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White House Shakeup; Message to Pyongyang; Trump to Sign Russia Sanctions Bill. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired July 29, 2017 - 04:00   ET




HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Amid rivalry and accusations in the White House, President Trump's chief of staff has been replaced.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Plus, North Korea tests an intercontinental ballistic missile possibly capable of reaching Los Angeles, even Chicago.

JONES (voice-over): And later, Russia retaliates against new U.S. sanctions before they've even been signed into law.

HOWELL (voice-over): We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell at CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.

JONES (voice-over): I'm Hannah Vaughan Jones live for you in London. Thanks for joining us. This is CNN NEWSROOM.


HOWELL: It's 4:00 am on the U.S. East Coast.

For another week in a row, another two weeks in a row, another major shakeup at the White House. The president's chief of staff, Reince Priebus, is now out. President Trump announced this change on Twitter late Friday, naming Homeland Security secretary John Kelly to that post.

Priebus says that he submitted his resignation Thursday. His tenure in that position, one of the shortest on record, was marked by six months of near constant turmoil inside the West Wing, turmoil that reached a fever pitch this week when the new White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, the person you see right here, leveled a profanity-laced criticism of Priebus and Bannon.

For his part, Priebus bowed out gracefully. He had nothing but praise for his replacement, calling Kelly, quote, "a brilliant pick."

JONES: Priebus gave his first interview to CNN's Wolf Blitzer. He strongly defended the president's decision to replace him. But he pointedly avoided responding to those vicious comments made about him just several days ago by the incoming White House communications director. Take a listen.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: What was the impact -- the new White House Communications Director, Anthony Scaramucci, you saw the interview, he granted Ryan Lizza in "The New Yorker" magazine.

He called you some awful things, including a paranoid schizophrenic. He said your days were numbered. He said you were about to leave.

At one point he said Reince Priebus would resign soon and that he expected Priebus to launch a campaign against him.

What was your reaction when you saw that interview?

REINCE PRIEBUS, FORMER TRUMP CHIEF OF STAFF: No reaction, because I'm not going to respond to it. I'm not going to get into the mud on those sorts of things. Look, the President and I had an understanding. We've talked about this many times. And we ultimately decided that yesterday was a good day and that we would work together. And I think that General Kelly is a great pick.

So, I'm not going to get into the weeds on that. I support what the President did. And obviously I think it's a good thing for the White House.

BLITZER: But why were you opposed to Anthony Scaramucci even getting a job in the White House?

You saw how bitter he was, how angry he was at you in that interview?

PRIEBUS: I'm not getting into that, Wolf. Look, it's over. I'm moving on. Support the President and I support John Kelly and the President's agenda. So that's all you're going to get from me on that. I'm not going to get into the individual personal stuff.

BLITZER: He was also very angry at Steve Bannon, the White House chief strategist. I can't even read the words he uttered to Ryan Lizza about Steve Bannon.

But do you think he could stay in the White House with Scaramucci now the communications director?

PRIEBUS: That's going to be up to John Kelly. But I will say that Steve is doing a great job. He is a brilliant guy who only cares about the president's agenda. He thinks about it 24 hours a day. Never quits. He's a great asset to this president. And, so and a dear friend. So, my hat is off to Steve Bannon.

BLITZER: Can you just clear up the other charge?

It was a very bitter charge that Scaramucci leveled against you, that you are a leaker and that you're really not that loyal to the president. You've got your own agenda. He made bitter accusations against you, specifically the leaking.

Are you the leaker in the White House?

PRIEBUS: That's ridiculous, Wolf. Come on. Give me a break. I'm not going to get into his --

BLITZER: Why not respond?

PRIEBUS: Because I'm not going to because it didn't honor the president. I'm going to honor the president every day. I'm going to honor his agenda and I'm going to honor our country and I'm not going to get into all of this personal stuff, so.

BLITZER: Is there a leaking problem in the White House based on what you've seen?

PRIEBUS: Yes, I think that General Kelly should see if he can get to the bottom of it and figure it out. But obviously unnamed sources are something that's been problematic and I wish him well and I'm going to try to help him. But, obviously, that's going to be on his plate and I hope he can get to the bottom of it.

BLITZER: Scaramucci suggesting the FBI should get involved in that investigation.

Do you agree -


BLITZER: -- with him on that?

PRIEBUS: I'm not going to respond to that. Look, this is about the president, Wolf. I have answered your questions. I support his decision to hire John Kelly and I'm looking forward to the future.


JONES: Brian Klaas joins me here in London. He is a fellow of comparative politics at the London School of Economics.

Brian, welcome to you. Six months into this presidency and we've seen a new national security adviser, new press secretary, coms director, FBI director has been sacked as well.

Was the writing on the wall for Reince Priebus as chief of staff?

BRIAN KLAAS, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Yes, it's been for a few weeks there have been rumors that Trump is privately musing about replacing Reince Priebus. But I think this turmoil in the White House speaks to a broader problem with Trump's managerial style.

We have more senior staff turnover in this White House than any other in modern history. We can use Donald Trump's own words to explain why this is a problem. He said in a tweet a few years ago that because President Obama had three chiefs of staff in three years, that's why his agenda has stalled.

Well, Trump is six months in. He's on his second chief of staff already. The national security adviser, Mike Flynn, was the shortest tenure of any national security adviser in history.

And this is a problem because the people around Trump are not experienced. They're learning on the job already. And then there's complete turmoil and turnover. And the fact that North Korea launched a missile yesterday underscores how serious it is when the White House is learning on the job and unprepared for governing.

JONES: So much to be made of the mix of personalities within this White House. Anthony Scaramucci, the new communications director, has been talking quite explicitly about his relationship with Reince Priebus. Let's listen to what he said most recently.


ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER TRUMP COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: If you want to talk about the staff, we have had odds, we have had differences.

When I said we were brothers from the podium, that's because we're rough on each other. Some brothers are like Cain and Abel. Other brothers can fight with each other and then get along. I don't know if this is reparable or not, that will be up to the president.


JONES: Cain and Abel there. So the Mooch is on the prowl; he's managed to push out Priebus.

Does this mean as far as the leaks are concerned, that all leaks have been tapped and sealed, that's it, with Reince out?

KLAAS: No, politics involves leaks. It's a Sisyphean battle to try and stop leaks in politics. They're going to happen. The real challenge for the chief of staff, though, and this administration is very simple. It is to protect Donald Trump from himself.

And that is something Reince Priebus was unable to do because, when he told Trump not to do things like firing James Comey or going to the Boy Scouts and giving a political speech or any of the other things that involved -- for example, this week, not having an actual agenda with the health care bill, not actually pushing for it aggressively, that was Trump's fault.

So you know, John Kelly, his job is to try to protect Trump from his worst impulses. And, unfortunately, Trump seems to be unmanageable. That's why I'm not that confident that this change of chief of staff will fundamentally change the dynamics of the administration because the fundamental problem with the administration is Donald Trump so far.

JONES: Yes. John Kelly, General Kelly, as you said, is the new chief of staff. He's a military man. Donald Trump now has a lot of military people in and around his administration.

How much of a difference is that going to make, particularly when you accept the fact, acknowledge that so many of the senior people within the administration report directly to the president? So they kind of will go over the head of anyone who's in the chief of staff role.

KLAAS: Well, General Kelly will be used to a chain of command. And this White House has been in disarray. It doesn't have a clear chain of command.

Reince Priebus was not able to stop certain close confidantes from coming into the Oval Office. This will also invite comparisons back to Nixon yet again. The last time that this happened in modern American history was during the most embattled period of the Watergate investigation, when Nixon appointed a general first chief of staff.

JONES: And another person that we have to consider, as well, in this administration is Steve Bannon, the president's chief strategist at the moment. Sources tell CNN that Donald Trump had been speaking to various advisers about whether he should get rid of Steve Bannon and that conservative advisers advised against that because that would disrupt the base, his base support so much.

How likely is his survival, Steve Bannon's survival?

KLAAS: It's too early to tell. It depends considerably on how General Kelly gets along with Steve Bannon. I would say that there are a lot of suggestions that Trump has listened to Bannon to his detriment and I agree with those.

This has been a base-only presidency. Trump has solidified his base to some extent but that's all he has. His approval ratings among independents and Democrats are lower than any president of this period in history.

And his approval rating overall is lower than any other president at this period in history. And what he's starting to see is that that has an actual consequence in Congress because nobody's really afraid of Donald Trump.

When he says, I'll come after you if you don't vote for me, they say, well, you're politically toxic. The only people who really like your presidency are the people who will vote for Republicans no matter what.

So this is where the presidency's base-only strategy is really backfiring. I'm finding it hard, you know -- it's hard to imagine a world nature in which the people outside the base, who've already soured on the presidency, wake up in a year or two years and think Donald Trump is the greatest president ever. These attitudes are solidifying very early in his presidency.

JONES: Going back to the idea of having more -


JONES: -- generals, military people, military men mostly around him in the White House, that could be argued to be a really good thing, that this discipline that General Kelly could bring to the White House staff could actually then have a knock-on effect on how Donald Trump actually performs and behaves as president.

Maybe we'll see a drawing back on the tweets, for example, that we've seen so often.

KLAAS: Well, I think that would be a positive thing except for that I think that Donald Trump sees himself as definitely above the general, as his own general. So I don't think he's going to keep --


JONES: Keeps referring to them as his own generals.

KLAAS: Exactly. So there's two sides to this. One is that General Kelly cannot actually direct Donald Trump what to do, which is something that would be very helpful because he could start to stop the tweets and start the actual governing process like a normal president.

The darker side to this is that Trump does see himself in this light as somebody who is, to be frank, an authoritarian figure at times. And I think those impulses that he's had, they jive very well with putting military people all around him.

And also when he commissioned the U.S.S. Gerald Ford last week, he also talked about, you know, you guys should go and call about health care. That was a direct order as commander in chief.


KLAAS: And then also talking about my generals, wanting a military parade for his inauguration. This sort of cult of personality around Trump and his obsession with military figures is something that I think we should keep an eye on.

JONES: Just very, very briefly then, a clean slate for this administration.

Are we going to see an end to the perceived chaos?

KLAAS: No. Donald Trump is the source of the chaos. As long as he's president, there will be chaos.

JONES: Brian Klaas, many thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

HOWELL: Moving on now to North Korea. That nation making good on its threat to build a missile that can hit the United States.


HOWELL (voice-over): North Korean officials say this missile, tested on Friday, can strike the whole U.S. mainland and should be seen as, quote, "a grave warning."

The nation's leader, Kim Jong-un, reportedly oversaw the launch which the Pentagon confirms was an intercontinental ballistic missile. It reached an altitude of almost 4,000 kilometers before splashing down off the coast of Japan. At least one expert says it could strike as far as Chicago if fired with a flatter trajectory.

North Korea's main ally, China, is condemning this latest launch.

JONES: As George was saying, North Korea's closest ally, China, has condemned the launch from Pyongyang. It's calling on the North Korean capital and Kim Jong-un to stop the nuclear provocations. Also, South Korea says it will consult with the United States to deploy additional parts of an anti-missile defense system.


MOON JAE-IN, PRESIDENT, SOUTH KOREA (through translator): The South Korean government strongly condemns the ballistic missile launch since it clearly violates U.N. Security Council resolution and it is a grave threat to international peace and security.


JONES: Meanwhile, the U.S. is again urging Russia and China to help stop North Korea's nuclear program.

U.S. secretary of state Rex Tillerson said in a statement, quote, "The United States seeks the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the end to belligerent actions by North Korea.

"As we and others have made clear, we will never accept a nuclear- armed North Korea nor abandon our commitment to our allies and partners in the region."

HOWELL: Let's talk more about the latest missile test. Our Will Ripley joining live in Beijing this hour.

Good to have you with us, Will. Again, we're hearing from an anchorwoman in North Korea, saying that this particular missile, that can it strike, clearly, it says, can clearly strike within the mainland United States.

What more can you tell us?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: North Korea, George, is claiming the ICBM that they've now tested twice in one month, the last test being on the 4th of July, they say it can hit anywhere on the mainland United States.

They put out a 12-minute video quickly after the launch. Normally it takes about 24 hours for North Korea to publicly acknowledge these things. But they had a slickly produced video showing the leader signing the order, showing the missile roll up and then showing Kim Jong-un celebrating with his rocket scientists over the successful launch.

U.S. analysts believe the missile could hit up and down the West Coast -- Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago and maybe even a little bit closer to the East Coast.

But they also believe, the United States believes that within the coming months, possibly early next year, North Korea will likely have a reliable intercontinental ballistic missile that can indeed strike nearly anywhere in the mainland United States.

So this is really unchartered territory. We've never seen, in the history of the conflict on the Korean Peninsula, North Korea in possession of this kind of a missile, this advanced weapon. Of course, they also continue to make progress with their nuclear program, building warheads that could sit atop these missiles.

Here in China, there's a new statement coming out just within the last couple of hours, expressing very serious concern about the -


RIPLEY: -- South Korean announcement that the THAAD missile defense system components will continue now possibly being installed in that country. China believes that having a U.S. anti-missile system in South Korea will destabilize this region, will harm the stability, will harm Chinese security interests.

And so you also have South Korea saying they want to increase the capacity of their ballistic missile, so almost triggering sort of a mini-arms race, if you will, which could potentially escalate the situation even further.

The United States says that Chinese money is flowing into North Korea along with Russia and that therefore, they bear a great deal of responsibility for the fact that, despite round after round of sanctions, North Korea keeps testing missiles and their economy grew by almost 4 percent last year -- George.

HOWELL: It is a very important point there, Will. Thank you so much for the reporting and context. We'll stay in touch with you.

Let's talk more about this now with Jasper Kim, the director of The Center for Conflict Management at Ewha University. He's also the founder of the Asia-Pacific Global Research Group, live via Skype this hour in Seoul, South Korea.

It's good to have you with us this hour. So this latest video, I want to start with that, showcasing this missile launch. It's highly produced. It's quickly turned around.

What do you make of what you see?

JASPER KIM, EWHA UNIVERSITY: Well, I think we see something completely different, George. We're in a new normal. And specifically, a new nuclear normal, Northeast Asia and the Korean Peninsula.

We haven't seen North Korea, which is typically opaque, be so transparent with releasing all these images, plus the state-run announcements. And with these images, what's interesting is that it not only projects success, it also shows images of failure.

And I think what it's trying to project is an air of authenticity. People might think, parse through all this and say it's merely North Korean propaganda but it's trying to dispel that notion add a little bit of legitimacy to the regime.

HOWELL: Taking a closer look at the missile, we just saw it there. Now we're looking at the nation's leader as he oversaw the launch. But again, basically Russia saying this is not an intercontinental ballistic missile. The United States saying otherwise.

When you see this missile, understanding the technological advances that North Koreans have made so far on the nuclear front, what do you take from it?

KIM: What I take away is not just one data point. I think we should be concerned as part of the international community, the arc, the trajectory of all of these missile tests, both successes and failures.

Think of it like a startup in Silicon Valley. Here, it's all of the DPRK. What its mission is, its product, if you will, is an ICBM and nuclear technology to put everyone on alert.

And that's exactly what it's done. What technology occurs today or tomorrow, I think the issue is clear it's going to happen sooner rather than later. I think the question then is not if North Korea has nuclear weapons technology that can hit the U.S. but assume it does.

Now what?

HOWELL: The United States making it clear that military options are on the table certainly. But diplomatic efforts are at the forefront of the efforts at this point.

Sanctions, do sanctions matter at this point?

Because what we see there is a nation that continues to develop, despite the fact that these sanctions have existed for many years now.

KIM: Well, George, one could argue that sanctions might even propel more launches, more missile tests. It just gives more legitimacy within the DPRK amongst Kim Jong-un's people that it is a country that's being persecuted by the international community.

Now we know that's not really true but the DPRK can spin that as such. So I think what the third way is -- and something that I've been arguing for months and I wrote it in a "Forbes" op-ed -- is that we really need a direct -- have direct diplomacy with the highest levels of the DPRK.

Obviously, sanctions aren't going to work. We've done rounds and rounds of that. And what's the other extreme is outright war. We don't want any of that. So what we want is to just do something simple, person to person, just talk. But for some reason, that's been conspicuously absent.

HOWELL: And with regard to Russia and with regard to China, our Will Ripley just pointed this out, that the North Korean economy actually grew, despite the fact that sanctions have been in place.

So is there a sense that there could be more done by China and Russia?

Is enough being done is the question that many officials in the U.S. ask.

KIM: Well, I think you touch upon something, George, that's very critical here.

What does North Korea want that the international community wants?

It's not always all mutually exclusive. I think what North Korea wants, one thing, is for its country to grow; 4 percent, that's fine. But if it institutes a series of market mechanisms and becomes solely more integrated into the international trade community, I think that's something that everyone would want.

And I think these talks, whether they happen bilaterally, which is preferable in my view, or multilaterally -


KIM: -- they can talk about trade. And this happens to line up with Donald Trump in terms with what he touts himself as being, which is a great negotiator, especially on trade.

HOWELL: Jasper Kim, live for us there in Seoul, South Korea, via Skype. Thank you very much for the time today.

KIM: Thank you.

JONES: Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM this hour, a bill imposing new sanctions on Russia has reached the desk of the U.S. president. We'll tell you what Mr. Trump plans to do with it -- next.





JONES: Welcome back. The U.S. president plans to sign a bill that slaps new sanctions on Russia. The White House says Donald Trump negotiated parts of the bill and he approves the final version.

Congress had overwhelmingly adopted the legislation, which also limits Mr. Trump's ability to ease sanctions against Moscow by himself. Earlier on Friday, Russia demanded the U.S. cut the number of diplomats it has in Moscow and it also seized U.S. property there.

The American ambassador protested that move by Moscow.

For more on this, let's go to Clare Sebastian, who is live in the Russian capital for us. Clare, so much for the hope for improved relations between -


JONES: -- Washington and Moscow under Donald Trump. He is expected to sign this bill and presumably that's the expectation of the Russians, as well.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. That is why they went ahead and introduced these retaliatory measures before it even got to his desk. As soon as the Senate vote had come in, they were pretty much ready to react.

I think it's interesting. If you look back over the last six months, there have certainly been a number of key moments that have eroded Russia's hopes of a possible reconciliation with the U.S. under Donald Trump.

One was back in February, of course, when then national security adviser Michael Flynn resigned over revelations he hadn't disclosed he discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador to Washington.

I think really the events of the last week have been a watershed for how Russia views the Trump administration. It was the factor of the overwhelming majority in Congress that voted for this new sanctions bill, coupled with the fact that it really does tie the president's hand from lifting or relaxing older sanctions that really put Moscow in the situation where they saw no other alternative.

And I think they really do kind of see that this is -- this is a turning point. You know, it does feel like a sharp turnaround. Until recently, they had been negotiating with the U.S. on the potential return of their diplomatic compounds in the U.S. that had been seized under the Obama administration.

That's clearly no longer on the table. And I think it's interesting to point out that they still haven't said anything critical specifically about Donald Trump. This really is seen here as him being hostage to what they call a Russophobic Congress, just a piece of the foreign ministry statement they put out when they announced these measures.

They said the latest events confirm that certain circles in the U.S. are fixated on Russophobia. And I think you can't rule out as well, Hannah, that this isn't just a domestic political calculation for Donald Trump but also for President Putin, who has an election coming up next year and who doesn't want to appear weak, particularly with how he handled this critical foreign relationship.

JONES: Yes and, as you say, Clare, the Kremlin's response to these sanctions, the sanctions bill, has been very, very swift.

Is it comparable, this idea of seizing U.S. properties, getting rid of U.S. diplomats, is that a tit-for-tat response for what the United States is about to impose or just the start of potentially more to come from the Kremlin? SEBASTIAN: I think it's a bit of both really. The Kremlin and the foreign ministry told us yesterday that this is in response to the new sanctions bill that has moved through Congress to the president's desk.

But on the face of it, yes, it is a direct response to what the Obama administration did in December. Those were sanctions imposed over election meddling. They seized two Russian compounds in the United States and expelled 35 diplomats. This really is, you know, a response to that.

The Russian side are saying this is not a harsh or a severe response. This is a measured response to what happened to us. They do say they are not ruling out further measures in the future. The foreign ministry saying Russia reserves the right to resort to other measures affecting U.S. interests on a retaliatory basis, Hannah, so this may not be over.

JONES: Fascinating stuff. Clare Sebastian, live in Moscow. Thanks for getting us up to speed on this story. Thank you.

HOWELL: Still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, more clashes in Venezuela, despite a government ban on protests, all before Sunday's disputed election. Stay with us.


GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): It's 4:31 am on the U.S. East Coast. Welcome back to our viewers around the world, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell in Atlanta.

HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hi, George, and welcome to our viewers, as well. I'm Hannah Vaughan Jones, live in London. It's just gone 9:30 this Saturday morning.

The headlines we're following for you this hour:


Returning to our top story -- the sudden ousting of Reince Priebus as White House chief of staff. The move was a shock but not all that surprising as well. His departure had been the subject of Washington speculation from day one of this administration. CNN's Randi Kaye has the history.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Their relationship was rocky from the start. During the Republican primary, Donald Trump insisting the vote was rigged and that Reince Priebus should be ashamed of himself because he knew what was going on.

After Trump became the nominee, there was more friction, Trump heard bragging that he could grope women without consent on this leaked "Access Hollywood" tape.


KAYE (voice-over): Priebus had heard enough, pleading with the billionaire to drop out of the race. Priebus then abruptly canceled all of his Sunday morning television appearances. Trump refused to step down.

But despite that, the two men seemed to find a way to mend fences.

REINCE PRIEBUS, FORMER TRUMP CHIEF OF STAFF: Ladies and gentlemen, the next President of the United States, Donald Trump.

TRUMP: Reince is really a star. And he is the hardest working guy.

KAYE (voice-over): For months, Priebus had the president's back. Like when questions were asked about a potential conflict of interest between President Trump and his businesses.

PRIEBUS: So I can assure you and everyone out there that all of these things will be followed and they'll be done properly.

KAYE (voice-over): Priebus also fending off questions regularly about why the president still hadn't released his tax returns.

PRIEBUS: And President Trump won one of the most historic presidential victories in the history of our country. And the only people asking me this question are people like you.

KAYE: But Trump's victory didn't end the drama. Soon after taking office, Priebus found himself unable to contain a laundry list of controversies, like the immigration ban rollout, the Russia investigation and the failure of the Senate's plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

KAYE (voice-over): Still, Priebus kept up a brave face.

PRIEBUS: I'm not in any trouble. I've got a great relationship -


PRIEBUS: -- with the president. We talk all the time. In fact, just before coming on the set, he gave me a call.

KAYE (voice-over): Reince Priebus, who was never an outsider and always a Republican Party guy, lost an important ally when press secretary Sean Spicer resigned. And now, just days later, he, too, is out of the Trump White House -- Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


HOWELL: President Trump flew to New York Friday, talking tough on crime -- especially cracking down on violent gangs. But his remarks before uniformed officers went further, appearing to endorse some level of police brutality. Listen.


TRUMP: When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough.

I said, please don't be too nice. Like, when you guys put someone in a car and you're protecting their head, you know, the way you put your hand over -- like, don't hit your head and they have just killed somebody, don't hit your head. I said, you can take the hand away, OK?


HOWELL: The president's words were troubling enough. But the cheering raised even more alarm. That prompted the Suffolk County Police Department to issue this statement, "The Suffolk County Police Department has strict rules and procedures relating to the handling of prisoners.

"And violations of those rules and procedures are treated extremely seriously. As a department, we do not and will not tolerate roughing up prisoners."

JONES: Away from the United States now. The Venezuelan government ban on protests seemed to prevent large-scale demonstrations Friday. But smaller clashes erupted anyway in the capital, Caracas. Protesters blocked streets ahead of Sunday's controversial election.

The opposition fears that President Nicolas Maduro is trying to create a dictatorship through the votes for a new assembly. They're receiving support from neighboring Colombia, whose president said on Friday their country won't recognize these election results. Our Leyla Santiago reports now from Caracas.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is Altamira Plaza. It's a symbolic area for the opposition of the government. Just yesterday they banned a protest and you can still see they have blocked the road.

These are called crancas (ph) and these young men have signs that say, President Maduro, they call him the had worst president and even call him corrupt. This is something that you'll see in different parts of the city.

And let me show you the support that the opposition had. You can see the Venezuelan flag; you can see press, you can see people of all ages. And as we have talked to people in this area, they have told us that this is about freedom.

This is about basic human rights because they believe that, on Sunday, the election for a new assembly that could rewrite the constitution is something that violates their rights here in Venezuela.

The government has already announced it will be deploying 378,000 troops to ensure security here in Venezuela. But if this is an indication of what the people of Venezuela will do in listening to the government, that means there's a lot of uncertainty for this weekend -- Leyla Santiago, CNN, Caracas, Venezuela. (END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Leyla, thanks for the report.

Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, a jailed Turkish journalist says that he's being persecuted by the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government, for speaking the truth. We'll have details on that ahead.





HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.

Worshippers returned to one of Jerusalem's holiest sites on Friday night after Israel lifted an age restriction. Men under 50 years old had been prohibited from entering the Temple Mount or Noble Sanctuary. That security measure was set up in anticipation of clashes there. But Friday prayers were relatively peaceful.

JONES: In Turkey, 17 journalists are currently on trial, accused of plotting terror acts against the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In court one of the journalists spoke out, calling the charges against him ridiculous and, quote, "persecution against freedom of thought and the press." This journalist vows that he will not be silenced. With more on this, here's CNN's Ben Wedeman in Istanbul.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's one of Turkey's best-known investigative journalists, speaking truth to power with the scars to prove it, which is what perhaps landed Ahmet Sik in an Istanbul courtroom this week, accused along with 16 other staff members of the secular daily, Cumhuriyet (ph), of aiding and abetting terrorist groups, including the network led by exiled Turkish cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who the government claims was behind the failed coup of July last year.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): His wife, Yonja (ph), insists he's speaking up for others afraid to raise their voices.

YONJA SIK (PH), AHMET'S WIFE: Ahmet is not a hero. He is not a superman. He is just telling the truth. It is something very normal. But it comes very strong to the people because the others are very silent. This is the reason why Ahmet is in the prison, because the others don't talk.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Sik jumped to national prominence in 2011, when he was arrested for working on a book, "The Imam's Army," about the close ties between the Gulen network and the judiciary and security services.

At the time, Gulen was an ally of then prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan before a falling out in 2013. Sik's work focused on the threat the Gulen network posed to Turkey and its complicity with the ruling Justice and Development Party, the AKP.

When he was released after a year behind bars, Sik's tongue was as sharp as ever.

Fellow journalist Gokhan Tan (ph) shared an office with Sik.

GOKHAN TAN, JOURNALIST: This is courage and this is something special that belongs to Ahmet. I believe that he's the face of -- he's the voice of so many people in the country. And he has no fear.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): What emerges of Sik is a portrait of a man driven relentlessly by his convictions.

TAN: He is always very difficult to be with him because he's always active. You cannot --


TAN: -- for example, if you go out at dinner or lunch with him, you can't make him stand for more than five minutes. Then, he's like that and he always watches you. And it's always -- he's a person who is always very difficult to catch up.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Sik was in detention for almost seven months before the trial began Monday. But it's only one legal headache he's grappling with.

SIK: Just In the last five months, he gets four more investigations to be on trial. This is judicial harassment.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Rights activists say this is all about silencing the opposition. Harassed yet unbowed, Wednesday, Sik delivered a blistering statement to the court, concluding with the cry, "Down with tyranny, long live freedom" -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, Istanbul.


HOWELL: Heavy rains from a typhoon have flooded parts of Manila, causing property damage and major disruptions to daily life there. Some places were submerged in knee-deep water. Forecasters say the same storm system is now picking up strength. It's expected to hit Taiwan in the coming hours. And there's another storm right behind that one.


JONES: Stay with us here on CNN NEWSROOM. Coming up after the break, a sad but inevitable end for baby Charlie Gard after his parents fought in vain to save his life. Ahead, the tributes pouring in for the 11-month-old little boy.





JONES: The British baby whose medical treatment became a publicized legal battle has now died. Charlie Gard passed away just one week before his first birthday. CNN's Erin McLaughlin has more now on the little boy who captured the world's attention.


ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Charlie Gard's parents had hoped their son would live to see his first birthday but on Monday Charlie's parents gave a gut-wrenching and heartbreaking statement revealing that was not meant to be.

CHRIS GARD, CHARLIE'S FATHER: We've decided that it's no longer in Charlie's best interest to pursue treatment and we will let our son go and be with the angels.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Time, they said, had become their enemy; the protracted legal battle meant the window of opportunity to treat Charlie had closed.

GARD: We now know, had Charlie been given the treatment sooner, he would have had the potential to be a normal, healthy little boy.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Charlie's parents had been fighting the courts and the great Ormon Street Hospital, which said he had irreparable brain damage caused by an extremely rare and, experts say, terminal genetic disease called mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome.

Charlie, unable to move his arms and legs or breathe on his own, was suffering with no hope of recovering, courts said in June, siding with the hospital, saying it was in Charlie's best interest to allow him to die but his parents felt they had a sliver of hope, a chance for experimental treatment in the U.S. that might offer a small improvement of Charlie's quality of life. And so they vowed to fight on.

CONNIE YATES, CHARLIE'S MOTHER: He's our son. He's our flesh and flood. We feel that it should be our right as parents to decide to give him a chance at life.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): They had hoped for a miracle. Their fight gained allies in world leaders with tweets from Pope Francis and U.S. president Donald Trump.


MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Experts flew from the U.S. To the U.K. to conduct tests on Charlie's brain function, leading up to what many believe to be a final showdown in court once again this week, pitting the hospital's view against loving parents, willing to do anything for their son.

But instead the latest scans revealed there was no longer any chance of recovery, a devastating outcome that led Charlie's parents to wonder about what might have been.

GARD: Charlie's been left with his illness to deteriorate devastatingly to the point of no return. We will have to live with what ifs which will haunt us for the rest of our lives.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): At the end of a long and public fight over Charlie, his parents shared one last goodbye to their baby boy before retreating from public view to spend their last moments with their dying son.

GARD: To Charlie, we say, Mommy and Daddy, we love you so much. We always have and we always will and we are so sorry that we couldn't save you. Sweet dreams, baby. Sleep tight, our little beautiful boy. We love you.


HOWELL: That wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell in Atlanta.

JONES: I'm Hannah Vaughan Jones in London for you. Both of us will be back with more news from around the world right after the break. See you then.