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Inside a "Liberated" Mosul; Russian Investigation; Middle East Crisis; UK Video on How to Survive a Terror Attack; Thousands Flee Wildfires Across California. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired July 11, 2017 - 00:00   ET



[00:00:07] SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.

Ahead this hour --

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Liberated from ISIS -- Iraqi troops claim victory in Mosul, the city left devastated by a brutal nine-month military offensive.

SIDNER: And breaking U.S. political news -- Donald Trump. Jr. reportedly told in an e-mail last year that the Russian government was trying to help his father's campaign.

VAUSE: And how to survive a terror attack. The British government's step-by-step safety video for holiday makers heading overseas.

Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. Great to have you with us -- I'm John Vause.

SIDNER: And I'm Sara Sidner. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

VAUSE: Iraqis now facing the daunting task of rebuilding Mosul after liberating the key city from ISIS control. This major military victory was a cause for celebration -- the end of three years of a brutal ISIS reign.

SIDNER: But now most of the city is in ruins and thousands of residents who fled are expected to return. Iraq's prime minister is dealing not only with a massive humanitarian crisis there but also with major political challenges.

The ethnic and religious divisions ISIS exploited in the first place have not been reconciled. And the terror group still holds other territory in Iraq.


HAIDER AL-ABADI, IRAQI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We have another mission which is of stability, reconstruction and clearing ISIS cells. This requires intelligence and security efforts and unity of our word and our rank as we have done in order to defeat it.

We should also be united to bring back stability to this region and to bring back the refugees and provide them with services and rebuilding.


VAUSE: Well, Iraq says its forces are now in firm control of Mosul. A small number of ISIS fighters remain in the city.

SIDNER: CNN's Nick Paton Walsh was with Iraqi troops as they fought amid the rubble there.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's like something supernatural or otherworldly (inaudible). This destruction, absolutely breathtaking and really a sign of the dust and bones that ISIS have left in their wake.

For the old city of Mosul, the damage new (ph), the city gone, and Mosul almost free of ISIS. Elsewhere, Iraqis are celebrating victory, dancing in the streets. Yet here, the streets are still being ground to rubble.

In the last hundred yards of ISIS, a group that once held swaths of Iraq and Syria found here (inaudible), we are told.

There it is, the river that runs through the heart of Mosul that marks the end of ISIS territory in Iraq really. But between these Iraqi Special Forces and that body of water that marks victory are still just dozens of ISIS fighters still holding out.

American airstrikes coming -- that's the intensity and proximity of the fighting here. But airstrikes are called in right next to Iraqi forces. They even feel the rubble landing in their faces.

And perhaps because this really is the end, some of them appear to give themselves up. A sniper is still there. They're welcomed.

After the mosques, the (inaudible) propaganda, now we finally see what the Iraqi soldiers say is the true human toll and defeated (inaudible) of ISIS.

This man appears like he has a disability and is asked how he got here.

"ISIS forced me here," he insists.

They forced the world war on ISIS here in Mosul and now casually cast dead fighters. Major Salam was with us at the start and he's lost some friends.

How does it feel?

MAJOR SALAM HUSSAIN, COUNTER TERROR FORCES: I feel tired. I am try to done the operation here after all these nine months.

WALSH: Brigadier General Assadi (ph) planted the Iraqi flag he says on the river bank (inaudible) so this isn't a battle of flags anymore but for ISIS, the smaller cells and survival. So the fight went on even as the official declaration from Iraq's prime minister announced victory.

So it will be for Iraq in (inaudible).

[00:05:04] Nick Paton Walsh, CNN -- Mosul, Iraq.


VAUSE: For more, we're joined now by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. She's a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Gayle -- thank you for coming in.

This was the largest military operation the world has seen in almost 15 years. Some military experts are comparing it to the battle of Stalingrad back in 1942. And we are seeing that in just the scale of the devastation -- right.

GAYLE TZEMACH-LEMMON, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Yes. I mean if you look at the house to house warfare, look at how long this campaign took, right, versus expectations.

And I think what you see is this was a brutal campaign that involves using mothers and children as human shields. That had families hiding for months that saw bombardments following all of this real carnage, that has gone on for such an extended period.

And if you look at what has happened to children in this situation and to moms and dads, you will see a devastation that I think even for all of us now after seeing the images that we've seen from Afghanistan, from Iraq, from Syria -- Mosul is shocking.

VAUSE: We all know that ISIS is despicable and use human shields. But on the Iraqi side, there's been praise that they did their best to avoid civilian casualties. Do you agree with that assessment?

LEMMON: I think they did their best given the very difficult circumstances that they have. And look, I mean what they were facing was the kind of combat that was house by house, street by street, pin you down, moms and children being either used as human shields or hiding in the basements of buildings trying to warn people.

And it's a human cause, right. War is deeply personal --


LEMMON: -- to all the people caught in the crosshairs of it. And this was a very personal, face to face war, sort of street by street combat.

VAUSE: Ok. It's going to take a long time to get even basics. So this (inaudible) cost billions of dollars --


VAUSE: This is what the U.N. envoy said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRUNO GEDDO, UNHCR REPRESENTATIVE IN IRAQ: But obviously it will take time because a minimum of service will have to be restored. It will also take time because the city will have to be decontaminated of explosive remnants of war which are now everywhere, booby traps and land mines. They are to be removed first before it is declared free for people to return safely.


VAUSE: What capacity does the Iraqi government have for rebuilding the city?

LEMMON: Limited. And let's talk about this. It will take time but it will also take money. And it will take commitment.

And the thing is that nation-building is this 14-letter word that has become a four-letter word in the international community's eyes. But without it -- without basic services, roads, electricity, schools open -- how do you get to a situation where you don't have the next version of ISIS and Iraqi and international forces having to go back in? That is, I think the central question.

VAUSE: And so 300,000 residents from Mosul and emergency shelter and they will stay there for months until they get the city --

LEMMON: Do they have a home to go back to?

VAUSE: Exactly. And that's going to be a while.

Even so, the U.S. is now looking for the next major fight with ISIS and that will be retaking the city of Raqqa in Syria. This is the assessment from Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, commander of general operations for Inherent Resolve. Listen to this.


LT. GEN. STEPHEN TOWNSEND, COMMANDING GENERAL, OPERATIONS INHERENT RESOLVE: Well, as of about an hour ago, what was job number two for us -- Raqqa, Syria -- is now job number one. And we're prosecuting that fight there just like we did here by, with and through our local partners.

And we're performing the same kind of missions. The coalition is performing the same kind of missions there. We'll take Raqqa with our partners.


VAUSE: I thought Raqqa was going to be a very different fight than Mosul. I'm wondering if there's any lessons from Mosul which can be applied to Raqqa to reduce the loss of life, to try and reduce the devastation.

LEMMON: Well, I think that the thing with Mosul is the by, with and through local partners, right. The U.S.' local partners are the Syrian Kurds. Turkey does not like that fact.

And the fact is that they are the most able fighting force that the Americans have found as partners. And so you have this -- both tension from within and without that coalition to retake Raqqa.

And I think you have a very capable fighting force and the question is and then what? Once they retake ISIS, who is the handover to? And does that Raqqa counsel or anybody else who comes in have money to restore basic services that is going to be required to keep some level of stability after ISIS?

VAUSE: Ok. A lot of questions, a lot of challenges ahead -- Gayle. Good to speak with you. Thank you.

LEMMON: Thank you.

SIDNER: New details are emerging about Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting a Russian lawyer in June, 2016 just before his father became the Republican nominee.

According to the "New York Times" Trump Jr. was told before the meeting that the lawyer had damaging information about Hillary Clinton and it was part of an effort by the Kremlin to help the Trump campaign.

The Trump White House is downplaying the meeting as insignificant. The Kremlin is denying knowing the lawyer at all.

CNN's Ivan Watson has more from Moscow.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Kremlin says it does not know who the Russian lawyer was who sat down with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in New York in June of 2016. A Kremlin spokesman saying that the government here cannot be expected to keep track of Russian lawyers and their movements and meetings overseas.

[00:10:07] Meanwhile the lawyer herself, Natalia Veselnitskaya, well CNN has reached out to her. She has not yet agreed to an interview. But she did give a statement to the "New York Times" in which she denied any links to the Russian government and she also denied that any politics were discussed at that meeting with Donald Trump Jr.

So what do we know about Veselnitskaya? She is the founder of a non- governmental organization that calls itself the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation. She was actively lobbying to overturn a piece of legislation passed in the U.S. in 2012 called the Magnitsky Act which initially targeted Russian individuals and entities involved in human rights abuses and in corruption.

In response for this law, the Russian government basically banned the U.S. adoption of Russian children. So Veselnitskaya was involved in lobbying against this law. She also represented a company called Prevision that had its assets seized under the Magnitsky Act. The controversy over this 2016 meeting with this Russian lawyer comes just days after President Putin and President Trump met for the very first time in Germany. They agreed to essentially three diplomatic initiatives -- a local ceasefire in southwestern Syria, the appointment of a U.S. diplomatic envoy to deal with the conflict in Ukraine, and setting up a cyber security unit involving the U.S. and Russia.

But just 48 hours after this initiative was agreed upon, President Trump himself published a tweet suggesting that it was now dead. It would not move forward, essentially negating one of the three diplomatic initiatives that these two presidents have agreed to.

Ivan Watson, CNN -- Moscow.


SIDNER: And joining us now, CNN political commentators Democratic strategist Dave Jacobson and Republican consultant John Thomas. We have a lot to get to, of course,

I do want to talk about this. Do you think that there is -- there is new reporting that has come out tonight from the "New York Times" from Maggie Haberman and a bunch of other reporters who explained some new details that we didn't know that there were apparently e-mails that show some of this. And whether or not, it's collusion. Let's listen to what Maggie has to say.


MAGGIE HABERMAN, "NEW YORK TIMES": We know that before this meeting that has been the subject of stories over the last few days was arranged that Donald Trump Jr. who was ascendant in the campaign at that point was informed in an e-mail that there was compromising information about Hillary Clinton and that it was part of a Russian government effort to help his father's campaign.


SIDNER: Ok. So first to you, John -- do you think this at least opened the door to collusion, that Donald Trump Jr. was open to getting information from a foreign entity to help his father.

JOHN THOMAS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well first of all, the lawyer, my understanding is, was not a member of the government. So he met with a private citizen and in our business, we will meet with anyone at anytime if we think that it's going to provide meaningful dirt on an opponent. I mean that's just the business.

So when we hear that he had e-mails that he was meeting with Russian officials -- that's a different story. But private attorneys, I just don't see it -- don't see a there, there.

VAUSE: Yes. The link between the lawyer and the Kremlin is yet to be proved but there does seem to be, you know, a there, there at least in appearance. DAVE JACOBSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well look -- and by the way, there's been widespread condemnation from Republican operatives who have run massive presidential campaigns. Stuart Stevens who ran Romney's campaign.

THOMAS: He's a never-Trumper.

JACOBSON: Marco Rubio's campaign manager, John Kasich's campaign operative -- I mean all of these folks have come out and said look if there was this outside, you know, foreign government who's an adversary of our country, who's offering information about an opponent, irrespective of whether or not to help you score political points, they wouldn't have taken the meeting. They would have reported it to the FBI.

VAUSE: Ok. There is a statement from Don Jr.'s lawyer which was released a short time ago. "At no time was there ever an understanding or commitment that he or anyone else would find the information, whatever it turn out to be, from this Russian lawyer to be reliable, credible or of interest or would even survive due diligence.

The meeting lasted about 20 to 30 minutes. Nothing came of it. His father knew nothing about it. The bottom line is that Don Jr. did nothing wrong."

VAUSE: You know, that is some very careful wording in there -- Dave, when it comes to the question of value of this meeting. And that comes down to the issue of campaign finance laws and whether they were breached.

JACOBSON: More of like the question of intent. Like if he thought he was going to get something of value and he took the meeting, I think that raises real questions of whether or not Robert Mueller who's investigating -- this is going to drop the hammer and start to indict folks and really investigate them under oath.

[00:14:58] I mean earlier today, you had Richard Painter who was an ethics attorney under the George Bush White House who said we would have brought this individual into custody and started questioning them. The real question is what are the next steps?

SIDNER: To throw to that actually -- let's listen to what Richard Painter actually had to say about the situation that has now come out to the public.


RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER UNDER GEORGE BUSH: Neither party should be using Russian agents to try to win elections. So any type of collaboration with Russian spies or spies from any other country to try to win an election in the United States would be treasonous, would be a violation of federal law.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SIDNER: Now we, of course, don't know if that Russian attorney or Russian lawyer is actually helping the Kremlin or an agent for the Kremlin. That has not been proven.

Are these things that need to be looked at? And does it give the inference that there is something wrong here since she is Russian?