Return to Transcripts main page
Legal Trouble Follows Trump Like a Shadow; Russians Protested Putin's Mobilization Plan; Russian and Ukrainian POWs Now Back to Their Country; Markets Tumbles Down Over Federal Reserve's Hike. Aired 3-4a ET
Aired September 22, 2022 - 03:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN Newsroom. And I'm Rosemary Church.
Just ahead, dual legal blows for Donald Trump. The former U.S. president trying to avoid criminal charges for hoarding classified documents is now being sued by the state of New York for fraud.
Protesting Putin. Anti-war demonstrators take to the streets over Moscow's mobilization plan more than 1,300 detained.
And how global markets are reacting to yet another big interest rate hike by the U.S. Federal Reserve
UNKNOWN: Live from CNN center, this is CNN Newsroom with Rosemary Church.
CHURCH: And thanks for being with us.
Legal troubles are mounting for former U.S. President Donald Trump as he faces a new lawsuit and an unprecedented number of investigations. A federal appeals court dealt Trump the latest blow. It ruled the Justice Department can resume its criminal investigation and review of classified documents seized from his Mar-a-Lago home during and FBI search.
That coming hours after the New York attorney general announced a sweeping civil lawsuit against Trump, three of his children and The Trump Organization. They're accused of staggering fraud and deceiving lenders by inflating the value of assets. Trump reacted swiftly saying a disclaimer was included on loan applications.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It basically says to an institution you're going to loan money. You have to go out and make sure that, you know, you get your own appraises, your own lawyers, everything. These are banks that have the best lawyers in the world, Sean. This is the only -- by the way that got paid back just so you know.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS: Everything is paid back. Nobody got harm.
TRUMP: I never got a default. No, I paid him back because we have a lot of cash.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: CNN's Jessica Schneider is tracking developments and has more details now from Washington.
LETITIA JAMES, NEW YORK STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL: Claiming you have money that you do not have does not amount to the art of the deal. It's the art of the steal.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New York's attorney general Letitia James announcing she is suing former President Donald Trump and his three oldest children for lying to lenders and insurers for more than a decade, fraudulently inflating the value of their properties all over the country.
JAMES: They violated several state criminal laws including falsifying business records, issuing false financial statements, insurance fraud, and engaging in a conspiracy to commit each of these state law violations.
SCHNEIDER: James is seeking drastic remedies. Her lawsuit demands Trump and his family forfeit the nearly quarter billion dollars they've illegally gained over the years, and she's looking to shut down Trump's business dealings in New York.
JAMES: We are asking the court too, among other things, permanently bar, Mr. Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump from serving as an officer or director in any corporation or similar entity registered and are licensed in New York.
SCHNEIDER: New York's attorney general filed this 200-plus page lawsuit after a three-year long investigation. James also flagging what she says are possible crimes to federal investigators.
JAMES: We are referring those criminal violations that we've uncovered to the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York and the Internal Revenue Service.
SCHNEIDER: James pointed to Trump's Fifth Avenue apartment as an example of the fraud. Trump allegedly claimed it was 30,000 square feet when it was actually 11,000 and he valued it at 327 million.
JAMES: To this date, no apartment in New York City has ever sold for close to that amount.
SCHNEIDER: James says the motive was to entice banks to loan them more money and to allow Trump and his companies to pay less in taxes. SHAN WU, FORMER U.S. FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Obviously, there's tracks
fraud going on here given the massive inflation of these values.
SCHNEIDER: Trump has rebuffed James's investigation over the last three years.
TRUMP: My company is bigger, stronger, far greater asset.
SCHNEIDER: And he lashed out on his Truth Social page shortly after the lawsuit was filed, saying she is a fraud who campaigned on a get Trump platform. But James, a Democrat running for reelection this year saying Trump cannot dismiss what her office uncovered as some sort of good faith mistake.
JAMES: White collar financial crime is not a victimless crime. Everyday people cannot lie to a bank. And if they did, the government would throw the book at them. Why should this be any different?
SCHNEIDER (on camera): The New York attorney general is also alleging Trump and his three eldest children lied more than 200 times when it came to asset valuations on statements over the course of 10 years.
Now, of course, this is a civil case that's been filed in New York state court. It would be up to other entities like the Manhattan D.A.'s office or the U.S. attorney's office in New York to determine whether criminal charges should be filed.
Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.
CHURCH: A former assistant U.S. attorney with the Southern District of New York is weighing in on the lawsuit against Trump. And whether the former president could possibly see any criminal charges.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: The civil case, which is what has been filed today, the standard of proof is much lower than a criminal case where you have to guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Don't forget the D.A.'s office has already looked at this and basically passed on it as a criminal case.
So, the question is, why did they do that? Now the civil case has all kinds of other advantages. You've got very detailed allegations in here. And I can guarantee you that when Donald Trump went in for his deposition here and he was asked, I am sure about every single allegation in there.
And basically, what he did is he took the fifth amendment, meaning that a truthful answer to the question asked would tend to incriminate him. So, that gives the A.G.'s office a huge advantage. They've got evidence that had happens. And then they've got Donald Trump taking the fifth on every single aspect of this. (END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: And stay with CNN as we continue to follow all the developments. Well, the wife of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas will be questioned by the congressional panel looking into the capitol insurrection.
That is according to an attorney for Ginni Thomas, who says she has agreed to an interview with the investigators. She's expected to meet with them in the coming weeks. Thomas who's a conservative activist has encouraged state lawmakers in Arizona and Wisconsin to fight President Biden's electoral win.
And she texted with former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, about overturning the election before January 6th. She has said that her professional life is separate from her husband's.
Vladimir Putin's plan to draft 300,000 Russians to support his war in Ukraine is drawing ridicule and condemnation from around the world. Even in Russia, scores of protestors turned out in more than two dozen cities. An independent monitoring group reports more than 1,300 people have been detained.
At several police stations in Moscow, some are being drafted directly into the military as part of Putin's mobilization plan. The Russian president is backing referendums scheduled for this weekend in four Ukrainian regions. Many think it's a pretext for Putin to declare war on what he will claim is Russian territory.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy used his video addressed at the U.N. General Assembly to demand Russia be stripped of its security council veto power and punished for what it's done to Ukraine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE: A crime has been committed against Ukraine and we demand just punishment. The crime was committed against our state borders. The crime was committed against the lives of our people. And Ukraine demands punishment for trying to steal our territory, punishment for the murders of thousands of people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: U.S. President Joe Biden called Russia's invasion of Ukraine a shameless violation of the U.N. charter and blasted Vladimir Putin for making irresponsible nuclear threats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This war is about extinguishing Ukraine's right to exist as a state, plain and simple. And Ukraine's right to exist as a people, whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever you believe that should not, that should make your blood run cold.
(END VIDEO CLIP) [03:10:07]
CHURCH: Mr. Biden also held his first in-person meeting with the new British prime minister, Liz Truss. They agreed to continue economic and military support for Ukraine and reduce dependence on Russian energy.
And we are following this developing story. The city council secretary in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine reports new shelling in the past few hours. He says civilian infrastructure has been destroyed and there are casualties. CNN cannot independently verify the claims. The shelling comes just days before a planned referendum in the region to vote on becoming part of Russia.
I want to bring in CNN's Clare Sebastian now. She joins us live from London. Good morning again to you, Clare. So, what is the latest on these anti-war protests being held across Russia?
CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, rose me the number that we're getting from this independent monitoring group, OVD-Info, which tracks this arrest is that more than 1,300 people have been arrested across 38 cities in Russia. That number I can tell you edging up slightly in the past hour. It is heavily concentrated in Moscow and St. Petersburg, where people are more likely to be able to access independent media through VPNs and really have an understanding of what's happening in this war.
But I think the sense is that as one person I spoke to in Moscow, put it to me yesterday. Previously, they've been able to sort of abstract this war from their everyday lives. Now with this announcement of mobilization, even partial mobilization, it is arriving at their door.
Most people know someone who might fit the bill for this mobilization who might have served in the military recently or have that kind of expertise. So, it's a very worrying situation, many people, frankly in a panic. You can see that from the surge in flight bookings out of Moscow, from the rise in prices that you're seeing for flights to various countries that still have direct flights out of Russia.
Significant as well, as you noted, the sort of level of repression here, these scenes that we haven't seen since the start of the war when Russia cracked down on protests. And the news from, again, this monitoring group OVD-Info, that people and at least four police stations in Moscow are being handed conscription papers when they're arrested at these protests. Drafted into the war.
One person, according to this group, threatened with prosecution for refusing the draft. Russia is in the process of tightening the law around this, changing its criminal code so that under the conditions of mobilization they can sentence people to 15 years in prison for refusing the draft or deserting.
So, there is now a sense of panic in Moscow and couple that with the climate affair that the Kremlin has sort of intensified throughout this war. And that's where we get these scenes on the streets. There's still relatively small numbers. CHURCH: Right. And Clare, what more are you learning about the new shelling in Zaporizhzhia?
SEBASTIAN: Yes, the context here, Rosemary, is that Zaporizhzhia is one of the regions, I think we can show you the map of the four regions, where the Russian backed authorities are planning to hold referenda on joining Russia. You can see it there. Zaporizhzhia is interesting because it's actually not fully occupied by Russia in the town of Zaporizhzhia where we're hearing about these shelling is itself not in Russian hands and yet they're still trying to essentially annex it.
So, what we -- what we know according to the Zaporizhzhia city council secretary is that there has been shelling. Civil infrastructure he says, has been destroyed. There are casualties. We're hearing reports from both pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian media of five explosions that we can't independently verify those claims. So, it does seem if this is true, that Russia is putting pressure on this area ahead of these referendums, Rosemary.
CHURCH: All right. I appreciate you keeping a very close eye on all those developments. Clare Sebastian joining us live from London, many thanks.
Well, more than 250 POWs are free again following a prisoner swap between Ukraine and Russia. The exchange included dozens of fighters from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol who later spoke remotely with President Zelensky. They fought a grueling battle while being hold up at the plant for weeks before surrendering in May.
In return, 55 pres -- prisoners went from Ukraine to Russia. The swap also involved 10 international prisoners of war seen here arriving in Saudi Arabia, which helped broker the exchange. They include two Americans, five British citizens, as well as a Moroccan, Croatian, and Swedish national.
And earlier, the mother of one of the U.S. POWs told CNN's Anderson Cooper how she found out her son is free.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUNNY DRUEKE, MOTHER OF FORMER POW ALEXANDER DRUEKE: I was reading a book to my little three-year-old grandson, and I got a phone call that said, Saudi Arabia. And I thought, I don't know anyone in Saudi Arabia, but these days I'm just taking it anyway. So, I -- I took the call and, it was -- it was a woman at the -- at the embassy, the U.S. embassy there in Saudi Arabia. And she verified who I was. And then she said, I have your son standing next to me and he wants to speak to you.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: My gosh.
DRUEKE: And I went, Alex? And I heard him say, hi mama. It's me, your favorite child, which is a one joke because he has other siblings. And -- and I said, well, you'll just do anything to make that (Inaudible). And we (Inaudible) and he said, I'm free. And I said, what? And he said, I'm free.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: Incredible. Coming up, another aggressive move by the U.S. Federal Reserve to tame inflation sends Wall Street tumbling. A check of the global markets when we come back.
CHURCH: An historic move by the U.S. Federal Reserve is worrying investors on Wall Street. The Fed on Wednesday announced a third straight interest rate hike of three quarters of a percentage point. The latest move to tame inflation sent U.S. markets tumbling once again, with the Dow dropping more than 500 points as investors fear these rate increases could last longer than anticipated. And the move will now make credit cards, mortgages, and car loans even more expensive.
So, let's check how markets in Asia are reacting right now. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout joins us live from Hong Kong. So, Kristie, what are you seeing?
KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a down day for markets across the world from here in Asia and Europe as well after yet another jumbo rate hike by the U.S. Federal Reserve. And from Asia this day, we've been monitoring U.S. futures and we'll show up the live data for you.
And it points to a lower open when Wall Street opens in just a couple hours from now. Now let's bring up a picture of the Asia trading day, which is winding down trade this hour. And you'll see in Japan the Nikkei slipped. It ended the day lower, down about six-tenths of 1 percent. The Seoul Kospi dropping 0.63 percent. The Shanghai composite fell about three tenths of 1 percent. The Hong Kong Hang Seng still open, it's trading lower about 1.9 percent.
Meanwhile, we're seeing more losses, more red arrows in Europe. Let's bring up the chart to see how the European trading day is kicking off. And you'll see, just another story of that downward pressure in the back of that rate hike. The FTSE 100 losing 1 percent. The XETRA DAX down 1.4 percent. In Paris, the CAC 40 down about one-point half percent. The Zurich SMI losing about 1.4 percent.
Of course, it was on Wednesday when the U.S. Federal Reserve as expected hike interest rates by three quarters of a percentage point for the third consecutive time and also signaled more tightening, more rate hikes to come all in a bit to battle inflation, which in the United States is at a 40-year high.
Now here in Asia, traders were also keeping an eye on another central bank, the Bank of Japan, which ended a two-day meeting earlier today. And while we're seeing this global rush to hike interest rates in economies all over the world, not so in Japan where the BOJ announced that they will maintain ultra-low interest rates. And it's because of that policy gap between the BOJ and the U.S. Federal Reserve. That's why we're seeing the Japanese currency, the yen being pushed down to its lowest level in 24 years.
Back to you.
CHURCH: All right. Kristie Lu Stout joining us live from Hong Kong. Many thanks.
Ryan Patel joins me now. He's a senior fellow at the Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate University. Great to have you here actually in the studio. How about that?
RYAN PATEL, SENIOR FELLOW, DRUCKER SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT, CLAREMONT GRADUATE UNIVERSITY: Yes. Great to join you.
CHURCH: Wonderful. OK, so let's start with this. So, in an effort to bring down high inflation, the Fed has hiked up interest rates by three quarters of a percentage point. Talk to us about, and of course, they've said that there will be -- there will be more to come. So, what sort of impact will that likely have particularly on jobs?
PATEL: Yes. If you think about what inflation does, right, it means it's -- it's keep rising. It's clear that the Fed thinks it hasn't peaked. So, what happens is that jobs companies become more expensive. Loans go higher. They can't keep up with revenues. What's going to happen? Unemployment is going to rise.
Now the question becomes how high will it rise? Because it is, we are in a low unemployment environment. And so that's going to cause close to, I think we saw some estimates, one million jobs over the next six months to eight months should this keep rising. The question becomes, what does that do to the economy? Does that enough to slow down? Because again, the Fed is, what are they trying to do? They're trying to slow down the economy, which will lead to lost jobs.
CHURCH: Right. And of course, with that comes that very delicate balancing act, doesn't it? So, it brings down high inflation, but at the same time, you don't want to trigger a recession. So, what do they look at when they consider that calculation?
PATEL: Well, I think when you and I spoke last time, some people thought we were at the peak. And you and I spoke about it like, well, I don't think we're close. I think today was a testament to the Fed stating that we're in it for the long haul. They don't know when if we are going to trigger a recession or not, but the interest rates aren't going anywhere, it's going to be aggressive.
We're going to see these rates stay through next year. And even if there's some kind of taper off, it's be really limited. So, what does that mean? That means this environment that we're facing, we're going to be there. And the balancing act is to make sure that, you know, overheat over shelter pricing, you know, food prices are going to stay there too.
So, some stability on how much of the increase is going to be. It's -- we're not going to go backwards, unfortunately. I wish we would.
PATEL: But I think they really need to keep it to that aspect.
CHURCH: And, you know, the focus has been on what the Fed is doing. What other mechanisms are there to help bring down high inflation?
PATEL: Well, there's a couple. I mean, I think it'd be great on a global level. We have some supply -- no more supply chain issues. That could be one. I think the other two -- the second piece is confidence. Confidence in the economy stability, allowing businesses and companies to provide, you know, clear guidance to Wall Street and investors.
You see the market react crazy every other day. We don't need that. We don't want that. We want a -- so companies can choose to hire. And obviously the other aspect of it too, is we need some type of, I don't say good news, but news on, you know, the economy as a whole with, when you talk about employment, you talk about cost of goods sold. And just not -- and have more -- less -- less likely of labor shortage.
CHURCH: Right. And of course, you know, as we mentioned, the Fed said there will be more interest rate hikes. We know there's another meeting coming up in November. That's going to be six days before the midterm elections. I mean, what -- what is likely to happen? They wouldn't surely at that juncture make a decision to raise interest rates.
PATEL: If they don't, I'd be shock. Because we -- we have two more, you know, we have a couple more months to the rest of the quarter. They still have a lot to go that they said, and they -- they increased it. So, you talk about being hawkish, you know, Jerome Powell said, what it last year? Yes. I think there's a possibility for having a soft-landing spot.
Well, that's landing on a pillow. At this point the pillow is thrown away. Let me land on grass at least or something. I mean, that's where we're looking at. So, for them not to do that in November would make it not landing on maybe asphalt in the future.
CHURCH: Which means markets will be on edge right through until the end of the year and beyond.
PATEL: Yes. And I -- especially with quarter four -- quarter fourth of, you know, talk about holiday spending, people are going to be watching what retail sales are going to look like. That's an important quarter going into the beginning of 2023, and that will set up how that first half of the year is going to look like if we are in a recession or not. Because that quarter will tell, you know, if people are spending money or they're back at jobs, what are they doing?
So, to me, that's going to be a really tell for the rest of the year. CHURCH: Ryan Patel, thank you for coming in even though it's very depressing news.
PATEL: Hopefully there'll be some more bright news going forward.
CHURCH: All right. We'll see what happens. Thank you.
PATEL: Thank you.
CHURCH: QAnon has been a regular fixture at Trump rallies for years. Now its supporters are cheering what they believe is an explicit endorsement by the former president as he considers another run for the White House. Those details just ahead.
Plus, more heart wrenching testimony from the Sandy Hook shooting victims' families during the trial of conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones.
CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone.
Well, until now, Donald Trump has not openly embraced the mysterious group known as QAnon who pedal bizarre conspiracy theories and often show up at his rallies in large numbers. But as the former president weighs another run for the White House, he's apparently signaling QAnon that he's one of them.
CNN, Donie O'Sullivan explains.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Well, I don't know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much.
DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN REPORTER: Former President Trump has long flourished with QAnon on, but this illustrated meme he re-shared last week with QAnon slogans and a Q on his lapel is one of his most brazen endorsements of the conspiracy theory.
UNKNOWN: Even president Donald J. Trump put that on there, a guy wearing a Q pin storm is upon us. Patriots are in control.
O'SULLIVAN: Host on this QAnon radio show celebrating.
UNKNOWN: That is the reason that you are all here because you know the truth, you all know who Donald Trump really is. You all know who the fight is really about and who the players are that actually want to destroy our country.
O'SULLIVAN: On Trump's social media platform, QAnon followers saw the president's post as a clear sign he is with them and with QAnon. One post read, at this point anyone denying that Q is a legit operation affiliated with the Trump administration is in major denial. Another read at real Donald Trump has over four million followers, yet
he seeks out Q people to re-truce.
JOAN DONOVAN, RESEARCH DIRECTOR, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL: What we've seen recently from Trump is different from what we've seen in the past. Prior to this, he would say he's heard of these QAnon people. He believes them to be great Patriots. Now the message is directly one to one. It's no longer ambiguous.
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, DIRECTOR, U.S. FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: Well, certainly we are concerned about the QAnon phenomenon.
O'SULLIVAN: The FBI has warned of the dangers of QAnon and its potential to inspire violence.
GREG EHRIE, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: What we have is a former president potential candidate for the presidency of the United States legitimizing what's, in essence, a cult.
O'SULLIVAN: QAnon has been associated with bizarre claims about cabals and child sacrifice, but the slogans and symbols of QAnon have now become intertwined with Trump's lies about a stolen election.
Yes. I got to a lot of Trump rallies. I see a lot of people wearing QAnon t-shirts, it doesn't mean they're all necessarily violent or dangerous. Does it?
EHRIE: Does not. And that's the most difficult law enforcement scenario to deal with because you want to identify threats amongst these hundreds. Sometimes thousands of people.
O'SULLIVAN: Trump delivered some of his speech Saturday in Youngstown, Ohio to a backing track.
TRUMP: We are a nation that is no longer respected or listened to around the world. We are a nation that in many ways has become a joke.
O'SULLIVAN: That music you hear sounds identical to a song associated with QAnon while it played the crowd all pointed their fingers in unison toward the sky.
DONOVAN: The imagery of everybody, their heads bowed with their finger pointed in the air showing the number one. This is where meme wars are most potent, because for some people they were seeing that reflected in the QAnon meme, where we go one, we go all. Others were seeing America first be reflected.
O'SULLIVAN: The Trump team denied the music was a QAnon song.
EHRIE: It was played. And to the people who were listening, that's a siren song. Even if it was an accident, it becomes the perception. And it's easy to counter that. Whereas the, no, that's not what I meant. No, I do not support this group statement that you would expect from a viable candidate. O'SULLIVAN: But Trump has never outright disavowed QAnon quite the opposite. He's instead endorsing candidates who have echoed the conspiracy theory like Mark Finchem, the Republican candidate for secretary of state in Arizona.
STATE REP. MARK FINCHEM (R-AZ): There's a lot of people involved in -- in a pedophile network and the distribution of children. And unfortunately, there's a whole lot of elected officials that are involved in that.
O'SULLIVAN: At a fundraiser for Finchem this weekend a performance of another QAnon song named after the QAnon slogan, where we go on, we go all.
O'SULLIVAN: And people close to Trump some of his aides have been saying that, you know, when Trump reposts this kind of QAnon memes, that he's doing it passively, that he's not thinking about QAnon, that he kind of sees these posts that praise him and he just shares them. He's not trying to signal the QAnon folks.
But of course, the reality here is, is that those people do view it as signals and Trump has been asked repeatedly to disavow QAnon to condemn it, to criticize it, for about two years now. And he has refused.
Donie O'Sullivan, CNN, New York.
CHURCH: Right wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is lashing out yet again over the lawsuit he's facing from victim's families for claiming the Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax.
Jones has been spending time outside the courthouse in Connecticut while testimony continues inside. He says he's not attending the trial, partly because he has to do his radio show. He also slammed the judge because he claims she's forcing him to say he's guilty and a liar.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEX JONES, HOST, THE ALEX JONES SHOW: This is a travesty of justice. And this judge is a tyrant. I was not wrong about Sandy Hook on purpose. I questioned it just like Jussie Smollett. Just like WMDs in Iraq. Just like Gulf of Tonkin. There have been a lot of staged events in history like WMDs in Iraq. And I question every major event that we see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: Meantime, the mother of a six-year-old girl killed in the Sandy Hook massacre testified about the harassment her family has endured. Jennifer Hensel says conspiracy theorist claim her daughter is actually alive because she resembles a student who survived the shooting. Hensel says the hoax theory makes it harder for her family to heal. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNIFER HENSEL, SANDY HOOK VICTIM'S MOTHER: It makes it hard to just push that away because you have to push that away. That continual noise of -- of all of the people saying that we faked this and that it never happened. And that she's still alive somewhere. God, if she were wouldn't that be amazing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: The man who orchestrated the largest corruption scandal in U.S. Naval history is now in police custody in Venezuela. The infamous former defense contractor known as Fat Leonard was arrested Tuesday morning at the airport in Caracas.
In 2015, Leonard Francis pled guilty to bribery and fraud charges and was said to be sentenced this month, but U.S. Marshals say he cut off his ankle monitor and escaped house arrest in San Diego three weeks before his sentencing.
Venezuelan officials say the U.S. government has started proceedings with Venezuela, hoping to extradite him back to the United States.
The death of a young Iranian woman arrested for not conforming to strict Islamic dress has sparked the biggest anti-government demonstrations in years with women burning head scarves and cutting their hair in protest. That story just ahead.
CHURCH: The death of an Iranian woman while in police custody has sparked some of the biggest anti-government protests that country has seen in years. Public anger has now spread to more than a dozen cities.
The government has responded with riot police, tear gas and blocking internet access in many places. At least eight protesters have been reported killed in the unrest.
And CNN's Salma Abdelaziz is covering this for us from London. She joins us now live. Salma, these anti-government protests are the largest in many years. They are now intensifying with women burning head scarves and cutting their hair. What is the latest on this.
SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Well, Rosemary, these protests appear to have gone into the night, according to social media video that we cannot independently verify. But what's concerning is that these protests are spreading across multiple cities across areas that are traditionally considered conservative areas.
This will be the sixth day of protests today if people continue to take to the streets. And what they are facing is a very brutal crackdown by authorities. Rights groups say several people have been killed already, including a teenager, many others wounded, some losing their eye due to pellets being fired at them.
We've seen videos showing water tanks, water cannons, being dispersed, being mobilized on these huge crowds. But we've also seen huge acts of defiance, Rosemary. Women cutting their hair in public, throwing their scarves into fires. People chanting down with the dictator.
All of this, of course starting several days ago with the death in custody of Masha Amini, a 22-year-old who was detained for not properly wearing her head scarf. Authorities say they're investigating the death. They say it is an accident, but her family has been outspoken. They do not believe the authorities. They are accusing the Iranian government of killing her in custody.
Her father just gave an interview. Amini's father gave an interview yesterday where he said that he saw bruising on his daughter's foot before she was buried. He says he simply does not rely depend on the authorities there. And what's important to remember here is that there are several factors in play.
This is not just about Masha Amini. This is a time of an economic downturn in Iran. People are struggling financially, and yet the government has chosen instead to expand the morality of police, to focus and drill down on these strict guidelines. You also have an ethnic issue here.
Masha Amini's family is Kurdish, so her father and her family's outspoken accusations against the government have further fueled this in the Kurdish regions of Iran. This is a serious threat for the government and one that we continue to follow. And that crackdown now, seeming to result in a shutdown of the internet, WhatsApp, Instagram limited. But of course, those videos continue to seep out, Rosemary.
CHURCH: All right. Salma Abdelaziz, many thanks for bringing us up to date on that situation.
And still to come here on CNN, Puerto Rico picks up the pieces from hurricane Fiona, but recovery is slow. A live look at where the storm's headed when we come back.
CHURCH: Puerto Rico is slowly recovering after a devastating blow from hurricane Fiona. It reports nearly two thirds of people have running water again while less than one third have electricity. The U.S. approved a major disaster declaration for the territory on Wednesday. Fiona is currently churning through the open Atlantic toward Bermuda as a category four hurricane.
Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins me now with details. So, Pedram, what are you saying? What's the latest on this?
PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, Rosemary. It has been such a quiet hurricane season up until these last few days of course. And now you're getting the strongest storm of the season, a category three, a four here with 130-mile-per-hour winds. Hurricane Fiona has maintained this intensity for the last 24 or so hours. Some of the residual thunderstorms on the southern tier of it, pulling away from portions of the Island of Hispaniola, certainly Puerto Rico as well.
But you'll notice again, forecast indications are this will remain a category for potentially for the next 24 or so hours. And make a very close run just west of Bermuda. Now, anytime you've got storm of this magnitude parked over the open seas here, certainly for multiple days, you're going to kick up significant wave heights. And these are as impressive as it gets.
When you see these white contours what's the top of the chart here. Sixty plus foot waves is possible. The system will be well off short, potentially by a couple hundred miles west of Bermuda as it passes early Friday morning. But notice, even north of the island here is significant wave heights.
Talk about a mariner hazard, but you know, officials here certainly have -- have guided all the boats and ships across these regions away from the path of the storm system. But eventually, it does end up, what's left of it at least does end up across portions of the Canadian Maritimes, even retaining the category three status briefly across these northern latitudes.
But notice this. Around parts of Halifax points just east of Halifax, we're talking 100 mile-per-hour winds possible at landfall early Saturday morning across this region. It'll lose its tropical characteristics but when you look at storms that have had such a magnitude with winds exceeding 100 plus miles an hour, in some cases only about four of them have done this since the year 2000.
So, incredible to see a storm work its way this far to the north, maintaining quite a bit of intensity. Folks, certainly in Bermuda looking like they will be spared from the brunt of the system, but parts of Nova Scotia, not only get some strong wind, some significant surge when this moves ashore, but maybe even some snow showers on the backside of this.
Winds here could gust anywhere from 50 to maybe 100 plus miles per hour. Incredible winds in store as a system approaches, Rosemary. So, you're not something you see every day across eastern Canada.
CHURCH: Yes, absolutely. Pedram Javaheri, many thanks as always.
After nearly eight weeks, two winners of the third largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history have finally claimed their prize. The mega millions drawing was worth $1.34 billion, which is equal to $780.5 million in cash. The pair who have agreed to split the winnings purchase the single ticket at a Speedway gas station in Des Plains, Illinois, just north of Chicago.
The winners who wish to remain anonymous say they spent the past few weeks working with legal and financial advisors. Lottery officials say they're over the moon. Of course, they are.
And thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'm Rosemary Church. CNN Newsroom continues with Christina Macfarlane in London, next.