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President Blames His Party For Debt Ceiling Mess; Trump Threatens Government Shutdown Over Border Wall; White House Calls Corker Criticism Ridiculous; Polls Show Conservative Sticking With Trump; Trump Has Sparred With Mexico Over Wall Punding; Deadline Looming For Raising U.S. Debt Ceiling; Arrest Warrant Issued For Former Thai Prime Minister; Florida Executes Death Row Inmate Using New Drug; Drug Manufacturer Don't Condone Use In Lethal Injections; Texas Prepares for Hurricane Harvey; Court to Rule in Samsung Chief Corruption Case; North Korean Spies Caught Trying to Steel Missile Plans; Mayweather vs McGregor Bout Set for Saturday; "Game of Thrones" Visual Effects Bring Magic to Life. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired August 25, 2017 - 01:00   ET


[01:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Ahead this hour, President Trump lashes out again at Republican Leaders in Congress blaming them for a political mess. Is there a strategy at work or just anger?

VAUSE: Verdict watch in South Korea's file of the century. The corruption scandal already took down South Korea's President, will the head of Samsung be next?

SESAY: And the showdown between the boxing legend and a mixed martial arts bad boy; can the big fight live up to all the big hype.

VAUSE: No. Hello, and thank you for joining us. I'm John Vause.

SESAY: I'm Isha Sesay. This is NEWSROOM L.A. Well, Donald Trump's relationship with Congressional Republicans appears to be getting worse just when he needs them most. The president is even threatening a government shutdown next month if he doesn't get funding for a border wall.

VAUSE: Whether the president and Congress could vote together, will be put to the test in the next couple of weeks when the lawmakers return from vacation. CNN's Jim Acosta begins our coverage.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump is once again trolling one of his favorite Twitter targets, his own party. Tweeting, "The only problem I have with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is that after hearing repeal and replace for seven years, he failed. That should never have happened." No big deal, says the White House.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the relationships are fine. Certainly, there are going to be some policy differences, but there are also a lot of shared goals.

ACOSTA: Despite that talk of shared goals, the president is threatening to shut down the government if Congress refuses to fund the wall on the border with Mexico. A threat the White House isn't knocking down.

SANDERS: We know that the wall and other security measures at the border work, we've seen that take place over the last decade, and we're committed to making sure the American people are protected. And we're going to continue to push forward and make sure that the wall gets built.

ACOSTA: Still outraged over his defeat on health care, the president is also playing the blame game on the need to raise the nation's debt ceiling -- a battle step for next month that could rattle financial markets. Mr. Trump claims he tried to attach a debt ceiling measure to help build a health veteran, tweeting that, "McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan didn't do it. So now, we have a big deal with Dems holding them up as usual on debt ceiling approval. It could've been so easy; now a mess." Ryan's response, don't worry.

PAUL RYAN, SPEAKER OF HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: The path to the debt ceiling is we will, we will pass legislation to make sure that we pay our debts, and we will not hit the debt ceiling.

ACOSTA: McConnell is also trying to lower the temperature, were refusing to take questions about his relationship with the president while explaining what he's up against in the Senate.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I'm often asked: what has been the majority leader stand life? The best answer I've been able to think of is it's a little bit like being a grounds keeper at a cemetery. Everybody's under you, but nobody is listening. That's what you get with 52-48.


ACOSTA: The top GOP aides on Capitol Hill have had it with one source telling CNN, the president is attacking leaders while we're selling his agenda.

TRUMP: And for our friends in the Senate, oh, boy.

ACOSTA: A frequent target of the president eyes, Senator Lindsey Graham said he sees a strategy in the president's outburst.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: He's running against Mitch McConnel and Lindsey Graham and others. This Congress is very unpopular, particularly with the Republican base. So, there's nothing unhinged about it. It's a political strategy that I'm not so sure is smart, but it's very thought out strategy. There's nothing crazy about it. It's a political strategy.

ACOSTA: The White House did address a growing chorus of criticism of the president's handling of Charlottesville. Asked about GOP Senator, Bob Corker's stinging assessment of the president: SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: The president has not yet -- has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the confidence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.

ACOSTA: Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, lashed out.

SANDERS: I think that's a ridiculous and outrageous claim and doesn't dignify a response from this podium.

ACOSTA: And for the moment, the president's attacks on his party have yet to backfires inside the GOP. Poll after poll shows that while some supporter's slipping, conservatives are sticking with the president, proving once again the GOP is hardly the party of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell; it's the party of Trump. Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.


SESAY: Well, joining us now: Democratic Strategist, Matthew Littman; and CNN Political Commentator and Trump Supporter, John Phillips.

VAUSE: Also, with us here in Los Angeles: CNN's Senior Reporter for Media and Politics, Dylan Byers. OK, if you have the sense of humor of a 14-year-old, you probably have been online and you probably know about the fearless honey badger. In case you don't, here's a clue:

SESAY: I'm scared.


[01:05:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The honey badgers are just crazy. The honey badger's been referred to see by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most fearless animal in all of the animal kingdom. They have no regard for any other animal, whatsoever. Looking, just -- ew, eating snakes? Ew, what's that? A mouse? Oh, that's nasty.



VAUSE: Dylan, here's the question: is Donald Trump a honey badger president? Totally fearless and is willing to take on anybody who stands in his way?


DYLAN BYERS, CNN SENIOR REPORTER FOR MEDIA AND POLITICS: I am so grateful that the clip just played on CNN. I don't know -- I mean, but here's the thing: he obviously does not care about being a president for the majority of the people he is supposed to represent. He obviously -- I don't know if he doesn't care, he certainly doesn't have the sort of frame of mind in order to understand the legacy or the lack of a legacy that he's leaving for himself. What he does care about, obviously, is his base. He also seems to care quite a great deal about shirking responsibility for his -- the inability for anything to get passed. Well, he is president of the United States. So, look, honey badgers

don't care. Honey badger, don't care about the majority of the country. Honey badger does care quite a great deal about these petty grievances, and about his own sort of like, day to day reputation about whether or not he has to bear responsibility for all of his faults. So, just you know, he's not quite a competent and sort of fearless as the little gentleman running around in that video you just showed.

VAUSE: Matt?

SESAY: Matt, the honey badger, don't care?

MATTHEW LITTMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think Dylan's (INAUDIBLE) everything as far as it can go.

SESAY: I mean, seriously, Matt. I mean, is this -- do you think knowing the president to the degree we do right now that he has sorted this whole thing through of it. He's just, once again just putting himself in a corner with threats of a shutdown?

LITTMAN: I think that Trump doesn't think a lot of things through. I think it's how he feels in the moment and how people -- whether people are going to applaud for him when he gives a speech, and that's really as he thinks of it. In terms of a government shutdown, I mean, I think it's a crazy strategy. The Democrats, obviously, don't want to pay for this wall. Those two Republicans, I think, don't want to pay for this wall. Because they thought was going to pay for this wall. So, you're going to shut down the entire government and ruin the financial markets and credit out the United States for a wall that two-thirds of the country doesn't want. I mean, that doesn't seem like a good political strategy. And Trump somehow became president, I don't think any of that was a good strategy.

VAUSE: You know, John, it's always an interesting start to your day watching Kellyanne Conway, the White House Advisor, when she appears on Fox News. This was here spin on that drip by Donald Trump to shut down the government. Listen to this.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: The president ran on building the wall, won on building the wall, and has remained steadfastly committed to doing it. And anybody who is surprised by that has been paying attention for over two years.


VAUSE: Well, OK. So, let's assume that there is someone out there in a coma for two years, and they've just woken up and they did not know what happened in the campaign --


LITTMAN: They would fall right back into a coma.


VAUSE: But this is what happened during the campaign.


TRUMP: I promise, we will build the wall. And who's going to pay for the wall?


TRUMP: And who's going to pay for the wall?




TRUMP: It'll be a great wall. Mexico is going to pay for the wall. Mexico is going to pay for the wall. Mexico will pay for the wall. And Mexico is going to pay for the wall, and they understand that. Mexico is going to pay for the wall, believe me, 100 percent.


VAUSE: And John, you know, this, we ask this all the time with Donald Trump because he made so many promises during the campaign on so many different issues, and haven't seen it even yet. But this is the biggy. If he can't pull this off -- I mean, does his base, that 20, 30 percent, whatever, when do they start peeling off?

JOHN PHILLIPS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND TRUMP SUPPORTER: Well, this why we elected him. We didn't elect him to redecorate the White House and add more gold fixture. So, he's got to come through with the wall if he wants to win re-election. And I do think that there is a new age in American politics where you have an evenly divided country -- part of it is because of political realignment where Conservative Democrats, who are now Republicans, and Liberal Republicans are now Democrats. And you play to your side. We saw President Obama do this with health care, where he didn't get a single Republican vote when he bought Obamacare in. And I think what you're seeing with President Trump, is you're seeing him play to his base. If he can keep those people happy, he's in good shape.

VAUSE: To John here, it's not so much of those people who, you know, 20, 30 percent will go and vote Democrat. They'll all just stay home. They'll wait to have and vote for Trump in the next election.

PHILLIPS: If he builds the wall, they're going to come out and go for him.

VAUSE: And if he doesn't, they stay at home.

PHILLIPS: Right. No, if he doesn't build the wall. It's all over. Building the wall is the quintessential promise that he made during the campaign that his people care about. [01:10:09] LITTMAN: This wall is going to cost, like $30 billion.

They're asking for about 1-1/2 or $2 billion --

VAUSE: 1.6 and then 3.6 --

LITTMAN: OK. The next question: how quickly does he have to build this wall?

PHILLIPS: Well, he's got to start it. I mean, you start at some place. We built the wall in San Diego in a short order, and that worked really well. In fact, that's what pushed a lot of the illegal crossings over to Arizona. So, the faster he starts, the more he can build.

SESAY: But is it worth reminding everyone what the president, told the president of Mexico shortly after his inauguration? John, I'm sure you want me to remind everyone of that. Let's put it up. He said you cannot say anymore that the United States is going to pay for the wall. I'm just going to say that we are working it out. Believe it or not, this is the least important thing that we're talking about, but politically this might be the most important." I mean, aside from the double speak, I mean, he knows that Mexico isn't going to pay for the wall. And does he and people didn't remember that?

PHILLIPS: Well, there are any number of ways that you could play with those numbers to make Mexico pay for the wall. You could tax remittances --

SESAY: You're not going to tax remittances.

PHILLIPS: You, absolutely, can tax remittances. Why can't you tax remittances?

SESAY: But how are you going to actually do that?

PHILLIPS: You just love to get tax.

SESAY: Are you actually going to do that when people say they earn money in two different way? I mean --

LITTMAN: But what Trump is saying there is that this is the least important thing in terms of really what's important to the country, but the most important thing politically. Right, but Trump is only doing this because once he mentioned it, he got applause for it. If he didn't get applause for it the first time he mentioned it, he would've forgotten about it completely.

VAUSE: And Dylan, you know, so, this was a two-part promise? You know, Donald Trump said that build the wall and Mexico will pay for it. And again, what -- as you say, what are the implications if this doesn't happen?

BYERS: Right. And for me, I mean, this always goes back to the question I always ask, is when does the base, you know, get the wall pulled from over their eyes, and realize that they're sold the bill of goods. Look, I think John's point is right to a degree, which is that this is the big issue of the campaign, this is the big promise he needs to follow through on. He's now restricted himself to following through on just half of that promise. But you know, the sort of difference between Obama pushing through Obamacare, and Trump pushing through this wall, first of all, is that Obamacare actually happened. I'm not so confident about this wall happening, particularly before 2020.

And then secondly, you know, there's this reality television sort of approach to this, which is if I can just string along the base on a week-by-week basis, and sort of throw the red meat to them. Whether it's comments from Charlottesville, whether it's, you know, the promise about the wall, to sort of just like keep their support, keep their applause going, you know, at campaign-style rallies around the country. That seems to be enough to sort of keep Trump going on a week-by-week basis. But whether or not it actually results in anything, whether or not it results in repeal and replace of Obamacare, building this wall, getting through tax reform. I think we might get to the end of this first terms, and that might be the point at which that base begins to understand that maybe they were sold that bill of goods.

SESAY: And John, to that point, is it -- this wall, does it mean so much? Or in your -- let me ask you this way: to you, is the wall so important that it is worth blowing up the Republican Party over?

PHILLIPS: Well, the Republicans never wanted it. I mean, let's go back to when George W. Bush was president, what did try to do? They tried to push through an amnesty, and they were totally open borders. But as far as I'm concerned, Donald Trump has to achieve three goals while he's president if he wants to get reelected if he wants to keep his voters happy -- who came out and voted for him. He's got to build the wall, first and foremost, he's got to appoint people to the Supreme Court that came from the list that he put out, and he's got to not sign any more trade deals like TTP or NAFTA or any of those. If he does that, I think he's gold.

LITTMAN: But that's not a great agenda. I mean, that's not moving anything forward, really, for the American people. So, people -- one of the things that came in this last election was that people are really concerned about their jobs. Donald Trump talked about a big infrastructure program. There is no infrastructure plan. Tax reform; the administration has no tax reform plan. That's something that they talked about creating jobs. So, go ahead, John.

VAUSE: Sorry. I just want to bring in Dylan to this because, you know, this threat of shutting down the government. There's sort of this blase assumption out there. Is it because there is a Republican in the White House, and there is Republican control vote house is accomplished somehow. It's all going to work itself out. And it isn't going to happen.

This is from Axia, which has some really good reporting, and usually, it turns out to be quite accurate. This is from the other day, "Goldman Sachs, in guidance to invest this last Friday," I wonder where they got that from, "pegged the odds at 50/50. A Trump Republican source put the chance as high as 75 percent of the government shutdown." The quote being, "The particular part is that almost everyone I talked to on the Hill agrees that it is more like than not."

And sure, OK. This is such a dangerous tactic, which is basically taking the U.S. economy hostage because it's not just the government that happens, it's raising the debt ceiling. And if the U.S. defaults on its debt, these are repercussions which will be felt around the world: stock markets are going to decline, economies stall, because of, you know, politics? Because Donald Trump wants the world that, as Matt said, two-thirds of the county don't want?

[19:15:21] BYERS: Because of politics, and because of ego, and because of some sort of strange calculation that it's more important, again, to appeal to a minority of this country rather than the will of the majority of this country. You know, throughout the Obama administration, Democrats often tried to paint the Republicans as the party of no. It's pretty staggering that once in control of White House in both Houses of Congress that they can continue to be the party of no, can continue to be running the risk of a government shutdown, and then like you said, are putting politics ahead of the interest of the country.

I'm not a partisan on this issue. I understand that there are a lot of voters who do care about immigration, who do care about this wall, who are happy that Trump actually came out and spoke bluntly about building a wall. I think the problem here is not realizing that the president himself, in his own phone conversations with the president of Mexico, has acknowledged that this really isn't the best thing for America, but that it's something he's doing politically and yet he's going to proceed with that anyway and risk all those terrible repercussions that you just mentioned not only here but around the globe.

SESAY: And John, picking up on repercussions. What are the repercussions for the midterms for Republicans?

PHILLIPS: Well, they cut political reports, changed five U.S. Senate races last week, which was admittedly a bad week for President Trump. Four of them went in the direction --

SESAY: If there's a shutdown, is the point.

PHILLIPS: Well, I'm telling you, last week was a bad week and everything still trended in favor of the Republicans. I don't think the border is a loser for him. The border is an absolute winner for him. If you go back to what was in the paper the day after the election, President Obama told Rolling Stone, look, Democrats have to just accept fact that people care about the border. You read what was in the New York Times. The New York Times said this was the issue that caused Hillary Clinton to lose. This is a subject the American people care about. The campaign book that Donald Trump used was Ann Coulter's book, "Adios America." That speech that he gave when he went down those guilds of escalators was like a book on tape for Ann Coulter's, you know, New York Times' best-seller. That is why people elected. He's got to come through. LITTMAN: People may have elected him. In some ways, that was a winning issue for Donald Trump, also he said Mexico's going to pay for the wall. Do you think American people want to spend $25 billion over a series of years to pay for the wall while Donald Trump is cutting the budget for everything else? Of course, not. I absolutely don't believe that's true.

The Democrats, I think, were in a pretty good position for next year in terms of the House races. In the senate races, not as good, but that's mostly because you have about 23 Democrats up for re-election and 10 Republicans up re-election. So, it is going to be a tough year for the Democrats. But it'll be a better year for them in the Senate and House, then, if Hillary Clinton was president.

VAUSE: And Dylan, last word to you. You know, by going so hard after the Republican leadership; the president going after McConnell and Ryan, and leaving the Democrats is simply almost to the side. It's giving them a free pass. Do they get no blame should the government shutdown and the stock market's going to free fall?

BYERS: No. I certainly think what the Trump's doing here -- look, the short-term play here is to off-load responsibility from him onto other Republicans. The long-term effect that this ends at having is in makes Republicans look like, again, like they were the party has known the Obama administration. And now they're sort of utterly ineffective both in the White House and in Congress during the Trump administration. Long term I see this as a net benefit for the Democrats.

The question here is going back to what Matthew and John are talking about the upcoming midterms and then 2020, is something we've talked about on the show many times before. The Democrats can't solely rely on the ineptitude of the of the Trump administration or Republicans in Congress. They have to step up and put up really strong candidates in order to make those gains in 2018 and 2020.

LITTMAN: But Trump is saying -- and you know, one thing Trump has sold everybody on is that he's world's greatest negotiator. And that this is supposed to be a negotiation; the border wall, and then he's going to shut down the government. Because he wrote the book "Art of the Deal"; people believe that he's a great negotiator. Meaning, if I wrote the Art of the Slamdunk, people would believe that I was a great a slam dunker -- I'm not. He's a horrible negotiator.

VAUSE: OK. And that was a good point to leave it. Matt and John, of course, Dylan, and honey badger thank you all.

SESAY: Honey badger, don't care.

VAUSE: Honey badger, don't care.

SESAY: Don't care one bit.


SESAY: Gentleman, thank you. We appreciate it. Let's take a very quick break. Calling in sick works on the job, but maybe not in court. Thailand's former prime minister misses a big verdict and is now wanted by police.

[01:20:02] VAUSE: Plus, U.S. state of Florida executed an inmate using a drug which has come under some harsh grooming.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. Thailand's Supreme Court is issuing an arrest warrant for a former Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra after she failed to appear in court for a verdict. Her attorney says, she didn't show up because she's ill right now, but her whereabouts are unknown.

SESAY: Yingluck faces up to 10 years in prison, accused of mismanaging a controversial rice subsidy program that cost the country billions of dollars. The court set a new date for her verdict, September 27th.

VAUSE: Prison officials in Florida had executed an inmate by injecting a lethal drug which has never been used before in the United States. 53-year-old, Mark Asay, was convicted of two murders in 1988, made no last statement, and showed no indication of showing pain during the execution.

SESAY: Well, the company that invented drug says, regulation authorities have not OK the drugs for this purpose, and they said they do not condone its use in lethal injections. As they say -- they argued, the drug would result in too much pain for his client, but the Florida Supreme Court turned down his motion to block the execution. With us now, Defense Attorney, Ambrosio Rodriguez. Ambrosio, thank you so much for being with us.


SESAY: This is a case that is raising concerns on several fronts. Let's work through them. First of all, let's start with the fact that one of the drugs used in the execution cocktail if you will, a three- drug cocktail, had never been used before in this setting. This drug called Etomidate, it's supposed to act as an anesthetic as we understand it. You have said that the decision to go ahead and use it despite the lack of information about it is selfish serving. What do you mean by that?

RODRIGUEZ: Right. It's self-serving in its fact that it was the Florida Department of Corrections, who was in charge of, you know, administering the lethal injection, that decided that it was safe enough to use. So, this was done without the medical community approving it. And the problem is that a lethal injection has three parts to it, right? The anesthesia, then the one that causes paralysis, and one that causes the heart to stop.

We have come to the point of society where the medical community is no longer getting itself involved in approving in through whatever kind of medical scientific means of these types of drugs and lethal injections. The American Medical Association and groups like do not want to be a part of it, just like pharmaceutical companies are no longer selling these drug to the states where the death penalty is still legal. So, there's nowhere -- in order for a state to use lethal injection, they have to go this route where they are administering a lethal injection without scientific or medical approval.

SESAY: I want you to take a listen to what the present spokesperson said about the execution and how it was carried out. Take a listen.


[01:25:05] MICHELLE GLADY, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS AT FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS: This is the department's most solemn duty. The foremost objective of the lethal injection procedure is a humane and dignified process. The Department of Correction has followed the law to carry out the sentence of the court as laid out before the statute which was what was done this evening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You mean, there were no complications at all?

GLADY: That's correct, there were no complications.


SESAY: OK. So, here's the thing: she says that there were no complications at all. But you cannot say with certainty, right, that Mark Asay was not in pain because there is a drug administer that that bring on paralysis. So, he could've been, they just couldn't tell.

RODRIGUEZ: Absolutely.

SESAY: But then again, let's say, he did die peacefully, if you will, for want to have a better word. There's no certainty that this drug used on somebody else would not have complications.

RODRIGUEZ: Right. And there's no way to know. This is kind of an unknown thing that it -- we could very well end up in a situation where two, three, four executions from now in Florida, Oklahoma, or Texas. Whether do the other state are thinking of using the same protocol. They could have a complication where you have, for lack of a better word, kind of a grizzly death. I mean, it is -- it is a very strange conversation to have or dialogue to have in public as to how to painfully or unpainfully kill someone, right. And so, that's really what we're talking about.

So, it is -- it seems that we are kind of an impasse stalemate into this kind of very heated issue of this country as to whether we should have a death penalty or not. And now, with kind of the medical and scientific community getting involved by taking themselves out of it, states have to kind of make these decisions as to how to go forward. And I think it's going to be debated and in a kind of be on the news for a very long time.

SESAY: I want to ask you whether you think that Mark Asay's constitutional rights were breached? In this case, given the way the death penalty was imposed here that it was a nine -- the juries broke 9-3 for finding him guilty, but the actual death penalty was imposed by a judge. When you're in the Supreme Court in 2016, ruled that unconstitutional that the -- in Florida, the judges had too much power. And yet, the Supreme Court didn't get to weigh-in on the constitutionality of Mark Asay's situation; a second time, if you will. Were his rights violated?

RODRIGUEZ: I think there are real issues here. Because in a death penalty case, and I've tried those cases, there are two phases: first, the jury must determine whether or not a first-degree murder occurred, and whether the person's guilty. Then, they make a second determination as to whether or not that person should receive death or life without the possibility of parole. Florida had a system that didn't -- that once the jury was deadlocked or hung in this case, that judge could make the determination of imposing death. The problem with that as the Supreme Court said is that the jury, this is the purview of the jury. The jury as representatives of the community --

SESAY: Your peers.

RODRIGUEZ: Right, made that determination. A judge -- a judge is an elected official. They run for election every four or six years, depending on the state. That is not what we kind of had in mind -- and by we, I mean, the founding fathers -- in terms of the sixth amendment. The problem that I see, that I have is that there's always a question as to whether or not a constitutional right is retroactive -- usually, it is.

So, if the decision to seek death or to impose the death penalty was unconstitutional was because it was 9-3 by the judge, there should've been further litigation, and further hearings in front of us -- Federal Court -- as to whether or not it should apply retroactively. The only court that said that shouldn't, was the Florida Supreme Court. And then, there's another level of litigation at the federal level, because the way it goes is: first, you go through the state level in a criminal case, and then you get to the Federal Courts. And I think that this is a real problem with the way this case ended up.

SESAY: Ambrosio Rodriguez, thank you so much. We really appreciate it.

RODRIGUEZ: Thank you for having me.

SESAY: Thank you.

VAUSE: We will take a short break. When we come back, a monster storm barreling towards Texas, and it could be the worst to hit the U.S. mainland in more than a decade. We're tracking Hurricane Harvey, more in a moment on that.

[01:29:29] SESAY: And we could be moments away from learning the fate of a Samsung executive who is facing corruption charges in South Korea.


[01:52:01] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.


We'll check the headlines this hour.


VAUSE: A potentially devastating hurricane is headed for Texas. Harvey is set to make landfall late Friday or Saturday. And people on the gulf coast are getting ready. Many of the heading inland for safety while other are getting sandbags and stocking up on supplies.

We've also just learned the storm has intensified to a category 2.

For more, let's go to our Meteorologist Karen Maginnis.

So, Karen, getting stronger?

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. And it's going to do one of the worst things that a hurricane can do. I will explain in one second. Take a look at what the latest information from the National Hurricane Center said. Will increase to 100 miles per hour or just about 160 kilometers per hour. But we had higher wind gusts. Very typical. Not all quadrants are looking at the same wind speed. It's moving to the northwest at 10. Not a high rate of speed, not slow, but we anticipate it will slow down right before it makes its way on shore. Right now, it's positioned for 220 miles southeast of Corpus Christi.

Let's bring you back to the wall and show what's going on here. Looks very impressive on the enhanced radar imagery and it continues to spin towards the northwest.

So what's the worst thing that this hurricane can do? It's slow down. And that's what it's going to do. It will linger across this region. As it does, those rainfall amounts are really going to stack rather substantially over the next several days. This system is not going to move out very quickly. A lot of people have already hit the road, out of town, Corpus Christi, Portlanaca (ph), Victoria, Galveston. They'll head out on Interstate 37 and Interstate 35, Interstate 37. Gas stations have been packed. Grocery stores, people stocking up on water. That's a good idea. And boarding up their homes.

But take a look at this. Right before making landfall, still a category 2. We are not exactly sure when it will be a category 3. But the computer models have been very consistent in saying this is going to increase to category three. We have to go back 12 years before we see anything like that impact the coastal regions of Texas.

Here's the wind field. This is very dramatic looking. There will be problems with wind damage. Many areas expecting power outages. Even if you head to Austin and San Antonio, the wind and the rain is going to be a big deal. This is low-lying area. Flooding is a tremendous impact across this region. Take a look at this. Some areas could see in excess of a meter of rainfall. 37 inches, Fort O'Connor. Corpus Christi, about a half a meter. John and Isha, we'll be watching this. We're staying on top of it. Lots of people have fled to the coast, a lot of our correspondents, so we'll see that when it makes landfall less than 24 hours from now.

[01:35:30] SESAY: We'll be watching this very, very closely.

Karen McGinnis, we appreciate the update. thank you.

Well, we are waiting for a verdict and what is being called South Korea's "trial of the century." A court will decide a string of corruption charges against Jay Y. Lee, the de facto head of the powerful Samsung group.

For more, let's go live to Seoul and CNN's Paula Hancocks.

Paula, good to have you with us once again.

Put this case in perspective for us because this is not just a trial of Samsung's de facto head. This is as much a trial about South Korea and the influence of these powerful families that run conglomerates.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Isha. This man, Jay Y. Lee, he is arguably one of the most powerful man in the country, one of the richest men in the country. Samsung being the biggest group having the most influence. And of course, being such a driver of the factory and economy. It is hard to overstate just how big the Samsung group is for the country. So the fact that the head is on trial is certainly significant for other executives on trial as well.

But remember, this isn't the first time that this has happened. In fact, Jay Y. Lee's father, has also been tried and convicted twice of white-collar crime. He was never spent a day in jail. And a presidential pardon afterwards.

But this is really the tail end of what we've seen as a very emotional and consistent message from many people in South Korea that they have had enough of this cozy link between government and big business. There is a feeling, and we saw over recent months, certainly at the end of last year, when they were hundreds of thousands, potentially millions coming out onto the streets to protest, that they want corruption to end, that they want a cleaner government system. And they want to make sure that close link between government and big business ends -- Isha?

SESAY: And, Paula, to that point, South Korea's new president, Moon Jae-in, also campaigned on that. That was one of his -- part of his platform, breaking the hold of these powerful families. Is this case something of a litmus test for him as well?

HANCOCKS: It was one of his campaign pledges. Given that his predecessor, the former president, Park Geun-hye, was impeached and imprisoned because of this very same corruption scandal. And of course, the lawyers for the former president will be watching this very close because it is a litmus test of how the former president and her court case might go. The fact that the Jay Y. Lee is accused of bribing the president in order to get government favors. And certainly, what happens here today could have an impact on her trial.

But we have heard Moon Jae-in say he wants to clean government up. He wants to end corruption. And certainly, there is potentially some pressure on this court today and on three judges who have made the decision, and we'll heard about it in the next hour or two, potentially, to make the right decision. Because certainly, there has been a fairly consistent message from the majority of people that they want corruption to end. There are also these protests going on. There are some who are pro-Park, pro the former president, and so, by default, pro-Jay Y. Lee, who think there's been a travesty of justice, who don't believe that there is any evidence against either of them and want these charges dropped -- Isha?

SESAY: Paula Hancocks joining us there from South Korea. Paula, thank you.

VAUSE: In recent years, North Korea's missile program has made incredible progress, raising questions of outside help.

SESAY: Suspicion had fallen on Ukraine. But to disprove those allegations, officials there have released video footage of North Korean spies caught in a sting operation trying to steal missile technology.

Here is our own Nick Paton Walsh.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Isha, John, North Korea has made some extraordinary leaps forward in terms of its missile technology is our new patient walks on careers. Mice were extraordinary for the business of technology, no one doubts that, in the pasta months. Of course, the question is, where does it get its new designs or information or devices from? In the former Soviet Union in its decades of collapse. Of course, one key place where people have turned their attention to, also particularly Ukraine. That is a place that has been the prey potentially for North Korean spies, but also the predator upon them. These exclusive pictures from Ukrainian security service exactly efforts North Korea have made do show.

[01:40:00] (voice-over): Caught in a crime that could ultimately lead to nuclear war. In a Ukrainian garage, North Korean spies are secretly filmed photographing missile designs. Part of their country's bid to hit the USA with a nuclear-tipped rocket.


PATON WALSH: North Korea recently made a huge lead forward in its intercontinental ballistic missiles, leading to panic about where, most likely in the former Soviet Union, they got these advances.

But this is where those spies' journey ended.

In the first access to North Koreans convicted of missile technology, espionage, Ukraine security services have revealed how a 2011 sting operation caught one of several North Korean attempts to steal their superior missile designs.

Here, X5, as the court documents referred to the man considered the main spy, is allowed to make cement railings. He spent months scouting out Ukrainian missile experts, some of whom alerted the security services. He's reluctant to speak to me.

UNIDENTIFIED NORTH KOREAN SPY: Well, I'm just near the end of my period of stay and I want to go home as soon as possible and get it over with.

PATON WALSH: Do you have a message for your wife, your family? If they can hear you?

UNIDENTIFIED NORTH KOREAN SPY: I don't want to give due to the security. My security and safety.

PATON WALSH: The security services began tailing the men shown in the surveillance video. Officials say the trail ended here, when fake documents were offered to them, which the North Koreans photographed. They were then arrested.

The men were given eight years. X5, who partially admitted guilt, in a maximum security colony, where he shares a room with eight others. His tiny space here haunted by the uncertainty of what happens when, on release late next year, he returns to North Korea a hero or a traitor.

X32, his accomplice, said to be the technical expert, did not admit guilt. He is happy to meet us, perhaps just so we can film his refusal to talk.

Obviously, it weighs on their minds what will happen to them on their return possibly last next year to North Korea.

Ukraine is keen to show us this sting operation in a bid to deflect claims missiles from this factory are being used now in North Korea's latest launches.

The security service officer behind the sting told us North Korean have been effectively barred from Ukraine since 2016 after multiple espionage case were detected, and insists they never got Ukrainian secrets.

UNIDENTIFIED UKRAINE SECURITY SERVICE OFFICER (through translation): It's impossible, impossible I'm telling you, he says. There's not a single North Korean in Ukraine, bar those imprisoned. We deported those breaking the law. North Korea withdrew the rest.

The two prisoners have met North Korean diplomats from Moscow once, but otherwise, they have never called or written home in five years.

Isolation, loneliness, discipline, at the sharp end of this deadly game.

(on camera): John, Isha, I should point out that Ukrainian court documents do show, in fact, these spies were particularly focused on information about something called the SS24, the scalpel, an intercontinental ballistic missile. The designs of which they were particular keen to learn more about.

Of course, Ukraine says they never obtained any particular detailed information because of activity of their security services. But still, the level of focus they had, the kind of people, the kind of expertise they sent towards those imported missile manufacturing towns, of course, many are concerned about what may have happened in past decades -- Isha, John?


[01:44:09] SESAY: Thanks to our Nick Paton Walsh for that.

OK, next on NEWSROOM L.A., It may the most talked about or trash- talked about boxing match ever. A look ahead to Mayweather vs. McGregor.


SESAY: This could be the biggest boxing match ever, or the most lopsided beat-down in history. The long-awaited fight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor.


SESAY: It's set for Saturday in Las Vegas.

VAUSE: Joining us now, entertainment journalist Segun Oduolowu, also contributor to "Access Hollywood."

Segun, good to see you.

VAUSE: Segun, welcome.

Good to see you.

VAUSE: OK, ready for this. Is this fight basically the sham of the century, nothing to do with boxing, all about money?

ODUOLOWU: It's always all about money. And boxing, unfortunately, is the sewage underbelly of all sports. Almost as dirty as cycling. Because you can't -- there's so many governing bodies. This fight shouldn't even be sanctioned. You have a world-champion world-class boxer, one of the greatest boxers of all times in Floyd Mayweather, fighting a guy who's never actually stepped into a boxing ring in his life and only has in a handful of even in the May fight, and now you're going to put him opposite. That's like me fighting Ali or Tyson in their prime. Because I don't know, I had a YouTube tape were --


SESAY: And the regulators of the fight get a cut on how much the fight makes. Again, it's seems ridiculous to be honest brokers, if you will. ODUOLOWU: Right. Again, they're going it's cash. And when Floyd Mayweather is pretty much guaranteed upwards of around $200 million since it's his promotional company that's basically putting on this fight, and McGregor will make a payday bigger than he's ever done.


ODUOLOWU: It has to happen for the money but it obviously a sham.

VAUSE: But ticket sales are through the roof. People are paying 99 bucks to watch it on pay-per-view. Why are people signing up for this?

ODUOLOWU: Because if you are a sports fan, you really don't like Floyd Mayweather. OK? He is a deplorable human being. He is a professional fighter who has multiple run ins of domestic violence. So if you know how to fight and you put your hands on your spouse, a woman, I don't care who you are, that's just wrong. So he's a deplorable person. Then you have McGregor, who leading up to this fight, was in Donald Trump mode just --


ODUOLOWU: -- just spewing like racist rhetoric. So they hyped this fight, black guy versus white guy. America always loves the great white hype, even if he's from across the pond. The idea of a great white fighter has been throughout boxing. And so you've got that black versus white boxer, versus MMA, my style is better than your style. So you have that duality going.

SESAY: Does Floyd Mayweather have anything to prove here?

ODUOLOWU: I believe he does. This fight could save boxing or it could destroy it. Because boxing is known as the sweet find. The UFC are a bunch of guys who are street fighting with a few rules. If McGregor actually boxes and stays in the ring long enough to make it a fight, everyone is going to say, well, gosh, anybody could box. Floyd isn't that good anymore. And boxing takes a hit. If McGregor comes out and beats Floyd, wow.


VAUSE: Because everyone is saying that Mayweather is going to destroy him, OK? What happens, not necessarily that McGregor wins, but, if he actually stays in -


VAUSE: -- goes the distance, could this happen? Look at this.





VAUSE: Adrian. If he stays in long enough, he doesn't have to beat him. He just has to say in there for six full rounds?

[01:50:04] ODUOLOWU: So you're saying can he win by losing?



VAUSE: And he would have won.

ODUOLOWU: Yes. And he will. If this goes the distance, and May wins, he wins and there's a possible rematch because the point on the decision, you can argue --


ODUOLOWU: Exactly. You get yet another reason for this fight.

But, look, Mike Tyson has the best line for boxing. Everybody has a plan until you get punch in the face.


ODUOLOWU: And McGregor has no chance. He's the only one fighting that night so he has a chance. We don't have a chance. He has a chance.

SESAY: How long do you think this will last?

ODUOLOWU: If it goes past six rounds, I'm going to lose money.


Because I've already put some stuff away. Bet my honeymoon --

SESAY: For your wedding?

ODUOLOWU: Yes. This fight is going to pay for my wedding.

VAUSE: $200 million, that has to be the biggest gap between risk and reward every in sports.

ODUOLOWU: It is. It is. There was an English bet a while back for the English Premier League where you could bet. I was like one to 2000. Everybody took the team that had been relegated. That team won the Premier League and everybody went crazy.


SESAY: I read the stats and an average bet on McGregor is something 12 bucks. On Floyd, like $800.

ODUOLOWU: Because to win on Floyd, you have to bit so much just to get your money back. But if Floyd wants money, if he's all about the money, he'll lose the fight because that would set up --


SESAY: On Instagram, he's all about the money.

ODUOLOWU: That's what he says.

SESAY: That's what he says.

ODUOLOWU: All about the money. We will see.


VAUSE: Segun, thank you.

SESAY: Segun, thank you.

ODUOLOWU: Thank you.

VAUSE: We'll come back in a moment. When we do, we'll have vibrating dragons from the "Game of Thrones." And we will reveal --

SESAY: You don't want to hear.

VAUSE: I know.


VAUSE: They're not real.

SESAY: We're going to go behind the scenes and show you how the magic is actually created.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. A stinky welcome is waiting for white supremacists. They're holding a rally in San Francisco this weekend. A Facebook event is urging everyone, take your dog, head to the site of this rally scheduled for a field, and let's do number twos together. All for the alt-right group.

SESAY: Apparently, nearly a thousand people have signed up for the event so far. They plan to clean up the mess on Sunday after the rally is over. So far, no reaction to the idea from the white supremacists.

VAUSE: I wonder if they notice.

"Game of Thrones," the HBO show that has rewritten the rules of TV drama, with its multi-million-dollar projects, created another world centered on power, violence and dragons. Are there dragons?

SESAY: He knows nothing about this, but I watch it.

As millions get ready to watch the season finale Sunday, our Claire Sebastian takes us through the magic behind the iconic dragon. VAUSE: Dragons.



CLAIRE SEBASTIAN, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a fantasy world of "Game of Thrones," fire-breathing dragons are the ultimate weapon of war.


SEBASTIAN: Behind the scenes, it took an army to create them and the world they inhabit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had a meeting with HBO and they were talking about how the important the dragons will be for the upcoming seasons and how much the character personality will be a major part of the story.

SEBASTIAN: He joins "Game of Thrones" in season two.


[01:55:00] SEBASTIAN: Twenty-seven visual effects companies the show has hired to date.


SEBASTIAN: Their job, to create dragons coming of age.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If this animal is getting bigger, then the balance, the muscle structure, the way it actually lifts up in the air is changing, it is becoming more complicated than just something tiny that can hope two feet. And this was an incredibly challenging thing to develop.

SABASTIAN: To do so, he says the artists have to take something familiar.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The went to the supermarket to dissect the tool and how the muscle structure should be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, when the only dragon comes in and the ice starts to break up.

SEBASTIAN: It's work like this which has made "Game of Thrones" a must for the next generation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a walk-on character. Just seeing dragons when they're little babies, just trying to shoot tiny bits of fire, to what they are now, these huge beasts, it resonates well with everyone. SEBASTIAN: For these final-year visual art students, it was part of the inspiration for their thesis film.

(on camera): You learn anything from watching "Game of Thrones?"

UNIDENTIFIED ART STUDENT: Yes, I think so. Definitely, not everything has to be C.G. Like the walls. They were real walls green-screened in. That wasn't C.G. To me, that was eye-opening in a way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the original intent was to write a story that was so grand that it was completely unbound by the constraints of regular production. And visual effects have made a show like "Game of Thrones" possible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the fact it is not the driving force of show. I think it's the drama that is built around people's relationships. It is not trying to be a fantasy story. This could be told. This could be a real thing. I think that's what makes the magic of it.

SEBASTIAN: A magic that has taken TV drama to epic scales.


SEBASTIAN: Claire Sebastian, CNN Money, New York.


VAUSE: Dragons aren't real. Who knew?

SESAY: Anyway.

VAUSE: You've been watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

SESAY: Thanks for watching. I'm Isha Sesay.

Be sure to join us ono Twitter, @cnnewsroomla --


SESAY: -- for clips and highlights from our show.

We'll be back with more news right after this.

[02:00:04] VAUSE: This is CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles.

Ahead this hour --