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Russia Investigation; Turkey's Failed Coup Anniversary; Mayweather versus McGregor. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired July 15, 2017 - 03:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): New details emerging about the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower attended by Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and then Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort. Oh, and several other people we didn't know about before.

Also, on the anniversary of last year's failed coup, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sacked thousands more police and civil servants.

And later, the hype and hustle for a fight night goes into overdrive. But the level of invective may have gone too far this time. We will look at the Mayweather-McGregor publicity machine.

It's all ahead here. Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining us. I'm Natalie Allen and CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


ALLEN: Our top story: U.S. President Donald Trump returned home to the United States on Friday after a two-day trip to Paris. He and the first lady were the guests of honor at France's annual Bastille Day celebration but, in his absence, the political firestorm over Russian election meddling grew even larger.

At the epicenter: a controversial meeting in June of last year with the president's oldest son and a Russian lawyer, who supposedly had dirt on Hillary Clinton. We still do not have a clear picture of exactly what was discussed at that meeting. Those details keep changing.

But we have now learned twice as many people were there than previously disclosed. Here is the latest from CNN's Jessica Schneider.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Another player has emerged in that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, despite Donald Trump Jr.'s insistence he disclosed everything there was to know about the meeting with the release of several e-mails Tuesday.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX HOST: So, as far as you know, as far as this incident is concerned, this is all of it?

DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: This is everything. This is everything.

SCHNEIDER: Today, news that Russian American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin also in attendance.

Akhmetshin told the Associated Press he was in the room for the 20-to- 30 minute meeting with Trump's eldest son and Veselnitskaya that also included publicist Rob Goldstone, campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is now a top adviser to the president.

CNN has learned at least two others were in the room, a translator and a representative of the Agalarov family. Akhmetshin is a registered lobbyist for Veselnitskaya's organization that is focused on overturning the American sanctions against human rights abusers in Russia, according to lobbying records.

Akhmetshin's lobbying caught the attention of Senator Chuck Grassley, who described him a Russian immigrant acting as an unregistered agent for Russian interests, apparently with ties to Russian intelligence. That was in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly requesting Akhmetshin's immigration history earlier this year.

Akhmetshin denied to "The Washington Post" that he served as a Russian intelligence agent, saying: "I never worked for the Russian government. I served as a soldier for two years. At no time have I ever worked for the Russian government or any of its agencies. I was not an intelligence officer, never."

The e-mail chain released Tuesday indicating there was another person at the meeting.

The British publicist who arranged it, Rob Goldstone, wrote this to Donald Trump Jr. two days before: "I will send the names of the two people meeting with you for security when I have them later today.'

No names producing those names was ever released by Don Jr.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As far as my son is concerned, my son is a wonderful young man. He took a meeting with a Russian lawyer, not a government lawyer, but a Russian lawyer.

It was a short meeting.

SCHNEIDER: President Trump defended his son while speaking in Paris, but continues to insist he didn't know anything about the meeting until several days before Don Jr.'s e-mails were released.

This morning, counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway seemed to suggest that more evidence was needed to prove collusion.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: Well, even the goalposts had been moved. We were promised systemic -- hard evidence of systemic, sustained, furtive collusion. SCHNEIDER: The scramble to respond to the details trickling out may have exposed some White House aides to special counsel scrutiny. They could be called by Robert Mueller and his team to explain what they learned about this June 2016 Trump Tower meeting.

Sources close to Jared Kushner's legal team say White House aides and Kushner's lawyers began strategizing in late June how to manage any later disclosures of the e-mails Kushner's team discovered from Don Jr.

Top Democrat Nancy Pelosi has now joined the growing chorus of lawmakers pushing for Jared Kushner's security clearance to be revoked.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CALIF.), HOUSE DEMOCRATIC LEADER: It is absolutely ridiculous he should have that clearance. It is not justified in any way. The president could revoke it in a moment --


PELOSI: -- and he should.

SCHNEIDER: No official response from the White House but we do know that top aides are well aware of this changing story of Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting in June 2016 and, of course, they are not happy with shifting details -- Jessica Schneider, CNN, the White House.


ALLEN: President Trump's attorney is speaking with CNN about Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting. Earlier this week, attorney Jay Sekulow praised the president's son for releasing e-mails on the meeting and said Trump Jr. was being transparent.

My colleague, Anderson Cooper, asked Sekulow if he still felt that way now following the revelations more people attended the meeting than had been disclosed.


JAY SEKULOW, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, yes, because the there was the e-mails that resulted in this meeting. And he put the entire chain of those e-mails out.

And you know, Anderson, I go back to something we've talked about before. And you look at the situation. And as the lawyer here, you look at the situation. I'm saying I understand it's getting a lot of attention, obviously.

But the question is what law has been violated here or might be violated here?

You've had a number of experts on CNN. I was on the other night with Jake Tapper, who did that special and Jonathan Turley was on. I think even Jeff Toobin was on. And everybody agreed that there's not a legal violation with the meeting. So, I go back to what I said initially. They left -- Donald Trump Jr. puts out the e-mail, the whole chain of e-mail events.

And then the question still is the meeting takes place, no exchange of information, the Russian-American that you talked about, the lobbyist that said that. Natalia, in an interview she gave in Moscow, said it. Donald Trump Jr. has said it.

So, the people that were there said it, but nothing transpired. The president has stated very clearly that he was not aware of the meeting and did not attend the meeting and that has been undisputed. No one has disputed that. So he was not aware of it, did not attend it.

With regard to the e-mail chain itself, I became aware of the e-mail chain about the time probably you did. I actually saw the e-mails.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: So you haven't reviewed other e-mails?

SEKULOW: No, I have not reviewed the e-mails. I've not reviewed any other documents until this issue came out. I saw the document probably when you did.

Here's the thing that's important. Remember this: the president was not aware of the meeting and didn't participate in the meeting. So that is fundamentally the issue that I'm concerned with as one of the president's lawyers.


ALLEN: And Jay Sekulow also said people kept coming in and out of that meeting and that it was fairly brief.

A former top Trump campaign adviser is also talking with U.S. lawmakers. Michael Caputo testified before the House Intelligence Committee in a closed door session Friday that's part of a multiple investigation into alleged Russian meddling in last year's election.

Following his testimony, Caputo told reporters he never once heard anyone discuss Russia while he was working in the campaign.


MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I had no contact with Russians and I never heard of anyone in the Trump campaign talking with Russians.

But I never was asked questions about my time in Russia, that I never even spoke to anybody about Russia, I never heard the word Russia and we did not use Russian dressing. There was absolutely no discussion of Russia on the Trump campaign to the day I left.


ALLEN: Caputo also told CNN the idea that anyone in the Trump campaign would have colluded with Russia is, quote, "laughable."


ALLEN: Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, joins us now from Charlottesville, Virginia.

Larry, thank you for joining us. This is an issue that seems to keep evolving.

Now that we know that a Russian lobbyist was in that now infamous or not infamous meeting, why would the Trump team lie about it?

Who was there?

His lieutenants even praised Donald Trump Jr. for his transparency this week when now we know he wasn't being transparent. He was covering up.

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: He certainly was. And I think the underlying premise was they hoped this would never be discovered.

And, of course, the irony is Donald Trump Jr.'s brother-in-law, Jared Kushner, is really the source of all of this since he had to update his papers for security clearance.

Look. This violates the basic rule of scandals that we've talked about really since the beginning of the Trump administration. Drip, drip, drip. Dribble, dribble, dribble. That's what you always avoid.

You try to get it all out as quickly as possible and actually be transparent because, if you aren't, you're going to pay for it, just like Donald Trump Jr. and the Trump administration are paying for this now.

ALLEN: David Gergen, who has worked for Republican and Democrat White Houses, said this could be the most incompetent cover-up in history.

So why, after many months in office and seeing how relentless the news media is to get to --


ALLEN: -- the truth, why wouldn't the Trump team think, well, let's get ahead of this, let's be transparent, let's try things differently?

SABATO: Well, first, David Gergen is absolutely correct. This is incredibly incompetent.

Look, why isn't it happening?

Because I don't think there is anybody in the White House, maybe even his family members, who can really talk turkey to President Trump. No one wants to give him bad news and, when they do, he ignores it.

Sometimes apparently they have sat him down and explained the facts of life as it applies to his administration, to Washington and the scandal. But either he's not interested in listening or he listens and then, at first opportunity, changes course.

So I don't know what you do about that. You can change lots of things in the White House but you can't change the person in the Oval Office.

ALLEN: Now though, that this president has lawyers speaking out for him and trying to explain this, when you somehow wonder if Sekulow knows all the facts, trying to explain away this meeting and the mishaps and the missteps surrounding it with his lawyers now beefing up around him due to the Mueller investigation, one would think maybe they could have an impact with this president.

SABATO: Again, the report is, at least, maybe it's true, maybe it isn't. But the report is that the lawyers also can't contain the president. They do, as is their legal responsibility, they outline the facts for the president. They recommend actions.

They think he's accepted those recommendations. And then it will be an hour or two or a day or a week or it will show up on Twitter that, in fact, he's reversed course.

ALLEN: And what of Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, his adviser and some saying that his security clearance should be revoked after he for some reason forgot to mention this meeting and another on the forms he had to fill out?

SABATO: Well, apparently the president is effectively the only person who can revoke that security clearance. And I don't think that's going to happen.

ALLEN: No, I don't think so.

SABATO: Lot of different reasons. But it will continue to be an issue simply because Trump will not revoke it. There are many people, mainly Democrats but now some Republicans seem to be having questions about whether Kushner should have that security clearance.

ALLEN: Larry Sabato, thank you.

SABATO: Thanks, Natalie.


ALLEN: The U.S. Justice Department wants the Supreme Court to clarify its ruling on the Trump administration's travel ban. It is appealing a decision by a lower court that relaxed the ban's restrictions.

In June, the Supreme Court said the ban does not apply to people who have a close familial relationship with someone in the U.S.

Thursday, though, a federal court in Hawaii ruled the Supreme Court's decision means grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters- in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins are sufficiently close family relations to gain entry into the United States. The Trump administrations disagrees.

Next here, Turkey marks one year since a failed coup attempt. Why a post-coup crackdown may not be over.





ALLEN: Welcome back. The Pentagon confirms a U.S. raid killed the leader of ISIS' Afghanistan affiliate Tuesday. A drone strike hit ISIS Khorasan headquarters in Kunar province to the east of Kabul. U.S. commanders had promised to drive the terror group out of the country by the end of this year.

Two German women were killed in a knife attack Friday on a beach in Egypt on the country's Red Sea coast. Four other tourists were wounded. Investigators believe the assailant swam from a public beach to a beach resort area and attacked six women who were there.

Turkey is marking a major anniversary. It has been one year since a failed coup attempt to topple Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A state of emergency is still in effect and so is a government crackdown.

There are reports that more than 7,000 police, academics and civil servants have just been dismissed. Here is what Mr. Erdogan said about the purge.


RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, PRESIDENT OF TURKEY (through translator): They are asking how many people are dismissed from work, how their needs will be met from now on. Let them work in the private sector.

Why should we care?

Will we think about them?

Let them work in the private sector.

Will the state look after them?

The state looked after them and they betrayed the state.


ALLEN: Events to mark the anniversary are planned for the coming hours. A national unity march is set for later in Istanbul, despite the country's political division. CNN's Gul Tuysuz has this report on a mother who defied soldiers during the coup.


GUL TUYSUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Few people knew Sophia Bayat (ph) before this moment. She led a seemingly quiet and simple life. But this conservative mother of two surprised even herself.

During the coup attempt last year when she stood up to tanks and soldiers, she said she made a split-second decision that night when she turned on the TV, that she would go out to confront the soldiers trying to topple the government of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

She says, as a woman, she thought she might be able to stop the soldiers and appeal to their conscience.

"But they only had anger and violence in return," she tells us.

She says when she wouldn't leave, they threatened to shoot her.

"I told them I wasn't afraid of them," she says. "They roughed me up but I kept saying, 'I am not afraid,' and that they could shoot me if they wanted to."

When soldiers begin firing on the crowd, Bayat (ph) says she was shot in the leg while trying to carry away the wounded. A strong supporter of Turkey's president, Bayat (ph) is glad to see those who she believes are responsible for the coup behind bars.

And while many in Turkey are united behind Turkey's president, for others, the post-coup Turkey has become an intolerably oppressive place.

TUYSUZ: Since the coup attempt, the government has declared a state of emergency. More than 100,000 people have been detained or arrested. Tens of thousands of workers, including civil servants, teachers and journalists have been dismissed from their jobs.

Critics of the government say that the post-coup crackdown has turned into a cleansing of all voices of dissent, with both the coup and the crackdown leaving scars on an already fractured nation -- Gul Tuysuz, CNN, Istanbul.


ALLEN: The body of Liu Xiaobo has been cremated at a private ceremony in China. The Chinese Nobel Peace Prize winner died Thursday from multiple organ failure after having cancer. He had been serving an 11-year sentence for what China ruled was inciting subversion of state power.

And although he was allowed to go to hospital, he remained in custody. The human rights proponent was 61. His case was condemned internationally.

In Hong Kong, hundreds of people protested against the high court's decision to disqualify four lawmakers from their post for failing to take their oaths properly. Protesters worry the court's decision gives Beijing's pro-government allies more power, violating the governing principle of one country, two systems.

Breaking news from Tehran, where Iranian media is reporting that police have shot and killed --


ALLEN: -- a subway attacker. Three people were reportedly injured. We'll bring you more information on this as it becomes available.

Well, dramatic video out of Southern China as a dashcam captures a landslide that buried cars. And Derek Van Dam is here.

Is this the area where so many people have been evacuated?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it continues and it is in the southern sections of China. This landslide was triggered by extremely heavy rainfall in a short period of time.

Check out this heart-stopping moment. We've got the footage here to show you. Several vehicles, including a truck, being violently swept away by the force of this mud flow.

Look at the replay here again. You see how much force is behind it. Eight vehicles in total were caught in the landslide; 16 drivers and passengers affected. One was actually left trapped inside his car, Natalie, but the rest managed to escape through the windows of their vehicles.

Firefighters were sent to the scene and rescued the trapped man immediately.


ALLEN: Depending on whom you ask, it is either the biggest boxing match in years or a total farce. Whatever you think of the fight, Floyd Mayweather versus Conor McGregor has at least one thing going for it: a borderline dangerous dose of swagger. Our Nick Glass is following their promotional roadshow.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here they are, ladies and gentlemen!

NICK GLASS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They've been jabbering away like parrots all week. A face-off is what they like to call it. And after four different venues, began to seem a little bit repetitious though, sartorially, they did ring the changes a bit.

Mayweather, on the left, got higher heels so he could face off with McGregor eye-to-eye and they traded racial and sexual insults and just a few profanities.

FLOYD MAYWEATHER, BOXER: I don't give a (INAUDIBLE) if it was a octagon. Put me in there and I'm going to kick ass.

CONOR MCGREGOR, MIXED MARTIAL ARTIST AND BOXER: He's in a (INAUDIBLE) track suit. His little legs, his little core, his little head. I'm going to knock him out inside four rounds, mark my words. GLASS (voice-over): Some of the time you couldn't hear what they were saying precisely, which is probably as well. This is sport as show biz, fighters strutting their stuff, choreographed, if not scripted.

Conor McGregor swaggered through it all in his own sort of simian way or was introduced first. He's never boxed professionally in his life but he knows how to promote himself.

MCGREGOR: How's this suit look?



GLASS (voice-over): For his first appearance he wore a bespoke suit with a two-word expletive beginning with F and ending with you sewn down the pinstripe.

STEPHEN ESPINOZA, EVP, SHOWTIME SPORTS: This event is sort of like a summer blockbuster movie. This is "Transformers," you know. It is fun, it is -- you know, it is mass market.

GLASS: But is it sport?

Well, I think, you know, when we get into the ring, I think there will be no doubt.

Simply, this is all about the Benjamins, as they say, mainly the money. McGregor seemed like the kid who just won a Willie Wonka golden ticket.

MCGREGOR: That's what I like!

All y'all doing is putting money in my account.

Baby, we did it!


GLASS: Do you enjoy the promotional round?

MAYWEATHER: It's grueling. It's rough. Different countries, different cities. It is rough but --

GLASS: Tougher than the fight?


GLASS: More competitive than the fight?


GLASS: More interesting than the fight?

MAYWEATHER: But this is what I signed up for. GLASS (voice-over): The bookmakers and most boxing experts make Mayweather a heavy odds-on favorite. The fight is entirely on his terms. In a boxing ring, using 10-ounce boxing gloves rather than the four-ounce more concussive martial arts gloves that McGregor usually fights with.

GLASS: Isn't this fight a foregone conclusion?

GARETH DAVIES, "DAILY TELEGRAPH": On paper, Floyd Mayweather is an alarming favorite. This is one of the greatest mismatches in a big fight we will ever see. Yet, there's this X factor about this Irishman. He's got something about him, where he seems to make the impossible possible.

MAYWEATHER: I'm 40 but I look 20.

MCGREGOR: And you act 10.


GLASS (voice-over): If nothing else, McGregor was the clear winner of this week's promotional circus, verbally quicker, wittier and brimming with self-belief. Both men are expecting to make fortunes out of the fight. Mayweather is talking a nice round $300 million for himself.

DAVIES: David fought Goliath, remember, all of those many centuries ago and that would have been on Pay-Per-View as well and would have done big numbers.

GLASS (voice-over): -- Nick Glass, CNN, on the road with Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor.


ALLEN: Well, please allow us a little self-promotion, just a little smidge of it. On Monday in a CNN exclusive, the Duchess of Cornwall: we'll show you the different sides of Camilla, known as the friendliest member of the royal family and she has a cordial relationship with the news media.

In a rare interview, she talks with CNN's Max Foster about how she is helping victims of domestic violence.


CAMILLA, DUCHESS OF CORNWALL: I think we can talk. It was such a taboo subject. But I think we can talk about it now. And if I can talk about it and bang the drum a bit, so can a lot of other people. So that's what I'm trying to do to help.


ALLEN: Often seen but rarely heard, more of our chat with the Duchess of Cornwall, as we follow her only on CNN.

Finally, people can get into all sorts of trouble trying to take that perfect selfie like this woman in Los Angeles. She accidentally leaned against a row of art displays -- and watch what happens. The art tumbles like dominoes, causing about $200,000 in damage. And don't even know if she got to post her selfie.

That's CNN NEWSROOM. I'm right back with the headlines.