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Weekend Protest Led To Violent Clashes With The Police; Russia Admits Blast, Won't Say If Nuclear; Trump Helps Spread Conspiracy Theory On Epstein; Pentagon: ISIS is Resurging in Syria; Indian Monsoon Flooding Leaves 173 Dead; Luxury Brands Face Chinese Backlash. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired August 13, 2019 - 01:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[01:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: -- Donald Trump is using the world's biggest megaphone to undermine a belief in truth itself. And from high-end designers to international airlines, a growing number of multinational companies are running afoul of Beijing and forced to make groveling apologies.

Hong Kong's Chief Executive is warning ten weeks of protests have pushed the financial hub to the brink of no return. Carrie Lam spoke just a few hours ago as disruptions continue with Hong Kong's International Airport. Hundreds of flights were canceled Monday when protesters swarmed the main terminal.

More protesters are expected in the coming hours to try and paralyze the airport once again. Sit-in is also planned for a major hospital. There are bloody clashes with security forces over the weekend and many protesters accused police of using excessive force. CNN's Andrew Stevens live again this hour at the Hilton Hong Kong Airport.

So, Andrew, it was about this time when those protesters actually start arriving. What's the latest from there?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they're starting to arrive, John. I just want to show you. We're outside the arrivals hall. You can see there's this trickle of passengers arriving. And instead of being met by relatives or friends, they are being met by this.

These are all protesters lining along the front of the hall. And people are looking at the signs they're holding and they're all around the fact that they believe the priests -- the police in Hong Kong have been acting with excessive force which relates back to what happened in a series of violent confrontations between police and protesters during the weekend which sparked this sit-in which we saw yesterday which closed the airport and which the protesters are once again attempting to do today.

If you look across here, the protesters are slowly building in size. All through this airport, we are seeing these signs talking about the actions the police have taken, talking about the injuries that have been sustained by some of the protesters in recent days. And the protesters are telling us that they have called for another

mass gathering here in the afternoon hours. It's just gone 1:00 here. And if it's anything like yesterday, John, there is another chance that this airport, the operations of this Airport will be closed once again as they were yesterday.

Right now, flights are normal. Departures and arrivals are working. The back lock is being cleared up. But a lot of these students, well perhaps 30 or 40 often stayed overnight here with the express purpose of making sure that this sitting could continue and that the protesters overnight would be joined by thousands more today.

So that is the situation right here at the moment, John. And again, I talked of these protesters here. They all say that they're here and they're here for the long haul. Look at some of the -- some of the supplies. They've got food, the hard hats, gas masks, you name it. They are here and they plan to stay.

VAUSE: Well, here's some pretty tough words coming out of mainland China warning the signs of terrorism within the protest group. There was a tweet when People's Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party. It read, this is how peaceful protesters in Hong Kong express their voices.

Police have violent evidence at least by protesters during Sunday's demonstrations. There's video there showing assortment of weapons which police say were taken away from demonstrators. In turn, the demonstrators are accusing police using excessive force. There was one incident on Sunday, a woman was hit almost at point-blank range with a beanbag round. It's a non-lethal form of crowd control.

But still what was seeing is that these tactics and the violence are ramping up each week. It gets more and more violent more and more computational. If these two sides are locked in that sort of forward motion of increasing confrontation, how are they expecting to diffuse this?

STEVENS: There is a spiral. You're absolutely right here. And the positions on either side on the police and the government are becoming entrenched as they are on the protesters' side as well. There were -- there was a background briefing for journalist given by a senior member of the Hong Kong administration just a couple of days ago and that question was asked, is there a back-channel here?

And the answer was we don't know who to talk to. There is no leadership. And they're right in that sense. This is an organic movement. You are seeing virtual flash mobs now popping up guerrilla- style protests in various parts of Hong Kong which the police are finding very difficult to keep up with, and also increasingly violent confrontations with a hardcore group of radicalized younger people in Hong Kong coming up against the police who are using harder and harder tactics.

So at this stage, the divide deepens, the anger on the protest side against the police hardens evermore. And now we're seeing, as you point out, Beijing has used this word terrorism, saying there are signs of terrorism being used in the actions of the protesters.

We saw it at the weekend, video released yesterday of the Chinese armed police are conducting exercises if you like, in Shenzhen which is just across the border, just a few miles from where I'm standing, that the line is it's done -- this is -- this is a normal drill and exercise if you like.

But certainly, it sends its message to Hong Kong that just across the border, there is a convoy of Chinese armed police and that is the message that Beijing wants to send Hong Kong. Do not keep this up. It is not worth it. And Beijing can come into Hong Kong.

They would have to be invited under the -- under the Constitution, but at this stage the Hong Kong government is saying, John, we can handle this. We are -- we have the capability to deal with this. But as we hear from Beijing more and more, they are running out of patience with what they see is happening on the streets of Hong Kong.

[01:05:53] VAUSE: Article 14 of the garrison law, I believe, is what you're talking about there, but there's also provision apparently that maybe Beijing can come if they -- even if they don't get that request, but there's a legal question. Andrew, good to have you with us. Thank you.

For more, I'm joined now by Frank Ching. He's in Hong Kong. He's also a China Political Commentator as well as a Columnist. So Frank, thank you for taking the time. We've heard from Hong Kong police. They've admitted that undercover officers were placed among the protesters. And we've also heard from the city's chief executive rejecting accusation that you know, overall police are using excessive force. Listen to Carrie Lam. Here she is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARRIE LAM, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, HONG KONG: The police have very rigid and stringent guidelines in the use of appropriate force. And that requires the lowest level of force in dealing with those situations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: And what we've seen there being images out there, what appears to be those undercover officers in action, they dressed in black, they look like the demonstrators, and when riot police would charge in the crowd dispersed, these undercover police officers appear to grab the individual protesters, sometimes beat them with clubs, and hold them until they're taken away by police.

Are all of those sections legal? Is it legal for police undercover or otherwise to randomly and viciously beat demonstrators?

FRANK CHING, CHINA POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND COLUMNIST: Well, those questions that you raised are being raised at Hong Kong as well, that is whether the good police are acting legally. And Carrie Lam once held a press conference about an hour ago, was asked about these police operations, and she said these are police operations and she refused to be drawn into the details. I think one problem is that the police are under a lot of pressure both within Hong Kong where they accused of using excessive force, charges of police brutality, and then from a China where they would like to see more force, more repression.

And China wants the uprising in Hong Kong to be put down as quickly as possible with force and with the protesters put in prison with long prison terms. And so the Hong Kong government and Hong Kong police are sort of in the middle of that.

VAUSE: OK. So we're also -- the situation with the police, part of minimal force that they're being using, so-called minimal force, non- lethal crowd control measures. Still, on Sunday, we saw that young woman who was shot in the face by a beanbag gun. She's reported to lose her eyesight.

We're hearing stories of journalists also being targeted by -- you know, being shot at almost at point-blank range as well. You know, these are fairly violent tactics being used by the police here. And you know, they're also using tear gas as an option of first resort. And that in many ways is what for so many people to head to the airport on Monday in the first place because they thought it would be safe.

And main turned up with gauze covering their eyes as a symbolic protest for that woman who was shot in the face at point-blank range. But if there is a belief now that the airport is relatively safe at the moment in terms of the police and the protesters, will it stay that way?

CHING: Well, I don't think they went to the airport mainly because they thought it was safer at the airport, but rather they were very angry at the way the police have been treating the protesters, for instance, the way this young woman was shot.

And they went to the airport sort of to seek revenge. And in the past, they had only been occupying the arrivals hall where the greeted passengers coming to Hong Kong and told passengers about the situation here and about how the police are being brutal and putting down the protesters. But what happened yesterday was that they occupied the departure lounge as well so that departing flights could not take off.

And so today we see a return to somewhat like a semblance of normality, but I think the protesters are scheduled to arrive at the airport again in an hour or so and we don't know what happened then. This is in a way holding Hong Kong to ransom. It's like blackmailing Hong Kong because if the airport is shuttle, it's not reliable, then the Hong Kong economy was sink and I that nobody in Hong Kong really want to see that happen.

[01:10:13] VAUSE: Is one of the airport sitting could be the pressure point that protesters might be looking for that brings maximum disruption for minimal risk?

CHING: Yes. But I don't think that this can go on for very long. I think that even though a lot of people in Hong Kong support the protesters, that is they sympathize of them, they don't think that Hong Kong should be blackmailed in this way.

I doubt if the airport protest can be sustained if most people in Hong Kong including a business community decide that this cannot go on like in this fashion any longer. And also -- sorry, next month you know, September, the schools will reopen. A lot of the protesters will have to go back to school. And then you will -- you will see the numbers drop rather significantly.

VAUSE: In the past few hours, there was an editorial in the Global Times, a mainland tabloid newspaper describing Hong Kong's demonstrators as nothing more than street thugs who want Hong Kong to go to hell. That comes after the toughest words yet from an official in Beijing. Yang Guang, a spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, this is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

YANG GUANG, SPOKESMAN, HONG KONG AND MACAU AFFAIRS OFFICE (through translator): For days, the radical protesters in Hong Kong frequently used extremely dangerous tools to assault the police officers. Their deeds have constituted severe violent crimes and showed the tendency of turning to terrorism. It is a blatant violation of Hong Kong's rule of law and social order, a severe threat to the safety of Hong Kong residents, and a formidable challenge to Hong Kong stability and prosperity. We must firmly tackle such violent crimes with a tough stance and no mercy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: And then there's the video posted on Twitter, the (INAUDIBLE) music as well. This was out -- put out by the People's Daily showing police armored vehicle fleets about to carry out a drill in Shenzhen which says it happens just across the border from Hong Kong.

The theory right now is that all this is an attempt to intimidate rather than you know, real preparations for any kind of military action. But you know, I asked Andrew Stevens, if both sides are locked in an escalation and neither side is talking to the other, then how do they find an off-ramp and avoid a major confrontation?

CHING: What -- it is a very difficult situation. I think that's one of the problems is that the Carrie Lam government doesn't have connections to people outside of the pro-government camp. In the past, even a predecessor had people within his cabinet who had connections with the pan-democratic camp, and was able to establish contact and communication.

Now I think with the Carrie Lam government, they have no contact with people outside of their own camp, and it's almost impossible to have talks going on below the horizon, that people don't know about. I don't think there are such talks, and I don't think that there's any indication that Carrie Lam is interested in such talks.

At this point, I think that she's in a more increasingly difficult position because China is putting pressure on her to resolve the problem, and she has no instruments for resolving a problem other than using force, police force.

VAUSE: Yes, and --

CHING: Also --

VAUSE: Please finish your thought, Frank.

CHING: Yes. I think that China is increasingly becoming impatient. They have been a backseat driver in all this, more or less telling her and the Hong Kong government what to do. And I think they are telling now to climb into the driver's seat by holding these regular weekly press conferences in Beijing and commenting directly on what's going on in Hong Kong and what the police should do, what the government should do, what the protesters should do.

VAUSE: Yes. And it just keeps getting more violent. The tactics on both sides seem to become increasingly violent and all confrontation as this goes on. Frank, thank you so much. We really appreciate you being with us. It's great.

CHING: Well, thank you.

VAUSE: The only official word from Moscow on a mysterious blast last week is that five nuclear scientists are being burned. CNN's Fred Pleitgen reports the silence from the Kremlin is raising concerns the explosions may be much worse than previously thought.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Confusion and concern about a mysterious explosion and a missile test gone wrong that some now fear could be the worst Russian nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Moscow acknowledges a blast took place at a naval range last week but won't say whether it was nuclear.

Instead, they're saying liquid fuel caught fire during trials in the Arctic north leading to the blast. Local authorities initially said they recorded a short-term spike in radiation levels, but their statement was later deleted, and the defense ministry claims no dangerous substances were released after the explosion.

But tonight, experts tell CNN satellite images appear to show that the Russians have sent a special nuclear fuel carrier ship to the area.

[01:15:28] JEFFREY LEWIS, MIDDLEBURY INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: That ship is used to carry a nuclear fuel and Russia in the past has used that ship to transport the radioactive reactor unit from the nuclear-powered cruise missile.

PLEITGEN: Russia's state-run nuclear agency did admit that five of its employees were killed in the blast.

VALENTIN KOSTYUKOV, RUSSIAN FEDERAL NUCLEAR CENTER (through translator): A chain of tragic accidents happen. Although our preliminary analysis indicates that they were fighting to get the situation under control. Unfortunately, that failed. PLEITGEN: Last year, Vladimir Putin revealed Russia is testing

nuclear-powered cruise missiles to counter NATO's missile defense system.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT, RUSSIA (through translator): Now that the missile launch and ground tests are successful, we can begin developing a completely new type of weapon. A strategic nuclear weapons system with a nuclear-powered missiles.

PLEITGEN: If this was nuclear, it would not be the first time Moscow muddled its messaging after a potential nuclear mishap. In 1986, the Soviet Union didn't acknowledge the Chernobyl disaster until Western nations detected heightened radiation levels in Europe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need to move quickly and you will need to move carefully.

PLEITGEN: Thousands of people died in the aftermath of that meltdown which is now the subject of the HBO series Chernobyl. And in 2000, Moscow kept its own public in the dark about the sinking of the cursed nuclear submarine killing all 118 sailors on board, leading to harsh criticism of then-new Russian President Vladimir Putin.

More questions than answers remain as Vladimir Putin's office still has not commented at all on the explosion leading Russians and the world guessing how dangerous the aftermath might be. Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Moscow.

VAUSE: Well, there was anger and frustration in the aftermath of Jeffrey Epstein death. Questions about the prison where the accused sex trafficker died and where the criminal case against him goes now. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:20:00] VAUSE: Well, in the fallout from the apparent suicide of sex trafficker, Jeffrey Epstein, the prison in New York where he was being held is now facing increasing criticism. At the same time, the U.S. Attorney General also has a warning the criminal case against the accused sex trafficker is not over. Brynn Gingras has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES: I was appalled, and indeed the whole department was and frankly, angry to learn of the MCC's failure to adequately secure this prisoner.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Attorney General William Barr not mincing words today on the apparent suicide of multi-millionaire and registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein inside the New York City federal lockup.

BARR: We are now learning of serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning and demand a thorough investigation.

GINGRAS: The Justice Department Inspector General and the FBI launched investigations this weekend. The medical examiner performed an autopsy but is waiting for more information before releasing the cause of death. A source tells CNN it's believed Epstein hanged himself while in a special housing unit a month after federal prosecutors accused him of paying and recruiting girls as young as 14 to have sex with him in two states.

Three weeks ago, Epstein was placed on suicide watch after prison guards found him with marks on his neck. But a source tell CNN Epstein wasn't on suicide watch this weekend. Regardless, protocol requires prisoners have cellmates shortly after coming off suicide watch according to the source, but Epstein was alone. The Bureau of Prisons would not comment.

BARR: We will get to the bottom of what happened and there will be accountability.

GINGRAS: As for the federal investigation into Epstein's alleged crimes, the Southern District of New York close the case against Epstein, but continues to look into employees and associates who may have helped him recruit young girls. To those victims who were denied justice when Epstein died, Barr had this to say.

BARR: Let me assure you that this case will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein. Any co-conspirators should not rest easy. The victims deserve justice and they will get it.

GINGRAS: At a minimum, we know Jeffrey Epstein was a multi- millionaire. Even at federal prosecutors can't really summarize or really understand the extent of his wealth. That will likely be a part of the ongoing investigations into these alleged co-conspirators. It's also unclear at this point if his victims will see any of that money. That, of course, remains to be seen in civil lawsuits that continue to be filed. Brynn Gingras, CNN New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Aside from questions about prison protocols, Epstein's death quickly spawns conspiracy theories. President Donald Trump helped spread while them with a retweet from a conservative comedian who alleges with no evidence whatsoever there was involvement by Bill and Hillary Clinton.

For all on all this, Political Analyst Michael Genovese joins us now from Los Angeles. Michael, good to see you.

MICHAEL GENOVESE, POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, John!

VAUSE: It's really tough knowing the right way to cover the story because even when conspiracy theories are sort of resembling debunked, studies have shown more exposure to it is enough to shift someone's point of view without them even being aware of that. And there was the case in you know, the death of Princess Diana, for instance.

So by repeating the president's tweet which we're not going to do, as part of a process to prove it not true, we're actually helping Trump spread a blatant falsehood. So how do you deal with this? GENOVESE: Well, you know, there are -- there are suspicious circumstances here and they need to be investigated, but you don't start with the conclusion and you don't start with the conspiracy. You start by looking at the evidence and building a case to find out what happened.

But in the case of President Trump, this is strange and bizarre and disturbing, even by Trump standards. To try to link even in a retweet that the Clintons may have had something to do with this is beneath the dignity of the office. It's beneath the dignity of the person.

And you know, the President is so obsessed with the Obama's and with the Clintons that he just goes way over the top and does things that are unreasonable and just plain strange. And you wonder why he's obsessed with this and why he keeps doing it. He can't seem to stop himself.

VAUSE: You know, Donald Trump and many of his supporters, they don't believe climate change is real. They call it a hoax. The Russia investigation is both a witch hunt and a hoax. White nationalism, a hoax, but yet somehow Bill and Hillary Clinton and their network of assassins can reach out from anywhere in the world and no matter who the person is or where they are, they can have them killed. They're willing to believe that.

GENOVESE: Well, you know, it's a really good I think topic for a Robert Ludlum novel. Too bad he's not around because, you know, Bill Clinton must be some kind of superhero with superstar status and superstar powers to be able to do all these incredible things.

He and Obama and Hillary must just be the most amazing superheroes that are -- have yet to have a movie made about them. I don't know where this comes from within the psyche of the President, but he can't let it go. And the more he does it, the more embarrassing it should be to him.

But his followers seem to follow it and say, well, I guess there must be some truth to this because the president said so.

[01:25:13] VAUSE: I mean, I guess my point is that the stuff which is sort of you know, maybe not pleasant, inconvenient like climate change or the Russian investigation that's just dismissed as not being true, but yet this stuff which is out there in la-la lunatic land, that's great. That's accepted as fact. You know, Hillary Clinton running a pedophile sex ring out of the basement of a pizzeria.

GENOVESE: And you know, the President's words have meaning and they have importance. Because that comment pizza establishment, people went in there looking for Hillary and they wanted to do damage. And the president's words matter because the El Paso killer used the president's own words about invasion and wanting to kill Mexicans and he got that from the president.

And so these aren't just insignificant things being said by a T.V. game show host. These are things said by the President of the United States. The word spread, people take them seriously, and they matter. And a lot of unhinged people out there take these words to heart and think they were a call to action.

VAUSE: I want you to listen to the White House senior aide Kellyanne -- alternative facts -- Conway putting words in the president's mouth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: I think the president just wants everything to be investigated. And you know, trying to connect the President to this monster from years ago where they're seen dancing in a video versus other people who were actively I suppose flying around with this monster on his Island which was known as Pedophilia Island perhaps there's a public interest in knowing more about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: If he wanted everything to be investigated then perhaps the president should have said he wanted everything to be investigated and not send out that retweet. But we know the drill by now via the Clintons involved in Epstein's death.

The Clintons being involved in the death of Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster, that Barack Obama was not born here, that Senator Ted Cruz's father was somehow involved in the assassination of JFK. MSNBC morning host Joe Scarborough was involved in an interns death. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia may have been murdered. The (INAUDIBLE) is trying to oust his president -- out Trump as president, then of course vaccines can cause autism. All this put out there by the president.

You know he says tweets will retweets unfound allegations and then leaves those around him to clean up at best. But how much damage is being done by Trump's enablers?

GENOVESE: Well, you know, Kellyanne said that the president only wants everything to be investigated. Well, so do I. So let's get the president's tax return so we can really investigate everything. He wants to distract attention away from things. He wants to -- it's almost a game to him.

He seems to think he can say anything and accuse anyone of anything with impunity. And some of these things can lead to tragic consequences. People will believe some of the things that are said because number one, he's the president. Number two, they may be loyal followers of his ideology or of his party.

And so the president's irresponsibility in just spouting conspiracy theories from the Birther movement to -- down to this now the Clintons and the Epstein murder, it is so beneath the dignity of the office and the person. And to think he represents the United States of America and he's spitting out conspiracy theories, you know, like the candy.

This is -- this is just a strange personality quirk but it's a personality quirk that matters. It has meaning because there are people who follow him who take these things very, very seriously sometimes to tragic consequences. VAUSE: You know, what started as sort of a whisper, the president is

a racist or so he says, and the actions he's taken -- he takes and described as being racist, now it's just a you know, it's a tag which is being attached to Donald Trump.

And the Washington Post reports that President Trump considers himself a branding wizard but he's vexed by a branding crisis of his own, how to shed the label of racist. Because as Donald Trump would tell you ...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am the least racist person there is anywhere in the world.

I'm the least racist person there is in the world as far as I'm concerned.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: What I thought was noteworthy about this is that the president seems concerned about being labeled a racist as opposed to the consequences of his actions and his words which are racist.

GENOVESE: Well, his words are racist and I'm not accusing him of being a racist. But if he's not, he does a great impersonation of one. And so what you're seeing here is the brander, the master brander. Little Rubio, Lazy This, Lying Ted, the master brander is being branded. And he doesn't like -- you know, never kid a kidder, we'll never brand a brander.

And so he's the victim now. He's usually in command. He's the hammer who knocks people over the head. Now he's being knocked over the head, he can't shake this brand. And he can't shake it because he feeds too much material into it. It is so believable because the president has made it believable by his repeated racist statements.

And again, I'm not accusing the president of being a racist, but I will say and it's very clear, he says a number of racist things.

VAUSE: An interesting way to end it, Michael. Good point, I'll leave it there. Thank you so much. Good to see you, Mike.

GENOVESE: Thank you, John.

[01:29:46]

VAUSE: Well, the Trump administration declared mission accomplished on the ISIS caliphate. But now the Pentagon says the terror group is back in Syria. So was it hubris or just a giant miscalculation? Some answers in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Thank you for staying with us. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour. Hong Kong's chief executive says the city is being pushed to the brink

of no return. Pro democracy protests are still disrupting flights to the city's airport, hundred of trips were canceled Monday after demonstrators stormed the main terminal.

An official state of mourning has been declared in the northern city of Sarov. That's where five nuclear specialists were killed in an explosion last week at a military test site. Now, U.S. experts are weighing in on what likely caused that fatal and mysterious blast.

Deploying (ph) what's called the Skyfall nuclear missile, Russia acknowledges the blast but will not say whether it was nuclear.

The U.S. Attorney General says he's appalled and angry at the apparent suicide of Jeffrey Epstein. William Barr said the accuse sex traffickers death at a New York jail revealed what he calls serious irregularities at the facility. Barr also wants co-conspirators in the case to not rest easy because the criminal investigation continues.

About a month ago, at the end of a cabinet meeting at the White House, the U.S. president suddenly switched topics and began talking about Syria, the defeat of ISIS, and how the time had now come for a quick drawdown of U.S. forces.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have 100 percent of the caliphate and we're rapidly pulling out of Syria. We will be out of there pretty soon and let them handle their own problems.

Syria can handle their own problems along with Iran, along with Russia, along with Iraq, along with Turkey. We are 7,000 miles away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Noticeably the President made no mention of the U.S. as a major player in post-war Syria and it seems post-war Syria though may be further away than the President thinks.

A new report from the Pentagon warns despite losing its territorial caliphate, the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria, ISIS, solidified its insurgent capabilities in Iraq and was resurging in Syria from April to June.

During the same period U.S. forces in Syria had started a process of a partial drawdown. Military officials are on record in this report saying the reduction of U.S. forces has decreased the support available for Syrian partner forces at a time when their forces need more training and equipping to respond to the ISIS resurgence.

For more we're joined now by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, a senior fellow with the counsel on foreign relations and a contributing editor at Atlantic Media's Defense One. Gayle -- it's been a long time. Nice to see you.

[01:35:04] GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, ATLANTIC MEDIA'S DEFENSE ONE: Nice to see you.

VAUSE: Ok. Is this sort of "mission accomplished moment" borne of a misunderestimation of ISIS resulting in the worst kind of strategery we've ever seen from our administration?

LEMMON: Well, I mean that I think honestly what you're seeing now is an ISIS that had long vowed to become resurgent, right. Had long vowed that it would not stay defeated, really figuring out how to regroup.

And I was in northeastern Syria in May, at the end of May, and talked to the head of the U.S.-backed forces who said that he thought now is the most difficult time the U.S.-backed forces face because it is one thing to have a frontline where you go fight each day. It's another to really do the work of holding a town and really making sure that it is locally-held, locally-owned and that you don't have a fertile ground for ISIS to reemerge.

And I think by and large what has been missed is that U.S.-backed forces have done a tremendous job in allowing a very fragile and locally-owned stability to take hold amid the enormous hardship that is life after ISIS.

VAUSE: If only -- if only at the time someone had spoken up, someone had the foresight to warn the President that something like this could happen, maybe said something like this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I have come to conclude that a presence over there is still necessary to keep us safe here. This is a stain on the honor of the United States. I hope and pray the President will reconsider this.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: ISIS and al- Qaeda have yet to be defeated and American national security interests require continued commitment to our missions there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would not have been my military advice at that particular time. I think the capabilities, the pressure, the approach that what we've had in place has been working and so we were -- we were keen to kind of stay along that track.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: I mean seriously, was there anyone who did not see this coming?

LEMMON: Very few people. And I do think -- look I was there in December and then I was there again at the end of May. And you actually found a lot more calm on the ground at the end of May than there was in December in part because the drawdown has been slow. The local forces really are stepping up and this is largely a policy that, as challenged as it is, has achieved most of what it set out to do.

The big challenge you see now it is that there is a whole camp, you know, 73,000 people who are family members and ISIS members themselves, women and children being a large majority. And you do -- no one knows what to do with these folks and none of their home countries for those who are international want to take them back which is another fact that the report talks to -- John.

VAUSE: You know, it may be a throwaway line at the end of that camera but the President told that meeting, "we said we'll be out of their pretty soon. Let them handle their own problems".

If there has been one lesson of the 21st century starting with 9/11, it is that the most basic of all, their problems don't stay over there because they can handle them and that is why U.S. forces are there in the first place.

LEMMON: Well -- and I think what people don't appreciate is that the U.S. forces are the Oz-like presence that is there. You do not see the Americans.

For those of us who have really become accustomed to Afghanistan or Iraq those conflicts this looks very different you do not see the Americans anywhere, it is all locally-backed forces. And that I think is a huge difference.

VAUSE: You know, back in January, NBC News reported that there is an earlier Pentagon report warning that without the same military pressure ISIS could regain territory within six to 12 months.

Any other White House would it be a fairly safe assumption that the President had been briefed on that sort on intelligence, maybe even read it himself. But there is no way to know, firstly, if the information was passed on to Donald Trump. And if it was, there is no way to know if he believed it, right?

LEMMON: I mean listen, here's the thing. You have the Pentagon and many others within the administration who have been arguing on a bipartisan basis for a continued U.S. presence. And I do think that look, no this administration like the administration before it did not think it was elected to continue ground wars in the Middle East but to end them, right? And that has always been its argument.

And I think what you see the Pentagon and others trying to argue is that this is not the same thing, that you do not see the U.S. Forces there. You see the U.S.-backed forces. There are Syrians, Kurds, and Arabs and Christians -- members of a number of communities who are holding their own towns.

And you now have the U.S.-backed forces who are non-state actor facing real state problems with the rest of the world trying to figure out how much or how little they want to be involved. And the truth is, as you say, you know, the world has a choice now, whether it owns up to the responsibility of an internationally created challenge and helps the U.S.-backed forces to do what they have set out to, which is to keep some level of fragile stability so that the moms I have had the privilege of meeting are allowed to send their kids to school and know that their children will come home each afternoon -- John.

[01:40:09] VAUSE: We're out of time. But basically at the end of the day, there is a right way to end a war and there is a wrong way.

We will leave it at that. Gayle -- thank you. Good to see you.

LEMMON: Thank you -- John.

VAUSE: Next up on CNN NEWSROOM, as the floodwaters recede the extent of the damage becomes clear. More on India's devastating monsoon, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Well, police say the suspect in the Oslo mosque shooting planned to film his attack on a GoPro camera. He was still battered and bruised with two black eyes during a court appearance Monday. Witnesses say a 65-year-old member overpowered and disarmed him during Saturday's attack.

One person has hurt. Police believe the suspect killed his stepsister and then went to the mosque. He's facing charges of murder and terrorism.

Monsoon flooding in India has left more than 170 people dead, many more are displaced. And now the water is receding, revealing the extent of the devastation across a number of states.

CNN's Michael Holmes has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A crocodile in India lays in an unlikely resting spot -- drying out on a tin roof of a house still submerged in floodwaters. Villages across the country have fared far worse -- heavy rains and landslides have caused the death toll from this monsoon season to climb steadily though some places are seeing some relief, with water levels dropping, revealing the scope of the damage caused by the rains.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have lived outside since eight days. Our stuff has been damaged, grains destroyed, children have fallen ill.

HOLMES: Hundreds of thousands of people have taken refuge in relief camps, while those who stay behind struggle to save their livelihoods. Farmers picking through rain-soaked fields to try to salvage what has not been washed away.

While others hoist their livestock to higher ground to save their cattle as well as themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There more than 100 animals and there are animals on three or four more terraces. We got them up by using pillows and mattresses from here.

HOLMES: Nearby Myanmar facing many of the same obstacles from the monsoonal rains, a landslide recently killed dozens of people. Rescue operations still ongoing in some areas to save the stranded.

The lucky ones end up in both. Others are forced to swim to safety.

[01:45:00] The weather also wreaking havoc in Pakistan, where cities like Karachi are deluged in knee-deep water bringing some places to a standstill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We cannot get out of our houses. I was going to my office but there is so much water that my bike got stalled. Everything is in disarray.

HOLMES: A rainy season for South Asia that is still in its peak while there is no choice but to endure the wet and wait for the day when the waters recede.

Michael Holmes, CNN -- Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Ok. For more, let's go to meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. So what is the focus here? How bad and how soon will this get any better?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, we've had quite a ways left here before the monsoons, of course, taper off -- John. And when you look at the broad perspective of how things have played out here, the heavy rainfall has been a big story, of course, in recent days.

And of course, the damage done as well at some nearly 200,000 hectares of land, completely destroyed and crops destroyed as well. When you take a look at the damage in some of these communities were waters kind of being pushed off right into these homes and you see why we are left with these sort of scenario.

But really you can't understate the amount of rainfall that has come down in a short time period across this region because you see 200, 300, almost 400 millimeters of rainfall in just about major city across Europe, that is months and months worth of rainfall.

And of course, you are seeing this across the Indian subcontinent, which is exactly what you expect between the latter portion of July into the middle of August. And you lay out kind of the rainfall amounts in the last seven days, almost the entire subcontinent here covered with several hundred millimeters of rainfall in the past few days.

But peak monsoon season, part of the cause of course, the excess rainfall in the past seven days or so and the poor infrastructure. Put this together and this is the time of year you see major, major problems across this area.

And of course, as you transition into September, rainfall noticeably begins to dwindle across the region by October, November becomes relatively sparse across the area as well.

But John was asking about how long this is going to last. Well, we still have a major concern here with the red alerts across portions of these states in India and then work your way into Wednesday, kind of expand that a little more. So going to be worse before it gets better across India, at least through much of the beginning portion of this week.

And the season in its entirety just to here, minus point 4 percent below average. So basically in other ways, we are sitting right in line with what is expected for this time of year. The amount of rainfall that's coming down and of course, how much has already come down across the area.

But there is the culprit here for the next round of heavy rains from that (INAUDIBLE) points to the west around Ahmedabad, another 300 to 500 millimeters. Essentially what has already come down, not in the exact same spot but what has already come down, expected to continue to come down at least over the next week, John, across parts of India.

VAUSE: Wow. Ok -- Pedram. Thank you, appreciate it.

JAVAHERI: Ok. Yes.

VAUSE: We have this just in to CNN, police in Sydney, Australia have arrested a man accused of stabbing a woman in the CBD area, the Central Business District. The woman now in the hospital in stable condition. Police responded to reports of a man armed with a knife walking through downtown.

Local media is reporting bystanders chasing him, held him down, used a milk crate actually to pin him down until police arrived as well as chairs. There he is with police, taking him away.

Next up on CNN NEWSROOM -- when billions of dollars are at stake, it seems saying sorry is not so hard after all. We will tell you why two more luxury brands are apologizing to the Chinese.

[01:48:23] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Two more luxury brands have apologized to Chinese consumers who were making what turned out to be controversial and geopolitically challenged t-shirts. One of the companies is Coach. The back of the shirt failed to identify Hong Kong as part of China. And that's not all. It appears to identify Taiwan as an independent country when it's considered to be a renegade province by Beijing.

And Givenchy introduced a shirt with a similar message. The brand says it has always respected China's sovereignty -- remember that phrase -- and firmly adhere to the one-China principle.

The outcry comes less than a day after Versace was forced to apologize and pull its shirt over a similar issue. They appear to list Hong Kong and Macau as countries, rather than cities. Some are now calling for a boycott of the three labels. That could be costly when Chinese consumers and their love of everything bling.

Joining me now Ryan Patel, global executive and senior fellow at the Drucker School of management. Good to see you.

RYAN PATEL, GLOBAL EXECUTIVE: Great to see you -- John. VAUSE: Ok. Bringing back the past 18 months there is a really long

list of big international companies which have made these groveling apologies essentially for the same crime, appearing to define what is and is not part of China. Be it on our shirt or on Web sites.

So firstly, how stupid are these companies (INAUDIBLE)

(CROSSTALKING)

-- VAUSE: -- and secondly, and perhaps more importantly, why is this such a horrible (ph) crime from Beijing's point of view? There is hundreds of thousands of protesters on the streets of Hong Kong and they're worried about mislabeled t-shirts?

PATER: Well, I'm going to answer the first part -- not very smart. Either you're going to make a statement or you're not going to make a statement. There is no in between and there are lessons learned.

You mentioned those luxury brand retailers, they're bread and butter right now of every sales is China. You're going to upset the Chinese consumers and China government, not the smartest thing. And it's part of the reason why they apologize so quickly.

And the second part of your question is you and I both know this is a very touchy subject with China. This is one of those subjects that they will go to war for when it talks about the sovereignty.

No business has as yet really cracked the code of how to make a political stance on this. And I don't think any business will unless they're backed by a certain country. China is really, really indebted (ph) in the trenches about making sure it's one-China -- one world China for them.

VAUSE: You know what's kind of fun? Go back and read the apologies. See if you can pick up on a pattern. Donatella Versace on Instagram, "Never have I wanted to disrespect China's national sovereignty. And this is why I wanted to personally apologize for such inaccuracy and blah-blah-blah-blah.

Marriott International respects and supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China. We don't support anyone who subverts this sovereignty and territorial integrity of China.

Clothing retailer Gap respects China's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

McDonald's, "We've always supported the one-China policy and continue to uphold, yes China's territorial sovereignty.

Almost like these apologies are being written by the same person.

PATEL: Well you want to do business in China well, you better follow those rules. I'm being serious like this is something that you said earlier. They were forced to make these apologies.

They made a mistake. If you want to do business in China these are the rules. And if you make a mistake like this, this is what you're going to have to show the public.

This is not just about showing the employees. This is about showing the country and its consumers. Don't forget John that this is a consumer base in China that they can buy all your goods in one day and they can not buy -- you can be down 20 percent in comparable sales if they choose not to boycott you.

VAUSE: Well the brand Coach -- another luxury company which sells basic gear politics of history. Chinese model Liu Wen, she resigned as a brand ambassador for Coach saying Coach has hurt the national feelings of the Chinese people. Those words come directly from the foreign ministry and I know because they used to say it to me.

But in the case of Coach the offending t-shirts were actually made over a year ago, someone had to go find them and dig them up and put them on the Internet.

PATEL: Yes. And I think that is actually pretty telling. When that information came out, when I saw that, it was a year ago and that still went through is a mistake. I mean there is a little bit of Freudian slip as you can say that there is some kind of message that they were sending maybe a year ago to what is changed now.

But when you talk about the bad timing, politically, geopolitically, business, economically -- this is the worst time to make a mistake like this based on what we have seen in the protest from the trade forum from the U.S. and China. As a retailer that's already struggling hard enough you are just putting more ammunition on this.

[01:54:54] VAUSE: and you touched on this when we first started. If there's any question about why these apologies are coming fast and fully loaded, our report last year found China accounted for more than half the growth of global luxury spending and that will be 65 percent of growth within six years.

Or put it this way. Chinese consumers spent $115 billion last year on bling, about a third of the global spend. So when the mouthpiece of the Communist Party on the mainland China warns "This is a matter of principle, apart from condemning and blaming improper foreign companies, it is time for us to take some action."

That must put the fear of got into all these luxury brands.

PATEL: Are you kidding me, the luxury is back because of China a couple of years ago.

(CROSSTALKING)

VAUSE: Hear that warning -- they're going to take action. That is when they start getting nervous.

PATEL: And then that's the thing right. You know, when you look at the cash cow for these companies it is China. There's now way to look at this. The luxury market is actually pushing the U.S. luxury market and how they sell different things secondhand in different places. It's coming from China. And you talk about the fear, I mean this will put stocks -- I mean this literally could freeze (ph) on Wall Street today. This could easily put fear in investors and that is something that you don't want.

VAUSE: There seems -- very quickly -- there seems to be two parts of this. I'm not so sure which has sort of the -- has the sort of the upper hand. It's easy coming from the government and all this stuff on the state controlled media, the newspapers. But there's also a big online social presence of you know, calling for consumer boycotts and just general people lashing out of these companies between sort of a million hits on petition to boycott for instance.

So where is it coming from? Is it coming from the government or is it coming from, you know, sort of homegrown grassroot social media?

PATEL: So I think obviously the Chinese government have come out and mad a statement but the Chinese influencers, you mentioned that hit -- it's coming from Chinese influencers that are really, really popular in China. And when they say something people will follow. And that is something that's not -- you can't, brands can't control that.

You have multiple influencers from China breaking their brand ambassador deals with these brands. That is a pretty big statement because that will make the companies nervous because all of a sudden you are going to lose sales if you're not going to get that ambassador. Right now the best thing for these companies is to stay low, apologize, and, you know, just continue to do what they are apologizing in.

VAUSE: Apologize, apologize, and apologize some more. You can never apologize enough.

Ryan -- thank you. Good to see you.

PATEL: Thanks.

VAUSE: Good to see you as well.

Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

The news continues with Rosemary Church after a break.

[01:57:22] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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