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Mueller Russia Probe in Fast Track; Trump Upset with Mueller's Surprise Announcement; Charges Filed Against Former Trump Officials; Ousted Catalan President Seeks Asylum; Kenya with New President; Fear Wraps Around Niger Battleground. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired October 31, 2017 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, White House PRESS SECRETARY: It has nothing to do with the president, it has nothing to do with the president's campaign or campaign activity.

LEON PANETTA, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I think we kind of crossed the threshold. We are dealing with a very serious investigation.

LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: It's OK to talk to talk with Russians. It's not OK to get help from a foreign government.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, White House SENIOR ADVISER: People are speculating now. We don't know what's going to happen.


ROSEMARY CHURCH, HOST, CNN: The first criminal charges in the Russia probe have been unsealed. We will have the very latest. Plus, the indictments reveal new indications of where special counsel Mueller's investigation may go next.

Hello and welcome, everyone. I'm Rosemary Church, and this is CNN Newsroom.

Three indictments and one guilty plea not the best way to start the week that was supposed to be all about U.S. President Donald Trump's trip abroad, his new Fed chair, and tax report. Instead, he is facing the fallout from the first charges and special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

First off, former Trump campaign foreign-policy advisor George Papadopoulos, he pleaded guilty after lying to the FBI about his contacts with people linked to the Kremlin in an effort to get to dirt on Hillary Clinton, but he has now flipped and is cooperating with investigators.

Next up, Paul Manafort and his longtime associate, Rick Gates. They pleaded not guilty to a dozen charges including conspiracy against the United States. They are accused of hiding money they earned while advising Ukraine's former pro-Russian presidents. President Trump says that has nothing to do with his campaign. Manafort's lawyer agrees.


KEVIN DOWNING, PAUL MANAFORT'S LAWYER: I think you all saw today that President Donald Trump was correct, there is no evidence that Mr. Manafort or the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government.


CHURCH: As for Papadopoulos the White House and President Trump's lawyers are downplaying his role in the campaign.


JAY SEKULOW, MEMBER, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LEGAL TEAM: Let me say this. First of all, George Papadopoulos served on the committee a lot of, as you know, campaigns have committees with various people on it. This is not -- he was not a senior advisor to the Trump campaign.


CHURCH: Well, there are a lot of angles to this story and we have a team of reporters covering them all. Let's take a closer look at the George Papadopoulos charges. He may have had a minor role in the Trump campaign but court documents hints at a huge role in the investigation.

Manu Raju explains.

MANU RAJU, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Soon after joining the Trump campaign in March 2016 George Papadopoulos had a meeting with the London-based professor. Papadopoulos a Trump campaign foreign-policy advisor was promised dirt on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of e-mails obtained by the Russians around the time that Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta was hacked.

According to court documents unsealed today Papadopoulos admitted lying to federal authorities when he said that those contacts occurred before joining the Trump campaign. He also falsely told authorities that the professor was quote, "just a guy talking up connections or something," when, in fact, Papadopoulos knew the professor had substantial connection to the Kremlin and had repeatedly sought to arrange a meeting between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials.


MARK WARNER, (D) UNITED STATES SENATOR: Papadopoulos is direct evidence to someone with the campaign was being contacted by Russians with information that they had, lots of so-called dirt that included e-mails on Hillary Clinton.


RAJU: Papadopoulos also dump he had contacts he had with the female Russian national, when in fact she also had ties to the Russian government that Papadopoulos pitch to the Trump campaign as part of an effort that Trump meet with Vladimir Putin in Russia.

Papadopoulos even described the woman to campaign officials as Putin's niece. A campaign supervisor for quote, "great work." As Papadopoulos persisted to set up a meeting the discussion reach the highest levels of the Trump campaign with then chairman Paul Manafort and senior aide Rick Gates e-mailing to say quote, "we need someone to communicate that D.T. is not doing these trips, it should be someone low-level in the campaign so as not to send any signal."

In July 2016, Papadopoulos said that a meeting between senior Trump officials with Putin aides, quote "had been approved from our side." Papadopoulos was arrested on July 27 and later pled guilty for knowingly and willfully making materially false statements.

[03:04:58] Today White House officials are downplaying Papadopoulos's work with the campaign.


SANDERS: It was extremely limited. It was a volunteer position. He reached out and nothing happened beyond that.


RAJU: But Trump himself told the Washington Post in March 2016 that Papadopoulos seen in this photo with Trump was on his foreign policy team.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: George Papadopoulos's, he's an oil and energy consultant. Excellent guy.


RAJU: According to his LinkedIn account, Papadopoulos from DePaul University in 2009 before receiving a master degree from a university in London. After graduating he worked from 2011 to 2015 as a research associate at the Washington think tank, the Hudson Institute. In 2016, he worked as an advisor to the campaign of Dr. Ben Carson before switching to the Trump team.

Manu Raju, CNN, Washington.

CHURCH: And CNN has reached out to Papadopoulos for comment but we have not been able to talk with him as yet. Well, while Papadopoulos pleaded guilty th other two Trump campaign officials indicted Monday pleaded not guilty. The charges against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates stem from work they did to help the pro-Russian president of Ukraine and they allege scheme to hide the millions of dollars they were paid for it.

Pamela Brown takes a closer look now at the charges.

PAMELA BROWN, JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Surrendering the FBI in Washington, former campaign manager Paul Manafort and campaign official Rick Gates. The two were business associates prior to their work on the Trump campaign.

The 12-count indictment against the two men focus on their years as political consultants and lobbyists working Ukraine. The accounts include conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.

Manafort and Gates were in U.S. district court pleaded not guilty. Both men had previously denied financial wrongdoing and Manafort's lawyer spoke on his behalf to reporters gathered outside.

KEVIN DOWNING, PAUL MANAFORT'S ATTORNEY: There is no additive that Mr. Manafort or the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government.


BROWN: The indictment alleges Manafort engage receives tens of millions of dollars for their r Ukraine work and to hide that income they launder the money through quotes "scores of the United States and foreign corporations, partnerships and bank accounts." And that includes the details about their lavish lifestyle that they use money from offshore accounts to pay for mortgages, luxury cars, and clothing, children's tuition and home decorating activity that federal officials they were ongoing.

While both men affording Gates who are working on behalf of the Trump campaign. In July, Manafort's Alexandria Virginia home the FBI executed a so-called no knock search warrants with guns drawn, seizing financial and tax documents.

On Monday, the judge set Manafort to bail at $10 million and Rick gates' bail at 5 million. Both men were put on house arrest after giving out their passports. The government argued they posed a flight risk.

And it's worth noting this is likely just the beginning. We could see more litigation back and forth. Also, it is possible that Mueller's team could have a superseding indictment.

Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.

CHURCH: So let's talk about all this with Michael Moore, a former U.S. attorney, and John Dean, a CNN contributor and former Nixon White House counsel. Thank you, gentlemen, for coming in and talking with us. So, John Dean, I want to go to you first. And let's talk about George Papadopoulos, the ex-Trump campaign adviser. We know he sought dirt on Hillary Clinton and he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

What is the likelihood that through this any form of collusion can be determined?

JOHN DEAN, CONTRIBUTOR, CNN: I think it's a real potential. When you read this agreement to plea you just get a hint of what really is going on and it's almost the plot of a spy novel in this skeleton, so they don't tell us very much about other than just what they needed to get the guilty plea down. And I think the implications are pretty serious and collusion looks very real.

CHURCH: Interesting. And Michael Moore, we know that he's been cooperating, Papadopoulos has been cooperating with the law, what does that tell you?

MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, DISTRICT OF GEORGIA: Well, I mean, I think first of all Bob Mueller is a prosecutorial practitioner and this was no accident that he left the indictment come out on Manafort to his colleague, and then now we get Papadopoulos and they've been cooperating.

So, my guess is that probably for some period of time, there would be wiretaps, there may be tapes, there may be statement, there may be revelations of names that other people that Bob Mueller has had sort of his briefcase for some period of time as he is moving forward with the case. And I think the best what he did that there was a masterful moves.

DEAN: It's very tactical in the sense that he left the president hang himself out on the fact, well, there's nothing here, there's nothing to see with the Manafort indictment which was a pretty serious stuff.

[03:10:06] And then half an hour later with the guilty plea, which is stunning.

MOORE: Right.

CHURCH: But he would say that doesn't prove collusion.

DEAN: Which the Manafort?


DEAN: It does not.

CHURCH: President Trump would say that doesn't prove anything.

DEAN: It does.

CHURCH: That he would, he's distance himself.

DEAN: Well, I would think that Trump be wise not to get too involved in commenting on the Papadopoulos case because that has all kinds of implications.

MOORE: Right. And this will be the first time that Trump's own word will come back to haunt him.


MOORE: I think that's likely what we'll see.

CHURCH: And John Dean, it is interesting when you say you're pretty confident that collusion will be proven in the end, why do you say that? DEAN: Collusion is -- well, as Michael will tell you as an attorney, collusion isn't a legal concept. It is a description by the media of what they think might have gone on or what the intelligence community describe was going on and it would suggest a conspiracy or some sort of agreement to do wrong, and that's very potential.

The agreement that was handed down or released today suggests collusion in the broad tenses of that word, whether there's a conspiracy of there are not we'll find out but there are hints of it.

MOORE: Well, and I think too if you just look at the indictment you can tell that Bob Mueller is following the money. He's got his eye on the larger picture and he's doing just like a good prosecutor would and that's simply following the money trail.

DEAN: Right.

CHURCH: And Manafort and his deputy they've pleaded not guilty when it comes to money laundering, so what would the next step be in this legally, where are they going here in this strategy?

MOORE: Well, the not guilty plea sets up the stage for there to ultimately be a trial. I don't think we ever get that. I think this is perhaps a way that the Mueller team is smoking out the idea that there might be some talk of a presidential pardon at least on the federal charges. The president has no authority to do that on the state offenses, but this may be a way that they're smoking out to see what's going to happen.

It also lets him put pressure in various places, including on the administration that people whose names have are not in indictment yet that we know of. This is a great source and tool for him to use to exert pressure on other people and get them to come forward.

DEAN: I agree.

CHURCH: And John Dean, with George Papadopoulos what is the next stage here with his case?

DEAN: Well, he's been cooperating since July when he was arrested coming back to United States from London and the decision to play obviously came along was formalized on October 5th. And I assume that there's been an ongoing cooperation as Michael mentioned, there might be wiretapping. He might have been wired in talking to old friends. Who knows what's going on. But that is certainly the nose in the tent, you might say.

CHURCH: Right. And Michael Moore, you and I were speaking before we sat down here.

MOORE: Right.

CHURCH: And you mentioned the likelihood that President Trump would pardon Manafort.

MOORE: Right. CHURCH: Talk to us about that and what's likely to happen there.

MOORE: Sure. I mean, the president has the inherent power to use the pardon if he wants to do them. The question is will he do that in a way that removes the pressure from Manafort to cooperate. And so we haven't seen that yet but I think they've given every indication that that something that the president would do and we may be seeing right now that Manafort is not cooperation.

I mean, we had Manafort, we had Flynn, we had other people who are either trying to seek out some immunity deal or get some type of arrangement with the prosecutors and I think this just gets that ball moving forward to the next step.

DEAN: I was going to say one of my more historic conversation with Richard Nixon was on March 21, 1973 when this issue of pardoning came up in the conversation. And I told him he could never pardon that it would...

MOORE: Right.

DEAN: It would be the death of his presidency. You know, the fire storm would be so bad and I think that's what Trump is confronting if he starts pulling to the pardon power.

CHURCH: You see a real similarity.

DEAN: Very similar. It's same situation where he was being pressured to pardon ask by one of the Watergate defendants that he assure before he went to jail that he's going to a pardon or he's going to talk. And Nixon was actively considering.

MOORE: I think the unique thing here is that you may have Trump family members who find themselves in smear.


DEAN: The president's daughters, Tricia and Julia (Ph) had been in trouble I suspect he might look that that they've been regardless what his young counsel said.

MOORE: That's right.

CHURCH: All right. John Dean and Michael Moore, please stay put. We're going to take a very short break.

MOORE: Sure.

CHURCH: President Trump is said to be seething of the developments in the investigational. A republican close to the White House says Mr. Trump watched it all unfold on television in his private residence. A senior White House official says it was the Papadopoulos guilty plea that really took the president by surprise.

[03:15:01] And even though Mr. Trump has tweeted photos of Papadopoulos at the meeting the White House claims his role on the team was extremely limited.


SANDERS: He reached out and nothing happened beyond which I think shows, one, his level of importance in the campaign, and two, shows what little roles he had within coordinating anything officially for the campaign.


CHURCH: Sara Murray has more now on the White House reaction.

SARA MURRAY, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Donald Trump's White House remaining defiant in the face of the news that two former top Trump campaign officials are indicted and yet, another plead guilty for lying to the FBI.

Now President Trump took to Twitter on Monday who insist there is still no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. He's talking about the circumstances involving Rick Gates as well as Paul Manafort in their allegedly illegal activities.

The White House dismissed this saying, they had nothing to do with Trump's presidential campaign. But the situation with George Papadopoulos is a different one. He pled guilty to lying to the FI and is now cooperating with them when he was talking about instances directly related to Trump's campaign as well as dealing with Russian official.

Now administration officials were going out of their way early this week to downplay Papadopoulos' role even though he was a foreign policy adviser, saying he was largely irrelevant to the campaign.

As for Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, she insisted that they believe the special counsel's investigation into Russia will soon be over although she offered no evidence as to why she believes that's the case.

CHURCH: And that was Sara Murray reporting there. Many thanks.

Still ahead, a top democratic lobbyist step down from his firm as the Russia investigation rolls forward. Plus, what White House chief of staff John Kelly has to say about the investigation and U.S. history. How his comments on the Civil War are creating a fresh buzz on social media. That's all ahead when Newsroom continues.



GRAHAM: It's OK to talk with Russians, it's not OK to get help from a foreign government when it comes to your campaign for either side.


CHURCH: Republican Senator Lindsey Graham reacting there to the charges against former Trump campaign advisers. He also said the indictments are a sign the system works.

In response to the indictments White House Chief of Staff John Kelly expressed his confidence in President Trump and he said Americans outside of the U.S. capital don't care about the investigation.


JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The focus that's been on Mr. Trump and the focus that's been on this Russian collusion which of course is not the case at all with Trump.

[03:19:59] We're very, very confident that these kind of accusations, you know, unfortunately, the U.S. pollution outside of the eco-chamber that is Washington, I think could care less about Washington, D.C. People out there into the hinterland people don't care. They're disgusted.


CHURCH: So let's bring back Michael Moore, former U.S attorney, and John Dean, a former Nixon White House counsel. Thank you again. Thanks for staying with us, gentlemen.

So, really in a way to sort of, bring this to conclusion just our discussion here. John Dean, if I start with you where do you see this going?

DEAN: When I read the plea agreement with Papadopoulos I thought, you know, this is really like a chip that this fallen off of an iceberg because the hints that are within it says, for example, these are not all the facts that have been understood and agreed upon that there were necessary, just the facts and they serve for the plea agreement. That suggests more.

And then when you read the actual litany inside the agreement and just how big this thing is and how long it's going to go and how deep it might run.

CHURCH: Right. And Michael Moore, how long do you think this might go, how deep will it likely go, do you know?

MOORE: Well, I think, I agree with John. I think it's going to be very deep and it will probably take a long time. I heard people say they hope that Mueller with get through the investigation a reasonable amount of time. You know, I think he's doing exactly what they wanted but doing that is to move forward in a quick pace. But really this is the start.

I mean, we've taken, we're going from an investigation and having suspects and allegations to a full-blown criminal case with name and defendants and that's a big deal in the justice system, that's a big deal and a big leap to make in an investigation where you actually start a criminal case and you have someone who is actually charge by the grand jury.

CHURCH: And John Dean, obviously we don't know how far this will go. We don't really know all of the information at this point but it certainly indicates to both of you that this is going to be big.


DEAN: We know one thing just policy wise, the Department of Justice for a special counsel cannot indict a president? The question is, will they fo to impeachment?

MOORE: That's right.

DEAN: And that's really a political question of how far it will go in this.

CHURCH: Right. And what impact over do you think it will have on the Trump presidency even though without that.

DEAN: You know, I don't think any president wants to go into an off- year election with this kind of albatross but he's got it. And it will have some impact on 2018.

MOORE: Right.

CHURCH: What do you think?

MOORE: And I think ultimately the question I have is whether or not the Congress has the will to begin the impeachment process. I mean, the best way we got the investigations going on both in the House and the Senate, now we've got a DOJ and the special prosecutor investigation and will they at the end of the day look at the evidence been gathered and have the willpower to move forward.

If in fact the evidence at the end of the day supports that back to him.

DEAN: Well, I think the republican Congress has a vertebrae problem.

CHURCH: And you mean by that they had no backbone?


DEAN: They have no spine. Yes.

CHURCH: And, so, what do you think they need to be doing at this point?

DEAN: I think they're doing what they want to do is they're keeping the president there, they're keeping their arms' length, they wanted to sign laws if they can get anything through the Congress but they're just more interested in power than country.

CHURCH: Well, what will they do when they think that the president may be too toxic to be near?

DEAN: Well, then they'll obviously distanced himself. This is the nature of that profession.

CHURCH: And the endgame? MOORE: Well, I think the people, the voters, the American people and the media need to be careful about distractions that this president seems to be particularly adept at throwing at some move people are off the ball. So we need to keep focused and we need be talking everyday about what's going out in the investigation, what the real thing is and not talking about something the tries to divert attention on that.

CHURCH: All right. John Dean, Michael Moore, thank you both of you for coming on.

MOORE: Thank you.

CHURCH: We do appreciate it.

MOORE: Glad to be with you.

CHURCH: And it is worth noting a top democratic lobbyist was another casualty related to special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

CNN politics reporter Tal Kopan has the details.

TAL KOPAN, POLITICS REPORTER, CNN: That's right. In addition to the two indictments and one guilty plea of Trump campaign officials on Monday, there was another shockwave sent through the democratic political class here in Washington, D.C. when Tony Podesta, the founder and chairman of the Podesta Group, a powerhouse lobbying firm here in Washington announce that he will be stepping aside from his namesake firm amid the ongoing probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Podesta is actually linked in some way to Manafort and his company is listed in the indictment as company b who did work for a Ukrainian group that was also affiliated with Paul Manafort that makes up that work, makes up the center of the indictment that was brought against Manafort and Gates.

Now, Podesta is the brother of John Podesta who was a long time Hillary Clinton aide, former aide to Barack Obama, and in fact was the campaign chairman of Hillary Clinton's campaign, although she was not affiliated with the Podesta Group for the work in question.

[03:25:02] But Tony Podesta will now step aside from that group. And we're told according to a source familiar that where will be a new firm with a new name and attempt to salvage the clients which again are far-reaching both domestic and foreign. The latter which caught the Podesta Group into a bit of trouble here with the Manafort probe, although the Podesta Group has not formally been accused of any wrongdoing.

It was, it did come to light this year that some of the work that it did for that Ukrainian group was not disclosed properly. Now for its part the Podesta Group said in a statement that it believes that it did nothing wrong and disclose properly.

And in a statement it said, "The Podesta Group fully disclose its representation of the European center for a modern Ukraine and complied with FARA by filing under the Lobbying Disclosure Act over five years ago and within weeks of starting our work. Any insinuation to the contrary is false. The Podesta Group has fully cooperated with the special counsel's office and taking every possible step to provide documentation that confirms compliance with the law."

But certainly in this ongoing probe Mueller has Washington scared and it's only an indication that there are more shoes to drop as the work continues.

Back to you.

CHURCH: Many thanks for that report. Well, nothing to see here, move along. That sort of, the White House response for two indictments and the guilty plea and the Russia probe. We are following all the developments.

Plus, we will have a closer look at Paul Manafort's work in Ukraine. How he allegedly took millions of dollars from the former Ukrainian president who is considered Putin's toughest.

Our CNN report after this quick break.


CHURCH: A warm welcome back. I'm Rosemary Church. I want to update you now on the main stores we've been following this hour.

The ousted Catalan president is believed to be in Belgium where he could request political asylum. Spain state prosecutor is accusing Carles Puigdemont and other Catalan leaders of rebellion and sedition. If convicted they could face up to 30 years in prison.

A live report from Barcelona coming your way in just a moment.

The FBI is opening an enquiry into the company that's working to fix Puerto Rico's power grid which was destroyed by hurricane Maria. Whitefish Energy is under scrutiny because it has ties to the Trump administration. And when it won the $300 million contract it had only two full-time employees. Puerto Rico's power authority is working to cancel that deal.

The rising waters in New Hampshire swept the home downriver where it crashed into a bridge. Heavy rains from a weather system that are joined with remnants of tropical storm Phillippe and caused flooding in the area over the weekend.

[03:30:03] The owner say they are grateful they left their home Sunday one day before it was destroyed.

Facebook will tell U.S. lawmakers that nearly 126 million people may have seen Russian paid content in their newsfeeds during the 2016 election season, that's more than half the U.S. voting population. Facebook, Twitter, and Google have all come under fire for selling ads link to Russian accounts during the contentious presidential campaign. Well, shockwaves are sweeping through Washington after three of President Donald Trump's former campaign officials were indicted in the Russia investigation. The U.S. government accuses ex-Trump campaign Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates of hiding millions of dollars in income earned while helping Ukraine's former of pro-Russian president. They pleaded not guilty Monday.

We've also learned former campaign advisor George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying about meeting contacts with ties to the Kremlin. The White House reaction, this has nothing to do with us.

The president tweeted about Manafort's indictment saying, "Sorry, but this is years ago before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. Why aren't crooked Hillary and the democrats the focus?" Then President Trump added "there is no collusion." It's a sentiment echoed by his press secretary.


SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Today's announcement has nothing to do with the president, it has nothing to do with the president's campaign or campaign activity. The real collusion scandal as we've said several times before has everything to do with the Clinton campaign, Fusion GPS, and Russia.


CHURCH: Joining us now is Alice Stewart, a CNN political commentator, republican strategist and former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz. Thank you so much for being with us.


CHURCH: So what's fascinating with this, we've got George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort and his deputy. What is likely to happen here in terms of political impact, fallout, what impact does this having on the White House?

STEWART: It's interesting in that really while this all came down the same day much-anticipated throughout the weekend there really are two completely separate instances where we have on one hand Paul Manafort and his associates involved in really serious financial crimes, alleged financial crimes, money-laundering, conspiracy against the U.S. And much of this happened starting a decade ago, prior to his time on the campaign.

However, while he was on the campaign the allegations of this activity continue to happen, where on the other case involving George Papadopoulos, this is something he was a former Trump advisor, a financial advisor and he has plead guilty and entering this plea of guilty for lying about these Kremlin leaks.

And it's interesting I did look throughout a lot of the foreign press and they seem to be putting a little more focused and attention on this George Papadopoulos aspect because it certainly raises more eyebrows when you have a former Trump aide who has acknowledged to lying to federal authorities.

And where we have a Paul Manafort has captured a lot of attention here in America because he at the time is more of a household name during the campaign, but I think they're two completely separate situations, the Manafort case I think will be handled much differently than what are going to have out of the George P part of this case, because as we know he entered this guilty plea several weeks ago and has been a cooperating witness with the federal government and possibly talking to people, possibly interviewing, recording these conversations.

So the fallout from that will be much greater. Here's the focus for the White House, in my view I think strongly they need to do as the chief of staff has said later today. Let the legal system play out. Let's see where these facts go as they make.

I think they need to stop calling it a witch hunt. I think they need to stop pushing the blame on Hillary Clinton. If they say there's no there there and they say there is no collusion with Russia then they should embrace this interview, this investigation. They should, Robert Mueller, follow the facts where they may and see where things go.

And they need to focus on their agenda. Let's talk about tax reform. Let's talk about his upcoming trip to Asia. Let's talk about having a legislative accomplishment. That is their best political move moving forward. And let's hope tomorrow morning they're back on that path.

CHURCH: What we saw though on Monday was White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders distance of the White House from George Papadopoulos and downplay his role with the campaign.

[03:34:59] So there is a clear concern there. What do you think is happening in the White House right now? How worried would they be?

STEWART: By all accounts and based on the press secretary's comment today, it was expected that they would downplay his role with the campaigns. They did this before when Manafort with some questions about his activities with question came out. They downplayed his activity with the campaign.

But be that may, when we were talking about this case of the guilty plea - we have e-mails that George Papadopoulos had with members of the Trump campaign where he talks about trying to set up these meetings. Now mind you, the meetings did not take place, they were never scheduled but there are e-mail trails and e-mail evidence that these conversations were being had between him and someone on the campaign.

And I've been on presidential campaigns before. These foreign-policy boards they are there a lot of people on these boards that do have the authority to have these conversations and certainly if they are given the blessing of the campaigns. You have reached out and how these overtures, of course they are going to do it.

And the fact that they only had one meeting I don't think it's significant whatsoever. If he's communicating with the campaign and being told try to set up this meeting then I think that is -- that is cause for concern. But it's not surprising at all for the White House to try and downplay his role.

CHURCH: And what's your sense of how this is likely to turn out?

STEWART: It remains to be seen. Look, I think we are at the very beginning stages of a very methodical investigation by Robert Mueller. It is way too early to predict how this will play out. But knowing that we have someone who had been a Trump campaign aide that has been cooperating with the FBI for at least a month I think it's very telling, and I think that we'll have more of these charges come out by Robert Mueller.

And right, now we don't have any clear, concrete, hard evidence of collusion but we're just at the very beginning stages of what I see the very methodical probe by Robert Mueller.

CHURCH: Alice Stewart, thank you for your analysis and your perspective. We do appreciate it.

STEWART: Thanks, Rosemary. Have a great day.

CHURCH: And while these indictments are getting a lot of attention in Washington a comment from White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is also raising some eyebrows. He did an interview where he discussed the U.S. Civil War and taking down statues of Confederate figures.

Kelly praise Confederate General Robert E. Lee and he said compromise could have prevented the war which was fought over slavery. Take a listen.


I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man. He was a man that gave up -- gave up his country to fight for his state which in 150 ago it was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days now where it's different today.

But the lack of inability to compromise led to the Civil War in the men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand with their conscience and had to make their stand.


CHURCH: Well, former first daughter Chelsea Clinton responded saying this. There is no compromise regarding slavery ever and the Constitution's original three-fifth compromise was an abomination.

We'll take a short break here, but still to come, back to our lead story the Russia investigation and it seems the mood has changed some in Russia regarding President Trump.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is in Moscow.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Russian officials are already being dismissive of the latest and special counsel Bob Mueller's investigation, as for the Russian public their opinion of President Donald Trump continues its downward slide. [03:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: Welcome back to CNN Newsroom. The charges against Paul Manafort involve a complicated plan where he allegedly lobbied for the pro-Russia party in Ukraine and then hid the money he made. Experts say Manafort's work there was counter to U.S. interests.

Brian Todd explains.

BRIAN TODD, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Mr. Manafort, have you committed a crime?

While the indictment reveal against the president's former campaign manager may not point toward direct relationship with Russia. It reveals a web of close connections between Paul Manafort and some of Vladimir Putin's most valuable ally, including this Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych, the former Ukrainian President was viewed by many as Putin's puppet in the former Soviet republic, a brutal leader who wanted to maintain control of his country.

And for years, Manafort was paid millions to sell Yanukovych's interests on the world stage.


KEITH DARDEN, UKRAINE EXPERT, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: He was working for a government that was trying to keep Ukraine out of NATO was moving against U.S. interests within Ukraine and within Europe more broadly and was siding with Russia on every international issue. So to the extent that we are at odds with Russia and Europe he was working for the other side.


TODD: Yanukovych has been accused of corruption and was ousted during a violent uprising in 2014 by pro-Western forces. For years he had pushed the pro-Putin agenda in his country pushing to maintain ties with Russia and working to keep the country from joining NATO or becoming more democratic.

Now the U.S. government suggests Manafort and his partner Rick Gates were part of that effort hiding for years the fact that they were working for him, acting quote, "as an unregistered agents of the government of Ukraine" and the party of regions which U.S. ambassador to Ukraine tell CNN was a group favored by the Kremlin.


JOHN HERBS, FORMER AMBASSADORS OF THE UNITED STATES TO UKRAINE: The party the region is also at times founded in its interest to take strong anti and immediate actions, for example, when they're exercises in Crimea in the summer of 2006 there were busy organizing demonstrations against them.

And so for the standpoint of American interest this was a questionable we might say. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: One example in the indictment firms directed by Manafort and Gates quote "lobbied multiple members of Congress and their staff about the propriety of Yanukovych's imprisoning his presidential rival, Yulia Tymoshenko.

Tymoshenko was a former Prime Minister of Ukraine who wanted her country to join NATO.


HERBS: Clearly if this was a Manafort initiative that what he was doing certainly is that seems to be something very nasty. She was the principal rival of Yanukovych and probably in a free and fair elections she would have won so she was, she used to be great danger. And so, he put her in jail, and that political repression pure and simple.


TODD: One reason Manafort may have wanted to hide many of his dealings with Yanukovych according to the indictment, Manafort laundered more than $18 million he received from the Ukrainian government.

The White House says the indictment of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates has nothing to do with the president or his campaign. Manafort and Gates have pleaded not guilty to all the charges in the indictment including money laundering. Manafort also denies ever knowingly communicating with Russian intelligence operatives during the election campaign and he denies participating in any Russian efforts to undermine the interests of the United States.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

CHURCH: Oren Liebermann joins us now from Moscow with the reaction from there. So Oren, how exactly how's the mood changed toward President Trump in Russia and what's been the overriding reaction to these charges resulting from the Russia investigation?

[03:44:59] LIEBERMANN: Well, we've already seen some of the first reactions from Russian officials. An outspoken politician praise the coverage of Fox News because it pointed out thet dismissed any evidence of collusion just as it seems the Russian - that Russian politician is dismissing this latest from the investigation from special counsel Bob Mueller.

As well as the spokesman for the ministry for foreign minister here pointing to a line actually about Yulia Tymoshenko where you heard Brian Todd talking about there saying there's a mistake in the indictment where she's called a former Ukrainian president a position she never held and using that to dismiss the entire investigation itself.

And that I suspect is the line we'll continue hearing. Russian officials in the Russian government, the Kremlin have never acknowledged or admitted the accusation of election meddling against them despite the fact that the U.S. intelligence community sees it as a fact that they did and they said there was never any collusion.

That denial is not likely to change just because of the indictments against Manafort and Gates, as well as Papadopoulos here pleading guilty. So we'll see that drumbeat continue. We have a call later on today we expect with the Kremlin spokesperson where we'll be able to speak with him and ask him a few questions but the line there isn't likely to change in terms of admitting fault or anything like that.

As for the general Russian public those that have paid attention to this, for some it's simply an internal U.S. problem, for others the opinion of President Donald Trump which started quite high before and right after the election has since been sliding since there's been more sanctions put in against Russia. That opinion continuing its downward slide with the latest in these investigations. Rosemary?

CHURCH: So, Oren, what impact will all this have, perhaps on the relationship between Russia and the United States?

LIEBERMANN: That will be something we have to keep track of. Because it seems Russia is aware and the U.S. as well that there was almost two different sizes of this relationship. One deals with matters of strategic and international importance, for example, North Korea, Syria, and the Iran nuclear deal.

And the Russians have said we tried to keep that compartmentalized, we tried to keep that separate so the lines can always stay open on those points they don't get the way of anything else.

As for other bilateral ties both the Russians and the Americans have said they're as bad as they've been in decades and that's not likely to change regardless of the fact that both the White House and the Kremlin are dismissing the latest in his investigations who are saying they're relevant to us.

So where the bilateral ties go they're not getting any better but on those important issues we'll have to see if the worsening ties affect the ability of the U.S. and Russia to coordinate on, for example, North Korea.

CHURCH: Al right. Nearly 10.50 in the morning there in Moscow, Oren Liebermann joining from there live. Thank you so much.

And do stay with CNN for more on the story. Jake Tapper, host of CNN's special report the Russia investigation, that's a little more than an hour from now at 9 a.m. in London, 5 p.m. in Hong Kong. Do watch that.

Well, the man who spark Spain's biggest political crisis in decades could seek political asylum very soon and at this stage -- I think we've got a problem here. But let's -- we want to actually we have a live report from our Phil Black with more on Carles Puigdemont and he's traveling to Belgium apparently to seek political asylum.

So talk to us, Phil, on what is likely to happen with that, but also more particularly perhaps in Barcelona there, what is being the response to Carles Puigdemont traveling to Belgium, and apparently planning to start a separatist government in exile.

PHIL BLACK, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Rosemary, it's been a pretty measured response so far I think, because people here are waiting to hear from Puigdemont and learn specifically why he has gone to Belgium, how long he's spending on being away if when he plans on coming back.

Now, if asylum i his goal and that's a rumor, only a rumor at this stage, it will be interesting to see how that impacts his political credibility here. The credibility of his party, the credibility of the wider independence leader. Because he will have left behind a long list of people who are facing the same criminal charges that the government has announced, the prosecutor has announced wants to see against him, rebellion, sedition, the misuse of public funds.

Serious charges with potentially decades in prison as the punishment. And also a lot of his supporters will have hope that after his government when he was in government on Friday night declared independence he was then sacked, they will have hope that following that he was going to fight the central government in Madrid against his sacking, against their withdrawal of the region's autonomy ahead of new elections on December 21st.

And of course continue his fight here for an independent Catalonian state. That's what his followers will have wanted to see instead of staying and fighting he has, for the moment at least left town. They expect to hear from Puigdemont himself explaining why he's gone there in about four hours' time when he's supposed to make statement in Brussels, Rosemary.

[03:50:08] CHURCH: All right. Phil Black, many thanks to you bringing that live report from Barcelona.

Well, in Kenya, the independent voting commission says Thursday's presidential election was free, fair, and credible. They announced Monday that incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta won more than 98 percent of the vote and will serve a second term. But the victory isn't as overwhelming as it seems because only 38 percent of registered voters cast ballots.

Mr. Kenyatta ran virtually unopposed after opposition leader Raila Odinga withdrew from the race in protest and urged Kenyans to boycott the vote because of inadequate election reforms.

It was Kenya's second presidential vote in three months. The first was overturned by the Supreme Court because of irregularities.

CNN's Arwa Damon goes to the site in Niger where four U.S. soldiers were killed in a militant attack.

ARWA DAMON, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Coming up, what we now know about the deadly ambush in Niger. Our exclusive report ahead on CNN Newsroom.

CHURCH: Arwa Damon asks villagers about whether they help the attackers, plus, how that ambush is recharging a debate about U.S. military missions. We're back with that and more in just a moment.


CHURCH: Welcome back to CNN Newsroom. U.S. forces in Libya have captured a suspect in the 2012 Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans. Mustafa al-Imam will be transferred to the U.S. to face charges is now the second Benghazi suspect in U.S. custody. The suspected mastermind is currently on trial in Washington.

Two top U.S. officials are insisting the White House does not need a new congressional authorization to use military force. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the law passed 16 years ago still applies. That authorization was approved after the September 11 attacks.

U.S. missions are being freshly scrutinized as questions linger about the death of four U.S. soldiers in Niger during a militant ambush. And in a CNN exclusive our senior international correspondent Arwa Damon traveled to the site where the U.S. soldiers were attacked in Niger. For the first time we are hearing from villagers who officials believe helped the attackers by stalling the U.S. troops.

DAMON: We head it out with a Nigerian army escort very heavily armed and about 70 soldiers and all. We're trying to get an understanding of what the terrain was like around the site of that deadly October 4th ambush in the village of Tongo Tongo.

We're also looking for answers to the many questions that remain.

In this past terrain it's a woody section that where the Nigerian soldiers moves. It's an ideal cover for an ambush so they advance on foot. We're headed back to the site of an attack that has strongest remote border region into a global spotlight.

[03:55:00] October 4th may have been America's first casualties in the ground right off in Niger. Their patrols regularly come under attack. The ground outside Tongo Tongo is where its heavy Taliban machine gun cases. And we ask the soldiers we're with if they know if they were fired by American or Nigerian forces.

No, they can't be entirely sure because they used similar weapons they said. We're only given 10 minutes on the ground in the village. People here are terrified, confused and reluctant to talk. We track down the detained village chief's uncle and older brother and they insist the attackers came from elsewhere.

Initial reports for that the attack occurred some 10 kilometers outside of Tongo Tongo after the convoy stopped and villagers stalled them.

They were swearing on the Quran that the American and Nigerian convoy never actually stopped here that they just drove through the village and then when they hit the very outskirts that's when they heard the first gunshots. And there are signs of the attacks everywhere. That's the school that

were being pulled was burnt down in the attack at the single classroom. We have to wrap it up right now though because our escorts are understandably quite anxious about spending too much time on scene. But you can see how close it was to the village, they hadn't even made it out.

Weeks after the attack many questions remain, and so too does the threat. Now the U.S. has pledged up to an additional $16 million toward the efforts of the Sahel G5 when it comes to combating terrorism in the region. But many are also saying that the root causes need to be addressed.

These villages especially need outlying areas provide especially easy prey. They are vulnerable populations when it comes to any entities that are trying to exploit them.

CHURCH: Arwa Damon with that exclusive report. And thanks so much for your company this hour. I'm Rosemary Church. Remember to connect with me any time on Twitter. I would love to hear from you. And the news continues now with Hannah Vaughan Jones in London after a quick break.

Plus, in just an hour from now our Jake Tapper, host of CNN special report the Russia investigation. That's at 9 a.m. in London, 5 p.m. in Hong Kong, so stay with CNN.