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Foiled: Australia's Prime Minister Says Police Have Prevented A Terrorist Plot To Bring Down An Airplane, US Is Answering North Korea's Latest Missile Test With Its Own Show Of Force, In A Few Hours, Venezuela Will Have A Critical Vote That Could Give President Nicolas Maduro Sweeping Powers, Marine Corps General John Kelly Moves To The White House Monday As President Trump's New Chief Of Staff, In Moscow, The Kremlin Has Made Good On Its Threat To Retaliate Over New Us Sanctions, Taiwan Is Just Starting To Clean Up For One Tropical Storm, But A Second System May Cause Even More Flooding. Aired: 3:00- 3:30a ET

Aired July 30, 2017 - 03:00   ET


NATALIE ALLEN, HOST, CNN NEWSROOM: Foiled: Australia's Prime Minister says police have prevented a terrorist plot to bring down an airplane. We'll go live to Sydney to bring you the latest about that.

US President Donald Trump blasts China for the recent North Korean missile launch. We'll have a live report from Beijing. Plus Venezuelans hours away from a vote that could have a major impact on that country's troubled democracy. These stories all ahead, hello, and thank you for joining us, I'm Natalie Allen in Atlanta and "CNN Newsroom" starts right now.

Our top story, Australia's Prime Minister says police have foiled a terrorist plot to bring down an airplane. Four men are now under arrest. Police say the plot is Islamist inspired. They are not saying if a specific terror group is involved. Authorities rounded up the four men in weekend raids in Sydney. They say they became aware of a conspiracy to crash a plane using an improvised device. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, says the investigation is ongoing. Listen


MALCOLM TURNBULL, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: There has been a major joint counterterrorism operation to disrupt a terrorist plot to bring down an airplane. The operation is continuing. At this stage, four people have been arrested and a considerable amount of material has been seized by police.


ALLEN: Extra security measures are now in place at airports across Australia. CNN's Anna Coren is at the Sidney Domestic Airport. She joins me now on the line. Is it evident there, Anna, the extra security?

ANNA COREN, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Natalie, certainly there is an increase of security presence here at Sidney Airport. I must say that the domestic terminal and obviously, many people here are getting early to get through the beefed up security now in place due to these alleged terror plot.

As you say, four men were arrested overnight in raids across Sidney. These raids were conducted with dozens of counterterrorism police officers and they arrested these four men in numerous locations, one in the inner city suburb of Surry Hills, the other three in southwestern suburbs of Sidney, but really, this was part of an ongoing investigation when police got a tip off that this terror plot was about to unfold, so that's why the raids took place and they arrested these four men, but as you say, it was a foiled terror plot to bomb an Australian plane, Islamic inspired is what the Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin said and as far as the Prime Minister is concerned, this plot definitely credible and elaborate. So, the police here are taking it extremely seriously, Natalie.

ALLEN: And certainly, they are very fortunate that someone tipped them off as you say. And that's how they found out about it. Have they said, Anna, I know that the investigation is going on, whether they believe they have everyone who may have been involved in this?

COREN: Well, Natalie, they are saying that this is now an ongoing investigation that the raids will potentially continue, so this is certainly not finished business. This could continue today. These four men have been arrested, not yet charged. They of course are being held by police and under the current terrorism laws, Natalie, they can be held for a week without being charged, but police obviously, in the meantime are gathering evidence, building a concrete case to obviously then go ahead and charge these men, but they are very confident that they have the right people and obviously, the intelligence that they have received indicate that they were activities by a terror cell underway here in Australia.

Now, we don't know if these four men were under the terror watch list, but certainly, they are now in police custody, Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, we will continue to stay on this story, Anna Coren there for us at the airport. Thanks, Anna.

Joining us now to talk more about this situation, Daveed Gartenstein Ross is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a counterterrorism expert. Daveed, thank you for joining us.


ALLEN: What do you make of this news from Australia. Four in custody after an alleged plot to bring down an airplane with an IED?

ROSS: Well, right now, the details are rather scant, but the size of the plot makes it a bit different from some of the previous spots, though not all of that we have seen in Australia. In general, Australia, most of the dangers come from lone wolves attackers or let's put it a little bit differently, lone attackers, the number of them have actually been connected to ISIS via the online environment.

[03:05:09] ROSS: There have been some group plots in the past. In this case,

it's not only a group plot, but one that allegedly is focused on aviation. We do have different levels of specificity and levels of confidence coming out of the Prime Minister Turnbull and the Chief of Federal Police that's Commission Colvin, which is interesting, but I don't make much of it right now. These are just initial statements.

ALLEN: You talk about the lone wolves that we've seen from Australia, but we have four people in custody, so that doesn't sound like this is a lone wolf.

ROSS: Oh, absolutely not and I corrected myself after using the term lone wolf. I've actually written about how the term is often a bit of a misnomer. I wrote a piece in "Foreign Affairs" last year called, "The Myth of the Lone Wolf," which I think has helped to change some of the public debate.

A lone wolf is literally an individual, there's no organizational connections who is inspired by a group like Al-Qaeda or ISIS but has no direct connections to that organization. In a lot of the cases that we've seen where there are lone attackers, such as last year, the attacks in Ansbach and Wurzburg in Germany, you had individuals attacking who actually were deeply connected to ISIS who - ISIS has made use of a particular innovation which I refer to as the virtual planner innovation, where they have individuals who are part of their external operations apparatus who are in touch with operatives and they serve all the purposes that a physical terrorist network used to serve, but they never have this full contact with those operatives.

It's really changed the game in terms of lone operatives, such that there are some lone wolves, but generally speaking, when we see lone operatives, one should at least look and question whether there might be a connection to a broader organization.

ALLEN: It would be interesting to see if there is a connection here as we may learn from Australian authorities. Thank you so much for your time, your expertise Daveed Gartenstein Ross. Thanks.

And we will continue to keep you posted on developments there in Australia. In another story we're following the US is answering North Korea's latest missile test with its own show of force. It says on Saturday, two of its B-1 bombers joined aircraft from Japan and South Korea in a flyover of the Korean Peninsula. Meantime, US President Donald Trump took to Twitter and hammered China over the North Korea issue. He wrote, "I am very disappointed in China, our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet they do nothing for us with North Korea. Just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem.

The Pentagon has confirmed Friday's launch by the Kim regime was an ICBM. North Korea says, it should be seen as a grave warning to the US, and experts say a similar missile could strike major US cities.

For more now on this test and China's reaction, our Will Ripley joins me now from Beijing, not just China's reaction to the test, but perhaps, to this tweet by the United States.

WILL RIPLEY, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: I can tell you, Natalie, we are not going to get an official reaction from China to President Trump's tweet. They have a policy of not directly responding to these tweets, because remember, President Trump does have a history of kind of trying to bait China with tweets ahead of major meetings like the meeting that he had with President Xi at Mar-a-Lago or just before Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived here in Beijing back in April.

But what we have seen is a shift in the President's tone about China because remember, after he met with President Xi, there was a stream of tweets in recent months praising China, praising the Chinese President specifically talking about excellent meetings that might lead to a good results on North Korea, of course, it takes a lot of time for any strategy to work and it really hasn't been that much time, but clearly now, President Trump seems frustrated after that ICBM launch.

But listen to what he said when he was in France just earlier this month about President Xi Jinping.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He is a friend of mine. I have great respect for him. We've gotten to know each other very well. A great leader. He is a very talented man. I think he's a very good man. He loves China. I can tell you, he loves China. He wants to do what's right for China. We've asked him for some assistance with respect to North Korea, probably he could do a little bit more, but we'll find out.


RIPLEY: Well, now it appears that President Trump is not satisfied with President Xi's steps on North Korea even kind of talking about the issue of trade that previous US Presidents allowed China to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year. We know that China is prepared for the contingency that the United States might take some sort of unilateral action on trade, but neither side wants to see a trade war between the two.


RIPLEY: Xi did give a speech just within the past couple of hours after staging a massive military parade at a military training site in Inner Mongolia, it was a very short speech. He did not mention Trump's tweets. He also didn't mention North Korea directly, but did talk about the importance of growing the strength of the Peoples Liberation Army, the Chinese Army which is celebrating its 90th anniversary, that's why this major parade was held showcasing new Chinese stealth jets and also, incidentally Chinese nuclear capable ICBMs at the very end of the parade as the announcer called a show of strength.

Of course, North Korea just yesterday tested its own ICBM that experts now say has the potential to reach good portions of the mainland United States from Los Angeles all the way to Chicago, Natalie.

ALLEN: It's gotten real for sure. Will Ripley for us there in Beijing. Will, as always, thank you. In a few hours, Venezuela will have a critical vote that could give President Nicolas Maduro sweeping powers. Voters will elect members of a new assembly that could rewrite the Constitution. The opposition is calling for a boycott because it says the assembly will further undermine democracy and could essentially turn President Maduro into a dictator.

Protests are planned for Sunday despite a ban on demonstrations and many in Venezuela are not optimistic about what could happen after the vote.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Through an interpreter). I don't think anything will change. I think everything will stay the same with the same problems as always. Nothing in the country will move forward. I don't think it will make anything better or worse. Just more of the same, more of what we're going through now.


ALLEN: Millions of Venezuelans are caught between violence and a brutal economic crisis. CNN's Paula Newton reports from Carcas on how people are trying to survive.


PAULA NEWTON, INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: This is a snapshot of everyday life here now. Defiant protesters hurl homemade Molotov cocktails at authorities in the middle of the street. But now look beyond the chaos and look there. Right there. And you see how Venezuelans are caught in the crossfire.

This auto repair shop has seen it all - vandalized, robbed, a grenade fell on a car. Joel Escalante (ph), the security guard, says protesters beat him and cut his head open, believing he was spying for the government.

"All I want to do is work and they hurt me," he says. "If I don't work, what do I bring home?"

The employees here are less than 50 feet away from scenes like this. Through all the street combat, they try to carry on with their work. It's a portrait that details survival and resilience.

One of the things that is so disarming when you're covering these street protests here in Caracas is that you have all of these confrontations on the street and yet people are getting on with their everyday lives. That includes going to church. And you can see there are those people who are just leaving a church service.

The endless confrontations can pop up anywhere and they're just another thing to contend with. But this woman tells us not to mistake Venezuelans' survival instinct for resignation. YADEIA JASPE, CARACAS RESIDENT: I continue here in Venezuela because

I love the country. It's, for me, the best country here, humanity.

NEWTON: Humanity, she says. Even on the front lines, there's still plenty of it to be found here. Paula Newton, CNN, Caracas.


ALLEN: One seventy eight migrants from Central America have been rescued from a trailer abandoned in Mexico. Officials say those rescued include women and children. The truck was found in the Mexican state of Vera Cruz and government officials provided the migrants with temporary housing and aid.

A raging fire at a Spanish concert led to a mass evacuation Saturday. This was the scene in Barcelona at the "Unite with Tomorrowland" music festival. The stage caught fire. More than 22,000 people were forced to get out. Thankfully no one was hurt. Authorities report the flames were put out, but the entire structure is at risk of collapse. Organizers say a technical malfunction caused the fire.

Coming next here, a new sheriff in town, the Trump White House begins the week with a former Marine Corps General as its Chief of Staff. Who is John Kelly? We'll look into that plus the Kremlin strikes back at the US over new sanctions. We'll explain why hundreds of US diplomatic staff across Russia could be affected.


ALLEN: Welcome back to "CNN Newsroom." Marine Corps General John Kelly moves to the White House Monday as President Trump's new Chief of Staff. He has spent the past six months as Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security. CNN's Dianne Gallagher has more on how his military experience might influence the West Wing.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Friends describe John Kelly as plain-spoken, mission-oriented, a leader, basically the consummate Marine. But perhaps more importantly, President Trump likes and respects Kelly and it appears the feeling is mutual.


It was another major announcement made over Twitter.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN: We're following breaking news. President Trump just announcing a new White House chief of staff.

GALLAGHER: The President tapping Homeland Security Secretary General John Kelly to replace Reince Priebus as his new chief of staff.

TRUMP: Reince is a good man. John Kelly will do a fantastic job.

GALLAGHER: Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general with nearly five decades of military service, has served many roles; the latest, Homeland Security chief, where he has earned high marks from the President for defending and enforcing the White House immigration policy.

Now, earlier in his career, Kelly served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. His son, Robert Michael Kelly, was killed during combat in Afghanistan in 2010. President Trump and General Kelly visited his son's grave on Memorial Day earlier this year. Starting Monday, General Kelly enters a new arena: White House politics.

JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: What I never saw on the military side was the level of toxic kind of politics that are associated with what I do now.

GALLAGHER: The question now is can General Kelly unite the West Wing where sharp elbows, staff infighting and loose lips have distracted from the President's agenda?


GALLAGHER: And General Kelly is also described as fiercely loyal to his troops, to his staff. In his statement acknowledging he was chief of staff only one sentence was actually dedicated to that. The rest was praising the staff of the Department of Homeland Security.

This is something that is very important to him. He is moving to a White House where there is a lot of public rebuking, name-calling and backstabbing. The President himself outwardly speaks ill-y of those staff members and people within the Cabinet. And so this is thing that John Kelly is either going to have to change or get used to very quickly in the White House. Dianne Gallagher, CNN, Washington.

ALLEN: Larry Sabato joins us now. He is Director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. As always, Larry, thank you for joining us especially on your weekend.


ALLEN: Well, let's talk about the big shake up at the White House this week, a general will step in as Chief of Staff, also President Trump has a new - to put it mildly, brash New York Communications Director. So, the onus is on this new team. After six months of a Trump White House to make it work. No easy task perhaps, what perhaps can they try and do for this administration?


SABATO: I think General Kelly has a great opportunity to appeal to President Trump to change some of his behavior. It's much less important what the staff does and says, what the President does and says is critical. Is there really anybody who believes that Preibus was the problem? Don't you think it's a President who won't stop tweeting? Who establishes his own rules for himself and applies it differently to everyone else? Who encourages this kind of staff infighting? It's pretty obviously where the problem is and to this point, Trump has been his own Chief of Staff.

ALLEN: Right, and can a general though, as this general steps in as Chief of Staff, penetrate this President's psyche. It's perhaps his psyche that keeps him going on his own terms and doesn't allow his advisers to help exact a more conciliatory tone or a tone that would help work with all in DC to get some of his goals done because so far, he hasn't gotten them done.

SABATO: Yes and really, I think it's possible that that could happen, and it's clear that President Trump has special respect for general in the military, so maybe General Kelly could get through and he has got an opportunity because the President has just fired a Chief of Staff sooner than any new President ever has. Priebus is the shortest live Chief of Staff in American history.

So given that, I don't think President Trump can afford to fire another Chief of Staff anytime soon. He's stuck with Kelly and Kelly is stuck with him, maybe Kelly can get through him and can explain that he can't succeed either unless President Trump changes.

ALLEN: Beyond trying to get him of Twitter, which no one has yet. What could this new communications team do beyond that to try to rein in their President or look for other avenues for him to have an impact because he just hasn't yet with the way that he chooses to do things.

SABATO: I don't think there are many options. I don't think there are any easy fixes available. When it's the President who is the problem, then you can arrange the deck chairs and the staff members on the floor of the Titanic any way you want to but the Titanic will still sink, so it's really a case of President Trump deciding whether he wants to succeed or not or whether he's simply happy being the President of 35% to 40% of America and feeling their adulation on a daily basis.

ALLEN: We appreciate your input as always, Larry Sabato. Thank you, Larry.

SABATO: Thank you, Natalie.

ALLEN: In Moscow, the Kremlin has made good on its threat to retaliate over new US sanctions. Those sanctions aim to punish Russia for meddling in last year's US presidential election. Our CNN's Matthew Chance has the details on the Kremlin's latest move.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, my diplomatic source tells me that US officials are still seeking clarification from the Russian side as to who exactly will be affected by this latest Russian retaliation.

Earlier the Russian Foreign Ministry demanded that staff at US diplomatic missions in Russia be slashed to 455 people. The same number as the number of Russians, according to the Foreign Ministry, who work in Russian diplomatic missions in the United States.

State media here in Russia say that could mean as many as 745 people will have to be cut from the US embassy in Moscow and three other US consulates across Russia. Again, it's unclear how many US citizens will actually be affected or

expelled. The embassies and the consulates employ a mixture of US and Russian nationals to run their operations, but by any measure this is a significant act of retaliation by the Russians which underlines just how angry and disappointed they are that this US sanctions bill is set to be signed into law. Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


ALLEN: Taiwan is just starting to clean up for one tropical storm, but a second system may cause even more flooding. Meteorologist Allison Chinchar joins us now with the details of a very busy storm system in that part of the world, Allison.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, METEOROLOGIST, CNN: Indeed, it's been a very active past 24 hours and it will continue to be that way for at least the next 24 to 48 hours. Here is one of the images coming to us out of Taiwan. Now, this was when Typhoon Nasat began to impact the region, bringing flooding rains and incredibly strong winds. That storm now just a tropical storm as it makes its way in towards Eastern China, but not before dumping some incredibly impressive rain fall totals widespread across the island.


CHINCHAR: We had reports of well over 200 millimeters of rain, but as you can see from the list, we had several that were 300, 400 even 600 millimeters of rain, again, in just 48 hours. Unfortunately, that has triggered a lot of flooding and there's not much time for a lot of that water to finally run off and dry out before the next system begins to arrive which in terms of Taiwan will be in less than 12 hours and then it begins to make its way up towards China in the next 24.

So again, what you are looking at here, this is pretty much all that's left of Tropical Storm Nasat. It is not expected to strengthen by any means, in fact, it is expected to decrease in intensity very rapidly, within the next 24 hours, we will basically just be looking at a remnant low pressure system.

The second storm we have been talking about, this is the other tropical storm. It's a very widespread storm, meaning it's not a very contained and very strong storm which is a good thing, however, the convection or the thunderstorms in this particular system are very widespread. That causes a problem because that means there's going to be a lot of potential for flooding with this next system. Again, notice the track, straight through Taiwan and back up to Eastern China.

So, again, this particular region of Taiwan and also Eastern China are essentially going to go through two storms in 72 hours. The additional rainfall on top of what we've already had, Natalie, we're looking at widespread and additional if not 300 millimeters of rain, which is likely to continue many of the flooding concerns. ALLEN: All right, Allison, thank you for that reporting. We want to

take you to a very different sky now, the serene skies over Italy's wine country and these balloons from around the world are taking flight in one of the biggest international hot air balloon challenges, and of course, they all say there's no better view.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ballooning - I must say, ballooning is something really, really special and it's a lovely way of seeing the world. When you're looking, it's not like in an airplane or helicopter. You can look 360 degrees and you don't know where you're going to go either, you're going to land and it is something really, really special.


ALLEN: Very beautiful ended all in Sunday when the prestigious Silver Cup will be awarded to the winning team. That is "CNN Newsroom." I'll be right back with our top stories. Thanks for watching.