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Trump Claims He's Losing Billions Being President; Russians Track CNN Crew Exposing Putin's Private Army; Cuccinelli: Statue of Liberty Poem Refers to People from Europe; Judges to Decide if Trump Can Revoke Protections for Hundreds of Thousands of Immigrants in U.S. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired August 14, 2019 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST & AUTHOR: I think it's most likely he's highly profiting.

Some of his properties, like the Doral Country Club, in Miami, are not doing as well.

But you look the hotel just down the street from the White House, the one that he and his family got out and took a turn on the street when they were going from the inauguration to the White House, that place is doing gangbuster business. Businesses and foreign governments that want something from the Trump administration go there to pay tribute. It's doing very well.

But, you know, this claim, he went on to talk about lawyers and how they cost him that much. To spend $3 billion on lawyers at $1,000 an hour means you have 1500 lawyers on the payroll for a year. That's an entire large law firm. It's absurd. He just makes it up.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: David Cay Johnston, thank you so much.

JOHNSTON: Thank you.

KEILAR: Just ahead, reporting you're only going to find on CNN. Uncovering an elusive military force that's being trained and funded by the Russian government. Our journey into Africa, exposing Vladimir Putin's private army.


[13:35:40] KEILAR: For two decades, Vladimir Putin has dominated Russian politics but his influence and power extends well beyond the borders of his country. As CNN uncovered in an exclusive report, there's a secret mercenary force devoted to the Russian leader, though the Kremlin denies its existence. But it seems to have struck a nerve with Moscow.

CNN chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, and her crew travelled to the Central African Republic to investigate how this private army is expanding.

Clarissa, tell how dangerous was this trip? CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, one

year ago, three Russian journalists were actually ambushed and killed in the Central African Republic while working on a story about the growing presence of Russian mercenaries.

We travelled there to look more broadly at Russia's growing ambitions in Africa. And while, initially, we were treated graciously by the Russians, once our reporting started to get deeper and we started to travel further, we found ourselves being harassed and followed.



WARD (voice-over): This is boot camp --


WARD: -- for recruits to a new army in the war-torn African republic.


WARD: The troops are being taught in Russian.


WARD: The weapons are Russian, too.


WARD: It's taken months to get access to this camp.


WARD: Officially, this is a U.N.-approved training mission.



WARD: The Russian instructors wouldn't talk to us or even be identified because they're not actually soldiers. They're mercenaries. Sponsored by a Russian oligarch with close ties to the Kremlin, they are the sharp end of an ambitious drive into Africa, stoking fears in Washington of Russian expansionism.

Valery Zakharov is the man in charge here. A former military intelligence officer, he is now the security adviser to the Central African Republic's president.

VALERY ZAKHAROV, SECURITY ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT OF THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (through translation): Russia is returning to Africa. We were already present in many countries during the time of the Soviet Union. And Russia is coming back to the same position. We still have connections and we are trying to re-establish them. WARD: That's not the only reason they're here. The Central African

Republic is rich in natural resources, gold and diamonds, and the Russians want them.

We are on our way to one of seven sites where a Russian company has been given exploration rights.

(on camera): One of the challenges of trying to nail down exactly what the Russians are doing here is that, once you get outside the capital, this is still a very dangerous and chaotic country. And just last year, three Russian journalists were actually ambushed and killed while working on a story about Russian mercenaries.

(voice-over): The drive is bruising and long along rugged tracks to a tiny village of straw huts. And then we have to cross a river on this hand-pulled ferry.

Local teenager, Rodriguez, agrees to show us where the Russians have been active. It's another bumpy ride through the bush. The last part of the journey is on foot.

We asked the workers if they have seen any Russians.





WARD: He's saying, earlier this year, there were a lot of Russians here, looking for diamonds.

(voice-over): Rodriguez says the Russians now employ hundreds of workers on artisanal mines like this across the area.

In the pit a group of teenagers pan through the sand in the search for a precious fragment. Whatever they find, they say, must be handed over to the Russian's agent.

(on camera): It's interesting. These guys are saying the Russians who visited this spot actually came from the training camp at Morongo (ph) that we visited. It's pretty clear they're doing more than just training troops here.

(voice-over): CNN has learned that the mining exploration rights have been given to a company called Lobaye Invest. Lobaye is part of a sprawling empire owned by this man, Yevgeny Prigozhin. An oligarch close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, he has been sanctioned by the U.S. for meddling in the 2016 election.

[13:40:09] And a CNN investigation, based on hundreds of documents, has established that Prigozhin's companies are also providing the mercenary muscle. He is believed to be the man behind Wagner, Russia's most notorious private military contractor. On our return to town from the mines, we noticed we were being

followed. We tried to approach, but the car drives off. We catch a glimpse of four white males, all but one hid their faces from our camera. There's no license plate. Police later confirmed to us that they are Russians.

Near our hotel, we spot the vehicle again. We try to get closer, but the men drive off.

(on camera): So we're back at our hotel now, but a little bit shaken up, because that car full of Russians has been following us for quite some time. We don't know why. We don't know what they want.

(voice-over): Mindful of the murder of the journalists last year, we leave town the next day.

But back in the capital, Russia's growing influence is impossible to escape, on the streets, even on the airwaves.



WARD: Radio Lingo Sango (ph) --


WARD: -- features African music and lessons in Russian.


WARD: No surprise, perhaps, that it is funded by Prigozhin's company, Lobaye Invest.

The manager tells us the station wants to deepen cooperation between the two nations.


WARD: And in a country where education and entertainment are in short supply, it seems that plenty of people are listening.


WARD: American officials say they are greatly concerned --


WARD: -- by Russia's actions here, and that they undermine security.

But with the U.S. shrinking its footprint across South Africa and with minimal official Kremlin involvement, Putin has little to lose.


(on camera): For Russia, it's a straight-forward bargain. (GUNFIRE)

WARD: They provide the lessons and the training and, in return, they get access to the country's natural resources.


WARD: And in the process --


WARD: -- hope to reassert themselves --


WARD: -- as a major player in this region.


WARD: It's a campaign for hearts and minds and hard power.


WARD: Russians moving quickly to get a step ahead of its rivals.



WARD: CNN has tried repeatedly to reach out to the company of Yevgeny Prigozhin for comment. We've received no response.

It does bear mentioning however that, in the past, he has strenuously denied any links to Russian mercenary groups.

But one thing that's interesting, Brianna, is that we've been able to identify one of the men who was in the back of our car that was following us. We are not going to say his name but we can say that he is, indeed, a translator for a company owned by, you guessed it, Prigozhin.


KEILAR: Clarissa Ward, thank you for that report.

A judge will soon decide whether the Trump administration can deport some immigrants with temporary protected status. I'll be speaking with a daughter who is suing the federal government to keep her mom in the U.S.

And give me your poor, your huddled masses. Trump's top official suggests those sacred American ideals were written exclusively for European immigrants and now historians are speaking out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [13:48:39] KEILAR: If you look, nowhere in the famous Statue of Liberty poem does it say huddled masses of Europeans yearning to be free. However, that's not stopping the head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' Ken Cuccinelli.

In a new CNN interview, Cuccinelli is once again tweaking the poem that welcomes immigrants from all over the world and all socio- economic backgrounds. This time, claiming it specifically refers only to people coming from Europe who came come here and, quote, "stand on their own two feet."


KEN CUCCINELLI, ACTING DIRECTOR, U.S. CITIZENSHIP & IMMIGRATION SERVICES (voice-over): That poem was referring back to people coming from Europe where they had class-based societies where people were considered wretched if they weren't in the right class.

And it was introduced, it was written one year, one year after the first federal public charge rule was written that says, and I'll quote it, "Any person unable to take care of themselves without becoming a public charge," unquote, would be inadmissible.


KEILAR: Meantime, protesters are gathered today in front of the federal courthouse in Pasadena, California, where an appeals court just heard arguments over the Trump administration's efforts to strip temporary protective status from hundreds of thousands of people.

The administration wants to end protections for people from these six countries, El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, Nicaragua, Nepal and Sudan. They were brought here under a humanitarian law Congress passed in 1990. And George H.W. Bush, a Republican, signed into law. It was a continuation of a program that Ronald Reagan first put in place.

[13:50:15] Some of these folks have been in this country for decades. And this lawsuit that stopped the administration's action brought by now 15-year-old Crista Ramos. She was born here in the U.S. But her mother, who has been here since she was 12, faces deportation.

Earlier, I spoke with Crista and her mother, Cristina.


KEILAR: Tell us what it would mean for you if your mom had to go back to El Salvador.

CRISTA RAMOS, FILED LAWSUIT AGAINST U.S. GOVERNMENT FOR REVOKING TPS: It would be a very difficult situation not only for me but for the rest of the children of parents under TPS. It would cause a lot of trauma. It's a decision that we wouldn't want to make.

KEILAR: What would you decide then, would you decide if you go back with her or do you stay? What would the situation look like for you? RAMOS: I'm just hoping that that doesn't happen, that I don't have to

choose between any. And I hope that the court case will come out with a good result.

KEILAR: Cristina, can you tell us in practical terms, what would it mean for you to go back to a country that you left when you were 12?

CRISTINA MORALES, MOTHER OF CRISTA RAMOS: You just said it, I left when I was 12. I have nothing over there. I don't own anything over there. My whole family is here. I have a house. I have a full-time job. This is the way I support my family, through this protection status.

KEILAR: And you are an aide for special needs students?

MORALES: Yes, I work full time in a classroom for special needs students.

KEILAR: Crista, a district judge sided with you. How did you feel about that, and does it make you hopeful you're going to prevail with this next decision point?

RAMOS: It made me happy and feel positive that a good result will come out of this court case.

KEILAR: If the Trump administration wins its appeal, if you are not successful, what would you do from there?

RAMOS: We will continue to fight. My family will continue to fight. The rest of the TPS committee will continue to find a way to help maintain our families together.

KEILAR: Crista, can you tell me, just in the course of your life, what are you interested in doing? What are the things you do in the U.S., whether it's supports, activities? What is your life like?

RAMOS: I try to live a normal life. I go to school, I play soccer, I've been playing since I was 5. I spend time with my am family. I like to draw and do art. And I like to be involved with social justice and speak up for what is right.

KEILAR: How did you decide that you were going to be the person to speak for so many people, over 200,000, almost 300,000 people?

RAMOS: I didn't want to stay quiet. I wanted to be a part of this fight to help maintain my mom here in the United States and I didn't want her to leave. And I wanted to be a part of it. I didn't want to just stand by. I wanted to be involved.

KEILAR: Cristina, what is the message, when you see the Trump administration targeting TPS, this status that has protected you under several administrations, Democratic and Republican, what do you take away from what the Trump administration is doing?

MORALES: What this administration is just using this as political gain. We all have our normal life. We're free to work, free to walk on the streets, legally work here for a life for our families. I'm a homeowner. Other people are business owner. We contribute to this country, to our community. This is just so unfair.

KEILAR: Crista, would this decision destroy your family in your view?

RAMOS: Yes, my mom would have to go back to a country she left really early and she doesn't quite remember. It would be a big -- a horrible thing.

KEILAR: And you would stay in the U.S.?

RAMOS: I don't know. It's a very hard decision. I try to stay on the positive side that something good will end up happening.


[13:55:05] We are watching this appeals court panel now that has heard arguments today in Pasadena, California, on the administration's appeal of Crista's lawsuit. We will update you when they hand down their decision.

We have more on the breaking news. The Dow falling right now as key recession -- as a key recession indicator is flashing red.

Also, a police commander with an emotional plea after several children die.


UNIDENTIFIED POLICE COMMISSIONER: It's unacceptable. And we're not the only community like this. Something needs to change. People need to step forward. These are the not the only children being murdered. These are the youngest. We've had four under the age of 10 this year along. Why aren't people coming forward to us?