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Trump Discussed Playmate Payment on Cohen Tape; Trump Administration Defends Putin Invitation; Duck Boat Tragedy; Middle East Violence; Trump-Putin Summit Highly Praised in Moscow; Rohingya Crisis; Rocking the Misspeaking. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired July 21, 2018 - 05:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A secretly taped conversation about payment to a "Playboy" model made by President Trump's former attorney, that's ahead this hour. Also --


TIA COLEMAN, DUCK BOAT SURVIVOR: They told me, they're up here, this is where they are. They showed us where they were. They said, but don't worry about it. You won't need it.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): You are hearing there from a survivor of a tragic boat accident in the U.S. state of Missouri. It reveals how she was told she wouldn't need a life jacket.

ALLEN (voice-over): Also this hour, the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees. One human rights group says it was a planned government effort to push them out of their homes.

HOWELL (voice-over): We are live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell.

ALLEN (voice-over): I'm Natalie Allen, we are wide awake. Wide awake.


HOWELL: Stay woke.

ALLEN: Stay woke.

NEWSROOM, we think, starts right now.


HOWELL: 5:01 on the East Coast.

The top story we're following: the U.S. president, before he took office, we now know his former attorney secretly recorded his client discussing a payment to a former "Playboy" model.

ALLEN: Karen McDougal said she had an affair with Mr. Trump in 2006. He denies that. The recording was made by Michael Cohen about two months before the presidential election.

HOWELL: It was one of the many items the FBI seized from Cohen earlier this year. A source says, when Mr. Trump found out about the tapes, he said, quote, "I can't believe Michael will do this to me."

Our Jessica Schneider explains what we know so far.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Michael Cohen secretly recorded multiple conversations with Donald Trump, sources tell CNN. And those tapes are now in the hands of federal investigators.

Two months before the election, Cohen recorded a conversation with Trump, discussing a payment to the former "Playboy" model, Karen McDougal. That's according to Trump's current attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

McDougal claims she had nearly a year-long affair with the president right after Melania gave birth to Barron in 2006.

KAREN MCDOUGAL, FORMER PLAYMATE: I was attracted to him, yes. He's a nice-looking man and I liked his charisma.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): McDougal has said Trump tried to hand her cash after their first night together.

MCDOUGAL: After we had been intimate, he tried to pay me and I actually did not take that.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Did he actually try to hand you money?


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Trump denies the affair. McDougal says she didn't take the money that night but McDougal eventually sold her story to the "National Enquirer" for $150,000. The tabloid never published it.

Giuliani told CNN that Trump didn't know he was being recorded during that discussion. But on the tape, Trump and Cohen discussed buying the rights to McDougal's story from AMI, the parent company of the "Enquirer."

Trump advised Cohen to pay by check so that it could be documented, according to Giuliani. The recording was one of several seized by the FBI during a raid of Cohen's hotel room, apartment and office back in April.

There are other tapes of Michael Cohen and other powerful individuals that the FBI seized, beyond the president, that could be embarrassing for the people on the tape and for Cohen, according to a source familiar with those tapes.

Prosecutors in New York City are examining possible election law violations related to payments Michael Cohen made to women who alleged sexual encounters with Trump. Adult film actress Stormy Daniels received $130,000 to keep quiet about an alleged affair. She has since sued Trump over that agreement.

Daniel's attorney is now urging Cohen to release the recordings.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: If Michael Cohen, in fact, is a true patriot, as he wants the American people to believe and as Lanny Davis wants the American people to believe, then Michael Cohen should release all of the audio recordings.

And I will tell you for a fact, there is more than one. There is multiple recordings. And all of them should be released for the benefit of the American public.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): For now, Michael Cohen isn't commenting. He's been seen on the streets of New York City but has stayed mostly silent, at least publicly. He sat down with ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos off camera earlier this month, signaling his willingness to work with special counsel Robert Mueller, stressing his family, not the president, comes first.

And late last night, after a week of twisted words from the White House regarding Russia, Cohen quoted the legendary broadcaster Walter Cronkite and said, "It has never been more important than it is now for everyone to distinguish between innuendo and fact" -- Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.



ALLEN: The tape, of course, raises new legal issues in the Cohen investigation and


ALLEN: -- potentially raises issues for the U.S. president. Let's bring in CNN legal analyst Areva Martin from Los Angeles.

Areva, thank you for being with us.

From what we know about this tape, does it hurt the president?

One of his lawyers, Rudy Giuliani, says it won't.

Has he explained that?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: One thing we know for sure is that the president lied to us. This story broke in 2016. "The Wall Street Journal" broke a story that Trump knew about the negotiated deal between Karen McDougal and AMI, the parent company for "National Enquirer." When asked about that deal, Donald Trump, his team, denied any

knowledge of it. This tape now of Donald Trump talking to Michael Cohen about purchasing or trying to acquire that non-disclosure agreement, that was entered into between AMI and Karen McDougal, clearly, clearly reveals that the president knew that Karen McDougal was telling her story or potentially trying to tell her story about an affair that she said she had with the president.

So, if nothing else, it proves that Trump and his administration have not been honest with the American people.

ALLEN: That is one factor.

The other big question is, does the tape reveal whether, in the payments made to Ms. McDougal, did the payment violate campaign finance laws?

MARTIN: And that is a big question. Of course, Rudy Giuliani says that the tapes exonerate the president because there is no conversation, there is no mention during the 90 seconds or 2 minutes of this tape, where there is any conversation about the election or about trying to suppress information.

But it remains to be seen. We don't know exactly what other information may be available. We know that there were millions of documents seized from Michael Cohen's office and his home. We don't know what those documents reveal about what Trump and Michael Cohen were doing leading up to the election.

We do know that, from this tape, from the deal that AMI had with Karen McDougal and from the payment to Stormy Daniels, that Trump had real issues with women coming forward alleging affairs with him. And he didn't want those stories to break before the election.

Now whether the dots can be connected by federal prosecutors to prove that payments made by Donald Trump were indeed to prevent negative information from coming out right before the election and constitute a campaign violation, it remains to be seen.

ALLEN: Cohen typically secretly recorded meetings. There are other tape beyond this one. But according to our sources, this is the only one of substance with Donald Trump. The president has waived privilege on this recording, according to two sources briefed on the legal discussion.

What is the significance of that move?

MARTIN: There is some reporting that Donald Trump and his team waived privilege and that they made this tape available to the media because they were trying to divert our attention away from this horrific week that the president has had, you know, beginning on Monday with the press conference, where he stood side by side with Vladimir Putin and pretty much agreed with Putin that, despite evidence from our national intelligence and our law enforcement agencies, that they did not interfere in the 2016 election. It is not certain, though, why -- it is not clear to me at all why

Donald Trump wanted this tape. Then Giuliani's theory that this somehow exonerates the president.

ALLEN: Will Cohen, the former fixer to Donald Trump, be a danger to this president?

Will he cooperate with the investigation?

Does this give any hint which way he's going?

MARTIN: I think if you look at the tweet that was made by one of the new attorneys that has joined the Michael Cohen team, it is pretty clear that there has been a shift in the way Michael Cohen considers the president, a shift in their relationship.

If you look back months ago, he talked about taking a bullet for the president and being one of his most loyal confidants. We saw, with his recent interview with Stephanopoulos, he said, look, my family, my children first. He hired a new legal team.

And it is pretty clear that Michael Cohen is frustrated. He doesn't believe that the president has had his back. He believes that the president is trying to undermine his credibility.

And it is not so certain at this moment that Michael Cohen is going to continue to be loyal to the president. The lawyer that he has hired is a former U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York.

And that suggests to some that Michael Cohen is gearing up to try to strike some kind of deal with the federal prosecutors, if and when he is actually charged with any crimes.

ALLEN: Legal analyst Areva Martin, as always thanks for helping us understand.

MARTIN: Thank you, Natalie.



ALLEN: The Trump administration is defending its decision to invite the Russian president to visit Washington this fall. This is what secretary of state Mike Pompeo said Friday speaking at the United Nations.


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm happy that the two leaders of two very important countries are continuing to meet. And if that meeting takes place in Washington, I think it's all to the good.

Those conversations are incredibly important. We have our senior leaders meeting all across the world with people where we have deep disagreements with. It is incredibly valuable to the people of the United States of

America, the -- President Putin and President Trump continue to engage in dialogue to resolve the difficult issues that our countries face between each other.

I think this makes enormous sense and I'm very hopeful that that meeting will take place this fall.


HOWELL: But four days after that summit in Helsinki, we know what was said during the news conference. We know about the backlash after the news conference, the damage control from the White House.

What we don't know, we don't know what those leaders said to each other or perhaps even agreed to when they met privately. So let's talk more about this with our correspondent covering this story, Sam Kiley, live in Moscow.

Sam, you know, look, traditionally, you would hear the U.S. version of events. You would the Russian version of events. The two would be different, right, in the takeaways and what was agreed to.

But in this case, we're not hearing much from the U.S. side. It seems the Russian side and President Putin owning the narrative here.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's a very strange phenomenon. As you say, you would have a situation in which both sides would say, had been agreed in either detail, broad terms and even where they had agreed to disagree or where they were miles apart. That is the nature of international diplomacy.

There is nothing wrong, in fact, it's in all forms of diplomatic theory, talking is the most important step forward. So that would be a good thing, having Mr. Putin come to the White House as per the invitation that's come from Donald Trump.

Where things go awry and where there have been opportunities for the Russians to start to exploit this and also to come across almost as if they're doing the public relations for Donald Trump rather than Donald Trump's own West Wing, is in selective leaking or suggestions about what was agreed.

So let's take the first thing, ministry of defense here said both sides have agreed to restart and start working towards the SALT weapons reduction treaty renewal, which is 18 months out. Not particularly controversial. The Russian ministry of defense saying they are getting involved in that.

Then they suggest there has been an agreement to work towards the repatriation of Syrian refugees into Syria. This is problematic. Not clearly so from this statement because the American position is that there will be no repatriation of any Syrian refugees into any area under the control of the Syrian regime/Russia.

So there immediately is the Russians trying to set up a degree of friction between the administration and the policymakers within the administration in the United States.

Then again they suggested out of Moscow, there was a proposal to have a referendum in Eastern Ukraine, where Russian forces and their proxies have been destabilizing and effectively captured a large territory broadly known as the Donbas.

The White House pushing back against that since the meeting. But during the meeting, it's not clear at all from any of this whether Donald Trump really recalls what went on there or whether he understood it.

Therefore, the Russians will come out looking on top and more competent at the very least.

HOWELL: The Russians looking on top, confident, clearly owning the narrative and the details; on the American side, not much. Sam Kiley, thank you for the reporting.

ALLEN: Ahead here, the heartbreaking story of a woman who lost nine members of her family when their tour boat sank in a Missouri lake. There were eight other victims as well. We have more about it coming up.

HOWELL: Plus the U.N. warns, if it fails, it could mean war. The latest on the efforts to save an Israel-Gaza cease-fire. In the U.S. and around the world, You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.





HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM.

We are hearing the story of a woman who lost nine of her family members in a deadly tour boat accident. She's speaking out about this terrifying experience from her hospital bed.

ALLEN: In all, 17 people died when the boat sank in a lake near the town of Branson, Missouri, a very popular tourist area. Frances Lynn (ph) from affiliate KOLR has our story.


FRANCES LYNN (PH), KLOR CORREP (voice-over): A duck boat tour usually travels on land and water. Tia Coleman said she was told the tour would go on the water excursion first because of the incoming storm. She describes the captain taking over when they reached the lake.

COLEMAN: Once he takes over, there's big, huge waves, choppy. Everybody started getting like, hey, this is a little bit too much. Then it got really choppy, and big swells of water start coming into the boat. Then a really huge wave swept over. And when that wave swept over,

the last thing I heard my sister-in-law yell was, "Grab the baby."

LYNN (PH) (voice-over): That's when the boat started sinking.

COLEMAN: And my head pushed up to the top of the water. And I lost control. I didn't have anybody with me. I couldn't see anybody. And I know it wasn't but it felt like I struggled -- it felt like I struggled for at least an hour. But it was probably like 10 minutes.

And I just remember I kept sinking. I kept sinking.

LYNN (PH) (voice-over): She was drowning and described the waters as being very cold.

COLEMAN: And I started floating. I was floating up to the top. I felt the water temperature raise to warm. Then when I felt the water temperature raise, I jumped up and I saw the big boat that sits out there, I don't know what kind of boat it is, it is huge, though.

LYNN (PH) (voice-over): It was a rescue boat, with people throwing life jackets into the water.

COLEMAN: And I said, Jesus, please keep me. Just keep me so I can get to my children, keep me, Lord. And I was just swimming. I was swimming as fast as I could. And I couldn't reach -- I could not reach the life jacket.

LYNN (PH) (voice-over): She had to swim to the rescue boat.

COLEMAN: I swam over to the boat, and I was holding on. But my legs and arms were so heavy from trying. They were was so heavy. It was so heavy.

LYNN (PH) (voice-over): She was then transferred to the Cox Health Hospital and is still in the process of recovering. Coleman told me about the 10 family members she was with, starting with her sister-in- law.

COLEMAN: She was there with her 13-year old, her soon to be 3-year old. I was there with my husband and our three children, who were 9, 7 and 1. My in-laws were there. My mother-in-law, my father-in-law and the uncle who lives with them.

LYNN (PH) (voice-over): She also told me there were life jackets on board.

COLEMAN: They told us, they're up here. This is where they are. They showed us where they were.

They said, but don't worry about it. You won't need it.

And we said, OK. So when the captain took over, I thought at some point he would say, grab the jackets now. But we were told to stay seated and --


COLEMAN: -- everybody stayed seated. Nobody, nobody grabbed -- when that -- when that boat is found, all those life jackets are going to be on there, because nobody pulled one off.

You don't, you know, you weren't supposed to grab them unless you were in distress, which we were but he told us don't -- we don't need them. It was -- I don't know what to say, it was definitely life-changing, life-altering event.


ALLEN: I think she's still in shock at this point.

Again, that was Frances Lynn (ph) from our affiliate, KOLR.

In the meantime, vigils have been taking place in Branson to mourn those who died, 17 died. It's still not clear why the boat sank, why it went out in threatening weather conditions.

Transportation safety officials expect to release a preliminary report within a month.

It appears the cease-fire along the Israel-Gaza border is barely holding. We've received word an Israeli tank has targeted a Hamas military post in Gaza. Israel says it happened when the border fence was breached. At the same time, civilians near the border have been told to return to their normal routine.

HOWELL: All of this follows Friday's fighting, Israeli airstrikes hit dozens of targets in Gaza. This after an Israeli soldier was shot and killed. Hamas reports three members of its military wing were killed. But it reports a truce is in effect.

ALLEN: Let's get the very latest from our Ian Lee, he is there in Gaza City following the developments for us.

Ian, hello.

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Natalie. It is the calm right now, despite that incident that took place earlier today. I think we just call this Gaza calm because this happens time and time again. You can still hear the drones overhead.

Earlier, you could hear the Israeli warplanes. The situation, calm but tense after yesterday, where a lot of people were thinking this is going to head toward a war. We heard from the U.N. special coordinator for Middle East peace, Nickolay Mladenov, saying that everyone needs to step back from the brink and not let this get to a war.

What we're hearing from a Hamas official is that, behind the scenes, there was quite the effort by the U.N., by the Egyptians, to broker some sort of cease-fire that we've seen time and time again.

I just want to take you back to last weekend, where we saw a very large uptick in violence in Gaza, where you had over 200 rockets and mortars fired into Israel. Israel responding with the largest aerial bombing campaign since 2014.

Again, the U.N. and the Egyptians were able calm the tensions. But this uptick in violence, it's cyclical. We are just seeing it time and time again, without any permanent cease-fire or permanent truce between the Gaza factions and Israel.

ALLEN: You know this all goes back to March, when these protests were planned.

But they were to end in May, weren't they, Ian?

LEE: Yes, they were leading up to the embassy move, when the United States was inaugurating the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. The protests were leading up to the state. But they have continued on a weekly basis. And we've seen various degrees of violence since these protests began along the Gaza border with Israel in March.

Over 140 Palestinians have been killed, thousands have been injured. Yesterday was the first time an Israeli soldier was killed in this violence. And Israel says, for their part, they are protecting their border for the Palestinians.

But the Gazans here, they say they want a return to lands that were lost in the 1948 war. But when you talk to them, if they think that will actually happen, they're quite skeptical.

But this has just been simmering along the border and that's the cause of this uptick in violence. One other thing we have seen are these fire balloons, fire kites that the Gazans fly across the border. They start these brush fires. Israel says they consider those now like rockets and mortars flying over.

Again, just a lot of tension and, really, no end in sight and no permanent end in sight -- Natalie.

ALLEN: For now, Gaza calm. Ian Lee, thank you so much for your reporting.

HOWELL: Still ahead on NEWSROOM, the bromance and the backlash, while the U.S. president speaks glowingly about the president of Russia, what about America's biggest allies?

How are they taking all of this?

ALLEN: Also ahead here, what caused more than 100,000 Rohingya to flee their homes in Myanmar. Aid groups say they have evidence now that Myanmar's military carefully planned their attacks on Rohingya civilians. We'll talk with the person behind that study -- ahead here.





HOWELL: Coast to coast across the United States, you are watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta. I'm George Howell.

ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen. Here are our top stories.


HOWELL: Back at a story we have been following, the --


HOWELL: -- backlash against President Trump. His performance at the Helsinki summit is not letting up.

ALLEN: Republican congressman Will Hurd, a former CIA officer penned an op-ed, saying this, "The leader of the free world actively participated in a Russian disinformation campaign."

HOWELL: That comes as the White House plans another meeting between the two leaders, this time set for Washington, D.C. The secretary of state Mike Pompeo says it's a great idea. But many on Capitol Hill have a different opinion on that, including some Republicans.

ALLEN: So after the backtracking, the walkback and the damage control, many are wondering, who won in Helsinki?

As our Brian Todd reports in Moscow, the answer is clear.



BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Vladimir Putin is in full swagger, seeking to control the narrative as the fallout from the Helsinki summit hovers over President Trump.

JEFFREY EDMONDS, FORMER NSC OFFICIAL: Putin sees an opportunity here. Trump is weak and Trump provides him an opportunity to really communicate to the Russian people and the world overall that Russia is back as a great power again.

TODD: There's this high-tech taunt of the U.S. from Russian state media. Putin's team releasing new video of sophisticated Russian weapons being developed, a nuclear-powered cruise missile, an underwater drone, two missiles which the Russians say fly faster than the speed of sound. A U.S. official has said some of these weapons aren't close to being operational. Analysts say that's not the point.

BARRY PAVEL, THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL: Putin showing the videos of either current or imagined Russian weapon systems is part of the deterrence part from his end, saying we have very capable defenses. They're getting more capable. It doesn't matter what NATO does. You might as well stop trying. TODD: And since the summit there's been gloating in Putin's state-

controlled media that the former KGB colonel got the upper hand on Trump, taunting him for not sticking up for his country.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we have all been foolish.

TODD: A host on state-run TV in Moscow pounced on that with a cruel insult of Trump.

OLGA SKABEEVA, RUSSIAN TV HOST, (through translator): When he says that because of foolishness and stupidity of the United States we have bad Russian-American relations, this smells like he is a Kremlin agent.

TODD: Another possible sign of Putin's manipulation, reports of a secret offer. According to "Bloomberg," Putin proposed to Trump hold a referendum on Russia's occupation of eastern Ukraine. The report says Trump asked Putin not to discuss the idea publicly so Trump could think it over. Supporting what would likely be a sham vote in Ukraine would run counter to America's stance against Putin's invasion of Ukraine. The NSC now says Trump won't support that referendum and analysts say there's growing pressure on the president to take the offensive and stand up for his own country instead of the Russian leader.

EDMONDS: I think the president needs to stop making statements that make Putin seem like a good guy.

TODD: But analysts say they're not confident that President Trump will get tough and turn that narrative around on Putin because every time the president shows some backbone, like saying he would be Putin's worst enemy if things breakdown, then he also seems to waiver and extend an olive branch, like inviting Putin to Washington for a summit -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


HOWELL: Plenty of talk about for sure. To do so, we have Kori Schake, the deputy director general at the International Institute for Strategic Studies also the former deputy director for policy planning at the U.S. State Department under former president George W. Bush.

And Inderjeet Parmar, a professor of international politics at City University, live at CNN London bureau.

Good to have you all with us. Look, plenty of backlash for sure here in the States from the summit in Helsinki and now, President Trump is forging ahead against the odds with a second summit. But let's look at the past praise he's had for President Putin.


TRUMP: I think we're doing really well with Russia as of today. I thought we were doing horribly before today. A good competitor he is. And I think the word competitor is a compliment.

I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this, I don't see any reason why it would be.

I have great confidence in my intelligence people. But I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.


HOWELL: Inderjeet, let's start with you. All this praise in contrast to what Mr. Trump has said to traditional allies.

Does this mean for them a great deal of uncertainly when it comes to defending Western values?

INDERJEET PARMAR, CITY UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: I think at one level there is a great level of uncertainty, that has been there since President Trump entered the race and discovered that --


PARMAR: -- attacking NATO and so on was going to get in some traction at home. On the other hand, I think we have to see this is a very complex picture because in regard to actual NATO deployments, the degree to which NATO uses European members have stepped up their military spending and other commitments to NATO, actually President Trump has achieved something, either by accident or by design, is making European members much more aggressive militarily.

So they expelled diplomats, as has America; there has been sanctions and so on. So, yes, at one level, there is uncertainty because the rhetoric is unpredictable. On the other hand, I think there are some major material factors, which would suggest the opposite.

So I'm not sure there is a clear winner or loser in this episode since the Trump-Putin summit.

HOWELL: Kori, the same question to you but posed in a different way. We've seen these two leaders standing together side-by-side at podiums in Helsinki. But now we are seeing them together in a way you may never have imagined.

The cover of "Time" magazine, the President of the United States, his head with the Russian leader Vladimir Putin's face all morphed together. It is a sight to see.

As allies look at that, what should they think?

KORI SCHAKE, INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR STRATEGIC STUDIES: Well, allies should be very worried. Inderjeet is right, George, that the Trump administration's policy has done a number of practical things that constrain Russia and penalize it for its bad behavior in American elections, in the invasion of Ukraine and the seizing of Crimea.

But President Trump, himself, with his statements and with his actions, largely negate those positive policy steps because people wonder deeply and profoundly whether the United States can be relied upon to protect its allies and even its own immediate interests because of the president's odd affinity for Vladimir Putin and Russia.

The United States has played --


HOWELL: No, no, go ahead, please.

SCHAKE: I was going to say Russia is playing a very weak hand, very adroitly. And the United States of America has an extraordinarily strong hand to play. And President Trump is squandering it.

HOWELL: To your point, I feel the world, the journalists around the world all analyzing this, trying to understand the new dynamics of play here. One of them, I spoke with our Sam Kiley about earlier, just the narrative here.

Kori, this question to you, typically, you would hear the Russian version of events, you would hear the U.S. version of events. But in this case, it seems that Vladimir Putin owning the show here, pushing the narrative forward with detail.

SCHAKE: Absolutely, because the White House didn't have staff, even cabinet members in the meeting with President Putin, and because they are not saying anything about what was decided there, they are leaving the storytelling to the Russians.

And the Russians are telling a story of American capitulation on our interests and the interests of our allies. It's extraordinarily damaging to the United States, that we are not -- first of all, we're not transparent about what we are doing and we're letting the Russians tell the story. I think you are exactly right.

HOWELL: Inderjeet, the question to you, looking ahead at this other summit, the second summit the U.S. president is forging ahead with, despite the backlash, what is the plus-minus for the White House and for U.S. allies if this thing happens?

PARMAR: That's very difficult. I suspect that there will be -- I assume there will be some level of damage control, better preparation, better means by which the whole issue will be presented.

But it's very difficult to say for our allies and for Trump. The point I would like to make, please, is that I think President Trump is in a very difficult position. I'm not ordinarily a sympathizer but I think he stumbled into the White House at a time when the world system, the international system was in a state of flux and change and a degree of crisis.

And it remains there. He didn't cause it but he's come to symbolize it and so on. And I think he is trying to deal with aspects of it. And I think he's trying to loosen up that order. And part of that loosening up, if you like, is really to try to deal with some of the big challenges, especially from China and also from Russia.

That seems to involve, in his mind, possibly, a wedge between Russia and China, when may then identify China or isolate China to be dealt with first.

And I think that is what probably is at the heart of it. Now President Trump is not a very, very good --


PARMAR: -- ambassador for that kind of strategy. So it could be just an instinct; it could be a part of a strategy. But Steve Bannon called him a blunt instrument. I think he stumbled onto something but I don't think he's the best presenter of it. And he doesn't appear to be winning any constituencies in the United States on behalf of Putin. So I don't think he's much of a victor of this, either.

HOWELL: Inderjeet Parmar, Kori Schake, thank you both for your time.

PARMAR: Thank you.

ALLEN: Aid groups are demanding international action for hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who say were targeted for genocide. A new report about how all of that happened is revealing. We'll talk with the person behind it -- after this.




HOWELL: Welcome back to NEWSROOM.

Two new reports reveal the horror of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar at the hands of that nation's military. Nearly 700,000 of the minority Muslims fled that country to Bangladesh last year.

One report comes from Physicians for Human Rights, a medical aid group. They interviewed Rohingya refugees from a village that was attacked by Myanmar security forces nearly a year ago. Their report says forensic evidence supports the refugees' accounts of atrocities and abuses.

ALLEN: The report estimates hundreds of people were killed in that attack alone. According to survivors and other witnesses, security forces fired on civilians, raped women and burned down homes. Myanmar security officials say they were just conducting counterterrorism operations.


ALLEN: But the aid group says there is no way that is true.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no indication that this was an anti- terror campaign at all. Many of the survivors we evaluated were children, as young as the age of 5. The fact that so many of these children have multiple types of injuries, that they have been exposed, in many cases, to physical violence and sexual violence, really puts the lie to this notion that this is any kind of anti-terror campaign.


ALLEN: Another aid group says Myanmar's government deliberately planned to carry out acts of genocide and crimes against humanity against the Rohingya. Fortify Rights, the name of the group, documents the steps the government took in a 162-page report.

There are some of the preparations they say -- these are -- that security forces made before they attacked entire villages.

HOWELL: The report says security forces disarmed Rohingya civilians, taking away their knives, their sharp tools. In the meantime, they trained and arm other neighboring ethnic groups to prepare them for violence.

Security forces deprived civilians of food and aid, physically weakening them before the attacks and they committed other human rights violations.

Wow, it's a lot to talk about. Let's bring in the co-founder and CEO of Fortify Rights, the group that wrote the report, Matthew Smith joins us now via Skype from Bangkok, Thailand.

Thank you so much for your time. Tell us more about this report.

What did you find in this report?

What were the conclusions?

MATTHEW SMITH, FORTIFY RIGHTS: Thanks, George. We interviewed about more than 250 eyewitnesses and survivors. We also spoke to members of the Myanmar military and police as well as Bangladesh military officials and aid workers and others.

And our conclusions were as you described, well, that the authorities made preparations for these attacks weeks and months in advance. This runs counter to the government's narrative, which was that it was responding spontaneously to attacks by Rohingya militants.

Essentially what we found is these mass atrocity crimes that were perpetrated and illustrated so painfully well by Physicians for Human Rights as well, we found that these abuses amount to the crime of genocide and crimes against humanity.

ALLEN: Matthew, you say this was orchestrated, this was planned months in advance.

Why? Why did it happen?

SMITH: This is a population, Natalie, that the Myanmar authorities have been attempting to destroy for decades. This is a population that's used politically, it's a population that is subject to very raw, very ugly discrimination in Myanmar. And what appears to have happened is that the authorities carried out attacks in October 2016.

And when the international community failed to act, failed to respond effectively to those attacks, they made preparations for a second, much bigger, much more ferocious round of attacks.

HOWELL: It certainly has raised a great deal of criticism for Aung San Suu Kyi. Questions about the government's role or position with all of this, the government has always denied that there was ethnic cleansing or genocide. It does cite that there were human rights violations.

Is there a concern that no one will be held to account for this?

SMITH: That's absolutely a concern. The authorities have given no indication that they are willing or able to investigate or hold perpetrators accountable. In a situation like that, that is precisely why the International Criminal Court was created. So this is a situation where there should be a referral to the International Criminal Court by the U.N. Security Council.

We have actual exposed and published the names of 22 Myanmar army and police officials, who we believe should be criminally investigated for genocide and crimes against humanity.

ALLEN: We have a few seconds left, Matthew, what is the status of the refugees today?

SMITH: I was just in the camps a few days ago, the difficulties are immense, the camps -- this is one of the largest refugee camps in the world now. It's monsoon season. The conditions are very difficult. Bangladesh needs to stay vigilant and allow unfettered humanitarian access to the refugee populations.

But there still is a tremendous amount of suffering there.

ALLEN: Matthew Smith, we appreciate what your group has done, what it's revealed. Thank you so much for joining us. We hope something can happen positively for these people. Thank you.

SMITH: Thank you so much.

ALLEN: And we'll be right back.






HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM.

So that summit in Helsinki, well, President Trump claimed that he misspoke about his beliefs on Russian election interference. And social media went wild.

ALLEN: Jeanne Moos reports on how his contradictory words are being mocked.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We wouldn't be surprised...

TRUMP: I said the word would instead of wouldn't.

MOOS: -- if President Trump started a trend.

Singer Richard Marx was right here waiting to mimic the president.

RICHARD MARX, SINGER: I will be right here, waiting for you.

MOOS (voice-over): Tweeted Marx, "I misspoke. I meant to say I wouldn't be right here waiting for you."

Chimed in someone else, Queen has just reported...

QUEEN: We will, we will rock you.

MOOS: -- that they meant to say, "We won't rock you."

So I guess Journey meant for us to stop believing.

JOURNEY: Don't stop believing --

RICK ASTLEY, SINGER: Never going to give you up.

MOOS: Maybe Rick Astley meant to say that he really would give you up.

ASTLEY: Never going to let you down.

MOOS: Never wouldn't not going to give you up, wouldn't not going to let you down.

And it's not just song lyrics that are getting the Trump treatment.


MOOS: Oh, no, he won't.

[05:55:00] Memes range from the president saying, "I meant Mexico wouldn't pay for the wall, you will," to Kim Jong-un saying, "Me, too, I meant wouldn't denuclearize."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Melania is now saying at their wedding she meant to say I don't.

MOOS: What a difference an n't makes.

Even departed stars were resurrected. From the other side, Whitney issues a press statement clarifying -- won't always love.

Even Darth Vader corrected himself. "Luke, I misspoke yesterday".

"DARTH VADER": I am your father.

MOOS: "I meant to say I am not your father."

Luke's reaction is pretty similar to how the president's clarification was greeted by critics.

TRUMP: I said the word would instead of wouldn't.

"LUKE SKYWALKER": That's not true!

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN...

TRUMP: I don't see any reason why it would be.


MOOS: -- New York.



ALLEN: Oh, they're having fun with that one.

Thanks for not watching CNN NEWSROOM.

HOWELL: Or watching.

ALLEN: Or watching. I am not Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I am George Howell.

Look, for viewers in the United States, "NEW DAY" is next. For viewers around the world, "AMANPOUR" is ahead. The news will continue here on CNN. Thanks for being with us.

ALLEN: We'll see you later.