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CNN NEWSROOM

SDF Commander Suggests Kurds Could Ally with Russia; War in Syria; Trump Defends Giuliani; U.S. Sending 1,800 Additional Troops to Saudi Arabia; Independent Voters on Trump; Hong Kong Protests in 19th Straight Weekend; NBA Tries to Salvage Relationship with China; At Least 15 Die after Record Rainfall in Japan; Louisiana Governor's Race; Lindsey Graham Pranked by Russians. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired October 13, 2019 - 05:00   ET

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


[05:00:00]

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GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A new plea for help: Kurds say they have been abandoned and are now asking if they should turn to Russia for protection now.

Standing by his man: the U.S. president supports Rudy Giuliani one day after appearing to distance himself from his personal attorney.

Also ahead this hour, bowing to China: this week it was the NBA and video game companies. We'll explain how Hollywood has been doing the same thing for many, many years.

We are live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. We want to welcome our viewers here and in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

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HOWELL: At 5:01 here on the U.S. East Coast in Atlanta, Georgia, it has been one week now since President Trump announced American troops would pull back in northern Syria.

Now come the criticisms of betrayal. The Kurds who once fought alongside American troops as allies in the defeat of ISIS say the U.S. is abandoning them, leaving them to be slaughtered.

The Kurds are being targeted by another U.S. ally, Turkey, in a military offensive. They led the Syrian Democratic Forces during the fight against ISIS and now a commander in the SDF is slamming the U.S. president's decision to withdraw troops. He said this to the U.S. envoy, William Roebuck, in a readout obtained exclusively by CNN.

He said and I quote, "You have given up on us. You are leaving us to be slaughtered. You have nothing for us. You are not willing to protect the people but you do not want another force to come and protect us. You have sold us. This is immoral."

He goes on to say, "I need to know if you are capable of protecting my people, of stopping these bombs falling on us or not. I need to know, because, if you're not, I need to make a deal with Russia and the regime now and invite their planes to protect this region."

President Trump told FOX News Saturday that it was fine if the Kurds wanted to find someone else to fight with them. He spoke earlier at a conservative Christian event on this issue. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The Kurds are tending to leave and that's good. Let them have their borders. But I don't think our soldiers should be there for the next 50 years guarding a border between Turkey and Syria when we can't guard our own borders at home. I don't think so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: President Trump there. As the Turkish military operation continues pushing into Syria, we are now seeing new and very graphic video coming out of the northern part of that country.

In this video, it appears to show Turkish-backed fighters shooting captives. One of the man who gets shot has his hands tied behind his back. We warn you the video you are about to see is very graphic. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: An activist tells "The New York Times" that happened on Saturday. The gunmen are Turkish-linked militants. They can be heard shouting in Arabic, "Film me shooting him with a sniper rifle," and "Pigs, prisoners, kill them."

The Turkey-based militia said they will investigate. There are reports a female politician was killed in the same area. CNN's Arwa Damon has more from Turkish-Syrian border.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The wails of all-consuming sorrow echo throughout the gravesite in the early morning. A woman cries out for her dead son.

"He was too young. He was too young to die."

Others unwilling to let go of those they loved.

[05:05:00]

DAMON (voice-over): Those taken away too soon, too senselessly.

Buried here is 50-year-old Hussain Chukud (ph), a father of five, killed when a barrage of rounds fell in front of the grocery store he owns. And all eight people, civilians, were killed. Six of them buried here in the small cemetery up against the Syrian border in the shadow of the Syrian city.

They were members of Turkey's ethnic Kurdish minority, a minority with a tormented past, a painful present and an uncertain future.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The Turks fire and the other side retaliates. When that happens, who does it hit?

It hits us. We just collect our dead and bury them.

DAMON (voice-over): He said goodbye to his cousin, who was a father of four.

DAMON: This is one of his four kids, the 4-year old. But he has a newborn as well.

DAMON (voice-over): He describes his cousin as a happy man, whose only problem was that he was Kurdish. Many of those here also have relatives on the other side. Families on both sides of this border are caught in the crosshairs of an offensive whose consequences are unknown.

The cemetery clears out quickly. Even in their sorrow, people are afraid of gathering in large groups, lest more rounds fall again.

For Turkey, the YPG, the Kurdish-led fighting force in Syria, poses an existential threat Ankara is determined to destroy, no matter the cost. The YPG is an offshoot of the PKK, which has been designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the E.U.

The PKK has been battling the Turkish state for decades. Nusaybin is in Turkey's southeast, a region whose population has been caught in Turkey's war on terror before.

DAMON: We are being told there used to be single-story homes here but they were destroyed in the most recent clashes, very fierce fighting that broke out between Turkey and the PKK. That was back in 2015. And many of the homes here were subsequently destroyed.

What people are telling us is, about a month ago, the Turkish government gave them keys to these apartments. They had only just returned. Now they have found themselves in the middle of a war zone once again.

This is a video right after the strike. It's very hard to look at.

DAMON (voice-over): A mother and her two daughters died. They were barely teens. The Kurdish population along both sides of this border know war. They know fear and uncertainty. And that war often blurs the lines between those who are armed and those who are innocent.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Live along the Turkish-Syrian border, Arwa Damon is here with the story. Arwa, the SDF commander saying essentially this is a case of betrayal.

These Kurdish fighters now find themselves left to be slaughtered, he says. In the meantime, civilians there, Arwa, are just left in the middle.

DAMON: Yes, they are. And this is the way war constantly plays out. And quite frankly, when you look at the parties, the governments who end up being involved in these wars, despite public proclamations, no matter who they may be, there really is very little regard for the civilian population, often referred to as collateral damage.

This offensive has caused around 100,000 civilians to flee inside Syria. On the Turkish side of the border, a number of towns have actually begun to clear out. Below us, there is the town that have been, in the past few days, an artillery strike that took place that killed two people.

And further in the distance, that is the Syrian town that, it would seem, has gone back and forth between both Turkey and the SDF claiming control of it. Since we arrived just a short while ago, there have been a couple of strikes that have happened in there as well.

War is dirty. War is never clean. And war causes a devastating toll on a civilian population, whether it's because of a humanitarian crisis that unfolds, like the one in Syria, a number of aid organizations are warning of or whether it is quite simply the civilian death toll that ends up emerging behind all of this, the countless families who are forever broken, their loved ones forever lost.

When you ask many of them, why did this have to happen to us?

They either say they don't know what they have done to deserve it or they are very aware of the fact that they are quite simply political pawns in a bigger game -- George.

[05:10:00]

HOWELL: Caught in the middle of a chaotic situation. Arwa Damon reporting along the Turkish-Syrian border. We will continue to stay in touch with you, Arwa, as you continue to bring more reports of what's happening there.

Back here in the United States, the U.S. president is now defending his personal attorney, a day after he appeared to distance himself from Rudy Giuliani. "The New York Times" reporting this Giuliani's dealings with Ukraine are under criminal investigation and may have violated federal lobbying laws. Our Jeremy Diamond reports from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Even as president Donald Trump is mounting his own defense in House Democrats' rapidly advancing impeachment inquiry, the president now also tasked with defending his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who has come under fire for his role in the Ukraine scandal.

And now "The New York Times" reporting that federal investigators are probing whether or not Rudy Giuliani may have violated federal foreign lobbying laws.

The president on Saturday taking to Twitter defending his personal attorney, writing, "So now they are after the legendary crimebuster and greatest mayor in the history of New York City, Rudy Giuliani. He may seem a little rough around the edges sometimes but he is also a great guy and wonderful lawyer. Such a one-sided witch hunt going on in USA. Deep state. Shameful."

We're being told privately the president has begun to express concerns about Rudy Giuliani and the legal exposure he may face, particularly after two of his associates in the Ukraine matter were arrested on campaign finance charges.

Now despite the president focusing also on defending his personal attorney, he is still on the attack against House Democrats, who are continuing to investigate the president over his call with the Ukrainian president and the matters arising from that.

The president saying that he is considering a lawsuit against congressman Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who is one of Democrats' leaders on this impeachment inquiry. I spoke on Saturday with Jay Sekulow, who would say nothing is off the table but they are only in the research phase of considering potential legal action -- Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Jeremy Diamond with the reporting. Thank you.

Now for perspective, let's bring in Amy Pope at Chatham House, an independent think tank in the United Kingdom, joining live from the London bureau.

Good to have you with us.

AMY POPE, CHATHAM HOUSE: Good morning.

HOWELL: Let's start with the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. "The New York Times" reports the former mayor of New York is now the center of a criminal probe over whether he broke any foreign lobbying laws. Giuliani said he is not aware he is under any investigation.

He suggests it is, quote, "nothing but leaks," calling it, quote, "a political attack," and adding if it were an appropriate investigation that officials would try to keep it secret so subjects are not aware of it.

What do you make of his argument there?

AMY POPE, CHATHAM HOUSE: I think he is right to say that generally the procedure within the U.S. Department of Justice is not to put people on notice that they are under investigation. So it is not unusual that he would say he has not been told he is the target of the investigation at this point in time.

At the same time, we do know two of his associates have been arrested. There are reports that he, too, was under investigation. That makes sense given what we know about the state of affairs at the moment.

We know that the Justice Department is very serious about investigating violations of what's known as the Foreign Agents Registration Act or FARA, which is a broad statute that prohibits U.S. persons from engaging with foreign actors to influence U.S. politics.

HOWELL: Amy, President Trump is expressing his support publicly. But behind the scenes, sources tell CNN the White House is concerned about any legal exposure to Giuliani. We know loyalty matters pretty importantly to President Trump until it doesn't, as we saw with Mr. Trump's other personal attorney, Michael Cohen.

Does loyalty have an expiration date, in your opinion, for Giuliani?

And when does he become too toxic to stand by?

POPE: We've seen this movie with the president before. Time and again he will stand behind his people until, one, the evidence becomes either too strong for him to push against or, two, the person suggests they're going to start cooperating against the president.

So I would expect the president will continue to support Rudy Giuliani at this moment in time.

But I wouldn't expect that to hold. We haven't seen that historically, that the president sticks with his people. When they become politically or publicly difficult for him, he is the first to throw them under the bus.

[05:15:00]

HOWELL: Trump also taking heat within his own party over foreign policy decision to pull troops out of Syria and to abandon the Kurds, the Kurds who fought alongside U.S. troops against ISIS. That move is being criticized as betrayal and, in the eyes of U.S. allies, an example of unpredictability.

How do you see the short-term impact here and what's the long-term takeaway when it comes to foreign policy?

POPE: There are many problematic issues with the way that he has approached the situation.

First, as we know, the Syrian Democratic Forces have been allies for the United States. They have been an important piece of our strategic fight against ISIS.

And essentially allowing them to be -- what appears to be massacred by the Turks is creating a situation where it undermines the support that we can build and our forces can build in conflict areas around the globe.

More importantly, what the president did not do was enlist our diplomatic allies or humanitarian actors to respond. Right now we are in the middle of the worst displacement crisis in the world, more than 65 people (sic) displaced in the world.

We have seen this play out for the last several years with the refugee crisis. By going into a situation without any plan in place, without our diplomatic allies on alert, we are only fueling that particular crisis, which is not good for anyone in the end.

HOWELL: Amy Pope, giving us perspective on a lot of news that is happening around the U.S. president, Amy, thank you for your time.

POPE: Thank you.

HOWELL: Around the world and in the United States, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Still ahead, the U.S. is sending troops to Saudi Arabia after President Trump promised to take troops out of the Middle East conflicts there. More on what's happening ahead of us.

Plus CNN asks independent voters how they see the impeachment situation playing out with U.S. president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How many of you see this phone call and this ask by the United States to look into his political rival as an abuse of power?

Raise your hands.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM.

As the U.S. president draws international scorn for pulling troops out of Syria and as a result abandoning the Kurds, who fought alongside American troops in the defeat of ISIS, a different view from Saudi Arabia.

[05:20:00]

HOWELL: That nation's king is applauding the U.S. government for sending American troops to protect its oil fields. The Pentagon announced that it would send 1,800 more troops to Saudi Arabia to, quote, "maintain regional security" against threats from Iran. Our senior international correspondent Matthew Chance reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest deployment of troops brings to 3,000 the number of additional forces sent to Saudi Arabia in the past month.

Most of these are made up of anti-defense missile units that bolster security around vita oil installations in this kingdom. That represents a significant increase in the size of the U.S. military footprint here at a time when Washington is drawing down military forces elsewhere in the region, a fact that is, in itself, drawing criticism.

It comes, though, against the backdrop of increasing tensions between Saudi Arabia and its regional rival, Iran. In the past few days, an Iranian oil tanker was mysteriously struck by two missiles off the Saudi coast. The attack initially blamed on Saudi Arabia before Iranian authorities clawed back on those allegations.

It is still unclear what exactly happens with the tanker and who may have been responsible. Last month Saudi oil facilities came under drone and missile attack, damaging production and taking nearly 5 percent of the global oil supply off the market. Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen said they were responsible.

The U.S., though, has blamed Iran directly, an allegation that Tehran has categorically denied. There have been other incidents, too, earlier in the year, with other attacks blamed on Iran on shipping in the Persian Gulf.

So a very tense situation and now one into which the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, is stepping. Russia has good relations with Iran but also growing ties with Saudi Arabia. And as President Putin prepares to begin a state visit to Saudi, he's issued a stern warning.

"If anyone believes the seizure of tankers or attacks on oil infrastructure will affect cooperation between Russia and our Arab friends, all of them are wrong," he said in an interview with Russian state media.

That visit is set to take place Monday. Russia and Saudi Arabia, two of the world's biggest oil producers, seem increasingly close when it comes to energy cooperation. There is a growing, you know, personal bond between the two countries' powerful leaders.

That is an interesting context in which to see the U.S. support for Saudi Arabia because if that were to decrease, there would be plenty of others, led by Russia, willing to fill the vacuum -- Matthew Chance, CNN, Riyadh.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Matthew, thanks.

Stateside, a new poll shows majority of Americans approve the start of an impeachment inquiry into President Trump over his phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart. That poll, conducted by PBS NewsHour, NPR and Marist, finds 52 percent Americans approve, 86 percent of Democrats approve, only 9 percent of Republicans want an impeachment inquiry.

And 54 percent of independents want the House to investigate the president. FOX News also released a poll on Wednesday that found 51 percent of registered voters want Mr. Trump to be impeached and removed from office. That's a new high in FOX's polling, up 9 points since July with increases coming across party lines.

In the meantime, our Randi Kaye went to Wisconsin to see what some independent voters say about President Trump and the whole situation around impeachment. She spoke with nine voters ranging in ages from 18 to 82 years old. Here's what they had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAYE: Do you think an impeachment inquiry is appropriate?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Definitely appropriate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

KAYE: So all of you agree that an impeachment inquiry is appropriate?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm witnessing this president go out there and do things that are clearly following what's in the Constitution about impeachment, high crimes and misdemeanors and bribery.

KAYE: You are an independent but you lean Right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Correct.

KAYE: But you are OK with the impeachment inquiry?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, absolutely because I also feel like we need to follow the rule of law. And if something smells bad, we need to investigate it.

KAYE: Why are some of you convinced that this call sounded like a quid pro quo?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They just put the material of the $392 million of aid on hold just days before.

What kind of a signal was that?

This wasn't on hold for two months and they're going to (INAUDIBLE). This was just days before.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "We are looking to buy some more Javelins."

"I want you to do me a favor, though."

I mean, it is right there. It's in the primary source released by the White House.

[05:25:00]

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you read it word for word. It -- to me -- I mean, I'm not a lawyer. I'm not a mobster. But to me it looks like a quid pro quo.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is our president ever asking a foreign president for a political favor like this?

I mean, it just seems so highly inappropriate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not convinced that the withholding of aid a few days before we have enough evidence to say that that was related. I think that the transcript of the call was suspicious but I'm not yet ready to make a decision.

KAYE: How many of you see this phone call and this ask by the president of the United States to look into his political rival as an abuse of power?

Raise your hands.

KAYE (voice-over): And what about the White House putting that phone call on a classified server?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The White House staff, even his own staff saw this as, uh-oh, he might have just done something impeachable.

KAYE (voice-over): Another concern for these voters, text messages, in which an ambassador tries to bury any talk of quid pro quo or conditions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As someone who has worked in government in years past, when you get that message that says, call me, it is because somebody does not want a written record of something.

KAYE (voice-over): And about the State Department blocking some key witnesses from testifying...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That to me is huge warning signs. And I think that's going to be problematic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If there is nothing to worry about, then why hide anything?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Be transparent.

KAYE: Fair to say, though, that this inquiry has affected all of your thinking when it comes to who you might vote for?

Is that fair to say?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think for me, it's just one more level of distrust. And if I can't trust someone, I have a hard time voting for them.

KAYE: If the president is impeached but not removed from office by the Senate, how many of you would still vote for him?

None of you.

Rich, you lean right as well, even though you are an independent.

Are you considering voting for Trump still?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Because it looks kind of bad.

KAYE: So knowing what you know now about Ukraine and the impeachment inquiry, do you think he should be removed from office?

Raise your hand. Three.

KAYE (voice-over): Randi Kaye, CNN, Milwaukee.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: An American diplomat's wife involved in a crash that killed a teenager in the United Kingdom, both the U.S. and U.K. governments agree that she does not have diplomatic immunity. This is according to the U.K. news agency PA Media.

Police say that 42-year-old Anne Sacoolas was driving on the wrong side of the road -- this happened back in August. Her car collided with a 19-year old, Harry Dunn, who was on a motorbike. She apparently assured U.K. police that she would remain in the country but, shortly afterwards, she returned to the United States, claiming diplomatic immunity.

PA Media report the U.S. and U.K. government say, quote, "immunity is no longer pertinent in her case."

That could allow U.K. officials to seek her extradition so that she could be prosecuted.

An American video game company is changing course. Ahead, why it is easing up on an esports player who offered support for Hong Kong protesters.

Plus, some countries are learning the hard way the cost of doing business with China. What it means, a price. Coming up, why it could affect what you see on the screen depending on where you are. (MUSIC PLAYING)

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HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta, Georgia. I'm George Howell with the headlines. That we are following for you this hour.

(HEADLINES)

HOWELL: For 19 straight weekends, thousands of protesters in Hong Kong have taken to the streets. We have images to show you there in Hong Kong, this image live -- oh, this from Saturday. You see protesters there taking part in the protests with their umbrellas, chanting for greater independence from Beijing.

As the weeks drag on, some protesters have embraced more extreme and sometimes violent tactics. So have police. Still the pro-democratic movement has won supporters across the world, much to Beijing's dismay.

An American video game company is walking back its response to a Hong Kong gamer, who showed support for the protests that are happening there. Eplayer Ng Blitzchung was penalized after shouting, "Liberate Hong Kong" during a postgame interview in which he acknowledged was against the company's rules.

That company, Blizzard, was accused of catering to China's Communist- led government. And gamers around the world called for a boycott of the company. It says that it will give back $10,000 in tournament prize money.

The company is also cutting his one-year suspension in half. The company's president apologized, saying this.

"We've had a chance to pause, to listen to our community and to reflect on what we could have done better. In hindsight, our process wasn't adequate and we reacted too quickly."

And the National Basketball Association is scrambling to save its relationship with Beijing. China pulled preseason NBA games off the air after the manager of the Houston Rockets tweeted support for Hong Kong protesters.

The NBA quickly distanced itself from the tweet, though the league's commissioner says he respects the manager's freedom to express his thoughts. But watch what happened Thursday, as CNN's reporter Christina Macfarlane asked a simple question of two Houston Rockets players about this controversy.

[05:35:00] CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The NBA has always been a league that prides itself on its players and its coaches being able to speak out openly about political and societal affairs. I just wonder, after the events of this week and the fallout we've seen, whether you would both feel differently about speaking out that way in the future?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excuse me. We're taking basketball questions only

MACFARLANE: It is a legitimate question. This is an event that's happened this week during the NBA.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's already been answered.

MACFARLANE: This particular question has not been answered.

James?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any other questions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: And later, the NBA issued this apology saying, quote, "A team representative inappropriately interjected to prevent CNN's Christina Macfarlane from receiving an answer to her question. We've apologized to Ms. Macfarlane -- as this was inconsistent with how the NBA conducts media events."

(CROSSTALK)

HOWELL: -- have run into conflict over how they handled the Chinese market. Hollywood has also been criticized. Just a few months ago, promotional material for the upcoming film, "Top Gun: Maverick," appeared to have been altered for the Chinese market.

Look there to the left. You can see the Japanese and Taiwanese flags on the back of the jacket Tom Cruise wore in the original "Top Gun."

On the right, in an image from "Top Gun: Maverick," those flags have clearly been replaced. Social media speculation is that this was done to appease China.

Media analyst Bill Carter joins now to talk now about what it means to do business in China.

Good to have you with us, Bill.

BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Nice to be with you, George.

HOWELL: We are getting a sense how important the Chinese market is, given the headlines as of late. But this is nothing new for Hollywood, given the massive market for films. The Chinese market brought in almost $9 billion, this in 2018, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. Both the U.S. and Canada box offices combined, brought in over $11.9 billion and that's together. Clearly there is big money to be made in China. But to deal with

China, many movies maneuver a moral cost of self-censorship on some pretty delicate issues.

CARTER: It is. And a very interesting line they are trying to walk. China is a massive market. It brings in so much money, they have to pay attention to it.

But in so doing, they really have to sort of weigh, you know, market value versus human value. And what they have to do here is basically censor themselves in order to keep that market. Because China is clearly showing that it is extremely unforgiving about any kind of sign, especially in this Hong Kong situation, that plays into that.

You know, they can be economic bullies essentially here. And they can say, if you don't do it our way, we will hold back our money and it will really hurt you. And it works for them.

HOWELL: You know, we are certainly seeing Western producers conform to Chinese political ideals to gain access. Let's look again at "Top Gun." This is really clear to see. In the film promotional, the images have been edited, removing the Taiwanese flag from the back of Tom Cruise's character jacket. Clearly, that is done as this movie is to play in China.

CARTER: Yes. And obviously they -- it's not even called attention to. But they are so conscious of any kind of positive imagery about Taiwan that they interfere with this. That isn't a massive, you know, impingement on the artistry of the movie.

But it certainly shows you the length they will go to, to try to make sure they tamp down any sign that it is a protest or some point of view that they do not want to get out.

HOWELL: And if the movies don't pass the test, they don't play in China. The film "Christopher Robin" was denied release in China without reason. But remember the images of Winnie The Pooh were censored and banned in 2017 after some on social media compared that character to the Chinese President, Xi Jinping.

CARTER: Which is actually kind of a bizarre decision to have made of Winnie The Pooh, for heaven's sake, is not a character that would be offensive in any way. But it heightens, it underscores the sensitivities here.

And it also completely demonstrates if someone is willing to do that to keep a movie out that the Chinese have an incredible amount of power over the way Hollywood is going to make a number of decisions.

As you pointed out $9 billion is so important to their market. You know, their whole market value now. They can't afford to stand up to China.

HOWELL: Bill, I would like your take on an opinion article from "The New York Times."

[05:40:00]

HOWELL: The author wrote that, "Dealing with China isn't worth the moral cost. Saying that if the original thinking was China would open the economy that the West would liberalize that country. It seems there is an opposite effect from film, tech, NBA, gaming, of corrupting Western ideals.

Your thoughts?

CARTER: Well, that seems to be the message right now. I mean, you can see the NBA, you know, an executive comes out and says something that, in our country, we stand for. We stand for freedom of expression, et cetera. And the NBA reacts in a way to first try to tamp that down. Then when the commissioner comes out and defends it, the next thing they do in China, they try to tell their employees, who are athletes, they can't speak out.

And across the entire range of entertainment, including gaming, a guy who wins a game and says something about Hong Kong doesn't get his prize money. Apple has to worry about all of its investments in terms of manufacturing, et cetera.

At the same time, they want to present themselves their brand, is that they are a values-oriented company. So they are giving up so much for this market. You really have to step back and say China is a country, a sometimes hostile country, it's not a market. And it's not a cash register. It's actually a country.

And you have to deal with them on the whole political basis, not just on a profit and loss basis.

HOWELL: Bill Carter, we appreciate your time. Thank you.

CARTER: Sure thing, George.

HOWELL: In Japan, search and rescue operations are underway after a huge storm drops a great deal of rainfall. We'll be live from Japan as officials there. Damage there.

And California's deadly wildfires. How firefighters are doing there. Stay with us.

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[05:45:00]

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HOWELL: In Japan, recovery efforts are underway right now after a very strong typhoon ripped through the northeast of that country. Take a look at the video there. So much rain. So much water that fell.

Record-setting rain left behind a trail of devastation, flooding homes, submerging cars there. At least 15 people were killed and more than 100 others were injured.

The severe weather also put part of the Rugby World Cup in jeopardy. In hours, they will take on Scotland. Covering the events there is Christina Macfarlane.

What was it like to go through that storm?

And, secondly, what's the aftermath?

MACFARLANE: Well to say, George, I was out last night broadcasting during the storm. It ripped through at midnight. It was fast and it was furious. It was over in about an hour. Winds registering 195 kilometers per hour.

The situation right now from the disaster agency is that unfortunately 15 people have died. We have 141 people injured and nine people are still unaccounted for as we speak.

There are about a million people evacuated around the country in the past 24 hours. The biggest concern right now is still around the flooding and the potential for landslides. We saw unprecedented levels of rainfall, up to a meter falling in certain parts of the country. Here in Tokyo, we know that the flood defenses have held. The rivers are receding but there is a massive search and rescue operation underway in various parts of the country.

HOWELL: The Rugby World Cup, Japan to face Scotland in the final game of the group stages, how have the games been impacted?

MACFARLANE: Well, the first of four Rugby World Cup games to take place today was canceled. That was Namibia against Canada. Because of floodwaters and flood warnings there, they couldn't let that game go ahead.

It has been a colossal effort to get the other three matches up and running. There's none bigger than the match that is about to take place an hour from now, where Japan will take on Scotland for a chance of history.

The first time Japan could make it through to the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals. They will have to either beat or have a draw against Scotland. If they go through tonight, it will set up a quarterfinal against South Africa, which all rugby fans know is a rematch of the Miracle of Brighton four years ago at the Rugby World Cup, where Japan pulled off one of the biggest upsets by defeating South Africa.

Could they do that again on home soil?

We'll have to wait and see. But right now with the fans milling around the last couple of hours, we are counting down to the crucial match. Everyone is delighted this has been able to go ahead today.

HOWELL: Christina Macfarlane, giving us the reporting and, of course, what is left to see here in the coming hours of rugby. Thank you.

Firefighters in southern California are working around the clock to contain several fast-moving wildfires there. In Riverside County, take a look at the scene there. We know that two people died in the Sandalwood fire. That fire still burning.

And the Saddleridge fire broke out Thursday night. It destroyed 31 homes and burned 7,400 acres. Evacuation orders are being lifted; more than 100,000 people in the L.A. area were forced to leave their homes.

In the city of New Orleans, rescue crews are searching for the last person missing after a building collapsed on Saturday morning. Take a look at what happened there. Eyewitnesses captured the moment the Hard Rock Hotel crashed to the ground.

The building was under construction with more than 100 workers on the site at the time. The accident killed two people. At least 18 others were injured. Officials brought in a crane to help stabilize what's left of that building.

South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham falls for an international prank. We'll explain. Stay with us.

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HOWELL: CNN's election team projects that Louisiana's governor John Bel Edwards has been forced into a runoff vote. Edwards, seen here on the left, was the top vote-getter on Saturday but will fall short of the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff. He will face Republican businessman Eddie Rispone in a runoff on November 16th.

The senior senator from the U.S. state of South Carolina may be blushing after Lindsey Graham was pranked by two Russians pretending to be Turkey's defense minister. "Politico" reports the pranksters may have ties to Russian intelligence. Our Polo Sandoval explains.

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POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They go by Lexus and Vovan and in August, these two Russian pranksters convinced one South Carolina senator they were Turkey's defense minister.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Hello, Mr. Minister. Lindsey Graham. Hello.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good, Mr. Senator. Thank you.

GRAHAM: I really appreciate you calling me.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): "Politico" first obtained recordings of two calls between Senator Lindsey Graham and who he thought was a Turkish official. An unwitting Graham is heard talking about an ideal scenario for U.S. relations with Turkey and refers to Kurdish forces, which he refers to by shorthand, YPG, as a "threat" to Turkey.

GRAHAM: Here's the best case scenario. We open free trade negotiations between the two countries this year and we continue to work together to create cooperation in Syria that protects you against a YPG threat and we try to find a way to go to Geneva and settle the war in Syria eventually.

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SANDOVAL (voice-over): Those comments appear to contradict the senator's recent criticism of President Trump's decision to pull American troops out of Syria to make way for a Turkish military offensive.

A spokesman for the South Carolina senator confirmed to CNN the prank calls happened and that they, quote, "got him."

In a second conversation, Graham even offers a call with the president himself.

GRAHAM: The president told me to tell President Erdogan that he wants to turn the discussion to a free trade agreement. And I can set up a phone call between the two presidents if you want me to.

Do you want me to do that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Sure.

You know --

GRAHAM: And I'll be on the phone. I'll be on the phone call.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): Senator Graham is only the latest to fall victim to the Russian pranksters, whose real names are Alexey Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov. Russian pranksters have been blamed for hoax calls made to Energy Secretary Rick Perry and House Democrat Adam Schiff.

Even Sir Elton John call took a call he believed was coming from Russian president Vladimir Putin. The duo have denied insinuations that they are backed by the Kremlin or Russian intelligence, even though their crank calls tend to target Russia's real or perceived adversaries -- Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York.

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HOWELL: And that's the news this hour. Thank you for being with us. I'm George Howell at the House that Ted built, CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. For our viewers in the United States, "NEW DAY" is next. For our viewers around the world watching on CNN international, "VITAL SIGNS WITH DR. SANJAY GUPTA" is ahead. Thank you for your time.

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