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Crying Girl's Father Hasn't Been Heard from Since Detention; Trump: Chinese Government Moving Troops Amid Protests; Secret, Private Army Does Anything Putin Says; Sanders Hits "Washington Post" over Paper's Coverage & Editor Hits Back; Australian Bystanders Hold Down Suspect in Deadly Stabbing. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired August 13, 2019 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: All four of their children, who ranged in range in age from 11 to 1 year and 8 months old, are U.S. citizens. She said, and I think it's important, are we going to have to go back to Guatemala, but my kids have never been there, and they don't want to go there.

When I was with Magalina (ph), she was doing her 5th-grade homework, doing powers and word problems, and told me that she loved math and wanted to grow up and be a math teacher.

Her mother knows, if she takes her to Guatemala, the changes of something like that, the future she would have here, are slim to none, she feels. So this is a woman in kind of a desperate situation looking for her husband.

At the same time, we're here in Jackson trying to determine all of these individuals who have been placed in different states in these processing centers. They have charges, Brianna, but the people who run those plants right now, still no charges, still nobody apprehended, still nothing like that.

The government maintains it's an ongoing investigation. But right now, it looks like the only people affected were the workers, not the individuals who hired them.


Dianne Gallagher, thank you so much, in Jackson for us.

We have more on our breaking news now. As violent protests erupt inside Hong Kong's airport, the president just tweeted that the Chinese government is moving troops to the border there.

Also, a CNN exclusive report rattling the Kremlin. Taking a look at a mercenary force doing Vladimir Putin's bidding around the world.


[13:35:38] KEILAR: This just in. The president is now commenting about the massive protests that are going on in Hong Kong that shut down the airport there for a second day now. He tweeted this, "Our intelligence has informed us that the Chinese

government is moving troops to the border with Hong Kong. Everyone should be calm and safe."

Let's talk about this with retired rear admiral, John Kirby.

First off, it's pretty odd that he's calling out the intelligence like this and putting it out in a tweet.


KEILAR: But assuming that this is what China is doing, why would China be doing this?

KIRBY: Because I think it's very clear President Xi has been rattled by these protests and now they're much more increasingly violent.

Look, the Chinese government is not going to abide by democracy. They have made that very clear. So he's definitely trying to signal that he's willing, if needed, to step in from a military or security force perspective to quell these protests.

It's a clear signal from him how seriously he's taking this.

KEILAR: From what we saw, it doesn't look like protesters are going to be backing down any time soon. This is very heated at this point in time. So what does that do to the possible scenarios that could play out here?

KIRBY: It makes it much harder for there to be dialogue. Neither the Hong Kong government, certainly not Xi, and the protest movements are willing to talk to one another. They've made that very clear.

The other thing that's interesting, Brianna, is, even amongst the protesters, there's dissention. You have a group of peaceful protesters who physically left the airport when it got violent. And you have the much violent, more young version of the protest wing that are willing to use violence to achieve their ends.

Right now, it appears like we're at an impasse. There's no real opportunity for dialogue. And that's really the best opportunity here to get this solved.

KEILAR: Admiral Kirby, thank you so much.

KIRBY: Thank you.

KEILAR: Ruling Russia for two decades, Vladimir Putin's power spreads well beyond his borders, election meddling, disinformation campaigns. And now, uncovered by CNN Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward's exclusive report, Putin's own private army.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Oleg. For years, he says he worked as a hired gun in Syria for a shadowy Russian mercenary group called Wagner that has become a valuable tool for the Kremlin.

OLEG (through translator): Wagner is Putin's instrument for resolving issues by force, when action has to be taken immediately, urgently, and in the most concealed way possible. I cannot say it's an army in the proper sense of that word. It's just a fighting unit that will do anything that Putin says.

WARD: This is the first time a former Wagner employee has agreed to speak on camera, and Oleg asked us to disguise his identity.

Private military contractors are illegal in Russia. Officially, Wagner doesn't exist. But CNN has discovered that the group now has hundreds of fighters operating on three different continents.

And this is the man believed to be behind that expansion. Dubbed Putin's chef, because of lucrative catering contracts with the Kremlin, Yevgeny Prigozhin is also sanctioned by the U.S. for funding the Internet Research Agency accused of meddling in the 2016 election.

OLEG (through translator): I'm a mercenary, and 90 percent of participants of the company were like me, and they were motivated by money.

WARD (on camera): What sort of training was it? Where did it take place?

OLEG (through translator): You know, I didn't have any training, as such, not then anyway. I spent six days in the training camp in Molkino. I went to a firing range twice and shot a machine gun once. That was it.

WARD (voice-over): CNN travelled to the remote Russian village of Molkino to try to get to Wagner's training camp and found that the group has a surprisingly close relationship with the Russian military.

(on camera): The only way to get into the Wagner barracks is to get through that checkpoint, which is manned by the Russian military. Because this actually belongs to a Russian special forces unit.

(voice-over): Not far from Molkino, there's a monument to fallen Wagner fighters. Visitors are not welcome, so we approached with a hidden camera.

(on camera): It looks less like a memorial than a fortress.

(voice-over): A guard soon comes up to us. (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

[13:40:02] (voice-over): "Is the church only for Wagner?" I ask. "I don't know for whom," he says.


(voice-over): "For the people who were in Syria?" I press him.

"I don't know, I'm telling you," he says. "I'm just guarding here." He begins to get suspicious of our questions, and we decide to leave.

(on camera): Yes. Let's go.

They didn't let us inside, which is not surprising, because in the compound is the only tangible, visible proof that Wagner is real.

(voice-over): No surprise perhaps that the monument is funded by a Prigozhin-owned company.

It was five years ago in Crimea that mysterious, unidentified fighters, dubbed "little green men," helped Moscow wrest the province from Ukraine, even as the Kremlin feigned ignorance.

It was a success, and Moscow's use of mercenary forces has since grown. Analysts say none of this could happen without Putin's approval.

(on camera): Do you think that part of the mission of Wagner is to help Russia restore its role to become a major global superpower again?

OLEG (through translator): Yes, 100 percent. This is the top priority for Wagner.

WARD: And so it's trying to be a rival to America?

OLEG (through translator): Russia is trying to suppress the U.S. in every way possible, using legal and illegal means. It's trying to smash it, get the better of it somehow. What will come of it as a result? Nothing good, I think.

WARD (voice-over): But for Russian President Vladimir Putin, Wagner is still a worthwhile gamble, an expendable fighting force with no accountability.


KEILAR: And Clarissa Ward is joining me now to talk about this exclusive reporting.

Great reporting, Clarissa.

Just explain to us what the utility in using mercenaries that Russia sees.

WARD: Well, the number one utility, Brianna, is that there's plausible deniability. So when things go wrong -- and they have in the past, 100 or some Wagner fighters were killed in Syria by U.S. airstrikes after they tried to attack a base that was supported by the U.S. -- and the Kremlin could just shrug and say, hey, it's got nothing to do with us. So there's no accountability, there's no responsibility.

Beyond that, they're cheap. They're not particularly great. They're not a particularly sophisticated fighting force. But they get the job done that needs to be done, whether it's guarding oil fields in Syria or guarding diamond mines in the Central African Republic or training local forces there.

They allow Russia to kind of experiment in different places, most of them unstable countries, without having the responsibility that comes with sending proper official troops there -- Brianna?

KEILAR: What exactly is the relationship between the Russian president and Yevgeny Prigozhin?

WARD: We put out feelers and tried to get Prigozhin's response about our report. His lawyers did not reply to us. We tried to reach out to Wagner but that's impossible because they don't officially exist so they don't have an address or phone number.

We also tried to reach out to the Russian minister of defense and they also did not give us any response. So this is an opaque relationship and it's difficult to say.

Some analysts say, listen, Prigozhin is basically just a front man for the Kremlin. Others might dispute that.

But one thing everyone seems to agree on, who are studying this topic closely, Brianna, is that it would be absolutely impossible, even for a powerful oligarch like Yevgeny Prigozhin, to be deploying assets to many different countries on three different continents without the explicit approval or blessing of the president himself.

KEILAR: And that's why -- the Kremlin hates your report. That's part of the reason why, you just spelled it out there. There's actually a Russian Web site that started a false media campaign against you specifically. Tell us about this.

WARD: Well, I think most of us are no longer strangers to Russian propaganda attacks. But this one was particularly striking because it's a 15-minute piece. Essentially, it chronicles our work that we did in the Central African Republic for the second part of the series that will be airing on CNN from tonight on "THE SITUATION ROOM" and also tomorrow.

But what's extraordinary is that they were following us, they were filming us secretly. There's video of me and the team at the airport, in our hotel lobby. Then there's a particularly sinister and bizarre scene in my hotel room in which a man is interviewed pointing to a chair saying, yes, she was sitting right there, she was sitting at her computer and she offered me $100 to say bad things about Russians.

On one level, it's sort of sinister and certainly quite frightening. Three Russian journalists were murdered in the Central African Republic a year ago while they were working on a story about Russian mercenaries.

But on another level, Brianna, I have to be honest with you, it's somewhat satisfying because it makes it clear that our reporting has hit a nerve and we are telling a story that some people would rather not see told. [13:45:10] KEILAR: Yes, maybe they're protesting too much there.

Clarissa Ward, thank you so much.

And 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders, picks a fight with the "Washington Post" in comments that sound eerily familiar to someone in the White House who frequently criticizes "The Post." Hear how the editor of the paper is fighting back.


[13:50:25] KEILAR: Senator Bernie Sanders seems to be pulling a page out of Donald Trump's playbook, blame the media. Sanders says his attacks on Amazon chief, Jeff Bezos, are to blame for what he thinks are unkind coverage from Bezos' own "Washington Post."


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Anyone here know how much Amazon paid in taxes last year?


SANDERS: Yes, I talk about that all of the time. And then I wonder why the "Washington Post," which is owned by Jeff Bezos, who owns Amazon, doesn't write particularly good articles about me. I don't know why.



KEILAR: "Washington Post" editor, Marty Baron, responded. He said, "Senator Sanders is a member of a large club of politicians, of every ideology who complain about the coverage. Contrary to the conspiracy theory the Senator seems to favor, Jeff Bezos allows our newsroom to operate with full independence, as our reporters and editors can attest."

I want to bring in Brian Fung. He is a CNN tech reporter. He also used to work for the "Washington Post."

So tell us your experience. "The Post" is saying, we operate completely independent of Amazon, Jeff Bezos.

When you reporting, did you ever feel any pressure from above, especially considering you covered a lot of Amazon stories?

BRIAN FUNG, CNN TECH REPORTER: Let me be honest, I was at "The Post" before Bezos bought the company and after. So I got to see both sides of what "The Post" was like. And there really wasn't very much difference. One difference was that we had to start putting in these disclaimers saying Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos also owns the "Washington Post."

Apart from that, I never felt any pressure from editors about how to cover Amazon. I never had a story killed that covering Amazon. I never had a story that was changed in any way to reflect more positively or negatively on Amazon.

And if you speak to a lot of my former colleagues, you'll get the same thing.

KEILAR: And I looked at some of your headlines, just grabbed a few. You wrote a lot about Amazon while you were at "The Post."

One was during the last Black Friday, you had a story about protests of what was called inhuman working conditions. You had a story about the president saying Amazon could be guilty of anti-trust violations.

And you had a story about a particularly nefarious practice, which was that Amazon was blocking comparison shopping by shoppers in Whole Foods, which Amazon owns. If you were logging into the wi-fi there, you can't comparison shop.

These were pretty critical stories. What were the experiences you saw? Even politics as well. You were tech, but there were also other reporters with other purviews. What was your experience watching them in their coverage?

FUNG: Sure. Lok, if you examined the work product from my former colleagues -- you know, Jonathan O'Connell has done really good work looking at the impact of Amazon on Seattle's housing market and some of the negative effects that played out there.

My former colleague, Jeff Fowler, has done a lot of very good work analyzing the privacy settings of Amazon products. And he's even taken a look at Amazon Prime and whether or not it's worth it. You know, Amazon Prime is arguably Amazon's most important product. And Jeff concluded, it's probably not worth the money, which is probably not something that Amazon really wants to be hearing here.

In general, journalists are a very independent and idealistic bunch. And I would think that you would hear from folks from "The Post" if they felt like they were being, you know, pressured to cover Amazon in a particular way.

KEILAR: It's why we make sometimes annoying employs, too, I think.

FUNG: Sure. Absolutely.

KEILAR: Independent and definitely want to do our own thing.

Brian Fung, thank you so much. Great perspective. We appreciate it.

A quick programming note. CNN special report, "THE AGE OF AMAZON," premieres this Friday night. Poppy Harlow sitting down with an exclusive interview with Don Graham, the former publisher of the "Washington Post," and asking him about claims just like Bernie Sanders made against the paper.

Plus, we spend hours with Amazon's top executives reporting this over the past six months. This is going to premiere this Friday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

And we do have some more on our breaking news. The president says the Chinese government is sending troops to the Hong Kong border.

[13:54:32] Plus, moments from now, the president will tout the economy, but he just blinked in the trade were with China.


KEILAR: Now to Sydney, Australia, where new video shows bystanders using chairs and a milk crate to take down the suspect in the deadly stabbing there. Authorities say that this man killed one woman and injured another in broad daylight.

Bianca Nobilo is in Sydney with the latest.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brianna. Police in Australia arrested a 21-year-old man accused of stabbing two women in downtown Sydney.

Police Commissioner Mick fuller said the suspect was wearing a back baclava and armed with a knife when he stabbed a 41-year-old woman in the back of the hotel. The man was apprehended while walking along a crowded street with the knife still in hand.

[13:59:58] Just 30 minutes later, police found the body of an identified 21-year-old woman who had been fatally stabbed. They said all available information links the two stabbings together.