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Trump at Davos; Interview with Alexei Navalny; Paris on Flood Alert. Aired 12-12:30a ET

Aired January 27, 2018 - 00:00   ET




DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America is open for business and we are competitive once again.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): That's Donald Trump's sales pitch to the rest of the world. The U.S. president touts his economic achievements in Davos.

Plus a Las Vegas giant faces allegations of sexual misconduct. But Steve Wynn denies any wrongdoing.

And in Paris, the Seine getting a little too high for comfort. Some roads are closed after the river overflowed its banks.

I'm Cyril Vanier, live from CNN HQ here in Atlanta. Thank you for joining us.


VANIER: Donald Trump is back at the White House after his two-day trip to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. Apparently the U.S. president enjoyed it. Upon returning he told reporters, "Davos was really great."

So the question going into this was which Donald Trump would show up. It turns out it was the marketer in chief. White House correspondent Jim Acosta reports from Davos.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump departed Switzerland strutting his stuff after hobnobbing with the global elite at the World Economic Forum in Davos, but he returns to Washington under a cloud with questions swirling over reports that he tried to fire special counsel Robert Mueller.

TRUMP: Fake news, folks. Fake news. Typical "New York Times" fake stories.

ACOSTA: The president brushed off the story in Davos, as did top members of the president's Cabinet who blew past our cameras faster than the Swiss ski team. (on camera): And are you concerned that the president tried to fire Robert Mueller?

REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I know nothing about that.

ACOSTA: And how do you think the Mueller news is going to affect this trip, sir?

WILBUR ROSS, U.S. COMMERCE SECRETARY: Oh, you will see. Nothing is going to change. The president is in very good spirits.

ACOSTA: Are you concerned about how the Mueller news is going to affect this conference here, sir?


ACOSTA (voice-over): The president continued his attacks on the press in Davos, grumbling that he no longer receives the favorable coverage he enjoyed as a celebrity.

TRUMP: As a businessman, I was always treated really well by the press. The numbers speak and things happen. But I always really had very good press. And it wasn't until I became a politician that I realized how nasty, how mean, how vicious and how fake the press can be -- as the cameras start going off in the back.

ACOSTA: Despite that cry of fake news, the president remarked without any evidence that there would have been a stock market crash had Hillary Clinton been elected. TRUMP: Had the opposing party to me won, some of whom you backed,

some of the people in the room, instead of being up almost 50 percent, the stock market is up since my election almost 50 percent, rather than that, I believe the stock market from that level, the initial level, the initial level, would have been down close to 50 percent.

ACOSTA: The president came to Davos to take credit for the booming American economy, calling on companies across the world to move to the U.S.

TRUMP: America is the place to do business. So come to America, where you can innovate, create and build.

ACOSTA: But that welcoming tone came with a vow to start controlling the number of immigrants entering the U.S. based on new criteria.

TRUMP: We must replace our current system of extended family chain migration with a merit-based system of admissions that selects new arrivals based on their ability to contribute to our economy, to support themselves financially and to strengthen our country.

ACOSTA: The president also warned Democrats to accept a White House deal to protect undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children known as the dreamers from deportation. Mr. Trump tweeted: "Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer took such a beating over the government shutdown that he's unable to act on immigration." But there were reminders in Davos that the president's own behavior has also had an impact. Sitting with the president of Rwanda, Mr. Trump was asked about his comments that immigrants from Africa come from shithole countries. And he was pressed on his retweeting of inflammatory anti-Muslim videos from a far-right group in Britain.

TRUMP: If you're telling me they're horrible, racist people, I would certainly apologize, if you would like me to do that. I know nothing about that.

ACOSTA: The president's response to the Mueller story underlines why it's so legally dangerous for Mr. Trump to appear before the special counsel's office. It's one thing to refer to reports he doesn't like as fake news to the press. It's quite another to do that under oath -- Jim Acosta, CNN, Davos, Switzerland.


VANIER: To discuss Davos and also what we're learning out on the domestic front, Eliana Johnson joins us, CNN political analyst. Also of political fame, thanks for being with us, Eliana.

And Peter Matthews also is with us today, political analyst, professor of political science at Cypress College.

Look, Mr. Trump, the protectionist goes to the mecca of free trade and globalization, Davos, and he gets a good reception --


VANIER: -- Eliana, you first.

What do you think?

ELIANA JOHNSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I wouldn't make too much of it. I think that Davos is a polite crowd, that is less likely to indulge in protests and shouts and boos and throwing out vegetables.

But I do think that it's noteworthy that Trump went. It's clear that this is a crowd he wants to be accepted by and he took time out of his schedule to go and deliver a speech to them.

And I think it was clear in the speech that he didn't give one of his BARNES: -burning campaign speeches didn't go out of his way to offend this crowd. This is clearly a crowd that he wants to mingle with and be accepted by.

That said, I don't think it's a crowd that was likely to jeer and boo him regardless of the message that he delivered.

VANIER: Peter?

PETER MATTHEWS, CYPRESS COLLEGE: Well, look at his message, basically he's saying America first but that doesn't mean America alone. I'm not sure that is not a contradiction. But also he said that he didn't want any kind of government subsidies for industries or government planning and that's kind of what China and Germany have been doing for a long time very successfully.

So he was confrontational in that way but they didn't want to confront him back. As Eliana said, they're a pretty courteous crowd so that's what I thought about it.

VANIER: Has Mr. Trump stance on free trade changed?

Or is it just the way that he's selling it, that's less adversarial, less fire and fury -- Peter?

MATTHEWS: I think it's the way he's selling it more than anything else because his stance is still that he wants to have trade that will benefit the U.S. but what does that exactly mean?

He wants China to buy as much as we buy from them?

Well, then he'd better make sure the Chinese wages are high enough for Chinese workers; same thing with Mexico, other globalization countries. I don't think he's changed at all. I think it's the way he's presenting for this moment in time.

VANIER: Eliana, for me, one of the things that was interesting as we got a pretty clear window into Mr. Trump's world view. I'm not sure that it's different but I thought it was put out very clearly, the business and the economy matters above all else, that when business is good, people on all levels, he seemed to be saying, make money.

And so to that -- that should come before politics and values.

JOHNSON: Well, Mr. Trump comes out of the business world and I also think that he inherited an economy that was on the upswing and the business world, I think, was hopeful that he would reduce regulation, as he has done, and the economy has generally been on the upswing.

So I think it's a chicken-and-egg thing. And I think you see Trump emphasizing economic performance and business because the economy's doing well. So you saw him go to Davos and give a real hard sell for America's economic performance, encouraging other countries to invest in the U.S.

And not emphasize some other things. He didn't talk a lot about the U.S.' role on the world stage. He didn't talk a lot about international relations --

VANIER: No, that was my question to you, which is values are just totally absent from this. And --


JOHNSON: -- yes, somewhat rare for an American president to go abroad and give such an inwardly focused speech. But I do think that the president in general is a more inward looking president and he's buoyed by the fact that the American economy is booming right now. And he uses that to toot his own horn, which he likes to do.

And as Mr. Trump comes home, he's now back in the U.S.; as is often the case when he comes back from his domestic trips, it's a very, very different story when he gets back to the U.S.

So we've been finding out over the last 24 hours that Trump tried to fire special counsel Robert Mueller last summer, he says this is fake news. But CNN's own reporting has confirmed this.

This happened at a time when Mr. Trump was being investigated -- still is; among other things, for obstruction of justice.

Eliana, what does that tell you?

JOHNSON: You know, I think it's difficult for the president to push back on this not only because the original "New York Times" story that broke the news was well sourced, cited four sources in the White House, but also because it's in character for this president, who has talked about firing Robert Mueller and interfering with the special prosecutor's investigation, not as obstruction of justice but merely as -- he's characterized it as fighting back.

And Trump is somebody who, as anybody who paid any attention to the 2016 campaign knows, he's somebody who never lets a slight go unanswered. He's somebody who punches back.

And so it's certainly in character for Trump, I think, to push back on Mueller and he sees threats to fire him as pushing back.

That said, I do think it's heartening that the president didn't go through with this. And it does seem that he's well staffed in the White House counsel's office by Don McGahn, his White House counsel, who kept from doing this by threatening to quit.

And I think supporters of the president can be heartened by the fact that he is well-staffed by somebody who was able to alternately restrain his impulses in this regard.

VANIER: yes, I suppose it's a matter of whether you see the glass half full or half empty.


VANIER: Peter, for you, is it half-full or half-empty?

The president wanted and tried to fire the special counsel who was investigating him --


VANIER: -- but ultimately didn't.

MATTHEWS: Well, he couldn't because Don McGahn threatened to quit. That was the reason he didn't do it.

VANIER: He could have let him quit and fired --

MATTHEWS: -- well, he could have but that would have been another problem for him and the thing is that he may -- we may never know if he may do it in the future, regardless what Don McGahn or anyone else says because, again, the point right now, he's concerned that Mr. Mueller might have a lot of evidence that he could use, especially when Mr. Mueller is about to interview him directly.

That should be a complete game-changer in a lot of ways, the interview that's coming up. And that's what he was avoiding by being in Davos for a while, at least. We'll see what happens.

VANIER: Yes, that invest of the president by special counsel Robert Mueller said to be under negotiators -- negotiation right now, in the works, perhaps late February, early March, no certainties, no guarantees on that yet.

Thank you very much, Peter, Eliana, thanks for coming on the show.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

VANIER: In just a few days, Donald Trump will address Congress and the American people. It will be his first State of the Union address. You can see that of course right here on CNN. Coverage will begin at 8 pm Tuesday if you're in New York, that's 9:00 Wednesday, 9:00 am Wednesday, if you're in Hong Kong.

Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM...


ALEXEI NAVALNY, RUSSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER (through translator): The Putin regime is built on corruption and Putin himself is the most corrupt.

VANIER (voice-over): An exclusive interview with Alexei Navalny. What the Russian opposition figure says about Kremlin election meddling ahead.

And in Paris, the River Seine burst its banks after days of nonstop rain.

So how high could it go?

Stay with us.




VANIER: Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny says he has no doubt that the Kremlin tried to interfere in the U.S. election. Navalny says that he, too, has been the target of hacking and fake documents. He had planned to run in this year's presidential race in Russia but he has been banned.

In this exclusive interview, he told CNN's Matthew Chance that he is not staying quiet.


ALEXEI NAVALNY, RUSSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER (through translator): The Putin regime is built on corruption and Putin himself is the most corrupt. His family is directly involved in corruption. According to official data, over 20 percent of our population lives below the poverty line. And people link the obvious.

Why are we so poor?

Because they steal so much.

CHANCE: Regardless of the popularity of that issue, you have been prevented from standing in these forthcoming presidential elections.

Do you think that Vladimir Putin is genuinely concerned or fearful of you as a political opponent?

NAVALNY (through translator): He is scared of all real competition. We see in these elections that he only allowed those to run who did not even resist, do not even do any campaigning.

When they saw that we are actually fighting for people's votes, they got scared. The famous Putin's ratings, all these 86 percent, 70 percent, all of --


NAVALNY (through translator): -- that the sociologists and political analysts love to talk about, they exist in only one scenario: when Putin faces the candidates, he controls.

CHANCE: But that issue of polling numbers, I think, is important because, as you say, Vladimir Putin is polling more than 80 percent popularity in this country, if you believe the opinion polls.

But you are polling just 2 percent.

How much of a political threat does your movement really pose to this Kremlin juggernaut?

NAVALNY (through translator): Look, I stood for election just once in my life. In 2012, I participated in the Moscow mayor elections. And everyone was showing me polls when I had 2 percent. And without money or any media support, I got almost 30 percent.

Same thing goes for the presidential elections. Putin doesn't have an 80 percent rating; he has an 80 percent rating when compared to other candidates whom he has let run. CHANCE: As we now approach the election season, we are already in the election season, as we approach the election, what are you going to do?

What is your plan to try and get yourself on the ballot, to try and promote your cause or have you abandoned all hope at this stage of standing in this election?

NAVALNY (through translator): We urge all Russians to join a voter's strike, not just refusing to vote but campaigning so others don't vote as well. We are actively organizing this boycott. And this is the reason why we are being raided every day and our staff are being attacked.

CHANCE: As the leading opposition figure in Russia, you have been harassed; you get regular visits from the authorities, the police, the other inspectors; you have been insulted widely and, of course, you have been attacked.

How concerned are you, in a country like this, where opposition figures have been killed in the past, how concerned are you about your own safety and security?

NAVALNY (through translator): I'm a reasonable man. I ran my election campaign for 12 months. And out of these months, I spent two in prison. So I have a clear understanding of what this regime can do.

But I'm not afraid and I'm not going to give up on what I'm going to do. I won't give up on my country. I won't give up on my civil rights. I won't give up on uniting those around me who believe in the same ideals as me. And there are quite a lot of people like that in Russia.


VANIER: His name towers over the Las Vegas Strip. Steve Wynn is a hotel and casino mogul and the billionaire is now denying accusations of sexual misconduct as reported by "The Wall Street Journal."

"The Journal" spoke to 150 current and former employees of Steve Wynn. Some of them said that he pressured them to perform sex acts. Since the Harvey Weinstein scandal, many powerful men have faced accusations like these.

But Wynn is the first CEO of a major publicly traded company to be in that position. Shares of Wynn Resorts plunged more than 10 percent following the report. Wynn vehemently denied the accusations and in a statement he said this, "The idea that I ever assaulted any woman is preposterous.

"We find ourselves in a world where people can make allegations regardless of the truth and a person is left with the choice of weathering insulting publicity or engaging in multiyear lawsuits."

Students at Michigan State University are rallying in support of the women abused by the school's former sports doctor, Larry Nassar. On Friday night, hundreds marched toward the school's administration building, demanding that the board of trustees resign.

They say that the board is complicit in Nassar's decades of crime; the hearing complaints about Nassar but doing nothing about them. And at the Michigan State basketball game Friday night, the student section wore teal. You see them there. And that is the color of sexual assault awareness.

Flooding in Paris has gotten so bad that The Louvre closed a wing.

Is the Mona Lisa in danger?

No, don't worry. But the museum did remove thousands of art pieces to higher ground as a precaution. We'll see if there's more rain coming. Stay with us.





VANIER: Philippine health officials are ramping up their efforts to help thousands of people affected by an active volcano. Mount Mayon has been spewing lava and ash for more than a week.

An estimated 75,000 people have had to flee their homes; the volcano alert remains at a level 4, the highest level being 5.

And Paris continues to be on flood alert after days of heavy rain. The Seine overflowed its banks earlier this week when water levels reached just over 5 meters. The flooding has impacted roads, the Metro in Paris, boat traffic and even the Louvre Museum.

Our Zain Asher is closely watching the water levels. She has more now on its impact on the region.


ZAIN ASHER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): This statue of a soldier near the Pont de l'Alma is Paris' unofficial flood guide. The waters of the River Seine usually below his feet, have risen to his thighs.

Weeks of heavy rains have caused the Seine to spill over onto nearby roads and flood the city's iconic riverbank walkways. The sunny conditions are making it tough for commuters and tourists alike to move about the city.

The famous tourist boats, the Bateaux Mouches, have stopped running. Popular Metro stations with stops at the Eiffel Tower and the Musee d'Orsay have been suspended and a main train line has been disrupted.

Rail officials say keeping everyone safe is their main concern. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know it's going to get worse so we are very watchful. We are apt to be very vigilant so that there won't be any problem, any critical system problem, on all our lines.

ASHER (voice-over): So far, the floods have not shut down Paris' museums though they are taking emergency preparations and The Louvre has closed off an entire wing.

Nearly two years ago, when the Seine swelled to similar levels, The Louvre was forced to evacuate 35,000 pieces of art. The newest floods come as Paris is just finishing repairs from the last and the city's deputy mayor warns there's probably more to come.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two floodings of the same river in less than two years, we have to change. We have to change the way we built this city. We have to understand that climatic change is not a word. It's a reality.

ASHER (voice-over): But in true Paris style, many residents are nonchalant about weathering the waters this weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We already have this big month of water. So I'm not really surprised but it's always crazy to see this. Dangerous but like -- it's not the end of their life. So just need to pay attention and be careful.

ASHER (voice-over): Zain Asher, CNN, New York.


VANIER: She says it's dangerous but not the end of the life.



VANIER: Now Donald Trump is not one to downplay his wealth and that may have played a role in the Guggenheim Museum's response to a White House request to borrow a Van Gogh painting for display.

The museum's curator instead offered this: an 18-karat gold toilet, titled "America." He offered it for installation in the presidential residence -- and, by the way, it works. So the museum says that the piece represents, in part, what it calls the gilded excess of Trump's real estate ventures and private residences.

So, surprise, surprise, the White House declined the offer.

Finally a sale so good that people went nuts over it.


VANIER (voice-over): All of this for Nutella. A French supermarket chain, Intermarche, dropped the price of the chocolate and hazelnut spread by 70 percent. And so shoppers came in the hundreds to get their hands on as many jars as they could get. Scenes described as riots happened all across France. One store had to call the police after fights broke out. No arrests were made. And Intermarche has apologized to customers for dropping the price 70 percent, saying that it was actually just a little surprised perhaps by the public reaction over chocolate spread.

That's it from us. Thanks for watching CNN. I'm Cyril Vanier. I'll be back with the headlines in just a moment.