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G20 Leaders Converge on Germany This Week; U.S. Says Time for More Economic Pressure on North Korea; Government Supporters Storm National Assembly in Venezuela; ISIS Strongholds in Iraq & Syria on Verge of Collapse; Arab States Reject Qatar's Response to Demands; Interview with Qatari Foreign Minister; Counting Donald Trump's Twitter Followers. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired July 6, 2017 - 02:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, the world is on notice, the United States telling the U.N. it is time for more economic pressure on North Korea and leaving the door open to military action once again.

A world of problems await G20 leaders converging on Germany this week. How Donald Trump's leadership in particular will be put to the test.

And lawmakers bloodied in Venezuela after government supporters stormed the national assembly.

Hello and welcome to the viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Michael Holmes and this is NEWSROOM L.A.


HOLMES: U.S. president facing a changing day of foreign diplomacy in Europe, beginning in Poland, where he is expected to outline his plans for American transatlantic policy.

And he heads to the G20 summit in Germany, where all eyes will be on his first in-person meeting with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. This all comes against the backdrop of North Korea's missile launch.

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. calls it a clear and sharp military escalation. We have Nic Robertson in Hamburg, Germany, with what's ahead at the summit. Paula Hancocks is in Seoul, South Korea, with the latest on the launch.

But first, let's go to Melissa Bell in Warsaw with more on Mr. Trump's first stop.

Melissa, we expect the speech a little later.

What clues do we have of what's going to be in it? MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, all eyes really on what he says specifically in Warsaw and the question of his commitment, his principle of neutral defense in case of aggression.

An early signal, perhaps, has come overnight, just been confirmed here in Warsaw by Poland's defense minister; the negotiations with Americans overnight have led to the conclusion of a deal for Poland to buy Patriot missile defense systems.

Clearly, in terms of a deal President Trump is doing to allow permanent to defend itself. And early signal of what may follow later in the speech is about clear commitment to allowing NATO members to protect themselves and to help each other to protect themselves.

Now all eyes really on whether he will back the Article 5 of the NATO treaty later on because, really, the world is waiting to see precisely where he stands, as you said, Michael, with a number of key questions.

Here, what matters in Poland is that question of the NATO alliance. We are, of course, hearing more so, just a couple hundreds kilometers from the Russian border, that is really all the hosts here in Poland want to hear.

They've pulled out all the stops to give Donald Trump a warm welcome here, perhaps warmer than he'll receive in Hamburg later today. Polish people have been bused in for free to the city center in order to be able to hear Donald Trump this morning later on.

But there's been one early form of protest overnight, one Greenpeace sign beamed up on one building here in Warsaw saying, "Trump, no Paris, yes," a reference to the Paris climate deal that Donald Trump vowed to pull out of just a few weeks ago -- Michael.

HOLMES: All right, Melissa, thank you so much. Stand by.

Let's bring in Paula Hancocks now in Seoul, South Korea, where there's been a lot of concern about what happened with the missile launch. We heard Nikki Haley at the U.N. earlier, basically giving some warning to China.

What's the latest there where you are?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Michael, there's plenty of concern with not just the launch but also the divide that seems to be opening up between U.S. and South Korea on the one side and then China and Russia on the other side.

We heard from the South Korean president Moon Jae-in in Germany at this point, saying that he supports stronger sanctions, saying that there needs to be more international pressure on North Korea.

This is something he's not said before. He's always been quite pro- engagement and pro-dialogue with North Korea. But since this launch, he is now putting his full support behind sanctions as well.

Certainly, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., was the most vocal and has been over the past 24 hours when it comes to putting pressure on North Korea, saying that this is a global problem.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Make no mistake: North Korea's launch of an ICBM is a clear and sharp military escalation.

North Korea's --


HALEY: -- destabilizing escalation is a threat to all nations in the region and beyond.


HANCOCKS: Also hearing some stronger words from the military side. We heard from the defense minister here in South Korea and the ministry itself, saying that there has been significant progress made when it comes to also militarization of a nuclear warhead.

This coupled with the ICBM, if both work as they should, would then give North Korea its goal of hitting mainland U.S. with a nuclear- tipped ICBM. Experts do not believe they are there at this point but certainly this ICBM launch has been a wakeup call.

You also heard from the U.S. Commander of U.S. Forces in Korea, General Vincent Brooks, a very stark reminder here, saying, "Self- restraint, which is a choice, is all that separates armistice and war."

So that coupled with the joint U.S.-South Korean military drill you saw as a response to the ICBM launch from North Korea, really showing that the talk is becoming much stronger, not just in the U.S. but also here in South Korea -- Michael.

HOLMES: All right. Paula Hancocks in Seoul.

Time for Nic Robertson now, where all the action takes place in Hamburg in Germany.

And Donald Trump, of course, a lot of people talking about meeting that's going to happen with Vladimir Putin but, also, he's going to be walking into an atmosphere where a lot of his fellow leaders feel that the U.S. is disengaged, basically, from a lot of the platforms that they used to agree on, from climate change to globalization to trade and so on.

Is it going to be a bit of a lukewarm reception?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It certainly seems to be shaping up that way and the host has really not gone out of her way to, if you will, sort of calm those water.

She spoke to a major political weekly publication here, saying, you know, the United States and Germany -- and we've heard it actually echoed as well just yesterday by the European Union -- see globalization differently.

They want a win-win, where the profits help everybody. They see the United States as sort of looking, as she said, for winners and losers, where only a few profit from globalization.

There's difference on trade, as you say; the E.U.'s on the verge this evening of striking a new free trade deal with Japan, one that would significantly easing Japan's ability to export cars into Europe and for Europe to export agricultural projects back to Japan.

And that, you know, is broadly seen as a sort of slap in the face, if you will, for President Trump's view of America first protectionism. And it comes at a time when we've heard President Trump -- and there's a great expectation here that is about to put some sort of trade sanctions limitations on China, perhaps.

But perhaps other countries over steel, so that's all part of the background.

But it's fascinating just to hear Melissa talking about what's just been agreed overnight between Polish and U.S. Defense officials, about a Patriot missile system for Poland.

That absolutely is going to be a big fly in the ointment, not that there weren't plenty already when President Trump sits down for that first meeting with President Putin, a much-talked about bilateral, fully-fledged bilateral now as for the meeting's been upgraded over the last few days.

But Russia, President Putin, will not want to see additional what he sees, European NATO armaments closer to the border with Russia. That's going to sting him. And that's on top of the disagreements they already have about Ukraine and about Syria.

We know Syria will be part of the conversation, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson actually for the first time really giving political sense of where the United States is going on Syria other than just fighting ISIS.

He was talking about the need to stabilize the areas that ISIS defeated in, so that other groups can't return. Sounds like Iraq- Afghanistan; United States never going to get involved in nation building. That was a hint that maybe an after-ISIS plan the United States wants to agree with Russia over Syria -- Michael.

HOLMES: Plenty to talk about indeed. Good point on the Patriot missiles, that's going to be a fly in the ointment when Trump and Putin sit down.

Nic Robertson in Germany; Paula Hancocks in Seoul, South Korea; and Melissa Bell there in Warsaw in Poland, who'll be listening to that speech, thank you so much to all of you.

David Rohde is a CNN global affairs analyst and online news director for "The New Yorker," joining us from New York via Skype.

Always good to see you, sir.

Donald Trump tweeting back in January, you'll probably recall, that a North Korean nuclear missile capable of hitting the United States, quote, "won't happen."

But it looks like it is happening.

Where does that leave the president as he heads to the G20?

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think this is, you know, the most important week of diplomacy of --


ROHDE: -- Trump's presidency. He did kind of, you know, he has tried saber-rattling with North Korea. It hasn't worked. Kim Jong-un continues with these tests. And then embraced the key player in all this, Chinese President Xi. That appears to have not worked as well.

So this is a very high-stakes 48 hours for Donald Trump and it's not clear how he's going to perform.

HOLMES: You make a good point there. The president put a lot of eggs, so to speak, in the Chinese basket, urging and pretty much hoping, in many ways, that they would be more. And of course they have not, at least not as much as the U.S. would like.

Now the U.S. promises more action in the U.N. The fact is really, though, that nothing has worked when it comes to Kim Jong-un's ambition.

Is the most likely outcome here, in your view, just accepting a nuclear armed North Korea and then try to contain it?

ROHDE: I think it is. Unfortunately, again, China's the critical player. You know there's lots of attention on the meeting between Trump and Putin. But I think the meeting between Trump and President Xi is just as important.

China remains North Korea's largest trading partner but most of the reports from Beijing say that the Chinese government is more concerned about instability in North Korea. They don't want massive flows of North Korean refugees coming into China.

So they are not willing to cut off trade in the way that U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley called for today.

So essentially, yes, Kim Jong-un succeeds and I agree with what Nic said. You'll see very little agreement at this G20 meeting; the various international powers there are, I think, more divided than they have been in years on many, many issues.

HOLMES: Perhaps because the options are so limited. It was interesting; you mentioned Donald Trump and Mr. Xi.

He tweeted, of course, earlier, that "trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40 percent in the first quarter. So much for China working with us. But we had to give it a try."

I'm curious, given that he seemed to be fairly chummy with Mr. Xi.

What do you think of the tone of that tweet?

Something that perhaps might work domestically.

But how will it go down with the very face-conscious Chinese, it's sort of that foreign policy in 140 characters again.

ROHDE: Yes. I don't think it's going to have much impact at all. Again, it might resonate with an American audience, as you said. But he's now trying to get tough with China. There were these new sanctions U.S. announced last week against Chinese banks (INAUDIBLE) business in North Korea.

There was this U.S. ship sailed close to an island that China claims is its own in South China Sea.

So now Trump's trying to get tough with Xi. And I don't think, again, that works well publicly with China. They won't want to lose face. So Trump's, you know, strategy is kind of we'll use military force and now he's talking about trade, you know. Ambassador Haley talked about that again. Neither of those things seem to be working.

He has got to settle down and have clear strategies or I think many rivals -- you know, Xi, Putin, European leaders, Merkel, who do not trust him -- he loses credibility unless he performs very well, is very calm and has clear strategies --


ROHDE: -- crucial meetings.

HOLMES: Well, to that very point, how much pressure then is President Trump under on the world stage, as this America first policy unfolds?

You've got a lot of international leaders who are peeling off; they're looking for leadership elsewhere. All sorts of differences, from NATO to climate change.

What sort of pressure is he under?

What's the world order look like right now?

ROHDE: I think he's under enormous pressure. As I said earlier, this is the most important week of diplomacy of his presidency. And his rhetoric, you know, will be shown as hollow if his threats don't lead to changes in behavior. That's not happening in various places in the world.

And then these meetings are critical and the importance of all this is creating alliances. If there was a more unified approach to North Korea, more sweeping kind of joint U.S. and European sanctions against North Korea. That could, if that was done quietly but very broadly and very effectively, maybe that would lead to a change in China's approach to North Korea.

Who knows?

But you need either credible threats or very strong alliances and we'll see in the next 48 hours if Trump can produce either one.

HOLMES: And also coming up, of course, that meeting with the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin. Early indications from the U.S. administration was that there was no formal agenda, there were suggestions that the Russians meddling in the U.S. elections may not even be raised by Mr. Trump.

The State Department always provides advice and tactics ahead of such meetings, it's woefully understaffed.

Do you think Mr. Trump --


HOLMES: -- is prepared to handle a well-prepared and very experienced Vladimir Putin?

ROHDE: I think he can. I want to give Trump credit, he's very good in these meetings, he's done this sort of thing throughout his life. The stakes are, obviously, much, much higher.

So we'll have to see what comes from the meeting. If he grants a unilateral concession to Moscow, his political opponents in the U.S. will be all over that. Again, those questions of why is he going easy on Russia.

But let's see how Trump performs. Maybe he'll handle the meeting well. He's done better in his leaders' eyes -- the business by foreign leaders in the White House than many expected, so we'll see how he performs.

But, again, the stakes are just enormous. This is a critical period, again, for him on the international stage and it will impact, you know, I think the rest of the presidency.

HOLMES: David Rohde, as always, our thanks for expertise. Appreciate the time, thank you.

ROHDE: Thanks.

HOLMES: Next up here on CNN NEWSROOM, more violence in Venezuela's national assembly. You'll hear why my next guest thinks the country is close to civil war.




HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone.

Blood was spilled in Venezuela's national assembly on the country's independence day. Supporters of President Nicolas Maduro storming the building Wednesday, attacking officers and lawmakers and journalists.

At least a dozen people reportedly injured. It's the latest escalation in Venezuela's ever-worsening political and economic crisis. Here's CNN's Leyla Santiago.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Political unrest continues in Venezuela. We are at the border right now with Colombia, where you can actually see people coming in from Venezuela into Colombia for what they call survival, just to find basic goods, things like flour, cooking oil, even toilet paper, things that they can find if they cross this border.

And when we talk about people, they really talk about how this is an impact of the political unrest, the economic instability that is playing out on the other side of the border.

Just in the last few days, we've seen government supporters clashing with opposition groups, not only in the supreme court but also in the national assembly and also on the streets.

Protests, very violent protests, certainly show the images of frustration, of desperation, of the need for relief. And as we talked to people, even here on this bridge, they will tell you how they feel about the politics.

Standing here, we had people who said, "Viva Maduro;" in other words, long live Maduro, the president. And we also had people come to us and say "Fuera, Maduro," "Get out, Maduro," people feeling very strongly because it's impacting everyday lives --


SANTIAGO: -- as people cross this very border for relief. We talked to people who say they need medical supplies just to live. They need food, very basic things to make it through these days in Venezuela -- Leyla Santiago, CNN, Cucuta, Colombia.


HOLMES: And joining us now, Peter Wilson, former foreign policy journalist and author as well.

Peter, worrying scenes yet again in Venezuela: we had those clashes in the national assembly, supporters of Maduro attacking lawmakers; blood was spilled; the anti-Maduro protests as well.

Do you fear this is edging closer to civil war? PETER WILSON, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: Yes, I do. I think what you're seeing is a culmination of more than two years of anti-government demonstration protests. Both sides are becoming very desperate.

It's been two years of this type of violence. This and the economic situation only exacerbates the situation. I think we're very close to a possible civil war breaking out.

The government has called for a constitutional assembly. The vote on that will be July 30th. The opposition, on the other hand, has called for a plebiscite, whether or not they will hold the vote on July 16th. I would suspect that today's attack on the national assembly is tied into the proximity of those two dates. This is coming -- this is reaching a climax.

HOLMES: You know the country very well. You lived there for many years and personally witnessed how it started going downhill. You were kidnapped yourself, a victim of the crime there.

Tell us about how you saw that spiral.

WILSON: It happened very -- in the beginning, it -- just small steps were taken or, like, you could see just a very small, incremental increase in the violence, in food shortages, corruption, the collapse of the currency.

In the last two years, that's accelerated dramatically. Venezuela now we have the highest inflation rate, more than 800 percent. The currency is useless outside the country. There are massive shortages of food, medicines, spare parts.

It's terrible what's happening in the country. And it seems most of the world is ignoring it. There's other hot spots like Iraq, Syria, what have you; Venezuela has been shunted off to one side.

HOLMES: It's extraordinary to witness. Mr. Maduro, one presumes, is safe as long as he has the support of military.

Do you feel that the demonstrations are having an impact on the armed forces' support for the president?

WILSON: Yes, I do. I think in any type of situation where you have soldiers or national guardsmen in the street now for three months, putting down daily protests it's bound to sap their enthusiasm for the government.

Many of the enlisted ranks are not supporters of the government. The top officials, the top generals, what have you, they are. But I'm sure the rank-and-file are getting very tired of putting down, very violently, in many cases, abuse of human rights of their neighbors, friends, what have you.

So I would say, yes, we are reaching a turning point, I do believe.

HOLMES: And then for those who don't know Venezuela well, the extraordinary thing, this is a country sitting on among the world's largest oil reserves. And even with falling oil prices, it does seem extraordinary that you have people without enough food, things like even toilet paper.

And I think literally tens of thousands of murders a year, as crime is out of control.

How bad is it for the average citizen.

And especially given that this should be a wealthy country?

It is horrible. I'm in constant contact with friends in Venezuela. As you say, there's no toilet tissue.

So what did the government recommend?

That we use banana leaves.

Crime: 30,000 deaths, murders last year in a country of about 30 million people. That's nearly a murder rate, the number of dead, murdered is three times the rate in the United States and we have 11 times their population.

Violence is spiraling out of control. Food, medicines -- you cannot buy aspirin. There's no aspirin to be had. People who have high blood pressure, who are facing cancer, HIV, what have you, there's no drugs for them.

Today I talking to a friend from the village where I lived and, since I've left, five people have died from illnesses -- cancer, dengue fever, things like that. There's no medication, no medicines.

HOLMES: Do you think the Chavistas will ever give up power peacefully through elections or whether there may be no other option but armed conflict?

WILSON: No. They will never give up power peacefully. They realize that if they give up power, then they are -- their life in Venezuela is over. They will never assume political control again.

This whole --


WILSON: -- the last two, three years, Venezuela has gone through a period which has -- which they have never seen before, abject poverty, corruption and crime. If the Chavistas lose control, they will never, ever be voted back into office. I'm not Venezuelan. But I think I know Venezuela pretty well.

HOLMES: Finally, even if that happens, Venezuela -- tell me if you agree -- will need years to just recover from the damage done by -- socially and economically as well; the economy, as you point out, in tatters, you know, a victim of corruption and all sorts of other things.

It would take years to recover, right? WILSON: Yes. That's part of the problem. The opposition, which I think is the majority of Venezuelans, support the opposition, they have no plan to go forward. Once the Chavistas are out of power, they have no plan.

The opposition is very divided among different types of parties who have different ideas, different visions for what Venezuela should be. So as a result, if the Chavistas, when the Chavistas are gone, the opposition will splinter.

I don't think the opposition has learned much in the 20 years of Chavismo. They have not learned how to govern. They have not put forward a plan what they would do differently. So I think Venezuela, whatever happens, is going to be facing a few years, many years of turmoil.

HOLMES: Very, very bleak outlook. Peter Wilson in Ohio, journalist and author and former resident of Venezuela, I want to thank you very much for coming on.

WILSON: Thank you, Michael.

HOLMES: Well, Qatar Airways says the U.S. lifted its ban on electronic devices for direct flights from Doha. The so-called laptop ban has been in effect since March, barring passengers from bringing those and other large devices into the cabin.

All other regional airlines, including Emirates, Etihad, Turkish Airlines announced this week that the ban had been lifted from them as well.

Time for a quick break here on the program. "STATE OF AMERICA" with Kate Bolduan next. For our viewers in Asia and for everyone else, after the deadline to resolve the boycott on Qatar came and went, the solution seems even further away than before.

Plus, the ISIS caliphate crumbling. But taking back territory is just one step in a war with no easy answers.

Stay with us. You're watching CNN, the world news leader.


[02:30:00] MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm Michael Holmes.


HOLMES: The ISIS caliphate is on the brink of collapse as its two crown jewels, Mosul in northern Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, inch further from their grip by the day. And under normal circumstances, winning the war means just that, victory. But in this case, it promises many new issues as it fixes.

Nick Paton Walsh reports.



NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm about 40 miles from Raqqa city itself. How things have changed since we were here 18 months ago. This used to be the front line but now ISIS are surrounded entirely, cordoned off in what they still call the capital of their self-declared caliphate. Coalition backing the Syrian and Kurdish Arab fighters behind me and moving into, remarkably, they said, in the last 48 hours, the old city area of Raqqa itself. Pushing through a substantial wall around it using air strikes and being able to bypass the mines and defensive positions that ISIS put into place to try to slow this attack down. It seems to be moving very fast, indeed. We have seen American military vehicles moving around here at a reasonable frequency. This fight is moving fast. And it's the last population center that ISIS control because they are pretty much days away from losing the largest city they ever had, which was Mosul in Iraq. There are matters of hundreds of meters now for Iraqi special forces to clear. They smell victory but it's pretty far away. Because the people they are facing are suicide bombers with civilians being used as human shields. A very difficult task there. But still, a difficult task later, after that, when they try to rebuild. Iraq fractured as a society between the Sunni ethnic group that backed ISIS, many of them, and the Shia that dominate the military and the government. They need healing so they can rebuild. And here in Syria, too, the broader question of what happens when Raqqa is finally liberated of ISIS? Who rebuilds it? Who moves in? Not really answers satisfactually. The U.S. have a plan to move in quickly and try and get things going but they probably haven't got the budget or the patience to stick it out until the end. And the Syrian regime is very close by with an eye on getting back as much territory as it possibly can.


HOLMES: Nick Paton Walsh reporting there.

Four Arab states say their isolation of Qatar will continue. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates all rejecting Qatar's response to the list of demands.

Our Jomana Karadsheh with the latest.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anyone who is hoping for answers out of that meeting in Cairo, the foreign ministers of the Saudi-led alliance, was probably disappointed. They did not announce what the next steps are, how they will be handling Qatar's response to their list of 13 demands.

The foreign ministers describing the Qatar response as negative. Take a listen to what the Egyptian foreign minister had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SAMEH SHOUKRY, EGYPTIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translation): This position shows the lack of awareness of how dangerous the situation is and the importance of committing to the principles the international community has agreed upon.


KARADSHEH: The foreign ministers saying they'll continue consultations, and announcing that their next meeting will take place in the Bahrain capitol, Manama, but not specifying when that will happen.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Qatar.


HOLMES: Our Christiane Amanpour sat down for a wide-ranging interview with the Qatari foreign minister. Here's part of the conversation.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You were accused by the UAE and others of funding extremism abroad, including here in the U.K. So a very direct question: Can you categorically state that no Qatari money comes here to fund hate preachers or any kind of terrorist organizations?

[02:35:04] MOHAMMED BIN ABDULRAHMAN BIN JASSIM AL THANI, QATARI FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, just let me respond to you about the funds of Qatar, which is going outside Qatar to fund --


AMANPOUR: See, the problem is that's a yes-or-no answer. Either Qatari funds are going --


AMANPOUR: -- to terrorist organizations or they're not.

AL THANI: They are not going to terrorist organizations. And if there is any Qatari involved in financing any terrorist organizations, he will be held accountable for the wrongdoing he has done. And there are a few individuals who are already in a trial and some of them are convicted already.

AMANPOUR: And you think they are going to hate preachers here? We have a lot of problems in Britain, as you've seen.

AL THANI: If there are any charities which operates under a Qatar government system, they have to comply with the government system of the benefiting country when they are operating there. So if there's any violation, it should be reported, and Qatar will take an action against them. We are, again, when it's hate preacher, whether outside or inside Qatar, we believe the world is suffering from terrorism, and all of us, we have to work together collectively in eradicating this. AMANPOUR: How do you square the following circle? When I spoke to

your emir at the U.N., a few years ago, he was saying that we don't support terrorist organizations, but we, and some of our allies and some of the neighbors, may have different definitions of what different things are.

AL THANI: I know, in America, some countries, they look at some movements as terrorist movements. But there are differences. There are differences that some countries and some people, that any groups which comes from an Islamic background, are terrorists. And we do not accept that.

AMANPOUR: Is that still your position?

AL THANI: That is our position as long as the terrorist is not defined as terrorist organization within the United Nations Security Council or there is no proof that this organization is involved in violence. If they are, particular organizations with Islamic background, we have no problem, or we are not designating them as terrorist organizations. But we have nothing to do to support them as particular organizations as long as they are operating outside Qatar.

AMANPOUR: So what about Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist organization by Israel, by the United States? And, you know, leaders, like Hadi Mashal (ph) are in Qatar.

AL THANI: Hamas representation in Qatar is a political office. It is not any military presentation there in Qatar. Their political leadership of Hamas now, there are inside. There are some Qataris, but the ones who are in Qatar, they are involved in the national conservation, which is Qatar working and facilitating this. And they're also endorsed by the international community, and also in coordination with the United States. Qatar support doesn't go to Hamas. Qatar support go to people of Gaza (ph). And if we are going to provide a platform for any of the movement, it doesn't mean that we are endorsing their arguments. It's matter of engagement -- a platform for engagement in order to facilitate for peace talks or to be helpful in contributing to the peace.


HOLMES: Still to come here on CNN NEWSROOM L.A., President Trump credits social media with his White House win and says his followers now top 100 million. CNN crunches the numbers when we come back.


[02:40:44] HOLMES: Welcome back. There's no question U.S. President Donald Trump uses social media as his bully pulpit. After a recent string of controversial tweets that critics called un-presidential, Mr. Trump fired back in a tweet that it is modern-day presidential. He also boasted of having more than 100 million followers.

CNN's Samuel Burke crunches the numbers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that maybe I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Twitter.


SAMUEL BURKE, CNN MONEY BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Known as the tweeter-in-chief, President Trump has openly credited social media for aiding his historic win. But just how big is his following?

TRUMP: Between Facebook and Twitter, I have almost 25 million people.

I think I'll soon be over 50 million people between Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.

When I have close to 100 million people watching me on Twitter, including Facebook, including all of the -- Instagram, including POTUS, including lot of things, I have my own form of media.

BURKE: The president now brags his social-media following has topped 100 million people, but tech experts say, not so fast.

CESAR CHRISTOFORIDIS, VICE PRESIDENT, SOCIALBAKERS: It's difficult to say where he gets this figure from. But right now, officially, we have to look to the channels that are used and that are consumed by, you know, everyday people.

BURKE: If you add up all of Trump's social media accounts, you get 90 million followers. But many of them are actually the same people with accounts on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Analytics firm, Socialbaker, says when you account for duplicates, it's really more like 60 million actual people. On top of that, around 13 million of @realdonaldtrump Twitter followers aren't even real according to Twitter Audit. It estimated 41 percent are fake, likely, dormant accounts, or run by automated bots. That's similar to President Obama, who is estimated to have 35 percent fake accounts out of his 91 million followers.

But a spike in Trump Twitter followers in late May is raising eyebrows.

CHRISTOFORIDIS: The latest study that we did, which was the last three million followers that President Trump acquired, we looked at the amount of inactive accounts and we saw that it was as much as 45 percent.

BURKE: Inactive or not, the president has embraced social media to directly communicate with his followers, even if some Trump supporters say they wish he'd stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Needs to tone it down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sometimes I wish he would dial it back because I think it creates, perhaps, a reckless image.

BURKE: But President Trump says his tweets are modern-day presidential, whether it helps or hurts.

TRUMP: With so many millions of people, it allows me to give a message without necessarily having to go through people.

BURKE (on camera): Of course, no matter how many people follow the president on Twitter, as soon as he sends out one of his unpredictable messages, it's picked up on television and bounces around the media echo chamber. So you're likely to hear about it, whether you follow him or not.

Samuel Burke, CNN Tech


HOLMES: And thanks for watching NEWSROOM L.A. I'm Michael Holmes. I'll be back tomorrow.

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