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Putin: Russia Not Involved in Hack, Trump "Agreed" With Me; Protests Continue at G-20 Summit; Trump Talks Trade, North Korea with Chinese President; Ivanka Trump Sitting In for Trump at G-20 Raising Questions; Awkward Question to Trump While Meeting Mexican President; Amelia Earhart Mystery Photo; On the Front Lines in Fight Against ISIS in Raqqa. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired July 8, 2017 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:00:08] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Thanks so much for joining us this weekend. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York.
Right now, President Trump is headed back to the U.S. after the G-20 summit that included a historic sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin, one meeting that produced very different accounts about what was said. At issue, whether President Trump agreed with Putin when he said, no, Russia did not interfere with last year's presidential election.
Here's Vladimir Putin earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER (through translation): Did Trump agree with your position that Russia had not intervene in the U.S. elections?
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translation): Well, he -- let me repeat -- he answered all the questions. And I think that he noted it and he agreed with it. But I think it's better to ask him exactly what you've asked, rather than me.
(END VIDEO CLIP
CABRERA: Whether President Trump agrees with that assessment, we don't know. He did not hold a news conference. But a reporter did throw him a question about it, and this is how he responded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Prime Minister May and I have developed a very special relationship. And I think trade will be a very big factor between our two countries.
So I want to thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President -- (INAUDIBLE) -- about your meeting yesterday?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Our White House correspondent, Sara Murray, is joining us now in Hamburg. Also with us from Moscow, CNN international correspondent, Matthew Chance.
Sara, as we just saw, no comment from the president as he was asked if the Russians were lying about his meeting. And no other chance for reporters to ask him questions. Why no news conference?
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's a great question. It is common place for world leaders to have news conferences, to take questions from reporters and to sum up what they learned and what they discussed in meetings like this, like the G-20 summit. Trump did not do so when he left the G-7, he also did not do so when he left the G-20. So we are left sort of parsing the statements of other senior administration officials to try to figure out what went on in that room.
Now, today, Nikki Haley, the ambassador to the U.N., who was not here, she had this assessment about Russia's meddling in the election. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: What he did was bring up right away the election meddling, and he did that for a reason. One, he wanted him to basically look him in the eye, let him know that, yes, we know you meddled in our elections, yes, we know you did it and cut it out. Everybody knows that Russia meddled in our elections. Everybody knows they're not just meddling in the United States' elections. They're doing this across multiple continents. And they're doing this in a way that they're trying to cause chaos within the countries. And it's not just going to be us saying this. I think you're going to hear other leaders come out and say, cut it out, we're not going to put up with it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: Now, what Nikki Haley said there is unequivocal. Russia meddled in the election and they need to cut it out. We have not heard that unequivocally out of President Trump's mouth.
And it's worth noting a number of senior administration officials again, who were not in this meeting with Putin but were here for the G-20 were briefing reporters on Air Force One. And they were asked repeatedly, do you want to correct the record, do you want to correct what Vladimir Putin had to say, that Trump bought into Russia's line they didn't meddle into the election, and none of these officials wanted to dispute that account or correct that record. Steve Mnuchin, Treasury secretary, said President Trump would be happy to make statements on his own behalf. That does not appear to be the case around the G-20. As we pointed out he left town. He did not hold a press conference before he did.
CABRERA: I want to turn to Matthew Chance.
Standby for me, Sara. I'll come back.
Now, on the core issue of the Putin/Trump meeting, Matthew, there's this "he said/he said" dynamic. Vladimir Putin did say, quote, however, "TV Trump is different from the real person." And Trump insiders call their conversation very robust. So do we call this two- hour closed-door session constructive for both sides?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think that both leaders would certainly capture it in that way. Certainly, from the Russia point of view, there were very low expectations going into this meeting of what could be achieved because the fractious nature and state of the U.S.-Russia relationship at the moment. Commentators in Russia, on state television, for instance, which a conduit of the views of the kremlin, said, if there's an agreement to meet again, that would be a success. They had very low expectations. And they thought it would be a formal exchange of pleasantries. It was far more than that, of course. They spoke for two hours and 15 minutes. And they seem to have addressed some of the key issues at the heart of that very, very fractious relationship between Washington and Moscow. So that's seen in itself as a major diplomatic victory for Vladimir Putin. He didn't think he was going to get this. And actually, he got a lot more than he was expecting. So, yes, very satisfied with that result. There's been lots of praise from other lawmakers in Russia as well.
But, really, I mean, going into this meeting -- we've already known this about Trump for a long time -- that he's been praising Vladimir Putin, that he's been talking about wouldn't it be great to build a better relationship with Russia. That was one of his main platforms during his campaign. It's hardly surprising they would find common ground when they actually meet face-to-face -- Ana?
[15:05:30] CABRERA: I want to read what the president just tweeted, in fact, he just said, as he's on his way back to the U.S., "Law enforcement and military did a spectacular job in Hamburg. Everybody felt totally safe despite the anarchists."
So, Sara, to you, what is the scene like there on the ground? We're showing some images from at least part of the protest events that were happening in the last couple of days with fires set to cars. And we see water cannons being used. We know there were protesters -- or police, rather, who were injured. What's the scene now?
MURRAY: Well, that's right. There are still a number of large protests that are going on. We can hear them from this rooftop. Today it seems like the clashes have been less violent so far than they have in previous days. My producer and I were out earlier and they were large groups of protesters. But it looked more like a parade than sort of the faceoffs we've seen with police in some previous days. Of course, that doesn't mean there aren't skirmishes breaking out and it's still relatively early here. So we'll see how this plays out this evening. CABRERA: All right, Sara Murray and Matthew Chance, thanks to both of
I want to bring in James Woolsey, the former CIA director under Bill Clinton and also former senior advisor to the Trump campaign.
So, Director Woolsey, we appreciate you spending the time with us this weekend. Thank you so much.
So I want to begin with this "he said/he said." We hear from President Putin of Russia today on camera as he addressed the media saying that Trump had agreed with him in that Russia did not interfere in the election. Meantime, we also played the clip from Nikki Haley. And she says unequivocally everybody knows it was Russia who interfered in the election. How does it impact President Trump's leverage in his face-to-face Putin when he creates this question that he has publicly voiced whether he believes the intelligence community's assessment?
JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR & FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR, TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Well, and you take it back a long way and his friendliness essentially toward the Russians and hope, I think it's genuine hope, to be able to work with them. Because they are in a sense our principle adversary in the world. They call us their main enemy. And being able to get some things done with the Russians has some positive features to it. For example, Syria setting up the -- setting up the --
CABRERA: I looked at my phone. I thought whose phone is that.
WOOLSEY: It's mine.
CABRERA: It's yours.
WOOLSEY: Syria setting up the no-fly zone, or there are just things that you can only do with the Russians. Full stop. You probably don't want to go into discussions with the Russians looking one down and sounding one down and praising them without limitation. We really need to plan to do something ahead of time that would put us in a stronger position than just showing up and being nice.
CABRERA: So you don't think that there was enough preparation going in, for one?
WOOLSEY: Well, let me give you an example. The right kind of preparation would have taken longer than this. It would have taken an earlier administration. But way back in the '80s, President Reagan and his director of CIA saw that the Russians were stealing very important technology from us. Instead of filing a diplomatic protest or something, they asked the CIA to jigger the technology so that when it was purchased it would have a little problem or two -- or when it was applied. The Russians stole it, started using it, not much happened, until some months later when the Russian natural gas pipeline all over the country started blowing up. You could see dozens of explosions from space.
WOOLSEY: Again, what did CASEY and Reagan do? They smiled. Did they make a diplomatic overture? Did they brag? No. They smiled.
CABRERA: But you go in, this is the first face-to-face after this election, after the U.S. intelligence community has come out point- blank saying it was Russia who meddled in our democratic process here. And did the president miss this opportunity and let them off the hook?
[15:09:47] WOOLSEY: He needs to realize something, which is that the Russians are never not interfering with democratic countries' governance. They do it all the time. They call it disinformation. The defector, Ion Mihai Pacepa, who was the head of Romanian intelligence, and defected to the us in '79, most senior defector we got in the Cold War, but says they have more people involved in that kind of skullduggery with respect to German elections, American and this -- they have more people involved in that than are in their armed forces. So Pacepa says.
Now, you can't just sort of talk about this thing. You've got to create penalties. And they have to be penalties that aren't ultimate. I'm not talking about nuclear war or something. But you have to do something like what Reagan and CASEY did back in the '80s. You have to come up with a way to make what they do really painful for them and then smile.
CABRERA: So you don't think that he missed an opportunity here in discussing this election meddling?
In fact, we're just getting word right now that his advisors are declining to even knock down the claims from Putin and Lavrov saying he accepted their version of events about not messing with the election.
WOOLSEY: Well, this sort of the psychology of dialogue back and forth in summits is kind of interesting, but it's not power. And the Russians understand only power. If they -- President Trump wrote the book "The Art of the Deal." He's now in a world where he has to deal with the art of the power.
CABRERA: Well, let me hold your thought for just a minute.
When we talk about these power plays, I want to get your take on what we heard from President Putin as he spoke glowingly of President Trump. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PUTIN (through translation): TV Trump is very different from the real person. He's absolutely specific, absolutely adequate in his perception of the dialogue partner. He analyzes things quickly, replies to the raised questions or new elements in the conversation.
(END VIDEO CLIP) CABRERA: That was, of course, following their meeting.
Meantime, here's what President Trump has said about Vladimir Putin previously.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, Putin says very nice things about me. I think that's very nice. It has no effect on me, other than I think it's very nice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Two-part question here. One, is President Putin's flattery strategic? And, two, President Trump has not said anything on camera since their meeting. So is he now driving the narrative, Putin, that being?
WOOLSEY: Well, Putin is looking generous in superiority. He believes he did very well in these discussions. He got good press. Lavrov did a good job for him. So he's being generous. And creating the same, probably, mode of attitude that he would have anyway, but it has more effect because the press is carrying a lot of things saying, oh, look how well Putin did, look how well Lavrov did and so forth.
I think this is all basically kind of lightweight. I mean, it's a little bit important. But it's a lot more important whether the Russians are repressing in Crimea, whether they are doing anything positive to move beyond their brutal behavior.
CABRERA: No headlines out of Crimea, meantime, from their conversation. That's interesting. Nothing coming from that.
Stay with us. We have more to discuss.
Want to squeeze in a quick break.
We're also covering several other stories and different angles, too, of the Russia investigation. We're now learning Russia has ramped up spying on the U.S. We'll talk more about that.
And you're looking at Russia's suspected spy compound right here outside of New York City. Russia wants it back. But will President Trump give in?
Plus, diplomat daughter. What the White House is saying about Ivanka Trump standing in -- or sitting in -- for her father at a G-20 meeting.
And one of the most famous missing persons in history is back in the headlines. Jeanne Moos on Amelia Earhart mania, and the new photo now raising questions about her fate.
You're live in CNN NEWSROOM.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [15:18:15] CABRERA: We're back with new CNN reporting that Russian spies are stepping up their intelligence gathering in the U.S. Spying that has increased since the election. This news comes as Russia pushes the U.S. to return two massive compounds seized last year in retaliation for suspected spying.
And we now have new details about what happened inside these mansions.
Here's Alex Marquardt.
ALEX MARQUARDT, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Russia says they were idyllic weekend retreats for its diplomats to relax and decompress. This compound on New York's Long Island, and another 45- acre riverside spread in Maryland, where families gather to play tennis, swim and go crabbing.
But the luxurious facades, according to multiple U.S. organizations, were Russia's clandestine spy network, going back decades.
STEVE HALL, FORMER CIA CHIEF OF RUSSIA OPERATIONS: More is better, especially if you're Russians in the United States, which is, you know, not an easy place for them to practice the trade of spying. If it's a technical operation, social or technical collection, eavesdropping, something like that, you want as many different options as you can. The Russians are famous for actually getting really good locations.
MARQUARDT: So in December, amid accusations of Russian meddling in the presidential election, President Obama ordered the two estates shut down within 24 hours, and 35 Russians, along with their families, out of the country.
According to U.S. officials, the two compounds were outfitted with sophisticated surveillance equipment targeting U.S. military and civilian infrastructure. The officials say Russians were seen removing suspected equipment.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What these individuals were doing were basically collecting intelligence. They were intelligence officers operating here and using these compounds, one in New York, one in Maryland, for intelligence collection purposes.
[15:20:02] MARQUARDT: Russia immediately accused the U.S. of illegally seizing diplomatic property.
Now, with a new president in office, Russia wants the compounds back and says its patience is running out.
UNIDENTIFIED RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESWOMAN: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
MARQUARDT: "It is best to immediately return our property," the foreign ministry spokeswoman said, "otherwise Russia has the right to come up with a tit-for-tat response in relation to American property in Russia. I want to confirm that the retaliatory measures are in the works."
The administration is weighing the possibility of softening sanctions and returning the mansions, though there's been no final decision.
HALL: My counsel to the president would be, again, it's difficult to imagine a circumstance where that would be useful to U.S. interests. If you analyze them and say, OK, well, they were definitely being used for espionage or intelligence collection purposes, then it doesn't make any sense to give them back.
MARQUARDT: But also at issue is the routine harassment of American diplomats in Russia, which the U.S. says has been going on for years.
REP. CHRIS STEWART, (R), UTAH: They're going into their apartments. They're killing their pets in some cases. I mean, if that's the case, then it's hard for me to say, well, we're just going to give these facilities back to you, these homes back to you. I think they should pay a price for some of those things.
CABRERA: I want to bring back CIA director, the former director, James Woolsey. He's back with us.
So, Director, as we just reported, the Obama administration made the decision to take these compounds away as part of the punishment for meddling in the U.S. election by the Russians. Now the Trump administration is considering giving them back. How would you advise the president?
WOOLSEY: I think this is a very modest issue. I don't think these compounds add a great deal to the Russians' ability to steal secrets. They are doing it anyway. They are doing it with assets, such as people that they recruit in the business world and are recruited by illegals, which is what the Russians call them. That, is people not under official cover. They're not a Treasury Department official or something. They're civilian, or maybe civilian from another country is their cover. And they have thousands of such people in the United States. The Russians have always emphasized this non-official cover, these illegals, because, back in the '20s and '30s, most countries didn't recognize them, so they didn't have embassies where they could hide their people. And the situation now with these houses, these vacation houses, it seems to me it's awfully hard to run intelligence operations out of one of those when anybody who comes and goes from one has a big "R" on the middle of its back.
CABRERA: It's kind of obvious who's who.
WOOLSEY: But they were something to the Russians. So if you give them up, you ought to do that only for something you get that's more useful to you. And --
CABRERA: What kind of trade could be made, do you think? WOOLSEY: Oh, I would think if you give them up, you would couple it
with a very substantial increase in various types of economic penalties for them. Sanctions having to do with banking, for example. Not letting them use American --
CABRERA: So you give it back, just push the pressure in a different way?
WOOLSEY: If you give them back, you make them pay really heavily.
CABRERA: Got it.
I want to turn to the nuclear threat from North Korea, because we had a chance to discuss that. That's obviously a big topic of discussion as well. When the president was at the G-20, we know he met with President Xi today from China.
Just before leaving for the G-20 summit, this is what the president tweeted on this issue: "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."
Now listen to what he said to China's president in person today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I would like to just say it's an honor to have gotten to know you. We are developing and have developed a wonderful relationship. I appreciate the things you have done in relation to the very substantial problem that we all face in North Korea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Appreciate what you have done regarding the problem in North Korea.
So you've said earlier this week that Twitter diplomacy would be a disaster dealing with North Korea. What do you make of the difference between what the president on Twitter is saying versus what he's saying in person?
WOOLSEY: I think Twitter is a very difficult-to-use tool in diplomacy, particularly diplomacy on the edge of nuclear threats and nuclear issues. And I think that it's a very serious -- it's too serious of a problem -- this issue of North Korea is too serious a problem to risk dealing with it by tweeting. Things can be said that you don't intend to say, or said in a way that are misunderstood. The Vietnam War got started on the basis of a misreading a radar signal in 1964. There are a lot of things that can go wrong in communications and so forth in circumstances like this. And I think tweeting makes it a lot harder and a lot worse.
[15:25:22] CABRERA: Should the president be listening to his advisors? We've heard, time and again, a lot of people saying he should stop tweeting.
WOOLSEY: Well, he has some very good advisors. I think he has a good secretary of defense. He has a good secretary of state. He has others. And, yes, I would think that what their judgment should take precedence over being able to say what you want to say off the cuff.
CABRERA: What would you tell the president right now? You were an advisor during the campaign.
WOOLSEY: Well, I would say be very careful with the tweeting.
CABRERA: All right. Thank you so much. Former director of the CIA. We appreciate you coming on, James Woolsey.
WOOLSEY: Thank you.
CABRERA: Coming up, scoring the president's second trip abroad. A look at the encounters that had everyone talking, and the unexpectedly prominent role of first lady, Melania Trump, including a bit of dinner diplomacy with Vladimir Putin.
[15:30:30] CABRERA: The president is now on his way back to the U.S. after a second trip abroad that was full of buzzing moments on top of his highly anticipated meeting with Vladimir Putin.
I want to bring in CNN politics reporter, Eugene Scott. Also with us, deputy managing editor for the "Weekly Standard," Kelly Jane Torrance.
Thought we would make this fun, a lightning round. No more than 30 seconds for each answer. And we will have a buzzer at the end of those 30 seconds.
KELLY JANE TORRANCE, DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR, WEEKLY STANDARD: Do I have to put it in the form of a question?
CABRERA: No, you don't. But you do have to stop talking when the buzzer goes off. This is going to be some fun. We want to get through several different topics.
Let's talk first about the first lady. Not only did she peek in on a meeting with the president and Putin, she also sat right next to Putin at dinner.
What should we make of her suddenly emerging into the spotlight during President Trump's interactions with the Russian president, Eugene?
EUGENE SCOTT, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, I think it will be interesting to see if she progresses on this, focusing on the relationship between the U.S. And Russia and just completely rejects her plan to cede cyber bullying, just decrease from social media. It seems like she hasn't been as effective in that area with her president as some people would have liked.
CABRERA: That was quick. That was 15 seconds.
Kelly Jane, we'll restart the clock. Now to you.
TORRANCE: Well, I felt like she was kind of misused, actually, on this trip. So Rex Tillerson, secretary of state, said that she was sent in in the middle of the Trump-Putin bilateral meeting to try to get us out of here. The meeting of course was scheduled for about half an hour. It went on over two hours. To say that poor Melania Trump was sent in to get us out of here, and of course failed, I think is kind of throwing her under the bus a little bit there and not really fair to someone who speaks multiple languages and probably why she was seated next to President Vladimir Putin.
CABRERA: That was like well done. Well done.
We do know that she was seated next to him. But she doesn't speak Russian. She speaks German. Maybe the two conversed in German. I believe he speaks that as well.
Meantime, let's take a look at the picture tweeted out of Ivanka Trump, briefly sitting in for her father at the G-20. She was seated right next to the president of China. Also the British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel also among those there.
Kelly Jane, the White House has dismissed this idea that it was unusual or improper for her to sit-in for the president. She is part of the administration. What's your take?
TORRANCE: Yes, she does have an official role in the administration after it was sort of unclear at first whether she was going to. So it's not as big of a deal as people are making it out to be. But what I think is a bit of a big deal that people should be talking about more is the World Bank initiative that she is spearheading to raise money for female entrepreneurship. Now, I wonder if other countries see it possibly as a form of blackmail. That they feel pressured to donate to this fund and make Ivanka Trump look good, make this look like a success, because they might then get some concessions from the United States.
CABRERA: All right.
Eugene, your turn.
Was it unusual for Ivanka to sit-in for the president at the G-20?
SCOTT: It's not uncommon for presidents to send in aides to meetings when they are in other meetings themselves. This may be the first time that a president sent in one member of his family. But to the point earlier that Kelly made, she's not just his daughter. She does have an official role. I think part of the pushback is rooted in the fact that the majority of Americans do not value and do not respect and appreciate the role that Ivanka is playing in the White House, according to a very recent poll that we had at CNN. The reality though is that she is who she is, and she's a part of this administration. What will come --
CABRERA: You can finish your sentence if you like.
SCOTT: What will come from this we shall see.
CABRERA: OK. There was an awkward moment at the G-20 where President Trump and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto went before the media and a reporter asked this question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, are you going to make Mexico pay for the wall?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Absolutely.
Thank you all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Hard to hear there. The reporter asked, do you want Mexico to pay for the wall, and he says, absolutely.
Eugene, meanwhile, the wall wasn't part of the conversation between the two leaders at the G-20. What's the impact of the president saying those words on the other issues they may have discussed in their relationship moving forward?
SCOTT: Well, it seems like if the president wants Mexico to pay for the wall, when you have a one-on-one meeting, that's something that would be brought up. And as you noted, according to the aides of the Mexican president, it was not brought up. But I think what the president realizes is that people voted for him because of that wall, and he has to stick to it regardless of whether or not he's making progress with it in these meetings or not.
[15:35:18] CABRERA: Kelly Jane?
TORRANCE: Well, what was interesting, I look to see how this was -- what the reaction was to Mexico -- in Mexico to this. And Mexicans are sort of outraged that Donald Trump, they think, got the better of their president. They are sort of embarrassed that the Mexican president did not respond to this. Now, he -- the Mexican foreign minister claimed that neither he, nor the president heard Donald Trump's comment. But I think that's a little -- and they've certainly heard it by now.
CABRERA: All right. Kelly Jane Torrance and Eugene Scott, thanks. We got through a few different topics. We appreciate your time.
SCOTT: Thank you.
CABRERA: Coming up, mystery solved? Jeanne Moos on the frenzy over a newly revealed photo, said to be of Amelia Earhart.
[15:40:03] CABRERA: It is a mystery that has captivated the world for 80 years, what happened to Amelia Earhart? The famed aviator, who disappeared over the Pacific in 1937, remains the subject of fascination for investigators searching for her true fate. But now a new photo may have cracked the mystery wide open.
Here's Jeanne Moos.
UNIDENTIFIED NEWS ANCHOR: Aviation --
JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Whether you low-key it --
UNIDENTIFIED NEWS ANCHOR: There is a new clue.
MOOS: -- or hype it --
UNIDENTIFEID MALE: It will blow the lid off the whole Amelia Earhart story.
MOOS: -- this 80-year-old mystery never gets old. Amelia mania is back as the History Channel presents new evidence for an old theory.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She may have been held prisoner by the Japanese.
MOOS: Backed up by a photo that purports to show Amelia Earhart alive, sitting on a Pacific island jetty in 1937.
And this may or may not be her Navigator Fred Noonan, according to a facial recognition expert.
UNIDENTIFEID FACIAL RECOGNITION EXPERT: The hairline is the most distinctive characteristic.
Are you kidding me? That's Fred Noonan.
MOOS: And is that ill-defined blob really the plane being towed by a Japanese ship.
The theory is Earhart crash landed and was picked up by the Japanese and imprisoned until her death.
Even Cher was intrigued. "OK, no more politics. How about finding Amelia Earhart?"
And singer Josh Groven (ph) confessed, "This is giving me chills."
(MUSIC) MOOS: But the naysayers say, nay, could be any one. No face to see, black and white, and grainy.
"I want to, but I don't see it."
(on camera): As if the latest photo weren't already questionable enough, Internet posters couldn't resist embellishing it.
(voice-over): Photoshopping in a flying saucer, JFK's assassin and Big Foot. Even Chris Christie in a beach chair has landed on the jetty.
UNIDENTIFIED TV ANNOUNCER: The world has wondered.
MOOS: Did she crash into the ocean or was she a castaway?
Shortwave radio operators say they picked up distress calls.
UNIDENTIFIED FORMER SHORTWAVE RADIO OPERATOR: I recognized that voice.
MOOS: One place we know you can find Earhart's plane is on iTunes. You can download this romantic comedy, starring Clark Gable and Joan Crawford, and guest starring Amelia's actual plane. The 1936 movie came out the year before this Lockheed Electra disappeared.
"Love on the Run," it's called. Seems we never run out of love for the mystery of where Earhart's plane ended up.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
CABRERA: So let's talk more about this with the former U.S. Treasury agent who discovered that photo now creating all the buzz about Amelia Earhart's fate.
Joining us, Les Kinney.
Les, thanks for spending time with us.
Talk to me about how you found this photo and the moment you realized the possible significance of it.
LES KINNEY, FORMER U.S. TREASURY AGENT: Sure. Thank you for having me on your show.
I found this photograph in 2012 during one of many searches at the National Archives. And during that time, I was actually shooting jpegs with a digital camera of all the documents and photos that I thought might be interesting. So I didn't get to examining it closely until about 2015. I happened to look at it and showed it to my wife and said, take a look at this.
CABRERA: I mean, it's a little grainy. Why did it catch your eye specifically? KINNEY: Well, the photograph has a series of multiple points of
interests in it. And based upon my research, which I've been conducting for the last 10 or 15 years, it all added up. You have this dock in the Marshall Islands. It's a photograph that is labeled with the Office of naval intelligence, and in fact it came from their file. You have the individuals that you already described, this woman with her back to the camera that appears to be Amelia Earhart. She has short hair. She has that light body build. She was a swimmer. She had the same shoulders. And of course, you have the tall man on the left there that's holding on to the post. When I took that in consideration with that ship in the background, which I identified through the help of Office of Naval Intelligence as being the "Koshu" (ph). And then on the back of the ship, that barge with that airplane, I said, oh, my goodness, this has got to be what all the Marshallese natives said they saw back in the late 1930s.
CABRERA: It really is fascinating. Yet, we have spoken with several experts who have serious doubts about the photo and its connection at all with Amelia Earhart. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOROTHY COCHRANE, SMITHSONIAN AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM: We have no evidence of that. The Japanese government has said that it's untrue.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What do you think of this new photo that's been brought to light?
RICK GILLESPIE, PRESIDENT, GILLESPIE PILOTS ASSOCAITION: Not much. I'm surprised it's gotten this much attention that it has.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: What do you say to those critics, Les, who believe it's more likely she drowned at sea or died as an island castaway?
KINNEY: Well, you know what they're going to have to do is we're going to have to look at the History Channel presentation tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. I think they're going to get most of their answers. There's no question about that. Because you have to have a good overlay, a foundation of knowing what happened to her in order to realize that this particular photograph is authentic and the real thing. And it is. There's no question about this. This is an unaltered photo that show up in ONI files. As I said, when you take that consideration with all the known facts of what happened to her, it meets everything to a "T."
[15:45:30] CABRERA: So the theory behind why people are saying this also could be Amelia Earhart was the theory of the Japanese capture, that this is part of that whole idea that she could have ended up there, captured by the Japanese. But this theory's been really tough to prove, in part, because of the radio calls, and what they suggest, that Earhart was near Howland Island and running out of fuel when she disappeared. That's hundreds of miles away from the Marshall Islands where this photo was apparently taken. How do you explain that? KINNEY: I explain it this way. Amelia Earhart, when she was flying a
plane, she had a tendency to drift left. When she drifted left, the plane obviously went west and she went west of course. Also, there is absolutely no indication by anyone that could tell us what the prevailing winds were at that time. The U.S. Navy, during the war, indicated, at that time of the year, the prevailing winds are from the southeast. If that's the case, she would have been pushed north and west of her course. And she would have ended up right where we think she ended up, and where we know she ended up, on Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands. And she missed Howland Island probably -- I'm going to guestimate on this -- but maybe 50 to 100 miles and then had to figure out what she was going to do.
CABRERA: We only have about 20 seconds left, but from your point of view, why the enduring fascination with her fate?
KINNEY: Well, she is a mysterious figure. She was the most popular woman of the first half of the 20th century, by far. And because of the fact that she is an enigma, it's created this fascination that will probably never end until it's solved. And I think we've done a darn good job.
There's more to it, there's no question. There's a cover-up involved here. That's another story.
CABRERA: Wow. What an interesting photo and an interesting perspective you bring us.
Les Kinney, thank you for your time. We look forward to seeing the special and learning more.
KINNEY: Thank you very much.
CABRERA: Coming up, a CNN exclusive, the last stand for ISIS in Raqqa. U.S.-backed forces fighting to retake the group's de facto capital in Syria. A rare look from the front line, next.
[15:51:45] CABRERA: We want to take you to the heart of the battle against ISIS in Syria. U.S.-backed rebels are getting closer to retaking the city of Raqqa. That's ISIS's self-proclaimed capitol.
CNN senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, got rare access to the front line there and has this exclusive report.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are now inside the old city walls of Raqqa, the capital of ISIS's self- declared caliphate in the territory from which they will make their final stand in Syria and really the Middle East.
That wall, a key milestone for coalition forces and the Syrian Kurds and Arabs who now control fully 200 or 300 meters inside of the old city. Down that way, 200 meters, are ISIS's positions.
The forces here don't move around much in the daylight because of the risk of ISIS snipers. Less so in these streets. But it's at night where the majority of the movement forward is made.
We've seen U.S. forces here, not far from these positions. Anxious not to be filmed or even noticed, frankly. But you understand it's them calling in the air strikes and the artillery that's allowing these forces to move forth, frankly, so quickly.
I've been surprised how little of the city ISIS are, apparently, in right now, an area possibly one and a half to three miles in terms of size. So increasingly small terrain that they hold.
But as we saw in Mosul in Iraq, civilians, apparently, held in their midst, unable to flee because of the ISIS snipers. A real impediment for these Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters. But still the progress here marking, potentially, the last time that ISIS can say they hold the city in Syria.
[15:53:22] CABRERA: Incredible images.
Nick Paton Walsh, thank you.
We'll be right back.
[15:54:07] CABRERA: Becoming a "CNN Hero" all begins with a nomination. Just taking a few moments to fill out a form could turn your hero into a "CNN Hero" and change their life. That's what happened for Tawanda Jones in 2013. Meet the woman and the former drill team member who paid it forward.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was attending Washington State University and I told one of my professors about the drill team and what it meant to me. And she said, oh, I think you should nominate her for "CNN Heroes."
TAWANDA JONES, CNN HERO: To know that someone in the program nominated me for "CNN Hero" means so much more because they were a part of the struggle, they were a part of those humble beginnings. So that was a tremendous honor and I've wore it with a badge of honor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: For more of the story, go to cnnheroes.com. And while you're there, nominate someone in your community who you think should be a CNN Hero.
You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. It's top of the hour.