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Crackdown on Protesters in Hong Kong; Epstein's Suicide; Shooting at a Mosque in Norway; War in Aden Leaving 40 People Dead; Typhoon Lekima Making Second Landfall; Monsoon Rains in India; Donald Trump's Conspiracy Theories. Aired 2-3a ET
Aired August 12, 2019 - 02:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[02:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hong Kong police escalate their crackdown on protesters, violent scenes in the subway after a day of anti-government demonstrations. Accused sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein was left alone in his jail cell and was not being monitored the night he apparently committed suicide. And a big setback for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, as allies turned against one another.
Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and from all around the world. I am Rosemary Church at CNN headquarters in Atlanta, and this is CNN Newsroom. New details are emerging, raising more questions about the apparent suicide of Jeffrey Epstein. A source says guards were not regularly monitoring Epstein on the night he is believed to have killed himself in prison.
The politically-connected multimillionaire was a convicted sex offender and was awaiting trial on the six trafficking charges. Epstein was found unresponsive in his prison cell Saturday. Kara Scannell reports.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A source with knowledge of his detention tells CNN that there appears to have been two breaks in protocol. The first, Epstein he was placed on suicide watch after he was found unconscious in his cell with marks on his neck several weeks ago. When he was removed from suicide watch, he was supposed to have a cellmate.
But for some unexplained reason, Epstein was alone in his cell from Friday into Saturday morning. Second, Epstein was placed in a special housing unit after he moved off suicide watch. In the (Inaudible) guards were supposed to monitor inmates every 30 minutes, even wake them up when they're asleep. That did not happen, according to the source.
These questions are likely to be of interest to the FBI and Justice Department's office of inspector general who are investigating how Epstein went from suicide watch to dead in under two weeks. Also late Sunday, the chief medical examiner said an autopsy of Epstein was completed. His cause of death is pending further information. Kara Scannell, CNN, Washington.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: And Epstein's death came just hours after the release of hundreds of pages of court documents. In them is the allegation that a British socialite who was a longtime member of Epstein's inner circle assisted Epstein. CNN's senior reporter Vicky Ward has reported on Jeffrey Epstein for years. And she shared with Ana Cabrera Epstein's accusers' reaction to his death.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VICKY WARD, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: The one thing that the victims (Inaudible) wanted was their day in court, so just outraged that this could've happened.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let me read you a statement from Jeffrey Epstein's attorney who denounced breathless reporters escalating every corner of Mr. Epstein's life to pile on, tear him down, and kick him at his lowest while still presumed innocent, before he had his day to court. All these actors appear to bear some responsibility for this calamity. All seem to have a share of Mr. Epstein's blood on their hands.
All should be ashamed of their behavior. First of all, he did have a day in court, years ago or more in Florida, where he managed to swing the sweetheart deal of all sweetheart deals. Where does the investigation go from here?
WARD: Well, I think, you know, U.S. attorney Geoffrey Berman made it very clear in his statement that this was a conspiracy, and that there are other people involved. And, you know, I think the face of this now becomes Jeffrey Epstein's longtime girlfriend, the alleged procurer of a lot of these women, Ghislaine Maxwell. I mean she was certainly named in the affidavit of Maria Farmer who was one of the women who spoke to me, one of the victims in 2002.
And her sister Annie Farmer who stood up in court at Jeffrey Epstein's bail hearing and asked the judge not to grant Jeffrey Epstein bail, you know, told me that she really blamed Ghislaine Maxwell for what happened to her when she was underage, because Ghislaine Maxwell was, you know, she sounded sort of aristocratic, British, reassuring she told her mother that she would be chaperoned when she invited Annie Farmer, then 16, to comes stay with Jeffrey Epstein, so, you know, a lot of eyes now on Ghislaine Maxwell.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does anybody know where she is?
[02:04:56] WARD: So I had an email from her in April, asking me to meet for coffee. She was obviously in New York at that point. I spoke to a source who I have known for 20 years who has also known Ghislaine for 20 years, who saw her on a plane around Christmas coming back to New York from Miami. The source said that she was unrecognizable, quite transformed, and that she would not be pinned down on where she was living.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: Maxwell and her representatives have previously denied she engaged in sexual abuse or sex-trafficking. So joining me now from Los Angeles, CNN legal analyst and civil rights attorney, Areva Martin, Areva, always good to have you with us.
AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Hello, Rosemary.
CHURCH: So many unanswered questions about how it was possible for Jeffrey Epstein to take his own life in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan. We've learned that multiple procedures were not followed. Epstein had no cellmate, and was not being monitored regularly as should've happened. How was it possible for this protocol to be violated in a facility like this?
MARTIN: These are the questions, Rosemary that the inspector general and the Department of Justice and FBI are going to be asking. What we have heard is that the two guards, or at least two guards who were involved with supervising Epstein, apparently were working extreme amounts of overtime, almost the suggestion has been made that perhaps they were negligent somehow.
Maybe they fell asleep. Maybe they, you know, just failed to follow the protocol, perhaps because they had been working so many extra hours overtime. Of course, that is not the official reason for why protocol was not followed. But there is some reporting coming out today, suggesting that the men responsible for watching him perhaps were overworked and just extremely tired.
CHURCH: And Areva, why do you think Epstein was taken off suicide watch given the July 23 instant when he was either assaulted or tried to take his own life?
MARTIN: Again, that is a good question, Rosemary. And the officials will be trying to answer that question, obviously. The psychologist and the prison warden who had to approve of him being taken off of suicide watch will have to answer to those questions. One of the things that came out of the reporting when he was found with the marks around his neck was there was some indication that maybe had faked it.
That, you know, that he wasn't either attacked or he had himself tried to commit suicide. So there are so many questions that I think the public deserves an answer to, with respect to his prison stay, his psychological evaluation, and the higher-ups in that correctional facility who had to sign off on him being taken off of suicide watch.
CHURCH: And we know now that -- now that an autopsy has been performed. We should learn more about that, pending more information. But what about video evidence, how long before we hear what that might reveal, and how much video evidence might there be in a facility like this?
MARTIN: There is some good reporting coming out that there should have been surveillance video cameras in the area where Epstein was being held. So the question is, you know, were those cameras operational? You know is their actual footage of what took place in that cell? And will that footage be made available to the public?
We don't know how much of this information even after it's cleaned from the investigators and those tasked with investigating this, you know, his alleged suicide. How much of that evidence the public will actually, you know, ever have access to?
CHURCH: Yeah, indeed. And, of course, just because Epstein has died, does not end efforts to ensure that the victims get the justice they deserve. What is the next step to ensure that happens?
MARTIN: Well, a couple of things. What we know is that the southern district of New York, the federal prosecutors have made it very clear that their investigation will continue. And it is important to note that this was a conspiracy case that was filed against Epstein, which means there are coconspirators. There are other individuals that the southern district apparently is looking at.
So I wouldn't be surprised if we didn't see additional indictments coming down for those individuals who aided and abetted him in this sex-trafficking ring that we learned so much about in the last couple weeks. And then there's also the civil suits, just because he's dead, victims won't have their day in court in terms of being able to confront him in a criminal trial. But civil claims can be made against his estate.
[02:09:49] We already know that there are dozens of civil lawsuits that have been filed by victims. And we should expect that additional lawsuits may be filed as more victims come forward and tell their stories. So this case is far from over. And then there is the investigation of what happened in Florida in 2007 in 2008.
We know that there are investigations about whether there was any, you know, you know, criminal conduct engaged or, you know, criminal conduct that was engaged in by officials who executed the non- prosecution agreement which allowed Epstein to just serve 13 months in jail in Florida.
CHURCH: Yeah. As we say, a lot of questions to be answered, Areva Martin, always great to get your legal analysis, many thanks.
MARTIN: Thanks, Rosemary.
CHURCH: Well, a protest is underway right now at the Hong Kong International Airport. It is in response to scenes of police violence during demonstrations on Sunday, which are becoming all too common. At least nine people were injured after police in riot gear fired teargas at demonstrators, at close range, including in this subway station. More video shows police chasing protesters and throwing people on the ground.
Demonstrators have accused police brutality and acting with unwarranted force. But officials have said they're only cracking down on illegal and violent protesters. Ivan Watson explains why 10 weekends on, the tension keeps wrapping up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A collective howl of rage. Residents of a Hong Kong neighborhood joined protesters to face down a squad of riot police. They retreat, the focus of so much anger. This two-month cycle of confrontation resumed Sunday with what police call an unauthorized assembly. Authorities rejected requests for this pro-democracy march.
But that didn't stop thousands from joining in. It was peaceful until a hardcore group came to this neighborhood police station. Hong Kong is now on its tenth straight week of protests. And often, it is the city's police stations that become a focus of some of the demonstrators.
You can see the officers there on alert on the station walls. And this tense face off there with some protesters in the distance, and the police warning residents close their windows. Using vandalized traffic barriers, they pushed closer, hurling eggs, ignoring repeated warnings from the police, until the protesters were spoiling for a fight, and now they have got one.
Squads of riot police storm in. A show of force repeated week after week. In the scuffles, people get hurt, both protesters and police. Once the riot police moved in, it took mere minutes for them to clear out thousands of protesters. The Hong Kong government says it is cracking down on violent riot, arresting hundreds of young demonstrators.
But at the scenes of these confrontations, some ordinary citizens lash out at law enforcement, while others appealed to the city government.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please response to what the student react, this is the most important thing. If you stand out explain or to compromise with the student, I think these protests will continue and then there will be no ending.
WATSON: This is a city divided. And few here see any way out this mess, Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: We will take a short break here. Still to come, a man suspected of opening fire at a mosque in Norway has expressed right- wing sympathies online. We will have more on the police investigation. And heavy monsoon rains in India leave schools dead and tens of thousands displaced. The latest when we return.
[02:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CHURCH: In Norway, police are investigating the shooting that wounded one person inside a mosque as a possible act of terrorism. Investigators say the suspect, a Norwegian man in his twenties, expressed right-wing sympathies online. He is also being charged with murdering his 17-year-old stepsister. CNN's Salma Abdelaziz has more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On the eve of a Muslim holiday, tragedy strikes. At about 4:00 p.m. local time Saturday, a man in his twenties, a Norwegian citizen, entered the Al-Noor Islamic Center by shooting through the mosque's locked glass door. According to local media, witness say the shooter was wearing all black, had on body armor, and carried a shotgun-like weapon and a pistol. What happened next, made 65-year-old worshipper, Mohamed Rafiq, a hero to his community.
ABDUL-SATAR ALI, COUNSEL FOR MOHAMED RAFIQ: Mohammed acted immediately when the shooter entered the room. He toppled the shooter and pinned him to the floor, sat on top of him. After a while, a board member (Inaudible) came and helped holding him down and police arrived and arrested the man.
ABDELAZIZ: Afterwards, the suspect's home was searched by police and another terrible discovery made, the body of a 17-year-old woman, the gunman's stepsister. Police say the man is a suspect in her murders. The mosque shooting is being investigated as a possible act of terrorism after it emerged the gunman had expressed right-wing sympathies online.
On Sunday, mosque members were forced to celebrate the most important Muslim holiday of the year, Eid al-Adha, at a local hotel. The country's Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, visited the group and vowed battle the rise of the radical right.
ERNA SOLBERG, NORWEGIAN PRIME MINISTER: (Inaudible) we are against hate speech and harassment on the internet. We are trying to combat this. But it is a worldwide challenge.
[02:20:15] ABDELAZIZ: Yet, another world leader struggling to contain the rapid spread of hate and fear. Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: Meanwhile at a different mosque in Jerusalem, a hectic scene unfolded. Israeli police firing sound grenades to disperse thousands of Palestinian worshippers, they had gathered to celebrate a major Islamic holiday but clashes soon interrupted. Palestinian Emergency Services say 14 people were injured, while Israeli police say four officers were hurt. Tensions have been high at the site as the Islamic holy festival coincided with a Jewish holiday you see here.
Well, Yemen's already turbulent civil war is becoming even more complicated. A separatist militia has taken over the key city of Aden after suddenly turning against the Saudi-led coalition. The interior minister of the Saudi-backed government has conceded defeat to the militia and called the situation there a coup. Aden became the seat of that government after Iran-backed Houthi fighters pushed them out of Sanaa in 2014.
For years, the separatists have been helping the Saudi-led coalition fight against the Houthis. But now that they have seized Aden, there is concern the alliance has fractured. CNN's Sam Kiley has more. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAM KILEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yemen's Saudi-led coalition being blasted away by its own members. Militia backed by the UAE claiming victory over the government that it had been fighting for, vanquishing the government allies in Islam and Islamist militia armed and supported by Saudi Arabia.
AHMAD MAHMOUD, SOUTHERN TRANSITION COUNCIL FORCES: We dedicate this victory to the people of the south, after we were victorious over the Islam terrorist parties.
KILEY: A spokesman for the southern separatists told CNN that they now control the whole of Aden, having defeated the very government they had supported in a four-year war against Houthi rebels in the north. Saudi and Emirati troops vanished from the streets, as the two nations saw their alliance collapse around them on the ground.
MOKHTAR AL-NOUBI, FIFTH BATALLION OF THE SEPARATIST ARMY CHIEF: Today, we achieved a big victory on the capital Aden. The tenth battalions were defeated. And at night, we took control of the presidential palace.
KILEY: Saudi Arabia has threatened retaliation against any group that does not ceasefire. The separatists told CNN that they would accept a Saudi invitation to talks. But for millions of Yemenis already impoverished by war, this is what their future looks like. Sam Kiley, CNN, Abu Dhabi.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: The fierce fighting in Aden has left at least 40 people dead and hundreds of others injured. That is according to the U.N., which has been trying to deliver food and medical care to civilians there. The U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Yemen says she's heard reports of civilians trapped inside their homes with little food or water.
And she says the fact there is fighting during an important Muslim holiday, Eid al-Adha, is heartbreaking. But even those casualties don't begin to illustrate the magnitude of suffering Yemen civilians are facing right now. The U.N. says the conflict has triggered the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Of Yemen's 28 million civilians, 10 million are facing starvation.
And 24 million are in need of some form of assistance. In addition, it says almost 18 million have no clean water, and almost 20 million lack adequate health care. This U.N.'s says the civil war has shattered Yemen's economy. It has shrunk 50 percent since the conflict erupted more than four years ago. Well, what remains of Typhoon Lekima -- continues to devastate eastern china.
These scenes played out on a river in Shandong Province as Lekima made a second landfall along its coast on Sunday. At least 33 people have died and more than a dozen are missing, while many more are trapped by landslides. Heavy monsoon rains in India have left more than 150 people dead. That is according to local government reports. [02:24:57] Hundreds of thousands have been forced from their homes
due to landslides and floods. And dramatic rescues, like this one, are underway throughout the region. And meteorologist, Pedram Javaheri, is here with us now with more on all of this, and really heartbreaking scenes there.
PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is. And, you know, the amount of rainfall that has come down here, Rosemary, has been a significant contrast to what the season started like across this region, which was a very quiet pattern. The blue bars, for example on this chart, indicate the actual rainfall. The green line indicates the average rainfall.
And we stayed way below that average line for weeks on end. There was a major deficit. And it kind of peaked in early July. And you notice tapering off in mid July, and in recent weeks well above the average for an extended period. And that is what has led to flooding across this region. And really important to note the monsoon season as a whole for Indian subcontinent, for the first time all season now.
And the surplus about a half percent above average, and the reason that is significant you look back in the say six, seven years or so, only other time have we actually had a surplus in a monsoon. So unfortunately, this comes at a price of causing significant damage across much of this region, of course, where so many people are dependent on the land.
And you notice, we are in the heart of the wet season, the month of August, peak season here for rainfall and lots of it as you transition into September. And eventually, to October, the winds shift and the monsoon essentially shuts off across this region. But you're not just India. You work your way towards the southern tier of this region, whether it's the state of Kerala, or work your way just a little north of there, to Karnataka, another state across this region.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by this particular monsoon event. And then over 130 roads also shutdown, and then next door into Myanmar you see kind of the broader perspective of what this amount of water has done across this region. A lot of time, it brings in a tremendous a lot of life, but, of course, with all this rainfall at a very short time period, it leaves a lot of destruction as well.
So 50 percent of the population across the (Inaudible) subcontinent depends on the agriculture industry for their livelihood. And 15 percent of India's GDP also is based off of the monsoon season and the wet seasons here. So a lot of good comes out of it. But unfortunately, times like right now, a lot of that comes out of it as well, Rosemary.
CHURCH: And actual fact here. You are right. Thank you so much. Appreciate that. We will talk next hour. Many thanks.
JAVAHERI: Thank you.
CHURCH: Well, conspiracy theories in President Trump's tweets are nothing new, of course, nor are his favorite targets, the Clinton's. We will look at the latest accusation against them and a few that have gone before. We're back in just a moment.
[02:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone, I'm Rosemary Church, want to update you now on the main stories we've been following this hour.
A protest is underway right now, at the Hong Kong International Airport. It's in response to scenes of police violence during demonstrations on Sunday. Officers in riot gear chased protesters into subway stations. They were shown on video firing tear gas at close range. At least nine people were injured in the clashes including one police officer.
Yemeni separatists have taken over the key city of Aden after suddenly turning against the Saudi-led coalition. The interior minister of Yemen's internationally recognized government conceded defeat, calling the situation a coup. Aden has been the seat of the Saudi-backed government since Houthi fighters took over Sanaa in 2014.
A source told CNN Jeffrey Epstein's cell was not regularly monitored the night officials say he killed himself, and that's against prison protocol. The multi-millionaire was facing charges. He ran a sex trafficking ring of underage girls. An official said no foul play is suspected. The FBI is investigating.
Well, meantime, President Trump on Saturday, promoted a conspiracy theory linking the Clinton family to Epstein's death. This isn't the first time Mr. Trump has promoted conspiracy theories and falsehoods without regard for the consequences of his rhetoric or of any truth. CNN's Polo Sandoval is following that part of the story and has more on Epstein's official death investigation.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The two investigations are pressing forward, one of them is led by the FBI, the other one from the Department of Justice inspector general's office, because that takes place -- let me tell you, there's no shortage of conspiracy theories right now that are floating around online, including one that has actually been promoted by the commander in chief himself.
Donald Trump, the president who often spreads baseless claims online, is at it again, hours after convicted pedophile and accused sex trafficker, Jeffrey Epstein, took his own life, the commander-in-chief took to Twitter, promoting a conspiracy theory about the death.
The original tweet posted by self-proclaimed Trump supporter and comedian, Terrence Williams, suggested Bill and Hillary Clinton were somehow responsible for Epstein's death, stating #JeffreyEpstein had informationon Bill Clinton, and now he's dead. Williams includes the #ClintonBodyCount and #ClintonCrimeFamily.
Angel Urena spokesperson for former President Clinton, responding, writing the conspiracy theory was ridiculous and of course not true, and Donald Trump knows it. Has he triggered the 25th Amendment yet? While the president was retweeting, his own attorney general, William Barr, released a statement saying, Mr. Epstein's death raises serious questions that must be answered. Another federal official told CNN no foul play is suspected.
The 66-year-old millionaire was discovered dead in his cell at this Manhattan Federal Detention Facility Saturday morning. A.G. Barr has even said an inspector general investigation will look into the circumstances of Epstein's death.
There were reactions from both sides of the aisle, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, tweeting, something stinks to high heaven. How does someone on suicide watch hang himself with no intervention? Impossible. Unless --
Criticism from Republican Senator Marco Rubio on Saturday, who agreed with scrutinizing the suicide, but also wrote, the immediate rush to spread conspiracy theories about someone on the other side of partisan divide having him killed illustrates why our society is so vulnerable to foreign disinformation and influence efforts.
On Sunday, White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway attempting to justify the president's retweet.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is all speculative and it's not for me to go further than where the DOJ and FBI are right now, but you do hear different people asking questions and they want to know who else was involved in Epstein's crimes or even just activities, and I guess that that will be revealed in time.
[02:35:02] SANDOVAL: It's not the first unfounded theory from Donald Trump. Before becoming presidential candidate, he promoted the theory that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya, even after Obama released his U.S. birth certificate.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN NEWS PRIMARY ANCHOR: Do you accept that President Obama was born in the United States, is not Muslim?
DONALD TRUMP (R), THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, I don't know. I really don't know.
SANDOVAL: Early in 2016, Trump ridiculously suggested Senator Ted Cruz's father was involved in the JFK assassination.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): This is nuts. This is not a reasonable position. This is just cookie.
SANDOVAL: Recently, Trump wondered about the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
TRUMP: It's a horrible topic, but they said they found a pillow on his face, which is a pretty unusual place to find a pillow.
SANDOVAL: Authorities said, he died in his sleep of natural causes. And amid the conspiracies, there is perhaps some clarity right now with one source telling CNN that they believe that Epstein was left alone in his cell and the guards weren't checking on him every 30 minutes as required. And as for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, they've declined to comment. Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York.
CHURCH: Gun control is already a big issue in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. When we return, hear how some Democrats are approaching this controversial topic. Plus, President Trump has unleashed controversial attacks on major U.S. cities, but he appears to take a radically different approach to white rural areas, what coal country residents say about poverty and addiction, that's ahead.
CHURCH: The majority of 2020 Democratic hopefuls spent this weekend in Iowa, demanding action on gun control in the wake of back to back deadly mass shootings, take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JULIAN CASTRO, U.S. DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would maximize executive authority because we know that we may face a Congress, a Senate that is still led by Mitch McConnell.
MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If more guns on the streets made everyone safe, we'd be the safest country in the world.
[02:40:03] SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Assault weapons are not weapons used by the overwhelming majority of hunters, these are weapons designed to kill human beings in a rapid way.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Who in God's name needs a weapon that can handle a hundred rounds, for God's sake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: And 2020 candidate Beto O'Rourke did not attend the Iowa gun forum, in person, because he was at the funeral of shooting victims, in his hometown of El Paso. He told CNN's Jake Tapper that President Trump's retweeting of a baseless conspiracy theory on accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein's death is intended to distract.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's changing the conversation and if we allow him to do that, then we will never be able to focus on the true problems of which he is a part.
And make sure that we get to the solutions, and whether that means legislation that keeps guns out of the hands of those who shouldn't have it, or focusing on domestic terrorism of white supremacists that his own FBI director warned us about.
And then you reported this week that as Department of Homeland Security has been begging the president to focus on the kinds of threats that we saw in El Paso and he's ignored them or willfully suppressed action on those ideas and those programs and those policies that could have saved lives in El Paso and across the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: And Scott Lucas joins us now from Birmingham, England, he is a professor of international politics at the University of Birmingham, good to have you with us.
SCOTT LUCAS, PROFESSOR, INTERNATIONAL POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM (via Skype): Good morning, Rosemary.
CHURCH: So, the U.S. president retweeted a baseless conspiracy theory over the weekend, trying to blame the Clintons for the death of Jeffrey Epstein. Is this all about distraction from the gun debate as Beto O'Rourke just suggested or is it something else?
LUCAS: It's two things, Rosemary, because he also retweeted a baseless conspiracy theory about the Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who he has continued to attack, sometimes using racist language. He also retweeted a far-right Islamophobe, a woman named Katie Hopkins from the U.K.
It is to throw dust in our eyes and mud on the wall, that's the first thing. So that we don't actually focus on gun control, but the second thing that intersects, Rosemary, is that the Trump re-election campaign in 2020 is based upon attacking immigrants, attacking migrants, the very hard line policy such as detention and zero tolerance.
Trump would like to get back to those, but the El Paso shootings which, of course, targeted immigrants got in the way, so if you could get us not to focus on El Paso, what happened there, not to focus on the fundamental issue of guns. You can try to get back to his agenda as destructive as that might be.
CHURCH: All right. So, let's move back to the gun control debate then, and President Trump has suggested he may consider background checks, but that's been met with some skepticism, given his history on this very topic, how likely is it that Mr. Trump will do something meaningful about gun violence in this country such as background checks?
LUCAS: Yes, been there, done that, Rosemary. You might remember after the shootings in Parkland, Florida at the high school in March 2018, which led the mass rallies calling for something to be done. Trump said, including on T.V., oh I might do this, I might do that, background checks raising the age on ownership of dangerous weapons.
But as soon as these folks talk to the National Rifle Association, he backed away. So, last week, he says, OK, background checks, but let's link it to immigration reform. In other words, the anti-immigrant agenda, and then he says maybe background checks, but as soon as it's a question of implementing, then Trump and his folks walk away.
Let's see if Congress both Republicans and Democrats put pressure on the president, because that's the one thing that can change the calculus.
CHURCH: Indeed. And, of course, as we mentioned earlier, most of the 2020 Democratic hopefuls spent the weekend in Iowa, calling for gun controls in the wake of those deadly mass shootings in this country.
Given more than 90 percent of Americans want to see background checks and a ban on assault weapons put in place, could this become a bigger political issue than it has been in the past, and clearly, they have the American public on their side with this issue?
LUCAS: At the risk of being biased, Rosemary, I so hope so, because this is not just an issue of Democratic candidates who are in primaries, this is an issue for all of us. We saw an opening in 2018 with those mass markets. We saw an opening in the 2018 elections. We are especially at state level. A lot of politicians, who said we must do something on gun control, were elected for the first time.
But it is going to take a sustained effort because opponents of gun control like the National Rifle Association, like many politicians who are dependent on them will through up every possible roadblock. So, unfortunately, it won't happen tomorrow, but if there's a dedicated effort, for the first time in my lifetime, there is a hope we might do something.
[02:45:08] CHURCH: And we'll be watching closely on that. Scott Lucas, many thanks to you for all your analysis.
LUCAS: Thank you, Rosemary.
CHURCH: Well, President Trump has taken fierce criticism for his attacks on the city of Baltimore. Last month, he called parts of it a "disgusting rat and rodent-infested mess." Now, those comments were seen by many as racist, given Baltimore's large black population.
As CNN's Miguel Marquez reports, Mr. Trump appears to be less keen to target largely white communities struggling with poverty and drugs.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kentucky's fifth congressional district ruggedly beautiful and deeply poor Appalachia for decades has struggled with the boom and bust of coal.
GWEN JOHNSON, BLACK SHEEP BAKERY AND PIZZA: We've had a mono-economy of coal for over 100 years. So, then --
MARQUEZ: And coal is gone.
JOHNSON: And -- pretty much. MARQUEZ: Gwen Johnson in her spare time runs Black Sheep Bakery and Pizza in Hemphill Kentucky. The money it brings in helps the local community center stay open.
JOHNSON: We're fighting for a better community here. We got people who are hurt and coming out of incarceration.
MARQUEZ: Not only have high-paying coal jobs sharply declined since 2012, despite promises otherwise.
PETER HILLE, PRESIDENT, MOUNTAIN ASSOCIATION FOR COMMUNITY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: In 2017, we added fewer than 20 jobs. And in 2018, we lost a few hundred more. So the coal industry in Kentucky has not come back.
MARQUEZ: Opioid and drug abuse dealing rural Appalachia a double punch.
BRAD JOHNSON, RECOVERING ADDICT: And once I tried heroin, I was 100 percent addicted like the first time.
MARQUEZ: Brad Johnson served three years in the military. One tour in Iraq, he's now in recovery what he calls the toughest fight in his 34 years.
B. JOHNSON: I drink so much that when I wake up and look around, I'd see all the drug paraphernalia that I had done, and don't remember doing.
MARQUEZ: Trying to get off heroin, he became addicted to prescription opioids, eventually serving time for trafficking drugs and receiving stolen goods.
B. JOHNSON: I've been on recovery for four years.
MARQUEZ: How tough is that?
B. JOHNSON: Here, it's really tough.
MARQUEZ: Tough for thousands here, either addicted or in recovery, many with criminal records. If you overlay this map of economically distressed counties in 2018 and this one of deaths and drug overdoses in 2015, Kentucky's fifth congressional district is right in the middle.
The president and his administration have focused on combating the opioid epidemic and have spoken glowingly about places like Kentucky which supported him by 30 points in 2016.
TRUMP: It's a great, great state, and he is turned out to be a great, great governor, Matt Bevin.
MARQUEZ: Compare that with what the president reserves for his political opponents and their districts.
TRUMP: Those people are living in hell in Baltimore. They're largely African-American. You have a large African-American population. And they really appreciate what I'm doing.
MARQUEZ: Baltimore is about 65 percent African-American, Kentucky's fifth congressional district, about 97 percent white. Some 23 percent of Baltimore residents live in poverty, more than 29 percent of Kentucky's fifth congressional district lives below the poverty line.
The president had a similar attack on John Lewis' congressional district in Atlanta, in the suburbs, tweeting shortly before his inauguration, "Congressman Lewis should spend time on fixing and helping his district which is in horrible shape, and falling apart, not to mention crime infested, rather than falsely complaining about the election results."
Crime rates have sharply declined in Lewis' district since he took office in 1987. But on many occasions, the president has portrayed cities with large minority populations as failed.
TRUMP: No one has paid a higher price for the far left's destructive agenda than Americans living in our nation's inner cities. For decades, these communities have been run exclusively by Democrat politicians.
MARQUEZ: Here in Kentucky's fifth congressional district, even some who voted for the president say they wish he'd spend less time attacking his opponents and more time focused on making good on his campaign promises.
G. JOHNSON: Rural America rose up and voted for him, and he's talking about urban America. You know, he could throw us a bone, too.
MARQUEZ: So, you think he's talking about Baltimore, the places negatively, at least, he's talking about them.
G. JOHNSON: He's talking about them and he's paying attention.
[02:49:59] CHURCH: And that was CNN's Miguel Marquez reporting. Coming up, why this American athlete shows his gold medal moment to make a political statement. We'll explain when we come back.
CHURCH: Well it isn't just American football players who are taking a political stand on the field. Now, they are joined by a couple of U.S. athletes at the Pan-American Games. The gold medalists are using their moments in the spotlight in Peru to call attention to what they say are injustices at home. Coy Wire reports.
[02:54:27] COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Two Olympic hopefuls at the Pan American Games. One fencer taking a knee and a hammer thrower raising a fist, bringing awareness to social injustice in America, knowing they could face discipline.
American Gwen Berry, raising her fist on the podium during the anthem after winning gold in the hammer throw. Much like American sprinters, Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics.
Fencer Race Imboden takes a knee on the podium during the anthem after winning gold as well in the team foil event on Friday. All participants signed agreements that they wouldn't make political, religious, or racial remarks during the game.
Imboden won bronze at the 2016 Olympic Games. He tweeted in part afterwards, "We must call for change. This week I am honored to represent Team USA. My pride, however, has been cut short by the multiple shortcomings of the country. I hold so dear to my heart. Racism, gun control, mistreatment of immigrants and a president who spreads hate are at the top of a long list. I chose to sacrifice my moment today at the top of the podium. I encourage others to please use your platforms for empowerment and change."
A U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee spokesman said the organization is reviewing what consequences may result.
And here is a story that's going to put a smile on your face all day. Kenya's women's lacrosse team lost their first match in the world championships to Israel in part because they didn't have any cleats.
So, the Israelis did something about it. The next day, they surprised the entire Kenyan team with brand new cleats, the kind gesture made a difference. The day after getting the cleats, Kenya beat Belgium, 16 to 9, taking sportsmanship to a whole new level.
CHURCH: Love that story thanks to Coy Wire. And thank you for joining us this hour. I'm Rosemary Church. Remember to connect with me anytime on Twitter @rosemaryCNN. And I'll be back with more news coming up next. You're watching CNN.