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At least 74 Killed in Greece's Worst Wildfires in Years; Poll: Americans Think Russia Has Dirt on Trump; Kompromat Common in Former Soviet Union; Lawmaker Caught With His Pants Down Now Resigning; Gym: Judgment-Free Zone Doesn't Mean No Clothes. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired July 25, 2018 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, around the globe, extreme weather leaving dozens dead. The highest death toll in Greece where wildfires forced some to run into the sea to escape the flames.

In China, defective doses of vaccines for children have outraged parents and shaken confidence in the government's ability to monitor the pharmaceutical industry.

Plus, the dark art of kompromat in Russia. Now the U.S. president might have fallen victim to the way business is done in the former Soviet Union.

Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm John Vause. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

Extreme weather is bringing disaster and tragedy to communities around the world. In Laos, hundreds are missing, and thousands have been forced to flee after a dam collapsed flooding six villages.

In Japan, a record-setting heat wave has now killed at least 65 people and sent tens of thousands to hospital. And in Greece, at least 74 people have died in the country's worst wildfires in more than a decade.

And there CNN's Melissa Bell spoke to those who escaped the flames. Among them, one man who says he's lost everything he owns.


MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wildfires rage across the hills surrounding Athens, forcing many to jump into the sea to escape the flames. A wall of fire so hot it melts the tires of cars in its path.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I saw fire at the back of the house, after that it came here in the front. It was sheer hell. BELL: And moving so fast that dozens were trapped as they tried to escape. Some of the victims in Mati, to the east of Athens, were found clinging to each other.

VASSILS ANDNIOPOULES, RED CROSS WORKER (through translator): Yes, it's true. It seems that some of them, the deceased, knew each other because they were found in groups of three and four, so they could be friends or relatives or families, who try to protect themselves by hugging each other.

BELL: In Mati, the fire has now been putout and locals like Doris Kountouriotis are returning to size up the damage.

DORIS KOUNTOURIOTIS, FIRE SURVIVOR: Many people who were during the fire yesterday, they say that it expands within minutes and the temperature were so high, so nobody could do anything (inaudible), they say. As you can see, houses, cars, everything destroyed from the fire. I have lost everything.

BELL: But elsewhere the fires continue to rage as 500 firefighters battled to put out the flames. Hundreds have been evacuated and a state of emergency has been declared. The Greek Prime Minister has urged people in threatened neighborhoods to flee immediately. On Tuesday, he declared three days of mourning.

ALEXIS TSIPRAS, GREEK PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Now is a time for mobilization and fighting. A fight to save what can be saved. A fight to defeat the fire. A fight to find the missing. So that we don't (inaudible) anymore lives, and we may sooth the pain of those affected.


BELL: So much of that pain is being felt here in Mati where the cleanup operations is under way and where so many of the victims of these fires died and many of them on this street either in their cars or trying to flee them.

The street itself is covered with dried hurdles of molten aluminum, a reminder the remains of an inferno so ferocious that it stopped those who happened to be here in their tracks. Melissa Bell, CNN, Mati.

VAUSE: Well, amid, the sheer terror of the fast-moving walls of flames, for one survivor there was only one way to escape -- the ocean, he says, saved his life.


JAAKOB, MAKINEN, FINNISH TOURIST: A lot of smoke, a lot of ash in the air, and we had to run away. We ran along the beach, and then we were caught by the fire. We were surrounded. We had to go into the water and dive there. Then we waited several hours until we were rescued. We were lucky to be so close to seaside that we were able to go to water because on the beach, we wouldn't be here. We were trapped with the fire in that position.


VAUSE: Let's go to meteorologist, Pedram Javaheri, with more on the situation in Greece and elsewhere. Pedram, what's the forecast looking like because there's been some concerns that those high temperatures will return?

[00:05:09] PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I think it's going to be a little bit cooler over the next several days, John. So, at least some improving conditions there. Look at the satellite imagery, really incredible to look at the wildfire. It's just west and also east of Athens there.

The thermal signatures of them, the smoke associated with it as seen from above. Of course, you go down towards the surface, it is an entirely different story and really a difficult place to be.

But, we got highs as high as 38 degrees on Monday afternoon, and for four consecutive hours, the winds were howling as much as 80 kilometers per hour. Put this together, it is a recipe to spreading wildfires and of course, if you've been to Greece, if you've spent some time down around Athens, you know, the topography and the landscape across this region.

Some hills, mountains to be had across this region and in fact, the western periphery of mountains rise to 1,300 meters. So, when we have this, we know the winds will tend to pick up speed as they come down stream a mountain.

Of course, the winds compress and warm up as well, so you get very hot winds that are blowing across this region. That helps pick up the fires, spread them farther and more rapidly downstream.

On the eastern periphery, this is where we had some of the tourists fleeing down towards the coast to get away from the fires. This is the scary place here where we had tremendous winds again on Monday afternoon with extreme heat that have been in place and the very rapid expansion of the fire.

So, how is the forecast looking? Well, you know, often when we look at this, we look and see how this all began. And the rainfall amounts, in fact, this is the driest time of the year. Six millimeters is what you expect in the month of June.

We've picked up upwards of five times that amount we did in the month of June and in July, about seven times the amount we expect. So, certainly, it hasn't been dry across this region.

It's been very hot in recent days and the gusty winds haven't helped. So, if there were fires, as there have been, they get extended very rapidly. You look at satellite imagery, we had some showers early in the past 24 hours.

There is a system here, but oftentimes you look at this and you think, good news, that's rainfall. Not necessarily the case. When you're in a landscape like this, some of these thunderstorms come down on the drier side. Much of the rain evaporates before reaching the ground. If that's the case, you just get gusty winds out of it. That helps spread the fires. We know the next couple of days, the winds are going to be a little bit calmer, the temperatures are going to be a little bit cooler.

Certainly, firefighters will get a brief period of the upper hand here. But when you take a look, any sort of rain, John, it's almost misleading because decent amount of rainfall stops the spreading of wildfires about 13 millimeters on average is what it takes.

And upwards of 50 millimeters of rainfall is needed to put the flames out and that's certainly nowhere near what's in the forecast here. So, again, better conditions for wildfires and firefighters but certainly nothing that's going to stop the wildfires right away.

VAUSE: Let's just hope this isn't the new normal. Pedram, thank you.

JAVAHERI: I absolutely agree, yes.

VAUSE: OK, we'll go to Laos now where the collapse of a dam under construction has led hundreds of missing and a number dead. Details now from Paula Newton.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They carry what few possessions they have left as they wade through muddy water. Villagers packed small boats or climb on rooftops of buildings in an attempt to escape to higher ground.

Several are now feared dead. Hundreds are missing, and more than 6,000 people are now homeless after a hydroelectric dam collapsed in Southern Laos according to state media. The dam was under construction when it buckled, releasing 5 billion cubic meters of water causing flash flooding in six villages and sweeping away homes.

It happened in the south eastern part of the country in an area that had been hit by heavy seasonal rains in recent days. The company building the dam is working with government officials to help in rescue efforts, and investigators are looking into why it collapsed.

It's unclear how badly the dam has been damaged or when the water is expected to recede. Construction of the dam began in 2013, and it was due to begin operating in the coming months.

The new dam was expected to serve a 410-megawatt power plant where 90 percent electricity would be exported to neighboring Thailand and just 10 percent of the power used locally. The project cost was an estimated $1 billion. Paula Newton, CNN.


VAUSE: New developments now in the investigation into the nerve agent poisoning of four people in Salisbury, England. One is dead. Three including a former Russian spy almost died. Investigators believe it's possible a drop team left vials of the poison identified as the Soviet era nerve agent, Novichok, in a number of places in Salisbury, for a second hit team to pick up and carry out the attack on the ex- spy and his daughter. Nina dos Santos has late details.


NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): The British police believe they've only identified two suspect, who were believed to have left the United Kingdom on a commercial flight outside the U.K. soon after the attack on the Skripals.

Now authorities are taking a look into the theory that perhaps there may be a separate drop team multiple receptacles of Novichok in and around the Salisbury area for that hit squad to then come in and intercept, to use to target the Skripals.


[00:10:10] VANIER: Just a few months after that attack, a woman died from exposure to Novichok. (Inaudible) the nerve agent maybe left in public places.

Outrage is sweeping across China after revelations hundreds of thousands of doses of vaccines for children have been found to be defective. Five senior executives of the manufacturer are now in custody and are being questioned. But there are fears the scandal may not be limited to just that one company.

CNN's Matt Rivers live for us in Beijing. So, first, Matt, what is the latest now (inaudible) and the allegations against this company of fabricated records?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, for starters, John, and we know that police are now saying that they have actually increased the number of people that they have criminally detained in their words. Up to 15 different people now in association with this company including the chairwoman of the company behind this vaccine scandal have now been criminally detained.

They haven't been formally charged yet, but you can imagine that's only going to be a matter of time as authorities are really responding publicly to the public outrage here in China. We know this investigation is ongoing.

We haven't been given a ton of detail in terms of how this happened in the first place. We know that regulators, inspectors first figured out that there is something was wrong with these vaccines in the middle of July.

But apparently, this company had been falsifying records that allowed these vaccines to be put, sent to providers who are then allowed to give those doses to children. But the big question here is what was wrong with these vaccines in the first place?

And we don't know yet. We don't know that answer yet. Officials haven't released that information. Because we don't know that, we don't know what, if any, long-lasting health implications could be in store for the hundreds of thousands of kids that were given these vaccines both for rabies and also for diphtheria and tetanus or DPT.

We also know that some of these vaccine doses could have made it as far away as Africa, but really the overall theme here, John, is there is still a lot more information that needs to come out about this and you have a public here in China demanding more information.

VAUSE: Here we go again. It was a decade ago when the words "made in China" sent shivers around the world. Back then it was tainted milk powder, six babies were left dead. Hundreds of thousands of others were sickened. This time, there's no reports of fatalities and the anger is still very similar to what it was a decade ago. Also, the lack of confidence is very much the same.

RIVERS: Absolutely. I mean, the Chinese public unfortunately have been through something like this before, and that's why there was this immediate public outcry to say how is it possible that ten years later, the most vulnerable people in this population, the children of this population, are still being exposed to what many in the public are saying is just another example of corruption between local officials and unscrupulous businesspeople.

There's already reports that police are looking into connections between the local regulators that were in charge of regulating these vaccines and the business people in charge at this company. We don't know the outcome of that yet.

But what you hear online here in China, people coming out in a massive way, saying the company was wrong, and the government needs to be doing more because yet again, they're in this situation. So, you can understand the anger and also the lack of trust in the people who are supposed to keep these kids safe.

VAUSE: You know, ten years ago, I remember it was the Gong brothers, who ran the factory the melamine in the milk powder. They were executed. It was a case of kill the chickens and scare the monkeys.

There's a saying in China, you kill someone low down and scare the ones higher up the food chain. But this time, we're now hearing from China's President Xi Jinping weighing in on this scandal. Is that an indication of the potential political fallout of the government and also that maybe something will change, be done this time?

RIVERS: Yes. You know, the fact that Xi Jinping, who is currently on a trip to Africa where some of these vaccines may have actually made their way to the fact that he took the time to weigh in on this in such a specific way shows that the Communist Party is absolutely fearful of the sociopolitical unrest as a result of this kind of situation.

And maybe it does mean that the government will crack down. Xi Jinping called it vile said there needs to be a thorough investigation. Lee Keqiang, the number two in charge here in China, has said the same thing. Maybe something will be done.

You do have a very skeptical public really wondering is it all just more lip service from the government? And it's being fed by the fact that a lot of the social media posts that are going up on Chinese internet unsurprisingly are being censored by Chinese government censors.

When people try and write about this, criticize the government, a lot of those posts are being deleted. So, it reinforces this notion the even though you get the same old lip service from government officials and, maybe look may be things will change.

But the fact that their censors really in full swing right now reinforces the notion that the government doesn't want to talk about this and they want to move on.

[00:15:08] VAUSE: Yes, because if you can't read about it or hear about it, then it never happened. All habits die hard, I guess. Matt, thank you.

Coming up here on NEWSROOM L.A., a cricket legend might be Pakistan's next prime minister. But many suspect the country's most powerful institution is trying to tilt the election in his favor.

Also, Donald Trump has a new theory on Russia's election interference. It's opposite day on Twitter for the U.S. president.


VAUSE: Pakistanis are now voting in what could be their second only civilian peaceful transfer of power. A spate of deadly militant attacks in the run-up to the election, though, has frightened many voters.

He denies having any military support. Even so the national hero has a realistic chance of becoming Pakistan's next prime minister. Khan has relied on a populist agenda to run against the family dynasties, who dominated Pakistani politics for decades.

Live to Islamabad now, CNN's Sophia Saifi has been following the election. So, this has actually been kind of a fairly dull two-horse race with not a lot of interest up until this point.

SOPHIA SAIFI, CNN PRODUCER: Well, yes, sort of, John. The thing is, you know, compared to previous elections, for example, the 2013 election cycle, there was a lot of zing in the air with regards to, you know, support for Khan, support for the PMLN, which inevitably won the majority and formed the government.

But this time around, it's dull but there's also been a lot of dirt thrown around in this election. There have been talks of meddling by the military, of people rigging or pay stringent press censorship.

So, there hasn't been much talk about policy, but more about the kind of dirty accusations that have been whirling in the air here in Pakistan. I mean, there hasn't been any campaigning since Monday night when campaigning officially ended and candidates couldn't speak to the media anymore with adverts already completely off the air.

So, this morning polls open just a little over an hour ago. Even though the streets and the roads are quite calm here in Islamabad, we're expecting quite a large turnout because over a 105 million people have registered as voters across the country -- John.

[00:20:10] VAUSE: Sophia, thank you for the update. We'll check in with you again next hour for the very latest. We appreciate it.

A potential trade war brewing between the U.S. and Europe will be the focus of talks at the White House in the coming hours when European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker meets with Donald Trump. The U.S. president setting the stage with his tweet late on Tuesday.

"The European Union is coming to Washington tomorrow to negotiate a deal on trade. I have an idea for them. Both the U.S. and the E.U. drop all tariffs, barriers, and subsidies. That would finally be called a free market and fair trade. Hope they do it. We are ready, but they will not."

Michael Genovese is president of the Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University, and I'm going to cough. It's good to see you. Keep your distance. Good to see you. OK. There doesn't seem to be a lot of support for this tariff plan that Trump is going on about even among Republicans. Here's the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president says tariffs are the greatest --

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R-WI), HOUSE SPEAKER: In all caps. The goal he's trying to achieve is a good one. A better deal for Americans, better trade agreements. I just don't think tariffs are the way to go, and our members are making that pretty clear.


VAUSE: OK. We're also hearing that the administration is now willing to spend $12 billion to subsidize farmers. "The New York Times" is reporting that this incentive is an indication that Mr. Trump, ignoring the concerns of farmers, representatives in Congress, even some of his own aides about the adverse consequences of a trade war.

He says he relishes plans to extend his tit for tat tariff wars. So, why is the president determined to start a trade war, which everyone seems to agree is the worst possible course of action, which could lead to a great depression?

MICHAEL GENOVESE, POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, in all things the president is a disruptive force. His view is that if I can reshuffle the deck, it will always be to America's advantage. On a trade war, the short-term implications can be devastating. The president thinks in the long term, though, we'll come out the winner.

But in the short term, farmers are mad at him. His base is getting upset with him and he is starting to hemorrhage a little bit of support from the people he needs to keep his base together. It makes a little sense to do everything at once something like this could have waited until later. VAUSE: Right. At the same time, though, the president now seems willing to accept that Russia is actually trying to interfere once again in the U.S. election process. On Tuesday, he sent out this tweet.

"I'm very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming election. Based on the fact that no president has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don't want Trump." Just as a reminder, who did the Russians want back in 2016? Let's go to the tape.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the election, and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Yes, I did. Yes, I did, because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.


VAUSE: OK. It's impossible to keep up with the various takes that Trump has had on Russian interference, whether it happened, whether it didn't happen, whether the Russians were behind it, you know, it's a witch hunt. To say nothing about these claims of him being tough on Russia. None of this -- if anybody has a memory longer than a goldfish, none of this makes any sense.

GENOVESE: But the president has a bully pulpit, and this president uses it effectively and often. And he speaks to a segment of the public, his base. They will believe him. He is the pipe piper, and they're following him down the path. He says it's the Democrats who are being favored, but we all know that that's not the case.

VAUSE: What is this Svengali power he has over them? These aren't the droids you're looking for. Where does this power come from that the president has over this core group of Americans?

GENOVESE: That, we'd bottle it and become gazillion airs. I think the president is new. He's different. He seems to be speaking a different language. In a world where people have a lot of status envy, where people feel their country is being taken away, he's making a lot of promises. He's been very charismatic and persuasive to his base, but he hasn't been persuasive to others. He hasn't made converts and that's the problem for his leadership.

VAUSE: I guess, you know, at the same time there have been all these denials of payoffs to various women, who claim they had affairs over the years with Donald Trump. You know, one by one, their claims have been proven true, and now CNN has obtained the audio recording of a fixer, Michael Cohen, discussing payment to Karen McDougal. She claimed to have had a relationship with Trump about a decade ago.

[00:25:05] Here is the recording of both Cohen and Trump talking about essentially a payment to McDougal to keep her quiet.


MICHAEL COHEN: I've spoken to Alan Wisenberg about how to set the whole thing up with --


COHEN: With funding. Ye and it's all the stuff, all the cause, you know, you never know where that can be.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Maybe he gets --

COHEN: correct. So, I'm all over that. And l spoke to Alan about it. When it comes time for the financing, which will be --

PRESIDENT TRUMP: What financing?

COHEN: We'll have to pay -- with cash?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, no. I got -- no, no, no.


VAUSE: The recording came from Cohen's lawyer, Lanny Davis, who says it was made in 2016. What do you hear when you listen to the tape apart from two guys who seem to be having a very regular, very ordinary conversation like they may have had many times before?

GENOVESE: I think all we hear is a snippet. What went on beforehand, what went on afterwards, it's just a small piece of the puzzle. Thrown out at us so that we'd have this conversation. It's probably a case of we're being used.

VAUSE: Sure.

GENOVESE: And so, the question is, you know, for what? To get a better deal? You know, the president, at least in this short piece, may not have committed any crimes, but he certainly was lying. And so, you know, it's a really sad turn we've gotten to the point where we're parsing these words to say, well, he's only a liar, only unethical, but he's not a criminal. That's what they're trying to sell.

VAUSE: Wow. Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was invited to appear on the Chris Cuomo show here on CNN. He declined that invitation, but he did issue a statement to CNN, "The line in dispute seems to be that about the cash."

Giuliani says that the president actually said, don't pay -- cash. Check. He goes on to tell us in this statement, "The transcript that we provided to CNN accurately reflects the taped conversation."

I mean, I didn't hear that. I guess it's debatable whether people did. But when you get to this level of sort of nitpicking on whether he said cash or check, he didn't pay cash, it goes to your point. Your argument is at best the president is a liar.

GENOVESE: An I heard the tape and I saw the transcript, and what I read is not what I heard. That's purely up to -- let's just be -- we're talking about the president and hush money to silent someone.

VAUSE: What's the difference, though, if it's a check or if it's cash?

GENOVESE: I think in the case of his attorney, what you want to do is regularize it corporate sense, and therefore cash looks suspicious where a check might be more business-like.

VAUSE: So, it's sort of more above board.

GENOVESE: It looks more above the board.

VAUSE: Very quickly, Cohen, the man who once said he would take a bullet for the president, clearly it seems he's declared war with the president with this release.

GENOVESE: Well, it may very well be the case. But, again, his attorney is a very bright guy, and I think he may be angling for a deal of some sort either with Mueller -- well, he hasn't been charged with anything yet. Mueller or with the Southern District of New York or with Trump. He's burning the candle at not at both ends, but three or four different ends.

VAUSE: It did sound like a couple of good fellas chatting about how they're going to solve a problem. Michael, thank you.

Well, the surprising results of a new poll about Russian dirt on Donald Trump. What is kompromat, and how do governments throughout Eastern Europe actually use it? We'll go in depth when we come back.


[00:30:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause. The headlines this hour, at least 74 have died in Greece, in the worst wildfires to hit the country in more than a decade.

Some who survived had to flee into the ocean to escape the flames. The Greek prime minister has declared three days of mourning because of the tragedy.

In Laos, hundreds are missing and thousands have been displaced after a dam under construction, collapsed, causing a flash flood in six villages. The electricity company says a small damage tended to hold excess water, fractured, when it was hit by a heavy rainstorm.

British investigators into the poisoning of a former Russian spy are now looking at whether a drop squad planted the nerve agent and a second hit team carried out the attack. Authorities say more vials of Novichok may be hidden in the Salisbury, England area.

Months after the ex-spy and his daughter became ill. Two others were exposed when they found a container of Novichok, one died.

American voters are not giving good reviews to Donald Trump's summit with Vladimir Putin. Fifty-four percent say they believe Mr. Trump was not acting in the best interest of the U.S. The Quinnipiac University poll shows 52 percent describe the meeting as a failure for the United States.

Seventy-three percent say a win for Russia. The poll also shows 51 percent believe Russia has compromising information on Donald Trump. Thirty-five percent disagree, compromising information would be kompromat.

Joining me now, CNN Intelligence and Security Analyst, Bob Baer, OK Bob, good to have you with us, let's not focus on Donald Trump for a moment.

Let's just talk about how business is done and how governments are run in the former Soviet Union and how kompromat is routinely gathered as a way of getting an upper-hand in negotiations or trying to influence someone in how they make their decision. It's, kind of, just business as usual.

ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Oh, absolutely, John. Most of the hotels in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union and now, Russia, have cameras in them. You can just count on it. All the major Moscow hotels do, and what the KGB wants to do is get somebody in a compromising situation.

It could be contraband, for instance, drugs, buying, selling drugs. But it's mostly about girls and men. And they want to make it so transgressive that whatever they ask you to, the KGB, you'll do it.

So in Moscow, that would be, for instance -- you know, they run under aged girls in to you. You take them to your hotel, one, two, it doesn't really matter. The door gets knocked down. The police are there. You're arrested. You know they have the tape. They show you the tape right away.

And then the intelligence officer comes, in this case, it would be the FSB, the new KGB, and says, I can get you out of this, but we need to make a deal. It's very common. I've worked with intelligence services in the eastern bloc in Russia, and I've watched them do it. It's very effective and very pervasive.

VAUSE: So, you know, one of the ways that kompromat is actually effective, it needs a weak legal system, weak institutions, or maybe in the case of American businessman doing deals in the former Soviet Union.

The fact that the FBI has no subpoena power there in other countries and U.S. law enforcers, you know, rarely investigate financial crimes carried out in other countries.

BAER: Oh, absolutely. I mean, they do American businessmen, politicians, diplomats. If you're assigned to Moscow, for instance, they warn you right away, do not pick up Russian girls. Don't meet people in bars. One case I know was a senior attorney at the Department of Justice, was comprised, was drugged at a bar. This wasn't that long ago.

So, it ends up in a hotel room, you've been filmed, everything he had was stolen. The two FBI agents with him said, don't go, don't go. He'd been drinking too much. So, everybody is vulnerable.

[00:35:18] VAUSE: So, how's Putin crafted his own version of what's, you know, known as the systema, the rules and the hierarchy of how kompromat works?

BAER: Well, it's all -- I mean it's all -- it's a way of life there. They've compromised prosecutors. So if you're in Russia and you've done anything slightly illegal, and you're an official, you know that Putin has a tape, has some evidence against you, maybe for corruption.

And you're afraid to do anything. Quit your job, I suppose, but you can't carry on your duties and oppose the kremlin. It's a way of life.

VAUSE: Yes. So, the New Yorker magazine quotes one expert who is skeptical that Putin would have ordered any operations specifically to collect kompromat on Trump, you know, all those years ago when he was just a businessman, but adds this.

Instead, it's possible that there is kompromat in the hands of several different business groups in the former Soviet Union. Each would have bits and pieces of damaging information and might have found subtle or not so subtle ways to communicate that fact to both Trump and Putin.

Putin would likely have gathered some of that material, but he would have known that he couldn't get everything.

So in other words, a high-profile business person like Donald Trump, might not know specifically all the Russians have, just the fact that there is dirt out there, and that's what sort of keeps everyone in line.

BAER: It does. And it's a business contacts as well. I mean, a lot of them are Russian mobsters he went into business with. We know the names. This is established record. If there was any sort of side deals that involved violating IRS, you know, tax return laws, they would know that.

If there were any sort of kickbacks, they would have a lot of -- lot of places whether it's Panama, Toronto, or Soho, one of his hotels, Russian partners. He had gambling -- organized crime gambling groups working out of Trump tower and on and on. There's hundreds of points of possible kompromat.

VAUSE: Yes. Pulitzer-winning journalist, David Cay Johnston, he told CNN a little earlier that Russia could have 30 years of kompromat on Donald Trump. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, PULITZER-WINNING JOURNALIST: Financial level, a thorough audit and examination of the books and records is going to show deep ties between Donald Trump, Russian oligarchs, Russian gangsters.

And when I say Russian, I mean Russian-speaking peoples. And it explains why Donald would attack the pope but will not say a critical word about Vladimir Putin.


VAUSE: So, the President has been compromised? Is this the most likely scenario, through all of his business dealings? It's also an embarrassing sexual encounter, you know, it's outlined in the now infamous Russia dossier?

BAER: Well, you know, look, let's face it, John. In 1987, in July, he goes to Moscow. That was a trip sponsored by the KGB. All right, it was the ambassador in Washington that officially invited him, but KGB agents that were in the embassy, the time will tell you that was KGB.

So they put him in a hotel. Is there kompromat from that visit? I don't know. But he was an official visitor to the Soviet Union. And they get blackmail on people like that, whether businessmen or not. And along -- we don't know where it is because the KGB holds this stuff very tightly.

But Donald Trump, if there is any kompromat, and I haven't seen any, you know. But he would know about it, and you could definitely bring it up to him and say, you remember your visit to Moscow in '87 when you had that little problem? Isn't that -- isn't that great that went away?

All sorts of possibilities, I'm still looking for an explanation why he refuses to attack this former KGB agent in any way criticized him. It's bizarre. It's a whole idea --

VAUSE: If he was really a Russian agent -- I just want to face up really quickly, if he was this, you know, double Russian agent, this Manchurian candidate, if he was standing next to Putin, that was the ideal chances to say, we're going to be tough on the Russian president.

I'm not Barack Obama. The days of meddling in American elections are all over. I mean, that would have been the obvious thing, right?

BAER: Oh, absolutely. He had his opportunity in Helsinki to be really tough and say, look, we have huge differences. We're going to get through them. But right now, we haven't. I mean, politically, it was disastrous for him, and there's no explanation of why he kowtowed to Putin. I just -- I can't understand another one unless there's business kompromat or sexual.

VAUSE: Right. OK. Bob, it's always -- thanks for being with us. Appreciate your insight. BAER: Thank you.

VAUSE: We'll take a short break. When we come back, a man walks into a gym, you know, for a little naked yoga, as you do. The best part, though, is the excuse he gave to police.


[00:40: 00] VAUSE: Well, after being caught dropping his pants on television and making racial slurs, the U.S. State lawmaker, the center of all of this, didn't have a lot of choices. Georgia Representative, Jason Spencer has now announced that he is, in fact, quitting his job after this video surfaced with him and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, on a series called Who is America?

Cohen was actually pretending to be an Israeli anti-terror expert. Spencer, the state lawmaker says the show exploited his state of mind because he's received death threats after pushing a bill to ban Muslim women from wearing a face veil.

Here in the United States, a chain of gyms called Planet Fitness, advertises itself as a judgement-free zone. But workers are still a little judgy when a man assumed a yoga position, but, he was totally naked. Here's Jeanne Moos.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your aura was so amazing.

MOOS: More amazing than an aura is the sight of a naked guy doing yoga at a Planet Fitness gym in Plaistow, New Hampshire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It says naked yoga. I hope he brought his own mat.

MOOS: 34-year-old Eric Stagno walked into the crowded gym, took off his clothes and positioned himself on a yoga mat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have the good sense to put my clothes on before I come to the gym, then, so should he.


MOOS: Police found him naked on his knees in a yoga-type position. He was charged with indecent exposure and disorderly conduct. But everyone's favorite part of the story? He told police he thought what he was doing was OK, because he was in a judgment-free zone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Planet Fitness, the judgment-free zone.

MOOS: Hey, they say judgment-free, not pants-free. This is billed as a gym for regular folks, not muscle-bound mirror addicts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looking at me, looking at me, looking at you. You see if you're looking at me.

MOOS: Everybody was looking at him. Police said Stagno was in possession of a class bong and a grinder. He did not respond to CNN's request for comment. No need to avert your eyes. We have no video of the nude yoga guy posing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Downward facing dog.

MOOS: The story had T.V. anchors practicing --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Namaste. No, I'm not going to stay. I'm nama go.

MOOS: Yoga-inspired banter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hopefully, he wiped his equipment, yes.

MOOS: It may be a judgment-free zone, but getting out on bail cost him 40 bucks. And isn't it weird that the guy in the Planet Fitness ad --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I felt like it was amazing.

MOOS: There's a certain resemblance to the bare-naked yoga guy. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


VAUSE: Going to hate yoga. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause. Stay tuned for "WORLD SPORT." You're watching CNN.