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Police Attack Protesters in Hong Kong; Trump's Tweet Targets Representative Elijah Cummings' Baltimore District; Democrat Presidential Candidates Prepare for Second Debate; Republicans Block Election Security Bills as Mueller Warns of Russian Interference; Iran Shoots Down U.S. drone Aircraft; Two Americans Arrested in Italian Cop's Stabbing Death; Seaweed Bloom Invades Beaches. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired July 28, 2019 - 05:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): This is a live look at protesters gathering yet again in Hong Kong. They are demanding justice after a day of violence. They're returning and they're marching in Hong Kong. We'll go live and talk with our reporter there.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Sparking raw outrage: the U.S. president attacks an African American congressman, calling his majority black district, quote, "rat infested."

Also extensive interference: an intel report finding that Russia targeted all 50 states but U.S. Republicans block bills to keep it from happening again.

HOWELL (voice-over): I'm George Howell.

ALLEN (voice-over): I'm Natalie Allen. NEWSROOM starts right now.


ALLEN: We begin as we have done for many other days for the past few weeks. Protesters marching in the streets of Hong Kong, ignoring a demand to stay put in one location.

This is the eighth straight weekend of pro-democracy demonstrations and they're also demanding justice for the police violence during earlier protests among other issues.

HOWELL: All of this happening after violent clashes that took place during an illegal rally on Saturday. Police say they fired rubber bullets and tear gas into the crowds after protesters threw bricks and glass bottles at them.

ALLEN: Let's get what is going on now. Let's take you there now.

Kristie Lu Stout is in the middle of it all, Kristie, what is evolving there on the streets today? KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR: It is incredible. What started as a lawful rally against police tactics in central (INAUDIBLE) garden has morphed into an unlawful march that has fanned out across the city of Hong Kong and now on Causeway Bay and from the (INAUDIBLE) department store.

This is arguably one of the most famous shopping districts in Hong Kong. This intersection I'm standing in usually one of the busiest intersections in all of Hong Kong if not all of Asia.

There are no cars here. The cars are cleared out. It is full of protesters and people and passersby. I talked earlier to a protest leader named Bonnie Leung and asked her when they started the march, where they were going. She had no idea. This is a symptom of this decentralized, leaderless protest improvement.

It has become spontaneous and at this moment we don't know what will happen next. There are some protesters fanning out toward where the China liaison office is, the top representative of the Chinese central government here in Hong Kong.

We're keeping tabs on that situation here. What we do see is a number of protesters dressed in black. Some are wearing hardhats; they're anonymous, many wearing masks. They've erected barricades, brought out zip lines (sic), tying them together. They're looking at their encrypted messaging apps and figuring out the state of play, what will happen next.

What has galvanized them is the latest in the police response, the events that CNN witnessed last night to the far north of this city. There was an unlawful march, largely peaceful, some protesters engaging in violent acts and throwing projectiles. And the police, in a very forceful clearance operation, cleared all of them out using pepper spray and tear gas.

CNN teams were able to see blood on the floor of the train station as a result that operation. The Hong Kong hospital authority has reported 24 people hospitalized. The Hong Kong police force sent four of their own police officers.

Earlier I spoke to a pro democracy activist, Joshua Wong. This was at the beginning of when the march happened and it was still a legal rally in central about the police response and how that has galvanized the movement.


JOSHUA WONG, HONG KONG PRO-DEMOCRACY LEADER: Last month, I would still describe our protest as anti-extradition bill protest. Of course, we know that the bill still exists and not terminated and withdrawn yet.

But with the police violence and how government just being the puppet of Beijing, we knew that now it's not only related to that extradition bill. Now it's the summer of discontent to Xi Jinping and Carrie Lam.


STOUT: Joshua Wong calling this the summer of discontent that has entered its eighth consecutive weekend of protests. You see the protesters wielding their umbrellas not necessarily because of the heat or the rainfall but to shield their identities and the activity that is happening --


STOUT: -- underneath those umbrellas. It feels like what happened this weekend, these unlawful protests, especially today, the spontaneous new front in this long summer of protests here in Hong Kong, previously, the protesters had asked for permission. The permission would be granted, citizens in Hong Kong would be aware of those areas they should avoid.

Now there is a feeling that the protest movement, this could break out at any corner of Hong Kong -- back to you.

ALLEN: All right, Kristie Lu Stout, thank you, we will stay in close contact, we certainly hope it remains peaceful.

HOWELL: Protests in Russia as well. Demonstrators in Moscow were met by force with police and more than a thousand people were detained there. Police armed with batons tried to repel the protesters from reaching city hall. The demonstrators were demanding free and fair voting after a number of opposition and independent candidates were barred from elections.

ALLEN: That's what they got for wanting fair elections. The clashes left several people beaten and bloodied. Saturday's rally was declared illegal after one of Russia's largest protests in years last weekend.

HOWELL: Here in the U.S., the outrage is raw after the U.S. president insults an American city and its prominent African American representative to Congress. This time the target veteran House Democrat Elijah Cummings, the chair of the House Oversight Committee.

ALLEN: The president's tweet called him "a bully," saying his district in Maryland was "a rat and rodent infested mess" where no one would want to live. More about it from CNN's Boris Sanchez.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It appears that President Trump was set off on his Twitter tirade about Representative Elijah Cummings and the district that he represents, which includes the city of Baltimore, for a combination of reasons.

The president obviously unhappy with the way that Representative Cummings grilled DHS officials during House testimony earlier this week on the issue of immigration and the president apparently also watching FOX News.

In the hour before this series of tweets were sent out, they did a segment about west Baltimore in which a FOX News commentator negatively compared conditions in that city to conditions at the southern border, laying the blame on Representative Cummings.

So that's where you get the president's line of attack. Forget questions about decorum or about race baiting, which we've seen this president do in the past.

There's also the fact that these tweets are misinformed. Representative Elijah Cummings' district is actually one of the most well-educated and most affluent, predominantly African American districts in the country. So the picture that the president is painting is, to say the least, inaccurate.

The mayor of Baltimore, Jack Young, weighed in on this attack. Listen to what he said.


JACK YOUNG, BALTIMORE MAYOR; I guess everybody in the 7th District will be assaulted, including me. I mean, you ride through the 7th Congressional District and see all the developments that we had done and we are still working to rebuild some of the areas that need the help the most.

So for him to say that was an insult to me, as a resident who lives in the 7th District. That was totally an insult. We are not going ignore anyone degrading any Baltimore City and the elected leadership. No one. I don't consider it fueling the fire. I look at it as defending Baltimore City, the city where I live.


SANCHEZ: Now President Trump, as we have seen before, digging in, tweeting this out on Saturday evening, the president writing, quote, "Elijah Cummings spends all of his time trying to hurt innocent people through oversight. He does nothing for his very poor, very dangerous and very badly run district. Take a look."

And then he hashtags it #BlacksForTrump2020.

President Trump shifting into campaign mode there. But it appears he will need some help courting the African American vote. Let's not forget President Trump got 8 percent from the African American community during the 2016 election -- Boris Sanchez, CNN, at the White House.


ALLEN: Many Democrats are furious over Mr. Trump's remarks and they are pushing back hard on television and social media. Congressman Cummings fired off this response.

"Mr. President, I go home to my district daily. Each morning I wake up and I go and fight for my neighbors. It is my constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the executive branch but it is my moral duty to fight for my constituents." And this reaction also from Baltimore politician Nick Mosby, speaking

earlier with CNN's Ana Cabrera.


NICK MOSBY, MARYLAND HOUSE OF DELEGATES: If President Trump ever decided to step foot in any part of West Baltimore, he would see hard working Americans who wake up every single day, who try to prepare their kids to become the best Americans, who go to work, who own small businesses, who are the bedrock of what we see in communities all throughout this country.


MOSBY: And for him to try to disparage and insult an overwhelmingly majority, a part of the state of Maryland, the city of Baltimore, is just completely unacceptable.


HOWELL: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was born in Baltimore and she defended Cummings as a beloved member of Congress, a champion of civil rights and added, "We all reject racist attacks against him and support his steadfast leadership."

Democratic senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren went a step further. Listen.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump, once again, is a racist who makes ever more outrageous racist remarks.

To be attacked by a president issuing racist tweets is beyond insulting. It's disgusting. This president brings shame to himself and to the office.


ALLEN: And here is the hometown newspaper, "The Baltimore Sun," "Better to have a few rats than to be one."

HOWELL: Some stories hit home a little closer than others, especially for people who grew up in Baltimore. It is a place that they call home. But that word "infested," as a black journalist, to hear that word "infested" used over and over again, seemingly reserved only for people of color that the president attacks, I understand how my colleague, Victor Blackwell, felt as he delivered the facts straight down the line but the attacks on his hometown hurt.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This morning the president attacked another member of Congress on Twitter. This time, it's House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings. He wrote this: "Cummings' district is a disgusting, rat and rodent-infested mess. If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous and filthy place. No human being would want to live there."

"Infested." That's usually reserved for references to rodents and insects, but we've seen the president invoke infestation to criticize lawmakers before. See a pattern here?

Just two weeks ago, President Trump attacked four minority congresswomen: "Why don't they go back to totally broken and crime- infested places from which they came?"

Reminder, three of them were born here. All of them are American.

"Infested," he says.

A week before his inauguration, January 2017: "Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart, not to mention crime infested."

Donald Trump has tweeted more than 43,000 times. He's insulted thousands of people. Many different types of people. But when he tweets about infestation, it's about black and brown people.

September 2014, at the height of an urgent health emergency: "Why are we sending thousands of ill-trained soldiers into Ebola-infested areas of Africa? Bring the plague to the U.S.? Obama is so stupid."

"Infested," he says.

"There's a revolution going on in California. So many sanctuary areas want out of this crime-infested and breeding concept."

"Infested," he says.

The president says about Congressman Cumming's district -- that "no human would want to live there."

You know who did, Mr. President? I did, from the day I was brought home from the hospital until the day I left for college. And a lot of people I care about still do.

There are challenges, no doubt, but people are proud of their community.

I don't want to sound self-righteous. But people get up and go to work there. They care for their families there. They love their children who pledge allegiance to the flag, just like people who live in districts of congressmen who support you, sir. They are Americans, too.


HOWELL: Sometimes it's not about Right and Left. Sometimes it's just about right and wrong. Victor's point, very authentic; to reiterate it, "These are Americans, too."

We'll be right back after the break.





HOWELL: The next round of Democratic presidential candidate debates will be held Tuesday and Wednesday in Detroit hosted by CNN and it is a crowded field, 20 people competing for airtime and public recognition.

ALLEN: Good luck, that is a lot.

For front-runner Joe Biden it is a chance to assert himself, maybe more forcefully after his less than commanding performance at the first debate. Others will look to articulate their mission and build name recognition.

Elizabeth Warren is among the chorus of candidates condemning President Trump's attack on Congressman Elijah Cummings.

HOWELL: CNN's Rebecca Buck is covering the U.S. Senator as she campaigns in the crucial state of New Hampshire.


REBECCA BUCK, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's just a few days until the CNN debates in Detroit. Elizabeth Warren hit the campaign trail in New Hampshire on Saturday. She is enjoying a burst of momentum in this presidential race. She just logged 1 million donations to her campaign this week.

A very important milestone for her grassroots fundraising operation and she remains in the top tier in polling. So the question going into the debate in Detroit is can she continue this momentum for her campaign and build on it?

She will be on stage with Senator Bernie Sanders, side by side, both liberal progressives, both competing with many of the same voters to the far left of the party. The question is how will she handle this?

Some of the other candidates like Joe Biden have been sounding more aggressive. Joe Biden will be on stage with Kamala Harris and Cory Booker but Warren said she doesn't plan to be aggressive, to start fights. She will just get out there and tell her message, talk about what she believes the campaign is about, talk about her plans for America.

She says she is delighted to be on stage with Bernie Sanders, who she considers a friend. So we could expect a more even, less contentious debate on Tuesday night but that doesn't make it less important or any less high stakes for Elizabeth Warren.

At the same time she responded to the president's tweet about Elijah Cummings.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump, once again, is a racist who makes ever more outrageous racist remarks. It is insulting both to the congressman and the people he represents.

Elijah Cummings is one of my dearest friends. He is a good man --


WARREN: -- through and through and he fights for what is just in this country. To be attacked by a president issuing racist tweets is beyond insulting. It's disgusting. This president brought shame to himself and this office.


BUCK: That is some of the strongest language we have heard from Senator Warren lately as relates to President Trump. She has been focusing for the most part on her own message and what she thinks she brings to the table in this Democratic primary so perhaps a shift and a preview of what's to come from Warren on the debate stage this week -- Rebecca Buck, CNN, New Hampshire.


HOWELL: Let's look ahead to the debates now with Inderjeet Parmar, professor of international politics at City University of London, joining this hour from our London bureau.

Good to have you.

INDERJEET PARMAR, CITY UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: Thank you, very nice to be here.

HOWELL: Two days and a lot of Democrats will be on stage, all fighting for the spotlight.

Does it benefit these candidates to focus on their individual visions for the future on these key tabletop issues or to see more of a food fight play out among contenders trying to break out?

PARMAR: I think it is both things really. If you look at the micro politics of the debates, we have 20 candidates. About five are in a pack on their own; really four now, I think with Harris holding up the rear.

And you have a number of other candidates, it is almost a do or die last throw of the dice. They've got to make a big impact. So I think they will be the ones who will have to fight it out. Beto O'Rourke, Cory Booker and the others. But among the leading pack, there is like a fundamental divide, talking about really, tells us about the Democratic Party and what its main internal divisions are, which a kind of identity politics first versus an economic class and equality agenda, more to the left than socialism. HOWELL: Let's also talk about Mr. Biden, promising to take off the gloves. Mr. Biden saying no more Mr. Nice Guy but Generally isn't that what voters like about Joe Biden?

How do you see him striking that balance?

PARMAR: I think he has a long history and, unfortunately, a big part of that history is his tendency to make gaffes in public. He brought up his support of the Hyde amendment of the '70s on abortion, he brought up having collaborated with segregationist senators. He's got to put some of that behind him.

The unfortunate thing for former vice president Biden is he's steeped in the very history of that party which is a form of corporate politics as well as the establishment politics of the Clinton administration, and so on back in the '90s.

It's difference for him to steer a path looking like a statesman and able to take on Trump in that way and fight it out with the others. They effectively are attacking core parts of his agenda.

HOWELL: Just highlighting a point of fact here. Biden says he no longer supports the Hyde amendment, something that caught people by surprise for sure. But it seems the vice president is evolving as he heads into this election cycle. Biden will face Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, both who took issue with his past on thing like criminal justice reform and race.

Is this the winning strategy for them or can Biden get past his past to focus on the present with the president?

PARMAR: I think it is difficult for Joe Biden to do that but the problem lies deeper than that, I would say, which is that even the politics of identity, what Harris and Booker and others have staked their claims on, there does elide some objective development in American society and the populist at large, the electorate. The electorate is much more focused on material issues, economic issues, issues about inequality and standards of living and the future; where as the politics of the Democratic Party are still playing on the turf of identity politics only.

I think that plays into President Trump's hands a great deal. So unless there's a vision over and above identity fairness, which encompasses issues about minimum wage and health care and so on, I think it will be very hard for any of the candidates, including Joe Biden but also Kamala Harris as well.

HOWELL: Inderjeet Parmar, thank you.

PARMAR: Thank you.

ALLEN: You can see how they all do.


ALLEN: The next Democratic debates will be live on CNN Tuesday and Wednesday. Coverage at 8:00 pm Eastern time. You can see encore presentations 7:00 am in London the day after, only here.

HOWELL: Still ahead, U.S. Republicans are blocking election security bills. This as a bipartisan report lays out a host of Russian meddling efforts. We'll hear from an Internet security analyst ahead.

ALLEN: Also Iran and the U.K. are locked in a standoff over seized ships. But they're still willing to talk about the nuclear deal. We'll bring you up to date on this one -- next.




HOWELL: Welcome back to viewers here. It is good to have you here. I'm George Howell.

ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen. The headlines this hour for you:



HOWELL: Republicans are under fire in the U.S. Congress for blocking bills aimed at election security as new Senate reports warn of an ongoing election threat.

Here is how the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, defended the move.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Clearly this request is not a serious effort to make a law. Clearly, something so partisan that it only received one single, solitary Republican vote in the House is not going to travel through the Senate by unanimous consent.


ALLEN: This as the Senate Intelligence Committee releases its report, detailing Russian efforts to hack election infrastructure in the United States in 2016. Much of it is redacted but here is some of what that 67-page document says.

The Russians directed extensive activity from 2014 to at least 2017 and targeted all 50 U.S. states. It reports they exploited the seams between U.S., federal and state authorities.

It also found no evidence that votes were changed or machines were manipulated.

Let's talk about this with Hemu Nigam. He's an Internet security analyst and founder of Cyber Security Affairs.

Thank you so much for being with us.

HEMU NIGAM, INTERNET SECURITY ANALYST: Thanks for having me, Natalie.

ALLEN: Sure thing. The Russian government directed extensive activity against U.S. election infrastructure from 2014 to 2017 and that they are all -- also targeting 50 states.

What tactics do the Russians use in the election and what might they be doing now?

NIGAM: There are several tactics identified in the report. Some are just affecting or trying to break into the voter registration system.

That is different than the vote system but the voter registration and specifically the report pointed out that the vote itself was never, as far as they are aware -- and those are keywords -- as far as they are aware, was never accessed.

But it also -- and more is going to come out on this -- they used other channels to affect perception. They tested different systems out to see if there were vulnerabilities. So in other words, they were scanning, they were trying to get in, they were trying to break in to -- so far we know, 18, possibly 21 states.

ALLEN: So when you say voter registration systems, then what would they do?

What is the goal?

NIGAM: The goal here, if I am the Russians, what I would do is I would figure out if these people are listed as Republicans, these are Democrats, I know they're named as individuals, I know how I can target them to affect their perception or opinion of certain candidates who are running.

So this isn't a one-off where you get in as a Russian or you get in and you change something and you get out. This is something you have to do over time because it takes time to affect somebody's belief in somebody or belief in a philosophy.

So I see this as just one step in a longer term plan to then go out there and push messages to certain individuals, a certain kind and a different kind of message to certainly individuals who may be on the R side or the D side, depending on -- or the independent side.

ALLEN: We heard from special counsel Mueller this week that they haven't stopped, this is ongoing. He warned leaders on Capitol Hill that this is a threat to American democracy and it is ongoing. Let's listen right here.


REP. WILL HURD (R-TX): In your investigation, did you think that this was a single attempt by the Russians to get involved in our election or did you find evidence to suggest they will try to do this again. ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL: No, it wasn't a single attempt. They are doing it as we sit here and they expect to do it during the next campaign.


ALLEN: That was a warning and despite that warning Republican lawmakers defeated a Democratic measure right after that, saying it was too partisan and that got Republican leader Mitch McConnell branded #MoscowMitch on Twitter.

But how important is it at this moment that the U.S. comes together on this issue, if not what's at stake?

NIGAM: There is no question, Natalie. This cannot be an issue that the R's are on one side and the D's are on the other. It has to be bipartisan. I think the problem that we're seeing is it's a federal versus state, whose territory it is --


NIGAM: -- and that is where the real debates are going on.

But the question of what should be done about it, there is no question we should be acting on this now. And it's not just the Russians, I know Director Mueller said the Russians but I think what he ought to be saying is the Russians, the Iranians, the other countries that may be considered enemy states against the United States and against our political agendas.

So this is not limited to one country. And we need to be stepping up quickly rather than waiting another four years or waiting another two years. We knew about this in 2014 and earlier. That's why it's kind of surprising that it's taking so long for the Intelligence Committee to come out with just even one of five reports.

ALLEN: There needs to be a sense of outrage to the point that, as you say, they come together in Washington because do we have the intelligence and do we have the technology to get ahead of Russia and others?

NIGAM: Let me say something that probably no one in Washington wants me to say. We have had the technology to respond to these kinds of things for years. This is not something that is cutting edge. They're using vulnerabilities. One is called a sequel injection.

That's techie speak for something that is actually very easy to stop if you pay attention and update your systems using the latest anti- virus and anti-phishing software, educating your own government workforce.

There are things they should have been doing years ago. The fact of the matter is, we could have stopped it, we need to get the folks on the Hill, the folks in Washington, to actually get together and say, we're not going to say, let's do it next time, let's do it yesterday and really truly get together and burn the midnight oil, as they say, and make something happen here.

ALLEN: We hope they do. We appreciate your expertise. Thank you so much, Hemu Nigam. Thank you.

It is chilling. Russia, every day, is working to undermine our democratic system.

Well, here in the state of Georgia, right here, election officials have been accused of destroying evidence showing the state's voting machines were outdated and vulnerable to hacking.

HOWELL: This is a charge that came from a federal lawsuit filed against the state by Election Integrity Advocates.

Georgia's secretary of state refuted the accusation and pointed to a U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee report that included no machines were manipulated and no votes were changed.

In Austria, the future of the Iran nuclear deal will be on the line in the coming hours. The remaining signatories are meeting in Vienna, hoping to prevent the accord's full collapse.

ALLEN: The U.S. withdrawal was a major blow to the agreement. Now there's a military standoff in the Strait of Hormuz and Europe is caught in the middle. CNN's Fred Pleitgen looks at how we got here.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): It was a long time campaign promise. In May of last year, Donald Trump delivers with full force.

The U.S. unilaterally withdraws from an Obama-era deal meant to rein in Iran's nuclear ambitions. European allies say they will continue to honor the pact; at the time, so does Iran.

Then the campaign of so-called maximum pressure intensifies.

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Any nation or entity interacting with Iran should do its diligence and err on the side of caution. The risks are simply not going to be worth the benefits.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The Trump administration targets Iran's lifeblood, threatening sanctions on any nation that continues buying their oil. In May, the U.S. sends a strike group, bombers, missiles and 1,500 more troops to the Middle East, citing escalatory indications by Iran. The following months...

POMPEO: These unprovoked attacks present a clear threat to international peace and security.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The U.S. quickly blames Iran for two oil tankers attacked near the Strait of Hormuz. Iran vehemently denies involvement.

A week later, Iran shoots down a U.S. Navy drone they say was intruding in its territory. But the U.S. claims it was in international airspace. Iran's message is clear.


MAJ. GEN. HOSSEIN SALAMI, IRANIAN ISLAMIC REVOLUTIONARY GUARD CORPS (through translator): We have no intention to fight with any countries. But we are completely ready for war.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The next day, the U.S. nearly retaliates, Trump tweeting a military strike was, quote, "cocked and loaded" before he called it off.

TRUMP: I didn't like the idea of them knowingly shooting down an unmanned drone and then we kill 150 people. I didn't like that.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Finally, over a year since the U.S. withdrew from the nuclear accord, a cash-strapped Iran levies pressure of its own. The country's foreign minister says Iran is intentionally exceeding the pact's limit on stockpiles of enriched low-grade uranium.

They won't stop, he says, until nuclear deal members help protect Iran from American sanctions.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Well, tensions are rising between Iran and this time the U.K.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): On July fourth, the U.K. becomes a key player in mounting tensions when British Marines helped Gibraltar authorities seize an Iranian tanker they believed was carrying oil to Syria. Iran vows to retaliate if it's not returned.

TRUMP: The Boxer took defensive action against an Iranian drone.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Two works later, the U.S. announces it destroyed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz that was near an American Naval vessel. Iran say that it didn't lose any drones, calling the U.S. claim, quote, "delusional."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you alter your (INAUDIBLE), you will be safe. Alter your course to 360 degrees immediately --

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The next day, another confrontation in that key waterway.

An Iranian vessel orders a British flagged oil tanker to change course moments before it is seized. Iran says the ship was violating international regulations, which the shipping company denies. British leaders are incensed.

JEREMY HUNT, BRITISH FOREIGN MINISTER: It was an act of state piracy. It was a flagrant breach of the principle of free navigation on which the global trading system and the world economy ultimately depends.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The series of confrontations since May threaten a narrow waterway with wide international importance. One- quarter of the world's oil flows through the Strait of Hormuz right along Iran's coast.

JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: We control the Strait of Hormuz. It is, I mean, these waters are our lifeline. So their security is of paramount importance for Iran.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): In a CNN interview, the foreign minister says that Iran doesn't want armed conflict but that an economic war is already in progress. As a U.S. campaign of maximum pressure continues and the standoff deepens -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN.


HOWELL: Fred, thank you.

Still ahead we're following the story of two American teens behind bars in Italy. One official wants them to stay there forever. We'll tell you why next.





ALLEN: In Italy, authorities have arrested two Americans in connection with the killing of a policeman.

HOWELL: Investigators say this officer was repeatedly stabbed in an altercation with the pair. Police add the suspects confessed to the crime after being interrogated. Italy's interior minister is now calling for life sentences for both.

ALLEN: Meantime, the people of Rome are paying tribute to the police officer. They placed flowers and handwritten notes at the site where he was killed.

Barbie Nadeau is following this story for us, joining us from Rome.

Barbie, what can you tell us about the case?

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is an evolving case. The Italian papers have all run this very disturbing shot of one of the 19-year-old men, blindfolded in police custody.

We've been able to confirm with the police that they have launched their own internal investigation both into why this suspect was blindfolded and who leaked the photo. So that changes the dynamic.

Yesterday we heard the police narrative that the boys confessed, that they found the bloody weapon and bloody clothing. Now the narrative will be changing a little bit as we're seeing more of the background detail. And I suspect that once the boys, the young men have lawyers in place that are willing to speak to the press, we'll get a little bit of an idea into what really happened into this terrible altercation that led to the death of this 35-year-old police officer, allegedly at the hands of these two 19-year-old Americans.

HOWELL: All right, Barbie, we'll stay in touch as you learn more details, thank you.

ALLEN: Coming up, a slimy, stinky seaweed invasion is taking over some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. We'll tell you why when we come back.






HOWELL: Rescue workers have evacuated more than 900 people from a train stranded in monsoon flood waters near Mumbai, India.

ALLEN: Local media reports say the passengers became stuck on the express train when flooding partially submerged it and covered the tracks. Indian military personnel and the National Disaster Response Force were able to get everyone out on those inflatable rescue boats.

Some of the most beautiful beaches in the Western Hemisphere now face an ugly and smelly effect due in part to warming oceans.

HOWELL: Huge mats of brown seaweed called Sargassum are blanketing large swaths of the beach, like this beach in Mexico. It is an ugly site.



HOWELL: Staying in Florida, a woman there got quite a shock when a strange sound woke her up. It wasn't her kids, who were asleep. It was something else that no one really wants to see.

ALLEN: Yes, guess who came for a swim?

This guy -- or girl -- a 7-foot long alligator was in the swimming pool, staring right at the woman. That one is about 7 feet long or a little over 2 meters. She called police, a trapper was brought in to capture Mr. Alligator Swimmer and it was taken to a farm to live happily ever after.

HOWELL: Not a good time to take a dip there.

ALLEN: Our alligator in the pool story.

HOWELL: Good way to end the show.

ALLEN: Thank you for watching. I'm Natalie Allen. HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. The news continues on CNN after the break.