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Trump's Behavior Leads to More Questions; Lawmakers Say No to Russia's Interrogation to Americans; Violence in Nicaragua Escalates. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired July 20, 2018 - 03:00   ET

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


[03:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN HOST: The fallout from Helsinki continues. Yet President Trump wants another summit with Putin. This time, in Washington.

Also.

This is Nicaragua in chaos. Allegations that government soldiers are using brute force to try and silence months of protests.

Also, yesterday science fiction is today's reality. Some scientists fear a killer robot may soon turn up in a workshop near you. That is unsettling.

Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Natalie Allen, and this is CNN Newsroom.

Well, just days after what many are calling a disastrous summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin a stunning announcement from the White House. They're inviting him over. The announcement is inviting President Putin to Washington for another meeting this fall. The announcement caught many by surprise.

For example, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office says there will be no invitation for Mr. Putin to come to Capitol Hill. And the director of national intelligence found out when he was told by a reporter.

The invitation comes as more administration officials are speaking out, contradicting the president about Russia's role in the attack on the 2016 election. One of those contradicting the president is the president himself.

Our Jeff Zeleny has more now from the White House.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. intelligence chief saying he had to correct President Trump's incorrect claim Russia had no role in attacking American democracy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN COATS, UNITED STATES DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: It was important to take that stand on behalf of the intelligence community and on behalf of the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: Dan Coats, the president's handpicked director of national intelligence said American leaders must speak forcefully about Russia's ongoing threat to U.S. elections.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COATS: It's undeniable that the Russians are taking the lead on this. Basically, they are the ones that are trying to undermine basic values, divide us with our allies. They are the ones that are trying to wreak havoc over our election process. We need to call them out on that. It's critical that we do so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: At a security forum in Aspen, Coats also said it was a mistake for Trump to meet privately with Vladimir Putin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COATS: If he'd asked me how that ought to have been conducted, I would have suggested a different way, but that's not my role.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: Asked whether he'd consider resigning, Coats said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COATS: As long as I'm able to have the ability to seek the truth and speak the truth, I'm on board.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: The extraordinary comments came as Trump invited Putin to the White House for a second meeting amid another major reversal from the Helsinki summit. Trump now saying he disagrees with Putin's request for the Russian government to interrogate Americans. He change his tune after a loud bipartisan backlash, including a stinging rebuke from the Senate three days after he praised Putin's idea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What he did is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 people. I think that's an incredible offer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: What the president twice called incredible on Monday was still being considered yesterday at the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president is going to meet with his team and we'll let you know when we have an announcement on that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: Even the State Department rejected the idea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HEATHER ANN NAUERT, UNITED STATES STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: The overall assertions that have come out the Russian government are absolutely absurd. The fact that they want to question 11 American citizens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: Finally, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo weighing in today after being silent since the summit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: The administration is not going to send or force Americans to travel to Russia to be interrogated by Vladimir Putin and his team.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: For the third straight day the West Wing scrambled to clean up, clarify, and correct contradicting aspects of the Trump-Putin summit. The White House pull the plug on allowing Moscow to question certain Americans, including Michael McFaul, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia.

And American-born financier Bill Browder who lobbied the U.S. government Trump post new sanctions. Speaking to CNN's Kate Baldwin, Browder said Putin wants to kill him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL BROWDER, CEO & CO-FOUNDER, HERMITAGE CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: I've told people for a long time that I believe that I'm Putin's number one foreign enemy, and sometimes people have scoffed of that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: In announcing the reversal, Sanders said, "It is a proposal that was made in sincerity by President Putin but President Trump disagrees with it. The about-face came shortly before the Senate unanimously voice its opposition voting 98 to zero on a resolution to send the White House a message.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[03:05:05] SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: That is neither the policy, nor the practice of the United States to submit our citizens, let alone our ambassadors, to the interrogation of a foreign adversary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: The president taking no responsibility for the diplomatic debacle the summit has become, instead, placing the blame on a familiar target. "The fake news media want so badly to see a major confrontation with Russia, even a confrontation that could lead to war," he said on Twitter. "They are pushing recklessly hard and hate the fact that I'll probably have a good relationship with Putin."

In Moscow today, Putin was singing a strikingly similar tune.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We see there are forces in the United States that are prepared to casually sacrifice Russia-U.S. Relations, to sacrifice them for their ambitions in the course of an internal political battle.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: Time magazine making the point on its cover showing the faces of the two leaders morphing into one.

U.S. Officials are still unsure what exactly went on in that meeting between President Trump and President Putin. The nation's top intelligence chief, Dan Coats said he had no idea specifically what they talked about in that meeting. And he said he would not have recommended President Trump doing so.

Now, all this comes amid questions about will there be any resignations. Dan Coats was asked that specifically. He said, "So long as I can seek the truth and speak the truth, I'm on board." Of course, President Trump will make that final decision.

Jeff Zeleny, CNN, the White House.

ALLEN: While people in Washington try to make sense of the president's approach to Mr. Putin there's been an interesting development in Russia.

Let's go to CNN's Sam Kiley about that. So Sam, this was a summit that was supposed to be about the U.S. and Russia working to make the world safer. And then Russia turns around now and showcases more weaponry. What's that about?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's absolutely consistent. If you think that the main theme emerging from Helsinki, they're both singing from the same song sheet, that if you talk about collusion, this could not have been accidental that the United States president says that he's minded to invite the Russian president to a summit in Washington in the fall.

And coincident with that, a reason for such a meeting is paraded quite literally via the internet by the Russians, who are putting out a whole series of videos describing potentially science fiction. And if they're not science fiction, then it's pretty terrifying new technology that they say is more powerful than anything available to any NATO partner and that includes the United States of America.

For example, they say that they've got the Paris vet laser system. They're still being rather coy about what it's capable of. But they say they can actually target weapons on board and other aircraft and ships. They're saying they've made great breakthroughs in the realm of physics.

They've got the Burevestnik long range unlimited range nuclear powered cruise missile they say they have not yet put into production but that they're testing. They've also got a thing called the Avangard which is launched from space, capable of gliding and evading all forms, they say, of counter missile-missile technology, the sort of technology that the Americans have been stationing around Europe and the former Soviet Union, areas of the former Warsaw pact areas that have been so threatening from the Russian perspective.

They say they've also developed an unmanned nuclear drone capable of traveling at phenomenal speeds under water left entirely autonomous, capable of delivering a nuclear missile anywhere in the world and capable of invading all and every forms of intersection technology.

Some of this they say they've deployed, some of which they're developing, and some of which they put into mass production.

All of this coming at a time when Donald Trump is saying it's a very good idea to talk to the Russians to avoid -- to avoid an arms race. An extraordinary level of, I would suggest, cooperation has gone on in preparing the ground and the justification for this meeting in Washington.

ALLEN: Another complexity about the complex relationship between these two countries. We'll wait and see if that second summit happens. Sam Kiley for us. Thanks so much.

Well, President Trump is facing criticism from both sides of the aisle. One of the Republicans speaking out is South Carolina Congressman Mark Sanford. He echoes the question being asked by so many are asking. Why is the U.S. president so accommodating to Vladimir Putin? And Sanford thinks he may have the answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[03:10:09] REP. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: What strikes everybody in the wake of the Helsinki conference was the degree to which the president, who can be bombastic and strong and forceful was absolutely compliant and deferential to Putin.

And there's a question out there in everybody's mind which is why? Why? I mean, he'll talk very harshly against NATO allies. He'll harsh -- talk harshly against Merkel or May. Go down the list of world leaders on that front but complete compliance and deference to Putin. Why?

And so, I think that one of the things that stands out is the way in which this president unlike any other president for the last 50 years, has not released his tax returns and could there be information there that would be illuminating.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: Let's bring in CNN national security analyst Steven Hall. He's the former CIA chief of Russia operations. Steve, thank you for being with us.

I want to start with your tweet on this issue. And here it is for our viewers. "From a counterintelligence perspective, something is going on behind the scenes. Before Helsinki, I was less sure. Post-Helsinki, I feel sick." That was your tweet. What is causing that sick feeling you have now?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think, Natalie, what I was -- what I was feeling was, you know, in the lead-up to the summit itself, I think there was reasonable doubt in my mind from a counterintelligence perspective that I wasn't going to run to the darkest place.

In other words, that Donald Trump was somehow controlled or that there was, you know, some sort of kompromat, as they would refer to in Russian compromising information on the president of the United States. Because that's a pretty serious implication.

But then I saw the president come out with Vladimir Putin and have that press conference, and that's when I became, I think, convinced might be too strong but I'm close to convinced that Vladimir Putin has compromising information on him.

And I arrive at that not simply, you know, from an emotional perspective but more from a counter intelligence-analytical perspective. I mean, if you look at how Donald Trump has behaved with other dictators, say, the North Koreans where they were, he pulled no punches and comparing him -- comparing the size of his button to Kim Jong-un's and, you know, rocket man.

He compared to how dealt with the Chinese we're about to enter into a trade war. This is a president who doesn't have any problems being tough with foreign leaders and foreign autocrats. So why isn't he being tough with Vladimir Putin? And I think that there are actually answers to that that anybody can sort of read the record and get a feel for.

ALLEN: That potential compromising information, any thoughts on what that could be? Do you think that was perhaps, could that have be discussed at this meeting?

HALL: So I think a lot of people's minds go straight, you know, to the Steele dossier and you know, tapes that were made in hotel rooms and sort of the salacious stuff. I honestly don't think that that's incredibly important to a man like Donald Trump or frankly to his base.

But if you go back years into the 80s and take a look at some of the financial things that have come up over the course of decades that connect Donald Trump and his organization to the Russians and the Russian government, then I think what begins to emerge is a pattern of a businessman who wants to be -- wants very much to be a very serious tycoon, wants to be, you know, the art of the deal maker.

Having financial trouble and time and time again, having the Russians come in and sort of bail him out. Whether it's buying real estate from him in South Florida or whether it's working through a German bank, Deutsche Bank to provide him a loan that no American bank would give him.

It's not about the money, though. What it's about is it's about Donald Trump's ego, about being that tycoon, being that Uber successful businessman.

And when the Russians were able to come to him, and perhaps this is what happened in this meeting and say look, we were the ones who put you in this position, don't forget that, it was our money who made you that successful person. Then that is a serious vulnerability and it accounts for why Donald Trump has gone so soft and easy on Vladimir Putin like he did during that press conference.

ALLEN: And we know that the president since has not been forthcoming about this subject of his talks with Vladimir Putin, even members of his own administration still don't know what was discussed. And could that be part of this situation that you talk about that this could be that Mr. Putin has something on the U.S.

HALL: There's a -- yes, yes. There's a couple of things that don't add up unless you add the element of perhaps Vladimir Putin is using this financial leverage over him.

[03:14:56] So it would have been very easy for Donald Trump not to have had that private meeting because he had to have known that this is a self-inflicted political wound. He knew that his opposition in Washington was going to say why did you have this secret meeting? Why wasn't any else in the room besides the translator?

So why did he do that? That doesn't make any sense. Unless, of course, there was a discussion about those finances. You know, there's a whole series of things that become more easily explainable when you start talking about, you know, why it is that Donald Trump acts the way he does. His tax returns ferociously protective of them.

He told Donald -- he told the Mueller investigation it's a red line if you go into my past business dealings, all those comments begin now to make sense to me after I saw what happened in Helsinki about perhaps the leverage that Putin holds over this president.

ALLEN: Right now Russia has the narrative on what may have happened in that meeting as well. We appreciate your thoughts for us. Thanks so much. Steve Hall for us, former CIA chief of Russia operations. Thanks, Steve.

HALL: My pleasure. ALLEN: Nicaragua's president slings accusations amid a wave of

protests in that country. How the opposition is pushing back against Daniel Ortega. We'll tell you what that's about.

Also, this is the U.S. president at last year's NATO summit. He's pushing Montenegro's prime minister out of his way. But Mr. Trump says it's Montenegro that's full of very aggressive people. Why is he taking on that story? We'll have that story coming up here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALLEN: Welcome back. Criminal investigators in the U.K. believe they know who poisoned a former Russian spy and his daughter with a Soviet era nerve agent. Both Sergei and Yulia Skripal have recovered from the near deadly attack last March.

A source familiar with the investigation says police say they've identified two suspects after cross checking months of surveillance video with facial recognition software.

Investigators are looking into the fatal poisoning of Dawn Sturgess. Sources say she apparently put the deadly nerve agent on her skin thinking it was perfume. Carl -- Charlie Rowley who was also poisoned in that incident remains hospitalized.

The U.K. prime minister is setting the stage for a Brexit battle over Northern Ireland.

[03:20:00] In just a few hours, Theresa May is to give a speech in Belfast. She's expected to reject the E.U. proposal to keep Northern Ireland in its single market and she'll push for a free trade area.

The border between E.U. member Ireland and Northern Ireland is a major sticking point in the negotiations.

Spanish prosecutors have dropped a European arrest warrant for the former president of Catalonia after Germany refused to hand him over. Carles Puigdemont is in self-exile in Berlin. He led Catalonia's push for independence last year and Spain wants him to face rebellion charges but a German court refused saying political conflict should not be settled by criminal law.

Puigdemont and other Catalan leaders still face a Spanish warrant so they face arrest if they return.

A key anniversary in Nicaragua is being overshadowed by a bloody government crackdown. President Daniel Ortega spoke at a rally marking 39 years since the Sandinista Revolution. He called clashes with protesters that saw hundreds killed, a painful battle and accused him though, of having North American funding.

An opposition leader denied that in an interview with CNN a short time ago. For more on the conflict, here CNN's Rafael Romo.

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Violence in Nicaragua started in mid- April, a little over three months ago with the protests over pension cuts. But when you look at how quickly violence erupted, you get the idea that in Nicaragua there has been discontent simmering for a long time.

President Ortega, who has been in power for 11 years the second time around, went back on his proposal to reform pensions but the damage had already been done. Protests became increasingly violent over the following weeks and months.

Human rights groups say the number of people who have died since mid- April in clashes with the government, mainly college students is quickly approaching 300. The government says the death toll is just over 50.

The Catholic Church launch an effort early on in the conflict to begin peace talks, all parties, including the government, church leaders, college students, and the business sector, among others, attended the meetings at first.

But since violence continued, the opposition said the government was only trying to gain time to detain dissidents and anti-Ortega activist and the talks failed.

Meanwhile, the fighting has continued. On one side, you have highly trained police and snipers with assault weapons and armored vehicles supported by paramilitary forces and well-armed group of loyalists that some activists compare to death squads.

On the other side, you have mainly college students fighting them with whatever firearms they can get their hands on but most frequently rocks and firecrackers.

A recent report by the inter-American Human Rights Commission accuses the government of Daniel Ortega of grave human rights violations and repression.

There's been -- There's been a bit of irony in this conflict. Daniel Ortega was the leader of the left wing Sandinistas revolutionaries who toppled ruthless dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979. Now his critics say he's becoming more and more like the man he fought against.

Rafael Romo, CNN, Miami.

ALLEN: The Syrian government is looking to make major gains in the country's civil war. This video shows civilians being transported from northern villages. State media report they had been under a year's long siege by anti-government forces.

The evacuation was reportedly part of an exchange deal for prisoners. All this happening as a government offensive is close to retaking all of the country's southwest.

For more here's CNN's Jomana Karadsheh from Istanbul.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a month ago that the Syrian regime launched this offensive to recapture southwestern Syria. And with the backing of their Russian allies they seem to be doing just that with only a few pockets under rebel control left in Daraa and Quneitra provinces.

Now, this has been done through either military operations or the so- called reconciliation deal as the regime and the Russians describe them. Others would say their surrender deals.

And we've seen this week some of these deals, for example, an agreement was reached in the western countryside of Daraa province in the town of Noah. That came after heavy bombardment artillery shelling and airstrike that targeted this town and the villages around it, leaving the rebels it seem no choice but to agree to this deal with the regime.

Under which they will be allowed to keep some of their heavy weapons and that is only because they are on the front line in the fight against ISIS.

[03:25:03] And we're also, on Thursday, hearing from the Syrian state media that another agreement has been reached, quite a significant one in Quneitra province. There according to Syrian state media this deal would see Syrian army troops returning back to positions they held before 2011, and rebel forces there will be given the choice to either remain, reconcile, or move to Idlib province, that is the only province that remains under rebel control in the north of the country.

CNN has spoken to activists on the ground and some of the civilians there and they say despite reports of this agreement, that air strikes were continuing on Thursday. Of course, there are still more than 200,000 civilians displaced as a result of this offensive. The majority of them on the border with the occupied Golan Heights according to the United Nations living in miserable and desperate humanitarian conditions.

It does seem right now that it's a matter of time before the Syrian government is going to recapture all of southwestern Syria. This would be a very strategic victory for them but also a very symbolic one. This Daraa province in the south is the birth place of the Syrian Revolution.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Istanbul.

ALLEN: A tragedy in the U.S. State of Missouri. At least 11 people are dead after an amphibious boat capsized and sank. It happened during a severe thunderstorm. This is video of that boat taken from a nearby restaurant as the water grew rougher.

The boat was carrying 31 people. Six are still missing. Divers will resume search operations in the morning and the coast guard is heading up the investigation.

Well, the U.S. president describes the country of Montenegro a place full of very aggressive people and the potential launch pad of World War III. Why is he using those words? It is another story that leads to Russia. We'll explain coming next.

Also, a young Russian woman is accused of using the American gun lobby to launch a spy operation. We'll have that as well. CNN Newsroom pushes on.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALLEN: Welcome back. You are watching CNN Newsroom live from Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen.

Let's update you on our top stories this hour.

[03:29:57] U.S. President Donald Trump has invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to Washington. He wants a follow-up meeting. The White House says preparations are under way for that meeting this fall. It's not known if it will be before or after the congressional elections in November and this comes as Trump is being widely criticized after the first Trump-Putin summit on Monday.

Take a look at Marks 39 years since the fall of the Smoeba (ph) dictatorship with more bloodshed in the street at a rally, President Daniel Ortega called clashes with protesters that saw hundreds killed a quote, painful battle. He accuses opponent getting North America funding but the opposition denied.

President Emanuel Macron is in damage control after this video emerged showing one of his top aides wearing a helmet beating a protester at a mayday rally. He is under investigation and was suspended for 15 days. Mr. Macron also reportedly did not tell police about this incident at the time.

Montenegro is defending itself against Donald Trump claims that it posts a possible threat to world security. Montenegro is the newest NATO member. The organization requires all member nations to help defend each other if they're attacked. But Mr. Trump says Montenegro is full of very aggressive people and could lead the U.S. and other allies in to World War III. The former Supreme ally commander of NATO warns that kind of talk play right into Russia's hand.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: So this is the worst nightmare for the Montenegrins. They thought they were safe regarding the NATO. They rely on NATO to give them the assurance to be able to build a democracy and move their economy forward. And the president of the United States, a leader of NATO says, oh, maybe we are not going to help you. It's an open invitation to Putin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is in Montenegro to hear what people think.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Welcome to the frontline in the collapse of the west as we know it. Menacing militants Montenegro.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They are very aggressive people, they make an aggressive and congratulations. You're in World War III.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know what to say. I think that this is really stupid.

PATON WALSH: He said Montenegro was aggressive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe he makes a mistake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Do I look like an aggressive?

PATON WALSH: I don't know. You tell me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think so.

PATON WALSH: Where are you going now? So start World War III?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

PATON WALSH: Where are you going instead?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Drink coffee.

PATON WALSH: That is the drums of war you're hearing there. Make no mistake, nobody's giggling here about Russian ambitions to increase its influence in the Balkans and control this deep-water port. It's even accused of trying to kill the Prime Minister of orchestrating a coupe in October of 2016. Two alleged Russian agencies sought by Interpol warrants still for the sophisticated plot.

Investigators say that dozens of radicals are supposed to gather spurred on by Russian intelligence and seize some state buildings including this, the parliament paralyzing the government, ruining their elections and doing their best to make sure that NATO wanted little to do in this chaos with this tiny aspiring member.

But Montenegro joins NATO all the same. Just ten days after Donald Trump got perhaps the closest he ever had to the country when he pushed the Prime Minister out of the way at the Brussels NATO summit. In its army of 1500, less than one U.S. army brigade would soon partially be on the Russian border, part of the NATO exercise in the Baltics.

But now, the U.S. Commander in chief has said he won't necessarily come to their defense. They feel safe, still. Was the fight to get NATO's article 5 collective security really worth it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have no intentions whatsoever to start World War III. We are too small for that, but we really believe that article 5 is unconditional and rock solid.

PATON WALSH: That is exactly what the Russians wanted to hear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe, maybe. It might be music for their ears. But still I want to -- I believe we are not safe.

PATON WALSH: But here, the most powerful man in the worlds off hand musings bring not just laughter, but real concrete consequence. Nick Paton Walsh CNN, Montenegro.

(END VIDEO)

ALLEN: Mean time according to a new poll, only about one third of Americans surveyed approved of President Trump's performance at the Helsinki summit with President Putin. 32 percent told CBS News pollsters that Mr. Trump did a good job, but a solid majority 55 percent, disapprove. Still Mr. Trump has overwhelming support of his own party. 58 percent of the Republicans like the way he handled the summit. Just 21 percent disapproved.

[03:35:15] New information's emerging of the young Russian woman charged with acting as a covert agent of the Kremlin. Maria Butina's involvement in American politics, especially among conservative Republicans reads like a spy novel, and she made it look incredibly easy. CNN's Sarah Murray has that story.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: A young Russian gun lover twice applied for visas to attend the National Rifle Association glitzy annual meeting. Twice, Maria Butina says, she was denied.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

MURRAY: Then the NRA came to Moscow. Putin hosted a gun conference and charmed NRA board member, David Keane and his associate political operative, Paul Erickson. By April 2014 visa in hand, Butina was on her way to Indianapolis for the NRA 2014 annual meeting. There she snapped a pic with NRA chief executive, Wayne LaPierre and began blazing a path in U.S. political circles in what authorities alleged was a covert Russian operation.

Her relationship with Erickson quickly turned romantic. Whether he was dupe by a young lover who used him for political connections or wittingly lured into a spy operation to influence U.S. politics ahead of the 2016 election is unclear. Unlikely match, Erickson is nearly twice as Butina's age.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you want power, if you want influence, you see a candidate that you like, show up and work for them. Drop everything.

MURRAY: After growing up in South Dakota and graduating from Yale he sought to make a name for himself in GOP politics. Along the way he crossed paths with now disgrace lobbyist, Jack Abramov and worked as a spokesman for John Wayne Bobbitt, the Virginia man who his wife cut off his penis in the 1990's. Erickson also launch investment scheme and face lawsuit, because of them. He currently under investigation for fraud by the U.S. Attorney's Office in South Dakota. Butina's upbringing? Starkly different.

MARINA BUTINA, GUN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: My story is simple. My father is a hunter. I was born in Siberia. For such places like Siberia and forest of Russia, this is a question of survival. Everybody has a gun. MURRAY: After graduating from a local university and doubling in the

furniture business, she set off to Moscow to pursue political ambition. There, she launched her gun rights group and linked up with prominent Russian official, Alexander Torshin, who became a staunch ally. By 2014, she was trading e-mails with her lover Erickson, about how to maintain long term visas. Her Russian handler wanted her to have a more permanent U.S. foot hold.

Prosecutors said, by the summer of 2015 Butina, was enrolled in graduate school, in an American University on a student visa. All part of her cover story according to prosecutors. By then Butina had already become a fixture at exclusive NRA events, a company Torshin to the 2015 annual prayer breakfast and worked with Torshin and Erickson to try to establish back channel communications between candidate Donald Trump and Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

Erickson's involvement in the alleged Russian operation is murky. Authorities found a note in a handwriting that read how to respond to FFB offer for employment. But it's unclear whether the Russian intelligence offer was for him, Butina or something else entirely.

Recently, she grew this pundit, lamenting a when is safe for her to return to Russia. She graduated from American University in May 2018, but a friend didn't spot her at the commencement celebrations. With school behind her, she was planning a move to Sioux City with Erickson. A man prosecutors say she expressed disdain for living with. A day after by moving boxes, she was arrested.

Now U.S. authorities did not explicitly name Paul Erickson in the indictment surrounding Maria Butina nor is he even charge with a crime in relation to the Butina case. He did not respond to CNN's request for comment. Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEO)

ALLEN: China deals with a sliding currency that could help the country battle new U.S. trade tariffs, but can it win the war? We'll have a live report from Beijing just ahead. Also ahead, a sunken ship located after more than a century. Is it a fortune and gold waiting to be found?

[03:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALLEN: China's currency is plunging again, dropping nearly 1 percent Thursday against the U.S. dollar, its lowest level in a year. The sliding currency could help China's exports given the new U.S. tariffs, but that won't help ease the trade war between these two nations. For more on the sliding currency, our Matt Rivers is following it all from Beijing. Hello to you, Matt.

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Natalie, yes, what we're seeing here at the close of the week here in China is the Yuan against the dollar stabilizing at least for today, but we have seen substantial dropped throughout the week. It's important to note and remind our viewers that the Yuan is different than other currency like the dollar in the Euro. The Yuan does not float freely against other currency, it is manage by the Chinese central government and it is, they set a range which within that range the currency can be traded on a day to day basis. And so what you see when the Yuan slides like this, is a willingness on the part of legislators are not legislatives but regulators here in China, to allow that currency to weaken.

And when analysts will tell you is that shows that they want to give Chinese exporters a leg up. It makes them more competitive when it comes to exporting their products. The weaker the currency, the more competitive their products are. So that is what they're doing here. And when analysts we have spoken to told us that it could be a sign that Beijing is looking to kind of limit the damage that these U.S. tariffs can do on Chinese exporters making the currency weaker, making exporters more competitive is a way to do that. How long or how much they'll let the currency continue to slide is a question now that is up for debate at this point.

ALLEN: We will be watching that. Also, Matt, this comes after the White House economic advisor made some remarks criticizing China. What can you tell us about that?

RIVERS: Yes, basically what happened here was that the White House economic advisor, Larry Kudlow, speaking to a reporter on Wednesday, basically laid the blame for the fact trade negotiations have stalled between United States and China at the feet of Xi Jinping, the president of China. Basically saying that lower levels officials here in China were ready to make a deal with the United States, but that Xi Jinping himself is the one saying no to any potential compromise. Now the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, pushed back very, very strongly against that one thing you can't really do this is criticize Xi Jinping in China, and so predictably a spokesperson with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was beyond imagination that what Larry Kudlow said would be correct, but whatever side you believe, the fact remains that these negotiations have completely stalled. There are no official talks schedule between Beijing and Washington in this ongoing trade war is going full steam ahead, Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, it certainly is. Matt Rivers following for us in Beijing. Thank you, Matt.

A new and appropriately named airbus aircraft took its maiden flight in France on Thursday.

[03:45:00] Without giving you the name yet, just take a look at this airplane and kind of guess what sea mammal it's named after. Yeah, a beluga. This is the Beluga XL and it will transport airplane parts. It is named for the white large-headed beluga whales. Those whales always seem to be smiling. So the plane does, too. They will fly -- excuse me. The plane's capacity is about a third larger than the earlier version and it can fly more than 4,000 kilometers nonstop carrying more than 50 tons of cargo. Four more Beluga XL will set to be in service by 2019.

Incredible images from the ocean floor reveal a shipwreck more than a century old. Treasure hunters may have hit the payload. There are stories the vessel was carrying gold, now worth billions. Here's CNN's Andrew Stevens with that from Seoul. (BEGIN VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ha, ha, ha. You're not going to believe it. I have a name. I have a name. It's in Russian. I can't read it.

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN NEWSTREAM ANCHOR: And with that, the mystery of the final resting place of the Russian warship Dmitri Donskoi was solved. In the deep dark waters off the South Korean island of Ulleungdo, 434 meters more than 1400 feet down these Russian letters revealing the final resting place of a ship that treasure hunters have been searching for, for decades. Video footage from the salvage team shows the ship's wheel, guns and the anchor. It's stern severely damage, result of an attack by Japanese warship during the Russia- Japanese war in 1905. She was so badly damaged from that encounter, the captain had to scuffle deliberately sunk after evacuating almost 600 crew and soldiers to a nearby island of Ulleungdo.

And that is where it gets interesting. The Russians didn't want her to fall into Japanese hands, because the Dmitri Donskoi, it's been reported, was carrying gold, fabulous amounts of gold. If you believe some reports, the total amount of gold bars and coins on board would today be worth more than $130 billion. That is right. Billion. A quick back of the envelope calculation suggests it would have to be carrying thousands and thousands of tons of gold to be worth that much. All to pay for Russia's war against Japan.

But here are many treasure ship skeptics. Why, they ask, would the Russians entrust so much loot on to one ship. Why would they send it by ship when they could send it by rail across Russia to the eastern city of Vladivostok? The salvage (inaudible) that is found in the Dmitri Donskoi say they plan to raise it, but they didn't say when. And according to South Korean law, they'll have to fork out about a tenth of what they think the ship is worth. Not surprisingly, they're not commenting on the amount of gold. The Dmitri Donskoi has given up its location, but the biggest mystery, what lies beneath those rotting decks remains at least for now unsolved. Andrew Stevens, CNN, Seoul.

(END VIDEO)

ALLEN: We'll follow up on that one for sure. Oppressive heat and humidity are pushing people in Japan to the limit. And this is only days after devastating floods swamped that region. Our meteorologist, Derek Van Dam is on that story for us. Hi there Derek.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Natalie, this is the last thing people want to read or hear about in Japan or across the world, because it is a very difficult past couple of weeks in Japan to say the least. 110 million Japanese residents feeling the effects of this long duration heat event that is roughly 90 percent of the population in Japan impacting many of the highly densely populated islands like Honshu where Tokyo is based.

Just take Tokyo for instance, we had had high temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius at least 23 times since the end of June. So we have several consecutive days of above average temperatures. We're talking 4 to 7 degrees Celsius above where we should be for the middle of July, middle to late July, I should say. The body has an amazing way to combat extreme heat like this. Our average internal body temperature, about 37 degrees. When we start to get extremely hot we raise our body temperature and what do we do, we start to sweat. But sweating is only effective if we can evaporate that water right off our skin.

But take for consideration the different environments that people are raised in. Let us say, you live in a dessert in the southwest of United States, if you had extreme high temperatures, you cool off or try to cool off by sweating, while that is because the evaporation to took place on your skin. But if you live in a hot and humid area like Japan, for instance, feeling the effects of the Pacific Ocean, the Japanese sea, well, then it's very difficult for that evaporation to take place and therefore cooling your body is that much more hard.

[03:50:00] Now this is the scenario. We have a ridge of high pressure across much of Eastern Asia. We're getting the influence of the ocean waters across mainland Japan. So both of these working together to create the extremely oppressive heat indices and that is a factor of not only temperature, but also humidity. That is why Meteorologists refer to this temperature so frequently. Even though the mercury and thermometer will show 31, it actually feels like it is 39 right now in Tokyo. Very similar temperatures even breaking to 40 degree mark into Osaka as we speak. You can just see how extremely hot it is across the area. Just because it's been a long duration it's making it very, very difficult for residents to cope with. Tokyo's forecast calls for temperatures increasing before they cool off a few degrees as we head into the early parts of next week. So, this heat wave is really here to stay. Looks as if it's spreading across much of Eastern China as well. Natalie?

ALLEN: Always warm, warm, warm. That is what we hear more about these days.

VAN DAM: It is.

ALLEN: Derek, thank you.

VAN DAM: All right.

ALLEN: Artificial Intelligence is getting more sophisticated by the day. But it may only be a matter of time before some robots are weaponized. Coming up, we will hear one expert have to say about that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALLEN: More than 2000 experts in artificial intelligence around the world are pledging not to create killer robots or autonomous weapons. You may think they're getting ahead of themselves, but today science fiction is quickly becoming reality. Just look at what artificial intelligence can do already.

This dog-like robot uses A.I. to figure out how to get around and over obstacles such as stairs, but it gets even more intense. These robots are from Boston dynamics, which is on the cutting edge of robotics and A.I. software worldwide. Backflips, apparently. Here is another example. You can see no mere human is going to keep that robot from completing its task. And opening that door. Kind of creepy.

Earlier we spoke with Paul Scharre who has written a book about artificial intelligence and the future of warfare. It is called Army of none. Scharre says the draw back to an international ban of such weapons is it would automatically give rogue nations and terrorist the upper hand.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL SCHARRE, AUTHOR, ARMY OF NONE: You're seeing China, Russia, United States and other countries signal that artificial intelligence will be essential to how they build more advance military in the future. I think there is a valid question about how far they push that and whether they'd be willing to go to autonomous weapons that would be choosing their own targets. That is, of course what this A.I. scientist want countries to come together and sign a treaty preventing that from happening. Some kind of treaty that unilaterally disarmed the countries that care most about ethics and the rules of law would put powerful weapons, potentially, in the hands of rogue regimes and those who care the least for civilian casualties.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[03:55:10] ALLEN: Well, now, a killer robots aren't enough to keep you awake at night, maybe this will do it. More than 50 species of carnivorous plants are on display right now in Bogota, Colombia. Plant world has meat eaters, too. Sure, they are cute little Venus fly traps. Good for snapping bugs, but don't be fooled, some of these beauties like this pitcher plants can actually consume small animals.

So, if you fancy yourself having a green thumb, you might want to try growing one yourself. Just don't get too close. Sorry to creep you out with those last two stories. Thank you for watching "CNN Newsroom." I'm Natalie Allen. Stay with us next. We have more news coming up with Max Foster in London. Have a good one.