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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump: G7 Won't Be Held at Doral; New Brexit Deal Stymied by Letwin Amendment; Fresh Anti-Government Protests in Lebanon; Huge Crowds March Unauthorized in Hong Kong Tourist District; Sanders Officially Gets Ocasio-Cortez's Endorsement; North Korean Leader's Propaganda. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired October 20, 2019 - 04:00   ET

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


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GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The U.S. president's about face: Donald Trump makes a new declaration about next year's G7 summit.

The British prime minister's mixed messages: what they might mean for Britain's future.

Also ahead this hour, Hong Kong protests: tear gas and demonstrators in the streets as Hong Kong enters its 20th week of protests.

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

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HOWELL: An early 4:00 am here on the U.S. East Coast. Thank you for being with us this day.

We start with the U.S. president in a rare instance of Mr. Trump reversing course due to outside pressure. It has to do with where the G7 summit will or won't be held. Jeremy Diamond explains.

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JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump will not host next year's G7 at his resort near Miami, Florida, after all. Just two days after he trotted out his chief of staff to defend the decision to host the global gathering of world leaders at one of his own properties.

In the face of some blistering criticism from Democrats as well as some Republicans, the president reversed course. In a tweet late Saturday night, the president acknowledged the criticism, tweeting that while he thought he was, quote, "doing something very good for our country," Democrats and the media, quote, "went crazy." The president tweeting, "Therefore, based on both media and Democrat

crazed and irrational hostility, we will no longer consider Trump National Doral, Miami, as the host site for the G7 in 2020. We will begin the search for another site, including the possibility of Camp David, immediately. Thank you."

It was a rare reversal for the president who is known for his trademark defiance. And it all came after the president was accused of once again attempting to profit from his presidency.

But what went unsaid in the president's tweet was the criticism that he faced from members of his own party as well, who, at a minimum, worried about the appearance of impropriety of a president hosting a major world forum at his own for-profit property.

The president's reversal came after his chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on Thursday defended the choice, insisting that the government officials had concluded that the Doral property, which is owned by the president, was somehow the best option in the entire country.

And while Mulvaney said during that briefing that Camp David that had previously been a, quote, "miserable place" to have the G7, the president on Saturday night indicating it was back on the table -- Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.

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HOWELL: And to put it in perspective we have Thomas Gift. Thomas a lecturer at the University of College London, live this hour.

Good to have you with us.

THOMAS GIFT, UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON: Good morning.

HOWELL: Usually we see Donald Trump doubling down on issues. There's also the triple down Trump. Rarely do we see an about face. It seems that is the case when it comes to hosting the G7 at his private resort, keeping in mind this is not the first time questions have been raised about how the president might profit during his time in office.

Clearly, this was a decision that was reached, that the optics were just too much in this case.

GIFT: Why, certainly, I agree with you. One interpretation of this decision is that it was such a clear and egregious violation of the emoluments clause that potentially White House counsel told Donald Trump, you have no other option but to change course.

This raises a broader point, which is that a defining characteristic of the Trump administration since day one is it haven't tried to conceal the acts of wrongdoing under mounds of excuses and justifications and political double talk.

It's pretty much all out in the open. I think one of the challenges here is that this kind of behavior has been normalized to the extent that nothing sticks. So it becomes very difficult for critics to actually make cogent arguments against like the ones we just saw.

Donald Trump is blaming this on irrational hostility by the Democrats. In fact, there's nothing irrational about this criticism. As you noted, a lot of this is coming from Republicans, not just Democrats.

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HOWELL: As the impeachment inquiry carries on, we're learning more about the shadow diplomacy that officials say was in full effect, centered around the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

There are apparently two perspectives, depending on your political leanings. One of those who support the president, who say Rudy Giuliani did nothing wrong. Critics say this is a clear example of quid pro quo.

Given the evidence we've seen so far, we've reached a point where some aspect of this investigation is definitely moving forward.

What will make people reconsider?

GIFT: Well, that's a great point, George. There certainly is mountains of evidence now that there was a quid pro quo over these dealings in Ukraine.

The problem is that public opinion is so solidified at this point across Democrats and Republicans that it is somewhat difficult to see Trump or the Democrats moving the needle very much. People either are supportive of Trump or they are critical of Trump.

And so the real question, I think, is for Democrats and how are they going -- Republicans and how are they going to deal with this in Congress?

I think the dilemma for them is they've been tacitly endorsing a lot of these acts of wrongdoing since almost day one of the administration. And so it becomes very difficult for them at this point to kind of lay down the hammer and say this is problematic, because if they do, then essentially they'd be conceding they've been enabling this behavior almost since the beginning.

HOWELL: I want to talk about the slippery slope for Republicans. Very few have criticized President Trump in recent weeks. But given his decisions on Syria, those cracks appear to be showing more and more.

Some Republicans as a whole, they remain resistant to the idea of impeachment. This president, despite the fact that polls show a majority of Americans support impeachment, he still does enjoy the support of his fellow Republicans.

Do you see them continuing to compartmentalize frustration?

Or is there a growing political will within the party to possibly turncoat on Mr. Trump? GIFT: You're right. Donald Trump right now is fighting wars on two fronts politically, with Democrats in the House of Representatives over impeachment and also with Republicans, particularly in the Senate, over Syria. That was a very unpopular decision and we've seen a lot of backlash from leading Republican congressman over that choice.

I have to say, George, that I really do think that Republicans are going to solidify behind Trump. Some of them might come out and be critical. But at the end of the day, it's very unlikely they're going to come out in favor of impeachment.

And a lot of this is just the politics of it. They are from districts where there's quite a bit of support for Donald Trump still. And they're afraid of political retribution and reprisal if they decide to support impeachment. So, regrettably, this isn't exactly profiles in courage for the Republican congressmen. But I think that's where we are at this moment.

HOWELL: Thomas, we appreciate your time. Thank you.

GIFT: Thank you.

HOWELL: Now to the issue of Brexit. The European Union says it will need a few days' time to figure out if the U.K. is asking for a Brexit extension or if it's not going to ask for that extension. Boris Johnson's government has sent several contradictory letters to Brussels after he failed to get the votes in Parliament to pass his Brexit plan.

One was boilerplate language, asking for a three-month extension with a cover letter, saying it was set to fulfill the legal requirement but Mr. Johnson followed that with another letter, asking the E.U. to turn down the request. And that could land him in a great deal of hot water in the courts.

Following the story, Anna Stewart, live this hour in our London bureau as well.

Anna, the prime minister sent a letter to the E.U; some point out, without his signature. Another letter contradicting the first.

It's leaving a lot of people, the E.U. included, asking what's the strategy here?

ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just when you thought Brexit couldn't get anymore complicated, yes. We have letter one. This is the boring one, requesting the E.U. extension per the Benn Act complying by the law.

The cover letter from the British ambassador to the E.U., that went with it. Then we have the letter that is signed by Boris Johnson, the prime minister. This is the controversial one. I'll bring you to the part that's controversial.

"While it is open to the European Council to accede to the request mandated by Parliament or to offer an alternative extension period, I have made clear since becoming prime minister and (INAUDIBLE) Parliament again today my view and the government's position that a further extension would damage the interests of the U.K. and our E.U. partners and the relationship between us."

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STEWART: They should think carefully about granting a extension and perhaps they shouldn't. Two points to bring up and I could bring up many. First of all, the extension itself, the E.U. doesn't have to respond immediately. Frankly, the real deadline here is October 31st. The prime minister could still well have a window.

The E.U. may grant him a window to get his deal through before making a decision.

Second point I'm going to make, did Boris Johnson abide by law?

Downing Street will say he did. He's required to send a letter requesting an extension to Brexit. He did just that. However, there will be some people saying he's trying to frustrate the process by sending the other letter and there's a court sitting tomorrow in Scotland considering just that.

HOWELL: Anna Stewart, I think you could, indeed, fill the whole show with Brexit. I wouldn't be surprised, there's so much to talk about. Thank you so much. We'll stay in touch with you on it.

Some of those protesters in London on Saturday directed their frustration at Conservative members of Parliament. Watch this.

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HOWELL (voice-over): As you can see some prominent Tories required police escorts as they departed Westminster. You see several, Michael Gove, Andrea Leadsom, getting an earful here.

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HOWELL: Turkey says that one of the soldiers has been killed by Kurdish fighters in northern Syria. It's the latest sign that a U.S. brokered cease-fire could be collapsing.

The Turks blame the Kurds for breaking the deal. The Kurds blame the Turks and at least one U.S. official says Turkish-backed forces are responsible.

The U.S. Defense Secretary says the pause in fighting generally seems to be holding. Mark Esper also says the withdrawal of about 1,000 U.S. troops will take weeks, not days. Many will be moved to Iraq.

Let's bring in Jomana Karadsheh on the Turkish-Syrian border. The issue is the cease-fire isn't doing what it was intended to do?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For the most part as you heard from the Secretary of Defense there, he's saying that it is holding. These cease-fires are in general if we see what's been going on in Syria. We've had cease-fires come and go. For the best case scenario, they are fragile.

Just to give you an idea, we're on the border, the town behind us is Ras al-Ain where some of the most intense clashes were taking place. And since that cease-fire came into effect or the pause in fighting as Turkey describes it, the guns haven't really fallen silent.

You still hear the burst of gunfire from time to time. It's difficult to tell what is going on the ground and who is responsible for any of these violations. And as you mentioned, both sides are accusing each other of breaching the cease-fire.

Turkey, for its part, said they recorded 20 violations, as they describe it, by the Syrian Kurdish fighters. Today announcing that one Turkish soldier was killed and another one wounded.

They were conducting a surveillance patrol in a town when they came under attack and they say they responded, because, under that agreement, too, there is room for self-defense. It allows both sides to do so.

And that's also another problem when you have these vaguely worded agreements. The Syrian Democratic Forces, that mostly Syrian Kurdish force, has been calling on the United States, saying they need to push Turkey to abide by the agreement.

Now we need to keep in mind that, yes, one of the main parts of this agreement is a pause in fighting. Yes, to preserve human life. But what Turkey wants out of this by the end of those five days, 120 hours, is for all these Syrian Kurdish fighters, that YPG, to withdraw from the areas of the designated safe zone.

And so far we've not really seen any significant signs of such withdrawal taking place, which raises questions about what happens when that deadline expires. President Erdogan has made it clear that the moment the 120 hours expire, they're ready to resume that operation and it's going to be even more aggressive than before.

HOWELL: Jomana Karadsheh, on the Turkish-Syrian border, thank you so much.

As we've done for 20 weeks, look at what's happening on the streets of Hong Kong. Protesters, again, there on the move. This is a live look on the streets of Hong Kong. Police are using tear gas and water cannon on demonstrators. A live report ahead.

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(MUSIC PLAYING) HOWELL: We're taking you live to Hong Kong right now. These images

of these crowds, of protesters, the 20th straight weekend that we've seen them play out. This an unauthorized rally that's already sparked some clashes.

Police there firing tear gas to disperse the crowd. They've used water cannon as well with blue dye to identify protesters who were there. Earlier we saw some demonstrators vandalize a subway station and set up barricades outside of another. We have crews on the scene and we'll bring you a live report later this hour.

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HOWELL: (INAUDIBLE) in Lebanon. Thousands of demonstrators want the current government to resign over the country's economic crisis. Saturday evening the finance minister declared no new taxes will be imposed on citizens. But overnight four ministers resigned from the government.

Our senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is on the story.

One of the unique aspects of the leadership in Lebanon is the coalition government of national unity, representing various political religious groups in the country.

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HOWELL: How is that holding up now against the pressure from the protests?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's not holding up at all. You've seen the four ministers with the so-called Lebanese Forces resigning from the government overnight. You saw the finance minister cancelling all new taxes.

Clearly, this government is under severe pressure from the streets. And what we're seeing in the streets is this old confessional sectarian system of government, which came into effect in 1943. It's called the National Pact, whereby, for instance, the president of the republic is a Maronite Christian. The prime minister is a Sunni Muslim. The speaker of parliament is a Shia Muslim.

And this system which really never succeeded in holding the country together, is falling apart, because what we're seeing in the streets of not just Beirut but many Lebanese cities is that people from all across the sectarian spectrum are coming together; you don't see any political flags here in the demonstrations. They are all only Lebanese flags.

And people have come to the conclusion that this whole secretary system of government is designed to divide them. And I think the unity that we're seeing here is sending a very clear message to the current rulers of Lebanon and, in a sense, the entire elite, the 1 percent, who have enriched themselves as the population has become poorer.

So they've sent a message to the leaders of Lebanon that they're not going to take it anymore.

HOWELL: The pressure on the government, of course, to push forward austerity measures at the same time. People, as you say, saying they won't put up with it and we see the protests playing out behind you. Ben Wedeman live for us. Thank you.

Let's go to live Hong Kong. Anna in the middle of it all.

We've seen your signal the last few minutes. Tell us what you're seeing there.

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, George, we are here in (INAUDIBLE). This has been a flashpoint, really, for the last four months but as you can see here, this is the front line of the protest. And they're set up this barricade.

We were with the riot police, which are about 500 meters up the road. They got out of their vans after firing multiple rounds of tear gas and ran out. They have taken position about 500 meters from where we are standing.

The protesters have sort of moved their front line back and now are just waiting, George. This is, of course, the 20th consecutive weekend of protests here in Hong Kong. This began as a peaceful march, an unlawful march, an unauthorized march.

The Civil Human Rights Front, which was the group that organized the 2 million people march in June, they had applied for a permit that was rejected by the police, rejected by the courts. Tens of thousands, if not 100,000-plus people came out for that march to Kowloon.

And now thousands, tens of thousands of the hardline protesters have now come to where we are. (INAUDIBLE). There's been vandalism. There's been petrol bombs thrown. As I said, police have fired multiple rounds of tear gas. The protesters today seem like they have the numbers to take on police, which is what they were doing.

We were out with protesters last weekend. They said there weren't enough of them to take on the police. So they went home after smashing up shops. Today they have the numbers. They know they have the numbers. They can create these roadblocks, basically egg on the police to take them on.

Petrol bombs have been thrown. And we play this game of cat and mouse.

As you can see, there are guys with sledgehammers. I've seen so many protesters with metal poles. These are your hardline, your frontline protesters, who is are looking for a fight. And these people are angry. Here they've got into the Bank of China and no doubt, yes, they're in there, they're inside the Bank of China. You can hear the alarm going off.

The concern of these protesters are the riot police and the raptors (ph) that are about 500 meters in that direction. But George, (INAUDIBLE) to show you, there are hundreds if not thousands of protesters dressed in black with their gas masks, helmets, goggles and a lot of them armed.

[04:25:00]

COREN: A lot of them have, whether it's an umbrella, a metal pole, a sledgehammer, they have something in their hand. So we are four months in, George, and it is not letting up.

HOWELL: Anna Coren, to give our viewers some perspective on this, again, 20 weeks on, just reminding them this seems to have an existential moment, these 20 weeks, for people there to declare that they are, you know, standing up for the rights that they expect under the one country, two systems, keeping in mind at some point that system simply becomes China.

COREN: Well, this is what people are fighting against. And a lot of people say, you know, this is Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. It is a part of China.

Well, for these kids, many of them in their 20s, they're not teenagers. We've met 15-year olds and 16-year olds, 14 are-year olds out here, if not younger. They say we don't want to be part of China. We would rather die than be a part of China.

That is how extreme the views are amongst the young people here in Hong Kong. They have enjoyed the civil liberties of living under obviously British colonial rule. The last 22 years they've lived under this one country, two systems policy where they've had civil liberties, freedom of speech and been allowed to gather in the streets and protest.

Protests have been a huge part of Hong Kong's society. Now these protests are outlawed and authorities say they're outlawed because of the violence and the vandalism.

Whenever there's movement, George, you know the police are coming.

And the police, throughout these four months, they have been accused of using excessive force, of brutality. And that is one of the demands of the protesters here. They want an independent inquiry into the police brutality. They want the police force disbanded.

On top of that, they want universal suffrage. Many of these protesters, they don't want to be a part of China. And we have heard from the Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam that universal suffrage is out of the question. That is never going to happen.

Obviously a petrol bomb has just been lit. That's the smoke. These protesters are waiting for the riot police to charge and they will charge. They will clear this road, one of the busiest roads here in Hong Kong. And now it's just been claimed by protesters.

But you're right, George, this began with the extradition bill, these protesters fighting the extradition bill. That has now formally been withdrawn. As we know this movement has morphed into so much more.

This is now about freedom, fighting for Hong Kong's freedom, fighting for Hong Kong's future, fighting for the democracy that they have enjoyed, which has not enjoyed on Mainland China, George.

HOWELL: Anna Coren in the middle of it all. For our viewers around the world watching this, keeping in mind, as Anna pointed out, when the protesters move, it means the police are pushing on.

Anna, from time to time, has to look back to make sure she and her team are safe as they cover what is a dangerous event, bringing us the news and the events happening on the streets in Hong Kong.

And, Anna and your team, we thank you for you.

Still ahead, Democratic candidate for president of the U.S., Bernie Sanders, is feeling the love. Ahead, a rock star's welcome with the U.S. presidential hopeful returning to the campaign trail. And it came with a big endorsement. Stand by.

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HOWELL: Welcome back to viewers here in the United States and all around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. We are live from Atlanta, Georgia with your headlines this hour.

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HOWELL: America's choice, 2020: back here stateside, Bernie Sanders is back on the campaign trail after receiving a major endorsement. Take a look in New York.

Thousands of people packed in to see the senator who was treated recently for a heart attack. The Democrat running for president officially received the support of a popular and progressive New York congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. CNN's Ryan Nobles was there to see the political event unfold.

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RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It has been more than 2.5 weeks since Bernie Sanders last held a campaign rally. So he wanted to make his return to the campaign trail a big deal. And he did so by bringing in one of the biggest stars in Democratic Party politics.

[04:35:00]

NOBLES (voice-over): Bernie Sanders wanted to make one thing very clear.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To put it bluntly, I am back.

NOBLES (voice-over): Sanders, a little more than two weeks after suffering a heart attack, returned to the campaign trail in dramatic fashion, packing a park in Queens with a level of energy and enthusiasm designed to show that, despite the health scare, he isn't going anywhere.

SANDERS: I am happy to report to you that I am more than ready to assume the office of President of the United States.

NOBLES (voice-over): Adding reinforcement to this new stage of his campaign --

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK: Holy cow.

NOBLES (voice-over): -- progressive rising star, Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez. She formally endorsed Sanders and made the case that it is the Sanders' brand of politics that will beat Donald Trump.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: No one wanted to question this system. And in 2016, he fundamentally changed politics in America.

NOBLES (voice-over): Prior to his heart attack, the Sanders campaign was stuck in neutral, struggling to keep up with front-runners Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden. But far ahead of lower tier candidates unable to muster double digit support.

His heart attack threatened to draw new questions about his age and fitness for office. But his supporters crowded shoulder to shoulder in Queens said they weren't worried by it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just he's OK. Yes, that's the last thing I'm thinking about. He's strong enough here. He'll be around here at least another 30 years.

NOBLES (voice-over): Sanders is now working to solidify support from the progressive left, in addition to locking up Ocasio-Cortez he also picked up the endorsement of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and will appear later this month with Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, three of the four members of the Squad, a diverse group of female members of Congress with growing influence in the Democratic Party.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I'm in the United States Congress now and that's a long, long way from being a sexually harassed waitress in downtown Manhattan one year ago. However, in this new historic freshman congressional class, in overwhelming amounts of them, now reject corporate PAC money. That's thanks to Bernie.

NOBLES (voice-over): A force that brings with it energy that helps Sanders draw what his campaign said was the biggest crowd so far and inspired supporters like Peter Modavis (ph).

PETER MODAVIS (PH), SANDERS SUPPORTER: It seems AOC saw Bernie almost on his deathbed and still thought he was the best candidate for president.

NOBLES (voice-over): And the promise Sanders made to those supporters?

He is in this race to win.

SANDERS: There is no doubt in my mind that not only will we win this election but together we will transform this country. Thank you all very much.

NOBLES: Sanders hopes to keep the momentum going with this reinvigorated campaign by taking it to Iowa. He'll be in the state later this week. Their caucus is a little more than 100 days away. He also has a pretty big war chest to help spread his message, more than $30 million cash on hand -- Ryan Nobles, CNN, Queens, New York.

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HOWELL: Now live to Hong Kong and a fire burning there in the middle of the street, this bonfire. We understand the people have been throwing wood into the fire to ensure that it continues to burn there. We've seen these events play out now for 20 weeks straight.

Our Anna Coren is in the middle of all of that. We spoke with her just a short time ago. Again, the protesters moved throughout the city right now in one of the busiest tourist districts of Hong Kong, making their voices heard.

Initially these protests were sparked by the extradition bill that was withdrawn but the extradition bill that would have given Mainland China the ability to extradite people, to bring them into Mainland China from Hong Kong.

That set off protests as we've seen play out on the streets right now. Let's look at this. We see people crossing over that barricade there. Anna mentioned that, when protesters are on the move, it typically means that police are following close behind. We'll continue to monitor this and other parts of Hong Kong as these protests continue.

In Bolivia, the nation holding its own presidential election. Voters in the South American country are heading to the polls in the coming hours. The current president Morales hopes to be reelected. The former farmer has been meeting his supporters in the Andes. He swept into power back in 2006, alleging to bolster Bolivia's marginalized indigenous groups.

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HOWELL: Could pictures of Kim Jong-un on a white horse mean that North Korea is planning something big?

It's a matter of reading between the tea leaves. We'll look at the possibilities as NEWSROOM continues. Stay with us.

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HOWELL: Welcome back. Recent photos of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have experts

wondering, is the country planning a major event? This picture, there it is, loaded with a great deal of symbolism. Kim Jong-un riding a majestic white horse on top of a mountain considered sacred by many North Koreans. Our Brian Todd looks into it.

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BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's nothing for Kim Jong-un quite like a ride on a white stallion on a revered mountain top as a means of inspiring his people. This time, the North Koreans made such an event out of it that they pulled their legendary state TV anchor, Ri Chun-hee, out of semi-retirement to give her signature breathless narration.

RI CHUN-HEE, NORTH KOREAN TV ANCHOR: (Speaking Korean).

TODD (voice-over): Pyongyang's state-run news agency released several photographs of Kim riding the galloping horse atop North Korea's highest peak, the volcanic Mount Paektu. It's said he was taking in the first winter snow and called it a, quote, great event of weighty importance.

MICHAEL GREEN, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: It's clear that the North Koreans are in full propaganda, full cult of personality mode.

TODD (voice-over): For North Koreans, few places are as sacred as Mount Paektu. Located in northern Samjiyon County. It's the birthplace about 4,000 years ago of the mythical founder of the Kim kingdom of Korea and the Kim dynasty has co-opted that story.

ANNA FIFIELD, AUTHOR: Kim Jong-un derives his legitimacy as the leader of North Korea from this kind of mythical Paektu bloodline that they call it. This idea that the Kims have descended from mythical Mount Paektu in North Korea and, therefore, have been divinely chosen to be the leaders of North Korea. So Kim Jong-un says he has Paektu blood in his veins.

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FRANK JANNUZI, THE MAUREEN AND MIKE MANSFIELD FOUNDATION: I think a good way to think about Mount Paektu is a little bit like Camp David. It's a place where the North Korean leader would go to reflect and ponder important moves.

TODD (voice-over): Kim ascended Mount Paektu near the time of the test firing of his largest intercontinental ballistic missile. Again, ahead of the diplomatic opening with South Korea. And he went there just before giving a chilling order which consolidated his power.

MICHAEL MADDEN, NORTH KOREA LEADERSHIP WATCH: The most famous instance of Kim Jong-un going up to Samjiyon County was when it was about two weeks before they executed Jang Song-thaek in 2013.

TODD (voice-over): Jang Song-thaek was Kim's powerful uncle who he accused of treason and reportedly had executed with an anti-aircraft gun. On this visit, Kim's pulled a page out of the Putin playbook. The Russian President is fond of being photographed on his horse, including a shirtless ride.

The two strongmen held a summit in Vladivostok this spring. It's unknown if Putin coached Kim on horseback propaganda, but tonight, analysts are concerned about what this photo shoot might foreshadow.

GREEN: Most likely scenario, frankly, is that they're going to resume missile tests or nuclear tests because they're unhappy with the U.S.' unwillingness to accept their demands. And the most recent working- level talks between the U.S. and DPRK fell apart.

TODD: But analysts say the Mount Paektu visit could also be a signal that Kim could be ready to make a deal with President Trump and the clock may be ticking for that. North Korea previously gave an ultimatum that progress on a nuclear deal has to be made before year's end and Trump is, of course, gearing up for a contentious re-election campaign where he's under more pressure than ever for a foreign policy victory -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

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HOWELL: Brian, thank you. Putin on a horse. Kim Jong-un on a horse.

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HOWELL: Still ahead, World Cup rugby quarter finals are underway in Tokyo. Still ahead, we'll have a live report from Tokyo as Wales takes on France.

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HOWELL: We're taking you back to the streets of Hong Kong this hour. This image live at 4:52 pm there. You see protesters filling the streets. This is the 20th straight weekend we've seen these protests. Let's go live to Anna Coren, who is in the middle of all this.

Anna, what are you seeing?

COREN: (INAUDIBLE). And the water cannon is just behind us. This may be (INAUDIBLE) rammed through the barricades. Now police just issued a warning to protesters saying this is an unlawful assembly. And now the black flag is going up (INAUDIBLE) tear gas is about to be fired.

As you can see, police with their guns, many of them standing there, ready to fire. So there are protesters behind us. A petrol bomb went off very close to where we were standing just before the (INAUDIBLE).

About 200 meters behind us -- sorry -- we're at the (INAUDIBLE) of the protesters. We set up another barricade, George. (INAUDIBLE) a multipronged attack. This is a clearance operation. Those directly behind me, this is an unlawful assembly.

They can arrest people. And, of course, (INAUDIBLE) they can arrest people for wearing face masks and everybody here is wearing face masks. (INAUDIBLE) over the last couple hours (INAUDIBLE) peaceful demonstrations, (INAUDIBLE) tens of thousands, 100,000 people from TSC.

[04:55:00]

COREN: (INAUDIBLE) and there are thousands of them here today. We decided to set up barricades, smash up windows and (INAUDIBLE) Hong Kong government. (INAUDIBLE) fire bombs (INAUDIBLE) here in Hong Kong (INAUDIBLE) of Hong Kong police.

And that is what we are now witnessing is these street battles with protesters. (INAUDIBLE) George, last weekend we were out. We had protesters I was covering. We were following one of the hardline protesters (INAUDIBLE). And they decided to leave because there weren't enough of them with gear to take on police.

Well, today obviously is a very different situation. There are thousands of them and they have been having these ongoing battles with police now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).

HOWELL: I'm not sure if we still have you there, Anna. You may have lost signal. We'll give you a second and return to you if we can.

Again, what you're seeing right now, these images in Hong Kong. That fire that you see there, that was where a fire was set by -- presumably by protesters. Let's bring Anna back in the last few seconds of our show. Anna, again the context here is king. This happening at a major tourist district.

COREN: Yes. We are in what (INAUDIBLE). This is normally an extremely busy shopping district but this has been Hong Kong now for the last four months when these protests happen and the shops' shelves (ph) -- the shot (ph) has come down and there is no business. And these protests are hurting the economy. There's no denying that.

The tourism industry is hurting and the hospitality, restaurants, hotels, the airlines are suffering. (INAUDIBLE) business people are suffering. This is something that has been a problem in Hong Kong.

But as far as the protesters are concerned, the protesters I've spoken to, they (INAUDIBLE) -- if we're suffering, you are going to suffer too. These are the special forces police.

As you can see, they've identified protesters in the distance. And no doubt, and some say, they are going to try and arrest as many people as they can. We know that the count is almost at 3,000. They may have surpassed that by now. But so many people, so many young people have been arrested, arrested for unlawful assembly, arrested for rioting. If they are convicted, George, that will carry a sentence of 10 years.

HOWELL: All right. That is our Anna Coren in the middle of all this, again, protesters speaking up, making their voices heard. Our Anna Coren and her team doing the work of journalism, taking us to the streets, as correspondents do in the Middle East and all around the world. Stand by. More news after the break. You're watching CNN.