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New Twist To Trump Jr.'s Russia Meeting Saga; U.S. Sanctions "Dictator" Maduro; Communications Director Scaramucci Forced Out; General Kelly Sworn In As Chief Of Staff; Maduro Condemns New U.S. Sanctions; China: Up to U.S. & North Korea to Ease Tensions; Russia Strikes Back at Potential New U.S. Sanctions; Trump Presidency Prompts Scientists to Run for Office; Princess Diana Tapes to be Shown in U.K. Despite Protests. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired August 1, 2017 - 01:00   ET


[01:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: You are watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Ahead this hour, new report says the U.S. president was behind initially misleading statement despite Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with the Russian lawyer. Plus --

VAUSE: Venezuela's President, Nicolas Maduro, is lashing out after the U.S. slapped him with heavy personal sanctions and called him a "dictator."

SESAY: And in a new strain of resistance, some frustrated U.S. scientists are turning to politics over the protest.

VAUSE: Hello, everybody, great to have you with us. I'm John Vause, and you might be?

SESAY: Isha Sesay.

VAUSE: As you say.

SESAY: That's right. This is NEWSROOM L.A. Well, we begin with new developments in that now infamous meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer. The Washington report -- Washington Post, rather, reporting that President Trump per se dictated a misleading statement, claiming the meeting was about adoptions. Trump Jr. later released e- mails showing the meeting was set-up to provide damaging information about Hillary Clinton about the Russian government.

VAUSE: And the Mooch has been cut loose. Another staff shake-up at the White House; Communications Director, Anthony Scaramucci, was forced out on Monday just 11 days in the job. Officially, the White House says President Trump now considers Scaramucci's profanity-laced interview last week as being inappropriate. No coincidence or whatsoever that Scaramucci was let go on the same day that retired General, John Kelly, took over as White House Chief of Staff.

Joining us down here in Los Angeles: CNN's Senior Reporter for Media and Politics, Dylan Byers; former L.A. Councilwoman, Wendy Greuel; and CNN Political Commentator and Trump Supporter, John Phillips. Love to have you all with us.

SESAY: Welcome, to you all.

VAUSE: OK. So, I think it's important to go back to that original statement that came out in response to the New York Times -- this is on July Ninth, they are asking exactly what that meeting was about. And this is a statement that came from Donald Trump Jr., why he was meeting with that Kremlin-linked lawyer: "It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared (Jared Kushner) and Paul (Manafort) to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow-up."

OK. So, Dylan, to you, we learned within days that statement from Donald Jr. was deliberately misleading, and at this report from the Washington Post is in fact correct. We know why he did it because his father told him to.

DYLAN BYERS, CNN SENIOR REPORTER FOR MEDIA AND POLITICS: That's absolutely right. And the Washington Post reports that in by all accounts, looks to be true, they're citing multiple sources. Think about the sources who would know that that such -- that the president would have been behind such a statement. Obviously, they would have to be present with him or around him when that happened. Look, how many things does this White House and this president want to sort of cover up, knowing that in the modern media culture that information is going to come out.

And at the end of the day, what this does is that shifts the focus from Donald Trump's son onto the president himself. It creates more questions that once again throws the Russia scandal back into the forefront of the news cycle, at a time when there's been plenty of other things for the media to focus on at least which is the palace entry with Anthony Scaramucci that you just talked about. I mean, you know, look, there are enough headaches to go around for this administration, and yet it keeps finding ways to create more.

SESAY: John, to bring you in here, I want you to take a listen to Tom Hamburger -- one of the Washington Post journalist who broke the story, speaking to our own Jake Tapper just a short time ago.



TOM HAMBURGER, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Senior advisors to -- White House advisors and advisors to the president's inner circle, recommended in the early going of what they described to us as a more fulsome disclosure of what that meeting was like. In other words, it wasn't just being described, initially, as a meeting about the adoption of Russian children of the United States. It would, in fact, the more of a disclosure of what that meeting was actually about.


SESAY: John, (INAUDIBLE) saying this report raises a whole new set of question, doesn't it not?

PHILLIPS: But it looks like a lot of the other reports we've seen in the past that have been these huge bombshells that we thought would dominate the presidency, where you have anonymous sources and you have stories that used the potential a lot. Then, the first paragraph of this it said, it had political and potentially legal peril. And the word "potential," was showing up all throughout the rest of this copy. I think it's just more of the same.

And it's also indicative of what happens when they will have an outsider who comes into the White House, and they don't have the typical cadre of political professionals around them. They wing -- they do things that they probably shouldn't do, that probably aren't their political --

SESAY: No, this is the truth.

[01:05:04] PHILLIPS: And this is -- this is what General Kelly --

SESAY: No, no. John, back to that question: isn't the truth, the truth?

PHILLIPS: Whenever you have something like this go out, you had different iterations of it. This is something that probably if the story is true, the Trump should've stayed out of. But this is what General Kelly is really going to -- really the task at hand for him is to professionalize these sorts of operations so you don't have situations like this popping up.

VAUSE: So, Wendy, does that mean that General Kelly will be able to make this administration essentially transparent, and honest, and open? And with everything and put it all out there and operate, you know. I would say real White House because, you know, all White House has a level of, you know, intrigued too. But you know, more like it's sort of the White House.

WENDY GREUEL, FORMER L.A. COUNCILWOMAN: This story is never going to go away. I mean, this is something when you were trying to cover up exactly what happened. And that, I think, it's very clear because the statements that occurred from day one about -- it was only about adoptions. And then, acknowledged that it really was about the campaign, are going to come back to how it was -- always the cover up that causes more problems. And Kelly is only going to be successful if he's able to control the president of the United States, who tweets every single day with something new.

VAUSE: And Dylan, just to bring you, the key here though is the involvement of the president. We know Don's statement was misleading. We know that the New York Times reporter, I think it was July 11, a few days after it initially broke the story that the president signed off on Donald Trump Jr.'s initial response. This reporting now says he was intimately involved in misleading the public in putting out a misleading statement. That's the big cliffhanger here, right?

BYERS: Yes, absolutely. And look, I just -- to take issue with what John said, and say this with all due respect. You know, this effort to sort of try and cast doubt on the media anytime, anything negative comes out about Trump, to suggest that because it's anonymous sources we shouldn't press veteran reporters of the Washington Post. To suggest that, somehow, the issue here is sort of the ambiguity of the reporting, forget about legality, forget about potential what have you. The President of the United States was intimately involved in trying to mislead the American people about the meeting his son had which involved foreign government trying to influence the presidential election in the United States.

I don't think that you can cover that up. I think that seems pretty clear cut to me, and I think you can put aside your partisan hat for a while like, that's obviously troubling. And I think, certainly, you'd find it troubling if it came from a Democrat. So, yes, it is an issue -- look, I'm a media reporter, every so-called bombshell report has a way of fizzling out in a matter days. But big picture: this Russia story, isn't going away. And again, even when we're focused on other things whether it's palace entry, whether it's health care, this Russia story has a way of rearing its head.

SESAY: Speaking of big picture, let's just remind everyone, of the denials that we got just weeks ago from Trump's lawyers about all of this -- Jay Sekulow. Take a listen.


JAY SEKULOW, ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Wasn't involved in the statement drafting at all, nor was the president. I'm assuming that was between Mr. Donald Trump Jr., between Don Jr. and his lawyer. I'm sure his lawyer was involved, that's how you do it.


SESAY: John, Wendy, again, the question is how you square that with the Washington Post reporting?

GREUEL: I mean, I think it's very clear. This going to be a problem for the President of the United States because what it says there is that they lied, he was involved. I mean, this story today has legs. It's not something that is going to go away. And it is going to be, you know, looked up by Mueller; he's every time that some other story comes up. He's still going to be looking at the Russian story. And I think the president was misleading the public, and that's a scary thought for this country.

PHILLIPS: I think three days from now, we're going to be moving onto something else, not remembering this story. If it is true, if he did do participate in this, it's not what he should be spending his time on.

VAUSE: It means to say, it's not illegal in and of itself. So, why do the press? They do it, you know, publicists just do at the time, but there are obviously --

GREUEL: It's lying to the public. I mean --

VAUSE: Lie to the public, and -- exactly. This question's a (INAUDIBLE). He's a little bit more of the reporting from the Washington Post: "Trump they say is increasingly acting as his own lawyer, strategist, and publicist, often disregarding the recommendations of the professionals he has hired. 'He refuses to sit still,' the presidential advisor said. He doesn't think he's in any legal jeopardy, so he really views this as a political problem he is going to solve by himself."

Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel, at the White House preserved all documents relating to that meeting last year, and that includes any decisions made regarding the recent disclosures about the June 2016 meeting. So, again, to you Dylan, either there is 1,000 also coincidence out there involving Russia or there are some serious legal questions which seem to be developing here?

BYERS: Yes. Well, and of course, there are serious legal questions developing here, but that is up to Mueller to do his line of work, and do, you know, do the work it takes, take the time it takes to do it. And until that's done, you know, like John says these stories will sort of come up, and then they will fizzle out. But you know, I think the larger point there about the president sort of not trusting his advisors, not trusting anyone but himself; we have seen that time, and time, and time again.

And in fact, that is why Kelly has been brought in as chief of staff. There is some hope here that, finally, an order will be imposed on this administration, not only on the staff but perhaps on the president himself. Obviously, that's a taller order, given this president's reluctance to listen to anyone but, you know, his -- what's going on in his own head when he happens to be watching cable news late at night, tweeting out.

SESAY: I mean, John, what about that point that the president has this repeated tendency to wade into issues that he could leave well alone?

PHILLIPS: They made a fatal mistake at the beginning of the administration when they thought that they could bring establishment Republicans into the White House -- and we'd all be one big happy family. And the fact of the matter is you passed over a lot of people who were loyal to him during the campaign, who've been loyal to him for long periods of time. And instead, he brought in people like Reince Priebus; he brought in people like Sean Spicer, whose loyalties were not to Donald Trump, whose loyalties were to the RNC. They came from a completely separate organization. And I think because of that, you've seen a lot of leaks, you've seen a lot of people who've damaged the president, who has damaged the White House to try to further their own gains. And because of that, he doesn't trust a lot of people who work for him, and they're going to have to make some personal changes. They've already made a --



GREUEL: That's a few.


VAUSE: Because he also have brought in Anthony Scaramucci, and if you bought milk on the same day that Anthony Scaramucci was hired, it would still be fresh regardless of what, 11 days.

SESAY: 11 days.

VAUSE: Wendy, this is not going to do a lot, to sort of carve the turmoil in the White House getting rid of Scaramucci?

GREUEL: No. I mean, it is -- even though he tweeted today, "White House not in chaos." In fact, it is, and the American people believe that. Political data, achieved that last week before all of this happened -- thought that it was in chaos. So, just imagine today if they pulled, they would see that it was in chaos. Now, Kelly has made some strong -- today on his first day, getting rid of Mooch and doing some other things. But until we see that he actually has control, it's going to be a very hard job for him. And you know, they say, everyone will report to him. Imagine you are Ivanka and Jared and at Thanksgiving dinner. You know, they're still going to talk to him. They're still going to be able to go around Kelly. So, I think it's going to be an interesting task.


PHILLIPS: I think Trump's point is right. I think that as political junkies, all of us care about the palace entry. I think the man on the street doesn't care. I think the man on the street wants just look at his pension funds and see that the 401 case is doing well with the stock market high. They want to make sure that the border is secured. They want to make sure that real estate prices are holding. They want to make sure that unemployment is low. All of those things are doing just fine right now, and Donald Trump is the president.

SESAY: But let me ask you this to that point if the man on the street doesn't see any movement in the president's legislative agenda, does he not, at some point, correlate what is happening in the White House with the lack of action on Capitol Hill?

PHILLIPS: They need to get health care reform through. They need to get tax reform through. But just the standard metrics that we judge every president on, the stock market, I believe border security is something that we should judge all of them on. In this particular case, illegal immigration has fallen off the cliff, unemployment flow. I think the man on the street is happy with their life right now.

GREUEL: I would disagree. I mean that you know, we know America, still there's unemployed. There is a number of people who've not gotten these brand new jobs that the president promised them. They also were concerned enough to stand up and say we don't want that health care reform, we want to be able to have the ACA, Obamacare in some former fashion. And it was that there were enough Republicans, and the people on the street who said, I don't want to lose my health care -- that 22 million individuals.

VAUSE: So, Dylan, you know, Anthony Scaramucci needs only 11 days. That is a record, we believe, for the shortest serving White House communication. Maybe someone in the regular administration served a little shorter --


VAUSE: That's being disputed right now. It was our National Security Advisor, Michael Advisor, he was fired after 23 days; Reince Priebus is the shortest serving -- oh, sorry, Flynn was the shortest serving National Security Advisor. Priebus was the shortest serving chief of staff, 189 days. And also, Sean Spicer was the sixth shortest serving White House spokesman. So, there is, obviously, turmoil within this White House. They, obviously, can't get it right together, and that is manifesting itself in so many different ways each and every day.

BYERS: Yes. And this is really where the palace entry and the policy go hand-in-hand because you can't be an effective president of the United States if you can't keep your own house in order if you can't keep your own West Wing in order. Part of the reason that all of these shake ups matter so much, there are so many wars in the faction in the White House. They have so many different agendas. This constant streams of leaks that everyone in the White House keeps complaining about. Those happen because Trump enjoys having his own deputies go head-to-head with each other. He enjoys that fight. We saw him do it on "The Apprentice" on NBC; we're seeing him do it now in the White House.

[01:15:24] That becomes very problematic later down the line when some of those voters that base of 35, 38 percent of Americans are saying: wait a second, what happened to health care? What happened to tax reform? What happened even, perhaps, the building the wall with Mexico? I mean, you know, if you're an ineffective leader, I think that begins -- that point begins to be driven home. John is right when he says that, you know, voters care about their jobs, their wages, the economy, they care about things like that. But over time, if you appear to be ineffective both at running your own chap and pushing through any effective legislation that is really going to wear in your reputation even with your base.

SESAY: It would seem that all the pressure now is on General Kelly to rein the White House in, to bring order to what has been widely described as chaos. Well, former Trump Campaign Manager, Corey Lewandowski, had some advice for him. Take a listen.


COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER MANAGER OF TRUMP CAMPAIGN: The thing that General Kelly should do is try -- is not try to change Donald Trump. Chuck, as you know, I say, let's let Trump be Trump. That has what has made him successful over the last 30 years. That was is what the American people voted for. And anybody thinks they're going to change Donald Trump, doesn't know Donald Trump.


SESAY: Wendy, is that the right way for General Kelly to this? Bear in mind, the Washington Post is reporting what we're talking about. GREUEL: Well, I think he's probably right in what he said, but I think General Kelly believes he can change things. That he can change the in which the White House operates. I think it's a tall order, a tall task. And the first thing that really will demonstrate that he has made a difference is to not see tweets by Donald Trump every single day, and that we can bets on that whether that's going to actually happen.

VAUSE: Very quickly, John, should General Kelly hang on to an (INAUDIBLE), because, clearly, that was a walk in the park.

PHILLIPS: You know, Jerry Brown once said, governing the city California is like swimming in a canoe or riding in a canoe. You go a little bit to the left to the primary, a little bit to the right -- the General. They end up in the middle. With Donald Trump, letting Trump be Trump, works. And then when goes a little bit too far, that push him to the other side, he does the scripted speeches, then he gets bored with that, he goes back the other way. And you know what; he's cruised in that canoe with a victory. And the primaries, he cruised to victory and the general. And he's cruised to victory in the special elections we've had so far this year. I think it might be the secret sauce.


SESAY: All right.

VAUSE: Let Trump be Trump secret sauce. There we go, a new mark on his opportunity. Dylan, thank you so much. And of course, John and Wendy, thank you so much.

SESAY: Thank you so much. We appreciate it. All right, moving on now. Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, is defiant against new U.S. sanctions.

VAUSE: Or will those sanctions actually make a difference? We will speak with one expert in just a moment. And China pushing back as the president's -- U.S. president's criticism; we'll look at the growing unease after North Korea's latest missile test.

SESAY: And later, a geologist who's used to chasing volcanoes is now running for political office, just ahead. Why Donald Trump inspired her to do it?


[01:20:31] VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro is lashing against new U.S. sanctions. Any assets he may have in the United States are now frozen, and Americans served ban from doing business with him. The U.S. is calling Mr. Maduro a dictator after a controversial vote -- the White House says was a sham. Maduro's supporters are expected to control a new assembly which could rewrite the constitution.


state, Maduro is directly responsible for Venezuela's dissent and for the destruction of democracy. Adding Maduro to OFAC's list of specially designated national reflects our commitment to not stand by idly as Venezuela continues to crumble under the regime's abuses.


SESAY: Well, the Venezuelan opposition is calling for more protest against the new assembly, saying it will further undermine the country's democracy. At least, 125 people have died in four months of violent clashes. Now, Mr. Maduro is attacking U.S. President, Donald Trump.


NICOLAS MADURO, PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA (through translator): Why are they sanctioning me? Because I can tell the truth about the persecution of Mexican and Latin American at Donald Trump: the deportations, expulsions, abuse, and torture of thousands of Latin Americans. Please take note, you are either with Trump or you are with Venezuela.


SESAY: For more, we are joined by former Foreign Policy Journalist, Peter Wilson. Peter, welcome to the program. The Trump administration has described Sunday's vote as an outrageous seize of power by Nicolas Maduro, and critics have called this election a tipping point towards dictatorship. Do you agree with those assessments?

PETER WILSON, FORMER FOREIGN POLICY JOURNALIST: Yes, I do. The whole election on Sunday was a farce. The election itself -- the way it was called, the way it was announced was by many experts called it "illegal"; there was no constitutional justification for having such a referendum, especially as those not approved by the people. It's only called by -- called for by the president, so it was a farce. The government said, 8.5 million Venezuelans participated; it seems far less than that participated, perhaps 2.5, 2.6 million.

The fact is this as regards personal freedoms, as regards political freedoms, freedom of the press, freedom of expression, freedom of protest. All of those will be curtailed drastically, especially on Wednesday when the new constitutional assembly will be sworn in. When that happens, the existing Parliament, the national assembly will effectively lose all of its power, and that body is controlled by the opposition.

SESAY: Nicolas Maduro is one of the few heads of state to be sanctioned by the U.S. government, following in the footsteps of Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad; North Korea's Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un; and of course, Zimbabwe's President, Robert Mugabe. Now, here's the thing Peter, we all know all those leaders that we see on our screen -- those pre-existing members of the bad boys of politics club if you will. They have largely continued with business as usual and have not changed actions or policies due to being sanctioned or sanctioned by the U.S. Is there any reason to believe that Nicolas Maduro will somehow change his behavior, change his actions because he's now being sanctioned by the U.S.?

WILSON: Of course not. President Maduro may not be the smartest Venezuelan president in history, but he's not stupid. I'm sure that he has all of his assets in countries where his funds cannot be touched. It was -- what the U.S. did today or last night was a very symbolic, but ineffective move.

SESAY: OK. Symbolic, but ineffective. So, let me ask you this: why stop short on the part of the U.S.? Why stop short of targeting the Venezuelan oil industry with sanctions, which many argue is a far more effective -- far quicker way to force the hand of Maduro to actually, you know, rein back or roll back on these dictatorial tendencies?

WILSON: I think, theoretically, that make sense or might be very attractive to people looking for a very short term solution. That as we saw in Cuba, economic sanctions don't really work. In Cuba, they were -- in fact, for 50 years, there's no change in the regime. I think the same that hold true to Venezuela, both Russia and China -- with Russian, with financial support, if the United States would target the oil industry.

Such a move by the United States would have a very short-term impact domestically, and the U.S. will probably drive up gasoline prices. And its impact, after a month or so, would be minimal on the Venezuelan oil industry. There's a flood in the market. There's an oil market -- there's a (INAUDIBLE) of oil in the market. So, it'd be very easy for Venezuela to replace any crude lost by the United States.

[01:25:39] SESAY: OK. So, where does all of this -- where does this vote from the weekend, where does it leave the opposition? To what degree can they now challenge an administration that controls every branch of government? We've seen the protest for weeks on end. Dozens and dozens of people have lost their lives. I mean, where do we go from here?

WILSON: I think for the opposition, they're faced with a very starched -- a smart choice. They either back down and supposedly the constitution -- the new constitution being written by the assembly, by the people who are elected yesterday would have to be approved by the electorate when it's finished. Such an approval is very unlikely -- I can imagine that happening. Or the opposition can step up in street protest. The opposition leaders are already calling for a massive protest on Wednesday when the new constitutional assembly is sworn in. If that occurs, I expect to see much more bloodshed, much more violence, and just a continuation of worsening on what we saw on Sunday.

SESAY: Final question before I let you go, Peter. I mean, Latin American nations -- I mean, where are they in all of this? I know Panama, Argentina, Brazil; they've all condemned this vote. Foreign Ministers will meet next week to discuss the situation in Venezuela. But could regional powers be doing more to intervene in Venezuela, and halt this descent into all out chaos?

WILSON: Yes, they could. That's the major issue, I think, the international community, especially Latin American countries, they are condemning it -- some are but not all. And that is a major issue. In the organizations of American states, it has yet to condemn Venezuela because a strong minority of its members refused to take that step. There is no consensus in Latin America about Venezuela, about what's happening. As a result, I think the Trump administration is becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of concrete actions being taken by the Latin Americans. So, that could lead the Trump administration to impose its own sanctions, which I think would have mixed results.

SESAY: Peter Wilson, great to speak to you. Thank you so much for the insight and analysis.

WILSON: Well, thank you.

VAUSE: Well, still to come here: after North Korea's latest missile test, China tells U.S., it's not Beijing's problem, you work it out with Pyongyang.

SESAY: Plus, Moscow strikes back as likely new U.S. sanctions, and it could have major consequences for American spies in Russia.

VAUSE: And later, two decades after the death of Princess Diana, once again she's at the center of a fight for (INAUDIBLE).


[01:30:47] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: You are watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.


We'll check the headlines this hour.


VAUSE: China is telling the United States to work things out with North Korea themselves. Beijing's U.N. ambassador says it's not up to China to ease tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear program.

Friday's intercontinental ballistic missile launch is raising concern about North Korea's improving capabilities.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The era of strategic patience is over. The president of the United States is leading a coalition of nations to bring pressure to bear until that time that North Korea will permanently abandon this nuclear and ballistic missile program.


SESAY: President Trump has repeatedly called on China to reign in North Korea. But on Monday, he said the U.S. would handle it, though he didn't specify how.

Will Ripley has more now from Beijing.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: When it comes to North Korea, the United States and China can at least agree on two things. One, they want to see North Korea denuclearized. Two, that a military confrontation on the Korean peninsula would likely be catastrophic for everyone involved.

But they are so far apart on how to get there, how to try to convince the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un, to at least freeze, and what the United States wants is for him to abandon their nuclear and their missile program, something the North Koreans have told me repeatedly, including as recently as last month, they absolutely will not do.

What the United States wants China to do, what President Trump wants Chinese President Xi Jinping to do is to cut off all trade with North Korea, to stop the flow of oil into that country. The U.S. thinks that would put so much economic pressure on an already impoverished country that they would have no choice but to denuclearize. But the Chinese don't see it that way. They think that trading with North Korea and helping their economy grow by an estimated 4 percent last year actually keeps the peninsula stable and prevents the kind of military confrontation that can be so catastrophic.

President Trump has alluded in the past that if China doesn't play ball with the U.S. on North Korea there could be consequences in terms of the economic relationship, the trade between the two countries.

Here in Beijing, Chinese officials are warning the United States not to conflate the two issues.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We believe that the Korean peninsula nuclear issue is not relevant to the bilateral trade relations between China and the U.S. because they are two different issues in different sectors.


RIPLEY: At a time when the U.S. and China need to be working together on North Korea, they only seem to be drifting further apart. And the rhetoric from the U.S. president doesn't help the situation with one state media commenter saying that China has become a punching bag every time North Korea launches another missile.

Will Ripley, CNN, Beijing.


SESAY: Russia seems to agree with China's stance, saying, quote, "We regard it untenable in the attempt of the USA and other countries to shift responsibility for what is happening to Russia and China, almost to accuse Moscow and Beijing of indulging the nuclear missile ambitions of the DPRK."

VAUSE: Russia said North Korea's latest missile test is in direct violation of the U.N. Security Council resolution.

[01:35:08] SESAY: Well, Moscow is leaving it up to Washington to decide who will have to leave U.S. diplomatic missions in Russia.

VAUSE: President Vladimir Putin has ordered out hundreds of American diplomats in retaliation for new U.S. sanctions which have been approved by Congress but not yet signed by President Trump.

We have details now from Brian Todd.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Vladimir Putin hits back, retaliating for U.S. sanctions on Russia.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translation): I thought it was time for us to show that we will not leave this without an answer.

TODD: Putin announces U.S. diplomatic missions in Russia will be cut by 755 people, a huge junk of the staffs at the U.S. embassies and consulates. The Kremlin also plans to confiscate two properties operated by the U.S. government in Russia, a storage facility in Moscow and a country house outside the city.

Veteran spies warn, if American diplomats have to leave Russia, intelligence assets could be lost.

ERIC O'NEILL, FORMER FBI COUNTERINTELLIGENCE OFFICER: You hide the spies, the CIA spies and case officers within the people who do their day job. So if you only have so many people that are allowed in the embassy, that means it's going to necessarily reduce the amount of people that you can use to gather intelligence. That's a problem.

TODD: Intelligence experts say it's an open secret that my Americans working under the title of diplomats in Russia and their Russian counterparts in the U.S. are spies.

Former CIA case officer, John Sypher, worked in Moscow.

JOHN SYPHER, FORMER CIA CASE OFFICER: The U.S. case officers on the streets of Moscow are strategic assets meant to meet strategic Russian sources, whether it's a short meeting or whether there's other meetings to exchange information via technical means or what have you.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I think they may know about you.

TODD: Experts say the scenes depicted in popular spy shows, like "The Americans," with dead drops and clandestine meetings and fake identifies are not that far off from real life.

O'NEILL: Dead drops and signal sites and brush passes and clandestine meets, spies still use those, because they work. But more and more, we're seeing a massive transition from the old spy methods to cyber espionage.

TODD: It has always been a dangerous game in Moscow.

MARTHA PETERSON, FORMER COVERT CIA OFFICER IN MOSCOW: The KGB owned the city and they followed everyone everywhere.

TODD: Martha Peterson was a covert CIA officer in Moscow in the '70s. featured in the CNN original series, "Declassified, she recounted how her cover was blown during a dead drop. She was arrested, interrogated all night, and kicked out of the country.

PETERSON: They put the dead drop down in the middle of the table on a piece of "Pravda" newspaper.

They then began the interrogation. The chief interrogator was a very angry middle-aged man.

TODD: Sypher says an American spy in Russia has to always assume they are being monitored.

SYPHER: If I got up at 2:00 in the morning and walked outside, there would be a team of people there to follow me everywhere. And then they would people to listen to the tapes of all my discussions in my house, watch videos of that and interview everybody I came in contact with them.

TODD: intelligence veterans say the Russians have a couple of distinct advantages over the United States in spycraft. They say the Russians have many more spies here inside America than the U.S. has in Russia. And they say the Russians often recruit regular Russian business people and travelers to do their spying for them. People like Russian pilots, bankers, journalist. U.S. spy agencies, they say, don't use those tactics.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


VAUSE: Next here on NEWSROOM L.A., a scientist dedicated to studying volcanos is now up against a very different kind of volatility, American politics. Why he is running for Congress, ahead.


[01:41:02] VAUSE: Well, to scientists, it's been frustrating and infuriating that so many in Congress doubt basic facts. So, if you can't beat them, join them. Many seem to be running for public office.

SESAY: It comes after the Trump administration repeatedly made it clear it does not view climate change as a threat.


MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: Regarding the question as to climate change, I think the president was fairly straight forward. We are not spending money on that anymore. We consider that to be a waste of your money.

TRUMP: They changed it to "climate change" because the word "global warming" wasn't working. Then they changed it to "extreme weather." You can't get hurt with extreme weather. You agree? It's always going to be. There is a tornado. There's a little cold. There's a wind. It's always extreme.


VAUSE: In the past six months, President Trump has taken the United States out of the Paris Climate Accords, removed information about climate change from agency Web sites, reversed regulations that prevented mining companies from putting waste in local waterways. The administration says all of these changes are simply to reduce costs and cut bureaucracy.

SESAY: It has sparked outrage in the scientific community.

Now one geologist has decided he's going to protest by running for public office.

Jess Phoenix joins us now. She's a geologist who studies volcanoes, and a recently declared candidate in California's 25t h congressional district race.

Jess, thank you so much for joining us.


SESAY: Help our viewers understand this monumental decision. Let's be clear, you are a political newcomer running in an area that is traditionally red. It's been held by a Republican since 1993. This is not going to be easy. Why do you believe this is a fight worth taking on?

PHOENIX: I always tell the people I work with, anything worth doing is difficult. I really think this is worth doing because, as scientists, we have to be engaged in the decision making that impacts everybody in our society and around the world. Scientists can't afford to sit out anymore. This is the time. We have a president and a Congress who are in shambles and chaos is reigning. Now, more than ever, it's key that we have people who understand facts and the truth, and fight for those things in office.

SESAY: OK. What do you say to those who questions you and say, OK, you're a volcanologist, you have a position, you do all this very valuable work, great work, but what makes you think you're suited to the business of governance? How do you respond?

PHOENIX: Our country was founded not to have professional politicians. It was founded to draw on different sort of perspectives from different fields all over the spectrum. I think that having a different set of skills and a different way of looking at things is just what our country needs. SESAY: OK. Forget that you are taking on an incumbent Republican.

The primary for the seat on the Democratic side of things could likely be long and grueling. We're hearing about two likely contenders at this stage. How do you get your message to breakthrough?

PHOENIX: That's where I'm in a unique place. For one, I'm here talking to you. And I think that shows that people around the world are interested and excited by the prospect of scientists engaging in government. I work on life-and-death matters every day when I'm working on volcanoes. And that's what climate change is. It's a life-and-death matter, not just for the U.S., but for people around the world. So I think getting my message out just is going to be speaking to what people are concerned about. They want to be able to work and live and raise their families in safety and security. If we ignore the challenges coming down the pipeline, no one is going to be able to do that.

SESAY: Given the gridlocks we've seen, the partisan divisions, how much do you think you can get done, how much do you think you can achieve?

PHOENIX: That's a fair question. I think what we need are a group of people who can be elected who are actually willing to work together to solve. Fortunately, for me, my training as a scientist is all about creative problem solving. I do that on a daily basis. I work with people from all different backgrounds, all education levels, from all over the world to solve problems. I want to take that same skill set and bring it to Congress.

[01:45:17] SESAY: What do you say to most people who say to have scientists get involved in the political process inevitably changes the calculus? I mean, it taints the objectivity of their work and, if anything, creates more problems for the business of science?

PHOENIX: My response is that, historically, scientists were very active politically. The Cold War changed that. Scientists became afraid they would lose their funding if they spoke up and spoke out. Now we're just recalibrating. And I think what really drives scientists and what really move science are facts. Those don't change. Facts are objective. That's what my training is. It's to look at the matters in front of us objectively and analyze the available evidence before making decisions. Really, what we need is evidence-based policymaking. I think that's something everyone can get behind.

SESAY: And you really want to give up the life you have right now? What do your family and friends think? What does your husband think? This is something that doesn't just affect you, as you know.

PHOENIX: Yes. It's a sacrifice. It's definitely something that I wasn't planning for. I wasn't preparing for it. But when the time of need is great, people need to step up to the plate and make sure that people are there to get the job done. That's what I want to do. I believe that I'm running against someone who is a climate change denier and he's on the House Science Committee. We can't afford to have people like that making decisions that are going to affect millions of people's lives, not just now, but the future. So this is bigger than my work doing volcano research. The volcanoes will still be there. But you know what, we need to fight for our democracy and the future of our planet.

SESAY: Wow. And before I let you go, what was the moment where you decided you were going to do this? Have you had any moments where you thought, oh, maybe I should climb a volcano in Hawaii?

PHOENIX: It brings me back full circle to anything worth doing is difficult. Of course. Just like anything you do that is a big undertaking, you have moments where you have to reassess. Should I keep going? Is this right?


SESAY: Have you had those moments?

PHOENIX: Not so far. But it's probably going to happen. This is a long race. But I think what motivates me is the same thing that motivated me to jump in the race, which is I had just given a talk at the Natural History Museum here in Los Angeles, and I had folks come up to me with children, and their kids were very inspired. And their parents mentioned how worried they were with the inauguration that just happened and they said they're very concerned for the future of the planet. That's when the idea really started to crystallize for me. And I have been carrying that through. I get cards all the time from little kids who tell me, please go and make good decisions for our planet. That's what I want to do.

SESAY: We wish you the very best, Jess. We will continue to follow your campaign.

PHOENIX: Great. Thank you so much.

SESAY: Thank you.

VAUSE: Drug company CEO who sparked outrage two years ago may soon learn whether he is headed to prison for fraud. Martin Shkreli gained notoriety after hiking the price of an AIDS drug by 5,000 percent. That's not related to the criminal case. Federal prosecutors accused Shkreli of fraudulently mismanaging his investor's funds. He has pleaded not guilty but if he is convicted, could serve up to 20 years in prison.

SESAY: Time for a quick break. Next on NEWSROOM L.A., family and friends of Princess Diana are fighting for her privacy and protesting a documentary to mark the 20th anniversary of her death.


[01:50:26] VAUSE: Sam Shepard, the award-winning American playwright and frequent star of stage and screen has died.

SESAY: The 73-year-old writer, director and actor died Thursday at his Kentucky home from complications from ALS. Shepard's career included Pulitzer-Prize for his play "Buried Child" and an Oscar nomination for his role in the 1983 film, "The Right Stuff."

VAUSE: He most recently starred in the Netflix series "Bloodline."

A royal row has erupted over a British broadcaster's plans to show a documentary of the late Princess Diana 20 years after her death. Family and friends are once again fighting for her privacy.

SESAY: The U.K.'s Channel 4 said it will show video of Princess Diana talking about her troubled marriage and her relationship with the queen. Exerts from the tape were shown in the U.S. in a documentary back in 2004, but they have never been aired in Britain.

Entertainment journalist, Sandro Monetti, joins us for more on this.

And you were one of the reporters, and I'm hoping you are one of the pack, the paparazzi.


VAUSE: But a reporter who covered Princes Diana.

SANDRO MONETTI, ENTERTAINMENT JOURNALIST: That's right. I started my career covering Diana. I remember, it's interesting, she always wanted the true story to come out. She felt overwhelmed. I remember, around that time, her collaborations with Andrew Morton and the Martin Bashir (ph) documentary. She really threw a hand grenade on the royal family by exposing what was really going on.

VAUSE: Part of the tapes we mentioned have already been aired in the United States. Legally, Channel 4 in Britain is cleared to put this stuff to air, because, what, dead people don't have a right to privacy. But what about their families?

MONETTI: This is the debate. There is also a debate going on in Britain, why should Channel 4 do this. Well, from a media point of view, William and Harry collaborated with the two main networks in Britain, BBC and ITV. They did their own documentary, speaking so movingly about their emotions, about the death of their mother. They didn't give that to all channels. That opened the door for other channels to scramble and buy what they could, what's out there. And what Channel 4 have got is this explosive tape of Diana talking about all sorts of things to her voice coach at the time, to a public speaker, talking about her sex life, or lack of it with Prince Charles, and lots of other juicy stuff -


MONETTI: -- about the queen and Prince Philip.

SESAY: That being said, as you mentioned, and described it as explosive, what's the fallout for the likes of Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla Parker Bowles, the other lady in all of this.

MONETTI: Terrible. There is the revelation that Diana claims that when she confronted Charles about his having a mistress, he said to her, I refuse to be the first Prince of Wales ever not allowed to have a mistress. This is the stuff that continues to be so fascinating about Diana.

VAUSE: Fascinating, yes. Soap opera, yes. Kind of original reality television, if you like. Channel 4 argued this documentary is historically important. That seems a stretch.

MONETTI: Yes. Really. That something I guess they had to say --


VAUSE: -- commercial enterprise here.

MONETTI: Inevitably there is an audience for this. And I love this stuff. I am the audience for that kind of thing. That is the argument that it is a piece of history. She was the most famous woman of the 20th century. It's very rare that someone comes along who inspires such interest and devotion. I can only think of Michael Jackson, maybe Elvis or Marilyn or something like that. She continued to fascinate. Even more so, because we are all brought up with this idea of the fairy tale princess. She was the fairy tale princess who lived unhappily ever after.


SESAY: What is the cultural perspective to bring in the fact that the people in the U.K., some are very upset and saying her memory should be left intact and we should have one image of Diana, the Princess of Wales. But you flip a coin and look at things here in the United States and you look at JFK and the lurid stories that have pervaded through time. And you look at Martin Luther King. It's clear public figures can be scrutinized. You can exist in this duality where you can be this great person and also have this other side, whereas, in the U.K, the public and the society doesn't want to embrace. They seem more reluctant to embrace.

[01:55:04] MONETTI: I think there is an international element you haven't mentioned. Since when Diana was around, we didn't have social media. That has changed the debate on privacy. People share so much of themselves. This argument over, oh, she wouldn't want it out there, seems almost stranger to the Millennial audience. Because we look at everything through a different prism now.

SESAY: It's almost generational --


SESAY: -- rather than a cultural thing.


VAUSE: She was the most famous woman of the 20th century.

MONETTI: The 20th century.

VAUSE: We're now in the 21st century. Princess Diana died 20 years ago. I just don't understand how this fascination has survived for such a long time, given so much has been written, so much has gone to television, so much has been revealed. Why can't they let it go?


MONETTI: Because movie of this year, "Beauty and the Beast, the whole Disney princess thing. Still today, they have, throughout history, girls are raised with this idea of the princess and the fascinations.


MONETTI: -- a real-life prince.


MONETTI: And we live in a more cynical and sarcastic age. She is the perfect example of not living happily ever after.

VAUSE: All there is to be known is already known for the most part. There's some things in the documentary but, for the most part, it's out there.

SESAY: I guess we come back to the whole thing. The JFKs and Elvis, the fascination endures.

MONETTI: Exactly.


MONETTI: It will never end because she is one of the few figures in human history that fascinates so many people because of what she represents and what she was and -

VAUSE: Doesn't the family and the friends of Princess Diana deserve some respect after everything they've already been through with her death?

MONETTI: Absolutely. Yes. And they took, seemingly, the right move. But they need better media management. And that's always been the fault, in my opinion, of Buckingham Palace. They haven't managed the press correctly. There was a way to avoid this and they didn't do it right.

SESAY: Lots of Scaramuccis, right?



VAUSE: Scaramucci. Looking for a communications director.


VAUSE: The Mooch in London.

(CROSSTALK) SESAY: The Mooch. Welcome to the palace.



VAUSE: Sandro, thank you for coming in. And dressing appropriately, too.


VAUSE: Absolutely

SESAY: All right.

VAUSE: You have been watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

SESAY: I'm Isha Sesay.

We'll be back with more news after this.