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Russia Investigation; Trump White House; Crisis in Venezuela; Kenya Decides; Neymar Reflects on Move to PSG. Aired 0-0:30a ET

Aired August 5, 2017 - 00:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): While U.S. President Donald Trump is kickstarting a long vacation, special counsel Robert Mueller takes another step in the Russia investigation.

More power to Venezuela president Nicolas Maduro as the country's new legislative wing meets for the first time.

And later, CNN sits down with the athlete who commands a $263 million salary.

That's all ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM. Thanks for joining us. I'm Natalie Allen. And we begin right now.


ALLEN: Thank you again for joining us. The man who used to boast that he would be too busy as president to take a long vacation is taking a long vacation. After six months on the job, Donald Trump left the White House Friday to spend the next 17 days at his golf resort in New Jersey.

The ongoing investigation into Russia election meddling won't be far away, however. "The New York Times" is reporting the office of special counsel Robert Mueller is asking the White House for records of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Though not a formal subpoena, "The Times" says it's the first known occasion Mueller's team has sought White House documents. "The Times" also reports that Mueller's team looks into whether Flynn was secretly paid by the Turkish government during the Trump campaign.

This follows CNN's report that Mueller's report now includes the financial records of the president and his associates. Neither General Flynn nor his lawyers have responded to "The New York Times" report but White House special counsel Ty Cobb issued this statement.

And we quote, "The White House will not be discussing any specific communications with the special counsel out of respect for the special counsel and his process. Beyond that, as I have stressed repeatedly, we continue to fully cooperate with the special counsel." CNN has exclusively learned meantime that the FBI was actively

tracking a disinformation campaign on Election Day and the primary suspect was Russian interference via fake news. For more now, here's Pamela Brown.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: We have learned that some FBI counterintelligence agents spent Election Day huddled in a war room, looking for fake news.

And what they could see was negative stories streaming in, posted online about Hillary Clinton, some having to do with her health that were fake stories generated from accounts with suspected Russian links. This is according to multiple sources our team has spoken with.

In fact, the FBI agents could see how the fake news was impacting the conversation online. Now the idea of monitoring for fake news was uncomfortable territory, somewhat new territory for the FBI.

But as one official told me, "We were right on the edge of constitutional legality because of First Amendment protections."

But this was something they believed they needed to do because it was important in better understanding how fake news played into this, what role it had and whether or not anyone in the Trump campaign, in the Trump world, worked with the Russians in this misinformation campaign.

Amid all of this, we learned there was constant coordination between the FBI as well as the Department of Homeland Security and DNI, holding conference calls every three hours with the team in the White House to discuss any possible problems.

But these conference calls were largely focused on the concern of whether the vote could be tampered with, whether the machines were tampered with by hackers. And while the FBI says that didn't happen, there was still this open question of whether the Russian disinformation campaign impacted the outcome of the election. And that is something we may never have the answer to -- Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.


ALLEN: Larry Sabato is director for the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. He joins us now via Skype.

Larry, as always, thank you for joining us.


ALLEN: And as always, lots of politics to talk about here, following another week watching Washington.

According to "The New York Times" reporting just in the past few hours, the special counsel now, Robert Mueller, recently asked the White House for documents related to the former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, "The Times" reporting that this is the first time Mueller has asked the White House to hand over records.

This comes after yesterday's news that Mueller has issued grand jury subpoenas over Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer last year. This investigation appears to be really gaining momentum.

Is it?

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Yes, I think it actually is. This is the first grand jury, of course. This is the one operating out of Alexandria, Virginia, as --


SABATO: -- opposed to the new grand jury, which is in Washington.

But looking at "The New York Times" piece -- and it's certainly in depth; it has a lot of detail in it about what the FBI's looking into, it's pretty clear that General Flynn appears to be in a heap of trouble.

That's not the same as an indictment. We haven't had an indictment. They're still investigating. And even an indictment doesn't guarantee guilt by any means. But it's obvious that General Flynn is in trouble because his finances and the kinds of people who were paying him, particularly from abroad or representing other countries, these things are all under scrutiny right now.

It's not good for him; he didn't register as a foreign agent. There's a connection to Turkey. But now it appears that the FBI is also looking at his relationships with agents of other countries. So this is a serious matter and General Flynn will probably end up regretting his service of a total of 24 days as national security adviser. Could be very --


ALLEN: Larry, Michael Flynn aside, how does this point back now to the White House?

And there are still reports that while he is on his working vacation golfing, that President Trump might still be considering doing something against Mueller to get rid of him and this investigation.

SABATO: Well, if the president does that, I think he'll be in deep trouble. Even many, maybe most Republicans will condemn that and, frankly, he'll have to get out of the way in Congress of those depositing impeachment resolutions in the House of Representatives.

Most of them will be Democrats, maybe none of them will be Republicans. But there will be a firestorm, not unlike the firestorm that President Nixon faced when he fired the independent counsel, Archibald Cox, back in October of 1973.

So another Saturday night massacre -- or he could pick any day of week -- I think President Trump would regret that.

One other point that's really important, Natalie, and the Flynn case shows this, you can start at one point, which was, of course, Flynn's conversation with the Russian ambassador that wasn't reported, that he supposedly lied about to the vice president, and you could end up in another place, which is a close examination of Flynn's financial records, company financial records.

The same thing could happen with President Trump. I think it will be a surprise to everyone -- and if Mueller and his team do not get a hold one way or another of Trump's tax returns -- and, you remember, he's the first presidential candidate since the 1970s not to disclose his tax returns -- well, he had to have a reason, probably reasons, for not disclosing them.

There are he doesn't want us to know. The special counsel may be very interested in those things he doesn't want us to know.

ALLEN: Larry Sabato, we appreciate it, as always. Thank you for joining us.

SABATO: Thank you, Natalie.

ALLEN: The U.S. Justice Department on Friday said it may go after journalists as it tries to stop an explosion of unauthorized leaks within the administration. U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions said the number of federal investigations into leaks has tripled since Mr. Trump took office. Sessions said his agency is reviewing the circumstances under which journalists can be subpoenaed.

House Speaker Paul Ryan was asked whether reporters should feel threatened.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I have not seen what Jeff said about this. Leaks are a bad thing. Leaks are concerning because leaks can often compromise national security. But that's the problem of the leaker, not the journalist.


ALLEN: Some of the most shocking leaks have involved President Trump's phone conversations with other world leaders. On Thursday, "The Washington Post" published transcripts of two of those conversations, one with the prime minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull; the other with the president of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto.

For more on reaction from Mexico City, here's Patrick Oppmann.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Mexicans have been riveted by the release of transcripts to "The Washington Post" of a conversation that took place between their president, Enrique Pena Nieto, and U.S. president Donald Trump that is casting doubt on who will pay for the wall that Trump wants to build between the two countries.

This conversation that took place in January was supposed to be a private conversation and, in the conversation, Trump begins initially trying to flatter the Mexican president, saying that he's eloquent and speaks better English than Trump. And then he begins to bully him, saying that is Pena Nieto doesn't agree to pay for the wall, he will impose tariffs on Mexican products going to the U.S. and essentially cause damage to the Mexican economy.

Trump also says at one point that he might send soldiers into Mexico if Pena Nieto can't get the drug war --


OPPMANN: -- under control. And this has been bit of a bombshell in Mexico, to read these transcripts of what was supposed to be a private conversation.

Many here say that Pena Nieto held firm and told Donald Trump again and again that he would not pay for the wall. Others said that he should have pushed back harder, that much of what Trump said about Mexico and his comments to Pena Nieto were insulting and undignified.

Still, though, these two men, at the end of the conversation, were unable to come to an agreement, at least in January, of who would pay for this wall. They finally said that they would leave the political problem, as Donald Trump called it, that the wall presents by not talking about it anymore, at least in public.

That strategy, if there was a strategy, has backfired, because everybody in Mexico is talking about this now. It is once again very much in the public eye, the wall that Donald Trump wants to build between these two countries and who is going to pay for it -- Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Mexico City.


ALLEN: In other news, the United Nations may be ready to impose tougher sanctions against North Korea. A new U.N. Security Council resolution proposes banning four major exports from the country.

If it passes, one diplomat says the country could lose $1 billion. All of this coming after North Korea tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles recently. A vote on the proposal could come as early as Saturday.

The United States has taken a largely symbolic move to reassert President Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris climate deal. The climate accord was acclaimed by many countries in the world but has now informed the United Nations of its intentions to get out.

Withdrawing from the deal was one of Mr. Trump's campaign promises but, in fact, the process cannot actually start until at least 2019. The U.S. also says it will continue to cut greenhouse gas emissions and even take part in a climate conference in November.

New developments in the ongoing criminal investigation involving the Israeli prime minister. Benjamin Netanyahu's former chief of staff has agreed to testify against him. The aide has also pleaded guilty in a separate case to avoid jail time. Mr. Netanyahu is tied to two investigations involving bribery, fraud and breach of trust. He dismissed the developments Friday.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL (through translator): Oh, yes, we can't do without the inevitable scandal of the week. So I want to tell you, the citizens of Israel, I disregard the background noises and continue working for you.


ALLEN: Coming up here, a new controversial assembly takes office in Venezuela. We'll tell you how supporters and critics have reacted to it.





ALLEN (voice-over): This the scene in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday at the country's controversial new assembly took office. The members have the power to rewrite the constitution. Critics fear it will hand sweeping powers to president Nicolas Maduro and they also say it could further erode what's left of the country's democracy.

Supporters of Mr. Maduro took to the streets and rallied in support of the government. Our Leyla Santiago was there. Her report is from Caracas.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Venezuela's constituent assembly was sworn in on Friday and already it is vowing to take action quickly. Its more than 500 members vowed to defend the country's sovereignty, while supporters celebrated what they see as a victory on the streets.

Officials actually brought back the portrait of two men that are considered heroes in this movement, Hugo Chavez and Simon Bolivar.

Those same images the opposition removed last year when it took office. This movement is a movement that some chose to pay respect. But what it really did was make clear that they are now completely in power. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking Spanish).

SANTIAGO: This woman tells us that she did not live in a dictatorship, despite what more than 40 countries may claim. This, she says, is about peace.

But it wasn't long before peace turned to violence. As the opposition marched on the street, members of the national police shot tear gas, rubber bullets and that went right down the street toward the opposition, on a street that was filled with graffiti calling for liberty.

Protesters tell us they are tired, they are frustrated and call the installation of the new assembly a power grab. Its priority right now: to rewrite the constitution and even extend Maduro's power.

And so the opposition says the struggle is not over and they're hoping that these protests and the pressure from the international community will be enough to bring change and a peace, something that everyone in this country so desperately desires -- Leyla Santiago, CNN, Caracas.


ALLEN: Paul Kagame is headed for a landslide victor in Rwanda's presidential election. Preliminary results show the two-term incumbent has more than 98 percent of the votes counted so far, about 7 million people cast ballots in the election. Final results will be out around August 12th.

Meantime Kenya's presidential election next Tuesday is up in the air literally. Some candidates have taken to the sky to get their message out but authorities are warning it could be dangerous for overly enthusiastic voters. To explain, here Farai Sevenzo in Nairobi.


FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Politicians are hoping to pull in a crowd in this Kenyan nation. A helicopter may just be the thing.

At this opposition campaign rally in the middle of Kenya's Masai country, people can't decide which helicopter to run to as yet another chopper makes a landing, kicking up dust and drawing people in.

They're used for efficiency in this vast country and, of course, flair.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not something normal here, so we're very happy to see them coming here.

SEVENZO: Kenya's 2017 general election is approaching the final stretch. And the race is tense. Helicopter after helicopter carrying politicians across the political divide lift off into the Nairobi skies. There are more helicopters right now in this country than at any

time in Kenya's history.

And why is that?

Because campaigning by chopper has become all the rage in this Kenyan election.

Politicians pay an average of $3,000 an hour to rent one.

(INAUDIBLE) lawmakers land in constituencies where the people whose votes they covet earn half of that in an entire year.

And the presence of so many choppers has produced a worrying trend. They're calling it the James Bond effect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The James Bond is a figure of speech, the individuals who decides that he wants a free ride in a helicopter and they think that it will be fun.

SEVENZO: One James Bond chopper grabber told CNN that he hung onto the chopper because others had been given something and he had missed out. Kenya's civil aviation authority noticed the number of these stunts rising and made a public service announcement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We shall not accept to see ever again a James Bond. If you see something that looks dangerous, please, inform us.


SEVENZO: One by one, the metal birds lift off, leaving the voters bemused. As they wave the politicians away, beneath the departing choppers there is no sign of James Bond -- for now -- Farai Sevenzo, CNN, Nairobi.


ALLEN: A meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations is underway in the Filipino capital. Foreign ministers in Manila are discussing regional security, terrorism and territorial disputes. Controversial Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte will be meeting with several leaders in a few hours and U.S. secretary of state Rex Tillerson will arrive later on Saturday.


ALLEN: Neymar is showing off some of his skills as Paris greets its newest sports star. CNN's conversation with the world's highest paid footballer -- next.




ALLEN: Welcome back.

Brazilian football star Neymar was already one of the best players alive. But with his record-smashing move to Paris Saint- Germain. his career could enter another stratosphere. From sports, our Christina Macfarlane sat down with PSG's newest forward.


CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You could have picked any club in the world.

Why come here to Paris Saint-Germain?

NEYMAR DA SILVA SANTOS JR., FOOTBALL STAR (through translator): Because of all they offered. Because of the objectives this club has, the ambition they have.

They're very similar to mine. They're one of the biggest clubs in the world. I want to be part of their history. I came here to make history and win unprecedented titles.

MACFARLANE: You obviously --


MACFARLANE: -- loved playing with your teammates at Barcelona, in particularly Lionel Messi.

But how important was it for you to escape from the shadow of Messi and start something new here?

NEYMAR (through translator): Messi is number one. For me, the best I ever saw playing and every player that is next to him would be number two. I haven't come to Paris to be the first, to be number one, to have all the spotlight. Quite the contrary. I came to help my teammates to make history and to make history in this club.

MACFARLANE: Do you ever see Messi following you and leaving Barca as well?

NEYMAR (through translator): I don't know. But I think not.

MACFARLANE: The general feeling is that you came to Paris Saint- Germain because of the money.

What do you say to critics who are saying that?

NEYMAR (through translator): Because they don't know me. It's unfortunate. I'm sad that some people think that way. I'm not a guy who's motivated by money but by happiness and challenges.

MACFARLANE: But you come from very humble beginnings in Brazil.

Does this amount of money make you feel at all uncomfortable?

NEYMAR (through translator): No, not a bit. I am just happy and flattered that they believe in my football and that they brought me to a club as big as Paris.

MACFARLANE: What does success look like to you at Paris Saint- Germain?

How much do you want to win the Champions League and go on to win the Ballon d'Or, perhaps, as well?

NEYMAR (through translator): My priority is the Champions League and to win everything that I can with Paris. But the Champions League is our biggest objective.

MACFARLANE: Are you the best player in the world, do you believe?

NEYMAR (through translator): I don't know. But I'm very happy with what I've been doing and I hope to keep improving.


ALLEN: A humble zillionaire there from Neymar.

Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen. I'll be right back with our top stories.