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CONNECT THE WORLD

White House Reeling After Back-To-Back Bombshells in Court; Cohen Implicates Trump in Hush Money Payments; Rare Insight into Life in Iran; Bolton U.S. Will Put Maximum Pressure on Iran; Is Michael Cohen's Plea a "Watergate Moment"; Microsoft Prevents Political Hacking Attempt; Saudi Woman Could Face Death Penalty for Activism; New Aeolus Satellite to Measure Earth's Weather;

Aired August 22, 2018 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to win so much you're going to get sick and tired of winning.

We are going to drain the swamp.

So, I have the best people in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. It is 4:00 p.m. here in London, it is 11:00 in the morning in

Washington.

Donald Trump may be facing the most critical moments of his presidency after back-to-back bombshells in court involving two former members of his

inner circle. This hour we'll get to the heart of what it all means and what happens now.

First, though, Mr. Trump's long-time attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, directly implicated the President in a felony when he pleaded guilty to

eight criminal counts. Cohen said he arranged two hush money payments, one, quote, for the principal purpose of influencing the election. Cohen's

attorney says his client also has information that could be valuable to the Russia investigation and would not accept any pardon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LANNY DAVIS, MICHAEL COHEN'S ATTORNEY: The answer is definitively no, under no circumstances, since he came to the judgment after Mr. Trump's

election to the President of the United States that his suitability is a serious risk to our country. And certainly, after Helsinki creates serious

questions about his loyalty to our country, his answer would be no, I do not want a pardon from this man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Well, in another courtroom, President Trump's former campaign chairman was convicted on eight counts of financial crimes, while the jury

deadlocked on ten others. He could get up to 80 years in prison and faces another trial in just weeks. We've got two White House reporters on the

story. Jeremy Diamond and Stephen Collinson, both live for you in Washington this hour. We're also joined by Caroline Polisi, who is a

federal and white-collar criminal defense attorney. Before we discuss the possible fallout of this past 24 hours for the U.S. President, Jeremy, what

has been his reaction to all of this?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, the President this morning unsurprisingly lashing out at Michael Cohen. Yesterday you'll recall the

President declined to answer questions about Michael Cohen when he did speak to cameras briefly yesterday before his rally in West Virginia, but

this morning the President tweeting if anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don't retain the services of Michael

Cohen. That is a bit of a change of tune for the President, who previously praised his long-time personal attorney and self-described fixer. And

let's just take a look at some of those comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Michael is my attorney.

So, I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys, good man.

I can tell you, he's a good guy. I always liked Michael.

I haven't spoken to Michael in a long time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is he still your lawyer?

TRUMP: But he's not my lawyer, but --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your personal lawyer?

TRUMP: I always liked Michael and he's a good person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DIAMOND: It is quite a stunning reversal in the relationship between the two men. Michael Cohen worked for Donald Trump for more than a decade and

was one of his closest advisers both at the Trump organization and then going into the campaign. So, this is really a significant twist in this

story.

But this is going to be the playbook coming from the President and his allies. We've already seen several of the President's surrogates this

morning on TV moving to discredit Michael Cohen, calling him a liar and arguing the fact that the campaign finance violations, two felonies to

which he pleaded guilty, are in fact not truly crimes. That was an argument the President also made on Twitter. That's of course false, given

that as I mentioned those are two felony criminal counts. So, the President is, however, trying to distance himself as much as possible from

Michael Cohen and it seems that that will be the playbook going forward here.

ANDERSON: Stephen, so we've got the Trump reaction to all of this after both courtroom dramas have unfolded. President Trump, as Jeremy pointed

out, holding a rally with supporters in West Virginia. They didn't seem bothered that two of his former aides face prison time. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:05:00] (CROWD SHOUTING) Lock her up. Lock her up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: That's right, they are shouting that infamous pre-election chant against Hillary Clinton. A familiar refrain, Stephen, to any of us who

have been watching this presidency and the campaign before that. That doesn't put to bed, though, by any stretch what we have witnessed now over

this past 24 hours. Your take on where we are at this point.

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Certainly. And I think the point here is that this has got a lot more serious for the President.

Basically, because his former lawyer stood up in a court of law under oath and implicated the President of the United States in a crime. And whatever

the politicians and Trump's supporters and conservative media say, that is a fact that will stain the Trump presidency going forward in history, no

wonder, no matter what happens in the next few months.

Having said that, I think it's also -- you know, we should make the point this probably doesn't change the politics of all of this that

fundamentally. The politics, of course, is the most important thing because it's generally accepted that a sitting President cannot be indicted

while he's in office. So, the biggest threat to the President is, of course, the process of impeachment whereby the House of Representatives

would decide whether he should be tried by the Senate and ultimately turned out of office.

That seems very unlikely to happen. First of all, because this is for now at least a campaign finance violation which the Republicans of course are

arguing doesn't sort of meet the standard of high crimes or misdemeanors needed to satisfy the impeachment process. But also, because the

Republicans control the House of Representatives, there's no sign in the early hours after yesterday's events that the party is peeling away from

the President.

But of course, this raises the stakes hugely for the midterm elections in November when the Democrats have a good chance of taking the House of

Representatives. And it adds more ammunition to what would be, I think, a very uncomfortable period for the President with a Democratic House in

which he would face intense scrutiny from Democratic committees on Capitol Hill who have the capacity to make his life a misery. And of course, we

don't know what happens going forward. If the Mueller inquiry, this is just the beginning and there are more serious charges on Russia collusion

and obstruction potentially and charges of wrongdoing by the President, this makes the -- this could get a lot more serious.

ANDERSON: Caroline, what light, if any, does Manafort's trial shed on Robert Mueller's potential collusion case at this point? I want to get

more into the weeds about what happened in the past 24 hours if you could answer that question first.

CAROLINE POLISI, FEDERAL AND WHITE-COLLAR CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It's a good question, Becky, because you know, the perpetual refrain out of the

White House and Donald Trump from the beginning of this case has been the Manafort trial has absolutely nothing to do with collusion. These were

charges stemming over 12 years back and has to do with Manafort's own personal financial dealings. And of course, that is to some extent true.

But I think what we learned, what we gleaned about the potential for Manafort to engage in Russia collusion is that he was a desperate man. He

was heavily in debt to the point that he was lying to banks about the nature of his net worth, inflating it, in fact, to get loans, and then also

lying on his tax returns so that he didn't have to pay money.

And we also found out one really interesting piece of information was that he used his potential influence in the Trump campaign and administration at

least to get $16 million in loans from one bank executive. If he was willing to sort of engage in that quid pro quo negotiation, why wouldn't we

think he would do it again in the context of Russia collusion.

ANDERSON: We started this hour, Caroline, reminding our viewers that Donald Trump promised voters that he would drain the swamp and surround

himself with the best people -- as he called them. And yet -- I want to bring up this graphic again for our viewers. Just look at all the people

Mr. Trump had around him who have been fired or forced out. In many cases proven frauds or liars or in some cases both. Is Donald Trump facing

possible legal jeopardy himself now?

POLISI: Well, in the context of which is more damning to him, which of these two bombshell pieces of information, definitely the Michael Cohen

case brings this to the oval office's door. All the reporting is correct that Michael Cohen did directly implicate President Trump in his allocution

before the court. But as was noted, Robert Mueller is likely operating under that office of legal counsel memorandum which is a guideline. It's

not a law, so it's not 100 percent crystal clear that he would follow it.

[11:10:01] But that says that a sitting President cannot be indicted while in office. He could bring charges, of course, after he was impeached. So,

the question is whether or not a campaign's finance law violation rises to that level of high crimes and misdemeanors as is needed for an impeachment

proceeding as was noted.

So, he's not in any potential legal jeopardy as it were. He wasn't -- as some people say he's not an unindicted co-conspirator. There was no

indictment here, Cohen pleaded guilty to an information and there wasn't a conspiracy charge. Just because he implicated Trump at his allocution

doesn't mean that he's an unindicted co-conspirator. It certainly doesn't mean that, you know, there may be enough evidence out there to bring a case

against Trump if he wasn't the President, but when he's President he's sort of immune from prosecution.

ANDERSON: Stephen, some newspaper headlines this morning, the New York "Daily News" front page says, "All the President's Henchmen." Viewers are

seeing it on the screen. Parallels being drawn between this U.S. President and Nixon back in the day. What ultimate impact then, we've discussed

whether, you know, any of this is going to stick and force the U.S. President out of office. It seems at this point neither you nor Caroline

believe that that is the case. So, what does happen next? Is he going to walk away from this clean?

COLLINSON: I don't think he walks away from it clean. I think what you're seeing is a gradual building of sort of evidence of a culture of corruption

and wrongdoing that is around this presidency. And I don't think you can underestimate the fact that this isn't ending. It wasn't as if the Cohen

and Manafort episodes yesterday, as dramatic as they were, were the end of this process. Robert Mueller arguably still has the most important

questions ahead of him in his special counsel probe. Did the President obstruct justice? Did the President's campaign collude with Russia?

I think one of the most interesting things is if Michael Cohen goes forward and cooperates with the Mueller probe, does he have evidence of what went

on in the Trump organization for many years that could sort of bolster rationale for the President obstructing justice? Does he know more about

what went on in the campaign? Those meetings, of course, at Trump Tower between Trump's family members and campaign officials and the Russians. I

think there's a big potential for this to get a lot, lot worse for the President. This is only the beginning. There are many, many plot twists

to come and to be resolved.

ANDERSON: Which begs the very simple question, which nobody seems to be able to answer but I'll put it to you again, when does Mueller wrap up this

probe? Certainly, the Trump administration wants this done with way before the midterms. Midterms of course in November. So, nothing is going to be

way before those at this point. When does it wrap up, any indication at all?

COLLINSON: No, but Mueller is running the tightest shop we've ever seen in Washington. So, it wouldn't be surprising if there was a massive shock and

it all gets rolled out. That doesn't seem very likely. Most people believe that he won't want to get caught up in the immediate midterm

election campaign, which generally starts after Labor Day and early September. So, if we don't see something really serious developing over

the next few weeks, perhaps that means that we won't learn anything until after the midterm elections. Although Manafort has another trial -- as you

mentioned -- in Washington starting next month, so this -- whatever happens is going to be a midterm election argument.

ANDERSON: Stephen, Caroline, an absolute pleasure having you with us today, thank you.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson. Coming up another issue on President Trump's mind, Iran.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The lights still sparkle in Tehran, sanctions be damned. Nobody here chants "death to

America."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: CNN gets a rare look into life in Tehran, which might shatter one or two stereotypes. That up next.

[11:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BOLTON, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Just to be clear, regime change in Iran is not American policy, but what we want is massive change

in the regime's behavior.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: John Bolton there, U.S. national security advisor, speaking in Jerusalem this Wednesday. He has vowed that the U.S. will exert maximum

pressure on Iran, as he refers to it, to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons. So, there's no doubt Washington wants to change things in Iran.

And in fairness, we've often seen scenes there such as this one.

Burning and chants of "death to America" images many associate with Iran, but how representative is that picture, that image these days? Well, Nick

Paton Walsh is in Tehran with a rare insight into life there. What have you learned, Nick?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Becky, it's obvious there are plenty of reasons why the Iranian people experience economic

turmoil here, partly, I mean it's fair to say because of internal mismanagement, but also predominantly because of U.S. sanctions being

threatened for months by Donald Trump. And kicking back in just two weeks ago with yet more worse to come in November. The economic damage has

caused them to be very angry towards American policy. But strangely, this is one of the rare countries in the Middle East where you feel a lot of the

people here -- at times there are some exceptions here of course -- feel an affinity towards the American people. They come across something which

oddly permeates different layers of Iranian society, as we saw here in Tehran.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALSH (voice-over): The lights still sparkle in Tehran, sanctions be damned. Nobody here chants "death to America," rather the design is from

California, the clientele from Iran's worldly elite.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most of the Iranian people, they travel. They used to travel to America. Now with the sanctions I'm not sure, but they are fed

up with the politics, yes, but with the Americans, no.

WALSH: Take away the head scarves, add a few real cocktails, and you could be in Europe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People look up to Americans, they like Americans and the Iranians always try to recreate like America looks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think they hate Americans at all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's going to happen in the next 15 years? We don't know what's going to happen tomorrow because every day is something

new.

WALSH: Here you can't help think, Iran and America's people ought to get to know each other a little better. Don't tell that to both their leaders.

There are decades of animosity on display in ghoulish remains of the U.S. embassy. American diplomats were held hostage by Iran here and coups

plotted boy the CIA. The museum filling this top-secret spy room with dummies.

[11:20:00] (on camera): Yes, thank you, just one second. Now, the Trump administration is really doing all that it can to try and drag the image of

the United States here in Iran back decades. To a time of espionage, subterfuge, when the United States was doing again all it possibly could to

undermine or change the Iranian government.

(voice-over): President Barack Obama, well, he saw that in the age of the iPhone there was an opportunity to improve Iran's economy and persuade its

people that its future lay with the outside world. It's been better way back when. Jim and Gladys Strain from Riverdale, New York, first came here

for their honeymoon in the '50s. The love affair is still going.

GLADYS STRAIN, AMERICAN IN IRAN: People are wonderful. They're friendly, they're welcoming. They offered us roses at the airport. I mean, lovely.

JIM STRAIN, AMERICAN IN IRAN We're disgusted with our President. Our President is misbehaving.

WALSH: Across town in southern Tehran is the Iran that gets up early. His day begins long before the sun's heat. There there's far less money here

but still articulate views with how the White House messes with their lives.

I don't have a deep understanding, he says, but if the U.S. don't act justly, we don't count in Mr. Trump's eyes. He has problems with the

government but what's my sin?

The poor, the clerics who guide Iran, the young conscripts in an army whose regional grip has expanded.

When we chant "death to America", he says, it's to the government of America. The people are respectable, and we have no problem with them. I

haven't fought in Iraq or Syria. But if our military had gone there we'd be fighting ISIS on the streets of Iran in cities.

Sanctions are already felt here. Less animals are slaughtered, with the delivery, each lamb less profitable.

I've got things to do, he says. I don't have time to chant "death to America."

Yet not all rising prices, like a 40 percent jump in housing costs they complain of here are blamed on America.

It's got nothing to do with the USA, this man says, but the government (INAUDIBLE). They don't provide me with my bread. They're not here.

He added the protests like Iran has sporadically this year were futile, yet the ebb and flow Washington and Iran amity maybe daily choices here harder.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALSH: That's the street level view from Tehran is startingly rational, remarkably well informed at times and of course feeling the pinch slowly as

their economy gets hit again and again by sanctions. And frankly the long- term feeling that sanctions have been coming for quite some time. Where do we go from now, Becky? Well, diplomacy, of course, is what everybody seems

to potentially want to come back. What we heard from Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, just a couple of days ago, that he doesn't

see a point talking to the Trump administration unless it's about reinstating the nuclear deal that's already been signed.

European allies of Donald Trump think that's a good idea too. We heard from the German foreign ministry, in fact, they would like to find

potentially maybe a way of creating a payment system that insulates European countries from trading with Iran. A lot of thought going on here

but predominate diplomatic idea we have from Mr. Zarif is the idea of getting the Europeans to persuade Donald Trump that frankly, this long

laundry list of getting Iran to change all its behavior was pretty farfetched and they needed to get back to that deal -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Nick, we heard from U.S. national security advisor, John Bolton, a few minutes ago as we started this part of the show.

He also said this, Iran obviously has a strategic plan to create an arc of control from Iran through the Shia areas of Iraq into Syria, linking up

with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Frankly given his audience, nothing in Bolton's speech was entirely unexpected or indeed a surprise. Be that as it may, though, Nick, do

Iranians expect more pressure at this point from Washington?

WALSH: Well its more pressure coming because they haven't yet had the oil industry hit by November 4 sanctions. We've seen the French oil giant,

Total, pull out just this week officially. Yes, it's going to get worse. Certainly, Mr. Zarif, the foreign minister said the economic turmoil

they've experienced to this point is preparing for that moment in November and they'll be able to sail through as they have in the past.

Remember sanctions are worse than they are now before the Obama administration got the nuclear deal on the table. People actually say, in

fact, what we're going to get now is the threat of the U.S. potentially bringing some kind of greater response. The nuclear deal lapsing to some

degree because the U.S. isn't part of it anymore but sanctions not 100 percent being enforced. Almost the worst of all worlds frankly.

[11:25:00] Yes, I think they do expect worse to happen here. Mr. Bolton referring to that arc of control between Lebanon all the way through

Tehran. I have to say, the changing nature of the battlefield there and also, I think some degree of domestic opposition here in Iran towards the

expansion and the cost of military adventures overseas is going to slowly lessen that over time it's fair to say. I think most people here are

preparing for increased problems with food prices. The local currency has been sliding. It's not easy here. But I think the major problem that the

U.S. is going to face is that they look like the main culprit in the eyes of the Iranian people, not like Washington hopes the conservative elements

of their regime -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Nick Paton Walsh in Tehran and Iran for you this evening. Thanks, Nick.

Just ahead, two former Trump allies who helped get him into the White House are now facing years of prison time. We'll look at the possible fallout

for a White House already under siege. That is up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:30:00] ANDERSON: If you're just joining us, you are more than welcome. It is half past 4:00 in London. I'm Becky Anderson. Back to our top

story, a U.S. presidency in crisis.

Donald Trump and his allies appear to be formulating a strategy for damage control as two of his close associates now face prison time. Mr. Trump

attacking his former attorney, Michael Cohen, accusing him of making up stories to get a deal. Cohen pleading guilty in the past 24 hours to eight

charges directly implicating the President in campaign finance violations.

Now, by contrast, Mr. Trump is praising Paul Manafort as a brave man, increasing speculation he could be considering a pardon for his former

campaign chairman who was convicted of financial crimes in a separate trial. And those convictions coming down from the jury just in the past 24

hours as well. The news stacking up this time yesterday.

Some are now calling this 1-2 legal punch a Watergate moment for Mr. Trump. It's not the first-time parallels have been drawn between Trump and former

President Richard Nixon, but as Michael Cohen's guilty plea really comparable to Watergate, the pivotal moment which led to Nixon's

resignation? Let's take a quick look back at 1974.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I continue to fight through the months ahead for my personal vindication will almost totally absorb the

time and attention of both the President and the congress in a period when our entire focus should be on the great issues of peace abroad and

prosperity without inflation at home. Therefore, I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: August 8, 1974, Jacob Parakilas is here with me now. He's the deputy head of U.S. and the Americas program at Chatham House. Do these

comparisons between Donald Trump and Richard Nixon hold water?

JACOB PARAKILAS, DEPUTY HAD, U.S. AND AMERICAS PROGRAM, CHATHAM HOUSE: To some extent. I think there are some ways in which Trump has intentionally

drawn comparisons to Nixon. He used the silent majority as one of his slogans in the way that he often recycles other slogans. America first,

for example, which was originally Woodrow Wilsons and then the isolationists before World War II. He's sort of recycling them into his

own campaigns. But he's a very different character. Nixon was very introverted. He wasn't comfortable with the public aspect of his job. He

was very down in the weeds with politics. Trump is a showman, he's incredibly extroverted. There are a lot of differences.

ANDERSON: So, your point that Donald Trump himself may have inadvertently drawn comparisons to Nixon and others is a slightly different issue, I

guess. And the comparisons being made by others about Donald Trump and Nixon with regard to Watergate, impeachment and the rest, that's the

specific point I think here, isn't it?

PARAKILAS: Yes, and there are a lot of differences. It's very easy to look at the way in which Trump is angry with his Justice Department and

trying to cut off its access to his own records and his own testimony and compare that to Nixon. And that in and of itself is a valid comparison.

But there's a lot of difference, especially in that Cohen and Manafort are the result of two completely separate strands of investigation.

Watergate ultimately was about a break-in at the Watergate Hotel, hence the name. The whole scandal stemmed from that one thing. And while it exposed

the sort of vein of criminality in the Nixon administration, it was fundamentally a single point. And it was the smoking gun tape that really

sort of did the whole thing in.

Whereas with Trump you have percolating scandals, not only the Russia investigation led by Robert Mueller and this southern district of New York

investigation led by the prosecutors there, which snared Michael Cohen, but also various civil suits that are making their way through the courts.

ANDERSON: You just used the term this vein of criminality that ran through -- that was at this heart of, obviously, the Watergate scandal back in the

day. It is this vein, more than vein, sort of pumping aorta that is this Trump administration, at least those around the President himself, felons

and liars.

PARAKILAS: You have to now see sort of the difference between where we are now and where we were 18 months ago. As we're getting closer and closer to

direct implication. Now, Cohen has said as of yesterday that he was instructed by the President to commit violations of federal electoral law,

which he himself pleaded guilty to.

[11:35:02] Trump dismisses those as fake crimes. Cohen's testimony in and of itself is not sufficient to blame Trump, to indict him, even if an

indictment of a sitting President were possible. Which the DOJ generally thinks it's not. But you also have documentary evidence that the

prosecutors referenced but didn't release in the charging document. And which Cohen apparently took voluminous notes, recordings, we've heard one

of those and there's a lot more we haven't seen yet.

ANDERSON: And key, not interested in taking a pardon even if offered.

PARAKILAS: Again, Trump has made it clear there will not be one.

ANDERSON: There will not be one. Look at this for me, if you will. A new poll finds that 45 percent of Americans rate Mr. Trump's job performance as

poor. That is the same percentage of people who strongly disliked President Richard Nixon at the time of his resignation 44 years ago. I'm

not sure if this provides any grist for the discussion we're having. Do you think it does?

PARAKILAS: It's a snapshot. And I think it's a valuable snapshot, but you have to look at the overall tendency and pulse. What we've seen with Trump

is he's in this very, very narrow window. At good moments his popularity will creep up to about 45 percent, 46 percent and at bad moments it'll go

down to 36, 37. That's the range. But when it comes to his reelection prospect that relatively narrow range is incredibly important because at

36, 37 percent, he's probably not viable. At 45 percent, 46 percent, he could absolutely win re-election.

ANDERSON: What happens next?

PARAKILAS: It's really hard to tell. There is the political question how does this impact the November elections. And I think we can't understate

the importance of that. Because even though the Democrats because of the way senate elections run can't cumulate enough senate seats to without

Republican support both impeach and remove Trump. The fact that they could very easily take back the House of Representatives would give them

oversight powers. It would give them subpoena power. That fundamentally changes. In addition to stopping Trump's legislative agenda, that

fundamentally changes the character of his presidency. Because you've seen the Republicans use these powers very, very sparingly. The Democrats would

use them very pointedly and very aggressively.

ANDERSON: Thank you, sir. Great analysis.

A lot of Donald Trump's problems boil down to one word, don't they, and that is Russia and how it meddled in America's election in 2016 using

Facebook. So now Facebook says it's taken down hundreds of newly discovered fake accounts linked to Russia and Iran itself. And that's just

hours after another American tech company, Microsoft, says it's taken control of six phony websites created by hackers tied to Russian military

intelligence. So, what is going on this time? Alex Marquardt reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With just three months before the midterm elections, Russian hackers have hit again.

The same Russian military intelligence unit behind the attack on the 2016 Presidential election now targeting the U.S. Senate and conservative think

tank groups.

The Russian hack attempt, which was unveiled by Microsoft, comes as President Trump continues to question the intelligence community's

unwavering assessment that the Kremlin orchestrated the 2016 election attack. Today Microsoft announcing it took control over six new websites

designed to fool users in what's known as spear phishing attacks. The group behind it most famously known as "Fancy Bear".

BRAD SMITH, PRESIDENT, MICROSOFT: There's no doubt that they were responsible for these six sites. There is no doubt that they were

responsible for really the most serious attacks in 2016 and the attacks that we saw in France in the Presidential election there last year.

MARQUARDT: It was "Fancy Bears" members were indicted by the special counsel for the 2016 DNC hack, now going after Republicans as well. Two of

the sites created by the Russian operatives designed to look affiliated with two conservative think tanks who have been highly critical of Russia,

including the Hudson Institute.

KEN WEINSTEIN, PRESIDENT AND CEO, HUDSON INSTITUTE: We have a tough line on Russia, as do many of our peers. I think our work has gotten underneath

our skin because of our focus on kleptocracy and the circle around Vladimir Putin. I think it's clearly gotten to them.

MARQUARDT: The international Republican institute was also targeted. It has Russia hawks on its board of directors like Senators John McCain and

Marco Rubio as well as Mitt Romney, all aggressively vocal in their criticism of Russia. Three of the other phony websites also included the

word "Senate," an apparent attempt to target senators, though it's unclear who.

Senator Claire McCaskill, the vulnerable Missouri Democrat running for re- election was the target of an almost identical attempted attack last year by the same Russian intelligence unit. Neither that operation nor these

latest ones have been successful. Still, President Trump continues to downplay Russian interference, telling Reuters Monday about the Russia

investigation, if it was Russia, they played right into the Russians' hands.

[11:40:00] No response from the White House today, but the Kremlin not only claimed it was unaware of the operation but, quote, from the U.S. we hear

that there was not any meddling in the elections. An apparent reference to President Trump's waffling on the issue during his summit with Putin.

TRUMP: I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish.

The legendary John Bolton.

MARQUARDT: National security advisor, John Bolton, said he will raise the issue of election meddling when he meets with his Russian counterparts in

Geneva this week.

BOLTON: I'm sure we'll have a discussion about it on Thursday. I had a discussion about it myself with President Putin when I went to Moscow

originally to prepare the groundwork for his meeting with President Trump. President Trump raised it with President Putin. You keep raising it and

we'll see what their response is.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: The voice of John Bolton there. Let's dig a little deeper into this, shall we. Joining us in our London studio is Samuel Burke who

specializes in all of this. Break. Well, he's got more about bit tech platforms I don't even know at this point. This sounds like deja vu. How

is this different this time around?

SAMUEL BURKE, CNNMONEY BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: I think there are a lot of similarities here, but they've expanded incredibly. If

we can just put up on the screen just some of the lists that we're looking at in terms of where this is being targeted. The scope is huge, Becky, if

you look at the fact this is Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. 600 plus pages linked to Iran and Russia. Look at how many accounts over there on

Twitter. We're talking about really something massive here. So, I think they have seen what Russia has done and said we want to do it.

But I think what's interesting, especially given the fact that you live in the Middle East, is really what they're trying to send out especially.

It's not just targeted at the Middle East. We're talking about Latin America, the Middle East, the United States here in the U.K., but the type

of themes that we're seeing from these Iran-linked groups. So, we're seeing the big political themes that we usually see from Iran, anti-Saudi

Arabia, anti-Israel, and pro-Palestinian. So, it's the type of message that you would expect the Iranians to put out anywhere in the world but now

they're using the platform that they have seen the Russians use so successfully.

ANDERSON: What is big tech doing to avoid being compromised by organizations like this in the future and to protect us going forward?

BURKE: On the surface, you look at this story and say, oh, look, Facebook is getting ahead of this story. It's not a CNN news story and now they're

reacting. But I think if you go a little deeper, you'll see Facebook was not the group was not that found this. It was a cyber security firm, very

well respected, called FireEye. The way that they found it actually, is they were looking at these pages and said it doesn't make sense that these

press freedom type groups would have these type of messages. These sound more like Iranian political messages that we hear from the government.

They put it together. They found out and took it to Facebook.

So, I think we're now in an environment where journalists like you and me, groups like FireEye, the investigators, are now working with, in

conjunction with, let's say, these big tech companies flagging them and then the tech companies are getting ahead of it. So, they're reacting

better, but it's not that they're always discovering this type of stuff for themselves.

ANDERSON: And Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, reminding our colleague, Brian Stelter, the other day, they're still a quite a small organization at

the end of the day. They punch above their weight to a certain extent with the power of the brand and with the U.S. President using it to his

satisfaction. But at the end of the day, his sort of argument is there isn't a lot of us to do this work.

BURKE: I'm smiling as we talk about this very serious topic because it probably sounds absurd to most people. You hear about Twitter every moment

of the day, almost literally on this network, especially with President Trump in power. Facebook can't really use that excuse that we don't have

enough manpower because they have tons of money, tons of manpower. It is true, though, Twitter and think of all the other smaller social networks

that definitely don't have the money that Facebook, or Twitter have that are trying to fight these very same problems. And we know there are so

many social networks as people take off from Facebook. It's not the only place to be anymore especially for young people. So, I think, yes, the big

ones are doing well, better than the smaller ones, but there are so many social networks out there, the problem is really like whack-a-mole.

ANDERSON: Samuel Burke in the house for our viewers. Thank you.

Of course, allegations of Russian interference go far beyond social media, ensnaring even the White House itself. President Trump says the Russia

probe is a witch hunt. But as CNN.com finds out why one of our colleagues argues that as the probe gains momentum, Mr. Trump shouldn't fear

indictment but potential impeachment instead.

We are normally live from Abu Dhabi, but this week we are in London. This is CONNECT THE WORLD.

Coming up, supporters are calling it monstrous. For the first time ever, a Saudi woman could be beheaded for her activism. We're going to get you

live to the region.

[11:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: To controversy out of Saudi Arabia now. For the first time ever, the kingdom is seeking the death penalty against a female activist.

That is according to a Saudi activist and the group Human Rights Watch. The group says Israa al-Ghomgham is one of six people being tried by a

terrorism tribunal for their involvement in protests for the rights for the Shia minority there. Now if convicted, she could be beheaded. CNN has

tried to contact Saudi authorities about the case and they haven't responded. Although we should point out there are public holidays for EID

now across the Muslim world. CNN's Sam Kiley though is tracking this story for you from Abu Dhabi. Sam, what are the details as you understand them

at this point?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're very thin indeed, Becky, because apart from anything else, Mrs. Ghomgham doesn't have

a lawyer and representation is being done by family members and well- wishers. There is no representation rather for her in the courts of law. But notes have been passed, there has even been some effort to raise funds

to try to protect her from what the prosecutor is demanding. Which is the death sentence for a range of allegations or charges. Among them are

joining a terrorist group. I think perhaps that is the one that's being argued for in terms of the death penalty. Participation in riots, filming

riots and disseminating them on the internet, giving moral support to political rioters and traveling to Iran with her husband.

Her husband also has been charged and could face the death penalty. He's also in court periodically or sporadically in the east of the country.

Becky, this all comes, of course, after the execution two years ago which drew a great deal of international condemnation of a leading Shia cleric

who had called for violence at times. Now, in this case, this is a woman, first, and secondly, Becky, there is no allegation that she has been

participating in or supportive of violent protests -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Well, Sam, this comes at a curious time for the kingdom. Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has been implementing a series of reforms like,

for example, letting women drive.

The Middle East director of Human Rights Watch says, if he's truly serious about reform, he should immediately step in to ensure no activist is

unjustly detained for his or her human rights work.

I wonder given the context for this, this promised new era, as it were, for Saudi, this all makes vision 2030 just a little blurry.

KILEY: Well, I think there are a lot of forces pulling in different directions here within Saudi Arabia.

[11:50:00] So, for example, the government allowed women to drive not very long ago, but still according to Amnesty International have 11 female

activists in addition to Mrs. Ghomgham, under some kind of detention. A lot of them activists who were active in trying to get the right for women

to drive motor vehicles.

So, I think what you've got here is also a problem for the Saudis, which is that it is during the period of reform that all regimes become most

vulnerable. So, I think that these advances towards what they say are advances towards greater reforms, economic liberalization, perhaps social

liberalization by 2030 have to be conducted from the Saudi perspective in a highly controlled manner. And of course, that is certainly from many other

people's perspective, an impossible series of challenges. They're heading in opposite directions. I think we're going to see a lot more of these

tensions over the coming years -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Sam Kiley's in Abu Dhabi. We are this week in London for you. I want to take a very quick break. Back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: It's one small serve for man, one giant volley for mankind. A ball at the international space station as astronauts play the first-ever

tennis match in space. They haven't just been burning through trillions searching for that perfect forehand, though.

Scientists are unsurprisingly doing some science. Its latest innovation, the European space agency launching a new satellite that will make sense of

the wind, measuring its speed as it traverses the earth. For a peek at just what they are up to, I'm joined by Yosef Aschbacher, who's the

director of Earth Observation at the European Space Agency. Joining us from French Guyana where that satellite will launch today. Sir, tell us

exactly what you're doing and why.

YOSEF ASCHBACHER, DIRECTOR OF EARTH OBSERVATION, EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY: Hi, Becky. This is Josef Aschbacher from the European Space Board. In

fact, Tonight, we are going to launch Aeolus, which is the wind satellite. Strange enough, we had the first launch attempt yesterday and it was

postponed because of wind.

What this satellite is measuring, we are measuring wind in the cloud-free atmosphere, which is quite unique because it is considered the largest data

gap in meteorology in order to better understand the atmosphere and therefore better predict weather. But also have a better modeling which we

use for climate change assumptions and climate change studies.

So, it is a unique satellite. Also, the technology which we're employing here is a world premiere. We are having a lighter or a laser which is

onboard the satellite in the ultraviolet part of the spectrum and this has never been flown in space before, so we're very excited to get this mission

up into space.

ANDERSON: Well, Josef, when this mission is over, perhaps you can help us out determining why it is we have a seven-second delay between you and I,

technology should be better than that. So, viewers, apologies for the moments in time before Josef answers this next question.

ASCHBACHER: I mean, this is a perfect case where Aeolus once launched and once the data are being fully used will make a big improvement.

[11:55:00] Because the wind in the atmosphere is very scarce data and very scarce observation, and especially for storms, for hurricanes, for large

storms. The starting point is quite often not very good, and therefore, we need very precise measurements globally and routinely. This is exactly

what we aim at doing by inserting this data into a very credible prediction models and therefore really allowing that weather forecasts and storm

forecasts in particular will improve largely.

ANDERSON: How much does a project like this cost to develop? Give me a ballpark here. What does it cost to launch a satellite like this? What's

your budget at the end of the day?

ASCHBACHER: A satellite like this, we have developed it over actually a longer period of time than expected. The reason being that the technology

which we are launching tonight is very unique and, therefore, we have come across quite some hurdles along the way of development, so we had a longer

than usual development time.

Nevertheless, we have for our budget which is very reasonable. It is 480 million European euros and this budget is comprising all the costs for the

satellite until the end of its commissioning phase. So, it may sound a large amount of money, but on the other side one has to consider the

benefit, the economic benefit but also the social benefit which can be achieved. Better weather forecasts of course are leading to a savings in

many aspects, from agriculture to air traffic management to sheep herding and many other domains. And therefore, this investment actually is

multiplied in terms of return to the economy and to the society.

ANDERSON: From French Guyana today, and I didn't say that very often, Josef, thank you, fascinating.

I'm Becky Anderson. That was CONNECT THE WORLD from London. Thanks for watching. We leave you with video of a koala reunited with its mother.

Why? Well, because we can.

END