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Kavanaugh Accuser Granted Extension in Testimony Standoff; Trump versus the Justice Department; No Brexit Deal Yet; Pope Francis Begins Tour of Baltics; Trump Foreign Policy; Beto O'Rourke and Ted Cruz Face Off in Texas; Artist Creates Message of Hope for Migrants. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired September 22, 2018 - 04:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A woman accusing the Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault now has more time to decide if she wants to testify before lawmakers. We have the story for you.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Sources say FBI memos show the U.S. deputy attorney general discussed secretly recording the U.S. president. What Rod Rosenstein is saying about this stunning report.

HOWELL (voice-over): And British prime minister demanding respect -- R-E-S-P-E-C-T -- after Theresa May's criticism from European leaders over Brexit.

ALLEN (voice-over): That is all ahead this hour. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL (voice-over): And I'm George Howell. NEWSROOM starts right now.


ALLEN: We are following two stories in U.S. politics right now. One of them, deputy attorney general of the United States Rod Rosenstein reportedly discussing secretly taping President Trump and questioning his fitness for office.

HOWELL: It is a big story. A lot of people talking about that for sure. The story we're following involves the president's nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court and the woman accusing him of sexual assault, this when they were teenagers.

Christine Blasey Ford now has a little more time to decide if she will appear before a Senate committee after Judiciary chairman Chuck Grassley extended the deadline.

ALLEN: Republicans had given her until 10:00 pm Friday Washington time, saying if she did not let them know by then whether she would testify on Wednesday, they would vote on Monday to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the high court. Ford's attorney fired off a letter Friday night, calling that deadline

"arbitrary" and asking for another day to decide. Shortly after that, committee chairman Chuck Grassley relented.

HOWELL: And at a campaign rally in the state of Missouri Friday night, the president of the United States, Donald Trump, made it clear where he stands on the matter. Let's listen.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Brett Kavanaugh, fantastic man. He was born for the U.S. Supreme Court. He was born for it. And it is going to happen. We have to fight for him. Not worry about the other side. And by the way, women are for that more than anybody would understand.


HOWELL: The president also making some comments on Twitter. Jim Acosta picks it up from here.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was only a matter of time, after days of holding back on Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing Supreme Court Nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, of assault, President Trump returned to attack dog form on Twitter, saying, "I have no doubt that if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local law enforcement authorities by either her or her loving parents.

"I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time and place."

The president's language questioning if the alleged attack was as bad as she says, came just moments after his own White House Counselor, Kellyanne Conway, was preaching restraint on CNN.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: There's no reason to attack her. There's no reason. Let her tell her story. There's no reason to attack her. The president is defending his nominee to the United States Supreme Court as a man of character and integrity --

ACOSTA: The president's tweet should come as no surprise. Mr. Trump was already sending signals on FOX News that he was finished biting his tongue.

TRUMP: Why didn't somebody call the FBI 36 years ago?

I mean, you could also say, when did this all happen?

What's going on?

To take a man like this and besmirch -- but with that being said, let her have her say and let's see how it all works out.

ACOSTA: Republican Senator Susan Collins, a critical vote to watch on Kavanaugh, who's urged Ford to testify, blasted the president's tweet.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I thought that the president's tweet was completely inappropriate and wrong.

ACOSTA: The president's verbal attack on Ford threatens to inject more poison into what's become a toxic nomination process.

TRUMP: Grab them by the pussy.

ACOSTA: All from a man who's fended off allegations of sexual assault for years.

TRUMP: Hello, how are you?

ACOSTA: Mr. Trump's comments make it all too clear, he's not backing away from his Supreme Court pick.

TRUMP: Brett Kavanaugh is one of the finest human beings you will ever have the privilege of knowing or meeting.

ACOSTA: Top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, declared to an audience of conservative activists that Kavanaugh will be confirmed, even though Ford has yet to testify.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: You've watched the fight. You've watched the tactics, but here's what I want to tell you. In the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court.



ACOSTA: And there are other concerns up on Capitol Hill as to how the president's tweets will affect the Kavanaugh nomination process. In the words of one Republican Senate staffer, the president's tweet about Christine Blasey Ford was, quote, "not helpful"-- Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.


HOWELL: Steven Erlanger joining us now, chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe for "The New York Times." He is joining us via Skype.

Also a pleasure to have you. We continue to follow the negotiations of whether this testimony will happen at all. The proposal establishes that no witnesses will be allowed to be part of it and that Kavanaugh, the defense, will speak first.

Is this shaping up to be a fair hearing for Ford?

STEVEN ERLANGER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, a hearing is a hearing. I mean, the fairness would be in terms of how she is questioned. She is obviously testifying publicly, as far as I can tell, which makes it much more nervous-making for someone who is not used to performing. It is not closed doors. I hope that she will testify; I realize she

is anxious about it. This was a long time ago and this was a traumatic experience that she underwent. Kavanaugh denies it.

But the president is clearly putting his thumb on the scales after having been urged by his aides to show restraint, to respect the testimony of an important, you know, professional woman in a #MeToo period. The president decided to plunge ahead.

He sees it as very much partisan. And he is using it to engage his base. He likes being inappropriate. I mean, he likes being insensitive. That is what his base seems also to like.

And, you know, the Republicans control the Senate. I suspect Mitch McConnell is right, that, unless something else comes out, something provable, that Brett Kavanaugh will become a Supreme Court justice for many decades to come.

But it is a serious, very divisive moment, both in American Democratic-Republican partisanship terms but in this new world sexual politics and the sense, rightly, that women have, that their adolescent experiences, their being pushed around has been going on for far too long and there is a patriarchy that holds them down.

HOWELL: The question, will it be a fair hearing, that's question one. The other question is optics. I want to push through some of the texture of the optics. You touched on this. Our Jim Acosta touched on it. Let's go through this.

Because the president's tweet, that has caused some waves, where he stated this, if the attack was as bad as she says, the charges would have been filed immediately with local law enforcement.

"As bad as she says," OK. Essentially asking why Blasey Ford didn't report the allegations sooner.

It is worth pointing out here there are clear reasons. There is demonstrable research, there are clear examples of why many women choose not to file reports with authorities.

The Republican senator, Susan Collins, said she was appalled by that tweet, Collins a key vote for Kavanaugh's confirmation. And then there was this from the Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. Listen for yourself.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: In the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court. So my friends, keep the faith. don't get rattled by all of this. We're going to plow right through it and do our job.


HOWELL: McConnell saying we'll plow right through it. The question here, the optics. With regards to women, the Republican Party, of course, looking ahead to the midterm elections.

ERLANGER: Well, that is exactly right. And plowing right through the remembered agony of a 15-year-old girl is not a very attractive optic, I would have to say. But the politics of it will rule.

Fifteen-year-old girls do not go to their parents usually. They certainly don't go to the police or, as Trump suggested, to the FBI.

This is absurd. And of course, as far as even her memory goes, this was not a rape, this was not penetration. This was, you know, two drunk kids abusing her. And this changed her life, she said, for many years. Now senators will have to decide whether --


ERLANGER: -- this disqualifies this particular man, Brett Kavanaugh, from sitting on the court, which is supposed to be the moral touchstone and legal touchstone of the American Constitution and to protect our rights. Now that is a very difficult challenge that the Senate has.

But it is a very high standard. It is higher than most qualifications for even government jobs. So we'll have to see. I suspect Mitch McConnell is right, the Republicans have the votes. But it is very divisive and it is simply going to underline again the sharp divisions, increasingly loud and boisterous, between this White House and its opposition.

HOWELL: The president, as you point out, believes that he does have the votes with the Senate. Pressure on at least three senators. We'll have to see, of course, whether the testimony happens at all next week. Steven Erlanger, thank you for your time and perspective.

ERLANGER: Thanks, George.

ALLEN: We turn now to a stunning report about the U.S. deputy attorney general. Sources say memos of the former deputy director of the FBI show that Rod Rosenstein discussed wearing a wire to record conversations with the U.S. president and recruiting cabinet members to remove him from office. Rosenstein, however, denies it all.

HOWELL: In the meantime, "The Washington Post" reports that President Trump sought advice on whether or not to fire Rosenstein but some urged him not to make any decisions right away. At a rally, President Trump didn't publicly criticize Rosenstein or the report. But he did have harsh words about the Justice Department and the FBI.


TRUMP: Just look at what is now being exposed in our Department of Justice and the FBI. Look at what is going on. Look at what is going on. And I want to tell you, we have great people in the Department of Justice. Great people. I really believe, you take a poll, I got to be at 95 percent.

But you have some real bad ones. You've seen what has happened at the FBI. They are all gone. They are all gone. They are all gone. But there is a lingering stench and we'll get rid of that, too.


HOWELL: And Sara Murray has more on the political firestorm surrounding Rod Rosenstein.


SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein floated the idea of wearing a wire to secretly record President Trump last year, according to "The New York Times."

The second most powerful person at the Justice Department also reportedly discussed with DOJ officials recruiting Cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office for being unfit in the days following FBI Director James Comey's firing.

Rosenstein vehemently denying the claims, saying in a statement: "'The New York Times' story is inaccurate and factually incorrect. I will not further comment on a story based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department and are advancing their own personal agenda," adding, "Let me be clear about this: based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment."

One source who was in the room for the discussion tells CNN Rosenstein was being sarcastic when he discussed the wire comment. But others told "The New York Times" that Rosenstein was serious and even raised the idea of others wearing a wire.

"The Times"' report relies on memos written by former FBI Director Andrew McCabe. McCabe, whose memos have been handed over to special counsel's Robert Mueller's team, was fired earlier this year, following an onslaught of Twitter attacks from the president.

A justice official tells CNN they're skeptical of McCabe's description of events, suggesting McCabe has credibility issues and wanted to do what he could to lay the ground work for the appointment of a special counsel after Comey was fired.

But another source close to the situation believes McCabe had no incentive to lie while taking those contemporaneous notes.

Today, through his attorney, McCabe denied any knowledge of how "The Times" got its hands on the details of his memos, saying, "When he was interviewed by the special counsel more than a year ago, he gave all of his memos, classified and unclassified, to the special counsel's office. A set of those memos remained at the FBI at the time of his departure in late January 2018. He has no knowledge of how any member of the media obtained those memos."

Rosenstein took charge of the Russia investigation after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself. Just yesterday, he went to the White House to discuss declassifying certain documents and texts related to the Russia probe. As for President Trump's --


MURRAY: -- call to declassify so many of those documents and text messages related to the Russia investigation, he now appears to be backing off from that. He put out a tweet on Friday where he said that he would leave it up to the Department of Justice's inspector general -- Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.


HOWELL: And the memos say Rosenstein discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump from office. That amendment was written to address physical incapacity but it can apply if the president is simply deemed unfit.

To invoke the 25th Amendment, the vice president and a majority of the cabinet would have to declare to Congress that the president is unfit to lead. If the president then objects then Congress must vote. If two-thirds of both houses, the Senate and the House, agree that the president can't lead, the V.P. immediately assumes the office of president.

ALLEN: Let's bring CNN legal analyst and civil rights attorney, Areva Martin, for more on this.

Areva, thank you for being here.


ALLEN: Rosenstein issued this statement, he denied earlier today and then most recently issued this, he said, "I never pursued or authorized recording the president and any suggestion that I have ever advocated for the removal of the president is absolutely false."

This was reported by "The New York Times" and they say that they worked on this story for months.

What do you think about that denial?

Is Rosenstein hedging or is that an outright denial?

MARTIN: Clearly not an outright denial. He is parsing his words. What he doesn't say is that he didn't say it. He just says that he didn't advocate for it, he didn't pursue it and he didn't authorize it. So it remains to be seen if he did make the statements.

ALLEN: So where does that leave it as far as the war with the White House and the Justice Department?

This kind of plays into that deep state conspiracy we have heard alleged by the president.

MARTIN: It does. And Rod Rosenstein serves at the pleasure of the president. So the president, as we know, has been talking for months about firing Jeff Sessions and being unhappy with the job that Rod Rosenstein is doing.

So if the president ever wanted a reason or justification, he surely has one tonight with respect to Rod Rosenstein and this blockbuster report.

ALLEN: Right, because he has always said -- he just said to more of his supporters on Friday that this goes to show that the Justice Department is not on his side, which he has always wanted. Rosenstein, however, is a veteran in these circle, he has hung in there for a good while.

Do you expect that he will now?

MARTIN: Well, you know it is interesting because Sean Hannity -- and we know the president listens to Sean Hannity -- Sean Hannity on his program Friday night basically said to the president, don't fall for this, this is a plot to get you to fire Rod Rosenstein and you shouldn't do it.

So it's going to be interesting to see if the president follows the advice. We know Sean Hannity is an official-unofficial adviser. He goes on FOX News and pretty much gives the president, you know, advice, political advice.

So it remains to be seen. We know that this president is deeply troubled by his Department of Justice. So this just may be, you know, the straw that breaks the camel's back.

ALLEN: And if it does, could that shut down the Mueller investigation?

I mean, if Rosenstein falls, where does that leave the investigation?

MARTIN: It leaves it in limbo. And the question will be will the president try to replace him with someone who will side with the president and take the position that the special counsel investigation isn't needed and that it should be shut down?

We know GOP senators, congressmen, have said that that would be a line too far and if the president crosses that line, that the Congress would have to take action. So these are really difficult times I think that we're experiencing. And for some, this may have gotten us very close to the Friday night massacre.

ALLEN: President Trump did make a slap at the FBI but he didn't bring up Rosenstein by name.

So what do you make of that?

The president certainly is no fan of Rosenstein.

The question is, will this fade away?

MARTIN: I think what he is doing is he is circling the wagons, talking to all of his advisers, trying to decide, should he move forward with terminating Rod Rosenstein? What about the midterm elections, what about the fact that special

counsel Mueller has farmed out some of this investigation to other Departments of Justice like the Southern District of New York?

So maybe getting rid of Rosenstein and even the Mueller investigation being shut down won't, you know, allow the president to be free of any legal jeopardy. I think Mueller has made a pretty brilliant and strategic --


MARTIN: -- play by getting other offices of the Justice Department involved. So Trump may still face a great deal of legal jeopardy.

ALLEN: Areva Martin, we appreciate your insights. Thank you.

MARTIN: Thanks, Natalie.

HOWELL: The question of standing up to the E.U., how the British prime minister is being perceived in the U.K., at the latest Brexit summit -- coming up.





HOWELL: This Saturday in Tanzania, it is the first of three days of national mourning for this week's ferry disaster. At least 127 people died when an overcrowded boat capsized in Lake Victoria on Thursday.

ALLEN: Officials estimate some 400 people were packed onto the vessel which only had capacity for 100. Rescue workers combed the lake for two days, searching for survivors; 80 people were rescued but now operations are focused on recovery.

HOWELL: The E.U. is offering an olive branch after a testy summit on Brexit with the British prime minister Theresa May. The president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, says a compromise is still possible. This after European leaders rejected Ms. May's latest --


HOWELL: -- Brexit proposal in Austria. Ms. May is warning that talks are at an impasse and says that if the E.U. keeps refusing her ideas, it needs to come up with some of its own.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: As I told E.U. leaders, neither side should demand the unacceptable of the other. We cannot accept anything that threatens the integrity of our union, just as they cannot accept anything that threatens the integrity of theirs. We cannot accept anything that does not respect the result of the

referendum, just as they cannot accept anything that is not in the interests of their citizens. Throughout this process, I have treated the E.U. with nothing but respect. The U.K. expects the same. A good relationship at the end of this process depends on it.


HOWELL: Let's cross live to CNN's London bureau, Anna Stewart is on the story.

The prime minister speaking there at Number 10 following a rough time there in Austria. Some say that she showed backbone, she saved face domestically.

But given this impasse and the E.U. with so much leverage here, where do things go?

ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As you said, it's been a difficult few days for Theresa May and potentially could get worse. On Monday "The Telegraph" newspaper here is reporting a cabinet meeting could potentially be a big showdown for the prime minister, potentially with some ministers even resigning.

And that is because eurosceptic ministers would like her to come up with an alternative to her Chequers deal, which was rejected, of course, by the E.U. And what we had yesterday was her having a very strong stance and saying actually it was up to the E.U. to come up with a compromise. Effectively lobbing the ball back into their court.

So having said that and having before the summit saying it was her deal or no deal, it would be quite difficult for her to climb down at this stage politically. But she does face potentially a rebellion from within the cabinet and she really can't afford to lose any more ministers.

HOWELL: Her deal or no deal, I want to key in on that. Theresa May has made it clear there is no reconsidering Brexit. At least that is under her leadership. But given how divided the U.K. is on this issue, many people still ask, is there is a sense there could be a leadership challenge?

And could there be reconsideration about Brexit, especially with the deadline to reach a deal next year looming?

STEWART: There was a lot of hope before the summit and I'd say more positivity but I think speculation is back to, will there be any leadership challenge in the weeks to come?

If ministers do resign on Monday and the cabinet meeting ends with that, that will fuel more speculation towards this. What is needed for that to happen, of course, is 48 Tory MPs to trigger a vote.

We think they probably already have that. There has already been a meeting of some 50 MPs to talk about her leadership. But it would take 158 Tory MPs to actually remove her from her position. She would, of course, fight it and they would need that many votes.

But we're not sure whether the numbers are there but it really will depend on what Theresa May says and does in the coming days to see whether that momentum will shift.

HOWELL: It is interesting to watch. The question is will we be talking about Brexit well beyond the deadline of next year?

We'll have to wait and see.

STEWART: George, I hope not.


HOWELL: We might. We might. Anna Stewart, thank you so much for your time and reporting.

ALLEN: The U.S. secretary of state has a stark warning for Iran. A proxy war is still a war and we will fight back. We'll have that story ahead.



BETO O'ROURKE (D), TEXAS, SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Only one of us has been to each county in Texas and would have an idea of what Texas values and interests are.

HOWELL (voice-over): Talking Texas values there in my home state. It was a testy debate between the two candidates for Senate. Very super tight race. We'll have the story.





HOWELL: The headlines we're following for you this hour.


ALLEN: And taking you live now to Lithuania, where Pope Francis is just arriving as you can see. This is his first stop on his four-day tour of the Baltics. He left Rome Saturday morning, he will also visit Latvia and Estonia.

The Vatican news agency says that the pope is encouraging people in the Baltics to work to build a better society. CNN Vatican correspondent Delia Gallagher is traveling with the pope and she joins us by phone.

Hi, there, Delia. It's been many years since the pope traveled to the Baltics.

Why now?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Natalie. It has been 25 years since John Paul II first came here. He came here in 1993, just when these three Baltic countries were gaining their independence, shortly after their independence from the former Soviet Union.

It was a different time and a different pope, of course. And Francis is coming on the day that celebrates the 100th anniversary of their independence from the Soviet Union. There is a kind of political undertone to this trip, essentially a religion one but certainly for these three former Soviet countries, also suffered under the Nazi regime, to have the pope --


GALLAGHER: -- here is a significant moment also in terms of politics.

Of course the Vatican is encouraging these countries now members of NATO and the European Union but at the same time is sensitive as well to Russia, particularly to the Russian Orthodox Church which the Vatican and the pope have always wanted to maintain good relationships with.

So one of the interesting things about this visit is that Lithuania is really the only Catholic country, about 80 percent of them are Catholic and Latvia is a majority Lutheran country.

And in Estonia, 67 percent, according to the Vatican, claim that they are nonbelievers. So this is a religious visit but Lithuania, this country, the pope is in right now, is the one that is really celebrating because they are the majority Catholic country here.

And one of the interesting things that the pope will be doing on Sunday is visiting some of the most significant monuments here in Vilnius, in the capital of Lithuania, to their totalitarian past, that is the monument in the Jewish ghetto where there was the Jewish genocide of Lithuanian Jews during World War II and a former KGB building where there are two cells down below, where Catholic priests and other members were interrogated, tortured and killed under the Soviet regime.

So there will be some poignant moments during this four-day trip.

ALLEN: And you will be covering it for us. Delia Gallagher there traveling with the pope.

HOWELL: The U.S. president is talking up his foreign policy achievements. One of them his hardline stance on Iran. The other, imposing tariffs on Chinese goods and Beijing is not taking the latest round of U.S. tariffs lightly.

ALLEN: "The Washington Post" reports they have canceled upcoming talks with U.S. officials. That is not fazing President Trump. He talked about it during a rally in the state of Missouri.


TRUMP: So we charged 25 percent on $50 billion worth of merchandise coming in about that an coming in. And they said we'll do the same thing. And I said that is OK, we have more bullets. We'll go $200 billion at 25 percent.


ALLEN: Mr. Trump isn't shy about his feelings for Iran, either. He has withdrawn the U.S. from the Obama-era deal to curb Iran's nuclear capabilities and has reimposed sanctions on Iranian oil exports.

HOWELL: On Friday Mr. Trump told the cheering crowd that those policies are working.


TRUMP: You know, when I took over and before I took over, everybody said Iran will take over the entire Middle East. Now Iran wants to survive. OK?

But you know what, frankly with the respect that we deserve.


HOWELL: (INAUDIBLE) set to chair the U.N. Security Council briefing on Iran this week. He's expected to criticize the country for sowing instability throughout the Middle East. CNN's Elise Labott spoke with the U.S. secretary of state about that instability.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: We have told the Islamic Republic of Iran that using a proxy force to attack American interests will not prevent us from responding against the prime actor.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A direct threat from the secretary of state against Iran, after a pair of rocket attacks hit U.S. facilities in Iraq, allegedly by Iranian- backed militias.

POMPEO: We will not let Iran get away with using a proxy force to attack an American interest. Iran will be held accountable for those incidents.

LABOTT (on camera): Even militarily?

POMPEO: They're going to be held accountable. If they're responsible for the arming and training of these militias, we are going to the source.

LABOTT (voice-over): Pompeo double-downed on his attacks against former Secretary of State John Kerry for meeting with Iranian officials and counseling them on a strategy after President Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal with Iran.

(on camera): Can you tell me, how is this jeopardizing your efforts right now?

POMPEO: No American and in particular, no former secretary of state, should be actively seeking to undermine the foreign policy of the United States of America. You know, frankly, this was Secretary Kerry's problem. He always refused to treat our enemies like enemies.

LABOTT (voice-over): Pompeo said he will begin negotiations on a nuclear deal with North Korea this week, but conceded the fate of any agreement hinges on the bond between President Trump and Kim Jong-un.

(on camera): Is the president allowing Kim Jong-un to set the pace and scope, knowing that he made these commitments and trust that he will make that decision ultimately?


POMPEO: We knew the pace would be uneven, but the progress each and every day was important. We think we're getting that.

Remember, the sanctions remain in place -- the world's sanctions, not America's sanctions. The U.N. Security Council resolutions demand that Chairman Kim make this decision to denuclearize and those sanctions and enforcement of the sanctions will continue until such time as that occurs.

LABOTT (voice-over): In his explosive book "Fear," Bob Woodward details measures the president's closest aides have taken to curb what they viewed as Trump's dangerous impulses on foreign policy.

LABOTT: The Woodward book describes a president who doesn't understand national security, a cabinet that is moving things around to save the country from the president's national security.

Have you seen that?

Do you do that?

POMPEO: I find it absolutely ludicrous that there is -- I'll be careful. There are not many members of the president's cabinet who have spent as much time with him as I have. I briefed him almost every day as CIA director. I see and talk to him every day now.

This is a president who is fully informed, well-briefed, listens and asks hard questions and is leading his foreign policy team towards solving so many problems that plague this world. I wish the previous administration had acted with such diligence and power, but it was left to us. We'll get it right.

LABOTT: And Iran will be a major focus next week at the United Nations with speeches by Secretary Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton on the threat posed by Iran.

And Pompeo will also meet with members of the Iranian opposition, August part of an administration wide effort to rally the world to counter Iran -- Elise Labott, CNN, Washington.


ALLEN: And we've been talking about the midterm elections for 10 years. And they are just a few weeks away. Political races are heating up in the Republican stronghold of Texas. The Senate race has become surprisingly competitive with incumbent Ted Cruz up against Democrat Beto O'Rourke.

HOWELL: The two faced off in a contentious debate. They highlighted their differences on several topics, including immigration, guns, standing for the national anthem and, of course, the U.S. president was an issue. Listen.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I've got a responsibility, which is to fight for every person here and every person in this state. And so I have worked hand-in-hand with the president on substance. And we have delivered remarkable victories.

O'ROURKE: If the president attacks you personally, your wife, your father, how you respond is your business. But when the president attacks our institutions, this country allows a foreign power to invade our democracy, that is our business. We need a U.S. senator who will stand up to this president.


HOWELL: And this was interesting. At the end of that debate, it was interesting to see that the moderators attempted to get the candidates to say something nice about one another. There were some hits and a back-handed compliment.


O'ROURKE: We may have differences of opinions on what our destination might be and how we'll get there. But I have no question that Senator Cruz wants to do the best for America and he does so at great sacrifice to his family and to his kids. And so I thank you for your public service.

CRUZ: I think that you are absolutely sincere, like Bernie, that you believe in expanding government and higher taxes. And I commend you for fighting for what you believe in. As you noted, we disagree on the outcome but you are fighting for the principles you believe in and I respect that.

O'ROURKE: True to form.


HOWELL: And that's the one, "True to form," right there at the end. What does that mean for voters who saw the difference between these candidates.

ALLEN: They were trying to make nice, weren't they? HOWELL: Still ahead, this video out of Canada, it is quite interesting to say the least. Look at this, these firefighters dealing with a tornado. Our Karen Maginnis is here to tell us more about this firenado. Stay with us.





ALLEN: At least 44 people have died in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. The storm may have passed through the Carolinas a week ago but an unheard of amount of water is still coming.

George, you were there and you saw it firsthand.

HOWELL: And it is so unfortunate, so many people, their homes flooded. You see the streets like this turned into rivers and freeways into waterways. In the state of South Carolina, authorities say 23 out of the 46 counties could be impacted by this flooding. Our Nick Valencia was there and filed this report.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The water here in Conway is slowly seeping back into the very same communities that were already hard hit after Hurricane Florence made landfall. In fact, the same community that President Trump visited earlier in the week here in Conway, well, it is under water again.

On Friday, when we spoke to officials, they said, at its height, at its peak, the water was rising at about 3 inches per hour. They said in one area they measured the water had gone up more than a foot.

What they are very concerned about here is the Waccamaw River, which has already broken a record set during Hurricane Matthew about two years ago at 17'9". The biggest concern here, according to the mayor, is a coal ash pond.

They brought in an inflatable dam to shore up that ash pond to make sure that none of the contaminants get into the water but they are expecting a very messy weekend here in Conway and in the coming days -- Nick Valencia, CNN, Conway, South Carolina.


HOWELL: And we did a story on a family there, that they basically drilled the door shut to keep the water out from coming in. And I've been in touch with them, it turns out that they rode the storm out ten went to sleep, woke up two hours later, the water was up to their knees. They had to leave. Their home flooded out. That is in North Carolina.

And in South Carolina, it is so bad.


KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And this in Canada. Now typically when you think about tornadoes, you think about the United States. We have the most tornadoes of any country in the world. Not the only country but definitely far exceeds other countries.

Well, take a look at this tornado activity in Ottawa, Canada. There are at least 15 people with reported injuries, lots of damage, lots of power outages, lots of destruction reported here. About four of those people are serious.

And then take a look at this video out of British Columbia in the Vanderhoof (ph) region. They were battling a fire here. The fire swept up, a fire tornado swept up the firefighter's hose and melted it. It was stunning to see this.

No firefighters were injured but you nonetheless you can see how powerful Mother Nature can be. We'll be back right after this.





ALLEN: A colossal and unusual work of art is drawing global attention and not just for its size.

HOWELL: It is because the artist aims to send a message of hope to migrants, people willing to risk their lives for a chance at something better in Europe. Our Amara Walker has this report.


AMARA WALKER, CNN HOST (voice-over): A creation in grass symbolizing generations to come. A child serves to remind the world of a migrant crisis across Europe.

SAYPE, ARTIST (through translator): It represents a little girl who throws an origami boat as a message of hope. The girl is called Future, just in representation of the generations who arrive.

WALKER (voice-over): French artist Saype airbrushed the giant work of art with biodegradable paints on the bank of Lake Geneva, covering 5,000 square meters, it supports the cause of SOS Mediterranee, an organization specializing in the rescue of migrants at sea.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It is precisely because it was poetic that we decided to commit to this project rather than putting much more violent things that tend to distance people a bit. This makes the situation more approachable, to evoke the reality of migration in the Mediterranean at the moment. WALKER (voice-over): And that reality is grim. A U.N. Refugee Agency report estimates that, just this year, more than 1,600 people have died or gone missing trying to reach Europe. Saype hopes this image of a little girl launching a boat into water humanizes the migrants making the journey.

SAYPE (through translator): This piece also says that migration is not just numbers and statistics. Behind it there are faces, human beings, men, women and children.

WALKER (voice-over): Future is one of the artist's many land frescoes. Elsewhere in Switzerland and France, he has dotted countrysides with large scale masterpieces, all of them best viewed from above -- Amara Walker, CNN.


ALLEN: That is creative.

HOWELL: Beautiful.

ALLEN: Our top stories are just ahead. Thanks for watching this hour. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. Another hour of news after the break.