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California Wildfires; Flooding in India and Laos; Pakistan Election; Cohen's Public Breakup with Trump; U.K. Steelworker Feels the Strain from Brexit and Tariffs. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired July 29, 2018 - 03:00   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): Wind and heat are fueling massive wildfires in Northern California. Entire communities have been laid waste.

Israel releases a Palestinian teenager jailed for slapping a soldier.

And Russian president Vladimir Putin shows off his latest military hardware, designed to challenge the U.S. and NATO.

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

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VANIER: Three more people have died in Northern California as a fast- moving wildfire continues to torch everything in its path. Two children and their great-grandmother were not able to escape when flames engulfed their home Thursday night.

Police say they've never seen a blaze like this before. More evacuations were ordered when the unpredictable the Carr fire nearly doubled in size overnight. It has burned nearly 33,000 hectares, with high temperature and erratic winds fueling those flames. Dan Simon has more.

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DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We now have the first confirmed civilian deaths associated with this fire, 70-year-old Melody Bledsoe and her two great-grandchildren, 5-year-old Emily Roberts and her brother, 4-year-old James Roberts.

They were in a house and were unable to leave as the flames raced through their neighborhood. We're told by a family member that Bledsoe called her husband at work to say that the fire was getting close and he needed to come back as soon as he could. That was the last anyone had ever heard from them.

The family checked hospitals. They checked evacuation centers and then late this afternoon they got word that the bodies had been recovered.

In the meantime, you can see where we are. This is called the Keswick Estates subdivision. If you look around, you can see that nothing is left. Whole neighborhoods have disappeared as a result of this fire.

Unfortunately, in terms of the outlook over the next few days, things do not appear to be getting better. This fire is just 5 percent contained, the weather remains hot, triple-digit temperatures today and over the next several days. Humidity is low.

And then at night the wind really gets going. And so firefighters fear that there could be more destruction -- Dan Simon, CNN, Keswick, California.

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VANIER: About the weather conditions, I spoke earlier with Cal Fire deputy chief Scott McLean and he explained a little further why it is so difficult to contain this fire.

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SCOTT MCLEAN, CAL FIRE: Still 5 percent containment. The fire continues to grow and it's now moving to the north and more to the south.

VANIER: Is it growing at the same rate as last night over -- the reporting is that over the last 24 hours, it doubled in size.

MCLEAN: Right. It was at 48,000-plus acres evening before last. And then this morning it came just over 80,000 acres because of the (INAUDIBLE) making in different directions in different areas.

VANIER: So what's the priority at this hour?

And right now, it is 9:00 pm local in California.

What do the firefighting teams have to do now?

MCLEAN: Keep in mind that, over the last several years, fires have been acting as if they were burning during the daylight hours at nighttime. We used to have a little time where we could assume that the fire, because of the lower temperatures at night, higher humidities, the fire would do what we call lay down and become less active.

That way we get onto those firelines a lot closer, get those lines in at night that needed to be done to mitigate the progress of the fire.

Nowadays, those fires are burning just as aggressive as they do during the daytime. So what we do is we pick a point to make a stand. Make sure we get out ahead of the fire so we're going to be (INAUDIBLE) large lines and then in some cases we can actually fight fire with fire and burn off that vegetation between the fire and the lines we put in.

So there's a lot of things that take place right now.

VANIER: So just so I understand how it works, when you say pick a point to make a stand, so you're going to choose one area, you're essentially going to draw a line in the sand or in the forest and say, well, the fire can't go past this line.

Is that what I'm understanding --

(CROSSTALK)

VANIER: -- devote your resources?

MCLEAN: Right. It has a lot of components come into play. We're not going to do something, what we call midslope because that fire is just going to roar up that hill and go through and go under and around anything that we put in its way.

So we might take a ridgetop and work on the lee side. You might wait for the fire to come into a meadow or into valley where we get those resources in there that we need. And it's easier to cut line in those area and easier to set fire in those areas (INAUDIBLE).

So it's an all thought-out process, whenever the winds can be predicted, once the weather can be predicted, what resources do we have. So a lot of -- like I said earlier, a lot of items, a lot of thoughts come into play.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: That was Cal Fire deputy chief Scott McLean, speaking to me earlier.

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[03:05:00] xxx VANIER: At least 10 people were killed when strong earthquake struck an Indonesian island east of Bali not far from a volcano. Dozens were injured, including some of the people you see in this video.

Right now rescue teams are searching for survivors. The magnitude 6.4 earthquake caused significant damage. Tourists and residents in Bali say they felt the shaking. U.S. officials say the impact should be relatively localized and, fortunately, no tsunami advisories were issued.

Military and rescue workers are trying to reach more than 3,000 people trapped in flooded villages in Laos. They're also searching for more than 100 people who are still missing after the catastrophic collapse of a dam earlier this week. Dozens of people died in the disaster. The U.N. warns there will be a long-term socioeconomic impact for the 11,000 people affected. CNN's Paula Newton has the latest on this.

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PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Babies are carried to safety from a remote village. Soldiers wade through the water looking for survivors. Tractors are used to evacuate people to higher ground. Rescue efforts continue following the collapse of a hydroelectric dam in Southern Laos on Monday. Many are feared dead or are missing and more than 6,000 people are now homeless.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I was looking for my elder brother and younger brother. They went back to our old house to pick up something from the village but they weren't back by noon. I was panicked and worried I wouldn't be able to find them.

NEWTON (voice-over): The dam was still under construction when it buckled, releasing 5 billion cubic meters water, causing massive flooding and sweeping away homes and roads.

One of companies working on the billion-dollar dam project, South Korea's SK Engineering, has been helping in the relief effort. The country also dispatched a 20-person disaster relief team to assist with providing blankets and clothing and also helping the injured.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no big hospital around there and there is a little liftings of so (ph). We are going to open a medical office to see the patients. And also we are cooperating with a provincial hospital to some practice of there.

NEWTON (voice-over): More than 3,000 people are still awaiting rescue, according Laos state media but the damage isn't --

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NEWTON (voice-over): -- confined to Laos. The government in neighboring Cambodia announced the evacuation of 25,000 people from their northern border, where waters are rising to 12 meters -- Paula Newton, CNN.

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VANIER: Two of Pakistan's biggest institutions come together but not everyone is happy. How cricket legend Imran Khan looks set to become prime minister -- when we come back.

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Ahed Tamimi has been released from an Israeli prison. The 17-year-old Palestinian is now back in her West Bank village.

In a brief statement to the media, she was defiant, saying, "The resistance continues."

Tamimi was jailed late last year after she was filmed kicking and slapping an Israeli soldier. This is the original video. Tamimi's actions made her a hero to many Palestinians. Israeli authorities charged her with a long list of offenses, including assault. Let's get the latest from Pakistan after Wednesday's general election. Election officials say Imran Khan's Movement for Justice Party won the most seats in Wednesday's general election.

Khan declared victory days ago but he doesn't have an outright majority. He's still set to be prime minister but it looks like he's going to need to build a coalition. Khan rose to fame as a cricket star and he's seen as being backed by the military.

Many of his rivals say the vote was fixed and they are refusing to concede.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The all-parties conference has unanimously and totally rejected the election held on July 25th. We do not consider this election to be the mandate of the public but a robbery of the people's mandate.

We reject the claims of those people who claiming victory as a result of this election and we do not want to give them the right of governance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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VANIER: Michael Kugelman is a senior associate for South Asia at The Wilson Center. He joins me now.

Michael, what is Imran Khan's Pakistan going to look like?

He promised a lot during his campaign.

MICHAEL KUGELMAN, THE WILSON CENTER: Oh, yes, he's promised the moon. He's essentially said he's going to eliminate corruption, that he's going to create millions of new jobs and do all kinds of ambitious things.

I would actually argue that we really need to keep our expectations in check as to what he can do. For one thing, he's never held national power and neither has his party. He's going to face a very angry opposition because many of the other political powers in Pakistan have alleged rigging and fraud at the election.

He's going to have a lot of trouble pushing through even modest initiatives, much less these ambitious ones that he's promised. So it's really hard to say exactly what he's going to do. But I think we really have to keep our expectations in check.

VANIER: Yesterday on the program we actually heard from one of Imran Khan's ex-wives, Reham Khan, who's also a journalist. She's very critical of him as a politician and she says he doesn't live up to his --

[03:15:00] VANIER: -- own standards of anti-corruption and anti-cronyism.

Do you think to some extent he may have duped his voters?

KUGELMAN: I do think there is something to say for the fact that, if you look at the various civilian leaders that have run Pakistan in recent years, there clearly is a lot of corruption.

Compared to them, Imran Khan, like everyone else, certainly has his blemishes, I'm sure. But, you know, he projects himself as incorruptible. He may not be 100 percent incorruptible.

But compared to these other types of leaders that Pakistan has seen coming from its major established parties, you know, he really is a breath of fresh air. I think that was his big message and it really won over a lot of the supporters.

So I don't think he was duping people in that sense.

VANIER: In that case, why wouldn't he be able to clean up public institutions and to fight corruption?

Why do have to keep expectations low, then, as you were saying?

KUGELMAN: Corruption is something that can't just be eliminated at the snap of a finger or the flick of a switch. It's going to take decades. In a country like Pakistan, where it really is entrenched and of course Pakistan is not the only country where this is the case.

You know, he's -- he's inexperienced. He is someone who is, naturally, unproven but he's also known to be rather unpredictable and mercurial. And another challenge he will face is the powerful military in Pakistan. He is very close to the military.

But at the same time, the military expects its civilian leaders to be pliable and to defer to the army in many contexts. Imran Khan is the not the type of leader that would want to defer to higher authority.

So I think there could be potentially some friction, which could make his work all the more difficult to carry out effectively.

VANIER: That's going to be a very interesting dynamic to watch. You know that one of the biggest criticisms of Imran Khan and his campaign was he was seen as the candidate favored by the military.

Why would they want him as prime minister as opposed to any of other two parties, that had run the country for decades?

KUGELMAN: That's a good question. I would actually argue that Imran Khan may not be the best-case option for the military in the sense that, again, is he unpredictable. He's not pliant. Military may not be able to trust him.

But for the military, the main objective was to ensure that the previous party, the PMLN Party, run by Nawaz Sharif, did not return to power simply because the army clashed repeatedly with Nawaz Sharif, who had been prime minister previously in Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif did a number of things, such as accusing the military of not doing enough to crack down against terrorism.

That really angered the military. So the military simply did not want an electoral outcome that would result in the PMLN returning to power and I think the military saw Imran Khan and his party, the PTI, which is the most popular party, outside of the PMLN, really saw the PTI as the best possibility to ensure that we wouldn't be seeing another five years of PMLN rule in Pakistan.

VANIER: Michael Kugelman, senior associate for South Asia at The Wilson Center, thank you so much for joining us.

KUGELMAN: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: The dramatic falling-out between president Donald Trump and his long-time attorney, Michael Cohen, now appears irreversible. One of Mr. Trump's lawyers, Rudy Giuliani, says the president's legal team and Cohen's legal team have stopped sharing information. That includes documents and witness interviews.

Meanwhile the president is spending the weekend away from the glare of Washington. CNN's Boris Sanchez has this report.

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BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This was supposed to be a positive week for the White House following the president's announcement on Friday of strong economic numbers symbolizing the growth of America's economy and his announcement of a recent deal struck with the European Union.

Instead the focus, as it often has been, is on the Russia investigation and the president and his team's dramatic shift on his former attorney, Michael Cohen, after reporting that Cohen was preparing to tell Robert Mueller and other investigators that the president was aware of a meeting between his son and other campaign officials and Russians, promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, at Trump Tower during July 2016.

Early on, after the FBI raided the apartment and office of Michael Cohen, the president and his legal team defended Cohen, Rudy Giuliani calling him an honorable man. Now they are singing a very different tune. Listen to these two sound bites from the president's attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

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RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP ATTORNEY: He doesn't have any incriminating evidence about the president or himself. The man is an honest, honorable lawyer.

I expected something like this from Cohen. He's been lying all week, I mean, or for -- he's been lying for years. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: President Trump himself tweeting on Friday, suggesting that Cohen was making up stories in order to lessen the weight of the legal burden that he is facing, potentially, in part, because of his --

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SANCHEZ: -- taxi cab business. Aides tell CNN that they have tried to pack President Trump's schedule with travel, trying to get him to focus on the economy and not the steady drip of information coming from the Russia investigation.

But of course this has been a cloud hanging over the administration, one that President Trump apparently is unable to avoid -- Boris Sanchez, CNN, traveling with the president, near Bedminster, New Jersey.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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VANIER: Larry Sabato joins me now. He is director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia and a friend of the show.

Larry, for a while, Michael Cohen was really quite discreet but now he's deliberately grabbing the headlines, signaling that he could be a threat to the president.

Why is he doing this?

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: I think he felt abandoned and this is classic behavior by someone who is being investigated by a tough crew of prosecutors and recognizes that, if he doesn't play his cards right, he could be in jail for a very, very long time.

VANIER: Now Cohen says that Trump knew about that infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting, where his son went into a meeting, expecting to receive dirt on Hillary Clinton from the hands of a Russian lawyer.

If this is proven true by Michael Cohen or someone else, where does that leave Donald Trump?

SABATO: Well, it leaves him having lied about something very, very important. And normally that would matter for a president and a presidency. But, of course, not for this president. It simply joins the hundreds, if not thousands, of other lies and misrepresentations that he's told since the day he was inaugurated.

So I don't think it will hurt him in a public relations sense. His base, his cult is set. They're with him. What happens with the prosecutor is another question entirely.

VANIER: But does it show intent to collude on the part of the Trump campaign? SABATO: I think it does. Of course, the problem for prosecutors is collusion is not crime. So you have to find something else if you're going to give Congress enough information, potentially if there's a Democratic House, to impeach Trump. But there's not a Democratic House. There's no chance of that happening, whatever is produced.

VANIER: It might not be a legal crime but it still sounds like a political sin. I know you said he's bulletproof with his base but he needs a bit more than his base if he ever wants to get re-elected.

SABATO: That's certainly true. Depending on the structure of the candidacies in 2020, if there are three or four major candidates -- and there could be -- then he'll need a lot less.

Nonetheless, I wouldn't think that he would welcome this. I think he would look for opportunities to prove Cohen wrong.

What I think we're all waiting to see is what does Cohen have to corroborate this claim. He says other people were there. I suppose he could name those other people. Then they could be interviewed by the special counsel if they haven't already been.

But that is not a smoking gun.

VANIER: I want you to listen to Donald Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and his shifting public pronouncements about Michael Cohen over time. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP ATTORNEY: He doesn't have any incriminating evidence about the president or himself. The man is an honest, honorable lawyer.

I expected something like this from Cohen. He's been lying all week, I mean, or for -- he's been lying for years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: So before, it was Michael Cohen is very honest. Now it was Michael Cohen's always been a liar. I'm no lawyer but that doesn't sound like he's mounting a great legal defense.

SABATO: No, you get the impression that he comes in relatively unprepared to many of these interviews. He enjoys them, he's done them for decades. But I don't think it always comes across always terribly well.

I'll tell you why Giuliani is representing Trump, they're two of a kind. They have the incredible mental ability to separate what they're saying today from what they said yesterday or what they'll probably say tomorrow. You know, most people have a difficult time doing that.

(LAUGHTER)

VANIER: Kind of like a superpower, you say then. All right. We'll --

(LAUGHTER)

VANIER: -- we'll settle for that. Larry Sabato, thank you very much.

SABATO: Thanks so much, Cyril.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: Russia is putting on a show of its military strength and the spectacle has geopolitical significance.

Moscow is kicking off the international army games and its Navy Day, which is a public holiday in Russia. President Vladimir Putin will be on hand to inspect Russia's newest equipment, designed to challenge the U.S. and NATO. The showcase also serves as an international reminder of who Russia's allies are.

To Europe news: few areas would feel the effects of a hard Brexit more than Britain's industrial heartland. Decades of decline had already pushed many of its businesses to the brink. But now steelmakers are caught between new trade negotiations over U.S. tariffs and Brexit uncertainty in Europe.

Anna Stewart reports.

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ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Heated, crushed and --

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STEWART (voice-over): -- and molded. This is high-grade steel. It's heading to the United States and the E.U. Peter Davies owns four steelworks employing around 200 people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Steel is the basic commodity that drives the West Midlands.

STEWART (voice-over): Once the beating heart of industrial Britain, now this region is caught between a rock and a hard place: Brexit and U.S. tariffs. The uncertainty putting hundreds of thousands of dollars in new investment on hold.

PETER DAVIES, STEELWORKS OWNER: For the first time I think in my life, I'm genuinely worried. If you're a multinational or you've got billions in the bank, then it's fine, you can ride all these things. But we haven't. We live day to day.

STEWART (voice-over): The steel he sells to America is highly specialized, used in railroads and mining equipment. It's not subject to tariffs yet. But he worries his factories could become collateral damage in President Trump's trade war.

DAVIES: This is an email from one of our major American customers, asking what the impact will be on the steel tariffs. STEWART (voice-over): Davies says the two sides should negotiate instead of retaliating further.

DAVIES: They are literally like kids. I'm going to slap this and I've taken your ball, you can have my bat. The problem is that this is real people, real jobs.

STEWART (voice-over): For many of the workers here, it's the only job they've ever known. They sympathize with tariffs that protect local industry. Cheap steel from China and automation has forced hundreds of small factories to close in recent years.

Many voted for Brexit for the same reason.

Andrew Rich, the operations director, is one of them.

ANDREW RICH, OPERATIONS DIRECTOR: When I look around me, there's the conditions (INAUDIBLE) getting worse.

STEWART: Are you worried now that leaving the E.U. could be quite damaging for business (INAUDIBLE)?

RICH: Yes, I am. I'm not sure what's going to happen after Brexit. But whatever happens, we need some certainty.

STEWART (voice-over): And yet, he says, he wouldn't change his vote.

DAVIES: A lot of them are sort of sanguine, it will be all right. They don't roll over in the middle of the night, thinking, oh, my God --

(CROSSTALK)

STEWART: That's your job.

DAVIES: That's my job.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVIES: That's my job, you know. I'm paid to worry.

STEWART (voice-over): His company sourced raw steel from Germany. And if the U.K. crashes out of the E.U. without a deal, his costs could spike.

STEWART: What would that mean for your business?

DAVIES: It could mean closure. We would probably lose up to 50-60 percent of our market. And that would be devastating.

STEWART (voice-over): Until then, the workers here can only hope that politicians keep hammering away at a deal -- Anna Stewart, CNN, West Bromwich, U.K.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VANIER: That's it from us this hour. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. I've got the headlines for you in two minutes. Stay with us.