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Greece Is Reeling From Its Worst Wild Fires In Recent Years; Extreme Weather In Asia All Week; Weather Is Also Becoming A Concern In Europe; Russian President Vladimir Putin Won't Be Coming To Washington This Fall; Early Results In Pakistan's General Election Show Cricket Star Turned Politician Imran Khan Party Is In The Lead; Incident Outside The US Embassy In Beijing; Malaysia's Prime Minister Has A Lot To Say About The US President, About China, And About Trade Wars; ISIS Suicide Bombings Kill Dozens, Setting Off Intense Fighting In Syria; Officials: Collins Questions Were Inappropriate For Venue; U.S. Govt. Faces Thursday Target For Reuniting Families; Evidence Of Underground Lake On Mars. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired July 26, 2018 - 02:00   ET


CYRIL VANIER, HOST, CNN NEWSROOM: Greece is reeling from its worst wild fires in recent years. The death toll continues to rise as search and rescue workers look for victims. We'll be on the ground.


KAITLAN COLLINS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, CNN: Are you worried about what's on the other tape, Mr. President?


VANIER: A CNN White House reporter punished by the Trump administration for asking legitimate questions. Why my colleague, Kaitlan Collins was barred from attending an event open to the press?

And scientists discover a lake on Mars. Could it be the key to finding life on the red planet. We'll have answers for you.

Live from the newsroom here in Atlanta, I am Cyril Vanier. It's great to have you with us.

The death toll from the worst wild fires to hit Greece in more than a decade has now risen to 81 and unfortunately, it's probably going to keep rising. Rescuers are combing through burnt cars and buildings looking for those who are missing, including twin nine-year-old girls. More than 15 fires ripped through the Attica Region, Monday, trapping some victims as they tried to get away. Villages have been wiped out and destroyed dozens of homes. Intense winds and hot dry weather have helped fuel the flames.

One survivor described the terror that she faced.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (Through a translator): We would keep putting our heads into the sea in an effort not to breathe in the smoke because the pine trees surrounding the beach were on fire and places on fire were falling into the water. The people that were near the pine trees, the pieces on fire were falling on their hair and on their heads. We spent five hours in terror.


VANIER: Journalist Elinda Labrapoulou joins us on the line from Athens. Some people are still missing, Elinda, what do we know?

ELINDA LABRAPOULOU, JOURNALIST, GREECE: The search and rescue operations have been underway all night and the search for those missing continues this morning. The official death toll has risen to 81, but many more are still missing and there are increased fears that the number of fatalities is likely to rise.

At the same time, after this first initial shock, the tragic details are emerging. More personal stories, the 26 who died in a field trying to reach the sea, a father looking for his nine-year-old twins, an Irish man on his honeymoon, and as the fires are subsiding, we are continuing to get a first idea of the extent of the damage.

Our first assessment shows that half of the burned areas are residential and that's over 3,500 people lived in the exact path of the fire. So, where we are now is - we are starting to ask the first questions with the assessment, what happened? The big why as to why so many people died and as one Greek newspaper put it, this is the nightmare of the day after that we are living in Greece now.

One of the local mayors of (inaudible) have said that many residents were not able to get out because there was a lack of initial response from the authorities. The mayor said that there might have been less victims if there was a well organized evacuation plan and he said that the fire was underestimated.

But at the same time, much like all of the authorities in Greece are pointing out, he said, that the winds that were blowing in the area was so strong that the fire moved so fast that even a car would not have been able to get out, and he also referred to more chronic problems that we are now seeing as a result of what happened, which includes urban planning in the area, planning that could have made any evacuation plan more effective, illegal building in the forested area and angry residents, they say that they were left to burn like rats.

But what we know from official statistics is certainly that the fire services in Greece have had severe cuts in the last 10 years and the year since the Greek financial crisis hit, about a quarter of the budget has been cut and certainly, this also has a number of side effects in terms of fire prevention, in terms of having better equipment.

The government for its part is saying that the conditions were so extreme with winds of up to 120 kilometers per hour - that's 75 miles per hour - and fueled by such hot temperatures that really no matter what the infrastructure, no matter what the prevention plan, only so much could have been done, Cyril.


LABRAPOULOU: Now, the good news is that the main fronds have been contained and the weather is expected to change, it is expected to improve. The winds in the area are moderate. There is a strong possibility of rain later in the day, so at least we're seeing that the fires are being put out.

VANIER: All right, Elinda Labrapoulou, thank you very much and Greece is no stranger to these fires, but this is the worst one in recent memory. I mean, the death toll tells us that, the pictures tell us that. Elinda, thank you.

Tens of thousands have been forced from their homes after a dam in southern Laos collapsed. Six villages were completely submerged. Survivors could be seen on rooftops, others paddled through the flooded areas on makeshift rafts or boats.

The nation's Prime Minister visited some of the victims, he called this the country's worst disaster in decades. At least 26 people were killed, more than a hundred are missing and more villages are now under threat.

Now, the dam broke because of very heavy rainfall. We've been telling you about the extreme weather in Asia all week. Weather is also becoming a concern in Europe. Much of the continent has been under baking heat wave this summer. Derek Van Dam is working on that for us.

DEREK VAN DAM, METEOROLOGIST, CNN: Okay, according to the UK Met office, if all the appropriate ingredients come together today, we could potentially break the all-time highest temperature set in the UK back in 2003. Check this out.

Incredible heat and it is taking place across places like London, and the outskirts of London as well, parts of France and the Netherlands, but this was the UK record set back in 2003 in the district of Kent, in Faversham, 38.5 degrees. Unfortunately, that also corresponded with a long duration heat wave that was one of the deadliest killers, deadliest heat waves ever documented. This is back in 2003, over 70,000 fatalities.

Now, this is a completely different scenario. This is not as long term of an event, but nonetheless, what we're seeing here is a large southerly wind from the south, so this is allowing to bring a continental air and a very hot temperature forecast is expected to continue at least for the next 24 hours. Look at this, for example, London today, you could reach around 35 degrees, some of the outskirts could even be higher.

Again, if we get that clear skies, if we get that perfect wind from the south and oh, we have the potential to break that all-time record, but you can see right along the coast line there, slightly cooler temperatures given the impacts from the ocean. With a southerly wind in effect, this is also bringing in some pollution from the south as well. So at the moment, we have unhealthy air and this is the AQI index that

meteorologists use to determine how healthy the air actually is and that is a concern for residents as they step outside. People with asthma, the elderly, the extremely young, but it's not all doom and gloom, there is some light at the end of the tunnel, cooler weather is expected. Let's check out the seven-day forecast for London.

You've got to get through one more day of depressive heat, but then we start to cool off by the end of the weekend. Temperatures are actually way below average, so we just need to see it through to Friday and Saturday, but really one more day of tough, tough heat in that region.

VANIER: Derek Van Dam from the CNN Weather Center. We've got more of you this hour and the coming hour. All right, thank you very much Derek. We'll see you again. Thanks.

The Russian President Vladimir Putin won't be coming to Washington this fall. That is assuming that he was planning to come in the first place. US National Security adviser John Bolton said the White House has decided to wait until the quote, "Russia witch hunt is over" before hosting a second summit. The White House seems to believe that the investigation into Russia's attack on the 2016 US election will conclude by the end of the year. Bolton says, Mr. Putin will be re- invited after that. Senior international correspondent Sam Kiley is in Moscow.

You know, Sam, the second summit meeting was first announced on Twitter and then postponed on Twitter. I wonder if Moscow is being consulted on any of this, and do we even know if Kremlin wants another summit?

SAM KILEY, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, the Russian reaction to the official original invitation was positive. There was a sense that the Russians were very, very keen to keep the sort of summit going and even came out with a whole lot of stuff about how it was necessary in terms of arms control by boasting about how they now handled with developing weapons that were better than anything available to NATO.

But they've also simultaneously rather enjoyed the rather chaotic approach coming from the White House and the State Department, not just about this invitation, but about other policies such as Crimea with Mike Pompeo insisting when he was being grilled by the Senate yesterday that there had been no recognition of Ukraine, the Foreign Ministry here saying, "Well, the Americans tend to flip-flop on treaties like what they did about climate control and other things.

So, being slightly sarcastic in their approach, really, but the official line was just prior to that latest announcement that the White House meeting with Vladimir Putin ...


KILEY: ... is slightly postponed to next year, the Russians had already said that they hadn't had any official communication, Cyril, about the summit which was scheduled at that time for November. So, really the Russians again essentially rather enjoying chaos in Washington, Cyril.

VANIER: You mentioned US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, he had to face senators about the first summit, the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki. The main thing they wanted to know was what specifically did the two-men talk about when they sat down for over two hours. I want you to listen a back and forth between Pompeo and one of the senators. I'll speak to you on the back of this.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: The Presidents have a prerogative to choose who is in meetings or not. I am confident you've had private one-on-one meetings in your life as well. You've chosen that setting as the most efficient way of ...

BOB MENENDEZ, US SENATOR, NEW JERSEY, DEMOCRAT: I was asking a simple question, did you - you can't eat up my seven minutes, Mr. Secretary ...

POMPEO: I give you simple answers ...

MENENDEZ: Did you - did he tell you whether or not what happened in those two hours?

POMPEO: Yes, Senator. The predicate of your question implied some notion that there was something improper about having a one-on-one meeting. I completely disagree with the premise.

MENENDEZ: I didn't ask you a predicate. I asked you a simple question, I hope we're going to get through it. Did he tell you what transpired in the two-hour meeting?

POMPEO: I have had a number of conversations with President Trump about what transpired in the meeting. I was also present when he and President Putin both gave us a sense of what they discussed in the meeting that followed immediately after.

MENENDEZ: Did you have ...

POMPEO: I also had the chance to speak with Sergey Lavrov twice about the Russian view on what takes place, I think I have a pretty complete understanding of what took place in that meeting.

MENENDEZ: Did you speak to the translator who was at that meeting?

POMPEO: No, I haven't.

MENENDEZ: Have you seen any of her notes?

POMPEO: Senator, I have never - I've been in lots of meetings. I've had lots of note takers and lots of translators. I've never relied on the work that they did. We need to understand what took place in that meeting and it does not need to be ...

MENENDEZ: Did the President discuss relaxing sanctions on Russia including CAATSA sanctions?

POMPEO: Senator, the US policy with respect to sanctions remain completely unchanged.

MENENDEZ: So, the President did not - that's what you're telling me that - I asked a very specific question. Did the President tell you that he discussed relaxing Russia's sanctions or not. Yes or no?

POMPEO: The Presidents are entitled to have private meetings. I'm telling you what US policy is. I came here today ...

MENENDEZ: No, but you told me that he had a conversation with you in which he told you what transpired. I think the nation and all of us who are policy makers deserve to know so that we can fashion policy accordingly. Did he tell Putin that our release - or ultimately relax sanctions?

POMPEO: Senator, what you need to conduct, your role, your appropriate role, I will provide you today. That is United States policy with respect to the issues you request, you ask me about US policy with respect to sanctions, and I can confirm to you that no commitment has been made to change those policies in any way.


VANIER: Sam Kiley can help us. Sam, I saw you were smiling during that testy exchange, so essentially, the senators want to know what was said, right? So maybe from you on the Russian side, you can help Senator Bob Menendez and have the Russians told us any more specifics about what was said?

KILEY: Well, yes, Cyril, they have. Now, we've only got their word for it because of the - again, the chaotic response of the United States in that post Helsinki period, which is now well over a week in which - or nearly two weeks I think. In which the Russians have dominated the construction of the narrative.

So, for example, they suggested there was going to be some kind of a level of cooperation on counter terrorism and on cyber espionage. I was interested there that Senator Menendez did - he did during that exchange talk about whether or not there was going to be cooperation over terror and Mr. Pompeo agreed that there probably was.

But he didn't actually exploit if you like, the issue over cyber because without any kind of sense of irony, the Russians were very swiftly, after Helsinki suggesting that there should be joint US- Russian cooperation over cyber hacking, a fairly ironic position to be taking given the 12 Russian agents who have been indicted allegedly over interfering by hacking with the American elections.

There were also suggestions from the Russians that there were going to be talks about Syria, again, partly confirmed there by the Secretary of State, the problem is and this is a problem for the Secretary of State, throughout that Senate hearing, he was trying to drive home what existing American policies were and insisting that they hadn't changed, but during this private meeting, he was very unwilling indeed to say whether or not there had been any consideration of changing. And it's that really the Russians have been driving, particularly on subjects like Syria, Cyril.


VANIER: Sam Kiley, live from Moscow. Thank you. An all-out trade war between the US and the European Union appears to have been averted, at least for now. The United States and the European Union have agreed not to impose new tariffs while trade negotiations are underway. Here is CNN's Clare Sebastian.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well the US and EU have bought themselves some time and for now, averting an all-out trade war. Emerging Wednesday from a meeting at the White House. The two sides said they'd agreed to negotiate on cutting tariffs on all industrial goods except auto down to zero and reducing no-tariff barriers, and they also talked about the tariffs between the two sides that are already enforced.


TRUMP: We also will resolve the steel and aluminum tariff issues and we will resolve retaliatory tariffs. We have some tariffs that are retaliatory and that will get resolved as part of what we're doing.

JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: As long as we are negotiating, unless one party would stop the negotiations, we will hold off further tariffs.


SEBASTIAN: Well, this is a crucial point for EU Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker. He had arrived in Washington with an American threat of a 25% tariff on autos hanging over his head. And now, with this agreement to stop putting new tariffs on each other while they negotiate, European auto makers can temporarily breathe a sigh of relief and the US also got some concessions from the EU.

The EU agreed to buy more US soybeans and more natural gas, and in a reversal of recent reports that the Trump administration was thinking of pulling out of the World Trade Organization, the two sides agreed to work together to reform it. So, this isn't a trade deal just yet, but it is at least a promise to try. Clare Sebastian, CNN, New York.

VANIER: And not long ago, Donald Trump was calling the European Union a foe of the United States. Well, he certainly changed his tune during that meeting. He tweeted a picture of Mr. Juncker giving him a peck on the cheek, not a very American greeting and he wrote, "Obviously, the European Union as represented by Juncker EU, and the United States as represented by yours truly, love each other." Exclamation mark.

The votes are being counted in Pakistan and early results indicate this former cricket star will likely be the new Prime Minister. We'll be live in Islamabad. Well, he is the world's oldest head of state, Malaysia's recently

elected Prime Minister talks with CNN about the challenges he faces after 15 years out of office.


VANIER: Early results in Pakistan's general election show cricket star turned politician Imran Khan party is in the lead. But rival parties claimed the voting was rigged. The ballot count is being done by hand because of technical problems that's slowing down the process and the Head of Pakistan's Election Commission says that there's no conspiracy behind that - behind the slow count. He rejects claims of vote rigging.

Let's get the very latest on this. Sophia Saifi is in Islamabad. First of all, what information do we have on the results as they stand now, and I do understand that they are preliminary results.

SOPHIA SAIFI, PRODUCER, CNN: Yes, Cyril, well, what we are looking at right now is that it appears that Irman Khan's party, the PTI is in a very clear lead enough that he might not really have to make that coalition government or that hung Parliament scenario that many analysts were expecting in the lead up to the polls. It appears that he's already got a healthy - I mean, he hasn't got a complete majority just yet, according to the preliminary results that we have, but Khan's party is very much in the lead right now according to the results that we're getting from the Election Commission of Pakistan.

VANIER: Say this is rigged?

SAIFI: Well, yes, a lot of the major political parties who such as Shehbaz Sharif's party, the PLMN and the Punjab which is former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's party, the PPP which ist the party of former slain Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, it's basically across the board. All of the major parties have come out and said that there has been definite rigging, and this was overnight.

So, last - I mean, polls closed at 6:00 in the evening yesterday, and it's been more than 14 hours and we still don't have a definite result from the Election Commission of Pakistan and when you have that kind of scenario where there is this complete silence from within a party that is supposed to be releasing data within just a couple of hours, that does create a situation where of course, there will be calls of rigging. I mean, even before the polls opened, there were accusations that the military was involved, that there had been pre-poll rigging, there had been rampant press censorship.

So, there was already a situation which was expecting this kind of scenario. I mean, Khan is leading in the polls, but that's definitely going to be tainting his victory, Cyril?

VANIER: All right, so those are the things to watch out for then, Sofia. Does the opposition maintain its refusal of the results when they are made official and what does the Election Commission say? Sofia, we'll speak to you again, thank you. We've got breaking news out of China. We are getting word of an

incident outside the US embassy in Beijing, so let's go straight to Matt Rivers who is in the Chinese capital, Matt, what are you seeing? What do you know?

MATT RIVERS, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yes, Cyril, I'm on the southeast corner just outside of the compound where the US embassy sits on the northeastern part of Beijing and what we know is that there is some sort of incident outside of the embassy here.

There had been reports on social media here in China of an apparent explosion outside of the embassy. Now, in terms of whether that is true or not, officials have not confirmed any of this, but in social media posts, there was video of the corner that I am on currently, and there was a lot of smoke with that maybe which led people to believe that there might have been some sort of explosion. Again, that is not confirmed at this point.

But what I can tell you, there is something clearly happened because there is a very large police presence out here. It does appear that this incident is starting to break down, so it appears that police believe whatever threat, if there was a threat is now over. But as is the case in China, officials are very slow to come out with anything and when journalists ask questions here on the scene, we just get harassed and end up physically moved by the police to not pleased with foreign media presence.

But that's what we know so far, which isn't to say that we know all that much, but clearly, something has happened outside of the US embassy here in Beijing, still trying to get to the bottom of exactly what that was.

VANIER: Okay, Matt. I'll let you gather more news. Just keep us updated as soon as you find out what's going on exactly.

Now he is 21 years older than Donald Trump, twice the age of Canada's Justin Trudeau. And at 93, Malaysia's Prime Minister has a lot to say about the US President, about China, and about trade wars. That's topical.

Let's bring in CNN's Anna Coren, live in Hong Kong. Anna, it's great that you were able to sit down with him, Mahatir Mohamad. He's been a dominant figure in Malaysian politics for so long. Tell me about your interview. Tell me about the man himself and tell me about what you found out.

ANNA COREN, INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: It is quite remarkable, isn't it, Cyril? Most people don't even reach the age of 93 and here is, Dr. Mahatir Mohamad. He is running the country, quite literally running the country. He has taken over a corruption-ridden government, a corruption-ridden civil service, so he is definitely calling the shots and people in his government, his newly formed government are definitely on ...

[02:25:14] COREN: ... notice, but he is now the oldest leader in the world, and

this of course is his second shot at it. Remember, he was in power for some 22 years before heading into retirement. He came out of retirement to run for a political office again because of all of the problems, the corruption that was so rife within the government plaguing his country, damaging his country and its credibility, so he felt a sense of duty and need to run and he did that in May.

No one thought that he and his newly formed coalition could win, but they did on May 9th in a landslide victory, so he is now at the helm. He is spritely. He is sharp as a tack and he is determined to put Malaysia back on track.

Now, we obviously discussed Najib Razak, the man that he took over from who himself is embroiled in this corruption scandal known as 1MDB, the Malaysian Finance Ministry believes that this will cost - the total cost of 1MDB was something like $12.5 billion dollars. Billions of dollars were siphoned out of the country and it is something that really, as I say has hurt Malaysia.

Mahatir Mohamad, he's been around a long time. He knows a great deal of things and we certainly talked about international relations that with China, which is obviously, the world's second largest economy and a very powerful country in this part of the world. Also, he shared his views on Donald Trump. Take a listen.


MAHATHIR MOHAMAD, PRIME MINISTER OF MALAYSIA: Well, there is a saying that the powerful will take what they will do, and the weak will yield what they must. And that is the situation that we face now.

We cannot fight them. If they declare that the South China Sea belongs to them, we're not going to go to war with them. How do we make use of this situation? How do we benefit from this situation? I think, despite their war-like attitude, they have no plans to conquer us militarily.

COREN: So, accept the status quo?

MOHAMAD: Yes, we have to accept. We have to accept the reality of the situation. Poor China was a problem. People feared Communist China, before. Now, a rich China also is to be feared because they may have ideas about expending their influence.

COREN: But not territory? You don't think?

MOHAMAD: And well, well, when you have influence, there are other ways of colonizing than just occupying a country.

COREN: Do you think that's what China is doing?

MOHAMAD: Well, I think, China would want to spread its influence using the money that it has.

COREN: You described that the US President as an international bully. Do you still feel that way?

MOHAMAD: More interesting is that he is not consistent. He can change his mind in 24 hours, three times. He wanted to see the President of North Korea, then, he didn't want to see. And then, he wanted to see again. I mean, how do you deal with a person whose mind changes so rapidly?

Well, America is a powerful nation, we know that. But if it chooses to fight China in our area, then we are going to be a price to pay. We hope that the American President will not think in terms of war in order to solve problems.

COREN: Do you believe that he is a threat to the current world order?

MOHAMAD: Well, I think he has initiated this trade war, and trade war doesn't do anything good for the world. So, in that sense, he is a threat. And he ask for things which are quite unacceptable.

For example, he wants to build a wall to separate Mexico from the US. And he's asking the Mexicans to pay. I mean, it is your project, you pay. But is it because he thinks he is powerful that he can ask people to pay for what he wants to do?

COREN: Who will be the winners and the losers of his trade wars, his multiple trade wars?

MOHAMAD: Everybody will lose. The US will lose, China will lose, the whole world will lose. War and trade wars even doesn't solve any problem.



COREN: Wise words from a wise man, known as the father of modern Malaysia. And, Cyril, Mahathir Mohamad might be able to deliver that message to Donald Trump if the U.S. president attends APEC later this year, Cyril.

VANIER: Anna Coren, fascinating interview. Thank you so much for bringing that to us. Thanks, Anna. We'll be back right after this break.


VANIER: Welcome back to the NEWSROOM. Your headlines today, ISIS has claimed responsibility for attacks Wednesday that killed at least 216 people in Southern Syria. The terror group says gunmen first attacked security posts as well as government targets and then set off explosive vests. The Syrian health official says many victims were also killed in their homes some while they slept. After weeks of harsh rhetoric, the U.S. and European Union suddenly seemed to be in synch on trade.

At least that's the case for now. U.S. President Donald Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said they agreed not to impose new tariffs while trade talks are underway. The E.U. agreed to import soy beans and liquid natural gas from the U.S. The White House has put off a second summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin until next year and White House says it will reinvite him when the Russia investigation is over.

The dust still hasn't settled from the first meeting especially the lingering mystery of what the two men discussed behind closed-doors. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was briefed by Mr. Trump on the content of that conversation. But when asked about it repeatedly at the Senate hearing on Wednesday, well, Pompeo was short on details. Let's talk more about this with Toluse Olorunnipa, White House Reporter for Bloomberg News.

Toluse, do we now a better understanding or better idea of what that Trump-Putin Summit was about? And what was said in the conversation?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Yes. We don't really have a better understanding even despite Secretary Pompeo testifying on Capitol Hill for hours on end and listening to questions from both sides of the aisle, from senators who wanted to know more about what happened. Really, we don't know exactly what happened behind closed-doors. We heard that Secretary Pompeo say that he had not seen the notes from the translator or spoken to the translator, but he has spoken to the president.

But he was unwilling to divulge a lot of the internal details between him and the president, the things that they talked about that the president hasn't spoken about publicly. So we know that the president and President Putin did talked about Ukraine and during this hearing, Pompeo said that the U.S. policy on Ukraine and Crimea is that the sanctions that are on Russia will continue no matter what despite the fact that President Trump has seemed to vacillate on whether or not he feels strongly about those sanctions.

Pompeo is very clear that he wanted to make sure that the senators knew that there would be no lifting of sanctions and that U.S. policy was going to continue the way that it had been even before this summit. So it does look like there weren't many takeaways in terms of policy changes from this summit. But we don't know very much about what President Trump might have promised privately during his talk with Putin behind closed-doors.

[02:35:10] VANIER: You know, it's kind of interesting because if you parse those words by Pompeo, there's a -- there's an apparent disconnect between the Secretary of State and the president because the president has one tone toward Russia whereas Pompeo says actually, no, it's business as usual. We're maintaining the pressure. We're not changing the U.S. policy on it. That and itself I thought was interesting. The base -- the basis of Mr. Pompeo's argument was that private conversations between world leaders need to remain private. Listen to this.


MIKE POMPEO, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: These are important decisions about how much disclosed about private conversations we had because everyone knows that you may have an expectation that you'll have another private conversation one day and the absence of their belief that that private conversation has the capacity to remain in that space reduces the freedom to have those conversations.


VANIER: So look, as much as that is unsatisfying for a journalistic curiosity, what do you think of that argument? I mean I see validity in the fact that leaders need to be able to speak privately especially if there's going to be another meeting and perhaps things were in progress.

OLORUNNIPA: Yes. I think where we see a breakdown here is that the senators who represent the American people and a hundred of them in fifty different states, they need to know what U.S. policies. They're also dealing with foreign policy and dealing with some of their counterparts and other parts of the world. And so they agree that the president needs to have the flexibility to have his private meetings.

But when it comes out of these private meetings and he starts talking as he did back in Helsinki during the press conference in ways that are confusing to the senators, and seem to appear as if the U.S. is giving something away to an adversary. That is going to be a cause for some concern and that's why we tell some bipartisan concern from the senators who called Pompeo up to Capitol Hill to explain what the policy was because it sounded from President Trump like he was not agreeing with the intelligence community.

Like he was agreeing with what Putin had told him behind closed-doors. So it seems like based on this press conference and the bipartisan backlash it garnered, there is concern on the part of several senators not knowing what U.S. foreign policy is from the Trump administration because President Trump is often not in synch with his administration officials and the things he says publicly are not in synch with the policies that have been ruled out.

So that's where there is a little bit of disconnect that is concerned that giving the president too much flexibility to work behind closed- doors could lead to changes in policies that U.S. senators are not on board with.

VANIER: What about North Korea? Did he give them more of a bone to chew on as regards North Korea and what's going on in that diplomatic arena?

OLORUNNIPA: Yes. He was able to speak a little bit more about North Korean because he has been sort of a chief interlocutor with the North Koreans. He has gone over to Pyongyang several times. There are a couple of different issues that the senators were asking about specifically on denuclearization. Pompeo was able to say, yes, there's a lot of work that still needs to be done. But he believes that they are making progress.

He has cited engine-missile site that he believes that the North Koreans are beginning to dismantle. He talked about the remains of U.S. service members that the U.S. is working to try to get shipped back over from North Korea. He was able layout some of the areas where U.S. foreign policy has started to make some ground. But he was able to say as well that a lot of work needs to be done and he heard from -- he heard a lot of skepticism from senators about what type of progress there is because once again we heard from President Trump on Twitter, you know, the North Korean nuclear threat is over and that everyone can sleep well at night.

A lot of skepticism about that among the senators who don't believe that the nuclear threat is over.

VANIER: Toluse Olorunnipa from Washington. Thank you very much. We appreciate your insights.

OLORUNNIPA: Thank you.

VANIER: We take a quick break. When we come back, we'll tell you about what should have been an uneventful moment at the White House.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you worried about what is on the other tapes, Mr. President?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me. Thank you all.


VANIER: A CNN reporter suffers the consequences for asking President Trump that question. Her punishment just ahead.


[02:41:25] VANIER: Donald Trump is blasting his former fixer, Michael Cohen, after he released a secret recording of them discussing a payment to cover-up an alleged affair. The president tweeted, what kind of lawyer would tape a client? So sad. Well, we asked CNN's Jim Sciutto what this recording means.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: President Trump has repeatedly denied any affair with the former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal and any knowledge of payments to conceal an affair. But on an audio tape obtained exclusively by CNN then candidate Trump can be heard discussing with his attorney, Michael Cohen, payment for McDougal's story.

MICHAEL COHEN, AMERICAN ATTORNEY: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David, you know, so that I couldn't do that right away. I've actually come up --



(CROSSTALK) COHEN: And I have spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the

whole thing up with funding, yes. And it's all the stuff -- all the stuff because, you know, you never know where that company --


COHEN: Correct. So I'm all over that and I spoke to Allen about it. When it comes time for the financing which will be --



COHEN: We'll have to pay --


COHEN: No, no, no, no. I got -- no, no, no.

SCIUTTO: President Trump's current attorney, Rudy Giuliani, has said the tape proves that Trump did not know about the payment in advance. But the audio appears to belie that claim.

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL LEGAL ANALYST: There's nothing illegal on its face on the tape. However, it does seem to indicate that President Trump had prior knowledge of the payment to Karen McDougal to buy and kill her story.

SCIUTTO: Just one week before the 2016 election, (INAUDIBLE) journal broke the news that the National Enquirer's parent company AMI had bought McDougal's story of an alleged affair with Trump. At the time, Trump campaign spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, denied the campaign knew anything about it saying, "We have no knowledge of any of this." This March, McDougal told CNN's Anderson Cooper the campaign was lying.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hope Hicks has said categorically you do not have a relationship. There's no truth to this. When you heard that denial, what did you think?

KAREN MCDOUGAL, AMERICAN MODEL: Well, I think somebody is lying, and I can tell you it's not me. That's a little hurtful. But at the same time I have to understand like if he were to have told Hicks -- Hope that he didn't do it, I guess I understand because he's trying to protect his family, his image, things like that. But it was definitely a little like, wow, you're going to lie about that? OK.

SCIUTTO: Cohen talks about setting up a corporation to make the payment. The Wall Street Journal today reported that just weeks later he setup a shell company, Resolution Consultants, which further distanced Trump from the payment offering Trump the ability to remain unidentified. There is no evidence that Trump paid McDougal. However, such a payment could violate campaign finance laws. It would be up to the Federal Election Commission to investigate.

ZELDIN: The payment Karen McDougal if it's deemed to be a payment to impact the outcome of the election could be deemed to be a reportable transaction which if not reported could be a violation of the federal election laws.


SCIUTTO: A lot of attention has been focused on whether the president and Cohen discussed payment by cash or check.

[02:44:52] But, many legal experts say it doesn't matter that both would constitute financial payments. And two, that there may be financial records for both, as well. Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.

VANIER: OK, there was more from the White House on Wednesday. CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins tried to ask President Trump about the Cohen tape during a meeting in the Oval Office. So what happened next?

Well, she was barred from a later event at the White House Rose Garden. Here is Kaitlan on the whole sequence of events.

We'll give you Kaitlan's version of the story in just a moment. The White House claimed that Kaitlan was shouting a question and that she refused to leave the Oval Office and that, that's why they were barring her from that later event. Essentially, punishing her for misbehavior.

Other journalists, including Fox News came to her defense. CNN issued a statement that said in part, "This decision to bar a member of the press is retaliatory in nature and not indicative of an open and free press. We demand better."

Let's head back to Moscow, and senior international correspondent Sam Kiley. Sam, I really want to tap into your experience. As a reporter, you have years, and years, and years of experience -- you know, trying to get fact and trying to tease information out of governments.

Out of really any entity that doesn't necessarily want to tell you the whole truth and nothing but the truth. What is your reaction to this?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, if this is the sort of behavior that unfortunately, we're seeing creeping in or has been already established in some Western democracies, that mirror the sorts of activities that you might expect to see in non- democracies, in authoritarian regimes.

So, this is the first time I've heard of somebody being pushed around, if you like, in terms of the punished for questions asked in the White House. But it's the sort of thing that to happen to me asking questions that were awkward from (INAUDIBLE) and Becky, and Robert Mugabe at a meeting some 20 years ago at Victoria Falls.

I was advised to get out of the country after asking awkward questions of some African leaders. Similarly, in the Middle East, you can have situations in which very minor questions can get you locked up in Egypt.

We've also seen, of course, a shoe thrown at the American president at a press conference in Iraq with no particular negative consequences. So it's not unique this sort of attempt to effectively stifle journalists from asking questions, but it is unusual in a Western democracy.

I have to say that in the United Kingdom, this sort of thing happens behind closed doors quite a lot -- a lot of news organizations can get shout out of number 10 effectively or pushed off election buses, all very quietly in a very kind of English way.

But the English are way ahead of the Americans in terms of trying to stifle this. It's very, very unusual in my experience. I've never heard of anything that's like this happening in the United States, Cyril.

VANIER: So that interesting because look, I was a reporter because before I was in the studio too, and there's just certain things that I didn't expect out of certain countries. And what we saw out of this country, out of this White House, with this reporter, for this reason, it just-- it just beggars belief.

There are -- there are -- they don't have to entertain her questions, they don't have to answer then, they do a whole lot of obfuscating of their own on a daily basis. There are many ways for them to deal with reporters whose questions they don't like. You know, they have -- they have a whole shop whose raise on there for us to do exactly that.

But they -- I wonder whether this might be just signaling perhaps to the base who doesn't like the media.

KILEY: Yes, I think, I mean, if you look at what these populist movements. And again, it's not unique to the United States but labeling the mainstream media whatever that is organizations of like CNN has relentlessly using this term fake news declaring a journalist in broad terms to be enemies of the people.

It has two effects. The first is a numbing effect so that the outrageousness of these sorts of statements becomes the norm. So, therefore, in a democratic culture, banning a particular person from a fake news organization like ours, from asking certain questions doesn't seem that aberrant.

It seems aberrant to us, but to the mainstream supporters of Donald Trump and others, they probably give him a high five. And that's because they're the whole intent here is to shift the terms of the debate by -- you know, it's the garbles principle.

If you repeat a line often enough, people start to believe it. If you -- if you constantly refer to legitimate journalists as enemies of the people as purveyors of fake news after a while, some of that vitriol stick. Some of the poison enters, the bloodstream of a Democratic culture.

It's the sort of thing that you see very frequently in authoritarian regimes. And I have to say in the context of Brexit, the Trump administration is the sort of thing that you're seeing particularly spread across social media. And it makes life for people like us, Cyril. Those of us particularly on the front line of news gathering, very much more vulnerable, quite literally in some countries that much more exposed to mortal danger.

So, it isn't just about undermining your political opponents in the West, its undermining respect for the real role of journalists in the Fourth Estate which is to ask awkward questions, and we can take in any, any amount of drubbing back at us.

But when it comes to this kind of effort to literally snuff out people's attempts to ask question, I think he's a very, very dangerous president. But it is something that is spread if you like from authoritarian regimes into the body politic now of so-called democracies. And I use that term advisedly, Cyril.

[02:50:55] VANIER: Senior International Correspondent Sam Kiley, thank you very much. I appreciate your insight, then. And I would just as a point of information remind our viewers that a very early on, in the first days of the Trump administration, they declared that the media was the enemy he off against.

I beg your pardon, wrong word. They declared the media was the opposition and that they were at war with the media. Interesting to bear in mind with this news. Sam, thank you very much. We'll take a short break, we're back after this.


VANIER: Thursday is the deadline for the U.S. government to reunite migrant families who were separated at the Mexico border. But it's almost certain the Trump administration cannot meet that court-ordered deadline.

There are more than 900 patients whose cases the government would have to address but are considered ineligible for reunification. Some have criminal records or simply can't be found. Others were likely already deported without their children. Critics say they are the victims.


EFREN OLIVARES, DIRECTOR, RACIAL AND ECONOMIC JUSTICE PROGRAM, TEXAS CIVIL RIGHTS PROJECT: This category of a families who are ineligible for reunification, it's a big question because many of them are "ineligible" because the government rendered them ineligible.

For example, parents who have been deported with other children are considered ineligible to be reunified, as if ineligibility is something inherent to the parent. Whereas, it's only the circumstances of the U.S. government itself created.


VANIER: The government says it's reunited more than a thousand families. And the judge ordered the deadline called the progress remarkable. Still, he says the effects of the government's zero- tolerance immigration policy have been deeply troubling. Is there life on Mars? That question is resurfacing after scientists say they've made a discovery deep inside the planet. CNN's Amara Walker explains.


AMARA WALKER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Buried inside the Red Planet, a long-sought discovery adds to the speculation there may have once been life on Mars.

ENRICO FLAMINI, CHIEF SCIENTIST, ITALIAN SPACE AGENCY: Well, the final remarks are very simple. Water is there and we have not anymore any doubt.

WALKER: Unveiling their findings at a news conference, scientists at the Italian space agency announced that they have located an underground lake on Mars. The first stable body of liquid ever found on the Red Planet.

After years studying data from a ground-penetrating radar on an orbiting spacecraft, the Italian researchers say they have identified a large liquid reservoir buried over a kilometer beneath an ice sheet near the South Pole. It's a discovery that raises a tantalizing possibility.

[02:55:03] FLAMINI: There are all the ingredients for thinking that life can be there or can be the maintainer there if life once existed on Mars, on Martian surface.

WALKER: Comparing it to a sub-glacial lake on earth, researchers said the Martian reservoir may resemble a habitats, although, there is no evidence to support that yet. But a body of water on Mars, not only has implications for finding life or proving it was once there but also for our future exploration on the Red Planet.

TIMOTHY DOWLING, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, PHYSICS UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE: Finding water on Mars is very important for practical reasons for human exploration because you don't have to bring the water with you. You need the water to survive for long periods of time on Mars. But you also can make fuel out of it.

And so, having it accessible on the planet itself, is almost enabling for human exploration on Mars.

WALKER: Outside experts have not yet been able to confirm the Italian Space Agencies findings but evidence that Mars was once a wet planet has been observed several times. A huge underground lake could help us understand how billions of years changed our neighboring planet. And what that could mean for our future here on earth. Amara Walker, CNN.


VANIER: One more thing. From Mars back to Earth, check this out. The big air kitesurfing event in Spain's Canary Islands. Here is Eritson (INAUDIBLE). Wow, what's amazing is he's actually not tethered to the board. He is using his legs to hold on to the board before coming in, wait for it, for the perfect landing. And I think, we have jumped number two which is pretty amazing too.

So, he stays 22 seconds in the air this time. Again, he's controlling the board just with his feet, but for as amazing as his jump were, he didn't actually win the competition. It was Australia's James Carew, who won the competition.

Thanks for watching. I'm Cyril Vanier, I'm back with another hour of world news in just a moment. Stay with CNN.