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Cyclone Fani; Attorney General William Barr A No Show in Congressional Hearing; Venezuela's Crisis; Source: One Family Paid $6.5M to Man in College Admissions Scandal. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired May 3, 2019 - 00:00   ET


[00:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Ahead this hour, 200 million people right now in the path of a monster storm. The most powerful India has seen in two decades. We're live with the very latest as Cyclone Fani approaches landfall.

Plus, the attorney general is a no show in Congress so Democrats played chicken, turning a Capitol Hill hearing into a political clown show.

And revealed the family which paid out the most in the U.S. college entrance scam. Six and a half million dollars to get into Stanford, the family from China thought it was a legitimate turn action.

A monster storm just moments from barrelling into the East Coast of India bringing powerful winds and torrential rain. Tropical Cyclone Fani has been closing in with winds of 240 kilometers an hour, gusts up to 305 kilometers per hour, which would make it the strongest cyclone to hit there in 20 years.

The other bands of Fani are already being felt. Coastal waters have been churning and residential areas hit by heavy rain. Hundreds of thousands of people have already headed for safety, evacuated by bus, boat, or train.

For details on the relief effort, we're joined now by Kirti Mishra, the operations manager of Catholic Relief Services in the State of Odisha.

So Kirti, thank you very much for being with us. Can you describe what conditions are like right now where you are? What can you tell us about the strength of the wind and the rain? Is it saying to pick up? What have you seen?

KIRTI MISHRA, OPERATIONS MANAGER, CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES: Hello. I would like to begin with giving credit to the Indian government for its preparedness to evacuate 1.1 million people from the affected areas to safer locations.

The people are in evacuation centers where government is providing food, water, and necessary supplies there. As of now, the weather is getting really bad. Landfall process has already begun with a wind speed of 180 kilometers gusting up to 200 kilometers per hour. As of now, the reports are coming this way. But it feels like the (INAUDIBLE) are above kilometer per hour in the area. Rains are heavy. We are getting reports from the field that trees have collapsed, roots are uprooted. Some of the walls of the buildings have collapsed.

And there is a report -- one death has also been reported by the local media. Yes, that's the update from the field.

VAUSE: The authorities are warning some districts will see, you know, almost total devastation. What are you and other aid workers expecting once this storm has passed? How bad do you think it will be?

MISHRA: Any storm in the past that we've seen has caused really very severe devastation. And with storms like Fani is expected to cause similar or more devastation, whatever part the cyclone is rushing through. Depending on the severity, people will need help. Their fishing boats, their nets, their crops, everything is going to be affected.

And we at CRS, Catholic Relief Services and our partners, are working on the ground with providing the necessary support to the government and the local authorities in the evacuation process. As soon as the cyclone passes through, we are ready with tarpaulins, with plastic sleeping mats and other items to support the affected population with the lifesaving needs.

VAUSE: And Kirti, we're probably not long now before the worst happens, before the most powerful part of the storm hits the area where you are and where hundreds of millions of other people, where they call home. But as this cyclone approaches, what's your biggest concern right now?

MISHRA: The biggest concern is what happens after the cyclone passes away from the state. With the evacuations, life safety has been ensured by the government. But when it passes through, there will be a lot of devastation in terms of impacting the livelihoods of the people, water and sanitation facilities on the ground.

There will be an impact on the health and sanitation issues on the ground. So we are concerned about the impact of the cyclone once it crosses the state.

VAISE: Kirti Mishra, operations manager for Catholic Relief Services, thank you for being with us. We thank you for the update and also we wish you well and to stay safe. Thank you.

MISHRA: Thank you.

[00:05:00] VAUSE: OK. Well, CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam joins us right now. We just heard over a million people evacuated, reports of at least one person already killed. That's from the Catholic Relief Services. So obviously we're trying to get that confirmed.

But this is incredible, the wind speed here. One expert was saying this is about the top wind speed you could get for this part of the world when it comes to storms.

DEREK VAN DAM, METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it really is. This is a triple threat. We've got the dangerous wind speeds. We have a storm surge. We have rainfall that will (INAUDIBLE). This has the potential to create catastrophic damage.

VAUSE: And a hurricane, the only almost category 5 (INAUDIBLE).

VAN DAM: Yes, 240-kilometer per hour sustained winds at the moment. This is the latest update from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

You're seeing some of the latest information on your T.V. screen right now. And lots to cover here including the threats I just mentioned. But one thing I do want to show you is that the eye of the storm has filled in, and that indicates to the meteorologists that some weakening has occurred.

That's maybe our saving grace here but nonetheless, I don't want to minimize the potential impacts from the storm because it will be severe. The potential for catastrophic damage does exist.

This is the latest radar coming from the Puri Region. This is the Odisha state and they are getting the worst of the storm as we speak.

We believe that landfall is occurring or has already occurred. The definition of a landfall, hurricane or typhoon or cyclone, is when half of the eyewall actually crosses land. We believe according to radar that is happening.

Nonetheless, we don't want to split hairs here with what's taking place. The Eastern Coastline of India is under its highest warning alert levels as we speak. Let's move into the Puri Region.

By the way, lots of densely populated areas, lots of rivers, deltas, estuaries flowing in and out, out of this region. You can see some beach there right along the coastline. So we're talking low-level villages and towns in the direct path of Cyclone Fani.

And then as we move a little further to the north and east near Bangladesh, look at the rivers from the delta streaming out of that area. Think about the water that's going to catch into that area. The Bay of Bengal almost acting as a catcher's mitt for instance. It's taking all of that accumulated energy, all of that wave motion and pushing it on that right-quadrant of the storm into that area catching literally the ocean. And where does it go? Water seeks to some level. That's why we have the potential for catastrophic storms surge across that region.

India Met Department calling for one-and-a-half meters. We believe at the CNN Weather Department comparing this to equivalent storms in the past, we could see three to four-meter storm surge from this particular system.

Tropical Cyclone Fani creating extremely extensive winds. By the way, we've only had nine category 3 or higher storms of this magnitude in the past 30 years. So this is a significant storm in the relative history of storms that have hit India. So that kind of puts it into perspective. But the next 12 hours are really going to be very difficult, specifically for Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and the West Bengals states.

VAUSE: OK. I guess the question is I mean that they had this big storm, 20 years ago, how much better prepared are they this time?

VAN DAM: Hopefully, they learned a lot of lessons from it because that was a catastrophic storm for them as well.

VAUSE: Ten thousand people I think killed last time. Hopefully, this time it will be a lot less.


VAUSE: But more now in his response, CNN's New Delhi Bureau Chief, Nikhil Kumar is with us.

Nikhil, India's prime minister tweeted earlier, "Chaired a high-level meeting to review the preparedness relating to Cyclone Fani. The Central Government is ready to provide all possible assistance that would be required. Prayers for the safety and well-being of our citizens."

As I just mentioned with Derek, the last time a cyclone this strong struck India, it left more than 10,000 people dead. How much better prepared are they this time? Because we just heard from the Catholic Relief agency, that organization that they've evacuated more than a million people I guess which is an encouraging sign.

NIKHIL KUMAR, NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF, CNN: That's right, John. You know, to your question, it's absolutely true that back in 1999, preparedness was nowhere near as good as it is right now. I'll point to another storm that took place in 2013 where the death toll was significantly lower. It wasn't this kind of storm but that's the point.

In 2005, middle of the last decade, India set the process of setting up a Specialized Disaster Management Agency. And in the years since, we've seen them on the ground both within the country and beyond.

I saw them at work during the Nepal earthquake. And they've developed a reputation for being really quite effective and moving quite fast.

Now, of course, I don't want to minimize the risk here and what might happen. But I think it is important to point out that the efforts that we've seen in the last few days, all of it flows from those preparations and those institutional changes made over the last decade and a half.

And India now has an agency whose only job is to do this, is to deal with national disasters, to evacuate people. They've evacuated, as you said, more than a million people. They've cleared thousands of villages. Train services, flight services have been suspended as the costs have geared up for this. And it is all, of course, because of something that our colleague [00:10:00] from CNN Weather pointed out, that this is a very, very vulnerable area. It's a very riverine area.

When we talk about the impact of climate change around the world, one of the geographical locations around the world that's always pinpointed as among the most vulnerable at risk is this low-lying area around the Bay of Bengal, very riverine, full of deltas, which makes it very vulnerable to a storm like this.

But institutionally, the changes that were made over the last decade and a half have meant in the past few days the authorities have moved pretty rapidly to evacuate more than a million people and just clear the Area. They want to get everybody out and then deal with the aftermath

once the storm is gone.

Because right now, the emphasis very much is on preserving life. After that, of course, once they've done that, hopefully, they will succeed in minimizing that as much as possible.

They're going to have to deal with the other fall out, the structural issues, the not very strong structures, for example, in the villages, huts, the fishing boats, which will no doubt be destroyed and there'll be a question of livelihood rehabilitation but that comes later.

Right now, the emphasis is on minimizing the threat to life. And to do that, they've just been moving people away from the coast as fast as possible. John.

VAUSE: Nikhil, thank you. We'll leave it there. But just the latest we have right now. Cyclone Fani has made landfall in Puri. The winds at landfall sustained 240 kilometers per hour, 100 kilometers per hour which is 150 miles per hour, making the storm equivalent to a super typhoon or category 4 hurricane.

As we've been saying, the strongest storm to hit India since 1999, and a story we'll continue to keep a very close eye on here at CNN.

In the meantime, we'll move on. The U.S. president says former White House Counsel Don McGahn should not testify before Congress because he says the Russia investigation is done.

In the Mueller report, McGahn says the president told him to have the special counsel fired and then lie about it. Democrats want to hear from McGahn directly.

Meantime, the counter issues surrounding the attorney general, William Barr, continues to grow. We get details now from CNN's Sara Murray.

SARA MURRAY, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the highest-ranking Democrat calling the nation's top law enforcement officer a liar.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The attorney general of the United States of America was not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States. That's a crime.


MURRAY: House Democrats now threatening to hold William Barr in contempt, ramping up pressure on the attorney general after he refused to appear before the House Judiciary Committee today. As Barr headed to work, Democrats seized on the empty witness chair creating their own made for T.V. spectacle.

Congressman Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat munched on a bucket of fried chicken during the hearing and flaunted a ceramic chicken to drive his point home.


REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): Chicken Barr should have shown up today and answered questions.


MURRAY: Barr skipping the hearing after Democrats demanded he face questions from staff lawyers in a 30-minute block, on top of the five- minute rounds of questions from lawmakers.


REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: He took our ability to hear from Bill Barr today.


MURRAY: As Republican slammed the performance of their Democratic colleagues.


COLLINS: Instead, we go back to a circus political stunt. To say we want it to look like an impeachment hearing because they won't bring impeachment proceedings. That's the reason.


MURRAY: House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler threatened contempt proceedings over not giving the committee an unredacted version of Mueller's report by yesterday's subpoena deadline.


REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: We will have no choice but to move quickly to hold the attorney general in contempt if he stalls or fails to negotiate in good faith.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MURRAY: But it's clear he plans to drag this out. Vowing first to fight for an unredacted version of the Mueller report and then try to negotiate with the Justice Department before holding Barr in contempt.

As for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, she's all in, accusing Barr of lying after he claimed in previous testimony to be unaware of whether the special counsel's team was frustrated with his four-page summary of their findings.


PELOSI: And you lied to Congress. If anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime. Nobody is above the law. Not the president of the United States and not the attorney general.


MURRAY: A Justice Department spokeswoman fired back saying the baseless attack on the attorney general is reckless, irresponsible, and false.

Now, Bill Barr has irritated Congress with how he's been handling the Mueller report. He's even irritated Special Counsel Robert Mueller. But as for President Trump, he says Bill Barr is doing a fantastic job and says he's an outstanding man. Sara Murray, CNN Washington.

VAUSE: Staying with U.S. politics now. And Linda Feldmann, Washington Bureau Chief of the Christian Science Monitor, joins us. Linda, welcome back. Good to see you.


VAUSE: OK. To the Democrats and many others, it's obvious Barr lied to Congress a number of times but there's a separate law which deals with lying under oath to Congress. It has very specific requirements. It's not just your gone and variety perjury.

So the question will be, if the attorney general lied, did it rise to the level where it could be prosecuted? And the answer to that might just explain [00:15:00] the reaction we had from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to this question. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should he go to jail for it?

PELOSI: There's a process involved here. And as I said, I'll say it again, and any questions you ask, the committee will act upon how we will proceed.


VAUSE: It's anything but definitive. I guess legally, Barr is in the clear. Politically, though, is it a different story? FELDMANN: Politically, it's -- that's a tricky question. So William Barr has gone through this interesting evolution in public thought. So when he first became attorney general, the thinking was that he was a serious man, he wasn't in Trump's pocket.

He was an establishment Republican. He was going to bring some kind of order and stability to the Justice Department and provide serious service as the attorney general. Well, it's quickly become clear that he really is in some ways Donald Trump's best friend because he is very vigorously defending the president.

And so in the view of Republicans, he's defending the presidency. And then it isn't about Donald Trump in particular but that William Barr has this very particular view of a strong presidency and how he as a member of the executive branch doesn't have to basically do what Congress wants him to do. So he's really testing his theory of the law.

VAUSE: And with that in mind, Democrats missed Jeff Sessions but they're also weighing their options rights now after Barr failed to hand over that unredacted version of the Mueller report.


VAUSE: Also refused to appear before a House Congressional Committee. The Democrats turned that into a made for television a moment. One lawmaker arrived eating a bucket of chicken. They had props as well, a plastic chicken. A message was non-too-subtle, Barr was too chicken to show up.

Just quickly, this time a stunt. It seems like a bad move for Democrats. To turn what should have been considered a major violation into a clown show.

And for the last couple of years, Pelosi, the House speaker, and others have been working to avoid being dragged down into the mud with Donald Trump, but being the grownups in the room. And this seemed to actually counteract that.

FELDMANN: Right, it did. I mean you're right. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have been sort of the serious server-minded leaders on Capitol Hill from the Democratic side of things. And Steve Cohen coming in with the bucket of chicken and the plastic chicken.

So it was really a made for T.V. moment. It was intended to illustrate his view of what Attorney General Barr was doing. So we're talking about it, so I guess it worked.

It wasn't a mature act, maybe not. But Washington has descended into a kind of circus mentality. And I think a lot of people here like our president are trying to figure out ways to get attention, and Cohen succeeded.

VAUSE: OK. Well, there is this bigger question of what they will do with Barr, and, you know, holding him in contempt is one option. But from a practical sense, it doesn't mean a whole lot. And after that, Democrats don't really have a lot of options for forcing Bill Barr to appear.


VAUSE: There is, however, the rarely used nuclear option of inherent contempt, which would see the sergeant at arms arrest the attorney general, bypass the courts, and lock him up. You know, would Speaker Pelosi actually go down that road?

FELDMANN: I honestly do not see it. That tactic has not been used since 1935. It would be dramatic.

I mean talk about a made for T.V. moment, it would be literally unbelievable. And I do not think we will see that.

I think the likelier scenario is that they take him to court knowing full well that the Trump administration can just run out the clock. We have an election in a year and a half, and we're going to get there before we get any kind of legal resolution on whether William Barr was allowed to do what he did, which is not hand over the document.

VAUSE: Yes. And for everyone or anyone who has paid the slightest bit of attention over the last two years, they all know that the president considers the Mueller inquiry as nothing less more than unprecedented harassment. And now, he has revealed how he managed to cope with it all. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People say how do you get through that whole stuff? How do you go through those witch hunts and everything else? And you know what we do? We just do it, right? And we think about God.


VAUSE: Think about God. The president was hosting the third national prayer breakfast. And because of him, [00:20:00] it's now safe to say Merry Christmas again. He also said because he's president, people are using the word God again.

I'm not a religious scholar but what, the Eighth or Ninth Commandment, depending on your religion, thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor. In other words, don't lie.


VAUSE: It seems that comes off in a lot when we talk about this president.

FELDMANN: Right. Right. So Donald Trump -- so the answer to the question of how he's coping obviously when he's speaking at a prayer event, it will turn to talk of God.

Donald Trump is not known as a religious man. He goes to church maybe on Easter. He has not lived a life without sin. He has had, you know, his issues with women over the years. So hearing Donald Trump talk about God kind of makes people chuckle. I think really the honest answer to that question is that he copes by watching a lot of television and doing a lot of tweeting and talking to his friends on the phone, talking to Sean Hannity and Chris Ruddy and other people, and Rudy Giuliani, people who make him feel good about himself.

VAUSE: There's not a lot of time spent in reflective prayer for this president, but it's blatant bantering, right?

FELDMANN: Right, exactly. No, and this is -- I mean this is important because the Christian Conservatives and religious Conservatives, this would include Conservative Jewish people are an important part of the Trump constituency.

And he really couldn't have been elected without them. And he's giving them what they want. He's giving them conservative judges who will stand up for principles that they believe in. For example, they are fighting the right to abortion. And even though this is not an issue that really that Donald Trump personally cares about, it's very important to religious Conservatives. And they're getting what they want.

VAUSE: Yes, absolutely. Linda, thank you so much. Good to see you.

FELDMANN: Sure, my pleasure.

VAUSE: Next up on CNN NEWSROOM, Venezuela's top court orders the arrest of the country's most prominent opposition activist after he briefly escaped house arrest this week to join the current uprising intended to overthrow the Maduro regime.

Also, Facebook purge. The social media platform banning some of the most famous and infamous names on the far right.


VAUSE: To Venezuela now where an arrest warrant has been issued for a key opposition figure after two days of anti-government unrest. Leopoldo Lopez and his family have taken refuge inside the Spanish Embassy in Caracas. Two days ago, Lopez caused a sensation when he escaped house arrest and briefly appeared in public just as street protests were getting underway.

But those demonstrations failed to trigger the military uprising the opposition had wanted. And in the days since, President Nicolas Maduro has made much of the military's loyalty to him. We get more now from CNN's Nick Paton Walsh. And a warning, some of the images in his report are graphic.

NICK PATON WALSH, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Venezuela's army [00:25:00] brushing under the carpet the mess made here Tuesday by protests that showed their divisions like never before. The same morning, President Nicolas Maduro put on this cult- like display of loyalty from his army. These both sides in this month's long standoff link their wounds. There's the abiding image which is graphic of a protester hit by an armored vehicle, captured the world's attention showing the escalating brutality.

It all happened next to this man, Edison, who says he rushed to help his fellow protester hit by a truck. And he's now in intensive care in the next hospital room.

I saw one of my fellow protesters on the floor, he says. And when I reached down to grab him, the police shot me. The bullet got in and perforated my artery. I was close to death. They're still draining it.

His pillow is blooded from the night before. I thought we were all going to die. I couldn't say anything. I just saw the policeman above me. He kicks me and I tried to cover my wound but he kept kicking me.

Outside a body is taken away. We think it is that of 14-year-old Hernandez shot dead by the same security forces that are now investigating the death, his father says. It was a live bullet says the father. It looks like he was shot from above because of the angle of the bullet. It came in here and left here. I didn't go into the protest at all, neither did he. But that day, I don't know, maybe the adrenaline, he told me I'll be right back dad and he left.

Back at the scene of the crime, police combed the ground near the damaged fence but there as many holes, too in the army's claim to be the righteous protector of the people.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Caracas.

VAUSE: Well, the Trump administration is looking for ways to help the Venezuelan opposition and not just talking about funding. Donald Trump says the U.S. has a wide range of options to help those who are standing against the Maduro government, including military intervention.


TRUMP: It's a very, very serious situation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are your red lines in Venezuela?

TRUMP: I don't want to say but we have lots of options and some of them are very tough options.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there a tipping point for military intervention?

TRUMP: There's always a tipping point but certainly, I'd rather not to do that. I just want to help the people. The people are dying.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: Opposition leader and the president of the National Assembly Juan Guaido is recognized by the United States and 50 other countries at least as the legitimate head of state of Venezuela and he's now called for government employees to strike on Friday.

Next up here on CNN NEWSROOM, the U.S. college admissions scandal gone global. Now a family in China under investigation for the money they paid to the alleged mastermind of the scheme and it's a whole lot of cash.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour.

[00:30:22] VAUSE: A major storm has just made landfall on India's east coast. Tropical Cyclone Fani arrived with winds of 240 kilometers an hour, the strongest in 20 years. Significant storm surges and wind damage are expected. Two hundred million people in northeast India and Bangladesh are in the path of the storm.

An arrest warrant has been issued for Venezuelan opposition figure Leopoldo Lopez. He escaped house arrest earlier earlier in the week, just as anti-government protests were getting underway. Lopez and his family have now taken refuge inside the Spanish embassy in Caracas. The Spanish government says it has no intention of turning them over to Venezuelan authorities.

And a second woman accused of using a nerve agent to murder the half- brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been released from prison in Malaysia. She's expected to return to her home in Vietnam. Lawyers for the woman argue they had been duped into carrying out the attack at an airport in Kuala Lumpur two years ago.

Facebook says it's removing dangerous individuals and groups from its social media platforms. On Thursday the company banned several high- profile and controversial figures, like Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan; conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who'd already been banned from Facebook and is not out of Instagram; and Mario Yiannopoulos, a fringe right-wing personality, I suppose.

The company explained the move to CNN Business, saying, "We've always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology. The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive, and it is what led to our decision to remove these accounts today."

Now to the latest in the admissions scandal which is rocking the U.S. university system. A source tells CNN that the family of a Chinese student admitted to Stanford University paid $6.5 million to this man, William "Rick" Singer, who allegedly orchestrated the scam.

The family and the student have not been charged. The student's mother says Singer told her she was actually making a legitimate donation to his foundation. Singer has pleaded guilty to charges that he worked with wealthy

families to get their children slots at top schools, using bribes and false test scores.

CNN legal analyst Areva Martin joins us now from Los Angeles with more.

OK, Areva, so we know now just how far-reaching this scam was and how lucrative. Six and a half million dollars paid by a family in China to get their daughter into Stanford, or "Scamford" as "The New York Post" described it. And the university has issued this statement. "It's important to clarify that Stanford did not receive $6.5 million from Singer, or from the student's family working with Singer. Stanford was not aware of this report of $6.5 million payment from the family to Singer until today's news reports."

You know, the university like Stanford continue to use the Sergeant Schultz defense: you know, "I know nothing, I see nothing." And it's fishier than the Dumpster outside Red Lobster.

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, you know, John, one thing that's interesting about the scandal is that it's ongoing. We should not forget that the federal prosecutors have made it clear that, when they indicted those 50 individuals, that that was just the tip of this -- tip of the iceberg.

We've been -- we've seen some reports that suggest that Singer may have helped over 700 students get into schools and colleges around the United States using this scam.

So I don't think we should conclude anything by the fact that more college admissions, more college officials have not been implicated in this scam. I just think this investigation is going to continue, and we're going to see more shoes drop as they continue to get more parents, which we've seen over the last couple weeks, plead guilty. Because those pleading guilty are also cooperating with federal prosecutors.

VAUSE: Yes, that's the point.

Just staying with this family in China, the lawyer for the mother of the student told CNN she thought that $6.5 million would pay "for the salaries of academic staff, scholarships, athletics programs, helping those students who otherwise will not be able to attend Stanford. And essentially, they just thought this was how it was done."

Another Chinese family which paid more than a million dollars to Singer, they made a similar statement. Essentially, they just thought that this was how it was done. And to be fair, it is how it's done in China. But in China, there's one rule for the wealthy and the powerful and the elite, another rule for the poor and the powerless, but that's China.

I'm just wondering, though: is this why prosecutors at this point don't appear to be bringing any charges against these parents? MARTIN: In order for prosecutors to bring charges against anyone

implicated in this scam, they are going to have to be able to prove specific intent to defraud.

And I think what we're seeing with these two Chinese families is that they actually didn't know that Singer was engaged in this, you know, elaborate fraud that involved, you know, taking money from parents who thought they were legitimately donating to his non-profit organization and then, you know, pocketing that money or using that money to pay bribes to college, you know, admissions officials who were then doctoring applications, creating fake, you know, athletic profiles; and then getting these students into the colleges.

[00:35:16] So I don't think prosecutors believed that these two Chinese families had any indication that what they were doing was a part of this elaborate, you know, fraudulent scheme by the part of Singer.

We have language differences and barriers. We have cultural differences and other things that I think caused the prosecutors to say that these two families are perhaps victims.

Now, what's going to be interesting, John, is to see if any of the American families try to use the same defense in their cases. Because we know some of these families have pled not guilty. They want their day in court. And they may also say, "Look, we were just, you know, victims in this whole elaborate scheme. We thought our money, as well, was going to help disadvantaged students or to somehow, you know, benefit these colleges and not being used as bribes."

VAUSE: These are a much harder argument to make in the U.S. than it is in China.


VAUSE: You talk about these parents who pleaded guilty. There are 17 parents, though, including actress Lori Loughlin, who have entered not-guilty pleas.

But here's the thing: Back in 2011, an Ohio woman used her father's address to enroll her two kids in a better school district. She got a lengthy prison sentence. Ultimately, it was nine days in jail is what she spent behind bars. She was put on three years' probation. She was in the last semester before she graduated with her teaching degree, but because she was convicted of a felony, she could no longer go into that job. OK? And that's not the only story like that out there.


VAUSE: So if these white rich parents are found guilty, what are the chances they'll do jail time just like the poor black woman raising two kids on her own?

MARTIN: Well, you know, that's an interesting question, John. We heard the federal prosecutor say that everyone involved in this scam was going to get jail time, but I have my doubts about that.

And you mentioned that story. There's also the Atlanta cheating schedule [SIC] where -- scandal where African-American teachers were involved over ten years ago in, you know, doctoring standardized tests for students. And several of them -- I think over ten -- went to trial, and many of them convicted and got prison sentences as many as seven years.

So there is precedent for, you know, non-affluent white, you know, teachers in this case and the parent in the case you just mentioned, who were involved in some kind of cheating scam; and they actually did get jail time.

So it remains to be seen how tough these prosecutors are going to be with these wealthy families.

We know Felicity Huffman pled guilty. And the recommendation so far is that she gets the lower end of the federal sentencing guidelines. And there's some rumors now that maybe she's going to do that time, you know, under house arrest. She won't actually go into a federal prison.

It concerns me, John, you know, when we talk about celebrity justice --


MARTIN: -- when we talk about a dual justice system, one for the rich and one for the poor. And I think this case is the perfect case for federal prosecutors to send a message that, no matter what your ethnicity is, no matter what your wealth status is --

VAUSE: Your bank balance, yes.

MARTIN: -- you cheat the system, you're held accountable for it.

VAUSE: You pay the same price, yes.

MARTIN: Absolutely.

VAUSE: You mentioned this before, but a lot more parents could be facing charges. "The New York Times" reporting this week the investigation is expected to grow significantly.

Defense lawyers are being signed up at a great rate, apparently, around the L.A. area.

At this point do you have a sense, you know, of how widespread this could actually end up being, how many families could be caught up in this scam? Because to me, it seems there's a growing sort of narrative here that this is just what everyone expected or thought this is how it was done. No one thought it was out of the ordinary. No one thought it was sort of, you know, illegal, you know, or doing anything majorly wrong. It was just sort of one of those things that everyone did. MARTIN: Well, I'd have to push back some on that narrative, John.

Because what we've heard from the prosecutors is that they have a lot of these parents on, you know, audiotape. They have text messages. They have e-mails where they're going to great lengths to hide what they're doing.

If this is what everyone was doing, it wouldn't have been done, you know, in such -- the cloak of secrecy. They would have been talking openly about it.

And what we know with the parents that have been charged, they were so careful and so cautious; and they asked, you know, Singer over and over again, you know, "Are you sure no one's going to catch me? Are you sure, you know, that we're going to keep this secret?"

So I don't know buy that these parents didn't know what they were doing was illicit and, now, illegal perhaps not. But they weren't proud of what they're doing. They weren't willing to do this in the open.

And of course, you can make a donation to a college. Put your name on a building. That's perfectly legal. But when you start doctoring test scores, when you start having people take the exam for you, when you create profiles, athletic profiles, I'm not buying that you don't know that you are engaged in some kind of illicit activity.

VAUSE: We're out of time. But I guess my point, more clearly, it's like cheating on your taxes a little. Everyone does it. It's all going to be OK. We know it's not right.

MARTIN: It's still a crime, John.

VAUSE: Exactly. Still a crime.

[00:40:02] Areva, thank you. Good point to finish off.

MARTIN: All right. Thank you.

VAUSE: Thanks a lot, Areva. Have a good weekend.

MARTIN: Take care.

VAUSE: Thank you.

We'll take a short break. A lot more news when we come back. You're watching CNN.



ANTHONY DANIELS, ACTOR: You made a fair move. Screaming about it can't help you.


HARRISON FORD, ACTOR: You know, it's not wise to upset a Wookiee.

DANIELS: But sir, nobody worries about upsetting a droid.

FORD: That's because a droid don't pull people's arms out of their sockets when they lose. Wookiees are known to do that.


VAUSE: Don't upset the Wookiee.

The original Chewbacca, as played in "Star Wars" by Peter Mayhew, has died. He was 74 years old.

The family said he put his heart and soul into that role as Han Solo's Wookiee sidekick. Despite the growl and his threatening 2.2-meter height, which is more than 7 feet, Chewie was a kind character. In real life, he started a foundation to help people in crisis situations.

Mark Hamill, also known as Luke Skywalker, called Mayhew the gentlest of giants.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. WORLD SPORT is up next. You're watching CNN.


[00:44:41] (WORLD SPORT)


[00:59:38] VAUSE: More than a million people on the move, heading to safety as the most powerful storm in 20 years makes landfall on India's East Coast.

"He lied." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accuses the attorney general of lying to the U.S. Congress. The same day, the attorney general refused to appear before the U.S. Congress.

Plus, the U.S. college entrance scam goes global in a big way. One Chinese family paid $6.5 million so their daughter could go to Stanford.

Hello, welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause, and this is CNN NEWSROOM.