Return to Transcripts main page


Rescued by Father; Offering an Olive Branch; Fake News from the White House; Tougher Sanctions Passed; Dad to the Rescue; Peace Talks with DPRK; Injustices in Venezuela; Dead Person Dragged to Controversy. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired August 2, 2017 - 03:00   ET


[03:00:00] ROSEMARY CHURCH, HOST, CNN: Donald Trump, Jr.'s initial statement about his meeting with a Russian lawyer avoided key details. And now the White House admits the president helped craft that response.


REX TILLERSON, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: And finally convey to the North Koreans, we are not your enemy. We're not your threat. But you are presenting an unacceptable threat to us.


CHURCH: America's top diplomat says the U.S. is willing to talk to North Korea while others are contemplating a military response.

Plus, Fox News is facing a lawsuit that claims the president was involved in a fake news story. We will explain.

Hello and welcome to our viewers here in the United States and of course all around world. I'm Rosemary Church, and this is CNN Newsroom.

Well, the story about Donald Trump, Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer last year is changing yet again. After repeated denials from the president's attorney, the White House now says Donald Trump acted like any father would offering direction but not dictation on his son's explanation.

CNNN's Jim Acosta has more.

JIM ACOSTA, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yes, the White House said, the president was involved in the crafting of a misleading statement that initially obscured the true nature of his son Donald Trump, Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer during the campaign.


SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There is no inaccuracy in the statement. The president weighed in, as any father would based on the limited information that he had.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ACOSTA: The questions came after a Washington Post story reporting that the president dictated the statement released July 8 for Trump Junior, then inaccurately claimed the meeting was focused on Russian adoptions. We primarily discussed the program about the adoption of Russian children that was acted unpopular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government.

Three days after that statement, Trump Junior released four pages of his own e-mail showing the Russian attorney planned to provide information that, quote, "would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father."

Talking to reporters on Air Force One the next day, the president was still talking up the adoption explanations, saying they talked about the adoption stuff which was actually a big thing at the time, but nothing happened. A story he was still using at a news conference the following day.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I guess they talked about, as I see it, they talked about option and some things. Adoption wasn't even a part of the campaign. But nothing happened from the meeting. Zero happened from the meeting. And honestly I think the press made a very big deal over something that really a lot of people would do.


ACOSTA: Asked about an initial misleading statement from Donald Trump, Jr., White House outside counsel Jay Sekulow insisted the president was not involved.


JAY SEKULOW, MEMBER, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LEGAL TEAM: That statement was -- and by the way, I wasn't involved in the statement drafting at all nor was the president. But I'm assuming that was between Mr. Donald Trump, Jr., between Don Junior and his lawyer. I'm sure his lawyer was involved. That's how you do it. And you know that. And so to put this on the president I think it's just absolutely incorrect.


ACOSTA: Leaders from both parties say the president's involvement in his son's statement is yet another concern for the Russia investigation.


DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D) UNITED STATES SENATOR: If it's true, I think it is serious concern, but we don't know that it is.

LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: If you had the e-mails available to you, you would understand that the whole meeting wasn't about adoption that the e-mail chain shows that it was about the Russian government wanting to help the Trump campaign.

I don't think the statement helped Don Junior. I don't know what role the president played, if any. Here's what I would suggest. That when you put out a misleading statement it's going to be hard to convince people to stop looking at other things.


ACOSTA: The other big lingering question here at the White House is whether the president will sign a bill that would limit his ability to ease sanctions on Russia. The White House said the president will sign that legislation. We should point out congressional leaders are not very concerned the president would veto the bill because the measure at this point has enough support in Congress to override any veto.

Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.

CHURCH: And joining me now from our London studio, Brian Klass is fellow in comparative politics at the London School of Economics and the author of "The Despot's Accomplice." Thank you so much for being with us.


CHURCH: Of course it's hard to keep up with all the twist and turns of this story, but now the White House is telling us that President Trump did what a any father would do and simply weighed in on what turned out to be his son's misleading statement issued last month on that meeting he had with the Russian lawyer last year. What does this all signal to you and where do you think this is going?

KLASS: Well, the Trump administration has made a perverse arts out of lying until caught on many different stories. And it follows the same denial cycle that we saw in this story. So, you start with claiming its fake news, Don Junior said this was disgusting to suggest they had met with the Russian government.

[03:05:02] Then they get caught so they say, OK, it was a non-issue, it was just about adoptions then we find out that's not true. It was actually a very serious meeting that was quite likely part of a Russian espionage operation to help the Trump campaign against Hillary, so then the story becomes, OK, maybe it is a big deal but Donald Trump had nothing to do with it.

Now we're finding out that he did have something to do with it, and we're expected to simply now take everything else at face value and think, well, of course this is what any good father would do.

And the problem here is that the credibility of the White House really matters, not just on the scandal, but on all sorts of other issues. And so, time and time again with every twist and turn of the story, the White House has destroyed its own credibility which hurts America, and also forces us to ask more questions about else they're hiding or trying to cover up.

CHURCH: Right. And l do want to ask you a little more on that because it's worth noting, of course, that the concession by the White House that Mr. Trump was involved in the drafting of the initial statement contradicts what the president's attorney Jay Sekulow has been saying all along.

What are we to make of a contradiction like that, and what's the political damage to a president who appears to mislead the country on a variety of issues?

KLASS: Well, it's lying until caught. This is what's happening over and over and over. It happened with Michael Flynn. It happened with all sorts of other aspects of the Russia investigation. Now it's happening with the Don Junior e-mails. And so what it does is it makes you ask many more questions. It also raises concerns about a cover-up and the obstruction of justice that could be associated with that.

So, any time that you have a president who is deliberately misleading the American people, telling lies, and the lawyers are telling lies on behalf of the president it calls into question any sort of integrity of any White House statement going forward. And that's a serious problem because when something like North Korea the crisis in North Korea is cropping up, we have to believe that the president is telling the truth.

It's why it's a much bigger issue than just the Russia investigation. The credibility of the most powerful person on the planet is really important, and it's gone because it is totally logical for us to question any statement being made from either the White House podium, the White House lawyers, or President Trump himself when we have months and months and months of statements that once actually checked turn out to be false, misleading, and dishonest, or lies.

And that's when this is a much bigger story than just the Don Junior e-mails would suggest.

CHURCH: So what would you expect special counsel Robert Mueller to make of the role that President Trump apparently played in the drafting of the statement as Mueller of course investigate any possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia?

KLASS: Well, there's two aspects to this. One is was Donald Trump aware of the meeting when it happened. He says he was not, but he made a very curious statement three hours after the meeting was confirmed where he promised new dirt on Hillary Clinton right after the meeting promising dirt on Hillary Clinton was confirmed.

So, Mueller is going to be looking into that very closely. The second aspect of this is that there is a clear intent to mislead the country and potentially cover up details. And that speaks to intent of the president to not show the full truth of what happened.

And that aspect is really important because you can no longer claim that the president was simply acting in good faith. This is a clear example of the fact that he's acting in bad faith and trying to basically obscure the details of an ongoing investigation that special counsel is charge with looking into for possible criminal wrongdoing, and that's a very serious matter indeed. CHURCH: And while this is all playing out, does Mr. Trump's base care

about any of this and would they agree with the White House that this is all of no consequence?

KLASS: Well, I think what we've seen is that there's a remarkable resilience among Trump's base to accept improper behavior. This is nothing new. I mean, we saw this during the campaign with the Access Hollywood tapes, with lies. It's happened during the White House after Trump became president.

What really turned the base most recently was when Trump went after Jeff Sessions who is a champion of the base's issues on policy. So there is a remarkable resilience to let Trump get away with lying, misleading, dishonest statements. And I don't think that's going to change for the sort of 25 to 30 percent that will like Donald Trump no matter what because they believe he is less guilty than the system he's railing against.

But that doesn't really matter because you cannot govern a country effectively with 35 percent of the country behind you. Overwhelmingly, Donald Trump is the most unpopular president in American history at this point in his term and its having serious ramifications for his ability to deliver on legislative promises and that is where the base might turn I think in the coming days.

CHURCH: All right. Brian Klass, thanks so much for joining us there live from our London studio. I appreciate it.

KLASS: Thanks for having me.

CHURCH: Well, the White House says President Trump still intends to sign off on tougher sanctions against Russia. The bill passed Congress with near unanimous support. But Mr. Trump has not said or tweeted anything about it. Reporters asked Tuesday if he signed the bill yet.


[22:10:03] SANDERS: He has not but as we put out a statement earlier this week he will and we'll let you know when the details and final plan on that comment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the delay, what's the delay here? You guys have had this since Friday, what's holding him back?,

SANDERS: There's nothing holding him back. There is a review process, a legal press. They are going through that and he'll sign the bill and we'll let you guys know.


CHURCH: All right. So let's head to Moscow now and CNN's Clare Sebastian. Clare, on his current tour of former Soviet republic, Vice President mike Pence insists President p will sign the Russia's Sanctions bill very soon. How's that been received in Russia and what's being said about Mr. Pence's trip there CLARE SEBASTIAN, INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Rosemary, as you

said, the president, President Trump wasn't saying very much. His vice president very vocal, indeed. As for his comments on the fact that the president still intends to sign that bill that isn't going to make a huge difference to Moscow.

They have already, as you know, retaliated. They have already closed two U.S. diplomatic properties in Moscow and they have said that the U.S. diplomatic mission has until September 1st to cut 755 people from its staff. So that seems to be still shaking out with the State Department who will be cut and how that will affect the mission.

But as for, you know, the visit of Mike Pence to Eastern Europe, certainly his itinerary itself speaks volumes from Russia's point of view. He's already been to Estonia which is a country on NATO country on Russia's western border. He was in Georgia yesterday. That is an aspiring NATO country on Russia's southern border.

He was attending a military, a military exercise there that the U.S. and Georgia were undertaking jointly. And today he's in Montenegro which is barely two months ago became the newest member of NATO, you know, NATO expansion in Eastern Europe is something that Russia has continues to strongly oppose.

And Vice President Pence on his trip has been strongly expressing his support to not only border NATO countries and the Baltic countries but for Georgia's eventual joining of NATO.

The Kremlin told us they don't have a problem with the U.S. forging bilateral negotiations with these countries, that's their business but they do when it comes to the expansion of alliances. So this is, yuo know, an old grievance between the two countries but certainly this trip coming at a time when we have these new tensions certainly is creating an even intense moment here, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, indeed. And, Clare, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is heading to Manila this weekend. He is likely going to meet with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Now, they are expected to discuss President Vladimir Putin's order to cut U.S. diplomatic staff. Can we expect anything significant to come out of that meeting?

SEBASTIAN: Well, this is the first time that we've heard the secretary of state address this issue. He said that the cuts to the diplomatic personnel here in Russia makes that mission -- makes the work of that mission more difficult and he does intend to bring that up with Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of the Asian summit which starts this weekend as you say in Manila.

As to whetheor or not this will make any difference to what's already been done I think that's pretty unlikely and certainly, you know, if President Trump has signed the sanctions bill by then, that may welcome up in the conversation as well.

But I think it's worth noting, Rosemary, that both sides have said that they still do hope for an improvement of this relationship in the future and there are plenty of areas where they would like to work together particulary in the fight against terrorism and in the resolution of the Syrian conflict.

So perhaps those things will come up, but I think when it comes to this sanctions issue there is still kind of an entrench in part there between the two sides.

CHURCH: Yes, we'll see what comes out of that meeting. Clare Sebastian joining us there, live from Moscow where it is nearly 10.15 in the morning. Many thanks.

Well, the White House is considering its next move after North Korea's latest missile launch. A U.S. senator raises the alarming possibility of war.

Plus, the Venezuelan government has jailed two opposition leaders. What does this mean for what's left to the country's democracy? We will ask the former U.S ambassador to Venezuela. Back with that and more in just a moment.


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, the FBI has a new leader. The U.S. Senate voted on Tuesday to confirm Christopher Wray as the agency's director. He assumes the post after President Trump fired former Director James Comey in May. Wray hold his confirmation hearing he would work independently from the White House and he would resign if he is asked to do something illegal or immoral.

And Attorney General Jeff Sessions emphasized the importance of lawful policing while speaking at a conference on Tuesday. His comments come after President Trump made some controversial remarks encouraging officers to be rough with suspected criminals. Sessions said the remark was made in gist and added this.


JEFF SESSIONS, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: In community-based policing was a big part of reducing crime for 20, 30 years in America. We can't back off that now. We need to get even better at it, more careful at it, making sure we're doing in a lawful way. It's not offending our friends and neighbors.


CHURCH: Sessions went on to say that he would defend any officer performing their job lawfully, but he was also noted that he was not afraid to prosecute any officers who do not.

The White house is considering its response to North Korea's latest missile launch. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson echoed calls for China to step up pressure on Pyongyang but he emphasized Beijing is not to blame for the current standoff. Tillerson said the U.S. is willing to sit down for talks with the North but only if Pyongyang halts its nuclear weapons program. Take a listen.


TILLERSON: We do not seek a regime change. We do not seek the collapse of the regime. We do not seek an accelerated reunification of the Peninsula. We do not seek an excuse to send our military north of the 38th parallel.

[03:20:07] And we're trying to convey to the North Koreans, we are not your enemy. We're not your threat. But you are presenting an unacceptable threat to us and we have to respond.


CHURCH: While diplomacy is the preferred option, one U.S. senator says war could be next if talks fail.

Brian Todd has the details.

BRIAN TODD, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: All-out war with North Korea, a real possibility being put forth by a key members of the Senate armed services committee. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told NBC's Today Show, President Trump told him there will be war with North Korea if Kim Jong-un's regime continues on its path of threatening America with its missile program. Graham says Trump discussed the possible casualties with him.


GRAHAM: If there is going to be a war to start him it will be over there. If thousands die, they're going to die over there and they're not going to die here and he's told me that to my face.


TODD: Graham says no one wants a war, but says the president has more of a responsibility to protect the American homeland than the region around North and South Korea. General James Spider Marks who led U.S. military intelligence in South Korea says Senator Graham's remarks don't help the situation.


JAMES SPIDER MARKS, MILITARY ANALYST, CNN: What Senator Graham is saying is that a whole host of those folks are going to die. That's the message that we do not have to remind the South Koreans of. They know that. It's unfortunate that he said it.


TODD: Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein who is on the intelligence committee told MSNBC there is more to the danger than Senator Graham seems to realize.


FEINSTEIN: My reaction is that Lindsey Graham should get a classified briefing like the ones I have had and sit down with Secretary Mattis, which I have done.


TODD: President Trump's defense secretary recently issued a dire warning about armed conflict on the Korean Peninsula.


JAMES MATTIS, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It will be a war more serious in terms of human suffering than anything we have seen since 1953. It will involve the massive shelling of an ally's capital which is one of the most densely packed cities on earth. It would be serious -- it would be a catastrophic war.


TODD: Kim Jong-un has a million-man army and has bolstered his infantry and artillery near the DMZ. The Pentagon says much of those forces are in underground bunkers, ready to fire on Seoul at the first whip of an attack by the U.S.


WALTER 'SKIP' SHARP, FORMER COMMANDER, U.S. FORCES KOREA: A number of missiles that they have that they could launch and South Korea that could cause a lot of damage.


TODD: There are about 28,000 U.S. troops in the region. Experts say the U.S. and South Korea would win that war. But some studies project tens of thousands of people killed in the first couple of days.


MARKS: It would be a very nasty fight. The maneuver forces from the United States and South Korea moving under the North would encounter barriers a very tough foe, they have there forever so they know the terrain.


TODD: The Pentagon is not commenting at all on Senator Graham's remarks. A White House official would not comment directly on what Senator Graham said but told us the president often consults with members of Congress for their input and so the president is committed to using economic and diplomatic pressure to get North Korea to change course.

Now on the criticism he is receiving an aide to Senator Graham told us it's worth pointing out that General James Marks who we interviewed for the story was a supporter of Hillary Clinton during the campaign, which General Marks says is irrelevant.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington. CHURCH: And CNN's Alexandra Field joins us now from Seoul in South Korea. Alex, any option that includes U.S. military action as we've seen there would unnerve South Korea of course given it will be the one that pays dearly with its proximity to North Korea. What's being said there about this discussion of war?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Rosemary, it's really stunning to hear U.S. senators talking about the deaths of thousands of people in South Korea, especially right here in Seoul. This is a metropolitan area that includes more than 20 million people over 35 miles away from the DMZ where North Korea has a whole range of conventional artillery. We heard Brian Todd say in that report that it is widely believed that if North Korea works to launch an attack they could kill thousands of people quite quickly.

So, yes, stunning to hear U.S. senator talk about this, but publicly you've government officials making a rather tempered response to those comments. One government official was asked about the comments during a press conference today. He reiterated that he feels that the U.S. and South Korea's positions have not changed. She went on to say that South Korea does not have a hostile policy toward North Korea, does not wish the failure of North Korea, does not wish reunification through assimilation and that it is the position of the South Korean government that they believe that the U.S. stand which is very much in line with Paris has not changed this point.

[03:24:55] But certainly so heard so many different lines coming from Washington in recent days or weeks that it has to be raising alarm or at least concern behind closed doors. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Yes, of course. And now U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has mentioned the possibility of talks with North Korea that something that South Korea has been trying to Push. Could that be the answer to this crisis and if it is how would that work exactly?

FIELD: And that was part of the platform that got South Korea's president elected to office just a few months ago. He was the one who is championing a shift in tone toward North Korea from his predecessor in office arguing for more engagement with North Korea seen is the path forward.

You actually recently heard President Moon Jae-in here in South Korea, saying that he would be willing to meet with Kim Jong-un under the right circumstances and the South Korean government has extended an invitation for talks with North Korea.

So far that invitation has not warranted any response from North Korea. You do hear Secretary of State Rex Tillerson now seemingly trying to lower the tension pushing for a diplomatic response pushing for the idea of talks but with a precondition that North Korea would have to agree to denuclearization.

And Rosemary, we all know that that's not a new idea talks with North Korea. The six party talks broke down back in 2008, we haven't seen official talks of North Korea since then and this isn't the first administration to lay out the idea of that precondition. We heard the same thing from the Bush and the Obama administration.

So, this raises questions about how you would get North Korea to agree to these talks and on what terms.

CHURCH: Yes, indeed. A lot -- a lot to work out there. Alexandra Field joining us from Seoul in South Korea with nearly 4.30 in the afternoon. Many thanks.

Well, new sanctions are not stopping the Venezuelan president from targeting political opponents. How the government is defending the arrest of two prominent opposition leaders.

The Trump administration fights back against a new lawsuit that claimed the White House was involved in a fake Fox News story. The details just ahead. Stay with us.


ROSEMARY CHURCH, HOST, CNN: And a very warm welcome back to our viewers joining us here in the United States and of course all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church.

Let's update you now on the main stores we've been following this hour. The White House now says Donald weighed in on a statement from his son explaining a meeting with the Russian lawyer last year to get dirt on Hillary Clinton.

The president's attorney has repeatedly denied that Mr. Trump had any involvement with the misleading statement which claimed the meeting was about adoption.

Rex Tillerson says the U.S. is willing to hold talks with North Korea if Pyongyang halts its nuclear weapons program. The U.S. secretary of state insisted Washington is not pushing for a regime change but he said Pyongyang is posing an unacceptable threat and the U.S. must respond.

Apple shares are surging in after-hours trading after the company predicted it would beat expectation and hit $52 billion in sales in the fourth quarter. That suggest Apple will launch its new iPhone in September. Apple earnings also sold 17 percent in the third quarter.

President Trump says Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is personally responsible for the health and security of two prominent opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledesma were taken from house arrest in the middle of the night and thrown into jail.

Lopez suspected it might happen weeks ago. In fact, he recorded this video with his wife urging more anti-government protest even if he was put behind bars.


LEOPOLDO LOPEZ, VENEZUELAN ACTIVIST (through translator): If you are watching this video right now that is precisely what happened because they came in. I got arrested again legally and unjustly a prisoner of conscience, a prisoner due to my ideas, a prisoner for wanting a better Venezuela, but that's what Venezuela is like. That is the situation of our country. Millions of Venezuelans have been imprisoned.


CHURCH: The government says Lopez and Ledesma were planning to file. The men publicly opposed the new pro-Maduro assembly that can rewrite the Constitution.

Our Leyla Santiago has more now from Caracas.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: We a seeing a very defiant President Nicolas Maduro as he speaks out against the United States against the international community saying he will not allow anyone to interfere with Venezuela's sovereignty. But we are also seeing a very emboldened Maduro who is now taking steps to take actions against opposition leader.

The very people, the very faces and voices that had been very critical of his government. And we're talking about Leopoldo Lopez, as well as Antonio Ledesma. They were taken into custody in the middle of the night, very dramatic video coming in, particular in the case of Ledesma.

You could see a group of officials who took him overnight while he was in his own pajamas, while he resisted. You could hear someone a man yelling "sinio" (Ph) asking for help while neighbors watching in the area while yelling dictatorship, were yelling they're taking Ledesma to alert other people in the neighborhood.

And it's not the first time that we heard that word dictator. Certainly the international community is using that to describe what is happening here.

President Trump has already place sanctions against individual ties to President Maduro. He also is now going after Maduro himself. What he is not done yet, what no one in the international community has done is targeted the oil industry here.

Venezuela once has been the richest countries in Latin America, the country with the largest oil reserves in the world. And the United States is a market for that. They buy a lot of oil and that has not been targeted yet. Why? That remains unknown. There certainly could be impacts on both sides. In the United States you could see gas prices go up as a result in Venezuela.

You could see the economy really deal with some pain and this is an already collapsing economy dealing with food and medical shortages. People who are struggling just to get the daily things the need. Food like flour and sugar and basic medical supplies like Acetaminophen.

[03:35:03] Certainly a hard time here in Venezuela and people wishing that they could live into Venezuela that once was.

Leyla Santiago, CNN, Caracas. CHURCH: We want to talk more now about this crisis in Venezuela. Charles Shapiro is the former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela and joins me now in the studio. Thank you, sir for being with us.


CHURCH: So this is of great concern. You got these two opposition leaders in Venezuela who have been sent to prison by the highest court in the land because of their stand against the vote on Sunday. What is likely to happen to these two men?

SHAPIRO: Well, they're political prisoners. Both of them had been in prison for years were released just right before the vote, and then were picked up again immediately after the vote. If the situation continues it is they'll be held for a very long time and I would expect to be dramatically to prisons in the country as the government cracks down on the opposition.

CHURCH: And we know at this time that the wife of one of the opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez posted on her Twitter account of recording that was made by Leopoldo on July 17. Basically, correctly predicting that he would be sent to prison again and he is called and urged his supporters to fight on the political change.

And on top of this we know that President Trump has basically said that he will hold President Maduro responsible for anything happens to these two men. But this is problem is what that sort of impact is that likely to have at this point now.

SHAPIRO: Well, I don't think it's going to lead to Maduro releasing these two prisoners are to refrain from picking up other people. There are actually some judges now who are taking refuge in the industry of Chile in Caracas. So, I mean, there are other people who are going to be arrested where the government would like to arrest.

This sham election on Sunday was a door that Maduro took the country through that you can't go back, you can't undo it very easily and so there has got to be pressure from around the world. There is a foreign ministers meeting Thursday and Lemo of Latin American foreign ministers, the organization of American states, the European Union have said they don't recognize the results of this sham election is a sham election which Maduro cheated.

I mean, it's like cheating at Solitaire. I mean, he was only playing against himself. And he still cheated by inflating the number of people who turned out to vote.

CHURCH: Yes, it's a matter of timing now, isn't it, because it's almost like it's too little too late. Then we know that the president of Venezuela Maduro have (TECHNICAL PROBLEM).


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CHURCH: Welcome back to CNN Newsroom. Well, the White House is denying claims in an explosive new lawsuit that they concocted a fake story with Fox News. According to the suit, it was an effort to shift focus away from questions about the Trump administration's ties to Russia. And it all centered on the murder of a staff member for the Democratic National Committee.

CNN's Jake Tapper has more.


SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS: The young staff murder, a former DNC staffer Seth Rich continues to get a huge amount of attention.


JAKE TAPPER, HOST, CNN: It was an explosive Fox News storyline built on falsehoods and later retracted.


HANNITY: It turns out it wasn't the Russians. It was this young guy.


TAPPER: It was not but did not seem to matter. A new lawsuit filed today, however, says the White House and the wealthy Trump supporter were behind the Fox News smear of the late Seth Rich working to craft a story that the lawsuit claims would quote, "help put to bed" speculation that President Trump colluded with Russia. A claim Fox News and the White House denied.


SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president had no knowledge of the story and it's completely untrue to hear the White House involvement in the story.

ROD WHEELER, FORMER D.C. HOMICIDE DETECTIVE: With the totality of everything else that I have found in this case.


TAPPER: The plaintiff is Rod Wheeler, a Fox News contributor and former detective who was hired to investigate the murder of Rich by Trump supporter Ed Butowsky, also a Fox commentator who paid for the investigation on behalf of the victim's family.

According to the complaint both men met with White House officials to discuss the story in April.


DAVID FOLKENFLIK, MEDIA CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Production of journalism is not always a beautiful thing to behold and in this case it was a potentially ugly instance. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: As first reported by NPR's David Folkenflik, Wheeler filed a lawsuit this morning claiming Fox had falsely attributed quotes about the investigation to him quote, "because that is the way the president wanted the article."

[03:45:07] Butowsky denies the allegations, telling CNN the lawsuit is B.S. But Wheeler provides us evidence a litany of text messages and e- mails exchanged with Butowsky.


FOLKENFLIK: You make allegations about stories being misreported all the time. What you don't tend to have is almost the blow-by-blow documentary account of what occurred.


TAPPER: May 14th, a voicemail message from Butowsky to Wheeler.


ED BUTOWSKY, BUSINESSMAN: I got a note that we have the attention of the White House on this and tomorrow let's close this deal.


TAPPER: This after allegedly sending a text to Wheeler, "The president just read the article he wants the article out immediately. It's now all up to you."

When asked about the exchange Butowsky tell CNN he was joking. Enter then White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer who was asked for White House reaction after this false story broke that Seth Rich may have been behind the leaks.


SEAN SPICER, UNITED STATES WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't I'm not aware of. Generally, I don't get updates on DNC former DNC staffers I'm not aware of that.


TAPPER: What Spicer didn't mention the meeting he had with Butowsky and Wheeler about the story the month prior. The family of Seth Rich has been tormented by all this smearing. Today they said quote, "We are hopeful that this brings an end to what has been the most emotionally difficult time in our lives and an end to conspiracy theories surrounding our beloved Seth."

Jake Tapper, CNN, Washington.

CHURCH: And earlier my colleague Chris Cuomo spoke to Ed Butowsky, who reiterated that his text was just a joke. Here is what he said about his meeting with former White House Press Secretary Sea Spicer.


CHRIS CUOMO, HOST, CNN: Did it happen the Sean Spicer meeting?

BUTOWSKY: I had a meeting with Sean Spicer I brought Rod Wheeler long.

CUOMO: Did Spicer...


BUTOWSKY: And my meeting with Sean Spicer was about, let me tell you.


BUTOWSKY: It was about this audio recording that Cy Hersch (ph) of Cy Hersh saying that there is a mere copy of the hard drive of Seth Rich's at the court division at the FBI.

CUOMO: Right. You know that Hersh says that you got his...


BUTOWSKY: Then we...

CUOMO: You know that Hersh says you got his reporting wrong, right, that he said took two and two and made 45 out of it.

BUTOWSKY: Yes. Well, you know what? Cy Hersch maybe that's his math, but the reality is I'm not seeing anything go listen to it and listen to his own words.

CUOMO: Right.

BUTOWSKY: I'm not concluding anything.

CUOMO: I'm just saying on the source of the...

BUTOWSKY: I'm not concluding at all, Chris.

CUOMO: I'm just saying when the source of the material says that your conclusion about what was wrong. It should be out there in the public space.

BUTOWSKY: What my conclusion, wait, wait. What's my conclusion?

CIOMO: Well, you saw it.

BUTOWSKY: I don't have a conclusion.

CUOMO: I know, but you saw it as something that was important enough to take it to Sean Spicer. Did he know why you want to meet with him?


CUOMO: So you just took a meeting?

BUTOWSKY: As a matter of fact, yes, because I said Sean, I was going to be in town I had something I wanted to talk to you about. And Rod Wheeler was a tag along because I thought at the last minute I said, hey, why don't you join me, because I go to Washington often, I said why don't you join me and kind of get to know, you know, Sean and meet and so on.

My conversation with Sean about this recording lasted about one minute. He said, Ed, I don't know anything about it. I don't want to know anything about it. I can't do anything and we ended up talking about many other things believe it or not, including, because he and I both get our shirts at the same place through some company. And we talked about the new cotton material on the shirt. And Chris, that's the truth.

CUOMO: Ed, do you think -- do you think it's a coincidental that there seem to be these meetings that Trump officials take that they don't know anything about but they take the meeting anyway, and then when they get into it they wind up changing the subject away to something else like one we heard from Don Junior.


CUOMO: That he didn't know what the meeting was about but he took it anyway because a friend asked him to, then they start talking about adoption. He didn't understand it. This seems a little similar to that in terms of a scenario.

BUTOWSKY: No, it's not.

CUOMO: You know Sean, but you don't know him that well. You ask him for a meeting.


CUOMO: He says he'll take it without knowing what it's about and then you come in and you tell about this tape and wind up talking about shirts. It sounds like a little convenient, no?

BUTOWSKY: Chris, I think you are trying to twist something and make a point that's not there so let me correct you, OK?

CUOMO: Please.

BUTOWSKY: I called up I have no idea about Donald Trump, Jr. and this and that in any of these meetings. I want to talk directly about Sean Spicer. Sean and I know each other. We're not good friends but we're friendly. I told him I was going to be in Washington I wanted to come by and talk to him about something.

CUOMO: Then you never told him what.


CUOMO: You didn't say what it was about. BUTOWSKY: No. No.

CUOMO: Were you surprise that he said he take a meeting as busy as he was at the time with somebody he kind of knows but not that well?

BUTOWSKY: No. It wasn't surprise. I was actually happy with because apparently he liked me more than I thought.


CHURCH: CNN's Chris Cuomo talking there to Trump supporter and Republican donor Ed Butowsky.

Let's take a short break, but still to come, U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters inspires a gospel song her timely line that's now a viral cat phrase. That's next.


ALLISON CHINCHAR, METEOROLOGIST, CNN: This is CNN weather watch. I'm Allison Chinchar.

A couple of big stories across areas of the United States. We're still dealing with some scattered showers and thunderstorms across areas of the south, especially into Florida. Emily has really started to pull away from Florida but even with that said enough moisture is still being brought in there to add some very heavy amount of rain which they've already even had adding to the threat of flooding.

We're also talking record heat in just a couple of degrees above the records, we're talking all-time record breaking. Now in terms of Emily, the storm really is not expected to do much more in terms of its forward track. It's really just going to die in over the next couple of days out over the open Atlantic but in the short term still expected to at least provide enough lift to add some more showers and thunderstorms into areas of Florida.

More of your scattered thunderstorm tide that you get in the summertime for areas of the Midwest and also into the southeast. But out west we are talking incredible heat. Twenty-eight for the high on Wednesday in Los Angeles. Twenty nine in Vancouver, we're talking about 32 for the high in Denver.

But it's along the West Coast this is where we're seeing the extreme heat. We have excessive heat watches warnings and heat advisory out for several of these areas and in some cities like Portland we're talking temperatures 10 degrees above average.


CHURCH: And a very warm welcome back to you all.

U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters had a timely exchange with the treasury secretary last week. Now the words have gone viral and for some even gospel.

CNN's Jeanne Moss explains.


JEANNE MOOS, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: It turned latest reclaim to fame.



WATERS: Reclaim in my time.

MNUCHIN: And we were doing our...


WATERS: Reclaim in my time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your time belongs to the gentle lady from California.

MOOS: Representative Maxine Waters felt Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was not answering her question about the letter she'd sent.

MNUCHIN: I was going to tell you my response.

WATERS: Just tell me.

MNUCHIN: And that I would have...


WATERS: Reclaim in my time.

MNUCHIN: ... the opportunity with the House Intel committee.

WATERS: Reclaim in my time. Reclaim in my time.

MNUCHIN: With the Senate. Perhaps Mr. Chairman I don't understand the rules because I thought I was allowed to answer questions.

WATERS: Reclaim in my time. Would you please explain the rules and do not take that away from my time.

MOOS: Well, in no time reclaiming time became a thing.

The dance remix was fun but it's the gospel version that will tell the time on.

[03:04:59] Broadway performer Mykal Kilgore love Auntie Maxine and says her reclaiming time refrain send him over the moon.

MYKAL GILMORE, SINGER: It hit me hard and that's why I couldn't let it go.

MOOS: It took him only 20 minutes to rip this up. KILGORE: I pass this on so singing gospel is like breathing and speaking to me.

MOOS: Conservative critic said Representative Waters interrupted 12 times.

MNUCHIN: No, we didn't leave a message.

WATERS: Reclaim in my time.

MOOS: Just like a five-year-old does, but Mykal was thrilled when Waters personally responded to his video tweeting "Wow, let it be."

GILMORE: Head it to the Grammy's and I was like, OK.

MOOS: And on that note I think it's time for me to stop and let you reclaim your time.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


CHURCH: Politics inspiring art, how about that. Thanks so much for your company on CNN Newsroom. I'm Rosemary Church. Remember to connect with me any time on Twitter. I would love to hear from you.

Early Start is next for our viewers here in the U.S. For everyone else, stay tuned for more news with Isa Soares in London.

Have yourselves a great day.