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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; Qataris Respond to Boycott with Patriotism; Johnny Depp Apologizes. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired June 24, 2017 - 02:00   ET




ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Rescuers are searching for dozens of missing people feared buried in a landslide in China.

In London, a critical eye is being turned to the cladding on apartment towers, forcing hundreds of families out of their homes in precautious evacuations.

And while an actor is walking back a lame joke about President Trump, another star is making fun of Trump on a Russian stage.

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


COREN: We begin this hour with breaking news out of China. A family of three has been rescued alive from the rubble of a landslide. State media report the couple and their baby girl are being treated at a nearby hospital; 141 people are still missing and 46 houses were buried.

The disaster happened in a village in Southwestern China's Szechwan province. It's been raining in the region for several days and more rain is expected.

For more, let's go to our Matt Rivers in Shanghai.

And, Matt, we know that the Chinese president Xi Jinping has just come out saying that rescuers must do everything they can to reach any survivors and now we hear about this incredible family that has been pulled from the rubble.

What more can you tell us?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, thankfully, we can report that good news, that family of three being treated at a local hospital as you mentioned, them and their baby girl seem to be doing OK.

But there are a lot more people unaccounted for in this village. This was a massive landslide that happened around 6:00 am in a very mountainous region of Sichuan province, where these things do tend to happen. But this village happened to be right in the way of this extremely large landslide.

It has been raining there. We're not really sure in terms of whether that amount of rain is what triggered this although it probably appears to be (INAUDIBLE). There's over 500 rescuers at this point on the scene, frantically trying to dig through this massive amount of rubble that has destroyed some of these homes and buried 141 people that we know of at this point.

They've been there very quickly. This is the highest level of response that Sichuan province provides and do we know that the federal government, as you mentioned, is involved at this point.

But rescuers do face an uphill battle here. It is raining and they're working against the clock. And not only are they trying to get the people out as fast as possible, to get them out of the rubble but the nearest hospital is four hours away.

This is an incredibly remote village. And so getting the number of rescuers in there, getting the equipment in there and getting the injured out is a monumental challenge facing these emergency services.

But we do know that they are there, they are on the scene. Whether they're able to get to people, though, under this massive amount of dirt and rubble remains to be seen at this point -- Anna.

Matt, I know you'll keep us up to date on this developing story. We appreciate the update. Thank you, Matt Rivers.

We are getting some startling images of what this area looked like before and after the landslide. Let's bring in our meteorologist, Derek Van Dam.

And Derek, this image itself is just absolutely startling, there is Xinmo, a village, it's there and then obviously the side of a mountain has just buried that village and, as we can see, no longer any of those houses standing. It is completely covered. Tell us about the conditions.



COREN: Turning now to the U.K., hundreds of London families have been moved from high-rise apartment to temporary housing. They'll be out of their homes for weeks.

Firefighters say they cannot guarantee the safety of the buildings after tests were conducted on the cladding. Safety checks are underway at apartment 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 -- safety comes first. If it's not safe, then people need to go.

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

Obviously, this is 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 our attention now to the United States and President Donald Trump is blaming the Obama administration for not deal with Russian interference in last year's U.S. presidential election.

"The Washington Post" reported Friday that the Obama White House learned of the Kremlin's meddling in August of 2016, several months before the election. Here's what's the president said about it to FOX News.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The CIA gave him information on Russia a long time before they even, you know, before the election.

If he had the information, why didn't he do something about it?

He should have done something about it.


COREN: Well, it's not accurate that the Obama White House did nothing; 35 Russian diplomats were expelled from the U.S. and two Russian properties in the U.S. were closed in retaliation. Our Michelle Kosinski has more on the new details revealed by "The Washington Post."


MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A bombshell report: starkly laying out the U.S. intelligence community's case for Russia's meddling in the 2016 election and revealing it was directly ordered by Vladimir Putin. "The Washington Post" detailing that intelligence sources had captured Putin's own instructions to disrupt and discredit the presidential race with the goal of defeating or hurting Hillary Clinton and helping Donald Trump.

The CIA delivered the intelligence by courier to President Obama in August. "The Post's" interview with former senior Obama administration officials revealed the frustrations now among some of them that more was not done to punish Russia, quoting one, "It's the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend. I feel like we sort of choked."

They say the administration was worried about appearing to try to influence the election themselves as well as provoking Russia.

One official explains, "Our primary interest in August, September and October was to prevent them from doing the max they could do."

And after the election, some of the harsher options for punishing Russia, like a massive cyber attack on them or sweeping sanctions, faced concerns and roadblocks from a number of corners.

Former deputy national security advisor Tony Blinken defended the Obama administration.

TONY BLINKEN, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA: Maybe the judgment was wrong. Maybe we should have acted differently. Maybe we should have done certain things that we didn't do.

But given everything we were dealing with, given, first of all, again, the perception that Russia's main objective was to undermine the confidence in the elections, that was really one thing that motivated us to be --


BLINKEN: -- careful about how we played this in public.

KOSINSKI (voice-over): The Obama administration did set the ball rolling for secret programs to infiltrate Russia's infrastructure, with cyber weapons controlled remotely, like digital bombs that could cripple Russia's systems. But Obama left office while it was still in the planning stage.

The White House says Trump stands by his January comments that he thinks Russia was involved in the hacking and has no plans to fire the special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation, Robert Mueller, despite Trump in an interview expressing worry over Mueller's friendliness with fired FBI Director James Comey.

TRUMP: Which is very bothersome, but he's also -- and we're going to have to see.

KOSINSKI (voice-over): In that same interview on FOX, Trump also addressed why he alluded to possibly having recordings of his conversations with Comey when in fact he had none.

TRUMP: But when he found out that I -- you know, that there may be tapes out there, whether its governmental tapes or anything else and who knows, I think his story may have changed. I mean, you'll to have to take a look at that because then he has to tell what actually took place at the events.

KOSINSKI (voice-over): But when CNN pressed...

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: But my question for you is what is the White House -- what is President Trump now doing to prevent Russia from doing this again?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, this report is new and we'll discuss it with him later.

KOSINSKI (voice-over): -- again and again.

CAMEROTA: I mean, against Russia, what is he doing specifically to try to stop this?

CONWAY: Alisyn, I realize that you just like to say the word Russia, Russia to mislead the voters and I know that CNN is aiding and abetting this nonsense as well. But --

CAMEROTA: Kellyanne --

CONWAY: -- you've asking the same question three times now and I am answering it.

CAMEROTA: You're not answering it, Kellyanne.

CONWAY: Yes. I am. He is the President of United States.

CAMEROTA: And what is he doing?

CONWAY: He has said very clearly that he wants the voter integrity and the valid integrity to be protected.

KOSINSKI: So, on the investigations as of the end of the day Friday, which was suppose to be the deadline, the House Intelligence Committee was still waiting for James Comey's memos, as well as any official word from the White House that they don't have recordings of the conversations between Trump and Comey.

And as we see the investigations evolve, now the Senate Judiciary Committee wants information from President Obama's former attorney general, Loretta Lynch, to see if she might have improperly influenced the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation -- Michelle Kosinski, CNN, Washington.


COREN: Depending who you ask, it all went according to plan or it backfired in epic fashion. More on President Trump and the saga of the Comey tapes -- next. (MUSIC PLAYING)



COREN: Welcome back.

President Trump has confirmed once and for all that he does not have any tapes of his conversations with former FBI director James Comey. He tweeted that he might have recorded their talks in early May but now he says he didn't do it, though he explicitly stated that he has no idea if --


COREN: -- someone else did.

Earlier, I spoke to political analyst Larry Sabato about Trump's tactics with both Comey and special counsel Robert Mueller.


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: Well, 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 being made by Qatar's neighbors, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain. They also want Doha to reduce ties with Iran an 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 Doha denies. As Qataris face life under sanctions, a new sense of patriotism is emerging in the tiny Gulf peninsula. And as Jomana Karadsheh reports, the feeling of pride is being seen on the streets of the country itself.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At a time of crisis, Qataris are rallying around their ruler. Every afternoon, a show of support in the capital. This portrait of the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has become a symbol of Qatari patriotism.

Ahmed bin Majed Almaadbeed (ph) is the artist behind the painting. His stencil-style image has gone viral.

AHMED BIN MAJED ALMAADBEED (PH), ARTIST: Everybody in Qatar from the deserts (ph) and people live in Qatar from all the nations, they stand as well with the emir because we are living a good life here.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): Sheikh Tamim inherited this Arab powerhouse from his father, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who, in 2013, handed over power to his heir apparent in a rare move in a region where rulers hold on to power until their death. Sheikh Hamad was credited with transforming Qatar from one of the poorest countries in the Arabian Gulf to one of the world's richest with investments across the globe.

Its rapid transformation not just economic, also diplomatic as a mediator in various conflicts, making it a major regional actor, an actor who, earlier this month, was ostracized by neighboring activities. Qatar expert Professor Mehrah Kamrava (ph) believes there was no one trigger for this diplomatic crisis but that it is driven by Saudi Arabia and the UAE wanting to contain their neighbor.


MEHRAH KAMRAVA (PH), QATAR EXPERT: Within the GCC, Saudi Arabia has been the dominant actor. It is not only the biggest and the oldest and the economically and militarily most powerful but it views itself as the rightful diplomatic spokesman of the Arabian Peninsula and in the region.

And you have smaller countries that do not necessarily buy into this Big Brother formula.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): In 2011, a new Qatar emerged during the Arab Spring, one that placed itself at the forefront of regional change, backing rebel groups in places like Syria and Libya, Arab nations also involved in these proxy wars now accusing Qatar of funding and supporting Islamic movement and destabilizing the region, allegations Qatar says are baseless.

With a survivalist foreign policy, Kamrava (ph) says Qatar has tried to keep more friends than enemies, maintaining good ties with countries like Saudi Arabia's main rival, Iran. KAMRAVA (PH): So long as that sense of patriotism lasts, then no doubt the Qatari government can withstand the pressure that is being put on it by the UAE ad Saudi Arabia.

But if there are indications of discomfort and unease among the Qatari population, then I think we will begin to see some movement on the part of the Qatari government, making some concessions.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): Faced with uncertainty, Qataris stand united and defiant -- Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Doha.


COREN: Stay with CNN. More news coming up after the break.




COREN: Well, 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 stirred controversy. Here's Stephanie Elam.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Actor Johnny Depp knew what he was about to say to a crowd in the UK would get a rise out of people.

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

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

ELAM: For the record, the answer to his question is April 1865, when actor John Wilkes Booth killed the president, Abraham Lincoln. Critics have condemn Depp for what he said but he is far from the only celebrity to engage in these kinds of comments. Yes, Hollywood has long the tended to lean Left, but this kind of extremist talk is new.

In January, Madonna said this at the Women's March in Washington.

MADONNA, SINGER: Yes! I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House. But I know that this won't change anything.

ELAM: In Snoop Dogg's video for "Lavender," he shoots a clown version of the president with a gun.

And graphic images of Kathy Griffin, holding a mock bloodied head of President Trump, made her a target of a Secret Service investigation, according to her lawyers. It also cost her a job. CNN called the photos "disgusting and offensive" and fired her as its New Year's Eve cohost. At issue is free speech versus security. Threatening the life of the U.S. president is a federal crime that can result in a fine or up to five years in prison or both. A lot of --


ELAM (voice-over): -- Hollywood stars are very public about their liberal politics, but these incidents cross a line.

JOE BEL BRUNO, MANAGING EDITOR, VARIETY: Really, there hasn't been anybody saying enough is enough. And I think that needs to come from Hollywood, from the left wing, from somebody who can say, hey, you know what, I voted for Hillary Clinton, but let's not incite violence against the president of the United States.

I might not support him, but, you know, there is a fine line that we -- you know, that we can't cross over.

ELAM: As for Depp, the White House released this statement, quote, "President Trump has condemned violence in all forms and it's sad that others like Johnny Depp have not followed his lead. I hope that some of Mr. Depp's colleagues would speak out about this type of rhetoric as strongly as they would if it were directed to a Democrat-elected official."

Now an update to the story, Johnny Depp did release a statement to "People" magazine saying, quote, "I apologize for the bad joke I attempted last night in poor taste about President Trump. It did not come out as intended and I intended no malice. I was only trying to amuse, not to harm anyone."

It is worth pointing out that it is probably not very likely that Depp will be arrested for this. But perhaps it is food for thought for anyone in thinking about speaking in public about harming the president of the United States -- Stephanie Elam, CNN, Hollywood.


COREN: Stephen Colbert, host of "The Late Show" on American TV, is famous for his parodies of Donald Trump. Now the comedian has taken his talents to another talk show in Russia, where he, of course, joked about alleged Russian collaboration with the Trump administration.

After a few shots of vodka, Colbert made quite the announcement: he has his eye on the Oval Office.


STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: I am here to announce I'm considering a run for president in 2020.


COLBERT: And I thought it would just be better to cut out the middleman and just tell the Russians myself.


COLBERT: If anyone would like to work on my campaign in an unofficial capacity, please just let me know.


COREN: Nice.

So thanks all for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Anna Coren. I will be back with the headlines in just a moment.