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Trade War Talk And Russia Sanctions; Deadly Clashes Rock Israel-Gaza Border; Inside Eastern Ghouta; Trump Begins Prep For Possible Mueller Interview; Caravan Travelers North to Mexican Border. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired April 7, 2018 - 03:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Trade tension: U.S. markets bear the brunt of a possible trade war between the U.S. and China.

And targeting Putin's friends: the U.S. imposes new sanctions on oligarchs close to the Russian president.

Plus more deadly protests. Israel opens fire on demonstrators in Gaza, killing at least seven people.

From the CNN NEWSROOM here in Atlanta, I'm Cyril Vanier. Great to have you with us.


VANIER: The escalating trade dispute between Washington and Beijing is scaring investors. The Dow plunged more than 570 points on Friday. The Nasdaq and S&P also fell more than 2 percent.

The main reason for all of this?

Wall Street is rattled by the game of chicken between the world's two largest economies. And the week went from bad to worse. By Thursday, U.S. president Trump had raised the stakes dramatically with a threat to impose $100 billion in new tariffs.

The White House press secretary insists the Trump administration is not itching for a trade war.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is something that China has created and President Trump is trying to fix it. And we are moving forward in that process of trying -- we're going to continue putting pressure on China to stop in the illegal and unfair trade practices that they've continued in for decades.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is he willing to fight a trade war on this?

SANDERS: We don't want it to come to that. The president wants us to move to a process of fairness, to free and fair and open trade and that's what he's trying to do.


VANIER: Well, not everyone's convinced. Clare Sebastian looks at how we got to this point and where we go from here.


CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a down day from the beginning on the stock market but the selling really accelerated in the second half of the day. President Trump's threat to impose an additional $100 billion in tariffs on China on top of the $50 billion both sides had already threatened really rattled already fragile stock markets.

And it wasn't just the potential economic fallout of tariffs. Rising consumer prices, potentially slower economic growth, it was the somewhat confusing messages coming from the Trump administration.

First, President Trump himself took to the airwaves this morning in a radio interview, saying, we don't have a trade war. We've already lost. Then his chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, also tried to firefight shortly after that, saying we are not running a trade war, we still plan to negotiate.

And then the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin went on television. And this is what he said to CNBC.


STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: The tariffs will take some period of time to go in to effect. There will be public comments. So while we're in the period before the tariffs go on, we'll continue to have discussions. But there is the potential of a trade war.

And let me just be clear, it is not a trade war. The president wants reciprocal trade.


SEBASTIAN: Mnuchin's comments voicing the market's worst fear that a trade war is actually possible. He also avoided questions on whether the two sides were in negotiations, something the markets had been banking on. And China didn't help matters either.

Commerce minister said Friday it will not hesitate to fight back at any cost.

In the end the Dow closed down more than 500 points, the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 also down more than 2 percent. The fear down here on Wall Street is that the weekend will bring more uncertainty and more confusion -- Clare Sebastian, CNNMoney, at the New York stock exchange.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VANIER: Now to this. Vladimir Putin's inner circle is feeling the sting of new U.S. sanctions. Seven powerful Russian oligarchs with close ties to Mr. Putin are on the sanctions list. Also named are 12 companies that those oligarchs either own or control and the sanctions targeting also 17 senior Russian officials.

All of this meant to punish Moscow for what the U.S. considers hostile actions around the world which include interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. We get more on this from CNN's Manu Raju.


SANDERS: Good afternoon.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The new sanctions that Trump administration announced today will hit several prominent Russians who have ties to President Trump's associates and could be of interest to special counsel Robert Mueller.

Included on the list, billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who owns one of the world's largest aluminum producers. Deripaska has longstanding business ties to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who, according to "The Washington Post," reached out to the Russian oligarch, offering private briefings on the campaign during his tie as Trump's campaign chairman.

Also, Viktor Vekselberg, owner of a major Russian conglomerate, who had a prominent role in the Bank of Cyprus at the same time that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had a large investment in the bank.

Two of the oligarchs' American associates donated handsomely to the president's inauguration, which Vekselberg also attended.


RAJU: And the administration also targeted Alexander Torshin, a top official at the Central Bank of Russia. Torshin has longstanding ties to the National Rifle Association, which spent millions to help Trump win the presidency.

In 2016, Torshin had a brief interaction with the president's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. and also played a role in an effort to arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin that same year.

The tough new moves may have been announced by Trump's administration, but the president himself has been mostly quiet in condemning Russia's behavior. The White House today said actions speak louder than words.

SANDERS: We speak on behalf of the president day in, day out. Again, the president has signed off and directed these actions. I think that that speaks volumes, actually, on how the president feels and exactly underscores what he said earlier this week when he said no one has been tougher on Russia.

RAJU: Mueller's investigation also is putting pressure on prominent Russians. After indicting 13 over allegations they sought to interfere in the 2016 campaign, his investigators in recent weeks have questioned Russian oligarchs traveling to the United States, including one who landed in the New York area and had his electronic devices searched.

New court filings also show that Mueller's team is seizing on information gathered during a raid last year of Manafort's Virginia home and from a storage locker.

Investigators used a warrant from March 9th to get information on five AT&T phone numbers to aid ongoing investigations that are not the subject of either of the current prosecutions involving Manafort, who was indicted on federal charges last year but has denied any wrongdoing.

Now after issuing a subpoena to the Trump Organization, Mueller's team also appears to be targeting Trump business partners. Investigators showed up unannounced at the home of a Trump business associate, who witnessed multiple transactions connected to Trump's efforts to expand his brand abroad. That's according to a McClatchy report.

That same report also says investigators seem to be especially interested in transactions involving Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, in business deals the Trump Organization pursued deals in Georgia, Kazakhstan and Russia.

Cohen has denied any wrongdoing. His attorney could not be reached for comment but ultimately the question is whether that will breach the red line the president drew last year when he said that Mueller should not be investigating the president's finances -- Manu Raju, CNN, Washington.


VANIER: And CNN's Richard Quest spoke with one of the Russians targeted by these sanctions, the chairman of VTB Bank, Andrey Kostin. He says it's all a big misunderstanding.


ANDREY KOSTIN, CHAIRMAN, VTB BANK: I did nothing wrong to America, to American interests. I was always trying to promote good business relationship with American banks, with American investors.

So I am punished because the American administration considers that the Russian government is conducting the wrong policy, and it's very unfortunate.

It shows the very high level of misunderstanding of Parliament and American administration of the intention of the Russian government, of the Russian leadership. It is very unfortunate.

I think we should stop somewhere because we are going from bad to worst and if not for us, but for the sake of our children who definitely deserve the better world and peaceful world. We should stop somewhere. So, I don't have any feeling of revenge. I don't even recommend my

government to retaliate because we already had tit-for-tat expulsion of diplomats. Now, there is sanctions against Russian businessmen, including the private ones. I think we should stop somewhere and start to rebuild our relationship.


VANIER: And Richard Quest also spoke to Bill Browder, a man who's been dubbed Vladimir Putin's enemy number one. He's an investor and businessman deported from Russia after exposing corruption there.

Browder says this round of sanctions finally hits President Putin where it hurts.


BILL BROWDER, FINANCIER AND PUTIN CRITIC: I would give today's actions a 10 out of 10, an A plus. This was a rock solid decision by the Trump administration to finally do something which really affects Putin's personal financial interests.

What you have to understand about Vladimir Putin is that he's a very rich man. He doesn't keep the money in his own name. He keeps it in the name of oligarch trustees. And by going after these oligarch trustees, we're finally touching Putin himself. And that's very serious.


BROWDER: Well, he can't respond symmetrically because it's not as if Warren Buffett has got a whole bunch of Russian assets to sanction. And so he's going to have to respond asymmetrically. And what he has to understand is that the United States government has only sanctioned a small list of oligarchs.

There's a much larger list of oligarchs who could be sanctioned in the future. And I think he's scared of that.


VANIER: Moscow is defiant toward the new sanctions. The foreign ministry promised a, quote, "harsh response." It also issued this statement.

"Washington continues to frighten with the rejection of American visas and threaten Russian businesses with freezing property and financial assets, forgetting that the seizure of private property --


VANIER: -- "and other people's money is called robbery.

"We would like to advise Washington to get rid of illusions that we can be spoken to with the language of sanctions." Russia's also being hit with these sanctions after a former Russian

spy and his daughter were poisoned with a nerve agent in England. Doctors now say that Sergei Skripal is improving rapidly and is no longer in critical condition.

His daughter is in stable condition now. Britain and dozens of other countries including the U.S. blame Moscow for the poisoning last month, an accusation that Moscow denies.

Deadly protests broke out again Friday along the Israel-Gaza border. Since last week, thousands of Palestinians have been taking part in what they call the March of Return. They are trying to reach Israeli territory in a bid to reclaim what they say is Palestinian land. That's led to confrontations with Israeli forces.

And Palestinian officials say at least seven people were killed on Friday. CNN's Ian Lee has more on the violence from the Israel-Gaza border.


IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Burning tires draw a black curtain across the border of Gaza and Israel. A Friday of fire mixed with tear gas and water, ingredients for another volatile day. Thousands of Palestinians again rallying near the fence; meters away, Israeli forces, each side bracing following Gaza's deadliest week in years.

LEE: This thick, black smoke is designed to obscure the sight of Israeli snipers. But the military fears that it could also be used as cover for Palestinians moving closer to the border.

LEE (voice-over): This video provided by the IDF allegedly shows a Palestinian cutting the border fence, a red line for Israel, who warns anyone threatening the country's sovereignty is risking their life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our mission today is to deny the Hamas that ability and to make sure that nothing harms our security infrastructure and nothing comes across.

LEE (voice-over): Tear gas and water cannons try to repel Palestinians making a run at the fence. When that doesn't work, live rounds and the death toll rises.

"I'm hoping that I will be a martyr," Nihal Walid (ph) says. "My son is carrying the Israeli flag. He will burn it in front of them and I want him to be a martyr, too, God willing."

She is not the only one that says so. Many of these Palestinians tell us they have nothing to lose and will do anything to return to lands they lost to Israel 70 years ago. Their determination can be measured by their casualties. And the dead and injured overwhelming the already struggling Gaza hospitals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) some kinds of medicines and supplies. So we are trying but it is not so easy. LEE (voice-over): It is likely to get more difficult with the violence expected every Friday until mid May. And many worry a single incident could burn out of control leading to yet another war -- Ian Lee, CNN, on the Israel-Gaza border.


VANIER: And coming up on the show, a first-hand look at one of Syria's worst conflict zones. CNN will be reporting from inside Eastern Ghouta after the break.

Plus one of Bollywood's biggest stars fighting to stay out of prison. We'll have the latest on Salman Khan's plea hearing. Stay with us.





VANIER: Want to bring you this breaking news from Canada, where police are saying that 14 people were killed when a bus carrying a junior men's hockey team and a semi-truck collided. This happened in the western province of Saskatchewan as the Humboldt Broncos, the players in their late teens, were heading to a playoff game.

At least 14 people were sent to hospital. Witnesses say some were airlifted. A team statement said, "The organization experienced an incredible tragedy. The Broncos' bus was involved in a terrible accident, which has resulted in multiple fatalities and serious injuries."

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau tweeted his condolences.

"I cannot imagine what these parents are going through and my heart goes out to everyone affected by this terrible tragedy."

It's been described as hell on Earth. The Syrian enclave of Eastern Ghouta has been hit again and again and again in the last few months. And now pro government forces have reportedly launched an assault on its last rebel-held area.

The volunteer rescue group, the White Helmets, says more than 35 civilians have been killed in a renewed offensive on Douma. War has left much of the area in ruins but some residents are nonetheless trying to rebuild. CNN's Fred Pleitgen has more in his report from inside Eastern Ghouta.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): A drive into the wasteland that used to be the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta. Years of siege and fighting have laid waste to what was once a thriving business district. Amid the ruins, some are trying to return, praying, like Sahil al-

Kalish (ph), that businesses like his tomato sauce factory will come back to life.

"God willing," he says, "we will try and rebuild this factory in a fairly short time and then start producing again."

Eastern Ghouta, an area with nearly 400,000 inhabitants, was under Islamist rebel control for around six years. After a fierce offensive Syrian government forces managed to take back most of the territory, displacing tens of thousands of civilians.

PLEITGEN: Much of Eastern Ghouta looks exactly like this, buildings either completely flattened or at least badly damaged. But even in this situation, people are trying to come back and bring back some semblance of life.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): An almost impossible task, as fighting continues in areas nearby.

Yasar al-Hajj (ph) says he is lucky his apartment is still somewhat intact.

"Life was difficult beyond description," he says, "but we had to adapt to it. For instance, we had inedible barley but we had to eat it anyway."

The vast majority of Eastern Ghouta's residents remain displaced in shelters around Syria while those who have been able to come back face a long and tough road, trying to rebuild their district and their lives -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Eastern Ghouta, Syria.


VANIER: One of the world's highest paid actors remains in jail as a court decides his fate. Bollywood superstar Salman Khan is behind bars, waiting to hear if he's going to be granted bail.

He was convicted of killing a protected antelope and he was sentenced to five years in prison. But he is appealing that sentence. His lawyers were in court earlier, arguing his bail. A decision in this case is expected soon.

Brazil's former president has refused to turn himself in to police, making him now a fugitive. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is holed up in the headquarters of the metal workers' union in Sao Paulo. You see him here, surrounded by his supporters. He was convicted of corruption and money laundering and sentenced to 12 years in prison.

And he was supposed to surrender to police on Friday. His lawyers have asked Brazil's supreme court to postpone his arrest until Monday.

Also this: CNN has exclusively learned that Donald Trump's lawyers are in the initial stages of preparing the U.S. president for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller. All of this stems from Mueller's investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. Pamela Brown has the details on this.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: We have learned the preparations between the president and his legal team have been short and informal and included going over potential topics with the president that Robert Mueller would likely raise in a --


BROWN: -- potential interview, according to two people familiar with the situation.

Now while the president has not formally agreed to a sitdown interview with Mueller, the preparations underway are a sign that the president's legal team is intensifying deliberations over whether to allow him to come under Robert Mueller's questioning.

They want to be prepared. And it's the clearest sign yet that Trump and his team remain open to the possibility of an interview with Mueller, despite concerns from people around the president that such an interview could possibly expose him to perjury charges.

The sources caution, though, the more formal, lengthier proceedings to prepare for an interview have not begun. These initial steps are in its infancy. Both (INAUDIBLE) lawyer Ty Cobb and the president's attorney, Jay Sekulow, declined to comment -- Pamela Brown, CNN, the White House.


VANIER: National Guard troops have started moving to the southern U.S. border to support a security mission ordered by President Trump. The National Guard says 500 troops plus vehicles and helicopters are on the way. The U.S. Defense Secretary authorized as many as 4,000 troops to go.

Federal law prohibits the soldiers from enforcing immigration law but they can provide air support and help with intelligence gathering and construction. But this focus on the border leaves some residents in nearby towns wondering about their future. Ed Lavandera has more on that from the border town of Laredo, Texas.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The first National Guard soldiers called up by President Trump have started moving to the U.S. southern border and these moves are once again raising concerns in border towns about what else is to come.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Joseph Hein is bracing for the fight of a lifetime. He owns nearly 600 acres of ranch land outside Laredo, Texas, and he wants to keep any kind of border wall off his property.

JOSEPH HEIN, RANCHER: I can be the type of person that sides on the side of logic. But if you suspicious me, I'll fight you back. And if I think I'm in the right, you don't want to fight me.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Wall construction could come through this area but, until it does, President Trump is planning to secure the border with up to 4,000 National Guard soldiers. The announcement has raised the stakes for those still trying to push back on the plan to build new segments of border wall from Texas to California.

PETE SAENZ, LAREDO MAYOR: Well, I'm worried because it hasn't ceased. As a matter of fact, it's gotten more boisterous. And maybe the wall may work someplace else. But it doesn't work here for us.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Laredo mayor Pete Saenz says that the wall would be devastating to this city's economy. Laredo is one of the largest ports in the United States. More than $200 billion worth of trade passes through this border town every year. Saenz is the only border mayor who has ever hosted President Trump.

SAENZ: We're excited to have Mr. Donald Trump here in Laredo, Texas.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The mayor voted for Trump. But the endless push for the border wall and a tax on NAFTA has left him questioning that support.

LAVANDERA: Could you vote for him again?

SAENZ: I don't know. I guess it depends on what improvements are made.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Improvements are needed, according to National Border Patrol Council spokesman Hector Garza.

HECTOR GARZA, NATIONAL BORDER PATROL COUNSEL: It's a very busy are for our border patrol agents and for human and drug smuggling.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): A wall is something many border patrol agents welcome, especially along this stretch of the Rio Grande on the edge of Laredo.

GARZA: We don't believe building a wall from sea to shining sea. We believe in having our physical barriers and walls in strategic locations.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): But Laredo's mayor says building a wall will only create more problems and wants President Trump to come back to see for himself.

LAVANDERA: You had that chance once before.

Did it work?

SAENZ: No, I don't think so.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): That leaves border towns and residents like Joseph Hein wondering what their towns will look like in the future. LAVANDERA: The Arizona National Guard says about 150 soldiers are

being moved toward the Arizona-Mexico border. Texas National Guard says some 250 soldiers will begin the process of moving this weekend.

All in all, there could be more announcements of deployments as President Trump says he wants to see anywhere between 2,000 and 4,000 National Guard soldiers moved to the U.S. southern border -- Ed Lavandera, CNN, Laredo, Texas.


VANIER: In the Philippines, the tourist hot spot Boracay Island was scheduled to be close for six months because of a massive pollution problem. Now environmental officials the cleanup might not take that long and the island could reopen sooner. The Philippine president sais the waters have become a cesspool with wastewater and sewage draining into the sea.

Tech mogul Elon Musk has a grim prediction. He says artificial intelligence could create an immortal dictator from which we can never escape. That echoes the plot of "2001: A Space Odyssey," a 1968 movie about a spacecraft's artificial intelligence that kills its crew.

Could it happen?

Richard Quest takes a look at what happens when science fiction --


VANIER: -- becomes science fact.



QUEST (voice-over): Fifty years ago and "2001: A Space Odyssey" arguably showed us the future. Its most prescient prediction, how the ship's artificial intelligence going wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Open the pod bay doors, Hal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.

QUEST (voice-over): Hal's takeover is the most extreme part of the movie. But a closer look shows that Kubrick and Clarke imagined technologies that would indeed come true.

Everyday things like flatscreen color televisions, video calls with Skype and Facetime. Their predicts generally spot on, which raises the question, how far were they right when it comes to AI?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This conversation can serve no purpose anymore.

QUEST (voice-over): Could Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke have imagined a robot named Sophia addressing the United Nations? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The U.N. is one of humanity's greatest accomplishments, representing a democratic union of nations that are working together for the benefit of all.

QUEST (voice-over): These strides forward are obvious and so are the failures.

Facebook recently shut down chatbots after they started speaking their own language. And some of tech's biggest names are sweating at night.

ELON MUSK, CEO, SPACEX: Humanity's position on this planet depends on its intelligence. So if our intelligence is exceeded, it's unlikely that we will remain in charge of the planet.

QUEST (voice-over): "2001" imagined our technological future. Some would say error after error, code upon code, Hal is well on his way. Society needs to ask itself when it's time to pull the plug.


VANIER: Some royal cheerleading for participants in the upcoming Invictus Games. Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle visited the training village at the University of Bath. That's where team trials are underway for the track and field and volleyball competition. Prince Harry founded the Invictus Games. They use sports to inspire recovery and rehabilitation for wounded service women and men.

That's it from us this hour. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier and I'll be back with the headlines in just a moment.