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President Trump Slams Articles from The New York Times and Washington Post About his Dealings with Russia; U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Met in Saudi Arabia; Theresa May Last Ditch Please for Brexit Vote; Lion Air Flight 610 Black box found; CNN Poll shows President Trump to Blame for Shutdown. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired January 14, 2019 - 03:00   ET



GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Two explosive reports suggesting closer ties between the U.S. president and Russia, but Mr. Trump says even raising such a question is down right insulting. We'll look into it.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: And Saudi Arabia hosts the top U.S. diplomat as the kingdom continues to face outrage over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

HOWELL: Plus, her biggest battle yet, Theresa May facing a make or break vote on her Brexit plan as she plans to make one more speech to win over opponents.

We are live at CNN world headquarters in Atlanta and we want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell.

CHURCH: And I'm Rosemary Church from the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. "CNN Newsroom" starts right now.

The U.S. president, Donald Trump, and the Republicans are on the defensive after two bombshell articles came out over the weekend.

HOWELL: Mr. Trump slammed the "New York Times" after it reported that the FBI was so concerned about the president's actions after the firing of the former FBI director, James Comey, that it began investigating whether Mr. Trump was working on behalf of Russia.

CHURCH: A later "Washington Post" article reports that he concealed the details of his meetings with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

HOWELL: These reports certainly raising a lot of questions. Our Boris Sanchez has reaction from the White House.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The White House is dismissing reports of both the "New York Times" and the "Washington Post" this week with Press Secretary Sarah Sanders putting out two statements that were eerily similar.

In both of them, the press secretary dismisses the details of the reports and one of them suggesting that the report is absurd and the other making the case that the liberal media is out to get President Trump. In both statements, she actually compares President Trump to former President Obama, saying that Trump has been tougher on Russia than Obama has.

We know, at least publicly, that's not the case. Let's not forget that President Obama publicly confronted Vladimir Putin over the issue of Russian election meddling, pressing the Russian leader in 2016. President Trump simply has not done that.

The president during that press conference in Helsinki failed to really press the Russian leader. Further, President Trump was asked about these two reports on Fox News over the weekend. He called them insulting. Listen to this.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's the most insulting thing I've ever been asked. I think it's the most insulting article I've ever had written. And if you read the article, you'd see that they found absolutely nothing.

SANCHEZ: Though new CNN polling shows that a majority of Americans blamed President Trump for the partial government shutdown, the president went on Twitter this weekend and attacked Democrats over the shutdown yet again, suggesting they should return to Washington to try to hammer out a deal as he waits for them in the White House.

Meantime, we're hearing that there is tension during these back and forth negotiations to reopen the federal government, not just between Democrats and Republicans but also between President Trump and his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney.

A White House source confirming an Axios (ph) report that the president not only cut off his chief of staff but also cussed at him while Mulvaney was trying to negotiate with Democrats over the $1.3 billion that they offered to the White House for border security funding. We're told the president said, quote, "Stop, stop, just stop. What are you doing? You're effing it all up, Mick."

According to the source, there was no reaction from anyone else in the room. And apparently, we're hearing that Democrats are giving the acting chief of staff an earful as well, suggesting he wants the government shutdown and wants it to keep moving forward.

Boris Sanchez, CNN, at the White House.


HOWELL: Let's talk more about all of this with Steven Erlanger -- Steven, the chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe with the "New York Times," joining live this hour from Brussels, Belgium. A pleasure always to have you in the show, Steve.


HOWELL: Let's start with these reports. These bombshell reports from your newspaper and from the "Washington Post," both cast questions over the president's loyalty and actions with regards to Russia.

He's been criticized for being too friendly with this long time adversary, but President Trump would say he is the toughest of any president on Russia. Do these reports hurt the president or do they come off, as he might describe them, as paranoid or even overreach?

ERLANGER: Well, I do think they hurt the president. I mean, we've always wondered about his bromance with Vladimir Putin. This has been true ever since he became president, even before he became president. He has praised for Vladimir Putin. He trashes everybody else pretty much, right?

But the question has always been, before he became president, did his company -- was it saved by Russian money? Did it engage in money laundering for Russians, many of whom bought apartments, at least 86 apartments in Trump companies for cash?

[03:05:05] So, there's always been this question somehow of whether the Russians have a hold on him. But I think he admires Putin as well as a tough guy.

Now, the reports are Trump trying to keep his dealings with Putin away from others in the American government, but that's a separate issue, very troubling. Though in the meeting, the Post said he took away the notes from the interpreter in Hamburg (ph). Then secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, was also in the room.

So, my guess is, you know, there might have been private aspect to the talk, but Trump was not alone with Putin in that meeting, though he was in Helsinki. And the U.S. government still has no idea what the conversation was like between Putin and Trump in Helsinki, which many people think is scandalous and problematic.

HOWELL: There are different ways of looking at this. Some who see it as concerning, alarming. Others who say, look, the context matters here. This is a president who's very concerned about leaks. In fairness, not the only president to keep close guard around details with sensitive discussions. Is it possible this could be more about protecting against leaks than it could be about allegedly concealing information?

ERLANGER: Of course. Absolutely right. But I mean we haven't heard such reports about Trump's meetings of anybody else. That's the problem. It's all about work -- about worrying about leaks, why isn't he worried about leaks with everybody?

Now, when Trump says that he's been stronger on Russia than Obama, personally, that's certainly not true in public statements. But the fact is that under Mr. Trump, American troops have moved back into Europe. There's been more money spent for NATO.

In that sense, Mr. Trump is correct that he has invested more and spent more American money in a confrontation, if you like, through the NATO alliance against Russia. That's true. He didn't necessarily like it. It's something Mattis did, but he certainly went along with it.

HOWELL: Steven Erlanger with perspective and context live for us in Brussels, Belgium. Thank you, Steven.

ERLANGER: Thank you, George.

HOWELL: We're watching Riyadh waiting for a meeting between the top U.S. diplomat there and the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, as we were talking about, he is in the region to show (ph) up support for U.S. policies. He will likely focus on Iran and Syria, but he's been dogged by questions about the murder of journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

CHURCH: He has vowed to raise the issue with Saudi officials and says U.S. policy has been consistent. Now, that is despite the White House questioning intelligence reports, saying the crown prince was behind the killing.

HOWELL: And the other major item on the secretary of state's plate, the agenda that he will have, the war in Syria. He's reassuring allies in the region that the U.S. withdrawal will not create more chaos, for now. Some equipment is leaving Syria, but the 2,000 or so military personnel there will remain.

CHURCH: well, speaking of the withdrawal, President Trump tweeted about it Sunday along with this message for Turkey. "Don't attack the Kurds." Mr. Trump says the U.S. will devastate Turkey economically if it doesn't comply.

HOWELL: Keeping in mind, Turkey considers some Kurdish groups to be terrorists. The president adds the U.S. doesn't want the Kurds to provoke Turkey either. Turkey's presidential spokesperson had a warning of its own, "Don't equate Syrian Kurds with Kurdish militants."

CHURCH: All right. Let's get the latest now from the region. CNN's Ben Wedeman is following this story -- all of these stories from Cairo, Egypt. He joins us now live. Good to see you, Ben.

So, how likely is it that U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, there in the region, trying to clear up all the mixed messages from the Trump administration when it comes to U.S. foreign policy in the region, is he going to be able to do this?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It would be very difficult when you consider that one single tweet can sort of turn the table upside down. This tweet from President Trump threatening to devastate Turkey, a NATO ally, economically certainly isn't what one would describe as diplomatic.

And really that has been the problem going back quite some time. On the 19th of December, seemingly out of the blue, he tweeted that the United States is pulling out its forces out of Syria now. And since then, really, the entire sort of Middle East policy of the United States has been foggy, to say the least.

[03:10:00] So, he's -- we know that Secretary Pompeo is in Saudi Arabia today. Saudi Arabia, obviously, one of the biggest supporters of the United States in the Middle East when it comes to its policies regarding Iran, that has been one of the cornerstones of Secretary Pompeo's visit throughout the region.

But we did learn yesterday that National Security Advisor, John Bolton, appears to be pushing for some sort of military confrontation with Iran and it might not be the case that all of the American allies in the Middle East are so eager for a confrontation with a country of 80 million people, a large military, significant oil reserves and generally more capabilities than most other countries in the Middle East.

So, I think when Secretary Pompeo finally winds up his trip to the region with a visit to Oman, he will be leaving a region probably more confused than it was when his visit began.

CHURCH: Yes. Perhaps you're right. As you mentioned, of course, U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, in Saudi Arabia right now and we're hearing that he will press Saudi officials on the issue of the murder of journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. But of course, say given the very strong US-Saudi relationship, is this more about looking like he's doing the right thing while really maintaining very normal relations with Saudi Arabia?

WEDEMAN: Rosemary, I think we can go back to the 16th of October when Secretary Pompeo met Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince, and the man the CIA believes probably did issue the order to murder and dismember Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate on the 2nd of October.

That image of their meeting gave you a good idea of the importance the United States government holds when it comes to the murder of a U.S. resident, Mr. Khashoggi, by Saudi Arabia. It was all smiles and handshakes and I think we can probably expect the same.

The Trump administration has made it very clear from the beginning of the aftermath of Jamal Khashoggi's murder is that as far as Saudi Arabia is concerned, it's the money the Saudis pay the United States for the purchase of weapons and other goods that is far more important than the murder and dismemberment perhaps by a bone saw of this Saudi journalist. It just doesn't matter that much.

And I think we'll see -- we've already heard Secretary Pompeo saying that the United States expects Saudi Arabia to hold those responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. There is an ongoing trial in Saudi Arabia of 11 unnamed individuals. The prosecution is calling for the death sentence for five of them. Clearly, among those 11 is probably not crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.

CHURCH: We will continue to watch this story very closely. Ben Wedeman, joining us live from Cairo in Egypt, many thanks.

HOWELL: And important to point out, our teams, of course, following that meeting as it takes place. We'll bring the images to you live. Will there be handshaking and smiles or will there be a different set of optics. We'll have to see.


HOWELL: The U.K. now beginning a historic week with no idea of how this week will end. Britain's prime minister scrambling to save her Brexit deal as the clock ticks down on this critical vote come Tuesday. In just a few hours time, lawmakers will start debating that vote in parliament.

CHURCH: Theresa May will make a last ditch attempt to convince them that rejecting her plan would be catastrophic for the United Kingdom. She will say all this in a speech to a group of factory workers in a pro Brexit city on Monday.

HOWELL: CNN's Hadas Gold is outside number 10 in London. Good to have you with us, Hadas. So, despite the prime minister's attempts to gain more support for this deal that remains resoundingly unpopular among MPs, what are the implications if parliament, as expected, fails to approve this plan?

HADAS GOLD, CNN REPORTER: Good morning. That's right. We have just over 24 hours before that vote is to take place in parliament on Tuesday night on the withdrawal agreement that Theresa May negotiated with the European Union.

Now, as you know, it doesn't look as though the numbers are in Theresa May's favor. We've seen reports anywhere that she might lose by 100 to 200 votes. It's more of a question by how much she will lose, not if she will lose.

Now, what happens if she loses is a few things. First, she has to come back within three days with a new deal or with a new option to the members of parliament because of a recent amendment that was actually passed that sped up that process.

[03:15:03] But at the same time, we're going to see a lot of things happening in the background, including likely a no confidence vote tabled by the opposition led by the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn. And what they're trying to do is cause a general election and kick Theresa May out of power so that they can then negotiate a different Brexit deal.

There is also talk about other sorts of votes, other -- even possibly a second referendum. Those seem less likely now. But what Theresa May is doing today and tomorrow is she's trying to convince enough members of parliament to get onto her side. She'll be speaking at a factory on Stoke on Trent, which is a very heavily probed Brexit area.

And part of what she's going to say is that if members don't vote for her deal, they risk Brexit not happening at all. And she says that would cause people to question the foundation of British democracy because in 2016 they voted for Brexit and that's what she's trying to deliver. She's going to say in part -- and I'll quote here, "What if we found ourselves in a situation where parliament tried to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union in opposition to a remain vote? People's faith in the democratic process and their politicians would suffer catastrophic harm. We all have a duty to implement the result of the referendum."

Now, what she is saying here, why she is saying there could be no Brexit is because of all those options I laid out in terms of, for example, a no confidence vote or a general election, those will take time and we only have 75 days until that Brexit day of March 29th and it's unlikely something like an election could be wrapped up by then.

HOWELL: Hadas, I want to show our viewers the clock that we're keeping track of exactly how many time remains before the --

GOLD: Yeah.

HOWELL: -- when it comes the U.K. leaves the E.U., 74 days, 14 hours, 40 minutes, 23 seconds -- 22 seconds. Is there a way for Theresa May to extend the clock here? So, if indeed this fails, is she able to go back to Brussels? Can she extend, try to ask for an extension to Article 50? And would E.U. members even go for something like that?

GOLD: And that's the big question. Because it's not just the U.K. who gets to say, hold on, guys, we need a little bit more time, it's up to the rest of the European Union as well to agree to that. This has already been a very long extended process.

And as the leaders of the European Union like to say, we're not the ones who wanted this divorce. It's the U.K. who initiated it. So, it's not clear that they will play along. Now, we have seen reports that European leaders are trying to help Theresa May, issuing some letters to support her Brexit deal, but it's not clear if any of that is going to work and we're definitely heading into uncharted territory.

HOWELL: One thing that is clear though from the E.U. their message, it is a good deal they say. It is the only deal, they've said. That's the only deal that they want to put forth.

Hadas Gold, live for us outside Number 10. Thank you for the reporting.

GOLD: Thanks guys.

CHURCH: And we'll take a short break here. There's no break in the shutdown stalemate. Ahead, U.S. lawmakers look for ways to reopen the government even if the border debate isn't over. Back in a moment.


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. More than two months after the crash of Lion Air Flight 610 off Indonesia, authorities now have a critical piece of the puzzle. The flight's cockpit voice recorder, divers found it buried under 8 meters or 26 feet of mud on the bottom of the Java Sea. HOWELL: Investigators are hoping that the audio of the pilots' conversations is still intact. They already have the data recorder which shows the pilots fought to override a safety system that kept pulling the plane's nose down. All 189 people on that flight were killed.

CHURCH: As Americans struggle with the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, it seems a majority are putting the blame for the impasse squarely on President Trump.

HOWELL: A new CNN poll shows 55 percent of the -- say the president bears more responsibility for the shutdown, 32 percent blamed Democrats in Congress. And the president's disapproval rating has climbed five points since last month, now up to 57 percent.

CHURCH: And with no sign of a break in the stalemate, the possibility remains that President Trump could declare a national emergency to use military funds to build his wall.

HOWELL: But Republican senators are still looking for alternatives to end this impasse. Listen.


SEN. LINDSEY INGRAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Before he pulls the plug on the legislative option, and I think we're almost there, I would urge him to open up the government for a short period of time, like three weeks, before he pulls the plug, see if we can get a deal. If we can't at the end of three weeks, all bets are off. See if he can do it by himself through the emergency powers. That's my recommendation. But I think the legislative path is just about shut off.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Beyond that, assuming that the shutdown still continues, would you support President Trump, yes or no, declaring a national emergency?

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: I would hate to see it. Using that act would be -- in this instance would be a far larger act than has ever occurred in the past. So, I'd prefer not, primarily because if we do that, it's going to go to court and the wall won't get built.

So, I actually want to see this wall get built. And so, I want to keep pressure on Democrats to actually come to the negotiating table in good faith and fund what they have supported in the past.


CHURCH: Well, there are mixed opinions in border communities about whether there is an immigration crisis and what should be done about security.

Polo Sandoval visited the Rio Grande Valley to get a sense of how people feel there.


DIANA SANTANA, SOUTH TEXAS RESIDENT: We like to come out and relax, just see if we can have some fish.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 1,700 miles from the D.C. gridlock --

SANTANA: That's as far as I can get it.

SANDOVAL: -- the South Texas resident, Diana Santana, casts her line (ph) into the river that divides the U.S. and Mexico. This stretch of the Rio Grande is protected in part by agents assigned to the busiest sector in the country. Since the start of partial shutdown, a new challenge for the region's 3,100 agents fill roles left vacant by 2000 furloughed employees, answering phones, processing paperwork, even helping care for detainees. Some agents have had to leave the front line to perform administrative tasks.

[03:25:01] RAUL ORTIZ, ACTING CHIEF OF CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION: We have had to pull (ph) some agents off the line. We do have agents that are certainly engaged in our humanitarian mission, which is processing and some of the other things that we have to do.

Fortunately, we do have I think sufficient amount of personnel out in the field. Like I said, we were able to bring in 75 officers from the northern border from some of the other sectors to help us out.

SANDOVAL: Acting Chief Raul Ortiz met personally with President Trump during Thursday's border visit. From one chief to another, Ortiz told the president he supports the building of additional segments of border barrier.

ORTIZ: I do think that it is an emergency. I do think we need to put the energy and the focus on what's happening here so we can improve the border security situation.

SANDOVAL: Back on the banks of the Rio Grande, Santana and her husband say they feel at ease.

SANTANA: We feel safe. I don't think there's any danger. You might see it in the news sometimes, you know, they caught people or people are crossing, but we've never seen that. I have never seen that.

SANDOVAL: Santana has lived here all her life and says she doesn't agree with the picture of a crisis painted by the president. She feels border fencing already in place throughout portions of the Rio Grande Valley is sufficient to protect against human and drug smugglers.

SANTANA: Crisis is something big or major, but I don't see that here.

SANDOVAL: Santana does agree the partial shutdown has gone long enough for federal employees here and across the country.

ORTIZ: I wish I had a crystal ball, be able to tell somebody that, yeah, this is going to be solved tomorrow.

SANDOVAL: Ortiz says he will continue to reshape and reorganize personnel until the impasse comes to an end. The fun stopped (ph), but the flow of drugs and people remains constant. Polo Sandoval, CNN, McAllen.


HOWELL: Polo, thank you. Still ahead here on "CNN Newsroom," an indictment on corruption charges. Ahead the president of Japan's Olympic Committee denies the allegations. What's ahead for Tokyo 2020? We'll have that story for you. Stay with us.


HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN Newsroom live from the ATL. I'm George Howell.

CHURCH: And I'm Rosemary Church. Let's check the headlines for you this hour.

HOWELL: Divers recovered the cockpit voice recorder from the Lion Air flight that crashed off Indonesia in October. Investigators hope that it will reveal what the pilots were saying before that crash, that crash killing all 189 people who were on board. The flight data recorder was already found back on November 1st. It showed the pilots fought to override a safety system, the system that kept pulling the plane's nose downward.

CHURCH: The U.S. and Latin American governments are condemning the arrest of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido. Intelligence agents stopped his car and briefly detained him Sunday after he said he was prepared to temporarily replace current president, Nicolas Maduro. A Venezuelan official says the agents acted on their own. The opposition calls it a kidnapping.

HOWELL: U.S. president and his fellow Republicans, they are on the offensive against the latest article from The Washington Post, the paper reporting that the U.S. president went to extraordinary lengths to conceal details from his private meetings with the Russian president. But one Republican senator, Ron Johnson, says Mr. Trump's action, not his words, showed that he has been tough on Russia.

CHURCH: Let's get more on all of this with former CIA operative and CNN intelligence and security analyst Bob Baer, and CNN U.S. security analyst Shawn Turner who is a former director of communication for U.S. National Intelligence. Thanks to both of you for joining us.


CHURCH: Bob Baer, I do want to start with you. First, of course, the New York Times reported reported that the FBI was so concerned about the U.S. president's behaviour that it began investigating whether he was secretly working on Russia's behalf.

Then Washington Post writes that Mr. Trump allegedly went to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his five face-to-face meetings with the Russia's president, Vladimir Putin. What is your response to these two incredible reports?

ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Well, you're right, Rosemary, they are explosive. You have to look at Trump's history with the Russians which go back to 1986, connections with the KGB, money going into Trump's properties, Russian money and on and on and on. We know the whole story. But the fact the FBI opened an investigation is extraordinary.

CHURCH: Shawn Turner, why would there be no details from any of the five meetings, face-to-face meetings, between the U.S. and Russian president? How would that even be possible?

TURNER: Yeah, you know, it's extremely unusual and it's a very good question as to why there wouldn't be any details. If the reporting is correct on this and that the president took deliberate action to make sure that none of the details for those meetings came out, then that's particularly troubling.

There is a significant amount of intelligence value in understanding what happened in these conversations between President Trump and Vladimir Putin. For the first part, you know, it is the case that if we know what Vladimir Putin said to the president, then it gives U.S. intelligence community and the president for that matter an opportunity to understand whether or not what he says in private is consistent with what we know that he says and does based on our own intelligence collections effort.

That would give the president an opportunity to at least know whether or not he could trust him. But especially what the president has done here and it is unfortunate, he has decided that he will trust Vladimir Putin without any verification. Anyone who knows anything about the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin knows that that is at best naive.

CHURCH: And Bob Baer, President Trump responded to reports in The New York Times and Washington Post when he went on Fox News, saying the suggestion that he had ever worked on behalf of Russia was the most insulting thing ever said about him and he wasn't hiding anything. I want you to just listen to a portion of that interview. Let's bring that up.


JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST: Why not release the conversation that you had with President Putin in Helsinki along with some other stuff that might involve adviser (ph) Bruce Orr and a whole lot of them?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, Jeanine, I would, I don't care. I mean, I had a conversation like every president does. You sit with the president of various countries. I do it with all countries. We had a great conversation and I'm not keeping anything under wraps, I couldn't care less. I mean, it's so ridiculous.


CHURCH: So, Bob, if Mr. Trump says he is not hiding anything, couldn't care less, then why not release the transcripts from his conversations with Mr Putin?

[03:35:00] Will any effort now be made to force him to do that or could the translator perhaps be questioned about this? How likely is it that any of this is going to happen?

BAER: Well, I don't think it will. First of all, he took the translator's notes from the meeting in Hamburg which is unusual. I mean, you know, you have to go back to what Shawn said and this is a humiliation, the intelligence community and the State Department, for the president to trust an adversary like Putin but not his own employees, not the federal government.

I mean, whose side is he on? I find this all disturbing. And frankly, if I were in the government and he weren't president, he would not have a security clearance. You look at the totality. It is amazing that this goes on and on and on and there's no -- no on is coming up with -- you know, I can't wait until the Muller report comes out. That's really going to tell us.

But so far, what we've seen, it's damning, his relations with Russia. If he sits down with Putin and has a one-on-one conversation, hides the notes, he is hiding something, and we all have to be suspicious.

CHURCH: Shawn Turner, we just heard there. Bob doesn't think that we're going to see any of this, we won't see the notes from the translator, there won't be a push to get more information on this. What do you think should be made or what sort of revolution should be made here, what push should be made to actually get some of these details from these five face-to-face meetings between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin?

TURNER: Well, you know, Rosemary, I think that it is certainly the case that what the president just said with regard to not caring and being fine with the information for these meetings -- from these meetings coming out, he is going to get the opportunity to prove whether or not he really believes that because I do think that members of Congress are certainly going to want to talk to that translator and certainly are going to want to push to get this information.

So, you know, I don't know that it will ever come out. I tend to agree with Bob on that that it is unlikely that it will. But I think the president also has to be concerned because there's an optics issue here. We think about what we have seen here. You have Vladimir Putin and you have a president of the United States sitting down together and because there's no one else there, you essentially have the president and Putin who have secrets with just each other, secrets that the intelligence community doesn't know, that his senior advisers don't know, and certainly the American people don't know.

And considering everything that has happened with regard to people and the president and his circle who have been found to be engaged with Russians, that is an absolutely startling revelation at this particular period in time.

I just think that for anyone out there who is looking at this objectively, at a minimum, we understand that the president has every right to meet one-on-one with the world leader, but certainly it is the case that considering everything that is going on, we don't want President Trump and Vladimir Putin having secret conversations that no one else knows about.

CHURCH: It is extraordinary. We have never seen that happen before. Bob Baer, thank you so much for joining us, and Shawn Turner, we appreciate the conversation.

TURNER: Thanks.

HOWELL: And now to the president of Japan's Olympic committee denying accusations of corruption in connection with Tokyo's successful bid to host the 2020 games.

CHURCH: French authorities have placed Tsunekazu Takeda under formal investigation over the bidding process. International Olympic Committee said its ethics committee has opened a file on the case. Takeda said he would cooperate with the investigation.

Now, Will Ripley joins us now live from Tokyo with the very latest. So Will, what's the background to this, what level of corruption are we talking about, and of course how strong is the evidence against him?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's what we just don't know right now, Rosemary, because this formal investigation was just announced by the French financial crimes prosecutor last month. They have been doing this really wide ranging investigation into sports corruption for a couple of years now. One of the things that they're looking at is the bidding process for the Olympic games, including the 2020 summer Olympics.

And so there's this $2 million-payment that French prosecutors have flagged as suspicious there. They are now investigating Japan's Olympic chief. But it's the timing that has a lot of people on the ground here in Tokyo very suspicious given the fact that the investigation was announced just a matter of weeks after a French businessman, very high profile, was arrested and remains in custody here. Of course, I'm talking about Carlos Ghosn. Let's take a look.




RIPLEY (voice over): Tokyo's winning bid for the 2020 Olympics came just when Japan really needed a win. Still reeling from 2011 earthquakes, tsunami and nuclear meltdown, Tokyo 2020 symbolizes a new beginning. But that new beginning could be tarnished by accusations of financial crimes, on top of concerns over the bloated multibillion- dollar budget.


RIPLEY (voice over): Paris prosecutors are investigating the head of Japan's Olympic committee, Tsunekazu Takeda, scrutinizing his role in the bidding process amid reports of a suspicious $2 million-dollar payment made right around the time Tokyo beat out Istanbul in Madrid.

[03:40:08] Takeda, a former Olympian, remains on the job. He denies any wrongdoing. In a statement, he says the payment to a Singapore company was fair compensation based on a consultant agreement, insisting there was no improper action that can be recognized as bribery.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told reporters Friday she's bewildered by the Paris probe. The International Olympic Committee tells CNN Takeda is presumed innocent until French authorities prove otherwise.

(on camera): The timing of all of this has some people here in Japan suspicious, wondering if another high profile case, a case right here in Tokyo, may be motivating French authorities.

(voice over): Nissan's ex-chairman, Carlos Ghosn, the auto kingpin who is arguably the most famous businessman in France, is facing a growing list of financial misconduct charges in Japan. French investigators began their formal investigation of Takeda within weeks of Ghosn's arrest.

It is so similar to Ghosn's case, says Yukihiro Taneshita (ph). It's like China and Canada, something similar seems to be going on between Japan and France.

The timing of these allegations is so sudden, says Noniko Hamtama (ph). I just wonder why now.

It is a common question in Tokyo these days and just the latest embarrassment for Olympic organizers.

The original logo accused of plagiarism replaced the first stadium design, declared too extravagant, scrapped. And now, the Olympics chief himself under formal investigation. With just 18 months until Tokyo 2020, many are wondering what's next.


RIPLEY: Japan is spending an incredible amount of money to host these Olympics. The budget could be up to three times the original pitch. We're talking about $20 billion. So the fact that this $2 million- dollar payment and potential charges against, perhaps, the most important figure at the center of the entire event bringing it to Tokyo, it is incredibly frustrating and upsetting for a lot of people here in Tokyo who very much would like to see all of this be resolved in a favorable way, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes. We will watch it too to see what sort of impact this has. Will Ripley joining us live from Tokyo, many thanks to you.

We will take a short break. Still to come, beauty is big business in South Korea. Why more and more women are choosing to say no to makeup and why that is such a culture game changer. We will have the details.


CHURCH: Just in to CNN, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has met with both Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman in Riyadh. Now, we don't know what they discussed exactly, but Pompeo has vowed to press the Saudis on the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He says he wants those responsible hold accountable, but many U.S. lawmakers and intelligence officials say the Saudi crown prince ordered that killing.

They are also talking about those mixed messages coming out of the Trump administration when it comes to Syria particularly and Iran, so he is there to clear some of those mixed messages and to get some support from the region for U.S. foreign policy.

HOWELL: South Korea has one of the -- the beauty industry is one of the richest and most popular in the world.

CHURCH: Yeah, but many women feel suffocated by pressure to look a certain way. And now, there is a new movement to take back the culture, one bare face at a time. CNN's Alex Field reports.


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In South Korea, she is known as Baylina (ph), a YouTube star, part of the generation of beauty bloggers gaining eye-popping followings, showing other women tips and tricks. This is just part of the two-hour makeup routine she turned to every time she left the house.

But her real name is Bae Eun-jeong and showing her bare face grabbed more attention than any video she posted before. The title is "I'm Not Pretty." She unmasks herself. She reveals her personal pain, and she shares just some of the hate-filled messages she regularly receives.

The viral video has made her face one of the most visible in a growing campaign called "Escape the Corset."


FIELD: A movement that has seen women in South Korea smashing their makeup and posting the evidence. Images like these take aim at South Korea's big bucks beauty industry. The pressure to look perfect making elaborate makeup regimes fashion. But "Escape the Corset" is more than skin deep.


FIELD: These women are part of a feminist club at their university. Like other escaping the corset, they chopped off their hair.



FIELD: The movement stems from a mounting feminist backlash against harassment and assault.


FIELD: Activists say escaping the corset now is about bringing feminism into women's daily lives.



FIELD: Bae says she has gained time and money from quitting her makeup routine. She is spending it learning new languages, studying feminism and pursuing a future in acting. For now, she is starring as herself.

Alexandra Field, CNN.


HOWELL: As a big drama over Brexit plays out in British parliament, one theater group is putting their own spin on it. We will show you after this.


HOWELL: One could say the issue of Brexit has played out like a Shakespearean play.

CHURCH: And one theater group is taking its version of the Brexit battle to the stage. Nick Glass has that report.


NICK GLASS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A weekend off for the politicians in Westminster, well, at least a brief pause in the Brexit debate. But elsewhere, no rest for the wicked. A hundred miles to the northeast, the eyeliner was being (INAUDIBLE). In the great cathedral city of Norwich (ph), it was most definitely showtime.


GLASS: Jonny Woo, London drag queen and (INAUDIBLE) superstar, well he says he is, have been devising this show for some months. He started out with just a song or two. Now, it is a full-length Brexit cabaret.

JONNY WOO, ACTOR: For some (INAUDIBLE) is a mess. For me, it is the reason to wear this E.U. dress.


WOO: We're trying to tell a story that is a shared story. It is something we share, regardless of the conflict. We all are part of it.

GLASS: The composer, Richard Thomas, best known for "Jerry Springer: The Opera," wrote the music. (MUSIC PLAYING)

RICHARD THOMAS, COMPOSER: What I think it is for me, it is musical celebration of a terrible mistake.


[03:55:00] GLASS: This time, perhaps more than ever, politicians seem fair game for lampooning (ph).


GLASS: Richard Thomas has been absolutely gripped by the Westminster drama.

THOMAS: I used to speak about (INAUDIBLE) order. Order, all those points of order,and just taking on the chin. Boom, boom, boom.

GLASS: The predictable show stopper on the night was an impersonation of the prime minister.


GLASS: How would you like the reality to end?

WOO: That we were back in time and it never happened. But that's not going to happen.

GLASS: What will you be doing on Tuesday?

THOMAS: Oh, I'm going to be absolutely grip to the TV. I want to see it all out. I mean, it's going to be incredible.


THOMAS: It's the best show in town.


GLASS: Until then, we will have to make do with this witty distraction from dramas ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is more than Brexit.


GLASS: Nick Glass, CNN, the Norwich Playhouse.



CHURCH: Will leave you smiling. Thanks for your company this hour. I'm Rosemary Church.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. For our viewers in the United States, Early Start is next. For our viewers around the world, our colleague Max Foster kicks it off next live from London. You're watching CNN, the world's news leader.