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Trump Acknowledges Russia Interfered in Election; Cyberspace, The New Arms Race With Russia; Senate Could Vote on Health Bill Thursday; Children Stay at Home in Mexico, Go to School in the U.S.; Trump Questions Mueller and Comey Friendship; At least 140 people Killed in Fiery Explosion in Eastern Pakistan; Aired 8-9p ET

Aired June 25, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: -- Republicans could get closer than ever to repealing Obamacare. And right now they're in all-out race to get the votes they'll need to get it done. They can only afford to lose two GOP lawmakers, and if the roll call were to happen right now, at least five Republicans say they vote no.

One factor that could change their minds, however, is the Congressional Budget Office score and we've just learned that could come as early as tomorrow. The CBO's report will tell us how many people will be covered, how many could lose coverage, and what the plan could end up costing Americans.

So what's the White House saying ahead of this critical announcement? President's only tweet so far today is on Russia. And Hillary Clinton, saying, quote, "Hillary Clinton colluded with the Democratic Party in order to beat crazy Bernie Sanders. Is she allowed to so collude? Unfair to Bernie."

In a chat with FOX News, the president also took a swipe at his predecessor, former President Obama.


DONALD TRUMP, 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. Too me, you know, 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.


CABRERA: Let's get straight to our panel, Joining us, politics and business reporter for the "Wall Street Journal," Shelby Holliday, and CNN contributor and "Washington Post" reporter, David Fahrenthold.

David, right off the bat, I want to make one issue crystal clear for our viewers. President Trump's claim that he just learned that Obama knew about Russia interference before the election simply doesn't add up.

DAVID FAHRENTHOLD, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You're right. That's not true. There were warnings going back after the election, but before President Trump took over, there's been a lot of coverage in news articles going back way before the election.

President Trump is a great reader of the news and also someone whose been receiving intelligence briefings from his own government for a long time. Both news coverage and internal intelligence briefings have made it clear that Russia sought to interfere in our election and in some ways did. So there's no way he just learned of this for the first time from the "Washington Post" yesterday as flattering as that would be for the "Washington Post."

CABRERA: So, Shelby, what's the strategy then to just now make this such a big deal?

SHELBY HOLLIDAY, POLITICS AND BUSINESS REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, we know that the president does his own PR. He doesn't use official statements. He likes to go straight to the people via TV interviews, via Twitter. I'm not sure there's not a thoughtful strategy in terms of a illegal strategy. But he just wants this whole Russia thing, as he like to call it, to go away.

He keeps calling it a hoax. He keeps pointing out the Dems did this and they didn't even -- you know, he's also seizing on the fact that President Obama did not do as much as Democrats would have wanted him to do and are now criticizing him. He's using that as an opportunity to, you know, vindicate himself.

He cannot make this investigation go away, though, and the one -- this is the one thing that would clear his name and he cannot seem to embrace it and just say, let it play out. We'll see where it goes. As you heard Comey say, I am not personally under investigation. At least for colluding with the Russians.

He can't just let it go. I think it's his strategy to legitimize his own election and make sure people know he's a fighter. He's out there fighting.

CABRERA: Now I want to play what Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, said about President Obama's response to Russia. Let's listen.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I think the Obama administration should have done a lot more when it became clear that not only was Russia intervening, but it was a being directed at the highest levels of the Kremlin and indeed Senator Feinstein and I were repeatedly trying to make that case to the administration initially when they didn't want to make attribution, they didn't want to publicly talk about Russia's role, and later, after we issued our own statement and they did attribute the conduct to Russia, I was urging that they begin then the process of sanctioning Russia.

The administration talking more forcefully about what the Russians had done. I think that was a mistake. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: I mean, it seems to have some bipartisan consensus that perhaps President Obama did not do enough or didn't give information timely enough. So do you think it's fair, the criticism President Trump is saying now against President Obama, he didn't do enough, David?

FAHRENTHOLD: Well, I think it's certainly true that President Obama presented with this very alarming report. We had a story in the "Washington Post" just today that said that the CIA sent this sort of eyes only communique to President Obama last summer, saying at the highest levels President Putin has ordered this action with the expressed intent of electing president -- electing Donald Trump.

The Obama administration ended up taking some very weak and not very effective sanctions and only after the election had already come to pass. So I think the President Trump is right to say that the Obama administration, in the words of one of the Obama administration official we quoted, the Obama administration choked. They had this huge opportunity, this huge moment and they basically blew it.

CABRERA: So, Shelby, is it also a fair point then to ask what is President Trump doing about Russia and to prevent potential election meddling in the future?

HOLLIDAY: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think politically the optics are not good because a majority of Americans don't want to see him mess with Mueller's investigation.

[20:05:06] A majority of Americans don't want -- I mean, they're torn over whether or not this is a big deal in terms of national security, but most people think there might be something there in terms of Trump's associates in touch, colluding with in some ways the Russians. So he needs to let this play out and at the same time, as I said earlier, he needs to embrace this investigation and get to the bottom of what Russia actually did. We know that they messed with more than two dozen -- more than a dozen, at least, election systems.

And this is troubling to all Americans. This is not a partisan issue by any means. So yes, that is definitely a question that everybody is starting to ask.

CABRERA: And meantime, this is the eve of one of the biggest weeks for Republicans in terms of repealing Obamacare and yet the president is tweeting about Russia.

David, why do you think President Trump is so focused on this investigation?

FAHRENTHOLD: Because President Trump often does not seem to follow any sort of long-term strategy. He tweets about -- he talks about whatever is in front of him right there, often he's whatever he's mad about right there. Whoever he's -- he feels like has wronged him.

You're right about the health care vote coming up. This is a moment where I think President Trump would be serving his own interest well to be putting pressure on people like Senator Dean Heller from Nevada who said he's not going to support the Republican health care plan. He doesn't seem to think in those terms, and -- frankly hasn't cost him that much in terms of Congress now because there's such strong congressional leadership in the Senate, but this is a time when certainly President Trump could be helping his own cause in the Senate, and he's not.

CABRERA: Shelby Holliday and David Fahrenthold, stand by, you'll be back with me to discuss more about the health care debate and the current Senate bill, what we're anticipating from the CBO score.

And there appears to be a new arms race in cyber space with the reports of hacks on the U.S. election and other instances worldwide. It is becoming clear that today's warfare is not in tanks and missiles, but in the digital realm.

And CNN international correspondent Clare Sebastian reports on this from Moscow.


CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Guns and laptops. A slick appeal to Russia's top scientific brains to join the army. If you have technical skills, it says, we want you. It's about modernizing the Russian military, says one programming expert.

IGUR KOROTCHENKO, MILITARY EXPERT (through translator): It's not about the Defense Ministry hiring hackers. This is about attracting young graduates who can use their intellect to create new military technology.

SEBASTIAN: But there's another message here. That much of modern warfare is not tanks and missiles, but the battle in cyberspace.

SERGEY SHOIGU, RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): We created information warfare forces. It is way more effective and powerful than what we created before in this area.

SEBASTIAN: The view here, it's an arms race.

KOROTCHENKO (through translator): When the U.S. created its cyber command, which had a global function, including influencing the enemy, of course, we understand that by the enemy, they usually mean Russia.

SEBASTIAN: And it's not just the military Russia's intelligence services are also part of its hybrid warfare.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, FBI: They did it with purpose, they did it with sophistication, they did it with overwhelming technical efforts.

SEBASTIAN: Former FBI director James Comey saying there's no doubt the Russian state tried to influence the U.S. election. This following sophisticated efforts to disrupt and sow doubt in Georgia, Crimea and Ukraine. KEIR GLES, ASSOCIATE FELLOW, CHATHAM HOUSE: Russia tries to recruit

hackers and talented information professionals in exactly the same way as other agencies do elsewhere, and they face the same challenges. They are competing with organizations that can pay much better than organized services. But Russia does have the additional leverage of being able to offer people a choice between prosecution and cooperating with the authorities.

SEBASTIAN: Russia has aggressively sought western technology for its cyber programs. Two years ago, WikiLeaks released a trove of e-mails stolen from an Italian company called Hacking Team.

(On camera): Those e-mails reveal that Hacking Team's sophisticated software, which allows governments to spy on Internet users, were obtained by this Moscow-based research institute called Clamp (ph). Clamp (ph), as it turns out, is controlled by Russia's state security service, the FSB.

(Voice-over): One of the Italian executives wrote of their business relationship, "They are already testing our products and we're going to arrange with their support a visit to Moscow in May, where we'll be able to meet FSB people.

Clamp (ph) used another company here, Advanced Communications, to seal the deal. Neither Clamp (ph) nor Advanced Communications would comment. Hacking Team said their software was designed to keep people safe.

(On camera): While that case is one example of Russia's first for cyber superiority, this is an extremely sensitive topic here, partly because Russia is constantly being accused of foreign influence campaigns, and also perhaps because of the sometimes hazy line between the state and what Vladimir Putin calls patriotic hackers.

(Voice-over): However hazy the methods, Russia's focus on this hybrid war is plain to see.

Clare Sebastian, CNN, Moscow.


[20:10:07] CABRERA: Straight ahead in the NEWSROOM, the clock is ticking. Senators have just days to scramble enough votes to pass their version of the health care bill. The crucial role the president and vice president could play.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


CABRERA: Turning now to the looming health care showdown, tomorrow we might learn just how the Senate's bill will affect the cost of your health insurance premiums. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is expected to release its score of the bill as early as Monday and Republicans are nervously awaiting that number. Five Republican senators oppose the bill in its current form, three

more have concerns. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell can only lose two from his caucus and still get the bill through.

Let's talk it over with the "Washington Journal's" politics and business reporter Shelby Holliday and CNN contributor and "Washington Post" reporter David Fahrenthold.

Shelby, Senator Susan Collins, she says she's waiting on the CBO score to come out. She is one of those on the fence.

[20:15:05] HOLLIDAY: Right.

CABRERA: What are you expecting from the CBO score?

HOLLIDAY: Well, it's hard to -- yes, I don't to want forecast the CBO score, but the big number to look for is how many would lose insurance under this bill. The number in the House was 23 million, so if it can beat that number, that might give some senators more courage to get behind it.

We're also looking at how it affects the budget. And generally the big sticking point seems to be Medicaid and how long and how far should the Medicaid expansion rollbacks go and should we cap Medicaid, should be offer block grants?

Medicaid seems to be the biggest issue, though there are smaller issues, defunding Planned Parenthood for one year, for example, is something Senator Murkowski said she can't get behind. Senator Collins has also expressed concerns about that. So there are some little nuances in the bill as well that could be negotiated this week.

CABRERA: David, do you expect the CBO score to help or hurt Mitch McConnell as he tries to rally his troops to vote for the bill before the Fourth of July recess?

FAHRENTHOLD: I do think it'll probably hurt that effort, but I still expect that effort to succeed. McConnell is a really savvy operator. He knows his caucus really well. And just the signals we're getting from Republicans who are saying no, maybe with the exception of Dean Heller from Nevada, they're all saying, I can't support it as written. It's giving McConnell room to sort of throw them all a bone and bring them on board. That's the dynamic we saw in the House. I expect it will repeat in the Senate.

CABRERA: What do you think he'll be willing to sacrifice first in order to get the job done?

FAHRENTHOLD: Well, I think the thing that he's going to do to bring in Rob Portman from Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito from West Virginia, they're very unhappy about the low-level of funding for opioid treatment in this bill. Medicare is a huge funder of opioid treatment in those two states which have big problems with opioid addiction. They wanted $45 billion. McConnell is giving them $2 billion now. I think he'll crank that up and then they'll say they're won over. I think that's going to be one of the first sort of pieces to move in this.

CABRERA: Now the Senate bill has no penalties for people who don't have health insurance.

So, Shelby, if younger, healthier people choose not to get insurance under this plan that the Senate is proposing, and insurers are left with a pool of people who are sicker and older, how do health care cost goes down versus up?

HOLLIDAY: Well, this is one thing I think is so interesting about President Trump's Twitter because we're talking about how he only tweeted about Russia, he has this giant mouthpiece and he could be using it to explain to the American public how he thinks that these health care bills, this ultimate push to repeal and replace Obamacare, would be helpful.

We want to give you guys more choice. We to want give you more access. We to want lower your costs by making it more of a competitive market, by not forcing you to have something, but by providing something you would want to buy. Lower premiums, these skinny plans for young people who don't often get sick, but may need coverage for a broken arm or some sort of car accident.

President Trump is not saying any of that. He's just saying Obamacare is a dead carcass, and I think politically, he could be explaining what he thinks this bill would do in a much better sense than just saying Obamacare's dead, Democrats' hands are tied. And Democrats are not coming to the table. These sort of remarks he's making are not bringing any bipartisan support on board.

As a matter of fact, we hear that Dean Heller might even be threatened by a seven-figure ad campaign to get behind this bill. And in a way, that could be kind of threatening him to vote no because then it looks like he could be bullied.

CABRERA: How interesting. You're saying that he's not even trying to bring on support, he's trying to get support instead of convincing people why they should vote for it.


CABRERA: And why you shouldn't vote against it.

HOLLIDAY: Right. Exactly.

CABRERA: Look out.

HOLLIDAY: Exactly.

CABRERA: May come back to bite you. But, David, while President Trump isn't necessarily out there talking about the plan and the policy, his Health secretary, Tom Price, is. This is what he said this morning on "STATE OF THE UNION."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TOM PRICE, HUMAN AND HEALTH SERVICES SECRETARY: The plan that we have would put in place would not allow individuals to fall through the cracks, would not -- we would not pull the rug out from under anybody. We would not have individuals lose coverage that they want for themselves and for their family. We want to make certain that health care is available to all Americans.


CABRERA: Now the Senate bill would eliminate enhanced federal funds for Medicaid by 2024. What happens to the 11 million American who uninsured until Obamacare's Medicaid expansion offered them coverage, David?

FAHRENTHOLD: Well, Secretary Price is making kind of a slippery argument there. He's saying that he wants health care to be available for anybody. Well, there's still going to be doctors once this bill passes. The question is whether people are going to be able to pay for those doctors or find insurance that will allow them to go to the doctor.

Here's what's interesting to me, I don't think you can take what Secretary Price says as kind of a proxy for what President Trump thinks. One of the weird things about this is President Trump all along in the House bill, he really wanted to get a bill passed, but he didn't seem at all engaged in the details of what that bill said.

Even after it passed and he had a big White House celebration for it, he later sort of seemed to be learning more about it later on and called the House bill mean in retrospect.

[20:20:04] So say the Senate does pass something, when will President Trump really engage as to what's in it? Will it only be after the bill passes and what if he doesn't like something in there?

President Trump himself is a big question mark for me. What he does if this bill actually passes the Senate?

CABRERA: Shelby, if people lose the Medicaid coverage specifically, somebody has to pay for that. I mean, they're still going to get health coverage if they go to -- health care rather if they go to an emergency room, right?

HOLLIDAY: Right. I mean, you can't be refused care. And so right now -- well, under Obamacare, Medicaid was expanded. Millions of Americans are now covered under Medicaid that weren't previously covered and what Republicans want to do is roll back that expansion.

One bill, the Senate bill would cut -- have deeper cuts, but phase it out over a longer period of time. So it's not like people would lose their Medicaid coverage tomorrow, but they would have to start thinking about how they would be covered in a few years if they are taking advantage of it now.

One big sticking point, and I was interviewing Governor Kasich a few weeks ago, of Ohio, he's hung up on the fact that Medicaid expansion covers drug addicts and mental health patients. And these are people who wouldn't otherwise have coverage, it's incredibly expensive. We talked about opioids to treat these things. And people who don't have Medicaid coverage don't ever ultimately get the treatment they need and the help that they need to become functioning Americans that don't need health care.

So a lot of the -- a lot of the sticking points revolve around this Medicaid expansion and whether or not we should roll it back and how long we should give people to roll it back and alternatively what they should do if they no longer are covered under Medicaid.

CABRERA: Shelby Holliday and David Fahrenthold, thank you both for joining us.

Coming up, the tale of the tapes. Forty-one days after hinting he had recordings of his conversations with fired FBI director James Comey, the president finally admits he was bluffing. But he says that move and his words wasn't very stupid.


[20:26:10] CABRERA: An update right now on the tragic accident that happened on the open water in Columbia we told you about earlier in the show. Nine people are now confirmed dead after a pleasure boat carrying about 150 people sank in a reservoir near a resort town in northwestern Columbia.

Authorities say more than 30 people remain missing. The Columbian Air Force deployed a helicopter to help in the rescue and recovery operation. A survivor tells CNN, at least our affiliate there, that there are no life vests that were on the vessel so that's making the matters obviously more complicated and tragic.

Most kids don't require a passport to go to school, but for some children from deported families in Mexico, it's their golden ticket to an education across the U.S. border.

More from Leila Santiago.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Getting kids to school can be such a hassle.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, come on, let's go.

SANTIAGO: Making sure they're up on time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're really, really late this morning.

SANTIAGO: Making sure they have everything they need for the school day.

These kids, it's much more than lunch and backpacks. These kids require passports to get to school. They must cross an international border. Welcome to the Columbus, New Mexico, border crossing station. Every

student here must prove U.S. citizenship. Nearly 800 American students who live in the town of Palomas, Mexico, make their way to school through here. Customs agents inspect it all. Mothers and father, many who have been deported, can only watch from afar. Unable to walk beyond the barrier that has established a way of life in this community.

Five miles north of the border at Columbus Elementary, Principal Armando Chavez says three-quarters of his students live in Mexico.

ARMANDO CHAVEZ, PRINCIPAL, COLUMBUS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: We deal with things that are a bit different.

SANTIAGO: For more than four decades, New Mexico's state Constitution has guaranteed U.S. citizens a free education, no matter where they live.

(On camera): So half of you live here, half of you live on the other side of the border.


CHAVEZ: You must have the no excuses mentality if you're going to be the leader of this school. Kids come in with pretty extreme cases.

JOANNA RODRIGUEZ, STUDENT, COLUMBUS ELEMENTARY: I feel sad that our graduation is coming up and my dad isn't going to be able to come.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): JoAnna Rodriguez and her sister Nahima were both born in the U.S. Their father Jesus was deported after getting caught crossing the border illegally several times. The family moved to Palomas as a way to stay together while dad pursues a legal way back into the U.S.

RODRIGUEZ: I don't find it fair that just because a person wasn't born over here, it means he doesn't have the right to be able to come.

SANTIAGO: They may be young, but children like Nahima seem well aware that Trump administration's stricter immigration policies could permanently separate her family.


SANTIAGO (on camera): You're scared? Do you think about that a lot?


SANTIAGO: Do you think about that at school?

N. RODRIGUEZ: Sometimes.

SANTIAGO: Sometimes? It's a lot to think about.

(Voice-over): Principal Chavez is all too familiar with the uncertainty children and their parents face under the current political climate. He believes education will be the key to overcome adversity.

CHAVEZ: But you have to come in and embrace them and say, you're part of this team now. We're going -- we're going to make sure that you continue on, onward, onward and upward.

SANTIAGO: That's the hope for Jesus who struggles with his family's reality.

[20:30:03] He wants to one day see his daughters overcome the barriers of life. Focus on school, he tells them. Maybe one day their education may help them cross the border together.

Leyla Santiago, CNN, Palomas, Mexico.


CABRERA: Once thriving, thanks in part to the coal industry, there are towns in this country that are now slowly dying away. On the next "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA," W. Kamaus Bell visits the cultural region of Appalachia to see if anything can save them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We went from 18 mines in this town to three. We went from 1500 employees to 150 people working.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all went in economic downturn in the coal industry.

W. KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST: And this is the main industry of Appalachia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is. With the loss of those jobs, it's really devastating families and communities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We struggled to get by.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want a good job. That's it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No job leads to no money, which leads to the pressure, which leads to drugs.

BELL: How easy is it to fund drug down here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All you have to do is walk on the sidewalk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm concerned about the future.



[20:35:26] CABRERA: President Trump says he's not comfortable with the fact that the man leading the Russia investigation, Robert Mueller, the special counsel, and the FBI director he fired are close friends. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's very, very good friends with Comey, which is very bothersome, but he's also -- we're going to have to see. I mean, we're going to have to see in terms -- look, there has been no obstruction. There has been no collusion. There has been leaking by Comey. But there's been no collusion, no obstruction, and virtually everybody agrees to that.

Robert Mueller is an honorable man and hopefully he'll come up with an honorable solution.


CABRERA: With me now, CNN contributor, former White House ethics czar and former ambassador to the Czech Republic, Norman Eisen, and also CNN commentator and former White House political adviser Jeffrey Lord.

I want to get both of your opinions on President Trump saying he is bothered that Robert Mueller and James Comey are friends.

Ambassador, are those concerns over Mueller and Comey's relationship valid?

NORMAN EISEN, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CZECH REPUBLIC: Ana, thanks for having me. No. They're not valid. We -- in legal ethics we have a long tradition in court that the mere existence of an acquaintance or a friendship is not enough to disqualify a prosecutor. So there are hundreds of times, thousands of occasions on which this issue has been addressed. It's not bothersome, contrary to Donald Trump.

CABRERA: Then why do you think he's bringing it up?

EISEN: Well, I think that the president is like probing a sore tooth in his mouth. He's bothered by the investigation and so he's constantly casting aspersions one way or the other. He went so far as to fire Jim Comey. And so I think this is some more of that probing may be a trial balloon, but so far that's been shot down, not just by me, but also the Bush ethics czar and I, we wrote together, Richard Painter and I, that this is just not a valid concern.

CABRERA: Jeffrey, other guests have suggested he is setting the groundwork for possible accusation of bias if the investigation doesn't go his way. What say you?

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Well, I am concerned about that. I think Robert Mueller is a -- is an honorable man. But I must say, having worked in Washington a long time, this is the legal branch of the Washington swamp at work.

I mean, if they -- if he's going to hire all these people who either gave money to Hillary Clinton or worked -- in one case worked for the Clinton Foundation, why doesn't he hire Michael Cohen, a Trump lawyer, to sort of balance it out?

I mean, the fact of the matter is there is an ideological predisposition in Washington, D.C. generally to not like the president. So the president is right to suspect that people who are pals, who play behind the scenes ball who leak things to get the president, would have something going. I mean, all these leaks --


LORD: -- from the deep state as it were, I mean, this is all about zipping, you know, zapping the president. So I understand why he's concerned. He should be.

CABRERA: But everybody widely praised the selection and appointment of Mueller as the special counsel saying that this was a guy of integrity.


LORD: And point all these --

CABRERA: -- and a man who had deep experience doing this kind of investigation.

LORD: Yes, this is before he started appointing all of these people here. I mean, I've seen no attempt on his part to balance out the investigators. There's nobody there who has any connection with Donald Trump. There are people there who have connections to Hillary Clinton. That on its face is a conflict of interest. It's simply wrong.

CABRERA: So, Norm, given that there are we know at least a few of the people he's appointed. He has a team of at least 13, perhaps more, we've learned handful of their identities. And we do know that a few of them have donated to Democrats. Is that a conflict of interest?

EISEN: No, Ana, it's not. Again this is grasping at straws. Let's start with Director Mueller himself. He's a Republican. He first rose to prominence under a Republican president. He's been embraced by both Democrats and Republicans. In my days as criminal defense attorney, I was on the same side of the table and the opposite side of the table as him, and I can tell you he is an absolute straight shooter. The same is true of the other professionals he's brought in.

[20:40:08] Again, stray campaign contributions are not disqualifying. And more importantly, Jeffrey, we can't bring in Michael Cohen because he has a direct relationship to the president. He himself has lawyered up in order to deal with the investigation. So these are career professionals who've investigated Democrats and Republicans alike. And I think we ought to let them proceed with their investigation instead of these silly attempts to raise spurious conflicts one after the other that the White House has been doing.


LORD: Norm, Norm, with all due respect --

EISEN: It's not becoming.

LORD: Norm, you do have one person on that staff, at least as I understand it, who work for the Clinton Foundation. That's a direct connection to Hillary Clinton. Direct. You can't get any more direct than that.

EISEN: Jeffrey --

LORD: He shouldn't be there, period. Period.

EISEN: Jeffrey, I believe that that individual was working as counsel in a matter relating to that foundation and it's the most fundamental rule practicing --

LORD: Appearance of conflict of interest.

EISEN: No. That is not a conflict of interest, has nothing to do with this investigation or the ability to play it's straight. That is what lawyers do. We get hired by clients, we do our best, but ultimately we are officers of the court --

LORD: So then it's OK to hire Michael Cohen?

EISEN: No. He's a witness and you can't bring in a witness, a potential witness who has a direct relationship with the potential target, the president.


LORD: OK, so --

CABRERA: OK, let me move this conversation to the tapes because I want to get to this before we run out of time, guys. Sorry to intervene there in the back and forth. I think we -- you guys made your points.

Let's go back a couple of days, though, when the president finally admitted he in fact did not make tapes of his private conversations with James Comey. He hinted in an interview that the mere suggestion of tapes had an impact on Comey's open testimony on June 8th.

Ambassador, as someone with White House ethics czar experience on your resume, was that an ethical thing to do?

EISEN: Ana, it wasn't, and the president's continuing pattern raises very serious obstruction of justice issues. Think about what he's done. He demanded loyalty of Jim Comey. He asked Jim Comey -- the director testified -- to drop the investigation against Michael Flynn when he wouldn't follow through, he fired him. And then he did this tweet about the tapes. He's now admitted that the purpose of that tweet was to influence a witness.

Well, that is classic obstruction or witness intimidation under U.S. law. So I think it raises some very serious questions, and both the so-called tapes tweet in which he, the president said, warned Comey about tapes, and his admission that he wanted to impact the director's testimony, will be considered by Director Mueller in evaluating whether there was obstruction of justice.

The president is doing a lot of damage to himself and he should just stop.

CABRERA: Jeffrey, did the president damage his credibility with the false tapes claim?

LORD: No. No.

CABRERA: I mean, who will believe him the next time he suggests something --

LORD: No. And there was a good article in the "Washington Post" yesterday, I believe, and there's a significant thought in the legal community that this just silly in essence. I mean, the fact of the matter is Director Comey himself admitted finally that he leaked a government memorandum to a pal to get it in the front pages of the "New York Times."

Now that, that is a serious matter. This is government property. It doesn't belong to Director Comey. And he did this deliberately. So, if we're going to get into this kind of conversation, then that's the kind of thing that we ought to be looking at.

CABRERA: All right. We'll leave it there. Jeffrey Lord, Ambassador Norman Eisen, thank you both. Have a great day.

LORD: Thanks, Ana. Thanks, Norm.

EISEN: Thanks, Jeffrey.

CABRERA: Coming up, terrifying moments in midair. A pilot telling passengers to pray as their jetliner shakes violently during a flight. We'll tell you what went wrong.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[20:48:31] CABRERA: Now an update to the story we've been following all weekend, thousands of rescuers continue to frantically search for survivors after a landslide devastated their village in Sichuan province which is in southwestern China.

They are still trying to find 93 people, believed missing in the rubble. Dozens of homes were buried in the landslide hit yesterday morning. So far 10 bodies have been recovered since the beginning of the rescue operation.

A terrifying ordeal for passengers on board a flight from Australia to Malaysia today. Take a look at what they had to deal with.

This Air Asia X jet begins shaking violently about an hour into the flight. Passengers comparing it to being inside a washing machine. And it continued like this for two hours. The pilot even urged them to pray at one point. Some passengers managed to put on a brave face during the scary experience which an airport spokesman now blames on an engine issue. Fortunately the plane did return safely to Australia. And at least 140 people are dead after a fiery explosion in eastern

Pakistan. Many of the victims were trying to collect leaking fuel from a tanker truck that had just crashed on the side of the road.

CNN's Linda Kincaid has details.


LYNDA KINKADE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What should be a time of celebration turned into a tragedy in eastern Pakistan. It happened just a day before the country's Eid al-Fitr Festival which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

[20:50:02] A driver of a fuel tanker lost control of his truck. It veered off the road and began leaking fuel. Forty-five minutes later, it exploded; killing and injuring hundreds of people.

SOFIA SAIFI, CNN PRODUCER: A lot of villagers got into their motorbikes, and despite security officials trying to prevent them from going forward, they went in with their jerrycans, with their containers, and tried to collect as much oil as they could to bring back to their home. It is then when they were actually quite close to the container itself that the explosion took place.

KINKADE: Official says police had tried to clear people away from the crash site before the tanker exploded, the dozens remained nearby. Many of the bodies burnt beyond recognition, nearby vehicles incinerated.

For survivors, many suffering from burns, just 70 percent of their body; access to adequate medical care is crucial. Near impossible to find with no burns center in Bahawalpur.

MAJOR GENERAL AMAD KHATTAK, PAKISTAN ARMY (through translator): Pakistan aviation helicopters have arrived. All those who are critically injured are being shipped today from Bahawalpur to Multan and KharianBruning Centers.

KINKADE: A state of emergency is being declared in the city and the provincial government has promised an inquiry into the cause of this tragedy.

Lynda Kinkade, CNN.


CABRERA: When you think about Trinidad, what do you think about? You probably don't think of being an oil rich nation. That wouldn't the first thing. Right? Up next, I sit down with Anthony Bourdain to talk about some of the interesting finds as he explored this beautiful island nation.

A brand new "PARTS UNKNOWN" is just minutes away. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:55:55] CABRERA: Tonight on a new episode of "PARTS UNKNOWN," Anthony Bourdain eats and drinks his way across Trinidad and enjoys the glorious mix of Caribbean food and culture. Here's a preview.


ANTHONY BOURDAIN, HOST, CNN'S PARTS UNKNOWN: Start with one whole duck, hack into pieces, rub with lime juice, season with hot peppers, garlic and the tropical her Shadow Betty. Add generous helpings of masala and curry powder. Marinate for a bit then sear in oil, and then simmer in coconut milk until tender.

Man, that's good. That's really good. They better kill some more ducks because that is --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we have it like this when we're drinking before the actual meal, it's like an appetizer but we call it cutters because it cuts the alcohol.


BOURDAIN: Right, I'm sobering up as we speak.


CABRERA: Anthony Bourdain sat down with me and spoke about some of the misconceptions about this small Caribbean nation of Trinidad and some surprises with a local cuisine.


CABRERA: When people think of Trinidad, they think of carnival and music and beaches, a big party. But it's a little more complicated than that.

BOURDAIN: Yes. I mean, Trinidad is not a beach paradise. It's an oil-rich -- what's this, a metropolis. The port of Spain, they call it the New York of the Caribbean. Tobago was more of the beach paradise you might expect. It's a place that where African Arab cultures have rather gracefully and proudly mixed over the years.

I mean, their food reflects that, the music reflects that. But it was also a country with a lot of difficulties. The crime rate in the port of Spain per capita is greater than New York or Detroit or I think any metropolitan.

CABRERA: Why? If you were to be a guessing man or based on what you observed.

BOURDAIN: The inability to address pressing social problems and income disparity, you know, for one, the shipment from a neighboring, you know, bad actors. And as well there is a dismaying high proportion of young men who have been joining ISIS from Trinidad.

CABRERA: You say Trinidad has some of the best food in the Caribbean.

BOURDAIN: It is a defensible argument to say that Trinidad has the best food in the Caribbean.

CABRERA: What makes it so good?

BOURDAIN: It's a -- I think that unique mix of real deep love of spice and Indian and South Asian flavors. That's quite unique and particularly spicy. I mean, they like their chilis there.



BOURDAIN: And proud of it.

CABRERA: Do you like spicy food?

BOURDAIN: I do. Right at home.

CABRERA: Were you sweating in that kind of spice?

BOURDAIN: As one should.



CABRERA: Trinidad and Anthony Bourdain that's next. But before I go tonight, I just want to take a quick moment to say farewell to our senior producer Peter Caplin. He's worn many hats over the years on this weekend evening team. Writer, producer, senior producer and all- around master of sarcasm.

Mister Caplin, he's off to a new gig within the CNN family. And we really, really will miss him. And from all of us here in Atlanta and here in New York, we want to wish you the very best and good luck. Not that you'll need it, but thank you for all of your effort on this team.

Ahead tonight here on CNN, at 9:00 a brand new "PARTS UNKNOWN." Anthony Bourdain travels to Trinidad, then at 10:00 W. Kamau Bell takes you to coal country in a new "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA."

And that's going to do it for me. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thank you so much for spending part of your weekend with us. Good night.