump is wondering look, there's these bogus charges against me that's morphed into this $100 million prosecution, which I call scam but what about Hillary Clinton's 33,000 disappearing --

VAUSE: Ok --

STEEL: What about the other things that are going on --

VAUSE: She's not president and -- let's not --

(CROSSTALK)

VAUSE: Ok. It's not just the reaction from Republicans in Congress. Here's part of the coverage from Fox News a few hours ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: They're publicly attacking Jeff Sessions for all of that -- that is nuts. Senior White House staff thinks so, too. They have asked the President to stop, so far without success.

Meanwhile, Sessions hasn't said a word. His only public comment has been a press release describing his plans to crack down on sanctuary cities. That's his job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Ethan -- many of the conservative outlets are actually warning the President -- this is quite telling -- not to go ahead and fire Sessions, to back off on this.

Because they make a point that a lot of the fans that make up -- or a lot of the base of Donald Trump were fans of Jeff Sessions long before Donald Trump came along on issues like immigration and immigration. And this could have huge consequences to Donald Trump and those hardcore supporters.

BEARMAN: Yes. And Trump himself said that Sessions was one of his earliest supporters because he saw the size of the crowds which is ridiculous. Sessions was solid in his seat in Alabama. He's very popular there, like you said with the other conservatives.

This is, I think though, to maybe give a little credit to Shawn for seeing it. This is classic misdirection that I think the President is doing where he's now moving the attention away from the fact that the health care bill barely even passed to get heard today.

He has serious issues. The tax plans that he wanted to do are not happening. The wall isn't being built as he promised. None of his promises are coming through as he did -- as he promised during the campaign.

So this is his way to keep the eye on something else instead of us going look what Trump isn't doing. Look how he's failing as president.

SOARES: Well, meantime he seems to be drawing a lot of attention to the topic of loyalty. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We could use some more loyalty. I love loyalty.

Loyalty can be a wonderful thing.

Loyalty is very important.

Loyalty.

You know some of these people have like a 10 percent loyalty, meaning if they sneeze in the wrong direction they're gone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SOARES: Well, Jeff Sessions as you were saying, Ethan, has been very loyal to the President as one of his earlier.

But I would like to get both your take on this. Does President Trump expect those who work for him to be loyal to him above everything else, above the constitution?

STEEL: I would say it's the same kind of loyalty that every president has demanded. Obama demanded rigorous loyalty, and he got it. You know, he had a far better selection of people. He was more conventional --

BEARMAN: So you admit Obama did a better job as president?

STEEL: No --

BEARMAN: You just did that.

STEEL: I've never said that in my life. It's a miserable mistake, eight years of darkness. It was awful. But when it comes to Trump, he's new, he's naive. This political stuff is something totally different for him.

Now, Jeff Sessions is a good quality person. But he's very rigid. He's very formulistic. He follows his own personal directions on this. And I can't fault him for that but it may not be the kind of guy that Trump needs.

Trump is a warrior, Sessions is not. There's a big character difference between the two on that. And then there's a few other things that Sessions has done recently that hasn't made conservatives happy. He's going back assets forfeiture, back to the war on drugs -- these are the kinds of things that separate us from him.

VAUSE: Ethan.

BEARMAN: Yes. I mean to Isa's point or questioning was yes President Trump is demanding loyalty to him. Not to the constitution, not to the country, not to the rule of law but to himself. And it's just horrible.

VAUSE: You know, the President is now referring to the Attorney General in the same way he referred to his opponent during the campaign, weak and beleaguered. You know, in the next couple of days he could be low energy, Beauregard for all we know.

You know. And as you've been making the point Sessions is very loyal to Donald Trump. He stood by him at every campaign, the Access: Hollywood tapes, you know. And some people are saying this lack of loyalty the President is showing to Republicans is one of the reasons why this health care bill has had so much trouble getting through both the House and now the Senate got through with just one vote. And Pence had to come in to vote for it.

You know, instead, though, Donald Trump earlier this evening, a couple of hours ago was blaming Democrats for the problems in passing the health care. Listen to the President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The Washington obstructionists, meaning Democrats, made big promises to the American people. And every single promise they made turned out to be a lie. You can have your doctor. You can have your plan. You remember, 28 times, you can have your doctor. You can have your plan.

[00:10:03] I know Democrats that heard that, and they would have never voted for it. But they voted because they believed the lies of President Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Shawn -- the problem for Donald Trump right now with health care is not the Democrats, it's the Republicans.

STEEL: Well no -- actually the Republicans came through except for two that voted against having a debate heard. We've heard mainstream media constantly say the Republicans can't get anything passed, they're going to lose in the House. They didn't.

They're going to lose in the Senate, not even get on the floor. It got on the floor. Don't underestimate McConnell. Don't underestimate Trump. Go ahead and shake your heads but the fact is that Obamacare is getting worse every day for most Americans who have it. The expenses are going way --

BEARMAN: Because of an executive order that the President signed not paying insurers --

STEEL: That's a miserable excuse and it's not true.

VAUSE: Ok.

STEEL: It's your bill. You own it. (CROSSTALK)

BEARMAN: -- foundation from underneath something and it collapses, the one who dug the foundation owns it.

STEEL: The good news is something that was created by Democrats and it's not working.

VAUSE: Last 20 seconds.

BEARMAN: Trump's not worried about the policy of the health care bill. He just wants something passed so he can say he got it passed. He doesn't care what the bill even looks like so the Republicans will have to give him something.

STEEL: And it's probably going to pass.

VAUSE: And today we're celebrating a procedural measure which got through with one vote.

BEARMAN: Right.

VAUSE: Ok. Ok, Ethan and Shawn -- good to see you both.

STEEL: Roll out the champagne.

VAUSE: Out of time. Thanks, guys.

SOARES: Thank you very much.

VAUSE: Well, one of the central figures in the Russia investigation is avoiding testifying in public, at least for now. The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has dropped its subpoena to force Mr. Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort to appear at a public hearing on Wednesday.

SOARES: Well, instead Manafort provided documents to the committee and has agreed to be interviewed in the future. Our Manu Raju has more now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Paul Manafort has been at the center of several investigations on Capitol Hill and as well the special counsel, Bob Mueller's inquiry into Russian meddling and any collusion that may have existed between Trump officials and Russian officials.

Now, what we do now know that Paul Manafort behind the scenes did meet with staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday to provide information about that June 2016 meeting that he attended with Donald Trump, Jr. and Jared Kushner in which Donald Trump, Jr. was promised dirt on the Clinton campaign from Russians.

Manafort talking about that, and also agreeing, I am told, to come back before the Senate Intelligence Committee staff and Senators at a later date to talk about other issues.

Now, he's also facing a subpoena threat to appear at a Wednesday hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. But Manafort cut a deal with the leaders of that committee and no longer will have to appear in public, instead agreeing to negotiate for a private interview before any public session.

Now, this comes also as Jared Kushner still in the spotlight after a second day of meeting with congressional investigators, this time testimony with the House Intelligence Committee after meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee staff. The question is will Jared Kushner come back.

Democrats on both committees say they have more questions including the top Democrat on that committee, Mark Warner who tells me that absolutely Kushner, Manafort and others need to come back for further questioning, a sign that this is not quite over just yet.

Manu Raju, CNN -- Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: CNN intelligence and security analyst Bob Baier joins us now for more on this. He's also a former CIA operative. Bob -- good to have you with us.

One of the issues with this June meeting last year during the campaign -- we don't know exactly what happened. We have, you know, some testimony from Kushner and from Donald Trump, Jr. We have the e- mails.

Big picture here, if the Kremlin was looking to try and recruit someone not specifically with relation to this thing. You've got the big picture, it usually starts with what, like a soft pitch to gauge interest? How do these things begin?

ROBERT BAER, CNN SECURITY AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, it starts with what we call spotting and assessing in the business. CIA does the same thing.

You go to somebody, see what their needs are. They need money. They need political support. You use a proxy for that, somebody who's not a diplomat, not a proper spy --

VAUSE: What they call a cut out.

BAER: A cut out -- yes, cut out is fine.

VAUSE: There's (inaudible) term, I guess.

BAER: We'd be calling them an access agent. They've got access in New York, access to Trump Incorporate, the family, and the rest of it.

And then they go to soft pitch as you say. You propose something is clearly wrong and you watch for the reaction. What you don't do is carry the documents with you. VAUSE: That's what I've got to get to because Jared Kushner's

statement to Congress about the meeting last year with the Russian lawyer who we now know is linked to the Kremlin, read in part, "When I got there," this is Kushner, "the person who has since been identified as a Russian attorney was talking about the issue of a ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children. I had no idea why that topic was being raised and quickly determined that my time was not well-spent at this meeting. Reviewing e-mails recently confirmed my memory that the meeting was a waste of time."

[00:15:03] So again, in general terms, if the Kremlin arranges this meeting with promise of some kind of payoff. They don't offer up the goods on the first meeting right. They don't do that.

BAER: No, never. They want to test the water.

VAUSE: Right.

BAER: I mean if right away they had rejected it, Donald Trump, Jr. the pitch, they could say oh, you misunderstood us. I mean (AUDIO GAP) hundred times. We do the same thing. You come in with -- you hint at something, but you definitely do not do a flat out pitch, a cold pitch on somebody like this.

You judge their reaction and if they like it as Donald Trump, Jr. did, as we saw in the e-mail.

VAUSE: I love -- yes.

BAER: I love it -- then you set up other connections later on down the line.

VAUSE: Because that gives the cut out plausible deniability.

BAER: Plausible deniability. They say hey, you know, you misunderstood me. The translator was bad, whatever.

VAUSE: Ok. So if all that was testing the waters to see the level of enthusiasm, if you like, the fact that Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort also turned up to this meeting along with Donald, Jr. -- what does that say? If you were -- for the Russian operative who was there, you know, in a meeting like this if someone like those two senior people turned up. What does that say?

BAER: Well, Manafort, they knew quite well. I mean he was deep in the Ukrainian money, pro-Russian Ukrainian GB money supporting that government. So they knew what he was about.

What they wanted to know is if the Trumps wanted to get into politics with these people. And the answer was yes. I mean, look, from my perspective and I admittedly have a different perspective, this all stinks. It really does.

I mean you've got money, you've got this woman, this lawyer is connected to the KGB. She represented the KGB. You have someone providing -- you know, offering a covert action support. In the business we call this espionage and we call it treasonous as well.

VAUSE: Ok. Kushner also, addressed the meeting he had with the CEO of a state-run Russian bank which is under U.S. sanctions -- Sergei Gorkov. This is part of Kushner's statements to Congress.

"I agreed to meet Mr. Gorkov because the ambassador" -- this is the Russian ambassador Kislyak who has since left (ph) -- "has been so insistent. He said he had direct relationship" -- this is Gorkov -- "with the President -- as in Putin. "And because Mr. Gorkov was only in New York for a couple of days."

So if you just read that on its own, it seems that there is this relationship there at least between Kushner and Kislyak. Is that something as an investigator would be a red flag? You want to know what their relationship was, how it was developed over time, how close these two were?

BAER: Look, the fact that he went to the Russian ambassador and asked for a back channel -- back channels are meant to be between governments, not between private citizens --

VAUSE: And he's admitted to that in this statement.

BAER: Yes, but that's wrong. I mean that's -- on the face of it that is espionage. It really is. You don't go -- you and I can't go to the Russian consulate in San Francisco and say we want to setup a back channel. The FBI is listening to that. We'd both be in handcuffs.

VAUSE: And this relationship with Kislyak. Kislyak is a well-known senior recruiter for the Kremlin.

BAER: His father (inaudible) to Kremlin. He's probably minister of foreign affairs, but he works for the KGB at the end of the day. And the fact that Kushner didn't know this, really makes you wonder about his judgment.

VAUSE: That's the best case scenario.

BAER: Best case scenario, or there's always the money -- follow the money. We're going to see this in the next couple of months, the money connections come out -- and current ones as well.

VAUSE: Ok Bob -- thanks so much. Good to speak to you.

SOARES: Still to come right here, tensions are rising in Venezuela as the opposition calls for a strike ahead of some of this controversial vote that could rewrite the constitution.

VAUSE: Plus unfiltered comedian Margaret Cho is getting political on her new tour. Coming up -- she tells us how President Donald Trump inspired her latest standup material.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SOARES: Now, the opposition in Venezuela is increasing pressure on President Nicolas Maduro by calling for a nationwide strike on Wednesday as well as Thursday.

VAUSE: They're also pushing to disrupt Sunday's vote to elect a special assembly which could give more power to Mr. Maduro and strip political power away from his opponents. Months of protest against the referendum as well as the president left close to 100 people dead.

SOARES: But it's not just the political turmoil. Venezuelans are also in the middle of humanitarian crisis triggered by years of economic mismanagement.

VAUSE: Here's Paula Newton reporting in from Caracas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The fear here in Venezuela is palpable with many wondering if their country is at a tipping point. President Nicolas Maduro has called a referendum vote for Sunday, a vote that the opposition claims will give him substantial new powers to essentially act like a dictator and erase any trace of democracy here in Venezuela.

Nicolas Maduro says that he will continue to go ahead with this vote despite the fact that the White House could now be a game changer. President Trump saying that he is promising swift economic action if the President continues to go ahead with this vote on Sunday.

Now, you have to remember that in the meantime Venezuelans are still trying to get to those very basic necessities of life every day, trying to stock up on food and medicine that has been so scarce now for months and months.

In the middle of all of this, Nicolas Maduro says he doesn't care about opposition threats or White House threats. He will go through his vote on Sunday. And says what cannot be achieved with votes, he will achieve with weapons.

Paula Newton, CNN -- Caracas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SOARES: Let's get more on this story. Joining us now is Miguel Tinker Salas. He's a professor of Latin American Studies Pomona College. Miguel -- thank you very much for joining us on the show.

MIGUEL TINKER SALAS, PROFESSOR OF LATIN AMERICAN STUDIES, POMONA COLLEGE: My pleasure.

SOARES: There's plenty of speculation as to whether President Maduro will actually halt the assembly vote this weekend. From what you're hearing from your contacts on the ground, how likely is that to happen? How likely is it to back down?

TINKER SALAS: It's difficult for him to back down at this late stage in this process. To do so would be to lose faith. We've had on the part of the PSUV, the socialist party of Venezuela, enacted campaigns since May.

So for him at this stage after the opposition has held its plebiscite to back down without something very substantial to be able to show for it that is ending as a protest or something like that, I don't see it in the cards.

SOARES: Well, meanwhile we've heard from Senator Marco Rubio who has been quoted in the "Miami Herald" for really asking President Trump to sanction ten more high ranking individuals in the Venezuelan government.

This is what he said. "This is only the beginning for Maduro and those empowering him to destroy democracy and abuse the Venezuelan people." He said in a statement to "Miami Herald". He went on to say "More sanctions await should Maduro move forward with Sunday's," what he called, "fraudulent vote."

Of course last week we saw President Trump also threaten Maduro with sanctions. In a statement, this is what he said. "The United States will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles. If the Maduro regime (inaudible) its constituent assembly on July 30th, The United States will take strong as well as swift economic actions."

How does Maduro react to all of this? Does he just ignore this domestic as well as international pressure, not just coming from the U.S., I may add, also from Europe?

TINKER SALAS: The reality is that for Maduro's followers, the actions on the part of Trump and, in this case Rubio, reinforces Maduro's argument that Venezuela is under siege, that Venezuela is being attacked by an international conspiracy.

And sanctions at this point against individuals will be the same sort of effect that it had when Obama took this similar actions the past, particularly when he declared Venezuela an immediate threat to U.S. national security.

[00:25:06] So that -- these kinds of sanctions in fact, will have very little impact and economic sanctions would be very -- would have draconian results in Venezuela because as you mentioned earlier, there's already a human rights crisis happening with absence of products, medicines, and food.

And if you were to do an economic sanction against Venezuela, the real losers would be the Venezuelan population. So we hope that cooler heads would prevail on matters of economic sanctions.

Individual sanctions we've seen in the past, and that has in fact served to reinforce Maduro's position and his argument that the country somehow and his government somehow is under attack.

SOARES: Of course, the theory is that will exacerbate the situation, humanitarian situation on the ground. But let me ask you this -- Miguel. If all this pressure doesn't stop Maduro and he goes ahead with his plan on Sunday, what do you think this will mean for Chavismo? Do you fear that will enter a more authoritarian phase?

TINKER SALAS: It will -- it might enter a more radical phase, particularly if power is transferred from say the traditional institutions in Venezuelan society to the communal councils, to the collectives, and the state begins to dismantle itself in multiple ways therefore ensuring that any future election would have less of an impact on the power of the social changes.

I think what you're going to see coming out of a constitutional assembly is to institutionalize the social mission programs, to institutionalize the different collectives and communes that have been established and try to transfer power to those institutions and debilitating institutions like the National Assembly or others.

That's particularly in light of any future elections that Maduro himself might lose if those came to pass.

SOARES: Miguel Tinker Salas -- thank you very much. Fascinating insight -- thank you, sir.

TINKER SALAS: Thank you.

VAUSE: Well, still to come here, one of the closest advisers to Pope Francis is facing multiple charges in Australia -- those details in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Welcome back -- everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.

I'm John Vause.

SOARES: And I'm Isa Soares.

Let me bring up to date the main news headlines this hour.

U.S. President Donald Trump is offering a cryptic "time will tell" answer to questions about Attorney General Jeff Sessions' future. Mr. Trump has escalated his criticism of Sessions calling him "beleaguered" and to quote, "very weak". The President's furious over Sessions' recusal from the Russia investigation.

[00:30:00]

(HEADLINES)

VAUSE: The Vatican's treasurer says he is looking forward to finally having his day in court. Cardinal George Pell has appeared at a brief hearing at Melbourne's magistrates' court.

SOARES: He faces multiple charges of historical sexual assault offenses. His lawyer says the cardinal will plead not guilty to all charges. His next court hearing is October the 6th (ph).

VAUSE: CNN's Anna Coren joins us now live from Melbourne, Australia.

So, Anna, what's the latest from there?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, there were extraordinary scenes here in Melbourne a few hours ago as one of the most powerful figures in the Vatican, Cardinal George Pell, arrived here at the magistrates' court, surrounded by a media scrum.

He walked from his lawyer's office, which is about 100 meters, where we were standing, flanked by police who walked very slowly, trying to get through this media scrum, where there were just dozens of journalists, photographers and cameraman, all trying to catch a glimpse of one of the pope's closest advisers.

Of course he is here facing charges of multiple historical sexual assault offenses made by multiple complainants. We can't go into the charges nor the alleged victims due to legal reasons.

But what we can tell you is that he didn't need to be here today. This was just a preliminary hearing. But, as we know, this is a man who is fighting for his innocence, for his reputation and for his survival.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COREN (voice-over): For decades, George Pell has been a senior figure in the Roman Catholic church in Australia, an institution which has been mired by sexual abuse allegations for many years.

But after a two-year investigation by Australian police, the 76-year- old cardinal himself was charged in June with multiple sexual assault offenses, sending shock waves through the Vatican and around the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today Victorian police have charged Cardinal George Pell with historical sexual assault offenses. Cardinal Pell is facing multiple charges in response to historic sexual offenses and there are multiple complainants.

COREN (voice-over): Cardinal Pell is one of Pope Francis' top advisers. As the Secretariat of the Economy, he's in charge of the Vatican's finances. He was also handpicked to sit on the pope's advisory council, set up to address issues including sexual abuse within the church.

Reading a statement from the Vatican hours after the charges were laid, Cardinal Pell says he has endured a relentless character assassination and that he is innocent.

CARDINAL GEORGE PELL, SECRETARIAT OF THE ECONOMY, ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH: I'm looking forward finally to having my day in court. I'm innocent of these charges. They are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me. COREN (voice-over): Last year Cardinal Pell said he wasn't able to return to Australia to testify before a royal commission into the church's mishandling of sexual abuse. Instead, he gave four days of testimony from a hotel in Rome, his doctors saying he was too ill to fly.

Cardinal Pell has retained the services of a top Melbourne QC Robert Richter, who has been described as the Rolls-Royce of criminal defense lawyers. The archbishop of Sydney confirmed the church won't be covering Cardinal Pell's legal costs. So Australia's most senior Catholic cleric will be relying on donations from sympathetic parishioners while footing the hefty bill himself.

He flew back into Australia earlier this month, where he was met by security and whisked away from a barrage of media. But it will be near impossible to avoid the spotlight as he fights to defend himself and, in his words, "clear his name."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COREN: Now as we say, this was just a preliminary routine hearing. George Pell was in the dock for all of a few minutes. His criminal defense lawyer, one of the best in the country, Robert Richter, told the court that if there was any doubt, Cardinal Pell will be pleading not guilty to all charges.

Now this was not the day to enter a plea. He will do that on the 6th --

[00:35:00]

COREN: -- of October, which is his next court appearance. But obviously George Pell, his legal team wanting to get ahead of the ball and let everybody know, let the world know that he will be pleading not guilty to all the charges -- John and Isa.

VAUSE: Anna Coren, now our the magistrates' court reporter, there live this hour with the very latest. Thank you, Anna.

SOARES: Now coming up, comedian Margaret Cho says she's sick of Hollywood's bias against Asian American actors. She joins us here in the studio to talk about that and her new standup tour (ph). That's next.

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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SOARES: Now, comedian and actress Margaret Cho has a lot to celebrate lately. Not only was she recently named one of "Rolling Stone's" 50 best standup comics of all-time but she's set to launch a brand-new tour this fall.

VAUSE: It's called "Fresh off the Bloat," and she says it's her sickest show to date. She'll base the material on the ABC sitcom, "Fresh off the Boat."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FRESH OFF THE BOAT")

HUDSON YANG, ACTOR, "EDDIE HUANG": I don't know why we have to move.

Why couldn't we keep on going back and forth between Orlando and D.C.?

RANDALL PARK, ACTOR, "LOUIS HUANG": Because I didn't come to America to work for your mom's brother, selling furniture for the rest of my life.

CONSTANCE WU, ACTOR, "JESSICA HUANG": Your father is right. This is why we left Chinatown and D.C. This is why we left our family and friends.

"LOUIS": Exactly.

"JESSICA": This is why we left everything we know to come to a place where we know nothing and where the humidity is not good for my hair.

(END VIDEO CLIP, "FRESH OFF THE BOAT")

SOARES: And Margaret Cho joins us now.

Thanks for joining us, Margaret. I was reading about the preparations for your show, it's coming up rather soon.

And correct me if I'm wrong, are there any political undertones in what you've got coming up?

MARGARET CHO, COMEDIAN: I think so. I think so. I think there has to be right now, especially with the way everything is and our president, this is so weird. I don't understand how Donald Trump is president. I blame NASCAR. I think it's just NASCAR, it's energy drinks, Monster in particular.

(LAUGHTER)

CHO: People drinking a lot of caffeine and taurine combined, making poor decisions. I just -- I don't know.

SOARES: Obviously, you do comedy all over the world.

What works well here that doesn't work perhaps in parts of Europe and Asia?

What do you think works well?

CHO: You know, our world has become so small with the way that the Internet is and the way people watch everything online, how this 24- hour news cycle is like just so fast.

And also all eyes are on America right now because of Trump and because of what's going on. So it's like a very -- everything is really kind of the same. We've all landed and now we're all in the same country, which is really -- it's a new time to think about media and entertainment. It's great.

SOARES: Let's put politics to one side.

Besides politics, what kind of topics do you talk about --

[00:40:00]

SOARES: -- in your standup, what else do you find brings humor?

CHO: Well, this show has a lot to do with whitewashing and this inability for Hollywood to cast Asian stories with Asian actors. So you know, whether that's talking about Emma Stone or Scarlett Johansson --

(CROSSTALK)

CHO: -- or Tilda Swinton, who I had a big altercation with and was sort of out there in social media and so I'll get to talk about that, which is a lot of fun.

SOARES: How much bias on that topic?

How much bias?

You're from L.A. and you know it better than I do. I'm visiting.

How much bias do you think there is here in Hollywood towards Asian American actors?

CHO: I just think there's an invisibility. If you're looking at a movie about the Great Wall of China, called "The Great Wall," starring Matt Damon, that's a problem. It's in China. It's the Great Wall of China. I don't know what Matt Damon has to do with the Great Wall of China.

It's just this invisibility or this cluelessness that Hollywood repeats over and over again. And it's happened since the beginning of cinema, all the way through until now. So I think things are changing. They're growing and we'll see.

SOARES: Are you starting to see change within Hollywood to that?

CHO: For sure. There's, of course, the very popular show "Fresh off the Boat," which my show is a take on the name, "Fresh off the Bloat," which seems pretty meta, because I had the first Asian American family TV show and then now we have that show and so now it's like this thing like but referencing back.

So it's cool. But, yes, there is change, there is difference, there is a lot of great stuff happening out there. I have a new pilot, too, on TNT, called "Highland," which is about a Korean American family caught up in the big marijuana boom here in Los Angeles. So it's a green rush really. And so that's a fun thing, too.

SOARES: I know you talk a lot about Asian American relations and families and how they operate at home. Do you think that that comedy works right across borders, backgrounds,

people understand that?

CHO: I think so because it's that -- I think it's like the comedy of the other or the outsider. Everybody understands what sort of being outside and not really -- kind of looking in and not really understanding what's going on.

And so that's really what a lot of the stuff that I do about my family is and what this show is. And so I have always been that sort of outsider mentality.

SOARES: Yes, and finally can you give us a little joke from your upcoming tour, that it's clean?

(CROSSTALK)

CHO: Well, this has to do with my mother. I told my mother when I was 14 I want to be a comedian.

And she said, "Oh, maybe it's better if you just die."

So Koreans are the most savage of all the Asians. I stand by that.

SOARES: There you go. Thank you very much, Margaret.

CHO: Thank you.

SOARES: Best of luck with the tour.

CHO: Thanks.

SOARES: Thank you.

VAUSE: Well, for many in the world of rock 'n' roll, the '70s, just a blur. Take Alice Cooper, such a blur he forgot owning a piece of art. You know, it was a silkscreen by the late pop artist Andy Warhol, called "Little Electric Chair." It sat rolled up in a tube for 40 years.

Cooper's longtime manager said the singer, oh, suddenly remembered and found it in storage. The artwork was originally a birthday gift. Now it's worth maybe as much as $10 million. But it seems Cooper is likely to just hang it on a wall at home.

SOARES: He'll forget about it --

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

SOARES: That does it for us. Thanks very much for watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm Isa Soares.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause. "WORLD SPORT" is up next. You're watching CNN, the world's news leader.