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Israel Blames Iran for Golan Heights Missile Attack; Teen Bride's Death Sentence Sparks Global Outrage; Kelly Walks Back Embarrassing Comment; Giuliani Says Trump Denied TimeWarner-AT&T Merger Deal; A Royal Match: Harry & Meghan. Aired 12m-12:30a ET

Aired May 12, 2018 - 00:00   ET

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


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CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Iran launches a diplomatic push to save the nuclear deal. But if diplomacy doesn't work, Tehran threatens to restart its nuclear program on a massive scale.

Plus the race to save Noura Hussein, a 19-year-old girl in Sudan, sentenced to death for killing her husband as he allegedly raped her.

And Rudy Giuliani's words may again do his client more harm than good. Donald Trump's lawyer implies the president may have had a hand in trying to block the AT&T-TimeWarner merger that is currently in the courts.

Live from the CNN Center here in Atlanta, I'm Cyril Vanier. Great to have you with us.

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VANIER: Iranian officials will be heading to Europe next week on a last-ditch mission to save the nuclear agreement which the U.S. has now rejected. Anti-American feeling raged through the streets of Tehran on Friday. Much of that anger directed at U.S. President Donald Trump.

And the stakes are enormous. Iran's foreign minister warns that if the nuclear deal cannot be salvaged, then the country may restart its enrichment program on an industrial scale this time.

Add to this the rising military tensions with Israel, which just two days ago fired dozens of missiles at Iranian targets in Syria, the most direct and dangerous confrontation yet between Iran and Israel.

CNN's Ian Lee is in the Golan Heights, which Israel says was attacked by Iranian rockets earlier this week.

Ian, since Israel hit back, things have gone quiet. But the underlying tensions are still there.

Do you have any sense of where, when they might flare up again? IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's always hard to predict, Cyril, when and where the tensions will flare. Likely they will flare along the Golan border and into Syria, which is behind me. It is likely, though, that there will be tensions again.

There will likely be another flare-up of violence because Iran isn't going to leave Syria and Israel is going to be watching it. And if it sees anything it perceives as a threat, then Israel says they're going to strike.

But on the other side, you do have Israel's military as well the Iranian President Rouhani saying they don't want this to escalate any further. How long that will remain really is anyone's guess.

VANIER: They've had a fairly muted response, as you say, to the Israeli strikes. But they are making loud threats on the Iran nuclear deal. Tell us about that.

LEE: Yes, we heard from Iran's foreign minister Zarif talking about the fact he's right now pursuing diplomacy. He's talking to the Europeans, the other signatories of the Iran nuclear deal, which includes the U.K., France and Germany, also Russia and China, to see if anything can be salvaged there. They want to stay in the nuclear deal.

But if it's impossible, if it just isn't able to move forward because the United States pulled out and is imposing sanctions, then they say they're ready to start up their nuclear enrichment program. They say that they can do it on an industrial scale.

But we also need to point out, too, that enriching uranium is still different than saying that they're starting a nuclear weapons program or kicking that into gear.

VANIER: The U.S. is going ahead and opening its embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, something which Mr. Trump had long promised he would do.

What's the feeling in Israel about that?

And could it move the needle on any of the regional issues, regional tensions we've been talking about?

LEE: Yes, Cyril, that's one thing we're going to be watching closely on Monday. You know, speaking with the military, the one thing that they're going to be watching closely is the border with Gaza.

Over the past many weeks, six, seven weeks, there have been weekly protests along that border where we've seen thousands of Palestinians. It's called the March of Return, where Palestinians say they want to return to lands that were lost to Israel in the 1948 war.

And these are people who are refugees, descendants of refugees, and so every week they go and tempt the border.

And people have died. Israel says that border is also a red line and they say they reserve the right to use deadly force, although Israel has been criticized with the extent of deadly force that it has used. Journalists have been hit and killed as well as children.

But Israel says they will maintain that line. So that's really where the focus will be as terms of flare-ups on that day, that Gaza border, where we will see thousands, tens of thousands of people coming there, which is expected to see a large-scale -- a large number of people, the largest protest we've seen to date.

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LEE: And so that is what's making the military nervous and they're watching that closely. Also when you talk to Palestinians, they say a lot is riding on that day to show that they are not backing down, that they still want to be heard, not only here but also by the international community.

VANIER: Ian Lee, reporting live from the Golan Heights. Thank you, my friend.

Let's bring in CNN global affairs analyst Kimberly Dozier.

Kimberly, does Israel feel it has a green light from the U.S. to move aggressively against Iran and Syria?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I think it's felt it had that for quite some time.

But on the Iranian side, there was a certain check to their action. They were staying within the lines, conducting a shadow war that, while they were aggressively supporting the Assad regime in Syria and supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen, they weren't overtly attacking Israel except a few furtive ventures with the drone in recent months.

But after Bibi Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, had that display, where he had those thousands of documents that he had produced on television to show that Iran had been hiding, lying about its nuclear weapons program years ago, a display that was mostly thought to be aimed at president Donald Trump ahead of his decision about the Iran deal, we've seen Tehran take the gloves off.

VANIER: And Iran has been fairly quiet in its response about these Israeli strikes so far. For about 36 hours, it didn't even acknowledge them.

Is Tehran laying low on this because it's got bigger fish to fry, namely, saving the Iran nuclear deal?

DOZIER: Well, at this point they have some options. They could go with a Hezbollah reaction. Hezbollah has, Israel says, 100, 000-plus missiles trained south at Israeli territory. But --

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VANIER: So that's the Shiite militia in Lebanon, in Southern Lebanon.

DOZIER: -- exactly. But right now we've got European nations saying they want to try to save their side of the Iran deal. Britain, France, Germany have all said they're going to have a meeting to try to figure out if they can continue trade, if they can keep Iran economically with its head above water so that it's worth staying within the deal.

So from Tehran's point of view, that's a reason not to escalate militarily because the people within Iran are still waiting for the economic rewards of this deal.

VANIER: And this deal, can it really survive now that the U.S. has pulled out?

DOZIER: From what I'm hearing from European officials, they are scrambling to figure out how they can maintain some sort of trade ties. But from their perspective, they see slowly companies across Europe making the decision that, in the long term, the U.S. is going to make it too hard to do business with Tehran and, therefore, not worth it.

So from the diplomats I've spoken to, they're afraid it's a lost cause but at least they've got to try.

VANIER: So look, I've got to ask you this, then.

If the deal falls through, do that to unleash a more aggressive response from Iran in the region, then?

DOZIER: Probably so. The actions that we've seen so far, the missile volley over the border into the Golan Heights, may just be the first step. But Iran also knows that they've got to carefully calibrate this. If they go too far, they can get into an absolute fight with Israel.

So I think what you're going to see is harassment in various different locations, just pushing at the edges, which is something they've done very skillfully, while they hope their European allies can pull something off.

VANIER: Kimberly Dozier, CNN global affairs analyst, good to talk to you. Thank you.

DOZIER: Thank you.

VANIER: And we're learning more now about a Sudanese teenager sentenced to death for fatally stabbing the man that she had been forced to marry. She says that when she refused to consume (sic) the marriage, he raped her, as his relatives held her down. Her name, Noura Hussein.

This is the only photo we have of her and her husband. Her case has outraged people around the world, with some calling for Sudan's president to issue a pardon. Our Nima Elbagir has more from London,

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The details are harrowing. Noura's lawyer told us that she managed to escape a marriage forced upon her at the age of 15, fleeing to live with her aunt in a separate state, only to be tricked by her parents into coming home and forced to marry the man that she had rejected all those years ago.

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ELBAGIR: At 19 years old, forced into a marriage that she wanted nothing to do with, Noura told her lawyer that, when she refused to consummate the marriage with her husband, his brother and two cousins held her down while he raped her.

The next day she says he attempted to do it again. This time she killed him.

Now none of that is being debated by either the prosecution or the defense. What is being debated is whether Noura had the right to refuse, whether such a thing as marital rape even exists. Under Sudanese law it does not. And that is what is sparking controversy, not just in Sudan but around the world.

Her legal team, who actually have volunteered their services, say that they're hoping that the fact that she was forced to marry this man while 15, so legally still a minor -- the age of formal consent in Sudan is 16 even though marriage is legal from 10 years old -- the bride has to give her consent if she is under 16.

The hope is that not only will Noura's case be viewed with mercy by the legal system but that also this debate that has been forced upon the Sudanese government and upon Sudanese society will cause a reformation, will cause a change in law that will protect other women, women across the country, from intimate violence, from rape within the confines of their own homes.

Her legal team tell us that she now has two weeks within which to appeal. And they hope that the court will have mercy on Noura -- Nima Elbagir, CNN, London.

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VANIER: Coming up, the president's lawyer is supposed to keep his clients out of trouble, right?

Well, so far that doesn't seem to be the case for President Trump. Stay with us.

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VANIER: A wild week in Washington, another one of those, ends with two revealing and controversial statements. First, White House chief of staff John Kelly is walking back his

statement that president Donald Trump is "embarrassed" by the special counsel's probe. Kelly later told CNN that he meant to say Mr. Trump was "distracted" by the Russia investigation. Here's Kelly's original comment that he made to National Public Radio.

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JOHN F. KELLY, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: There may not be a cloud but certainly the president is somewhat embarrassed, frankly, when world leaders come in. It's like, you walk in and the first couple minutes of every conversation might revolve around that kind of thing.

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VANIER: Meanwhile, the White House has not commented, let alone apologized, for a staffer's comment about Senator John McCain. McCain, you may recall, is fighting brain cancer and he also opposes Donald Trump's pick to lead the CIA. He continues to work as a senator, despite his cancer.

Well, a White House official tells CNN that special assistant Kelly Sadler --

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VANIER: -- had said that doesn't matter because, quote, "He's dying anyway."

A source says Sadler herself later called McCain's daughter to apologize. But Meghan McCain says it reveals a lot about this White House environment.

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MEGHAN MCCAIN, JOHN'S DAUGHTER: I don't understand what kind of environment you're working in when that would be acceptable and then you can come to work the next day and still have a job. And that's all I have to say about it.

My father's legacy is going to be talked about for hundreds and hundreds of years.

These people? Nothing burgers. Nobody's going to remember you.

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VANIER: We have dueling messages from the Trump camp on the merger of media giants AT&T and TimeWarner. First, Donald Trump's new lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, tells the "Huffington Post" the president has, quote, "denied" this merger. And TimeWarner, remember, is CNN's parent company.

Giuliani was seemingly trying to defend the president against any suggestion that another Trump lawyer, Michael Cohen, improperly influenced the administration after the revelation that AT&T paid Cohen large sums of money for, quote, "insights" into this new administration.

Now denying the merger flies in the face of everything the Trump administration has said so far about it. Mr. Trump tweeted that it was the Trump administration's antitrust division, that's part of the Department of Justice.

So the Trump administration's antitrust division has been and is opposed to the AT&T purchase of TimeWarner in a currently ongoing trial. The Justice Department is currently trying to block this $85 billion deal in the courts. We don't have a decision on that trial. It's ongoing.

Let's bring in political analyst Peter Matthews. He's a political science professor at Cypress College in Los Angeles.

Peter, first of all, this quote, that President Trump has denied the merger, the words of Rudy Giuliani, I think our international audience might not immediately understand why that could be so problematic.

PETER MATTHEWS, CYPRESS COLLEGE: Because it was a denial of a denial. And the whole thing about the merger is that the president probably did -- he did oppose it. In the campaign, he said it's too big, the companies are too big.

But it's a vertical merger, Cyril, and should not have been opposed because each of the companies do not compete with each other directly.

And it had been 40 years since the federal government ever stopped a vertical merger. But I think it was much more his own prejudice against CNN. And that's what AT&T had been complaining about.

Now AT&T's money that was given to Cohen, that was an indirect form of trying to have access. It's not as direct as, say, lobbying directly with funds through campaign contributions, et cetera.

And so I think overall Trump's antipathy toward CNN had the most amount of influence on his denial of the merger. And I do believe he had influence on the denial with the Justice Department

VANIER: Again, help us connect the dots because that's what the suspicions have always been about, that Trump's opposition to the merger had actually to do with presidential politics and with the way CNN covers his administration.

MATTHEWS: Well, absolutely. Because CNN's been a lot more critical and honest about what was going on in the campaign of all the candidates. And I think they had to be critical of Trump because he deserved it.

And they saw it as an anti-Trump network and you saw him when he put out that video, with CNN's logo on the head of a wrestler, whose head was taken off and he was punching the CNN logo, how much more explicit can you get than that? He's always calling CNN fake news, which is really ridiculous. I mean, he doesn't like news that is critical of him. That's what he calls fake news, no matter who's calling him that -- calling it that.

So I think it shows the president's true colors. I think the public should know that by now.

VANIER: And it's worth reminding ourselves that AT&T, in its original filings to the court -- or maybe it was before the filings, I'm not sure -- had actually itself made this argument that they thought the Department of Justice was attempting to block the merger for political reasons.

But we don't have any proof of that.

MATTHEWS: That's right. And the particular judge, I think, denied the revelation of what kind of papers could have been used for proof of that. And I think that should have been made public.

There's a lot of bad politics involved here. And we should allow things to be normal and regularized. Vertical mergers have been approved for 40 years.

And in this case, why all of a sudden, the Justice Department kowtows to the president's wishes?

That's not democracy or rule of law. That's not the problem here. And I think that's very important to note.

VANIER: And it should be said, the person who handles this at the Department of Justice actually said there was no political influence, I was not influenced, I just reviewed the case on its merits.

But also to your point, there was this previous merger that is often seen as comparable to this one when Comcast bought up NBC Universal a couple years ago. That went through, no problems.

MATTHEWS: That's right.

VANIER: This is still in the courts.

About Rudy Giuliani, though, he's been on the job, what, 10 days now and he's going to have to address these comments.

He's going to have to answer questions about this, no doubt.

MATTHEWS: Absolutely. Because (INAUDIBLE), people are going to wonder, well, where do you get the proof of that?

If you know something that no one else knows, you'd better speak up, Rudy. And if he just made it for a political reason, to make it look like there was no influence peddling, you know, Cyril, this is all about dollar democracy, the title of my book, as you know.

And there's been so much of money going into --

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MATTHEWS: -- the Trump -- not just this part of it but the Trump inaugural committee from private sources, private businesses, with ties all around the world to international businesses; $107 million was raised by Thomas Barrack, who himself has lots of money coming from overseas.

And he donated a lot of money to President Trump's inaugural committee, that's peddling influence.

Money and politics, dollar democracy with liberty and justice for some. And Trump is known, he's not the exception, he's being influenced all the time as well. He gave up a lot of his populist promises for the voters, the tax cuts for the super rich. He didn't do things like health care for all.

And all that's influenced by the big money coming in to elections and inaugural committees and this type of money to Cohen.

VANIER: And, Peter, I'm actually very glad you mentioned the title of your book, because it is totally pertinent and relevant to these questions and this interview. And it also happens to be a very good book and happens to be a topic in the news this week, with hundreds of thousands, well over a million dollars paid to the president's personal lawyer by different major corporations to try and curry favor with the administration.

Peter Matthews, always a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Cyril.

VANIER: At least 45 people are now confirmed dead after the wall of a dam collapsed in Kenya. Remember, we started telling you about this yesterday. The local governor also says 40 people are still missing. Homes were swept away when water burst through the dam on Wednesday.

Authorities say the dam was built illegally. The area had also been soaked by heavy rain and flooding, complicating rescue efforts. The Kenya Red Cross estimates some 500 families have been affected by the disaster.

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VANIER: In just one week Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will walk down the aisle and into the history books. And therefore it falls on me to take a look at their love story. Just after the break. Stay with us.

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(MUSIC PLAYING) VANIER: So the final preparations are underway for the wedding of the

year. In just one week, Britain's Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle will tie the knot. It's a modern marriage that could change the monarchy forever. CNN takes an inside look.

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ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Harry wants to keep his relationship with Meghan private as long as he can. But just four months after that first date the news is out. And the paparazzi pounced once again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was a photographer who got inside Meghan's house in Toronto. The paparazzi were camping on her mother's front lawn and following and harassing members of her family, anybody who knew her.

CAMEROTA: Despite starring in a TV show, Meghan is relatively unknown. Now the British press wants to know who she is and if she's fit for the royal family.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was a woman who has been married. People are fascinated by the fact that she was divorced. People are fascinating by her background, her acting, a career woman.

How would that work being with someone in the royal family?

That's not what we've seen before.

CAMEROTA: They also have not seen someone biracial dating a member of the royal family. And some of the conversation is blatantly racist.

AFUA HIRSCH, JOURNALIST: There was one newspaper headline saying, "Straight out of Compton," suggesting that she was from a gang-ridden neighborhood.

CAMEROTA: Afua Hirsch is a journalist and recently wrote a book about race, identity and belonging in Britain.

HIRSCH: Would Harry be dropping around for tea in gangland, which was very clearly racially loaded.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Another issue exploded, which was the number of horrific social media racist comments began to flood in from the darkest, vilest corners of the internet.

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VANIER: You can catch the rest of CNN's special report, "A Royal Match: Harry and Meghan." It's on multiple times this weekend, including Saturday night in the U.S. and Sunday night in London.

Tens of millions of people in Europe and elsewhere in the world are gearing up to watch the final of Eurovision on Saturday. The annual song contest known for its sometimes zany and/or horrible

acts banned a Chinese TV station from broadcasting the event this year. It had censored semifinal performances with LGBT teams.

Excited fans are crowding into Lisbon, Portugal, the show's host city, as acts from 26 countries will celebrate diversity through music.

That's it from us. Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. I'll be back with the headlines as always in just a moment.