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U.S. Warship Collides with Merchant Ship Near Japan; Tough Questions After London Fire; Russia Investigation Continues; Trump Unveils New Restrictions on Cuba. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired June 17, 2017 - 03:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Search efforts are underway to find seven American sailors missing after a collision between this warship and a cargo ship off the Japanese coast.

And tough questions after the London fire, a British lawmaker laments the social inequalities that led to at least 30 deaths in the U.K.

Plus Donald Trump says he's canceling Obama's Cuba policy. It's getting harder for Americans to travel to the Caribbean island.

Hi, everyone, thank you very much for joining us. I'm Cyril Vanier, live from the CNN NEWSROOM in Atlanta.


VANIER: And we are going to start with this developing news in Japan. The U.S. says that seven sailors are missing after a warship collided with a Philippine merchant vessel, it happened some 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka. And that puts us right about in this region right here.

And it was 2:30 am local time when the collision happened. The warship is this one, the U.S.S. Fitzgerald, seen here. At least three sailors were medically evacuated; we're told they are all in stable condition now. They include the destroyer's commanding officer.

And the merchant vessel seen here has been identified as the ACX Crystal. For more on all of this, I'm joined from Tokyo by journalist Kaori Enjoji.

Kaori, first of all, what do we know right now about the search and rescue efforts to find the missing crew members?

KAORI ENJOJI, JOURNALIST: Well, Cyril, it's been over 13 hours since this collision occurred off the coast of Japan. We still don't know why one of the most advanced warships that the U.S. has in the region, the U.S.S. Fitzgerald, collided with a commercial ship in that area in the middle of the night.

We also don't know how this incident unfolded as well. What we do know is that the seven sea members who were on board on the U.S.S. Fitzgerald are still unaccounted for and missing.

And the Japanese Coast Guard has been searching, using their own vessels and also helicopters, to try and aid in this search mission.

As you pointed out, three people were injured as a result of the incident, including the commander of the U.S.S. Fitzgerald. Those three people were helicoptered off the ship and are at the naval base at Yokosuka, which is where the ship is usually docked along with the 7th Fleet. And they are reported to be in stable condition.

When you look at photos of the damage that was incurred by the U.S.S. Fitzgerald, you can see that most of the damage was on the right-hand side of the ship, fairly extensive damage that you can see above water.

But the U.S. Navy has said that the biggest damage is unable to be seen in the pictures. It's occurring below the water surface. And that reportedly has triggered some flooding into the vessel. But that has now been contained and there was no danger of the ship sinking.

What we know is that the U.S.S. Fitzgerald left its port in Yokosuka on Friday. Then the collision took place at 2:30 am local time, earlier on this morning and is now being tugged back to Yokosuka base. We don't know when that will reach Yokosuka at this point.

The other ship involved in the collision is a commercial ship, a Philippine but being chartered by a Japanese private shipping company called Nippon Yusen. And it was transporting material from the western part of Japan toward where this incident occurred. There have been no injuries reported on that vessel -- Cyril.

VANIER: All right, Kaori Enjoji, thank you very much. We will continue to get live updates from you throughout the morning. Thanks a lot.

Earlier I spoke to Dave Larger about this. He is a staff writer at the "Navy Times" and I asked him how a collision like this could even happen?


DAVE LARTER, "NAVY TIMES": One of the things that you're not seeing in the images is that there appears to have been some extensive damage underneath the water line.

And what you're going to find there is some of the crew berthing spaces. And the reporting that I'm seeing is that the -- at least two of the berthing compartments were flooded out in the incident itself.

So it's too early to tell what happened to those sailors. Obviously, the hope is that they'll be identified and brought to safety soon.

VANIER: If they are in the water, just what are the odds of survival?

LARTER: Well, that just depends on anything from atmospherics to, you know, the water temperature to how cold it is outside. [03:05:00]

LARTER: In any situation like this, they are going to be doing a pretty active search and rescue. And my understanding is the Japanese Coast Guard has been very helpful with that while the Navy tries to attend to, obviously, the serious needs of the Fitzgerald right now.

VANIER: So how does a collision like this happen?

We're talking about a U.S. destroyer, which has all kinds of precision, you know, measurement tools and radars.

How does it just collide into another ship?

LARTER: You know, this is something that's going to be the subject of months of inquiry, I'm quite sure. The Navy is going to look at this very closely.

You know, I'm honestly at a loss for how it could have happened. There's a watch standing team on the bridge, which is the -- it's one of the highest points on the ship. You can see in most directions and there's bridge wings on either side of the ship. You can see those in the pictures.

So they usually have lookouts and a bridge watch team that mans it 24/7. It happened in the middle of the night. But even without the visuals, they have radars that are running. They have several radars, a surface search radar and then a backup radar that they're monitoring on the bridge. So it's hard to know how this could have happened.

VANIER: And you have about 300 to 330 crew members on a ship like this. We're talking the middle of the night.

Is that a factor possibly?

LARTER: You know, that's one of the things that I would honestly be the most concerned about, because of the indications where things that were flooded, that the fact is that that would have happened.

I mean, 2:30 in the morning, anybody that's not on watch and, you know, that's a good number of people, would probably be in the berthing. So I am very concerned about that.

VANIER: All right, Dave Larter, staff writer for the "Navy Times," thank you very much.



VANIER: Anger is growing in the wake of London's deadly tower fire. Protesters filled the street across the city Friday, calling for justice for victims. Police confirm at least 30 people died in Wednesday's fire and Britain's prime minister has promised a full public inquiry into the tragedy.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I think we were all, when we saw the horrific scenes of what had happened at Grenfell Tower, we all were deeply affected by that. It's absolutely horrifying. And I've been hearing stories today from people about their experiences. I've also been hearing from the local community about the issues and concerns that they have.


VANIER: CNN's Oren Liebermann has been following the backlash of the Grenfell fire. He has this report from London.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Anger boils over as the city grieves. Residents, friends and family protesting over how they say their concerns were ignored, over how they say they are being treated after this tragedy. Near Grenfell Tower, the feeling is similar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So this is classic. This is profit over people.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Pictures of the missing, each one an unanswered question the lack of answers fueling the frustration.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The people at the top floor, elderly, have no chance, not 1 percent chance of surviving.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's to make you look pretty --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- surrounding people and areas (INAUDIBLE) --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- and let's not focus on the human lives inside the building.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): The fire has become far bigger than one community. It's resonated around the city, echoes of grief and anger growing louder.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why wasn't enough done to prevent this?

You know, gentrification, you know, in terms of making this building look pretty so that all the other sort of new builds and those that invest in the capital can feel happier but at the cost of human life, it's unacceptable and someone needs to be held accountable.

LIEBERMANN: This is one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in London. We're just a short distance away from multimillion-dollar homes and porches, residents of the Grenfell Tower a short distance behind me, say they live in a different world, ignored, invisible, they say, to the officials who are supposed to represent them. They say that fire would never have happened right here.

JOE DELANEY, NEIGHBOR: I'd love to know how much of that $10 million actually went on making the outside look nice.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Joe Delaney lives next to Grenfell Tower. He watched from the very beginning. In many ways, he speaks for the community.

DELANEY: I tell you what, it may have been an eyesore but it certainly wouldn't have killed anyone.


LIEBERMANN (voice-over): There is a tremendous amount of gratitude here. But it's for the volunteers, who have packed supply vans with donations, and for the firefighters.

The government has ordered a public inquiry and a criminal investigation has been launched. Still, the anger evident and residents are shouting for accountability.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want justice! We want justice!


LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Those cries growing louder with each passing hour -- Oren Liebermann, CNN, London.


VANIER: And British lawmaker David Lammy is among those expressing outrage. The Labour Party MP says it highlights how differently poor people are treated in the U.K., compared to wealthy citizens. He is demanding change.


DAVID LAMMY, BRITISH LABOUR MP: You can't contract out everything to the private sector. The private sector can do some wonderful things but they have for-profit motives. They cut corners.

If you haven't got the offices to check on the enforcement of buildings, don't expect it to be done.

You know, are there fire extinguishers?

I knock on doors all the time, all MPs did. We have all been up to those tower blocks. They exist right across the country.

Where are the fire extinguishers on every corridor?

Where -- you know, where are the hoses?

Are the fire doors really working?

Where are the sprinklers? If you want to build these buildings, let them at least be as good as

the luxury penthouse buildings that are also being built. But these buildings aren't is the question. So you either demolish them and house people in a different way or you absolutely refurbish them to the best of quality that we can do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think this says anything about the value that is placed on the lives of people who cannot afford to buy their own property, to live in some of the nicer bits of Britain?

LAMMY: This is a tale of two cities. This is what Dickens was writing about in the century before the last. And it's still here in 2017.

It's the face of the poorest and the most vulnerable. My friend, who lost her life, was a talented artist but she was a young black woman, making her way in this country and she absolutely had no power or locus or agency.

She had not yet achieved that in her life. She had done amazing things, gone to university, the best in her life but she's died with her mother on the 22nd floor of a building. And it breaks my heart that that is happening in Britain in 2017. Breaks my heart.


VANIER: Germany and world leaders are mourning Helmut Kohl, who was praised as the architect of German reunification after the Cold War. Kohl died at home in Western Germany at the age of 87.

He served as German chancellor for 16 years. His tenure however clouded by a party fundraising scandal. The current chancellor, Angela Merkel, grew up in then Communist East Germany and she said that Kohl was the right man at the right time to help reunite her country.

Coming up on CNN, after the break, Donald Trump and his family will do something this weekend that they have not done since he became president in January. We will tell you what it is -- next.




VANIER: Welcome back.

A list of names, including some Republican members of Congress, was found on the body of James Hodgkinson, the gunman who opened fire at a congressional baseball practice near Washington on Wednesday.

A law enforcement source said it's not clear that that was actually an assassination list and that none of the wounded were on the list. Congressman Steve Scalise, remember, was shot in that attack and he remains in critical condition. The U.S. first family will make their first visit to Camp David this weekend. It's the official presidential retreat in rural Maryland, a short helicopter ride from the White House.

And while the rustic setting is not exactly what the Trumps may be used to, it could be a welcomed getaway after the roller coaster of the past week.

Topping that list, the president himself ended weeks of speculation, confirming that he is now under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia probe.

Mr. Trump also added one more high-powered attorney to his defense team; veteran lawyer, John Dowd, best known for investigating the gambling scandal surrounding former Major League baseball player Pete Rose.

Now the week started with speculation that Mr. Trump is considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller, who is overseeing the investigation. Technically, that decision would have to come from deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein. And he told a congressional hearing that he sees no good cause.


ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: I'm not going to follow any orders unless I believe those are lawful and appropriate orders. Under the regulation, special counsel Mueller may be fired only for good cause and I'm required to put that cause in writing.

And if there were good cause, I would consider it; if there were not good cause, it wouldn't matter to me what anybody says.


VANIER: And that's not all. On Tuesday, more high drama on Capitol Hill. Attorney General Jeff Sessions angrily denied any suggestion that he colluded with Russia. However, he refused to talk about his conversations with Mr. Trump concerning the firing of FBI director James Comey. Senate investigators also repeatedly heard this.


SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R-ALA.), U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: It's conceivable that that occurred. I just don't remember it.

But I still do not recall it.

Not to my recollection.

I don't have any recollection of even knowing he would be there.

So I don't recall that.

I don't recall any such conversation.

I don't recall it, Senator. I don't -- not recall any of those individuals.

VANIER (voice-over): So that was Tuesday. On Thursday, the Senate nearly unanimously passed a bill that would slap Russia with new sanctions. It would also give Congress the power to review any White House attempts to roll them back, thereby reining the president's power.

The bill now goes to the House.

Also on Thursday, we found out that Vice President Mike Pence has hired outside counsel to answer any questions related to the Russia investigation. He said it's, quote, "very routine."

Now finally, an unexpected, if tongue-in-cheek, offer from Vladimir Putin also this week. The Russian president talked about James Comey in his annual televised call-in show. He compared the FBI, the fired FBI director, to a well-known leaker of U.S. intelligence secrets.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): What makes the FBI director different from Mr. Snowden, then?

It seems to me that, in this case, he's not so much the head of the FBI as an activist with his own particular point of view. By the way, if he faces some sort of prosecution for this, we are prepared to give him political asylum, too. He should know that.



VANIER: Larry Sabato joins us now. He is the director of the Center of Politics at the University of Virginia.

Larry, it looks like after some hesitation, Donald Trump has decided to do what he's been doing since the beginning and what works for him best, which is fight this thing.

Fight this cloud, the whole Russia investigation, every new piece of information that comes out, fight it hard and hope that he's going to come out on the other side vindicated.

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: You're quite correct there. He believes in fighting anybody who opposes him and, after all, potentially, if this develops in the right way, it could be an arrow through the heart of his presidency.

So in a sense, he has to fight. He enjoys that. And it has a practical political impact. It solidifies that big base of his. It's not a majority. But it's in the 40s someplace, low to mid-40s. And as long as he keeps his base, he's happy. He doesn't want to expand it. He's not going to expand it.

VANIER: And also apparently he settled once and for all the debate on how he should be doing this. He settled it; he is his best spokesperson so nobody else is going to do this for him.

SABATO: Well, can you imagine what a nightmare it must be to be his spokesperson?

You never know what he's thinking at any given time. So, yes, those early morning tweets of his set the day's agenda. And most of his key aides read the tweets --


SABATO: -- as the rest of us do, online. And then they know what they're going to be talking about the next 10 or 12 hours.

VANIER: But you know what, I hear that and the president's conduct generally described as reckless. I mean, you hear it a lot.

But then you go back and you look at Bill Clinton and his troubles and impeachment proceedings. And he managed to divorce that cloud and those questions hanging over his presidency from his actual agenda, from his politics.

He managed to maintain if not gain in popularity during that time. So maybe Donald Trump is just taking good advice.

SABATO: Possibly, but there's a big difference. Bill Clinton had Republicans in charge of both houses and they beat up on him constantly and they had the power to beat up on him.

Donald Trump has a Republican Congress in both houses. It's a very different dynamic there. And he's not listening to the people running Congress, his own Republicans. They are as unhappy about him privately as the Democrats are publicly.

VANIER: What about his underlying argument?

He's under investigation, reportedly for potential obstruction of justice. But all his tweets are essentially screaming out, yes, but they're obstructing. Meanwhile, they're obstructing my agenda, my politics.

What do you think of the argument?

SABATO: I wonder daily whether he's crazy like a fox or just crazy. I don't know which it is and I suppose it changes from day to day. Essentially, he's trying to make Democrats the target.

But again, they're in the minority in both houses. His party is in the majority, in the House and the Senate and yet they still can't get anything passed.

Where's the responsibility?

VANIER: Tell me now about his latest tweet.

Donald Trump seems to feel that his deputy attorney general is part of the witch hunt. Let me just read that tweet again. "I'm being investigated," tweeted the president, "for firing the FBI director by the man are who told me to fire the FBI director. Witch hunt."

So he apparently feels that Rod Rosenstein, the number two at the Department of Justice, is part of that witch hunt against him.

SABATO: Yes, and there's a little paranoia in there, although, as they always say, sometimes people are paranoid because people are out to get them.

But in Trump's case, I think, really, what he's doing is either preparing the way to fire the special counsel, Bob Mueller, and maybe Rosenstein as well or to make people think he might do it, which, in turn, keeps them on edge and makes them perhaps more hesitant to do the things they'd do otherwise.

Again, who knows. It's all in Donald Trump's mind and he doesn't tell people.

VANIER: Larry Sabato, thank you very much for coming on the show. Always a pleasure.

SABATO: Thank you, Cyril. Thank you so much.


VANIER: And now, Cuba is denouncing U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to impose tighter restrictions on tourism and business dealings with Havana. It calls the move a setback to U.S.-Cuban relations but also insists that it's still open to dialogue. Patrick Oppmann is in Havana with the details.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Donald Trump delivered a tough message directed toward the Cuban government from a Miami theater full of anti-Castro Cuban exiles.

Trump said that he was making good on a promise to undo the Obama opening with Cuba. President Obama perhaps had enacted some of the most significant changes in Cuban-U.S. relations since the 1959 revolution.

President Trump said he was going to rip up that deal. A lot of what President Trump said was much tougher, though, than his actual policies, which will keep in place such Obama-era changes, like having full diplomatic relations with the island allowing U.S. flights and cruise service to return to Cuba and as well working with the Cubans on a number of issues like drug trafficking.

But what Trump said he will do is that he will make it much tougher for Americans to travel the island, much tougher for Americans to do business here and that's really targeting the Cuban military, which controls a lot of the tourism sector here. All the same, though, Americans will continue to be able to travel

here. They may face an audit. They may have to come in groups now, not be able to self-license and come on their own, as they have over the past two years.

But travel to Cuba will still be permitted under those restrictions. The changes, though, are worrying some Cubans, who rent out their homes and have opened up restaurants, trying to take advantage of the boom in American visitors coming to the island.

For the Cuban government's part, though, officials have told me that they have endured 60 years of these kinds of sanctions and they don't think what President Trump has announced in Miami will have much of an impact. I'm Patrick Oppmann in Havana.


VANIER: We are joined now by Derek Van Dam from the International Weather Center here at CNN and Derek is going to come --


VANIER: -- and tell us about the extreme heat and very dry conditions that have led to intense fires across the southwestern U.S.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, that's right, this is coming out of New Mexico, in fact, actually some dramatic footage of the Cajete fire out of the Santa Fe National Forest. You can see this fire, some aerial visuals coming out of that region, growing to over 700 acres. It is zero percent contained.

You can see some of the firefighters battling those blazes. Several structures and small communities currently at risk. There are some voluntary evacuations under way, 150 personnel battling the blaze. Four helicopters, five air tankers, which you're seeing right now on TV, two air attack platforms all battling this, even parts of New Mexico Highway 4 remaining closed.

The good news is that it's showing signs of slowing down and, wow, when we talk about excessive heat, it has been incredibly hot and it's only going to get hotter from here.

Check out of the graphic behind me because the National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat warning, where you see the pink shading. We even have a heat advisory in place for places like Los Angeles and San Diego.


VANIER: And that is it for the show, thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM, I'm Cyril Vanier. I will be back with the headlines in just a moment. Stay with CNN