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G20 Summit; The Battle for Raqqa; U.S. Bombers Fly over Korean Peninsula; Most Macho World Leader? Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired July 8, 2017 - 03:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Theresa May, Donald Trump, the U.S. president about to have a face-to-face with the British prime minister, the first of several bilateral meetings with world leaders today at the G20 summit.

And the CNN exclusive, we're on the ground in Raqqa, Syria, as forces push into the last major ISIS stronghold.

Plus North Koreans celebrate their latest ballistic missile launch even as G20 leaders argue about how to deal with Kim Jong-un.

Thank you for joining us, everyone. I'm Cyril Vanier, live from the CNN NEWSROOM in Atlanta.


VANIER: The last day of the G20 summit is set to begin very shortly. U.S. President Donald Trump will sit down with British prime minister Theresa May in just a moment. He'll have also have meetings with the leaders of Indonesia, Singapore, Japan and China later on.

That last one in particular could be quite contentious as the situation in North Korea continues to frustrate the U.S. Two of the E.U.'s top leaders, German chancellor Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, will be holding news conferences during the day.

And so will Russian president Vladimir Putin, who may field some questions on his meeting with President Trump on Friday. We'll get into that.

But first, Nic Robertson joins us live from Hamburg.

Nic, meetings with Theresa May, meetings with Xi Jinping: Donald Trump is going to have to navigate a lot of complex set of different issues based on who he is meeting.


The meeting with Theresa May was one that got bounced over from yesterday because of the unexpected length of his meeting with President Putin. I think with the Theresa May meeting, this is a lot more valuable, if you will, to Theresa May than perhaps to Donald Trump.

I mean she needs to show -- she is in a weakened political state she needs to show domestically back home she has a strong ally in the United States, someone she can do business with in the future, when Britain leaves the European Union.

I think when it comes to Xi Jinping that has to be the big bilateral of the day and it's going to be contention us in the last couple weeks.

In the last few weeks, United States has agreed to sell $1.4 billion worth of arms to Taiwan. That's a slap in the face for China. There have been sanctions placed on a Chinese bank. The State Department, in one of its human rights assessments, has downgraded China's standing on the global scale.

So there are a lot of underlying tensions before you get to the issue of getting consensus on North Korea.

And President Trump didn't get that in his meeting yesterday with President Putin. They agreed that both their tactics and their pace that they want are different. And the Chinese will be a very much a similar situation.

Adding to that that overnight last night you have U.S. B-1B bombers, too, flying from Guam, the airbase there, 10-hour flight to fly over the peninsula, over North Korea, a test run. They were escorted by F- 15s from South Korea; there are U.S. F-16s in the region.

And as they left, they had an escort of Japanese aircraft. This is exactly the antithesis of what China says the solution should be with North Korea. It doesn't want to see any additional military activities in the area.

So that could be a testy meeting. So trying to win Xi Jinping over with all of that hanging in the air, if you will, that's a tough call and it will be a tough meeting -- Cyril.

VANIER: Nic, thinking now about the priority issues that are being raised at this G20 meeting. Climate, trade; on those two key issues, the U.S. appears to be isolated from the other richest countries in the world.

Is the U.S. losing influence in the world?

ROBERTSON: Well, you could say it's been noticeable that, you know, the value for his presence -- value for President Trump being here at the G20 rather seems to have been all the big bilateral meetings he has had. The bilateral with President Putin lasted an unexpected 2.25 hours.

Now while they were meeting, the rest of the G20 were discussing issues about climate change, issues about trade. The president will again -- and he also met with the Mexican president yesterday. That's five bilaterals again today.

So it's been for President Trump, rather than sort of sitting at the -- at the table, if you will, sort of being -- leading the diplomatic debate over these very, very important issues for the world, going forward, he has sort of been focused more on the bilateral meetings.

And perhaps that really is an indicator exactly, as you say, that suggests the United States is not leading the world --


ROBERTSON: -- in the way that it used to. And this is certainly something that we've heard from Angela Merkel, President Hollande when he was the president of France and now Macron, the sense that Europe at the very least needs to unite and needs to take that leadership role in the world that many feel is being vacated by the United States.

For those leaders, other leaders here, they will look at President Trump's agenda here and they will see that he put a big focus on important bilateral meetings.

But was this the forum to have so many meetings and not engage at the table with so many other leaders?

VANIER: Nic Robertson, we'll be hearing more from you throughout the day. Nic, live from Hamburg in Germany. Thank you very much.

Well, the G20 is going down and the much anticipated meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin on Friday was scheduled to last just a little over half an hour but in the end it went on for more than two hours.

U.S. secretary of state Rex Tillerson says the very first issue Mr. Trump raised was Russia's alleged interference in last year's U.S. presidential election.


REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The president pressed President Putin on more than one occasion regarding Russian involvement. President Putin denied such involvement, as I think he has in the past.

The two leaders agreed, though, that this is a substantial hindrance in the ability of us to move the Russian-U.S. relationship forward and agreed to exchange further work regarding commitments of noninterference in the affairs of the United States and our democratic process, as well as those of other countries.


VANIER: All right, so let's see what kind of reaction that got in Russia. Ivan Watson is in Moscow looking at the perspective there.

Ivan, you know one thing we didn't hear but that the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, said, he really insisted on the chemistry between the two leaders, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, saying they spent a lot more time together than was scheduled because they really got into the conversation. There was great chemistry between them.

All in all, how was the meeting perceived where you are?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Russian officialdom seems delighted with this meeting. The Kremlin had been downplaying expectations ahead of it, the reactions of one top lawmaker tweeting that this was a breakthrough.

Meanwhile an anchor of state TV show here, saying it seems that the bilateral between these two leaders eclipsed the entire G20 summit.

One newspaper, while also pointing out that same point, went one step further and mentioned that one of the biggest irritants in the bilateral relationship and that is the sanctions and, most recently, the seizure of two Russian diplomatic compounds in the U.S. at the end of the Obama administration, that that is an issue that was not resolved.

But, overall, I think the Russians are quite happy with the fact that this meeting ran so long and there did appear to be chemistry between these two leaders.

VANIER: There was chemistry but this was quite remarkable. Even as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was talking about the chemistry, his counterpart Sergey Lavrov, was blindsiding the Americans.

WATSON: This is remarkable. So minutes after this meeting that ran more than two hours, much longer than anticipated, we started to get rather different narratives coming from Rex Tillerson and Sergey Lavrov about the discussion having to do with alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Take a listen to part of what Lavrov had to say about this.


SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): President Trump said that he heard firm assertions from President Putin. That is not true. And that Russian authorities have not meddled in these elections and that he said that he accepts these assertions. That's it.


WATSON: Lavrov also went on to quote Trump, saying that certain groups in the U.S., even though they can't prove it, are still trying to fan the topic of Russian interference in the U.S. elections.

Now Tillerson had a different account. He said that Trump repeatedly pressed this point about the interference and that both sides agreed to set up some kind of a working group to try to address noninterference in future elections in the U.S. and in other countries. One area that both sides seemed to agree on was that Vladimir Putin

asked for proof of this interference and I don't think that any proof was handed over.

Now other areas where the two sides did agree -- it was establishment of a deescalation zone in southwestern Syria, in that grinding civil war around the city of Daraa, where the initial uprising began so many years ago and so many lives ago and --


WATSON: -- that Jordan would contribute with this, that Russian military police would help enforce this deescalation zone.

They also talked about North Korea and, there, Tillerson pointed out there was disagreement, that Russians see the recent launch of a North Korean missile differently from the U.S.

The Russian position this last week has been that it was not, in fact, an intercontinental ballistic missile as North Korea has claimed and as the U.S. military has concluded.

So you've got some movement on Syria but still a whole host of disagreements in other areas and, certainly, when it comes to interference in the 2016 election, that is a question that clearly is not going away -- Cyril.

VANIER: Yes, the Trump-Putin saga set to continue. Ivan Watson reporting live from Moscow, thank you very much.


VANIER: Dave Satter is with us now, a Russia scholar at Hudson Institute. He's in Washington.

First, David, your take on the different accounts of what was said between the Russians and the Americans.

Is it to be expected?

Is that normal?

Or do you see it as a significant diplomatic jab from the Russians towards Mr. Trump?

DAVID SATTER, HUDSON INSTITUTE: I was aware of what happened early on because I was called from Moscow by Russian journalists, who asked me what was going on because the Russian media, the state-controlled media, was broadcasting to everyone in Russia that Trump had accepted Putin's explanation.

In fact, the Russian authorities have no compunction about making things like this up. And I'm sure that this is made up.


VANIER: So what was the goal?

Was it to be able to broadcast that to their domestic audience?

SATTER: That's part of the reason. But the other thing is to create problems for Trump inside the U.S. because Trump was obviously very reluctant to make this an issue.

And they interpreted -- which they had no right to do -- his statement that, well, let's move on and go to other aspects of the relationship, as saying that he accepts Putin's responsibility.

This is the way Russians like to interpret things or, if you want to be less generous, the way they like to twist things. And the point was, of course, to further exacerbate the problems that exist in the U.S. and the conflict within the U.S. And the Russians have been doing that from the start.

VANIER: And the Americans don't seem and the White House doesn't seem to hold a grudge. When you hear Rex Tillerson's account of the meeting, the message, as you just said, was very much, let's move on from this.

SATTER: Absolutely. And right now it's -- if Trump and if the administration is serious about dealing with this issue, they have to say and say unequivocally that Lavrov is lying, which, of course, he is.


VANIER: Were you surprised by the extent to which the White House was willing to just let bygones be bygones?

SATTER: No, I think it's typical of the way in which not just this presidency but many -- you know, we have a long history, especially when it comes to summit meetings, of overlooking Russian fabrications, crimes and all supposedly in the interest of good relations.

Trump is not alone in this. What distinguishes the situation this time is that, of course, he personally is involved because it's been argued that he benefitted from the Russian interference in our election.

VANIER: David, one more thing I want to get in quickly, otherwise we won't have time. Listen to this, please process.

Yes, sure.

SATTER: Yes, sure.


TILLERSON: We each have a view but there is a lot more commonality to that than there are differences. So we want to build on the commonality. And we spent a lot of time talking about next steps.

And then where there's differences, we have more work to get together and understand. Maybe they have got the right approach and we have got the wrong approach.


VANIER: So that was the U.S. secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, talking about the relationship between the U.S. and Russia and at first it sounded like sort of normal diplomatic-speak.

What really caught my attention were the last few words.

Maybe the Russians have got the right approach. Maybe we've got the right approach or maybe we are wrong. I don't believe I have heard this administration suggest that perhaps it was wrong.

Did it surprise you that they were willing to admit perhaps Russians are doing something better than the Americans?

SATTER: Well, once --


VANIER: And this was in relation to Syria specifically, I should say.

SATTER: -- well, once again, this is a typical American tendency. This is not just Trump but of course in this case it's particularly outrageous in light of what has been going on in Syria and Ukraine.

We should remember that there are more than 10,000 people have been killed in Ukraine in a war which has no justification whatsoever, invented on a false pretext and --


SATTER: -- intended to strengthen Putin's hold on power inside Russia.

There is no other reason for it. So to make remarks like that, Tillerson only shows the extent to which he doesn't understand the subject that he is dealing with and the country that he is dealing with.

VANIER: And David Satter, thank you very much for coming on the show. Pleasure speaking with you.

SATTER: I'm happy to be here again. VANIER: As our Ivan Watson mentioned earlier, Friday's meeting between the U.S. and Russian presidents produced movement on Syria's civil war. The U.S., Russia and Jordan reached a deal. They're establishing a so-called deescalation zone in three regions of southwestern Syria.

The cease-fire is set to take effect this coming Sunday at noon local time. And under the terms of that deal, the U.S. and Russia will ensure compliance, they will provide humanitarian access and they will ensure security within the zone.

So let's take you now to the heart of the battle against ISIS in Syria. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh in Raqqa, the city ISIS that views as its capital.

Days ago, Syrian democratic forces punched through the wall encircling Raqqa and Nick became the first Western journalist to get this exclusive access.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are now inside the old city walls of Raqqa, the capital of ISIS' 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' 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 airstrikes 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 a city in Syria.


VANIER: The U.S. is flexing its military might with a clear message to Pyongyang after its launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday. Two U.S. bombers flew over the Korean Peninsula in a 10- hour mission; they were joined by Japanese, South Korean and other U.S. fighter jets.

The U.S. Air Force calls North Korean actions "a threat to American allies" and warned that they're ready to unleash the full lethal capacity of their airpower if needed. And South Korea is also stepping up its military drills. Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has more.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: South Korea flexing its own military muscle, conducting a naval live-fire military drill to show the world and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un its own military might. For its part, North Korea is still celebrating the launch from the 4th of July. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The great success of the intercontinental ballistic missile launch is a demonstration of our mighty power.

STARR (voice-over): U.S. intelligence is urgently assessing what it knows about the North Korean ICBM test and how soon it will be able to strike U.S. soil.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are still analyzing the latest test at this time.

STARR (voice-over): A key question: did the missile reenter the Earth's atmosphere intact?

That would be a necessary step for a North Korean ICBM to hit a target. Then there's the issue of placing a nuclear warhead on top of the missile.

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R): They are trying to miniaturize this warhead to put it on top of this ICBM delivery system. So I think it's a very serious threat.

STARR (voice-over): A threat that, for now, the U.S. is confronting peacefully.

GEN. JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: This is a diplomatically led international effort to stop a worldwide threat that they are bringing to bear.

STARR (voice-over): But what does that look like?

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced the Trump administration's goal is to roll back North Korea's nuclear and missile program.

REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Stopping where they are today is not acceptable to us.

STARR: And a key diplomatic question: would it help to sit down and talk to Kim Jong-un directly?

A fascinating question to which nobody knows the answer -- Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


VANIER: Coming up after the break, demonstrators near the G20 summit were setting fires in the streets and looting shops. How police are handling the --


VANIER: -- violent protests across the city. Plus we'll check out the testosterone-fueled antics of some macho world leaders. Stay with us.



VANIER: Protests near the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, turned violent on Friday. You just saw the police charging anti-capitalist demonstrators, who tried to disrupt the talks of world leaders. And they were met by a wall of police. Some protestors threw rocks and bottles as police fired water cannons.

Police say nearly 200 officers have been injured since Thursday and dozens of protestors were arrested. Demonstrators also set fires in the streets and looted shops. That's when special forces intervened with tear gas and water cannons. Our Fred Pleitgen was in the middle of that.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Clashes continued well into the night on the sidelines of the G20 summit. Of course the protestors here say they want to disrupt the summit and some of them even saying they want to get inside the secure perimeter.

As you can see right now what's going on is that the police are firing water cannon trucks at people who have set barricades on fire. That's something that we've been seeing throughout the evening and certainly which is something that can continue well into the night.

The clashes here are very, very heavy. They sort of pinpoint actions of protestors against the police. But then during the evening, what happened is that things escalated.

Many people were arrested and the police are also saying that dozens of their own officers were injured in the clashes that took place, not just on Friday, of course, on Thursday as well -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Hamburg.






VANIER: Let me turn your attention now to a short list, Vladimir Putin, to a French president looking ever so much like James bond. Forget the diplomatic skills. Who's ahead in the tough guy stakes?

Jeanne Moos showcases the macho men of the G20.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pick the most testosterone fueled leader.

Is it President Putin, President Trump, or is it France's new 39-year- old president, after tweeting out a photo of himself being lowered from a chopper to the deck of a French nuclear sub?

Comparisons were made.


MOOS (voice-over): "My name is Macron, Emmanuel Macron," read one tweet.

OK, it was just a winch, not a jetpack.

But still, President Macron, dressed in a naval uniform and took part in a missile launch simulation, up periscope.

Tweeted someone, "Coming soon, president drops in on International Space Station, snaps selfie."

Macron first established his testosterone cred while practically arm wrestling President Trump during a handshake.


MOOS (voice-over): Of course, Russian President Vladimir Putin had his mini-sub photo-op long ago. He's been fishing and riding horses bare-chested for years. His naked torso has become a regular on "SNL."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Putin is going to make everything OK.

MOOS (voice-over): The real Putin has been hang-gliding with cranes, tagging tigers.

MOOS: It's as if world leaders are trying to out-macho each other.

MOOS (voice-over): Even if Canada's prime minister was only joking with his pushup, it doesn't hurt to know that actually he can do this.

The Trump handshake is his signature tough guy move, surpassed only by the time he pushed Montenegro's prime minister out of the way. But holding a golf club isn't nearly as high in testosterone as holding a gun.

And compared to being airlifted onto a sub at sea, the most macho thing we've seen President Trump board was a truck.

MOOS (on camera): Moos, Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


VANIER: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. I will be back with the headlines in just a moment. Stay with CNN.