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Terror List Puts New Pressure on North Korea; Impeachment Looms for President Robert Mugabe; Pressure on Parties to Return to Coalition Talks; Over 1,000 Jobs to Leave London Because of Brexit; Death Toll of Hurricane Maria; Russia Investigation; Trump Takes Aim at African American Athletes. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired November 21, 2017 - 00:00   ET



[00:00:11] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour --

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump puts the squeeze on North Korea adding sanctions and putting them back on the list of state sponsored terrorism.

VAUSE: A CNN investigation reveals the death toll from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico could be up to nine times higher than the official count.

SESAY: Plus Donald Trump takes the bait feuding with a college basketball player's father. Is there a pattern to the President's targeting of sports figures?

VAUSE: Hello everybody. Great to have you with us. We'd like to welcome our viewers all around the world.

I'm John Vause.

SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

VAUSE: The United States is ramping up the diplomatic pressure on North Korea.

SESAY: Donald Trump has put the country back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. And that's not all.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tomorrow the Treasury Department will be announcing an additional sanction and a very large one on North Korea. It will be the highest level of sanctions by the time it's finished over a two-week period.


VAUSE: On State-run TV a few hours ago, Kim Jong-Un was shown touring a truck factory in North Korea. He's yet to respond though to these latest moves by the U.S. President Trump says this is part of his maximum pressure campaign to isolate North Korea over its nuclear weapons program. And America's top diplomat says Pyongyang needs to be held accountable.


REX TILLERSON, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: It's really just the latest step in a series of, as you can see, ongoing steps to increase the pressure and I think this is though, to hold North Korea accountable for a number of actions that they have taken.


VAUSE: Live now to Seoul, South Korea and Anna Coren. So Anna -- Seoul and especially Tokyo both supporting this move by the Trump administration even though the U.S. Secretary of State seems to believe that this move carries a lot more symbolism than any real practical consequences for the North Koreans.

ANNA COREN, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, you would hope that it would carry a practical consequence as being the aim is to apply more pressure on the North Koreans. Obviously, they want to increase sanctions. The plan, to get them to the negotiating table -- that is the ultimate aim here.

But what is for certain, John -- is that this is going to infuriate Kim Jong-Un and his regime. As you say, we have yet to hear from the North Koreans. That may change in the coming hours or coming days. But there is definitely going to be some sort of reaction.

Look, it has been more than two months since North Korea launched a missile test and that is really a long time considering that the frequency of testing that we were seeing coming out of North Korea.

But we heard from South Korea top spy agency the NIS yesterday and they said saying that they are certainly keeping a close eye on potential ballistic missile tests coming out of North Korea before the end of the year. The also said that North Korea is ready to conduct a nuclear test at any site.

Obviously, with Donald Trump's announcement overnight, that could definitely bring that test forward because as we know North Korea will want to retaliate -- John.

VAUSE: Ok -- Anna. Anna Coren there keeping a close eye on any reaction coming from Pyongyang after this move by the Trump administration. Thanks -- Anna.

SESAY: Turning now to Africa. And Robert Mugabe is backed into a corner but he remains Zimbabwe's president if in name only. After spurning a party deadline to quit or face impeachment the military says the Mr. Mugabe is now planning to talk with his former right-hand man who has since been tapped to succeed him.

Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa was given his walking papers earlier this month. And since then, he's been in self-imposed exile but he'll apparently be returning to Zimbabwe soon.

Meantime, a source tells CNN Mr. Mugabe has already accepted a deal to resign and that he's just trying to negotiate the best possible exit but the country is growing impatient.

Farai Sevenzo reports now from the capital Harare.


FARAI SEVENZO, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: In just one week, Harare has gone from a city of whispers to a city of loud protests. These University of Zimbabwe students can hardly believe they are allowed to protest.

Their message is a simple one. Robert Mugabe's time is up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) Now look at his value (ph), only to say good night. I felt offended.

SEVENZO: Were you all offended?

[00:05:00] CROWD: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We are all offended. Very offended.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We might be replacing his name with another's name. That much we know. But it's been 37 years of oppression. So what we are saying is we need a new black as our leader.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He stole the revolution. He personalized the revolution and he changed by almost eliminating those who would have stated the story better, those who could have challenged his authority.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait for the (INAUDIBLE) -- there is something good. Change will come.

SEVENZO: Whichever way you look at it the army they say is the lesser evil. For nearly four decades, they say, they dealt with oppression and a failing economy that they're only too happy to escape.

These student and so many other Zimbabweans are saying the kind of freedom they're having now is better than before the army took over.

And we're hearing it from everybody despite the fact that the men in camouflage are still on Harare streets. They have turned the military men and now God for help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a prayer meeting here.

SEVENZO: Dozens of people gathered in a park outside parliament to reflect and pray.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We do not want him. We do not want the slightest bit of Robert Mugabe in our country. Him and his wife and children, we don't want anything to do with him ever again. He's made our lives miserable.

SEVENZO: Side by side, arm in arm, they sing "God bless Zimbabwe" -- an apt prayer for a nation in need of blessings and closure from the Mugabe era.

Farai Sevenzo, CNN -- Harare, Zimbabwe.


SESAY: Unsettled times in Zimbabwe.

Well, Germany's president is -- hello -- is now calling it --

VAUSE: Here now.


SESAY: -- the worst government crisis in the country's post World War II democracy. Negotiations to form a three-way coalition fell apart early Monday when the liberal Free Democratic Party walked out. At issue -- immigration and climate policy.

VAUSE: This is my bit now.

Pressure is building for talks to resume. Germany's president and business leaders are urging all parties to try and form a government. Chancellor Angela Merkel says she prefers a new vote to governing without a majority.


ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): The path towards a minority government for a stable country, for a country that has so many challenges to deal is one that will have to be thought about very, very carefully. One should never say "never", but I would be very skeptical and think that new elections would be the better path.

I want to say, also though, that the voters gave us a task and we have never had such a situation and that is why I took special note of the President's words today.


SESAY: Well, joining us here in L.A. Dominic Thomas. He is the chair of the Department of French and Francophone Studies at UCLA and an expert on all things Europe.

Dominic -- thank you for being with us, as always.

These talks fell apart thanks to the pro business Free Democrats who basically walked away from the talks. Talk to me about this moment in German politics and what does it say about where things stand? DOMINIC THOMAS, FRENCH AND FRANCOPHONE STUDIES CHAIRMAN, UCLA: right.

It's a unique moment. It's the first time in post World War history that coalitions like this have come up against this kind of sort of obstacles in terms of moving ahead.

You know, only in 1957 did a political party win outright in the first round. And what we've seen over the last two decades is a gradual disintegration of the main political parties who used to get together somewhere around 70 percent or 80 percent. This time around the SPD and then Merkel's CDU/CSU barely got over 50 percent.

Not only that but you've seen a proliferation of political parties. There are now six parties that made it into the Bundestag. This is the first time since German reunification in the early 1990s.

We've got more political parties and the hardest coalition talks ever that have traditionally only involved two parties.


THOMAS: And are now really involving four parties because you've got the CDU and its sister party the CSU at the table with the FTP and at the same time with the Greens --


THOMAS: -- so it makes it even more complicated to come out with something that has historically been part of the German DNA. And the German electoral system in some ways finds itself for the moment of crisis that also happens to coincide with really an end of what many are describing as the Merkel era since she ran again this time but is unlikely to be there in 2021 if she even makes it that far.

SESAY: Yes. What are the chances that these talks can get back on track and they can form a grand coalition with the social Democrats?

THOMAS: Well, it seems that the -- you know, with the FTP and so on that they'd walk away, that they're not interested anymore in coming back to the table. The big question however is how can we resolve this?


THOMAS: Angela Merkel is not interested in a minority government. The SPD has said they don't want to work with her. They would rather in opposition in anticipation of the sort of real post-Merkel era in 2021.

[000958] Yet if we were to hold elections again in a few weeks' time or in a few months' time, it would be very hard for a political party to emerge with enough sort of support to be able to go into coalition because Merkel's party only scored 32.5 percent.

The next was the SPD and these four other parties together are sort of a 13, 10, 9 percent --


THOMAS: So it's hard to see how that would eventually solve the problem.

SESAY: Who's the beneficiary here as things stand now?

THOMAS: Well, it's hard to calculate, you know, really where one goes with this. I think that the FDP misplayed its hand.

SESAY: Right.

THOMAS: It's going to come out of this looking bad. In fact recent -- the polling that came out today points to the fact that the German public are blaming the FDP for the breakdown in these particular discussions.

And given the fact that in 2013 they were ousted from parliament, they didn't even make the 5 percent threshold, considering they only picked up 10.5 percent. They're being a little bit pushy in these negotiations that are all about, you know, give and take, drawing these red lines in the sand so they're not looking good.

SESAY: With the political crisis in play there in Germany, I mean one assumes it will be resolved in some way or other at some points, you know, whether it's new elections or they form a minority government which Angela Merkel says she doesn't want.

What does this mean for Europe? For Brexit talks?

THOMAS: Well, we've seen in elections over the last year or so is that proliferation of these coalitions. We saw it in the Dutch elections and saw it in the Belgian elections. And it took weeks and months for them to form political parties.

But these are smaller countries that one could argue, with no offense to those countries that are less important on the global landscape or on the European landscape. You know, Germany is the leader really of this bloc and has once worked very closely with Emmanuel Macron.

This is going to slow things down. It's going to complicate Brexit negotiations without really having a sort of a firm German representation at the table. It certainly makes the European project even more complicated because for the time being Angela Merkel's attention needs to be on domestic policy and on trying to move ahead with these coalition talks and less looking -- watching over her shoulder of what's going on in Europe.

SESAY: Europe needs her.

THOMAS: They do.

SESAY: They do but she's got her own problems at home.

THOMAS: Yes. Big problems.

SESAY: Dominic Thomas -- appreciate it. Thank you. VAUSE: Well, now to the real world consequences of Britain's decision

to leave the E.U. The European Union is relocating two key agencies from London. More than a thousand jobs will be heading to Paris and Amsterdam and that's expected to be just the beginning.

Here's Diana Magnay reporting from London.


DIANA MAGNAY, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: And so it begins -- Britain's Brexit emigres. The European Medicines Agency off to Amsterdam, the EMA staff's favorite though it was Brussels who did the choosing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You'll also have a very stylish queen who enjoys fish and chips. Besides, our grasp of your language is outstanding.

MAGNAY: And Europe's banking watchdog the EBA, off to Paris. New jobs and investment plus that little bit of extra prestige for these two cities after a hard fought Euro vision worthy campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) is young and full of ambitions.

Join us in Europe (ph).

CHILDREN: We are waiting for you.

MAGNAY: European cities pulling out all the stops to where (ph) these key agencies and the thousand plus staff who come with them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm here to tell you a story from the city of the north.

MAGNAY: As the European Council Donald Tusk put it prior to the vote, whatever the outcome, the real winner of today's vote is the E.U. 27, organized and getting ready for Brexit.

And London, the loser; a thousand jobs down. "Organized for Brexit" not exactly the government's catch phrase right now.

These are the first to go but they won't necessarily be the last. Not unless the prime minister can offer businesses some certainty about a transitional deal and that, of course, all depends on how much she's prepared to pay for those fractious and horribly complicated divorce to go through.

The Brexiteers in her cabinet may be softening on the cash issue. Reports on Monday that Theresa May was readying a 40 billion euro offer double her starting point though still some way off what Europe wants.

The E.U.'s chief negotiator Michel Barnier making it clear there could be no exceptions to the rule if Britain wants out of the single market.

MICHEL BARNIER, E.U. CHIEF NEGOTIATOR: On financial services, you hear voices suggest that Brexit does not mean Brexit. Brexit means Brexit. The legal consequence is that the U.K. financial service providers lose their E.U. passport.

MAGNAY: So critical for the U.K. economy. The big question, how many of the big banks will keep the lights on after Brexit?

Diana Magnay, CNN -- London.


VAUSE: Well, another glimmer of hope has faded in the search for a missing Argentine submarine. Next up, details on the malfunction reported by the captain before the sub disappeared.

SESAY: Plus, the official death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria is 55 but an exclusive CNN investigation finds that may be much too low -- details next.


SESAY: Hello everyone.

Time may be running out for 44 Argentine crewmembers missing aboard a navy submarine. Relatives had high hopes when distress calls and underwater noises were detected recently but the Argentine navy believes there are not from the missing crew.

VAUSE: Before disappearing, the captain was ordered to return because of a battery failure, and normally considered routine. The sub made one last communication after that.

The navy says worst case here -- the crew could actually run out of oxygen within two days.

SESAY: Well, CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri is checking the weather conditions in the search area and joins us now live.

Pedram -- how's it looking?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, the weather has a very brief window of improvement here, that being going in from tonight into Wednesday and that's about it. The winds will pick right back up. The swells generate and get significant yet again.

And I want to show you something, because we know across this very region one of the windiest places on our planet. In fact, I want to show you a presentation here of our planet at this very moment. This is portions of Western Europe -- the U.K., Ireland. Work your way down toward say France on into say Spain and Portugal. The green contours indicative of strong winds.

We'll flip the globe around and show you the strong winds right now on the poles and come down towards the southern hemisphere. Quiet conditions until you get to this very point that is exactly where we have significant winds -- 40 to 50 kilometers per hour in the last known location of this vessel. So that is a concerning outlook of course and you see the weather forecast and it doesn't look good. And you know, the search area once the size of California has now been reduced to the size of the U.S. Virgin Islands so at least some improvement in being to able to pinpoint where we're looking for this vessel.

But here's the area of concern -- 430 kilometers offshore. We're sitting on the edge of the Argentine shelf, essentially beyond that the symmetry (ph) or the elevation within the sea drops significantly from 200 meters down to 4,000 meters deep. You get down to these levels, of course, it's becomes an extremely treacherous location with valleys, hills, mountains and such making it that much more challenging.

In fact, the depth across some of these regions you can stack Burj Khalifa and it would still not be as deep as where this vessel's vicinity is as far as the last point known of communication.

The winds going in from Tuesday into Wednesday, notice improvement there we see. And then once we get to Wednesday, that's the best window. Winds could actually die down enough to where we see the white caps disappear and that would be again a dramatic improvement.

I want to show you some video of what it looks like out there because we've had reports of eight-meter white caps and wave heights. And when you look for visual cues, John and Isha, you'll want to be able to of course see this vessel because we know by navy protocol it's supposed to come to the surface but you only have a couple of seconds to see beyond just a few meters and then once again the ocean obscures everything.

So this is one of the many challenges right now.

SESAY: Yes. Very difficult, indeed. Pedram -- thank you.

VAUSE: Thank you -- Pedram.


SESAY: Ok. Now to a CNN exclusive investigation from Puerto Rico.

[00:19:59] Hurricane Maria may have killed many more people on the island than originally thought.

VAUSE: Right now the official death toll is 55 but CNN has learned after contacting funeral homes almost 500 people are believed to have died.

This is CNN's Leyla Santiago reporting from San Juan.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Look, here's why the numbers are so important. Experts tell us that if you don't have a good grasp on how people died, where people died or why, then it could be a missed opportunity to protect people in the future. It's just one of the reasons we decided to look into the numbers and what we found there are several reasons to question Puerto Rico's death toll.

These are the images they'd rather remember -- the ones capturing Jose Pepe Sanchez joking with his family. But there's another image his daughter Roxanna cannot stop thinking about -- the moment she opened the door and found him on the ground.

She says if Maria had not passed straight through here she believes her dad would still be alive today.

believes his nerves, stressed during Hurricane Maria, led to a heart attack when Maria struck in September. He had had a heart attack in February but the family says he had recovered, boarded up windows himself the day before the storm.

Just minutes before Maria made landfall, she tells us her father complained of breathing complications. When her uncle called 911 he says help was not available in the interior part of the island.

No one from the government has come to ask questions about the cause or the situation surrounding his death.

Over the same month last year, the number of deaths in Puerto Rico increased by 472. The government is reporting 55 people died at the hands of Hurricane Maria.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's accurate based on the factual information that we received -- yes.

SANTIAGO: This is Puerto Rico's secretary of public safety in charge of the death count.

CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, SAN JUAN MAYOR: It appears, for whatever reason that the death toll is much higher than what has been reported.

SANTIAGO: Politicians, news outlets like CNN, have raised questions about the accuracy of those numbers. So we decided to count for ourselves.

CNN called 279 funeral homes. We were only able to reach about half of them. We asked, how many of the deaths were believed to be related to Maria? Despite the official death toll they claim 499 hurricane- related deaths in the month after the storm. That's nine times the government's numbers.

Why the gap?

HECTOR PESQUERA, PUERTO RICO SECRETARY OF PUBLIC SAFETY: Because as I said before, I work on factual. I can't work on a belief.

LEYLA: So we described Pepe's case.

The gentleman is at home. He has a stroke. The person with him calls 911. 911 says we can't get to him in time because 150 mile per hour winds are pounding us right now. Is that a hurricane-related death.

PESQUERA: Absolutely.

SANTIAGO: Allow me to introduce you to Jose -- Pepe. That was his case.

A case not included in Puerto Rico's death toll. The discrepancy begins here -- the death certificate.

A doctor marked Pepe's death "natural". Cases marked "natural" aren't supposed to go to forensics. And forensics says if they don't get the cases, there's no way to investigate if it's related to the hurricane.

On the certificate doctors are not obligated to report if the hurricane contributed to the death.

PESQUERA: Quite frankly, they should. But you're right. Will they be obligated to do it by law? No. But I still submit to you that there's a moral and ethical responsibility to do that.

SANTIAGO: Pesquera plans on asking legislators to change the law -- require doctors to flag natural disasters on death certificate. And that's not the only issue. He admits he needs people to flag cases, too.

PESQUERA: And you're the first person, the first media outlet -- and I'll say it publicly -- that brings in information for us to verify.

SANTIAGO: But is that the media's job or is that your job?

PESQUERA: So it's our job to take care of 2,900 bodies doing every month to see that the doctor, the doctor certified that the deaths occur in the way that it happened.

SANTIAGO: Pesquera tells us he will investigate the multiple cases CNN brought to his attention.

Why is the government of Puerto Rico not double checking? Why isn't the government of Puerto Rico doing what CNN did, calling these funeral homes one by one, visiting these families one by one.

PESQUERA: Funeral homes, to begin with are not the person to tell us what the people die or did not die of.

[00:24:51] SANTIAGO: He says families should be notifying the government if they believe Hurricane Maria is responsible for a death. Loved ones like Pepe's, wife who tells us at the time the priority was not to make sure their loved one was counted in a statistic, rather to make sure he had a proper good-bye.

They were married when she was 20 and she misses him.

Families trying to make sense of tragedy and a death toll.

According to forensics, they sent people to funeral homes, to cemeteries, hospitals to look into suspicious cases and forensics says every time they found false claims, even called them loomers (ph).

You heard the secretary in our piece say that he is willing to look into the specific cases that CNN brought to his attention. He gave us his word that he will investigate and if justified add to the death toll.

Leyla Santiago, CNN -- San Juan, Puerto Rico.


VAUSE: Just when someone in the White House thought the Russia investigation was winding down, investigators plan to interview even more senior officials within the administration and the Trump campaign.

Up next, what that means to the timing and direction of the special counsel's investigation.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has agreed to meet with his former vice president in an effort to end the country's political crisis. Mugabe has yet to resign despite an apparent coup last week. His own party is expected to introduce impeachment plans in the day ahead.

VAUSE: In the coming hours, the U.S. plans to announce new sanctions on North Korea just a day after reinstating the country on the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

North Korea was removed from the list in 2008. Pyongyang is yet to officially respond.

SESAY: The U.S. will end a special status in 2019 that protects many Haitian immigrants from deportation. Thousands were granted temporary protected status in 2010 after the devastating earthquake in Haiti. The status has been extended several times but the U.S. now says the conditions in Haiti have improved enough for nationals to return.

VAUSE: Six months now into the special counsel's investigation into Russia's involvement in the 2016 election and some within the White House, reportedly even the President himself, are optimistic it will be wrapped up around the end of the year.

But that optimism seems hard to explain given investigators working for Robert Mueller plan to interview senior administration officials in the coming weeks Hope Hicks, the current White House communications director, who is seen as one of the President's most trusted confidant, an almost constant presence by his side during last year's campaign.

[00:30:10] And according to "The Washington Post," "One Republican operative in frequent contact with the White House described Mueller's team 'working through the staff like Pac-Man.'"

Presidential Historian Allan Lichtman is author of "The Case for Impeachment," one of the few who actually predicted Donald Trump would win the election. He joins us now from Washington.

Professor, good to see you.


VAUSE: OK, so apart from Hope Hicks, investigators plan to talk to White House counsel Don McGann, also Josh Raffel (ph), an aide to the adviser, presidential son-in-law, Jared Kushner. They have already spoken to policy adviser Stephen Miller, former chief of staff Reince Priebus, former press secretary Sean Spicer.

So what does all this now say about the timetable and the direction of Mueller's investigation?

LICHTMAN: Well, the direction is quite clear. It's upwards. This is very similar to what happened in the investigation of Richard Nixon. You work your way up through the staff members, through the persons close to the president. But ultimately, it boils down to president. Look. The country, the future of America is not going to rise and fall on whether Hope hicks or any of these other people go to jail, get convicted.

It is Donald Trump who is the most powerful person in the world, who holds the American nuclear codes in his hands. So all of this only matters to the extent that it works its way up to whether or not Donald Trump has committed impeachable offenses.

And by the way, the special counsel can't impeach the president. He can only recommend that to the U.S. House.

VAUSE: OK. The last time we spoke it was in April. Robert Mueller was yet to be appointed as special counsel. We know a lot more now than we did then. Even so, back in April this is what you said about what could be the road to impeachment. Here we are. Listen to this.


LICHTMAN: If members of his team in any way colluded with Russia's reprehensible attack on our democracy in the last election and Trump knew about it, that's a serious crime, not reporting treason. Heaven forbid, of course, if Trump himself was in any way involved in collusion.

He could be the first president to be charged with treason, an explicit ground for impeachment under the Constitution.


VAUSE: OK, since then, at least nine people within Trump world had contact with Russians, either during the campaign or during the transition. There's still no evidence directly linking the president with any of that. So where does this now leave the president and could obstruction of

justice actually be a bigger issue facing Donald Trump?

LICHTMAN: Obstruction of justice might a lot easier to prove, even based on what is publicly known, the firing of James Comey, the failure to fire Michael Flynn, either the drafting or the working on the drafting of that misleading account of the June 2016 meeting with his son, his son-in-law, his campaign manager and the Russians.

But there is now some evidence directly linking Donald Trump to collusion. We know from the guilty plea of George Papadopoulos, he was sitting a few feet away from Donald Trump when he talked about his connections with the Russians and said his connections wanted to set up a Trump-Putin meeting.

Trump was right there. The man Donald Trump has said I have the greatest memory in the world but somehow he didn't remember that meeting and direct evidence of collusion with the Russians, even though Russia has been so much in the news and so much of a focus for over a year.

We also know now that Donald Trump Jr. was in contact with WikiLeaks and that the candidate himself seemed to have acted in response to some of the information coming from WikiLeaks, who we know acted as an agent of the Russian government.

And by the way, I talk about treason because Russia was engaged in a war against the United States. Not a war of bombs and bullets but a modern kind of warfare, a cyber attack. And the Russian general staff has talked about cyber warfare as the modern form of warfare for the Russians and the ways in which they would use it to destroy the Western democracies.

VAUSE: As you say, impeachment, though, ultimately a political act and it will take a vote in Congress for the president to be impeached and to stand trial. And then that gets it down to where this all stands politically. Right?

LICHTMAN: That's right. And it is a Republican House. But one of the Lichtman rules of politics is the first requisite of an office holder is survival. We already saw a kind of a collapse of the Republican brand in these off-year elections and come next spring, if Republicans in the House think Donald Trump is dragging them down, enough of them could join with the Democrats for a majority to at least begin an impeachment investigation.

And then, if the Democrats take over the House after the midterms of 2018, they could launch an impeachment investigation or even vote articles of impeachment without any Republican cooperation.

This Russian sword of Damocles that's hanging over the Trump administration and the president is right now on a very slender thread.

VAUSE: This will probably be the most significant midterm elections we've seen in a very long time. Professor --

LICHTMAN: You bet.

VAUSE: -- being with us. Appreciate it.


ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: We shall see, right?

VAUSE: The Russian sword of Damocles hanging over the administration. It's a very visual use of words.

SESAY: Either that or a big clock, tick.

VAUSE: Tick.

SESAY: Tick. And we'll see what happens.

Quick break here. Just ahead, Donald Trump takes the bait and blasts the father of UCLA basketball player LiAngelo Ball.

Is there a pattern --


SESAY (voice-over): -- is there a pattern to the president's criticism of sports figures?




SESAY: So Donald Trump is locked in a Twitter fight with --

VAUSE: That's a shock.

SESAY: -- with -- and you'll never guess who -- with a father of an UCLA basketball player, LiAngelo Ball.

VAUSE: Another shock.

SESAY: And it's not the first time Mr. Trump has taken on an African American sports figure.

VAUSE: Three shocks. OK.

There's also the NFL running back, Marshawn Lynch, NBA superstar Seth Curry, former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

At the same time, the U.S. president hasn't said a word after scathing criticism from NBA coaches Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich. Hmm. Not a word. Nothing like the outrage he had for NFL players who knelt in protest during the American anthem. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, get that son of a bitch off the field right now?

Out. He's fired.

He's fired.


SESAY: Joining us now (INAUDIBLE) journalist Segun Oduolowu.

Segun, always good to have you with us.

SEGUN ODUOLOWU, ENTERTAINMENT JOURNALIST: Always good to be here. It's good to see you.

SESAY: And recently married --


SESAY: Done the deed. Congrats. Congrats. OK. So the president.


SESAY: I'm going to ask you to spell it out.


SESAY: What do you see here as a commonality in terms of when he takes on black sports figures versus letting the criticisms he may have faced from white commentators --


SESAY: Is that it?


SESAY: What is going on here?

ODUOLOWU: Well, there are two things. One, it's very difficult to criticize Gregg Popovich because Gregg Popovich is former military. So -- and he's won NBA championships. So to criticize Gregg Popovich would go against everything that Trump talks about as he jangles his keys and smoke and mirrors that David Copperfield would be proud of because it's all smoke and mirrors.

And it's magic. He's doesn't go after Popovich or Steve Kerr because they are rich white men. He goes after NBA players because --

ODUOLOWU: -- they're not as necessarily rich as the white people that he likes to represent or rub shoulders with.

I always -- you know, my black always seems to get up when rich white men dictate to black people how appreciative they should be for the freedoms that they're supposed to have in this country that they live in.

SESAY: Which seems to get to the heart of this whole issue with LiAngelo Ball's father, LaVar Ball. I know John wants to weigh in. But just to set --

VAUSE: No, I don't.



SESAY: OK. So as we all know, President Trump was in Asia for his tour and these three UCLA players were accused of shoplifting. He said he intervened and the boys were brought back. Right?

ODUOLOWU: Yes. That's what he said.

SESAY: That's what he says. That's what the president said. Now it was put to LaVar LiAngelo Ball's father that basically he should say thank you. He refused. We had LiAngelo Ball's father, LaVar Ball, on CNN a couple of hours ago.

It was put to him once again, I want you to take a listen to what he said.


LAVAR BALL, LIANGELO BALL'S FATHER: When somebody ask me a question, that's not disrespectful if I feel nobody did anything. I don't have to say -- go around saying thank you to everybody. I mean, he didn't call me. I didn't shake his hand. He didn't have to say that. But I'm just saying.

If -- I have to know what somebody's doing before I say thank you. I'm just not going to go around saying thank you.


SESAY: Where do you stand on this issue about the thanks or the gratitude that the president is due here?

And does this tap into a bigger issue, bigger messaging thing here?

ODUOLOWU: Well, I just find it to be somewhat outrageous that the commander in chief wants a thank you for doing what presidents have done for years. And it's not as if he got them out of a detention camp or if he got them out of some political asylum or anything like that.

So to -- I can't even believe I'm going to agree with LaVar Ball. To LaVar Ball's credit, he does not know how much the president intervened. So if the president is looking for this great big thank you, a bigger thank you than the three kids actually said on a podium, at UCLA where they thanked president and said they thanked him, then what more does the president want?

Because LaVar ball doesn't know what the president's role was.


ODUOLOWU: I get that part. Now to Trump's part, you're the President of the United States, you're -- is this really what we're discussing now?

Again, this is a smoke and mirrors. While he attacks LaVar Ball and says I should have left your kid in jail, he cuts everything that Obama worked to build. So it's like watch me jangle the keys, you silly people over here, and I do my hocus-pocus and do this horrible magic trick, where everything, poof, disappears.

VAUSE: Is this a strategy?

Is this like Nixon's Southern strategy?

Because we heard from Steve Bannon, the former White House strategist, the strategist during the campaign, he did an interview back in August and this what he said.

"The Democrats, the longer they talk about identity politics, I got 'em. I want them to talk about racism every day."

Is this all about, you know, waging this war on political correctness against the coastal elites?

And as you say, you know, undoing what Obama did, not just in a practical sense but in a symbolic sense as well.

ODUOLOWU: Well, I'll say this, that there's a brutal irony in the fact that Charles Manson died recently and part of what he wanted to do was start this race war. And here we are, decades after he had his brutal killings, fighting this race war that he was hoping to start.

There is some creditability to what Bannon is saying, that we focus so much on -- as -- whether you're a liberal or a Democrat, we focus on these minor slights, that they said this about us or they -- while funding gets cut and after-school programs get cut and people are disavowed and disadvantaged and Americans are called horrible names by the people in power.

We focus so much on these minor slights while the real battle for redistricting and voting rights and rights for women, all seem to be just moved off the table as we focus on the wrong things. There's credibility to that and it's a scary form of politics.



ODUOLOWU: Well, it's so -- it's so sad.

VAUSE: Segun, thank you. ODUOLOWU: Thank you very much. It's good to be seen by you all. Thank you so much.

SESAY: All right. (INAUDIBLE). Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause. Stay tuned. "WORLD SPORT" is up next. You're watching CNN.