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Greece's Inferno Takes 81 Souls and Rising; Heat Wave in California up to 52 Degrees; U.S. and E.U Closing a Deal on Trade; Trump-Putin Summit Postponed; ISIS Strikes Southern Syria Killing 216 People. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired July 26, 2018 - 03:00   ET



CYRIL VANIER, CNN HOST: Breaking news in Beijing. Reports of an explosion outside the U.S. embassy just moments ago. We'll have a live report in just a moment.

And from deadly fires in Greece to record highs in Japan, temperatures soaring in both Europe and Asia.

Also stifling free press. The White House denying media access to a CNN journalist.

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

And we begin in Greece, where rescuers are combing through charred buildings and cars looking for anyone missing from the country's worst wildfires in years.

The death toll as it stands is 81 dead. Unfortunately, that number is still expected to rise. There were more than a dozen fires in the Attica region. Hundreds of firefighters were deployed. The government says the challenge to those crews has been unprecedented.

The fires wiped out entire villages and destroyed dozens of homes. Intense winds and hot dry weather have helped fuel the flames.

CNN's Melissa Bell is in the village of Mati where much of the devastation has taken place. Melissa, it's kind of ground zero for these blazes. Families, children were killed. Tell us what it's like this morning.

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you can see, Mati has, in many ways has been wiped off the face of the earth. This was a holiday village, not very far from Athens. One survivor told me yesterday this had been paradise. Now it is the ugliest place on earth.

You can see still the ground smolders. And just to remind our viewers, Cyril, the worst of the fires here were on Monday night, overnight Monday. It's now Wednesday morning here in Greece. It gives you an idea of just how hot this place became. And one of the problems, and you can see I think on this images, is

the planning, the way that Mati was organized, or rather, not organized when it was built. We spoke to the mayor yesterday and put to him some of the concerns, the anger of the locals that we've been hearing over the course of the last few days.

People saying that there had been no proper planning, so no one could get to them once the fire encircled this place, the fact that there was clearly no evacuation plan. That road you can see down there is the single road that leads in and out of Mati.

And what happened on that terrible night, is that the cars got blocked inside because there was no evacuation plan, because the fire progressed so quickly towards this town. The cars were stopped two or three deep on that road, people died either in their cars or getting out of them.

And you're right. That death toll sadly is likely to rise, Cyril, simply because there are those people who haven't been found yet and who you are likely burned to death, and those people who jumped into the water, and that was, I'll remind you, the only way out of Mati that night and who drowned but who still haven't been accounted for.

VANIER: Our Melissa Bell, reporting live from Mati in Greece. A very, very sad scene there. Eighty one people dead across the country because of these blazes and we just wish the best for the survivors, especially in Mati. Melissa, thank you.

Many parts of the world are battling record high temperatures right now. In Japan, at least 80 people have died and thousands have gone to the hospital this month as the country swelters under a dangerous heat wave. Temperates have exceeded 40 degrees in some regions.

Forecasters do not expect much relief there until early August. In the Western U.S., about 35 million people are under a heat warning or advisory. California's Death Valley hit a record high of 52.7 degrees Celsius on Tuesday. That's right, 52.7 Celsius.

And in the U.K., officials have issued a so-called level three heat health watch for much of the southern and Eastern England this week as temperatures spiked into the 30-degree Celsius range.

Well, 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 where others paddled through the flooded areas on makeshift rafts or boats.

The nation's prime minister visited some of the victims, calling it 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.

An all-out trade war between the U.S. and the European Union appears to have been averted. The United States and the European Union had agreed not to impose new tariffs while trade negotiations are underway. The E.U. also agreed to import more soybeans and liquid natural gas

from the U.S. President Trump called it a good day.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I agree, and if we could have no tariffs and no barriers, and no subsidies, the United States would be extremely pleased. We have many countries, we won't say European Union, we have many countries where they have massive barriers and they have massive tariffs, and we have to follow.

[03:05:04] And you could call it retaliation, but I'd rather just say that we want reciprocal. So whether it's with European Union or others, it has to be reciprocal in nature at a minimum.

And we're working on that, I think we're making tremendous strides. We're doing very well with Mexico. We're doing very well with a lot of countries actually right now.

But this is something, as Jean-Claude said, together as a unit, we make up actually more than 50 percent of the world trade. That's a big number. That's a big number. So we expect something very positive to take place, but you'll be the first to know.


VANIER: Now remember for context, it wasn't that long ago that Mr. Trump was calling the European Union a foe of the United States. But that was then. Now he's tweeted a picture of Mr. Juncker, giving him a peck on the cheek, and he wrote, "Obviously, the European Union as represented by Juncker E.U. and the United States as represented by yours truly, love each other."

OK. Love is in the air. CNN's Nina Dos Santos joins us from London for that. Nina, I was among the many, I think who were expecting more of a trade fight at the White House, and lo and behold, we got a truce.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPPONDENT: Yes, love and hate just one tweet away in these turbulent times, Cyril. I must say, I'd love to see that picture from the other side, where it's not Jean-Claude Juncker kissing the cheek of the U.S., but vice versa.

You know, this is a deal that's going to help people save face on all sides. That's important. You heard the U.S. president mention, this is one of the biggest trading relationships anywhere in the world. It's worth about $1.1 trillion. He said there's a lot at stake, not least the public image here of these two enormous economies as well.

It's important to point out that it's the spirit of this deal, it's the spirit of this potential deal that they've talked about that's important here, rather than the actual details. Largely because the details at this point are vague. And also they're not taking off the table certain thorny issues like, for instance, the automotive industry that the U.S. president has repeatedly threatened to slap tariffs on. That's a real point of concern for the European Union, because,

obviously Germany is a huge carmaker. Germany is the biggest economy in the E.U. and wields a huge amount of power inside this enormous trading bloc on this side of the Atlantic.

And also the other thing that they haven't yet taken off the table is those steel and aluminum tariffs that have irked a number of steel and aluminum producers on all sides of the world, not just here in the European Union, but also other countries outside that have been targeted too.

So, those two points of contention still not completely off the table. But it is the big sigh of relief that a lot of businesses, and a lot of listed companies and investors in those listed companies will be breathing at the moment.

The idea here that these two huge trading partners that are enormously political and socioeconomically important allies have stepped back from the brink of a point of retaliation and appeared to, as you say, they are embracing a new future for now one of closer trade with no tariffs and no barriers on most goods. But perhaps, not necessarily all services and all goods. Cyril?

VANIER: And Nina, you were mentioning obviously the outside role that Germany plays in the European trade, European economic affairs. So let me just read you the tweet of Peter Altmaier, the German economy minister.

He's happy that these tariffs are not being imposed on German cars. He says, "Congrats to Juncker E.U. and Donald Trump breakthrough achieved that can avoid trade war and save millions of jobs, great for global economy."

Love is in the air indeed. Nina Dos Santos in London, I appreciate it. Thank you.

President Trump isn't talking about that newly released recording of him and his former attorney talking about hush money over an alleged affair. But he did address the matter on Twitter Wednesday.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, Mr. President, did Michael Cohen betray you, sir?


ZELENY: After question.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, did Michael Cohen betray you, sir?


ZELENY: After question.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you mislead the American people, sir, when you said you did not know about the payment?


ZELENY: Biting his tongue in public today, but aide say privately seething a long time confidant Michael Cohen's release of a secret recording about paying hush to a Playboy model who says she had an affair with Trump. The president's only reaction came on Twitter.

"What kind of a lawyer would tape a client? So sad. Is this a first? Never heard of it before. Why was the tape so abruptly terminated while I was presumably saying positive things?"

The tone far more measured than the president often takes particularly on in investigations he's railing against and involving someone from his inner circle.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next president of the United States--


ZELENY: Outside of family, no one in Trump's orbit has been closer to him over the years than Cohen, who has explained his relationship with the president like this.


[03:10:02] MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I protect Mr. Trump. That's what it is. If there's an issue that relates to Mr. Trump that is of concern to him, it's of course of concern to me. I will use my legal skills within which to protect Mr. Trump to the best of my ability.


ZELENY: The president reacted with anger back in April when Cohen's office and hotel room were raided.


TRUMP: So I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys, good man, and it's a disgraceful situation. It's a total witch-hunt.


ZELENY: Since then, Trump has distanced himself, but never denounced Cohen.


TRUMP: You know, he's not my lawyer anymore.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your personal lawyer.

TRUMP: I always liked Michael.



TRUMP: And he's a good person. And I think he's been cooperating -- do you mind if I talk? You're asking me a question. I'm trying to answer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want to know if you're worried if he's going to cooperate with federal investigators.


TRUMP: No, I'm not worried because I did nothing wrong.



ZELENY: All this as the White House backtracked today on its invitation to Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit Washington this fall.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why has Vladimir Putin not accepted your invitation?


ZELENY: The president not answering. But national security advisor, John Bolton issuing a statement saying, "The president believes that the next bilateral meeting with President Putin should take place after the Russia witch-hunt is over. So we've agreed that it will be after the first of the year."

The invitation made abruptly last week after Trump's heavily criticized performance at the Helsinki summit was never accepted by the Kremlin, but blasted by Republicans and Democrats alike in Washington.

With the Kremlin not accepting the White House invitation, it did run the risk of embarrassing President Trump if Vladimir Putin decided to not accept it. So the invitation was delayed until next year, of course there's no guarantee the Russia investigation will be over by then.

Jeff Zeleny, CNN, the White House.

VANIER: The White House has put off a second summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin until next year. It says it will re-invite him when the Russia investigation is over. But the dust still hasn't settled from the first meeting two weeks ago. Especially over what the two men discussed behind closed doors for more than two hours.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he was briefed by Mr. Trump, but when asked about it repeatedly at a Senate hearing, Pompeo was short on details.


SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Has the president told you what he and President Putin discussed in their two-hour, closed-door meeting in Helsinki?

MIKE POMPEO, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: The president has a prerogative to choose who's in meetings or not. I'm confident you've had private one-on-one meetings in your life as well. You've chosen that setting as the most efficient way to--


MENENDEZ: I just asked you a simple question. Did you--

POMPEO: I just--

MENENDEZ: You can't eat up my seven minutes, Mr. Secretary. 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--

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

POMPEO: I've had a number of conversations with President Trump about what transpired in the meeting.


VANIER: All right. Well, let's head to Moscow, Sam Kiley is waiting for us there. You know, Sam, the argument that Mike Pompeo is making is essentially that revealing the contents of a private conversation between two world leaders could endanger the diplomacy that's going on. The only problem is, we don't -- we don't know what they're trying to achieve. Do you have details on that?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have the Russian perspective on what was achieved and what they are trying to achieve -- or were trying to achieve athat meeting in Helsinki. And that really from the domestic American perspective is the issue, that is the Russians that have been leaking or eeking out details of this Helsinki meeting.

So whether it is on, for example, Mike Pompeo referenced it during his interrogation by the Senate that was going to be some level of cooperation in terms of counterterrorism operations, the Russians have also suggested that there was going to be planning -- joint planning between the United States and Syria on repatriation of refugees.

That was uncontroversial until you consider that actually the American position is there will be no repatriation of refugees since the areas controlled by the Syrian regime, which is, of course, backed by Russia.

Essentially what's gone on over the days and weeks now since the Helsinki agreement is that the Russians have controlled the narrative. That is why the senators have been so upset. That's why they were asking specifically of the secretary of state what was said, and he kept saying what American policy was.

Because since that Helsinki meeting, whether it's on Syria, on Crimea, there was an area of latitude, a gray area, in which unclear as to whether or not the president had flirted perhaps with the recognition, for example, of the annexation of Crimea by Russia.

[03:14:54] The secretary of state coming into the Senate and saying, absolutely not. Whatever might have been discussed, and he wouldn't discuss what had been discussed, policy in the United States had not changed.

And I think really what the Russians have been doing, or the opportunity that they've taken post Helsinki was to try to suggest that there had been a beginning of a policy shift or that the president was entertaining things that had not been entertained at all within the wider body politics in terms of his own administration's policy.

So, for example, on Crimea, again, Pompeo insisting that there was no chance whatsoever of any kind of recognition on Crimea. Followed up, I have to say almost immediately with a foreign ministry statement, saying, well, actually we've heard these big declarations from the Americans before, and they've got a habit of backtracking.

That is, of course, because Donald Trump has torn up treaties and agreements that have been long established part of the international diplomacy of the United States.

So they're still enjoying this ability that they have and out of Russia to generate chaos in Washington, Cyril.

VANIER: So what about this for chaos, Donald Trump when about a week ago said there was going to be a second meeting with Vladimir Putin. He got heavily criticized for that. Now he's saying, actually, we're going to postpone that until next year because the date we had in mind might coincide with the midterms in the U.S. Is there any of this being coordinated Moscow?

KILEY: Sometimes it feels like there's coordination. There would always be coordination, if you're talking about a summit, for example. The Russians came out 36 hours ago or so and said that whilst they had they were becoming the idea of a summit, no official planning for that summit had been engaged in.

They weren't rejecting it. They were just saying, we haven't really started the process. There was -- they did feel like there was some kind of coordination immediately after the announcement coming from the White House of that now postponed November summit, when the Russian studied putting out propaganda about how powerful their military was now and was going to be.

The subtext being there that it was very necessary to continue this dialogue between Russia and the United States to further arms reduction. That's being something that Mr. Putin or Mr. Trump have been many things that they've singing in harmony on.

But that was one of the main things, a steady motive coming out of the Trump administration particularly out of Donald Trump, himself, saying they need to do arms reduction. So there was a very interesting coincidence there that might suggest the degree of, perhaps telepathic communication if not direct collaboration in trying to build a case for that summit.

That's now been postpone but I imagine that the Russians will continue to pursue those sorts of suggestions. Very good idea to talk about arms reduction. Nobody really can object to that, not even Donald Trump's fiercest critics, Cyril.

VANIER: CNN senior international correspondent Sam Kiley reporting from Moscow. Thank you.

Coming up, ISIS says it's responsible for attacks in Syria that have killed more than 200 people. Some of them while they slept.

And the White House ban of CNN reporter from an open press event on Wednesday. We'll hear what happened and we'll get the reaction.


VANIER: Attacks in Syria Wednesday killed at least 216 people. And ISIS says it's responsible. At least 180 more were wounded. The terror group says gunmen attacked security posts and government targets and detonated explosive vests. A Syrian health official says other victims were killed in their homes as they slept.

An explosion shatters the calm outside the U.S. embassy in China's capital city. We go live to Beijing for the latest on the blast when we come back.

Just ahead on CNN newsroom, is this man Pakistan's next prime minister? We'll be live from the capital.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) VANIER: Welcome back. I'm Cyril Vanier with your headlines.

Early results in Pakistan's general election show former cricket star Imran Khan's party is clearly in the lead. But rival parties claim the voting was rigged. The ballot count is being done by hand because of technical problems so that's slowing down the process. The head of Pakistan's election commission rejects the accusations of vote- rigging.

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 and government targets, then set off explosive vests. A 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 seem to be in sync on trade, at least for now. U.S. President Donald Trump and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said they will not impose new tariffs while trade talks are underway. The E.U. also agreed to import soybeans and liquid natural gas from the U.S.

[03:25:04] Attacks in Syria Wednesday killed at least 216 people. I was telling you about that before the break. ISIS says it is responsible. At least 180 more were wounded. The death toll is horrific.

The terror group says gunmen attacked security posts and government targets and detonated explosive vests. Syrian health official says other victims were killed in their homes as they slept.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is reporting on this. She's in Istanbul. Jomana, tell us more about the choice of the targets, and why ISIS struck where it did.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Cyril, this is a very rare kind of attack happening in Sweida province in southwestern Syria, this is an area that's been spared much of the violence that we have seen over the past seven years, and normally under government control.

And this surprise, stunning attack that happened at about 4 o'clock in the morning on Wednesday, initially with ISIS suicide bombers targeting the center of the provincial capital Sweida. At the same time you had dozens of ISIS gunmen also attacking villages around Sweida.

And we heard from local officials there saying at least 216 people were killed in this attack, the majority of them, according to officials are local gunmen, and also regime troops. But there are also many civilians among the casualties and really chilling details coming out, according to health officials saying that manywere killed, they were slaughtered while they were sleeping in their homes.

This really, Cyril, is a reminder that while ISIS has lost so much territory, and you have the Syrian regime close by in Daraa and Quneitra provinces fighting for the last ISIS-held pocket there. And then you have this attack, perhaps a diversion is just a reminder

that ISIS has lost lots of territory, almost all the territory it's controlled in Iraq and Syria, but it still has the ability to carry out such deadly and devastating attacks.

VANIER: And is this going to be their strategy, their M.O. in Syria going forward, striking where and when they can?

KARADSHEH: Well, this is what we're seeing, Cyril, in both Syria. This is the first example of that. But if you also look at Iraq, a country that a few months ago declared victory over ISIS, saying that the terror group no longer controls any territory in the country.

In recent weeks and recent months, you've seen these sort of insurgent-type attacks that have been taking place, especially in three provinces to the east and the north of the country, almost daily we're hearing reports of kidnappings and killings that are taking place.

And this is what experts were warning of before, is that, yes, that ISIS as that organization that control territory was defeated. The ideology was not. And their ability to rise up again from the ashes of that so-called caliphate is very real and we're seeing this happening slowly in Iraq and now this deadly devastating attack in Syria.

VANIER: Jomana Karadsheh in Istanbul, thank you very much.

We'll take a short break, we're back after this.


CYRIL VANIER, CNN NEWSROOM SHOW HOST: Many parts of the world are battling dangerously high temperatures. In Japan, dozens of people have died and thousands have gone to hospital as the country grapples with a dangerous heat wave. And for weeks now, much of Europe has been sweltering under hot temperatures. Meteorologist Derek Van Dam, joins us. He had been working on all of this. He had been telling us about Asia for a while and now it's Europe.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You won't believe this. If all the ingredients come together today, if everything correct happens, we have the potential for breaking the all-time greatest temperature within the United Kingdom. Unbelievable. That was setback in August of 2003.

VANIER: All-time temperature?

VAN DAM: The all-time temperature ever recorded in modern history in the U.K. That took place in the district of Kent in the Faversham region that was in August of 2003. The mercury, the thermometer climbed to 38.5 degrees. Now it's going to take a perfect set of circumstances for that to happen today. Hoping it doesn't, because we don't want to see those ominous signs there of a rewarming planet for instance taking place. But it will get dangerously close, now if you recall, back in August of 2003, as well. This was the deadliest heat wave ever recorded on the planet. Over

70,000 fatalities took place in Europe during that time. Now we're seeing a southerly wind flow, and that is just drawing in temperatures from the south, a very continental air mass. You can see as the day goes into London, we can easily be flirting with the middle and upper 30's. More of the same for Oxford into the Cambridge region.

With the southerly wind as well, we're also drawing in pollution from cities to our south, including Paris and the Amsterdam region. Now this has caused the AQI, or the Air Quality Index to skyrocket as well. Unhealthy for sensitive groups to spend times outdoors. Being athletic, unfortunately, looks as if the cooler weather will settle in and -- well, I should say, fortunately, and we'll get some relief by the middle of next week as temperatures drop below average.

Check this out, we do have a bit of respite from the heat in Tokyo, but to the south, Hiroshima, to Kyoto, temperatures really still -- can remaining very, very hot. We have another tropical storm we're monitoring across the Western Pacific that could bring cloud cover and additional rainfall to Japan. So they have been dealing with a heat wave, but if you recall, two weeks ago, they also had the dangerous and deadly flash flooding. So, it has been a combination of wild weather across the world. We will see what this one brings.

VANIER: Yes, this has been keeping you busy for two weeks now?

VAN DAM: Yes, two weeks.

VANIER: Derek Van Dam from the CNN Weather Center. All the teams have been working on this. Derek, thank you very much.

To more on the election in Pakistan. Early results show the Party of Imran Khan, the cricket star turned politician, has a clear lead. Khan looks set to become Prime Minister. And in a matter of hours, he is expected to make a victory speech. Rival parties claims that the poll was blatantly rigged. The head of Pakistan's election commission says, there is nothing to that accusations. The ballot count is being done by hand, because of technical problems, so results are coming in slowly.

Let us get the latest on the election from Sophia Saifi, she is in Islamabad. So, first of all, the preliminary results, Sophia, how strong are they for Imran Khan?

SOPHIA SAIFI, CNN PRODUCER: They are quite strong, Cyril. He is actually leading with a majority. And you know, we were fairing that they would be a hung parliament, that there were conversations about coalition governments, but at the moment, I mean, it's not a sweeping majority, but it's close enough for Khan to make a strong government.

And we're seeing positive reactions to that. I mean, the Karachi stock exchange jumped by about 2 percent early this morning, when we were seeing those results, so everything is leaning in favor of khan at the moment. We're hoping to get a definite result before he makes that victory speech from the election commission of Pakistan, because it has been quite a chaotic couple of hours overnight since the polls closed yesterday at 6:00 in the evening. It's almost, you know, more than 15 hours since then. And we do not have a definite result. Cyril?

VANIER: During his campaign, Imran Khan promised a new Pakistan. What would that look like?

SAIFI: Well, you know, Imran Khan, you need to understand what he represents. He was a cricket demigod. And cricket is a sport that is followed religiously in Pakistan.

[03:35:09] Pakistan's population is 60 percent of it is under the age of 30. And they have come of aged admiring him, talking about this new Pakistan. You know, he is all about human development, about getting rid of corruption. And now with that, you know, happening, you know, there had been accusation that he is got, you know, people from -- you know, electable who are people who are easy to elect, but has kind of lost track of what he initially represented.

So, even though there is optimism, the fact that this is person who's never been in politics before, that he has, you know, he is different from the dynasties that flourished in Pakistan, it's going to be interesting to see whether he continues to talk the talk and walk the walk with regards to what he is been saying for 22 years when he is finally in power. Cyril?

VANIER: Sophia, there have been ongoing accusations during the campaign that the army favors Imran Khan. And that they might even try to throw the election this way -- his way. What would be the military's interest in that? Why would they potentially want him as Prime Minister?

SAIFI: Well, you need to see what's been happening over the past five years. Back in 2013, when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was elected for the third time as Prime Minister, Khan accused him of rigging the election. There were massive protests around corruption, et cetera. And there had been -- I mean, the military has been in power in Pakistan. They're deeply entrenched in Pakistani institutions.

They are, you know, many say that the military is the one that controls Pakistan foreign policy, which, you know, has much to do with Afghanistan, with, you know, the United States' involvement in Afghanistan, with India on the eastern border. And every time a civilian government has tried to speak to the military with regards to foreign policy, they have been -- there has been definite pushback from the military. On this stage that Khan's, you know, foreign policy objectives are very similar to what the military wants with regards to Pakistan. This could change, but, you know, Khan's a wild card. You can't really tell whether he can be hemmed in by the establishment or not. It just remains to be seen.

VANIER: All right, Sophia Saifi in Islamabad, thank you very much,

The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, is getting ready to meet with his Turkish counterpart on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg. The Kremlin said they plan to discuss Syria. On Wednesday, China's President came down hard on protectionism in his opening remarks. I want to bring in CNN's David McKenzie, who is live for us in Johannesburg, he is covering this. So, David, clearly, in addition to the other things that they are going to talk about in the summit, it is interesting to see how significant and how central the topic of trade and multilateralism has become.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is right. And this certainly is a group that has been pushing multilateralism for a long time, but BRICS according to economists I've spoken to, that is this group of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, has potentially more recent for being now given the apparent protectionism coming from Donald Trump's administration and his talk of tariff and warning he might even try to put tariffs on all $500 billion of exports from China.

China is the biggest trading company in -- trading country in a long way from these others. And so they do have an outside voice here. And as you say, Xi Jinping, the President of China, in his leadoff remarks, really pushing in quite strident language to say that protectionism shouldn't be the order of the day, and it can't be discarded by people. A very pointed remark aimed at the U.S, of course, if not directly naming Donald Trump's administration. Cyril?

VANIER: Now, these countries also have to balance their interests. Some of them need to be careful not to antagonize the U.S. trade relationship, don't they?

MCKENZIE: Well, that is right. Particularly India, South Africa, they have very strong trade ties with the U.S. and they've noticed, according to diplomats I've spoken to over the year, the last few years that President Trump can be in their eyes, vindictive when it comes to criticism. So they have to protect that particular relationship with the U.S.

I think with the Russian President just arriving moments ago in South Africa, India's President Modi, and of course the Chinese leader, this is a very heavyweight group of leaders, with a very significant portion of the world economy. It will be interesting to see what their final communique, whether they are even more direct when it comes to saying that they're going to use their economic clout as a bloc, to try to push, as they call it, the rules-based system, defending groups like the world trade organization, in light of the way that the U.S. president, in their eyes, has undercut that system in recent months. Cyril?

[03:40:10] VANIER: yes. David McKenzie reporting live from South Africa, thank you very much.

And just ahead, a CNN reporter gets banned from a White House press event after daring to ask questions of the President. What's going on? We'll have the details and the reaction.


VANIER: The White House is under fire for barring a CNN reporter from an open press event after she tried to ask President Trump some questions on Wednesday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did Michael Cohen betray you, Mr. President?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. Thank you everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President? Did Michael Cohen betray you?

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, are you worried about what Michael Cohen is going to say to prosecutors?

TRUMP: Let's keep going.

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

TRUMP: Thank you everybody. Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is Vladimir Putin not accepted your invitation? Mr. President?

TRUMP: Thank you everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, guys. Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're done, let's go. Accepted your invitation, Mr. President?


VANIER: CNN's Kaitlan Collins says the White House told her the questions were inappropriate and that she was shouting and that she was refusing to leave. So, she explained her role as pool report, on Wednesday night.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's a smaller group of reporters that go into an event like that, because, of course, the Oval Office is a smaller setting. So I was there representing all of these reporters. It is my duty to ask the President questions. He, of course, has the right to not respond to those questions, but the President actually does often respond in those things.

He is made a ton of news throughout his year and a half here in office from those pool (inaudible) as we call them here at the White House, where reporters go in, like I did today and ask him questions. Some days he responds, some days he does not. Today we thought it was just another day where he was not going to respond to those questions, but then it turned into something else with the actions of the White House attempting to limit the questions we asked the President when we see him.


VANIER: The White House correspondents association put out a strong statement that says in part, we strongly condemn the White House's misguided and inappropriate decision today to bar one of our members from an open press event after she asked question. They did not like it. This type of retaliations is wholly inappropriate, wrong-headed and weak. It cannot stand. And CNN is responding too. It says 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.

Now, I want to bring back in Jomana Karadsheh to talk about this. And what we're doing today, we're talking to our international correspondents around the world to try and get a little bit of an international perspective on this. Jomanah, a preface, before I ask you your view on this, I just want to say I assume a lot of our viewers are going to look at that moment in the White House and say, yes, it does sound contentious, and yes, the journalists, you know are trying to breakthrough with their questions and jostling, et cetera, but I want to put it out there, that this is often how the news gets made. This is how information comes to us, how we get it, and how we put it out then to our viewers. So, Jomanah, you've reported from some contentious places with leaders who also didn't really want to talk.

[03:45:07] JOMANAH KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely and this is the way we do our jobs, Cyril. And this is something that, you know, governments know, as well as journalists, this is how you do it. You ask questions, you throw questions, you door-step officials so there is nothing unusual about that.

VANIER: What's door-stepping? Most people won't know that word. What is door-stepping?

KARADSHEH: Basically when you -- when you don't have these planned media events -- sorry, Cyril. There's currently a thunderstorm taking place in Istanbul as you can see behind me.

VANIER: We heard it loud and clear.

KARADSHEH: Door stepping is basically when you don't have any planned events for questions and answers, but you know officials are going to be in a location, or you have a photo opportunity. It's time to throw questions, especially when there are stories in the headlines that day that require the response of officials. And again, as you mentioned, this is how news is made a lot of the times.

VANIER: And your view on this, and I'm asking you to, you know, step slightly beyond normal boundaries that we ascribe to ourselves --the thunderstorm again in Istanbul --, but -- and I've been to many countries, some of them, the same as you, where you kind do you job and you do your reporting and you think, well, if only they had a strong, free press, this would be a much better place. Your thoughts?

KARADSHEH: You know, Cyril, when I woke up this morning, and I read these headlines, it's actually quite shocking to an extent to see this coming from the United States. I'm someone who grew up in the Middle East. I have reported from this part of the world where there have always been issues when it comes to freedom of the press in many of the countries here.

So when you see this kind of headline coming out from a country that many in the Middle East have looked to as a beacon of free press, a beacon of democracy over the years, it's quite sad, and really, really surreal to see this happening. And as you mentioned, you know, I've reported from places along with other colleagues from countries like Libya, under Mamma Gadhafi and Syria under President Assad, and these are the kind of things that you're used to seeing in countries like this, where -- you know, I remember in Tripoli in 2011, colleagues would be expelled from Gadhafi's Libya, because the regime was unhappy with their reporting.

And it's not about reporting the truth. They wanted their version of the truth, what they thought was the truth, not what actually was happening. And you know, it's really sad to be seeing this happening now in the United States where people are talking about freedom of the press in a country like the U.S. and what is dangerous, I really think about all this, Cyril, is the fact that you have dictatorships, autocratic countries and governments that are looking at this, they're looking at the United States, doing this, and the President of the free world really coming out and calling journalists the enemy of the people, calling networks like CNN fake news.

What kind of a message does this send to these dictatorships, to these countries? Some would say that this is perhaps a green light to crack down on the freedom of the press, that the United States, the country that used to fight for freedom of journalists in countries like this, is no longer doing so.

VANIER: Jomana, a quick word. I remised, I should have asked you this earlier. You are standing in Istanbul, Turkey, just as a sort of framework of reference for this conversation, remind me what freedom of the press is like in Turkey.

KARADSHEH: Well, according to watchdog groups, according to the committee for the protection of journalists and others, Turkey is the world's biggest jailer of journalists. And we saw this crackdown taking place after the failed coup attempt in 2016, where dozens of journalists were fired from their jobs. Others put on trial and locked up, accused of being terrorists.

And so, again, you know, when you see, you know, the kind of difficulties, the kind of dangers that journalists face around the world, it is very worrying to see a country like the United States not standing up for the freedom of journalists in that country and around the world.

VANIER: Jomanah, I really appreciate you taking your time and giving us some of your own thoughts on this issue. Thank you very much. Stage right, Jomana Karadsheh reporting from Istanbul.

Near Alaska's Bristol Bay, there are one million untouched acres where wildlife roam and 4fishing helps sustain the community. Now it could be the site to the biggest gold mine on earth, it is a controversial project to all that killed by President Obama that is now going ahead under President Trump. Here's Bill Weir with the story.


[03:50:09] BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a beach landing on a battleground. No arms or bullets actually. Just gorgeous quiet, but that little camp holds a band of brothers determined to defend it from invasion.

What happens if a bear comes for a drink right now?


Among them is Drew Hamilton, a biologist and guide for the world wildlife fund who makes a living getting cozy with grizzlies.

DREW HAMILTON, BIOLOGIST/GUIDE FOR THE WORLD WILDLIFE FUND: It takes a couple days out here to really ease into it, and realize that the bears are just part of the landscape. And they're going about their business. And as long as you don't mess with them, they're going to leave you alone.

WEIR: In a nearby cat mine national park, my team learned firsthand that this part of Alaska is nirvana for bears and wolves, whales, and eagles. A wonderland all made possible by salmon. Tens of millions surge into Southern Alaska each summer to spawn, feeding every form of life, including a multibillion dollar fishing and tourism industry, dependent on the health of this landscape.

HAMILTON: That bear tracks, we have wolf tracks, Fox tracks.

WEIR: Which is why Drew worries less about wild animals and more about the human beings coming towards us on the beach.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you guys up to?

HAMILTON: We work for a surveying company up in anchorage.

WEIR: They are hesitant to admit they're doing work for the pebble mine, one of the most controversial projects in Alaskan history.

HAMILTON: This red spot right here.

This is it. This is where it all started?

Where it all started.

WEIR: About 80 miles from the beach, a Canadian mining company called Northern Dynasty discovered enough buried treasure to propose the biggest gold and copper mine in the world, but when the EPA under Barack Obama determined that blasting it opened and digging it up, would threaten the fishery, stock in northern dynasty tanked, partners bailed, the company sued, but then --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations Mr. President. WEIR: -- a reversal of fortune. In one of his very first acts,

running Trump's EPA, Scott Pruitt met with Pebble and then settled the lawsuits. When CNN revealed that meeting, there was an outcry in Alaska. Most fishermen, tribes, and even Governor Bill Walker are opposed to the mine. And Senator Lisa Murkowski said she would never trade salmon for gold, but Northern Dynasty refuses to give up.

The latest plan includes a hundred-mile natural gas pipeline to power the mine, it would run past the active volcano, into a massive port system here on this beach. Imagine ships and semi-trucks instead of bears and foxes. And then a 35-mile road through some of the most pristine wilderness in the state. Since Scott Pruitt resigned amid scandal, the new man in charge of the EPA is Andrew Wheeler, a former lobbyist at one of Pebble mine's law firms. He decline our request for interview.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To this is in Roosevelt room, and that is a Gore and Clinton.

WEIR: But the CEO of Pebble was happy to talk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody can guarantee there won't be accident, right? But we've done a hell of a lot to minimize the possibility of there being an accident on this site.

WEIR: Pebble mine would sit in a wetland prone to earthquakes. So the biggest worry is a tailing dam's failure like this one in British Columbia, which sent a lake full of acidic waste downstream, but Collier said the mine site is so far from Bristol Bay that is a risk he can live with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there's an accident, it will kill fish for about 20 miles down the north fork and that is it. And for ten years. It will come back naturally.

WEIR: Utah's Bingham Canyon is the biggest mine in the world. Pebble has enough wealth to dig one three times bigger, but after all the resistance, those plan have been cut in half.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And there are some theories that you shrink the footprint of the mine in order to get the permit, and then once you spend billions to build the port and the pipelines and the road and all of that, you say, well, we need to expand?

There's lot of gold and copper and silver and (inaudible) in the ground out there. And we do not have any current plans to expand beyond what we're talking about with this permit, but it wouldn't surprise me, if somebody, us or someone else, doesn't do that at some point in the future.

HAMILTON: I mean, they're basically talking about putting a 175-mile gash across this pristine habitat.

WEIR: Plans and promises aside, Drew sees this first piece of survey equipment as the beginning of the end of this wilderness as we know it. [03:55:05] What do you say to the argument? That it means jobs, this

means an infusion into the Alaskan economy?

HAMILTON: I say there are already jobs here. You look at the town of Homer in the bear viewing industry, there are millions of dollars being made here already in its current wilderness state. You look at the other side of the mountain, there are tens and millions of dollars already being generated in a fashion that can be sustain, for decades and decades and decades. Why can't we just keep that going?

WEIR: So, and his fellow bear lovers will try to stop the invasion through persuasion, but the clock is ticking as army engineers rush to review their plans. Pebble hopes to get their permit and a wave of new investors by the fall of 2020, right before Donald Trump's next election. Bill Weir, CNN, Alaska.


VANIER: And that is it from us. I'm Cyril Vanier. The news continues with Max Foster in London. You are in great hands. Stay with CNN and have a great day.