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Trump wants Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) Questioned For Fraud And Treason; Giuliani Sends Mixed Signals On Willingness To Testify; Secretary of State Pompeo Subpoenaed By House Committees; Boris Johnson Vows To Stay On As Prime Minister. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired September 30, 2019 - 00:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN NEWSROOM: Hello everyone live from CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Natalie Allen.

Coming up next to you on Newsroom, an escalating rebuke, the U.S. president calling for the outing of the anonymous whistleblower in the Ukraine scandal.

Also big on rhetoric light on details, the British prime minister promises an exit from the European Union in 32 days but he won't say how.

And gripped by violence, protests in Hong Kong rage on as China prepares to celebrate 70 years of communist rule.

Thank you for joining us. Our top story, facing an impeachment inquiry, the U.S. president is lashing out and at one of his main Democratic adversaries. Donald Trump tweeted he wants House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff questioned for fraud and treason. He also went after the whistleblower at the heart of the Ukraine scandal. The president called him his accuser. He said he wants to meet him and he tried to discredit his information.

The tweets look like a rallying cry for Mr. Trump's base but they are not slowing down Democrats on Capitol Hill. Schiff says, there are safety concerns for the whistleblower but he is planning to testify.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): All that needs to be done at this point is to make sure that the attorneys that represent the whistleblower get the clearances that they need to be able to accompany the whistleblower to testimony and that we figure out the logistics to make sure that we protect the identity of the whistleblower. That's our paramount concern here.

This whistleblower has done obviously a cardinal service to the country by exposing wrongdoing of the most serious kind, a breach of the president's duty to the country that endangers our security. And he's got to be worried about his own security right now with the president issuing threats like he did the other day.

ALLEN: Lawyers for the whistleblower also say they are worried about his safety. They have written a letter to acting National Intelligence Director Joseph Maguire, seen here, asking for resources to protect their client. This comes as Trumps allies try to defend him, Sunday.

CNN's Sarah Westwood has more about it from the White House.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Allies of President Trump were out in full force on Sunday defending Trump and questioning the motives of the whistleblower, as Democratic House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff says his committee has reached a tentative agreement with the whistleblower, for him or her to come in and deliver testimony. And attorneys for the whistleblower also confirmed on Twitter on Sunday that they have been in talks with lawmakers from both parties in the House and Senate to make that testimony happen.

The top aide to President Trump, Stephen Miller, on Sunday, continued to attack the whistleblower as partisan and accused that person of undermining Trump's administration. Take a listen.

STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: The president is the whistleblower here. The president of the United States is the whistleblower. And this individual is a saboteur trying to undermine a democratically elected government.

The behavior of this individual is close to a spy. I don't know who the individual is. All I know is, at some point, Chris, we have to focus on the real scandal, which is three years of deep state sabotage.


WESTWOOD: Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, on Sunday, gave conflicting answers about whether he would be willing to testify before the House Intelligence Committee. Giuliani is at the center of the Ukraine controversy. He is mentioned several times in the whistleblower's complaint. And President Trump brought up Giuliani during that now infamous July phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky.

Now, despite telling CNN on Friday that he would be willing to testify before Congress if President Trump gave him the all-clear, Giuliani did muddy the waters a little bit when he was asked again on Sunday. Take a listen.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I wouldn't cooperate with Adam Schiff. I think Adam Schiff should be removed. If they remove Adam Schiff, if they put a neutral person who hasn't pre-judged the case, if they put put someone in, a Democrat who hasn't expressed an opinion yet, if I had a judge in the case and he'd already announced, I'm going to impeach, if they already went ahead and did a whole false episode, would I move to refuse that -- GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS HOST: That's you answer, you're not going to cooperate?

GIULIANI: I didn't say that. I said I will consider it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You said you wouldn't do it. You said you will not cooperate with Adam Schiff.

GIULIANI: I said I will consider it. I have to be guided by my client, frankly. I'm a lawyer. It's his privilege, not mine. If he decides that he wants me to testify, of course, I'll testify.


WESTWOOD: The House Democrats are ramping up pressure on the Trump administration to hand over documents and provide testimony related to the Ukrainian controversy on Friday issuing that subpoena for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and giving him a deadline only up until October, that's Friday, to provide documents that they have sought since September 9th.


They also want depositions from top state officials, including from former U.S. envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker.

Now, Volker is slated to appear to before three different congressional committees this week, so the pressure on the White House to provide those documents that House Democrats have been seeking will be intense particularly this week.

Sarah Westwood, CNN, the White House.

ALLEN: One of President Trump's fiercest supporters is defending the controversial call with the Ukraine's president. Republican lawmaker Jim Jordan tried to spin the scandal on CNN State of the Union, Sunday. He made unsubstantiated claims about Mr. Trump's Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter.

His comments were challenged by our Jake Tapper in a heated exchange.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The president is calling for Ukraine to investigate his rivals.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Jake, you're missing the fundamental point.

TAPPER: I'm not missing anything.

JORDAN: If you want to impeach -- if this is their argument, Rudy Giuliani talked to a Ukrainian, Rudy Giuliani, the private lawyer of the president, so we're going to impeach this president.

TAPPER: I'm not saying whether --

JORDAN: Give me a break. I don't think the American people are going, really?

TAPPER: I'm not taking the position that --

JORDAN: In light of what this president has been able to do leading our country, in light of the economic growth, what he's done with our Supreme Court justice, what he's done with the embassy in Jerusalem, a host things, you really think (INAUDIBLE), wait a minute, so Rudy Giuliani, the president's private lawyer, had a conversation with the president --

TAPPER: I think that you came here and leveled a bunch of accusations and allegations about Hunter Biden.

JORDAN: I just said facts. He paid 50,000 a month.

TAPPER: He was paid by a foreign company. Yes. He was paid Burisma. But Joe Biden was trying to get a prosecutor who was not pursuing corruption fired. It was --

JORDAN: It's amazing (INAUDIBLE) you guys will go through to defend what -- that you really think the vice president --

TAPPER: Sir, it's not gymnastics. It's facts. And I will defend someone who has been accused of things in the last year and two would be more sensitive about throwing out wild allegations against people.

JORDAN: I'm not throwing a wild allegation. I'm throwing out the facts.

TAPPER: The prosecutor was not pursuing corruption. That's why the entire west wanted him fired, including anti-corruption activists in Ukraine. I don't understand what you don't get about that.

JORDAN: I get that. I'm just talking about this specific case, that there's been reporting and the facts of that specific case are what he was paid for months, $50,000, like I said, that's more than some of the folks I get the privilege of representing in the 4th District of Ohio get paid in a year. He is getting $50,000 a month. The vice president's son, he got hired for what?

TAPPER: The president's daughter right now is having all sorts copyrights granted in foreign countries. That does not alarm you. The president's son are doing all sorts of business all over the world. That doesn't alarm you. Come on. Either there's a principle that people should not benefit from your connections or there isn't.

JORDAN: The previous administrations FBI went after this president on July 31st --

TAPPER: They didn't grab the job then because they didn't even acknowledge it was an investigation until after the election.

JORDAN: They spied on two Americans associated with President Trump's campaign. They put Peter Strzok in charge of that, the guy who said Trump should lose 100 million to zero. They allowed Comey leak documents to get the Special Counsel -- they used to dossier to go get a warrant --

TAPPER: Okay. Now, we're back to the dossier --

JORDAN: No, I'm just saying that's what happened to President Trump. None of that worked. None of that worked.

TAPPER: I understand you want to change the subject. But the president is pushing the president of Ukraine to investigate a political rival. I cannot believe that that is okay with you. I can't believe it's okay with you. If this is the principle --

JORDAN: It's not okay because he -- but he did not do that.

TAPPER: It's in the transcript. We all read it.

JORDAN: I read the transcript.

TAPPER: He says that the Bidens need to be investigated.

JORDAN: That's what you guys do. You guys don't read things in context. The context is that -- that comes up when Zelensky is talking about all of the investigations opening --


ALLEN: Jordan is a member of the House Oversight Committee.

Former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker is expected to appear before that same committee this week.

The impeachment inquiry could turn into a diplomatic nightmare for Ukraine and that may be why officials there aren't saying much, at least publicly.

CNN's Matthew Chance has more about that from the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Ukrainian government is being incredibly tightlipped about the U.S. political crisis that it has been sucked into. However, there is deep concern here about the impact that crisis could have on Ukraine, which is dependent on U.S. support.

One top aide to the Ukrainian president has now spoken out on national television saying, it would be (ph) to distance his country from the increasingly bitter and divisive battle. Take a listen.



ANDRIY YERMAK, AIDE TO UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ZELENSKY: These are the internal affairs of the United States. We see in the U.S. they are friends, our strategic partner. What happens there is their internal political kitchen. We will not take part in this in any way. Our friendship and support is bilateral. It is there, it is very powerful and I am sure that it will continue to be so.


CHANCE: Well, Ukraine is fighting a war in the east (ph) against Russian-backed rebels waging a diplomatic campaign to regain control of the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.

There are concerns that cross-party support for Ukraine may be strained in the partisan political fight underway in America. President Trump's temporary suspension of military aid to the country has also been disconcerting.

We have one former foreign minister here commenting that the Kremlin in Moscow will be watching this Ukrainian crisis unfold with glee.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Kiev.

ALLEN: I'm joined by CNN Senior Political Analyst Ron Brownstein now to talk about all of this. He is a Senior Editor at The Atlantic. Ron, hello to you.

We were told this impeachment inquiry would be a rough one and we are seeing signs of that already. The Democrats do began their inquiry this week and the president and his allies are pushing back hard. What are you expecting?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm expecting kind of apocalyptic struggle over several months and one that really just kind of highlights like a bolt of lightning on a dark evening, just the extent of the divides that already exist in our society.

I mean, we're heading in this direction certainly before 2016. By 2016, it really deepened the trench, what I call the trench, between blue America and red America. We see people the country kind of more consistently lining up on either side of that divide, metro America, very moving towards the Democrats, especially in the Trump era, a non- metro American, very solidly within.

The president is --

ALLEN: Live Skyping, you never know what's going to pop up.


ALLEN: Yes, we're still here, Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: But, basically, the president is willing to kind of lean into these divisions in his defense, and I think we're going to see more of that in the next couple of months.

ALLEN: Well, many Democrats have said that the whistleblower report is a roadmap of allegations that need to be investigates. In other words, could this go -- do you see this going beyond a phone call with Ukraine?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, I do. I think that the investigation will determine the extent to which, as the whistleblower said in the complaint, it was widely accepted knowledge inside the government that the president would not meet with the Ukrainian president, or potentially release the military unless they were willing to, quote, play ball on Biden. I mean, I think that is, I think, the critical context for this call.

The call by itself, I believe, is probably going to be enough for almost all Democrats to vote to impeach him. But I think if there is evidence that through the spring and summer, that, in fact, and as the whistleblower alleges that this was widely understood inside government, I think that's just as much -- it makes this -- it compounds the offense, it makes it much more damning.

ALLEN: And we know that the president is very angry over this. He is lashing out furious at this inquiry, even though he said that he thought this might come one day, it is here. He even says he wants the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Schiff, question for fraud and treason, and he wants to meet the whistleblower. What does that say about where the president is and how he is taking this?

BROWNSTEIN: And you had the third tweet from tonight, basically quoting sympathetically from an evangelical minister said that if he's removed from office, it will be a civil war-style breach inside of the country.

As I said, you can argue that the country was more divided at the end of each recent presidency than it was at the beginning, whether it was Bill Clinton or George Bush or Barack Obama. But all of them tried in their own way to heal the divisions and to narrow the divisions in the society (ph). President Trump, I think, is the first one who has consciously, as part of his political strategy, leaned into widening those divisions, seeing it to his benefit to treat blue America more as a foil than as a target to court.

And I think that is the backdrop for what we are seeing on impeachment. And I think he will simply double down or triple down or quadruple down on that strategy. And he will go very far in the direction of essentially saying, this is approved by blue America against all of us, the real Americans.

And it's interesting, the video right away that he put out yesterday.


It was that they are going after me because they want to silence you. That is his message whenever he comes under criticism from any front and I believe we're going to hear that at a very high level in the coming weeks and months.

ALLEN: And do you expect that Republicans in the Congress will stay by his side throughout this and if we see that the public is getting behind this impeachment inquiry and supporting it, will that change?

BROWNSTEING: That's obviously a critical question. In the end, the vast majority of Republicans will stay with him, I think, in both the House and Senate, the really absent, new revelations that will soon make his position simply untenable. The question is, are there kind of a thin slice of Republicans who give this more credibility by expressing concern and ultimately joining in any action that occurs.

So far, the evidence is not hugely encouraging on that front. In the polling today from CBS, there was about a quarter of Republicans, a number that, I think, surprised many people, including me, who said they were willing to support at least an inquiry.

But that is the question. I mean, we have moved towards a vastly more tribal politics than in the Watergate era or even during Iran/Contra, and arguably even more than during the Bill Clinton impeachment in 1998. And this is conduct that I think a number of Republican national security officials, former officials, are going to raise tremendous concerns about whether any Republican-elected officials beyond Mitt Romney from Utah and maybe a couple of others are willing to join the, I think, is the biggest unanswered questions.

It may depend somewhat on what we learn and the extent to which, again, this becomes part of a pattern of behavior, but it also may depend on to what extent we see the public accepting this as -- finding this as unacceptable behavior.

ALLEN: Well, it begins this week in earnest. Ron Brownstein, we appreciate your insights. Thank you, Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you, Natalie.

ALLEN: The preliminary results from Austria's snap election are in. They show former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz will retake power after his government had collapsed. His party won most of the votes, Sunday, but it was not enough to govern alone. Now, he must decide which party he will form a coalition with. His former coalition with the far-right, Freedom Party, collapsed in May after a corruption scandal.

Britain's prime minister remains defiant. Coming up here, Boris Johnson's battle to remain in office despite the possibility of a no confidence vote.



ALLEN: Welcome back to CNN Newsroom.

Australian police are looking for witnesses after a disturbing incident, a suspected mass kangaroo killing over the weekend. They believe as many as 20 kangaroos may have been intentionally run over by the vehicle in New South Wales. Police describe the kangaroos' deaths as acts of animal cruelty.

Boris Johnson vows to remain Britain's prime minister even if he does not secure a deal to leave the European Union. But he could be forced from office next week. Opposition lawmakers are trying to replace him with an interim administration in an effort to delay Brexit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We've twice asked the leader of the opposition to see if he would fulfill his constitutional function and actually try to deprive the office and former government. He seems to be curiously reluctant to do so.

And if it does, then let's see. You may have seen the other night, I asked MPs on, I think, not just the labor party but all parties to see whether they would go ahead and do it.

They rather -- they looked at their shoes, so let's see what they do.


ALLEN: All right. Mr. Johnson did not explain how he will circumvent a law parliament passed requiring him to request a Brexit delay if he does not come up with a deal at an E.U. summit by October 19th. He calls the measure a Surrender Act. Many in parliament don't like that wording at all.

For more on what could be ahead, CNN European Affairs Commentator Dominic Thomas joining us now from Los Angeles. Dominic, thank you as always for coming in and helping us understand the goings on in Brexit.

First of all, I want to get your reaction to those who want to try and push Boris Johnson out as prime minister in order to delay Brexit with a no confidence vote. Could it come to that next week and how extraordinary would that be?

DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Well, it would be an extraordinary action, and certainly with Brexit, nothing is extraordinary any longer. We all expect something extraordinary to happen. But I think that if Boris Johnson is unable to convince parliament that he will follow the legislation, which forces him to return to the European Union and ask them for an extension, if he's not able to strike a deal ahead of the summit that you mentioned, bring that back to the parliament and get a vote for that.

All of those options are rather unlikely. So if he refuses to do this, and he's really kind of building this narrative of the legislature and the courts being against Brexit and against him as a way of building his agenda going into the general election, and I think that if that happens, the parliament will be in a position to vote against him, to bring him down and to set up an interim administration that will secure an extension with the European Union and then call for a general election.

ALLEN: Yes. Talk about what you mean by an interim government, so to speak. How would that be made up? Do we know anything about that?

THOMAS: Well, what's happened is that since the Fixed-Terms Parliaments Act, so this transition that took place in British legislation that essentially now prevents a prime minister from calling a general election at any one time. If a vote of no confidence is called, in theory, the government has two weeks to try and come up with a new government that could secure the confidence of parliament, which is why time is running out here.


The E.U. will meet in that week at the 17th, 18th and 19th of October summit. That's just about three weeks away. And so if that is impossible, then the opposition will have an opportunity to create a government that could win the confidence of the House.

The problem right now is that even though Jeremy Corbyn, as the leader of the opposition, because the labor party has the greatest number of seats in the parliament right now, has secured the backing of Scottish National Party but is yet secure the backing of the LibDem.

So it's not as if the opposition is united, but if they are able to come together and agree on a leader, then that leader could go to Brussels, ask for this extension, and if the E.U. is willing to grant this, they would then go having eliminated the possibility for the time being, at least, of a no deal to the British public and call for a general election.

ALLEN: Well, Boris Johnson has faced defeat at every turn remains defiant, even after some vicious personal attacks back and forth, we saw this week, in parliament. And he has even said of a no confidence vote, bring it on. Yes, talk with us about that and why he says that.

THOMAS: I mean, obviously, it's risky. It's risky on both sides here. But I think that, ultimately, for Boris Johnson, the strategy could work. As I said earlier, he is building this narrative that, essentially, the British people voted in the 2016 referendum for Brexit, and then currently the parliamentarians, which, of course, ironically, are elected by the British people, are out of touch with the desire of the British to deliver Brexit.

Now, of course, there's tremendous disagreement around that. But I think that as he moves down this particular road, an ideal scenario for him is one in which the conservative party is seen unambiguously as the party that wishes to lead the European Union and to pit them against an opposition that is for remaining in the European Union. And we know that the labor party is uncomfortable with that. So he fractures the opposition over this particular issue.

And I think that the other aspect of it, which is very, very risky for the opposition, is that if Jeremy Corbyn ended up being the caretaker of an interim government going into the general election, this could potentially very much help the conservative party. Because, as we know, Jeremy Corbyn as himself a rather divisive figure that, even within his own party, has failed to get the kind of support.

So this could work for Boris Johnson, and let's not forget that the conservative party remains considerably ahead as a single party in the polls where we to have a general election.

So even though all this has been going on, remarkable as it is, Boris Johnson and the conservative party remain the favorite party going into the general election. ALLEN: Well, we all know one thing, October 2019 will be remembered by the people in the United Kingdom and beyond. Dominic Thomas watching it for us, we'll speak with you again, Dominic. Thank you so much.

THOMAS: Thanks, Natalie.

ALLEN: Next here, we turn to Hong Kong on edge after a weekend of violent protests. More protests could come in just days.






Tuesday could be a turning point for Hong Kong protesters and their months'-long fight for greater democracy. October 1 is China's National Day, the 70th anniversary of the country's communist government. Demonstrators in Hong Kong have made it clear they plan to march. The city is bracing for possible violence like we saw over the weekend.

Protesters hurled petrol bombs and bricks at police and blocked off the streets with fire and barricades. Officers responded with tear gas and water cannons. Will Ripley gave us this report from the middle of the chaos.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Here in Hong Kong, riot police continue to move the front line through the heart of this city, to the area where protests began on Sunday, a very popular mall, the Sogo Mall, where protesters decided to gather, despite the fact that their march was not authorized by police, making any public assembly illegal here in Hong Kong, and leading to a very quick police response, including the water cannon right there that they've been using to fire the blue dye.

Let's get across the street here as we continue to kind of follow scenes that have been playing out, familiar scenes and, yet, very violent and very disturbing for people in the city on this 17th consecutive weekend of protests, and just two days before the anniversary, the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the People's Republic of China.

Tuesday, October 1, is a day where Hong Kong police have made clear any demonstrations are illegal, but that has not stopped these protesters from coming out here and promising to come out in larger numbers. This is some of the propaganda that they have all over the city.

These signs where they've turned the Chinese flag into the Nazi emblem. They are saying these marches are anti-Chi-Nazi, comparing the Chinese government with Nazi Germany. That is the anger. That is the fear that is fueling this hard-core group of demonstrators, the younger people, the radical protesters in the words of city officials, who continue to come out in much smaller numbers, but they're armed with petrol bombs.

They're hurling bricks at officers, and they are prepared for the tear gas and the water cannons, which inevitably come their way. And really, as we see this playing out weekend after weekend, no end in sight here in Hong Kong.

I'm Will Ripley, CNN.


ALLEN: And as China celebrates a landmark anniversary, it is also celebrating decades of nearly unchecked growth. Seventy years ago, the country was a remarkably different place than it is now. David Culver takes a look at China's rapid rise and whether it's still on its way up.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If practice makes perfect, then preparation for China's National Day will make for a seamless ceremony. For weeks, students, soldiers and residents meticulously rehearsing their choreographed steps of military might and nationalistic pride, reflecting China's meteoric rise.

What was a struggling nation, China today is the world's second largest economy and growing. October 1 marks 70 years since the founding of communist China. On that day, all eyes will be looking here, Tiananmen Square. It is the symbolic center of the people's republic, drawing folks from all over the country to its capital, Beijing.


Photographer Gao Yuan has been capturing the changes here through his lens.

GAO YUAN, PHOTOGRAPHER (through translator): We've gone from solving the basic problem of having enough food to eat and clothes to wear to, today, people having money to travel for fun.

CULVER: China today is the world's leading manufacturer and exporter. It boasts the world's largest standing army. And if global success was not enough, they've become the first nation to ever land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon.

(on camera): All of this happening under a single communist party, led today by President Xi Jinping, a leader who's become increasingly powerful as his country has become wealthier. (voice-over): But China's many advancements have come at a cost.

With pollution and air quality issues, widespread development is also taking a toll on the environment. The ongoing trade war slowing China's economy.

These mounting concerns now driving away many of its elites. Yang Zi has called Beijing home for the past 20 years. She works long hours as a sales director. It's afforded her a life of leisure and middle class luxury, but at 40 years old, she's burned out and now wants out.

(on camera): When the average person looks at you, they would see somebody who seemingly has everything. A beautiful home, a car, access to technology. Why leave?

YANG ZI, BUSINESSWOMAN (through translator): Materially, I'm very concerned, but this is not what I'm pursuing for my life. Everyone in China is busy, and everyone is under pressure. Not just me. I'm an example of the majority of the middle class.

CULVER: She worries about health care, education, food safety and fears social morality here in China has eroded beyond repair.

ZI: Everyone rushes about for work, and it's all about money and self-interests. This is not how I want to end up. I want a higher degree of happiness and a better quality of life.

CULVER: She's already bought a place in Italy, planning to leave behind her rapidly-changing homeland. Change that's led to the anniversary ahead, an elaborate show for both China and the world. Watching, you'll likely ask yourself, is it all a fancy facade, destined to crumble, or a precursor to China becoming the new world leader?

David Culver, CNN, Beijing.


ALLEN: Again, there will be more protests in Hong Kong on Tuesday, China National Day.

Well, the #MeToo movement is aimed at empowering women to speak out. However, a recent court case in France could have the opposite effect there. That's coming up.


ALLEN: A ruling by a Paris court last week could have serious implications for the French #MeToo movement. Its founder has been fined thousands of euros for defaming a man she accused of sexual harassment. Now, critics fear the decision might stop women from speaking out.

CNN's Saskya Vandoorne has our story from Paris.



SASKYA VANDOORNE, CNN PRODUCER (voice-over): She was one of "TIME's" people of the year, called a silence breaker for founding France's #MeToo movement, but now Sandra Muller, who paved the way for many women to speak out, is not being not only silenced, but find 15,000 euros for defaming a man who admitting making salacious remarks to her.

SANDRA MUELLER, JOURNALIST: The message is clear. It's don't move, don't speak. We don't want to hear your voice.

VANDOORNE: Muller started the #balancetonporc, "squeal on your pig," hashtag in 2017 by recounting her experiences years before with television producer Eric Brion on Twitter. She tweeted that Brion told her at a party, "You have big breasts. You are my type of woman. I will make your orgasm all night."

Brion recognized Muller's version of events and said it was a one-off mistake, but it did not constitute sexual harassment.

ERIC BRION, FORMER TELEVISION EXECUTIVE: I tried to seduce her, yes. My words were really bad. I know that. I admit that. And when I went back home after sleeping, I sent her a message to apologize. But I never harassed her.

VANDOORNE: The court in Paris agreed with Brion, ruling that Muller lacked a sufficient factual basis to accuse him of sexual harassment. Nevertheless, Brion said the tweets ruined his life.

BRION: My trial was the social networks. In two, three, four days, I was condemned. I was a bad guy. I was a guy who made sexual harassment at work.

VANDOORNE: Muller says she took to Twitter instead of going to the police. Seven years after the event, she feared they wouldn't take her seriously.

MULLER: It was to prevent other women. It's, hey, be careful this man.

VANDOORNE: The verdict was met with anger by feminists such as Marie Laguerre, who was punched outside a Paris cafe after calling out her pig in real time.

MARIE LAGUERRE, ASSAULT VICTIM: I think it's going to have bad consequences on women who already have a hard time speaking out. We know that it's hard to press charges. Sometimes, we don't have the strength to do it. Sometimes, we're not well-received, and sometimes the only thing that you have left is speaking out.

And, apparently, we cannot even do that anymore.

VANDOORNE (on camera): Sexual harassment and assault complaints in France rose 30 percent in the month after the "squeal on your pig" hashtag was launched, according to France's interior ministry. But the ruling in Sandra Muller's case ignited a debate on

naming and shaming men for what some consider flirting. In fact, many people here say that the trial tested the boundaries between sexual harassment, freedom of expression, and the heavy pick-up approach.

(voice-over): Muller believes it's a cultural problem.

MULLER: In France, it's much more like Latin lover country, the country of love, you know. It's a country of seduction. It's a country of la, la, la, patriarchal country, you know. And they don't want to be disturbed in their position. Men are men; women are women.

VANDOORNE: Muller says she will to appeal the decision. Meanwhile, she fears it may prevent other women from coming forward.


ALLEN: And that is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen. Thanks for watching. WORLD SPORT is next. I'll be back for another CNN NEWSROOM in 15 minutes. Hope to see you there.