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Rescue Workers Scramble after Chinese Landslide; Hundreds Sent to Temporary Housing after U.K. Cladding Fire Tests; Obama Knew of Russian Meddling in August 2016; Johnny Depp Apologizes; Calls for North and South Korean Olympic Cooperation. Aired 12-12:30a ET

Aired June 24, 2017 - 00:00   ET




ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Rushing to the scene of a landslide. Officials say more than 100 people are feared buried in China.

In the U.S., President Trump is pointing blame back to his predecessor over Russian hacking reports.

Plus, Johnny Depp apologizes for a lame joke that went too far. We'll break down what's happening with some of Hollywood's so-called jokes about Donald Trump.

Hello, everyone. Thanks for your company. I'm Anna Coren in Hong Kong. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


COREN: We begin with breaking news out of China. More than 100 people are missing after a landslide in Sichuan province in the country's southwest. State media report more than 40 homes were buried and emergency measures are underway. More than 500 rescuers are reportedly on the scene trying to save lives. For more, let's go to our Matt Rivers, who is in Shanghai.

Matt, this is obviously a developing story in a very remote region.

What can you tell us?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As you say, it's still an ongoing situation here. Our information relatively limited at this point, as rescuers are trying to do their best to get to those 100 or so people, according to preliminary reports, that do remain missing. All of this information coming from state media.

We know this landslide happened around 6:00 am in a very high, mountainous region of Sichuan province in a village called Xinmo. It happened at 6:00 am in a high part of a mountain and the landslide came down on top of those homes you mentioned; 40 or so homes with those 100 people likely inside. We know that emergency services were activated quite quickly. The

highest level emergency response for Sichuan province, over 500 rescuers there with bulldozers and backhoes, trying to move some of the dirt that came down, the dirt and the rock trapping those people.

Any word of casualties at this point we're not sure. Emergency services are there but they haven't released any more information in terms of injuries or possible deaths at this point.

We do know that it's been raining over the last several days in this part of China but we would call it light rain really. It hasn't been overly heavy. We're not sure if those rains had something to do with the cause of this landslide.

We also know rain is predicted for the next several days. That could make the work of rescuers that much harder. But, again, Anna, this is an ongoing situation and we know that rescuers there are on the scene, trying to get to around 100 people that are unaccounted for at this point.

COREN: Matt, you describe that massive rescue operation that is underway, 500 rescuers on the scene. But the odds cannot be good. We're looking at these pictures now; it was 6:00 am in the morning when the side of that mountain collapsed on this village. People would have been asleep in their beds.

Have we heard from any of the rescue teams?

RIVERS: No, at this point, we haven't. But you say -- that is a very good point to bring up and that could make it that much worse is that it happened early in the morning. People probably weren't even awake yet. Had it been during the day, people would be out working or out shopping, out of their homes.

But people were probably, most of the people were probably in their houses, given that it was that early in the morning. So that certainly doesn't bode well. As we know in these situations, the more time goes on, the less of a chance of finding survivors is.

Granted, we are still in the first couple of hours of the situation. And this is the time when rescuers will tell you that it's key to get to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible because, the longer time goes on, the worse the odds are of getting everyone out of this situation safe and sound.

COREN: Matt, I know you'll be following this story closely over the coming hours and we'll check in with you a bit later. Matt Rivers joining us there from Shanghai, thank you.

Meteorologist Derek Van Dam joins us with more on those conditions.

Derek, Matt spoke about this rain, this light rain, that clearly there must have been a lot of water for the side of the mountain to collapse.

(WEATHER REPORT) [00:05:00]

COREN: Officials are moving residents of 800 homes in North London tower blocks to temporary housing. Firefighters say they cannot guarantee the safety of the buildings after tests were conducted on the cladding.

Safety checks are ongoing at buildings across the U.K. after last week's deadly Grenfell Tower fire. Local London officials say Grenfell has changed everything.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I realize it's disruptive to people's lives but it's particular (ph) safety comes first. If it's not safe, then people need to go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What we found that while the insulation was safe, the external cladding was not up to the standards that we wanted. It was not fire retardant.

Obviously, this was very disappointing. We shared that news with our residents and, on Thursday night, we had a public meeting with local residents, where they shared a number of concerns about fire safety that I hadn't been aware of.


COREN: Meantime, Whirlpool is urging owners of its Hotpoint fridge- freezers to check them. London's Metropolitan Police say the Grenfell inferno started in a Hotpoint fridge made between 2006 and 2009. Whirlpool has pledged to work with authorities as they investigate the fire that left at least 79 people dead or presumed dead.

Turning now to the United States and President Donald Trump is blaming the Obama administration for not dealing with Russian interference in last year's U.S. presidential election.

"The Washington Post" reported Friday that the Obama White House learned of Moscow's meddling in August of 2016 several months before the election. Here's what's the president told FOX News.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I just heard today for the first time that Obama knew about Russia a long time before the election and he did nothing about it. But nobody wants to talk about that.

The CIA gave him information on Russia a long time before they even, you know, before the election. And I hardly see it. It's an amazing thing to me.

In other words, the question is, if he had the information, why didn't he do something about it?

He should have done something about it.


COREN: Well, that's not accurate to say the Obama administration did nothing about Moscow's cyber operation; 35 Russian diplomats were expelled and two Russian properties in the U.S. were closed. The question now is what the Trump White House plans to do. Here's what White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told CNN on Friday.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP COUNSELOR: The White House is -- the president has met with his national security team many times. He has an initiative or a commission on voter integrity and he himself has used the power of the bully pulpit to express his resistance towards any type of outside interference.

So, you know, again, I've answered the question several times --


CONWAY: -- ongoing process, you're dealing with a very new report. So we will look at that as well.


COREN: We get the latest now from CNN's Jessica Schneider.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A new report reveals Russian president Vladimir Putin gave direct orders to defeat Hillary Clinton and help elect Donald Trump as president.

According to a bombshell report by "The Washington Post," the Obama administration knew Putin was directing cyber attacks during the 2016 campaign three months before the election.

Intelligence obtained from deep inside the Russian government was couriered by the CIA to the White House in August and it detailed Putin's direct involvement in the hacking meant to disrupt and discredit the presidential race.

TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: When you go back, this was a --


BLINKEN: -- moving picture. It's not like we had an immediate clear snapshot of what the Russians were up to. It evolved over time.

At first we thought they were simply trying to do what they always do, which was pull information, see if they could get something that they could use later down the road. Then it looked like they were trying to basically interfere in the election mostly by creating doubt about our institutions. SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Former deputy national security adviser to President Obama Tony Blinken defended the administration's strategy to keep the information quiet.

BLINKEN: As we were deliberating this, we thought, the more we play this up in public, the more we play their game. We actually create even further doubt by making this into a big public matter.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): But a former senior Obama official felt differently, telling "The Post," "It is the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend. I feel like we sort of choked."

President Obama reportedly issued a stern warning to Putin at the G20 summit in China in September. And "The Post" details Obama's authorization to plant cyber weapons, so-called "digital bombs," in Russia's infrastructure that could be used to retaliate. But Obama left office before the planning was complete.

Lawmakers are questioning why more wasn't done to stop the Russians or alert Americans.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: I greatly admire President Obama. I wish that he and the administration would have acted differently here. But what's important now is we know what they did.


COREN: That was Jessica Schneider reporting there.

And later in the show, I'll be discussing the latest on the Russia investigation with political analyst Larry Sabato.

Qatar has been told to close the Al Jazeera news network or continue to face life under sanctions. The ultimatum is one of 13 demands made by Qatar's neighbors, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain.

They also want Doha to reduce ties with Iran and stop the development of a Turkish military base. Qatar says the move is intended to limit its sovereignty. The Arab States have accused Qatar of supporting terrorism, a charge it denies.

Saudi Arabia says it prevented an imminent attack on the holiest site in Islam. The interior ministry says a suspect was planning to attack the Grand Mosque in Mecca but blew himself up nearby after security forces surrounded him. The Grand Mosque is the largest in the world and contains the sacred Kaaba shrine, toward which Muslims direct prayers no matter where they are in the world.

Well, depending who you ask, it was either a tactical masterpiece or a complete and utter backfire. More on President Trump and the so- called Comey tapes-- next.

And the star of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies corrects what he now calls a bad joke. What Johnny Depp said and why he's now saying sorry.




COREN: By now you've probably heard an often repeated line from the Trump administration, "The president's tweet speaks for itself."

Now the White House is --


COREN: -- taking that a step further, using his tweets from Thursday as the administration's official statement. This was copied and pasted onto a formal letterhead in a letter to congressional investigators.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESPERSON: The reality is that he wanted to make sure that the truth came out. And by talking about something like tapes made people have to -- made Comey in particular think to himself, I'd better be honest. I'd better tell the truth about the circumstances regarding the situation.


COREN: Well, earlier, I spoke to political analyst Larry Sabato about how Trump's latest moves are affecting the investigation into his campaign as well as his reputation.


COREN: Well, Larry, thank you so much for joining us. The president has come out and said there are, in fact, no tapes of his conversation with James Comey.

Why string the country along for so long?

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: It's pretty clear that Trump was trying to put Comey back on his heels. He was trying to unsettle Comey before his testimony.

What he actually did was set up a chain of events that resulted in a special counsel investigating him, Trump. So this backfired in a major way on President Trump.

COREN: Well, it seems that the House Intelligence Committee investigating the Russia probe has said that Trump's tweet of no tapes is not sufficient. They want it in writing.

Could there, in fact, be tapes?

SABATO: I think it's highly unlikely. I don't think there ever were any tapes. This was simply, again, his way of needling Comey. Now it is true that, when Trump was a businessman, before he started

running for president, he did occasionally tape visitors to his office. So he can do it. He knows how to do it.

And of course, it's easy for anybody to do it with iPhones and other similar devices. But I really don't think there ever was a tape. This was simply his way of keeping everybody uncertain and helping himself along the way.

COREN: So how has this affected the investigation?

SABATO: It's raised questions, again, about Trump and his tweets. It's obvious that he wasn't telling the truth and suggesting that there were tapes, just as he wasn't telling the truth when he insinuated early in his presidency that President Obama had taped him or others in Trump Tower.

All of these things have proven to be false, many other things besides.

So this is all creating an image of Trump, essentially, that his word cannot be trusted.

COREN: And why would he want this?

SABATO: I don't think he's very strategic. I think he's tactical. He gets up every morning. He's angry about something and he tweets about it.

And, finally, some of his staffers are adjusting to this and they've arranged now for telephone calls to Trump very early in the morning, from his lawyers, trying to shape what he's going to tweet rather than let him simply tweet out of the blue and possibly get himself in more trouble.

COREN: But it would seem, Larry, that, despite this advice, despite the advice of counsel and of his lawyers, that he doesn't seem to be taking anyone's advice. He still does whatever he wants.

SABATO: He doesn't take his staff's advice. He doesn't even take his family's advice because he believes he became president, they didn't. No one else did. Everyone else said he couldn't do it. He did it. And so he's going to do his presidency his way.

But in the end, it's going to hurt him. These things come back to haunt anyone in high office. And Trump is more careless than any president I can recall.

COREN: Well, Larry, we certainly appreciate your insights. Many thanks.

SABATO: Thank you so much, Anna.


COREN: Actor Johnny Depp is apologizing for remarks he made about a presidential assassination. But he's hardly the first person in Hollywood to make political comments that have ignited a firestorm of controversy.

We are now joined by Alexis Tereszcuk in our L.A. studios.

Alexis, what was Johnny Depp thinking?

ALEXIS TERESZCUK, RADAR ONLINE: I mean, I think he thought he was trying to be funny, maybe controversial. But basically what he did was offend everybody who was there. Even if people initially groaned when he said, "Can you bring Trump up here?" once they heard what he had to say about, oh, has it -- when was the last time somebody assassinated a president, nobody was on his side after that. He really totally crossed a line with the comment.

COREN: Were you surprised, though, at the backlash, considering he was surrounded by fans?

TERESZCUK: No. I'm not at all surprised about the backlash anymore. People are really angry about the way that people are attacking the president. And they are very vocal about it. They get on Twitter, right over all of social media, and they are not letting anybody get away with it, especially folks in Hollywood. There are no allowances being made for anybody. They're not --


TERESZCUK: -- oh, they're creative people or, oh, they're just dumb actors. No, people are getting really angry very quickly. So I'm not at all surprised about the backlash.

COREN: Alexis, before we talk about other people in Hollywood, trying to make jokes about Donald Trump, let's have a listen to what Johnny Depp had to say.


JOHNNY DEPP, ACTOR: When was the last time an actor assassinated a president?


DEPP: I want to clarify. I'm not an actor. I lie for a living.


COREN: OK. Well, he's obviously --

TERESZCUK: He's very pleased with himself.


TERESZCUK: He got a good response, yes. He got a laugh from everybody. So I guess it was quite the liberal crowd.

But the rest of the world, the rest of Americans were really unhappy about it and they thought that he really crossed a line. And in fact, the president even said that he was pretty disgusted by it.

So Trump was, once again, the victim here and Johnny Depp ended up having to apologize.

COREN: Alexis, Johnny Depp isn't the first Hollywood star to try and make a joke about Donald Trump or at least at his expense. There's Madonna, Kathy Griffin, a little bit of a trend happening here.

What's going on?

TERESZCUK: Well, Hollywood has always been very outspoken about politics. And it's usually been on the Left.

But this time, with social media and just the way that people are attacking, starting boycotts and talking to people about going to their employers and saying we're not going to buy your product if you are using this person, it's a much stronger backlash.

So it's really only the top people that feel like they have the ability to say it and they're really getting quickly slammed. Nobody is giving any breaks anymore.

COREN: And I guess the shooting last week as well in the United States, at that Republican congressional baseball practice, that has somewhat changed the climate as well.

Do people need to draw the line?

TERESZCUK: I think that people feel that after the shooting, when it was somebody who was so incensed by the political side but was on the Left side, as compared to the Right and the Right was the target, that people do feel like there's a line that cannot be crossed anymore and there's too much violence and that perhaps these people are inciting it.

COREN: All right. Alexis Tereszcuk, thank you very much for joining us.

TERESZCUK: Thank you.

COREN: Appreciate it.

Coming up, the Korean Peninsula continues to face rising tensions. But with South Korea hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics, cooperation between the North and South could be in the near future.




COREN: Welcome back.

Despite technically still being at war, there has been talk that North Korea could join South Korea in co-hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics. Officials are scheduled to meet next week to discuss the idea.

The South Korean governor involved is skeptical about any co-hosting plans but says there are alternatives. Paula Hancocks explains.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The South Korean governor says that he does want North Korean participation in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics but it is simply too late to consider co-hosting the event.

The governor of Gangwon province, where the PyeongChang Olympics will be held, said there's simply not enough time to be able to try and host any of the events in North Korea.


HANCOCKS: But he says that next week he will be meeting with the North Korean IOC Olympics Committee member to discuss possible cooperation.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There will be some resistance in North Korea to have the relation with South Korea but the Olympics is the exception. I think the Olympics is a very good opportunity. So we cannot let this once-in-a-generation moment slip by.

HANCOCKS: Chang has three proposals for North Korea, one a joint North-South Korean cheering squad.

Secondly, he wants to talk about a possible public performance between the two Koreas.

And then, thirdly, he wants to ask the IOC for a wild card for North Korea's women's ice hockey team, as they didn't qualify for the Olympics.

Now South Korea's sports minister said in a statement that he wanted PyeongChang to be the Olympics for peace and said he'll discuss with the IOC in regards to North Korea's participation.

Now media reports did overplay this suggestion that there would be co- hosting for the Olympics.

But in reply to those reports, the IOC did say, quote, "We're happy to discuss his ideas. The Olympic movement is always about building bridges, never erecting walls."

So we won't be seeing a joint North-South Korean Olympics, at least not this time but certainly the South Korean officials are hoping that sports can make some headway where politics hasn't -- Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COREN: Amazon has offered a glimpse of the future when items you order online are delivered by drones. The company has filed for a patent for beehive-like towers that would be built in the middle of cities. If Amazon goes through with the idea, drones will take off and land at the towers, picking up items for delivery.

Amazon has already started a trial drone delivery program in the U.K., making its first delivery in December. The company hopes to eventually deliver packages up to five pounds in 30 minutes or less using these drones.

Thanks so much for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Anna Coren. I will be back with the headlines in just a moment.