Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Warrant Shows Justice Dept. Misled The Courts; White Helmets Evacuated Into Jordan By Israel; One Killed In Grocery Store Siege, Suspect Arrested. Aired 11:30-12p

Aired July 22, 2018 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:03] FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. And I will see you next week.

PAULINE CHIOU, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Pauline Chiou in New York, sitting in for Becky Anderson.

We begin with the U.S. President Donald Trump, again, attacking his own Justice Department after new revelations linked to the Russia probe.

Overnight, the FBI released its application to monitor former Trump campaign aide, Carter Page, before the election. The 400-page warrant was

heavily edited before it was made public.

It states, "The FBI believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government." And it says, "The FBI believes

that Page has been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government.

Early today, Mr. Trump, tweeted the documents, quote, "confirmed with little doubt that the Department of Justice," and that in quotes here, "an

FBI misled the courts." Carter Page talked about this a short time ago with CNN's Jake Tapper. Take a listen.


CARTER PAGE, FORMER FOREIGN-POLICY CAMPAIGN ADVISER TO DONALD TRUMP: No, I've never been an agent of the foreign power in any by any stretch of the

imagination. You know, I may have us back into G20 when they were getting ready to do that in St. Petersburg.

I might participate in a few meetings that a lot of people including people from the Obama administration were sitting on and Geneva-Paris et cetera.

But I've never been anywhere near or what's being described here.


CHIOU: We'll hear from that interview a little bit more from that, a little bit later. But this warrant has been at the center of the

controversy over the Russia probe.

Some Republicans claim it proves the investigation was biased against to President Trump because the warrant relied on the so-called Steele dossier

which was funded by Mr. Trump's political enemies.

Let's bring in CNN political analyst Julian Zelizer, he has more thoughts on this. Julian, do the FISA documents, all 400 pages of them, even though

they're heavily redacted, help or hurt President Trump?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think, the facts in the document hurt the case he's trying to make. They show that several judges,

Republican-appointed judges supported this, there was more reason than the Steele document to believe that he should be monitored. And this was

almost standard operating procedure with the situation like this.

Politically though, the president will use any release of information related to this as a way to rekindle his discussion of a witch-hunt and to

go after the FBI and the entire intelligence community.

CHIOU: Julian, this past week was full of so much news that starting with the Helsinki summit, clarification on language, some walk backs, the White

House invitation to Putin, inviting him to come this fall.

Take a look at a new Washington Post to ABC poll that was done. And the first question was, "Under Donald Trump, do you think America's leadership

in the world has gotten stronger, weaker or remained the same?"

47 percent of Americans polled said it's gotten weaker. 30 percent say it's gotten stronger. And then there was another question. "Do you

approve or disapprove of the way Trump handled his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, this week? Do you feel that was strongly or


50 percent, disapprove of the way he handled that summit. 33 percent approve. Are you surprised by these numbers and the thoughts?

ZELIZER: I'm not surprised by the numbers. This was really a devastating moment for the presidency where it's clear from polls like this that much

of the public was upset by seeing this happen, by watching him in some ways, go through rhetoric he has been using for a while, but doing it

standing right next to Putin.

The only solace for some Republicans will be that a lot of Republicans are still OK with the way he performed in the summit. 70percent of Republicans

told CBS a few days ago, they approved of his actions there.

So, it's that tension between a nations that is shocked by what the president doesn't disappointed with still relatively solid support in the


CHIOU: There are a lot of issues on Mr. Trump's plate, and the other one is Michael Cohen, he's under pressure on that front. We have learned that

his former personal attorney or so-called fixer, recorded a conversation before the election talking about payments to a former Playboy model who

claims she had an affair with Trump.

Now Mr. Trump tweeted on Saturday. I'm sure you saw this that, "It's inconceivable, a lawyer would tape a client totally unheard of them

possibly illegal."

The president has denied having this affair with Karen McDougal or even talking about payments. But Julian, what's most at stake here for the


ZELIZER: It's the other tapes. I think the president and his advisors are not worried about that particular tape, they've been very clear about that.

But, it seems like Cohen recorded a lot. Including while President Trump was in office.

And so, they don't know what else is there. And I think, there is a concern and that's part of that tweet. It's an intimidating tweet. There

is concern that other tapes could reveal him being culpable for much graver offenses.

And that kind of uncertainty never sits well with the counsel of a President of the United States.

[11:05:31] CHIOU: Julian, a near less to say, this was a very tumultuous week. Looking ahead to this coming week, what does the White House

administration need to focus on?

ZELIZER: They have to focus on their Supreme Court nominee. That's the issue they were talking about a week and a half ago. That's the issue that

excites Republicans, that excites groups like evangelical conservatives who are going to go out and help them politically.

And they have to get right back to that story and make sure that works well, and that there's no hiccups in the process. Because that's the

winning issue, and they have a lot of leverage on Capitol Hill to make sure that nomination goes through.

CHIOU: Julian, thanks so much for your analysis today. CNN political analyst Julian Zelizer, joining us here from New York.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

CHIOU: Well, I want to play a little bit more now of CNN's interview with Carter Page, that FISA warrant claimed Page had established relationships

with the Russian government officials. Jake Tapper asked Page about that.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: you've already told me and this audience that you were an informer advisor to the Kremlin. 2013,

you have relationships with Russian government officials, right?

PAGE: Well, let's see what they're -- what they're referring to specifically. You know, as you correctly noted, there is a ton of

information that's blacked out. If you read Mr. Clapper and COE's DNI report of January 6th, 2017.

There's a big long section in there about how R.T. and Sputnik -- you know these Russian propaganda agencies allegedly were influencing the elections.

I mean, now we know that through these documents that the -- that the defamatory article in -- of September 23rd, 2016, was used as a central

source of this. So, really -- you know, again, it's another situation of the pot calling the kettle black.


CHIOU: Now, Julian noted this earlier, people who voted for Donald Trump have been reliably loyal to the president no matter how controversial he's


But when CNN went to Florida to gauge their reaction to the Helsinki summit, not everyone was on board with Mr. Trump's views. Gary Tuchman has

a report.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Villages, Florida is a popular place for Republicans to retire. Making it easy to find people who

voted for Donald Trump for president. But for some Trump voters, things went south this week.

Especially, following President Trump's presentation as he stood next to Russian's President Vladimir Putin.

SALLY INBERWISH, RESIDENT, THE VILLAGES, FLORIDA: He is an embarrassment to me. And as a Republican, I still feel that -- you know, I just wish he

would just learn to say things properly and maybe he wouldn't get himself into so much trouble.

TUCHMAN: On this day, hundreds of Republicans in The Villages showed up at a forum attended by Florida candidates for governor, which was a good place

to ask Trump voters about what happened in Finland.

When Donald Trump, said there is blame for the United States, as well as Russia, the blame on this country, does that trouble you?

ASHERA STANTON, RESIDENT, THE VILLAGES, FLORIDA: It's Donald Trump. You know, you sort of expect that.

TUCHMAN: But does that trouble you? Do you think the United States should be blamed?

STANTON: No, I don't think the United States should be blamed.

TUCHMAN: So, should Donald Trump not have said that about his country?

STANTON: He says a lot of stuff he should not say.

TUCHMAN: But then, there are Trump voters like Dick Hoffman.

DICK HOFFMAN, RESIDENT, THE VILLAGES, FLORIDA: I think he's doing a wonderful job. I love the fact that he just plays the press like a


TUCHMAN: Voters who say, the president has nothing to apologize for.

Are you a little uncomfortable with how comfortable he was with Vladimir Putin?

HOFFMAN: Didn't bother me a bit.

TUCHMAN: You don't think it is deferential to --

HOFFMAN: I don't know what went on their meeting before that.

TUCHMAN: Well, no one does, and that's the problem, except for Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

HOFFMAN: Well, OK, I have faith in him.

TUCHMAN: What Donald Trump said when he's standing next to Vladimir Putin was regarding meddling -- Russian meddling, he goes, "I will tell you that

President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today."

So, what does that mean to you, strong and powerful? What did he say that was so powerful that convinced Donald Trump that?

RON NICHOLIS, RESIDENT, THE VILLAGES, FLORIDA: He's strong and powerful in the way he said it. And he is --

TUCHMAN: Does it sound a bit creepy to you for Donald Trump to be talking about the Russian leader, strong and powerful? I mean, if that is --

NICHOLIS: I think, the way you're -- the way you're questioning with that, you're questioning me in a very strong and powerful way. No, I don't see

that was a big deal.

TUCHMAN: Many of the Republicans here have been alive for 13 presidents. They've seen a lot, and some while continuing to support their president

and their party, are a bit wistful.

You were born when FDR was president. You've seen FDR, you've seen Truman, you've seen Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, up until Donald Trump,


You said you love Donald Trump. But would you be more comfortable if Ronald Reagan or Dwight Eisenhower for president today?

[11:10:16] JOHN DESMAIRAIS, RESIDENT, THE VILLAGES, FLORIDA: If Ronald Reagan would have run again, yes.

TUCHMAN: Viewpoints from Republicans in America's largest retirement community. Gary Tuchman, CNN, The Villages, Florida.


CHIOU: You can read a lot more about the Russia investigation and Mr. Trump's relationship with Russia online. Hillary Clinton had some choice

words about Mr. Trump's recent meetings.

She says, "Russia's interference in the election was a, "Direct attack on Democracy and we can expect to see it again."

You can find all of her comments and much more on

Right now, the final round of the Open Championship is in full swing and a pack of Americans are dominating the leaderboard. Defending champ Jordan

Spieth is hoping to reclaim the oldest prize in golf.

He's been tied in first place with Xander Schauffele and countryman Kevin Kisner has slipped from the top spot as Tiger Woods moves up. Apparently,

all four of golf's biggest prizes are held by U.S. players. So, can anyone break the American grip on the majors?

CNN's Alex Thomas is at the Open in Scotland. And what's the latest that you have from there, Alex?

ALEX THOMAS, CNN INTERNATIONAL SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: A short time ago, Pauline, we had a two-way tie for the lead, instead of the three-way tie we

had overnight. It was still Jordan Spieth, the defending champion, and Xander Schauffele.

But a very familiar name just behind them. You mentioned him a moment ago, Tiger Woods. Let's take a look at the latest leaderboard with a few hours

to go on the final day of Britain's Open Golf Championship here at Carnoustie.

Much windier on the East Coast to Scotland, you can see Schauffele and Spieth on eight-under-par. They have been nine-under-par. And the fact

that they've lost shots just -- is a testament to how much tougher the conditions are on this Sunday.

Woods, one of the few players in the top 10 to be under par for his rounds. To put it in perspective on Saturday, 41 players were under par for their

third round.

Today, only 11 under are -- and you can see that's why Tiger Woods is climbing up the leaderboard, when others like Zach Johnson, he was tied for

the lead overnight slipping back.

And Tommy Fleetwood as well, who was in touch in this three-over par for today. So, many big players stumbling in these strong, strong winds added

to the hard bouncy conditions making it very, very tough.

Tiger Woods, on course, would be a huge fairytale story falling. Despite being a player's achieve so much in the game, many people's greatest ever


Although, he's still four majors behind the record of Jack Nicklaus, who is perhaps the greatest in most people's eyes would stop far behind that

hasn't won one of golf's four annual big tournaments for a decade.

Spieth, of course, the defending champion that hasn't won any tournaments since then. So, it could end up being a head-to-head between the young gun

and the old veteran, really. Woods using all his tactical now to support his way around this course.

CHIOU: It's getting very exciting. And also Alex, one little-known English player has put himself in contention?

THOMAS: Yes, when you saw that leaderboard, not many people would have recognized the name, Eddie Pepperell. A 27-year olds from Abingdon in

Oxfordshire in the heart of England, who had his first Tour win on the Europeans' earlier in Qatar, in February.

Only qualified for the Open by finishing second that the Scottish Open last week. So, he the second time he's played this championship was tied for

tonight the last time he played it back in 2015 at San Andrews, the home of golfer, it's a bit further south from here.

The Pepperell's round of 67 was astonishing five birdies, only one drop shot, he started much earlier than the rest. So, the wind was only

starting to get up as he finished. He can now sit back in the clubhouse. As I say with a beer in his hand probably knocks, he might be needed for a


But he'll be having lots of fun watching the leaders struggling this win and kind of come back towards him.

CHIOU: All right. So, he got the good slot, is beat out the wind. All right, Alex, thank you so much. Alex Thomas, there live at the Open.

Still to come tonight, rescuing the rescuers in Syria. The extraordinary international effort to get members of the White Helmets and their families

to safety, coming up next.

A controversial new bill has Israel's LGBT community in anger. We'll bring you the latest on massive demonstrations there. We'll be right back.


[11:17:21] CHIOU: You're watching CNN, and this is CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Pauline Chiou in New York, sitting in for Becky Anderson. Welcome back.

You've probably seen the White Helmets in action. The volunteer rescue group often risking their lives to pull people from rubble in war-torn

Syria. But with government forces closing in on the last rebel-held areas, the rescuers are finding themselves in need of a rescue themselves.

Diplomatic sources say 422 Syrian civilians including members of the White Helmets and their families were evacuated to Jordan, and Israel played a

key role in that operation.

CNN's Oren Lieberman has been following the story. He joins me now live from Jerusalem. Oren, what's the latest and where are they specifically


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pauline, those 422 Syrian civilians as you point out, including members of the White Helmets are currently in


This was very much an international effort to get them out of Syria. An effort that involved the U.S., Canada, Germany, England, and others,

because of the resources, the finances, and the efforts those countries had put into the White Helmets and the volunteer rescue work they do that is so

critical to saving lives there and to showing the horrors of the Syrian Civil War.

It was an overnight operation that pulled these Syrian civilians out of Syria through Israel, and into Jordan where they are right now. The

Jordanian foreign minister has said they'll be there for up to three months, and then, they'll be relocated finally to a safe haven. Whether

that's Canada or other countries where they will be able to live safely.

As you point out, the reason they needed removal is because the Syrians and the Russians view the White Helmets as a terrorist organization. A

designation that's absolutely not recognized by others in the international community.

But it's because the Russian-backed Syrian regime was closing in on them, and closing in on that area in southern Syria, that they needed to be

evacuated for their own safety. As we've said that operation happening overnight to get them to Jordan before they're relocated to another

country. Pauline?

CHIOU: Oren, this is just a little more than 400 of civilians and White Helmets, and their family members, when the White Helmet is several

thousand strong. So, what does this mean for the group going forward within Syria?

LIEBERMANN: Well, there's no doubt it's becoming harder for the White Helmets to operate, specifically, because Russian-backed Syrian forces have

regained more and more of the country from rebel-held forces.

And yet, when you follow them on social media when you see the videos, the images they put out, they are still at work even if it is more difficult

for them to operate, even if some of them have had to be removed, evacuated for their own safety.

For example, I follow them on Twitter, they put out images from work they've been doing in Idlib over the last few days in Northern Syria. But

as the Assad regime in Syria becomes more powerful, become stronger and regains control of more and more of the country, it is becoming more

difficult for the White Helmets to operate. It is becoming more dangerous for the White Helmets to operate. Pauline?

[11:20:12] CHIOU: All right, Oren, thank you so much for the update. Oren Liebermann, there live from Jerusalem.

An armed standoff at a Los Angeles grocery store has ended with one woman dead and the suspect in jail. The gunman led police on a chase before

taking dozens of people hostage inside the Trader Joe's grocery store, he eventually surrendered to police.

That woman, a store employee was caught in the crossfire as the suspect traded gunfire with police. Melyda Corado's brother, says she worked at

the store for about four years. During the standoff, other hostages managed to escape through a back door and a window in the back of the


The mother of one employee was relieved when she saw her daughter on television running from the store.


ANNA AVLEZ, MOTHER OF TRADER JOE'S GROCERY EMPLOYEE: I was just praying. I just praying and I was like in disbelieve, but once -- you know, she was

smart enough to hear what she heard and she ran out through the back.


CHIOU: CNN's Miguel Marquez was on the scene during that standoff.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Just an incredibly tense several hours here in Los Angeles. One person dead, others shot and

possibly could expire, as well. All of this at a Trader Joe's, a popular grocery store in Southern California.

This is the remnants of what was a hostage barricade situation around 1:30 Pacific Time in the afternoon. The individual shot his grandmother several

times. He took someone else with him, a young woman with him.

Police later in Los Angeles picked him up and started following him. They were in literally, hot pursuit when they -- the young men crashed into a

pole outside this Trader Joe's with a gun in hand, starts running in, exchanges gunfire with police.

That's when somebody inside the Trader Joe's. A young woman was hit. Police follow him in, tried to resuscitate her, but she expired at the

store. And for then, several hours, the individual held up in the store taking hostages at one point.

And then, letting them all go later in the afternoon, surrendering himself to police, asking for a pair of handcuffs which he handcuffed himself. And

then, turned himself over to police. It has ended, but certainly, it is a roiled at this neighborhood.

And there is some sense of relief, but that one person is dead at a store that is extraordinarily popular, and typically, very busy on a Saturday

afternoon. It has just sent a shock. Miguel Marquez, CNN, Los Angeles.

CHIOU: Another tragedy in the U.S. that were following, this time in the central part of the U.S., in Missouri. Investigators are still working to

piece together the last moments of the tour boat that sank during a thunderstorm this past Thursday.

17 people died in that tragedy. Survivors are left dealing with the emotional scars, and also the trauma as they wait for more answers.

Now, Tia Coleman lost nine family members including her husband and three young children, she was also on that boat. She told reporters how she made

it out of the water.


TIA COLEMAN, SURVIVOR FROM DUCK BOAT TRAGEDY: And I saw is a great big boat out there, like a riverboat. And they were, oh my God, they were

jumping in saving people.

They were throwing life rafts out to everybody. But I couldn't reach it, I didn't get there in time. And so, somehow, I managed to get to the boat.

Seeing beautiful people, angels I don't know who they were, they pulled me up.

And when they pull me up from the boat, I didn't see any of my family. But I believe, I survived by God and by dear Samaritans.

CHIOU: Well, Coleman says she's not sure yet if she's happy to be alive considering what happened to so many of her family members. She's

struggling to face her next challenge which is going back to an empty home.

COLEMAN: Going home I already know that going to be completely, completely difficult. I don't know how I'm going to do it. I'm -- since I've had a

home, it's always be filled with -- it's always be filled with little feet and laughter. And my husband, I don't know how I'm going to do it.


[11:24:55] CHIOU: We just hope she can have the strong support of her community around her. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD.

Just ahead, thousands of people in Israel have taken to the streets to protest a controversial new law they say discriminates against gay couples.

We'll take you live to Tel Aviv in just a moment to one of the rallies. That's still ahead on CONNECT THE WORLD.


CHIOU: You're watching CNN, and this is CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Pauline Chiou in New York, sitting in for Becky Anderson. Welcome back.

Let's get straight back to our top story at tumultuous White House with Russia at the center. We're hearing only one side of Saturday's phone call

between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

But oddly, it's Russia releasing most of the information. The U.S. for its part is staying uncharacteristically tight-lipped in the last few hours

releasing just a brief description of the call. And remember, we still don't know much about what was said in the recent meeting between the U.S.

president and Vladimir Putin.

Even the U.S.'s own spy chief says he's in the dark. So, what's Moscow saying about Saturday's calm? Our Mathew Chance is in the Russian capital.

[11:29:44] MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yet again, the detail of what was discussed in an official conversation between

Russian and U.S. officials is coming not from Washington, but from herein Moscow.

The Russian Foreign Ministry readout of a phone call between the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey

Lavrov, says the two top diplomats discussed normalizing relations between the two countries, the humanitarian situation in Syria, and the

denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The issue of the alleged Russian agent Maria Butina also came up. The Russian Foreign Minister, apparently, telling his U.S. counterpart that the

case against her was fabricated and politically motivated.

Russian officials have also revealed several key aspects of the talks in Helsinki between Presidents Trump and Putin. According to local media

reports, the Russian leader told ambassadors in Moscow that he made a proposal to President Trump to hold a referendum in Eastern Ukraine.

But agreed not to discuss the plan publicly, but said that the U.S. could go away and consider it.

The Russian ambassador the U.S. has confirmed that Trump and Putin discussed what he called concrete proposals faced in Ukraine. The Russian

Defense Ministry, says the Helsinki talks also focused on international security, including a discussion of the New START, Strategic Arms Reduction

Treaty, and cooperation in Syria was discussed.

Including that the reconstruction of the country and a joint U.S.-Russian plan to return refugees to their homes.

Well, Moscow is one of the few places outside the White House where the Helsinki meeting has been highly praised. The Russian Foreign Minister

calling the talks, magnificent better than super.

The Kremlin has rounded on critics of President Trump accusing them of sacrificing ties with Russia for political gain. It's perhaps a hint that

behind the smiles in Moscow, about how well the summit went.

Concerns here are growing that a backlash in the United States could eventually make the tense relationship with Washington even more strained.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.

CHIOU: As Matthew just mentioned, the Russia has stressed the unacceptability of the U.S. arresting a Russian citizen, Maria Butina.

She's being held without bond after pleading not guilty to charges of conspiracy and acting as a foreign agent. Our Sarah Murray has more.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The young Russian gun lover twice apply for visas to attend the National Rifle Association's glitzy

annual meeting. Twice, Maria Butina says, she was denied.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maria, thank you very much.

MURRAY: Then, the NRA came to Moscow. Butina hosted a gun conference and charmed NRA board member David Keene and his associate political operative

Paul Erickson.

By April 2014, visa in hand, Butina was on her way to Indianapolis for the NRA's 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 allege was a covert Russian operation.

Her relationship with Erickson quickly turned romantic. Whether he was duped by his 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. An unlikely, match Erickson is nearly twice

Butina's age.

PAUL ERICKSON, CONSERVATIVE POLITICAL OPERATIVE, REPUBLICAN PARTY: 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 disgraced lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, and worked as a spokesman for John Wayne Bobbitt, the Virginia man whose wife cut off his

penis in the 1990.

Erickson also launched investment schemes and face lawsuits because of them. He currently under investigation for fraud by the U.S. Attorney's

Office in South Dakota. Butina's upbringing starkly different.

MARIA BUTINA, FOUNDER, RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS: My story is simple. My father is a hunter, I was born in Siberia. For such places like Siberia or Forest

of Russia, this is a question of survival. Everyone has a gun.

MURRAY: After graduating from a local university and dabbling in the furniture business, she set off to Moscow to pursue political ambitions.

There, she launched her gun rights group and linked up with prominent Russian official Alexandr Torshin, who became a staunch ally.

By fall 2014, she was trading e-mails with her lover, Erickson, about how to obtain long-term visas. Her Russian handlers wanted her to have a more

permanent U.S. foothold, prosecutor said.

By the summer of 2016, Butina was enrolled in graduate school at American University on a student visa, all part of her cover story, according to


By then, Butina had already become a fixture at exclusive NRA events. A company torsion to the 2016 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.

Erikson's involvement in the alleged Russian operation is murky. Authorities found a note in his handwriting that read, "How to respond to

FSB offer of employment?" But it's unclear if the Russian intelligence offer was for him, Butina, or something else entirely.

Recently, she grew despondent, lamenting it wasn't safe for her to return to Russia. She graduated from American University in May 2018, but a

friend didn't spot her at any commencement celebrations.

With school behind her, she was planning a move to Sioux City with Erickson, a man prosecutors' say he expressed disdain for living with. A

day after buying moving boxes, she was arrested.

Now, U.S. authorities did not explicitly name Paul Erickson in the indictment surrounding Maria Butina, nor has he been charged with a crime

in relation to the Butina case. He did not respond to CNN's request for comment. Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.


[11:35:41] CHIOU: Let's get you up to speed on some other stories on our radar right now. In Vietnam, 21 people have died after a typhoon sparked a

flash floods and also landslides. The country state-run news agency says people are being evacuated from dangerous areas and searches are underway

for missing people.

In Nicaragua, more demonstrations against President Daniel Ortega are expected in the coming hours. It is the latest in a wave of mostly

peaceful protests met at times with deadly force. Nicaragua Center for Human Rights, says 284 people have been killed since mid-April.

And the U.N. secretary-general is urging Hamas and Israel to step back from the brink of another war. This after Israel launched two what it calls, a

wide-scale attack against Hamas targets in Gaza over the death of an Israeli soldier. A ceasefire appears to largely be holding.

Well, thousands of people are demonstrating in Israel this hour. They are angry about a law passed last week that excludes single men from using the

services of a surrogate mother.

They say the bill discriminates against gay couples and will make it more difficult for them to have children. So, strikes are taking place today in

several major cities. Take a look at hundreds of protesters. They are shutting down one of Tel Aviv's major highways and that was earlier today.

We had now live to Rabine Square in Tel Aviv where the rally is expected in just a couple of hours. Oded Frid is a longtime activist for gay rights in

Israel, who lobbied the government on this issue. He joins me now live.

Oded, thank you so much for being with us. Why do you think this issue has gotten so many people energized?



I think it's bigger than the specific issue. I think, what started this might have been the surrogacy bill that passed this week in government, in

the Knesset. But it's a much, much wider issue. And we have been hearing a lot of no's from our governments.

No to surrogacy, no to adoption, no to same-sex couples getting married, no to registration of children of same-sex couples. And just a few weeks -- a

few days ago, a transgender woman was attacked here in Tel Aviv.

All of these things are not happening out of the blue. All of these things are happening because of the discrimination against our community, and it

is now time for us to say, the big no. We're not going to take that anymore.

We want our rights, we want to be equals. And I think, specifically, around this topic. But again, not only the question of forming a family,

but just being equal to any other citizen of the country of Israel, I think, a lot of people can relate to that issue of creating a family, of

loving someone, and seeing themselves as part of this big, big demonstration that we're hoping is going to be here today.


FRID: And basically, just to call for equality for everyone.

CHIOU: Oded, you talk about this as being really a wider issue, and this comes in the wake of the passing of landmark legislation which defines

Israel as a principally Jewish state with no mention of minority rights. So, how connected are the protests today to this issue?

FRID: I think, there is a connection, not a direct one, but there is a connection I think that a lot of people, a lot of the people in the Israeli

society are feeling that right now, the government is not necessarily representing their voices.

And I see that a lot of things that has to do with LGBTQ rights. We've seen all different polls and surveys that are been made over the past few

years that there is a majority within these very population regarding anything that has to do with LGBTQ rights talking about anything from same-

sex marriage, to a recent poll that was made just today asking about surrogacy.

59 percent of the population is in favor of enabling single dads or single men and same-sex couples to do surrogacy in order to create the family, but

we don't see that in government.


[11:40:08] FRID: We don't see that voice and echoing all the way to the Knesset, to the Parliament. And a lot of people are seeing that and

feeling that.


FRID: And I think that the connection between different legislations that we're seeing now.

CHIOU: Oded, I want to just give some history for our viewers, because Israel has long been recognized as the most progressive country in -- and

highly conservative region when it comes to gay rights. So, here are some milestones achieved over the years, and we're putting this up on our screen

for our viewers.

In 1988, legalization of same-sex sexual activity. 2005, granting of full adoption rights to LGBT couples, as an example. So, is there broader

concern on your part that Israel is pulling back on progress regarding equality and true Democratic rights?

FRID: Well, I think -- I think, several things are happening at the same time. One, we feel -- we -- yes we were one of the leading countries if

you would say, definitely, and still in our region. But we never compare ourselves to the different neighbors that we have on economics or other


I see no reason why we should compare ourselves to Iran, or Iraq, or Egypt when it comes to human rights and LGBTQ rights. I think, what we need to

do is to compare ourselves to the more liberal, more Democratic countries as Europe, as United States, Canada, and many, many others.

And what we're seeing over the past few years is that instead of progressing, instead of moving forward, we're on some issues just -- you

know, staying behind. And when everyone else is moving forward, and you're still in the same position that you were 10, 15, or 20 years ago, it's not

that you're staying in the same position.

CHIOU: Oded --

FRID: It is that in comparison to those countries, you're basically going backwards.

CHIOU: Thank you so much, Oded Frid, gay rights lobbyist there at the Knesset. Thank you so much for joining us today as these protests get

underway in Tel Aviv.

I'm Pauline Chiou, that was CONNECT THE WORLD. Thank you so much for watching.