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North and South Korean Leaders Met Face to Face in Manila; People in Quneitra, Syria Starting With Their Life Again; Massive Protests Subsided But Paramilitary Replaces the Streets in Venezuela; North Korea Faces Pressure for its Provocative Actions; British Model Abducted in Milan to be Sold to the Highest Bidder; Turning a Small Town into a new Attraction. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired August 7, 2017 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:00] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: A high-level meeting takes place between North and South Korea just as the U.S. Secretary of State lays out conditions for talks with Kim Jong-un's regime.

Plus, Russia's love affair with the U.S. president may be coming to an end. How and why the Russian people are souring on the Trump presidency.

And later.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The people here say of course they appreciate the calm since the ceasefire's been put in place, but they also say it's had almost an immediate impact on life here.


HOWELL: A CNN exclusive from a town inside Syria where ceasefire is finally bringing some calm.

Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, we want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell. CNN Newsroom starts right now.

Three a.m. on the U.S. East Coast reigning in North Korea. That's the big topic at this meeting of top diplomats taking place in Manila. The United States is pushing for more isolation, but others still believe dialogue is the key. One notable meeting did take place, though.

The foreign ministers from both North and South Korea reportedly met face to face. South Korean media say the two ministers spoke briefly at a gala event on Sunday. The U.S. secretary of state is also present at this meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN as it's called but he did missed the dinner there.

We'll have more on that in a moment.

New U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang have been a major focus of the event.

The U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says those sanctions send a very strong message. He says that the whole world wants to see a nuclear free Korean Peninsula. Tillerson said earlier the U.S. was willing to hold talks with North Korea but that there are some conditions. Listen.


REX TILLERSON, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: The best signal that North Korea could give us that they're prepared to talk would be to stop these missile launches. We've not had an extended period of time where they have not taken some type of provocative action by launching ballistic missiles so I think that would be the first and strongest signal the could send to us is to stop - stop these missile launches.


HOWELL: CNN covering the story with our team of correspondents throughout the region. Our senior international correspondent Ivan Watson is live at the meetings there in Manila and Alexandra Field in Seoul, South Korea with reaction there.

Ivan, we start with you. Mr. Tillerson urging regional leaders to isolate North Korea even more, but there is some push back from those who say that dialogue here is the answer. What are you hearing?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Well, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations which is organizing this kind of diplomatic gathering here, they did push back from a U.S. proposal to suspend North Korea from an Asian regional forum that the North Korean foreign minister is attending this afternoon, supposed to be starting as we speak.

Now arguing that it's better to have dialogue to try to deescalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The U.S. has been playing an interesting strategy here. On the one hand (AUDIO GAP) conducting its own ballistic missile tests with over flights bomber, over flights over the Korean Peninsula, and yet at the same type the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said hey, we would be willing to talk to the North Koreans, just please stop firing those missiles.

And perhaps that willingness to talk is what helped lead a number of countries with much softer views on the Korean crisis, Russia and China namely, to agree to this weekend's United Nations Security Council resolution, which imposes new sanction on the North Korean regime, banning the exports of coal of iron, of seafood which the U.S. argues are key earners of much-needed foreign currency, hard currency, for the North Korean regime.

That said ASEAN, the host organization here, also took the unusual step of publishing a joint statement on North Korea at the start of this diplomatic gathering expressing great concern over the fact that North Korea fired two intercontinental ballistic missiles just last month, arguing that this was a threat to world peace. George? HOWELL: And the big question remains, Ivan, what difference will

sanctions make because this is a nation that has weathered many harsh sanctions before. Ivan, stand by with us. Let's cross over now to Alexandra Field.

Alexandra, so there was also a brief interaction at this forum between the North and South Korean foreign ministers at a dinner.

[03:05:00] The U.S. secretary of state noticeably absent from that event. Some consider that a missed opportunity. But is there any reaction from either side about that brief encounter?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, what we know about this encounter came from local media here in South Korea. Apparently, it went something like this, with the South Korean foreign minister asking the North Korean foreign minister for a response as soon as possible to that open invitation for some kind of dialogue, the North Korean foreign minister apparently responding that South Korea's gesture has been insincere.

So will that brief encounter at this gala lead any kind of change in the relationship right now? Should it be regarded with any kind of optimism right now? Not so fast, George. We have that response from state media in North Korea this weekend.

First, State media pushing back very strongly against the U.S. saying that the U.S.'s hostile policy could threaten to turn the U.S. mainland into an indescribable sea of fire.

You also have now state news in North Korea again pushing back on sanctions vowing strong responses to what they consider a provocation. And again reaffirming their position that the nuclear program is not up for negotiation.

That's a line that you have heard before from Kim Jong-un himself, who has said that he will not further on the -- on his goal of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the U.S.

He sees it as being intrinsic to the survival of his regime. He sees this as necessary for the protection of his own country. So certainly that is not message received in the way that diplomats in the U.S. would want it to be a this point. George?

HOWELL: Alexandra, thank you.

Now, Ivan, another question to you. There is another important meeting that took place on the sideline. This meeting between Tex Tillerson and this counterpart Sergey Lavrov. This meeting comes at a time when relations between these two nations is at a low point following these new U.S. sanctions.

Mr. Tillerson had this to say about their meeting. We can talk about it here on the side. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TILLERSON: Russian meddling in the elections was certainly a serious incident. We talked about it in the discussion we had with Minister Lavrov yesterday. And trying to help them understand just how serious this incident had been and how seriously it had damaged the relationship between the U.S., the American people and the Russian people, that this had created serious mistrust between our two countries and that we simply have to find some way to deal with that.


HOWELL: He and Lavrov also made the point he described the sanctions as unfriendly and dangerous but these two men despite the investigations that are going on in the United States, despite how Russians are viewing all this as well, these two men have a stable working relationship.

WATSON: That's right. And the State Department has made clear that despite immense differences in some areas that this ASEAN gathering is an opportunity to show that the U.S. can work with Russia in certain areas like namely North Korea. And certainly Washington must appreciate Russia's support for this United Nations Security Council sanction -- resolution with new sanctions against North Korea.

But the alleged Russian election meddling in the U.S. November 2016 presidential election isn't the only area where there are sharp differences between Moscow and Washington. Another area is this tip for tat moves on expelling diplomats and closing diplomatic facilities.

Russia responding in recent weeks to a move that the news that the outgoing Obama administration made where it shut down two diplomatic compounds and expelled 35 Russian diplomats. Russia has now said that the U.S. has to basically end employment for more than 700 staff, diplomats, and local workers at Russian -- at U.S. diplomatic missions in Russia, and Rex Tillerson referred to that as well, saying that hey, I don't have an answer for you yet, Foreign Minister Lavrov, but I should have something for you by September 1st.

And that will be important to hear because it could lead to more escalation of these diplomajc tensions between these two capitals.

HOWELL: And we look on to day two now. Senior international correspondent Ivan Watson live for us in Manila at this ASEAN forum that is taking place. And Alexandra Field, our correspondent following developments in Seoul, South Area. Thank you for the reporting from both. And we'll stay in touch.

When Mr. Tillerson's boss, Donald Trump, was elected U.S. president, Russia saw it as a opportunity to improve relations with the U.S. but now the honeymoon is over, fair to say, the investigation into Russia meddling in the U.S. election has lowered expectations. And now new sanctions approved by Congress and President Trump aren't helping things either.

Our Oren Liebermann has this report.


[03:10:02] OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The champagne flowed freely on inauguration night. Russian honor for President Donald Trump on display, Trump was given fawning press coverage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eccentric Donald Trump.

LIEBERMANN: A favor he returned.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Wouldn't it be nice if we actually got along with Russia? Wouldn't that be, wouldn't that nice?

LIEBERMANN: In Trump, Russia is someone whose world view aligned with their own. Seven months later, the Trump-Putin 'bromance' has come to an end in with the Russian love for the American president. His approval rate sliding.

The leading weekly talk show saying Donald Trump shot himself in the leg, started limping and lost a good chunk of powers. Now they see a weak president, a Congress suffering from what they call Russophobic hysteria and an expanding Russia investigation the Kremlin calls absurd and groundless.

What do you think of President Donald Trump? "I don't think things have changed with Trump and the office. Of course we expected that will be changes for good," this woman says. "He gave us some sort of hope but I think nothing has changed."

"My opinion to him has change a bit," says this woman. But there's little hope now that our relations will get better. He behaves more like a businessman, not like a president."

Trump's signing of the sanctions bill hitting Russia's energy and finance sectors dispelled any notions of the two countries getting along anytime soon. The anger playing out where else, from Twitter. Trump tweeting "Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time and very dangerous low. You can thank Congress the same people that can't even give us health care."

Trump's frustration against Congress seen as submission in Russia. Russian Prime Dimitri Medvedev tweeting "The Trump administration has showed its total weakness by handing over executibe power to Congress in the most humiliating way."

Trump and Putin have avoided criticizing each other directly but hasn't saved the American president's image in Russia, now portrayed as important and weak. A very different image of Putin on holiday in southern Siberia, seizing the moment. The president proudly baring his own popularity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Putin the best president of the world.

LIEBERMANN: Oren Liebermann, CNN, Moscow.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HOWELL: What can you say? The man likes to fish. Oren Liebermann, thank you for the report. Let's bring in now Brian Klass. Brian is a fellow in comparative politics at the London School of Economics, live in our London bureau this hour. Always a pleasure to have you here on the show, Brian.

Let's start with earlier reporting. I'm sure you heard this. About this new interaction between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. Will this meeting make a difference given the status of relations at this point between the nations?

BRIAN KLASS, SENIOR FELLOW, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: I don't think so. You know, Russia and the United States do not get along because they have fundamentally different worldviews. The United States is a liberal democracy. It stands for Europe, it stands for democracy. And Russia stands against both of those things and has for decades.

And so I think that the fundamental world view differences are not going to be papered over by a meeting. But what's striking about this meeting is that people who are interacting with Russia on behalf of U.S. government, for example, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley or Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, or indeed National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, they're saying the right things about Russia, that Russia undeniably interfered in our election, it's unacceptable and there will be consequences.

The only person who has out of step with this attitude is Donald Trump, who continues to act as an apologist for Vladimir Putin. So you know, the real question here is will Secretary of State Tillerson's comments, the harsh rhetoric toward Russia, which I believe is justified, be echoed in the Oval Office. Because otherwise they're completely meaningless if they don't make an influence Donald Trump sees Russia.

HOWELL: But the dichotomy there and the secretary of state seeming to walk the line of that division here because ad you describe here, a good part of the United States, the intelligence community, Congress focused on Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

The president, though, focused on as he mentioned in the campaign trying to improve relations with Russia. And we heard I suppose you could say a nuisance response coming from the secretary of state trying to walk both sides.

KLASS: Yes, there's a really baffling thing going on in American politics right now with regards to Russia, and that is that Donald Trump will not say a bad word about the United States number one foreign adversary, an autocratic regime that murders journalists and dissidents, invades other countries, and indeed attacks American democracy.

And in response he blames Congress for sanctions. I mean, it's truly -- it's really astonishing to hear that. The reason the sanctions were put in place is because Vladimir Putin was deemed by the U.S. intelligence committee to have been somebody who authorized directly an attack on American democracy, one that will likely be repeated in the future, one that has been repeated in France, one that will likely be repeated next month in Germany.

[03:14:54] And then Trump's response is that the sanctions are the fault of Congress. Americans serving their country, trying to deter a future attack. It's not Vladimir Putin's fault, in Trump's mind, it's Congress's fault. And that is really astounding because the president is supposed to go to bat for Americans on the national stage and the international stage not for Russia's president.

HOWELL: All right, Brian, one other question here, the U.S. vice president pushing back on a New York Times report of a republican shadow campaign for Mike Pence to run for president as early as 2020. Mr. Pence says this is not the case and that President Trump has been aware of Pence's great America committee PAC and fund-raising activities as Pence as eyes on possibly 2024.

What do you make of the story itself, Brian, and the push back?

KLASS: Well, I think Pence is behaving very much like an early presidential candidate. He denies the report because this will rankle Trump like no other. I mean, the idea that Pence would be trying to gear up for 2020 just in case would be infuriating to Donald Trump.

But I think that he's also being prudent to potentially lay the groundwork. Nobody really knows what will happen by 2020. We're only seven months into a presidency that is the most unpopular in history. It's under investigation. There' possible grand jury, subpoenas being released.

So, as result of this, I think the republican establishment is trying to come up with a plan b. And while Pence will publicly deny this, he is very likely laying some groundwork behind the scenes for that eventual possibility even if it never comes to fruition.

HOWELL: Brian Klass, always appreciate your insight. Live in our London bureau this hour. Thank you today.

KLASS: Thank you. Still ahead here on Newsroom, as violent protests continue in Venezuela, authorities claim they stopped a major attack. Why the president there says it was time to quote, "beat terrorism with bullets."

Stay with us.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Time to talk weather. I'm meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.

The big story out of the southern United States has been the tremendous rainfall coming down across parts of the Gulf Coast. In particular, look at the scenes there. The post office in full effect trying to get the mailman getting the mail out still with the severe weather in place.

But the scattered storms really not much are going to change here with the next several days, in fact more than 23 million people in line for at least some flooding over the next 24 hours. A lot of those folks living across parts of the northeast.

Work your way down toward the State of Texas into the Dallas metro complex, also watching a lot of wet weather but notice this incredible amount of energy shifting off and eventually pushing its way toward the most densely populated corner of the U.S.

So travel distractions certainly going to be expected across this region over the next several days with the heavy rainfall expected. In some areas we're talking 50 to 100 millimeters, which is several times over there same monthly average in some of these regions.

[03:19:57] So, we'll go at 21 degrees out of New York City, Chicago at 23, Denver a few thunderstorms should be into the upper teens. Also watching down around the tropics because tropical storm Franklin hanging in there strong, we're watching an area of interest as well out in the Atlantic.

But Franklin, right now migrating north of Nicaragua, we think somewhere around the coast there of the Yucatan and eventually work its way toward mainland Mexico, around Mexico City some storms expected or the next several days.

Any weather photos, please share it using the hash tag CNN weather.

HOWELL: Welcome back to Newsroom. I'm George Howell.

In southwestern Syria there is calm for now in a town where a ceasefire has taken hold. The United States and Russia brokered truce agreements for several areas in Syria, but some locals and government troops are giving Moscow all the credit for the peace there.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen has this report. A look at life in Quneitra.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was one of the most violent battlefields in Syria. Syrian army video shows fighting between government forces and rebels in Quneitra, right on Israel's doorstep.

But now there's a ceasefire. Tanks are park, soldiers relaxed. "The fighting has significantly decreased since the ceasefire," this officer tells me. "You totally notice that, we don't hear shelling anymore but times groups like the Nusra front break the truce. Nusra is not part of the agreement. If they start shooting we have to retaliate."

This is the front line, right in the heart of town. While both the U.S. and Russia brokered this truce, the Syrian government troops feel it's Russia that has the upper hand.

"Russia has helped a lot," he says, "they laid the groundwork for the ceasefire. They have the most power."

Quneitra is one of three areas in Syria where the U.S and Russia negotiated truces between government and opposition forces. The people here say of course they appreciate the calm since the ceasefire has been put in place, but they also say it's had almost an immediate impact on life here with more people venturing out and many business opening their doors once again.

A lull in the battlefield means more commotion at the barbershop, where Hadi al-Assad (Ph) works and many soldiers and townspeople now come to get a trim.

"We want this to be solved for good," he says. "We just want our lives to be the way they were before. Farming is also ramping up again. Nassir al Saeed (Ph) spend hours in the blazing sun threshing wheat. While he commends both Russia and America for brokering the truce, he's grateful only to Moscow.

"If America would have wanted to solve this they could have done it a long time ago," he says, "Russia is working hard. They are strong allies."

From posts on the Golan Heights Israel is observing things with growing unease. The Israelis fear the ceasefire could allow its arch enemies, Iran and Hezbollah supporter of the Assad government, to move forces into this area.

But at the moment the people in this town aren't worried about bigger Middle Eastern security concerns. They're just enjoying the calm while it lasts.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Quneitra, Syria.


HOWELL: Oren -- thank you so much, Fred Pleitgen for the report there.

Now moving on to Venezuela. Police and protesters there faced off near a military base in Valencia on Sunday. That was after officials say they stopped what they claim was a terrorist attack of a paramilitary nature on the base. The president of the nation Nicolas Maduro says his government will not be defeated.


NICOLAS MADURO, VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT (through translator): A week ago we won with votes, and today we have to beat terrorism with bullets.


HOWELL: President Maduro says there were 10 attackers and that 2 of the were killed.

CNN's Leyla Santiago has this report from Caracas.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The government is calling this a terrorist paramilitary-style attack. They say they have several people in custody and they are actively searching for others. And we've even seen the stronger military presence on the streets.

Now this revolt came shortly after a video was posted online by a group of uniformed men saying that this was a legitimate rebellion, that they wanted to re-establish constitutional order in Venezuela. According to the government, these were all civilians except for one person involved in this group, and the government also claims that this group was backed by outside influenced specifically naming Colombia and Miami.

[03:24:57] And this comes on the same day that the now ousted Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz has spoken out again. She's been a very vocal critic of the government, even though she once supported President Maduro.

She is now saying that his actions are illegal, are not legitimate, and she claims that she is still the attorney general of Venezuela despite who the new constituent assembly may have named as her replacement.

Remember this new constituent assembly is very controversial. It is expected to rewrite the Constitution and could give President Maduro extended powers. The new constituent assembly has always said that it will establish a truth commission, one that the president says was put in place today and will forward with getting to the bottom of the political unrest, the violence that has played out on the streets of Venezuela.

But many in the opposition, the critics fear who that commission will target next.

Leyla Santiago, CNN, Caracas.


HOWELL: U.S. Deputy Attorney General is speaking out. Next, he's responding to criticism of the investigation into Russia's meddling in the U.S. election.

CNN live from Atlanta, Georgia to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Stay with us.


HOWELL: Three twenty-nine a.m. on the U.S. East Coast. Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. You're watching CNN Newsroom. It is good to have you with us.

I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.

The foreign ministers of North and South Korea met face to face in the Philippines Sunday, this according to South Korean media. They are in Manila for a meeting of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN as it's I known.

[03:30:02] New U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang have been a major focus of that event.

In the United States, the governor of Minnesota is calling an explosion at a mosque an act of terrorism. Authorities say a homemade explosive device apparently called Saturday's blast in Bloomington. No one was injured, though. The FBI, though, still trying to determine who set off this explosive and why.

Three people have been arrested after demonstrations that took place in Portland, Oregon. Hundreds of people attended what was called the march for freedom, solidarity and justice rally against hateful rhetoric. Some clashes broke out with counter protesters there.

More now on our top story. North Korea facing pressure from diplomats gathered in the Philippines. This after the U.N. Security Council unanimously passed new tough sanctions against Pyongyang.

Let's get some context on this with Jean Lee. She is a global fellow at the Wilson Center and a journalist who has covered North Korea extensively. It's good to have you with us here on the show.

Let's talk first about this notable meeting with regards to North Korea so far. This very brief encounter between the foreign ministers of North and South Korea. How significant is this that they even spoke?

JEAN LEE, FELLOW, WILSON CENTER: This regional forum is one of the few chances that the North Korean and the South Koreans have to interact. And now the South Korean foreign minister had said that she was going to try to pull him aside, the North Korean foreign minister, to try to urge him to respond to South Korean's overtures proposals that the president made last night for engagement.

So he had proposed military talks as well a discussing the resumption of reunions between divided families. These are families that have been separated since the Korean War. Now, she did manage to speak to him for a couple minutes and his response was that he didn't think that those offer was very sincere.

HOWELL: Now the U.S. is coming into this with the wind at its back so to speak with these new sanctions. But will sanctions here, Jean make a difference at all, and how do you ensure that those sanctions are truly being executed as designed?

LEE: And I think that's (Inaudible). I mean, these are some fairly tough sanctions. These U.N. sanctions do go after North Korean's livelihood. So, not just military income that comes from military- related sources of funding but also main sources of income. So, all coal imports, other iron ore and its seafood. So, really trying to get at its livelihood.

But it really hinges on whether member nations enforce these sanctions. And because China has been the main conduit for that, it will really be up to China to enforce these sanctions. And that has been very, very tough. And of course, North Korea has been very defiant in the face of sanctions over the years, saying that they are going to continue doing what it needs to do regardless of the sanctions. So that will mean that the people will suffer.

HOWELL: So the goal here overall is a nuclear free Korean Peninsula. And here's the question as it seems as these world leaders come together at the ASEAN forum. The question, do you isolate North Korea more, as the United States wants to do, or do you open yourself to more dialogue as China is pushing, as Russia has been pushing and as the South Korean president also would like to see more conversation, more dialogues.

LEE: There's certainly been some discussion about changing tack. The effort to isolate North Korea has only resulted in this incredible unprecedented pace of development of its nuclear program. So certainly from all quarters there is some discussion about perhaps changing tack on dealing with North Korea but that's not going to be easy.

Now, within the past hour or so North Korea has put out its response to the U.N. sanctions and has been -- has been condemning those sanctions as vicious and has also vowed to retaliate. So it's going to be a tough ahead, even if they do go down that path of negotiations.

HOWELL: All right. The last question here, China has been pressured to do more. We do understand, though, that trade between the two nations, has actually increased. The question here, can China in fact do more to make a difference on North Korea?

LEE: China can do more. The question I think is how willing is China to go -- how willing is China to push North Korea that far? It's a very delicate balance and we have to remember that North Korea and China have their own relationship to manage. China does not want North Korea to collapse. That would mean that they've got a disaster on their border.

What they want to do is try to manage all these relationships. Its relationship with North Korea where they have some influence and can put some pressure, but also manage the relationship and keep Washington happy.

[03:35:00] So it's a very delicate situation and so we have to recognize that all these players have their own agendas as well and it's not going to be easy to get China to do exactly what rhe U.S. wants.

HOWELL: Jean Lee, we appreciate your perspective on this. Again, this forum continuing on. We'll see what happens as these leaders continue to meet and possibly talk more.

The U.S. deputy attorney general is speaking out about the investigation into Russia's meddling in the U.S. election. This comes after reports a grand jury has been convened as part of the probe.

Our Boris Sanchez has more for us.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It really is a fascinating perspective to listen to from the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Two very important aspects of this interview. Not only does he reveal how he feels about the investigation in general and where it is right now, but also how he feels about Bob Mueller, the man he hired to carry out this investigation after the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, recused himself.

The telling, most telling portion of this is when he talks about the state that the investigation is in and whether or not convening a grand jury to listen to testimony or to review evidence says anything about the state of the investigation and whether or not there could be a recommendation for charges from the special.

Rosenstein says no, this is just a natural part of an investigation that is ongoing, we should not read in to the fact that a grand jury is now convened.

He then goes on and talks about the scope of the investigation. There's recently been some criticism of the special counsel after reports that they were looking into the president's finances in the past. The argument was made by some of the president's supporters that that's out of the scope of the investigation, which -- in which the focus was going to be contacts between the Russian government and people within the Trump campaign.

At least that was the allegation. Rosenstein made the case that Bob Mueller is aware of the scope of the investigation and he is staying focused on that.

Listen to what he said.


ROD ROSENSTEIN, UNITED STATES DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: The special counsel is subject to the rules and regulations of the Department of Justice and we don't engage in fishing expeditions. Now, that order that you read, that doesn't detail specifically who may be the subject of an instigation because we don't reveal that publicly.

But Bob Mueller understands and I understand the specific scope of the investigation, and so no, it's not a fishing expedition.


SANCHEZ: Although the thing that Rosenstein added in the interview was that if Bob Mueller came across something that was outside of that scope and he felt necessitated moving forward with an indictment he would then have to seek authorization from the acting attorney general.

Meaning he would essentially have to go ask Rod Rosenstein for permission to then recommend charges if something were found, again, outside of the initial scope of the investigation.

HOWELL: Boris Sanchez, thank you for the report.

A U.S. advocacy group is planning to file suit challenging President Trump's plan to ban transgender people from military service. The president announced the ban in a tweet but a formal policy hasn't been announced yet. Land a legal calls the ban mean-spirited and a discriminatory attack

on the LGBTQ community that is clearly unconstitutional. In Israel, transgender people can find acceptance in the army that they don't find in society as a whole.

CNN's Ian Lee has this story for us.

IAN LEE, INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Mitha Yehudi (Ph) is happy today. But a couple years ago he had hit rock bottom.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never told anyone before. I've really told myself I was terrified.

LEE: Back then, Yehudi (Ph) was a female army captain and didn't feel right in her skin. So she went to her commanding officer and said she wanted to transition to a man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I cried during that interview from the moment the reaction came out of his mouth and he said, OK. And that was it.

LEE: Yehudi credits Israel's army for helping him make the transition. Today he marches for transgender rights at Jerusalem's gay pride parade. Israel says roughly 60 transgender soldiers serve openly in the country's military.

In the United States the future of transgender soldiers could change. It started with a tweet from President Donald Trump, ordering a ban on trans soldiers in the U.S. military. That message left thousands of U.S. military personnel in limbo.

Yehudi thought said any notion transgender people aren't up to the task.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I'm not tough then I don't know what I am. I wouldn't be here if I wasn't tough enough. I wouldn't be alive.

[03:40:03] LEE: Israel also grapples with equality. Gay couples still can't marry and religious conservatives view the community as an abomination.

Shiri Banki was murdered two years ago at this gay pride parade by an ultra-Orthodox extremist. And while the LGBTQ community fights for their rights in society, in the Israeli army they've been accepted.

As for President Trump, Yehudi (Ph) urges him to get it know trans soldiers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're no different from anyone else, they just want to -- they just love their country like I love mine.

LEE: A country where soldiers can march to the beat of their own drum.

Ian Lee, CNN, Jerusalem. HOWELL: Ian, thank you.

Still ahead, Italian police say that a British model kidnapped and held captive in Milan was to be sold to the highest bidder. Very chilling details we're learning about her abduction, next.


HOWELL: Welcome back to Newsroom. I'm George Howell.

A British model is now said to be safely back home in the United Kingdom after a terrifying ordeal. According to Italian police this 20-year-old woman was kidnapped when she went to a supposed photo shoot in Milan last month. Authorities say she was held captive for a week and then was to be sold to the highest bidderfor auction on the dark web.

A Polish national was arrested in connection with this kidnapping after he took the woman to the British consulate in Milan. Police say the suspect told the model's agent he was working for an illegal trafficking organization that operates on the dark web.


PAOLO STORANI, PROSECUTOR, MILAN, ITALY (through translator): Analyzing his e-mails, we understand that this person was or said that he was part of a group called black death group. Now whether this group exists or not I quite frankly don't know. But there is a Europol report from 2015 that notes the existence of this group in the deep web, the hidden web.


HOWELL: So we're learning a lot more about the suspect and a lot more about the dark web. CNN's Barbie Nadeau is following this story for us in Rome. Barbie, what more do we know at this point from investigators?

BARBIE NADEAU, CONTRIBUTOR, CNN: Well, you know, the investigators right now are really focused on one thing, and that's determining whether or not this Polish suspect is telling the truth about his affiliation with this group called the black death that supposedly operates a trafficking ring on the dark web.

What they don't know is whether a fantasist bragging about this saying that that's why he had kidnapped this woman. He apparently told her that he had made more than 15 million euro in the sale of women like her to people for sexual slavery.

And the investigators want to know if he just made that up or if he is in fact part of this group. And they're focused on that. They're still looking for his accomplices, there were people with him according to her, the model's testimony when she was kidnapped, and they want to find those people and determine if there are other girls just like her somewhere being held captive, George. HOWELL: That is my other question. I mean, is there really a big

concern now given what we know the details of this case, that there could be in fact other people who are out there who might have been abducted and, you know, still unaccounted for give this case?

NADEAU: Well, that is the big question. And you know, as investigators try to pursue the various web site that are out there on the dark web, these are unindexed web sites, a very difficult to find out where they're located, they're seeing other pictures of women. What they don't know, if those are pictures that some of the girls posted maybe on their own social networking, if those are pictures that were taken without the girls' knowledge, or if those girls are actually being held captive and the pictures are being taken and used for the purpose of selling the women into sexual slavery.

It is a big concern, and the investigators are very, very serious about looking for other women who might be victims.

HOWELL: It's very concern -- concerning and disturbing for sure. Barbie Nadeau, thank you for the report. We'll stay in touch with you as you learn more in this case.

Still ahead, a marijuana company wants to turn a small town in California into a pot paradise. We'll hear what the town's few residents think of that plan. Stay with us.


VINCE CELLINI, NEWS REPORTER, CNN: I'm Vince Cellini with your CNN world sport headlines.

It was a historic win for the Netherlands whose women's national football team claimed their first ever major title beating Denmark at home in the final of the European Championships.

[03:50:04] Game tied at 2 at halftime. The Netherlands' well- orchestrated free kick Sherida Spitse was able to side foot it into the back of the net to put the home side up 3 and 2. Then in the final moments the orange put it away. Vivianne Miedema finding the net. Four-two the final score, the Netherlands Euro 2017 champions.

At the community shield in Wembley the sides from London, Chelsea and Arsenal meeting. And Victo Moses gave Chelsea the lead, but the Gunner got it back when a careless tackle from Pedro led to a red card and a Gunner's equalizer. Sead Kolasinac heading in the goal from the resulting free kick that led to a shootout and it was Olivier Giroud who scored the decisive kick. Arsenal 4-1 on penalties.

Meanwhile, the World Athletics in London the men's marathon weaving its way through the streets of London. It was Kenya's Geoffrey Kirui's goal with a time of two hours eight minutes 27 seconds. And that was the best time of the season and Kenya's firs gold at these games.

That is a look at your sports headlines. I'm Vince Cellini.

HOWELL: A rare August tornado ripped through Tulsa, Oklahoma on Sunday, leaving shattered homes and my businesses destroyed in its wake. Thousands of people lost power there. The National Weather Service estimates the tornado had winds with winds between 178 and almost 217 kilometers per hour that's 111 to 135 miles per hour.

Our meteorologist Pedram Javaheri is following the story in the International Weather Center. What more do we know about this storm?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, METEOROLOGIST, CNN: Hey, it's pretty unusual to see one of that strength. An EF2 estimated on that. It caused at least several dozen injuries I should say across that region with this. But very unusual to see it here in the month of August gaining that much strength.

And you look at some of the images more closer towards the Gulf Coast and New Orleans, in particular on Saturday and also on Sunday very heavy rainfall. In fact, when you look at the perspective here of the amount of rain that came down some estimates put between say, six to eight inches of rainfall in the ground in the a matter of four hours which is a one in a 100-year event sort of a setup down across the Gulf Coast.

Now it's not confined towards that region. It stretches all the way out towards the Mid-Atlantic states. That's where the heaviest rainfall is expected over the next several days. In fact, about 40 million people in line here for some flash flooding but 5 million people at risk for some severe weather later on Monday.

Notice the winds and the hail really the predominant threats across the Delmarva region going into the next couple of days.

Here's what we're looking at with the rainfall notice again pretty expansive coverage of this. Of course when you have the cloud cover, when you have the rainfall you're at least going to get some breaks in the temps. Sixty eight degrees in New York City.

That, my friend, is an early October temperature. It should be into the 80's this time of year, it will get there in the next couple days but even around Chicago, St. Louis, Little Rock, Kansas City temps generally in the 70's and 80's where it is more unseasonal for this time of year but the cloud cover certainly helps.

Now the heat, if you want it, the Western United States has you covered. And we're talking the middle 90's. So, about 35 to almost 40 degrees in a few spots at around the interior portion of Oregon. Portland, in particular flirting with about the 100 degree marks the next couple of days.

Back towards the tropics watching tropical storm Franklin. Right now we do have tropical storm warnings and watches in place around portions of the Yucatan Peninsula, we think an initial landfall is expected into Monday night around the eastern coast of Mexico, just south of Cozumel, so very hot vacation destination across this time of year. It could be impacted by the storm system. And then it crosses into the Bay of Campeche.

Where then watching this to potentially strengthen going in for a second landfall. Then on the eastern coast of Mexico later this week. So certainly a busy setup here with Franklin moving in across this region.

Regardless of how strong it gets, Rosemary, we always say that when you think about what takes lives when it comes to tropical disturbances, George, the storms such as this one are actually the water maker element that really is more destructive and more deadly, and the storm certainly has all of that in the works with as much as tenets is potentially in the forecast, George.

HOWELL: A lot of rain ahead, it seems. Pedram, thank you so much.

JAVAHERI: Thanks again.

HOWELL: Now to the small town of Nipton, California. It might just become a huge tourist attraction because it could be sold to become the destination for marijuana in the United States.

He's John Langeler from our affiliate KLAS.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do I describe it? Very nice. A place to get away from it all and just relax.


JOHN LANGELER, ANCHOR, KLAS: If Nipton, California actually had a mayor, Jim Eastlinger (Ph) would fill the role.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seventy five dollars.

LANGELER: He runs the store, the tiny motel. People here lean on him with good reason, he's lived here longer than them all.


[03:54:59] LANGELER: Nipton's landscape is dotted with trailer homes, empty building and an old school. And Eastlinger calls it perfect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love it out here. I can't imagine living in a big town or city anymore.

LANGELER: For a while now this tiny little town of 20 has actually been for sale for about $5 million. So who would want a small desert community? We might have an answer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hear it might be getting bought. And I hear that I might be sold.

LANGELER: Thursday an Arizona marijuana company called American Green announced it bought Nipton. It intends to turn the desolate town into a modern energy-independent pot-friendly destination. Pot would be grown, sold, and used while other attractions are added.

However, a representative for Nipton's owner says not so fast, a sale might take place but it's not done yet. Nipton's realtor says other buyers have come and gone and nothing's ever changed. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to buy it if I can win.

LANGELER: For a town used to selling lottery tickets instead of marijuana, it's a bit much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, as long as I'm a taste tester. If I won the magic millions, yes, I'd buy this town. And I wouldn't change much of it.

LANGELER: American Green says it wants to keep the town's look and value. But for Nipton's unofficial mayor if big money comes in so does big change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hopefully I make a good enough impression to them I put in their heads, they're putting in the big manufacturing, I'd make a great poster child.

LANGELER: And he's not ready to go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because it's hold forever.


HOWELL: Big changes could be coming for Nipton. Thank you for affiliate KLAS for that report.

I'm George Howell at the CNN center in Atlanta. Early Start is next for our viewers here in the United States and viewers around the world. The news continues with my colleague Max Foster live in London. Thanks for watching CNN, the world's news leader.