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Democrats Watching California in U.S. Primaries; Democrats Need 23 Seats to Retake House Majority; Guatemala's Fuego Volcano Flow Hinders Rescuers; Harvey Weinstein Pleads Not Guilty. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired June 6, 2018 - 01:00   ET


[01:00:34:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN Newsroom live from Los Angeles.


Ahead this hour, if Democrats want to retake Congress it needs to start now. We're following a busy election night in the United States.

More than 190 people are still missing days after a volcano erupted in Guatemala. Rescuers are searching for victims who may be trapped beneath the debris.

A one-on-one with Vladimir Putin, the Russian President boasts about his relationship with Donald Trump and tries to explain all those shirtless photographs.


VAUSE: Hello, everybody. Thanks for joining us. I'm John Vause. This is Newsroom L.A.

This is a crucial night in the U.S., Democrats hoping to retake control of the House of Representatives in midterm elections come November. Voting in primary races in eight states could help lay the groundwork. Ballots are being counted in Montana, South Dakota, Iowa, New Jersey, New Mexico and Mississippi, and Alabama.

California, though is the main battleground with Democrats hoping to make major gains, but the state has a unique system called the jungle primary, where Democrats and Republicans compete on the same ballot. And the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to the general election later this year.

Well, a lot to get to and joining us now, political analyst Bill Schneider is with us. So too, is CNN's U.S. Political Reporter, Maeve Reston, Democratic strategist, Caroline Heldman, and CNN Political Commentator, John Phillips. From New York, CNN Politics Senior Writer and analyst Harry Enten, and from Orange County, California, CNN's Senior Correspondent, Kyung Lah.

And we will start with you, Kyung. Because of California's weird primary system, there are three Congressional districts in particular, which are causing a lot of concern to Democrats, including the 48th District where you are now. So, what's the latest?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we saw just a moment ago a bunch of people were crowding towards that screen right there. Because the white screen that you see behind me, John, that's where they're trying to update the results, the votes that are coming in and they are trickling in very, very slowly.

And what they've shown in the last couple of updates is that the person whose election watch party that we're at, Hans Keirstead, he is still in second place, that's according to the Orange County registrar of votes of record.

Right now this place is feeling very, very festive. We're in an Irish pub and they're very encouraged by that. The candidates pop down here every once in a while and his message, the very first time has resonated throughout the night - - that he says we are not the Democratic spoilers.

So, why is he talking about being a spoiler? Because he is one of two Democrats in the 48th, this is a seat that Democrats want to capture. Dana Rohrabacher, the Republican - - the longtime Republican who's held the 48th seat here, he is seen as vulnerable.


Two Democrats are duking it out, it has been an ugly primary. The concern by national Democrats is that they could cancel each other out, putting the incumbent in there, but then a Republican in second place.


LAH: But so far - - very, very early on, John, this Democrat, Hans Keirstead, appears to be in second place, but it is still a very long night ahead. They're expecting to be here many more hours.

This is not the only district where they are concerned - - where national Democrats are concerned, you have California 49th, that's Ed Royce's district, as well as California's 49th, Darrell Issa, both of those Congressmen are stepping down, leaving those seats open.

But, there's so many Democrats, John, running in these seats. When you talk to the voters - - and I tried to speak with one of the voters, he said there's so many names on the ballot, it's confusing. He didn't know who to vote for.

So, confusion - - part of the jungle primary, John, but at least right now this crowd in this Irish bar is feeling a bit upbeat.


VAUSE: Okay, Kyung, thank you.

We'll get to a deeper dive on this jungle primary in a moment, but Maeve, final results could take days, even weeks and they may take even longer after what, 100,000 voters were knocked off the election rolls because of a printing error in L.A. County? So, what are the details?

MAEVE RESTON, CNN's U.S. POLITICAL REPORTER: So, when you showed up at your polling place in Los Angeles County today, there was a chance that basically your name was not even on the roster when you checked in. and when that happens you're supposed to be given a provisional ballot, which then would be counted in the days to come, but it turned out that as many as 118,000 voters' names were not included.

[01:05:00] So, that caused widespread confusion today. There were reports of people being turned away at the polls. And why that's important is because of some of these districts that Kyung was just talking about.

In the 39th Congressional district in particular, that's retiring Congressman Ed Royce's seat, there was such a tight race there that we could be talking about a difference of a couple of hundred votes or 1,000 votes. And, if that many people were having problems, then we could be counting for days and days and we might not know the answer to whether Democrats get locked out of contention for quite some time.

VAUSE: Okay. So, if Democrats are to flip the house in the November midterms, then it begins tonight in California.

We have this report now from John King explaining why all of this is so important

JOHN KING, CNN's CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The big primary in California, out here in the West Coast, critical to perhaps biggest fight in the 2018 midterms, which party will control the House of Representatives. This is the national map now.

Republicans with the advantage, Democrats trailing, but Democrats are in play to take back the house this year. Here's how we look at it right now.

Most of the districts across the country are locked in because of the way they're drawn. The Democrats are likely to win the ones you see in blue, Republicans likely to keep the ones in red. Democrats have slight advantage when we assign the races where we're fairly certain of what will happen in November.

Then you get to the more competitive races, and you watch this play out across the country, which down in here, you see a lot of them are Republican, right?

You have Democrats - - 15 races they're trying to protect, but look at the Republican number, 81. So advantage for the Democrats, more Republican seats are in play.

One of the reasons that matters and why California looms so large then, is Democrats need 23 seats to take back the House of Representatives. There are 10 competitive races out here in California and only one of them, only one of them is Democratic district. You see the blue there, 10 in play, nine of them are Republican, that helps the Democratic chances. So let's take a closer look at California. Again, this is the entire

state, let's break it down a little bit for you. These are those 10 districts, only one of them a Democratic seat in jeopardy. So, Democrats are thinking if we can pick up some of this red - - look at them all, we build towards that 23-24 seats.

So, of these 10 races, one likely Democrat, two lean Democrat, two toss-up. Even right there, if it's a blue year - - a democratic year, two, four, they hold that. They pick up these two lean Republicans, that's six - - six of the 23 they would need. That's why the candidates - - the Democrats, picked tonight is so important and that's why California poses a problem.

We take a closer look now, just at these seven districts. These were, coming into the year, the big Democratic targets, why? Seven Republican held seats, all won by Hillary Clinton in the presidential election.

So, you know there are Democratic voters here. Democrats think these are there best targets in California. Here's the problem, California rules the top two finishers in the primary go on to November. In some of these districts, especially these three districts, Democrats are now worried because so many Democrats ran they will split the vote and the top two finishers could be Republican.

So, in three districts the Democrats thought they should have a good chance to win, there is a possibility as we count the votes, and this will take a couple of day - - into Wednesday, Thursday and beyond, they might not even have a candidate on the ballot.

So, they could lose three target seats just tonight as the count goes out in California. Doesn't mean they can't take back the house, but it does mean the hill is steeper, the math gets tougher.

VAUSE: John King, thank you.

Bill, to you. If we look at this jungle primary and this flood of Democrat candidates has sort of cannibalized their own vote here, is there any evidence what we're seeing that that has worked out? Because Rohrabacher - - where Kyung Lah was, he's leading the vote right now and he was expected not to do quite well. He is very unpopular in this district.

BILL SCHNEIDER, POLITICAL ANALYST: But, he is an incumbent. Incumbents do well in Congressional races because voters don't know much about the challenger candidates. So, that's not a surprise.

We don't know. There are about four districts which could theoretically produce two Republicans and no Democrats. My guess is maybe one of them will go that way, but it's not going to be a very widespread movement.

RESTON: Also, in Orange County - -I had spoken to the registrar's office yesterday, what Democrats were looking at, they were hoping for a much higher than normal turnout. You know, in a midterm, it tends to be more conservative, white. Democrats were hoping because of more enthusiasm, more Democrats would

turn out. They weren't actually seeing that, but I don't think we can put too much into the results thus far. Because what we're seeing at this point is mainly vote by mail ballots. That's a district that has tons of vote by mail ballots and it just really might not tell us much about the final results.

VAUSE: And there will be a lot of counting to go, even once to tonight's over.

But, Harry, very quickly to you. Beyond California, one of the big takeaways from primaries, which we've seen in seven of the other states.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I would say the biggest takeaway is that women candidates continue to do very, very well, especially on the Democratic side.

We have the first - - it looks like, going to be set up for the first Native American woman ever to be elected to the U.S. Congress. She won her primary in New Mexico's 1st district.

There were two districts in Iowa that were competitive and right now on the Democratic side, two women candidates are winning there. And the, I would just say the other takeaway is that in New Jersey, the Democratic machine put up three candidates and that machine looks like it's in very good business, as all three of those candidates are winning in the primaries New Jersey.

VAUSE: Caroline, we have a situation in Alabama, Martha Roby, who is a Republican forced into a run-off, didn't get 50 percent of the vote. Apparently because two years ago, she withdrew her support of Donald Trump over the "Access Hollywood" tape and spent about $1 million I think on this campaign.


Is there message there for Democrats? If they're looking to make the midterms about Donald Trump, that might not be the best strategy?

CAROLINE HELDMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, it depends upon the state, right?


HELDMAN: So, in California you see Republicans running from Donald Trump who has a 70 percent negative rating in this state. But, in the state of Alabama you have a member of Congress who distanced herself from a tape of the President of the United States discussing sexual battery and apparently that's not a selling point, right?

So there are many states in the middle part of the country where candidates are absolutely embracing Donald Trump because as unpopular as his overall approval ratings are, he still has great popularity amongst his base, especially, for example, 75 percent support with white evangelicals. VAUSE: John, if we look at California though, regardless of the

jungle primary complication here, if Democrats can't flip a few House seats in this state, which Hillary Clinton won by what, 30 percent - - 4 million votes? It opposes the repeal of the Obamacare, individual mandates, deeply opposed to immigration reform, the list goes on - - then that could spell a very good midterm for Republicans is that how you see it?

JOHN PHILLIPS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, California is the epicenter of the resistance, whether it's Governor Jerry Brown, Attorney General Xavier Becerra and their lawsuits against the federal government. before people vote at the ballot box, though, people vote with their feet and the fact that this primary looks a whole lot like 2014, and a whole lot like previous California primaries and we're not seeing a surge in voting like a lot of Democrats were expecting, I think should worry them.

If you just look at ballots that came in through the mail, Republicans turn their ballots in 8 points over registration, the Democrats were flat. There are two districts where theoretically you could have two Republicans on the November ballot, one in central California, one in Orange County with Dana Rohrabacher.

So if democrats think that the road to the White House runs through California, Nancy Pelosi might get stuck in a SigAlert on the 405.


Kyung, if you're still with us, I'm just wondering, is there any indication because of this jungle primary that voters are sort of casting their ballots in a strategic way? That they know they don't want to split the vote if they are for the Democrat, they want to make sure that one Democrat makes it through?

LAH: I think in some circles that's certainly a conversation. I've actually heard people casually talking about especially when it comes to the Governor's race, because it was very clear to people that it could potentially be two democrats going in.

I've heard a number of people, especially on social media in California circles talking about how they were going to specifically try to make sure to vote for a different Democrat, to try to water down that number two Democrat spot, to try to get the Republican in there to make it easier for Gavin Newsom in November.

But, we don't actually have any evidence of this occurring. What we do know is that when you go to the polls to talk to voters today, as we have done - - we've gone around to talk to you know, just someone who may not be following every single candidate.

When I spoke with a couple of these candidates, they said, look, I just voted for the guy I've read about, or the woman who I've read about, and a lot of people talked about how ma names there were on the ballot. They picked the name that they recognized, in some cases, it was the incumbent. If they were trying to vote specifically against the incumbent, they

had done research on the candidate that they liked. So, that's generally the sentiment.

The sense that get, just from casually talking to voters today, is that people aren't being particularly strategic. You are certainly, though, hearing in some circles that they were planning to try to be strategic, John

VAUSE: Yes. And, Maeve, Democrat leaders haven't made it exactly easy for voters to rally around one particular candidate in one particular district. At a national level, they endorse one candidate in one district, the state Democrats endorsed another.

There seems to be a lot of infighting. They couldn't settle on one candidate in a lot of these districts - - who to rally around and they've spent a ton of money on infighting.

RESTON: They did spend a ton of money on infighting and you know, to Kyung's point, this whole system was intended to make sure more moderate points of view came through, right?

But what we ended up with is a complete mess were voters and strategist are being totally sort of strategic in terms of using things like game theory, to figure out you know whether they should batter the fourth place candidate, or the fifth place candidate, in order to bring the third place candidate up, you know?

So, I think the system itself is in great question today. In some of the districts the Democratic Party really did make it clear who they were for.

[01:15:00] You know, in the 39th district, they backed Gil Cisneros, that's a district we'll be hearing a lot about in the coming days. And, they spent a lot of money battering some of these other candidate particularly the Republicans.

But, they didn't want to get into the middle of the tussle in the sense that they didn't want to dampen Democratic enthusiasm. It doesn't seem like that's helped that much, looking at turnout today, but we'll see.

VAUSE: Caroline, so is there a takeaway here for the Democrats? That they need to get their act together ahead of the midterms?

HELDMAN: Well, I think the takeaway is that the enthusiasm in opposition to Donald Trump - - and I would very much agree with John that California is a site of the resistance, has inspired a lot of people to run for public office.

So, I don't see a negative. I think, obviously - - for the Democrats, that is, I think the jungle primary perhaps needs some revision because it's not working in the way that it was intended. I'm really actually happy to see that we have Newsom and Cox, two different parties running for the Gubernatorial race, it's better for democracy.

So, my bigger concern would be that when you don't actually have party opposition, you don't have real debates about policy.

VAUSE: John, Gavin Newsom and Cox running for the Governor's office, that's a win for the White House because the president wanted, you know, the Republicans to come out and vote for Cox and get him up there on the ballot - - number two and run.

PHILLIPS: It is, and it's a win for congressional Republicans. I happen to know on very good authority, it was Kevin McCarthy who was the one that negotiated the Tweet from the president endorsing John Cox. John Cox's camp had no idea that endorsement was coming, they were just as surprised as us.

If you look at turnout, you look at turnout a little deeper, you'll find this insurgency of Latino voters that we were also promised did not come through. Antonio Villaraigosa got clobbered in his race for governor. Not only did he lose statewide by large margins, he lost in L.A. County - - he lost in his home county.

Kevin de Leon, who was supposed to be a shoo-in for the second slot, is now in a fight for his life with some Republican who has been in the witness protection program throughout the entire campaign.

RESTON: Those points re not fair. I mean, you have to consider the fact that Dianne Feinstein was going to be far and away the leader in that race, and I don't know that you can attribute that to Latino turnout. Also, Gavin Newsom had tons of Latino supporters.

VAUSE: Very quickly to Harry, I mean what we're seeing now with Gavin Newsom - - at one point, there were reports he was actually encouraging the Republicans to come out to vote because that essentially gives him a lock on the Governor's mansion.

ENTEN: Right, talk about the perverse incentives of the jungle primary in that state. Gavin Newsom rooting for a Republican so that he can have an easier time in the fall.

One think I will say quickly, is that when we look at the turnout, keep in mind, there are a lot of votes still to be counted, especially in Los Angeles County and a lot of Latinos vote day of election. So, we'll see exactly where those turnout figures stand once all the votes are in.

VAUSE: Okay. We'd like everyone to stay with us, because we've got a lot to get to next hour. A lot to talk about - - we'll get a deep dive into the jungle primary, talk about that in a bit.

Thank you all.

We'll take a short break here.

When we come back, a volcano in Guatemala is not giving rescuers a break.


There was a new eruption as almost 200 villagers remain missing. Relatives now praying for a chance to identify their loved ones.

Also ahead, did one of President Trump's top advisers try to sabotage the upcoming summit with North Korea? Those details ahead.



[01:21:00] VAUSE: After burying entire villages, Guatemala's Fuego volcano has released more toxic gas and a curtain of ash.


Rescuers had to retreat and there were new evacuations. The dangers are being compounded by heavy rain that could form acid rain or cause mud slides.

The death toll stands at 72, but is expected to rise with almost 200 people remaining missing. Relatives are hoping to at least identify their loved ones.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann is near the volcano.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When the fire volcano exploded on Sunday, people had almost no time to escape. Residents describe a wall of fire, lava, rock and ash that came hurdling down the mountain and wiped out whole communities.


The desperate search for survivors is now underway in Guatemala. Those who escaped still reeling after the Fuego volcano's sudden eruption Sunday afternoon.

This pyroclastic cloud of ash, rock and volcanic gasses poured through villages at more than 100 miles per hour, destroying everything in its wake. Mandatory evacuation orders came only hours after the mountain roared to life, leaving little time to flee.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: My mother's house was buried with my entire family inside, my three sons, two daughters and my grandson, my mother, my sisters, my nieces and nephews. I went to a bridge nearby to get help, they said the lava was coming back and they didn't listen to me.


OPPMANN: Entire communities once nestled in the foothills of the mountain are now buried beneath debris. Cars have been pushed and piled from the force of the volcanic flow.

This vacation resort, once pristine, now unrecognizable. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RESCUE WORKER: It has been very hard to seek kids, families - - whole families, knowing that they're buried under the ashes. And, knowing that they're there and we cannot work fast in order to get them out.


OPPMANN: Consuela Hernandez told first responders she believes she's the only one of her family that made it out in time.


CONSUELA HERNANDEZ, GUATEMALA RESIDENT: No, not everyone escaped. I think they were buried.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How did you get out?

HERNANDEZ: Because we saw the lava was pouring through the cornfields and we ran towards the hill.


OPPMANN: This afternoon, teams of rescuers are hoping to pull more like this infant alive from their homes. Any and all survivors are being carried out with care, but this deadly eruption has left an apocalyptic scene.


RESCUE WORKER: Basically there are no homes left and to my assumption, I don't think there's nobody left there with life.


OPPMANN: Guatemala is observing three days of mourning as funerals begin for the few victims that have been identified. White paper signs taped to their coffins lists the names of parents, friends and children.

All this, as officials warn the Fuego volcano remains active and dangerous for days to come.


OPPMANN: And the danger is not over yet. It has been raining heavily here, which complicates search and rescue efforts. It means there could be mudslides or avalanches, and as well when rain interacts with some of that volcanic ash, it can lead to acid rain.

There is some good new, though, there are three burn victims that have been transported to the United States, so help at long last is coming to the people of Guatemala.

Patrick Oppmann, near the volcano of fire in Guatemala.

VAUSE: Meteorologist Karen McGinnis joins us now with more on the volcano.


KAREN MCGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, and John, there are several factors that are going to contribute to an especially dangerous situation.

One, we don't get any notice as to when there's going to be this pyroclastic flow that erupts from this volcano and I mention that specifically it's not lava, it's pyroclastic, and as a result, we also have the rainy season here.

So, those two combinations are going to be especially dangerous. Already in Guatemala they're saying that this is a state of calamity, they're having a difficult time burring the bodies, if they can find the bodies.

[01:25:00] So, this massive pyroclastic flow erupted on Sunday. Then we've had some other minor eruptions, but they all build up. A pyroclastic flow is not like lava. Lava rarely travels faster than you can run, it still extremely dangerous, as we have seen over recent weeks from Kilauea.

But, now we've got the rainy season, we've got this large debris, boulder size in some cases, lots of gas, lots of ash and this comes travelling down the mountains when you get this water that is mixed in, it becomes very unstable. It brings trees, lots of debris and you cannot outrun that situation.

I've seen lots of pictures of people taking videos with their cellphones of this eruption. It is such a very poor idea to do that, because we know that this is very volatile. You don't have any idea as to when this is going to erupt.

You have effusive flows, like we see with Kilauea and then you have the explosive material, and in this situation it leaves this material at the base of the mountain, and with that rainfall it comes rapidly moving down.

Now, this debris flowed about 4,500 meters into the atmosphere and over the next several days, John, as we can see a pretty high chance of thunderstorms each day.

Back to you.

VAUSE: Karen, thank you for the update, appreciate it.

We'll take a short break, when we come back, they're much closer than you might think, at least that's what Vladimir Putin says about his relationship with Donald Trump.


The very latest on that in just a moment.


VAUSE: Welcome back everybody. You're watching CNN Newsroom live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause, we'll check the headlines this hour.


California voters could hold the key to who controls the U.S. House of Representatives in November's midterm elections. Primary ballots are being counted here and in seven other states, along with California. Democrats hope to fill a number of seats in the Republican held districts won by Hillary Clinton back in 2016.

Almost 200 people are missing after Guatemala's Fuego volcano buried entire villages with burning ash. Rescue operations were delayed on Tuesday, when small winds brought toxic gas and clouds of ash were thrown into the air. 72 people have been confirmed dead. Geologists warn the volcano could erupt again.

Disgraced movie producer, Harvey Weinstein, has pleaded not guilty to rape and criminal sex acts charges in New York's Supreme Court. The allegations come from two women, one involving an incident back in 2004 and one in 2013.


In all, more than 80 women, including many Hollywood A-listers have made allegations against Weinstein ranging from sexual harassment to rape.

As the U.S. President, Donald Trump, prepares for next weeks summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un, we're learning one of his top advisors may have deliberately tried to torpedo the talks by saying this.


MARGARET BRENNAN, CNN MODERATOR: But is it a requirement that Kim Jong Un agree to give away those weapons before you get any kind of confession?

JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I think that's right. I think we're looking at the Libya model of 2003 and 2004.


VAUSE: That's the U.S. National Security Adviser, John Bolton, his reference to the Libya model infuriated North Korea and sources say, caught President Trump off guard. The Libyan ruler, Muammar Gaddafi, was killed by rebels years after he agreed to dismantle his nuclear program.

Let's bring in CNN's Nic Robertson in Seoul South Korea for more on this, and Nic we now learn that Bolton has essentially been sidelined from these talks which could be a sign that Trump is going to go to great lengths to make sure this summit stays on track. NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It really does seem to be so, that

Bolton in known as a hawk, is particularly hawkish on Iran and we know President Trump is particularly hawkish, as well, on Iran having just torn up the nuclear deal with Iran.

So, as we've seen with other people who displeased President Trump, they end up loosing their jobs. It seems at the moment, Bolton is being spared for another day, spared, perhaps, for the upcoming issues they're going to face trying to deal with Iran over the expectations that they get a tougher nuclear deal there.

So, on this deal here, this one is -- sort of heads in the opposite direct doesn't it? Because President Trump is talking about this first meeting with Kim Jong Un as being a sort of getting to know you meeting.

And by removing somebody from his inner circle of advisers who's trying to say, look we need to take a tougher stance, we need to try to get more on the table from Kim Jong Un before you sit down with him to remove Bolton from that circle, that public circle at least, really does speak to the impression that's being created that President Trump really wants this to happen almost -- almost a respective of the outcome that he had set only a few months again and wanted complete (inaudible) or irreversible denuclearization. So, the upticks on this don't -- the upticks don't bode well for the real results.

VAUSE: Yes, also don't bode too well for John Bolton who's what been in the job just a couple of weeks. Nic, thank you. Nic Robertson there live in Seoul.

Vladamir Putin says he speaks regularly with his U.S. counterpart and he explains why he hasn't had a one on one summit with Donald Trump. As Brian Todd reports, it's one of several topics Putin covered in a new interview on European television.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In a new interview, Russian President Vladamir Putin is suggesting he's tighter with Donald Trump than many realize.


VLADAMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We regularly talk over the phone. Our Foreign Affairs Departments and Special Services are working fairly well together.


TODD: White House officials say there have been eight phone calls between Putin and Trump in the year and a half since Trump took office. All of them reported publicly, about the same as President Obama had with Putin in his final two years in office.

Putin's new comments about Trump came during a wide ranging sit down with Austrian TV, in which he blamed the ongoing Mueller investigation as the reason why he and the President have not had a one on one summits, saying Trump is quote, "coming under attack." MICHAEL CARPENTER, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF PENN BIDEN CENTER: This is

deeply ironic that President Putin, who oversaw and who likely commanded an operation that was designed to subvert our democratic institutions, that would complain that somehow the United States is not willing to talk to Russia.

TODD: Putin appeared to make light of the investigation, criticizing the indictment of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian restaurant tour known as Putin's chef. Special Council Robert Mueller says Prigozhin was secretly running a troll factory for Putin, spreading false information on social media during the election.

But Putin called the charge ridiculous, saying quote, "do you really think that a person who is the restaurant business could sway elections in the United States?"

The Russian President, who has been criticized at home and abroad for running sham elections, also responded harshly when asked if he is a (Zar).


PUTIN (through translator): No, it is not true. It is false and completely detached from reality because Russia is a democracy and we all live under the constitution.


MATTHEW ROJANSKY, DIRECTOR OF WILSON CENTER'S KENNAN INSTITUTE: It's a little bit like asking a quack doctor, are you a quack doctor, right? He's a (Zar) yes, but he's also a democratically elected president. So, both things are true, it just depends on what you mean by democratic election.

TODD: As for Putin's pension for showing off, the 65 year old seemed amused when asked why he takes so many pictures where he's quote, "half-naked?"


PUTIN: What you said, half-naked, not naked, thank God. When I am on vacation I see no need to hide behind the bushes and there is nothing wrong with that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is it so important to him to project those images?

ROJANSKY: Well number one, he's demonstrating that he is strong and he is in control both to a domestic audience and to an international audience, but also I think in American politics we'd say, one of his key demographics is middle-aged Russian women who vote in large numbers and this is very attractive to them. This is a guy, who is in some senses, the dream husband. He's a good earner, he's got power, he's responsible, he doesn't drink and he looks great. TODD: Putin was also asked if he plans to remain in power after his current term expires in six years. He said, he'll abide by Russia's constitution, which doesn't allow him to remain power beyond that time, but most analysts believe that Vladamir Putin will either find a way to change Russia's constitution or find another way to somehow stay in power.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

VAUSE: The fashion world is in shock and mourning after the sudden death of designer Kate Spade. According to police, she hanged herself in her apartment in New York. Sources say she left a suicide note that mentions her husband and daughter. Miss Spade began designing whimsical and colorful handbags in the early 1990s.

The company grew to a multi-million dollar clothing and accessories brand. She sold most of it in 1999, leaving to raise her daughter. Two year ago she started another company called Frances Valentine. Kate Spade was just 55. And we'll be back.


VAUSE: What does human trafficking look like? Just who's kidnapped, bought and sold. A filmmaker who recently won a worldwide competition called, PSA expose, shows us in this CNN Freedom Project report.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are literally millions of girls missing in Asia from a combination of trafficking, child labor and neglect.

UNIDIENTIFIED FEMALE: The girl epidemic is based on the idea of a real epidemic happening.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible) the epidemic. Honestly at this point it's like the air is ...

TONY SCHIENA, FOUNDER OF PSA EXPOSE ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING: My names Tony Schiena and I'm the founder of the PSA expose on human trafficking. We started the PSA Expose on human trafficking. We started the PSA Expose campaign together with My Freedom Day.


SCHIENA: So the Expose is a worldwide campaign. I'm trying to engage filmmakers in creating a 30 to 90 PSA - public service announcement - on human trafficking in their own environments. Admissions were received from all over the world. I would say 18 different countries. We then had our board of judges look at them, evaluate them, and choose a winner. Our head judge, Quincy Jones, would then announce it on CNN.

QUINCY JONES: It now gives me great pleasure to announce that the 2018 winner of the PSA Expose is Indrani Pal Chaudhuri from India. Omnivay sabayo (ph).


SCHIENA: Indrani, how are you?

CHAUDHURI: Good, how are you?

SCHIENA: Good. Nice to see you again.

CHAUDHURI: Great to see you. Please come in.

SCHIENA: And congratulations.

I think this is the main objective of the PSA Expose. It's not any awareness, but engaging people.

Where was that shot exactly?

CHAUDHURI: That was mostly in Mumbai and just outside in one of the slums. There's a lot of menacing elements, but when you realize that what the epidemic is, is girls themselves that they're being devalued in such a dramatic way that leading to their demise.

SCHIENA: Indrani, as a filmmaker, tackled the issue in a very unique manner. She didn't sort of use this in-your-face, this is human trafficking, this is the horrors. She did that in a smart way. She made it a disease, a - women disappearing. That type of thought process that, you know, the judges also look at it. It's original.

CHAUDHURI: It's a huge honor to win this award and we worked very hard on this project. My experience filming this PSA was very intense. I got to work with the actual girls who are at risk of trafficking in their homes. They weren't actors. They weren't coming and pretending like they're these kids. They were the real thing, and they were amazing. I talk to people there. They say, "oh, that's a problem that happens in America or somewhere else. You know, that doesn't happen here."

SCHIENA: We seem to have that problem in the U.S. or U.K. where people go, "well, it's not here. It's elsewhere." And it seems to be the same where you're from.

CHAUDHURI: I think that's the biggest problem is it's in inducible. You don't see people roaming around, grabbing kids off the street very often. It may happen a little more discreet, so it's hard for people to believe that it's happening when they're not seeing it in front of them, and that's what we, as filmmakers, can provide. We can show them what they're missing.


VAUSE: CNN's Freedom Project. Thank you for watching Newsroom L.A. I'm John Vause. Please stay with us. World Sport is up next.