Return to Transcripts main page


U.S. Immigration Debate; Trump White House; U.S.-North Korean Relations; Thailand Cave Rescue; Eight Dead as Record Flooding Hits Japan; U.S. Trade War; U.K. Nerve Agent Mystery; 2018 World Cup. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired July 7, 2018 - 05:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The deadline to reunite families with their children has the U.S. government asking for more time. The Trump administration anticipating it will miss the next deadline for reuniting immigrant children with their families.

Plus crews in Thailand reach a critical point trying to rescue the trapped football team there. But the boys and their coach say, don't worry.

Also later this hour, Belgium's shocking victory, making it the first World Cup without Brazil in the final four since 1930.

That's just amazing.

Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, we want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


HOWELL: At 5:00 am here on the U.S. East Coast. We start with the Trump administration scrambling to follow federal court orders to reunite some 3,000 migrant children with their families.

Friday was the deadline. The U.S. government was supposed to have made sure that every separated parent had a way to contact their child. The government's attorney says she believes they met that goal but warn that Tuesday's deadline will be trickier.

Officials must unify every child under the age of 5 with their parent. And by July 26th, every family must then be reunited. As these deadlines get closer, U.S. officials are begging the courts for more time. CNN's Nick Watt has details on that.


NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The federal government will now miss a key deadline in its effort to reunite children and their parents who have been separated at the border. By Tuesday, the government was supposed to have reunited all children

under 5 with their parents. We heard in San Diego that there are approximately 101 of those young kids; 46 parents have been identified and they are in ICE custody. Those reunifications apparently not a problem.

The issue is 19 parents have been released in this country; 19 parents have been deported. Tracking them down will take a little bit more time.

There were two other deadlines imposed by the judge here in San Diego. The first was by Friday all kids under 5 and their parents who are in custody were to have spoken by phone. The government claims that has happened.

There is another deadline; that is July 26th. By that date, all minors under 5 -- over 5 are to be reunited with their parents. They barely even mentioned that.

What they are trying to do here is deal with those kids under 5. And as the judge said, they are trying to work together to get those children reunited with their parents as quickly as possible -- Nick Watt, CNN, San Diego, California.


HOWELL: Nick, thank you.

Let's be clear now, the U.S. government is not reuniting these families on its own. It was directed to do so by a federal judge after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit, blocking the Trump administration's practice of separating families at the U.S. border.

And the ACLU is not the only agency working to help immigrant families. RAICES is another. That's a non-profit that offers free and low-cost legal services to immigrants and to refugees.

CNN's Nick Valencia spoke to the executive director about the challenges they're facing.


JONATHAN RYAN, ATTORNEY, RAICES: They really have been hurdles all along the way. When we get information about people who are being searched for, we have to call out to detention centers, all of which have different protocols as to whether they will confirm or deny.

There are detention centers that at this point are just hanging up on us once we call them. And then even when we have been able to connect with people and be able to pay their bonds, yesterday I went to immigration to try to pay five bonds. There are five women who should be free right now.

But we were essentially rejected at the front because we didn't have bus tickets and airplane tickets. NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Is that standard procedure?

I mean, I've never heard of that before.

RYAN: No, it's new to us as well. And in fact, that has been ironed out through communications and we hope to pay those bonds today. But these are examples of these little hurdles, these little pushbacks that we get that makes helping so many people quickly really a difficult logistic.


HOWELL: Several congressional Democrats and immigrant rights advocates are criticizing one federal agency for its role in this situation. That agency is the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, also known as ICE here in the United States.

ICE has been the target of public outrage --


HOWELL: -- for enforcing the Trump administration's zero tolerance immigration policy. Some Democrats say that agency should be abolished. The vice president of the United States, Mike Pence, says he won't let that happen. Listen.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: While I stand before you today, at a time when some people are actually calling for the abolition of ICE, in this White House, let me be clear: we are with you 100 percent.

And as the president said last night, we will always stand proudly with the brave heroes of ICE and our Border Patrol.


HOWELL: But ICE's critics say they are looking for a deeper cultural exchange.


REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: Democrats will not -- who have said this are not saying abolish ICE and do nothing. What they're saying is we should have a new agency that has principles and values more consistent with what the American people believe. That means not terrorizing communities, not ripping kids and babies away from their parents.

And ICE was a new agency created after 9/11 to essentially help go after terrorists. They've gone far away from that mission. And we need to make sure that the new ICE director curbs ICE's culture so they are more in line with the original mission and what Americans expect ICE to do.


HOWELL: To the Russia investigation, according to a "New York Times" report, President Trump's attorneys say if special counsel Robert Mueller wants to sit down, have an interview with the president, he's going to have to meet two conditions.

One of those conditions, Mueller's team must have evidence of the president committing a crime and they must prove the president's testimony is necessary to close out the Russia investigation.

But Trump's attorney admits that "The New York Times" -- admits to "The Times" that there is not much of a chance that Mueller would agree to those demands.

In the meantime, investigators are still connecting the dots between Paul Manafort's bank fraud trial and the Trump campaign. In a court filing, the special counsel's team said the president's former campaign chairman was given some $16 million in loans while the banker who approved those loans was seeking a role in the Trump campaign.

Let's talk about it all with Inderjeet Parmar, a professor of international politics at City University of London, live for us in our London bureau.

I want to go ahead and start, Inderjeet, with a topic we began our newscast with: immigration. Clearly a lot to talk about here, a lot at stake for families that have been separated by the president's initial policy to separate families.

But let's listen to Mr. Trump sum it all up through his base in a binary argument.


TRUMP: Democrats want open borders, which means lots of crime. We want tough, strong, powerful lawyers. We will protect ICE. We protect ICE. They protect us. We protect them.


HOWELL: Inderjeet, a moment ago, you heard the vice president defending ICE against some Democrats, who say they'd like to see it abolished.

Is this a winning argument for President Trump heading into November?

INDERJEET PARMAR, CITY UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: That's a good question. I think he is really planting the American flag in the activities and the agency elites. And I think he is trying to do the same kind of thing with ICE as he did with the take a knee protests.

I think he is trying to say that this is -- he is drawing a line. If you stand on this side, you stand with me, you stand for America, as sort of protected and secure and these are the brave heroes who are fighting for that, to keep us secure. He is basically saying that you can, on that basis, do whatever you

like pretty much to undocumented immigrants and their children. And he said if you don't, therefore, support us, you are against all the enemies of the United States. And these could be terrorists or gangsters from MS-13 and so on.

So he is trying to draw a line there and saying you are with me or against me.

Whether that will work, I'm not so sure because the majority of public opinion has turned really against the Trump line on this particular policy.

HOWELL: It is an interesting argument. Certainly people have paid close attention to the images, have heard the sounds of children wailing for their mothers and for their fathers.

But look, the government is struggling to manage these deadlines, to reunite families with their children.

What do you make of how they are going about this process?

And also the optics, Inderjeet, of their inability to give us any solid numbers, what the hell is happening?

PARMAR: Well, as your report said, it was the ACLU which challenged this child separation policy. This was forced on the administration and the administration has shown that it is more enthusiastic about enforcing very harsh law, dehumanizing children and --


PARMAR: -- their parents who are undocumented.

They are saying there was a security threat as potential terrorists and so on. And they don't really care too much about their human rights and all the exposes that have shown that really shown what exactly is going on.

And the optics are terrible, they're terrible PR for the Trump administration. They're trying to recover that ground.

The thing is the ICE is being militarized even more. I read recently that they've ordered the assault rifle, which is a weapon of choice of the U.S. Marine Corps. There are former CIA advisers on interrogation techniques used against terrorists and there's DNA testing of parents to see who their children might be.

So actually I think it looks like the Trump administration is not really going to comply too easily with any court orders. They have decided on a particular policy and they will try to see it through as -- pretty much as harshly as possible. And they see it as galvanizing their bloc of voters ahead of the November midterms.

And I think they have planted their flag, the GOP's flag, right in that kind of territory. HOWELL: Certainly from a journalist's perspective, we will keep pushing to get numbers, to understand what's going on in this situation.

I want to pivot now to the Russia investigation. President Trump's attorney has proposed this deal, suggesting that Mr. Mueller needs to prove that Mr. Trump committed a crime in order to interview him.

What are the chances of Mueller's team, in your estimation, going for a deal like that that?

PARMAR: Really, it's so difficult to know the cat-and-mouse game being played. It shows, to my mind, that Mueller is unlikely to want to accept any kind of conditions of that type. He's carrying out an independent investigation and he's following all kinds of lines of inquiry.

And anybody that he comes across, that he wants to question, he has the overall right to do so. I think what Trump is doing now, and especially since the employment of Rudy Giuliani to the legal team, he is going on the offensive. And I think what he is trying to play is a game of public opinion mobilization, plant my flag.

So whereas ICE on one side, on this question, he is planting another flag. This is the deep state out to get me, the defender of the faith, the champion of the people who is there to reassert America first abroad and put white male Americans right in charge. And they're out to get me. They never wanted me in the first place and I'm going to try to rally the people around the flag to defend my presidency, as in the rights of the ordinary people.

And I think that's what he is trying to do. I doubt if anybody could accept that.

HOWELL: It is a binary argument, but, Inderjeet, it does speak to a divided America at this point. We have to see how this plays out come November. Inderjeet Parmar, thank you so much for the perspective. We'll stay in touch with you.

Now to the U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, due to Tokyo soon to brief Japanese and South Korean officials on his third trip to Pyongyang. Mike Pompeo met with senior North Korean officials for two days.

The burning question, though, was there any more clarity on exactly what North Korea is willing to do when it comes to the issue denuclearization, also the issue of returning the remains of U.S. troops killed in the Korean War?

Following this story, our Andrew Stevens is live in Seoul, South Korea.

Andrew, holding meetings, that is one thing. What comes out of those meetings, that's another.

Is there any indication that Pompeo made headway here? ANDREW STEVENS, CNN ASIA PACIFIC EDITOR: Well, we can't speak to the headway that Pompeo may or may not have made at this stage because the delegation isn't talking about what was achieved.

They are saying that they put all the issues on the table you referred to; complete denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, security assurances, what will the U.S. offer North Korea in return for denuclearizing?

And also the returns of the remains of U.S. service men killed during the Korean War. They were all on the table, according to a State Department spokesperson. Mr. Pompeo was very firm in what he wanted to get from the North Koreans.

Again, we don't know what it is at this stage, all they say is that he was very firm in his conversations.

So we now wait for Mr. Pompeo to land in Tokyo. He has now in the air. He has left Pyongyang after meetings with Kim Yong-Chul. He is the second in command, the number two, if you like, to Kim Jong-un. Pompeo and Kim Yong-chol met extensively yesterday, Friday, and again this morning.

We don't know the outcome of those talks and also we don't know whether Pompeo then went on to meet Kim Jong-un. It's the third time the secretary of state has visited Pyongyang. He's --


STEVENS: -- met Kim Jong-un previous two times. Both of those two were before the June 12th summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. So we don't know whether that meeting between Pompeo and Kim took place today.

The assumption was there was going to be one. It certainly would be unusual if he didn't. It would raise a lot questions as to why Kim did not meet U.S. secretary of state. So Mike Pompeo will be meeting with his foreign minister counterparts in Japan and South Korea in Tokyo. And we may start to learn some more details there.

HOWELL: Certainly the optics of a meeting with Kim Jong-un, very important here. Of course, we'll continue to find out what happened there. Andrew Stevens, live for us in Seoul, South Korea, thank you for your reporting today.

Still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, why the next few days would be critical for the rescue of the trapped football team in Thailand. We have a live report from Northern Thailand ahead.

Also with last year's devastation fresh in their minds, residents of the island of Puerto Rico prepare for the first hurricane of the Atlantic season. Stay with us.



HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.

In Thailand, the next few days will be critical. They will offer the best chance to rescue a youth football team trapped in a flooded cave system. That's according to the local governor there. The 12 boys and their coach have been trapped now for two weeks and more rain is expected in the forecast. And oxygen in that cave is running low.

Despite the situation, the boys are trying to stay positive. They've written these letters to their families. The boys sent love to their parents, saying that they are going to be OK, that they're doing all right.

They beg a teacher not to give them lots of homework. And they say they can't wait to eat their favorite foods. Let's get the very latest. Our David McKenzie is live in Northern Thailand.

We'll talk about those stories in a moment, so important to hear from these children in such a difficult, scary situation, David.

But first of all, tell us this window that these crews have to work with. It's not raining heavily where you are right now; that's an important key.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, George, the rain could be coming in the coming days and coming in earnest. And that could be the start of the --


MCKENZIE: -- monsoon season. The governor earlier today said that, in fact, if the rain starts, it could flood sections of the cave that they've managed to get those water levels lower. And he said that the boys might be stuck on a 10-meter square beach -- or even worse.

I do want to bring you news now from a Thai Navy source, who says there is a high chance that this extraction could happen soon. That means that while they have a window of possibly the next 24 hours or so, you could see movement very soon on this story.

But even when they pull the trigger, it could be an hours-long operation to bring each boy out individually and they will still have that treacherous diving to do. That same sources says that the British divers who were involved from the very beginning, the ones who helped find those boys in the first place, will be intimately involved in this rescue operation, working directly with Thai Navy divers.

I've spoken to several officials over the last few days, asked them, who is the most qualified to do this?

They say the Thais are certainly in the lead. But the most experienced are those cave diving specialists, even more experienced than the military operations and operators who are here as well.

So we could see this begin quite soon but it will be a torturous and dangerous few hours when it begins.

HOWELL: David, knowing that it takes then several, some five hours, I believe -- correct me if I'm wrong -- but to get in there, yes, to bring them out, one by one, certainly an extensive operation.

Can you tell just us a bit about the children?

We are hearing these stories, these notes from the children and they're trying to reassure the outside world that they will be OK.

MCKENZIE: That's right. You've heard very little from the boys, just some video over the last few days, of them greeting their parents, saying that they are fine. But they've been stuck under there for 15 days now in pretty horrifying conditions and with the realization that they will have to go through this treacherous journey to get out alive.

And they managed to send letters, handwritten in Thai, on notebook paper. One of the boys said, this is Bue (ph), using his nickname, "Don't worry, Dad, Mom, I've just disappeared for two weeks. I have to -- when I get back I will help Mom sell her wares. I will rush to get back."

And another, Dhan (ph) said, I'm fine. The weather is quite cold in here. But don't forget about my birthday.

George, that young boy's birthday was a few days ago. He had inside that cave. And sometimes with all the logistics and the specialists and the excitement or trepidation about this rescue, we forget they're that in there, all this time in the mountain behind me, hunkered down, just wanting to get back to their families -- George.

HOWELL: All right, David McKenzie, thank you so much for the report.

Now to Japan. Almost 2 million people there have been told they will need to leave their homes because of torrential rain and flooding. We want to show you these dramatic images of damaged roads and destroyed homes that show the devastation.


HOWELL (voice-over): We understand at least eight people have died. Japan's weather agency says there is more to come, though, throughout the weekend. It's upgraded its warning to the highest level in Nagasaki, Kyoto and Hiroshima.


HOWELL: The governor of the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico has declared a state of emergency. This in preparation for Hurricane Beryl that is approaching. You see residents there rushing to stores on the island, that happening on Friday, stocking up on food and water.

The pain from last year's devastating hurricane season, that is certainly fresh on the minds of people there. (WEATHER REPORT)


HOWELL: Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, the United States and China exchange multibillion dollar tariffs. We examine what this means for the global markets.

Plus, British detectives step up their investigation into a second nerve agent poisoning in Southern England. A live report ahead, as NEWSROOM rolls on.





HOWELL: Coast to coast across the United States and to our viewers around the world this hour, you are watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta. I'm George Howell with the headlines we are following for you.


HOWELL: Now to trade wars. The world largest economies have moved beyond threats to a full-blown trade war. The U.S. slapped a 25 percent tariff on more than 800 Chinese products to the tune of $34 billion.

China then responded in kind with its own $34 billion, saying the U.S. had initiated the biggest trade war in economic history. Analysts don't believe the fight will end anytime soon. In fact, the U.S. intends to levy more tariffs in the coming weeks.

Let's get the latest live from Beijing. CNN's Steven Jiang, following this story.

Steven, both nations trying to apply these tariffs in very specific sectors, looking to make an impact here.

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER, BEIJING BUREAU: Definitely, George. Actually, when you look at number, $34 billion figure we keep mentioning, it's actually -- it stops here, the impact would be fairly limited because bilateral trade actually exceeded $600 billion last year.

But the worry is that it's not going to stop here. As you have mentioned, both sides, including both leaders, have actually hardened their stance, with Mr. Trump, as recently as Thursday, saying, if the Chinese retaliate, which they did, then he would impose more tariffs on more Chinese imports.

The number he gave was somewhere around $550 billion. That's actually more than what the Americans bought from China in total last year. So the math may be a little fuzzy. But his determination is clear.

On the Chinese side, President Xi Jinping similarly vowed to punch back, with state media using language like fighting this war to its bitter end. So definitely the worry is this could lead to a devastating cycle of retaliations, which in turn could cause erosion and business confidence and delaying investment decisions around the world -- George.

HOWELL: Steven Jiang, and you compared it last hour to acupuncture, the specific targets in each sector of these two nations' economies. I wonder if it could be compared also to a food fight, gets messy and, at the end of the day, who started it first?

It looks like a messy situation nonetheless. Steven, thanks for the reporting.

Let's get deeper analysis with now what this means, Vicky Pryce joins us now, an economist with the Center for Economics and Business Research, live this hour from our London bureau.

Vicky, I want to start this segment with you by listening to a trade adviser for Mr. Trump, Peter Navarro, talking about locking horns with China. He tells my colleague, Jim Sciutto, nothing to worry about here. Let's listen.


PETER NAVARRO, TRUMP TRADE ADVISER: China is a sovereign nation. If they want to choose to basically retaliate against what is a legitimate defense of this country, against their unfair trade practices, they're a sovereign nation. They're free to do that.

But it's not going to bother our economy. It's not going to bother us. And if they try to bully our farmers or anybody else in this country, we're going to -- President Trump is going to stand for to those folks.


HOWELL: OK, the questions of where rhetoric meets reality, he says Mr. Trump will stand up for those folks.

What exactly does that phrase mean?

If things continue to escalate, can a strongman rhetoric really make a difference here?

VICKY PRYCE, ECONOMIST: Well, certainly President Trump can, if he wants to, pose more tariffs on various goods coming in from China.


PRYCE: The question of course is, for how long?

Because he has to have a real reason for doing so. There are rules, there are international rules around, through the World Trade Organization, which say you can impose tariffs if you think there is dumping going on if you think there are some other practices, that are there that perhaps act against freedom of selling your goods across and being competitive if you want to because others are abusing their power.

The belief by President Trump is that the Chinese are doing this all the time, either by dumping products or by stealing intellectual property and actually not giving back the shares, if you like, of that intellectual property profit that may be coming to them.

Also he is worried about some of the sector that China is now becoming quite strong in, particularly technology sectors. But the WTO has to look and see whether those issues are serious. And as we all know, the European Union itself is very worried about this.

And they have acted together with China to put a complaint to the World Trade Organization. President Trump can say things like it's security or it's something else that is really vital for the U.S. economy but he's going to have to prove it.

And the question is, even if he puts more tariffs up on Chinese goods, whether they would survive in the longer term.

HOWELL: But going beyond the big picture, the meta, more into the micro, the macro, I want to get a sense what it means for the farmer.

So standing up for the farmer, does that mean escalating with more tariffs?

Wouldn't that just hurt the farmer more?

PRYCE: Absolutely. Any trade war is bad for everyone. So there is no win-win there. I'm afraid it's a lose-lose. That's been proven to be the case through the decades, through the centuries.

What you really need is to come to some agreement with the Chinese and with the E.U. and the Canadians and so on. And that agreement has to be to look again at some of the tariffs. It is just possible that there could be a move to look at, for example, in terms of the E.U., whether perhaps we are imposing over here far too high tariffs on cars being imported in the E.U. from the U.S.

The U.S. only has 2.5 percent tariffs on cars. We have over here 10 percent tariffs on cars. There is a move already to look at that, across those nations and see whether we can actually do something about it.

So what he really needs to do is talk the language of compromise. There is nothing to be gained by just adding more tariffs on more goods, which actually will lead to world trade growth slowing down. It's been a main reason why we've had a recovery in the world economy recently. There been trade growth both in the developed and developing world.

And that in itself is, if it does get reduced, will lead to slower growth in the economy as a whole. There are already forecasts for the U.S. economy slowing down very significantly if this escalates.

HOWELL: These tariffs are newly implemented.

The question, when will people start to feel the effect of these tariffs?

PRYCE: I think industry has already been saying that they could be feeling them very quickly. It's true that so far they're not very big. But escalating. They're increasing the cost base for firms. And what they're really saying is, if there are going to be problems in terms of selling things elsewhere, if there are deviatory (ph) tariffs being put on, then we will go and produce elsewhere.

Of course, president Trump doesn't like that. He seems to think that everyone will just come and produce in the U.S. I think that's unlikely. Firms are global. They go where the cheaper production processes are. They have to be competitive.

So I think actually already there is a very strong movement in the U.S. to think a bit more cleverly, if you like, about these tariffs and I think the industry is lobbying very significantly. You've see that in the stock prices. The Dow hasn't done well at all in the U.S. as the result of this, and that is a sign already that it is hurting.

If you don't invest, it will hurt the economy pretty quickly.

HOWELL: Putting this in the totality of what we're talking about, the U.S. with tariffs on China, with the E.U., with Mexico, with Canada, the question, can the U.S. manage all of this or is this overreach?

We will have to see how this plays out. Vicky Pryce, thank you so much for your time.

Still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, a new poisoning mystery deepens in the United Kingdom. British counterterrorism police ramp up their investigation into a second nerve agent poisoning in Southern England. We have a live report ahead for you.

Also at the World Cup, permanent favorite Brazil is out, Belgium advances to the semifinal for the first time in 32 years. CNN is live in Russia on that. Stay with us.





HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.

In the United Kingdom, British police are stepping up their search for the source of a second nerve contamination, this after a couple was poisoned in Southern England last week. The victims are in critical condition. Our Erin McLaughlin is following this story live in Salisbury, England.

Erin, given what we've seen of this couple, tell us about the mood in and around that town.

Is there concern among people about encountering this possible poison?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: People I have been speaking to here, George, they absolutely have concerns about the possibility of further contamination. It does not seem that investigators have a handle on this situations. They do not know the source of the nerve agent that resulted in this couple becoming so critically ill.

Last night they released a timetable of the couple's movement in Salisbury and in Amesbury in the hours before they became ill. It's quite apparent there are many locations they will have to look at as a possibility for the source.

It's an investigation so complex that authorities are warning it could take them weeks, perhaps months, to get to the bottom of all of this. And key to this investigation, authorities say, some 1,300 hours of under surveillance footage.


MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): This is the last time we see Dawn Sturgess and Charley Rowley before they fell ill, exposed to a deadly nerve agent. CNN exclusively obtained this footage of the couple, arriving at a corner shop near Sturgess' home in Salisbury. It is timestamped Friday, June 29th, 9:54 pm.

You see Sturgess walking in; her boyfriend, Rowley, waits outside, drinking from a bottle. She picks up four --


MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): -- cans of beer and two bottles of wine, pays the cashier, then leaves with Rowley.

MCLAUGHLIN: This is the shop where the couple bought alcohol before continuing into the night. You can see just over that way, the street where Dawn Sturgess lives, currently cordoned off by police. It is unclear where the couple went next exactly but the footage shows them walking in this direction, toward the center of town, where, four months ago, a former Russian spy and his daughter were found poisoned by Novichok nerve agent.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Authorities confirm the couple was exposed to the same substance, listed as a weapon of mass destruction by the U.N. The leading line of inquiry that they handled the contaminated item somehow connected to the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter though authorities have yet to establish a direct link.

Most concerning right now: authorities have not located the contaminated item, retracing Rowley and Sturgess' steps from that Friday, critical to the investigation. A friend told local media, earlier they visited stores in Salisbury,

bought some food and purchased a blanket from a local charity shop. Midday surveillance footage catches Sturgess making an alcohol run in the center of town before the couple and their friend enjoyed the evening drinking at a park in Salisbury that is now cordoned off.

They spent the night at Rowley's home in Amesbury. By 11:00 am the next morning, Sturgess was critically ill. By 3:30 pm Rowley was in a similar state.

Now forensic experts have moved in to scour Rowley's home, looking for clues to solve this mystery. Even a small trace of this nerve agent can be deadly.


MCLAUGHLIN: Now that corner shop next to where Sturgess live is still open. We were actually talking to the shop owner just last night and he told us that in the hours after CNN aired that exclusive footage, investigators entered his shop, asking for a copy. It's an illustration of just how difficult it is for investigators to collect all of the evidence relating to this investigation -- George.

HOWELL: Erin McLaughlin, on the story, live in Salisbury, England, thank you for your reporting today. We'll stay in touch with you and your team.

Still ahead, a drama in Russia. On his knees and out of the World Cup, Brazilian star Neymar is in a world of hurt as his team crashes out of the tournament, where they were favorites.






HOWELL: At the World Cup, fans in Belgium had reason to celebrate as the Red Devils left Brazil's team shellshocked. Brazil's fans also stunned, their squad were a favorite to win the tournament but crashed out of it after losing 2-1. Let's go live to Russia. "WORLD SPORT's" Amanda Davies following it all in Samarra, Russia.

It was a stunning performance, to say the least, for Belgium last night.

What has been the key to their success so far in this tournament?

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: George, it was a stunning game, all in all. It could have been a final, two really top sides. But Belgium, the side that we have been talking as the perennial underachievers, such an array of talent in their ranks. But the question mark that's always been hanging over them is how they

put that individual talent into an effective team unit. That has been what they've been trying to do during this tournament.

It finally seems to be paying off, some fantastic performances from the likes of Romelu Lukaku of France, Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne and really they proved too strong for Brazil, who were many people's pre- tournament favorites.

The Brazilian side have been steadily improving as this tournament went on. They did create a lot of chances, they can and so often do, the likes of Neymar and Coutinho. But just couldn't finish it off. Brazil and Belgium absolutely made them pay.

Their boss, Roberto Martinez, called it his proudest moments. This team that are now reaching their mid- to late 20s, who have been finding their way in these major tournaments, have finally stepped up on the biggest stage.

They've booked their place in the semifinal of a World Cup for just the second time. And they have high hopes that they can go even further than that. But it will be no easy task against the French side themselves, rampacked (sic) with talent. And they feel with the points of proof.

HOWELL: All right, Amanda, let's also talk about England in action against Sweden. There's some belief that the World Cup could be coming back to that country.

How realistic is it?


DAVIES: There is some belief. And that belief is growing by the day, by the minute, by the hour, fans collecting here on the waterfront in Samarra. We're quite a distance from the stadium but this very much the focal point here.

There haven't been too many England fans traveling to Russia in recent weeks. It's been one of the big sadnesses when you speak to the fans who are here, saying we are so disappointed, all those negative headlines has put so many people off because the fans here on the whole have had a great experience.

More and more it does seem to have been arriving, quite a few groups of fans with their shirts and their flags on the beach. And belief is starting to take hold after that performance against Colombia in the round of 16.

It wasn't necessarily the manner in which England played during that match. They certainly didn't impress to a great degree in terms of the style of play. But it was the fact that they dug in and then won on penalties, which is something England have not done at a World Cup before. They managed to deal with the pressure. They managed to keep their heads --


DAVIES: -- despite the fact that they were getting kicked and jostled off the ball by Colombia.

Now here they are, in this quarterfinal, up against Sweden, who won't be any easy opponents. Sweden themselves are very compact, disciplined, tight-knit unit who are making the most of the sum of their parts.

That has very much been their strategy, Janne Anderson, their boss, who has been rebuilding since the last European Championships, since the retirement of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

He said this is not just about one or two players. This is a team, thus we're all going to work together. They themselves want to make history in their first World Cup since 2006.

But the England fans you speak to here, if they've got anything to do with it, it will be England going through to the semifinal in Moscow on Wednesday.

HOWELL: We have to wait to see what happen with Russian and Croatia. Amanda Davies, thank you so much for your time today.

He has yet to play a game for L.A. but LeBron James' #23 Lakers jersey is already selling out. The problem, though, it wasn't supposed to be on sale. An ESPN reporter tweeted a video of an NBA store in New York on Friday. It was announced last Sunday, King James was signing with the Lakers but hadn't signed officially the NBA doesn't want jerseys sold before a player puts pen to paper. So the uniforms were repeatedly pulled from the racks.

And for Marvel Studios, it's been a blockbuster year.

So why not end its biggest year at the box office by going small?


PAUL RUDD, ACTOR, "ANT-MAN": Ant-Man and the Wasp teaming up.


HOWELL (voice-over): "Ant-Man and the Wasp" is Marvel's final film of the year. It raked in more than $11 million Thursday night alone.

That wraps this hour of NEWSROOM. Thank you for being with us. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. The news continues here on CNN after the break.