Return to Transcripts main page


U.S. Senate Passes Republican Tax Reform Bill; Flynn Pleads Guilty to Lying; U.S. Defense Secretary in Egypt for High-Level Talks; Cities Grapple with Rising Sea Levels. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired December 2, 2017 - 04:00   ET




ANNOUNCER (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): 4:00 am on the U.S. East Coast. We're following the breaking news this hour here on CNN. Arguably, one of the most successful moments for the U.S. president on tax reform and one of the worst days, with a member of his inner circle pleading guilty in the Russia investigation.

I'm George Howell at CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. Welcome to viewers here in the United States and around the world.

First to tax reform. Just hours ago, the U.S. Senate passed a major overhaul of the U.S. tax code on a vote of 51-49, an almost strictly party line vote. After a string of high profile failures in Congress, the vote marked the first significant legislative win for the Trump administration and for the Republicans who lost -- who control, rather, the Congress.

But that victory overshadowed by a seismic shift in the Russia investigation. Focus on the former president's national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Flynn pleaded guilty -- you see him here, leaving court there -- pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in the probe of Russian election meddling on Friday.

With this, Flynn is now the fourth Trump campaign official to be caught up in this investigation so far and the second to plead guilty.

So fair to say, a lot to talk about today. Let's now listen to that moment just hours ago, that moment when the tax bill passed through the U.S. Senate.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On this vote, the yeas are 51 and the nays are 49. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as amended is passed.


HOWELL: The Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence, presiding there. President Donald Trump tweeted his congratulations, saying this, "We are one step closer to delivering massive tax cuts for working families across America.

"Special thanks to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and Chairman Senator Orrin Hatch for shepherding our bill through the Senate."

He adds he looks forward to signing a final bill before Christmas.

CNN's Phil Mattingly has been there through the night and has the latest from Capitol Hill.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For Republicans long frustrated by the legislative process, unable to achieve a cornerstone of domestic legislative achievement, like the repeal and replace of ObamaCare, they are now on the brink of one.

The U.S. Senate voting 51-40 to pas the Republican tax overhaul plan. That means both the House and Senate have passed their own versions of this. It's one step closer to being signed into law, to being sent to the president's desk and to becoming that major legislative achievement of 2017 that they've so desperately sought.

Now Democrats very opposed to this tax plan from the beginning, unified in their opposition on the floor and furious about the process, a process that led Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell to know he had the votes at 10:00 am on Friday morning and still not release the bill until 8:00 pm later that day.

Democrats, waving amendments around, waving legislative text with handwriting on them, making major, major substantive changes, saying they hadn't seen the bill, there hadn't been enough hearings.

Well, I asked the majority leader about those complaints. Take a listen.

Is this how you envisioned passing such a large legislative bill?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: This has gone through the regular order. Democrats had plenty of notice. Chairman Hatch can attest to all of the multiple hearing, markups, open amendment process. Everybody had plenty of opportunity to see the measure.

You complain about process when you are losing and that's what you heard on the floor tonight.

MATTINGLY: Guys, that isn't the final step. The Senate still has to take another vote. So does the House. Right now, the next step will be both chambers will have to reconcile their bills, which do have significant differences in various parts. But the framework of the two is the same.

And if you talk to Republican officials at the White House, in the Senate and the House, they believe the Senate was by far the biggest hurdle. They're on the right path. It's only just a matter of time.

Now like anything else, things can spin out of control very quickly in the legislative process, particularly so complicated as taxes. However, keep in mind, they have done this, both passed the House and the Senate in a matter of weeks.

It is very clear, they're on the pathway to sending this to the president's desk, likely by end of the year -- Phil Mattingly, CNN, Capitol Hill.


HOWELL: Phil, thank you.

And the other big story we're following this day, the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election. Moscow has always dismissed it and Michael Flynn's guilty plea on Friday hasn't changed that view.

According to Russian media, one Russian politician said Flynn was just a scapegoat. Another called the situation "a sack of smoke."


HOWELL: But Flynn's legal predicament is serious and he could face years in prison. We get the very latest now from CNN's Jim Sciutto.




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The ongoing Russia investigation has reached President Trump's innermost circle. Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, says that is he cooperating with the special counsel's probe into possible cooperation between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

Flynn pled guilty to repeatedly lying to the FBI, including making false statements about his December 2016 conversations with Russia's then ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.

According to the statement of offense, Flynn lied when he told the FBI he did not discuss sanctions with Kislyak. On the same day that President Obama expelled Russian diplomats from the U.S. and boosted sanctions on Moscow in retaliation for Russia's meddling in the presidential election, Flynn also sought Russia's help during the transition to block a U.N. Security Council vote that the Obama administration was abstaining on.

The White House said, quote, "Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn."

However, court documents make clear that Flynn was not acting alone. According to prosecutors, Flynn communicated with senior members of the president's transition team about the conversations and, in at least one instance, was directed by transition officials reach out to Russia. CNN has learned that the president's son-in-law Jared Kushner is the

very senior member of the presidential transition team identified in court documents. Kushner directed Michael Flynn to contact the Russian ambassador and other countries regarding the U.N. Security Council vote on Israeli settlements, this according to sources familiar with the matter.

Flynn's guilty plea belies President Trump's repeated denials of any contact or involvement between his campaign and Russia.

SCIUTTO: In your view, has the president lied about what communications his team had with Russia?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CALIF.), MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, abundantly. And frequently and in about just about every way. But most significant in denying that this happened, saying it's a hoax.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): After the court proceeding, Flynn went immediately to the home of his son, Michael Flynn Jr.

SCIUTTO: Michael Flynn Jr. is central to Michael Flynn Sr.'s thinking in this case. We reported recently that Flynn senior was concerned about the legal jeopardy his son might face. He is not mentioned, not charged in any of these documents and it certainly raises the question as to whether cooperation from Flynn was in exchange partly for protecting his son -- Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.


HOWELL: Jim, thank you for the reporting, as well.

As far as Flynn's guilty plea, the White House has been largely silent. One source telling CNN the president and his staff are in denial about the seriousness of this investigation. That source also saying they are, quote, "totally in a bubble." Jim Acosta picks it up from here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Comment on Michael Flynn being indicted, sir.

Could you comment on Michael Flynn being indicted?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump was silent when asked about his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleading guilty to lying to federal investigators about the retired general's contacts with former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

But inside the White House, the president's lawyers were once again busy shielding Mr. Trump from the investigation. In a statement White House attorney Ty Cobb described Flynn as a former national security adviser at the White House for 25 days during the Trump administration and a former Obama administration official. The statement adds, Flynn's "false statements" "mirror the false

statements to White House officials, which resulted in his resignation in February of this year. Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn."

TRUMP: We discussed a lot of different situations, some wonderful and some difficulties.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But the White House statement ignores the fact that Obama warned the incoming president to stay away from Flynn in the Oval Office two days after the election.

Nine days before he was sworn into office, Mr. Trump refused CNN's attempts to ask whether his campaign had contacts with the Russians before the election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President-elect --

TRUMP: Go ahead.


TRUMP: -- don't be rude.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. president-elect, can you give us a --

TRUMP: Don't be rude. You are fake news.


ACOSTA (voice-over): The next month, the president defended Flynn's contacts with the Russians.

TRUMP: Mike was doing his job, he was calling countries and his counterparts. So it certainly would have been OK with me if he did it. I would have directed him to do if I thought he wasn't doing it. I didn't direct him but I would have directed him because that's his job.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president went on to suggest there were no contacts during the campaign.

TRUMP: Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Flynn, who repeatedly led chants of --


ACOSTA (voice-over): -- "lock her up" about Hillary Clinton.

FLYNN: We do not need a reckless president who believes she is above the law. Lock her up. That's right. ACOSTA (voice-over): Spoke with Ambassador Kislyak during the

transition. But transition officials never mentioned that Flynn spoke to the ambassador about new Obama administration sanctions against Russia.

SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPOKESPERSON: The call centered around the logistics of setting up a call with the president of Russia and the president-elect after he was sworn in. And they exchanged logistical information on how to initiate and schedule that call. That was it, plain and simple.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Former FBI director, James Comey, says the president pressed him to drop the case.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Understood him to be saying that what he wanted me to do was drop any investigation connected to Flynn's account of his conversations with the Russians.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president has also repeatedly tried to knock down new revelations in the Russia probe. Tweeting in march, "Mike Flynn should ask for immunity," and that, "This is a witch hunt. Excuse for big Election loss by media and Dems of historic proportion."

When former campaign manager, Paul Manafort was indicted along with a guilty plea from former national security official, George Papadopoulos, the president tweeted, "The fake news is working overtime as Paul Manafort's lawyer said there was no collusion and events mentioned took place long before he came to the campaign. Few people knew the young low-level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar. Check the Dems."

The Democrats say that won't work with Flynn, who was a senior White House official.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA.), SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: They can't distance themselves from President Trump's national security adviser, who has acknowledged a crime.

ACOSTA: And a senior White House official claimed the Obama administration, quote, "authorized Flynn's conversation with Kislyak," but a former Obama administration national security official told CNN that claim from Trump White House is, quote, "laughable" -- Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.


HOWELL: Let's bring in Troy Slaten, Troy, a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor, joining from Los Angeles.

It's great to have you with us, Troy. Let's talk about this legally. Mr. Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

It is described as a good deal for him, all things considered, which leads to the question now, is there an expectation that Mr. Flynn has a story to tell? TROY SLATEN, ATTORNEY: Absolutely. Both by the terms of the plea deal itself as well as General Flynn's public statement. He's certainly cooperating with the special counsel's office. And he had a lot of criminal exposure, each count of lying to the FBI carries with it a maximum of five years in federal prison.

Now what they did was they combined these four lies into one count, which means theoretically he faces maximum of five years in prison. But if he cooperates and if he does everything that he says he's going to do, then the special counsel's office will make a sentencing recommendation when that time comes.

And it's likely that he could do no jail at all.

HOWELL: From a prosecutorial perspective, is there a sense that Michael Flynn Jr., Mr. Flynn's son, that somehow he was a part of the fact that his father decided to cooperate here?

SLATEN: Prosecutors use whatever leverage they have. And certainly it's been reported that General Flynn's son had potential criminal exposure himself. He was chief of staff for General Flynn.

And so anything that a prosecutor can use, to turn the screws and get a target to cooperate, they're going to do it. And General Flynn was a big fish. He was intimately involved in both the campaign and the early days of the Trump administration.

HOWELL: So let's talk about how this might play forward.

So are these bread and butter prosecutors just focused on lying to the FBI?

Or could they possibly use the Logan Act?

For our viewers around the world, it's an obscure law, 218 years old, that hasn't been invoked in modern history dealing with undermining an existing President of the United States or an existing administration.

Help our viewers to understand that law and whether you feel it could come into play here.

SLATEN: The Logan Act hasn't really been tested in modern times. There are many constitutional scholars that feel that it may very well be unconstitutional. And it basically stands for the proposition that there's only one administration at a time.

And that if you're not a representative of the United States government, that you're not entitled to conduct foreign policy. So the allegation here is that Flynn, in speaking with the Russian ambassador, Kislyak, in negotiating about sanctions that the Obama --


SLATEN: -- administration had just imposed on Russia, and asking them to not take any action and to delay a U.N. vote that was coming at the time, that the incoming administration, the Trump administration, was conducting foreign policy before they took the helm, before the inauguration.

And so that could be a theoretical violation of the Logan Act but that's not what is being alleged here. And even that, even if there was to be an allegation that the Logan Act was violated, that doesn't go to the heart of what the special counsel was constituted for, which is to look at whether or not the Trump campaign was colluding with Russia in order to defeat Hillary Clinton and get Donald Trump elected.

HOWELL: Troy Slaten, we appreciate your time today and perspective on this. We'll stay in touch. Thank you.

SLATEN: Thanks for having me.

HOWELL: The Trump administration scored its first major legislative win within 24 hours of the worst news yet in the Russia probe. Peaks and valleys in the Trump administration. We'll break it down for you as CNN NEWSROOM pushes on.







GEN. MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER TRUMP NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We do not need a reckless president who believes she is above the law. Lock her up. That's right. Yes, that's right. Lock her up.


HOWELL: That was Mr. Flynn, a sound that was resonant to many people. That was back in July of 2016. That happened at the Republican convention.

And then there was this on Friday. Listen.


HOWELL (voice-over): The video there, you don't hear, it but the natural sound on that video, you hear someone saying, "Lock him up."

From the Russia investigation to the Republican win on tax reform in the Senate, it has been a day of highs and lows, to say the very least. To talk all about this, let's bring in professor of politics at City University of London, Inderjeet Parmar.

It's always a pleasure to have you on the show, to make sense of all this. So what a day. Let's talk about the optics of this day, Inderjeet.

On the one hand, a member of the president's inner circle pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, signaling quite frankly that he will cooperate with the special counsel.

On the other hand, the president had arguably one of his best moments, as tax reform passes through the U.S. Senate, which overshadows the other.

Which is bigger in your mind?

INDERJEET PARMAR, CITY UNIVERSITY LONDON: Well, I would say that probably the tax cut to the very, very wealthy and the effective tax rise to the working and middle class people. I'd say that's the really bigger, much longer term question.

But clearly, the Flynn issue is a major sort of immediate source of political crisis, intensifying, as well.

But I think the tax cut actually is going to have the longer term impact on the shape of society, on the shape of the American state and the role of big corporations and the wealthy within in. And I suspect that will bleed into the politics and the political agenda in the longer run as well.

HOWELL: Well, this will be a piece of legislation that will span for decades, as it's been described. Democrats, they criticize the process, how this came about; they criticize the substance of it, saying that it adds to the deficit, that it will actually raise taxes on individuals in the long term while corporate taxes will remain constant.

Republicans, though, they have a different take on it. They say this is the president living up to his campaign promise, that he cut taxes here.

How will all of this play out, Inderjeet, in the midterms?

PARMAR: Well, I think it all depends, really, on Republican voters. And it looks like from the polls that 59 percent to 60 percent of Republican voters support this tax bill. A quarter of them say they don't know anything about it.

But I think when people start feeling it in their pockets -- and that may be a year or two away, possibly a little bit longer -- the big issue is -- and that has been the case through the campaign and through this first year of the administration -- is to what extent Republican voters stay solidly behind President Trump.

And it seems to me that he appears to be attacking people's financial position but, on the other hand, he has stored up -- he has shored up their sense of national identity, of racial identity, on gender identity and so on.

So I think he's waged a campaign against what they would call political correctness in a variety of ways. And I think that psychological wage of being white man and now having -- and a strong white man in the White House, I think that psychological wage is going to be quite significant.

And it's, quite frankly, the case that President Trump remains very popular amongst Republican voters and the Republican leadership remains deeply unpopular. So I think this is inaugurating some kind of a major split or shift in the character of the Republican Party and I think Trump and Bannon and others are probably in the driving seat right now.

HOWELL: Now with regard to Michael Flynn's guilty plea, the White House is saying this is simply a matter for Mr. Flynn and it has nothing to do with the president and the president and his teams aren't worried. But here is the question to you.

Should they be?

PARMAR: They should definitely be worried on one level. That is that this probe is now getting into the inner circle, members of the family of Donald Trump; I'd say Jared Kushner is probably next in the gun sights, if you want to use that sort of language, because he had a number of -- I think he directed a number of those phone calls.

And I think there has not been much reported. But one of those calls was I think at the behest of Israel regarding Russia's likely vote condemning Israel on the U.N. Security Council for illegal settlements on the West Bank, which Obama administration said they would not veto.

So what we have seen is this is not just about Russia. This is also possibly about Israel. So I think they should be worried on one level.


PARMAR: On the other level, is the same old question, that is Donald Trump remains very, very popular, more popular than the Republican leadership.

And what are they going to do about it if he is found to be very closely involved?

Are they going to impeach him?

I doubt that because it's a political decision. And I think any decision of that type is going to put them in jeopardy far more than probably President Trump.

HOWELL: It will be interesting to see how all of this moves about. Again, an investigation taking place, the midterms around the corner, looking at the next year, a lot of moving parts. Inderjeet Parmar, live for us, thank you for your insight today.

This is CNN NEWSROOM. Still ahead, reaction from Russia. We will hear from the nation at the center of the U.S. investigation into meddling ahead. CNN NEWSROOM, live from Atlanta, Georgia, at this hour, simulcast on

CNN USA here in the states, CNN International worldwide this hour. Stay with us.




HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. This is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.



HOWELL: So far, only a few Russian politicians are saying anything about what happened here in the United States, Michael Flynn pleading guilty. For the most part, the Kremlin is silent about the former U.S. national security adviser and his contact with the Russian ambassador.

Let's get straight to Moscow to get reaction from CNN's Clare Sebastian, following this story.

Clare, a pleasure to have you at this hour. Let's talk about this.

What are you hearing?

Reaction from the Kremlin, from politicians, about the seismic shift we saw today here in the States.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, George. No reaction from the Kremlin. They haven't responded to our official request for comment. The foreign ministry spokeswoman via text message last night simply saying to me, "What does this have to do with us?"

And referring me to previous comments by the foreign minister and deputy foreign minister here. I will say that the Russian side has maintained all along the Kremlin and indeed former ambassador Sergey Kislyak that sanctions weren't discussed with Michael Flynn. So perhaps this silence is tactical today, give the stunning revelations in Flynn's statement last night.

But as you said, we have heard from some politicians speaking out on this. One senator, Franz Kasevich (ph), saying to the state news agency (INAUDIBLE) obviously that Michael Flynn was frankly just the one they caught. He said, quote, "The main object of this attack is Donald Trump."

Another, Aleksey Pushkov, tweeting that the U.S. is, as he said, "continuing to inflate a sack of smoke." He called the Flynn case, quote, "empty." So denials and dismissals and downright silence from many quarters here in Moscow -- George. HOWELL: OK. Interesting. So here's the question.

What is Russia's version of the conversation between Flynn and Kislyak?

How did it go and what was discussed?

How is that interpreted there?

SEBASTIAN: Well, as I said, they have said all along that sanctions weren't discussed. Kislyak, speaking to state media back in August, said there were no secrets, there was nothing -- it was all very simple. There were a few issues that were discussed that were relevant to both sides, like terrorism.

The Kremlin, for its part, has also always maintained that sanctions weren't discussed. But, make no mistake, these revelations in Flynn's statement are hugely significant for Moscow, the revelation that the then Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, directly attributed Russia's decision not to retaliate against sanctions to his conversations with Michael Flynn.

That not only shows Moscow acting on a conversation with a transition team, a government that's not yet in power, but also it shows a calculation that frankly backfired, that they perhaps expected sanctions to be lifted if they didn't retaliate.

We now know that not only has that not happened but new sanctions from the U.S. are set to come into force. And as we saw, back over the summer, Russia did end up eventually retaliating dramatically, reducing the size of the U.S. diplomatic mission here in Moscow.

So the backdrop, George, is one of a deteriorating relationship rather than the hope for reset.

HOWELL: Clare Sebastian, live for us in Moscow, thanks.

The White House would like to dismiss Michael Flynn's plea deal as much ado about nothing or even a victory for the president. The truth is that Robert Mueller's investigation has now breached the inner circle of the Trump White House.

CNN security analyst, Lisa Monaco, who once served as Mueller's chief of staff, explains to our Jake Tapper why the president and his closest allies should be worried.


LISA MONACO, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: What's going on here is you've got an individual who's near or almost to the top of the type of pyramid that prosecutor's work their way up when they're looking at a complex investigation like this one is.

And prosecutors also have a phrase which is, you don't cooperate people down, you only go up. And here you've got Flynn who is clearly cooperating with the special counsel. And the other thing that the prosecutors do is they will only take this type of plea and make this type of cooperation deal if they are very confident that this individual, the defendant, can actually offer something quite substantial up the chain.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Because if not, they would just throw the book at him?

MONACO: That's exactly right.


MONACO: And here you've got insight from somebody who is a critical figure in the campaign, in the transition and in the beginning days of the White House, of the Trump administration. So he can provide insight to a whole host of discussions and events going from the campaign to the early days of the White House and he can be that tutor and that guide for the prosecutors as they're working their way up that pyramid.

TAPPER: I want to ask you, I talked to a Republican former prosecutor earlier today. And this person told me that he thinks this plea deal means in exchange for Flynn's son not being charged, Michael Flynn Jr. and for him not being charged with more serious crimes, Flynn is expected to help Mueller with even bigger fish as you said. And he said, "If I were Kushner or Bannon, I wouldn't be able to sleep tonight."

MONACO: Well, I think it's a fair statement. I mean, the papers filed today are quite narrow and they're quite limited, but they give us a few clues to what Mueller and his team were looking at. There's references as you mentioned earlier to senior transition officials and very senior transition officials that Flynn had discussions with, that he was conducting these calls with Ambassador Kislyak. And that is going to help the prosecutors formulate their next series of moves.

And this leverage point that your source talked to you about is one that prosecutors use all the time. They've got -- this is seriously strong hand that Mueller clearly is playing.


HOWELL: Jake Tapper there, with a conversation with Lisa Monaco.

Jake, thank you.

Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, Pope Francis faced criticism for not saying the word Rohingya in Myanmar. What he's saying now as he prepares to leave Asia. Stay with us.




HOWELL: At this hour, the U.S. Defense Secretary, James Mattis -- [04:40:00]

HOWELL: -- is in Egypt for talks there. He just met with the Egyptian president, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. It's his first stop on a five-day trip through the Middle East and Pakistan. The goal is to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to its partnership to the region. He'll then head to Jordan to attend a meeting on countering violent extremism in West Africa.

Mattis finishes his trip with a stop in Pakistan and in Kuwait.

North Koreans took to the streets of Pyongyang on Friday -- take a look here -- celebrating the country's latest missile launch, an act of defiance against the United States.

Thousands of people, along with a huge complement of soldiers, were treated to fireworks and a show of honor of this latest launch. (INAUDIBLE) launched an intercontinental ballistic missile. It flew higher, it flew longer than previous missiles before crashing into the waters off Japan.

Pope Francis has finally used a word that he's not used in his trip so far, the word Rohingya. In Bangladesh on Friday, he said this.

Quote, "The presence of God today is also called Rohingya," end quote. He also met with members of the persecuted ethnic group. Many of the Rohingya have escaped brutal violence in Myanmar.

The pope was in Myanmar days ago and was criticized for not using that word, for not naming Rohingya publicly. The plight of the Rohingya has dominated his tour but Pope Francis is also attending other events.

This was the scene hours ago when he visited a church in Bangladesh.

Now on to football news, the draw has been made for next year's FIFA World Cup in Russia. There is no clear group of death but there are some exciting matchups in store. Spain and Portugal, for instance, they're set to face off in Group B, pitting Cristiano Ronaldo against some of his Real Madrid teammates and also in Group D, the underdog, Iceland, is making its World Cup debut. It will take on Lionel Messi in Argentina.

Still ahead here, the biggest issue facing the planet, it is unfolding at a much faster rate than people could imagine. A CNN exclusive reporting on rising oceans and their catastrophic impact. Stay with us.






HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell. No matter what views or religious beliefs that people hold, climate change ultimately affects everyone on this planet.

The fact is, sea levels around the world are rising rapidly due to melting glaciers. In part two of her exclusive report, CNN's Clarissa Ward visits major places in the U.S. where the impact is already being felt.



CLARISSA WARD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's been a year of hurricanes pummeling, floods rising and wildfires raging.

So what exactly is going on?

In part one, we traveled all the way to the Arctic, which scientists call the world's refrigerator. We found that, as temperatures rise due to carbon emissions in the atmosphere, the Greenland ice sheet, the largest in the Northern Hemisphere, is melting at an unprecedented rate, causing oceans to rise.

WARD: This is one of the most unique and surreal environments on Earth. To many people, it probably looks like another planet. But make no mistake, what is happening to the ice beneath my feet here is already having an impact on coastal cities all around the world.

WARD (voice-over): Now we've come back to the United States to see that impact up close, starting in Miami Beach.


WARD (voice-over): This buzzing city in the Sunshine State feels a long way from the icy glaciers of Greenland. But as the ice sheet has melted, global sea levels have climbed 8 inches since the beginning of the last century.

Miami, in part due to local climate factors, has become known as ground zero in the U.S., with nearly a foot of sea level rise. Former Miami Beach mayor Phil Levine likes to joke that he floated into office by making this the main plank of his campaign.

PHIL LEVINE, FORMER MIAMI BEACH MAYOR: About five or six years ago, we would notice that, during sunny days, the water would come up. Beautiful day out and the roads would become flooded in the western parts of our city, which are the lowest lying areas of our city. And that was very unnerving for residents, for investors and for everybody.

WARD (voice-over): The city is spending a whooping $500 million, building up sea walls and raising roads, measures Levine says helped protect Miami during the ferocious Hurricane Irma. LEVINE: I actually believe these -- we call these abnormal or unusual, once in a century storms. That's not the case. This is the new normal. We were very fortunate in Miami Beach. The areas that we had invested in, raised roads, put in pumps, during that hurricane, they were as dry as the Sahara.

WARD (voice-over): Houston was not so lucky. More than 80 people were killed after Hurricane Harvey dumped a mind-boggling 50 inches of rain on the city, the same amount normally expected in a year. Scientists say some of that water should have been frozen in the Greenland ice sheet.

MICHAEL MANN, SCIENTIST: There's a saying that goes, what happens in the Arctic doesn't stay in the Arctic. And it's absolutely true.

WARD (voice-over): Michael Mann is one of the country's top climate scientists. He has testified before Congress about the threat posed by climate change.


WARD: Is there a direct connection between the intensity of the hurricanes that we're seeing and climate change?

MANN: There is a direct connection. And too often we hear the problem framed as, did climate change cause this storm?

Did it cause this hurricane?

That's not the right way to think about it.

The question is, is climate change amplifying the impacts of these hurricanes?

And it absolutely is.

WARD (voice-over): Mann explains that, as Arctic ice, the world's refrigerator has melted, that has accelerated the overall warming of the planet. The world's oceans have warmed by more than 1 degree Fahrenheit.

And as the ocean surface heats, it allows more moisture into the atmosphere, making hurricanes like Harvey and Irma stronger with more potential to flood.

The vast majority of climate scientists agree that, without significant cuts to carbon emissions, temperatures will continue to climb and the problem will only get worse.

MANN: The analogy I like to use, we're stepping out onto a minefield and we don't know exactly where those mines are. But we know that, as we set them off, we're going to see catastrophic impacts.

WARD (voice-over): And Norfolk, Virginia, knows that better than most. Since 2003, enough ice has melted off Greenland to fill Chesapeake Bay 50 times. That melt water is the main contributor to the more than 14 inches of sea level rise here in the last century. It may be fun for the kids. But it is a real concern for residents like Kate Melhewish (ph).

WARD: So how high does the water get here?

KATE MELHEWISH (PH), NORFOLK RESIDENT: So far, the water has come to just here, which is 8 feet.

WARD: I mean, we're talking like a few more inches and it's coming into the house.

MELHEWISH (PH): Exactly, yes. That's our worry, right.

WARD: That must be a big worry.


WARD (voice-over): Flooding now consumes her neighborhood up to 10 times a year, during high tides or after a big storm.

MELHEWISH (PH): We moved that wrought iron outside furniture indoors and put the sofa up on them and move everything that's soft up to the second floor, take all the books off bookcases and get them upstairs --

WARD: So you've devised a drill by now.


WARD (voice-over): Melhewish (ph) bought her dream home here 35 years ago. But since then, the water and flood insurance prices have soared.

MELHEWISH (PH): I gave my husband waders for Christmas.

WARD: Very practical.


WARD: Does he get good use out of them?

MELHEWISH (PH): He sure does, yes.

WARD: Let me ask you this. If you had known when you bought this house everything that would come with it, in terms of the tides, the floods, the power outages, would you maybe have looked for somewhere else to live?

MELHEWISH (PH): Maybe. But it really was my dream house and it always has been. So -- but I can certainly see it becoming unlivable. And that does worry me.

WARD (voice-over): For Norfolk, the problem has added significance. It hosts the largest naval base in the country. Sailors are coming home from long deployments to a base threatened by encroaching seas, made worse by natural phenomena that caused the land here to sink. WARD: This base is uniquely vulnerable to sea level rise. And that

potentially makes it a very expensive headache for the military. To replace just one of these piers would cost roughly $100 million.

WARD (voice-over): Ray Mabus is the former Secretary of the Navy.

RAY MABUS, FORMER SECRETARY OF THE NAVY: If we don't arrest sea level rise, if we don't reverse this or slow it down, Norfolk is going to disappear. That naval base will go under water. And I represented the Navy. Our bases tend to be on the ocean. And so you're going to see these bases being more and more at risk.

WARD: So it sounds like you're saying that climate change does not only have an impact on national security, that it's vitally important to national security.

MABUS: It's one of the biggest risks we have in national security. It's one of the things we've got to plan for, the most in national security.

WARD (voice-over): But America has been slow to wake up to the threat posed by climate change, in part because it has become a politically charged issue, with the Trump administration actively dismantling legislation by President Obama to curb the use of fossil fuels.

WARD: Does it frustrate you at all that this has become a political issue?

MABUS: This notion that climate change --


MABUS: -- is a partisan issue is just nuts.

You can see it happening. You can see it out there. And when the military is telling you in unequivocal terms, this is happening, it's having an impact on us as a military but it's having an impact on this country in security terms, to not listen to that is just foolishness in the highest order.

WARD (voice-over): It's a sentiment Phil Levine shares.

LEVINE: Well, it's a little ridiculous.

Can you imagine debating gravity and debating the theory of relativity and all the other proven scientific theories?

The ocean is not Republican and it's not Democrat. It just knows how to rise and I think we have to understand that quickly.

WARD (voice-over): So what can be done?

Most scientists agree that carbon emissions need to be cut to zero within the next few decades to stop temperatures rising to dangerous levels.

WARD: Is it too late?

MANN: It's not too late. The good news is it's not too late. The laws of physics tell us there's still time to prevent catastrophic warming. The only obstacle is our will, our willpower.

WARD (voice-over): The changes that are happening in America and the challenges they present are real. The question is, what will we do? -- Clarissa Ward, CNN.


HOWELL: Clarissa Ward reporting. And that is a look at your news from around the globe. I'm George Howell here at the CNN Center in Atlanta. The news continues here on CNN right after the break. Stay with us.