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Investigating Trump; UAW, Big 3 Returning to Bargaining Table; Search for the Missing in Flood-Ravaged Libya; Ukrainian Retaking Andriivka Opens Way to Advance; Death of Mahsa Amini; Judge Issues Restraining Order on Luis Rubiales. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired September 16, 2023 - 04:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And welcome to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and all around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber.

Ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, former President Donald Trump says his right to free speech is in danger. We'll tell you what the special counsel is asking a judge to do in the way of a limited gag order.

President Biden, meanwhile, is weighing in on the UAW strike of the Big 3 U.S. automakers. Negotiators prepare to head back to the bargaining table.

And North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is wrapping up his tour of military sites in Russia. We'll have a live report from the region.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Kim Brunhuber.

BRUNHUBER: Donald Trump is lashing out at the special counsel investigating his alleged 2020 federal election interference. He says Jack Smith is trying to rob him of his First Amendment right to free speech.

Smith's office had asked a U.S. district court judge to impose a court order limiting what the former president can say in public about the case against him. The Justice Department says the order is needed to protect the integrity of his upcoming trial. Trump spoke about it before a right-wing women's group on Friday. Here he is.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: In a true sense, I'm being indicted for you. Thanks a lot, everybody. I appreciate it. I appreciate it. And you see today that the deranged Jack Smith, he's the prosecutor, he's a deranged person, he wants to take away my rights under the First Amendment. Wants to take away my right of speaking freely and openly. Never

forget, our enemies want to stop us because we are the only ones that can stop them. They want to take away my freedom because I will never let them take away your freedom.


BRUNHUBER: Trump has already been ordered not to intimidate potential witnesses or talk to them about the facts of the case. Jessica Schneider has more.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The special counsel's team is laying out a long list of reasons why they want the judge to step in immediately and order Donald Trump to stop making statements, both online and in person, that could really end up intimidating witnesses, court officials or even the jury pool.

The special counsel did reveal on Friday that numerous witnesses have faced threats and intimidation because of those statements from Donald Trump. So now, they're asking Judge Tanya Chutkan to do something about Trump's words.

And they're laying it out this way, saying "The defendant's repeated inflammatory public statements, regarding the District of Columbia, the court, prosecutors and potential witnesses, are substantially likely to materially prejudice the jury pool, create fear among potential jurors and result in threats of harassment to individuals he singles out.

"Put simply, those involved in the criminal justice process who read and hear the defendant's disparaging and inflammatory messages, from court personnel to prosecutors to witnesses to potential jurors, they may reasonably fear that they could be the next target of the defendant's attacks."

And because of that, the special counsel wants Judge Chutkan to issue this order restricting Trump from making certain comments.

And the special counsel really is laying out a number of social media posts and comments from Trump over recent weeks that have targeted Jack Smith himself, the special counsel; even former vice president Mike Pence and even a prosecutor on Jack Smith's team.

Now it's interesting to note that Judge Chutkan already ordered Trump to refrain from disparaging comments. That was during his arraignment. But obviously, he's made those comments anyway.

And now the special counsel wants the judge to issue an order, an official order in writing, prohibiting Trump from naming witnesses, making statements about them or making any statements about anyone, including attorneys and potential jurors, that are disparaging or intimidating.

So this is really a significant move and request from the special counsel. And even though the judge has warned Trump once, this is asking the judge to make this order official and ironclad against Trump, with possible repercussions if he were to violate any order -- Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.


BRUNHUBER: Negotiations to end the strike by United Auto Workers against the U.S. Big 3 carmakers are expected to resume in a number of hours. Some 13,000 UAW members are walking the picket lines in three U.S. cities in a targeted strike. And they're getting some reinforcements from Washington.

The acting Labor Secretary, along with a top White House adviser, went to Detroit Friday to help sides reach a deal. President Biden says auto companies have seen record profits these last few years. These profits haven't been shared fairly with the workers. Here he is.



JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No one wants a strike. I'll say it again, no one wants to strike. But I respect the workers right to use their options under the collective bargaining system.

They've been around the clock and the companies have made some significant offers. But I believe they should go further to ensure record corporate profits mean record contracts for the UAW.


BRUNHUBER: The UAW president says 80 percent of the union's demands have been left off proposals from the automakers. Ford's CEO says the union's wage demands would put his company out of business. Details from CNN's Gabe Cohen.


GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The sides are headed back to the bargaining table today, with the autoworkers' union telling CNN that it has sent counter offers to each of the Big 3 auto manufacturers and is now awaiting their response.

And it is not clear at this point what is in those offers. But it is going to take quite a bit to bridge the divide that we have seen between these sides.

And until a deal is met, until a deal is reached, I should say, we are going to continue to see picket lines like this, operating 24 hours a day, like the one here in Toledo, outside the Stellantis factory where they build Jeeps.

There are 13,000 autoworkers currently on strike between here and Ohio, at the Ford facility in Michigan and a General Motors factory in Missouri. The autoworkers I spoke with today said, despite only making $100 a day in strike pay, they are ready to strike for as long as they need to.


BRUCE BAUMHOWER, PRESIDENT, UAW LOCAL 12: Our members are willing to stay in for the long haul. When we came out of bankruptcy, our starting pay at Jeep was $15.78.

Fourteen years later, it's $15.78. There's something wrong with that.


COHEN: The head of the autoworkers union told me on the picket line, it is possible that additional factories will strike in the coming days if they feel that it is necessary.

Either way, you can expect we're going to start to see more of a ripple effect of additional manufacturing facilities and factories that may have to shut down operations, even lay off workers, because they cannot get the parts that they need to operate -- Gabe Cohen, CNN, Toledo, Ohio.


BRUNHUBER: The outer bands of Hurricane Lee are starting to blast the New England area at this hour. The category 1 storm is bringing 80- mile-per-hour winds along the northeastern coast. It's expected to move up through Maine and into Canada, bringing coastal flooding and high winds.

The worst conditions are forecasted for later today, with widespread power outages likely across parts of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Hurricane Lee is expected to weaken somewhat before it moves across the Atlantic coast of Canada on Sunday morning.

In Hawaii, the official death toll has fallen from the devastating wildfire on Maui last month. The state's governor, Josh Green, tells CNN, fewer than 100 people have died and nearly 3 dozen people are still missing. And he expects those numbers to continue to fall. Here he is.


GOV. JOSH GREEN (D-HI): The number of fatalities has actually dropped from what was projected to be 115. It's now 97. We still have about 23 people who have passed away, who we have not been able to identify yet.

And a lot of the 31 reports of missing people will, you know, that will cover the 23, I'm sure, who have not yet been identified. So the number will keep dropping.


BRUNHUBER: Emergency teams in eastern Libya are still searching for thousands of people who disappeared after a catastrophic floods hit the region. Their work has been exhausting and, at times, mentally distressing, as you'll see in this graphic video. Have a look here on the northern coastline.


BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Workers have been retrieving bodies from the water days after they were swept out to sea. Crews have also been searching for the missing by combing through the rubble of collapsed buildings.

First responders from all around the world have been helping out. Many are focused on the city of Derna, which has seen the worst damage.


SADI CHOBAN, DERNA RESIDENT (through translator): Hours before the floods, came the situation seemed manageable, with local authorities keeping the flooding under control. However, the rupture of the dam caused a huge problem and resulted in a flooding, killing many people. It's a tragedy.


BRUNHUBER: The sheer scope of the devastation has made it difficult to determine the exact death toll. But even though the extent of the tragedy remains unclear, the U.N. says there is no doubt about what caused it.


MARTIN GRIFFITHS, U.N. UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS: This is a tragedy in which climate and capacity has collided to cause this terrible, terrible tragedy.


BRUNHUBER: We have more details now from CNN's Jomana Karadsheh in Derna.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a scene of utter devastation here. Everywhere you turn, it's apocalyptic scenes here. It resembles a war zone.

Many cities across the Libyan coast were impacted by that storm. But what happened in Derna was so different.

This catastrophe, as people describe it here, was, of course, caused by those two dams that burst, unleashed all that water, the floods that --


KARADSHEH: -- swept through the city and destroyed pretty much everything in its path, washing out entire neighborhoods, entire buildings, infrastructure, families that ended up in the sea. And you speak to people here, survivors who describe a night of horror that they went through. All this destruction, all this human loss, the thousands of lives that were lost, the more than 10,000 people who are unaccounted for right now. They say this all happened within the span of about 90 minutes.

We've spoken to some survivors describing how they had to race to save their lives, their children grabbing what they can, their children and running and trying to escape the rising waters that just kept on rising, three-story-high.

We heard that the waves were up to about 22 feet. And those who survived it are just traumatized. You speak to people right now who are barely able to comprehend what happened to them, what happened to their city. People are in shock.

And Libyans tell you, they have seen everything, they have dealt with war, they've seen death, they have dealt with loss before. But nothing prepared them for this.

And right now, from what we have seen, they don't have the capabilities to deal with a disaster on this scale. There are some search and rescue teams that have come in from different countries. But they say that this is nowhere near enough. They need more.

We have seen so many volunteers here in this bitterly divided country, a country where city fought city, east has been fighting west for more than a decade now.

We have seen people from all across the country who have poured into Derna, who have poured into the east to try and support the people to help volunteers, search and rescue, trying to help retrieve the dead bodies.

In the words of one woman we spoke to earlier saying, this catastrophe has united the people of Libya. And it seems like it has, at least for now -- Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Libya.


BRUNHUBER: Kim Jong-un is forging ahead with his visit to Russia's far east. We'll look at who the North Korean leader has been meeting with and what he is expected to do next.

Plus, the latest on the fighting in southern Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces claim they've achieved an important objective in their months- long counteroffensive.




(MUSIC PLAYING) BRUNHUBER: Kim Jong-un has been getting an inside look at Russia's

military sites in the country's far east. A short time ago, the North Korean leader toured a frigate from Russia's Pacific fleet with defense minister Sergei Shoigu in Vladivostok. They headed to the ship after visiting an airfield in the port city earlier.

Marc Stewart is following developments for us from Beijing.

So, Marc, take us through the messaging behind this visit.

MARC STEWART, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Kim. There is certainly symbolism and there is some substance behind this meeting. Let's first talk about the symbolism.

As you mentioned, this red carpet welcome in Russia for Kim Jong-un, especially today during these different military visits, he first went to an airfield accompanied by the Russian defense minister. We know he likes these photo ops.

Kim Jong-un sees value in these photo ops, feels that it is perhaps a way to demonstrate his worthiness and his relevancy on the world stage. So it's not a surprise that he saw different types of aircraft, military fighter jets, attack aircraft, even a long haul passenger jet.

He also, as you mentioned, went to the port to tour a warship. He was not alone, he was with the commander of the Russian Navy. In fact, he was given a gift, a model of that warship and also wrote in a guest book.

It's not clear though exactly what the North Korean leader's message was written inside. So that's the symbolism of this. These are pictures that are certainly going to go around the globe.

And then there is the broader question about the substance of this visit between Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un. They met on Wednesday. As we know, Kim Jong-un traveled to Russia in an armored train, very, very powerful, mighty vehicle if you will.

What these two nations want from each other is still to be determined. But it is very clear that they are isolated on the world stage, especially because of Russia's involvement in Ukraine.

But Russia, perhaps, may want to have a stronger alliance with North Korea, especially when it comes to munition and military supplies, which, analysts have pointed out, may be a point of weakness for Russia.

And then North Korea, also, they want to gain from Russia perhaps advanced military technology. It could be as simple as food. These are the different interests that could be at stake; of course, under a very watchful eye.

There are United Nations treaties and, of course, this has created a lot of concern from both the United States, Russia -- the United States, Japan and South Korea, I should say. But these are two nations which are on their own on the world stage.

In fact, it was just in July, Kim, you will remember that North Korea actually hosted the leaders of Russia and China, where I am now; again, nations that have not taken a strong position to condemn Russia against the war in Ukraine, Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Interesting. All, right thanks so much, Marc Stewart, appreciate it.


BRUNHUBER: Fresh off those talks with Kim Jong-un, Vladimir Putin is looking westward for another ally. Russian president invited Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko to Sochi after concluding that summit. Russian state media said it was the seventh time this year the two leaders have met.

Russia has been suffering losses recently in Crimea and southern Ukraine. Ukrainian commander said the devastated village of Andriivka has now been retaken, opening what he said was a bridgehead for Ukrainians counter offensive to advance.


BRUNHUBER: We know that regaining the territory gave Ukrainian troops control vital railroad. More on Ukraine's counteroffensive from CNN's Fred Pleitgen in Kyiv.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Ukrainian forces on the attack at the crack of dawn. Kyiv says its troops ousted the Russian villages on the eastern front in the past days.

One of the units involved releasing this video purportedly showing one of their drones hitting a Russian vehicle carrying an officer. Ukraine attacking not just on land but from the sea and the air as well.

This video purporting to show unmanned sea drones trying to ram a Russian warship just hours after the Ukrainians say they hit a Russian sub and a landing ship in the key port of Sevastopol as well as a sophisticated surface to air missile system, all in occupied Crimea.

"Thank you for today's triumph," the Ukrainian president says. "The invader's air defense system in the Crimean land was destroyed, very significant, well done."

In occupied Crimea, some residents seem increasingly concerned about Ukraine's attacks both on the peninsula and the bridge that links it to the Russian mainland.

"When it was attacked for the first time, I was worried so much," this man says.

"Nevertheless, Russia is still strong." And he says, "Times are turbulent now. Of course, I'm worried but, in general, driving over the bridge is OK."

Under pressure, Vladimir Putin continues to court North Korean strongman Kim Jong U.N. Kim visiting a plant that makes Sukhoi fighter jets during his ongoing trip to Russia.

And while the Russians claim no deals have been signed for the North Koreans to provide ammo to Moscow, Putin admits he wants to deepen ties with Pyongyang.

"We have never violated anything and in this instance, we are not going to violate anything," Putin says. "But of course, we will look for opportunities to develop Russian-North Korean relations."

But the Russians also touting their own military industry. Defense minister Sergei Shoigu on a visit to a shipyard for nuclear submarines saying Russia will not only develop new nuclear submarines but underwater drones as well.

While the Russians showcase their strategic weapons manufacturing, their Ukrainians say their forces are the ones with the initiative on almost all battlefronts -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Kyiv.


BRUNHUBER: And CNN's Barbie Nadeau joins us live from Rome.

Barbie, what's the latest on the latest gains Ukraine is making?

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These gains are very, very important strategically. You look at some of the video of these villages that have been recaptured. There's not much left of them.

But as you mentioned, this is really about the infrastructure and gaining control of the trains, the railroad system, gaining access to the seaports and things like that.

All of this is especially important ahead of President Zelenskyy's visit to the United States. He's addressing the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday. He'll be visiting with President Biden as well and some Republican leaders in Washington later in the week.

If he's able to show these tactical gains with the counteroffensive, it's hoped that people will continue, countries will continue to support Ukraine, to continue to bolster them with weapons and other support, financial, ammunition, things like that that he's going to be asking for.

So these gains mean a lot for them in terms of Ukraine but they also mean a lot globally to continue the support, Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Absolutely. Thank you so much. Barbie Nadeau in Rome.

When we come back, thousands of U.S. autoworkers on the picket lines. The latest as the union and the automakers get ready to return to the bargaining table. That's coming up. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: Welcome back to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and all around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is CNN NEWSROOM.

It's back to the bargaining table today for the United Auto Workers and Detroit's Big 3 carmakers. The UAW's targeted strikes against the car companies is now in its second day.

Some 13,000 union members are on the picket lines. They're wanting, among other things, pay increases and a return to traditional pensions and protections against job losses as the industry shifts to electric vehicles.

The Chamber of Commerce warns the strike could damage the U.S. economy and says President Biden's pro union policies are partly to blame. For his part, Biden says his methods of actually strengthen the economy, claiming that core inflation has fallen to 2.4 percent over the past few months.

But many Americans aren't sold on Bidenomics. According to a recent CNN poll, 58 percent of people say the president's policies have made economic conditions worse. And 67 percent of Democratic-leaning voters believe his party should nominate someone else in the next election.


BRUNHUBER: Dr. Alex Melkumian is a financial psychotherapist and founder of The Financial Psychology Center.

Thank you so much for joining us here. Here's the situation. We have record job growth, unemployment is close to a 50-year low, we have steadily slowing inflation, U.S. wages are growing faster than inflation.

The U.S. economy, especially when you compare it to other countries, is actually doing quite well right now.

So as someone who helps people deal with financial anxiety, the key question for you then is, why the disconnect between the state of the economy and people's perceptions of it?

What's going on here?

ALEX MELKUMIAN, PHD, FINANCIAL PSYCHOTHERAPIST: Well, I think we should start with a bit of hard data. And what we're seeing is that the American people are really not being told that the White House has the inflation -- that the inflation is cumulative.

What we're seeing is that, since 2021, we've had inflation of 4.7 percent, 8 percent in 2022 and 4 percent in 2023. And what the American people are actually experiencing is a cumulative inflation of 6 percent.

And a couple of hard facts is that we have $1 trillion in credit card debt, highest gas prices ever, about $5 a gallon. And everyday life is just so much more challenging, where, since 2020, rent has been up 18 percent.

Used cars are up 44 percent, new cars are up 30 percent. But more importantly, overall poverty rates also have increased nearly 5 percent in 2023, which means that approximately 15 million people slid into poverty in the past year.


MELKUMIAN: And lastly, as a financial psychologist, I want to highlight this. Financial stress is at an all-time high. And it's really an epidemic that no one is talking about since 80 percent of Americans report being worried about their finances.

BRUNHUBER: I'm wondering though, why it should be so high?

Because we did get through the COVID pandemic when things were much worse. And all the key indicators have gone up since then. But people's anxieties don't seem to have diminished.

MELKUMIAN: You know, this conversation isn't just about numbers on a chart. It's about the mental toll on individual lives. And, really, people, irrespective of their political leanings, find a glaring disconnect between official White House narratives and their own lived experience.

I'd say that the financial struggles and stressors that we face every day is really counter to the broader optimistic narrative. And this clash not only triggers cognitive dissonance but deeply affects the personal financial psychology of the everyday American.

BRUNHUBER: I want to jump in, because you talk about cognitive dissonance. Despite what you say, people are spending like they think the economy is doing well. It's not like they're saving more because of all this uncertainty that they're feeling.

MELKUMIAN: Yes, actually, the Federal Reserve just released this data point that everyday Americans will be depleting their savings accounts by October of 2023 but they're really spending on everyday goods that really is being eroded by the current inflation.

BRUNHUBER: This is getting into politics but is it less about the message than the messenger?

Is Biden's unpopularity meaning that people don't want to hear how good everything is going?

They don't want to hear that message from him in particular?

MELKUMIAN: I think again there is a big disconnect between what Biden's office is saying in social media and what the average person is feeling.

The average person may feel like they're living in a dysfunctional family, where one partner continues to convince the other partner that there is no need to worry about the bills and everything -- but the debt keeps mounting.

And the American people are starting to say, we've seen the bills. We're $1 trillion in debt and our dollar doesn't go as far as you say it does.

How can you say that everything's under control?

And this is increasingly resembling a distortion of (INAUDIBLE) or really it's just a form of gaslighting, if you will. And that really ultimately leads to mistrust in the government and its confidence.

BRUNHUBER: It sounds as if, despite all the Democratic advertising about how the president's economic achievements, despite Biden himself going around, trying to sell Bidenomics, it's going to be a tough sell to the American people going forward.

We'll have to leave it there, Dr. Alex Melkumian, thank you so much for speaking with us, I really appreciate it.

MELKUMIAN: Thank you.


BRUNHUBER: One year after a young woman died in Iranian morality police custody, the world remembers Mahsa Amini. and the protest movement her death inspired. We'll speak with a pro reform journalist after the break. Please stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: It's been one year since the death of Mahsa Amini and the birth of an Iranian protest movement that was brutally crushed by authorities. Mahsa Amini died in the custody of Iran's morality police, detained for allegedly wearing her hijab improperly.

On Friday, the U.S. and other countries marked the anniversary by announcing a raft of new Iranian sanctions. Her death sparked months of protests, viciously suppressed by Tehran with hundreds killed and thousands detained.

Iran has reportedly increased security measures ahead of the anniversary. One Iranian French actor told CNN, the demonstrations will continue to change the country.


GOLSHIFTEH FARAHANI, IRANIAN FRENCH ACTOR: The fact that women are not wearing their veil anymore, this is something that Mahsa died for, for not wearing her veil properly. So the fact that these girls are going on the streets, in the airport, everywhere, without wearing it, they are actually playing with their lives.

But they're doing it. So this is how this revolution is continuing. It has changed forms but it has not finished.


BRUNHUBER: Rallies to honor Mahsa Amini are planned for today in several international cities.


BRUNHUBER: Maziar Bahari is a publisher for the pro reform news outlet IranWire. He joins us live via Skype from London.

Thank you so much for being here with us. I just mentioned the rallies that are planned.

What are you expecting to see; how widespread will they be, do you think?

MAZIAR BAHARI, PUBLISHER, IRANWIRE: From what we know, the government has used all of its resources in terms of mobilizing the police, the Revolutionary Guards, the paramilitary besiege, plainclothes officers and even the army in order to prevent the protests.

We know that the house of Mahsa Amini in city of Saqqez (INAUDIBLE) province of Kurdistan, has been surrounded by the security officers for the past few days. Her father has been summoned for the past few months, at least twice a week.

Today, he was detained for a few hours. And the family, they've been threatened that her brother, actually, her younger brother, who is 19 years old, has been threatened that he's going to be sent into a remote village if he asks the people to come to the demonstrations or the ceremony.

So the government has been trying its best to prevent the protests. But at the same time, the root causes of the protests, which started last September, have not gone away.

People are still disenchanted with the government's economic policies, with the mismanagement, with corruption, with its draconian dress codes in the country, with the Islamic Republic as a whole, we can say, the government that has been in power since 1979.

So it's very difficult to know what can people do in terms of mobilizing protests, despite the government's efforts to stop them. But we know that many businesses around the province of Kurdistan, especially in the city of Saqqez, have gone on a strike.


BAHARI: And we can foresee more protests in the other cities in the next few hours as well.

BRUNHUBER: Given what happened last, year I mean, do you fear that these might become violent?

Do you think that there will be widespread violence and repression by the government?

BAHARI: Well, the government likes the protests to be violent because that's what they're good at. They know how to suppress protests violently.

We have talked to hundreds of people who have been maimed, who have been shot in the eye and not accidentally. They've been shot in the eye at very close range. And the government wanted last year try to teach people a lesson and knows that, if the opposition becomes more violent, they can also become violent and suppress the protests.

So I think the government will try to make the protests violent but, at the same time, we have hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of young people, who just hate this government and hate whatever it stands for.

And as a result, they may resort to self defense violently. They may even attack the government forces violently. So it's a -- it's a worrying situation. We do not know what's going to happen. But violence is one of the things that we can expect, yes.

BRUNHUBER: Let's hope that isn't the outcome. You mentioned a sort of list of things that haven't changed in all of the problems that Iran is facing. It's been a year since those protests following Mahsa Amini's death.

What's changed since then for the average Iranian, do you think?

BAHARI: For the average Iranian, women especially, the hijab has become something rather irrelevant. My friends in Iran say that five out of 10 women are not wearing their hijab in government offices, on the street, in hospitals, in different places.

There are some morality police patrols still in certain places but the government has in general not decided to steer the public and confront the people who are not wearing the hijab violently.

But at the same time, the root causes of the protests last year was not really the hijab. Hijab and Mahsa Amini's death because of her hijab was the sparkle (sic) that started this fire.

But the main reasons were corruption, the fact that people are getting poorer every day, the fact that people think that they are humiliated. And the government of Iran, until, we can say, until a few years ago or at least until last year, they tried to have this facade of legitimacy and tried to address people's needs economically.

They had these poverty allocation programs. But since last year, they have given up on any kind of legitimacy claims. So they are confronting people with brute force. And that's why we are seeing the huge presence of all different kinds of armed forces around the country, especially in the places where we had the protests last year.

BRUNHUBER: Some of those economic problems that you mentioned are being caused by the sanctions and, as I mentioned earlier, the U.S. and other countries launched new sanctions to mark the anniversary of her death.

But Iran, as you already know, is one of the most heavily sanctioned countries in the world.

Do additional sanctions really have any effect here?

BAHARI: Well, the new sanctions that were rolled out are really symbolic sanctions. They are sanctions against individuals. And these individuals do not have any ties to the outside world.

So the sanctions are just symbolic. These are the sanctions that can be affected in a country like Russia, where oligarchic have villas and houses in France or Spain or other places.

But these people who are being subjected to sanctions in Iran, they are Revolutionary Guards commanders, who cannot even leave the country without the government permission.

So those sanctions are kind of symbolic and irrelevant but there are other sanctions that have not caused the economic problems but maybe they have intensified the economic problems.

The root cause of the economic problems in Iran is the government's mismanagement, the government's corruption and the kind of nepotism that has taken over Iran since 1979, when this government came to power.

So when an industry or a company or a government body is subjected to sanction in Iran, it intensifies the economic problem; it does not cause it. For example, the Revolutionary Guards, which are not only an army anymore, they are industrial, like an industrial complex.


BAHARI: They have taken over many pharmaceutical companies. So when the Revolutionary Guards are subject to sanctions, then it can affect the pharmaceutical industry as well in Iran.


BRUNHUBER: We will have to leave it there. I'm so sorry. It's such an important topic to talk about. We really appreciate your perspectives on this sad anniversary, IranWire publisher, Maziar Bahari, in London. Thank you so much.

BAHARI: Thank you.


BRUNHUBER: Well China isn't doing anything to tamp down speculation that its defense minister has been placed under investigation. As Ivan Watson reports, he is the latest top Chinese official to disappear from public view.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Where is China's defense minister?

General Li Shangfu was last seen in public in Beijing on August 29th. But nine days later, he did not show up for this planned meeting with top military officials from Vietnam.

Beijing didn't offer a public explanation why. Asked on Friday, where is the defense minister, is he under investigation?

The Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson answered, I'm not aware of the situation.

Li's disappearance from the public eye is reminiscent of the mysterious case of China's former foreign minister Qin Gang. In July, Qin seemed to disappear. He stopped showing up at regional summits and high profile meetings with top U.S. officials, until he was inexplicably replaced by his predecessor only months after getting the job.

The U.S. ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, has been trolling China on social media.

"Chinese President Xi Jinping's lineup is now resembling Agatha Christie's novel, 'And Then There Were None,'" he wrote, adding #MysteryInBeijingBuilding.

Li is still listed on the Chinese Defense Ministry website and users can still search his name on China's heavily censored internet. That's where people are starting to ask questions such as, "General Li Shangfu, it's been 16 days.

"What's going on?"

And things are so opaque.

DREW THOMPSON, SENIOR FELLOW, LEE KUAN YEW SCHOOL OF PUBLIC POLICY: What is unprecedented is the removal of both the defense minister and the foreign minister to externally focused portfolios in the course of only three months.

WATSON: Li was appointed defense minister in March and traveled soon after to meet with Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Li has been under U.S. sanctions since 2018 for purchasing Russian weapons, as the Chinese military's top procurement officer. He has refused to formally meet with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who went ahead and shook his hand at a security conference in Singapore.

Two top commanders of the Chinese military's rocket force were abruptly removed from their positions two months ago, part of a broader pattern targeting the top brass.

THOMPSON: So you had some very consequential, very important, very influential top generals either be arrested or detained and ultimately committing suicide during Xi Jinping's tenure.

And this is quite disconcerting. And what's also very disconcerting is how little we know about it.

WATSON: We do know that Xi Jinping broke precedent, setting himself up potentially to be leader for life. And his style of governance includes the abrupt and unexplained disappearances of some of his top officials -- Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.


BRUNHUBER: Still ahead this hour, most players on Spain's World Cup winning squad say they're staying away from the soccer pitch for a while. The details on why the women are making that move, coming up. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: An African American football player says he received racist messages after his team lost a game on Thursday. Alexander Mattison of the Minnesota Vikings shared two of those messages on Instagram Friday. Both contained racial slurs that told the running back to take his own life.

He called the messages "sick," saying people should reflect on what they say and how their words could affect someone. The Vikings and the NFL have also condemned the comments as unacceptable.

Most of Spain's World Cup winning soccer players are refusing to play in two upcoming women's league matches following the unwanted kiss controversy. More than 3 dozen women, including 21 from the championship squad, signed a joint letter condemning the royal Spanish football federation.

They wrote that it hasn't made enough structural changes to make the players feel they are in a safe and respected place and that women's soccer is supported. On Friday, Spain postponed the announcement of the team lineup for the matches. The developments come after ex Spanish soccer chief Luis Rubiales'

unwanted kiss on star player Jenni Hermoso following Spain's World Cup win.

Meanwhile, a judge in Spain has now signed off on a restraining order against Rubiales following a hearing in the country's national court as the court investigates that unwanted kiss at the Women's World Cup. Al Goodman has more now from Madrid.


AL GOODMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The judge's restraining order against Rubiales to stay 200 meters or 650 feet away from Jennifer Hermoso was less than what the prosecution had asked for, 500 meters.

But the judge did grant the prosecution's request that he cannot contact her in any way during the investigation. The judge denying a request from Jennifer Hermoso's lawyer to protectively embargo Rubiales' assets during the investigation.

Rubiales and his lawyer arrived about an hour before the midday court hearing. And they did not say anything to the media on the way into the courthouse. After the hour-long hearing, did not say anything on the way out.

But the prosecution said in a statement that, in the courtroom, Rubiales denied the charges against him for alleged sexual assault and coercion and did answer questions from the judge, the prosecutor and Jennifer Hermoso's lawyer.

Hermoso's lawyer, outside after the hearing, did speak to the media. Here is what she had to say.



CARLA VALL, JENNI HERMOSO'S LAWYER (through translator): We can stand up what we said from the start. It was a kiss without consent. Everyone saw the images. The whole country saw it.

And we can say that, precisely because of that, thanks to social change, too, and also because of the legal changes, we can show that Mr. Rubiales lacked consent.


GOODMAN: Rubiales insists the kiss was consensual. It was seen on global TV, at the awards ceremony, right after Spain's women's team won the World Cup for the first time ever.

So many, many people saw it in the stadium and around the world. And the whole issue has become a kind of a case for Spain, of the differences between what are considered to be the older attitudes about sex and sexism in Spain versus a younger generation, who are pushing more for gender equality. Now the judge at the national court here will have to investigate,

including and expected to contact Australian authorities, look at video. This court is used to investigating difficult subjects, money laundering, organized crime and now it's got this one to take a look at -- Al Goodman, CNN, Madrid.


BRUNHUBER: There are three new residents aboard the International Space Station, two Russian cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut arrived a few hours ago. That makes 10 people on the space station right now.

Two of them will stay for about a year. Astronaut Loral O'Hara will be there about six months. Three crew members will return later this month

That wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber. I'll be back with more news in just a moment.