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Ousted U.S. Air Force Went Rogue; King Salman Kicked Corrupt Heads in Saudi; Trump Avoids Gun Issues; Lebanese Prime Minister Resigns; Another Piece of Russia Probe Puzzle Emerge. Aired 3-4a ET
Aired November 6, 2017 - 3:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[03:00:00] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church.
CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Cyril Vanier live from the CNN Newsroom here in Atlanta.
We're following breaking news story for you. First the horror and disbelief in Texas after a man killed 26 worshippers attending Sunday morning service at a small town church. We'll tell you more about what happened and about the gunman in a moment.
CHURCH: And we're also following President Donald Trump on his first trip to Asia as U.S. President. He just held a news conference with Japan's prime minister where Mr. Trump spoke about North Korea.
VANIER: Also, corruption crackdown in Saudi Arabia is having repercussions around the world. We'll go live to our Becky Anderson in the Saudi capital.
CHURCH: First we start with the mass shooting in Texas. The deadliest in the state's history. At least 26 worshippers were killed when a man opened fire at a church outside of San Antonio. The shooting happened in a small rural community, the kind of quiet American town where everyone knows everyone.
VANIER: So the suspect is 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, found dead of a gunshot wound in his car after a brief chase. Kelly was discharged from the U.S. Air Force for bad conduct after being convicted of assaulting his spouse and his child. Last year he bought the rifle that he used legally.
Here's more on how this tragedy unfolded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FREEMAN MARTIN, REGIONAL DIRECTOR, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: At approximately 11.20 this morning, a suspect was seen at a Valero gas station in Sutherland Springs, Texas. He was dressed in all black. That suspect crossed the street to the church, exited his vehicle, and began firing at the church. That suspect then moved to the right side of the church and continued
to fire. That suspect entered the church and continued to fire. As he exited the church, a local resident grabbed his rifle and he gave chase suspect. The suspect dropped his rifle, which was a Ruger and assault-type rifle, and fled from the church.
Our local citizens pursue the suspect at that time. A short time later, as law enforcement responded, that suspect right at the Wilson Guadeloupe County line, he ran off the roadway and crashed out and was found deceased in his vehicle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: Among the dead in that church shooting, the 14-year-old daughter of the pastor. As the town now mourns her and the other victims, the question remains, why? What drove the shooter to attack innocent civilians, including children?
Investigators are trying to find out the motive right now.
And here's our Ed Lavandera with more on that.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that motivation is what drew him to this church, still very much up in question. A couple of interesting things to point out.
Kelley lives in the town of New Braunfels, which is about 40 miles away from this town here in Sutherland Springs. New Braunfels is just north of San Antonio so why he would drive 40 miles and pick out this church is obviously something investigators are taking a much closer and deeper look into.
And obviously whether or not he should have been able to legally purchase a gun is something that is in question as well tonight. As you mentioned, he was able to purchase this assault-style legally back in April of 2016, and so the question kind of becomes, he was released from the military on a bad conduct discharge, which is different from a dishonorable discharge.
And he was accused and court-martialed and convicted of abusing his spouse and his child. So, the question is to whether or not the conviction on those charges should have been able to disqualify him. But from according to sources that CNN has spoken with tonight, there was nothing that popped up in the background check that would have disqualified him from being able to get that weapon, apparently.
So we'll continue to look closer into that. And that's one of the things that investigators also taking a much closer look as they try to piece together what exactly the motivation was in this attack.
VANIER: Ed Lavandera there reporting from Sutherland Springs.
And while U.S. President Donald Trump is in Japan, he says his thoughts and prayers are with the victims in Texas. He spoke earlier at a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I also want to take a moment to continue sending our thoughts, prayers, and deepest condolences to the victims of the horrific assault on a church. In a beautiful area. So Sad. Sutherland Springs, Texas. Such a beautiful, wonderful area with incredible people.
[22:05:09] Who would ever think a thing like this could happen. So I want to send my condolences. The condolences of our first lady. In tragic times American always pull together. We are always strongest when we are unified. To the wounded and the families of the victims, all of America is praying for you, supporting you, and grieving alongside of you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: Well, separately, a major focus of Mr. Trump's trip to Japan was North Korea's nuclear program. The first stop on his five-nation tour included an honor guard ceremony at the Akasaka Palace in Tokyo. He also attended a working lunch with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
VANIER: At a joint news conference, Mr. Abe said Japan and the U.S. are in complete agreement on Pyongyang's nuclear threat. Now Mr. Trump had no apologies for his own sharp rhetoric.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We were working to counter the dangerous aggressions of the regime in North Korea. The regime continued development of its unlawful weapons programs, including its illegal nuclear tests and outrageous launches of ballistic missiles directly over Japanese territory are a threat to the civilized world and international peace and stability.
We will not stand for that, the era of strategic patience is over. Some people said that my rhetoric is very strong. But look what's happened with very weak rhetoric over the last 25 years. Look where we are right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VANIER: Let's go to CNN's Alexandra Field who's in Tokyo. So look, Alexandra, while the U.S. president's rhetoric on North Korea has some people, including some people in the region, slightly worried, clearly he's totally aligned with the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who supports him.
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, that gives Shinzo Abe absolutely no reason for concern. These are two men who speak using a very different tone. And certainly Prime Minister Abe has said that North Korea poses a grave threat to Japan, that of course after the country pulled off its sixth nuclear test earlier this year, and after they sent two missiles flying over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.
But he left no room for any confusion during this press conference, saying that 100 percent Japan and the United States are on the same page, the prime minister and the president on the same page when it comes to how to proceed in terms of dealing with North Korea.
He reaffirm the position that President Trump has often taken by saying that now is not the time for dialogue, now is the time to apply the firmest possible pressure. And he also endorsed a statement at we hear from the president often, the idea that all options are on the table, that it is important to send that message to Pyongyang.
And really to that end he announced Japan would take additional action now announcing that there would be sanctions against 35 different entities and individuals. This was yet again a show of solidarity with president Trump, whose administration has been behind pushing some of the toughest sanctions we've seen against North Korea and his policy toward North Korea has so far been to call for all partners in the region to work collectively to enforce those sanctions, to cut off the revenue that fuels the illicit activities of this rogue regime.
But really, Cyril, the takeaway is that you heard both of these men speaking in absolute superlatives about one another. Not just about the personal friendship that they say they've developed but really saying that they are completely aligned in terms of strategy here.
They also talked more about something you've heard President Trump which view in the past, which is greater sales of defense equipment, military equipment to Japan. Both President Trump and President Abe talked about plans for that going forward, Cyril.
VANIER: Yes, I know the word 'bromance,' a word that the media and we here at CNN probably here too are guilty of using it, but it does seem to apply to these two men, Donald Trump and Shinzo Abe. It was quite noteworthy that Shinzo Abe heaped not inconsiderable praise on Donald Trump and really went out of his way to do so.
FIELD: Yes, and President Trump did the same thing. You heard them talk a lot about the friendship they have, about the countless hours that they have spent on the phone, or how many rounds of golf they've played with one another. This trip started with the two of them eating hamburgers and signing hats that said Donald and Shinzo make the alliance even greater.
Yes, it's nice they seem to get along, they seem to have a friendship here but there's also got to be some strategy behind this.
[03:10:01] Cyril, we know that as this administration came into place in Washington some ten months ago, leaders around the world were looking at how they will proceed, how they might relate to Donald Trump.
They do know and they do understand that developing a close personal relationship does seem to be the way forward with this president. Prime Minister Abe was the first foreign leader to go visit President Trump after he was elected. And certainly it was significant and symbolic that President Trump chose to make Tokyo and Japan the first stop on his first official visit to Asia.
VANIER: Alexandra Field reporting live from Tokyo, thank you very much.
CHURCH: So let's go to Kazuto Suzuki for more on president Trump's Asia tour. He as professor of public policy at Hokkaido University and he joins us from Sapporo in Japan. Thanks for being with us again, I appreciate it.
KAZUTO SUZUKI, PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC POLICY, HOKKAIDO UNIVERSITY: Thank you.
CHURCH: So let's talk more about this very united force that we saw. This relationship on display between President Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Just how important is it for the Asia region to see that relationship on display during that joining press conference, and did they both say what Japan and the Asia region needs to hear and wants to hear at this time?
SUZUKI: I think this is a display of the most strongest level of the unity of the alliance. And this is a strong message not only to North Korea but also to China. They are -- I think during the stay President Trump has not mentioned China that much. But I think there is a very strong sense that he needs to send a message that if the China doesn't respond to the Japan/U.S. alliance, then this alliance will move ahead without Chinese acknowledgement.
So I think the demonstration of this unity would have a very strong message to China as well as South Korea.
CHURCH: And it's interesting you mentioned China. Because of course the United States see China -- sees China as critical when it comes to the nuclear threat posed by North Korea. And of course that was one and will be one of the biggest issues for Mr. Trump as he undertakes this visit to Asia.
So what did Mr. Trump and Mr. Abe say that would perhaps allay some fears that people would have in the region, specifically, and beyond?
SUZUKI: Well, I think the Prime Minister Abe has announced the additional 35 entities to be designated. And I think these sort of additional sanctions, unilateral sanctions will have certain power, particularly the secondary sanctions towards the Chinese companies is now putting a certain effect on the Chinese government to respond to the implementation of the U.N. sanctions.
So I think this sort of an action to put the maximum pressure on North Korea is the message that direct towards China.
CHURCH: And while they are united on the North Korea issue, it's not necessarily the same story when it comes to trade, is it. They're not on the same page here, but they did indicate that they will continue discussions. So what does Japan want to see in the end come out of those trade talks?
SUZUKI: Well, I think the ultimate goal for Japan is to establish the trade environment and trade rules with the higher standard at the entire Indo-Pacific area. But the United States' decision to leave TPP would make it very difficult. So what Japan is doing it to try to persuade the TPP 11 scheme and to
establish the higher standard and make sure that Japan/U.S. bilateral dialogue will try to enable United States to easing compared to this TPP framework.
CHURCH: Kazuto Suzuki, thank you much for sharing your analysis and of course your perspective, we do appreciate it.
VANIER: And we're continuing to follow...
SUZUKI: Thank you for having me.
[03:14:59] VANIER: ... the latest developments out of Texas after the shooting that killed 26 men, women and children. We'll have a look at the suspected gunman when we come back.
CHURCH: A corruption crackdown in Saudi Arabia nets dozens of high- level officials. We will take a closer look at what the beginning of a new era in the kingdom may look like.
CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. We want to update you on our top story. At least 26 people are dead after a gunman opened fire in a Texas church.
VANIER: Now this happened in the small town of Sutherland Springs in central Texas. Investigators say the victims' ages range from 5 to 72 years old. They say Devin Patrick Kelley stormed the first Baptist Church Sunday morning. Police are not sure what motivated Kelly, who was later found dead in his vehicle.
CHURCH: Mourners in the small community Sunday night for a vigil. Earlier, Texas' governor had a message for those shocked by yet another mass shooting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GREG ABBOTT, R-TEXAS: As governor I ask for every mom and dad at home tonight, that you put your arm around your kid and give your kid a big hug. And let them know how much you love them. Knowing that we support each other. Tell your friend and your neighbor that you support them and that you will work with them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VANIER: At a news conference in Japan, U.S. President Donald Trump says the Texas shooting was caused by a mental health problem and not by an issue with U.S. gun laws.
CHURCH: And for more now on the investigation, we want to go to CNN's Diane Gallagher live for us in Sutherland Springs. And Diane, we're just getting very disturbing details. Apparently, eight members of one family were killed in that shooting. DIANE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Rosemary. And what
we're hearing from a family member, we're not going to identify them at this point because they're still working on getting to the next of kin. But we're told eight members of one family, including a woman who was five months pregnant and three of her children, her brother-in- law.
This is a very small community. Less than 700 people live in Sutherland, Texas, Rosemary. So that for 26 killed, we're talking about 4 percent of the population was wiped out by one person on a Sunday morning while they were in church.
[03:19:56] This is going to be something that's going to be extremely difficult for people in this community and around it to cope with. But you can probably just see still working on it. The entire block is roped off right now.
The First Baptist Church sign is lit up there in the distance. But they're not letting anybody get to it at this point. Even a community center where they held that vigil that you showed that video from earlier in the evening, that is now too roped off as they try and continue this investigation.
CHURCH: Yes, Diane, it is a horrifying story. And of course there are still so many unanswered questions. But we are learning a little more about the shooter. His bad conduct discharge from the U.S. Air Force. And of course those assault charges against him.
What are authorities saying about this new information, and how did they explain this shooter being able to get access to an assault weapon given his background?
GALLAGHER: So, Rosemary, that's the big question that sort of circling this right now. We're talking about a court-martial for one count of assault against his spouse, one count against his child.
Now look, he served 12 months' confinement. They buckled his rank down to an E-3. He got that bad conduct discharge. Now we're told that the weapon that he used in the shooting, an official tells us that it was a Ruger AR-556, that weapon was purchased back in April of 2016 at an academy sports and outdoor in San Antonio, Texas. That's just about5 minutes from here right now.
So he got that. We're told that he fill out the paperwork and that no disqualifying information was discovered in that search. We're also told that he did not -- he did check the box that indicated that he had anything in his background that would be disqualifying.
So at this point the questions are, where was the disconnect or if there was a reason why that information was not disqualifying. Of course things that law enforcement is still trying to sift through at this point, Rosemary. But it's very disturbing. We're also told that law enforcement found additional firearms in his vehicle when they found his crashed car after that chase.
CHURCH: And we stil1 don't know why. What are authorities saying about a possible motive here? Are they any closer to making a determination on that? Do they ever think they'll know?
GALLAGHER: At this point we're 15 hours roughly, Rosemary, since the shooting happened. We have zero indication of the motive at this point.
However, I can tell you that he -- his residence was in New Braunfels Texas, that the suburb right outside of San Antonio, so not far from this area. There do appear to be some sort of loose connections to the Sutherland Springs area based on online persona, things like that.
So law enforcement is working on that. We do know that there were federal officials here working as well, Rosemary, they're trying to get to the bottom of why he did that. But again, this is the worst mass shooting in the history of the State of Texas. And so right now, for the people in this community, answers would be great but they also need a lot of time to heal.
CHURCH: They must certainly do. Diane Gallagher joining us there from Sutherland Springs in Texas, where it is 2.23 in the morning. Many thanks to you.
VANIER: Let's bring in Juliette Kayyem on the same topic. She is a CNN national security analyst, she's a former assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, so she comes at this with a law enforcement perspective.
Juliette, we're finding out more about this suspected gunman. He's somebody who was discharged from the military for bad conduct, he's somebody who was court-martialed in the past for assaulting his wife, for assaulting his son, spent a year in jail. And yet he was able, after all of that, to legally buy an assault rifle. Was there a loophole here, or is this normal?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: No, there appears to have been a loophole. We're not certain yet. But his discharge and essentially, you know, the equivalent of a felony charge for what occurred in the military should have prohibited him from getting the rifle.
So that's one problem. And we need to just figure out where that gap was. Did the military fail to put that in his record? Do we -- you know, we just don't know right now.
There is, of course, a second issue which isn't, you know, having to do with guns, why AR-15s, which he used, so available, are they necessary? So you're seeing two different bates. Where was the gap in the process by which he got the gun? And then also these guns which are just killing lots of people at this stage, why are they available in the United States? Two different debates, but both part of what's happening now after Texas.
VANIER: Yes, well, Juliette, of course, the questions of gun and control and the wide circulation of guns in the U.S always resurfaces when there's one of these mass shooting incidents. The U.S. President, Donald Trump, was put to question about why this happened, what was the cause. This is what he said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[03:25:01] TRUMP: We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries. But this isn't a gun situation. I mean, we could go into it, but it's a little bit soon to go into it.
But fortunately, somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction, otherwise it would have been as bad as it was, it would have been much worse. But this is a mental health problem at the highest level. It's a very, very sad event. It's a -- these are great people and a very, very sad event, but that's the way I view it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VANIER: So look, what does the law enforcement community think or what does the Department of Homeland Security think, you used to work for them, when they hear something like that? It's not a gun issue.
KAYYEM: Look, any sort of violence that occurs in the United States, whether it's terrorism or mass shootings or whatever it may be, you have to look at both the motives and the means. So let's just look at terrorism.
And terrorism, you try to minimize, you know, radicalization or what may be occurring online. But you also try to stop terrorists from having the means to harm people. That's why you're seeing, after New York this week, just a few days ago, after the New York attack, they're starting to put barriers up on these bike lanes.
So it's just a disconnect then to say, well, when it has to do with just a mass shooter who's not animated by terrorism, that we're only going to look at the potential motivation, which may have been mental derangement or mental instability.
There's no threat out there that you wouldn't actually look at the means as well. So a lot of us are sort of saying, yes, we recognize that there's mental health issues, other countries have people with mental health issues as well, they're not seeing the violence because they have different laws regarding guns, regarding the ability of people to get lots of guns.
So you want to look at the motivation, but you also always want to look at the means. And in this country, the United States, we're just seeing too many peopled, right, killed too quickly, that's the other thing. I mean, Las Vegas, then of Texas that you have to deal with that issue as well. So it's both.
VANIER: And following up on that, if it's a mental health issue, doesn't it follow from that logically speaking that there isn't a whole lot you can do about it, you just have to live with these events?
KAYYEM: Look, there always going to be violence in the United States. In any country there is going to have violence based on some bad motivation, whether it's terrorism or mental instability. So yes, there is some -- we have to accept that that's the case. I
think the question, especially when you look at the numbers in the United States, with our mass shootings, you know, every other day at this stage, the additional question has to be OK, understanding that there's going to be some risk, is there something we can do policy- wise, don't have access to certain guns, have stronger checks, all the sorts of things you hear about in the gun control debate.
Are there other things we can do to minimize the risk even more. No one who advocates gun control or people in homeland security who see it as something necessarily to minimize the risk in the United States, no one believes that it's the only solution.
But combined with a lot of solutions, you can't at least at the very least begin to lower some of these mass shootings. They're not going down in the United States. They're going up. We see the numbers.
VANIER: Yes, and after Las Vegas and now after Texas, it seems that in both instances the U.S. president does not appear interested in opening up a policy debate on guns in the U.S.
Juliette, CNN security analyst, thank you.
KAYYEM: Thank you.
CHURCH: We'll take a break here. Shockwaves through Saudi Arabia's upper echelon. Some of the kingdom's most high-profile princes and businessmen are swept up in an anti-corruption probe. What's behind the crackdown? That's next.
VANIER: Meanwhile, Lebanon's prime minister abruptly quit this weekend. Why it's much more than a career change for him. An unsettling danger for the Middle East. We'll be live in Beirut after the break. Stay with us.
[03:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
VANIER: And a warm welcome back, everyone. Glad to have you with us. I'm Cyril Vanier.
CHURCH: I'm Rosemary Church. It is time to update you on our top stories this hour.
Twenty six worshippers were killed at a Baptist Church in Texas when a man opened fire during the Sunday morning service. The suspect is 26- year-old Devin Patrick Kelley. He was found dead of a gunshot wound. Now Kelley was discharged from the U.S. Air Force for bad conduct several years ago. This after he was convicted of assaulting his spouse and his child. He bought the rifle, however, legally.
CHURCH: Meanwhile, residents of the small town outside of San Antonio are trying to console one another. The shooting happened in a tight- knit community of only a few hundred people. The 14-year-old daughter of the pastor is among the dead. It's the deadliest mass shooting ever in Texas. VANIER: At a joint news conference in Tokyo Japanese Prime Minister
Shinzo Abe said he and U.S. President Donald Trump are in complete agreement on how to handle the North Korean nuclear threat.
And Mr. Trump said the era of strategic patience is over. The U.S. president travels to South Korea next on his five-nation Asia tour.
CHURCH: Some members of Saudi Arabia's formerly untouchable upper class are now in deep legal trouble.
VANIER: It's all thanks to the country's King Salman and the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. The king appointed him head of an anti- corruption committee this weekend.
And just hours later, at least 17 princess, officials and businessmen were arrested and a number of others detained. Now this is part of what's said to the prince's top to bottom overhaul.
CHURCH: Among those arrested, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is one of the Arab world's wealthiest and best-known businessmen.
VANIER: All right. Let's talk to Becky Anderson, she's live from Riyadh. So Becky, if we do the autopsy of what happened this weekend, what are we looking at here? Are we looking at an anti-corruption drive? Or are we looking at somebody trying to sideline his rivals and consolidate his power?
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR: I think, you know, what we are looking at is an extraordinary weekend here, which needs to be perceived within the context of what has been going on here now for some time.
I mean, this weekend provided confirmation, if anyone needed, of exactly who is in charge here and how the kingdom's new leadership is positioning itself, both domestically and I've got to say on the international stage as well, look, civics might call this a power play.
Supporters of the young crown prince will tell you that the message is that the era of elite indulgence is over, and to be quite frank, Cyril, this was move that was well flagged earlier in the year in an interview with Arabic language TV station when Mohammed Bin Salman warned that every person who has engaged in corruption, regardless of their status, will be held accountable.
[03:40:12] Provided, he said that evidence of wrongdoing exists. You point out the most high-profile of these targets, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, for example, the billionaire businessman and owner of kingdom holding which has stakes in companies like Citigroup, Twitter, Apple, News Corps, other big business people such as the chairman of the Bin Laden group, a major construction firm in the kingdom caught up in the sweep.
The Saudi media mogul Walid al Ibrahim, also out Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, from his post as head of what is the elite guard here.
I think, you know, the context to this is that we have seen these moves by the crown prince over the past year or so to crackdown on the religious conservatives here, reining in on the religious police.
The story that I've covered just recently here of women being allowed to drive here by next June, for example. You see an awful lot of change here which is unnerving some people.
Even, you know, the most supportive of Saudi watchers are also looking at the increasingly muscular policy with regard the region. It lays a focus on Iran as the number one security problem, backed let's be clear by the U.S. President Donald Trump.
And I guess to that end there are two other important developments this weekend. The accusation that Tehran is supplying arms to attack Saudi Arabia from Yemen, a contention supported by evidence presented later on Sunday night by the spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen following the ballistic missile attack on the airport here at the weekend.
And don't forget, adding to all of this the bombshell resignation of the Lebanese prime minister here in Riyadh on Saudi-backed television, blaming Iranian involvement in his country as destabilizing and destructive.
Now the irony of that resignation coming as it did from Saudi Arabia here in a country many critics say is itself involved in meddling in other countries' affairs has not been loss on the naysayers in the region. But you ask for the forensic on the past 36 hours.
I think it's clear, no more graft is the message from the crown prince, the leadership here. You know, a power play, say many who are his critics. But there is certainly enormous moves to reorganize and restructure what is going on here under the umbrella of vision 2030 for an economy that is being flat lining.
So, for an economy to having future and for this country's position, as I say, on the international stage. Cyril?
VANIER: Yes, that's absolutely remarkable that the man who's been at the center of all these moves, these last 36 hours is just 32 years old. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Becky Anderson, reporting live from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, thank you.
CHURCH: And meanwhile, Saudi Arabia may have played a role in the surprise resignation of Lebanon's prime minister. Saad Hariri announced he was stepping down Saturday during a speech given from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. He cited fears of an assassination attempt.
Our Ben Wedeman is in Beirut with a closer look at Hariri's resignation. So, Ben, what role did Saudi Arabia play in this? And what are we to make of the suggestion by Saad Hariri that he stepped down due to fears of an assassination attempt?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, regarding that assassination attempt, that claim, assassination attempt, according this only appeared on Al Arabiya which is Saudi-backed Arabic news channel which claimed that there was an attempted assassination of Saad Hariri while his motorcade drove through Beirut several days before he flew to Saudi Arabia on Friday.
And of course on Saturday, he made that surprise resignation announcement on Saudi-backed television from the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Now many people here were surprised, in fact, almost everybody here was surprised at this announcement. And doubly surprised by the fact that he did not make the announcement on Lebanese state television or his own. Hariri owned Al Mustaqbal TV and he made it from the Saudi capital.
Now we hear Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah saying that he believed that the statement that he read out, his resignation, was dictated to him by Saudi officials.
[03:39:58] Certainly Saudi Arabia has a long history of involvement, one might call interference in Lebanese affairs going back decades, as does of course Iran as well. So definitely the consensus is that Saudi Arabia did have an impact or an influence, direct or otherwise, in the decision by Saad Hariri to resign.
It's well known that Saudi Arabia and the Trump administration are unhappy with the level of Hezbollah's involvement in the Lebanese state. Of course the government that Saad Hariri led from December of last year had several Hezbollah ministers in it.
But the fact of the matter is, they are a major player in Lebanese affairs. And to exclude them will probably more, be more troublesome for the state of affairs in Lebanon than to include them in running the counter. Rosemary?
CHURCH: So Ben, what happens next in Lebanon? Who replaces Saad Hariri as prime minister? Why would Saudi Arabia want Hariri gone? And what are the ramifications for the Middle East with this?
WEDEMAN: That's a lot of the questions there, Rosemary. Well, clearly Saudi Arabia doesn't want Hezbollah to play a role in Lebanese affairs. Certainly not to the level they are at the moment.
And this part of Saudi Arabia's alarm at the growing influence of Iran. But as I've said time and time again, it's a bit late in the day to become worried about that. Iran is a huge country in the Middle East. More than 80 million people living there. They have a large economy. They have interests in Iraq, in Syria, in Lebanon, in Yemen. And they have clearly planned for the long game.
They have huge influence in all those countries I've mentioned. And the Saudis and the Gulf sheikhdoms are really playing catch-up when it comes to a long-term strategy for the region.
Now, also keep in mind, Rosemary, that Iran backed the winners, backed the winners in Iraq when it comes to the fight against ISIS, backed the Assad regime which clearly is winning against not only ISIS but the rebels as well. And it is backing of course, the Houthis in Yemen where Saudi Arabia's bogged down in what appears to be an unwinnable war.
So the Saudis and their Gulf allies and the United States are scrambling for a coherent policy at this moment. But unlike Iran, they don't seem to have one. Rosemary?
CHURCH: Lots of questions but all well-answered by our Ben Wedeman joining us there live from Beirut where it is 10.43 in the morning. Many thanks to you, Ben.
VANIER: After the scouring of more than a million documents, some potentially problematic information on a Trump cabinet member has surfaced. What a group of journalists found, when we come back.
CHURCH: Plus, the deposed leader of Catalonia is no longer in police custody after turning himself in earlier Sunday. Details on his conditional release. That is still to come. Stay with us.
[03:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
VANIER: Welcome back. A trove of leaked documents has just been made public that reportedly shows financial ties maintained by a member of a U.S. -- of U.S. President Donald Trump's cabinet to Russia.
CHURCH: Boris Sanchez explains how the papers came to light and what they may mean.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: According to leaked document shared with the New York Times, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross maintains a stake in a company that has contracts with a Russian business that's run by several figures with connections to the Kremlin, including a member of Vladimir Putin's immediate family.
The New York Times notes that Wilbur Ross did not disclose the links between these interests and Russia to Congress while he was going through his confirmation process. Now these documents are known as the paradise papers. They were leaked to a German newspaper and then shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists as well as the New York Times.
They appear to come from a Caribbean-based law firm known as Appleby, and it reveal that Ross currently retains an interest in a shipping company known as navigator holdings. That shipping company transports gas.
And according to these documents, navigator's second-largest client is Cyber, a Russian petrochemical company owned in part by several well- known Russian businessmen. One of them is Kirill Shamalov, married to Vladimir Putin's daughter Yekaterina.
Another is Gennady Timchenko, a Russian billionaire currently sanctioned by the Treasury Department, even barred from entering the United States. He's considered to be part of the Russian leadership's inner circle.
Now in response to these revelations, the commerce department shared this statement with CNN writing, quote, "Secretary Ross was not involved with navigator's decision to engage in business with Cyber, a publicly traded company which was not under sanction at the time, and is not currently. Moreover, Secretary Ross has never met the Cyber shareholders
referenced in this story, and until now did not know of their relationship. The secretary recuses himself from matters focused on Trans-Oceanic shipping vessels but has been supportive of the administration's sanctions against Russia and other entities.
Secretary Ross works closely with the commerce department ethics officials to ensure the highest ethical standards and is committed to restoring our economy and creating American jobs."
Now while the Commerce Department denies wrongdoing, these revelations come at a bad time for the White House. Wilbur Ross becomes yet another figure close to the president whose connections to Russia are raising concerns.
First, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was forced to resign after he failed to disclose meetings with Russian officials. Then after months of initial denials about any contact with Russians, we learned that Donald Trump's son, Donald Trump, Jr., his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and then-campaign chair Paul Manafort, met with Russians in private at Trump Tower during the campaign after they were promised dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions at one point denied ever meeting any Russian officials during the campaign, but then was forced to clarify those comments after it was found that he did meet with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak at least twice.
And just this week Sessions, who was a foreign policy adviser to Trump during the election, has been asked to clarify his testimony before Congress yet again after it was revealed that George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign, told Sessions about communications that he had had with Russian officials regarding a potential meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin during the campaign.
And as you know Papadopoulos admitted to having lied to the FBI about his contacts with Russians during the election.
Boris Sanchez, CNN, Washington.
CHURCH: A Belgian judge has released former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four of his ministers after they turned themselves in to police on Sunday. Spain issued international arrest warrants for their roles in Catalonia's independence bid.
Belgian prosecutors they can't leave the country and will be back in court within 15 days.
CNN's Isa Soares joins me now from London with more on this. So, Isa, the investigation judge will now decide what happens next, right?
ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
CHURCH: So what are the possible scenarios here, and why will Puigdemont and the other officials released at this junction? SOARES: Well, what we know the reason they were released -- good
morning, too, Rosie, was really there was no need to apprehend them.
[03:50:03] The condition was they can stay as long as they stay in the country, to provide the address and their contact details and show up into court in 15 days' time, then they can actually be released and do not need to be put in prison.
But we do not know what happens next. I mean, as you can understand, it's a legal issue and there can be delays at any end of the process. What we do know is that really the judge, after having almost 24 hours of interrogations, have been questioning Carles Puigdemont, as well as four other Catalan ministers, decided to release them, and now they have to show up in 15 days.
And what the Catalan -- what now the judge could do is decide either, one, to indeed extradite them after questioning them in 15 days' time again speak -- after they go to court. Or as one expert put to me, Rosie, there is, one expert said there is no recognition of the sedition charge in Belgium, so that could also be really a stepping- round that really could make -- hamper their cause.
Another option, of course, there's so many avenues for appeal. So you're really looking at something like 60 days from actually putting this through or even an extradition process, one expert said to me, it could last as many as 30 days, Rosie.
You're really looking at that December 21st deadline when the regional elections. Is that the strategy? Is that the long game by Carles Puigdemont? Perhaps, especially because one day after that European arrest warrant was actually put in place, the leader, one his party, a center-right party of Catalonia said, he's going to be the leader of that party come December 21st, Rosie.
CHURCH: Isa, and this of course are serious charges against the former Catalan officials as you mentioned. Sedition, rebellion, misuse of funds, misuse of authority and contempt. How strong is the evidence and the case against them? What's the likely outcome? You've pretty much covered that.
But is for Spain is it really just a matter of making the point? A little bit of symbolism here?
SOARES: Well, within the law it isn't just symbolism. They actually broke the law, according to the Spanish Constitution. They went ahead with referendum that it was illegal.
So, sedition, so the viewers get a sense of how serious they are, it carries a 30-year sentence. Sedition -- rebellion, 30 years. Sedition, 15 years, Rosie. And the misuse of public funds, as many as eight years.
We do not know what evidence the Spanish government could have against them other than the fact that we know a referendum was held, and he was front and center of that referendum. And it was organized by many other ministers within the Catalonian government. So that is for sure, but what is telling is the fact that last week,
if you remember, eight other government of Catalan officials, ex- government officials I should say, were actually arrested. What is the beginning of an investigation into what roles they took within the referendum, Rosie.
And this is just the first stage. And the reason the judge said they were actually put in prison so early on is because there's a fear, of course, they could be a flight risk. But potentially, they could destroy the evidence if they were let out into -- in Catalonian society.
So, that is very much one of the huge concerns. But we do not know at this stage what the government has against indeed Mr. Puigdemont as well as other officials, Rosie?
CHURCH: Yes. Still a lot we don't know as you point out. Isa Soares joining us from London where it is 8.53 in the morning. Many thanks to you.
VANIER: And we're still following developments out of Texas. We'll hear from residents stunned by the mass shooting that has rocked their quiet little town. Stay with us.
[03:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were flabbergasted. There's just no reason for something like that to take place. Especially here where everybody is family.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VANIER: Well, that was Carrie Metulah (Ph)there, she lives in Sutherland Springs, Texas. She witnessed the mass shooting at the church on Sunday, that the deadliest in Texas' history.
And that community is in mourning after Sunday's shooting. At least 26 people were killed, including the 14-year-old daughter of the pastor, and 20 others are wounded.
CHURCH: The suspected shooter is 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley. He was found dead from a gunshot wound in his vehicle after a brief chase. Kelley was discharge from the U.S. Air Force for bad conduct over charges of assaulting his spouse and their child. Authorities are still trying to figure out why he went on this rampage.
We want to thank you for watching CNN Newsroom. I'm Rosemary Church.
VANIER: And I'm Cyril Vanier. The news continues next with Max Foster in London. Have a great day.