Return to Transcripts main page
QUEST MEANS BUSINESS
U.S. Imposes New Sanctions on Russia for Meddling in Election; At Least One Dead, Others Injured in Bridge Collapse; Thousands Flee Eastern Ghouta as Army Closes In. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired March 15, 2018 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:00] (CLOSING BELL RINGING ON WALL STREET)
ZAIN ASHER, CNN HOST: All right (ph) my friends. That sound marks the end of yet another trading day on Wall Street, the end of the day firmly in the
green as you can see here up triple digits, the Dow suddenly ending a two- day losing streak. It actually dipped slightly around 2 o'clock after we got word that Bob Mueller, Special Counsel, was subpoenaing documents from
The Trump Organization.
My friends it is Thursday, the 15th of March.
Tonight, taking down the Troll Factory, U.S. hit's Russia with sanctions over the election meddling
And Canada and United States argue over who has a trade deficit.
(INAUDIBLE) THE FACTS FIRST here on CNN.
And Ben & Jerry's pack your bags, Unilever's headquarters is on the move.
Hello everyone, I'm Zain Asher and this my friend is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.
All right, welcome everyone. I'm Zain Asher. (INAUDIBLE) - we're going to get to our business agenda in just a moment.
But first we are monitoring a situation in Miami very, very closely. I want to show you these live pictures. You can see several cars, several
cars are trapped in what is already being called a deadly bridge collapse, this is in Miami, Florida.
Officials say at least one person has died after the bridge collapsed just before 11:00 a.m. local time. The bridge itself by the way was only just
recently installed, it's only 4-days-old, it was installed on Saturday and as I mentioned we are keeping a very, very close eye on the situation;
we'll be live at the scene with a report in just a few minutes.
All right, back to some business news for you.
The Trump's administration has taken its toughest action yet against Russia in response to alleged meddling in the 2016 election. Washington just
unveiled a raft of sanctions targeting five Russian organizations and 19 individuals, among them the Russian Troll Farm, known as Internet Research
Agency, which will see it's U.S. assets frozen and debarred from doing business with any American companies.
Similar measures have been aimed at the man known as "Putin's Chef" because he is so close to Putin, he will also be blocked from traveling to the
United States, so there are sanctions and him specifically.
And the Trump administration claims its uncovered new evidence of a Russian cyber-attack, attempting to penetrate the U.S. energy grid.
All right, Michelle Kosinski is joining us live now from the White House. So, Michelle just walk us through just why these particular sanctions
actually took so long because it's actually been about eight months since Congress actually passed legislation on this.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. And then there was a deadline and many members of the Congress who passed this
legislation overwhelmingly with the view to make sure this administration held Russia accountable for election meddling, I mean and keep in mind the
president hasn't even unequivocally stated that Russia did meddle in the U.S. election even to this day.
And so, now members of Congress you know, they felt like the deadline that had passed more than a month ago was when at the very least they should've
imposed sanctions. But the administration sees that deadline differently. They said at the time saying sanctions are coming, it's just taking a very
long time to do the research and take the measures and warn other companies that could be doing business with some of these entities and on and on and
on saying that they saw that deadline more as a beginning point to impose the sanctions that they had up to that point identified the potential
So, today we see this actually happen and I think you know, you have to have the word `Finally' with a capital F in there because there are many
people especially those members of Congress who passed the legislation initially, rolling their eyes and saying, well it's good but first of all
it took forever and it seems like the administration dragged its feet, why is that.
Number two this hopefully is just the beginning, what's next.
And number three, what is the administration doing to make sure this doesn't happen again and to actively prevent this from happening in the
upcoming midterm elections because we haven't really seen or heard much coming from the administration.
So, it's a big deal for what it is and it was striking to hear senior administration officials today state unequivocally that Russia did meddle
and they also said that this is just the beginning, that we'll see more sanctions.
ASHER: So (INAUDIBLE) - yes so, yes, you mentioned `Finally' with a F because you know, people do believe that the administration did drag its
feet on this. But does this now force President Trump now that the treasury secretary has announced these sanctions does it [0:05:14] force
President Trump to actually come out and admit and acknowledge that Russia did actually meddle in the U.S. elections?
KOSINSKI: Can anything force President Trump to do anything, even members of his own administration. I think we all by now know the answer to that.
I think what's striking again here is that only days ago when President Trump was asked directly by members of the press about Russia's meddling
and were they at fault he said, he mentioned Russia and then he said, "Certainly there was meddling," but then immediately said, "it could have
been other people, possibly other individuals," so only days before his own administration imposed sanctions he was again equivocating on this
I think we all know why because he is at pains to not have his win in a presidential election viewed as being partly because of Russia's meddling,
I mean he always avoid any kind of connection that anyone tries to make even in a question form on that.
But also keep in mind that for many months he's called Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation a witch-hunt and now everybody that Mueller
has indicted for meddling in the U.S. election has been sanctioned by Trump's own administration today.
So that adds a lot of credibility to something that he's called a witch- hunt. What will he say going forward, now that this has finally happened?
I think that - there's still a question mark on that.
ASHER: Yes. But it's a lot harder for him to deny and as you mentioned called it a witch-hunt now that we've had these sanctions imposed.
OK, Michelle Kosinski, live for us there. Thank you so much, appreciate that.
All right these new sanctions come as international pressure builds on Russia over its alleged role in the poisoning of a former spy in the U.K.
so British Prime Minister paid a visit to the town where ex Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter and a police officer were essentially (ph)
poisoned by a nerve agent at the same time. Now Britain's NATO allies were united in condemning the attack.
In the United States, President Trump who is often reluctant to criticize Russia actually pointed the finger at Moscow, blamed them. U.S. also
issued a joint statement with the U.K., Germany and France, condemning Russia. There is no mention of further sanctions from Britain following
Theresa May's speech on Wednesday.
All the while the Kremlin has vehemently denied the allegations. Russia's Foreign Ministry is promising a response to both the U.S. and the U.K.
Fred Pleitgen joins us live now from Moscow. So, Fred you're in the situation right now whereby the U.K. and the U.S. are both on the offensive
when it comes to Russia.
In terms of U.S. sanctions -
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
ASHER: - among the individuals in the entities that were targeted by U.S. sanctions have been targeted in the past. If that's the case -
ASHER: - then what is the impact really going to be?
PLEITGEN: Yes. Well that's a very good question Zain and some of them have been targeted in the past and some of them actually don't really exist
in the form anymore and so there are some questions as to how much these new sanctions are actually going to not only hurt the individuals that are
on this new list but actually hurt the Russian state.
Now the Russians have come out, very shortly after the Treasury issued these new sanctions and said that there would be a response. They said
that response would come very soon but that response is not come yet and it is quite late here in the evening in Moscow so we're going to have to wait
and see whether it happens tonight or whether or not in my take until tomorrow.
But whoever free look at this list that was put out by the Treasury Department, the main two entities on there if you will Zain are the
Internet Research Agency which is of course that Troll Factory that the U.S. says meddled in the election and not only did so from Russia but even
sent teams to the U.S. to try and measure there, trying to organize fake events so really is some widespread things that were going on; that as a
legal entity in Russia hasn't existed since 2016, it's now morphed into different companies, it now has a different name.
How will it affect these new subsequent companies is really unclear as we - as far as the press release from the Treasury is concerned.
And then you have the main guy on this list, his name is Yevgeny Prigozhin, he's an oligarch who is very, very, close to Vladimir Putin and he
literally just came out, a couple of minutes ago Zain, and issued a statement of defiance.
He said, "Concord" - which is another one of these entities on here, also a company owned by him "has been under sanctions three times. I have been
under sanctions three or four times, I'm tired of counting." He then says, he can't careless or couldn't care less about the sanctions and then tops
it all off by saying that he "will stop eating at McDonald's," and that's the end of the quote.
So clearly, he's not quaking in his boots. The Russians aren't quaking in their boots. And Zain, two of the other entities, I think are important to
talk about as well, is that the FSB, the Russian Intelligence Service is also on the list as is the GRU, the Russian [0:05:15] Military Intelligence
Well they've been under sanctions many times in the U.S. and that didn't stop their top brass from actually visiting Washington, D.C., just a couple
of weeks ago or just a couple of months ago and meeting with some of the top U.S. intelligence officials.
So how much of an effect is this really going to have, well the Russians are saying, they are quote, "Calm," in the face of this and it's - it's not
hard to see why Zain.
ASHER: Yes. There you are, increasingly defiant. Which is something that Theresa May did mention.
All right Fred Pleitgen - Fred Pleitgen live for us there. Thank you so much.
Now in terms of what the sanctions could mean for Russia, I'm joined now by Bianna Golodryga so you have a situation right now Bianna where the U.K.
and the U.S. as I was saying to Fred are both on the offensive when it comes to Russia.
Russia is in a situation whereby they are increasingly isolated by the Western world and it comes at a time where we've got Russian elections
coming up. Obviously, Vladimir Putin is going to win but just explain to us the impact and just the general timing of all this?
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well I - it's not without question as why this happened now, leading up to these elections, right? I mean
Vladimir Putin is not only trying to show former spies and those that so- called betrayed the country, that we will find you wherever you are.
In fact, a documentary about him released in Russia asked specifically, do you ever forgive and he says, "Yes. The only thing I don't forgive is
people who are traitors." So, he acknowledges that he will never forgive people who he believed were traitors to his own country so this is him test
in the West saying I will find you wherever you are and you just try to come back at me.
And also, he's showing his voters back at home his strength, right? If they really wanted this spy dead they - someone could've just shot him,
it's the way he was attacked, he and his daughter were attacked, it was the brazenness with which not only they were exposed to this agent -
ASHER: Using chemical weapon on U.K. soil.
GOLODRYGA: Exactly, for the first time it's been used on NATO for that matter so - in - on a NATO country, on a NATO ally for that matter.
So, he really is testing the balance here and finally you're seeing the president of the United States being forced to, I would say this
administration had no other choice but to finally release these sanctions and impose these sanctions that they've been withholding for eight months
ASHER: So, what happens in terms of Russia's likely response to - I mean they've talked about obviously responding to both sanctions both from the
U.K. and U.S., just in terms of the U.S. sanctions what sort of response are we going to see from the Russians?
GOLODRYGA: They'll add more Americans and more Western diplomats' names to the list of not being able to enter Russia. I mean there's not that much
they can do, right? I mean how much of our business relies on Russian consumers and so while they can grandstand, while they can you know, make
statements, like I won't eat - I won't eat at McDonald's anymore, I couldn't care less, these are really targeted sanctions against people who
are in the - in Vladimir Putin's inner circle.
So aside from a few more names added to the list of those not allowed to travel to Moscow, I can't imagine there being any larger ramifications.
ASHER: And I was just talking to Michelle Kosinski at the State Department and she was basically saying, yes, it's one thing to impose sanctions
against Russia, against the Russian state but it is also another thing to make sure that election meddling doesn't happen again, obviously we've got
the midterms coming up in just a few months, walk us through what is being done on the U.S.' side to make sure that you know, aside from the
sanctions, obviously the sanctions send a strong message -
ASHER: - what is being done in terms of Washington making sure that there are security measures in place to ensure that election meddling does not
GOLODRYGA: Well this is where the president's voice is key and it's largely symbolic for an important reason. Remember all the intelligence
heads were testifying that they're doing as much as they can behind the scenes, obviously top-secret work that we are not privy to, to keep Russia
from meddling in our elections.
But hearing it from the president of the United States does matter. Hearing from the leader of the free world saying we know how to get back at
you and it will happen when you least expect it, that matters. We don't hear that from President Trump so all of this talk about him still being so
sensitive about associating this election meddling with his win, yes that makes sense for 2016 but what he's being told repeatedly, that this is
happening now, and will happen again in 2020.
And by the way the Russians could not necessarily be siding with Republicans at that time, it could be the Democrats and the president, well
what was key, what one of his advisors says (INAUDIBLE) through the NFA (ph), said that I had not been asked, specifically to respond to Russian
election meddling. That says a lot.
ASHER: And it's interesting also that the president would come out and say, listen I'm blaming Russia for the poisoning of the Russian spy in the
United Kingdom but not necessarily blaming Russia for the U.S. election meddling.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And all of it sort of tied -
GOLODRYGA: - into one press release, right? So, the press doesn't have to address it again.
ASHER: All right, Bianna Golodryga, thank you so much. Good to see you.
All right, in the Trump economy, manufacturing reigns supreme, the president's claim on trade has caused fresh controversy [0:05:15] with
Canada. We'll have that story after the break.
ASHER: President Trump has repeated his claim that the U.S. has a trade deficit with Canada one day after he boasted of that he made the same
assertion to the Canadian Prime Minister.
At a fundraising speech President Trump admitted - this is key, he admitted that he had no idea whether his claim was true when he made it; he had no
idea whether his claim was true when he made it but we're going to show you the facts here on QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.
These are from President Trump's own, Bureau of Economic Analysis, so let's take a look here. Canada sent three hundred and six billion dollars-worth
of goods, Goods alone to the U.S. last year; the U.S. sent two hundred and eighty-three dollars-worth of Goods the other way, if you subtract one from
the other, you see the U.S. did have a deficit in terms of Goods.
Now the president had been focusing on physical goods, it certainly makes sense when you consider that he won the election with support from areas
hard-hit by the decline in Manufacturing but this is key, the U.S. economy is increasingly dominated by Services, when you add those in, when you add
Services in the balance, trade certainly tips the other way - the balance of trade certainly tips the other way, a surplus of nearly $3 billion with
So, when you add Goods and Services, you would have a surplus in $3 billion with Canada, that accounts for things like Tourism and Healthcare. It was
the same story in both 2015 and 2016 as well.
Joining me now, I think we've (ph) got the star team, haven't we (ph), Patrick Gillespie who follows all things Trade and Rana Foroohar is CNN's
Global Economic Analyst.
So, Rana let me start with you. Explain to me why it would make sense, for President Trump not just to say things that aren't true but to come out and
admit that he says things that aren't true especially when he's negotiating.
RANA FOROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYST & "FINANCIAL TIMES" GLOBAL BUSINESS COLUMNIST: Well you're asking me to make sense of -
PATRICK GILLESPIE, CNN MONEY REPORTER: Uh.
FOROOHAR: - what the president is saying?
ASHER: It doesn't make sense, obviously it weakens his negotiating position -
ASHER: - if the other side then knows, OK the president is perhaps telling pookies (ph).
FOROOHAR: Yes, well, exactly - I mean first of all, let's not try and make economic sense -
FOROOHAR: - of what the president is saying but I think that this is really in some ways about playing to his base. You know, when you talk
about the Goods economy versus the Service economy you're really talking about, old-line, Rust Belt, you know, Pennsylvania, we can talk about that
but you know, -
GILLESPIE: East Coast-West Coast.
FOROOHAR: - East Coast, West Coast -
GILLESPIE: The breadbasket.
FOROOHAR: - Digital economy versus an economy that's about you know, steel and aluminum and widgets and that's really what's at stake here.
I mean this is one of the reasons that to me, so much of what the president has done and what the administration has done policy-wise in the last few
months hasn't made sense because it's about an old-line economy, it's about physical goods.
ASHER: But you know, (ph) -
FOROOHAR: We're moving to a Digital economy.
Asher - but when he said it to the Canadian Prime Minister, did he even know whether he was talking about Goods and Services, is (INAUDIBLE) -
FOROOHAR: (INAUDIBLE) -
ASHER: - (INAUDIBLE) after the fact, well, we then did the digging and realize, oh, I guess he was talking about [0:05:14] Goods but he hadn't
realized he was talking about Goods or Services, he just sort of said it to the Canadian Prime Minister without knowing what he was talking about.
GILLESPIE: Exactly the thank, he doesn't - you know, president Trump was going after Goods and then not thinking about the lion share of the U.S.
economy which is Services. You know, 10 percent of the U.S. economy comes out of Manufacturing and with the industry that the president is so fixated
on, so focused on, the wide, vast majority, about two-thirds of the economy comes from consumer spending -
GILLESPIE: - and some Services.
GILLESPIE: So, it's - it's - it's puzzling, it's hard to put together and I think it's important for everybody out there to know that there is two
parts to the pie, there's Goods and there's Services, and to fixate on one is just misleading.
FOROOHAR: You've just hit on something important too which is that most of the economy is about consumer spending, it's you know, normally Services
but 70 percent of our economy is about what you and I are spending and so that's one of the reasons that I have been so against things like the big
corporate tax cut.
I mean we need to be working on getting more money in individuals' pockets rather than thinking about how to give companies more.
ASHER: So, let me - let me ask you this so for Justin Trudeau is on the receiving end of President Trump basically saying things that he doesn't
even know is true, how does he manage negotiating with that sort of tactic?
I mean I know that you and I talked about this, that Trudeau is growth bound -
ASHER: - the U.S. destroying factories, he's sort of trying to show the world that the U.S. and Canada have a strong relationship but how does he
handle - I guess this question is for both of you -
ASHER: - but how does he handle -
FOROOHAR: You know, I would say, I have been in a number of conferences, events, recently where Trudeau or other Canadian ministers have been there
talking to the U.S. business people, basically selling themselves here and you know, what, they've got a pretty good sell.
Here's why, they are focused on new businesses, on high-tech, on services, on growth and that's where the economy is going. I mean the more that we
in the U.S. talk about the Rust Belt, talk about steel, talk about aluminum -
FOROOHAR: - that makes business turn away and also you know, it's about workforce, it's about training of the 21st century workforce. That
something Canada has actually been quite, quite smart on I think.
GILLESPIE: I think that's an excellent point and the sort of checkmate that Trudeau has, is that Canada is often the number one buyer of a lot of
U.S. goods whether it's -
GILLESPIE: - steel, some of those goods, some of those heavy industry things you know, airplanes -
ASHER: That's important selling, yes.
GILLESPIE: - so the sort of check point is, OK you want to blowup this trade agreement, we are your number one customer so don't do that but the
other sort of soft point is that Trudeau has been doing this, tour of U.S. cities and trying to garner support -
ASHER: Yes. Right, right.
GILLESPIE: - among the U.S. businesses leaders (ph).
ASHER: So, Rana, so let me ask you this -
ASHER: - when you look at the markets, we ended the market up today -
ASHER: - up triple digits but there's been a lot of uncertainty regarding what the future holds in terms of U.S. trade policies, there it is the
market at the end of the day, a hundred and fifteen points up. You know, with the triple digit losses we've seen recently -
ASHER: - on the markets, if people actually believe that we could be entering a trade war or if President Trump was really, really, serious
about imposing tariffs on certain countries -
ASHER: - wouldn't the market be down far, far worse?
FOROOHAR: You know, there's a couple of things going on in the market right now that are important.
One think about the fact that market responds to what the Federal Reserve is doing, what the central bankers are doing. Interest rates are still
pretty low, I mean we know that they're going to be going up and that's one of the reasons that we've seen volatility and will continue to see it.
Markets don't really know how to price political risk and your point is exactly right, you look at all of the crazy things that are going on
politically right now and you would think why is the market not responding? The market doesn't know how to price North Korea, how to price Russia, even
know how to price -
GILLESPIE: A full -
FOROOHAR: - the trade war.
GILLESPIE: - a full-blown trade war -
GILLESPIE: - is kind of unimaginable.
GILLESPIE: The last one happened in the 1930s -
FOROOHAR: That's right.
GILLESPIE: - so really hard for the market to say -
ASHER: Talking about political risk, today with the subpoenas being announced -
GILLESPIE: - Absolutely.
ASHER: - on The Trump Organization so Patrick to you in terms of the timeline for renegotiating NAFTA, Mexico they have elections at the
beginning of July, this year, that's just in a few - in a few months so there is a deadline to get this done before the new administration in
Mexico takes place because otherwise you're going to have to start all over again.
GILLESPIE: Yes, absolutely. In short NAFTA talks are running out of time. They've always been on a very condensed timeframe. These trade talks
usually take years, they're trying to get this done in several months.
There are only I think six out of 30 NAFTA chapters agreed upon, done, locked-down. They've got I guess 24 more to go and the elections in July.
ASHER: It doesn't bode well, does it?
GILLESPIE: And the front-runner in Mexico says that he wants to start the negotiation process all over again so it could take a lot longer than
FOROOHAR: We're going to be back here talking about this so like, uh, here we go.
ASHER: OK guys. Always good to see you my friends. Thank you.
OK, some tragic news for you out of Miami, we know that at least one person has died after a pedestrian bridge collapsed in Miami, that's according to
the mayor of Miami-Dade. The Fire Department is saying that eight people - eight people have been transported to hospital after this bridge collapsed
As you can see there, these are life pictures on the screen there, search and rescue efforts are still ongoing, you see firefighters on the ground
The bridge - this is key, the bridge it was actually [0:05:14] installed just this weekend, just on Saturday, so what four days ago. It was
supposed to be a safer way for students to cross the busy multilane highway, as you can see below.
All right, Rosa Flores is on the scene for us so Rosa, we know that one person has died, there are several people injured. The fact that this
bridge was only installed four days ago when it collapsed, just incredible, walk us through what's going on there?
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, one of the witnesses described it Zain as an earthquake, like that's what it felt to them and that's how
first responders are describing their response because there is a lot of rubble. They know that eight vehicles are trapped under need and they have
to be very careful to try to extract those individuals to save life.
I want to show you the scene behind me because you'll see that there are at least four cranes here and according to first responders they're using that
heavy machinery to lift the pieces of this bridge which we learned was about a hundred and seventy-four feet long and weighed 950 tons.
Now to set the scene for you here Zain the highway that ran under it is - runs multiple, multiple lanes and that bridge, that crossover, crossover to
the university, the Florida International University, FIU and so, that - there's the irony, this was supposed to be for safety purposes, to help
students crossover to FIU, to make sure that they didn't have to cross this massive interstate.
Well and now we of course, know that this has happened, we understand that this was a different type of construction that they were supposed to use
state-of-the-art material and here we are now this strategy has happened.
As you mentioned one person has died, it is the latest that we've heard from first responders but from what we just heard from first responders
here on the scene, we know that at least eight vehicles are trapped, eight people were transported and right now there's a painstaking effort by first
responders, as they try to remove that rubble to try to save lives.
And it's an eight vehicles thing so who knows how many people were inside those vehicles and as you can - you probably hear, we've had a lot of air
traffic overhead as some of the medical aircraft just hovering over the scene I'm not exactly sure why they're doing that but they are trying to
get the situation as best of they can, Zain.
ASHER: Yes, we were just getting life pictures of firefighters actually going underneath that bridge where you can see cars crushed underneath,
OK, Rosa Flores, my good friend, Rosa Flores there, thank you so much. I appreciate that.
OK, still to come here on QUEST MEANS BUSINESS, the term Internet Research Agency certainly sounds like a perfect normal, innocuous, innocent name
however it is better known as a Troll Factory and it's at the heart of today's Russian sanctions.
We'll dig deeper after we come back from (ph) the commercial break [0:03:22].
[17:30:00] ASHER ZAIN, CNN: Hello everyone, I'm Zain Asher, coming up on the next top hour of QUEST MEANS BUSINESS. Robert Mueller crosses the line
that Donald Trump warned him to stay away from the president's family business.
And putting the R into RIPs, Toys R Us or Barney clothing up short in the United States. But first, these are the headlines for you at this hour.
The Trump administration has announced new sanctions on Russia for its attempts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election. Included in those
sanctions are individuals indicted by special counsel Mueller last month. Russia says it's preparing a response for the U.S. sanction.
A pedestrian bridge installed just days ago on a Florida -- in Florida about a college campus has collapsed. There's at least one death since
then, six other people have been taken to hospital. Eight vehicles were crashed under the bridge which span a highway up Florida International
University in Miami.
And thousands of people have fled the besieged area of eastern Ghouta Thursday. Syrian forces advance into the rebel house enclave on the edge
of Damascus. The state media just reported that more than ten thousand people escaped one small town, the government control part of the Syrian
The civilian exits came hours after report of intense fights, overnight airstrikes. And North Korea's foreign minister has arrived in the Swedish
capital a week after the U.S. president announced he'd be willing to meet with the North Korean leader.
It should be a sign, it should be a sign that Kim Jong-un is moving ahead with those potential talks. Sweden looks after U.S. interest in North
Right, Unilever, the U.K.'s third largest company has chosen the Dutch city of Rotterdam for its corporate headquarters, ending their residency in
London which has lasted nearly a century. Anna Stewart is in London to talk to us about why.
So Anna, just walk us through it, is this move in terms of how it hurts the U.K., is it more symbolic or is it economic in terms of the potential
damage it could do to the U.K.?
ANNA STEWART, CNN: I mean, it certainly proven to the U.K. government, but I think that maybe it would be a mistake to see this as, you know, a Brexit
story. And actually today, we have heard from both the U.K. government and community, they're saying that this has nothing to do Brexit.
Here's what the CEO said earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL POLMAN, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, NESTLE: There's never a moment, and so we've worked on this for two years as I mentioned. We've studied this
very carefully as a company, and we've come to the conclusion that this is right to do.
But it's actually right to do from all parties involved. And I think it's also a good outcome for the U.K. We continue to stress and I want to
stress at once that this has nothing to do with Brexit.
These are long-term decisions and that we are deciding to make major investments in the U.K. as a result of this long-term decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Speaking to analysts today, I mean, there are some real key reasons for this moving. So one of them is, there was that big half time
takeover bid, a hostile takeover bid last year that really upset Unilever and its investors.
And if it goes to Rotterdam as its main and its only headquarters, the takeover and all that will be much better for it to spend itself. Also
about half of all Unilever's shares are traded in the Netherlands. So that was another reason.
And add one entity, saying it will just be better able to make acquisitions in (INAUDIBLE), which is something Unilever does a lot in the future. So
there are really -- that said, I find it very hard to believe that Brexit isn't a factor at all in all of this.
And that's something that CNN Money team here in London debating all day.
ZAIN: And we're actually looking at Unilever shares, down about 1.6 percent. Just walk us through the general impact of this move on Unilever
STEWART: Yes, so funny enough, when this was first announced in the morning, the share price dropped for only really very marginally, and then
it dropped by 2 percent straight after that armless core which I was on.
And actually that was because there was a lot of talk about whether or not Unilever would remain on the FTSE 100 once this is all implemented. And it
would appear quite unlikely that it could -- it will keep a listing in London.
[17:35:00] But whether or not the FTSE 100 will keep it there, it's looking unlikely, and for investors that are impassive on the track, the FTSE 100
of course, they are only invested because of it being in that index.
So it did have a bit of effect on Thursday.
ZAIN: And so Anna, how is the -- you know, obviously, this is not great news for London. But how is the U.K. negotiating with other companies and
other corporations to keep them from relocating?
STEWART: I mean, to take this as an example. The U.K. government has been having lobbying for a really long time, and they do lobby for these things.
They're lobbying for Saudi's Aramco for them to list in London.
But in turn, they're trying to keep the businesses that are here, here, post-Brexit, particularly financial institutions. They are possibly losing
out battles because a lot of it is just talks.
Theresa May; the Prime Minister is meeting with business leaders, industry leaders almost on a weekly basis and her cabinet ministers are as well.
But there's a lot of talk, she hasn't got a lot of detail, she can't really promise them much in terms of what are transitional arrangement -- well,
like particularly for banks actually, whether or not they'll be able to access path-footing, and as a result, a lot of these companies are hitting
contingency buttons and you know, opening up subsidiaries and moving some jobs over to Europe.
ZAIN: All right, Anna Stewart live for us there, thank you so much, I appreciate that. OK, so it is a very sad day in toy town. I certainly had
a lot of childhood memories growing up because one of the biggest brands in the toy business, Toys R Us is shutting up shop for good in terms of stores
in the United States.
As the mice is well known, the reason for its downfall certainly. Here's Clare Sabastian with more.
CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN: The last generation of Toys R Us kids have broken across the U.S., all of its stores went out closed while we saw all of
these people shopping at this time closed, still will have to find somewhere else to go.
Thirty one thousand jobs will now be lost, and that came in the same week that we found out Toys R Us will also be closing all of its stores in the
U.K. after the customers -- well, they were pretty upset about it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very sad because I love Toys R Us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now my youngest child is here and he gets to play with all the toys, it's just an experience. It's an event. So sad.
SEBASTIAN: So where will you guys go to shop now that Toys R Us is closing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will look --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just online.
SEBASTIAN: So what if it's not online as well?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then I probably -- Amazon --
SEBASTIAN: Kind of good. Online reactions are also hard-felt, this guy posted a video on YouTube of how he broke the news to his kids while inside
a Toys R Us store.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yes --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Toys R Us, they're going to be closing nationwide here, likely it's within the next week or two.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No! So how are we going to get toys? I guess --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just go to Amazon. Amazon is putting everyone out of business.
SEBASTIAN: Amazon is part of it. Toys R Us had been struggling for years against competition from big buck stores like Wal-Mart and Target and from
Amazon, the e-commerce giant.
So the real problem was debt. When it was bought out in 2005, Toys R Us was settled with billions of dollars in debt and the repayment on that
meant it couldn't make the necessary investments in its stores.
It had hopes the bankruptcy would help it turn around the business, but after a miserable holiday season, it was clear this fun was over. Clare
Sebastian, "CNN MONEY", New York.
ZAIN: And it's sad that Toys R Us is experiencing major economic turn, we also had the media giant iHop Radio falling to bankruptcy today, and just
some more news into Cnn.
Southeastern Grocers is also filing for bankruptcy as well. The parent company of Winn-Dixie BI-LO and Harveys Supermarkets, among other brands as
well. Those are widespread in the southern part, specifically in the southern part of the United States.
Winn-Dixie used to be listed on both the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq, and actually traces its route back to 1925. So some sad corporate
news that we're bringing you today -- OK, we'll have much more news after the break, don't go away.
[17:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ZAIN: All right, special counsel Robert Mueller has slapped the Trump Organization with a subpoena, documents -- of course, according to a source
rather familiar with the masses. The "New York Times" reports that they relate to Russia.
I'm going to bring in Tom Brown(ph) who joins us live now from Washington. So Tom, just walk us through how concerned should the president be. The
fact that this is sort of closing in on his family business.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, this is the first time, a couple like example of reporting where Robert Mueller has amended documents relating to the
president's businesses. The Trump organization, we know Zain, back in January that the Trump organization voluntarily turned over thousands of
documents for Robert Mueller's team.
Primarily from 2015 on. And so clearly, this is a case where Robert Mueller seem -- looked through the documents and then it appears they feel
like there could be more out there, more that wasn't handed over or they're just trying to memorialize what was already handed over.
Either way, this is not a good sign for the president as his attorneys have been telling him for months now that this probe is going to wrap up soon.
As you'll recall, just in the last fall and then in the winter, their attorneys would say that we believe that this is going to wrap up.
And December, and then it was January, and February, now, we are here in mid-March, and that hasn't happened yet. And this is -- this is a serious
investigative tool -- issuing a subpoena compels the Trump organization to turn over these documents.
Now, an attorney for the organization said that this is basically old news, that the Trump organization continues to cooperate and that it doesn't have
any real estate holdings in Russia.
But what we do know, Zain, from our reporting is that Robert Mueller's team is interested in this project, this deal that never came to fruition back
in 2015 when the Trump organization and Michael Cohen, the lawyer for it was working on a potential Trump Tower in Moscow.
It never came through, but as you'll recall from my reporting, there was a letter of intent signed by the president at the time. So all of this is
still being looked at by Robert Mueller clearly, Zain.
ZAIN: Clearly, but one thing that President Trump has said in an interview with the "New York Times" is that, his family finances are a red line. He
did say this, his family finances are a red line that Robert Mueller should not cross.
So now that essentially Bob Mueller has crossed that red line, how do we expect the president to respond, do you think?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it's interesting because if you noticed, the president has been pretty restrained as it pertains to Robert Mueller. I
mean, yes, he does call the investigation a witch-hunt, but in terms of going after Robert Mueller himself on Twitter and elsewhere, he hasn't done
And so we'll be addressing to see if he sort of changes his tune and his behavior in light of this news that now Robert Mueller's team is demanding
documents relating to his business.
Now it is important to note that when he was interviewed by the "New York Times" reporters and said that it was relating to his finances and whether
if it will be on Russia, that will be crossing a red line, he said it would.
What we don't know is the scope of this subpoena and whether in fact it does go beyond Russia. Zain.
ZAIN: All right, Tom Brown, my first day, I thank you so much --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
ZAIN: OK, so imagine a factory running round the clock, operating continuously where the workers are paid to post derogatory information on
the internet. That allegation lies at the heart of the Russian sanctions indictment.
So the question is, what is inside? What is inside this so-called troll factory? Which is actually called, technically called the internet research
agency based in Saint Petersburg.
Take a look here, this is filmed by an undercover journalist. The indictment says the agency bought ads and posted derogatory content about
Hillary Clinton and other candidates on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well.
[17:45:00] It also contacted unwitting Americans tied to the Trump campaign to coordinate political campaigning. And the indictment says they were
told not to attack Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump.
Now 12 or the 13 defendants worked for the internet research agency. Jim Sciutto is joining us live now from Washington. So Jim, how sophisticated
of an operation is this?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Extremely sophisticated and very well funded. In fact, the financial backer for it,
you have Yevgeniy Prigozhin who is known as Putin chef, but trust me, he is much more.
He is a Russian oligarch, worth many millions, billions of dollars, supporter, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin. He funded this agency
here and it very smartly created some fake news stories, seeded some protests here in the U.S., many of them in key swing election districts
with the intention of creating a discourse.
Sometimes they would create two opposing protests in the same place. They would hire people to dress up like Hillary Clinton in a jail costume, all
these kinds of things -- they gathered issues, they were really divisive and very much in the center of the political debate during that election.
And frankly, this continues today, these are many of the organizations and individuals that have been sanctioned now by the U.S. Treasury.
ZAIN: So then how do you actually -- I mean, this is information (INAUDIBLE) basically. How would you like to measure what the impact was
in terms of the outcome of the U.S. election.
I mean, is it possible -- a lot of people say you can't go too far and say that Donald Trump won because of this. But how do you measure the impact?
SCIUTTO: Well, we know for instance that the intelligence community made no judgment or no attempt to measure the impact. Their job, they say was
to just judge who is doing it, how, where it was coming from, who ordered it.
And that's all that's in the Intel assessment, blaming Russia with approval from the Russian President Vladimir Putin. Same from the various Hill
committees, the FBI that have been investigating this interference. They're going to make -- making judgments on the political fact because you
get, first of all, that's not their job.
Second of all, it may very well be impossible. How do you -- how many voters can you talk to and say that this particular fake news story about
Hillary Clinton drive you to vote --
ZAIN: Right --
SCIUTTO: Against her in the election. You know, what they can't though measure is reach. And when you saw the Facebook and the Twitter executives
testifying here a few weeks ago in the U.S., their numbers which are very good, this is what they do, show that many millions of people saw these
posts, these fake news posts, you know, these protest messages, et cetera.
Hard to say how many of them had their votes swayed, but we do know that it was targeted very meticulously, particularly at districts, there were swing
districts in some of those key swing states.
ZAIN: So in terms of the sanctions, we know that over a dozen individuals tied to the internet research agency, this troll factory, if you will, have
been indicted. Just walk us through who these individuals are.
We've talked about the guy whose nickname Putin chef --
SCIUTTO: Yes --
ZAIN: So who else and what was their role within this agency?
SCIUTTO: Well, it's interesting, the names and the entities sanctioned here almost identical. In fact, all the people who were indicted rather by
Robert Mueller last month faced -- you know, issued with charges for interference in U.S. election are included in this document here.
And in addition to the IRA, the recent internet research agency that you mentioned, you have Yevgeniy Prigozhin who runs it, Putin chef, and again,
when I say Putin chef, this is a guy who has contracts to feed the entire Russian military.
He hires mercenaries in Syria, he is far more than someone who just runs a restaurant. But you have a number of other individuals here who work for
the IRA and were doing this job, this information app as you say.
But it's interesting too because remember, the special counsel Robert Mueller, his whole investigation has often been dismissed by President
Trump as a witch-hunt, and yet, this Treasury Department run by a Trump appointee Steve Mnuchin has just indicted all the people who were indicted
or rather sanctioned all the people who were indicted by Robert Mueller.
Who is running -- according to the president a witch-hunt investigation. But the Treasury Department took those indictments very seriously because
these people are now facing very serious economic sanctions from the U.S.
ZAIN: Yes, it's hard for President Trump to deny a witch-hunt going forward. But in terms of the next election, let's talk about the mid-term
election, do we know whether or not, whether this internet research agency, whether its goal is still to help Trump and Republicans.
What is their goal going forward now that the U.S. elections of 2016 are over.
SCIUTTO: Well, we don't know to what extent the IRA specifically, the internet research agency is interfering in the elections. We do know that
Russian state actors are actors believed to be backed by the Russian state continue to meddle to interfere because we've heard that from the director
of CIA and others in public comments.
[17:50:00] They say that this interference continues and they expect it to continue into the mid-term elections this fall in the U.S. for Congress and
perhaps up to 2020 when we have another presidential election.
So you know, the one thing that is not questioned is that this meddling, this interference continues. How far it goes, we don't know, but no one I
speak to here, Democrat or Republican believes it's going to stop.
ZAIN: That is ominous, OK, Jim Sciutto live with us there, thank you so much, appreciate that --
SCIUTTO: Thank you.
ZAIN: All right, we'll have much more news after the break, don't go away.
ZAIN: All right, welcome back everybody. South Africa's president is promising to move faster on redistributing land. It's part of a major
reform agenda being championed by Cyril Ramaphosa's government as South Africa moves on from the era of former president Jacob Zuma.
That shift means once powerful stakers like the Gupta family now find their influence waning. Here's our Eleni Giokos with more.
ELENI GIOKOS, CNN AFRICA CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These mine owners were always appearing in the news for all the wrong reasons. But as long
as the pay kept coming, these miners were happy, until without warning, the checks stops.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The air now that's blowing, is blowing up.
GIOKOS: The Guptas, one of South Africa's wealthiest families whose business empire touches everything, from mining to media are on the run.
And eight of their companies including Optimum Cult are on the verge of liquidation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The embattled Gupta family could lose their private jet today --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Property belonging to the Guptas has been raided.
GIOKOS: Early morning police raids on the Gupta's sprawling compound took place on the same day the former President Jacob Zuma tended his
resignation. And that isn't a coincidence, says David Lewis; executive director of Corruption Watch.
DAVID LEWIS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CORRUPTION WATCH: It's barely rare that a business enterprise, sort of business enterprise manages to capture the
president of the country.
GIOKOS: For years, allegations swoop that the Gupta business empire had captured President Zuma. Prosecutors say the Guptas' reach extended deep
into government's contracts.
LEWIS: Our former president and the Guptas were named the Zuptas and that's you know, absolutely synonymous with grand corruption.
GIOKOS: And now, one-by-one, these questionable multi-million dollar deals are being exposed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think I'll be wrong to characterize it as an AGM cart, so is the Guptas. Are we throwing money from the Department of
GIOKOS: The family and Zuma have denied all allegations of corruption, but before their day in court, the Gupta business empire is already crumbling.
(on-camera): This is the Sahara Computers, it's a company that was once at the center of a Gupta business empire, and it's where it all began. Four
of the Gupta family, when they started this business in 1994.
[17:55:00] The building now stands empty and this 'to let' sign behind me have signaled the start of a downfall of the Gupta businesses.
In March, the Bank of Baroda announced that it would exit the country, it was the only bank in South Africa willing to do business with the Guptas.
Cnn reached out to Gupta on Oakbay Investments, but we were referred to the business rescue team. The lead on the case spoke to Cnn by phone and said
"the cash is already gone, and the Guptas are looking at offloading assets."
For their former employees, money that they say is rightfully theirs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're not running this business bad. These guys, they only had to loot, they're not --
GIOKOS (voice-over): Eleni Giokos, Cnn, Johannesburg.
ZAIN: All right, before we leave you, wish I can see how the market fed on Wall Street. Industrial shares saw the biggest gains, though actually end
of the day, 116 points, its first gains after three sessions of losses, so it broke the losing streak.
And MacDonald is actually the biggest gainer in terms of the Dow up 2 percent, a series of solid economic reports from jobless claims and
manufacturing helped boost investor sentiment. The S&P and the Nasdaq close slightly lower, the S&P 500 now is on a four-day losing streak, its
longest of the year.
In the meantime, in Europe, the major indices closed higher, Unilever shares as I was talking about without Anna Stewart, actually fell 1.7
percent. In London, as you mentioned earlier, the company has actually chosen Rotterdam instead of London as the location for its corporate
And that my friend is another round of questions, isn't it? I'm Zain Asher, thank you so much for watching, Richard will be back tomorrow, have a great